notes. past emmeline/caradoc, hints of past remus/sirius.
not with a bang
you live the life you're given with the storms outside
some days all i do is watch the sky.
watch the sky, something corporate.
"This is how the world ends," says Emmeline, fingers interlocked in his loosely as the universe seems to collapse around them. "Not with a bang but with a whimper."
Next to her, Remus remembers.
The broken glass of shattered hearts litters the pavements and graveyards. They're everywhere — the mourning, the lost, the bitter. They spill onto the streets with their shards of glass and their tears, cups of coffee clutched in their hands and blood under their fingernails, eternally stained. They pour down the alleyways and infest the cemeteries that are now full with newly cut gravestones and tombs.
Remus kneels, head bent and eyes closed, at the foot of his best friends' graves. The last enemy that shall be defeated is death, it reads, chosen by Remus himself. James always liked that quote for some reason. It should rightfully have been Sirius who chose what should have been carved on their gravestones, but of course, Sirius was the one who destroyed it all with a wave of his hand.
If someone were to walk past, it would look like Remus is praying, but he's never been particularly religious — never allowing himself to believe in anything that gives him hope. No, Remus isn't praying. He's wishing.
He learned a long time ago that wishing gets you nowhere, (please please don't let me be a werewolf I wish I wasn't. I wish I wasn't a mosnter. I wish this war wasn't happening. I wish my friends would look at me the way they used to. I wish they didn't think that I'm the spy) but it doesn't mean he can't try.
Emmeline, Remus soon learns, has got these smiles she puts up when everything's crashing down. He's seen them before — Order meetings, after fights, when she finds out Caradoc is in danger — but he never realised just how fake they are. She rarely smiles properly because the only people she used to smile properly for (Caradoc Dorcas Marlene Gideon Fabian Benjy) are dead.
The smiles, they're like a shadow of the real thing. Her eyes don't light up, her laughter lines are almost invisible, her pink mouth remains firmly shut. And maybe Remus wants to see a real smile from her, just once. Just to see what it's like. But then, he hasn't got much reason to smile these days either, because the only people he used to smile properly for (SiriusJamesPeterLily) are dead — or in prison, he has to remind himself harshly.
It's been more than four weeks and you'd think he'd remember every detail, but it always sneaks up on him and catches him unawares and it hits him anew every time.
There are fireworks on the night of November 1. It would have been fitting to have them on the previous night but the whole of Wizarding Britain was in a state of shock and grief, something which seems to have lifted in the last twenty four hours. Everyone is laughing and cheering and holding their wands up in celebration of this wonderful, wonderful event — oh, how could they have been so lucky? You-Know-Who has been defeated, Death Eaters are being rounded up at this very moment and there is everything to be happy about.
Remus and Emmeline sit atop a hill, eyes fixed on the sky. The fireworks are certainly magnificent. Most magical fireworks are but everyone seems to have gone all out in the light of this occasion. A phoenix is blasted into the air, shimmering oranges and reds. It flaps its wings once before it rains down on everything, orange droplets falling through the sky. The next firework is a wand, shooting into the air and expelling a silver eagle — a representation of a Patronus.
Quietly, no more than a whisper, Emmeline says, "Beautiful, aren't they?"
He nods in agreement, just as a date is shot into the air. 31 October 1981. It hangs there for a moment, sparkling, before exploding and slowly fading from the sky. What will the Muggles think? Remus finds himself wondering, but the thought is replaced by another as, Long Live Harry Potter is launched into the air, accompanied by, The Boy Who Lived in vivid scarlet. He shakes his head, feeling the bitterness rising in his throat as there is no mention of Lily and James at all, as though the only thing happened that night was the downfall of Lord Voldemort.
There's no mention of the destroyed house, or his best friends' dead bodies lying so still on the ground, or the way James' normally bright hazel eyes were so dull and lifeless as they stared unseeing at the opposite wall, or how his glasses lay smashed on the floor beside him, or the way Lily might have screamed as she tried to defend her son, or the look on Hagrid's face as he arrived at the wreckage to collect the baby, or the way Harry must have cried as his mother was killed in front of him.
There's no mention of what really happened that night, just a glamourised, word-of-mouth version of the events that can't hold a candle to the devastation it caused. Remus gets to his feet and starts to walk away when Emmeline calls him back. He turns, ready to brush her off with an excuse or an explanation, but he sees she's sort-of smiling, her face highlighted only by the light from the fireworks.
