CB: Well, here it is then, the epilogue.
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Remus stared at the motorcycle, which gleamed dully in the soft light of the shed. Its black paintwork reflected his own image as he took a careful step nearer, one hand half raised, as though he wanted to touch it.Sirius was dead…
His breath caught in his throat, and he snatched his hand back as though he had been burned. The bike continued to reflect the light, patiently waiting for its owner to return.
He's not coming back…
Remus bit his lip, hands curling into fists. Less than three hours ago, Sirius had been alive. Less than three hours ago, they had been linked, inseparable. Less than three hours ago, the world had, for once, seemed as though it was favouring him. He let out a choked sob, wrapping his arms around his body, as though against intense cold, and continued to stare at the motorcycle.
He'd found it unintentionally as he wandered aimlessly around the castle, not wanting to return to the Great Hall, where Dumbledore and James were still carefully examining and identifying the bodies. He didn't want to see Sirius again, so pale, peaceful, perfect and dead. He'd hated the stifling atmosphere and the soft, gentle voices they had used when talking to him, and the sympathetic looks they had cast his way when they didn't think he would notice.
Remus sighed, not bothering to wipe away the tears that trailed down his cheeks and moved over to the motorcycle, running one hand over the soft leather of the saddle. It was almost warm and, oddly, it felt as though Sirius had just vacated the seat and exited the shed – that he was waiting impatiently outside for Remus, a small, irritated frown on his face that would fade the moment the werewolf appeared.
Without hesitation, almost as though he was following orders, Remus swung a leg over the bike, settling onto it. Without looking, instinctively, he reached for his wand and pointed it at the ignition. He allowed himself a small smile as the engine roared into life, and was gratified to hear the surprised shouts coming from the castle as the remaining Aurors heard the noise and came running to see what the matter was.
Without waiting, however, he released the brakes and shot out of the shed, his heart screaming as his mind refused to think about anything.
AaAaAaAaGodric's Hollow – Seven Years Later
"So…do you think we should tell him?"
Remus froze outside the kitchen door, still holding Harry, who wiggled impatiently.
"I don't know," Lily's voice sounded dubious, and through the crack, Remus could see her standing, one hand on James's arm. "I'm not sure whether it wouldn't be better to let things lie. It's been nearly a decade, James, perhaps it'd be for the best if we said nothing."
Harry wriggled again, and Remus nearly dropped the surprisingly heavy six-year-old. Putting one finger to his lip, he nodded at Harry, who settled against his waist, looking faintly disgruntled but willing to comply.
"It just seems to me," Lily was saying, "that there's no sense in raking up the past. Remus is happy here with us, and all of this would just upset him. No, I think that it's far better to let him continue to live happily than worry about things that are over and done with."
"…Would agree with me," Lily said firmly, and Remus could tell from her tone that, as far as she was concerned, that was the end of the conversation.
James sighed, but didn't disagree, and turned to pull two slices of toast out of the toaster, setting them on the table with the rest of the breakfast that was already laid out. Pouring four glasses of orange juice, he watched as Lily set the places around the table then stuck his head out of the kitchen window to look out into the garden – trying to spot his son and the boy's errant godfather who was, no doubt, trying to persuade the younger Potter out of a tree.
"Remus! Harry! Breakfast!"
Harry wriggled again, and this time Remus set him down, letting the boy burst into the kitchen and throw himself into his chair, reaching enthusiastically for some toast. Following at a more sedate pace, Remus schooled his expression into one of vague interest and sat down at his own place, smiling at Lily, who rolled her eyes before turning to scold Harry for eating too fast.
Once they were all seated and eating, James glanced at Remus.
"You know," he said casually, buttering his own toast, "I was thinking, Rem, isn't it about time you sold that bike?"
Remus froze, and Lily sitting next to James, shot her husband a disapproving scowl before turning hawk eyes on Harry again. "Drink your juice," she snapped, clearly deciding that no matter what she said, James was going to do things his own way.
