Fic Title: There Were Ghosts
Characters: Remus Lupin, Sirius Black, Lily Evans Potter, James Potter
Critique: No Preference
Word Count: 3006
This is a one-shot that was written for the Writer's Duel at HarryPotterFanfiction.com. I had to use the words: Transfiguration, telly, Tiddlywinks, and timeturner so I fear that it sounds awkward with those words just thrown in there. The primary character is Remus. Sirius, Lily, and James are just side characters. Feel free to tear it apart if you want. I don't really mind what sort of critique I get as long as it's honest.
Remus sits late at night at the kitchen table of Grimmauld Place with a bitter cup of coffee to his left, a spoon lying haphazardly on the napkin beside it. Remus never did anything carelessly. He looks to his right and smiles at Sirius, who is sitting at his usual seat. He has no coffee, but on his face there is a lopsided grin that is so familiar yet so foreign to Remus. No one from the Order ever sits at Sirius’ seat.
Remus takes a sip of coffee, and doesn’t notice it burning as he downs the rest in four quick gulps. He never did like coffee. But Sirius loved his coffee: always black with two sugars. Remus finds himself trying to fill the empty silences of Grimmauld Place by picking up Sirius’ habits and pretending as though he’s always done those things, as if they were a part of him. But in reality, these habits are not his own. In reality, Remus no longer dwells.
He hastily forgets that he always places his shoes neatly beside his bed and his coat on a hanger in the closet and instead, leaves his coat hanging on Sirius’ bed post before he kicks his shoes across the floor.
He watches Harry as he struggles with a certain paragraph of a particularly difficult Transfiguration essay for McGonagall. And he looks at the way James and Lily watch Harry and wishes that the tone of his gaze was the same as theirs. He helps Harry, pointing out things that he could add to make the essay the required length, and then offers to play a game of Wizarding chess when he finishes. Remus sees James whispering to Lily about moves that Harry should have made or could make in order to beat Remus. And he wishes that Harry was playing Ron or someone else, so that he could be the one whispering hints in Harry’s ear.
On long nights, he walks around Sirius’ bedroom in a drunken stupor, clutching a bottle of Ogden’s Fire Whiskey in his hand. He tries to drown his memories in the bottle of whiskey. But instead, as he talks to Sirius, James, and Lily through fragmented sentences and half-sobs, it all comes back so vividly. And they smile understandingly and that’s all they ever do…smile, as though they aren’t troubled by the wreckage of their lives. The bottle slips from his awkward fingers, shattering, and Remus is the only one left to pick up the pieces.
“Come on, Moony! Come on! Wakeupwakeupwakeup!” Sirius bounced on Remus’ bed, shaking him awake.
“Sleeping,” Remus murmured, ignoring the heavy weight of Sirius on top of him.
“But it’s Christmas!” Sirius exclaimed, straddling Remus’ waist. “Christmas! Time for fun and candy and pudding and…PRESENTS!”
“There won’t be a Sirius to open any bloody presents if he doesn’t shut the bloody hell up,” James muttered angrily, his head buried beneath his pillow as he tried to block Sirius’ excitement out, at least until seven thirty.
“But it’s Christmas, Prongs,” Sirius pouted. He padded over to James’ bed and sat down on the edge of his mattress.
James half-heartedly shoved Sirius off his bed and glared irritably at him from beneath his pillow. “It’s not even light out, Padfoot.”
“Well,” Sirius started, pulling himself up off the floor, “I have a lot of plans for today! The earlier we start, the earlier we can start on my plans!”
Remus groaned from his bed. “There’ll be plenty of—” Remus stifled a yawn and burrowed himself further into the comforts of his duvet. “Plenty of time for fun,” he murmured sleepily. “After the sun rises…”
“No, no, no!” Sirius clambered back on top of Remus. “We need to start now. We’ll never finish my brilliantly amazing plans by the end of the day if we start after dawn! Come on, Moony, wake up, please?” Remus muttered indignantly and sat up quickly. Sirius tumbled off of him in surprise. But immediately, he popped his head over Remus’ mattress to stare hopefully up at him.
