Truth, Lies, and Sirius Black
It was a good day, Remus decided. He lay comfortably on the couch, encased by Lyon's arms, leaning on Lyon's chest, watching television. Classes were about to end for exams, and this was Remus' only night off from studying for the next week. So Lyon had picked him up from campus and they had gone out to dinner, and it had been superbly romantic, and Remus found he couldn't be happier as he lounged against his lover's heartbeat.
"What show is this?" asked Lyon loudly, breaking into Remus' quiet inner peace.
"I'm not sure," he replied. "I've never seen it."
"It's pretty funny. Have you been watching?"
"Not really paying attention," said Remus.
"It's funny," repeated Lyon.
Remus did not respond, but snuggled closer to Lyon, breathing deeply, allowing himself to float off into his own happiness again.
"Bloody - damn it," snarled Lyon as a shrill, piercing cry went off from the direction of the kitchen. Ringgggg, ringggggg.
"I'll get it," said Remus, mourning the loss of his inner peace. "It's probably my mum anyway." He heaved himself up off the couch and ambled into the kitchen, his arms swinging, grabbing the phone and pulling it up to his ear. "Hello?"
Where he expected a calm, perhaps pleased reply of 'hello' back to him, he received nothing short of a bombshell. He dropped the phone in horror and hurried back into the living room. Dashing about, grabbing a coat and keys and shoes, Remus could not believe it. It could not have happened, not now, not ever, not yet.
"Remus? What's the matter? Remus!"
"I'll be back later!" he called as he slammed the door. He'd never driven this fast in his life on the few occasions he'd been the driver of a car since coming to the university. Praying that there were no police around, praying that she was alright, Remus sped along the backstreets until he reached Lily and James' apartment.
Parking hastily, Remus jumped out of the car and took the steps two at a time until he reached their door. He slammed his fist against it and a moment later, a grave-looking James opened it.
"Is she alright?" asked Remus breathlessly. James took a deep breath and nodded.
"She's okay, physically," he muttered. "But she's still… freaking out."
Relief washed over Remus and he couldn't stop the shaky laugh he exhaled as he said, "Well, that's understandable." James nodded again and moved back so that Remus could enter the apartment. Remus did so and looked left into the living room. Lily was seated on their couch, a blanket wrapped around her shaking shoulders and a cup of what Remus guessed to be tea in her twitching hands. She was staring straight ahead at nothing. Slowly, Remus sat next to her and gently pulled the mug from her grasp and put it on the floor. Her breathing was sporadic, coming in bursts and then short quick puffs.
"Lily," he whispered, "Lily, it's okay. I'm Remus. You're safe now."
"Remus," she moaned, and then she pulled him close to her into a bone-breaking hug and began sobbing onto his shoulder. James walked around and sat on Lily's other side, looking relieved.
"Tell me what happened," he whispered, rubbing circles onto her back as she cried.
"V-V-Voldemort," she sobbed. "V-Voldemort. At th-the grocery store."
Remus looked up, intending to give James a questioning look, but he found himself looking at Sirius instead. Betraying no surprise, Remus looked away into Lily's hair.
"The store has local owners," explained Sirius, "in a Jewish neighborhood. He was targeting it. They were there with Lily's parents, and I'm pretty sure Voldemort knows that they got away. Lily's hard to miss with that hair."
Remus held Lily tighter in his arms. "You can't go back there," he said. "Don't go back there."
"There's nothing to go back to," said Sirius. "He burned it down."
"What?" gasped Remus, his head snapping back to look at Sirius. "How can he get away with this?"
"The police are afraid of him," replied Sirius with an undisguised look of disgust on his face. "And he has the support of some of the oldest and purest families in the country. Mine, for example."
"What?" repeated Remus, horrified.
"My father made a statement in the paper, about how he's so proud to be living in an age where someone is finally taking control of the "domestic problem" involving immigrants. Some bollocks like that."
"I'm sorry," said Remus quietly. Sirius shrugged, but his face was wooden.
"I should be used to it," was all he said.
As they spoke, Lily calmed in Remus' arms. She was breathing evenly and her tight grip had changed from clinging for dear life to a more comforting embrace.
"Remus?" she said in a small voice.
"Will you stay here tonight? Please?" Remus paused, uncertain. He had no problem staying for Lily, but he wasn't sure if Sirius was staying as well. "Please?" begged Lily into his ear, and Remus felt his reservations crumble.
