et in Arcadia ego

et in Arcadia ego

It means, 'I am even in Arcadia,' but the interpretation is disputed.

Arcadia is a place in rural Greece which is synonymous with paradise. More explanations at the end.

~

Andrea found herself walking home with Remus, almost without realising it. They had spent the entire day together, talking. During the morning they had worked in the League house in Mill Road until the Potters arrived to take over, and in the afternoon they sat together talking in a café, and later in Andrea's office at the Halls. If there had been an emergency, she thought, they probably wouldn't have noticed. They went into Remus' neat, almost stark flat, and Andrea sat down on the sofa.

'Have you still got some of the Potion left?' she asked, seeing that the sky was growing dark.

Remus nodded. 'You gave me the right amount.'

'Well, you should take it.'

Getting up, he reached onto the top shelf of the cupboard and picked up a bottle. Carefully, he poured the contents into a goblet. He made a face as he sipped at the murky liquid.

'Can't you do anything about the taste?'

'I've tried, but it never works out. Once it blew up all over the lab. Took me all day to clear it up, and it ate into the silver tools. And I'm not changing it again, not after last time.'

Remus laughed, but leaned on the table with a small sigh.

'You should go lie down, you're exhausted,' said Andrea, getting up again. She crossed the room and put an arm about his waist. Though he was bone-weary from the rising full moon, he embraced her warmly.

'You and your tricks. Go on, go lie down,' she said, disentangling herself from his grasp, but her tone was fond.

'Are you leaving now?' he asked. There was an undercurrent of tension in his voice. Andrea glanced through the window and knew that the moon would rise soon.

'Do you want me to go?'

He hesitated. 'Would you – stay a little longer?'

Andrea took a deep breath, knowing what he was asking of her. He seemed to know it as well, for his eyes were very bright and fixed intently on her.

'I'll stay. I only have to be at the League office at nine. James and Lily are taking care of things until then.' She gave him a smile, and there was only the faintest edge of nervousness to it.

'Thank you.' Remus looked as worried as she felt. She could see the tension still in his eyes. 'Will you be … afraid – of me?'

'No.' Andrea spoke slowly, as if drawing the words up from deep inside her. 'No. Not now. I – I used to be afraid, but not any longer.' She reached out suddenly and took his hand. 'I know you won't hurt me, and I could never be afraid of you now.' As she spoke she knew in a flash of wonder, as if a cloud across her mind had lifted, that it was the truth. She smiled suddenly. 'You know why?'

Remus looked at her, a gleam of joy illuminating his face.

'Because I love you.'

'Oh, Andrea …' he breathed, and he pulled her towards him. His voice was very intense. 'I'd do anything for you, anything in the world.'

She looked at him with shining eyes and hoped with all her might.

'I love you,' he said, so quietly she had to strain her ears to hear. 'Will you – will you stay with me forever, and be my wife?'

Her hand tightened around his.

'Oh, Remus, you know I will.'

He started to say something incoherently, but he himself did not know what it was. With a loving smile, Andrea slid her arms around his neck and stifled his voice with a kiss.

They only broke apart when Remus' legs began to shake. 'Sweetheart, you are worn out. Come on.' Andrea went through to his room with him, her arm around his waist. She could tell that he was trying not to lean heavily upon her, and she tightened her grip. He sank onto the bed, and she sat down beside him.

'Are you sure you don't mind – staying?' he asked worriedly. 'It's not very much fun.'

'If you want me to be here, I won't go anywhere else. Besides,' she grinned at him, 'I'm going to marry you, and then I won't ever leave you alone, so you'd better get used to it.'

He couldn't help smiling back, and he slipped his arm around her. Andrea kissed him again and nestled against him comfortably.

For a while they sat together quietly, while the last of the light faded outside. A violent shudder came over Remus. She looked up at his face in alarm. 'Is that…?'

He nodded, gritting his teeth. His face had lost what little colour it normally had. A shot of horror went through her as she remembered that he said the Potion made it less painful. It tore at her heart, and as his back arched in another convulsion, Andrea pulled him across her lap and tried to cradle him close, to absorb some of his torment into her own body.

His eyes reached out for hers, and he gasped for breath.

