A/N: So I was told that I should never, ever go on hiatus again. This was after my slave driver forced me to write /something./ I chose instead to finish a fic I started months ago. Remember, my dear readers, that this is fanfiction, and I can do whatever I want to with it. Please do not hold me accountable for anything that does not make sense. That may have been the point :P
Disclaimer: I own nothing related to the HP series. I am just using the characters shamelessly.
Genre: Angst, drama, suspense maybe? With a hint of romance. Minor character death?
Dedications: to Maegan (have you changed your penname again? :P) for bugging me till I wrote something and dealt with my freak out over this being horrible. It's also thanks to her that I found a title for this xD
Warnings: there is a massive amount of spoilers. You have been warned.
(title taken from the poem "Invictus" by William Emest Henley. Seriously, you should all read it. It's beautiful.)
When one lives in a world that is filled with magic, such as Sirius does, one is aware of the fact that things like this are bound to happen all the time (even if they are not all together legal). It's not all that surprising, considering everything else that has been going on lately, and considering the fact that they are in a war, and Sirius is under a lot of stress and not a hundred percent sure that he isn't hallucinating. Except for the fact that…. his imagination never would have conjured up something quite like this
He means…. It's Moony. It's Remus. Except it isn't, not quite, and Sirius desperately wishes that he could say not at all. This man standing in front of him seems smaller, hunch over and into himself, maybe… or just… incapable of holding himself up properly, and more broken than Sirius ever would have thought possible. He never would have actually let himself think of Moony in such a way because… it just isn't right. This isn't right at all. The Remus J Lupin that he knows is strong, and beautiful, and bright. This man (and he can only think of him as a man. Thinking of him as Remus, no matter from what time period or alternate dimension he may be from, leaves a sour taste in his mouth) is simply shattered beyond repair.
"Who are you," Sirius asks, already knowing but hoping frantically that he's wrong. He wants the man to tell him that he's someone else, that the fact that he looks like Remus, but not Sirius' Remus, because Sirius refuses to think that his Remus can ever look quite like this, is because of some spell or potion, not because of age and devastation and the cruel realities of whatever life he's been forced to live. He doesn't want to think of a time when Remus could turn out quite like this. He doesn't want to think about what could have caused Remus to turn out like this.
The man smiles, but it's nothing like the man from Sirius' own time does. This smile doesn't quite meet his brown eyes. In fact, his eyes are much too dull, as if he's all but given up on life completely by this point in time, or that point in time that he has just come from (and isn't that all more than just a bit confusing), which is just… no. Remus would never give up. The lines in his older-than-he-should-look-at-his-age (even though Sirius doesn't really know how old he is. He's guessing late thirties maybe, at the very most) face deepen as his thin lips twist upward wryly, and they draw Sirius' eyes to the fact that more than three-fourths of those lines Sirius had previously noticed aren't age lines, and of course they aren't laugh lines, like they should be, but scars. And he wonders where he had been when Remus had gotten those scars. "You know who I am," the man says finally, his eyes meeting Sirius dead on.
Sirius flinches back, because looking at him, seeing exactly what is in his eyes is just too much, too fast, and yet it's proof that it's Remus, because only Remus can ever get these kind of reactions out of him. The emotions, or lack therefore, swirling in those brown eyes are nothing like Sirius' Remus' though, and Sirius can't help but wish that this man would leave, that he would disappear and that this would all turn out to be some bizarre dream or nightmare that he can later tell his Remus about, while they lie cuddled up in bed buried under a mountain of quilts. But future Remus just stands there determinedly, making Sirius want to turn away. Sirius isn't sure he can stand looking at him anymore.
"I'm not leaving," the man, that Remus, says, stepping closer to Sirius now. "At least not yet. Not until we talk. I could get into a lot of trouble for doing this, so I'm going to make the most of it before I head home, to my time, and possibly get sent off to Azkaban or whatever the fuck they want to do with me."
Something in Sirius' brain clicks.
