Warning: Slash hints, meaning male/male. Can't handle it, go away. Post - OOTP

Disclaimer: If they were mine, they wouldn't be very famous.


"Almost nothing is different,' I explain, apologetic. "I only used a few drawers for my clothes and books. I hope you don't mind me staying here for a while, I have nowhere else to go."

He doesn't reply, just smiles, tired, sad, his entire face folded up in resignation.

"Most rooms are exactly as they used to be. I haven't changed anything."

I didn't dare to. This house loathes me, as it loathes all life, loathes the here and the now. I wake up to the taste of its hatred every morning, buried to my chin in the past tense. What dies here does not vanish; some halls are thick with ghosts, their essence unraveling and soaking the air, gun-metal grey and dense like fog. The mirrors are covered with a film of soot, but I can still glimpse faces in them, flickering apparitions. Every crack, every shred of peeling wallpaper is swarming with spiders and haunted blood.

He is not drinking his tea.

"Cream and sugar?" I offer and the teaspoon rattles against china. The cookies are rock-hard. I bite one and it crams my mouth with sawdust. "I don't have much, I'm sorry. I would have prepared something better, but I wasn't sure you'd come."

He reaches out towards me, but then his hand stops in mid-gesture, tentative, pointing towards my chest.

"What?" I ask. "Me? My heart?"

He struggles to form a word, his face a maze of tenderness and reluctance, his fingers hovering a few centimetres away from my shirt. I look down; it's buttoned up wrong.

"Thanks," I mumble and struggle to fix it, to smoothen the creases on my shoulders. It's an old shirt, the fabric worn thin at the elbows. Like me, most of my possessions are slowly perishing, unable to stand the tear and wear of seasons.

There are questions, there are always questions. Like: Can you see me? Can you remember my name? I missed you. Will you come to me again?

I want to ask, but some cowardice stops me and instead I talk nonsense, about the leaking roof, the pots and pans I've placed in every part of the house, the repetitive trickle getting on my nerves at night, dirty rainwater spilling into my dreams. I narrate my antics trying to clean the kitchens alone after Molly left. Empty bottles, cigarette butts, roaches clogging the sink, the crust of leftover food on the trays and me in the epicenter of the storm, waging a war with bleaches and brushes, my eyes watering from the fumes of the disinfectant spell, until I gave up and sank to the floor, staring at the pattern of grease stains on the tiles. The house declared victory.

There are more stories to tell. The fact that I keep finding strands of his hair everywhere, long and shiny and black, on my pillows, the sheets, the bathtub. There's a portrait on the stairs between the second and third floor, a snow-haired man with the blinkless gaze of a doll, that doesn't scream or curse me like the others, but keeps repeating "some day - some day-," his voice a dull monotone. Every morning I wake up to the bite marks of moths on the pads of my fingers, and once, rummaging through an old closet I found a skull at the bottom, old yellow bone, and I prayed it belonged to an animal because it was so small, the poor thing, so small.

But I never speak of that and all these words slowly age in my mouth, unspoken every time, coated in spider webs.

It's quiet again, no sound but the buzzing of an insect, trapped somewhere between a curtain and a windowsill. The room is darkening; it's night outside already, the sky solid black like an early Polaroid.

We've edged closer, almost in each other's arms, above the cups and the silverware and the stupid dry biscuits, almost, but not even touching yet, when the doorbell rings.

"Excuse me," I say and he smiles at me as I walk away, tired, sad.

I pull the door open but keep the chain still latched on and a gush of cold wind rushes in, December breath burning my cheeks.

"It's me, it's Sirius," the man outside says, and peering through the small gap, I catch a glimpse of pale skin, a maze of unkempt hair.


"Yes. Open up, Remus, it's freezing outside." His voice is the one I know, and his face is the one I know.

I hesitate, not sure what to do. I look at Sirius, smiling at me from the frosted doorsteps, and then across the corridor, I look at the man sitting at the table, the man who is also Sirius, stirring his tea.

"What's wrong?" Sirius asks and pushes a hand through the gap, trying to reach me, making the chain rattle. He struggles to shove the rest of his arm through, but there's no space, he's hurting himself.

"Remus, let me in," he tells me. "Can't you see me? Can't you remember my name? I missed you. Won't you come to me again?"

Sirius is pleading now, that he'll die out there in the winter, and my stomach churns, I have to lean against the wall to catch my breath.

"Please, I beg you, please, please--"

This nightmare starts banging at the battered door, kicks it, I hear sobbing, nails scraping against wood. "I'll cut you then," he is screaming at the top of his voice. "I'll choke you, I'll burn you! For every hour, I take a day. For every day, one of your years. Let me in, you filth, let me eat the life out of your chest!"

His face is distorted with hate, he is pulling at his hair, whole chunks of his hair out, and then starts tearing at himself, tearing the flesh out of his cheeks, his throat, his arms. Blood is cutting red paths across his shoulders; his face is a wound. He bends double in pain, shriveling, smaller now, different, calmer, until he is another person altogether, young and green-eyed.

It's Harry, standing patiently at the doorway, holding a goblet carefully with both hands, like an offering.

"Open up," he says and I unlock the door.

"Apparated all the way from Hogwarts without spilling a drop," he laughs, as the rotten smell of wolfsbane clogs my nostrils. "Snape sends his regards. No wait," he adds with a sheepish smile. "Actually, he doesn't."

"Hello, Harry." We walk together towards the distant square of light at the end of the corridor. The sound of our footsteps, the creak of the floorboards cannot drown the voices of the portraits, the blackened canvas whispers threats. "Sirius is here."

Harry freezes, looking at me as if I've sprouted horns. "Sirius?"

The goblet falls cracking against the floor and rolls away, a splash of dark liquid on the threadbare carpet.

Sirius by the table jumps at the sound and then stands up slowly, wiping his palms with a napkin. We stare at him and he stares back at us, smiling, sad. In the gap between sound and silence he exhales the last breath of my conjuring spell.

"What have you done, professor Lupin?" Harry is shouting. "What have you done?"

The matter of importance in this case is not what I did but that I keep failing to do. All that emotion I wasted on him, counting every smile and kind gesture, it didn't save him in the end. And now I did it all wrong once more, I messed up my second chance, the magic I promised Albus I wouldn't work again; a sacrilege he had called it, a foul creature.

Harry is livid with anger, he shoves me away only to clutch me close a second later, banging weak fists against my shoulders.

"It's not him, it can't take his place. It's only taking your life, you idiot! Why?"

Why not? It's not like I was doing anything with it, anyway.

The room is empty now, like the space of his name on the family tapestry, a little black unkindness, a Rorschach blot, a cigarette burn.

"Some day-some day-" the portrait on the stairs keeps repeating. I wake up to the teeth mark of moths on my fingers every morning.

His mother misses him too, through she won't admit.

The end