Harry obediently drank.
"Because I thought that maybe we could get a muggle car to go in that garage and, you know, your bike's a bit big, we wouldn't be able to fit them both in…" James trailed off, shrugged and pushed his glasses up his nose. "Just a thought, of course," he added, reaching for the plate of scrambled eggs.
"Yes." Remus swallowed and smiled tightly, taking a large gulp of the tea Lily had just set down in front of him. "Maybe you're right, James, I'll think about it." He stared hard at his plate, trying to ignore the small voice at the back of his mind that constantly chanted that this was Sirius's bike and that he, Remus, should keep it as a last link to the Death Eater - and just what was he doing agreeing with James?
The awkward silence was broken by Harry who looked up, beamed, and pointed at the window – his face wreathed in a cheerful grin. "Owl post!" He crowed and Lily stood up to let the Daily Prophet owl in.
Swooping, it dropped the paper on James's plate – right on top of his scrambled eggs – and flew out again.
"Bloody owl," the Auror grumbled, wiping some ketchup off of the front page. "I wouldn't be surprised if –" He froze, his face turning pale as his eyes scanned the headlines and subsequent article.
"James? Darling, what is it?" Lily leant over, her face alight with curiosity. "Oh," she said softly as she, too, caught sight of the paper. "Oh."
Remus raised an eyebrow, and leant across the table. "Must be something truly fascinating to have you two react like that," he said mildly, ignoring Harry who was looking from one face to another, an expression of furious curiosity on his face. "Mind if I take a look?"
"What? Oh…" James shook himself and glanced at his son. "Harry, go and play outside."
Grumbling, the boy slid from his seat and hurried out of the kitchen, pausing only to steal a piece of cold toast from the breadboard as he went.
Remus's other eyebrow rose. "Now why are you two so worked up?"
Wordlessly, Lily handed him the paper.
'DIARY OF YOU-KNOW-WHO'S RIGHT HAND MAN FOUND BY MUGGLES', trumpeted the headlines, 'Archaeologists make lucky scoop!'commented the sub-heading.
"Oh. Oh my." Remus swallowed and licked his suddenly dry lips. "I…oh dear."
'It was announced yesterday on the muggle news that a mysterious diary had been found in the peat bog near Donnington Castle.
The muggle who discovered the diary believed it to be a piece of fiction, or the work of a practical joker, however, Ministry Officials (in disguise) managed to ascertain that the diary did, in fact, belong to Sirius Black, a Death Eater and strong supporter of You-Know-Who.
Black's diary has since been confiscated from the Muggles, and memory charms placed on as many as possible of the small group of historians. The diary itself was re-examined last night within the Ministry Of Magic, and early this morning, Mr CW Crouch made this statement:
"It is obvious that this diary is, indeed, genuine, and it has given us a great deal of insight into the minds and tactics of Death Eaters. Whilst this is, of course, no longer necessary, the diary may still be useful in other ways."
When pressed, however, he refused to comment any further on the subject.
The diary itself will be published later this year, as the Ministry feels it is important to put a full end to the terror of You-Know-Who, and they believe that this book may be the key to success. According to Fudge, who was more willing to talk with the press, the diary is 'a useful tool in combating the fear still instilled in us by Voldemort. It shows the other side of things and how, more often than not, the Death Eaters who joined him were simply wicked men who were no more powerful than you or I.'
Attempts are also being made to locate the mysterious 'Remus' who appears…'
Remus put the paper down, unable to read any further.
Slowly, he raised his eyes to look at Lily and James, who looked back at him, equally shocked and pale.
"They found his diary."
Remus bit his lip; fingers shaking as he carefully smoothed the front of the paper. "What on earth am I going to do now, James? I don't want this kind of attention. I don't want people looking for me! Surely they can just let me live peacefully?"
James shrugged, his expression grim. "Crouch, Fudge and Dumbledore know who you are," he said thoughtfully, "but they're obviously not willing to tell – probably have the same idea as you: let sleeping dogs lie. Other than them, I can't think of anyone who could be a possible lead to you."
