A/N: Quote taken from Discworld Noir, credit to Terry Pratchett
Everybody's talking at me
I don't hear a word they're saying
Only the echoes of my mind
People stopping, staring
I can't see their faces
Only the shadows of their eyes
I'm going where the sun keeps shining
Thru' the pouring rain
Going where the weather suits my clothes
Backing off of the North East wind
Sailing on the summer breeze
And skipping over the ocean like a stone
-Everybody's Talkin', The Beautiful South
Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place. Back home. His home.
No-one wanted to be here, least of all Remus. He could have gone anywhere, he thought, anywhere but here. He could hear and feel Sirius everywhere. This floorboard here, that panel on the door. If he walked through that door he'd see the tapestry on the wall and the small, circular burn hole, as neat and round as a cigarette burn, that space where Sirius' name used to be. Remus knew if he opened the door in his heart where he stored the most precious items of all he would find a matching hole, small and round, but burning and aching. The space where Sirius used to be.
There was a matching one for James. And a pair for his parents. But Remus didn't want to open that door, not yet.
Molly Weasly was saying something, but Remus couldn't hear her. He drifted up the stairs towards his room, on the way touching a patch on the wall where Sirius had leant that time. He had been smiling.
"Hey, Harry! What do you think of those? Great, aren't they?"
Remus smiled. Christmas decorations never failed to put a smile on Sirius' face.
"Padfoot, what on earth is that?"
"It's a christmas tree, you idiot, what did you think it was?"
A sigh. "I know what it is. What's it doing here?"
"I put it there. Honestly, Prongs, you are a prat. Here, help me hang this up."
Remus had never joined in the decorating. Always busy with his books. He wondered if he regretted it. Too late now.
He opened the door to his room, only turning his head to cast a fleeting glance at the room that Sirius had slept in. He closed the door behind him and went to lie down on the bed.
Half an hour later a knock on the door woke him up. Molly tentatively peered around the door, trying to fix a cheerful smile to her face. She asked something about food and Remus shook his head and turned over. He felt her watching for a good while before she closed the door and he could close his eyes again. But this time he didn't sleep. He waited.
He waited until morning. They were leaving. An escort for Harry and the others. They didn't even bother to knock on the door to ask if he was going with them. Remus didn't care.
He sat up and rubbed his eyes. Then he went downstairs.
The kitchen. Remus made himself a cup of coffee, the Muggle way, and sat at the table in the chair opposite Sirius's. If he squinted his eyes and looked over at the door he could just about manage to conjour a picture of Sirius out of the corner of his eye. He always sat in that chair, sipping whatever drink Molly had made for him, smiling that off-centre smile and occasionally running his long fingers through his dark hair with one hand. Remus remembered the way he drank coffee or tea, both hands caressing the mug, thumbs running backwards and forwards over the lip, fingers interlaced on the other side. His expression of ecstasy after that first, early-morning drink was something Remus savoured because it had never failed to make him smile.
"Look at you!"
"What about me?"
"Sipping that coffee like it's a lifeline."
"Oh but it is! My only link to sanity."
"I'd believe that!"
At that moment, Molly, or the twins, or Harry, or maybe even Kingsley or Tonks would walk through the door and they'd sink back into the respective silence they used around other people. It was easier than saying what they really wanted. Or doing what they really wanted. They saved that for times when they were truly alone.
If he could really see Sirius out of the corner of his eye, they'd be alone now. A day to themselves. The others wouldn't be back for the rest of the day. Due to travelling or out of warped respect, Remus didn't know. Nor did he care. He just knew that had Sirius really been sitting across the table from him, they wouldn't be sitting in the numbing silence.
It was time. Remus put his mug down, the liquid had long grown cold. He stumbled up the stairs, lingering on a certain step he'd lingered on so many times before. When he was talking to Sirius or simply watching him. He had command of this house, whether he knew it or not. Being born to something never really left you, no matter how many times you tried to escape it. Remus liked to watch Harry and Sirius together. He'd always denied it, but Sirius would have made a wonderful father. 'Would have'. Past tense already, is it? Remus, angry at himself, stormed up the rest of the stairs, through a door, and flung himself down on Sirius' bed.
