Title: Sceleratus (meaning to pollute with blood or guilt)
Author: Cobalt Violet
Pairing: SB/RL, mentions of RL/Others
Rating: PG 13
Warnings: SLASH, meaning MALE/MALE things, angst, some self-harm and slight Remus bastardisation.
Disclaimer: Whilst I solemnly swear that I am up to no good with these characters, I'll give them back to Ms Rowling when I'm done.
Summary: A look at the relationship between Sirius and Remus, and how regret can warp love into something entirely different.
Note: First two present tense parts from the POV of Sirius, second two from the POV of Remus.
Written for the Potterverse Quote Use Challenge
'And now I'm glad I didn't know,
The way it all would end,
The way it all would go,
Our lives are better left to chance…'
- Garth Brooks
He stares at the mirror.
His reflection, silvered behind glass, imprisoned. A beautiful caged bird, trapped behind delicate bars, a butterfly pinned to red velvet. Contained. Dead. Crucified.
His eyes are muted pools of grey – dull smoke on a winter's morning, dark storm clouds on a rainy day. His hair is black velvet – not as smooth and shining as it once was; not silk, not any more, simply velvet; duller, harsher, drinking in light, not reflecting it. His skin is pale, too tight across his cheek bones, lined around his mouth – deep grooves running on either side, and he almost fools himself into thinking they are laughter lines – dark smudges under his eyes.
His gaze drops to the reflection's throat. Bruises there. Wine dark, like claret spilt on lace, abrupt, shocking, direct contrast. It makes people pause to see them, and he touches them lightly, with careful too-thin fingers. He put them there, so there they will remain, a reminder that he is not alone, not any more. He is not trapped in this godforsaken place permanently and soon, soon he will escape into sunlight, warmth and freedom.
The gaze drifts up again, this time resting on the narrow, straight nose. An imperial nose, that. A snort escapes his lips, and he sees a bitter smile cross the reflection's face. A Black nose. A hated symbol of his hated family. He should curse it off, or something, he thinks, but dismisses the idea immediately. No, He wouldn't like it.
Pale hands splash idly in the lukewarm water of the sink as he looks down, only half seeing what is in front of him. Crystal droplets splatter the tiling as he shakes his fingers, absently wipes them on a hard towel and then picks up a comb.
Sometimes he wonders about the werewolf. Wonders about their relationship. It never seems to be loving or gentle – not like it used to be. Remus doesn't whisper endearments in his ear; hold him tenderly after lovemaking. It's…harsh. Cold. Maybe he deserves this, he thinks, viciously scraping through his hair with the comb, ignoring the pain in his scalp. Maybe he deserves this harsh, cold Remus, the one who doesn't – has never – said 'I love you'. Who is he to question what he is given, even when it is so little? Thirteen years have passed, and the person he loves is…not there. Gone. As dead as he, himself is inside.
The room wobbles, glitters, splinters into a million shards and he realises he is crying. Hot tears drip down his face. Several join the water in the sink with a soft plink. It's odd he reflects, staring dispassionately at his crying reflection, which seems to show so much more pain than he can; it's odd…but he can't feel anything.
"Sirius? Sirius! Just what do you think you're doing up there?"
The dark haired boy spun around, heels brushing dangerously close to the edge of the parapet.
"Oy Remus! Look at the sky! Isn't it amazing?" Black hair swirled in a patterned dance as Sirius spun closer to the edge, his head tilted backwards and his arms outstretched. "The moon, she's beautiful! And the stars!" He laughed, giddily, sheer euphoria welling up inside him, as his friend watched, a small, amused smile on his face.
"Come down from there, Sirius, you'll catch your death of cold."
"Death can't catch me." Sirius threw his head back, whooping. "I'm the Grim! I laugh in the face of death." He paused, silhouetted against the night sky, black on black velvet, a pale, perfect picture of strange, inexplicable contrast. "Well, maybe not laugh," he amended, jumping down from the stone wall surrounding the astronomy tower, deliberately ignoring Remus's proffered hand. "More like a snicker, really."
"A snicker." Remus's voice was flat, half disbelieving.
"Mm." Grey eyes turned towards him, and Sirius grinned. "A quiet snicker, as well, and I wouldn't do it in death's face, so, it's more like a quiet snicker behind death's back." He exhaled, sharply, dark tendrils dancing in the sudden breeze. "But it would be the kind of snicker that would, you know, freak death out."
"What are you talking about?"
"Oh, I don't know, anything, everything. Anything that comes to mind." Sirius laughed again and grabbed his friend's arm, whirling him around in a dizzy, crazy dance, that set the stars spinning and the world careening out of control, until they both crashed down, down, into a breathless, giggling heap of tangled limbs and mussed hair, and flushed skin and rumpled clothing.
