From These Glimmerings
- Maxwell Anderson, "Richard and Anne"
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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 #15: Ten ways Sirius and Remus enjoy each other's company during the summer. Every man's past is like a night in summer, lit by one dim-wit firefly, flashing unpredictably in the darkness, lighting a face speaking a half-phrase, then silence, blank, dark, maybe a glimmer again a little further on. From these glimmerings can I weave the threads of a day, bring back the words, the way we stood and moved?
Author Notes: Beta read by Moony.
- Maxwell Anderson, "Richard and Anne"
Remus Lupin imagines his past as a long corridor lined with doors. Some are shut firmly and secured with many locks. Some are open just a sliver. Some are like gaping wounds, ripped brutally from their hinges, exposing everything to anyone who might have found his way into Remus's memories. Remus does not look into these doorways.
Through this doorway, the full moon hangs like spattered yolk against a sizzling iron sky, and there is a wolf with bristling grey fur and Remus's own blood on its teeth. A black-haired boy of about sixteen is saying, "I don't care, I'm not sorry, it was his own fucking fault for listening to me, and he'd've deserved it if...." Somewhere farther down the corridor is an archway, which has no door but instead a tattered veil.
Behind one half-open doorway two twelve-year-old boys are sitting together in a dormitory. There are trunks at their feet; they are clearly about to go somewhere. One boy the paler and thinner of the two says shyly to the other, "I'll miss school, I reckon, but I can't wait to get home."
"I can," the black-haired boy grumbles, staring at the toes of his shoes. "I hate the summer."
Young Remus hesitates for a fraction of a moment, then says a bit boldly, "Summer's my favorite season." It's the first time he's ever vocally disagreed with Sirius.
This earns him a scornful glance and a sneer. "You would. You haven't got to live with my parents. Not that I can't handle them," the twelve-year-old Sirius adds somewhat airily. "I just..." He looks at his toes again. "What's so bloody brilliant about the summer?"
Remus swings his legs and glances at the open window, through which he can see hazy mountains and a sky the color of eggshells. "Nights are shorter," he says quietly. "I like short nights."
And thunderstorms. Remus doesn't need to open any doors to remember how fond he'd been of summer thunderstorms.
"The air tastes different, doesn't it?" Sirius had once said to him. "Right before a storm? I can always tell when they're coming. There's this sort of tingle at the base of my tongue."
He said that long before the words tongue and tingle had any significance, even when uttered in the same sentence by Sirius Black.
Remus remembers the way the air seemed to heave, remembers the wild drumbeat of rain on the roof of his parents' house in Scotland. Somehow, thunderstorms aren't as exciting now as they were when he was young.
Behind yet another door in the long corridor of Remus's memory, he is sitting cross-legged in bed, with a Muggle torch in his lap. He's made a rudimentary tent out of his blanket, not because he's afraid of the storm but because he's pretending that he's camping. He's got a plastic bag full of marshmallows at his side, and a long stick so he can eat them properly. Once, he tried to roast them over a candle flame, but his mum stopped him, thinking he'd accidentally set fire to the house.
Outside his bedroom window, the storm tears angrily through the yard. The branches of the apple tree shake and shudder. The sky is the color of ripe plums. Behind the rolling clouds, the moon is swelling. Blow it away, Remus remembers thinking. Blow it somewhere else. He is eleven in this memory, or twelve at the most.
Next door is different summer thunderstorm. This one is beating down on London, but Remus is only half-aware of it. He is in Sirius's bed which will be their bed once he gathers the courage to move out of his parents' house on his hands and knees, and Sirius is fucking him roughly.
Remus's cheek is on the pillow and his face is turned toward the window. He can see the streetlights, blurred by the rain-spattered windows. He blinks, and the sweat on his lashes falls into his eyes, stinging them and blurring everything even more. The thunder makes it sound like the Underground is rattling through the flat.
Sirius pushes in and out of Remus. His curled fingers slide over Remus's cock. The air is so thick and humid that it seems as if Sirius is pushing him right through it. He wants Sirius to plow him through the mattress, through the floor. He wants Sirius as deep inside him as he can get, hates the sheen of sweat between their bodies. He doesn't want anything between them, not even skin.