'Andrea … I love you.' Even as he spoke, his shape was changing, but Andrea did not look away or release her hold. The strange creature, her own dear Remus, half man and half wolf, gave a final shudder and the head of a giant wolf rested in her lap.

She never thought she would welcome the end of such a transformation, but she saw his pain leave him gradually and he lay more easily. She looked properly at him. He was so large, his brown-grey hair bristling along his back and his paws armed with terrible claws. Hesitantly, she reached out to him again, and touched his head with her fingertips. It was soft and smooth. She looked at him properly then and met his eye. And all at once her nervousness left her, for his eyes held the same Remus she knew, the same gentleness and the same care.

'You're really not very different,' she said aloud. 'You're rather beautiful like this, you know.' She caressed his head. He could not speak, of course, but his eyes answered her more clearly than any words.

She sat with him for a while longer, sometimes speaking but mostly just holding him and letting him know she was there. Finally she looked at the clock and gave a start.

'I'm going to have to go now, Remus darling. I'll see you in the morning.' She hesitated. 'After sunrise, I'm afraid. I'm on until nine in the morning. But then I'll see you.'

Remus gave her a werewolf's kiss with his rough tongue, and she stood up with a radiant smile.

'Good night, my love.'

Lying on the bed, Remus' keen ears heard Andrea's footsteps passing through the house and out the door. Her words echoed around his head. My love. He had never believed any woman would speak thus to him, far less such a wonderful and glorious woman as she.

Not even the thought of the transformation in the morning could hurt him now. She loves me. She wants to marry me. He settled down to wait out the rest of the night. Come the morning he would see her.

~

Andrea's steps were light as she made her way to the League house in Mill Road in the light of the full moon. She felt it must be written large across her face. I'm in love. I'm engaged. Remus wants to marry me.

How odd, she thought, and how fitting that he should be a werewolf. She felt suddenly that everything was all right. She knew she could never really fear a werewolf again. They would all remind her of Remus. If someone told me, two months ago, that I would be in love with a werewolf and he'd love me, I'd have said they were insane, she thought. And now it's true. And it's not crazy at all.

In the entrance hall of the house she met Lily Potter, who returned her broad smile.

'You look happy,' she said. 'Good news?'

'Lily, I'm engaged!' she cried, her voice trembling with delight at the words. 'Remus asked me to marry him.'

Lily gave a hoot of delight. 'How wonderful!' A little awkwardly, for she was in the sixth month of her pregnancy, she flung her arms around Andrea.

'I was hoping and hoping, but he never said a word until now. Lily, I'm afraid I'll wake up tomorrow and it'll have all been a dream.'

Lily gave a motherly smile. 'I felt that way when James asked me. I'm so glad for you – for both of you.'

James came striding into the hall. 'Ready to go home, Lily? Evening, Andrea.'

'James, Remus and Andrea are engaged.'

'About time, too. Congratulations.' He also embraced Andrea. 'How come he's not here with you now?'

'Honestly, James, you must be half asleep. Look out the window; it's the full moon,' said Lily, forestalling Andrea's reply.

'So it is.' After leaving Hogwarts, their monthly escapades had grown less frequent, especially after James and Lily's wedding. 'Well, I wish you all the best, Andrea. Now, Lily, we'd better be getting home. See you around, Andrea.'

'Bye!' called Andrea as they went arm-in-arm through the door. 'And put your feet up when you get home, Lily.' The couple gave a laugh at this characteristic injunction, and went out to their broomsticks.

Inside, Andrea went up to the office and took a seat at the long table covered with the apparatus for surveillance spells, and glanced up at the array of mirrors on the wall. It was a dull job, watching these things, because most of the time nothing happened, but the Ministry wanted them watched around the clock, and it was the job of the League to keep an eye on everything. Tonight, Andrea's mind was far from the blank mirrors and scrying balls, as the clock ticked the night away. The same face floated across her vision, the same slow, shy smile, the same loving eyes. She could see him, hear his voice as she re-focussed one of the spells. Remus Lupin. Andrea Lupin. She turned the names around in her mind and closed her eyes for a moment as she felt his kiss on her mouth. She did not notice one of the mirrors flash redly.