"Except us," Lily interjected.
"Yes, but no one knows we know Remus," James pointed out. "And nobody knows who we are anyway, so I think that's ok." He smiled, looking slightly relieved. "You'll just have to be careful who you give your name to, Rem, that's all."
Remus nodded and stood up. "I'm going outside," he said quietly.
Neither Lily nor James stopped him.
It had started as another fairly normal day, Remus reflected as he sat in the living room, staring morosely out of the window.
He and Harry had played in the garden, James had gone to work and Lily had gone to Diagon Alley to acquire a new cauldron. Left in the house to his own devices and to look after his godson, Remus had suggested they both spend an hour reading quietly. Harry, who had been more than happy to oblige, had climbed onto his lap and, once settled with a book, promptly fell asleep.
That was when the telephone had rung.
Not wanting to disturb the sleeping six year old, Remus had frowned at the phone and gently placed Harry on the sofa. Slightly suspiciously – for hardly anybody ever rang the Potters on their Muggle landline except for the electric company – he had answered the telephone.
A polite cough sounded, hollow and tinny, from the other end. "Ex-excuse me…" someone said, their voice rough, "James Potter told me you might be interested in selling a bike, am I correct?"
Remus silently cursed James and his well-meaning interference. "Yes," he muttered, grudgingly, "you are."
"Ah," the person paused. "Can I take a look at it, first?" He asked eventually, "it's just, I was told it was a Triumph – but I'm looking for something specific, so if I buy it without viewing it, it might be a bit of a waste of money."
"Certainly," Remus could hear the false politeness dripping from his voice as his knuckles turned white thanks to his grip on the receiver. "When would you like to swing by and see it?"
"Well…I've got the afternoon off work, maybe now? Is that convenient?"
"Yes, come over and I'll show you the bike." Not waiting for an answer, he'd slammed the phone down.
So he had sat by the window, gloomily staring out and contemplating the many ways in which he was going to torture, murder and generally maim James Potter.
The muted throb of an engine coming down the road, made him start and peer outside. Godric's Hollow was set on the outskirts of a small village, and it was very rare that there was any traffic – least of all something that sounded like…Remus squinted down the road…was a sleek black motorcycle.
Harry stirred in his sleep and made a small noise of discontent as the bike roared closer, the rider slowing the vehicle down as he obviously squinted inside his helmet, clearly searching for something. As he reached Godric's Hollow, he paused, then halted the motorcycle completely. Kicking the stand down, he switched off the engine and dismounted in one fluid movement. Remus just had time to appreciate the black leather trousers and jacket that matched the bike, before his mind registered that the motorcyclist was walking up the garden path, his heavy black boots clumping loudly on the concrete.
Harry yawned and sat up. "A visitor?" He asked sleepily, rubbing his eyes.
"Just someone to see me," Remus murmured absently, already walking towards the hall. "Stay here and read your book, alright?"
His godson muttered something, but picked up the book.
Out in the hall, Remus took a moment to compose himself as the doorbell rang, before he gritted his teeth and opened the front door.
"Good afternoon, I suspect you're here to take a look at my bike?"
"Yeah," the voice inside the helmet was slightly muffled, but still hoarse-sounding.
"Come in then, do you want a cup of tea?" Remus smiled tightly and led the way into the kitchen, the stranger clunking behind him as his boots marched across Lily's pristine wooden floor. "There's a peg to hang your jacket on by the stairs," Remus added, not bothering to turn around as he continued into the kitchen. Hearing the sound of a zip being undone then the soft hush of fabric being removed, he busied himself with the kettle, refusing to look up as the man entered the room.
"So, is it a specific make of the Triumph that you're looking for, or just a specific Triumph?" He asked, dropping teabags into a cup.