He slowly began to cry. At first it was the scent of the pillows, the clinging to the sheets, limbs entwined and tangled in their fabric. Then it was simply being here, alone. The emptiness of the house finally hit him with all the force of a blow from a giant. The desertion of Kreacher, the silence of Mrs Black who, for once, hadn't spoken up since they'd returned, the lack of bustling and business. He was used to Molly fussing or the twins causing trouble, Tonks tripping over something or Hermione lecturing Kreacher. There was always something happening at Grimmauld Place. But even when he was left alone, he knew he wasn't really. He was in a house belonging to somebody else, they would return for it, and the house would be busy again. So, realising that he was, once and for all, truly alone, Remus began to cry.
It made him angry. People expected him to cry, of course they did. They never saw him really show an emotion. Not even as he watched Sirius die, not even then did he make a sound. He was far too busy trying to keep hold of Harry. So they all thought he had no emotion. It's alright, Remus. It's good to cry. You'll feel better afterwards. Well, he never bloody did. And he should know. Better than anyone else, the pain of loss. The unfairness of it all. The first people to accept him in all of his life. James; murdered, Lily with him, Peter supposed dead and everything he knew about Sirius turned upside down. A saying came to him suddenly. He couldn't remember where he'd heard it, but suddenly it made absolute sense. It's hard to tell which way is up when your world's been turned upside down. How many times had Remus' life been twisted? Too many. Every time he'd adjusted, it all changed again. Sirius returned, Harry suddenly came into his life, Peter was discovered. Suddenly his friends sprang up around him again, in a different guise.
But now he was tumbling again. Lost in the shadows of confusion. Peter fled, Sirius...gone. Yes, he knew far better than anyone else the pain of loss, the bitter irony of misfortune, the scornful, mocking mistress of death. So close to him. Taking all his loved ones yet leaving him behind. So he didn't want to cry. It wasn't worth the breath.
He sat up and rubbed his eyes, stubborn and set in his conclusion. Lupin threw his legs over the side of the bed and stood up sharply. Then he yanked open the doors to the wardrobe and began to rifle through Sirius' things.
A week later Grimmauld Place was inhabited again. But it wasn't the same. For one thing, Remus had changed beyond recognition, or so it seemed. For seven nights now he'd left his room untouched and locked himself away in Sirius' room, sleeping in his bed and sometimes wrapping his robes around himself when it got too cold. Molly didn't know what he was doing, but she didn't want to find out. Not normally one to shy away from things, Molly was scared by her own reaction.
And so she left him. To his grief, she supposed.
Then, for the first time in a week, there was the pounding of footsteps on the stairs. They creaked beneath the strain and Molly lifted her head and peered around the doorframe. Remus, robes flung around him, flew down the stairs and out into the street. Molly turned back to her magazine.
Remus stepped onto the street, took a deep breath, concentrated and Disapparated.
The heart of Wizarding London. The dark side. Remus pulled his hood over his plain hair and began walking.
There was a crowd of young witches and wizards huddling underneath the shelter of a battered awning, jostling for the prime space, begging to be noticed. They fascinated Remus and he drew closer. Two young men clad only in shimmering robes of darkest wine and bottle green. They glistened in the dull light and their eyes gleamed. One had straight blonde hair, swept backwards elegantly into a tidy clasp. The other had hair of darkest ebony, fine lengths trailing into his green eyes. He fixed Remus with a clear stare and Lupin had to look away. There was something in the steely gaze that reminded him of Sirius. The others were girls, four slim females with slender figures and elongated limbs. As Remus walked by, one took hold of his robe and, with hair colour changing with each blink of her eye, offered to become "anything you want me to be". Remus detached the young Metamorphmagus and gently declined her offer. She shrugged and blinked. When her eyes opened again they were startling purple and she shook her head, sudden waves of blood red hair tumbling out of nowhere. Lupin tore his eyes away and continued.