~

Remus woke in the wolf's body just before dawn. He lay still in the corner of the room until he felt the beginnings of the change. Even the pain that swept over him like fire was not sufficient to disturb his joy. Andrea wants to marry me. Andrea wants to marry a wretch like me. He shook his aching head in disbelief and stretched out on the bed, breathing rapidly. When he felt strong enough, he got up and dressed. He looked at the clock. It was only seven. He could go over to the League house now – if he could walk so far. He straightened. Andrea loved him, he could do anything.

He suddenly remembered something. A ring! His grandmother had given him one, when he was a tiny boy, for his bride. Thinking he would find no use for it, he had put it away somewhere – but where? It was, if his memory served him correctly, exceptionally lovely.

Half an hour later, after rummaging through his old possessions, he discovered the tiny jewellery box under a heap of old socks in his bottom drawer. He opened it. The ring was as beautiful as he remembered, with its shimmering opal catching in the dawn light. Standing up, he caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror, unshaven, with a drawn, pale face and shadowed eyes. It amazed him yet again that Andrea could like him, could be attracted to him, could love him.

After shaving and eating quickly, he went out to find Andrea and give her the ring. He fingered it in his pocket as he walked through the streets, smiling foolishly at complete strangers. It seemed unusually busy for so early in the morning. He turned down Mill Road, and looked in surprise at the many wizards in Ministry uniform bustling about. His eyes turned to the house where Andrea had spent the night.

It was not there. Without understanding, he stared at the heaps of rubble and the bare timbers of the roof silhouetted against the dawn sky. He did not hear himself cry out.

Then he was running down the road, pushing past the Ministry men who tried to stop him. He scrambled through the rubble into the half-ruined house, feeling like he was moving in slow motion. One of the Ministry men, recognising him, waved the others back.

'Mr Lupin, sir, you shouldn't go in there. It could come down any minute now!' Remus did not hear him for the blood pounding in his ears. Andrea, Andrea, he had to find her. Where was she?

He plunged through the house, not noticing the scrapes and bumps dealt to him by the jagged edges of stone, his terrible eyes missing no detail. Then he saw a little huddled shape in the most damaged part of the house, where the roof had been blown right off by some spell. He flung himself towards her. She was lying as if asleep.

'Andrea!' he shouted hoarsely, clutching her white-robed figure. 'Andrea?'

She did not move. Feverishly, his trembling fingers sought a pulse, breathing, anything. She was perfectly still. He gave a half-choked cry and began to perform resuscitating spells, healing charms, but nothing changed. At last he seized her in his arms and pressed her against him, as if by his strength alone he could hold the life in her body. She was dead, she was dead, the only person he had ever loved, who had loved him, she was dead and he was alone…

~

How long he stayed huddled over her body in a world that held only darkness, he never knew. Then he felt a hand grip his shoulder.

'Remus?' Dimly he recognised Sirius' voice. 'Remus. You can't stay here, it's not safe. Are you all right?' He seemed to be speaking from a long way off.

'She's dead, Sirius,' he said at last, in a strange, wild tone. 'Andrea's dead.'

'I – I know.' He felt Sirius' arms pull him to his feet, and he lifted Andrea's body with him. He did not see the ground beneath him as Sirius steered him out of the building.

When they were outside, a huddle of people surrounded them, among them James and Lily. Peter was shooing other people away in a desperate attempt to be helpful.

'I'll take the body now, Mr Lupin, sir,' said one of the Ministry wizards, gently enough. Remus pressed the limp form to him. It was the centre of his world, the only thing that mattered.

Sirius looked at his friend clutching the body, and said in a croaky voice, 'Remus, let me take her.' For a second, Remus still clung to her. His face was so terrible that Sirius looked away for a second in pain. Then Remus lowered her onto the ground and knelt over her. With a feather-light touch, he closed her still-open eyes, and stared at her for a long time. He leaned forward and kissed her cold brow. The world began to grow dark and distant as he stared, and then he was falling and falling, out of the light into a black pit.

~

Sirius looked at Remus in horror as he pitched forwards, and dropped down beside him.

'Is he all right?' asked Peter nervously.

Sirius whirled around. 'What do you think?' he flashed. 'Does he look all right to you?' Peter quailed before the anger in his eyes. Sirius lifted Remus up with hands as gentle as his words were harsh.

