"The Mirror of Erised?" Sirius Black asked, unsure of its significance.
Albus Dumbledore sat in silence, trying to ascertain the connotations of Severus' statement. "Are you sure?" he asked.
"You have to remember, I was in Slytherin and was immersed in the crusade to gather strength through volunteers. Voldemort was making promises of power and immortality. What better way to get people who craved those things above all to join your cause than to have them stand before a mirror that showed their deepest desires? If I recall, Albus, that was the year the Mirror came into your possession-- a donation from Llano Malfoy, Lucius's grandfather."
Albus nodded in reply, still deep in thought.
"Did you see it yourself?" Sirius asked Severus, a far away look in his grey eyes.
"No… I did not need a mirror to tell me my deepest desire."
Sirius made to respond but seemed to think better about it. He turned to the headmaster and asked, "How would Remus and Maura have found out about it?"
"Remus took to following some of the Slytherins around in order to protect Maura. He tried to familiarize himself with any place they might hide. It is a possibility that that's how they discovered it. After the incident the Slytherins stayed their common room. They were not allowed to wander the grounds freely anymore. They were heavily monitored, so Remus and Maura could visit undisturbed. They could have stumbled upon the Mirror once and, like many others, were enticed by the images they saw there."
Sirius was still trying to determine the implications of the Mirror. "Why is the Mirror so important now?"
"Several years ago, in a futile attempt to hide a very precious stone, I used the Mirror. I charmed it to hold the stone and release it only to someone who wanted it but not to use it for themselves. So…"
"So they might have used the Mirror to hide Remus and release him only to someone who would want him back, but not want to hurt him. Is that what you are getting at?"
"It is a possibility," Albus stated carefully.
"Possibility!" Sirius bellowed. "You have two loyal friends who would do anything to protect one another. Remus killed for her, and she allowed her attackers to go free in order to keep him from being destroyed. The fact that Remus didn't kill her on the night he saved her means he claimed her as part of his pack. Claimed her, Albus. Remus would never even claim us as part of his pack, because the bond created would be so unfathomably powerful. Add to that the probability that they were both almost certainly intimately knowledgeable about the Mirror and its potential, and that she was a Charms expert as well."
"Sirius, I said it was a possibility." Dumbledore's voice remained cautious. "We are going on speculation. This is all just conjecture. You are assuming that she was his Secret Keeper, that she was able to alter the Fidelius charm to allow for movement, that she had the presence of mind to account for the possibility of her death, and that they used the Mirror of Erised to conceal Remus in case she could not release him. That leaves too many variables to make this reliable. You must bear that in mind. If we go to the Mirror and the result is not what we hope, then we must begin again or…" He paused.
"Or move on…or let it go." Severus spoke in a soft voice.
"I'm sorry, Severus. I know you and Sirius care for Remus very much, but sometimes even the best of intentions can lead to nothing. I will not allow you to look into the Mirror without you both recognizing that it might not yield the results you are looking for. You must be prepared for that prospect. You have both known more disappointment and sorrow than any two people should. I have no doubt that if it should come to pass, you will not give up. But as you are both prepared to keep looking, you must also be prepared to never find him. If you can concede to that honestly, then I will take you both to the Mirror."
Sirius made to reply, but Severus spoke first. "Albus, I am not a man prone to wishful thinking. I have lived a lifetime in the darkness and I am not even sure I know how to be optimistic and hopeful. Sirius and I have spent days discussing several possibilities, some more obscure than others. This one has more potential than anything else we have discussed, and it is worth the chance. I cannot promise that Sirius or I will handle it well, but we will handle it and we will move on if we must. But you have to understand we need to try despite how the results affect us. We owe Remus that. We owe it to him to try anything we can."
Sirius looked at Severus with respect and affection in his eyes, and Albus couldn't help but notice. He was not completely convinced that they were on the right trail, but he could not deny that the search had allowed them to find each other, and perhaps Remus.
It was more than anyone could have hoped for.
Albus left Severus and Sirius alone in the room with the Mirror of Erised, and both men were grateful. They stood looking at the mirror from a safe angle for a good ten minutes, both a little afraid to test out their theory.
"One of us should make a move," Sirius said.
"That would seem appropriate," Severus replied.
"So why don't we? Why are we rooted to these spots, afraid to try?"
Severus paused. "Perhaps we are as afraid of succeeding as we are of failing."
The truthfulness of the words struck Sirius and he gave a small shiver. "What happens if he doesn't come out?"
Severus closed his eyes. "We die…and then we try again."
"What happens if he does?"
Severus opened his eyes. "That is a bit harder to answer."
They looked at each other. They hadn't really spoken of the possibility of success. Now, as they were the closest they had been in months of possibly seeing Remus Lupin again, they didn't really know what to do. Severus knew it was now or never. "How should we do this?" he said, ignoring the question that still hung in the air.
Sirius spoke, "I know that my deepest hope, my deepest desire, is to have Remus home and safe. I know that is yours as well. We should both look in at the same time as that will only make the link stronger. If the gods are with us, he'll come out. That's all we have."