After they've come and are lying together, Sirius still on top of Remus, his cock softening inside him, Remus remembers that the storm is still raging. He feels oddly triumphant, as if he and Sirius beat the storm somehow, as if they outraced it, outfought it, outfucked it.
Blow it away, he remembers thinking hazily while Sirius kisses the back of his neck. Blow away the fact that I still live with my parents, the fact that I've got to leave for a mission in a day, the fact that there's a war going on. Blow away everything that isn't just us.
Most of Remus's memories the ones of his youth, anyway are less distinct. They come back to him in flashes, in ribbons. They dangle like kite tails, just beyond his reach. They come a little closer when he closes his eyes and concentrates, but even then it is like peering through a keyhole.
The first watermelons of summer. The crunch, and the pain in his front teeth because it's so cold, but the juice is sweet, so sweet, and it tickles as it dribbles down his chin. Swallowing and almost choking on one of the small black seeds.
"Oi, let's have a spitting contest," someone James, probably says.
Then there's laughter, and the sounds of spitting, and watermelon seeds go flying, and there's more laughter when someone inevitably slips on a gob of phlegm. Some girls see them and make disgusted faces. "Animals," one of them says, and Remus is secretly amused because he has rarely felt so human.
The best part is when Sirius draws him aside and starts to lick the watermelon juice from his face and neck. How Sirius got him away from the others is lost to time, and unimportant. What matters is that his tongue is so cool on Remus's heated skin and that when his mouth finds Remus's, it is sweet with watermelon juice. Bracken crunches beneath them when they tumble to the ground.
Cold beer on a hot, muggy day. Lying on his belly on the floor in the kitchen because the linoleum is cooler than the carpeting in the bedroom, in just his denims, reading, and sipping beer.
Sirius crouches beside him and plucks the beer bottle from his hand. Remus thinks that Sirius is going to drink it, but no, Sirius turns the bottle over and pours what's left of the beer onto Remus's back and shoulders.
It's cold and it tingles and it pools in the small of his back. Remus barely has time to push his book safely out of the way before Sirius is on him, straddling his hips, and lapping up the beer. He likes doing things with his tongue, Remus observes. He's been like this ever since he became an Animagus.
Remus thinks it would be brilliant if Sirius yanked his denims down, flipped him over, and took him in his mouth. He's so hard right now, and the thought of that tongue, still cool and tingly from the beer, licking his cock
But he's happy, with Sirius's tongue on the nape of his neck, on his shoulders, behind his ear. Remus arches his back and Sirius rolls the empty beer bottle over his nipples and belly.
Lake Coniston during the last week of August. Most of the holiday crowd has gone home by now, but Remus and Sirius linger. There are things waiting for them back in London. Important things. But they don't care to acknowledge them just yet.
The lake is misty in the early morning. Remus stands on the pebbly shore and tiny waves kiss his ankles. Sirius complains loudly about being awake and hungry. If he's got to be up at this unholy hour he deserves food. And tea.
"I didn't ask you to get up with me," Remus says.
"You were making noise. I woke up."
Sirius loops an arm around Remus's waist and pulls him close. "It's pretty, all right? Nice and...gray. It's too early for poetic descriptions. How about some breakfast, now?"
"The place isn't even open yet."
"It'll be open by the time we get there if we walk." Sirius rests his chin on Remus's shoulder. "Fresh scones," he whispers. His breath is a puff of warm air against Remus's ear. "Clotted cream. Rum butter. Darjeeling. From leaves, not teabags. Sausages. Mushrooms. Hot porridge. Toasted crumpets. Apricot jam." He laughs when Remus's stomach gurgles.
"C'mon," Sirius cajoles. He starts to pull Remus away from the water. "It's fucking freezing, anyway."
Remus hesitates a moment longer, then allows himself to be dragged away. As he turns, the lake shimmers like the inside of a seashell and a seagull's scream echoes through the mist. Sirius says something, but the wind hisses across the lake and Remus misses it. The seagull's scream tugs at Remus's heart, but Sirius's grip is stronger.
