Disclaimer: Harry Potter and co. belong to JK Rowling. I'm just playin'.
A/N: Something seasonal. Happy Halloween ;).
Remus sat on the floor in his lounge, braced against the wall.
The calendar charm on his desk still read October 31st, and he hadn't changed it. He couldn't bear to.
The room was dark – he'd drawn the curtains days ago and hadn't been bothered to open them since, because he didn't want to see the world. He didn't even want daylight to remind him that somewhere beyond the walls there was life, and hope, and celebration, and people who hadn't just had the entire fabric of their existence pulled out from underneath them.
He just couldn't believe what had happened – Peter, dead, killed by Sirius as he – for once – tried to take on someone more powerful than himself, Lily and James killed, trying to defend their child, and Sirius languishing in a cell in Azkaban – but the ache of grief in his chest told him that it had happened, and he felt it all too acutely.
It felt like a dream – a nightmare, to be exact, and he let out a dry chuckle that half-turned into a sob at the thought that if there were going to be nightmares, it was probably the season for it.
He ran a hand over his face, kneading the tension in his jaw, but he didn't really want to relieve it because tension and grief were the only things he had left.
He couldn't understand why Sirius had done it. He'd been up for three days, thinking of little else, and in spite of the suspicions he'd harboured, he couldn't come up with a single reason for what Sirius had done.
Sirius had loved James like a brother. More than that. He'd loved James as if he were a part of himself, as if they were two souls, two lives, inextricably linked, and the thought that he would do something like this was so unfathomable it made his head spin.
And Harry. Sirius loved Harry. It was written all over his face every time he held him in his arms. That Sirius would leave him without parents seemed so…. There wasn't even a word for it.
Was Sirius that good an actor? How long had he been planning this?
He stared at the calendar charm on his desk, the letters 'October 31st, 1981' leering out at him. He hadn't changed it. He couldn't bear to. He knew it was a stupid thing to cling to, that changing the date wouldn't erase the memories, or even have any impact what so ever on everything that had happened, and yet he just couldn't bring himself to do it.
Besides, he thought, there was no real point changing it. He'd probably be frozen in that night forever.
"So it's Halloween," Sirius said, sinking into the chair opposite Remus at the table. At the clunk of glass on wood, Remus looked up from the fire he'd been staring into. He'd been thinking exactly the same thing.
"Hmm," he said, taking in the Firewhiskey bottle on the table, and Sirius' rather hard expression.
"I wish they'd wipe the bloody date off the calendar," he said.
Remus let out a soft snort that would have been of amusement if he'd found it funny. How many times he'd wished the same thing….
"I'm not sure that would help," he said.
"No," Sirius said quietly. He Summoned two glasses from the dresser and set them on the table, and then, to Remus' momentary surprise, two more.
He was about to ask if they were expecting company, and then he remembered the old All Hallows custom they'd heard about, which they'd all sworn, one night in the Three Broomsticks, to keep, should any of them fall in the pursuit of Voldemort's demise.
Sirius poured four generous shots, handed one to Remus, and set the other two down, without a word, in front of two empty chairs at the table. Remus met Sirius' eye and nodded, attempted a smile of acknowledgement and agreement with the gesture, although he felt it might well be more of a grimace than anything else.
They hadn't really talked about Lily and James. He wasn't sure what there was to say – either that, or there was far too much to say and if they started they'd never stop.
He fingered the glass in his hand, and eventually raised it, watching as Sirius followed suit. "To absent friends," he said quietly, and Sirius nodded, and then threw his drink back. Remus did the same, his eyes watering a little as the Firewhiskey ignited the nerves in his throat, giving his insides a raw tingle.
Sirius re-filled their glasses, and met his eye a little more cautiously than Remus was used to. "Crap idea for a day," he said. "Whoever thought the Day of the Dead was fun?"
Remus cleared his throat. "Actually," he said, "it has its origins in the festival of Samhain, which – "
"Oh spare me the history lesson, Moony," Sirius said, and Remus bit back a chuckle at the indignation on Sirius' face. "I want to get drunk and maudlin, not educated."
Remus leant on his elbow, covering his mouth with his hand to try and hide his amusement. "Fair enough."
Sirius re-filled their glasses, and they sank into silence for a while, sipping their drinks and watching the flames dance in the grate. "Are you angry with me?" Sirius said.
"For you not wanting a lecture about the Celtic origins of Halloween?" Remus said. "Of course not. It's not as if I'm not used to you raining all over my scholarly parade."
"No, I meant – " Sirius stalled and looked away, watching an elongated shadow of Remus shift on the wall.
"What?" Remus said, frowning.
"I meant for – for what happened."
Remus steepled his fingers in front of his chin and bounced them lightly off his chin, the casualness of the gesture not at all mirroring what he was feeling. He didn't need to ask what Sirius was referring to. "I'm not angry," he said eventually, and it was true. He wasn't. He wasn't sure he ever had been.