They stood a while longer before Severus broke the silence one more time. "Black… Sirius… during these past few days I have come to think of you as a human being, and though I know that sounds cruel, it is a better estimation than I hold the vast majority of the population. If this doesn't work please know it was not because you didn't try. It was not because you failed him. It just means we have to look elsewhere."
Severus would never know how much those few words meant to Sirius and Sirius would never know how much Severus needed to say them. Sirius walked closer to Severus, and carefully placing his hand on the other's cheek, he leaned in and gave him a gentle kiss. Chaste and innocent, soft and compassionate, the kiss was an affirmation of a thousand sentiments left unspoken. He pulled back and took Severus' hand in his, intertwining fingers and hopes. Together they stepped in front of the Mirror and looked inside.
A picture began to form in front of them. Remus Lupin stood next to them smiling and laughing and hugging them. Golden eyes shone like warm honey, glowing with joy and vigor. A smile was there, beaming on a face that somehow managed to retain a boyish charm despite the years and hardships it had known. One hand reached up to Sirius' head and ruffled his hair. Severus felt Sirius' grip tighten as they both waited and faced the image that had rooted itself in their minds for months if not years: someone they loved.
And then, that image changed.
A soft blue light began to glow around the Mirror, and a distant humming could be heard. Slowly the blue light shone brighter, and the hum grew louder. Soon a wave of color and sound pulsated through the room, through Severus and Sirius. Within minutes the room was awash in a hue of electric blue, and the humming was thunderous. All at once, there was a burst of light, akin to the brilliance of the mid-day sun concentrated in one spot, and a forceful, strident boom shook the room…and then, there was silence.
Severus and Sirius tried to focus after the blast as both were slightly blinded by the brightness of the light. As the room started to focus around them, they began to make out a figure in front of them. Remus Lupin stood, no longer an image in a mirror or in their dreams, but a man of flesh and blood and bone. He was looking at his hands as if he was unsure of what he was really seeing. And after what seemed to be a lifetime, he let out a boisterous, barking laugh.
"You did it! You actually did it!" He ran to Sirius Black and threw his arms around his shoulders. "I thought I'd never get out of there. I thought I'd never be free. Oh Sirius! Thank you! Thank you so much!"
Sirius was beyond words as he held his friend in his arms. He was home. Remus was home. And for the first time in a very, very long time, so was Sirius. His heart was pounding so hard he was sure Remus could feel it. He never felt as complete as he did at that moment but strangely enough, something was not right. Cradling Remus in his arms, he looked up to see Severus Snape with a look of complete disbelief in his eyes… and something else.
For the first time he could ever remember, Severus Snape stood before him with tears streaming down his face. And at that moment, he knew. It was time to right a wrong. Knowing it may be his only chance, he finally found the words. "I didn't do it alone."
Remus pulled back confused and turned to see the stricken face of Severus Snape. "Severus?"
Sirius took Remus' hand and walked over to the petrified form of Severus Snape. He tenderly placed the werewolf's hand in the Potions master's and gave them both a small squeeze.
"I think you two need to talk." As their eyes locked, he quietly walked away. Without another word he left the room and closed the door.
Severus Snape, Remus Lupin, and Sirius Black sat in Albus Dumbledore's office.
Remus was trying to explain the events that led up to his entrapment in the Mirror of Erised.
"The day before I left for my mission, Maura came to me. She pleaded with me to allow her to be my Secret Keeper, feeling it was the only way to ensure I would make it from site to site safely. I told her it was my understanding that the Fidelius Charm could only keep a person safe in one location. She explained that she could take care of that.
"I always knew Maura was brilliant at Charms but I never knew the extent of her knowledge. She altered the charm to make a sort of shield. I would actually travel within the Mirror to the pre-determined locations. I would be for all intents and purposes invisible to the outside world as I traveled from place to place. Once I reached my destination, I would be able to use a specialized Portkey from the world of the mirror to its counterpart in the real world. Once I had communicated with the appropriate people, I would be concealed again when it was time to move on. I traveled in a sort of frozen reality. I never saw people when I was in transition, only blurred images. I can only describe it as a sort of alternate world that resided in the Mirror. Honestly, I didn't even realize the Mirror could be used in such a way.
"Just as I was leaving, she confided to me that she was not sure if she would survive the War. She always felt that Voldemort had a special vendetta against her and would eventually try to kill her. It was not a completely unfounded fear, but it did tend to make her paranoid. She told me that she knew of a way to keep me safe in the Mirror in the event that she was not able to release me. In the event of her death I would instantly be returned to the world of the Mirror, despite whatever else I was doing. I would be trapped there; the Portkeys would be disabled. Only when someone looked into the Mirror and wanted to have me freed and not harm me, would I be safe. She added that last bit in case Voldemort was looking for revenge of any kind. As I said, she was paranoid but I suppose in the end, it was for the best.
