Title: You Never Know
Summary: Never leave words unspoken. You never know when you'll lose the opportunity to say them.
Warnings: Character-death, but no one who doesn't die in canon. Requires knowledge of both PoA and OotP as there are things I take for granted that people know.
Timeframe: Takes place during OotP.
Spoilers: For PoA, OotP
Category: Angst, POV, not a happy story
Disclaimers: Hogwarts and all of its characters belong to JK Rowling, I'm only borrowing them to have a little fun and I promise to return them unharmed (well, at least mostly unharmed 0). I'm making no money from this and this is written for entertainment purposes only.
Feedback: Both positive feedback and constructive criticism are greatly appreciated and will be cherished!
Archive: Please ask first. )
Author's Note: PLEASE READ: I wrote and finished editing this story before reading the HBP so certain things don't line up with the latest book.
You Never Know
The door to Sirius' bedroom was open so I entered without knocking. I wasn't surprised to find him lying face up on his bed, eyes focused morosely on the ceiling. The creaking of floorboards must have announced my presence but he didn't give any indication that he was aware of no longer being alone. He didn't even move.
Silently, I crossed the room and placed the tray on the nightstand beside him. "I made you something to eat," I whispered, looking down into his weathered face, into dark eyes that were not trained on my own. What I saw reflected there had not changed since the last time we'd spoken. It was weariness, frustration, and anger, three emotions that only contributed to his premature aging.
"I'm not hungry," he replied without looking at me.
I suppressed a sigh. "You haven't eaten in almost two days, Sirius."
"I'm not hungry," he repeated, tone made cold by an annoyance that was not truly directed at me but at his situation in general. Sirius was…impetuous and impatient. He was a man who was unable to wait. He needed to be active to feel useful. Being trapped here, locked in the house he had wanted to escape for nearly his entire childhood, was stifling for him. Being trapped here, unable to do what he wanted to help the Order – to help Harry – was infuriating for him. Dumbledore was a great man but he simply didn't know, didn't see. He was slowly killing Sirius by forcing him to stay here.
There were any number of responses I could give to his childlike petulance. I could remind him that Harry needed him and that he'd be of no use to his godson if he allowed himself to sink further into this haze of ire and self-pity. I could tell him that I disagreed with Dumbledore's decision to keep him here. I could even tell him that I understood that this was very difficult for him even though I would never understand how he felt. The safest option available was simply for me to leave. Sirius was in no mood to talk to me about what was bothering him, or about anything in general for that matter. I knew that. Years of being Sirius' friend – of being the only one he would confide in when he was troubled by his family – had made me quite skilled at reading him. All I would get out of him right now was annoyance and that wasn't going to help.
"The food is there, Sirius," I stated frankly, a hint of reproach evident in my words. "Eat it or throw it against the wall if that's what pleases you."
Without waiting to see his reaction to my uncharacteristic statement, I turned to leave the room. I was nearly out the door when his barely audible voice stopped me. "I can't do this, Remus."
It was a pathetic entreaty and the naked desperateness in it was nearly painful to hear. It was so hard to see what Azkaban had done to him. It was so hard to see what this place was doing to him now.
For a moment I considered going without giving him a response. It was the…sensible thing to do. Despite this somewhat restrained comment I knew he didn't want to discuss this, not really. What he wanted was to find someone or something to aim all his anger at. If I stayed, he'd use me.
I knew from experience, from having watched him closely these last few months, that it would be harsh and vitriolic. He'd been horribly unbearable whenever anyone broached the subject of his…moodiness. So far, I had avoided it because I knew that there was nothing I could say or do that would make him feel better. I also knew that my being here – in this house with him – was what he would appreciate the most. Not expressions of understanding or sympathy, not suggestions on how to behave. Just my presence.
I didn't leave, though. I couldn't. Sirius couldn't continue like this. He would go mad. Or worse, he would do something reckless and foolish that would either get him recaptured or endanger us all. If using me as a target for all of his pent up anger helped him temporarily then I would stay because even a temporary release was better than none at all. Eventually, however, he'd have to work through this.
Slowly, as if to brace myself for his inevitable explosion, I faced him. He was sitting on the edge of the bed now, looking at the tray of food. "I can't do this," he repeated, sounding strangled and weak. "Everything in this house reminds me of them."
"It's just food, Sirius," I replied quietly, taking a step forward.
"I know. It's just food. And these are just walls," he gestured vaguely outward. When he continued it was with marked bitterness that grew with every word. "And this is just a room in a house. But they're here. Everything I had to endure is still here. In my memories. I can't forget and I can't escape. Not even for a little while."
If Sirius felt that he was helping Harry, helping the Order, then he could endure this house. If it was a place he returned to after completing missions, a place he could leave in the morning, then he wouldn't feel suffocated here. This was a prison, though. Not a home. That was all it had ever been and now to have it be that in a literal sense was destroying him.
I said nothing. There wasn't anything I could say. This wasn't easy for him and I knew that if I was in a similar situation I wouldn't handle it well either. If I was being held in the Shrieking Shack the memories would…tear at my sanity. I wouldn't tell him that he needed to try harder because he already knew that. It came down to the difference between knowing and doing which was not so simple a thing.
"I know what you're going to say," he continued. "That I can't keep doing this. That I owe it to Harry and to myself to not let this house bother me, to not let this situation bother me, no matter how difficult it is. And you're right. But you don't understand."
Abruptly, he was on his feet and moving towards me. "You go about your business so calmly, always so quiet and concerned, but you don't understand." He had started off softly but by the end of the sentence his voice was carrying every bit of the rage that had been building up within him since returning to his parents' home. "You didn't grow up in this house and you're not the one stuck in it now. It's very easy for you think or say that I have to stop doing this but you don't know. Everyday I wake up in this house thinking I might very well be here indefinitely."
That was it, the root of the problem. What made this intolerable for Sirius was the fact that on top of everything else, he didn't know how long his confinement here would last. It wasn't a temporary thing; it wasn't something that had a set release date. Peter might be captured within days or not at all. We simply couldn't say.