Lily and James were standing by, and Lily was weeping into James' chest. He stroked her back and her long coppery hair soothingly.

'She told me … last night … that they were – they were engaged,' she said between sobs. 'She was … so happy.' She looked down at Remus, and buried her face against James. Sirius held Remus closer as he heard Lily's words.

A light rain began to fall. It seemed all too appropriate to Sirius. He realised his own face was already wet. Peter was saying nervously, 'Shouldn't we go somewhere inside?'

The Ministry people were clearing up, someone had taken Andrea's body away and the ruins were being fenced off. James released Lily for a few moments to touch Sirius on the shoulder.

'He's right, let's go inside,' he said quietly.

Professor Dumbledore came over with a grim face. 'I'll see to everything here,' he said wearily. 'You take Remus home.'

'Okay,' answered James. He looked questioningly at Sirius holding Remus. 'Apparating would be easiest, if you can.' Sirius nodded and reached for his wand. Magic wasn't easy to do if you were very distressed, but Sirius clenched his teeth and performed the Apparating spell. There was a flicker, and he was in Remus' sitting room, still holding his unconscious friend in his arms.

A moment later James and Lily appeared with a faint pop. Lily was holding Peter by the scruff of his neck, for Peter had never mastered Apparating. Sirius set Remus down across the sofa and straightened his limbs. There was a blanket over the back of a chair, and Lily draped it across him. She was still weeping quietly, and she put her head against James' shoulder.

Sirius' face was full of grief as well, not so much for Andrea as for Remus.

'He loved her so much,' he said, almost angrily. 'He adored her, and I don't know what will happen to him now.' He looked at James as if he might have the answer. But James only sighed and stroked Lily's hair, encircling her with a protective arm. Sirius read his face and knew what he was thinking.

Peter was standing looking uneasy and upset. 'There will be a ton of things to sort out, I know,' he said with a frown. 'We ought to go and help the rest of the League and find out what actually happened.'

After any attack, the League had its work cut out trying to pick up the pieces. James paused, and then nodded his assent.

'Will he be all right?' asked Lily, looking at Remus' slumped form with worried eyes. 'He won't … try to do anything, will he?'

'No, not Remus,' said James soothingly. 'He has plenty of sense. And he'll sleep for a while now.'

'I think I'll stay a bit longer, if you lot think you can manage,' said Sirius. 'I don't want him to be on his own when he wakes up.'

'That's a good idea,' replied James. 'We'll manage just fine.' But his eyes were still red as he looked back at Remus, and he reached out for Lily's hand. Peter followed them from the flat.

Alone, Sirius stared at his friend. The joyful song of a blackbird drifted in the window, and he shook his head slowly. Everything had seemed to be going so perfectly, he had been overjoyed when he saw Remus and Andrea together. How it had turned out like this, he didn't really understand.

Remus' pain seemed to be reaching out to touch him even as he slept. Sirius could feel it beating against him. He felt his anger against Voldemort grow more ferocious. Another death on to add to the score, and worse still the injury to his friend. One day we'll put an end to this, he told himself. He looked back at Remus and vowed never to forget.

~

It was raining again, large heavy drops that splattered on the faces and hands of the people in the street. Remus was walking mechanically. The only thing he could see was the long dark coffin before him. He did not speak, nor did he look at anybody else. Voices twittered softly around him, sometimes he caught snatches of what they were saying.

'Yes, he was her fiancé…'

'…poor thing…'

'She was so happy around him…'

'It was You-Know-Who, of course…'

'…poor chap, he looks dreadful.'

He heard them without really understanding, the leaden words sat heavily upon the surface of his mind. Immediately behind him were other voices, dimly familiar.

'He won't talk to anyone. I don't know what to do, he just sits there like a stone. I've tried, James has tried, nobody can get anything out of him.'

'All you can do is wait. Give him time.' That deep quiet voice was Dumbledore. Not even he could make Remus feel more peaceful. He felt as though someone had taken everything from him save his ability to feel pain.

'I just want to be able to do something that will help him.'

'Some things people have to do for themselves. All you can do is stay nearby.'

'You didn't think we were going to leave him alone like this?'

