Title: The Way Back To Daylight (14/14)
Other Pairings: Remus/Tonks (prologue only), Harry/Ginny, Ron/Hermione, Snape/Regulus, James/Lily, Luna/Parvati
Disclaimer: The Harry Potter series (and all it entails) belongs to J.K. Rowling, Warner Bros. and various publishing companies, not me. No infringement intended. I'm not making money out of this.
Summary: A search for a gift turns into an unexpected quest; a chance for Remus to regain everything he's lost. Or, at least, the most important thing.
Notes: A whole heap of thank yous can be found at the end of this chapter! (and an Easter Egg)
Night and day lie open the gates of death's dark kingdom:
But to retrace your steps, to find the way back to daylight-
That is the task, the hard thing.
- Virgil, Aeneid, VI. 128-130 (Oxford World Classics Ed.)--------
It rained the evening after Harry and Ginny's wedding. They'd rented a villa for the reception, out in the wilds of Italy, so it didn't matter when the sky opened and the paper lanterns spluttered out.
The revellers hurried inside, laughing and shrieking, leaving tables cluttered with empty champagne flutes and wedding-cake smeared plates. The rain tore streamers from the trees and knocked over the makeshift pulpit. Inside the villa, every fireplace blazed and every mug overflowed with Butterbeer, and it seemed like the party might go on all night. It didn't, of course. In the early hours of the morning, the newly-weds stumbled off to bed, followed by every other drunken couple.
When the festivities had died down and the living-room fireplace was reduced to smouldering embers, Tonks stood by the window and watched the rain fall into a floodlit swimming pool. She hadn't seen rain in a long time. After her stint in Romania, she'd headed to Africa, out into the Sahara desert. She'd been there for months, living in a tent with twenty other Aurors and researchers, when a scrawny desert bird brought the news about Sirius. Another few months had passed before the wedding invitation arrived, and she'd Apparated from city to city, all the way to Tuscany, with nothing but her wand and the light-weight robes on her back.
Italy was humid, this time of year, and the moisture made her skin tingle. She found it difficult to stay in one shape: the cloying air urged her body to grow more lush, to bloom out like a flower. She held it in, recalling the comforting stillness and dryness of the desert air.
Before travelling to Africa, she'd never thought about going there; now, she couldn't wait to get back. She'd seen more in the months she'd been away than most people saw in their lives; and after the war against Voldemort, she'd thought she'd seen it all. She found it strange to think of herself, months ago, deciding to leave Remus for Romania. Back then, she'd thought she was living in an epilogue, with nothing to look forward to but a simple, peaceful life at home, and maybe some mundane adventures as an Auror.
Turns out me and Remus both got more than we bargained for, she thought, smiling.
Since she'd arrived at the wedding, she'd wanted a chance to speak with him alone; after everything, she still considered him a friend – maybe her best friend – and she missed him. He'd been with Sirius, of course, while she'd been surrounded by what felt like swarms of old friends. It was nice to see everyone, but after Africa, where she could escape into the desert whenever she wanted, it was a bit overwhelming.
Looking out at the rain, Tonks assumed that Remus had already gone upstairs with Sirius. She just hoped he'd have time to talk in the morning, before they went their separate ways. It was startling, then, when she heard soft footfalls behind her, and turned to find Remus standing there, clearing his throat.
"Tonks," he said, with an awkward half-smile. "I was afraid you'd gone to bed."
"Me too," she blurted. "I mean … that you had."
Remus rubbed a nervous had across the back of his neck. "I just wanted to … to talk to you. Molly told me all about your adventures in Africa –"
"She cornered you in the kitchen, did she?"
Tonks nodded, with a rueful smile. "It's best not to repeat what she told me, though."
Remus chuckled and leant up against the window frame. Tonks was glad to see him relaxing, finally; she didn't want things to be tense between them. She'd never ended a relationship so cleanly. It had hurt at the time, in a crushing, sleepless way, but then she'd moved on, to other lovers and another country. When Remus had brought Sirius back, she'd known things had worked out in the best way possible, for all three of them.
"Where's Sirius?" she asked.
Remus glanced through the window. "Oh, he can't get enough of the rain. He'll be out there for hours. I'm not sure how long this will last – this euphoria he's experiencing. Everything is new to him. I like it, though. I haven't seen him like this since our last year of school, when …" He trailed off and gave her an uncomfortable look. "I'm sorry," he said. "You probably don't want to hear –"
She gave him a reassuring smile. "It's all right, Remus. Honestly."
Remus paused, studying her, but then he relaxed again. "I'm glad."
"Why don't you go out and join him?"