"Of course," he said quietly. "I just need to call Lyon, okay? I ran out of the apartment and he's probably worried." Lily nodded shakily as she pulled away from Remus, though she held his right hand tight in her left as though she were afraid he would run away if she let him go. Remus smiled at her.
"Don't worry, Lily," he said. "I'm here for you."
Remus gripped the newspaper in his hands so tightly that his knuckles were turning white. His eyes were wide with horror. It could not be – he'd just seen the man a few weeks ago! There was a lump in his throat and he felt his stomach bubble uncomfortably. He dropped the newspaper back onto the doorstep outside his shared apartment and bolted for the bathroom, throwing up nothing but stomach acid.
Shakily, he stood and went back to the door. He picked up the paper again and looked miserably at the headline:
You-Know-Who Strikes Again: Victim 22-Year-Old Benjy Fenwick
Trembling, Remus brought the newspaper inside. He collapsed onto one of the wooden kitchen chairs and slowly began reading the article.
On Friday evening, the terrifying serial killer – you know who we mean – struck again. It has been publicized repeatedly that You-Know-Who has been targeting those of the Jewish faith, and Fenwick was not an exception. Fenwick was found murdered in his home Saturday morning by his neighbor. It appears that Fenwick was beaten before being stabbed repeatedly with a knife –
Remus could not read any farther, partially because his hands were shaking so badly, and partially because the tears in his eyes made the words blur together. He dropped the paper and let his head fall onto the table.
When would it end? Why did people continuously have to die? All Remus wanted was a normal, happy life. He just wanted the world to be at peace with itself. Why were there people who needed to hurt others? Remus heaved and sobbed, unable to bear the pain in his heart. Benjy Fenwick, Lily's cousin, a friend since childhood, was gone because of this insane murderer, and the hate in Remus' heart was unmatched by anything he'd ever felt. He realized, then and there, that someone needed to fight Voldemort. Someone needed to stand up to him. Someone needed to call him Voldemort, not You-Know-Who like the papers and the reporters.
But what could he do himself? He put his face in his hands. If he stood up to Voldemort himself, made a spectacle of himself just to remind people that they needed to be strong as well, he would just get himself killed. And getting himself killed was low on his priority list. It was directly below spending time with Sirius. He needed to find a way to fight, though. He could not sit back and do nothing when people he loved were in such danger.
And then, as if it were a message from an angel, Remus' laptop computer made a noise to let him know that he had an email.
Tears still running down his cheeks, Remus pulled the computer over towards him, rubbing his nose and sniffling. He noticed that his professor of philosophy and ethics, Professor Dumbledore, had sent the email. Remus read the first sentence, checked to see to whom the email had been sent, and then continued reading the note.
My students, it said,
You are not unaware of the dangerous times we live in. You are not unaware that people are dying – maybe even people you know and love. But I believe that you, this group, may and must be trusted with the future of this country. I would like to call you to arms, quite literally. There must be a show of force against this killer. Voldemort must be stopped. I will be holding office hours on Monday evening at 7 pm. You are all invited.
Remus leaned against the brown-brick wall casually and pulled out a cigarette, placing it on his lips and clicking his lighter. He took a long drag and tried to calm his jittery nerves. He took a deep breath and looked over towards the entrance to the synagogue twenty feet from him. The service was about to end, and Remus was watching, waiting, hoping and praying that nothing would happen.
It was his first mission since joining the Order of the Phoenix – the secret society that Professor Dumbledore had invited him to join. He had brought Lily and James along to the first meeting, and James had insisted on inviting Sirius, and now they were all devoted members of the society.
Remus had been surprised to see that he had known a few of the people who wanted to join the Order – his old roommate, Peter, had joined, along with the Prewett brothers and Frank Longbottom and his fiancé, Alice.
He also had the pleasure of meeting a few teachers from various departments around the university – Professor Moody, of the Criminal Justice department, and Professor Hagrid, of the veterinary department.
On this particular mission, Remus had a partner and her name was Marlene McKinnon. Marlene was a small woman, but her face was sharp and hard, and Remus had to admit that she intimidated him, even though she was a good foot shorter than he was. Their assignment was to stand outside the synagogue and guard it. If Voldemort or his supporters showed up to do any damage, they were to call both the police and the rest of the Order, which was stationed all around the city, waiting for a distress signal.
"Nervous?" asked Marlene, as she checked her watch. "The service should be ending in five minutes."
"A bit," replied Remus.