"A bit of both." There was the rustle of clothing as the stranger shifted in his chair. "I…er…sold my own bike several years ago, and took it into my head last week to try and find it again. Lucky break running into James, he knows I was looking for a bike and suggested I try you."
"Really." Remus poured boiling water into the cups and kept his tone pleasant but neutral. "Milk?"
"No, thanks, I take my tea black." The stranger shifted again, the barest hint of a grin in his voice.
"No thank you."
The werewolf shrugged and picked up the cups. Turning, he got his first glimpse of the potential buyer.
His first impression was of black hair. Long black hair. His second impression was of wicked grey eyes and he gasped, his chest and throat suddenly so painfully tight that he couldn't breathe properly. The cups fell to the floor, shattering and spilling scalding tea all over the kitchen. Dimly he heard Harry let out a startled yell in the next room and coming running in, yelling "Uncle Remus! Uncle Remus!" but the world had faded to something distant and far away and all he could see was those familiar eyes and a small, rather worried grin as the stranger watched him, his face upturned to catch the rays of sun filtering in the kitchen window.
"What…" he croaked; licked his lips and tried again. "What did you say your, uh, name was?"
Harry paused in his cries to look from one man to the other. Even he, at six, could feel the electrical charge in the air and he decided it might be prudent to retreat to the other side of kitchen table – well out of range of any potential danger.
"I didn't," barely a whisper as the man continued to stare at Remus, his eyes burning in his face, "I didn't tell you my name."
"What…what is it?" Already Remus was beginning to rationalise as he stared at the man. 'It's not him, his hair's too long, he's not wearing robes, he look somehow…younger than before, he isn't, it can't be, it's not…
"You know my name."
"S…Sirius…" Remus croaked, his whole body shaking as he stared, rooted to the spot, not even noticing as Harry fled from the kitchen, unable to understand what was happening and somehow unwilling to intrude.
Lips curved into a smile and Sirius stood up, an expression of fond amusement on his face. "You don't have to sound so scared, Lupin, I'm not a ghost…well, not exactly," he amended, pulling a face.
"I think you'd better sit down."
Remus did. Abruptly. Unfortunately it was on the kitchen floor – not by choice, but because he could simply no longer stand. Sirius crouched next to him, not touching him, but close enough to offer some kind of reassurance.
"I'm not a ghost," he repeated again, "but I'm not human, either."
"Then what…what are you?"
"I'm a spirit."
Remus let out a choked laugh. "And that's different from a ghost – how?"
Sirius pulled a face. "This is always difficult to explain," he muttered. "Look, when I…died, my soul wasn't actually in my body, rather, it was partly in my body, partly in Voldemort's body and partly in…in you."
Sirius ignored the interruption. "So the spell didn't drain my soul – it couldn't, you see, because it was divided, and it only had a link to the piece that was in the body that had cast it. Because of this, when my natural body died due to the massive drain, the rest of my soul broke contact and, essentially, simply drifted. I was me, but I was me without a body. I still am me without a body.
"I could have wandered permanently; after all, to others I was simply the same as a ghost – I hadn't died a natural death and therefore I still maintained a link to the living world." Sirius shrugged and brushed some hair out of his eyes. "Dumbledore found me. To say I was shocked would have been an understatement, after all, I was working against everything he stood for. But then he told me about how you…you weren't coping very well with, er, things, and he suggested I do something to help…"
Remus frowned, his mind a jumble of confusion. "What on earth could you do to help me? You're dead."
"Yes, and then again, no."
Sirius smiled gently and looked away, across the kitchen, his hair falling to cover his face, obscuring his expression from view. "I'm alive as long as you are," he said gently. "I'm…I haven't got a solid physical form but…you remember that spell that linked us together?"
"Well, some of it's still in force." Sirius reached over and touched Remus's forehead. The touch felt like a cool brush of air, soft and caressing, but nothing more. "It's still at work in here, because it was never taken off. The caster may be dead, but the spell was enforced so it would become permanent. Because of this link, I can still feel you, feel your emotions. This is, I think, what kept me from slipping into whatever comes next, despite my unnatural death.