Remus wished they would. Oh, they meant well, but it was no help, this constant fussing over him, making him get up, coaxing him eat, trying to talk to him. And he knew somewhere that he was hurting his friends as well, and that didn't make him feel any better.

The procession left the street and went down into a garden somewhere. Remus saw every detail of the place, but took none of it in. They went to a patch of ground, and he saw that there was a hole yawning open. He wished he was going in there, where he could lie quiet and be left alone. He didn't properly see them lowering the coffin down, didn't hear the words Professor Dumbledore was speaking. Around him he could hear the sound of muffled sobbing, but he did not weep. He seemed to have lost the ability to cry.

Sirius was beside him. He murmured, 'You have to throw some earth on top.'

Remus only stared at him blankly for a moment, then bent slowly like an old man and picked up a handful of earth. It was damp and smelt strongly of rain. He dropped it on top of the coffin, and heard the thud as it hit the wooden box. It had a terribly final sound.

It can't be real, he thought. She'll just come walking in and ask us what we're doing. It can't be true that I'll never see her again.

He stood, scarcely seeing, as the deep black hole in the ground was filled, and the bare earth covered with flowers. He did not notice when the mourners began to leave. A few came to give him their condolences, and he barely heard the formulaic words. James and Sirius warded them off.

Remus stood staring at the stone. He did not read the words that were freshly engraved upon it, nor did he see the phoenix emblem that was the seal of the League. He thought of Voldemort with a burst of rage. James put a hand on his shoulder.

'Are you ready to go back?' he asked softly. 'Everyone else has gone, and you're soaked through.' Remus glanced up and saw that this was true. His robes were heavy with rain, but he hadn't realised until now.

'No. Leave me alone.'

James hesitated, glancing at Sirius.

'I want to be alone,' repeated Remus. 'Just – go.' His voice was edged with pain and anger. James thought it best to obey, and he pulled Sirius after him.

When he was alone, Remus stood staring at the black wound in the earth for a long time. It would be so good, so much easier, he thought, to be in darkness where there would be no pain, no grief, only oblivion. Slowly, he began to walk away in the rain. He did not follow the road back to his flat.

~

In the smoky, dimly lit pub, Remus gazed down at the table. He looked at the rough wooden surface stained and marked with circles where mugs and glasses had stood. Somebody had painstakingly carved 'John loves Kathy,' in rough letters. Remus traced them with his finger. Unbidden, his mind echoed it with another set of words. Remus loves Andrea.

His glass was empty. He splashed it full from the bottle and drank it quickly. It probably wouldn't help much. Her face floated across his mind's eye, not living and happy, but the empty mask that had remained, scarcely human in its stillness and pallor. He screwed his eyes shut in a vain attempt to blot out the image. His hand was not very steady as he emptied the bottle into his glass, and he spilled a little on the table so that the engraved words were obscured. But his voice was still clear as he ordered another bottle from the barman.

'You all right there?' asked the man kindly.

'Fine. Just fine.' Remus' tone was not particularly convincing, but the barman only nodded wisely.

'Here you go, then.' He set the bottle on the table and grinned at Remus, who pulled his lips into the semblance of a smile in return. He filled his glass again and sipped it slowly, holding it between his two hands. The room was slightly distant, seeming to go in and out of focus. Good, he thought. He knew he had a poor head for drink, especially on an empty stomach, but he had never counted this a blessing until now.

He continued to sip at the glass. It did help a little, it made a barrier of sorts between him and the pain. But nothing could blot out everything, nothing short of oblivion would do that.

Oh, Andrea, my beautiful Andrea. Where did you go? Why did you leave me here? He sunk his head in his hands, looking at the table again, looking into blackness.

'Remus! What the hell are you doing here?'

He raised his head and turned in his chair towards the voice, making the room spin a bit. Someone was striding across the smoky pub towards him. The face came into focus.

'What are you doing here? I've been looking for you for ages! How come you vanished like that? Where have you been?' The questions came at him like hailstones.

'Sirius?' he said dazedly.

Sirius Black looked at him, taking in his glazed eyes, his unsteady hand and the half-empty bottle.

