Stop All the Clocks
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Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended. I do not own Harry Potter, its characters, or anything associated with it. I'm not making any money from this story, and I don't intend to.
Challenge & Summary: Challenge FM #17: When Sirius falls through the veil, he doesn't die, but rather lives in a parallel universe where Remus did, at the battle in the Department of Mysteries. Whether he gets back or not is up to you.
Author Notes: Thanks to Starkiller and Suzene for the beta. Title is from "Stop all the Clocks" by WH Auden.
Sirius has heard that when you die your whole life flashes before your eyes. But when he falls through the veil in the Department of Mysteries, he thinks only a handful of things. The first is, How the bloody hell did that happen? followed by, I don't want to die. When he falls through the veil, for a second he thinks he hears someone shouting his name, and his next thought is, Oh God, Harry, then, Remus. Remus, I'm so sorry. After that everything goes dark, and he doesn't think anything anymore.
When he wakes up it's pitch dark, and at first he thinks, This is not what I expected death to feel like, but then he realises that he's lying on a mattress with sheets and blankets and that he can smell the dusty, dank, disturbingly familiar smell of Grimmauld Place and that this is his room, their room, and the reason why he can't see anything is not because he's dead it's because the curtains are shut and there's no moon. No moon. No moon and no Remus.
He gets up and shuffles round the room. His head is fuzzy, and now he's up he can't really remember why he got up. When he gets to the door and puts his hand on the doorknob he's overcome with dizziness, and has to lean against the wood to stop himself from falling over. The feeling passes and he decides to go back to bed. His head feels like it's stuffed full of cotton wool, and his chest hurts, and when he puts a hand up to rub at it, he feels a bandage underneath his pyjama top. He's definitely not dead then, if his chest hurts and someone put a bandage on it. He wonders why he's not, and what happened, but there's no one there to give him the answers because Remus isn't there like he should be, so he gets back into bed and pulls the blankets up to his chin like a child. He turns his head to the side and Remus' pillow is there, and when he puts his head on it it smells like him, like Remus and dust. A dusty Remus. Sirius sighs and pulls the pillow towards him, wrapping himself around it. He knows that Remus will be back in the morning, and that everything will be okay.
In the morning it's not Remus that's there, but Dumbledore. Sirius stares at the old man as he tells him that he's been asleep for days, unconscious, and that Remus is dead. Remus is dead because he was running to help Sirius with Bellatrix, and he stumbled on some broken stairs near the archway just as Lucius Malfoy managed to hit him with a stunning hex in just the right spot to make him overbalance, sending him straight through the archway.
It's not true. Sirius knows it's not true. He shakes his head and says, No. No. You're wrong. That's not what happened. Remus isn't dead. I fell through the veil, I did, and look, I'm not dead, am I? He's not dead. You just have to go looking for him, that's all. If we look, we'll find him, because he's not dead. Dumbledore smiles at him with a look that says, You're just confused, my boy, and then leaves. It's a week before Sirius can stand up without almost falling over, but as soon as he can he does, and he breaks out of the house to look for Remus three times over as many weeks before they manage to set wards that he can't break, and it's only Dumbledore's that finally foil him.
So he lies in their bed then, and waits for Remus to find his way home, keeping his curtains closed against the sight of the moon. When Molly comes in and wants to change his sheets he snarls at her like a dog and from that day on she won't come into the room. Sirius is not sorry. He will not have that woman washing Remus out of his sheets. Not until he comes back.
Then one day towards the end of summer Harry comes and coaxes him out of bed. Harry's been avoiding him all summer, and Sirius knows it's out of guilt (and that makes him feel even worse, because the tiniest, tiniest part of him thinks that Harry should feel guilty). Harry tells him that they're going on a trip, and Sirius' heart soars and he thinks, Finally. Finally someone who's listening. With the help of invisibility cloaks and disillusionment charms, as well as Harry's Firebolt, they're on their way, but instead of the Department of Mysteries like he expects, they land in Godric's Hollow, and Sirius' heart lurches when he recognises streets and houses, pubs and parks. But they're not here for the pub or the parks, they're here for the graveyard. Sirius has never been here before, but he knows why they're here. His heart pounds so hard in his chest that it makes him breathless. He thinks his heart might just beat right out of his chest before they reach where they're headed, but before he knows it, there they are. James and Lily Potter, beloved father, beloved mother. Between the two gravestones is a small plaque mounted in stone, much newer than the headstones on either side, and Sirius' heart is in his throat as he kneels to read it, even though he already knows what it says. Remus John Lupin, beloved friend and teacher. Not lover, even though he was. There was no body, Harry says, but they felt they had to do something, so this was what they did. He averts his eyes as Sirius sinks down towards it, his forehead almost touching the grass as the tears finally begin to flow.
That night is the full moon, the first. Sirius wonders briefly whether Harry chose that day on purpose, but then decides it doesn't matter. He drinks Firewhiskey in the library until the moon rises, then goes out into the backyard of Grimmauld Place, changes into Padfoot and howls and howls. He howls until the sun comes up, and when he changes back he finds he's lost his voice.
He walks around the house like a ghost after that, and the others avoid him, not coping now that they can see the weight of his grief in his eyes rather than the fierce light of denial. He doesn't care what they do; instead he pays Dung to keep him in Firewhiskey and cigarettes, and the occasional bag of pot if he knows that Molly's not going to be around for a while. The days go by so much more quickly if he can't remember them.