"Stop," she calls, and he pauses for longer than he intended. She beckons him forward and he feels almost compelled to approach her. The fireworks erupt and bang in the background, but Remus isn't paying attention to them, because Emmeline has raised her wand and is pointing it at the sky. His breath hitches in his throat when red and gold ribbons shoot out of it, twisting into shapes in the dark. They stand vibrant, brilliant; shining as they hang there. The fireworks seemed to have stopped for a moment; maybe the people in the town below are looking at the sky in wonder, or perhaps in sorrow.
Rest In Peace
James and Lily Potter
1960 – 1981
Emmeline smiles again and more ribbons spill from the tip of her wand, forming slightly smaller letters below it.
"You're too perceptive for your own good," Remus tells her hoarsely, the words catching in his throat. "I—Lily and James would have loved it." And then, because it seems appropriate, "Thank you."
"You're welcome," says Emmeline. He takes one last look at the words in the sky before leaving for good, the hint of a smile forming on his face.
It's a full moon tonight, the first since October 31st (was it really only eleven days ago?). He finds himself Apparating to a safehouse on the border of Wales, stumbling as he lands unevenly on the grass. He used to be the best at Apparating out of the four of them, he was the one with the most concentration, but it's not been coming easy these days.
The safehouse is a rickety thing that he knows is stronger than it looks. The windows were shattered a long time ago, but not by him. Shaking his head, he automatically draws out his wand and repairs them, watching the glass fly back into the window and slot in, like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle coming together. He used to do that all the time when Sirius and James broke something.
He sighs, finally walking up to the door of the safehouse. It's made of wood that creaks slightly when opened, and his stomach churns unpleasantly. He presses his hand hard to the wall, even though he knows it's magically enhanced to hold a fully grown werewolf and brimming with Muggle repellant charms. But still, he's always worried it collapses in and the wolf gets out. He would much rather be in the safety and the familiarity of the Shrieking Shack, where he knew the stone walls wouldn't give and the door was a trapdoor that the wolf would never see.
It's not the first full moon he's spent alone, but it's the first where he doesn't know where his friends are.
"Mooooony!" calls Sirius, waving merrily as Remus stumbles through the portrait hole tiredly. It's the April of their sixth year and the full moon was just two nights ago. He looks over to the corner of the room where his friends sit — James and Sirius and Peter — smiling triumphantly, and all Remus can think is, oh Merlin, I hope they haven't hexed Snape again. Nevertheless, he joins them, sitting down opposite Peter.
"What have you done?" he asks apprehensively, his eyes flicking over each grinning face. Sirius looks cocky, James looks like Lily just said yes to him and Peter just looks plain happy. "Was it Snape again, or that Bertram Aubrey bloke because I swear—"
James waves a hand callously. "Don't be ridiculous, Moony. We got Aubrey good last week, and you know we never repeat a target – well, except Snivellus, but we'd be mad not to." He winks at Remus, who simply glares in return. "Anyway, because I know you're just dying to find out — don't even deny it, you've got that look — we finished it."
"You finished it," repeated Remus in a monotone, as if he didn't quite believe them.
"Well, almost," amends Sirius, picking up where James left off. "See, all we need to do is put the password on it and that's it completed. We finished everything else on it — James even got the footprints to move, would you believe? They actually move, whereas before they just stood there in the one place. Show him, Prongs, go on—"
"It's impressive," interjects Peter, as James rummages in his bag. "Even by Prongs and Padfoot's standards. We even got the names to match the footprints exactly, and they come up inside little banners now instead of just floating there. Mind you, I think Padfoot will throw up if he has to spend another minute inside the library, you should've seen his face, Moony. Green, literally green—"
Sirius takes the parchment from James and says, "Shut up, Wormtail," shaking his head and unfolding it, his hands smoothing it out. In its entirety, the Marauders' Map is roughly the size of the medium sized table, spreading from corner to corner. "Look." He points to the space labelled "Gryffindor Common Room" in Remus' handwriting. "There's us! And there's Mary, walking down the stairs from the girls' dorm, and oh, she's followed by Evans—"
James' head swivels round to the archways near them. Lily and Mary pass through, walking across the room purposefully. Remus guesses they're heading to the library or the kitchens or somewhere. They're about to leave the room when suddenly, James stands up and, just like every other time, shouts, "Oi! Evans! Wait a minute—hey, where are you—" Then she's gone with a toss of her hair and a slam of the portrait and James is left staring after her.
"I'm going to find her," he tells the other three, and disappears.
They all exchange significant glances and Remus can't help but roll his eyes. He's smiling, though.
Remus' hands flick the dictionary's pages past the As, the Fs, the Ms, the Qs, and finally he stops at the Ts. It takes another few pages to get to the word he wants, but he finds it nestled in the bottom corner, hiding. He runs his finger over the black, bold print of it, outlining each stark letter. He sighs, his eyes flicking up to the clock on the wall that informs him that it's just past seven in the evening. Another sigh, and he looks back down at the page.
noun: a person who betrays a friend, country, principle, etc.