"What kind of gun did you bring?" she asked conversationally.
"Excuse me?" he said, staring at her incredulously.
"What kind of gun did you bring?" she repeated.
"Don't tell me you don't have a gun!" she exclaimed, obviously exasperated. "Ugh, Remus, this is a war! You don't have time to play nice if you want to survive! If any of those Death Eaters show up, you had better believe they'll have guns. Probably worse. Flame throwers and tasers and chainsaws and who knows what! And you don't have anything to defend yourself?"
"I'm a fast runner," muttered Remus, indignant. Marlene snorted.
"It won't be good enough," she assured him. "Now shut up, the service is ending." Remus looked over at the synagogue, and indeed, people were spilling onto the cobblestoned street, talking and laughing loudly, absorbed in their own world.
The people were dispersing. The first people had reached the nearest corner. Remus let out a sigh of relief. And that was when he heard the first scream.
In an instant, the entire alleyway was on fire and screams erupted around Remus. He wrenched his phone from his pocket and held it up to his ear, and he heard himself screaming into it.
"HELP!" he shouted. "HELP, THE SYNAGOGUE ON THIRD STREET! HELP, THEY'RE HERE!" He couldn't hear whoever was on the other line, but he didn't care. He just kept shouting. He saw Marlene shut her own cell phone and set off into the fire, pulling a handgun from her belt.
Remus tried to call after her, but he wasn't sure if he was actually screaming or if it was in his mind. He heard shots fired, and he felt himself run toward the fire after her. He was screaming Marlene's name into the phone, looking around for her, but all he could see were figures in black robes with all the gruesome weapons that Marlene had described to Remus mere moments before.
Someone grabbed Remus' arm and Remus looked at the face attached; it was a young man he'd never known, and never would know. There was blood streaming down his face from a disturbing wound on his forehead. His eyes were popping out of their sockets, and his dark, curly hair was in the fist of a robed Death Eater wielding a hatchet.
Remus ripped his arm out of the man's grip in horror and looked away from the scene a second too late as the Death Eater swung the hatchet downward toward the man's head. Remus ran, ran as fast as he could, aiming for nothing in particular, just trying to get away.
Then he remembered – Marlene! Frantic, he began searching, his eyes passing over the blood and death around him, desperate to find his partner. He tried calling her name, but it was no use over the din of screams. Gunfire was everywhere around him, and Remus had no idea how he was still alive. Ducking around bodies and figures, he searched and searched. He had nearly reached the door to the synagogue when he finally saw her.
Marlene had her gun in her hand and it was pointed between the eyes of a tall, pale, but handsome man with dark hair. Remus knew immediately who it was, though he had never seen his face before. This was him. Voldemort.
Remus couldn't move. He was rooted to the spot, watching in terror as Voldemort expertly avoided her shot and slipped the gun from her hand. He slammed Marlene to the ground and pointed her own gun to the back of her head. Voldemort leaned down and whispered something into her ear.
Suddenly, he felt arms wrap around him, and he was sure he was about to die. One of the Death Eaters had grabbed him, and they were going to kill him, brutally. He would be one of the statistics of this bloody war, one of the causalities, one of the countless nameless faces who were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
"Remus, stop – unf – squirming!" said a familiar voice, and Remus relaxed. People were rushing around him, toward the burning synagogue, but Sirius had stopped for him. Sirius took the phone from Remus' hand and closed it.
"I hung up ages ago," he said. "Come on, let's get you out of here. You aren't prepared." Sirius tried to pull Remus away, but Remus couldn't move. His legs were glued to the street and he stared up at Sirius, unable to move but terrified to stay. Sirius saw the expression on Remus' face, and he laid his hand on Remus' cheek. "Shh," he muttered. "I'll keep you safe. I promise." Sirius pulled on Remus' arm until he began walking, and within moments they were running, full speed, away from the battle.
They ran and ran, and Remus wasn't sure if he had run out of breath or not, but he kept running.
"Come on," said Sirius. "Here." He pulled Remus down a tiny alleyway. It was cramped and Remus felt himself pressed against Sirius, but he didn't care. As they gasped for air, Remus let his arms slither around Sirius' shoulders. His gasps for air turned quickly into terrified sobs as Remus clung to Sirius. Sirius held him tightly, letting him cry, allowing him to let go and to feel the pain.
