PG-13, 3200 words
Summary: Memory's a tricky business, and Sirius has forgotten so much.
Original: Remix of glass_icarus' It goes like this.
Note: With much thanks and gratitude to my beta, melandry! First posted here. So as not to bore you or spam up your flist any more, you can find thoughts on writing this here, if you're interested.
Realities splay out, feather-light and cold across the house. Stories carved into the walls, with no one left to read them.
A man stands at the top of the stairs. Thud-thud-thud - a part of his mind is calculating the age it would take to fall. Another part of his thoughts is preoccupied with the dead flowers he clutches in his hand, that resonate with a magic long since spent, and with something else, too, that he doesn't know. The rest of him is desperately, longingly trying to remember.
Re-mem-ber, the curtains swish noisily.
"What're you doing here, Pads?"
He frowns. Who is the voice talking to?
"She got it wrong, she must have got it wrong," comes a mumbling from somewhere.
His feet are rooted to the stairs, and he drops the flowers. He wants to find that voice, but he counts the banister railings – 37 – because he can't make himself move. The voice is continuing, but incoherent now, no words. Frustrated, he changes, becomes a dog. He doesn't know how he does it, but it's better sometimes. Dogs can't think about so many different things at once, anyway.
And now he can move again. There's a creaking door somewhere, and so he pads over to investigate. Pads. That was what the voice said. He thinks he's on to something. He nudges open the creaky door and goes inside.
Suddenly, he feels like he's swimming, struggling, drowning, and he has to push just to stay still against something he can't even see. He is human again, and falling.
There's a crash and a yelp, and the man laughs because he's landed in a room and there's a boy getting slobbered on by a huge black dog. The boy's laughing, too, and it's a nice sound. He doesn't hear very many things any more.
Then there's another boy, who's changed from the dog – just like him! – and he leans forward, staring intently, confused. The dog-boy seems confused too, and so the other one says "I was wondering when you'd get around to that."
"Get around to what?" the man asks, feeling baffled, then realises the boy wasn't talking to him.
The boy continues laughing, but looks straight at him. "This isn't how it happened, Sirius."
"Si-ri-us." He rolls it around his tongue. It fits there, somehow, the way that "hello" does, comfortable. He stares at the floor, lost in this new discovery. "Si-ri-us."
He looks up, and the boy isn't smiling any more. There's a twisting in his stomach, because the boy looks unhappy. Sirius decides he doesn't want the boy to be unhappy. "Hello?" he says, because it's a good word to say, he knows. But now both boys are there, and they're ignoring him. Sirius doesn't mind, though.
"… all you have to say to me when you've been avoiding me for three bloody weeks?"
"You didn't particularly seem to be in need of my company,"
"In need of-! Look. If this is about the bloody girls-"
The boy who's yelling, the dog-boy, doesn't seem happy either. He's looking at the boy he's just collided with on the chair.
Sirius twitches. He doesn't like watching this. They're angry now, having fallen to the floor and their mouths are pressed against each other, and he flinches. Something bad is going to happen.
"You- what?" The boy who spoke to him earlier looks small, and sad. Sirius stands up, walks hesitantly towards the boys. He reaches out for this small, sad boy, who's begun to smile now, which Sirius decides is the most beautiful thing he's ever seen. He's whispering "Yeah. Yeah you did." Sirius doesn't know what it means, but he edges ever closer, drawn in by this moment that he doesn't understand. He can't tell what either of them is feeling any more, but as he edges towards this sad but smiling boy, as his fingers nearly alight on his cheek, there's a whirling shift in his surroundings.
"Wait!" he shouts, because he wasn't finished, and now he can't see anything.
He's standing in dim light, and there's softness around him. He grips something in his left hand – sheets, he decides. There's whole rooms covered in sheets, he knows, sheets that have been left so long they've grown, taken shapes like tables and chairs, and once they have their shape they'll just rest forever.