“Does that mean you’ll get up now?”
“Yes,” Remus cried. “For the love of Merlin, yes!”
Sirius grinned lopsidedly and went back over to James’ bed. “Prongs, Prongs…Moony says he’ll get up. Won’t you get up, for me?”
James uncovered his head and gasped in surprise at the close proximity of Sirius, whose nose was barely touching his. If Sirius couldn’t get James out of bed by annoying him, he’d try the puppy dog look. The puppy dog look always made James cave. Sirius could see James’ resolve crumbling.
“Fine,” James growled. Sirius laughed victoriously and rushed over to Peter’s bed to wake him up. “Ruining my bloody sleep to open stupid presents at the crack of dawn. Mad, I tell you, absolutely nutters!” James muttered as he pulled himself from bed.
“Oi, Wormtail, wake up!” Sirius was kneeling at the end of Peter’s bed, eyeing him for any movement.
“Mnff-uh,” Peter mumbled, and shifted slightly in his sleep. Sirius took the opportunity to pounce on him.
“Argh!” Peter cried, jumping from his bed and crashing into his night table. An empty glass toppled to the floor and shattered.
Remus sighed and rubbed his eyes with the heel of his hands before grabbing his wand. “Reparo.”
“Thanks,” Peter said, yawning. Remus nodded slightly and glared reproachfully at Sirius.
“Wasn’t my fault,” he said. “But now that everyone’s up…presents!”
James rolled his eyes but crawled to the end of his bed to stare happily at the pile of gifts at the foot of his bed.With half a chocolate frog hanging out of his mouth, Sirius tore off the paper to Peter’s gift and stared at it.
“Wassit?” he asked, chewing the frog thoughtfully.
“Tiddlywinks,” responded Peter with a careless shrug as he pulled the knitted red sweater his mum made him from its box.
Sirius coughed and spat out a frog leg. “Excuse me?” he spluttered.
“Tiddlywinks,” Peter repeated. Sirius stared at him, dumbfounded.
“It’s a Muggle game, Padfoot. I’ll explain it to you later,” Remus replied, chucking a pair of socks at him. “Socks again.”
“Doesn’t your grandmother ever give you anything besides socks?” James asked, looking at the mustard-yellow socks with disgust. “Or, at least, does she ever give you decent coloured socks?”
“Afraid not. Ugly, vomit-coloured socks for Christmas and my birthday every year.”
“Pity,” said James. “Do you ever wear them? Can’t imagine anyone being able to see them under your robes and trousers and all. But still, what if you were caught in some awkward position where you had to reveal your ugly socks? The shame…What do you do with these socks anyway?”
“I’m rather fond of vomit-coloured socks,” Sirius said absently, as he picked up the mustard-yellow socks and stared at them intently. James looked at him in disgust. “As long as they’re stuck to a Slytherin’s head like floppy dogs ears,” he amended. James snickered while he opened a present from Remus.
“Oh,” he said. “That’s where the socks go.” He pulled a pair of violent violet socks from the paper.
Remus smiled. “Prat,” he said affectionately. “There’s another present from me in your pile somewhere.” James shifted presents around and finally found Remus’ second present. He unwrapped it carefully to reveal Honeydukes’ finest chocolate.
“Thanks, Moony. Chocolate and socks…the best presents a man can get.”
“You’re hardly a man,” Peter retorted.
“Far from it,” Sirius snorted, snatching the violet socks from James. “This colour would suit Snivellus perfectly, don’t you think?”
Remus wonders why his happiest memories hurt so much more than his nightmares.
“Because life was so much simpler back then. We were young, naïve, and oblivious to the war raging at our front door. We were happy back then, trusting of friends,” James painfully reminds him.
Remus looks at James, who is sprawled out on Sirius’ bed, the mirror image of his twenty-one year old self. He hasn’t changed.