The way Remus, the future Remus, from almost two decades from now, looks so worn and old and broken. The way he holds himself, as if he can barely stand, and is just managing to because he has to. The way he's so thin… sickly really, and has so many scars…. This Remus is so pale, in a permanently ill sort of way, not Sirius' Remus' delicate skin sort of way, and his once full, almost shaggy (but still short, because Remus hated to keep it long, saying it was too wild for his taste) head of light brown hair has thinned out and is now tangled with grays and whites and a duller brown than what had once been, or what it is now. Sirius really doesn't know how to label these things. His clothes are all but rags as well, held together by a number of patches.
"Have you been in Azkaban before," Sirius asks, forcing the words out of a suddenly dry throat. They come out gruff, and a bit stiff. Nothing like he normally speaks.
"Yes," Remus says, forcing Sirius to meet his gaze. There's something cold, almost lethal, in his gaze now. A challenge maybe, as if he's daring Sirius to ask more.
Sirius flinches. Because that means… that means that… all those suspicions that Sirius has had about Remus being a traitor, working for Voldemort and feeding information to the other side are true. He has been hoping, so, so desperately that he is wrong, but it looks like…
Remus reaches out and cuffs him across the head, much the same way he does now, when he thinks that Sirius is being incredibly dim. There's no real affection behind the gesture now though, which makes it hurt all the more. "I see that you're still as much of an idiot as you ever have been," he says, glaring fiercely. He lifts his chin up, and even though it bares his neck a bit, it's not an act of submission. It's one of defiance.
"But you said… you just said…" Sirius stutters. He is so confused now.
"The only time I ever went to Azkaban was to visit you, though you never once saw me. I didn't let you, I couldn't," Remus says, his glare intensifying.
"You're lying!" Sirius shouts, staggering back under the force of the sudden news. Because what Remus is telling him can't be true. Sirius could never… can never….would never… will never do anything to end up in such a dreadful place.
Remus laughs bitterly before scrubbing one thin, bony hand across his scarred face. "Oh Padfoot," he says tiredly, "I wish that I was."
"Tell me what happens," Sirius finally says, grabbing Remus by his arm (and fuck, it's so fucking thin that it feels like he's gripping nothing but bone) and dragging him over to the couch, suddenly thankful that this Remus from the future had materialized in the middle of his living room, of all places. "Tell me everything." Whereas before he only wanted this man to leave, now he wanted him to stay so that he could figure out what the fuck he was talking about.
"It's bad Sirius," Remus says, leaning back against the cushions of the ugly, floral pattern couch that Sirius' Remus had insisted on bringing home from that one thrift store, since it was cheap and comfortable and perfect for them to curl up on, looking so very tired. It's a look that's so familiar on him, and yet not, because Sirius' Remus, the one of this time period, who is only twenty and beautiful with it all, is often tired, but never shows it so openly. "It's all so bloody bad. You won't believe the things that happened… that are going to happen… I just… Merlin," he all but whimpers, lurching forward and burying his face in his hands. "This isn't as easy as I thought it would be."
"Remus," Sirius says, saying his lover's future self's name (once again, confusing) for the first time since he got here from wherever he came from. "Please, just tell me everything."
Remus exhales shakily before looking up to meet Sirius' eyes again. "I guess that you can say that it all begins with you convincing James to make Peter the Secret Keeper," he admits, looking so wrenchingly sad as he say those words. "Or maybe it all began when you started distrusting me. I don't really know Padfoot. It's hard to say. All I do know is that it all led up to everything falling apart."
"I didn't… I don't…" Sirius says, his first reaction to deny distrusting Remus. His first reaction in everything has always been to spare Remus' feelings.
Remus shakes his head sadly. "That doesn't matter anymore Sirius. It stopped mattering a long time ago. You distrusted me, there came a time where I was forced to distrust you or lose myself in grief… it's the way that the world was. I'm here now in hopes that it'll never come to that again."
"I don't understand," Sirius admits, rubbing at his head fiercely. He is beginning to get a headache.
