The Effigy

Nyx Fixx

December, 2005

Pairing: Remus Lupin/Sirius Black

Rating/Warnings: Rated R, explicit adult content, character death

Word Count: 19,744, six chapters

Summary: Remus tries to hold off a recurring dream and recalls an odd spell Sirius once cast.

Disclaimer: I don't own any of these characters, events, or plotlines. No profit is being made.

Dedication: To my Best Beta, profcricket, on the occasion of her birthday.

The Effigy

1.

Remus had experienced this dream many times. Though there were often minor variations in one small detail or another, the essential shape of the recurring nightmare remained fixed. It always started with him prowling the silent rooms of some large, gloomy building, his feet falling against floorboards in oddly muffled thuds, and the air around him heavy with the weight of a terrible storm brewing outside.

In this occurrence of the dream, the corridors he wandered alone were the all-too-familiar halls of 12 Grimmauld Place; on other nights, in other dreams, it had sometimes been a deserted dockside warehouse, or one of the closed-off wings at Hogwarts, or the upper floors of a Muggle paper mill he had once visited in Poland. But tonight it was a familiar, haunted house in London, and Remus was walking the halls again.

The corridors and rooms he passed through were dark, lit only by the occasional candle and the bleak daylight that filtered wanly through the windows. It was a pale, grey light that cast sickly greenish tones on all it touched, too oppressed by the coming storm to penetrate far past the windowpanes, too weak to cast shadow, illuminating nothing inside the house. This heavy light, this heavy air, deadened sound and flattened color, and when Remus passed by an opened sitting room door, he saw a bright scarlet cloak that had been discarded on the back of a loveseat inside, deprived of all its brightness and only a muddy splash of rusty brown in the deserted room.

There was only relentless gloom and relentless fading, and the relentlessly soft, echoless thudding of his footsteps, pacing slowly through one empty space after another. That and the pricking of the fine hairs on his arms and the backs of his hands rising, prickling against the crushing feel of the air around him; an atmosphere pregnant with the malignant promise of a storm that, when it broke at last, might be enough to drown the world.

But the storm would not break just yet, Remus knew. It was too early – the storm had never yet made good on its threat in this stage of the dream. Though it might press, moist and close and vaguely sickening against the glass of the windows, it was still too early for the lightning to strike. He would have to walk on.

He passed down one hall and up another, and walked through many empty rooms on his way to other silent spaces. As he came to a pair of double oaken doors that led into a formal dining room, he could hear the low sound of speech, the tones as dead and flat as the sound of his own footsteps. Inside the doors, he knew, he would always see a figure seated alone at a table, head in hands, muttering. Remus walked through the doors, looking, with an odd species of reluctant curiosity, toward the table, to see the expected figure. In all the recurrences of this dream that Remus had known, the figure at the table, grumbling to himself, was as malignant as the gathering maelstrom outside, though it was not always the same person. Sometimes it was Mundungus Fletcher, sometimes Argus Filch, and quite often it was Severus Snape. On one memorable occasion it had been Peter Pettigrew, weeping silently as he'd whispered his dark confessions to the empty dinner plate on the table before him.

The figure would never acknowledge Remus' presence as he would pass, no matter who it turned out to be. Remus would always consider speaking to the figure, and would always decide against it, for fear that the figure might answer.

This time, a shaggy, ill-kempt head of graying hair was bowed above the table, dirty fingers cradling brutal features, a low growl in the muttering, softly mournful voice. A silvery spike of cold fear and flat hate speared Remus through his guts, and he stumbled a step in his passage through the room.

Fenrir Greyback. Grumbling to himself and crying into his empty glass of beer.

"Serves me right," Greyback was muttering monotonously to his barren plate. "Serves me right. Bloody well serves me right."

So it does, you evil baby-killing fuck, Remus thought, and before he could pass through and away from Greyback and into the rest of his dream, Remus shuddered himself out of the dream entirely and into a kind of soupy, half dazed waking.

He clumsily pushed twisted and sweat-damp bedclothes off his limbs, freeing himself from their constrictive embrace. He did not often wake before this dream would play out to its ultimate conclusion, and he found himself hoping that if he could stay awake long enough, the dream would dissipate into the insubstantial wisps it was truly composed of before he returned to slumber. With luck, he could pass the rest of his night in relative peace.

He thought, for a moment, about the whole phenomenon of recurring dreams, of the strange way the subconscious mind could sometimes fix on obsessions virtually unknown to the waking mind, playing them out in dream again and again, always seeking some mysterious resolution that could never be found.

Where did such dreams come from? And how might they be banished for good? He had, off and on over the years, sought the answers to these questions, hoping to exile the dream, and be done with it. But every trick and curative he tried against it had failed; he did not know.

His own recurring dream did have some origins in his waking memory; certainly he could identify some of them. Many years ago, he had experienced one of the most bizarre encounters of his life, and had learned things about himself and about the ineffable oddity of the world he lived in that he might well have been content enough not to know.

It was a memory that Remus had simply left isolated in one of the more remote, less inhabited corners of his psyche, vivid and easily recallable, so rare and outré that it was as precious to him as it was disturbing. He rarely took it out and examined it anew, yet, based on the many recurrences of his dream, it seemed that perhaps he had been vaguely haunted by the memory all along.

On this night, hoping to hold off sleep and its freight of disturbing illusions for another few minutes, Remus allowed his mind to seek out this one memory once more, drifting with disturbing ease into times and places and events that had occurred almost fifteen years past.