Author's Note: This was written in response to a challenge which I will go off and find…now. Right, here it is:
Write a story in which someone (Harry, Remus, Snape, etc.) interacts with a portrait of Lily, James, or Sirius.
Perhaps rather predictably I wrote mine about Remus… here it is. Yes there is a suggestion of R/S slash… but you know what, it could be brotherly love if you're not that way inclined…
[For everybody else… [whispers] It's not really]
It had been moved up to the attic more than a year ago, along with all the other things that couldn't be destroyed properly and were too dangerous just to throw away. The ancient wooden floor was thick with dust and Remus' footprints stretched out behind him in the steely snowfall; inter lacing with those he had left before.
It was here somewhere.
He muttered "lumos," and the attic flared sullenly, lighting rows upon rows of velvet covered portraits: memorials in a cemetery. Sirius had sealed each so their occupants couldn't go wandering around the house into the few paintings that had been permanently stuck to the walls and as he passed each one, Remus heard, or thought he heard, their mutinous whispers. Absently he trailed his fingers across their coverings as his own voice sounded in his memory.
"So where do you want me to leave it?"
"Anywhere, I don't care."
"I said anywhere, Remus."
Yes. He remembered now.
Another stack of books with titles like "The life and works of Salazar Slytherin" peeling off them in golden letters that shone in the light from his wand and he was standing in front of the portrait he had come to examine. Slowly Remus sat down on the floor, clouds of silver billowing around him, until he was level with the eyes of the person behind the curtain. He reached inside his robes and withdrew a candle, which he lit with his wand and placed down to his right.
The candlelight was barely bright enough for him to see by, but it would have to do. He didn't have the energy to sustain any type of spell at the moment.
Sirius had always maintained that he hated this picture. However, more than once Remus had found him sitting here quietly in the semi darkness…. staring at it.
"Go away Moony."
"How did you know it was me?"
"It's always you."
He trailed his fingers down to the golden plaque at the bottom, where a name was carved in black lettering. Without hesitation, he pulled aside the veil.
There, blinking in the unexpected light stood a pale boy with long dark hair who looked a bit like someone Remus had known a long time ago.
"Oh, it's you again," the boy declared unnecessarily.
The man grinned softly. "Yes, it's me again."
The boy's nose crinkled with distaste, and he tried to peer over Remus' shoulder. "Where's the other one, the blood traitor?"
"-not coming back."
The boy smiled. "I'm glad to hear it."
Remus' eyes closed, blocking out the familiar grin. "Yes, I thought you might be."
"He hated me you know," the boy remarked scornfully.
"I know he did. You were everything he should have been-"
"But wasn't," the other finished, and Remus opened his eyes again to see an expression, not of hatred this time, but of curiosity. "Yes…I never managed to understand him." He fingered his tie of emerald and silver and slumped against the desk, his long fringe falling across his face and for a moment, Remus caught a glimpse of the person he knew behind the haughty expression.
"You weren't created to understand him," he reminded the teenager kindly.
This had, evidently, not been the correct thing to say. "Oh, don't pity me werewolf," the boy snapped back, leaping to his feet. "I turned out right, my parents wanted me!" Then the anger faded so quickly, it was almost visible. He picked up a quill and twirled it experimentally between his fingers. "Why are you here?"
Remus started. "I-" And stopped abruptly.
The handsome face contorted with a sudden, repulsive understanding. "You loved him… didn't you."
Remus nodded silently.
"And now he's dead you've come to stare at me."
The boy shuddered as Remus winced, loosened the tie and lounged back in the chair painted behind him.
"So is this your great-great-grandfather?"
Sirius cast an eye over to where Remus was standing with the portrait and scowled. "That's me."
The other raised an eyebrow. "When I dropped it on the stairs he called me a mangy, disgusting monster…" Remus trailed off, seeing the look on Sirius' face and then added weakly "you weren't in Slytherin."
"My parents apparently believed I should be and had this…thing commissioned on my fifteenth birthday. It was supposed to show me what I could have achieved, set me back on the path to righteousness… "
Remus' eyes flickered to the picture where the fifteen-year-old version of his friend was engrossed in a book entitled"The Arte of Transfiguration."
"He's working," Remus remarked with a touch of inappropriate amusement. "Are you sure it's you?"
"Correction: I am trying to work," the portrait remarked silkily. "Perhaps Sirius, if you and your pet would be a little quieter I might be able to finish."
"No…I've come to talk to you."
"Oh have you?" the boy, who was not Sirius, asked disinterestedly, examining his nails.
"Yes," Remus replied firmly. "It may not interest you to know-"
Remus continued patiently. "You are the only portrait ever painted of Sirius Black."
"Yes, you're right," Sirius agreed. "You are the only company I've had in four tedious months, counted in seconds that lasted forever… and I still don't find that interesting." He picked up one of the books that lay sprawled across the floor and began to read it.
"Your book is upside down," Remus pointed out helpfully.
"I already know what it says; I've read this volume almost seventy times. Unless you have something fascinating to say, which I seriously doubt, please leave, Werewolf."
"What page are you on?"
"I don't see how this is relevant but forty nine."
"Close the book and tell me what the first sentence is."
The book snapped shut.
"The uses of Moonstone in potion making are extremely diverse," Sirius drawled.
Remus chuckled silently. "Padfoot used to fall asleep in History of Magic. Every year, I was sure he was going to fail and tried to foist my notes onto him… he got the best marks in the year every time."
"I am dying to know what your point is," the boy informed him scathingly.
"I know he's part of you. Hidden deep beneath the loathing for everything I am...there's a part of you that is Padfoot and I want to speak to that part."
The boy raised his eyebrows; his eyes still fixed on the page in front of him. "Will you go away if I assure you that no such part exists?"
They sat in silence for a while; Sirius pretending he didn't know Remus was watching him and Remus leaning back on his hands: waiting until-
The book slammed down on the table. "Go away!"
The boy bit his bottom lip whilst he thought. "Don't you have photographs of him?"
"Several thousand," Remus acknowledged cheerfully. "But you of all people should know that a photograph is merely one moment in time. I can watch Sirius wave furiously at me through the years and still be none the wiser as to what was going through his mind at that moment, or at the moment in which he fell. I just want-" he stopped, feeling the painting's eyes upon him. "I just want to let him go for the second time, to say goodbye I suppose, however ridiculously sentimental that sounds." He allowed himself to laugh slightly. "Besides I thought you might be lonely up here now. Even Sirius had stopped visiting you, and I was never one to let my friends suffer if I could help it."
"I'm not your friend," the boy retorted half-heartedly, doodling on the table.
"No… I suppose not."
They fell into silence again, Remus' fingers creating a familiar constellation in a dusty sky.
"He never found it, you know," Sirius remarked suddenly.
Remus opened his mouth to say "found what?" but discovered he was already leaning forward towards the place where the frame didn't quite touch the canvas. Fingertips touched the folded edge of a piece of card and he withdrew it. His own untidy scrawl covered the outside: "Remember, this is not all you are. All my love, always. Moony."
A smile prickled at the corner of his mouth as he unfolded the black and white photograph: two boys in school uniform standing at the edge of a lake. One of them was tall and handsome, his tie fastened around his dark hair like a bandanna as he grinned broadly at the camera; the other slightly shorter and leaning against the darker boy, his hair falling away from his face as he looked upwards into his companion's eyes. The picture was very old and creased, and the two boys were not moving, just standing in that single moment.
"He didn't need to."
The tiny flame from the candle licked eagerly over the photograph's surface and Remus watched quietly as the boys gradually became obscured by the fire.