Compared to youthful James, Sirius looks old and worn-out, like a toy used far too many times. He’s seen too much in too few years with death and guilt gnawing away at him until he’s only a former shell of himself. He’s never recovered.
“The mistakes that we made were so simple and yet they led to such a disaster,” Remus says, picking the lint off his sweater. “I wish that I had a timeturner, so that I could go back in time and fix everything. It wouldn’t hurt so badly to live.”
“You can’t change our past, Remus,” Lily says. “The world would be different. It would be so foreign to you, to us, that we would feel awkward, seeing so much and being able to do so little. If we could turn back time, Remus, don’t think we wouldn’t; James and I would give up forever to just be able to be there as Harry grew up. But we can’t, and we’ve accepted that. You need to accept that we’re gone, Remus. You need to move on.”
“I can’t move on!” Remus cries. “Why did you have to die?” He reaches over to grab James’ hand and finds that his own hand grabs nothing but air. “There are some things worth dying for,” James says. He is now standing beside Lily, his arm around her waist. It’s a casual touch that Remus has seen too many times and still, not enough.
“Was it worth it?” Remus asks. But James is not there to answer, and Lily is gone too. Sirius is sitting dolefully on his bed, staring at Remus mournfully. And Remus is the only one left standing.
“Remus, Remus, wake up!” Sirius shook Remus awake.
“What is it?” he asked, rubbing his eyes with the heel of his hands.
“It’s Lily. She’s in labour. Peter just flooed.”
Remus scrambled out of his chair quickly and shut off the telly. He followed Sirius to their fire and flooed to St. Mungo’s.
Peter paced outside Lily’s room and then stopped. He scuffed the toe of his shoe, and then began to bite his nails. He looked anxiously from Lily’s room to the door of the maternity ward and sighed in relief as he spotted Remus and Sirius rushing towards him.
“It's about time!” he exclaimed nervously. “I thought James would wring my neck if you didn’t show up soon.”
“Well, we’re here now,” Sirius said hurriedly. “How’s Lily? Is the baby born yet? How much longer? Is it a boy or a girl?” Remus shook his head at Sirius. Even though Sirius was nearly twenty-two, he was still a hyperactive child at heart.
“Lily’s in labour; how do you think she is? The baby is not born yet. James says sometime soon, maybe. We don’t know if it’s a boy or girl yet because it hasn’t been born!” Peter replied exasperatedly.
“Right…right,” said Sirius, his voice a bit strained. “Sirius, why don’t you sit down?” offered Remus, motioning to the bench a little ways down the hall.
“No, that’s okay. I can stand.”
Remus shrugged and shuffled over to the bench and sat down, rubbing his eyes tiredly. Sirius began to pace. Time seemed to go infinitely slow. Tick, tick, and the seconds passed by. Shuffle, shuffle, Sirius still paced the floor. Tick, shuffle, tick, shuffle, tick, pause, tick. Muffled screams, followed by cries, and then the sound of James “whooping!” interrupted the familiar rhythm the three Marauders had become accustomed to for the past two hours.
James came out ten minutes later, glowing like the proud father he had just become.
“It’s a boy!” he exclaimed happily. He went to Sirius first, and hugged him tightly. Sirius ruffled James’ already messy black hair.
“Congratulations, mate.” Sirius was smiling from ear to ear. Remus wasn’t sure he had ever seen Sirius so happy before.
James hugged Remus next. “I’m glad you’re here,” he murmured. “I’m sure Lily is too.” James knew that the full moon was only a few days away.
Remus smiled wanly. “What’s his name?”
“Harry,” James beamed. “Harry James Potter.”
“That’s a wonderful name,” Peter said as he congratulated James. “Can we see Lily and the baby?”
“Lily would love to see you,” James replied. He pushed the door to her room open to reveal the weary but happy mother and their healthy son.
“Congratulation, Lils,” Sirius said, swooping down to kiss her forehead.
“I’m so happy for you,” Remus says, smiling at her and squeezing her hand.
“Congratulations,” Peter said, kissing Lily on the cheek.
