Chapter 1 : Haunted
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Sweat glues the hair atop the man’s forehead to his face, seeping into his skin as he takes another roller coaster ride from excruciating heat to deep, lonely cold. Every autumn breeze that leaks into his drafty, dank flat feels like winter itself creeping into his veins, and the sensation causes him to toss and turn with what appear to be convulsions. Then he turns over again, ripping the bedclothes from his frail body, and flees into sleep to escape what now feels like hellfire.
He is standing in front of an archway, feet firmly planted in the dirt at the bottom of a pit, a false show of confidence. His fingers shake in betrayal as he reaches in front of him, feeling the sheer black material that blows contentedly, unsuspectingly. He is surprised to find that the texture resembles sandpaper. Then, curiosity aside, he yanks at it. It falls away to reveal nothing.
He grasps at the sheet, pulling it around him as he attempts to climb out of his feverish dream. He twists his body up in it, and in his delirium he believes that he can still smell his former roommate in the fabric. The scent of canine lingers, and it almost seems to become stronger with time, though he has never minded it. The two of them had that unpopular stench in common.
The feeling of reaching for the sheet reminds him of his youth, which feels like a long-lost memory but actually ended only a decade or so ago. He remembers the churning feeling in his stomach, the way the bile there would froth up like the ocean in a tumultuous midnight storm. Perhaps it is the sweat on his brow or his apparent inability to find a comfortable position that is bringing him back to these moments, but he clings to the feeble bed sheet all the same, pulling it against his chest as he remembers what it feels like to lay by the other boy’s side, the two of them huddled up together even in the expanse of his four-poster bed. He remembers how Sirius’s broad, steady hand would ease the pain of his chills, which cut to the core like a foreign influenza, a plague with no cure that would eventually drive him, in full knowledge, to his grave. He knew his friends cared about him, but none of them, save for Sirius, would dare to hold him in those terrible nights before the wolf set in. Sirius always said that he didn’t have anything to lose. Remus has always thought that this is why Sirius was brave enough to kiss him first.
Just then, the memory is snatched away. The bile froths up. The chills sink into his bones.
Remus is still clinging to the sheet like a rag doll when the final bit of skin gives way to fur.
The voices from the pit have never let him stand at the Potters’ grave in peace.
If you were here, Padfoot, it would be alright, he thinks. It occurs to him that without the veil, he would never have heard the voices. Then again, without Sirius, he would not know the veil. He would have seen it along with Harry and some others, and he would have thought briefly of the horrific things it might conceal, but he would not know it intimately, the way he knows Sirius.
He has never returned to that place, and yet it has taken up residence in his brain.
Remus stares down at Lily and James’s tomb, imagining their cold bodies under the earth, and he wonders once again how it came to pass that he would be the last one of them left standing. Peter went first, of course – he had done much to prepare himself for the moment when Peter’s impulsive courage would send him flying to his doom at the hands of some faceless Death Eater, and then what had actually happened had been unbelievably worse – and then James, who was just too good to survive for long in this faithless, cruel world. For a while then, it was only him and Sirius, and it pacified him to think that the two ragtag brothers might get a second chance. Sirius had barely begun to redeem the stained tatters of his life when it was taken from him.
He traces his fingers along the shallow indents where Lily’s name is spelled out in the stone. As much as he loved being in her presence, every second reminded him of his poor imitation of her goodness. They were all lost, young soldiers pushed to the front of the line and destroyed one by one. They tried to help, he thinks, pushing Peter’s treachery out of his mind. I added to the hurt.
With the voices swirling relentlessly in his head like Dante’s fated lovers, Remus thinks of one of the few times he ever made Sirius a promise. He should never have done it, considering how much it pains him now to know that he can never follow through, but he reflects all the same. Sirius was incarcerated the day before the Potters’ funeral. He never told his friends goodbye.
“Go on, Padfoot,” he says gently, encouraging the man who is not there and listening for Sirius’s familiar voice to make itself known among all the others. When he cannot find it a few moments later, he wonders if Sirius’s way of making peace with the dead is to keep silent. It makes sense. One cannot remember James in a few sentences. Remus knows this applies to Sirius as well.
And then, in a fit of selfishness, he pretends that his love shares this grave, and he weeps.
She can never know just how truly selfish he is.