"Of course." Sirius grinned, unashamed, even as he burrowed closer to Remus, his hair getting caught in the other boy's mouth – a pleased puppy seeking stolid warmth in a crazy, out of control world. "What would I be if I wasn't silly?"
Remus smiled, absently stroking warm skin. "You wouldn't be Sirius," he said.
And for a while, Sirius ignored the stars.
He stares at the mirror.
A rosy mist spreads across it, streaking the cracked glass as it slides slowly down towards the bottom. It's his blood. His blood that's running through the spider web of glass shards, and this time, he can feel the pain.
He stares at the cuts on his hands, half dazed. How did they get there? He remembers punching the mirror – trying to get rid of his own reflection, but surely…that wouldn't cause so many deep lacerations?
Blood drips, crimson, onto the white sink, so like the water the last time he came in here. It's pretty, he thinks, like a tulip, or a rose. The way the blood spreads reminds him of red dye…red die… he lets out a small bark of laughter at the unintentional pun and his shattered reflection, opposite, does the same. He stares at the blood for a moment longer, trying to ignore the rush of pain he knows he's going to feel soon.
His gaze trails reluctantly, hesitantly, but unerringly to his reflection in the mirror. It is not as handsome as it was last time, and he thinks that this is probably because it is fractured, broken, irreparable. Like his life, then, a solid metaphor of what has happened.
He had known that Remus didn't love him, but he'd thought that there had been friendship, at least. He hadn't realised that all the time Remus had been coldly, cruelly fucking him, he had been sleeping with six, seven, eight, innumerable number of people behind his back.
He had thought, stupidly, that he was at least valued.
He watches the blood with morbid fascination – trying to block out the whispers of agony stirring in his soul. If he focuses on the slow, never-ending ooze, he thinks, maybe he won't have to worry about what will become of his shattered heart.
Shattered heart, shattered hands, shattered reflection staring, fragmented, back at him.
The room seems to spin before his eyes – rosy sheen on the glass flashing in the dying light from the window. If he had a guardian angel, he thinks, now would be the time that it would appear to soothe him.
Downstairs a clock chimes, marking the slow measure of time, but up here there is silence.
Angels are meant to know everything, he thinks, studying the blood staining his skin. Why hadn't his angel come to see him? Surely it too can see what is happening. Angels are poised above the world – unseen observers, so shouldn't that mean his guardian angel would wish to comfort him in his moment of suffering?
Snowflakes, pure white – that is what his angel's wings would be made of.
He smiles dreamily, falling deeper into his imagination – escaping, running the path to his innermost thoughts. Don't deal with reality. Not at the moment.
His angel would have long, dark hair, like his own, and a beautiful smile. His angel would hold him, rock him gently back and forth and talk softly to him. His angel wouldn't leave him; he would always be there, a silent protector against the nightmares and pain of the world…
A knock at the door – a soft, "Sirius?"
Grey eyes raise wearily, pain dragged to the foremost again – as vivid as the now-drying blood on the sink.
He doesn't have angel, of course. An angel would have stopped his pain before it had even begun – would have warned him from his path of foolishness…
So much for the knowledge of angels, he thinks bitterly.
"You…you…" Remus knew his mouth was hanging open, knew his knees were shaking and his fingers trembling, but he couldn't help himself. "My God…you did it. You really did it. I…" He shook his head, unable to say anything further because of the lump that seemed to be blocking his throat.
The black dog thumped its tail, its tongue lolling out as it stared up at him. Its grey eyes glittered in the dim light of the dormitory, pale pools of shadow, and it idly scratched behind one ear – a perfect imitation of an average household pet.
"Oh…oh…Padfoot." Remus let out a choked sob and dropped to his knees, burying his fingers and face in thick black fur, trying to hide his tears.
The dog barked, sharply, clearly pleased with the name it had been gifted with, and the young werewolf was rewarded with a sloppy lick to his ear and the soft, warm huff of breath against his skin. As he sat like that, face hidden in the dog's glossy coat, he felt a shift in the air around him, but ignored it, not really thinking of anything except the ache in his chest that was so happy, so unbearably happy, that he couldn't breathe properly.
"I take it you like it, then." The voice was gentle in his ear, making him jump, his fingers tearing away from the sleek black hair, sending a spark of disappointment at the loss of contact fizzing through his body.