“Thank you,” said Lily, smiling. “Would you like to hold Harry, Sirius?”
Sirius grinned excitedly and picked up baby Harry. “Hullo, Harry. I’m your godfather.” Harry looked up at Sirius with blank green eyes. “He has your eyes, Lily.”
“I know,” she replied, looking tenderly at James. “But he’s going to have James’ unruly hair when he grows up.”
“S’not that bad,” James muttered, trying desperately to flatten his hair.
Sirius snorted with laughter. “Keep telling yourself that, mate. Here, Remus, why don’t you hold Harry?” Sirius passed the bundle over to Remus to hold. Immediately, Harry began to cry.
A look of panic flickered across Remus’ face. “He doesn’t want me to hold him,” Remus stated bluntly. Sirius rolled his eyes and took Harry back. Lily smiled fondly at no one in particular.
“Can I hold him?” Peter asked. Sirius nodded and handed Harry over to him.
“Hello, Harry. I’m Peter,” he said. Harry cooed and clenched his tiny fists, yawning. “Little tyke’s tired.” He handed Lily her child.
James kissed Lily’s hair. “He’s beautiful, isn’t he?” He wore a dazed kind of look as though he weren’t sure this was real and that he was actually a father.
“That he is,” Sirius replied. “Still can’t believe you’re a dad now.”
“I know,” said Peter. “Who would’ve imagined that Prongs, of all people, would be a father? It’s hard to imagine.”
James snorted indignantly. Though he had matured since Hogwarts, he still carried his youthful grace and confidence, and his sense of humour.
“I hate to do this,” Peter started, “but I’ve got to go. Important business meeting—I can’t be late.”
“I hated her, you know,” Sirius says one night, his voice is hoarse and empty, and threaded with bitterness he has not let go of yet. Remus nurses a bottle of fire whiskey, with his head resting lazily on the kitchen table.
“Lily. Back at Hogwarts, I could never talk to James once he had her. He was always too busy making plans with her or doing Head duties with her. And then—when they got married, I barely saw him. She caused a rift in our friendship. But, but I don’t hate her anymore,” Sirius murmurs. “I love her, and I love James. It was just so bloody hard. I was so used to talking to James, you know? But he had Lily for that, and I felt so alone.”
“You could’ve talked to me,” Remus replies slowly.
Sirius pauses and looks at Remus gravely. “I couldn’t. The last year at Hogwarts…and then after, I felt as though I didn’t know you. I felt as though you still didn’t trust me, like you hadn’t forgiven me for the stunt I pulled in sixth year. I was afraid of you,” he says, casting his eyes downward to avoid Remus’ gaze.
“Sirius…” The question had been on the tip of his tongue for years. “Why did you assume I was the spy? D-do you think that maybe, if you trusted me and switched with me instead of Peter…that James and Lily would be alive now? Do you think that if we had trusted one another…you’d be alive too and I wouldn’t be so damn depressed all the time?”
“Unhappiness does not happen from the way things are, but rather from a difference in the way things are and the way we believe they should be.”
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” Remus asks.
“Sirius?” Remus looks up to see Sirius rising from his chair.
“You’ll figure it out eventually,” Sirius says and smiles, reaching out to grasp Remus’ hand. Remus feels a light dance of fingertips on his hand and chokes back a sob.
“You aren’t…you aren’t leaving, are you?”
“‘Fraid so, mate.”
“You can’t, Sirius, you can’t. You didn’t answer my question yet. Why didn’t you trust me? I need to know,” Remus says desperately.
Sirius smiles grimly. “You’d be much happier not knowing, Remus, trust me. Don’t forget me,” he says as he flickers and fades like the waning moon at dawn.
And suddenly, Grimmauld Place is too big and too empty and Remus feels alone because James, Lily, and Sirius aren’t here for him to talk to anymore. He doesn’t know where they’ve gone, or why. But he knows that he’ll seem them again soon. Remus sobs and knocks the fire whiskey off the table. It falls with a crash. But this time, Remus doesn’t pick it up.