The Darkest Night

By inez stanley

"There's a grief that can't be spoken

There's a pain goes on and on

Empty chairs at empty tables

Now my friends are dead and gone."

He was dead.

Dead. The word, although no one spoke it, was loud in the air, penetrating Remus's senses. It wasn't real, and yet it was the most real, horrific thing he had ever known.

Remus J. Lupin, werewolf, Classification: Beast, was now suffering the most human of emotions: grief. He had just watched his best friend- the last friend he had left in the world- die. And life didn't seem worth muddling through anymore.

"Here they talked of revolution

Here it was they lit the flame

Here they sang about tomorrow

And tomorrow never came."

Pondering the unfairness, the injustices of the world he lived in was something Remus allowed himself to do only on very rare occasions, and only when he was alone.

Although he didn't realize it, he was one of the strongest, bravest men his friends and colleagues had ever met. He had seen so many things; had been through so many things. He had known physical pain equal to any Cruciatus curse; he had gone through periods of hunger and near-starvation; he had suffered guilt and lonliness equal to all of it combined. And up till now, he had walked through it unflinchingly, trusting that things would get better somehow and that through everything the world was a good place to live in.

But nothing compared to the despair, the emptiness he felt right now. Without Sirius, all was lost. His soul, his human soul, felt apart from him, as though a Dementor had kissed him, except that he could still remember and regret and ache.

"From the table in the corner,

They could see a world reborn

And they rose with voices ringing

And I can hear them now!

The very words that they had sung

Became their last communion

On the lonely barricade at dawn."

When James had died, Remus knew now, it would have been difficult to tell which one of the two of them grieved more. Sirius had been grieving in the knowledge that he had mistakenly believed Remus to be the one among them who had sided with Voldemort, only to find that it had been Pettigrew instead. And Remus had mourned the loss of one friend's loyalty and two friends' lives.

Then, just when life couldn't have gotten any bleaker, he had gotten a part of it back. Sirius had come back, and he had been so happy for a time- so unbelievably happy.

Sirius had always been so close to James when they were in school together, and Remus had always been jealous of the relationship they had shared, but in the past year the two men had begun to form a bond after the same fashion, a brotherhood based on the memory of their other friend whom they had lost, and the knowledge that they, at least, remained.

And now only one of them remained. He was the last Marauder, just one Mr. Moony, without Padfoot and Prongs. "The lone wolf," he laughed bitterly to himself.

"Oh my friends, my friends forgive me

That I live when you are gone

There's a grief that can't be spoken,

There's a pain goes on and on"

'And why am I alive?' he asked himself as he sat crouched at the top of the stone steps, his eyes stinging with unshed tears as he gazed fiercely at the Veil on the dais before him. "Why couldn't it have been me instead of Sirius, why did it have to be him? Sirius was the one who was alive, the one who made everyone around him smile! He was the jovial, energetic, vibrant one, the one who had been so sharp a contrast to Remus, with his contemplative, quiet nature. Remus was nothing! He was thin, and sickly, and poor, and a God-forsaken werewolf!

That's when a thought occurred to him- God. Surely God had made a mistake. Surely it had been Remus whom He had wanted to rid the world of. And surely He didn't believe that Remus could expect just to live out the remainder of his days like this.

Feeling nothing anymore, Remus stood up, looking squarely at the archway in front of him.

"Phantom faces in the window

Phantom shadows on the floor

Empty chairs at empty tables

Where my friends will meet no more"

He set off at a run down the steps. He was so tired, too tired to continue this endless farce known as life. What kind of life was this? Here was a man dead, who was more alive even in memory than Remus would ever be in physical form. Remus was playing a game; he had been for all his existence since being bitten- depending too much on his few friends and trusting too much in his abysmal luck. How had he ever pretended that everything was all right with himself? How had he managed to convince people that he believed in his heart that he was confident and content and at peace with himself?

He was nothing more than a scared little boy, running away from his troubles. And his troubles were the very reality he had allowed to be brought about. Here was his hell. And he wanted to fly away from it.

Unfortunately, he couldn't lift his wings, because he tripped over something lying in the middle of the floor, which his blind eyes had overlooked in their search for escape.

"Oh my friends, my friends don't ask me

What your sacrifice was for!

Empty chairs at empty tables

Where my friends will sing no more."

"What the-" he exclaimed, touching a finger to his nose, which had landed hard on the stone floor as he fell, and finding that it was bleeding a little. He was suddenly shaken back to himself and made the realization that the 'what' he had tripped over was actually a 'who.' Turning around, he saw a woman lying on her stomach, her robes torn and dusty, her black hair matted with blood. He pulled his wand out warily, not knowing why; it didn't matter to him anymore whether he lived or died, and as it was, he still had every intention of following Sirius through the Veil as soon as he found out who this woman was and discerned whether she was worth getting to hospital or not.

He tapped her on the shoulder to find out if she was conscious, wanting to shout her name but unable to since he didn't know what it was. But there was something about her frame that was familiar to him; he sniffed the air around her, hoping he could tell who it was...

"Tonks!" he shouted, his heart beginning to pound. Oh, Jesus, please let her be alive, she's done nothing wrong- Please don't make me suffer anymore! He shook her shoulders angrily, raging at the heavens for putting him through this turmoil, for taking so young and bright a life and for allowing him to reach this point of lowest anguish...

And then he heard, from below him, a soft moan.

"Take my hand and lead me to salvation

Take my love, for love is everlasting

And remember the truth that once was spoken

To love another person is to see the face of God..."

"Ahh... Is that you, Remus?" said her groggy voice as she attempted to turn over. She failed, though, gasping in agony as she was forced to lie back down on her stomach. "I- er, I think I could use a hand here, if you don't mind." She managed to turn her face toward him, and he saw, through the tears that had finally begun trickling down his face in mixed sadness and relief, that she had a nasty gash on this side of her face. He knelt down by her side and lifted her into a sitting position.

"You look like hell," she stated, obviously unaware of her own condition.

"Sirius is dead, Tonks." His voice was flat, but all the emotion that it concealed came pouring out uncontrollably within seconds. He turned away from her so she couldn't see him crying, his face buried in his hands as his shoulders shook. Suddenly he couldn't support himself anymore and he fell foreward, pressing his face to the stone and pounding the ground with his fist, screaming muffled curses.

Finally able to control himself, he hung his head and turned back around again to see Tonks. "I'm sorry, I-" he began in a trembling voice.

He now saw that Tonks was crying as well. But her tears were a silent, angelic waterfall that flowed down her bloodied face, not the torrential rainstorm that his had been. They made her look even more innocent; causing him to remember that he had believed her lost, too. Gently taking her into his arms, he felt her shoulders shake almost as violently as his had as he placed a hand on the back of her head, letting her cry until she had no more tears.

"It's all right, Nymphadora. I'm here."

"Oh, Remus... Promise me you'll never go," she breathed into his robes, as both of them felt a fresh wave of emotion come over them, letting go once again, but this time not alone.

And suddenly, for some reason Lupin couldn't put his finger on, he began to feel like he might just have a reason to live after all.

"Do you hear the people sing, lost in the valley of the night

It is the music of a people who are climing to the light

For the wretched of the earth there is a flame that never dies

Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.

They will live again in freedom in the garden of the Lord

They will walk behind the ploughshare; they will put away the sword.

The chain will be broken and all men will have their reward.

Will you join in our crusade? Who will be strong and stand with me?

Somewhere beyond the barricade is there a world you long to see?

Do you hear the people sing, say, do you hear the distant drums?

It is the future that they bring when tomorrow comes!"