I started to respond but Sirius cut me off angrily, taking another step forward. We were now less than two feet apart and I found myself facing the full force of his emotions. "Don't say it," he hissed. "Don't tell me that this is only temporary, that I'll only be here until Peter is recaptured and I can be proved innocent."
"I wasn't going to say that," I replied very quietly. "When have I ever lied just to make you feel better? It's quite possible that Peter will never be caught." I hated saying it. I hated having to look into his desperate eyes and say that, but I had to. False reassurances weren't going to help Sirius through this. He needed to face this. Somehow, he needed to work through this. If he didn't, there was no way he'd survive his imprisonment here.
"And whose fault is that, Remus?" he demanded scathingly, eyes flashing with a rage that made me nervous.
"Excuse me?" I asked uneasily. He wasn't saying what I thought he was saying…was he? Did I even want to find out? Something, some instinct that went beyond rational thought, was telling me to leave, regardless of how badly I wanted to help my friend. But I did want to help, I did want to stop his alarming spiral into bitter depression. So I stayed.
"Whose fault is it that Peter's still out there?" he repeated, brutal irritation making his face ugly. "We had him. We had him!" he nearly yelled, startling me. "But then you transformed and in the commotion, Peter slipped away. Now…we may very well never find him again. He may never pay for what he did and I may never be exonerated."
For a few minutes I just stared at him, not knowing what to think or feel, too shocked to really think or feel anything. As silence descended over the room I remained motionless, watching the interplay of emotions across his face, watching as the reality of what he'd said dawned on him before it even fully dawned on me.
The flash of mortification was immediate. In less than two seconds the fury vanished from his eyes and was replaced with disbelief and unmistakable regret. Taking a step back he spread his hands and opened his mouth but no sound came out. Then he shook his head and swallowed. Closing his eyes he rubbed his thumb and forefinger over them, obscuring his features from my view.
/ "But then you transformed and in the commotion, Peter slipped away." / The words echoed in my head, breaking the stillness of my thoughts and emotions. A cold tremor wracked my body. How could Sirius say that? Sirius, who knew better than anyone the depths to which I tormented myself over things done in wolf form? Sirius, who knew that I blamed and hated myself for every scratch and bite Moony had ever inflicted on Padfoot? It didn't matter that Sirius had always wanted to be there, it didn't matter that I couldn't control my actions. I remembered everything the wolf did during the full moons and couldn't forgive myself for it. Peter had gotten away because I'd transformed. Sirius was wanted for crimes he hadn't committed because I'd transformed. That was something I'd never forget. Sirius knew that. How could he use my own guilt and fears against me in such a brutal accusation? Especially after the things he'd said.
When I had confessed to him that I felt responsible for Peter's escape and his own situation he had looked at me with such incredulity that I had known without his having to say it that the thought of blaming me had never crossed his mind. Sirius had proceeded to assure me of this fact himself, repeatedly expressing his steadfast belief that it was not my fault. He had said it so many times and with such conviction that while my guilt had not been assuaged I had felt better simply knowing that Sirius did not hold me responsible. He was my closest friend. I wasn't sure I could handle him feeling that way.
Now…to hear him fling that back at me so venomously… It wasn't that he believed it, it was that he had taken something he knew would be difficult for me to hear and said it for that very reason. Having me state it so plainly, that he might never be free, had hit him hard and he had wanted to return the blow. He hadn't thought about the real consequences of his words, he had simply followed his initial instinctual reaction. He hadn't meant to hurt me. I knew that but that knowledge did not soften the impact.
Because it did hurt. It hurt to know that he could so thoughtlessly use my condition, my insecurities, against me in a moment of anger. Didn't he know? Didn't he know that just by saying those words he'd made things so much harder for me? Didn't he know that his not meaning them wouldn't help, that I would still hear them repeated in my head, that they would still haunt me in the light of the waxing moon? I had wrestled with my doubts regarding my condition and exactly what that made me for as long as I could remember. Those doubts would not let me forget that Sirius – for whom I cared so deeply – was slowly coming undone because I'd made his exoneration nearly impossible, made his release from this house nearly impossible.
/ "One wrong move, Peter," I warned, keeping my wand fixed on him as we proceeded towards the castle.
Sirius was innocent. I almost couldn't believe it. I was so happy and yet at the same time so shocked that this entire situation seemed surreal. I felt disembodied somehow, detached but still so very emotionally involved. It didn't make sense that I could be so relieved, so hateful of Peter, so unsure about Sirius and still be so…numb. It was just so un–
A wave of light shone down upon us. I froze. Oh, no. Cold sweat beaded on my skin. Tremors seized my body. Every muscle went taught as pain flared across my nerves. My wand tumbled from my fingers. I tried to grab it but my jerking motion met thin air. I tried to warn the others but it was a howl, not a voice, that parted my lips.
No! Not now! Not now! Oh, God, please not now!
Pain. So much pain. It was everywhere. It was crippling. Everything I saw was dark and misshapen, red and half-formed. Was that a scream? Someone telling the others to run? And what about Peter? He couldn't get away…he couldn't… Sirius…his freedom…depended…
Oh, God. It hurt so much. I couldn't…couldn't do anything… I was being torn apart and soon, so soon, I would slip away… I could feel it; it was so close now. The hunger, the anger, the madness, soon… I had to hold on. I had to… For the others, for Sirius, I had to hold on…but I couldn't. I couldn't. I–
Fear, motion, adrenaline, BLOOD!
A sudden movement in front of me! Growling, claws, teeth… Tearing, biting, a pitiful whine and I was past him!
And that was when it had happened. That was when I'd lost Sirius his chance at freedom.