I'll come back, Remus thinks.
But he won't. This is 1981, and in just a few short weeks Sirius will leave him without a single word of explanation and Remus will not see him again for thirteen years. In a little over a month the Potters will be dead, Peter will seem to be dead, and Remus will run through the corridors of his memory, trying to find the place where he went wrong, here he misjudged. Sirius will look at him from doorways and his eyes will be the color of the lake at dawn, and Remus will slam the doors in his face and they will resonate with the finality of a gavel.
Remus wants to linger in this memory because it is the last happy one that he will have for nearly thirteen years. But the memory is over. It is time for him to return to the present.
In the present, Remus's arse is sore, and his back is stiff. Memories clump together like seaweed in his brain. He shakes his head but it only makes him dizzy.
Someone is folding his fingers around a cup of hot tea. Looking up, he sees Poppy Pomfrey smiling at him wearily.
"How long?" His voice is a croak. It surprises him. He almost drops his tea, but Poppy saves him from a scalded lap with a brisk wave of her wand.
"More than an hour," she replies. "Almost two hours, I should think. I lost track of the time."
"And did he...?" Remus's gaze flicks to the still figure on the hospital bed. "Was there any...?"
"Any response?" she finishes for him. "None that I saw, and I was watching closely the entire time. Of course, it's hard to tell. I'm not a Legilimens. But there didn't seem to be any physical reaction."
She touches Remus's shoulder. "It's late. I've got to get some sleep. I imagine you'll want to stay with him...?"
"Yes," Remus says quietly.
"And I imagine Harry will be here shortly." She is silent for a moment, and when she speaks again her tone is very gentle. "Don't push too hard too quickly. You'll wear yourself out, and him too. He's alive. That's something. It's only been two days. Considering where he's been..."
Remus needs more than that, and she seems to sense it. "He's very strong."
"I'm his strength," Remus says. "That's what he told me once." But he can't remember when.
Poppy squeezes his shoulder. Then she steps away and turns to gather her paraphernalia. In a few minutes, Remus is alone with Sirius.
Remus sets his tea carefully on the floor, pushes back his chair, and rises. His legs barely support him. He staggers to the open window and grips the sill. The night air is cool and fragrant with pine. He breathes deeply, tilts his head back, and opens his eyes.
The sky is full of stars. He can see Altair, the brightest stars in Sagittarius, and the red heart of Scorpius. The Milky Way is a pale splash across the sky. The world is tilted, Remus thinks, and everything the constellations, the moon, the sun is falling westward. Leaving what? Autumn, then winter. Winter stars.
Though every muscle in his body aches, Remus turns and looks at the bed. Sirius lies limp and unmoving except for slow, shallow breaths. His translucent skin clings to his bones like a shroud and Remus can see the veins swimming beneath.
Two years beyond the Veil. Two years between life and death, between here and there.
"Between the idea and the reality," Remus murmurs bleakly to himself. "Between the motion and the act. Falls the shadow."
He cannot imagine what Sirius has endured. He does not know why Sirius survived, or how he returned. Not one of those things is important now.
Sirius's hair is what hooks him by the heart tonight. His beautiful hair that used to tumble down Sirius's back, that Remus used to tangle around his arms.
Now it lies in snarls and tangles. It reeks of Strengthening potions and crackles and clings to Remus's fingers when he touches it. This is wrong, Remus thinks. Deeply, fundamentally wrong.
Without another thought Remus Summons a comb, a shallow basin of warm water and a small bottle of shampoo. He reclaims his chair by the bed and carefully, so carefully that he does not once brush Sirius's skin with his own, he gathers the long black hair in his hand and arranges it in an aureole on the pillow. Then, just as carefully, he washes and dries it, then combs it until it shines in the dying torchlight, as it ought to.
It is almost dawn by the time he is finished. He can hear birds waking in the trees. Half asleep, he sits back in his chair and rubs his dry eyes with the heels of his palms. He wonders if Sirius is actually asleep or if he is at all conscious of the goings on around him. His eyes are closed; the lashes, so long and thick, drag cruelly at his eyelids.