He shrugged and smiled. "I told him I wanted a chat with you. Feel like a cup of tea?"
Close to dawn, when even Tonks had gone to bed, Remus was sitting at the kitchen's broad oak table, sipping his third mug of tea and reading a Wilkie Collins novel. Suddenly, a muddy hand clamped over his mouth and a voice whispered, "Don't try to struggle."
Remus, shaking with laughter, bit down on the hand. Sirius yelped and stumbled back against the bench, upsetting a stack of plastic cups that clattered to the earthenware-tiled floor.
"Ow, Moony, that was uncalled for," Sirius muttered, blowing on his fingers.
"Serves you right, prat," Remus replied. He marked his place in the novel and set it down on the table, before standing up and swiftly pressing Sirius against the bench, kissing him.
"Mmfh," said Sirius, pushing him away for a moment. "So, what did my cousin have to say for herself? Pining away for you, is she? I wouldn't blame her."
"Actually she's quite all right."
"If you call living in the Sahara 'all right'."
Remus ignored him. "We had a very civilised conversation, and I'm hoping we can remain friends."
"It's fine, Moony," said Sirius, in a more serious tone, before giving him a brief, soft kiss. "I like her, too. She's my cousin, after all, and I'd like to get to know her. Besides, Andie and Ted were always there for us. Remember that week they let us house-sit for them, when we were eighteen?"
"How could I forget?" Remus murmured, tangling his fingers in Sirius's hair and pulling him closer.
"We'd been living in that shoebox flat," said Sirius, between kisses. "Worst place we ever stayed. That bitch who lived beside us kept thumping her broom against the wall, whenever we so much as breathed –"
"– so it was one of the best weeks of my life, when they let us stay in their house. If they'd known what we were getting up to –"
Remus moaned, silencing Sirius with his tongue and sliding a hand beneath his Clash tee-shirt; of course, at that moment Molly Weasley strode into the kitchen. She made a choked, startled sound, then turned around and scurried out.
Sirius tilted his head back and Remus pressed his forehead against Sirius's shoulder, both of them laughing uncontrollably.
Harry and Ginny took their honeymoon in an undisclosed location, but they'd rented the villa for two weeks. They told the wedding party that anyone could use it, so while most of the guests returned to their daily grind, Remus and Sirius stayed on with a few other couples. Then, for the last three days, they had the place to themselves. Out in the Italian countryside, miles from anyone, they took their own kind of honeymoon.
On the final night at the villa, Sirius slept easily, on his back with his arms and legs sprawled out, while Remus lay facing him and struggled to keep his eyes closed. He'd been having trouble sleeping since Sirius's return. At first, he'd been afraid of waking up to find Sirius gone, but that fear had faded after a few weeks.
Now, he stayed awake trying to remember the events of the past year. Sirius had been dead – that was certain – and Remus had somehow brought him back to life; but Remus couldn't remember how it had happened, or where Sirius had returned from.
Remus knew he'd journeyed somewhere for a few months, but the details eluded him. When people asked him about it, he told them it had been a great adventure, but that was all he could say with any honesty. He couldn't help thinking it had something to do with Sybill Trelawney, but when he'd spoken to her at the wedding she'd seemed perfectly normal, if a little more befuddled than usual.
The previous day, he'd finally summoned the nerve to ask Sirius about it, while they'd been sitting beside the swimming pool. Sirius had thought for a moment. A dry leaf had drifted from an overhanging tree, and they'd watched as tiny ripples spread and faded from where it landed in the water. Around them, bees had hummed, cicadas had chirped, and a light wind had stirred the branches of the olive grove beside the villa.
"It's odd," Sirius had said, finally, "because I know I was dead, and I know I was miserable, but I honestly can't remember more than that."
"Were you in hell?"
"I don't think so."
"Neither do I. It doesn't ring true."
"I think I was just deprived. Of life, you know. And everything."
"I should have written it down," Remus had muttered, as he'd started smoothing another coat of sunscreen onto Sirius's bare back.
Sirius had shaken his head. "You know, I don't think it matters. I think, wherever I was, we'll be there again when we die. We'll find out then."
"James and Lily were there, weren't they?"
"I think so." Sirius had leaned back against Remus's chest, and Remus had wrapped him in his arms. "Don't worry so much, Moony," Sirius had murmured, turning to press a kiss to Remus's shoulder. "It's not good for you."
It was different at night, though. The cicadas had fallen silent, and the moon shone in through the slatted blinds, reminding Remus that it wouldn't be long before his next transformation. Sirius snuffled into his pillow, and Remus reached out to stroke a curl of black hair away from his forehead.