/ I woke up to find Dumbledore sitting at my bedside. My entire body ached and screamed but I ignored it. Opening my mouth I attempted to speak but the Headmaster answered my question before I could ask it. "Pettigrew escaped. Thanks to young Mr. Potter and Miss Granger, as did Sirius. He's in hiding and will remain on the run until his innocence can be proven." /
Sometimes it was easy to not think about it, to just be happy that Sirius was back. But on the days surrounding the full moon it was horrible, especially since we'd come here, especially since Sirius had started to unravel. There were times when I saw him, saw the spark of despair in his eyes, and wanted to pummel myself for having done this to him. There were times when he was verbally assaulted by his mother's wretched painting that I found myself silently asking forgiveness for having done this to my best friend. There were times when I couldn't stop reliving that night, couldn't force myself to push the memories aside.
And now I had his voice and anger-twisted face to add to everything else.
/ "But then you transformed and in the commotion, Peter slipped away." /
Why? Sirius… Why? He was supposed to be the one, the only one who understood. When everyone else was so careless and thoughtless and hateful, he was supposed to be the one who just wanted to help, just wanted to make things easier. He made mistakes but for all the times that he was rash and impulsive he hardly ever took out his anger on me by exploiting my condition. He'd learned from the Prank. Or so I'd thought.
It was just this situation, this house… That was why he was acting this way, saying these things. I'd known coming into this that he was going to explode. I hadn't thought he'd attack me on a personal level but I'd known he was dangerously short-tempered. I could have left but I hadn't. So why couldn't I just smile and tell him it was all right?
Because I'd shown him where I was wounded and he'd taken a dagger and stabbed me there.
"Remus," Sirius's voice was very soft, presenting a marked difference from how he had spoken before. "I–" He lowered his hand and looked at me through guilt ridden eyes. "I don't even know what to say." He gestured helplessly. "That was…completely out of line… I didn't– You know I didn't mean it. I just…" he sighed, lowering his gaze. "I just didn't think."
I closed my eyes momentarily. Of course he didn't mean it! He hadn't meant to betray my secret to Severus, it had just happened! He hadn't meant to accuse me of letting Peter escape, it had just happened! He never meant it! He never meant to do or say so many of the things he did and said! He never thought about what he was doing, never considered the consequences.
That didn't change the fact that he had said it, though. It didn't.
"Remus," his voice grew with his level of desperation. "Please… I was just being an insensitive idiot again. I know that by now I should have learned to actually think about things before I say them but…" he shook his head. "I know you've given me more second chances than I deserve. I know I just keep screwing up. I know I have no right to ask this of you but please… I'm sorry. Just…"
'Forgive me…' My mind filled in the words he'd left unspoken.
"I can't do this without you," he murmured haltingly, blushing. "You're the only thing that's made this bearable…"
I ripped my gaze away from his beseeching eyes. Sirius was the closest friend I'd ever had…and the only one who was able to cause me so much pain. Was that the tradeoff to caring for someone? Giving him so much power over my emotions? Or was it just Sirius, Sirius who was so temperamental and volatile?
I didn't know and standing in this room with him was suffocating. I couldn't stay here. I didn't have the words to express how much the accusation had hurt me, how much he had hurt me. Even though I knew it was cruel and I knew I should at least have the decency to tell him I needed space, I simply turned and walked away.
"Remus," his voice was choked and pleading but I ignored it and shut the door behind me.
I spent the rest of the day in my room, sitting on my bed. I had Order work that needed to be done but I couldn't bring myself to get up and do it. I was just so tired. Tired of letting Sirius do this to me. I knew who he was. I knew what he was like. He hardly ever used my condition against me but he was capable of it in a surge of fury. Even if he never meant it, he was capable of saying some very cruel things. So why did I let myself think that every time would be the last time?
Why couldn't I just accept that he would do these things and just let them go?
/ "One wrong move, Peter." /
Why couldn't I just ignore the occasional spiteful remark?
/ A flash of moonlight. /
Why couldn't I learn from the past?
/ "Pettigrew escaped… Sirius is in hiding and will remain on the run until his innocence can be proven." /
Why did I have to make this so hard for myself?
/ "But then you transformed and in the commotion, Peter slipped away." /
Because I couldn't turn my emotions off. I couldn't pretend it didn't bother me when he was unkind and inconsiderate. No matter how much I wanted to.
It was hunger that finally drove me from my room. I hadn't eaten anything since breakfast and it was well past dinnertime now. Everything was quiet when I crept into the kitchen and grabbed myself a bar of chocolate and a jar of peanut butter. Breaking the bar in half, I sat down at the table to enjoy my unhealthy snack. I had just finished spreading the peanut butter over the chocolate when I heard footsteps approaching from down the hall.
Looking up, I saw that it was Sirius. Slowly, I released a deep breath of air and forced myself to remain impassive as he drew closer. His steps faltered when he saw me. He was carrying the trey I had brought him earlier. All of the plates were empty. His eyes were unsure and surrounded by dark circles. He looked exhausted. I probably did as well.
Sighing, Sirius nodded slightly and entered the room. Wordlessly, he placed the trey on the counter. Kreacher would take care of it. Then he turned back the way he had come. As he past where I was sitting he hesitated and looked down at me. His gaze was apologetic and pleading but he didn't speak even though I could tell he wanted to. When it became apparent that I wasn't going to say anything he closed his eyes briefly and kept walking.
When his footsteps faded into silence I continued eating.
Wearily, I pushed the book I had been meticulously studying aside. I couldn't do this anymore. I'd had a particularly restlessness night and my fatigue had finally caught up with me, making it impossible to continue focusing on such dry material. What was the point of researching for the Order if I couldn't even remember what I was reading?
I'd turn in early tonight and start fresh tomorrow morning. What time was it? I sighed. Early evening. I'd spent the better part of the day forcing myself to concentrate on various books. I'd spent the better part of the day forcing myself to not think about the dreams that had kept me awake last night. They'd been of Peter escaping, of me transforming and fighting a weakened Padfoot. They'd taken me through Dumbledore telling me Sirius was on the run and always ended with Sirius telling me that it was my fault.
I sighed. I just couldn't stop thinking about it.
