Reflections of Erised

By Bohemian Storm

Notes:  Takes place during PoA.  I still love the idea of a reflection in the Mirror of Erised conversing with the person before them.  I'm not sure if they really can, but I went with it.

Dedicated to the wonderfully talented Milla with a million thank yous.

Disclaimer:  The characters belong to J.K. Rowling.  The lyrics at the beginning belong to Madonna from her song "Love Profusion".

There are too many options

There is no consolation

I have lost my illusions

What I want is an explanation

            Remus Lupin had been a nocturnal man since the days before he had gone to Hogwarts as a student.  Whether that habit had come as a result from his lycanthropy, or whether he had always been like that he couldn't remember.  It simply didn't matter anymore.  He accepted that part of his life would be waking suddenly a little after midnight and being unable to find sleep once again.  It was common now and he had learned to get past the frustration when sleep eluded him time and again.  He had developed habits instead; habits that kept him entertained during the boring hours of the night so that they would fly by fast enough and he would never realize under morning exactly how tired he was.

            Before coming to work at Hogwarts as the Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, Remus had only had his own small house to keep him company while he was awake during the night.  Now that he had the entire castle as his home he sometimes had a hard time deciding exactly what to do at night to keep himself amused.  His favourite way to spend the time was tied between going up to the Astronomy tower and looking at the planets through Professor Sinistra's powerful telescopes, or simply wandering the castle and discovering the new rooms that were always popping up in the strangest places.

            Just the night before he had found himself deep in the dungeons and had opened a large wooden door into a room that had been blacker than the night itself.  Then suddenly, as if someone had turned on a light switch in a city miles away, thousands of tiny lights had come on, sparkling in the pure black.  It had completely dazzled him, but when he had gone back with Dumbledore, the room had been gone.

            It made things easier, somehow, knowing that the building surrounding him could change with the blink of an eye, because so many things in life happened that way.  In what seemed like only a single blink, Remus's entire group of friends had been gone, leaving him as the sole survivor in a battle that tore the five of them apart. 

            Lily and James had died first, then Peter, and Sirius . . . well, Sirius was still serving his sentence for murdering Peter Pettigrew and all those muggles on a crowded London street.  Remus Lupin alone was alive and free, though there were most certainly times that he felt more dead and caged than anything else.  There were times when he felt he really wasn't the "lucky one" as some people called him, just the only one left who hadn't been lucky enough to leave it all behind.  The only one left to deal with the pain every single day.

            He wondered if that was part of his insomnia and he had just created the idea that it had always been this way.  Maybe the past was just getting to be too much and he pretended that sleep before their deaths had been just as elusive as it was now.  Even now, as he wandered the castle barefoot, he thought of them.  It had been thirteen long years since their deaths and not one day went by that he didn't think about everything he had lost; everything Sirius had lost.

            In the twisting halls and moving stairs he still couldn't forget.  So he walked softly, wrapped in his tattered robes, his hair falling over his eyes the way it always did when he wandered.  He debated going up to the astronomy tower to watch the moon, but after the close encounter with Severus Snape on the stairs a few nights ago (and Remus definitely did not want to know what Snape was doing in the astronomy tower at night), he opted to patrol the fourth floor corridors and discover what more the castle had to offer.

            It was already nearing morning when Remus stumbled across a door he hadn't paid much attention to while the sun was out.  It looked just like every other door in the long hall, but something about it felt different.  It was dangerous to walk around the school randomly opening doors at night and Remus knew this.  It was even more dangerous to open doors that felt 'different' than the others, even when he couldn't explain why it felt different.

            Rather than turning back to his room and attempting to get some sleep, Remus opened the door and stepped inside, then shut the door carefully behind him.  It was quiet inside the room, the only sound were his bare feet scuffling across the floor in hopes of finding a torch or candle to light with a wave of his wand.  Moonlight came shimmering through a window on the far side of the room, but it was muted, as though the clouds had hidden it for the night.

            In that soft light Remus could see the corner of something.  A chair, or a desk perhaps.  Whatever it was, he walked toward it quickly, keeping one hand out in front of him to prevent him from falling if he should walk into anything.  He simply hoped that there would be a candle on the desk that he could light and he'd finally be able to see what was so different about this room.  So far he hadn't felt any sense of danger and he certainly didn't feel threatened by anything inside the room.  Whatever he had felt wasn't anything life threatening, that much was apparent already.

            He scuffled quickly to the other side of the room, reaching out for the desk or chair and hoping to feel some sort of light that he could use.  Instead, his hand came up against a smooth, cool surface and he jerked backward, momentarily surprised by what he had touched.

            He turned and faced the thing his hand had touched.  The moonlight spilled across it and in the dim light Remus could see that it was a large mirror, with the words 'Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on woshi' inscribed across the top.

