For Christmas during their seventh year, Lily got a camera.
Remus remembers it quite well – the day she came into the common room, one hand on her hip, the other clutching the strange, square box. She had laughed; first almost-accidentally brushing her fingers against James's arm (by this time they were going out), before sitting down on the sofa, next to Sirius. "It's a muggle camera," she'd said, then laughed again at their perplexed faces, and had to explain how it differed from a wizarding one.
"Wicked!" was Sirius's first reaction.
"Amusing," James had conceded.
Peter had said very little – but that was because he had already started to withdraw somewhat from them. Remus remembers it now, looking back, and wonders how he didn't notice at the time. He almost laughs at his own young stupidity.
Remus had fallen in love with the camera, and Lily had let him borrow it. "I've got some solution somewhere," she'd added, "that allows me develop the photos so they move as if they'd been taken with a wizarding camera." She'd smiled at Remus's enthusiastic response, all the while darting little glances at James, who was arguing loudly with Sirius over the last, shrieking gingerbread man.
The first picture in Remus' scrapbook is in colour. Slightly faded, the ink traces the figures of James, Peter and Sirius all sitting on a sofa in front of the fire. Sirius's arm is flung around James's shoulder, his other hand outstretched, waving as he clearly explains something. James is following Sirius's movements his expression interested. Peter is laughing as Sirius says something particularly ridiculous, and they all fall to shoving good-naturedly. The mood is captured perfectly, and Remus remembers how he had caught them by surprise when he took it.
The photographic James is now biting Sirius's arm, and Sirius is howling in indignation – mouth agape, other arm flailing wildly. Peter has fallen off the sofa in hysterics, and Remus smiles, looking at it. They were all still boys then; silly, immature, full of life and laughter. He doesn't remember much from that time – just the smell of grass and fresh air, and the crisp hint of starched shirts and sunshine.
He turns the page.
Here is James and Remus. The ink is brighter in this one, and Remus sees himself squinting towards the camera, half laughing, half unsure, as though he expects to receive a pleasant, sharp shock. James is standing just behind Remus, mugging for the camera. His glasses glint in the bright sunlight and his hair seems to absorb the heat, becoming shiny and hot. Remus thinks that if he reaches out and touches the photo, he'll be burnt.
In the photo, his younger self has realised what James is doing and turned around, hitting him with the flat of his hand. Sirius and Peter are nowhere to be seen, and Remus can't remember who took the photo, but it's odd, as he was hardly ever alone with James. He remembers this incident with more clarity – remembers how they were halfway between classes when it was taken. He remembers the heavy weight of James leaning against his back; the hot puff of air as he crooned "Smile for the camera Mooooony…" and the sudden surprise as James's hands dug into his ribs, making him leap in shock as the flash went off.
Remus smiles, fingers hovering over the picture as he reminisces. He recalls quite clearly the laughter of the other student and his own pleased embarrassment at being included in James's good-natured ribbing. The photograph seems to sum up everything good about his relationship with James, and crams it into one small square of paper. He laughs as his younger self gets tackled to the ground in a flailing pile of limbs.
The next photo is odd – somewhat blurred and grainy. It hadn't come out very well when it was being developed, and Lily had wanted to throw it away, but Remus had talked her into giving it to him. He is glad he did, now, because it is one of the few pictures of them all together.
It had been nearly dark when the photo was taken – twilight descending rapidly. They had all been out on the field, James and Sirius smoking, Remus trying not to cough, Peter curled up with a book next to James. Lily had brought her camera with them, and begged for a photo. James had nodded, unwilling to deny Lily anything, but Remus had hesitated. He disliked photos of himself, and Sirius, seeing his hesitance, had rolled over onto his stomach next to him, looking up at him with puppy-dog eyes.
And who was he to resist?
The photo is almost in black and white, but Remus can still make out detail, even as the small figures move slightly. James, in the picture, has tossed his cigarette away, sitting upright and smoothing his hair. He was caught in the act of doing so when the photo was taken. Peter is merely waving a hand at the camera, too intent on his book. Sirius is sitting upright as well, his shoulder pressed comfortably against Remus's. His grey eyes seem fixed on the camera, piercing and intelligent. He is not smiling (he claimed later Lily had taken him by surprise) but it is difficult to tell anyway. Smoke is drifting from his lips, curling, sensual, obscuring his face slightly and wrapping him in an air of mystery. Remus turns his attention last to himself, who is sitting, chin cupped in his hands, smiling distantly, mind clearly fixed on other things.