Damn it, Sirius. Why had he said it? Things were difficult enough as it was. Voldemort was back and the Wizarding World refused to see it. A monster was in control of Hogwarts. More and more anti-werewolf legislation was being passed everyday. Harry was in trouble. A second war was approaching. Everything was turning so dark. Again.
I didn't need something else to depress myself with. I didn't need something else to worry about. I didn't need something else to dominate my thoughts. I didn't need my relationship with my closest friend to be strained. I had gone through the last war so alone, having driven myself away from Sirius because it'd been too hard to be near him and suspect he was the traitor. I couldn't do this alone again. But I couldn't forgive him so easily either. Not when the pain was still so fresh.
"Damn it, Sirius," I whispered, leaning forward so that my head was resting in my hands. I didn't need this. Not now.
I paused as I left the kitchen. Sirius' voice was raised in frustrated anger. It was coming from upstairs. I couldn't tell who he was arguing with, his or her responses were not loud enough for me to identify the speaker. I could hear Sirius, though. Again. I couldn't understand what he was saying but I knew he was just being short-tempered. Again.
He'd been at it all day. I'd heard him periodically as I'd struggled through the endless research Dumbledore had left me with. It was worse than usual. Sirius had gotten into some sort of confrontation with virtually everyone who'd approached him today. At least, it seemed that way to me. Normally, I would have intervened but now…
This was my fault too. Sirius was more moody than usual because of the tension between us. I had never been his best friend. I'd never been in his charge. I'd never been James and I wasn't Harry but my opinion was important to him. I was important to him. The fact that I hadn't forgiven him yet was driving all of his aggravation even closer to the surface. He'd only be unbelievably hostile towards everyone until the matter between us was resolved because our…discussion yesterday was just one more problem on top of all the others that were already bothering him.
I forced myself to continue walking, forced myself to block his yelling from my ears. I wasn't ready to talk to him yet. I wasn't ready to tell him that everything was forgotten when I could barely breathe without feeling guilty for his being here, when I could barely breathe without feeling the pain of his using that guilt as a weapon against me.
Later. I'd go to him later.
I sighed as Tonks quickly left the room. That hadn't been fair. She was just worried. She had noticed that Sirius was more explosive than usual, that I was quieter than usual, and wanted to know if something had happened. She hadn't deserved my curt and cold response, telling her that Sirius' and my behavior was our own concern. I should have just told her that we'd had a disagreement but that we'd work it out soon.
I opened my mouth to apologize but was stopped by the sound of the shutting door. She was gone and I didn't have the energy to follow her. I'd say I was sorry next time I saw her. She'd understand. She was too nice to not understand.
Standing up, I left my bed and stared pensively out the window.
What was wrong with me? Why was I doing this? This wasn't Sirius' fault. He just wasn't dealing very well with the current situation and I certainly wasn't making things easier for him by holding words he hadn't meant to say against him. I was his friend. After everything he had done for me, I owed it to him to do all I could to make this easier for him to handle. Not talking to him like some petulant two-year-old wasn't going to make anything easier for either one of us. It was time to just swallow the hurt, swallow the guilt, swallow the fear that Sirius would never change, and accept the apology he silently gave me every time we were in the same room.
I glanced at the clock. It was later than I thought. Too late to go to Sirius. Even if he was awake I was too tired to handle this right now. This deserved my full attention. Tomorrow. Tomorrow I'd tell him that I forgave him, even if it wasn't entirely true.
Wonderful. My back was bothering me again. I'd shifted position about twenty times. I'd gone from lying on my stomach, to lying on my side, to lying on my back about twenty times. I just couldn't fall asleep. I just couldn't stop thinking long enough to relax. I kept having the same internal debate, over and over again. I kept trying to rationalize Sirius' behavior, kept telling myself that what he'd said didn't really matter because he hadn't meant it. What was wrong with me?
I had told him that I felt guilty for transforming and allowing Peter to escape. If I hadn't told him then he never would have thought to accuse me of it, even in a moment of anger. His saying that was like my telling him that his irritability and recklessness were what he'd inherited from his family while knowing that one of his greatest fears was that he was no different from the people he had grown to despise so much. Friends weren't supposed to take confided emotions and use them against each other. No matter how angry they were, no matter what.
But Sirius was like that! He had always been like that! He'd learned to restrain himself somewhat after the Prank but his emotional wildness and propensity to act before thinking had never really been subdued. If I let myself be hurt by his outbursts it was my own fault, not his. I couldn't expect him to suddenly stop being so brash.
I sat up in bed. Unbelievable.
Why did Sirius even bother to apologize anymore? Why did he bother to ask for forgiveness? What was the point? I always forgave him. No matter what he did, no matter how deeply he hurt me, I always forgave him. But why? Because he was and had always been my closest friend? Because no matter what he did, the tradeoff for having his friendship was worth it?
Was it worth it? I had rarely doubted it but I did now. Was the pain and unhappiness he had put me through because of the Prank worth it? The months following that incident had been some of the worst of my seven years at Hogwarts. I'd been nothing short of miserable. Yes, that was the single largest betrayal of my trust but what about the other things? They were little things but they added up.
Was everything I was going through now worth it? Was Sirius' friendship worth the hurt of hearing him say those words, of constantly feeling guilty for something that rationally I knew wasn't really my fault? Was the way he took care of me during and after the full moons worth forgiving his thoughtlessness? No matter what he said or did?
I wasn't sure.
Impatiently, I scanned my room. Where was it? I was sure I'd brought the encyclopedia up here but I didn't see it anywhere. There was the book on ancient magical defenses but not the… Wait. What was that? I hadn't left anything in that book to mark my place. I hadn't even started reading it yet.
Curiously, I picked it up. There was a piece of folded parchment stuck halfway through it. I knew that hadn't been there earlier today when I'd brought it up from the library. Removing the parchment, I set the book on top of my pillow. The parchment was blank on the outside so I unfolded it.
Immediately, I recognized Sirius' slightly messy handwriting. It was a letter, addressed to me. He'd been very respectful of my obvious desire for distance and hadn't attempted to speak to me since I'd left his room without acknowledging his apology. This was his way of seeing if wanted to talk to him.