"Like it? I…I love it." He frowned as a sudden thought occurred to him. "But you should have been more careful. You shouldn't have rushed it as much – what if something had gone wrong?" Hysteria was rising in his voice, just from the thought, the very thought of something happening to Sirius. It was irrational, illogical, and his useless, pathetic worrying was no thanks to his crazy, amazing friend who had done so much for him. "You…stupid mutt!" half laughed, half cried; a splutter of outraged indignation and overwhelming gratitude.
"Don't hate me because I'm beautiful." Sirius rolled over onto his back, a dog-like grin plastered across his face as he shut his eyes, looking entirely too smug.
"Beautiful? Hah, only you would think you're beautiful, you…you doggy narcissist!" But Remus had to confess, in a tiny corner of his mind, that Sirius – proud, beautifully arrogant Sirius – was indeed a perfect picture.
Sirius' lips twitched, a small smile curving them. "Don't hate me because I'm beautiful," he repeated, his voice quieter, lower. "Hate me because…ok, hate me because I'm beautiful!" He opened his eyes, grey gaze fixing on Remus. "But I'd rather you didn't hate me at all," he said, and sat up, swiftly, and kissed him.
'Oh…' thought Remus, unable to think of anything else. 'Oh…
And because it had been such a long night, already, and because Sirius was there with him tasting of Butterbeer and chocolate frogs and mischief, he really felt that he couldn't do anything else, but kiss his newly-made Animagus back.
He stares at the mirror.
Cracked glass coloured a dull rust by the smears of dried blood. It represents everything and nothing, a whirlwind of contradictions and he has to smile faintly as he thinks that it is so like Sirius to leave such a jumbled, confused message behind. Its shattered pool of silver looks so much like the broken reflection of everything they both used to be, even the blood is a silent reminder of everything they became.
Their relationship was…is…broken. Hanging on by the barest thread, a poor imitation of what it used to be. It wasn't that he moved on – how could he ever? – just that things were no longer the same – could never be again.
The flaking blood hangs there, mockingly, a silent, rusted reprimand. You could have done something, you could have, but you never did. He never did, he realises with an agonizing wrench. They were both selfish, stupid, not in love, but a bitter twisted parody. Love was for other people, not for them.
It had been all about pain and harshness and suffering and wanting to forgive and forget but never being able to. Stuck in a loop. It was all about writhing and screaming and blood-wet trails down nail-scratched backs and the harsh pants that filled the darkness, making it difficult to breathe. It had been about pain and release and it hadn't been love, it hadn't.
He closes his eyes and tries to block the thoughts from his mind. (Wonder if he ever did the same in here?) The visions dance behind his eyelids – of bitter mouths and cold laughter, of the sour taste of something like happiness and the sickly sweet sense of self-gratification. He hadn't thought of Sirius, but Sirius hadn't thought of him either. Two selfish individuals wrapped in their own worlds, trying to communicate. Like shouting across a continent, a galaxy. Never able to make the connection, and now that's another regret.
He finds he's crying, and isn't surprised. Not really. Sirius could always do this to him anyway and it shouldn't make a bit of difference despite his death. He's crying for himself, one last piece of selfishness, the bitter aftertaste of a relationship based on something he isn't able to comprehend. It wasn't about lies and it wasn't about love. It was about regret.
And as he stands in front of the broken, bloodied mirror, he thinks maybe he should have asked a bit more. Understood a bit more. But it's too late now and he has to go on, because it was something that was ruining him anyway.
The past will leave streaks of blood on his soul, he thinks, but none more than his time here, because if the past is bloodied, Sirius is its source – a veritable lake of blood in his own right. Blood tainted with regret and all the things that could have been, but never would have, really, and never will be.
And it wasn't regret, either, he realises, picking up a glittering piece of the mirror and turning it over in his hands, even as the room becomes blurred at the edges, tears marking ice cold fire down his face. The regret was the part they brought to the front – the part they admitted to themselves and one another. Yet another dishonesty, another cover-up. But really, after so many years, how could they change the pattern? The pain?
No, it wasn't regret. The regret was yet another lie.
It was love.
Or something like it, anyway.
And as he stares at the mirror, he thinks that this realisation probably hurts most of all.
"I thought they made that thing idiot proof!" Sirius yelped, as James emerged from behind a large, choking cloud of green smoke. "Boy did you ever prove them wrong!" He coughed and waved a hand in front of his face. "It figures that only a Potter could explode an unexplodable cauldron, complete with our emergency stash of Dungbombs inside!"
"How was I to know it would do that if I tried to transfigure part of it into a rubber bone for your Christmas present?"
"You cheapskate, James!" Sirius's expression was rapidly turning indignant. "You're supposed to buy me something ridiculously expensive! Best mates and all that!"