He's drunk one night after an Order meeting that he didn't bother to attend (there's no reason why he would; the person that would have asked him his opinion is gone, now,) walking past the library where the hangers on are still lingering when he hears Remus' name. He stops and listens; he doesn't know exactly who's in there, but it's Molly that's talking, and she's saying, It's for the best, really. I mean, it's a terrible life being a werewolf, isn't it? And he was looking so old, and so haggard, the poor dear?he's better off, wherever he is. The next thing he knows he's bursting into the room and kicking over a table that's in this way, scattering tea things and cakes and biscuits everywhere. Then Molly's in front of him and he's raging. You take that back! You don't know anything, he had a good life! We helped him, we made his life better, so don't you dare, don't you dare say that he'd be better off dead! Molly sits there, shocked, but then Kingsley's there, and Tonks, and they're pulling him away, pulling him away while he's still struggling and yelling at the top of his lungs.
Pomfrey comes, and it takes four of them to hold him down while she gives him a sedating potion, spitting most of it into all their faces, but not enough to stop him from quietening, mores the pity. Afterwards, Tonks stays with him, sitting on the edge of the bed and crying, saying, You're not the only one, you know, we all loved him too. We all wish he was here too. He turns his back on her and faces the window with the closed curtains, because she knows less than fuck all about it, and he doesn't want to hear her. He closes his eyes. We'd all bring him back if we could, she says, and for a minute he's still before opening his eyes again.
There's only been a few times in his life that he's been glad of his family name, and none of those times have been after the age of eleven, until now. But as he gets up with the sun the next morning and locks himself in the library to look through his father's old books, he's glad that his family's Arts have often been as Dark as their name. He pores over the books for days, barely eating and not sleeping at all, until he emerges with a list of things for Mundungus to get him on his next trip to Knockturn Alley. Some of the things he needs are expensive, and others rare, but he's prepared to wait if it means getting things right, and he's got plenty of money to spare. Even if he didn't, it would be worth every last knut and sickle just to have his Remus back.
It takes months, in the end, to collect everything he needs, and Sirius finds himself summoning reserves of patience that he never knew he had. Finally he has everything, bar one little thing. Remus' scent has long since faded from the sheets that he forbids Molly to wash, but on their dresser Remus' hairbrush still sits, thick with dust now but with a few of Remus' hairs still in its bristles, and a few is all he needs. He collects them carefully and folds them into a piece of parchment, putting them with the rest of his ingredients.
He plans to do it on the day after the full moon; after all, it would just be inconsiderate to bring Remus back just to have him go through a change. On the night of the full Sirius changes into Padfoot and dreams all night about running through the woods with Moony. In the morning he wakes with butterflies in his stomach, and is glad no one is around to see his excitement, because surely then they'd twig to what was going on, and he doesn't want that.
As the sun sets he moves around the house, setting wards that will allow him to know if anyone comes to the house. He can't lock them out, because then they'll know that something's up, but he can at least be warned that he could be interrupted; an interruption at a key point in the ritual could spell disaster. Disaster is another thing he doesn't want.
He's cleared a space on the floor of their room and has everything set out - the proper runes written on the floor, the ingredients all laid out in order in front of a cauldron in the centre of the space, the books he needs to incant from laid out in front of him, when his wards go off. His head jerks up and he hears footsteps on the stairs, and he's strengthening the locking charms on the door, but it's no good. It's no good because it's Dumbledore, Dung has been loose-lipped down the pub and now Dumbledore is here and unlocking his door and Sirius is up and backing away as Dumbledore is saying, You don't want to do this, Sirius. There's a reason why people don't do this, and Sirius is shaking his head even as his hope drifts away just like the strands of Remus' hair in the draft of Dumbledore's robes. He's raising his wand to hex the old man but he can't because hexing his Headmaster is out of even his league, but especially when he's without James and Remus and fuck but they never had a chance, none of them, ever, but especially Remus. Remus deserves a second chance but now Sirius can't give it to him and he shakes his head again and says, No! It's not fair! You don't understand, you don't--falling through the veil doesn't kill you, it doesn't, and he's not dead, he's just lost somewhere and I need to find him I need to get him back, you don't understand, and Dumbledore is putting his arms around him. Sirius tries to push him away but Dumbledore won't let him and now Sirius is crying, he's crying and saying, You don't understand, over and over while Dumbledore strokes his hair and says, I understand more than you know, my boy. I understand more than you know.
After that there's more people around more often and they're not treating him like a ghost anymore. He can't help but be pleased about it even though he knows they're all doing it on purpose and probably because Dumbledore told them to, but he's never been that good at being alone so he takes what he can get. On the anniversary of Remus' death he prepares to drink himself into a stupor in front of the fire, but all of a sudden everyone's there, even the kids who've been let out of school because they're having a surprise wake, which makes Sirius happy because he missed the last one. Everyone sits in the library because it was Remus' favourite room and talks about him, shares their favourite stories of him, and Sirius loves the stories from when Remus was a teacher because he'd always thought Remus would make a good one, that was the whole reason they'd gotten him that suitcase with professor on it for his birthday the year they left school. The fact that Remus' students all loved him is clear in everything the kids say about him, and the fact that Remus had that and knew that quietens Sirius' soul, so that when he goes up to their room to go to bed he opens his curtains and lets the moonlight spill into the room for the first time in a year. He hadn't wanted the moon if he couldn't have his Moony, but that night, for the first time in a year, he sleeps peacefully. And he sleeps bathed in moonlight.
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