I just had to–
"Lupin! Black!" I recognized Snape's voice. He sounded…worried. "Potter might be in danger."
"That's my godson, Snape," Sirius stated dangerously, "There's no way I'm not going."
Severus looked at me for help but I shook my head helplessly. There was no stopping Sirius from accompanying us. Even if he'd been declared innocent, even if he hadn't been trapped in this house for longer than he could stand, even if our friendship wasn't wrought with tension, it would have been difficult for me to convince Sirius to stay behind when someone he loved was in danger. Now, with as frustrated as he'd been…it was impossible. He was itching to get out of this place and he was worried about Harry. He wasn't in the mood to listen to reason.
"Very well," Severus relented icily, preparing to return to Hogwarts.
Silently, Sirius and I followed Severus down the stairs to the first floor, where Tonks and the others were waiting. As we reached the last of the steps, Sirius tried to catch my eye but I ignored him and quickened my pace so that he fell slightly behind me. Now was simply not the time to deal with what had happened. Later, after we were certain that Harry was safe, I'd talk to him.
I knew something horrible was going to happen.
Sirius was too involved in the fight, too exhilarated by it. He was being too reckless, too daring. He'd been caged for so long. Now that he had this chance to fight, to feel alive, he wasn't being careful. He was enjoying the rush of adrenaline, the high of just being able to focus on his opponent – someone he hated – and not have to think about anything else.
I knew something horrible was going to happen. It wasn't worry or even foreboding. It was real, undeniable certainty that made my muscles tense and my blood run cold. They were still fighting. Sirius and Bellatrix were still fighting. I couldn't control the tremor that gripped me. Something horrible was going to happen.
Laughing, Sirius dodged Bellatrix's latest attack. "Come on, you can do better than that!" he taunted his cousin loudly, practically surging with the excitement of battle and not paying enough attention to his foe.
No! I opened my mouth to yell but my voice was swallowed by the abrupt clenching of my throat. He didn't see it! She had fired another spell and he didn't see it! He was just laughing, laughing as the red bolt of energy flew from her wand, true in its deadly aim. Sirius! SIRIUS! No!
The stream of light hit his chest.
It was too late.
NO! I wanted to run forward and catch him but stood rooted in place, watching as the dearest friend I'd ever known took his last breaths. Sirius' eyes registered surprise and disbelief as the mirth slowly faded from his face and realization dawned. Quickly, he found and held my gaze, pleading for my help, pleading for me to save him. There was nothing I could do, though. There was nothing anyone could do.
It was too late.
Desperate fear flooded his eyes and twisted his face as his wand slipped from his grasp. His lips parted on a word that was never completed. A glassy look replaced the spark I'd come to identify as uniquely his. Everything inside me seemed to collapse as the life ebbed from his body. He was falling, tumbling backwards, tumbling away from me. I wanted to hold onto him, wanted to pull him back into this world, but I couldn't. I couldn't do anything at all.
It was too late.
It only took a few seconds for Sirius to breach the doorway, to be welcomed and then obscured by the black curtains of the veil. It only took a few seconds for me to lose my friend forever. It only took a few seconds for everything in my mind and heart to be torn to shreds. It only took a few seconds for everything to shatter.
He was gone.
How could he be gone?
How could he be gone?
"SIRIUS!" Harry's desperate cry startled me into action. "SIRIUS!" He was running towards the dais and immediately, I was sprinting after him. Using a speed I didn't know I still had, I caught up with the boy and pulled him back.
"There's nothing you can do, Harry…" I tried to reason with him as he struggled to break free.
"Get him, save him, he's only just gone through!" he protested, not understanding, not wanting to understand. I couldn't blame him. I didn't want to understand either. I didn't want to understand that Sirius was dead. I didn't want to understand that I would never see him again. I didn't want to understand any of this. Ever.
Somehow, I made it back to Order headquarters. Somehow, I made it back to my room. I wasn't sure how. I wasn't sure of anything. I wasn't sure that anything really mattered. I was just trying to comprehend what had happened. I was just trying to make sense of it all. I was just trying to…survive.
Because I had to. I didn't want to understand what had happened but I had to. I didn't want to admit that he was gone but I had to. I didn't want to face the pain of this loss but I had to. I had to feel. I had to deal. I had to cope. I just had to. Somehow.
How? HOW? He was all I had. He was my best friend. He was the one who had shown me that I could have real friends, that I wasn't a monster. He was the one who had made my full moons bearable. He was the one who had done everything he could to help me. And now he was gone. How was I supposed to deal with that? HOW?
I tried to sit down on my bed but missed and ended up on the floor.
He was gone. How could he be gone?
Oh my God. I wasn't sure I could do this. I wasn't sure I could…
There was a light knock on my door. A few moments later, it opened and someone entered. Silently, he or she crossed the room and paused in front of me. I didn't look to see who it was. When that person's legs shifted into a crouching position, I closed my eyes so that I wouldn't have to face the concern, the pity.
"Remus," I recognized Tonks' gentle voice. "It's been ages. Don't you want something to eat?"
I didn't respond. It wasn't that I wanted to worry her. I just…couldn't… I couldn't say anything. My mouth wouldn't cooperate, the muscles wouldn't cooperate. It all seemed so…trivial, so useless. Sirius was dead.
"Remus…" She sighed. "I'll leave you alone then. If you need anything…at all, let me know."
I didn't open my eyes until I heard her leave and shut the door behind her.
I climbed to my feet. My muscles were stiff and sore from having sat in the same position for so long. How long had it been? Hours? Days? I wasn't even sure. I was hungry. Starving. I wouldn't eat though. I wouldn't leave this room and go down into the kitchen to get food. I couldn't face this house without Sirius. Not yet. Not yet. It was just too soon. It was too soon to walk down the hall and pass his room…pass his empty room.
Turning, I faced my bed. Everything was exactly as I had left it. The book… The parchment. Oh God. The parchment… The letter. Sirius's letter… I'd never read it. Severus had told us about Harry and we had left so quickly…and then Sirius had…been killed and I had forgotten.