            "Erised?" he mumbled, reaching for it again.

            As his hand pressed up against his reflection another hand came down in the mirror and covered his own.  Remus jumped back again, whirling around to see who else had entered the room while he had been staring at the mirror.

            In the pale moonlight he could see that the room was still completely empty.

            "Hello?" he called.

            There was no answer to his words but the soft whisper of the wind outside.

            Slowly, Remus turned back toward the mirror and reached for it again.  This time the second hand didn't just touch him, but closed over his and entwined their fingers together.  What startled Remus more than the appearance of the second hand was that he could feel it over his, but when he looked down there was no hand holding his own.

            "I don't understand," he whispered.

            His golden eyes went to his reflection once more and an arm materialized next to his, then the torso and legs of a man.  As Remus watched, Sirius Black appeared in the mirror, standing behind him and holding one of his hands.  He managed to tear his eyes away long enough to turn around, confirming everything he'd been thinking.

            Sirius Black was most certainly not in the room behind him.

            He faced the mirror once more and felt Sirius's fingers on his again.  They were warm and slightly calloused, tenderly rubbing against his in a way his friend had never actually touched him before.

            "What is this?" he asked his reflection.

            A smile crossed Sirius's face and he shook his head as if to say it didn't matter.  Remus supposed he was right.  It really didn't matter to him what was happening, only that it was.  He didn't know if the Sirius in the mirror could speak, but there were so many questions that he wanted to ask anyway.

            "Padfoot," he said, pressing forward and touching the smooth surface of the mirror.  "What happened?  I need you to tell me."

            Sirius's smile faded and he slowly shook his head back and forth.  Dark hair came untucked from behind his ears and fell across his face, covering the eyes that Remus so wanted to see.

            "Padfoot," he tried again, his hands still pressed against the mirror.

            "I can't answer your questions," Sirius said finally, his voice barely a whisper.

            Remus blinked.  He had become convinced that the reflection he was seeing couldn't speak at all.

            "Why not?"

            Sirius smiled.  "Look at me, Moony.  Do I look like a man in prison?"

            Remus finally did look at his friend, taking him in from the top of his head to his toes.  His hair was thick and long, his eyes were shining and they were happy.  His body was strong and hard, and his clothing was sharp and clean.  He most certainly did not look like a man who had spent twelve years locked in Azkaban prison.

            "No," he said, shaking his head.  "So, you're not real then, are you?"

            The Sirius in the mirror smiled fully.  "Now you're catching on, Moony."

            Remus's shoulder fell slightly and his hands dropped from the mirror's surface.  "Oh."

            Sirius sighed.  "Come on, Moony.  How would you suppose the real Sirius managed to get himself trapped inside a mirror that's hidden in Hogwarts?"

            Remus drew in a deep breath and slowly let it out before answering.  "Wishful thinking, I suppose."

            "I know you need answers," Sirius began.  "But you have to understand that I'm not the person to give them to you."

            "So what are you here for?" Remus asked, his hands finding a place on his hips.  "Just to taunt and torment me?"

            Sirius looked hurt.  "No."

            "Then why?  I can't think about you," Remus said, his words sounding harsh and forced even to him.  "If I think about you I start to wonder, and when I start to wonder I start to question what really happened."  He paused, searching for words.  "And when I start to question what really happened I feel guilty.  Like I'm betraying Lily and James."

            Sirius shrugged helplessly, a soft grin still on his face.  "I can't help you with that guilt."

            "Then who can?" Remus asked, balling his fists as his side.  "I've lived twelve years without knowing what really happened."

            "Then sent me to Azkaban prison," Sirius said.  "I betrayed you, Moony.  I betrayed Lily and James, and they died because of it.  I betrayed Peter.  I killed Peter."

            Remus shook his head weakly, the anger draining from him.  "I don't believe that."

            "Then why question me?" Sirius asked.  "If you don't believe it, what answers are you looking for?"

            "I . . ." he trailed off, looking helplessly at the figure in the mirror.  "I don't know what to think."

            "I'm not here to tell you what to think," Sirius said, taking his hand once more. 

            Remus sighed, closing his eyes and letting himself believe for just a second that Sirius really was beside him, holding his hand as softly as it felt.

            "Why are you here?" Remus asked.

            A breath so soft he could barely feel it passed over his cheek.  A warmth spread through him, a warmth that only accompanied the presence of another person leaning near.  Fingers entwined his hair, brushing gently across the nape of his neck.

            "I'm here because you want me to be," Sirius answered.

            That's not an answer.