'Oh, Moony…' He pulled up a chair, the grating noise loud in Remus' ears. 'You are in a state.' He shook his head. 'Do you know how much worry you've caused? Just disappearing like that? Everybody's been looking for you all week. And then you just pop up back here like you've never been gone. Nobody's seen anything of you since – since –'

'Since her funeral,' supplied Remus in a tone so devoid of expression that Sirius flinched. He pulled his chair closer beside Remus, and put his hand on his friend's shoulder. Remus shrugged him off and looked at the wall.

'Leave me alone,' he said flatly. 'All I want is to be alone.'

Sirius looked troubled. 'You don't think I'm going to leave you like this, do you? Remus, I – I know how you must be feeling.' He hesitated.

'How can you?' shot Remus bitterly, before he had time to think. A moment later an image came into his head which he would rather not have remembered. Sirius in the Gryffindor common room when they were students, just after Professor McGonagall had told him of his parents' death. It had been the first and last time he had ever seen Sirius cry. Above all what he remembered was his own helplessness in the face of Sirius' grief. Helpless then as now. He covered his face with his hands for a moment.

'I do understand. I know you want to be alone, it's all I wanted, but you've been alone too long.'

He would always be alone now, Remus answered in his mind. She was gone, there was nobody else he could share his soul with. He reached out for his glass and drained it.

'I think you've had enough,' said Sirius, only half-heartedly.

'Never enough,' murmured Remus, almost inaudibly. 'It still doesn't stop hurting.' He filled it again, his hand definitely unsteady now.

'Closing in five minutes, please,' called the barman. He looked across at Remus. 'Will you be all right, sir?'

'I'll stay with him,' said Sirius in a reassuring tone. He rose for a minute and went to settle up. Remus put his head in his hands again. Now Sirius was going to ask him questions and make him talk, and all he wanted was to be far away from everything. Alone with his pain. It seemed to be gnawing away at his heart and his mind, so that every image he saw and every word he heard reminded him of the same thing.

'Come on, then.' Sirius put his hand on his shoulder. Remus struggled to his feet and made his way towards the door, followed by Sirius. The ground seemed to be rocking under him, throwing him a little off balance with every step. With a wry smile, Sirius took his arm. 'Lucky I found you here, really. You'd have had a time getting home like this.'

'I wasn't going home,' responded Remus in a dull voice.

'No? Then what were you doing here?'

Remus did not explain that the place pulled at him like a magnet, that he had found himself walking outside the Halls of Healing this afternoon almost without knowing it, almost expecting to see her walk out the door. He had imagined it so vividly, the way she would walk up to him, her smile, her laughing words as she drove his troubles away in a second. He stumbled a little, and Sirius tightened his grip on his arm.

'Where were you going, then?' asked Sirius again.

'I don't know.' Remus suddenly felt exhausted, whether from the wine or from grief he wasn't sure. He leaned more heavily on Sirius' arm. 'Somewhere I could forget for a while.'

Sirius' face was troubled. 'Do you really want to forget her?'

Remus was silent for a moment, and he closed his eyes.

'Do you really?' persisted Sirius.

'Of course I don't!' Remus exploded. 'I'll never forget her if I live to be a hundred, which I hope I don't. But I don't want to feel anything any more. I don't want to see her funeral any more, I don't want to see her face like that. All I want is for it to stop hurting. I can't bear it any longer!' He took a long gasping breath.

Sirius stopped walking and turned to look Remus in the face. He clearly had been taking absolutely no care over himself for the past week. The light from the waning moon illuminated him and made his hollow cheeks seem darker. The traces of a beard were clear on his face, and the moonlight gave his pale face an unearthly hue.

'Moony, tell me, what have you been doing all week?' Sirius asked in a voice made sharp by his concern. 'Did you spend all your time in pubs like that?'

Remus tried to think. 'No,' he said slowly. 'I went back – to my old home in Dorset – there wasn't anyone there, but I stayed there a bit. Then I went to London – I don't really remember why. All I wanted was to get away. But – but I can't get away from her.'

'So you thought you'd try drinking your sorrows away?' asked Sirius bluntly. Remus flinched a little and nodded.

'It doesn't help,' he said wearily. 'It almost makes it worse.'

He began to walk again, pulling Sirius with him. He did not go in the direction of his flat.