With trembling fingers, I picked it up. The paper was cold against my skin. Cold and dry…smooth. I could see the ink showing through from the other side, where Sirius had written. I wanted to unfold it but my hands wouldn't cooperate. All I could do was stand there and stare at it, stare at what little I had left of him.
There was another knock on my door. Come in. My mouth formed the words but no air passed through my lips. Taking a deep breath, I prepared to try again but whoever it was entered before I could speak. Slowly, I turned to face the latest concerned arrival.
Dumbledore. He looked…old and exhausted. His eyes were dull and overflowing with regret, sorrow, sympathy, and worry. Every last bit of vibrant energy seemed to have been drained from his body. He didn't look like a great wizard. He didn't look like the man I respected the most. He just looked aged and weary.
"Remus," he whispered understandingly, "They tell me you haven't left this room or eaten anything since it happened."
'Since it happened'? That made it sound so…distant and mundane. Sirius was dead!
"You must realize that locking yourself in this room and depriving yourself of nourishment won't change anything," he continued. "You can't continue this way."
"Why?" I asked bluntly. "Why not? Because Sirius wouldn't want me to? Because–"
"Because there's a war brewing and we need you," Dumbledore interrupted just as bluntly. "There's research to be done, information to be gathered, and missions to be planned. You're one of the Order's best wizards and it can't lose you to grief, regret, or self-pity."
I stared at him in disbelief. I hadn't expected this. I had expected sympathy and kind words of wisdom. I had expected him to say that I would carry Sirius with me forever, in my memories. I had expected him to say that I had to let go of him, even if it was hard and all I wanted was to waste away and die. I hadn't expected this. Essentially, he was telling me to pull myself together.
"Now, I've left instructions for you with Nymphadora. You are to clean up, change your clothes, and eat something," he ordered. "After you've done all this, she will tell you what I need for you to do."
I was speechless. This was a side of Dumbledore I'd never been confronted with before. I wasn't sure what to say. I wasn't sure if I should be angry that he wasn't giving me the time I needed or relieved that he wasn't going to let me sink into a haze of sorrow. I wasn't sure how to react.
"Albus," I finally whispered, shaking my head.
Dumbledore's face softened and he smiled slightly. "I am trying to help you, Remus. I am trying to help."
I nodded. Of course. Of course he was.
"You have ten minutes to get yourself downstairs before I resort to more drastic measures," he warned as he left my room, closing the door as he went.
Well. I looked around. What choice did I have? Dumbledore was right. Life wasn't waiting for me. Voldemort wasn't waiting for me. There were things that needed to be done and I would do them. I would play my part in this war. I would hide behind an emotionless mask and do my duty. No one would ever know that I was dying inside.
People were nothing but kind to me when I finally left my room. They smiled and nodded and seemed genuinely relieved that I'd finally emerged from hiding. When I entered the kitchen, Molly offered to make me anything I wanted and I told her that whatever she had was fine.
As she bustled about the kitchen, preparing God only knew what sort of meal, I decided to try and enjoy a cup of tea. After setting the kettle to boil, I went in search of my favorite mug. I looked through all of the cabinets but to no avail. Where had I left it? It wasn't up in my room. Maybe in the library…?
"Lupin," a cool voice interrupted my thoughts.
"Yes, Severus?" I turned to face him, well aware that everyone in the vicinity, from Molly to Tonks, had stopped what they were doing to watch this exchange. Many of them were worried that Severus' dislike of me would make him insensitive and unduly harsh. Many of them were read to jump to my defense.
"Were you looking for this?" he extended his hand and I saw that he was holding my mug, the one that my mum had given me so many years earlier.
I frowned, surprised. He was actually being…relatively nice to me. Perhaps Dumbledore had spoken to him? "Yes…thank you," I managed to murmur, taking the proffered item.
He nodded curtly. "The Wolfsbane Potion will be ready shortly. I will bring you a cup when it is finished." Without waiting for a response, he turned and left the kitchen.
Sharing a surprised look with Tonks, I poured myself some tea and sat down to wait for Molly to finish my food. It was all so…normal. Sirius had been killed but soon I would be resuming my work for the Order. In just over a week, another full moon would come and go. Nothing had changed. How could nothing have changed when everything was different? Sirius was dead! How could all of this go on as if it didn't matter? Life went on but…how?
I spent the next few days working with Tonks. It was harder than I thought to get up every morning. It was harder than I thought to eat three meals a day. It was harder than I thought to pretend that I was dealing, that I was coping with this loss. Half the time, I wondered if I was fooling anyone. Half the time, I wondered if I'd ever be able to fool myself.
I hadn't grieved. I was depressed all of the time but I hadn't grieved. I had forced myself to bottle up the emotions. I was relying on denial to get me through the long hours between sunrise and sunset. Not denial that he was gone but denial of everything I was supposed to be feeling and thinking. I was relying on denial not because I wanted to but because it was easier. It was so much easier than the despair and guilt I knew was lurking inside me.
I was worried, though. How much longer would I be able to do this? How much longer before it all caught up with me? How much longer before something inside me shattered?
I groaned as consciousness returned. God, I felt shredded. There were gashes of pain all across my arms and legs like after the full moons from so many years ago, before the Wolfsbane Potion. What had happened? Where was I? I remembered locking myself in my room and sitting naked in front of the fireplace, waiting for my transformation. I remembered the change and the brutal agony that went along with it but… I didn't remember anything after that.
Slowly, I opened my eyes. I was still in my room. I was on my bed and…I couldn't move. Not because my muscles were sore – which they were – and not because I was tired but because…I was strapped down to the mattress by invisible binds.
What? I didn't understand.
I looked around as best I could considering that I wasn't able to lift my head more than a few inches. Dear Lord. The room was in shambles. The furniture was ripped apart and shattered objects lay scattered across the floor. There were claw marks on the walls and bloodstains as well. Clumps of fur were visible among the wreckage.