Sirius seemed to take some comfort in his answer, and didn't argue the point, as Remus might have expected him to. He took another sip of his drink, cradling the glass in his lap.
"What did you do?" Sirius said quietly.
"The first night," he said, "when you found out?"
Remus swallowed, and reached for his glass. "Honestly?" he said, and Sirius nodded. "Curled up in a ball on the floor and stayed there for five days."
He met Sirius' eye, and his gaze didn't flinch, so he continued. "When the Order worked out that no-one had seen me for the best part a week, Moody assumed the Death Eaters had got me and kicked the door in," he said. "Scared me half to death."
Sirius let out a brief bark of laughter. "My own fault, I suppose," Remus said, "for not being constantly vigilant."
"Mmm," Sirius mused, and then the spark of amusement in his eyes faded, and was replaced by something more haunted and melancholy. "And what about after – every year after – today."
Remus smiled faintly, knowing what Sirius meant, even though his question had been at best half-uttered and rather incoherent. "Tried a few different things," he said. "Trying to forget, trying to remember – "
"I don't know how you did it," Sirius said. "The one saving grace of Azkaban was I never had any idea what day it was, so anniversaries never meant anything to me. And since I got out it's been tricky to keep track. But now…. I feel like it's been looming for weeks and I just don't know how I'm going to – "
Sirius swallowed loudly, and Remus met his eye and smiled. "Do you want the good news first, or the bad?" he said.
"It never gets easier."
"And the good?"
"It never gets easier."
Sirius let out a sniff of laughter. "How is that good news?"
Remus met his eye. "Do you ever want to feel less sorry they're gone?" he asked quietly, and the corners of Sirius' mouth quirked in a smile of understanding.
"No," Sirius said. "I don't."
They were quiet for a minute, and Remus let his eyes rove back in the direction of the fire. He couldn't deny that Sirius' company, set on maudlin drunkenness as he was, was comforting. This was the first time – his year at Hogwarts excepting – that he hadn't spent the night alone, lost in memories.
"I'm sorry," Sirius said. "For everything. For not trusting you, for – "
"No," Remus said, his gaze quickly swinging back to Sirius'. "I should have realised – God, I spent so long racking my brain for a single glimmer of a reason why you'd do that to James. If I'd just stopped for a second to think that maybe the reason I couldn't think of a reason was because you never would, I could have saved us both a lot of heart-ache."
"Moony – "
"No," Remus said. "I should have trusted you."
He held Sirius gaze until Sirius nodded, accepting what he'd said. "And I should have trusted you. I'm sorry," Sirius said.
"I hardly think there are any apologies necessary, Padfoot," he said, "and if there are, they're on both sides, too many in number, and I'm not sure there's even the words for them." Sirius cocked his head in agreement.
"I think we should just try and be glad that we're both still here."
"But they're not," Sirius said, his eyes darting to the two other glasses on the table. "If I'd just – "
"Don't," Remus said. "If I'd not been so secretive you never would have suspected me. If James had gone with Dumbledore as Secret Keeper instead…. If Peter hadn't been such a weak-minded pathetic snivelling creature…. If we'd realised what he was really like…. The world is full of ifs, Sirius, and if we let ourselves dwell on them we'll just go insane. And I think the world's got enough on its plate at the moment without two demented Marauders adding to its troubles, don't you?"
Sirius let out a soft snort of laughter. "I suppose."
"Besides, Harry needs us. We're all he's got." Remus rolled his eyes at the thought. "God help him."
Sirius let out another bark of laughter, and Remus joined in, not knowing why they both found their inadequacy as substitute parents so amusing.
Remus topped up their drinks and they clinked glasses again, laughing whenever they met each other's eyes. It was a ridiculous situation, a wrongly convicted killer and a werewolf, the only things that stood between Harry and the most powerful dark wizard of all time. He supposed it wasn't really a laughing matter, but he'd realised long ago that sometimes life was so cruel, so twisted, that all you could really do was laugh at it.
"What's the plan, then?" Sirius said.
"Drink," Remus said, indicating the bottle on the table, "and in the morning, it'll all be over for another year."
"Is that what you've done, every year?" Sirius said. Remus shrugged.
"What other options did I have?" he said. "For other people it's a day of celebration, the day their nightmare went away."
"But he came back."
"That's the thing with nightmares, though, isn't it?" Remus said. "They do tend to."
He ran a hand over his jaw, pressing his fingers heavily into his skin and wondering if he should really say what was in his heart. "Every Halloween," he said, "before, I've dwelt on what I've lost." He didn't have the courage to meet Sirius' eye, but continued anyway. "Tonight, I think I'd like to dwell a little on what I've got back, too, if that's all right."
Sirius nodded and reached for the bottle, re-filling their glasses. They clinked them together and Sirius met his eye, and smiled. "Happy Halloween," he said.
A/N: Anyone who reviews gets a seasonal treat. Sirius or Remus would be delighted to join you for toffee apples, pumpkin carving, or apple bobbing ;).