He frowns. The curtains are swishing again. Re-mem-ber. Sirius decides he is none too fond of these curtains. He pulls them back regardless, and is confronted with the boy that becomes a dog. Sirius stares, and suddenly suspects that this boy is the same as him. He has heard him laugh the same way that Sirius might have done, once.
But now he just seems enormously sad, and Sirius wonders why. A flash of something, a memory. Pale, frightened, awful faces. There is moonlight shining in from somewhere. Moonlight. That's important, he knows.
The other boy is here again, now, and Sirius sees that he's sad too. He walks past Sirius, to the boy that is him, and there's a smile again, and this time the boy puts an arm around this young him's shoulders. Sirius is sure he has never been so happy, not in all his life. Just to see this boy with his beautiful smile.
"Sirius," the boy says again, turning away from the scene and staring at him. "Remember me."
Si-ri-us fits comfortably on the boy's tongue, too. A name. His name. Sirius.
He pushes at memories, but they are dark and dormant things. But if he focuses, strains, the landscape around him shifts and changes. Scenarios come in and out of vision. A thousand different days shoot across his mind, with him and this boy, but he does not remember, and it is not his life.
"Who are you?" he asks the darkness, and now daylight has erupted around them, him and the boy around whom everything seems to centre. Sirius scrambles to his feet, and they're in a corridor. The boy looks at him questioningly, and something inside Sirius twists. A forgotten longing.
But the light is fading almost as soon as it had arrived. "No, it didn't go like this either," the boy says, looking grey as the landscape drains of all colour, unsustainable in Sirius' tenuous hold on his own mind.
Sirius stares into the nothing in despair.
"Please remember." The boy fades too, now, but Sirius is too lost in his own frustration to really take heed.
Re-mem-ber. Re-mem-ber. The syllables are soft, lodging in his mouth, suffocating. "Re-mem-ber," he says, songlike.
Another word is pushing its way up, choking him. Re-mem-ber. Re-mem-ber.
"Re-mus." It slips out, so quiet he can hardly hear himself. "Remus," he says again, and it's a rich, filling sound.
"Remus!" he yells, and his voice is shaking, because now he remembers.
Washes of light and sound and colour race through his mind, flashes of a life. And now, this time, this is his life. Flooding, then suddenly things come into focus. A hall, bustling people, loud music.
Sirius is back at James and Lily's wedding and it's a wonder he can stay upright at all, because how could he have forgotten?
It goes like this.
Sirius watches Remus and Lily talking, then sees Lily leave with a strange gleam in her eye. Then he backs away, unnerved, as his younger self approaches, slumping on to a seat. Proud and moody and all the things Sirius had forgotten he ever was. It's strange, watching himself. Watching the way his own mouth moves, his eyes twitching in frustration and sarcastic amusement at the trappings of a wedding.
Then as his memory begins to race ahead of the events, he looks up with a gasp. Lily, smiling beatifically, grasps her floral bouquet – heavily charmed – and takes a sure aim that James' Quidditchy heart would be proud of and throws it straight into Sirius' lap. Remus glares at Lily, storms outside, and now Sirius realises he'll be stuck here for some time, forced to watch himself make awkward small talk, all the while with that accursed bunch of flowers pressing down with spells in his hands.
Nerves dissipating, he moves towards his younger self. He cringes a little at the hairstyle, which he now remembers vividly thinking was the height of style, and marvels at graceful features yet to be hollowed by war and death and prison. He sees feelings displayed plainly across his own face; torn between the love in this marriage and his own frustrated wishes.
Then he feels the breath leave his body, because he has just caught sight of James. James on the happiest day of his life. His hair tidy, his robes immaculate, and even his glasses polished. In reverence, Sirius approaches him, reaches out to touch him. But his fingers ghost right through James' shoulder, and it is all Sirius can do not to let tears mist this precious vision.
"I told you, Prongs," he whispers. "We should have stayed like this forever. What'd you have to go and be a hero for?"
Then he laughs at himself for the stupidity of the question – James' bravery was in his blood the same as oxygen was – and he just steps away and watches his friend make the world revolve around him. Lily, too, is gleaming and brilliant, and Sirius gasps because for the first time he sees Harry's eyes in her. Overcome, Sirius stays frozen, unable to identify if he is mourning or celebrating.