Fur. Blood. My fur and blood.
Flashes of memory helped me make sense of it all. I'd lost myself to the madness of the wolf. Not because the monster inside me had smelled various human scents but because I had been abandoned by my pack mate. Again. Furious at Padfoot for not being there and lacking the ability to reason and understand, I had attacked the walls and furniture. Finally, when everything lay broken at my feet, I'd turned on myself. I'd bit and clawed at myself and howled for my friend and brother to return.
But Sirius had not come. Someone had, though. I could see him in my mind, in visions of fractured red. Dumbledore… He had barged into the room, wand drawn, and subdued me. Tying me to the bed, he had kept me restrained for the rest of the night. What was more, he had used some sort of spell to stun me so that I would not hurt myself trying to break free.
I didn't understand. I had taken the potion everyday. How could this have happened?
A motion drew my gaze to the fireplace. Dumbledore was sitting in a chair in front of it. Having noticed my movements, he climbed to his feet. Within moments, he had crossed the room.
"Good morning, Remus," he smiled sadly, pulling out his wand and releasing me.
Once free, I did not sit up. I knew it would take me quite a while to recuperate from my injuries enough to move without getting dizzy. "What happened?" I asked weakly, settling myself on the bed.
Dumbledore sighed. "The Wolfsbane Potion had no effect on you, Remus. We could hear you howling and tearing the room to pieces. At first I wanted to leave you be but it became apparent that you most likely would seriously injure yourself so I…restrained you."
He stared at me in silence for a few moments before answering. "Sirius," he stated simply. "You feel so strongly because of his death that your emotions overcame the effects of the potion."
"You were here last night," I stated tonelessly. "You knew something like this might happen."
"I suspected," he admitted. "The wolf is partly formed from the deepest and basest of human emotions, from the darkness we all harbor within us. You've taken his death so hard that I thought your grief might be enough to counteract the potion."
I allowed my eyes to drift shut. I hadn't even realized such a thing was possible. My God. His death really was destroying me. "Thank you for your intervention. I would appreciate…being alone now."
There was a long silence before he replied. "As you wish, Remus."
I waited until I was sure he was gone before opening my eyes to stare at the ceiling. I was exhausted but I knew I wouldn't sleep. I had feared the full moon would be difficult without him but I had never thought…
How was I supposed to do this? How was I supposed to do this without him? Alone?
Gingerly, I climbed out of bed. My muscles still hurt, as did the various scratches that covered my body, but I forced myself to ignore the stinging and get dressed. Fortunately, I had put my clothes away in the closet and shut the door. If not…
I looked around the room again. I really had destroyed just about everything. Except for the bed and…
Oh my God. The letter! The letter that Sirius had written me! I had never read it! I had tried to so many times but hadn't been strong enough. It was just so hard. Oh, God. Where was it? I couldn't have torn it to shreds, not without reading it. It couldn't be lost. Those words, whatever they were, were some of the last that Sirius had ever said to me. They couldn't be gone. Not like him.
I had put it in my nightstand's single drawer. Frantically, I walked around to the other side of the bed. Oh no. It was in pieces. The nightstand was splintered and torn into pieces, its contents strewn haphazardly among slivers of wood. Oh no. I couldn't have. I couldn't have ruined it… I needed that letter. I–
Wait. There it was. A piece of parchment sticking out from under the bed. Hurriedly, I grabbed the paper and turned it over in my hands. Unbelievable. It was in one peace. Oh, thank God. Somehow, it had escaped the wrath of the wolf.
Shaking, I unfolded it.
My eyes were unstoppably drawn to his message. The words I had been unable to process for so many days refused to wait any longer and I found myself reading what Sirius had written to me mere hours before his death.Remus,
You'll forgive me for writing this letter instead of telling you in person. It's simply easier this way. I'm not going to say that I'm sorry or even ask you to forgive me. You know how much I regret what I said. You always know. There are a lot of things that you DON'T know though, and you should.
It's not your fault. None of the things you're blaming yourself for are your fault. You're not the reason that Peter's still out there. You're not the reason that I'm stuck in this house. I know you've been feeling this way lately and I know it's my fault. I know that it's practically useless for me to tell you this – you always blame yourself for so many things – but I don't want you to feel guilty. You have nothing to feel guilty for. Please try and believe me.
Now I'm going to tell you a few things I should have told you a long time ago. Hopefully then you'll understand how important you are to me. I need for you to understand. Not because I want you to forgive me but because I want you to know why I'm so desperate for you to forgive me.
It's not what you think. It's not because you and Harry are all I have.
I know you've always thought that you were second to James and I know that you think you're second to Harry now. You're not. You never were. I know you don't believe me and that's exactly why I should have told you this before.
James wasn't more important to me than you are.
Harry isn't more important to me than you are.
I never could have chosen between you and Prongs. I don't think I could choose between you and Harry. You are and have always been the only person I could ever truly confide in, the only person that I could tell ANYTHING.
Like I said, I don't want you to forgive me because you and Harry are all I have. I need for you to forgive me because I love you and after James and Lily I don't think I can stand to lose another person that I love.
Maybe I'm overreacting. Maybe I'm not in danger of losing you. What I said was stupid but if you forgave me for the Prank you can forgive me for this. On the other hand, maybe I'm not overreacting because even though all I did was say something without thinking, that something betrayed your trust in me. Again.
Either way, I needed for you to know.
By the time I finished my hands were trembling so much that I could barely read Sirius' words. Everything I had buried came flooding to the surface. Every thought I hadn't let myself think invaded my mind. Every guilt and sorrow I had tried to deny suddenly overwhelmed me.
Oh my God. Sirius had died thinking that I hadn't forgiven him. I had let Sirius die thinking I was angry with him. I had let Sirius die without accepting his apology, without righting the situation. How could I have done that?
Why? Why had I let his words hang between us for so many days? Why hadn't I just resolved things? How could I ever have let myself wonder if it was worth it? Of course it was worth it! It had always been worth it! How often had Sirius hurt me? Really hurt me? Not very. Yes, there was the Prank. Yes, there were the various thoughtless actions and remarks. But it wasn't enough. Not nearly enough for me to wonder if it was worth it.