I spoke to a lot of people about what happened, when I first returned, Remus thought, with a frown. Maybe one of them will remember.
He yawned and shifted closer to Sirius, draping his arm across Sirius's chest and letting his head rest against Sirius's shoulder. Sirius was smooth and warm, and smelt of chlorine, sunscreen and sweat. His heart pumped a solid beat against Remus's wrist.
In that instant, years of Remus's life seemed to fold up and disappear. He and Sirius were eighteen again, spending a week house-sitting for Andie and Ted. The future could tear them to pieces, and probably would, but while they were together and in love, nothing else mattered.
Remus smiled. Maybe I should just forget about it, like Sirius wants. That might be for the best.
"And no one knows where the night is going
And no one knows why the wine is flowing
Oh love, I need you
I need you, I need you, I need you
Oh, I need you now"
– Leonard Cohen, The Guests
Notes: Thanks, first and foremost, to my amazing beta cursedinsanity, for being so patient, thorough and reliable. And, most recently, for urging me to give this story a proper ending. You rock!
Thanks also to the lovely nkaoede, who has drawn some beautiful illustrations based on this story. They can be found here and here, as well as at her journal. I'd link directly to the images, but I'm not sure how to do that. Just…trust me. Even if you don't like this story and/or have no intention of reading it, check out her art because it's pretty.
Okay, if I miss you in this next part, please forgive me and let me know.
At livejournal: Huge thanks to blackxlupin, buriramtourakom, faithsfire, happifeet, joyumegari, lastradio, linakun, molsymo, mrsbatman, nkaoede, paulamcg, rissabby, tatteredreverie and yued for all your comments and support! Thanks also to nassima, marauderthesn, carmineink, staurafina, ruffians, remxsiriscannon, lavenderblues, quipped, cursedinsanity, leafyaki, kottonballs, basisersgais, daphnaea, moodring54, spellbinding, mousck, aurora969, kylastargazer, comestodecember, hellomdolly, shinyglorchan , hatedaddiction, novalinedy, laonza, charletnarouh, theexilespeaks, princessmothing, notapatriot, pforte, burningoichibi, mullu, lageni, revvymiseryy, kotnproductions, cattiebrie, babaoreily, purecorruption, erinland156, nummycreampuf and heartarchitect!
At Huge thanks to Miyamashi, Konnie-Chan, Xx The Grey Lady xX, Liveforthemoment-13, LadyAnalyn, MayaMay, rekahneko, MinervaEvenstar and Your Mom Is My Heart for all your reviews and support! Thanks also to the Jersey Girl Next Door, poor clare, OracleVortex, IJustWannaBeMe, My-Cat-Is-Fat, James Jago, Dream.of.Rainy.Days-x, Moody Lighting, lokisash, Shadow17Marauder, armygundamgirl, moonys-witch, roguepixie04, Meitantei Conan, Angelike Riddle, PaddyWaddy, Amiphita and BlackMercifulFaerie! And thanks to Ara Moon, Infinitys-End, LegendMyth, LuciShadow, Lundill, Nicala, Sabireru, WITCHY127, Yucale, mirithespaz for putting this story on their favourites lists!
At FictionAlley: Huge thanks to affleway, VeronicaEBlack and magicgalkairi for all their reviews and support! Thanks also to Lunafan, Eglantyne, staticbirth, HDLuff4Eva, JoieD, Gil-Galad, Liana Mortis, scilera and Kisou!
Easter Egg (a recent article by Colin Creevy in The Quibbler):
BLACK PREFERS MAGENTA?
Back from the dead and out of the closet!
After facing everything from war to Azkaban to the Dementor's Kiss to death itself, Sirius Black is looking forward to settling down and starting a family. Rumours have linked the recently resurrected Black to everyone from popular psychic and singing sensation Lavender Brown to the Chudley Cannon's newly appointed Chaser Katie Bell. Black is intent on pursuing relationships with the opposite sex, perhaps even on finding himself a wife.
OR IS HE?
In an exclusive interview with this intrepid reporter, Black revealed that he is now, and has always been, a homosexual.
"It's true," Black confessed this morning, over a bowl of lightly toasted muesli. "I'm gay. Would you pass the pumpkin juice?"
Claiming to no longer "give a flying fk what people think", Black personally gave me his permission to print this exclusive story. However, he remained cagey about the identities of his lovers, only admitting that there had indeed been lovers. He added that at the moment he is seeing someone and, "Couldn't be happier."
The news of Black's sexuality must come as a blow to the hundreds of witches who voted him "Most Eligible British Wizard" in Witch Weekly's recent poll…(for full story, turn to page 4)