|The News That Truly Shocks
Author: cupid-painted-blind PM
PostDH, Remus is greeted with a frighteningly cheerful Sirius. [You're making eternity sound like a bordello.] No slash, One Shot.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Drama/Humor - Words: 3,135 - Reviews: 35 - Favs: 82 - Follows: 9 - Published: 08-21-07 - Status: Complete - id: 3737659
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the news that truly shocks
(is the empty empty page)
The first thing he noticed was dripping water, the steady, annoying drip of a broken pipe or the way water sounds in a cave, something hollow. An empty sound, far-off and coming from all directions.
He considered opening his eyes, not sure if he wanted to, still a little convinced that if he squeezed them shut really, really tight, he'd wake up and everything would be back to normal. And not normal as in, Tonks-is-about-to-blow-up-the-kitchen-oh-God-I-must-stop-her normal that he'd gotten used to over the past year. But normal. Back to when Sirius would show up at his house with a stack of pancakes because his "girlfriend realized that Anne wasn't the maid" or something to that effect. Back to when Lily would send him cookies after the full moon.
He half-believed that if he never moved, never breathed, never realized where he was, then maybe everything would just realign itself, back to the way it was supposed to be. He half-hoped that none of the past sixteen years had happened, that he could will himself back to before he even knew Lily was pregnant.
And then he became aware of tapping. The irrational, annoyed, for-the-love-of-all-that-is-holy-wake-the-hell-up-Remus sort of tapping that he had grown to associate with Sirius after seven years of waking up to it every morning back at school. But that couldn't be - Sirius was dead.
He knew right then, knew everything, knew why he felt so warm and comfortable and lost and alone and scared and - and, damn it all, happy. Everything was over, right? All the bad, all the worry, all the sorrow and fear of war. Done with. Right?
"Moony, I've been sitting here for about ever, if you don't get up in the next five seconds I'm going to force you through a fan."
"You can do that?" He mumbled, still not moving.
"I don't know, but you'd have a hell of a time stopping me. So, guess you're dead too. What'd you think you were doing, anyway, facing all those Death Eaters like that? You had to know this was gonna happen."
He sighed, finally sitting up and looking around. Choosing not to face the question of what had been going through his head at the time - it was something of a jumble, of images (there's Peter, cowering in the shack, and Dora with baby Ted, and Lily teaching Harry to walk, and there's Sirius falling through the Veil and Harry looking downcast from hearing his mother's death, and there's Greyback coming nearer, and, and, and) - he asked Sirius where they were.
"Hell if I know. Your "happy place" is the Bat-Cave?"
"Funny, Sirius. I just woke up here. I don't know. What are you doing here if this is my happy place, anyway?"
"I'm wounded, Moony. I don't factor into your eternal joy?" Sirius pouted melodramatically, placing a hand over his heart. For the first time, Remus realized that Sirius was as he had been before - Azkaban's scars were gone. He was young and healthy and energetic as always.
"Believe me, Padfoot, my eternal joy involves less of you and more of my wife and child. They're all right, aren't they?" Why he thought Sirius would know, he couldn't explain, but for some reason... Sirius looked away suddenly, and stammered a bit.
"Well, your son is fine. They never went after Andy, so he wasn't in any danger at all. He's... He's fine." Sirius finished lamely. He still wouldn't meet Remus's eyes.
"Don't finish that question, Remus," Sirius said suddenly, and a vague haunted look appeared behind his eyes. He was almost pleading. "You don't want to know the answer. Ask someone else. Don't make me do it."
Sirius met his eyes. There was a long silence, before Remus whispered, "She's dead, isn't she?" Sirius didn't answer. "Then where is she? Why isn't she here?"
"Because not everyone can handle being dead like that." Sirius said quietly, sounding like there was something very thick stuck to the back of his throat. "It's... It's the way it works. Someone always greets you, someone you knew really well and trusted, or loved or something like that. So you can come to terms with it before you have to go on and see everyone else. It would overwhelm you, you know?" He paused again. "James greeted me, and we both sort of wondered who should go meet you, but then we decided that since you were there when I... Since we were kind of stuck together after everything, I should probably go. I think Dora's dad went to see her. That sounds about right."
Sirius couldn't seem to muster the courage to call himself dead, which was strange, because of how forward he'd been earlier. The difference between the joke and the reality, he guessed. There was another long, pregnant pause, before Remus managed to choke, "Who else is dead?"
"I don't know. I only knew Dora was because she was with you when it happened."
"No!" He shouted suddenly, and Sirius jumped, "She wasn't with me, she was with her mother and Ted, she was supposed to be safe, she -" He froze at the look on Sirius's face.
