Summary: The world stands still, and who dares disturb it? Inspired by The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T. S. Eliot.
Pairings: Harry/Draco, Hermione/Ginny, pseudo-implied Sirius/Remus
Characters: Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny, Draco, Snape, Dumbledore, Remus
Author's Notes: Post-OotP. Dedicated to sociofemme, who inspired this train of thought with her Hr/MB ficlet... and peaches.

Ron stares at his empty page, wondering how to begin, how to sully the parchment that stares back. In the candle light, it is the color of old bones.

It's such a simple thing, he thinks, to pick up a quill, sweep it across in a serpentine line, fine and delicate and forever staining. One could magic it away, turn back the mistake of a moment, but it would never be the same. Blood washed is still blood spilt, and outside the glass of the window, beyond the window pane, the tempest of the tranquil night thunders in, crashing silently against the solemn walls, curling around the castle, raising mist upon the lake. Ron looks to see the moon, already risen, rolling through the canopy of stars.

Where to begin? he thinks, and where will it end?

The heavy air of winter presses down, and Ron yawns, his body seeking refuge in the den of slumber. But the candle is long and can burn all night, and there is time enough for sleep, yet.

Time enough for sleep.

...

Candles burn in the Library as well, casting light where shadows lie, crawling up the dusty walls, where forgotten lore and magic dream in tomes upon the shelf.

Hermione knows it's good that all around her sleeps - all the secrets that she keeps threaten the silence of her secret lair as they crash against her lips, mumbled into burning hair.

Ginny makes a questing sound.

"Nothing," she answers, and holds her near, soft crushing flesh and legs entwined, a shield against the fear.

But Ginny laughs, still tinged with childhood, an innocence still held inside, though heavy sighs and gentle tongue remembers all that might become.

...

He, too, remembers lips and legs, and long white arms, draped or bare, remembers the endless fall of hair, soft and dark, all around.

But that is gone now, only memories to be found, and now he's like a tree, roots deep within the soil. If only he could rest, he thinks -- a night of rest, away from toil, beneath the crumbling stars -- it might revive him.

There is a door, beyond is pain and suffering, and he thinks...

It only takes a second to step into the world beyond, to step out of this life and into another, only an endless falling second, just a moment to slip the bonds --

"Severus."

Soft and sibilant, the hiss of vipers through the air, not human any longer - outside his mind it hovers, and in his secret heart, he shudders.

...

And Dumbledore, bent and ancient, stripped of pretense, old and spent, stumbles down the stairs. He leans against the stone, and thinks of those that went before him, into the darkness all alone.

He grows old.

He grows old.

...

In the crowded darkness of his bed, the hero's hands skim on the skin beneath him. It is soft and round, like a peach. The entire universe in front of him, his for the taking, beating back the evening, beating back the morning waking.

He is the hero of the story. He could slay the dragon, pierce through the living, beating heart and claim the drake, pleasure spent and longing slaked. He throbs with long desire, and Draco smiles in the night.

Harry takes a bite.

...

... and in another place, the wolf stands silent on the beach, the stars and future past his reach, though he thought to pluck the madness from the moment, thought to pluck away the pain that lingers, in his heart, with trembling fingers. The ocean streches out before him - if he could take that one step forward, it could be a life undone. One step, another step again, all that starts with one, down to the floor of the silent sea, where nothing makes a sound and where all that lingers drowns.

But he stays still, caught in time, and the moon idles in the sky. He is sealed in again, and dying voices, lost and sad, whisper in the sand, lost beneath the music of the waves dragging on the land.

His mind is dark, a private hell, and in the corners sorrows dwell.