Is he at all aware of what Remus has been trying to show him with his rudimentary Legilimency? There were moments when Remus had browsed through his memories when it felt as if someone were with him, just a few paces behind and looking over his shoulder. Remus can admit that it might have been wishful thinking. Pomfrey had said there was no physical reaction...
Remus yawns. In the forty-eight hours since Sirius's reappearance, he has hardly slept. "But if I sleep," he murmurs, "I might not dream about you, and I don't think I could bear not seeing you even for the length of a dream.
"Or," he continues conversationally, "it might turn out that all this is a dream, and if I go to sleep in my dream I might actually wake up. And if I wake up and find you gone..."
His throat tightens, preventing him from completing the sentence. Sirius must live, he thinks. He must wake. It was Sirius who, when they were boys, broke Remus out of his shell and taught him how to live for a brief time, anyway. It is now for Remus to break Sirius free of the spell he now seems to be under.
If only Dumbledore were here. The thought creeps in among the others. Remus feels very young suddenly. If only Dumbledore were here. He would know what to do. He could fix things.
No, he couldn't, Remus chides himself. As powerful a Legilimens as Albus Dumbledore was, he never understood Sirius, would not have known how to save him.
"Will you let me in again?" Remus asks aloud. He has looked into Sirius's mind once since his return, and the darkness and turmoil in it had overwhelmed him. He feels slightly queasy thinking about it, but what else can he do?
I need a sign. Some sign that you're aware of who you are, aware of who I am.
He covers Sirius's hand with his own. The bones are fragile, bird-like. He holds his memories close to him, like a torch, and says, "I'm going to try again. You've got to let me in. You've got to let me show you the way back. All right, Sirius?"
There is of course no response. The sun rises at Remus's back. Around them, the castle is beginning to wake. Harry is on his way back to Britain.
And I am going to save you.
Still holding Sirius's hand, Remus leans over the bed and whispers, "Legilimens."
Sirius's memory sprawls like a ruined city. If there is a path it has been lost beneath shattered walls and splintered doors, and thick overgrowth. A wet, heavy darkness hangs over everything. It irritates the back of Remus's throat and gives him the impression that he is deep underground. Buried. Forgotten.
Are you with me, Sirius?
Remus probes forward a little ways, and pauses. There is a voice, he thinks. It is faint, barely a whisper, and Remus has to strain for it. After what feels like an eon, it comes again.
"I like the summer sky."
Instinctively, Remus looks up, but it is as if his eyes have been filled with soot.
"Why?" says another voice.
"Because," young Sirius says grudgingly, as if this answer has been wheedled out of him, "most of my foul family is named for winter stars. It's rather nice not seeing their namesakes every time I look up."
Remus imagines the sky as he saw it just a short while ago, through the window. The blue that is so deep it is almost black. The pale ribbon of the Milky Way. The infinite stars. Antares, glittering like a ruby, Cygnus's spread wings, Cassiopeia in her chair. To this Remus adds a sliver of moon, the smell and feel of cold grass and earth. The chatter of crickets.
It could be any summer night from their childhood and Remus offers it to Sirius, who might or might not be aware of Remus's presence in his mind.
Do you see this? Do you remember it? Are you there?
"Sirius? I know you're in there. Let me in."
Remus can't see the speaker, but the voice belongs to a young boy.
"Open this door now or I shall tell Mother!"
The voice becomes suddenly plaintive. "Please?"
There is no reply, and Remus wonders what year this fragment of memory is from. Obviously before Sirius ran away from home, and most likely before Regulus's Sorting into Slytherin.
Remus recalls a conversation. A few weeks after the Sorting, following a messy tangle with Severus Snape's gang to which Regulus had already attached himself...
"Made himself right at home, hasn't he?" Sirius spat angrily, dabbing at his hex marks with a salve from Madam Pomfrey. "And all through the hols what was he doing? Following me around, begging me to let him into my room, asking about bloody Hogwarts, not shutting up for two seconds"
He wanted to be with you, Remus thinks. And you secretly wanted that. You pushed him away because you were sure he'd be put into Slytherin, but you still felt betrayed when it happened. You blamed him and yourself.