            Those were the words Remus tried to say as Sirius's lips gently brushed over his own.  His eyes were wrenched open in shock and he was terrified to find that the image in the mirror had changed.  Although he could still feel the other man's lips on his own, Sirius was no longer beside him, but in the distance, beckoning to him.  Remus could make out the faint outline of a house through mist and Sirius seemed to be moving toward that.  A picnic had been set out on the grass by someone, a bottle of champagne chilling in a bucket.  Remus smiled; only Sirius would be so extravagant for a simple picnic.

            Before he could adjust, the picture changed again.  This time Sirius was back beside him, holding his hand and asking him questions in earnest.

            "How long will you be gone?"

            "How much does it pay?"

            "Can I come with you?"

            "You're really going to be teaching at Hogwarts?"

            "Can I go back?"

            "It'll be just like things were before."

            The last statement made the image quiver and then change again.  Sirius was still there, sprawled out in a chair behind him and Remus saw that they were now in his bedchambers.  Sirius had his nose buried in a book, but he stopped reading long enough to toss Remus a smile that spoke volumes.

            There was love in that smile.

            The reflection changed again and now Remus appeared to be standing on the edge of a lake, a gorgeous country home sprawling behind him.  Sirius appeared in the door of the house, then trotted down the stairs and the path that led up behind Remus.  Strong arms wrapped around his waist and Sirius nuzzled the side of his throat.

            "This is finally ours, Moony," he whispered in a voice that sounded as if it were being stolen from his mouth by the wind.  "We own this place."

            "And the lake?" Remus asked, barely hearing his own words.

            "No one around for miles."

            Remus shut his eyes and leaned weakly against the strong support of Sirius.  A moment later the arms were taken from his waist and he felt the presence pass him by. 

            "Where are you going?" he asked, opening his eyes once more.

            Sirius grinned, pulling his sweatshirt off and dropping it on the shore.  "For a swim," he said, then walked into the water still wearing his shorts.  "The water is beautiful, Moony.  You should come in."

            "I'm wearing my night robe," Remus pointed out.

            Sirius grinned wickedly.  "Take it off," he said, splashing Remus with water.

            The cold drops stung his face and he closed his eyes once more, laughing softly.

            Seconds later, the feeling of Sirius was gone.  The kiss was over and when he opened his eyes, Remus saw only his own reflection in the cold light of the moon.

            "No," he whispered, reaching for the smooth glass once more.  "Padfoot, come back."

            No voice answered him this time, no warm hand wrapped around his own.  Whatever this mirror had chosen to show him was gone now.

            "Do you understand yet, Remus?"

            He whirled around to see Dumbledore standing near the door, smiling at him as if something were greatly amusing.

            Remus flushed immediately.  Had Dumbledore been able to see everything?

            "Understand what?"

            Dumbledore smiled and walked toward him, pointing to the inscription above the mirror.  "'I show not your face, but your hearts desire," he read.

            Remus's eyes went to the words above the mirror and finally he did understand.

            "None of that can be real, then?" he asked, his voice threatening to break.

            "I don't know what you saw, Remus," Dumbledore said.  "Some things shown by the mirror can come to pass ... others cannot.  Harry sees his parents when he looks into this mirror, and you and I both know that Lily and James will never be back."

            "But Sirius?" he asked quickly.

            Understanding dawned in Dumbledore's eyes and he peered at Remus over the rim of his glasses.  "Sirius Black is not dead, but he is most certainly lost."  A gentle smile crossed the old man's face.  "I'm not the one to answer any questions you might have.  I know you need answers, but I am not the person to give them to you."

            Remus gaped at him.  "That's exactly with Sirius said."

            "Then Sirius Black is far more intuitive than I ever gave him credit for," Dumbledore said, with that same gentle smile.

            "This mirror ... can it tell me anything?"

            "This mirror can't give you what you seek," Dumbledore said.  "It imparts no wisdom and it cannot give you truthful answers to your questions.  You need to find the source of such questions, Remus and face them head on."

            "The source of my questions is in Azkaban," Remus said softly.  "I'd rather stick with the sugar coated visions of dreams, if you don't mind."

            Dumbledore shook his head sadly.  "Unfortunate as it may seem, Remus, I do mind.  I'll have the mirror moved tomorrow morning."

            Remus gaped at the Headmaster.  "Albus, please, I need to see this again."

            Dumbledore shook his head.  "I really must ask you not to look for the mirror again.  Harry had enough willpower to stay away, I only pray that you have the same."

            He turned to leave, then seemed to think better of his decision and faced Remus once more.

            "Don't let the mirror run your life.  Don't let Sirius Black kill you like this," he said.  "He wouldn't want it to be like this."

            Remus stood alone in the room for a moment longer, willing himself not to look into the mirror.  With a determined lift of his head, he turned away and walked toward the door that Dumbledore had left open.

            As he crossed the threshold, he swore he felt the warm lips brush over his cheek once more.

            Then he shut the door behind him and vowed to find the answers that night had left him with.