The streets were dull and moist with rainwater. Remus' shoes clicked softly as he walked and he felt the puddles beginning to seep through the soles.
That night he slept in a deserted house, curled up on a moth-eaten sofa, Sirius' robes around him for comfort and warmth. In the morning he rose sharply, rubbing his eyes and stretching out his limbs. To the edge.
When Remus reached water it was past midday. His shadow was short on the ground and the sun's rays pressed down on his head, recently exposed as he took down the hood of his robe. He waded part-way into the waves, cool washes spreading as high as his calves. For a moment he closed his eyes and savoured the feeling. Then then sparkless eyes snapped open and he pulled out the package from beneath his robes.
It was rumpled now, and slightly crushed from the time spent clasped so close to Remus' chest. Lupin pulled two thin sheets from beneath the covers and slipped them into his pocket. He took another step forwards.
He opened the book. The first page contained instructions. Remus knew that he'd find them there. Instinctively, he knew where to look. And he almost couldn't bear what he was about to do. But he knew he had to follow the instructions. Sirius' last wishes.
A photograph album. Photographs from all through Sirius' life. As a child, with his parents, so old they didn't even move. Remus pulled them out and, balancing the album underneath one arm, began to tear the pictures of Sirius' parents and brother. Sirius had insisted that Remus' didn't look but he couldn't help stealing a quick glance before submerging the faces under the Atlantic seas forever. He retrieved the album from its' precarious position and took another step away from the shore.
Next pages. School photographs. Sirius and Regulus in uniform, startched and sulking. Whispering his instructed words Remus pulled the pictures out and tore them before dropping them into the water. One more step.
The Marauders. Young, smiling faces grinned cheekily up at Remus who breathed desperately and blinked back tears. The tearing of memories, the jagged rip slashing through Remus' own young face, detaching head from body. Crinkled in older hands and left to float on the surface, as instructed.
The water now lapped against Remus' thighs, stronger waves stroking beneath his belt buckle. He wasn't allowed to think of Sirius but the waves reminded him of Black's gentle hands and fleeting touches. Remus swallowed and shook his head. Last selection of photographs. James, Lily, baby Harry. Peter smiling. Himself and Sirius, hands clasped just out of shot. The image brought tears back to the surface. Gasping them away Remus repeated his actions and tore the photos up before letting them fall into the sea where they would eventually bleed and soften to pulp.
The very last page was another note.
Only you would know where to find this. It's yours, Moony. Fill it with your new life. Or memories of ours. Make them better than the ones we've just destroyed.
At that Remus let the tears drip down the cheeks, spotting onto the page. Lupin dabbed at them carefully, avoiding smudging Sirius' perfectly preserved handwriting. He folded the book away and replaced it. Now came the other two. One more step into the sea.
Water now around his waist Remus held the album high and retrieved one last photograph. The two of them together, as they had been only a month ago. One kiss, one tear, and it was lost. To Sirius. Forever.
One more step and the letter. Words of love filtering into the depths of the water, flowing whole-heartedly to wherever Sirius' soul stood now, proud and full of their life together.
Remus ducked his head under the salty water, still protecting the album. He let the water roll down his body as he waded back, still whispering his final goodbye as though it were a mantra.
Grimmauld Place. Remus frequented between his room and Sirius'. Nothing was to be moved, nothing could be changed without permission. And that would never come. Remus had taken Sirius' last words and drowned them. He was free of crushing memories, free to be proud of the good times and the love. The small things. Remus didn't miss anything else. The way Sirius would trail his hands along the back of Remus' chair, the way his eyes lit up when Remus grinned, the notes in his textbooks.
The memories sailed across Sirius' old room, spiralling wildly from framed pictures, old robes, abandoned belongings; Remus himself. Lupin knew he was a beacon of it all, the final will and testament of their love, floating around him as an aura of eternal protection. A smile.