He closes his eyes. A person who betrays a friend. Of course, he knew fine well what the word meant, he's been familiar with it for a long time — it's a word often tossed around casually in war, even in friendships. If you talk to Snivellus, you're a traitor to the Marauders, Moony, Sirius had said, half joking, half serious. Sirius, who turned out to be the biggest traitor of them all.
A person who betrays a friend. Sirius is a traitor. The word is so harsh, so severe, so unforgiving that Remus can barely even apply it to his former best friend. He doesn't understand how Sirius, who loved James more than any of them, could so easily betray him. It doesn't quite add up, but Remus is done hoping, done wishing, done finding loopholes in his rules so that he can forgive Sirius for all of the things he's done.
He wants everything back that he lost, but most of all, he wants Sirius to tell him that they're all wrong about him.
"Remus!" She bursts through his fireplace on the morning of November 2. "Remus, oh, Merlin. Did you hear? You haven't heard, have you?"
"What?" Remus asks urgently, leaping to his feet from where he sat in the armchair, thinking, what could be worse than this? The War is over, so what could possibly have happened that was this bad? "Emmeline, what is it? What's happened?"
To his horror, she starts to cry silently. "The Longbottoms," she manages. "They got F-Frank and Alice – and they, they—"
"Emmeline, what—" His eyes widen and he takes a step forward, his hands coming up to grip Emmeline's arms. "They're not – not dead?"
She shakes her head, wiping at her eyes furiously. "They're in St. Mungo's. I think – I think you should see them – to, to understand fully."
The damange done to the Longbottoms is irreparable. Or at least, that's what the Healers say. Remus doesn't have enough hope left in him to believe otherwise. Emmeline, though, she's sitting cross-legged in the middle of his flat surrounded by books and books. She's determined to find some way to fix them and he doesn't have the heart to tell her that Frank and Alice are gone for good even though their bodies are still there, lying sad and lonely in a dull white ward in St Mungo's.
She doesn't ask him why he's not helping and he's glad. The last thing he wants to do is take anyone's hope away. He knows how hard it is to come by in the first place these days.
But still, when the tiny clock on the mantlepiece strikes three o'clock and makes a ridiculous noise to accompany it (Sirius always did buy the most ludicrous items and attempted to justify it by saying that they just "needed them"), Remus sets down his tea that has long since gone cold and says, very quietly, "I think it's time to go to bed."
"Just one more," she replies distractedly. "One more, okay?"
He rubs his eyes and stifles a yawn. "You said that at two, Em. And at one. And at midnight."
"I know, I know, but—"
"Come on." He gets to his feet and stretches before leaning down and taking her hand. Gently, he tugs her to her feet and she follows him to his bedroom that seems much too lonely these days. (Remus spends his time in it pretending that he doesn't notice the big empty space on the left side of the bed where Sirius used to sleep.)
"I can Floo home," she says, shaking her head.
"No," he says firmly. James used to call that his "teacher voice". "You can stay here for the night. Or rather, the rest of the morning." He gives her a wry smile. "Get some sleep."
"Okay," she replies in a small voice.
He smiles slightly. "I'll be in the living room if you need me," he says before shutting the door softly behind him. He pads down the hallway until he's back in the living room. There's still a large pile of books that Emmeline hasn't yet searched through, though it's nothing compared to the ones she's already skimmed for any hint of a cure.
Remus sighs, resigned, before sitting down in the middle of the floor and picking up the first book in the unread pile. It's going to be a long night.
"It's a full blown war now, Prongs, and—"
"I know," James explodes, eyebrows drawing together dangerously. "I know that. There's been talk of it for years. I'm well aware of the situation, thank you very much."
"I'm just saying," Sirius raises his eyebrows, "the time's come. This is what we've been talking about for years. Joining the Order." His expression is fierce but Remus swears he detects a hint of that old recklessness hidden in the corners of his mouth. Sirius has always been a thrill seeker. "Doing something good with our lives. Something right. We've got something to fight for, Pr—James. This is it. War. Don't tell me you're just going to sit back and let Voldemort—"
"We've got something to fight for but now I've got something to lose as well," James snaps. The light glints of his glasses menacingly. Remus can't remember a time when he saw such fire in his best friend's eyes. Next to him, Peter retreats into himself a little as James glares furiously at Sirius.
"Lily's joining," Remus informs him quietly, eyes fixed on the table. "She told me earlier."
All of the fight seems to deflate out of James at once and he drops his head into his shaking hands. "I can't lose her," he whispers with the air of a broken man around him. They're only eighteen but when did they get so old? At what point over the years did the Marauders grow up? "I can't lose her," he repeats. "Not now."