"Dumbledore decided to use this to his advantage, but it's taken until now for him to work out how."
Sirius smiled again and leant back against the kitchen cupboard. "Ever heard of guardian angels, Remus?"
"I'm yours, essentially. I'm linked to you, I can wield power through you; I can tell you when you're in danger; I can make sure you stay safe. It's what I wanted – what I asked for – and Dumbledore agreed it was for the best. If I'm watching over you, to him, at least, you'll be ten times more useful because you will have the fundamental power of two wizards, not one, and I believe this is going to help him with the, er, 'cleaning up' of any left over dark forces."
Remus's head was spinning as he buried his face in his hands, unable to take it all in. "So, you're my 'guardian angel'?" He managed to ask.
"Yes. But there's a price."
Sirius stretched, shifting to make himself more comfortable, and his hand accidentally brushed through Remus's. "Well, like I said, when you die, I die as well. I'm not 'alive', but I'm spiritually aware, which means that when you finally pass on, I'll pass with you. I may be a spirit, but you are my key to crossing into the afterlife. Also," he paused, then turned his head so that he was looking straight into Remus's eyes. "You have to start living again," he said softly.
"I…" Remus began, about to protest.
"No, you're not." Again, there was the cool brush of air as Sirius tried to touch the side of his face. "You're existing, Remus. You get up, you go to work, you play with Harry; you go to sleep. You're not there any more. You're not you." The Death Eater smiled, sadly. "You've got to let go. It's been seven years. Seven, Remus! Yes, I'm here now, but I'm not a human any more. I can't stand behind you night and day, I can't…" his voice broke and he bit his lip, "I can't touch you anymore. You have no idea how hard that is for me, but I make an effort to get on. I'm here for you, now you've got to be here for yourself."
"I…I know…" Remus's gaze dropped and he stared hard at the floor, his eyes burning as his vision wobbled and splintered. "I know, but it's so hard…" he whispered.
"It's hard now, but I'll be there for you." Sirius grinned, but his smile was still bittersweet. "Move on, Remus, be happy, that was what I wanted then for you and it's what I want now. I'm always going to be here, even when you can't see me, but you need to enjoy life. Promise me?"
"I…I promise." Remus looked up, wiping his eyes with the back of his hand. "Damn it, Black, you don't ask much from a man, do you?"
Sirius's laughter filled the room. "It's not that difficult, my love," he murmured when he'd finished giggling, "and I'll be there to make sure no one stops you from being happy."
Remus bit his lip. "But you…you said I won't always see you."
"No." Sirius shook his head, his expression sobering again. "No, you won't because I don't have enough energy to project this image too often, and as time goes by, I'll begin to fade more and more."
"But you'll still be here?"
"I'll still be here."
Suddenly, as though hearing something Remus could not, Sirius stiffened, his head cocked to one side. There was a pause – no more than a heartbeat – and then he smiled again. Remus looked at him, anxious.
"What? What is it?"
"I have to go, apparently Dumbledore can't keep this part of the spell running for much longer."
"Dumbledore? He's behind this?"
"Mm, clever man, that one. I wish I'd been able to speak to him whilst I was alive. He helped me to become this…solid-looking so that I could speak to you without frightening you." He smiled again, but a strange, paleness was creeping up around him. "But I've got to go."
"You're leaving." Remus could hear the panic in his voice. "You're leaving me again!"
"No, not leaving." Sirius was beginning to flicker slightly, wavering. "I'll never leave you. I told you that. I'll always be here, ready to protect you."
"So how will I find you, if I can't see you?" His voice was becoming louder, more urgent.
A slender, fading arm reached out and lightly placed a palm against Remus's chest, above his heart. "Because I'll be here." Even Sirius's voice was beginning to fade slightly. "I'm always going to be here, Remus. Just call for me and I'll come."
"And if…" Remus swallowed, "…When I die, how will I find you then? I'm your key, you said so; how will I know when the time is right?"