"You really believed she'd stay there, knowing you were in danger? Have you met her at all, or were you just a hologram the whole time?"
"I didn't even see her." He whispered, refusing to look Padfoot in the eye. Sirius was obviously extremely uncomfortable with the subject.
"So, why the Bat-Cave, Moony? Got a connection with them that we never knew about? Or, better yet, you really were Batman. Am I right?" His grin faded as Remus didn't respond, and an awkward silence fell.
A reckless urge hit Remus all of a sudden, and he looked up. "I can go back, can't I? I can... I can be a ghost and go back to Hogwarts and -"
"Be completely alone for the rest of eternity?" Sirius cut in savagely. Remus froze. "No one else is going to do that. James didn't, Lily didn't, I didn't, and if I know anything at all about Tonks, she won't either." He paused again as his friend's face fell, and sighed heavily. "Look, Remus... I know it's hard to understand, I know it's hard to believe, but... But you've got to come to terms with this. Do you want to be like Nick and spend the rest of your life wallowing in how you died? Do you want to haunt Hogwarts and terrify your son? Do you really think it would be better if you could go back? You can't change it. You can't fix anything anymore, and you can't - You can't make it all right. It's over with. Now... now you just keep going. Don't look back. I'm serious. It's a bad idea."
He spoke with far too much sincerity to be speaking from anything but personal experience. After a long moment, Remus sighed.
"So what can we do?"
Sirius didn't look at him, just sauntered around the giant cave, inspecting cracks and kneeling down to peer underneath an outcropping, leaning over a small cliff, mumbling something about 'that damn dripping noise.' The longer Remus watched him, the more annoyed he got.
"Would you just answer the question, Padfoot? Sometime this century?"
"Actually," Sirius said, heaving a rock to the side and looking behind it, "I really don't know how much time has passed since you kicked the bucket. For all I know, you could have been dead five minutes or five years. Or even," He paused as the rock slipped and he toppled behind it, before continuing, muffled, "Ow, five hundred years. Hogwarts could be a figment of people's memories by now, or your body still might not have hit the ground. Get it?"
"Yes. Time doesn't matter here. Thank you. Answer my question."
Sirius's head popped up from behind the rock, followed by an arm, rubbing a spot at his hairline. "What question?"
"Never mind," Remus sighed. "How do we get out of here?"
"Not sure. You see, I had a normal happy place, and -"
"Would you stop using that phrase? Your making eternity sound like a bordello."
Sirius grinned. "My happy place was the Kitchens at Hogwarts, because that's where we played that prank on Snape that one time, you remember?"
"Oh, yes. That time that we did that thing. It all makes sense now."
Sirius rolled his eyes and threw a handful of mud at Remus, who hadn't actually known there was mud in the cave. "You know, I think married life has turned you more sarcastic than you used to be. The Great Strawberry Preserves Prank of '72. You remember, when we had to scrub the Kitchens clean for three hours under McGonagall's nose?"
"Unfortunately," Remus shuddered, "Yes, I do remember. Why was this your... Point of entry?"
Sirius laughed uproariously. "Moony, that's even worse than "happy place." What did my cousin find attractive about you?" Seeing the look on his friend's face, Sirius continued. "Anyway, that was how I got to know all of you really well. 'Cause we weren't really close on the train and I kinda stuck to myself in the dorm, and so did you, for that matter, you big antisocial jerk. And Peter wasn't there. And Lily was, and I seem to remember her swearing death upon us after that."
"That's because she wasn't actually involved in the prank, and she was friends with Snape, and she still got in trouble for it even though she was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Wasn't that the day James decided he was in love with her?"
"No, I think that was Enchanted Sock Puppet Incident in Slughorn's class during Fourth Year."
"What were we talking about?"
"You were evading my apparently probing question about how to get out of here."
"Oh, right." Sirius said, laying on his back. "My happy place was the Kitchens and James and I just kind of... walked out. I was actually hoping there'd be a way out of here and we could take it, but I can't seem to find the exit. Apparently, your subconscious is a very cold, dark place that you can't escape from."
"Wait," Remus started, finally standing up, "What do you mean, my subconscious? If I'm dead, how can I have a subconscious?"
Sirius sighed. "Don't interrogate me about my choice of words, Moony. You know what I mean. My eternity was comfortable, with good service. At any rate, I just walked out. Don't know what would have happened if I'd decided to Bloody-Baron myself back into Hogwarts. Maybe the same exact thing..." He sat up suddenly. "Does that make sense? The exit's the same, but it's where you want to go that changes?"
"Yes, in a sense. If this is only my subconscious, then certainly. You'll go wherever you want to. What is the beyond, anyway? Golden streets and crystal sea? Lake of fire? Clouds and harps?"