"You talked James into making Peter the Secret Keeper," Remus says, his eyes flashing dangerously.
Sirius swallows. "Yes, but… what does that… how does that… how do you know?"
"You tell me, eventually," Remus says. "But eventually is too late, for everyone." Remus' mouth twists into something almost ugly… except… the more that Sirius looks at this older version of the man that he loves so much, the more he realizes that he isn't unattractive…. just, not the same. He's simply less whole. But there isn't anything about him that is capable of being ugly. He's beauty is simply devastating.
"I still don't understand," Sirius admits.
"You had Peter become the Secret Keeper," Remus says again.
Sirius nods. "Yes. We've already been through this part. What does that have to do with anything? Remus, you're confusing me."
"It has to do with everything!" Remus shouts, suddenly jumping up. "It fucking has to do with everything!" His thin hands clench into angry fists, and Sirius can only hope that the older (and usually he's younger, so really… it's strange) man doesn't have his wand with him. He doesn't want to imagine what sort of damage the man could do to him in his irritation if he does. "It's because of that slimy little git that Lily and James are dead,"
Sirius gasps as he hears this, and all color drains out of his face.
"And you were sent to Azkaban, and Harry was forced to go off and be raised by people who didn't give a damn about him!"
He's beginning to feel dizzy now, and nauseous, the more that he listens to Remus talk. It doesn't seem real, doesn't seem possible. He can feel himself shutting down. All those things happened…. Are going to happen… all because… Sirius shakes his head and tries to go on listening, but he feels sick. Merlin, he's going to hurl soon.
"It's because of him that I had to spend twelve fucking years believing that the man that I loved was capable of murder and betrayal," Remus is saying now, and it almost sounds like he's sobbing as he speaks. The sound makes Sirius' heart clench painfully, because no, Remus, no matter if it's his Remus or this strange, new (and yet so, so old) Remus that has suddenly appeared should never be so sad. "And just when I think that I have you back, Pettigrew escapes all over again, this time because of me and my fucking curse, and you're forced to live on the run for a year before having to move in to a house that you fucking despise, and then, shortly after that you…. You just die… and it's all Pettigrew's fault, in some way. And… I just… you just…" Remus finally collapses back onto the couch, feeling too weak to speak. "It's easier to blame everything that's happened on him," Remus says, burying his face in his hands again, "because it kind of all began with him, and he was there for almost everything else. It's just easier to blame him."
And Sirius just stares at him, not knowing what to say. It's all too much. It doesn't seem real at all. All of those things that Remus, future Remus, not present Remus, not Sirius' Remus, because Sirius knows somehow that this man is in no way his, has just said are so horrifying. And he had to live through all of them. Sirius jumps to his feet suddenly, as that one thought voices itself inside of his head, and he staggers to the bathroom, emptying everything that he had eaten that day into the toilet.
Remus rushes in behind him, holding his hair out of his face before filling the glass that Remus (Sirius' Remus, but Sirius supposes that it's also a past form of this Remus too, now that he thinks about it) always keeps sitting at the sink for rinsing with water and handing it to Sirius to drink.
"I'm sorry," Remus says, leaning back against the sink as Sirius stays seated on the floor, gulping down water. "I know that this all must be a bit overwhelming. I should have found a better way to let you know what I wanted to tell you. You always did used to tell me that I shouldn't reveal important information when I'm emotional."
Sirius laughs weakly, because he had just been telling Remus (the Remus of this time) that the other day.
"So I'm dead?" Sirius finally asks, sitting down with his back against the bathtub and his legs drawn up against his chest after he flushes the toilet.
"Yes," Remus says sadly, meeting Sirius' gaze. "For a couple months now. It's part of why I'm here." Remus grins sadly, though he tries to pass it off as mischievously. "It's just no fun living without you Pads."
"How did it happen," Sirius asks, needing to know.