"You're not going to." To everyone's surprise, it's Peter who speaks, his voice strong and determined. "You're not. We're not going to lose anyone, okay?" And Peter, little Peter who always seems so overlooked, who is standing with his jaw set and resolve in his eyes, Peter is saying everything they never dared to.
James' lips quirk upwards. "You promise, Wormtail?"
Peter grins. "Never been more sure of anything."
Sirius steps forward, wrapping his fingers around James' arms and meeting his eye. "Marauders forever," he says, though Remus hears his voice shake. "We don't die, okay? We don't die."
"What was the last thing you said to him?" Remus asks, precisely one week after the world fell apart. It's November 7th and Emmeline's house is dark, and Remus thinks he's seen enough of the dark to last him a lifetime, but it would be impolite to say so, so he remains silent.
"Caradoc?" Emmeline confirms, and he nods. She pauses, thinking, and then she replies, "'Please be careful', I think it was." She lowers her gaze, fiddling with the buttons on her cardigan. "That was six months ago. I haven't seen him since." He watches her sigh and worry at her bottom lip before she says, "There's no way he's still alive." She states it like it's a fact, like it's something she's told herself every day since he left. It wouldn't surprise Remus if she had.
He hesitates. "At least he knew. He knew that you loved him." No hopeful, Maybe he's okay, or, You don't know that for sure. Just the truth.
She nods sadly. "He did." Her eyes meet his. "What was the last thing you said to Sirius?"
He can't help but smile. "Too perceptive," he murmurs. "I think it was, 'Get out of my flat'. And maybe somewhere along the line I said, 'I'm sorry', but I don't think he heard."
"Oh," says Emmeline softly, as if that explains it all. "Oh, I see."
Remus nods, and they sit there in silence for a long time.
Remus is doing his best to fix things. He's got a job now, though it's just at a simple bookshop in Diagon Alley as not many people are willing to hire werewolves, especially not this long after a war that's ripped everyone's lives apart. For the time being, he's living with Emmeline until he saves enough to afford his own place (it was always Sirius' money that sustained them in their little apartment in central London) and he likes staying with her because she understands. She's been broken and they're both slowly fixing each other.
Friendship is something Remus didn't ever think he'd have again. Something that, after Halloween 1981, he was maybe too scared to have again because last time he had friends, three ended up dead and one in Azkaban. But Emmeline is safe and steady and she gets that. She gets that he's learning to pick up the pieces and get on with his life, however many months it's taken him to realise that.
Remus is doing his best to fix things and he thinks he might just be succeeding.
Rain lashes down in sheets. It soaks Remus to the core and he pulls his coat tighter, shakes the dripping hair out of his eyes. The graveyard is as silent as the dead (Remus gives a slightly hysterical laugh before shutting his mouth firmly) and the headstone in front of him is washed with dirt from the rain. He bends down and reaches out a finger and tries to wipe it away but it doesn't make much of a difference.
He sighs and traces the indents of the letters. James and Lily Potter. He shuts his eyes tight and for a moment he swears he can almost smell the sweet scent of Lily's perfume. He swears he can almost see the mischievous glint in James' eyes. Sometimes it feels like they were never real. Like he's been dreaming his whole life, like he never got to go to Hogwarts and he fabricated the entire thing out of sheer loneliness. But then he remembers Sirius' laughter and the flush of Peter's cheeks and the way James messed up his hair and he doesn't think he could ever have made something like that up.
James and Lily. Remus and Peter and Sirius and James. Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs. They really had it all.
Remus' finger outlines the curve in the J in James' name and thinks that he has many regrets but they, they are not one of them.
Summer always seems to end this way, with the four of them spread-eagled in a circle in the Potters' back garden. The setting sun beams its last rays over them, illuminating their faces and casting a dark golden haze over the grass. Sirius is to the left, James to his right and Peter opposite. Their heads are in the centre, their hair touching.
"Crazy to think that this is going to be our last year at Hogwarts," says James. "Then it's the real world."
"We'll have to grow up," Peter says quietly. "And with the war..."
A strange, subdued silence falls over them, as if no one can bring themselves to speak. Remus stares at the darkening sky, feels the grass beneath him, smells the sweet scent of Mrs Potter's roses growing just feet from them. He feels Sirius' hand brush against his and then squeeze his fingers tight.
"We're going to be okay, though," Sirius says. They all pretend they can't hear the slight desperation in his voice. "The four of us. We'll be okay. Right?"
"Yeah, Padfoot," says Remus, latching onto his fingers and holding tight. The sun slips below the horizon. "We'll be okay."