No, it is clearly not a perfect photograph. But it does represent them at a time in their lives when perhaps they were all a little imperfect – shadowy characters of the men they would one day become. Remus shakes his head, frowning a little. The picture was taken at a crossroad in their lives; when they were all beginning to change, make new decisions. It is perhaps the most significant photograph of the whole scrapbook. So many paths shown here, in this shadowy piece of paper, and they all chose different ones, for better or worse.
The next couple of pages contain nothing much, merely snapshots of them and various classmates, all moving, laughing and talking to one another. One – Kingsley, Remus thinks it might be – waves up at him out of the picture, but that's about it. It is not until he reaches the second to last page that he pauses. Here, carefully stuck in, are two more pictures, both carefully preserved.
The first is of Lily and James, who are smiling. James has one arm around Lily's waist and Lily is cradling a small bundle in her arms. Remus doesn't even need to peer closely to work out that the bundle is Harry, who is waving his chubby little fists in the air. Lily smiles down at him, cooing. Her red hair slips forwards, brushing Harry's cheek, and he immediately latches on to some. James laughs, carefully untangling his son's fingers from his mother's hair.
Remus remembers this. It was some time after Lily came out of hospital with Harry. He and Sirius had taken the photo to mark – according to Sirius – the first truly important thing of their adult lives. James had scowled and demanded to know what had happened to his wedding day, but Sirius had waved a hand dismissively and said that weddings were inconsequential when compared to the birth of his godson. The utter pride in his voice had forestalled any of James's arguments, and Remus rather suspected that baby Harry already had them wrapped around his tiny finger.
The final picture is of Sirius.
He is standing alone, back pressed against a cream wall that Remus suspects is from their old flat. Sirius is wearing plain muggle clothing – black shirt, black trousers. His hair is unbound and spilling down his neck in loose, sleek waves. His shirt, too, is unbuttoned, and slightly open to reveal a pale glimpse of flesh lurking underneath. Sirius's arms are above his head, his eyes large, lush and enticing. He is not smiling, but merely standing, staring mutely at the camera. Utter confidence and love radiate from him, though. Remus can almost feel it pouring off the page in thick, painful waves.
He swallows, one finger tracing the line of Sirius's hair. Sirius blinks at him, and if Remus hadn't known better, he would have sworn that for an instant the photographic Sirius looked sad; bittersweet; as though he knew the suffering his true self was going to experience in the coming months.
"Hold still," Remus remembers whispering to Sirius, all those years ago.
Sirius had wriggled. "Why?" he'd demanded, staring at Remus.
"Because I want to remember this moment forever. I want to remember that in this instant I loved you so much that the thought of being without you made me as afraid as if I was going to die." Remus's fingers had traced a slow path down the line of flesh revealed by Sirius's shirt.
"But if you take a picture of me, how will that show your love?" Sirius had demanded breathlessly, twisting into the sensation and sighing, lips parting in a pleased, submissive gesture.
"Because I'll look at you," Remus said, "and remember how much I love you."
The photograph remains silent now – a young Sirius still stares mutely up at Remus, who is older, faded. Remus bites his lip, remembering that moment so long ago; remembering what he had said then. It is astonishing, this strange power that resides in the photographs. They tell a story – his story –and at the same time provoke memories so real it is almost as though he is re-living them.
Remus smiles softly down at the picture, feeling old, nostalgic and very, very alone. There is no more Sirius to look at him that way; no more James and Lily to laugh at his stupid worries and comfort him. There is only Harry, a skinny, confused teenage boy who desperately wants his godfather back and instead has had to make do with Remus, who is a poor substitute.
Remus thinks that it is time to put the scrapbook away for the day; he has wallowed enough in self-pity. As if to confirm his thoughts, he hears Ron Weasley shouting up the stairs that dinner is ready. He sighs, climbing to his feet, feeling suddenly as though he has aged twenty more years.
As he goes to shut the book, a faint crinkling of paper stops him. There is not meant to be a photograph on the final page – he knows, he left it deliberately blank as a decisive cut off point with his past. All the photographs in this book are from his youth, before the first war and disaster. When Sirius was arrested, he had no pictures left to stick in, and he didn't particularly want to. The scrapbook was useless.
Curiously, Remus sits back down again and turns the page.
Sirius stares up at him.
This Sirius is not the strong, youthful one of the previous page, but a gaunt, shadowed man with haunted eyes. His skin is much paler, his hair longer, and he stares at Remus, a small smile playing around his lips . It must have been taken, Remus realises, some time during the past year, because Sirius looks much healthier than he did during Harry's fourth year. He has a strange, angled beauty to him that speaks of immense suffering and a burning desire to succeed, and Remus stares down at him, shocked.