"We were battling Death Eaters in the Department of Mysteries," Remus says, walking over to Sirius. He lowers the lid of the toilet and sits down on it, angling his legs so that his body is facing him. He can't look at the other man as he speaks though. "We weren't even meant to be there; at least, you weren't. The only reason we were there was because of Harry and his friends. It was often because of Harry that we found ourselves in the situations we were in," Remus says, and the words themselves are almost cruel, careless, capable of cutting deep, but he says the almost fondly, and yet sadly as well. "Voldemort had planted some fake vision into Harry's head of him torturing you for information, and so Harry and his friends rushed off to rescue you, but it was a trap, and then we got there, and the battle just escalated from there," Remus is breathing harshly now as he speaks, and his eyes are glazed over. Sirius knows that the man is reliving this all again, and he should tell him to stop, tell him that it's enough, that he doesn't need to know. Sirius keeps silent though. "Your cousin was there," Remus says, and his mouth twists into something dark and almost ugly again. "Bellatrix," he sneers, and his thin hands are curling into fists. Sirius' own hands do the same when he hears the name. "And you ended up dueling her, and she tried to hit you with the killing curse," suddenly Remus laughs darkly. "Oh Sirius," he says, finally looking up, "You dodged the fucking curse, only to trip over a fucking carpet and fall into the veil."
Remus lunges forward and grabs Sirius' shoulders, shaking him. There's something dark and desperate in his eyes. "How could you have been so fucking clumsy?" he asks, his thin fingers digging into Sirius' shoulders. Sirius grunts in pain. "Why couldn't you have been more careful? Sirius, I had just gotten you back. We were finally at a point in our lives where we were willing to put the past behind us and be friends again, and lovers again too. I had just gotten you back Sirius," Remus shouts, shaking him, "and you go off and get yourself killed by a bloody, fucking carpet. How could you?"
"I'm sorry," Sirius says, now knowing what else to say. Because it hadn't been him that had been so reckless, hadn't been him that had gone off and gotten himself killed, not yet, at least, but it sounds like something that he would do, and the words seem like something that Remus needs to hear. "I'm so bloody sorry Remus," he says, grabbing the tawny haired man's thin wrists. "I should have been more careful."
"You shouldn't have even left the house," Remus growls dangerously, in a tone of voice that usually never fails to turn Sirius on. The thought makes Sirius realize that this man, Remus, but not the one that is his, is all but straddling him. Sirius shakes the thoughts aside. There isn't time for them now.
"As if I would have just stayed, knowing that my godson was in danger," Sirius says, rolling his eyes.
Remus mutters something under his breath that sounds like "bloody heroic idiots." Sirius ignores it in favor of releasing this future Remus' wrists and hugging the man close against him. "I'm sorry that I got myself killed," he says, speaking with his lips against Remus' temples.
Remus shudders. "I'm sorry that I couldn't save you," he replies, bringing his now freed hands up to wrap around Sirius' shoulders. "I never managed to save you, not once, and there was always so much that you needed to be saved from."
"There was more?" Sirius asks wearily.
"Yes," Remus says, speaking into the hollow of Sirius' neck. "But you don't need to know everything. In fact, I don't want you to know. You don't need to live with the burdens." His voice shakes as he speaks, filled with such sadness and despair. The angst in his words can't be hidden, not even with his lips pressed against Sirius' skin.
"Lily and James died though," Sirius says, suddenly remembering what else this Remus from a future place had said. He yanks the man away from him so that he can look into his face. "You said that they died." He's panicking now, his heart racing. "Remus…"
"It's alright," Remus says soothingly, bringing his thin hands up to bracket Sirius' face, long fingers curving over his cheekbones. "It's alright. It won't happen again. Just make sure that you don't allow Peter to become the Secret Keeper."
Sirius feels his heart drop down into his stomach, and he feels sick all over again. "But Peter already is the Secret Keeper," he says, suddenly desperate. He pushes the future Remus off of him so that he can jump to his feet. "Last week…" he says, shaking his head frantically; to clear it or as a denial to what he has done, he doesn't know. "I talked James into finally switching Secret Keepers last week, and we actually did it today. Peter is the Potter's Secret Keeper."