Remus tries to imagine Regulus Black as he might have been before his Sorting. At ten or eleven Regulus would be shorter than Sirius, though he will become a few inches taller in a couple of years. He would be slender and his skin pale because he kept to his parents' house. His face might have been very much like Sirius's, except for thinner lips and a guileful gleam in the gray eyes.
Had that gleam always been there, or did Regulus acquire it once at Hogwarts? Remus does not know; he had never seen Regulus before his Sorting.
Truthful or not, Sirius ought to have a more complete picture of his brother, Remus thinks. He imagines Regulus standing before Sirius's closed bedroom door, his small, white hand on the doorknob. Regulus glances furtively over his shoulder for Kreacher, perhaps, or one of their parents. Then he tries again.
Remus wants to capture those words in his hands and offer them to Sirius. Here is your brother, he thinks, the summer before you lost him. Take this. When you wake I will tell you things that will make you proud of him.
A baby's happy gurgle.
Instantly Remus knows when and where he is. It is the end of August, and Harry is just a month old. They are in the Potters' back garden,all of them, together. It's not the last time, but it is not all that long before the last time.
The garden is full of honeysuckle and roses. The sky is pink and violet, the moon half full. Lily's belly is still round from pregnancy, and her face still has that radiance. She's sitting on a blanket in the grass and slicing the stems off strawberries, while James barbecues. He has his chestpuffed out and he's wearing an apron that says Kiss the Cook. It's his very own apron, he keeps telling them. He's been domesticated. He seems very proud of that fact. The light of the grill flickers in his glasses.
Peter and his girlfriend Emmeline are in the kitchen, bickering over the wireless. To everyone's dismay Emmeline is turning out to be an ABBA fan. There's a collective cheer when Peter manages to wrest the dial from herand the electronic wail of Pink Floyd wafts into the garden.
Remus remembers sitting next to Lily, stealing strawberries when she isn't looking.
Sirius is standing in the middle of the lawn, holding Harry high above his head. He's spinning, and Harry is waving his chubby arms excitedly.Remus can see both of their smiles flashing as they twirl; Sirius's is white,Harry's shiny pink.
"Don't let him fall," Lily warns.
Sirius scoffs. "I'll fall first!"
You did, thinks Remus, suddenly cold. Sirius and Harry are spinning faster and faster together. Remus wants to close his eyes, but he knows it willnot stop him from seeing.
He holds up his arms. I'll catch you, Sirius.
But you didn't.
But there are no more words. Remus gropes in the darkness, finds nothing, and now the scene shifts.
This scene is clearer than the ones before it. Remus sees the kitchen of number twelve, Grimmauld Place as it was the summer Sirius returned there, just after giving it to the Order of the Phoenix for headquarters. There are the rickety table and chairs, the rusted pots, the spider webs, the thick layer of dust.
And there is Sirius, looking thin and tired, his hair falling in tangles to his elbows. He is seated at the table, with a spoon in his hand.Remus joins him, with a second spoon and a tub of ice cream between them.
"It's chocolate fudge brownie toffee almond mint."
"Really?" There isn't the slightest flicker of interest in Sirius's tone.
"No. But it's something ridiculous like that. Dig in."
They eat in silence. After a few moments, though, Sirius drops his spoon into the tub and leans away.
"I can't," he says when Remus gives him a questioninglook. "It's too...rich. It's too much."His gaze roves the kitchen and Remus not the one seated at the table but the one browsing Sirius's memories can see the naked fear in hiseyes.
Darkness is closing in on the scene, eroding its edges. Already some of the details the shapes of the pots and pans, the colors of the things in jars are becoming indistinct, as if the memory is slipping away from Sirius.
Stay with me, Remus pleads. Stay.
What else happened here? There had been a kiss, he recalls. Sirius wouldn't or couldn't eat the ice cream so Remus had stood up, taken him by the shoulders, and kissed him.
A kiss that tastes like chocolate and cream. A cold kiss. A slight gasp from Sirius as Remus's cold tongue flicks against his front teeth. Cold fingertips touching Sirius's temples, sliding into his hair. Clinging together in that darkening kitchen and shivering despite the summer heat.