He feels a pulling at his heart, and realises that he's leaving the room. He follows out after himself, half devastated at what he's leaving, half ecstatic at what he knows is to come.
Remus will take an age to find, he remembers, and so he watches his own frustration mount with a strange sort of excitement. He wants to tell himself to slow down, to appreciate this day, because in the weeks and months to come, as war began to erupt around him and Remus became an anchor in a restless world, he returned to this place many times.
And this is it. This is how it goes. Remus is staring, miserable, and Sirius is about to do one of the few truly good things of his life.
"What're you doing here, Pads?"
"What's with you?"
"Thought you'd be otherwise occupied."
With a delighted grin, Sirius watches this, the moment where everything changes. He sees himself throwing Lily's bouquet at Remus, where it lands in his lap, unobtrusively. Remus freezes up, and there is no one to mark this momentous occasion. No one except Sirius, for whom it is the whole world. He watches.
"All right, Moony?"
"She got it wrong, she must have got it wrong."
With a lurch, Sirius remembers the whisperings. Somehow, Remus was calling him here.
"What?" he's saying.
"You weren't supposed to be able to give me – Lily said – she charmed it so the person who got it could only give it to the person they were – I don't know how you got around it."
Poor Remus. He looks so sad now, and Sirius never really thought, before. How hard this must have been for Remus, before this day.
"That? I wasn't supposed to be able to give you that, because Lily charmed it so that when she threw it to me, I could only give it to the person I was in-? In love with-? She did, didn't she? Fuck. That woman's incapable of keeping a secret."
Sirius remembers his own agony at this precise moment, and smiles at its imminent relief.
"She it got it wrong. You don't, you can't- wait, what?"
Sirius blushes, feeling suddenly embarrassed, but he can't tear his eyes away as he watches himself move closer, so slowly and so afraid, and there it is. Their first kiss. Watching it again, he feels the memory put itself back in its rightful place, at the centre of his veins. The idea that he let this all go is too heinous to be thought about for long.
"You didn't see me watching, did you?" His voice is unexpectedly soft. What a romantic he used to be.
"Since when? You pulled half of the female population of Hogwarts, probably even London."
Sirius reddens further, as less wonderful memories return to him. Young and foolish doesn't even begin to cut it, he thinks.
"Before every girl. With every girl. After every girl. Didn't matter who it was, if you didn't want me."
The younger Sirius is cupping Remus' face, with an expression full of fragile dreams. Sirius sighs, because his recent history is still murky, and he can't remember the last time he touched another human being. Nonetheless, he smiles. It was a pretty good answer, really.
"But you never pulled boys." There's a faint look of distrust in Remus' eyes even now, and it cracks Sirius' heart open a little bit more.
"No. Didn't want anyone so close to you, if it wasn't you. I thought maybe you might- if you said something, if you asked- But you never did. So I thought I was wrong." And he had, thought about it endlessly. Hours of late night teenage agony, comical to look back on now, after everything.
"M'not used to getting what I want."
Neither am I, Sirius wants to say now. Not any more. But it is not worth dwelling on that here, as the second of a hundred thousand kisses is played out in front of him. He wishes he could remember each and every one, how they felt, how they tasted, how different it was every day, how they pulled out emotions within him he wasn't aware he could possess – a tenderness, a stillness. But they are lost, all a whirl of a headlong love that both of them were much too young for.
"What do you want, then? Tell me. I'll give you everything you want. Anything. Whatever you ask for. I'll find a way, even if I don't have it. You only have to ask."
And he really had meant every word. He still does.
"You," Remus whispers. "You, with me, forever."
Something beyond tears is clawing at Sirius' throat now. He wants to scream, but he doesn't. Instead, fuelled by a sudden and strange hope, he kneels down next to Remus.
"Remus?" He can hardly speak, so much does he want this. "I'm here. I remember."
"Hello, Sirius." Remus turns to him, looks him straight in the eye, and smiles.