He had always done so much for me. Even during the last full moon, despite his own growing troubles and anger, he had been amazingly kind and thoughtful. Just before moonrise he had followed me into my room and locked the door as I prepared for the transformation. Sitting next to me in front of the fire, he'd rubbed slow circles over my back as moonrise drew nearer. When the first spasms of pain hit, he'd held me as I'd shook and cried out softly. As fur began to spread over my body he'd transformed so that I could cling to something during the change.
Once I was fully wolf and too tired to do anything, he had curled up next to me on the floor. Periodically nuzzling and licking at my face, he had shown me time and time again that I wasn't alone. At one point, he had even separated himself and changed back. Surprised, I had backed away from him. The Wolfsbane Potion made me safe but it didn't abate the poison of my bite. His humanity was too much to risk on an accident. He hadn't relented, though. He had assured me that he trusted me and that nothing was going to happen to him. Finally, I had let him approach me.
I hadn't been sure of his intentions. When he dropped to his knees to be level with me I'd been wary and nervous. I hadn't expected the gentle touch of his hands against my nape. I hadn't expected the affectionate ruffling of my fur. I hadn't expected him to pet me, to pull me close and plant a gentle kiss on my head.
I hadn't expected to like it. I'd always known how much Padfoot liked to be petted but I'd never really thought about what it felt like. It was wonderful and relaxing, like getting a massage. I'd enjoyed it so much that when he'd pulled back I'd been unable to stifle a whine of protest or stop myself from following his hands.
He'd laughed. "Oh, so now you like it," he'd said. He had immediately relented, though. Settling himself on the floor he'd let me place my head in his lap. Stroking my fur, he'd murmured stories about James and Lily at school. He'd related things I'd forgotten or been too frightened to notice about Harry as a baby. When he'd run out of things to say he'd continued petting me as I'd fallen asleep.
Hours later, after I'd transformed back and regained some of my strength, I'd smiled sheepishly at how…doglike I'd behaved. He'd grinned and admitted that he'd wanted to do that for a while, spend a full moon with me as himself. I hadn't said anything but I'd been so grateful for what he'd done. Even tamed, I had never thought that the wolf was anything but a monster. He'd treated me kindly, though, and for the first time I'd felt pleasure as a wolf. I'd been happy at various other times but I'd never felt any form of physical enjoyment. It had always been pain. Sirius had introduced me to a completely new experience. One that I'd never thanked him for.
How could I have ever thought that that wasn't worth it?
How could I have gotten angry with him over such an insignificant thing? He hadn't meant it! And I'd known that from the beginning! Why hadn't I just forgiven him? I'd spent the last few days of his life not speaking with him, making things more difficult for him. And if I hadn't done that then maybe…maybe he wouldn't have been so edgy, so desperate to get out of the house. Maybe he would have paid more attention. Maybe he wouldn't have gotten himself killed.
I felt sick.
What had I done? My cold treatment of him had made him more impatient, more insufferable. He'd picked fights with everyone that had so much as spoken a single word to him because I'd driven him further into his abyss of frustration and anger. What if that had helped get him killed?
I…didn't know. I would never know what might have happened if I'd just let his words go, if I'd just not let them bother me. I'd never know but I'd always wonder, wonder if I could have done something to save him.
Wonder… Wouldn't he still be here if it weren't for me and my childish behavior?
Why hadn't I just forgiven him? He had forgiven me for so much. He'd forgiven me for all of those times that Moony had attacked and hurt Padfoot. He'd forgiven me for the first full moon he'd spent with me after the Prank, the one where I had very nearly killed him. He'd forgiven me for suspecting he was the spy. He'd forgiven me for letting Peter escape and for making it impossible for him to be proved innocent. No, he'd done better than that. He'd never even blamed me for any of those things, had never seen that there was anything that needed forgiving
Why couldn't I have done the same? Why couldn't I ever have done the same? I had always taken his every transgression so hard. I had never simply accepted them the way he had my mistakes. I had never just accepted anything. I'd always analyzed things too deeply, felt things too deeply. I'd always let myself get hurt when there was no reason for it. And there had been no reason for it during our last discussion. No reason worth his dying without my saying half of the things I should have said.
Why hadn't I told him what he meant to me? He'd found a way to tell me.
/ James wasn't more important to me than you are. /
There had been so many days.
/ Harry isn't more important to me than you are. /
There had been so many hours.
/ I love you and after James and Lily I don't think that I can stand to lose another person that I love. /
There had been so many moments that I could have told him. I should have told him that I loved him. I should have thanked him everyday for everything he had done for me. But I hadn't. I'd let all the opportunities slip away. I'd let it all slip away. Just like I'd wasted my chances of forgiving him, of not having his last few days here be spent with hurt silence hanging between us.
And now that I did forgive him and did want him to know that what he had said to me was unimportant, that all the times he had ever hurt or annoyed me were unimportant, it was too late. It was too late. It was too late to tell him it was all right, too late to tell him I accepted his apology. It was too late for me to tell him that I loved him too, that I'd always loved him. It was too late to tell him that it had always been worth it, that he'd always been worth it. It was too late to make sure he knew how much he'd helped me. It was too late.
It was too late.
Abruptly, I fell to my knees. The parchment slipped from my fingers, fluttering down to land a few feet in front of me. Shaking, I held my head in my hands and touched my forehead to the floor. A ragged sob escaped my throat.
It was too late.
He was gone.
In case you missed it at the beginning of the story, I wrote this before the HBP came out. I know it doesn't entirely match up with that book. If you happen to notice any mistakes in canon from before HBP, please let me know.
Spoiler for book six: I know that in the HBP Remus implies that he only took the Wolfsbane Potion while teaching at Hogwarts but I really didn't feel like reworking this story around that new fact. Sorry.
That said, I really hope you liked the story and thanks so much for reading!