Standing On The Edge
"Sirius, have you seen the earrings that go with this dress? The green ones? I know I had them around here somewhere. James is taking me out tonight and he always said he liked the look of them, which must be true because he can never keep his hands off me when I'm wearing them." She laughed gaily, sharing the joke with her husband's best friend, inviting him to join in.
Only silence met her. Earrings forgotten, she looked up at him in concern. "Sirius? Are you alright?" He hadn't been quite right since he'd come here, since he'd left the living world for good. Most of the time he was like everyone else where they were now, happy and carefree and content with his place in life... but he wasn't at peace. Something in him still yearned to return to the life he'd had before, something that not even the boundless joys of this place could ease in him. Something that drove him, time after time, to peer through the veil at the people he'd left behind.
Lily stepped over to join him, wrapping her arm around Sirius's waist and leaning her head against his shoulder. Through the ephemeral shifts of the wisping veil, she could just make out two figures. Remus and Harry. Always Remus and Harry.
Sirius stared at them intently, watching as Remus spoke to his godson. Watched as Remus put a hand on Harry's shoulder and said something that made him smile. Watched as Remus smiled in return, years lifting off his face as his eyes crinkled up in humour. Watched as Remus, the last Marauder, did all the things a godfather does -- a father does. Watched as he taught, comforted, and consoled the boy he'd failed. Watched as the weight on the boy's shoulders lifted under Remus's hand, and the new lightness in his eyes made Remus redden, pleased to have been able to help. Watched as the simple gratitude of a teenage boy soothed years of tension and loneliness, a greater balm to a wounded soul than any magic or medicine.
"Look at them. Both of them, so starved for affection that the slightest act of kindness can undo them more thoroughly than any act of violence. Harry, who should have grown up surrounded by laughter and loved ones, but had his very childhood stolen from him. Doomed to face off against the greatest evil the Magical World's ever known in a battle that may very well kill him. And Remus... He's been alone too long, Lily, shunned by the world he fights to protect. Chased and driven into isolation by the attitudes of others and his own demons, until he's forgotten what it ever felt like to belong." He turned despondent eyes to the woman beside him. "I promised him he'd never be alone again. That he'd never suffer through another full moon on his own, searching for the pack he lost. I promised him that Padfoot would always be there to run by his side."
Lily understood, for hadn't she as a mother made many such promises to her baby boy? Through the shifting curtain of the veil, she watched as Harry laughed and left with his two school friends. She felt a pang in her heart that she'd missed so much of his life. The pang only intensified as she saw what her son did not -- Remus's smile fading sadly as he faced his empty room.
Sirius sighed. "I wish I could be with him again. Just once. Just to let him know he's not alone. Especially on a night like this." For, of course, it was to be a full moon that night and Remus looked more haggard than he usually did in reaction.
"Well, why don't you?" A third voice pointed out reasonably, and they both turned to look at its owner in surprise.
"James," Lily frowned disapprovingly, "you know that's not allowed."
James shrugged, quirking the unrepentant grin that had won him her heart when they were young. "We're not allowed to interfere in the lives of people," he said, stressing the last word, "but Moony's not a person now, is he?"
And Sirius with the ease of long practice in many a masterful prank, undimmed by the years of separation in between, caught on immediately and started grinning himself as the idea took merit. He and James locked eyes, both of them knowing what the other was thinking. Time fell away meaningless, leaving them feeling like little kids again as they began to plan.
Remus sighed as he locked himself into the Shrieking Shack and activated the wards that had been laid into the wood when he was a child. While the Wolfsbane potion Severus brewed eased the pain of his transformations and made him little more dangerous than a real wolf, it was still safer to lock himself away than risk the wild animal he became harming any of his students.
Looking around the deceptively dilapidated building shouldn't have filled him with such melancholy. Nothing had really changed, not really. He'd spent far more years chained up inside this or another cell than he'd ever spent roaming free with his friends. With his pack.
Sure, there'd been that little while when he'd thought things might be different. When he'd held out hope that he and Sirius and Harry could become the family they all needed -- the family they should have been all along. It was true that for a while there he'd looked forward to the full moon. Looked forward to the times when he could run and play side-by-side with a large black dog. Dreamed of a time when Moony and Padfoot would rule the night together, free and untouched by the concerns of the world around them.
