There is a Light that Never Goes Out
“To die by your side
Is such a heavenly way to die...
...the pleasure, the privilege is mine”
- The Smiths
They say that when you die, your life flashes before your eyes. It’s odd to think that one’s whole life could flash by in an instant, reliving itself just as you breathe your last. But it is no more than a poetic metaphor that’s meant to comfort and terrify, forming that perfect moment of sublimity that people strive all their lives to reach.
It was close a few times, and before I met you, I wondered what memories would flash before my eyes when Death at last came for me. That’s the thing about being an Auror, Death pursues you in a black cloak (rather like Snape, but you hate it when I say things like that), and you have to face him, stare him down until he backs down or takes you alive.
Or rather, dead.
These things are never easy to explain.
But you and I have no more time. No more time for speech, for gestures, for second chances, for one last kiss. The light that is us fades with the night.
If I must die in this place, on this battlefield, I will die with you, your eyes on my face, your name on my lips.
And flashing before my eyes will be memories of you.
I see first the night, the halfmoon slinking past the carelessly shut curtain. The blankets are a heap and you pull them over our shoulders, bare and shivering now that we are still. The night is aging, but you have been young, as young as I, if just for this moment, this past moment. Our ages have merged just as our bodies have, and still I am flushed with the closeness of you, warm and cold all at once, as I shiver from the air and your touch, so alike they are, caresses in the night.
You watch my face, that distant smile proving that, all along, I was right. It could work, there could be happiness between such two as you and I, and we could keep that happiness close, ensuring that it could not slip away.
The danger of that thought – that all this could be gone, you and I slipping back to the emptiness from which we had come – makes the blood surge through my veins and I rise to kiss you once more, my back arching as my lips touch yours. Your hand supports me, coming to rest in the spot where it fits so well, drawing me closer until our bodies meet and we hang in the air, resisting gravity in our pull toward each other. Even you cannot deny the perfection here.
“I know what you’re thinking,” you whisper against my ear.
I laugh and at last allow gravity to do its work, dragging us into the mattress where we curl together, bodies entwined.
“And I still make my case,” you add, lips pausing in their relentless course across my jaw, down my throat. “You would be better off without me. I can give you nothing.”
Those lips have paused too long, and I retake them with my own, pulling his face up to mine. When I stop at last, lungs screaming for air, I gasp my reply.
“You have given me something.”
You place your hands on my shoulders, pushing me into the pillows. Eyes boring down with ferocious intensity, you stare into me and see the answer for yourself, but still I must say it, I must put the words into being.
“You have given me you.”
This moment fades into another, so many like it, so many times that we were together, lying in that bed, folded and enfolded, indescribably enraptured by each other. I was, and I know that you were, too.
I don’t want this to end, not yet. Hold the light a moment longer. Don’t let it fade away.
I blink and you are there again, but too far away. You are trapped in battle with another while I fight off my own opponent. Magic shooting through the twilight, I see you only in flashes, flashes of light, flashes of memory. Ghostlike, you are faded and I know that this is the end, that we will both fade away, separate and alone.
Another memory comes, and I let it carry me into your presence.
This time, there is no laughter, no bursts of stolen happiness. Again I am in the bed, but you are by the window, back to me, the moonlight bathing your skin. How pale, how scarred, but any other way, you would not be who you are now, you could not be mine. My head is propped by pillows, my own skin tinged green. You rightly call it an illness. You wrongly call it a curse.
“This wasn’t supposed to happen,” you say, the words you have repeated over and over.
I lash out, more of a wolf than you. “What did you expect, Remus?”
When you turn, your face is in shadow. “I thought there were things to keep this from happening. Spells, charms, something.” You can barely force out the words, you feel so much.
I should be scandalized, upset, something. I should be feeling something at this, your outrageous reaction. How many others would be happy at this news, ecstatic at the idea of carrying on the line, creating a life with another, but no, you must be angry, you must be terrified at the possibility that this child could be just like you. A monster.
When you come to the bed, your hands are shaking, you are shaking all over. Please stop, Remus, please don’t be weak because I need you to be strong, I need you to be the one I fell in love with, all those months ago (now a lifetime).
But you approach with more delicacy than I expect and touch my hand lightly, ever so lightly. I will resist. You see the tightening of my jaw, you know that you have wounded me, and so you turn away. You’re not the type to apologise or whisper sweetness into my ears.
You leave the room, and I love you more.
Do you see it in my eyes now? Can you read it on my face?
I fend off another curse and whip around, cloak flying as I leap to duck my opponent’s next shot. The fatigue grows. I have not been well since the birth and my aunt is too good, too fast. Even my youth, my training cannot save me, not from her strength, her madness.
You are falling away, sinking into the mist. I see your shadow, I know your shape, but you are almost gone. Almost–
Another flash from my aunt’s wand, and I am lost in memory once more. My arms and legs move of their own, following the irregular routine of duelling with a witch more powerful than I. My mind is not needed for this. I already know I will lose.