Sirius is leaning on a fence. One arm is propped on the top of it, the hand leaning backwards to cup his chin. The smile curling his lips is only accentuated by this pose, giving him a mischievous air. The other hand is held out directly towards the camera, as though in invitation or command. Clearly, Sirius hadn't wanted his picture taken, and was demanding the camera back from whoever was behind it. Perhaps, Remus thinks dizzily, it had been Harry. He and Sirius had spent the day in the garden of Grimmauld Place once, after all, and the gardens behind Sirius look remarkably familiar.
The sight of Sirius as Remus now remembers him is a painful shock that makes his breath hitch and his heart feel as though it is shattering and healing at once. The photo is in sepia, so Sirius's dark hair is stark against the coffee coloured sunshine. Remus's fingers itch to touch it – to feel the coarse brittleness of it and revel in the fact that it is Sirius's hair. He lets out a small, choked noise, his fingers curled, pressed firmly into his palm to stop himself because he knows if he touched the photograph, the fact that he will never truly touch Sirius again will overwhelm him.
The photograph is also muggle. Sirius is not moving; not mouthing words. He is locked in an eternal smile, his grey eyes staring straight at Remus, his hand outstretched as though he is going to reach through the page. Remus sways towards him, half hypnotised, the pain in his chest almost unbearable. He is so wrapped up in his desperate contemplation that he fails to hear when Ron walks through the door.
"Oh, you're looking at that." Ron's voice is low, serious. He simply watches as Remus jumps, half scrambling to cover the photo before he realises Ron knows about it. "I took that picture, you know." Ron sits down heavily next to Remus. His expression is grim, and it strikes Remus that Ron has grown up very fast in a short space of time. He is no longer simply the boy who follows Harry around faithfully; he is a determined, world-weary young man, who knows his role in life.
"Sirius asked me to take that," Ron says quietly, tapping the photo. "He said he wanted to be reminded of the way life was." He half smiles, sadly. "Didn't do him much good in the end." There is an underlying bitterness in Ron's voice, and Remus can think of nothing to say – he understands it all too well. There is a moment of silence, during which Remus stares down at the photo and Ron stares hard out of the window.
Eventually, Ron stands up and pats Remus on the shoulder. "Mum sent me up to tell you dinner's ready, since you didn't reply when I called up the stairs." He turns and is halfway towards the door before he pauses. "Remus, it may be nothing, but when I gave Sirius the developed picture he wrote something on the back of it." He shrugs and walks quickly from the room, shoulders tense.
Remus frowns down at the photograph as Ron's footsteps fade down the corridor. Carefully, delicately, he touches one corner; works it loose from where it is stuck to the paper; hesitates; then in a final, desperate rush, rips the picture away from the page. Turning it over with trembling fingers, Remus peers at the message, which is scribbled in Sirius's typical loopy writing.
I found your scrapbook and thought this was a fitting end to all those memories. If you ever find this message, think of it as a way of me calling you away from the past and into the future. Let's make new memories, Moony.
And let's make them good ones this time.Padfoot
Remus's laugh sounds more like a choke, and he has to stop himself from crumpling the picture into a ball. He turns it back over and stares at Sirius, who is now forever reaching forwards into a future that no longer exists. He traces the shape of Sirius's outstretched hand, the corner of one grey eye, and his breath hitches, painfully. This is nothing like looking at the other pictures in the scrapbook, as they are from long ago, and it is only Sirius who is still something fresh and painful to think about.
The future for Remus no longer holds any promises, not even Sirius's. He smoothes the photograph carefully and slips it back between the pages of the scrapbook, shaking. He can almost hear Sirius saying the words to him, or calling from downstairs, and Remus has to remind himself that that can no longer be a reality – Sirius is gone. Dead.
Abruptly he stands up, unable to look at the photograph any more. In time, he is sure, Sirius will become just another neatly catalogued memory. But for now, his lover can only be defined as a tangle of pained emotions and almost tangible remembrances. Placing the scrapbook neatly on the table, Remus walks from the room, shutting the door with care. He will come back later, when he is ready to deal with photographs that don't talk of the past, but of the future. For now, though, he can't bear to face that false promise.
In the room, the scrapbook lies open on the table. Some of the photos move and laugh, whispering to one another; they are physical evidence of happy memories as they act out their captured moods and emotions.
Only Sirius remains still and silent, his hand held out in an empty gesture of defiance, and promise. Forever, his photograph seems to say, it's lips unmoving, grey eyes staring out into eternity. But forever is a long time, as both Sirius and Remus have discovered, and it's possible that Sirius's promise will be forgotten under the burden of everyday business. Perhaps his photograph will lie in a box somewhere until, one day, Remus decides to clear up and stumbles across the scrapbook again. And then maybe, just maybe, he will look at Sirius's picture.