It is painful to be around her sometimes, when he really pauses to consider that she is the closest thing to Sirius that he can touch and that she has inherited her cousin’s disregard for the rules. Though today she appears to be the one in pain, he cannot let her know how much he is suffering under his veneer of quiet. He watches the sweat bead up on her forehead, seeing her thin fingers grip the sides of the bed so tightly that it looks as if her knuckles might pop through the skin, and he is struck with a shocking reminder of his last transformation. “It’s okay,” he stammers to her.
The midwife informs him that the event he has been dreading will happen quite soon.
He is sitting in the living room, paying the doctors from St. Mungo’s out of Sirius’s inheritance – which in turn came from Harry, more generosity he does not deserve – when he hears the child crying, taking in its first desperate breaths of life. He does not see the baby before the nurses whisk it away into the bathroom to clean it off, but the smile on his wife’s face suggests that his decision to bring his son into the world privately was unnecessary. The child is not like him.
“I told them to name him Sirius,” she says softly. “I thought you would like that.”
The bile churns in his stomach again, and the voices attack his mind like apocalyptic locusts. “No!” he cries, looking desperately toward the bathroom. “No, we said Ted, after your father.”
She looks slightly taken aback. “A middle name, then.”
“He’s my son, not Sirius’s,” Remus says, exiting the room and muttering about the doctors.
Ten minutes later, when Teddy Remus Lupin is placed in his mother’s arms, the argument is forgotten. Remus is still staring at his wife and berating himself for the very thought that he might have married her to get one last piece of Sirius when the baby is passed to him at last. He looks down into the child’s innocent face, and for just a moment, he thinks he can forget it all.
Sirius was always one to live for the moment.
“I miss him.”
Even as the enemy is gathering on the opposite shore of the Black Lake, Remus looks into Harry’s green eyes and knows that he is not talking about James. He thinks it is because they are each the single remnant of a love that now lives only in their bones. Remus has been thinking about this for several months now, as a method of escaping from the routine of a wife and child. He has stopped grasping at the covers when he feels the cold setting in, and even when the warmth of an uncomfortable night overwhelms him, he has come to allow himself to drown. All of it, the hot and cold, the pain and numbness, they are all that he has left of his lost love.
“He wanted to adopt you,” he says, pity rising in his voice for both of them. Harry was all Sirius could talk about in his happier moments. Those moments were peppered with a darkness, though, a black shadow that infected them almost totally in Sirius’s last few weeks of life. It was as if the veil had begun wrapping itself around him before they met, swallowing him with voices.
“Do you think I’ll see him again? You know, with Mum and Dad?”
I have to, Remus thinks, forgetting for a moment that it is Harry who asked the question.
Tonks is coming up the stairs now, and as she steps out onto the roof with the two men, Remus cannot take his eyes off of her. Her stance is confident, her hair blowing gently and freely in the evening wind. She smiles nervously at him, and the corners of her mouth remind him of Sirius.
“Luna is looking for you. She says she thinks she knows where to find another Horcrux,” his wife says. Harry nods, giving each of them a hug and hurrying down the stairs into the castle. Now she is looking at him, drawing her wand and standing in the place given to her by Kingsley.
I have to, Remus thinks again, and he reaches for his wife’s hand. She returns the gesture with a squeeze. He looks at the wall of black robes across the grounds, and he realizes that the voices in his mind have quieted. Sirius has pushed them aside to allow him space to finally do some good.
For just a moment, he closes his eyes and takes a step back from the veil. Around him, the memories spring up like minutemen, and the spells are bouncing off the walls once again. Sirius is trading curses with Lucius Malfoy. Remus can hear Bellatrix laughing somewhere behind him. Tonks is at his side, and he cannot tease the present from the past, and he does not want to. So instead, he takes his place next to Sirius. The two of them fight as brothers, turning the tide.
Later, as the veil draws close around him like a lover, Remus’s dreams become his reality.
This piece is a long-awaited semester survival gift for Missy. I hope I did it well for you!
All characters and events you recognize belong to J. K. Rowling, not me. Also, for clarification, the “fated lovers” I mention were taken from Dante Alighieri’s Inferno and can be found within the Second Circle of Hell. These lovers, who were given over to lust in their mortal lives, are blown about forever by an unceasing wind that represents their passion.
Thank you for reading, and please consider leaving me a review!