Author's Note: This fic had better have turned out good, because I wrote it late at night when I was supposed to be getting up early in the morning! I thought it was only going to be a drabble sort of thing—I had the very end of it whirling around in my almost-sleeping mind and it just had to come out.
His days, it seems lately, are strung on a wire, each dropping down to settle against its fellow in an inconsequential grey rainy day sort of way. Remus Lupin does not mind rainy days, and he enjoys the midsummer chill and makes himself tea and settles down with a book. Sometimes (more often now), he doesn't read at all; he sits with his fingers splayed across the page and think of Hogwarts. He is glad to think of Hogwarts in the future now, because even after twelve years he does not like the sharpness that lingers in the colours of the past.
It is an inconsequential day. Remus is glad to have these, glad to brush off the waxing and waning of the moon for a little while, glad to sip tea and think, There are better things to come. He has not done this in a while. Still, it is lonely in his shabby grey dwelling, where things seem colourless even when they are pleasant, and there is no one to talk to. These days, he keeps thinking with a peculiar sort of quickness inside him, I am going home. And then he smiles at himself, though he knows it is true.
The teakettle is humming (quietly); it is a cloudy midmorning with the still blue-grey light of dawn undismissed. Remus thinks, It will rain, and takes a worn volume from the mantelpiece. He has sold many things when his pockets have begun to go empty and laws have piled up and narrowed jobs, but he does not sell books. The teakettle whistles; it is the only shrill, sudden thing in this house, he thinks. He thinks quite a lot nowadays; sometimes he wishes (occasionally with a vehemence that surprises him) that something would think back.
The teakettle grows insistent.
He steps toward it, but there is a sound at the window; he glances up and there is his delivery owl with the Daily Prophet clutched in its talons. It's come later than usual and looks, for an owl, rather tired as it beats its wings against the windowpane. He fishes in his pocket for a Knut, but comes up empty—no matter, he will not be this destitute come September, so he opens the window anyway. The delivery owl drops its burden on the table and flies straight back out again without even demanding a tip. It must be a busy day for subscribers, Remus thinks, and goes to get a teacup as the kettle shrieks in a dire sort of manner. He tilts the kettle and watches the steaming dark liquid spiral into the cup, watches the milk settle in clouds as he stirs it in with the sugar. Then he goes to get his paper. He will sit down in the armchair—the great battered blue one that he'd got with the house—and he will sip his tea and marvel over the beaurocracy of the day. So he thinks. Tea in hand (he is becoming an astonishingly regulated old gentleman, he supposes ironically), he unrolls the paper.
And suddenly, he finds it increasingly difficult to breath.
SIRIUS BLACK ESCAPES AZKABAN, roars the headline boldly. He thinks, he thinks—he thinks he is sick. Or dreaming. Or drowning.
The face. That hollow-eyed, empty face.
Twelve years and Dementors have a way of changing a man.
He barely notices the teacup falling out of his suddenly limp hand.
He can only think in twelve-year-old pictures, but he doesn't want to see them again. He doesn't want to see.
SIRUS BLACK ESCAPES AZKABAN.
"Three unregistered Animagi mucking about on Hogwarts grounds—you lot are positively mad. You do know that?"
"You killed James and Lily, Sirius! How could you?"
Green light. He wasn't there. He is so glad he wasn't there.
He steps backward. The remains of the teacup crunch beneath his heel. He glances at them dimly and whispers "Reparo!", but the pieces remain pieces.
He thinks, vaguely, This is the first cup I've broken in years, because he does not want to think anything else. And he slumps down on the floor beside it with the Prophet still clutched in hands that will not stop trembling.
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