"Marlene," moaned Remus. "Marlene…"
"I know," muttered Sirius, his voice cracking as he rubbed Remus' back. Remus couldn't stop himself. He pressed his body against Sirius', desperate for physical contact to comfort him. He heard Sirius' breath hitch, but he ignored it. He didn't care. He just needed to feel someone against him to remind him that he was still alive, that the fear and pain hadn't swallowed him whole.
Remus leaned his head into the crook of Sirius' neck and tried to calm down. He concentrated very hard on relaxing his body, one section at a time until he finally hung, limp, in Sirius' arms. He gave a great sniff, and Sirius pulled away from him.
"I'm sorry that you had to see all of that," Sirius said gently. "Why weren't you armed? You could have died, and I would have –" He cut off as his throat closed up.
"I didn't understand how… how serious this is," said Remus. "But I know now. Marlene had to die for me to understand something she knew from the start." Tears leaked from Remus' eyes again.
"Does crying make you feel better?" asked Sirius.
"No," said Remus. Sirius didn't laugh. Instead, Sirius brought a hand up to Remus' face and wiped away the remnants of the tears that had cascaded down Remus' face.
"I wish you wouldn't then," he said quietly. Sirius leaned his face close to Remus', and Remus felt his heart speed up. He could feel Sirius' breath against his lips, and a shudder went up Remus' spine. His own breath was shaking as every nerve in his body awoke from a long sleep. He could feel the prick of the cool, evening air and the heat of a burn forming on his hand. He noticed the pain of a blooming bruise where the dead young man had grabbed his arm. And he felt, most acutely, the tingles left behind as Sirius' hands slid up his arms.
"Remus," Sirius muttered.
"No," said Remus, wrenching himself away from Sirius and shoving him back against the alley wall. He gasped for air, leaning against the other wall for support. "No. I'm not with you. I'm not going to cheapen anyone's death with you. I can't be with you. I already told you that. I'm… I'm with Lyon. You need to accept it. And I'm going to go home to him, right now."
Slowly, Remus pushed himself off the wall and edged out of the alleyway. He looked up and down the street. A few cars drove past, but they all ignored Remus as he tried to get his bearings. Remus decided to go right, just to find another street, to figure out where he was. He began walking, but a moment later, Sirius' hand closed around his wrist.
"Remus, wait," he said. "Come on, you're going to wrong way. Let me walk you back to your place."
"No," said Remus. "Just tell me which way to go."
"You're going to need to take the tubes," said Sirius. "Please, let me walk with you. I don't want to worry about you." Remus sighed.
"Fine," he said. "Fine, walk with me."
"Thank you," said Sirius, smiling.
"Where have you been?" growled Lyon as Remus shut the door behind him. "Do you understand how much I've been worrying? Do you know what time it is? You said that service ended at seven. It's eleven thirty, Remus! No call! Nothing! And then I turn on the news at nine and I see that that whacko, Voldemort, was out again tonight killing people! I understand that you want to do what's right for our society and all that shit, but I cannot allow this if it's going to get you killed!"
As Lyon ranted, Remus had shuffled around the room, dropping clothes and things from his pockets onto the floor, but at this, his back stiffened.
"Excuse me?" he interrupted. "Allow me?"
"That's right," snarled Lyon. "I do not allow you to get yourself murdered for some stupid ideal!"
"I hate to break it to you, but you don't own me," said Remus. "And I refuse to have this conversation right now. You don't know what happened."
"Yeah, and whose fault is that?" asked Lyon. "You're the one who's been out since six playing a hero. Did you know that over ten people died at that synagogue? I was sure one of them was you for a while."
"Thank you for your stunning support," snapped Remus. "I want you to know that I watched several of those people die. And now you're giving me this bullshit? You want to fight now? When I've spent the night getting attacked and nearly dying?"
"You know what, Remus? This group is totally unnecessary. You don't need to be involved! You need to stop putting your life at risk for some people you don't even know or care about!"
"Obviously I care about them, otherwise I wouldn't put my life at risk!"
"Shut up, Remus!" shouted Lyon. "Stop acting so pretentious! You're no better than any other man! Don't kid yourself into thinking this stupid cult you've joined will make any difference."
"What do you know?" yelled Remus. "You haven't done anything meaningful! You're years older than me, and all you do is work at a coffee shop and ignore anything that means anything!"
"Maybe I'm just trying to have fun in my life instead of stressing myself out over things I can't change!" retaliated Lyon furiously.
"This is something I can help to change!"