"Fuck," Remus says, jumping up as well. "Fuck," he says again, his brown eyes wild with desperate fear. "What's today's date?"
"October 31st," Sirius replies, feeling fear fill him as Remus goes shockingly pale. "Tonight is a full moon," he says, shaking his head. "It must not affect you since this isn't your time period. I'm not really sure. I never studied time travel. I was just on my way to be with Remus in the shack that we go to, and I guess it's the one that you used to go to as well, before you showed up." Sirius shakes his head sadly. "The wolf is probably sad and lonely tonight, and very angry for being left on its own."
"That doesn't matter," Remus says, and suddenly he curses violently. "Fuck, none of that matters. I'm too late."
"What do you mean that you're too late," Sirius asks, rushing after the tawny haired man as Remus runs out of the bathroom. "Remus, what the fuck?"
"I'm too late," Remus says again, horror filling him as he looks up at the clock that hangs in the living room. It's almost twelve o'clock at night, and Sirius suddenly wonders how it's gotten so late. "It's already too late. It's been done. James and Lily are already dead."
Sirius' world starts spinning. "No," he gasps out, lurching forward. He's standing though, so the sudden movement makes him fall onto his knees. "No," he says again, tears filling his eyes. "This can't be."
"I'm sorry Sirius," Remus says, and he's crying to. "I'm so sorry. I was supposed to come back weeks before this time, months even. Something must have happened though or… I don't know, maybe fate just wouldn't let me travel any further back because it deemed some of these events as unchangeable, which I know is utterly fucked up. I'm sorry though. I didn't know that tonight was the night, or else I would have said something ages ago, and maybe we could have stopped it."
"Just shut up," Sirius gasps, covering his ears with his hands. "Just please shut the fuck up. I can't… I just can't…." he stands suddenly, eyes just as wild as Remus' had been before. He wants to lash out, to scream at this Remus that isn't from here and doesn't belong here, and to tell him that he has to be wrong, that what he's saying is a lie, but he knows that it all must be true, and he doesn't lung at Remus, he doesn't attack the other man. He doesn't have the strength, and deep down, he knows that this isn't the future Remus' fault. He had tried, and it's not his fault that he had failed. "Harry," he says, suddenly frantic as he rises to his feet. "I have to go get Harry."
"I'll come with you," future Remus says, and shakes his head firmly when Sirius tries to protest. "No, I'll come with you," he says again, and grabs a hold of Sirius' arm so that they can apparate straight into the Potter's house.
What they find is… horrifying. The entire place seems to be torn apart. The living room is out of order, the sofa turned over, the large arm chair practically broken in half. And there, lying in the middle of the floor, close to the fire place, is James, his round glasses shattered, his hazel eyes opened wide in a final challenging look that not even death could erase. Sirius drops down beside him with a sob, and Remus does the same, both of them, one from the here and now, one from a time that hasn't come yet, reaching out to touch their fallen friend.
"James," Sirius says, tears falling from his eyes at a fast rate now. "Fuck. I am so sorry James. I didn't… I didn't know."
"None of us knew," Remus says, and his eyes meet Sirius' through his tears. "None of us knew. That's what made Peter the perfect traitor. We all underestimated him."
"Yeah," Sirius says, and he stands. "It won't happen again. He'll pay. Let's go find Harry."
The two men walk through the living room, up the stairs, and down the hall to Harry's room. They pause at the door, which has been practically torn off of its hinges. The wood along the frame and on the door is splintered, and there's a large crack going down the middle of the wood in the door. Sirius just looks at it for a moment, before reaching out to run his hand along the length of it. He can feel the dark magic practically vibrating off of it, and it makes his stomach churn.
Finally he gains the courage to actually look into the bedroom that he's been in so many times, and Remus is peering in as well now, looking over his shoulder cautiously. They can't see the crib from the door way, only a broken rocking chair and scattered, crushed toys. They walk inside, wary and sick of heart over fear of what they'll find.