I’d rather dream of you.
The child is kicking in my stomach when you return, tail between your legs, the moon growing brighter. It will be soon for you, too soon for me.
With head bowed, you kneel before me and I touch your hair, a hesitant movement, but it is all that is necessary. No words, they could only fail me in this moment. It is for you to speak, to explain, to tell me why you have returned. I know where you have been – to Harry, to ask to join him in his mythic quest, a quest that must remind you of the ones of old, and Harry must remind you of his father, leading the way, head held high.
If you had gone, I would have hated you.
But only because I could not go too.
You do not want forgiveness, but still I give it. Then the pain returns, the pain of the child inside growing, a pain that I must hide from you because you know the turnings of the moon too well, you will believe that it would change inside of me, perhaps even kill me from within. With that thought, knowing that you are, all along, thinking of me, I hide my face in your shoulder. I do not cry and if I do, I will not let you see.
The child within kicks once more.
Another spell nearly hits its mark and I awake, the light fading around me.
She is circling me, fierce victory on her face. She sees my weakness; she must know of my condition, the stiff muscles, the slowing reflexes, and she glories over me, hungry smile waiting for the taste of blood. She is more the wolf than you, who hate this, all this violence, this hate. Why couldn’t she have been bitten instead of you? She would enjoy it more.
It is the sort of thought that would pull at the corners of your mouth even as you scold me – “no one deserves to be like me,” you say, and I know that you mean it.
I cannot even see you now. It is too dark.
Even in my memories, I am alone. You have returned, but you are distant, your spirit on Harry’s shoulder, guiding him through the wilderness. Are you there when he cries out in the night? Are you there as Dark Wizards dog his footsteps? How many times have you saved him in your dreams, so desperately needing that reassurance that you have not failed him like you failed his parents.
And as you think of him and them, do you not see how you are failing me?
My father is dead. My mother mourns. I see it in her eyes, the lines in her face growing deeper with each moment of his fatal absence. This was not supposed to happen.
I should not be here, trapped by the condition of my body, slow and tottering, widening and weakening. I would fight, I would save my father, be at his side shooting curses at those who would kill him. I would die to see my mother happy again.
But I must live for the child. There is hope for a future.
You cannot see past the curse, the hopelessness.
The green light from my aunt’s wand drags me back into the present. Death curses are all she throws at me now, and it cannot be long until I fall into one’s path. I must finish these memories, I must live to see the next, the last, the final glimpse of your face, at last happy.
Yes, you are happy when he is born. Teddy, the child of yours and mine, born in the wake of so much death and suffering. Your happiness is not mirrored by my own. I stare down at the little head, the little hands, the little body, and wonder how you can smile down at it, but not up at me.
In one moment, I reject what I fought so hard for. Teddy is more real than me, and I cannot love him.
“Do you cry now, Mudblood spawn?” My aunt’s laughter echoes through the mist.
I neither heard nor felt the strangled sob which escaped my lips. No, the memory, it was too real, not like this dream, this nightmare of death and life mingling and murdering, stealing away the lives of those who would so willingly give them. We came here to die, you and I, but I will go first.
Forgive me now, Remus. Forgive me for loving you, for not loving our son. Let me die knowing that, perhaps, in some small corner of your heart, you have a place for me.
But I cannot see you. Is that your voice, calling out another spell? Or is it that you call my name? You cannot die alone, and nor can I. So long we have been alone, dreaming of the lives we should have had apart, and thus we lost our lives together, the shortness of their span, the brevity of their meaning.
My aunt raises her wand and I know this is the last, and now I fight it. Some life is left within me, and I will not let her win.
I will think of you again.
I will see you once more.
Don’t let this light go out, not yet.
The curse passes me by, but only just. How much longer can I escape my fate?
How much longer until you are here, beside me?
She tries again, and I look into my memories one last time. You are running out the door, your lingering kiss still warm on my lips. You did it to silence me, to placate me, I know it, but I remain silent as the door shuts. Gone. You are going to die. Alone.
I stare down at Teddy in my arms. I hold him, yes, because I do not hate him. He is too much like me, my face, my eyes, my hair, all staring back. Nothing of you, unless it hides within, as your monster does. What do I have of you? No pictures, no letters, just a whisper and a promise, a fleeting memory of wanton pleasures and secret fears. Nothing of you, whom I love – how is that possible?
I place the child down. I leave the room. I chase the memory of you, the last glance that would be worth a lifetime. Worth a life. My life.
At last her spell hits the mark, my aunt’s victorious screech cleaving the air.
My open eyes seek your face and find their mark. I see your heart upon it, reflected in every line, every scar. I see your heart as I have never before, and I see that I was wrong.
I am dead, but the light is not out. It can never go out.
You must not let it.
Author's Note: the song title and lyrics, as well as the inspiration for this story, are from The Smiths' "There is a Light That Never Goes Out". This story follows a stream of consciousness pattern, so past and present blend together in a very odd way - it's not easy to follow, but that's the point.