Yet it was not to be, and a part of him had always known that. A part of him, the part used to disappointment and loneliness, had known it wouldn't last. That part had been preparing him for this night ever since Remus had first learned of Sirius's escape from Azkaban. So it was nothing new that he should find himself alone once again. A not unexpected fact of life he'd survived before and would survive again.
But as the skin on his back split and his bones ground against one another as they shifted, Remus could not help wishing the dream were real.
Minutes later, the wolf that stood shaking in Remus's place had none of those thoughts. His was a simpler existence, unaware of the troubles that plagued his human side. Eat, fight, mate, and sleep were the only concepts he had any interest in. But as the pain of his awakening subsided and he got the chance to look around his lair, he knew something was not right.
Where was his pack? The strange creatures he'd befriended and chosen to spend his life with, playing with and protecting each other and their territory? The stag, the rat, and the dog? They should have been here when he awoke, should have met him with happy greetings and offered comfort. Yet even as he thought that, he realised it had been a very long time since he'd seen them. Were they dead? Lost?
Fearing the worst but refusing to accept his pack would abandon him, the wolf sat back on his haunches and let loose the loudest howl he could. His call was perfectly pitched to travel for miles without the slightest echo, lest his missing packmates be unable to follow the sound back to him. He listened attentively for long, agonizing minutes afterward, straining to hear any answer.
Nothing. Nothing but silence, deep and endless. Moony hung his head, a mournful whine escaping his throat as he forced himself to accept the inevitable. His pack was gone, and he was alone.
Something scratched at the door.
Whirling, the wolf leapt to his feet to face the source of the noise. They'd come back to him! Hope exploded within him, but even as it did he struggled to check the emotion. His pack had been gone a long time, and they'd surely have answered him if they'd heard his call. But if this were an intruder, trespassing on his territory and challenging his authority... maybe even the one responsible for taking away his pack... well then it was in for a fight! Moony widened his stance, bracing his powerful body to meet whomever or whatever came through that door. His lips curled back over his teeth, giving him both a more menacing appearance and allowing him to better catch the scents on the air. He was ready.
The door swung open, and a black blur barreled into him before his brain even had a chance to register that it knew this creature. Instinctively, he rolled and pinned his attacker, prepared to clamp his teeth unto its neck and teach the insolent pup a lesson it would not soon forget.
He was therefore highly surprised when his attacker responded not by biting at him, but dragged a rough tongue up the side of his face.
Rearing in shock, he pulled back far enough to see. The familiar shape of the dog grinning at him clicked in his mind at the same instant as the well-loved scent did. Wuffling in joy, Moony nuzzled and nipped at Padfoot in ecstatic welcome.
Overcome by euphoria, all his worries of before forgotten, the wolf wasn't paying attention to his surroundings until he felt something nudge him in the back. Momentarily confused because Padfoot was still pinned under his weight, Moony didn't react to the nudging until he felt it again. Then he lifted his head to meet the doeful brown gaze of a stag.
Prongs! Excited all over again, the wolf bounded off the dog to go rub noses with the deer. As long as it had been since he'd played with Padfoot, it felt like ages since he'd last seen the stag. And if Prongs was here... he peered around the buck's bulk, looking expectantly for the rat that would complete his little pack.
He whined plaintively, unable to see the small creature in its customary position atop of Prongs's back. Wormtail?
Padfoot growled threateningly in response to his summons, but Prongs lowered his great head full of antlers in sorrow. Moony understood. Wormtail would not be joining them, not ever again.
Giving himself a shake to clear the unhappy thoughts that evoked, Moony yipped playfully and led the way out of his lair. Padfoot and Prongs followed willingly, quickly catching up to the silver wolf that beckoned them to come play in the forest.
Wormtail may not have been with them anymore, but he had Padfoot and Prongs and Moony was not about to weep for the memories of times long gone. There was no point clinging to a past he could not change. Rather he had a chance to relive the good times of his pack's heyday, and he was not about to let it pass him by. He didn't stop to think about how they'd come just when he needed them most. He didn't stop to wonder where they'd been on all those other nights. He didn't stop to ask if they'd be around the next time the moon rose full in the sky. He was just glad they were here now, and that he wasn't alone anymore.
They were his pack, his friends, and his family. He would treasure every moment he had with them.