James rolled his eyes. "If you want expensive, go to Remus. He's your boyfriend, anyway. It's his job to give you things."
"I think not," Remus put in loftily from his place in one of the high backed Gryffindor armchairs. "Sadly, Prongs, you are very much mistaken if you think I'll be forking out my money to buy Padfoot here a diamond collar."
"Diamond…" Sirius repeated, half amused, half shocked and entirely irritated.
Remus hid his smile behind a book. "Indeed, after all, I think it's about time we got you a collar, Paddy, but because I'm not spending much on you…" he trailed off and casually turned a page. "Well, I suppose it'll have to be a normal one from the Magical Menagerie."
"WHAT?!" Sirius's voice had raised several decibels and, indeed, several octaves. James, who had been standing behind him, clapped his hands over his ears and winced, knocking his glasses askew.
"Remus, calm your dog down, will you? He's deafening me."
"Sirius, behave," Remus said mildly, his eyes following the words across the page. "You're frightening the wildlife."
There was a disgusted grunt from James and the book was knocked aside as Sirius loomed over him, hands on either side of Remus's head, a warning glittering in clear grey eyes as his lips pulled back from his teeth in a menacing grin.
"You'd better be getting me something nicer than a dog collar, Remus."
"How about a little tag to go with it, then? Saying 'Property of Remus Lupin'."
Both Remus and Sirius shot James utterly filthy looks.
"What? It's only true, mates, no use in denying it." James beamed, mischievous glee written across his face. "Tell you what, I'll leave you two cosy canines to decide what collar to pick, shall I?"
Picking up his broom, he slung it over one shoulder and exited through the portrait hole, his gait slightly faster than it perhaps should have been.
"'Property of Remus Lupin', eh?" Sirius turned his attention back to Remus, who simply smiled.
"It's true, though, isn't it?"
"I," Sirius drew himself up to his full height and looked down his nose at Remus, "am not just some 'property'. I am Sirius Black."
"Well, Sirius Black, who's your boyfriend?"
"And whose bed do you sleep in every night?"
Remus smiled and sat up straighter in his armchair. "And who do you love?"
Grey eyes locked with gold, and Sirius's voice dropped, becoming quieter, more sincere. "You, only you."
"Ah." Remus stood up and moved closer, one pale hand stretching out to trail fingers down Sirius's cheek. Unconsciously, the Animagus closed his eyes, nuzzling into the caress as his canine counterpart would. Pausing, Remus leant forwards, his lips barely brushing Sirius's.
"I think my point is made," he said softly, and felt, more than heard, Sirius laugh.
"Ok, Moony, point taken, get me the damn dog collar, for Christmas."
They kissed, slowly, sweetly, languidly; as though they had all the time in the world – they did, Remus thought – and when they parted, Sirius' lips were glistening in the firelight and Remus hoped that if he could take one thing with him to the grave, it would be the memory of Sirius framed by the flickering light, a beautiful, dark angel that loved him, and him alone. He smiled, and nuzzled gently, nose barely brushing soft skin as he sighed happily.
"I do love you, you crazy puppy."
He stares at the mirror.
He can't remember any of the happy times they must have had. Can't remember because he, too, was living twelve years of hell, twelve years of deliberately not remembering, and trying to shove aching, hurtful, wonderful memories out of his mind.
And now Sirius is gone, and he, despite his foolish actions, must have loved him once, and now they can never rediscover this love together. It is gone too, another fragile broken thing, lost in a storm of glass, of knife-cutting pain, barbed comments and razor regret.
His reflection stares back at him, fragmented, pale, accusing. It is a wraith from the past, a spirit that watches with mournful eyes, its very presence an accusation that he should have used the time he had, instead of wasting it on insults, curses, sweet hatred because it is always easier to blame someone else, hate someone else, and remain utterly without fault in your own eyes.
He supposes he must have loved Sirius somewhere, constantly, deep down. Must have cared about him enough, and he just wishes he could recall a time, any time, when it had simply been about happiness.
So, all he is left with now that the 'happier' times are gone, is himself, standing in a small, dank bathroom in front of a fragmented mirror. Kreacher is, no doubt, muttering downstairs, and the other Order members will be gathering. But up here, he has his legacy of dripping taps and the faint smell of Hippogriff; of a smashed mirror and the cobweb-thin strands of black hair caught around a comb; of the faint smell of soap and mould and the stronger scent of wet dog, and the lingering aftertaste on his tongue of memories that haven't quite been forgotten, but can't be recalled.
All he has left.
Regret and the vague, distant memory of something that could have been love.
Remus stares at the mirror, and wonders if it will ever be enough.
He doubts it.