"No it isn't, Remus! You can't change Voldemort! He's going to kill people! You just need to try to make sure he doesn't kill you! And throwing yourself into his line of fire isn't the way to survive his genocide!"
"Some people have to stand for something," spat Remus. "And I won't apologize to you of all people for wanting to do some good in my life. Obviously you don't care about doing good for others."
"You're right," said Lyon. "I don't. And I don't care about you doing good for others. They've done nothing to deserve it. And I want you to stop. Now."
"Well that's too bad," said Remus. "If anything, nearly dying made me even more determined to fight Voldemort. So get used to it." Remus stalked into their bedroom, slammed the door behind him and locked it.
There was silence in the small classroom in which the Order of the Phoenix had met. Remus tried not to squirm in his chair and examined at the inappropriate drawings on the desk. He felt as though everyone's eyes were on him, pressuring him, blaming him for their loss.
The wooden door in the front right corner of the room creaked open, and Professor Dumbledore entered the classroom with a solemn look on his face. "Good evening," he said, and though his voice was quiet, everyone could hear him. There was a smattering of mumbled 'hello's and 'good evening's throughout the room.
Dumbledore cleared his throat and Remus looked up.
"As I am sure everyone is aware, we have already lost one member," he said. "Marlene McKinnon. She died a hero, defending the people of that synagogue as though she knew and loved them herself. She was brave and fearless." Someone sniffed loudly. "Would anyone like to say a few words?"
"I would," said a ginger-haired man near the back. Dumbledore motioned for him to speak. He stood and looked around for a moment, as though lost, but then he looked at the ginger-haired man to his right and looked up at Dumbledore and began. "Marlene was my brother Gideon's fiancée. They were going to marry in three weeks. I have never known a spunkier or funnier or… or happier girl than Marlene. She was perfect for my brother, and they were going to be so happy. But… now I can say that I have never known someone as selfless, or brave, or inspirational than Marlene." Fabian paused and took a deep, shuddering breath. Remus was sure that there were tears in his eyes, but he couldn't see them. He was staring at the desk again, ashamed. "She… She stood up for what she believed in, and she fucking died for it! So there is no way any of us can back out now! Not now when someone beautiful, and wonderful, and compassionate like Marlene McKinnon has given her life for this cause. No one can back out now…"
Fabian trailed off into silence, and someone began to clap. Remus looked up and saw his old roommate, Peter Pettigrew, clapping in earnest with tears pouring from his eyes.
"Well spoken," he said, and everyone in the room broke into both applause and tears simultaneously. Remus applauded quietly and tried to wipe away his own tears with his elbow. As the clapping subsided, Professor Moody stood and spoke briefly about Marlene's accomplishments in his department. Alice Jones stood and told the Order how Marlene had been there for her for all her years at Hogwarts University so far. And finally, Remus stood.
He could not stop himself, but he stood.
"I didn't… I didn't know Marlene that well," he said. "I only met her once before that night, at the first Order meeting. But we were assigned to that alley, and I thought… I thought that I would make a new friend. And I did. But… But I wasn't ready. I was so stupid. I had no weapons, nothing. I don't know… But I feel like this was my fault, because I did nothing. I did nothing… And now…"
"No, Remus." Sirius stood, across the room. "It isn't your fault. It's Voldemort's fault. Last time I checked, you weren't the one who murdered a sweet, lively girl with so much to live for. No. And you did do something – you called the rest of the Order for back up. Without you, we couldn't have saved all the people at that synagogue, and you would be dead, too. It isn't your fault, so don't say it is."
"Agreed," said Gideon Prewett. "It's not your fault, Lupin. Don't blame yourself for the actions of that killer. You are nothing like him. You didn't kill her."
Remus gasped and began to sob. "I should have… I should have been more prepared!"
"You should have," agreed Gideon with a steely expression. "But you weren't. And it still isn't your fault that she died."
Lily wrapped her arms around Remus and pulled him back into his chair. "Shh," she said. "Don't think these things about yourself," she whispered. "You are not to blame."
"I should have done more," muttered Remus. "Anything else, anything more…"
A/N: All I can say about this chapter is… I'm sorry that it's so damn short. I tried so hard to expand it, but this is seriously all there is. This last scene wasn't in my outline AT ALL, but I added it just so I could hit 4000 words. Seriously. Now it's 4500-some, and I literally have nothing else to say about this part. Ugh. This depressing middle part is so tough to write. XP
But hey, here is your update. ENJOY? :P R&R, y'know the drill. Thanks. Love!