"You'll know…" Sirius was fading fast now, barely more than an outline against the sunlight, his voice the barest whisper. "I'll come for you…"
"You'll come for me? What does that mean? What does all this mean?" Suddenly Remus had too many questions and not enough time. He scrambled forwards, trying to reach Sirius, just to touch him…
But Sirius had faded.
Remus felt the barest brush against his lips and heard a murmured 'I love you,' and suddenly, he paused. Something in his heart that had, before, been a cold hard knot of pain, had begun to melt. A warm glow filled him, radiating out from his chest, and for the first time in seven years, he gave a small, but utterly genuine smile.
One hand slowly reached up to touch his chest, just above his heart, and he heard Sirius's voice.I'll always be here…
James and Dumbledore had a lot of explaining to do.
The stars were bright and clear in the cold night sky. They glittered like diamonds their eerie light reflecting on the frost that lay thick on the ground. An owl hooted in an oak tree, the rustle of its feathers carrying clearly on the still air. The world was silent, as though holding its breath, waiting for something momentous to happen.
Laughter shattered the stillness, echoing into the night, and the laughter was soon joined by another, more cautious laugh.
"How…how did you find me?"
"I promised. I keep my promises."
If there had been anyone around, they might have caught a glimpse of something – a flash of long, black hair, maybe, or the glint of amber eyes. They might have paused, certain that they could see two, pale figures standing under the oak tree, entwined. They might have stopped, then taken a step nearer, unsure whether their imagination was playing tricks on them – might have hesitated, suddenly cautious as one of the figures tossed back its head, letting out a long howl to the sky as the other, shorter one, laughed and told him to be quiet.
"You're loud enough to wake the dead!"
"But darling…" Low, mocking.
"Don't say it! Don't you dare say it!" Half spluttered, through laughter. Then suddenly, softly: "I love you."
"I never forgot you."
"I told you, you never would."
"I love you."
"IloveyouIloveyouIloveyou." Urgent, quiet, as though the person had never had enough time to say it – had always wanted to, but never could.
Perhaps the casual observer would have seen the taller of the two gather the light-haired one closer, holding him reassuringly, crooning softly into his ear, as if to say 'I'm here, we're here, we're both real and together and that is what matters.'
"I love you." That whisper again, and this time the longhaired one replied in kind.
There was silence for a while, the two figures barely discernible in the darkness. After a while, one of them spoke.
"Didn't you say we had to move on?"
"Perhaps." A soft laugh. "Wouldn't you like to see the world, first?"
"I've seen the world."
"So see it through new eyes."
"If I didn't know you better, Black, I'd say you were tempting me to break the rules."
"Do you even know what the rules are?"
"No, so how can we be breaking them? I'm sure if there's an afterlife, it'll still be waiting for us years from now." A soft snicker. "Don't tell me you're scared, Remus…"
"What, scared of you? Hah!"
A leer. "You should be."
The two figures turned, outlined for a moment against the night sky. The taller one tilted its head back, looking up.
" Have you ever just stopped and looked at them? The stars, I mean. Haven't you ever studied them and, for a moment, wanted to last forever?"
"Nothing can last forever, you know; not even stars."
"I'm a star."
"And you won't last forever either." Said in a gentle, sing-song voice, as though this conversation had already been played through before.
"Maybe not," the barest sound above the rustle of the leaves of the tree. "but I think we will."
"We'll last forever?"
"We'll last forever." Firm, assured.
The shorter one was silent, moving only to embrace the taller one again.
"We'll last forever," he echoed, softly.
'I thank God each day
For finding the time
For looking down on me
And making you mine So yes there are Angels
In heaven above
I know because God
Sent me one to love'
- Alan Burleson
CB: And that's it. I'm sorry for those who were happy with the complete death of Sirius – but I couldn't just let Remus suffer. Much love to you all, and thank you for your amazing, wonderful comments. See you in another project, hopefully!