And So We Wait

It's dark here. And cold. Sometimes we talk to each other, but mostly we're alone. So lonely. Not even a house-elf for a friend.

I asked someone when I arrived, what I was to do here. What this place was. If I had duties. She said no. She said she was waiting. Waiting for what? For company. For someone she knew.

This isn't what I expected. I lived as a coward, and died a hero's death. I should be fixed into some eternal damnation, or maybe even some eternal reward. Instead, there's just the dark. And the cold. And the loneliness. I don't know what I'm waiting for. Nothing in particular. I have no one to wait on. But in this place, that's the only thing to do.

I've seen the others. The ones who find the person they're waiting for. They're so joyful after that. I saw James and Lily Potter pass through, and I knew how devastated my brother must have been that they were gone from him. How devastated Severus must have been to lose her so finally. They recognized me, and they greeted me, and they told me what happened to them. I wonder if Sirius will like it, raising their son. If it were me, I wouldn't trust Sirius with a pet rock, but I guess James and Lily know him better.

They didn't stay long. They were two of those who were joyful on this side, and untroubled by the cold darkness. It's like the dark is afraid of their happiness, and it retreats from them. Not like they glow, not anything so silly as that. But it's like the darkness has to take a step back. It's not allowed to touch the ones whose waiting is ended.

I will be in the dark for a long time. Forever. So this is my damnation. So this is my reward.

Sometimes I come to the edge, as close as I can get. I try to listen, to hear what happens on the other side. Usually, nothing. Sometimes I hear men talking. Trying to guess what is on this side. They try to hear what we're saying over here. I've shouted at them, but it always comes out a whisper. There's no real noise here. They can't hear me.

Do you know me? I've tried shouting that. Does the world remember Regulus Black? Not likely. But I wish they would at least tell me what happened to Voldemort. I've never seen him here, but that's no guarantee. I'm not sure everyone comes here. Would you please just say something about Voldemort? About anyone? Is Sirius alive, did he make a better hero than I did?

But now, something is happening over there. Something different. It's not men talking in near-whispers about what might happen over here. They call the divide between us the veil. But now, there's no talk about the veil. There's shouting. Screaming. There's fighting. Someone is fighting over there, in the world I've long been out of. That kind of fighting should only mean one thing.

I hover closer to the edge, as close as I can get. I want to see it, if Voldemort enters here. I want to be the first to know. If he comes this way. I hope there's someplace much worse reserved for him.

And finally, someone comes through. It's not him, and I actually feel relieved. Even now, on this side, I wouldn't want to meet up with him. The darkness closes over the figure, a gaunt-looking man much older than I was when I came through. No surprise there.

He cries out in shock, and immediately turns back to the edge. "No!" he howls. "NO!"

"It won't do you any good," I say, stepping close to him. "They can't hear you."

"I'm not dead, I'm not dead, I'm not dead!" he roars. "I won't leave yet! I was fighting, dammit!"

"You're not fighting anymore."

"Damn you straight to hell, you evil hag!" he spits out, still trying to break back through to the other side. "Curse you and I hope Remus fucking murders you, you bitch!"

He turns to me, looking sheepish. "I think my cousin Bellatrix just murdered me, that crazy—"

We both stare at each other in shock.

"Merlin," he whispers.

"Shit, you look old," I whisper back.

"Regulus?"

I nod, very slowly. "So, um, how were things, apart from cousin Bellatrix killing you?"

He shrugs. "I was in Azkaban. They thought I betrayed James and Lily, when it was that cowardly little rat— oh, are they here? James and Lily?"

"They passed through. A long time ago."

"Damn. Well, I'll find them. Anyway, I broke out. And I found Harry and Remus." He turns back to the edge. "Shit. Take care of him, Remus. You're the only one left." His voice is hoarse with emotion, something I'd almost forgotten about. "It's all on you now, Moony."

He turns back to me.

"Well, um, I could help you look for your friends, if you want."

"Regulus . . . what happened to you?"

I tell him quickly. I don't know how to explain what I did. I get it all out as quickly as possible, knowing I can't make myself sound any better to him. But still, I can't help it. I hope he'll believe me. That he'll think well of me.

"You did it to save Kreacher? That stupid damn elf is what brought those kids to the Ministry tonight. He nearly got us all killed. He did get me killed!"

I tell him what Kreacher did for me. I never could understand the arrogance my older brother had. He didn't even have the decency to treat a servant with kindness, one who had no choice in staying or going. My voice gets more heated and more embarrassed as I explain how sick I was, for months.

"So I'm so sorry if you think it was stupid of me to die to save my only friend, but that's what I did! Now do you want help looking for your friends, or what?"

"Regulus," he says quietly. "I'm sorry. You . . . did the right thing." And he smiles at me. "Who knew it was possible, eh?"

I find myself just barely smiling back. "I just told myself that this way, he could never force the two of us into a fight. I would never be asked to kill you. I chose how I died."

He smiles even more, and he seems a little younger, more like I remember him. "You're braver than I thought you were." He looks me over. "And younger. Damn." Then he's holding his arms open, and taking a hesitant step forward, and I am embracing my brother for the first time since we were young kids. Funny, I never thought it would happen on this side.

"Well, I guess his wait is over," a jealous voice—the only emotion we really still feel—says behind me.

I look around me in surprise. The dark is backing away. I guess this was what I was waiting for, after all.

Sirius turns back once more. "See you, Harry. Kill that bastard, I know you can. Try to take out my cousin, while you're at it. Oh, and take care of Moony, you know how he gets." He reaches out his hand, as far as he can. "I'll be waiting here, with my brother. Good luck."

"You know he won't hear you."

"I know . . . but maybe he'll know I'm here."

Then we go, to look for James and Lily. I confess myself disappointed that Voldemort's still out there, and I can't help wondering how long it will be before Sirius sees Harry again.

And so we wait. Together.