For the Speed of Lightning Competition, round 2.
The prompt? Angst.
Most bits of dialogue are pulled directly from HP5. I don't own any of it.
AN: When Remus says, "You promised," that's in reference to my story Not Invincible, which is a prequel of sorts to this. I'm pretty sure this one makes perfect sense without that one, though.
Warnings: Teeny tiny one second hint at slash?
That general notion that time slows down in the worst moments of a person's life? Completely false. Quite the contrary, actually.
It speeds up.
And right now, in this moment, time is skipping, leaping, stumbling by at a pace too quick for Remus to keep up. It skitters past – great, bounding chunks of it disappear all at once.
He doesn't even have time to scream.
He doesn't even have the time to say a word as he watches Sirius tip backward, laughter crossing his face. He doesn't have time to protest as Bellatrix cackles gleefully.
Remus's hand lashes out without conscious thought, gripping tightly to Harry's wrist before Remus grabs him tightly around the middle. It's pure instinct, born from living with Sirius and James for seven years. He's used to stopping people from rushing off and doing stupid, impulsive things.
He's not so used to being the one with the stupid, impulsive desires. But right now, he wants to do the same as Harry. He wants to rush off after Sirius, pretend that he isn't dead, pretend that he can be found, be saved.
Or, barring that, he wants to leap through the Veil after him. He doesn't want to be alone again.
But Remus reins the impulse in tightly and refuses to let it loose. He has to be the adult here, no matter how much he's breaking inside.
He sucks in a breath and begins to speak, though his voice is strained and at an odd pitch. "There's nothing you can do, Harry -"
Still, Harry struggles, and as he does, the ache in Remus's chest grows. It isn't fair, Remus thinks. We only just got him back. But his face betrays none of this, and Harry still hasn't yet reached the conclusion Remus knew the moment Sirius fell – or perhaps he simply hasn't accepted it yet.
"Get him, save him, he's only just gone through!" Harry yells, as though it's just a curtain and not the Veil. As though it matters how little time he's been gone.
"- it's too late, Harry." Remus can't stop his voice from cracking on the words.
"We can still reach him -" Harry thrashes in his grip, testing the limits of Remus's strength, fueled by adrenaline and desperation.
And Remus is forced to say it, no matter how much he doesn't want to. Saying it is the only way to make it real for Harry, but saying it makes it real for Remus, too, and he doesn't want it to be.
"There's nothing you can do, Harry… nothing… he's gone."
Remus says this, but he doesn't allow it to sink in. He can't, because when it does sink in, when he finally realizes that he is well and truly alone again, he knows he won't exactly be functional. Nearly catatonic, if last time is anything to go by.
"He hasn't gone!" Harry screams. The shattered fragments of Remus's heart ache for the teen – his heart would break, but there's not enough of it left whole for another fracture line.
"SIRIUS!" The sound tears out of Harry's throat. "SIRIUS!"
"He can't come back, Harry." Remus's voice cracks again. He hates being the adult right now. He hates being the mature one. He wants to scream and cry and yell and break things and hex people, but he can't, because Harry needs him to be calm. "He can't come back, because he's d-"
"HE - IS - NOT - DEAD!" As Harry roars the words, Remus is almost grateful, because he's not sure he could have finished the word. "SIRIUS!"
And Remus's mind – which is still largely occupied with trying to force Harry to realize Sirius is gone without realizing it himself – finally catches up to the fact that there is still a battle raging around them, and that perhaps the middle of the room isn't the best place to be standing.
He drags Harry off to the side near a wall, watching as the boy observes the battle with surprisingly clear eyes. With so many emotions swirling through the emerald, Remus is reminded forcibly of Lily. Unconsciously, his grip loosens, but Harry has finally stopped struggling.
"Harry?" Neville interrupts the beginning of Remus's musing.
"Harry… I'b really sorry…" Neville says while clearly under the influence of a Tarantallegra curse and a broken nose. "Was dad man - was Sirius Black a - a friend of yours?"
Harry seems only able to nod.
"Here," Remus murmurs, working on autopilot. "Finite." Neville's legs stop dancing uncontrollably, but Remus hardly notices.
"Let's - let's find the others. Where are they all, Neville?" he asks, and he thinks it's unlikely that Harry and Neville can't hear everything buried under the words – despite his purposeful denial, some part of his brain still knows, and that part is projecting nearly unendurable pain. He tamps it down, just in time to hear Neville's response.
"Dey're all back dere," Neville says, his enunciation mauled by the broken nose. "A brain addacked Ron bud I dink he's all righd - and Herbione's unconscious, bud we could feel a bulse."
A bang and a yell come from behind him. Remus turns around in time to see Kingsley Shacklebolt on the ground and Bellatrix sprinting away. He grabs for Harry again, yelling the teen's name, but he's too late this time, and Harry's already slipped out of his grasp.
"SHE KILLED SIRIUS!" Harry bellows. "SHE KILLED HIM I'LL KILL HER!"
Remus isn't entirely sure he has the strength to go after Harry – not to mention keep up with him – so he's grateful when he sees Dumbledore vanish not moments after Voldemort follows Harry.
A spell flies past his head, and Remus drops to the stone bench instinctively, avoiding the hex that's already gone by. This seems to jolt his sluggish mind back into place. He gets up off the bench and slips back into the fray, using his spellcasting as an excuse not to think. Time skips again, slipping past like sand through splayed fingers. It sneaks past him, almost ninja-like, and suddenly Aurors are everywhere and Death Eaters are in custody and no one seems to notice Remus anymore, and people begin to go back to wherever they were before.
Remus doesn't really have anywhere to go back to. Where he was before was at Grimmauld Place, with Sirius. With Sirius, though, doesn't exist anymore. Remus realizes suddenly that his entire body is shaking.
He's not even entirely sure how he got out of the ministry. He doesn't remember doing it, but the next thing he's aware of is stumbling through the door of Grimmauld place and sinking the floor in the first corner he finds. He's trembling, his breath coming in choking gasps. His arms wrap tightly around his stomach.
"YOU PROMISED!" The words tear out of his throat without his permission or intend. He screams in agony at the dark ceiling. "You promised!" The second time, it's half scream, half sob. "It's not fair! It isn't fair! I only just got you back! I've already had to lose you once; it's not fair that I have to lose you twice! It's not fair." He's not sure whether he's screaming at Sirius or the universe, but his angry rant eventually tapers into a mass of sobs. He curls in on himself, arms squeezing tighter around his middle, head tucked into his knees. The strong sobs shake his entire body in an irregular, sporadic rhythm.
After forever – or maybe just a moment, he's not sure anymore – a hand curls gently around his shoulders as a body settles down next to him. The hand is too small, too warm.
She, if he's right about who it is, knows better than to try false platitudes, but she doesn't go away as the tears eventually run dry.
Reluctantly, he finally looks up. He's right. It's Nymphadora Tonks. She's looking at him gently, but her eyes are full of pain. "You're right," she says. "It isn't fair. But that's life."
He doesn't know how to respond to that. She doesn't seem to mind. "You loved him." It's not a question, but Remus answers anyway.
"More than anything." The words are raspy from having clawed their way up a battered throat.
She nods, but she seems to understand that this is one of those times where there are no words right or necessary.
Remus sets his head back on his propped up knees without a word, and they sit in silence until the sunlight melts from the room.