'Where are we headed?' asked Sirius with a frown. Then he recognised the road. 'Oh.'

Remus' head felt a bit clearer now. The wind was on his face and the cold air between them had wiped away some of the fog in his mind. But his memories were sharper as well. He could do nothing to stop the kaleidoscope of images that whirled through him as he came nearer to the Halls of Healing. The funeral procession had come down this road, he could see the coffin and the black-clad mourners walking through the silent street. But he knew where he was headed now.

Cold, Remus stuck his free hand in his pocket. His fingers struck something that had fallen to the very bottom. He pulled it out, feeling light-headed again.

'What's that?' asked Sirius curiously as he saw Remus staring fixedly at something.

Remus didn't say anything as he looked at the small shining ring he held in his hand. The green opal caught the light of the moon, and he could see the warmth inside it.

'Was it – hers?'

'I was going to give it to her.' Remus spoke flatly. He was keeping himself under the tightest rein he could. Sirius made a small sound of pain that matched Remus' thoughts exactly.

He turned towards a gate in the shadow of some trees, scarcely visible unless you knew it was there. He fumbled with the catch, and pushed it open. Then he let go of Sirius' arm. He took slow, fairly steady steps through the small stand of trees and walked down towards the open piece of grassland.

A tall stone seemed to be growing out of the ground, casting a long shadow in front of it. Remus approached, and Sirius followed him. Neither of them spoke. The stone was surrounded by a mass of flowers. Remus lost his footing suddenly as the ground sloped down to the stone, and stumbled to his knees. Sirius made an alarmed noise, but seeing that Remus seemed unhurt, he said nothing else.

Remus reached out slowly to touch the stone. It was very cold and rough under his fingers. He could not make out the engravings on it in the dark, for the moon was hidden now.

'What am I doing this for?' he asked suddenly. 'She's gone.' He shook his head slowly. 'She's gone. Dead.'

Sirius sat down in the grass beside him and did not know what to say.

'She was beautiful and I loved her and she's gone.' His voice was still controlled, but Sirius could hear the tension running through it like a crack in a piece of glass. 'But when she needed my help, I was useless, a werewolf. All I did was hurt her, and now she's gone.' He snatched a shuddering breath.

'You didn't hurt her, Moony. You made her happy, everyone said that. She loved you as well, you're not responsible for what happened.' Remus looked at him wildly, his face contorted.

'I loved her, Sirius,' he said, and now his voice was a cry for help. 'I loved her more than everything, I would have died for her, and she's gone.' His eyes blurred with tears. 'Why couldn't I have died instead? Why?' Sirius put his arm around Remus' shoulders. 'She said – she told me she loved me. How can she be dead?' He held the ring clasped in his hand, and hot tears ran over his face. He did not try to wipe them away, and they dripped onto the grave. It was as if a dam inside him had burst and all his pain was pouring out.

He clung to Sirius blindly. His whole body was shaken with sobs, wild and racking as if he might break apart under their strength. The torrent seemed to be carrying him along, out of the dark pit into which he had sunk. In his mind images that he could no longer hold back began to whirl around. Andrea still and lifeless in the coffin, Andrea dancing with shining eyes, flying on Altair, holding the flora Veneris, looking at the stars, I love you, I love you… Her voice sang in his ears.

The clouds parted and moonlight fell on his face and on the stone before him. 'Only love can conquer death.' It was engraved under her name, at whose instructions he could only guess. He did not know if he had said it aloud. But he knew it was true. She was gone now, gone onto the farther shore where he could not reach her, but she was here, too, in his memories.

Every day of his life he would remember her, and know that she loved him. In the end, nothing else mattered. Her laughing face rose before his mind's eye, her loving face, full of life and joy. And the kind moonlight glinted on the tears that still poured down his cheeks.

THE END

tendebantque manus ripae ulterioris amore

(Vergil, Aeneid, VI, 314)

reaching out their hands to the farther shore in longing.

'et in Arcadia ego' is inscribed on a tombstone. The 'I' is Death. Death exists even in Arcadia.

Writing that was one of the hardest things I've done. Thank you to everyone who's still with me, I hope you got something out of reading this story. And I hope you'll review it whether you did or not.

Blaise.

30th March 2000