It's not really what he would have expected. In fact… the state of the room may be even worse off then he thought it could be. It seems as if a bomb went off in there, destroying almost everything within the room; except for the crib. It's in perfect shape. It's as if nothing even touched it, as if something was incapable of even laying a hand on it. Lily lies crumbled on the floor, but Sirius can't go over to her. "Harry," Remus whispers, making his way over to the crib when Sirius cannot. He's too afraid to. The older man peers down into it, and with a gasp of relief, pulls a small, sniffling boy out of it. "He's ok," Remus says, a smiling lighting up his aged face. "Harry is ok."
Sirius' legs buckle under him once more, relief coursing through him. "Oh thank the Gods," he whispers, looking up at his crying godson. "Oh thank Merlin…."
Remus passes Harry to him, tears in his eyes. "Sirius…. I need you to listen to me. There's still so much to tell…."
Sirius looks up at Remus, his face wrecked with grief. "What more is there to tell? I have to…. I have to go after Peter… I have to…"
"No!" Remus shouts, dropping down onto the floor beside Sirius and shaking him, not seeming to care that the animagus is holding Harry. "No Sirius…. No! You can't! Whatever you do, do not go after Peter. Not yet. If you do, you'll wind up in Azkaban and he'll be made out to be a fallen hero."
Sirius rocks Harry gently, trying to calm the baby as he processes what he has just been told. "What?"
"It doesn't matter," Remus says, sounding frantic, and Sirius knows that his time is almost up. "Just don't go after Peter. Hagrid will be coming for Harry soon. Dumbledore ordered it. Go with him. Make sure that Dumbledore doesn't give Harry to Lily's wretched sister. He'll be miserable there, and abused. You have to explain all this to Dumbledore. Tell him you weren't the Secret Keeper, that Peter was. Make him understand Sirius. You can't go back to Azkaban. Not again. You can't leave Harry…. You can't leave me…" Remus lets out a broken sob.
"But…." Sirius swallows heavily, tears filling his own eyes as he begins to understand just how awful the future is. "But… what about Peter?"
"He'll be with the Weasleys," Remus tells him. "Just give it a month or two and you'll find him. Make certain Dumbledore understands though. You have to make certain he believes you. And you must all try and stop Voldemort from returning again."
Sirius nods. "Remus…."
Remus reaches out to touch his face, smiling sadly. "I just hope this works…. I hope that my efforts aren't in vain."
Sirius sniffles, standing up slowly with his godson in his arms. "Me too…."
"Sirius," Remus says as he stands as well, speaking after a moment of simply looking at him and Harry. He tips the animagus' face up, his thin hands cradling his jaw, and doesn't wait for an invitation to lean forward and kiss Sirius gently on the lips.
Sirius wants to say he is shocked, or even offended or repulsed. But he isn't. Because this is still Remus, still his Remus, even if he doesn't know him, not really.
And Remus is always allowed to have everything of his. He never has to ask.
He releases a shaky breath and finally, finally, kisses Remus back, his lips moving against the werewolf's too dry ones with all the tenderness and love he's always felt for this man.
It makes Remus smile against his mouth, laughing shakily, and Sirius feels a moment of triumph, because he has a feeling that this man has had little to laugh about.
Remus pulls away a moment later, a thankful smile spread across his face. Where his eyes were dull and lifeless when he had first arrived, they shone with hope now. He nods, once, dropping his hands to rest upon the top of Harry's head, before he slowly fades away.
Sirius remains standing there for a moment, in the ruins of his best friend's house, with his parentless godson held in his arms, before he swallows thickly and leans down to kiss the baby's head. "We're gonna get through this Harry. I promise."
A/N: So I am thinking of making this a series of works, like in its own universe. It'd be a Wolfstar raising Harry universe. I'm not sure if I'm going to yet, but let me know if anyone would be interested if I did. Now please review if you can, and criticism is welcomed. I think I forgot how much I loved writing, I've been so terrified to try lately. I've missed it.
Thanks for reading, and review if you want to