"I had no time to tell anyone of the fail safe and Maura forbid sending the information in a note, even a coded one, so I did the only thing I could think to do. I left behind my most prized possession, a picture from my childhood. I left it with the hope that someone would remember that Maura took the picture and that I was holding Nicolas Flamel's Alchemy book. I hoped someone would connect it with the incident with the Sorcerer's Stone and would realize that's where I was. It is my understanding that that was not necessarily the way events unfolded, but the results were the same nonetheless. I knew Maura would not tell anyone of the plan, so I thought it was my only hope. While in hiding I could not communicate with anyone; the Fidelius Charm prohibits it. I just hoped that the friends who knew me well enough would see that it was a signal. I'm glad I was right."
Albus looked at Remus and smiled. "Child, I can only say you are lucky to be so loved."
Remus blushed slightly and did not look at the others in the room. There was still so much to say.
Albus spoke: "I think it is time for the three of you to rest. Might I suggest somewhere private? I have connected the fireplace here to your cottage, Remus. Perhaps the three of you would like to Floo there now and take a much deserved break. I will inform Harry and the others that you are safe but I will not tell them where you are. I have a feeling you will need the time."
"Thank you, Albus." Remus spoke the words the others felt but were afraid to broadcast.
Recognizing the Headmaster's suggestion as an order, they dutifully obeyed and made to leave. As they made for the fireplace, Albus remained silent. Whatever he was thinking, he did not voice it; instead, he gave the three men a small smile.
A few moments later they found themselves at Remus Lupin's cottage. It had been cleaned since the last time Severus and Sirius had been there, and the kitchen was fully stocked. Several cases stood in the living room. "I suppose those are our clothes," Severus scowled. "How long does he think we are going to be here?"
"Perhaps it's his way of telling us to take our time." Remus seemed amused.
Sirius was the only one who seemed uncomfortable. "Perhaps you would like some time alone. I'll come back in a few days--"
"Sirius, stop." Remus held out his hand to still him. "We need to talk, we all do. Please have a seat and I'll get some tea."
Sirius sat on the couch and Severus in the armchair across from him. Neither said a word.
Remus returned in a few minutes with hot tea. As he poured three cups he spoke. "Sirius, Severus and I had a talk, a very long talk. We talked about how you both managed to find me, and all you had to go through to do so. Let me begin by saying thank you…to you both. I do not doubt that I was only able to come home because of the loyalty and devotion that you both had for me and the incomparable persistence you both possess. I cannot begin to tell you how happy it made me to know you managed to put twenty years of animosity aside for my sake.
"In telling me the story, however, Severus chose to give me some information I was not aware of… some snippets from our past that you both confessed to in an attempt uncover any details from years ago that could help you to find me." Sirius began to respond but Remus stopped him. "Please Sirius. Severus did not tell me anything I did not suspect myself, but his version did illuminate some things for me.
"You need to know that I love you. I have always loved you. You are the single most important person in my life. And now that we are free to actually explore all that that could be, I would like that opportunity to do so. I want to renew our friendship and consider all this world has to offer us. But you also need to understand I have feelings for Severus and have for many years. He and I never had the chance to try before now, and that is something I think also deserves to be explored." He paused, glancing up at his friend. "I have… also… come to understand that much has come to pass between the two of you as of late… I know this is not necessarily the most conventional of arrangements, but I think we are three people who deserve any chance at happiness that we could have and, if you are open to it, I think we should try."
Sirius looked at them both with hope marred with reservation. He was not only being offered a chance at a love that he dreamed about since childhood but also the chance at a love he had only recently discovered meant just as much. He looked at Severus apprehensively. Could he possibly feel the same way?
Sensing his trepidation, Severus spoke. "Sirius, when I finally allowed myself to vocalize my feelings for Remus, I also had to admit that I had feelings for you as well. I am not promising wine and roses and a perfect romance. In all likelihood this ridiculous arrangement will only prove to be disastrous for all involved. But like Remus I am sick and tired of not exploring the possibilities because of fear. I believe it was once said that enough time has been wasted all around." He leaned in and gently placed his hand on Sirius'. "I am grateful you put your own feelings aside for my sake and for Remus', but I think there is enough room for you as well, if it is what you want."
Sirius stared at the hand on his and reveled in the warmth it offered. He looked up at Severus and into his ebony eyes. "Are you sure? You owe me nothing. Not even this chance."
"I owe you everything," Severus replied without hesitation. "Without your insistence, I would not have searched for Remus. Without your encouragement, I would never have admitted the emotions I spent a lifetime hiding away. Without your courage I would not have found my own, and I wouldn't be here today. I would be alone and still in the dark. I realized a while ago that you are no longer the boy I knew so many lifetimes ago, but a man who is worth trying to understand. I think, given time, which we actually have now, we could all find the things we have been looking for. Remus is right. We all deserve to be happy, and this is our chance."
Sirius looked at Remus, then back at Severus, and laughed quietly. "You're right… this will probably end badly, but I'll be damned if I don't try."
At that, Remus leaned in and slid his arms around Sirius' waist. Sirius placed his arms around Remus and proceeded to place a small kiss on his forehead. He looked over at Severus and took his hand, bringing it up to his lips and kissing it as well. They sat like that for a long while.
Only time would tell if things would work out. But for the first time in any of their memories, three men looked to the future with joy and hope.
And somewhere, many miles away, a pair of cerulean blue eyes twinkled.