Sirius stared at Remus for a moment. "It's... hard to describe. You'll see."
"Yeah, but... What do you do?" The moment the words left his mouth, Remus regretted asking. Sirius's entire body lit up.
"Well, you see, it all started when I said to Prongs, 'You know, the afterlife is awfully boring. I mean, it's nice to sit around and talk to everyone, but there's only so much to talk about when nothing new ever happens.' So, this is where Lily decided to go find her mother and leave us alone because she said that getting kicked out of the afterlife was not high on her list of priorities, and I said, 'So where would we go if we got kicked out of the afterlife?' and she said, 'I don't want to find out, but it's probably nasty and awful and bad and whatever you're planning will only backfire on you,' and I said, 'I know, isn't that fun?' and she walked away, and -"
"Get to the point, Padfoot," Remus hissed, rubbing his temple. "You're giving me a headache."
"Yeah, so, anyway," Sirius went on as though uninterrupted. "I said to James, we need to do something fun. And then we got to, ah, planning."
"Do I want to know?"
"Did you know that Salazar Slytherin does not have a sense of humor?"
"I don't want to know."
"He didn't take too well to our Ghostbusters campaign."
"In fact, he got really ticked off."
"Sirius, stop -"
"He called us all sorts of terrible names, though I didn't really understand them, because -"
"He speaks in crazy, pre-Medieval speech, and in this incredibly thick Scottish accent, so none of us - not even Lily - knew exactly what he was calling us. I think it was an Ancient Scot Swamp Curse, actually, but Ancient Scot Swamp Curses can't really hurt the dead."
"Sirius, shut up."
"Oh, come on, Moony. You know it's funny."
Remus ran a hand over his face. "I'd like to get out of here. Can we just find the exit?"
Sirius sighed heavily and made a face. "Fine, fine," And then, under his breath - "Spoilsport."
Remus looked around and wandered over to the rock that Sirius had toppled over earlier, leaning over and looking past it. There was something down there, but he couldn't quite see it, so he eased himself over the rock and knelt down, crawling closer. From behind him, Sirius said, "Uh, Moony?" at the exact same moment that he rammed his head into an outcropping of rock that he could have sworn wasn't there before.
"Yeah," Sirius said, "I found that, too. There's nothing there."
Remus crawled out from the little space, wishing with all of his might that James had decided to greet him. Or even Lily. Lily would have been nice about this. She would have figured out what had happened to Dora and explained everything. She would have warned him about painful rocks and wouldn't have gone around talking about Ghostbusting Salazar Slytherin. Lily would have done the afterlife right. Sirius, on the other hand, was just being obnoxious.
"Light over here, if you ever feel like moving. Are you moping?"
Remus sighed. "No, Sirius. This situation isn't depressing at all. I've only just died and found out that my wife is dead too, and my son is going to grow up without ever knowing my name, and - What the hell are you doing?"
Sirius had just hugged him. Sirius, who claimed that hugging was 'unmanly' and 'pathetic,' had just hugged him.
"You looked like you could use it. Don't worry about it, okay? Your kid's fine, he's gonna be raised by Andy, who's a great person, really. She'll tell him all about you and make sure he sees every blackmail picture of you I ever sent her for safekeeping. She'll take good care of him." Sirius paused for a moment, giving Remus time to digest what he'd just said. He was right, really. Andromeda would take care of Teddy. Everyone up (down?) there could take care of themselves. The world would be fine. "As for the whole you're-dead thing, well, you get used to it. It's pretty hard at the beginning, but you'll come around. We can prank Helga Hufflepuff next. She seemed to think our Ghostbusting was hilarious."
"You take pleasure in provoking dead famous people?"
"Like you wouldn't believe. Come on, let's get out of here before the bats eat us."
"We're dead, Sirius. We can't be eaten by bats."
"You have clearly never seen a swarm of bats. Those things are terrifying."
"They're bats. They don't hurt humans."
"Whatever. We're gonna get eaten if we don't move soon."
"We are not going to get eaten."
"We're gonna get eaten."
On second thought, Remus mused, perhaps Sirius was the right person to see him through this. Sirius wasn't exactly the type of person who let others dwell on things; he'd rather blow something up and make you do something else, as opposed to cry over it. Therapy, he'd always said, is for boring people.
Get out and do something about it if it bothers you so much. Don't sit in a room and talk.
He wondered how Helga Hufflepuff would react to strawberry preserves.
(A/N: iceprincessd over on LJ requested a Sirius-and-Remus fic featuring the phrase, "So, guess you're dead, too." I didn't expect this to happen, but such is life. I've been working on this for weeks, in unmanageable chunks. I kind of think it sucks. But the ending was fun. Review if you like.)