Sirius nearly falls over in shock and happiness, but there's grief underneath.
"I couldn't give you that. I couldn't be there forever. I- I relived this memory, you know. Every single day, in Azkaban. It lost all joy."
"So you forgot it?" Remus shoots him an accusing look, and Sirius cannot deny that he deserves it.
"What's happening to me?" Sirius asks.
"Don't you know?"
Sirius shakes his head. "I remember the Ministry, and Harry." He stares at Remus, disbelieving. "You fell."
Remus shakes his head softly.
"You did," Sirius presses on, "Bellatrix, she- and I'm alone now. I don't know what happened to everyone else. It's just me, stuck in that forsaken house, and you're gone."
"Sirius- that's not what happened."
"It is – I saw you! I tried, I tried to yell at you to watch it, to run faster, but I couldn't. I couldn't be there for you."
"Sirius. You fell, not me. Bellatrix was attacking you, not me." Remus sighs, and suddenly looks as old as he did the last time Sirius ever saw him. "You died, not me."
Sirius can feel his mind lashing out against this, because it's not true. It can't be true.
Remus is telling him it's true.
"How? Where am I, what is this?"
"Beyond the veil. It's memory, Sirius. Memory, that's all. We live on here as memories, products of the mind. What else is there? But you wouldn't let it. You wouldn't remember. Not James, not me."
Sirius feels the curse hit his chest again, remembers arching backwards. Spiralling stars, then nothingness.
"Then what are you?" he asks.
Remus smiles. "I'm just memories too. I'm in your head. I've said nothing you don't already know, somewhere. It's all in here, everything you need." He brushes a hand against Sirius' forehead.
"You're not real," Sirius breathes.
Remus laughs. "That doesn't matter."
"Wait. There must be others here. That have gone before." He is half afraid to voice his wish, it is so fragile. "Lily. James."
There's something in Remus' expression that gives Sirius hope. "What do you remember, Sirius?"
"Everything," Sirius murmurs, awed.
Grimmauld Place and Harry, Christmas time. Remus' house that summer. Swimming to shore, exhausted but incredibly alive. He skirts away from prison, there will be time enough for that later. War time and darkness, spies and secrets and spells. Harry's christening. His mind moves inexorably back to school, back to the dormitory and pranks and Charms essays and Firewhiskey.
"What do you remember?"
It's a Thursday afternoon, dinner's in about an hour. Sirius is sitting on his bed, leafing through a Transfiguration textbook. Peter – a dull throbbing thorn, even in memory – is mercifully elsewhere, detention. Remus is languidly writing an Astronomy essay, pausing to suck on his quill, deliberately, to wind Sirius up.
And any moment now – yes. James comes blowing in, hair a riot from Quidditch practice, broom swung over his shoulder and trampling mud all over the floor.
"Hex anyone yet today, Prongs?"
"Not yet, not yet my friend. The day is young, however," James replies with a wicked grin. Then his expression changes, and Sirius realises that James is really here, with him. "Sirius. Good of you to join us."
"I'm sorry, James," Sirius begins, and there is so much he is sorry for. "Harry- I wanted to stay, wanted to help him. He has so much to bear."
But James just shakes his head. "No need for apologies, old chap."
"Is Lily here?"
James checks his watch. "Yes, I think she's just downstairs."
And Sirius laughs, laughs at how simple this all is, in the end. James smiles. "The living and the dead, all here, just within a thought's reach."
Remus looks up at that, thoughtful. "I don't know when I'll be with you properly, my own self."
"Oh, I don't know." Sirius smiles suddenly. "I quite like you as a figment of my imagination, just for a while."
He looks at James, still unable to grasp that he has his friend back again. James rolls his eyes, but Sirius sees that he understands everything he's feeling right now.
"Oh, stop being a sentimental git, Merlin! Now come on, I'm sure we've got some Slytherins to terrorise before dinner."
Grief and memories fade, as times past are no longer important. Instead, the past has become the present, and it is time for Sirius to live the moments of his life all over again. And it goes like this.