DISCLAIMER: Oh, yeah, I totally own HP – as in, I own copies of two of the books, so there's a whole lot of not really! for you right there. This plot (or lack thereof), however, is entirely my own, so don't be stealing it.
I claim as my inspiration the lovely Be All My Secrets Remembered by La Reine Noire (found at FictionAlley), though I like to think that most of this is my own invention and not just a poor imitation of her wonderfulness.
This fic isn't really finished (as in, it's not in its final incarnation yet), so please feel free to criticise and nitpick – it will make the final version better, and that can only be a good thing, right?
But enough of this: on to the fic! I dedicate this to Finora Lupin and my other wonderful guildies at The Serpent's Cove – I hope this lives up to expectations!
In the Eye of the Beholder
By Jay the Nerd Kid
It is one thing to know, and another to understand.
He feels old - has always felt older than his years, has felt this way since a moonlit night thirty years ago, a memory filled even now with blood and sweat and fear and pain and that chilling, bestial howl that shattered the silence like glass. It is in the network of lines surrounding his large brown eyes, in the strange sadness he sees there, even when he smiles. It is in the fine strands of grey in light brown hair that was never quite as messy as James' and never quite as neat as Sirius', though Sirius used to tease him about the way it always fell in front of his eyes, no matter what he did to keep it back.
But he did not always feel like this, did not always feel this...this...tiredness. Once, surely, things were different.
Scenes flash before his eyes - four laughing boys boarding a train; stag, rat, dog and wolf roaming the grounds as the full moon shines like pale fire off dew-bedecked grass - was he really ever that young, that innocent, was he ever really that child that even now in his mind's eye is poking his head out from inside a statue of a one-eyed crone, heart thumping wildly with excitement as Sirius and Peter and James pant with exhaustion behind him, barely suppressing hysterical laughter, grins of triumph on their faces? He knows that he was, once, but...
It is one thing to know, and another to believe.
One finger traces a faint, white scar that runs down his cheek, relic of a time long ago when wolf fought rat and stag over a man they all hated while the dog looked on. If he closes his eyes and imagines, he can feel the catching of antlers in short, coarse fur and a rat's sharp, scrabbling claws on a wolf's face. And he can hear, like he is back in the Headmaster's office again, Sirius Black's apology - I didn't mean to, Moony, I swear I didn't mean to, I wasn't thinking, it was wrong, I know it was wrong, please forgive me, you know I didn't mean it, he said things and I wasn't thinking and I thought I was doing the right thing or something, I swear, I didn't want to hurt you, please, Moony, forgive me - and he can see the pain and the terror and the sorrow in grey eyes, and a vulnerability that was never there before.
But even then, things had not changed. Not really. Not like this.
He cannot remember, even now, when things became different, when every day became a trial, when getting out of bed became something one did because there wasn't any other choice. He remembers other things - the touch of a hand on his cheek and the warmth of a body not his own, and eyes of grey, veiled with mystery, pulling him in, and him unable to resist it - and he remembers how wretched it was, after that, after the cold, clear winter day when Dumbledore told them there was a spy in their midst, after they watched yet another friend laid to rest in cold earth, how it was knowing nothing, trusting nobody, living in fear. The memory is stamped in each line on his face, in each grey hair, in eyes filled with pain, even now, even though it's all over, even though he doesn't have to worry any more.
He looks in the mirror and sees the product of too many battles fought and lost, of having seen too much and done too much and felt too much, of knowing, really knowing, that nothing will ever be the way it used to be. And he remembers - two people dead before their time, remembers standing and watching as two ebony coffins were lowered into the ground, remembers in his mind's eye two brilliant eyes like emeralds staring into his - Remus, I'm scared, I'm so scared, I don't know what to do, he's coming after us, he wants to kill my baby, he wants to kill Harry - and a little boy, no more than ten months old, staring up at Remus with Lily Potter's eyes - we never wanted this for Harry, we wanted to fight so that he wouldn't have this life, so that he could have something better, and what are we going to do, Remus? What are we going to do?
And then, grey eyes staring out from a gaunt, haunted face as a friend was named a murderer - I didn't mean to, Moony, I swear I didn't mean to - eyes that had once stared into his in Professor Dumbledore's office and asked, pleaded for forgiveness - and it was him all along, and I should have known, but I never suspected - eyes filled with secrets, pulling him in, drowning him - aren't you curious, Moony? Just a little? Don't you want to know if I'm right?
He doesn't know where it all went wrong. He isn't sure he wants to. He isn't sure he can do this any more, doesn't know if he can keep up a pointless charade, isn't sure that he can stand and stare while he lets himself die, little by little, day by day.
But he knows that not knowing isn't reason enough to stop trying.
Remus Lupin sighs and turns away from the mirror to face another day, in the knowledge that there is no other choice. But it is not what he does, Remus knows, but how he does it that matters; it is the difference between being dragged towards one's doom and striding bravely forwards with one's head held high - like James and Lily, fighting to the end against insurmountable odds. And although Remus knows that some might not see the difference, he knows - and so did Lily, and James, and even Sirius, in the end - that there is all the difference in the world.
And we're done! Please review with your criticism (or even your praise, I'm not picky!). Every comment helps me improve as a writer.