I was never warm again after that.
Remus cannot tell whose thought this is.
The kitchen dissolves. Remus fumbles around blindly. Twice now Sirius has seemed aware of his presence, aware of himself.
You are here. These memories are broken but they exist. Where are you? It's all right. I'm here. Harry is coming. We won't let you be hurt again, I promise.
But this nothing does not signify absence. Sirius is here.
Sirius is here, Remus says to himself as he probes deeper. Is here, is here, ishereishere...
The words tumble over and over in his mind until they find a rhythm. Ishereishereishere... Like a breath drawn through an open mouth.
There is a gray smudge, barely discernable against the darkness. Remus strains, but while the smudge stretches until it fills Remus's vision, its edges never sharpening. Briefly Remus wonders if this is what Sirius saw beyond the Veil, just grayness, dull as mist.
Then a scream, too raucous and high-pitched to be human, pierces the gray and Remus knows when and where he is. This is Lake Coniston, and somewhere ahead, young Remus and Sirius are standing at its edge, at the edge of summer, the edge of their happiness.
Do you remember exactly how it was, Sirius? I had my feet in the water and you had your arms around me. I wanted to stay. You were trying to draw me back. You were annoyed that I'd woken you up. I hadn't meant to.
"I didn't ask you to get up with me." The voice is very faint. The words come hesitantly, as if they are only half-remembered. Remus can't see the speaker.
"You were making noise. I woke up."
Quiet. Remus waits.
When words come again they come low-pitched and uncertain, and not from the mist ahead.
I don't know what happens next.
Remus's heart trembles in his chest but he holds himself steady. He must not allow the spell to be broken now.
You joked, thinks Remus. I wanted to stay a little longer. It was beautiful that morning. Not quite the way you're remembering it.The mist was thick, but you could see the trees and the mountains on the otherside. You had to squint to see them, but they were there. It was beautiful. Youwanted breakfast.
I wanted to stay with you, Sirius says faintly. I don't remember wanting breakfast. I remember being a little afraid that we wouldn't be able to leave at all if we didn't leave right away. There were rumors about you, whose side you were really on, and I was still trying to ignore them. But you hesitated and I thought I thought, "Fuck it all. Let's stay here, just the two of us." I didn't just think it. I said it. I'm sure I said it. You didn't hear.
I never heard.
No, you didn't. Sirius's voice is fainter now; each word seems to come only with tremendous effort. I loved you. I still do. I've forgotten everything else except for what you've shown me but I remember that. I wouldn't mind staying here now. I know it's not real but it's pleasant enough. Could we, Moony?
The temptation is strong. Stay here in this fragile memory until they die. Harry and Madam Pomfrey would try to wrench them apart, but perhaps together they will be strong enough . . ..
No. Come with me, Sirius.
Outside the castle, the sun will have risen. There will be dew on the grass, and it will sparkle like opals. The animals in the forest and mountains will wake. There will be heather and gorse, and the lake, and the tinkling of bells as the shopkeepers in Hogsmeade open their doors. There will be the scent of fresh breads and pies. And all of it will be real. They will be able to touch it, taste it, see it, hear it, smell it.
And Harry will be there, with Lily's eyes and James's impish grin.
Come with me, Remus pleads. I love you so much and I need more than these memories. I tried to convince myself that they were enough, but they're not. I need you to wake up and look at me. I need you back. I'll help you. I'll show you things. We'll make new memories. There's so much that we never got to do. There's time for so much. The summer isn't over yet. Come with me. You have to come with me now, Sirius.
Remus is lying in bed. Something soft and clean-smelling caresses his cheek. He opens his eyes and sees Sirius beside him, still asleep or unconscious. Someone is drawing a blanket up over Remus's shoulders.
Did it work?
Remus's mind fumbles, but he is too exhausted to think the words of the spell, let alone speak them. His eyes are falling shut of their own accord.
The last thing that Remus is aware of before sleep takes him is one desperately thin hand covering his, clutching at it like a lifeline.
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