The end of a sentence should always be obvious to the person who's saying it. "I love" always comes before "you". "I hate" comes before the same thing. "I miss". "I need". "I want". You should be able to hear yourself say those things, and know what comes next.
Ginny held the duster in one hand and a bag of sweets in the other. The only good thing about having to clean - and clean for real, rather than watch her brothers and mother make a great racket - was that she found so many interesting things and maybe got to keep them. Now that the majority of the house was 'safe' - a relative term, but safe enough - the actual business of cleaning was less interesting but still necessary. The attic was one of the few places left with any junk in it.
Junk for sure, Ginny thought, nearly tripping over a box full of broken quills as she went up the stairs, and swore softly. The house, so quiet lately, all but gobbled up sound. Simply walking up a flight of stairs seemed to require silence.
Everything they'd found in the past year (that wasn't dangerous but still served no discernable purpose) had been stuffed up in the attic, under the garrets. Piles upon piles of old newspapers dating back to Sirius' grandfather's day, faded posters for Quail's cure-all jelly, broken cups. She didn't know why they kept such broken treasures. Perhaps it was because they were an extended family of packrats; maybe each thing that might carry a memory with it was just viewed as too precious to chuck.
Instead, they sat, collecting dust, in case anyone remembered.
Ginny sat down, and dragged a box to her. She pulled the first few things out, and started sorting them into various piles - semi-interesting things, un-interesting things, and things they might make money with. The newspapers, perhaps they could sell back, make a few coins. The rest--
"Is someone there?" she heard a quiet voice ask into the dim room. Ginny froze, then carefully quieted her shoes, the floorboards beneath her. She was sitting in a dank little corner, under the roof, so whoever was up here probably wouldn't see her unless they were really looking. Peering out from behind a grotesque looking wooden trunk, she finally made out the other person in the attic. It was Remus Lupin.
Ginny hadn't even known he was back at Grimmauld Place. Home after checking up on Harry, she supposed; and bit her lip.
"I could have sworn I heard something just--" and Remus paused, turning every which way. She could barely make out his figure, the attic was so dark. It was a little funny, Remus talking to himself in the dark. She'd never pictured him as being quite that absent minded before. "No? I guess not."
Ginny stretched, squinting, trying to make out more. Remus was facing a pile of - surprise, surprise - more boxes, but he didn't seem to be looking through them. He was pacing back and forth, making a racket with the rickety floor.
"Well, I can't hear anything," Remus muttered, sitting down on the floor again. He crossed his legs, leaning against a stack of something or other. Ginny fought the urge to sneeze. "Whatever it was, it's your imagination," Remus said.
"No, I'm not checking," he mumbled, and then Remus said something else, too quiet for Ginny to hear. She closed her eyes, wishing for an Extendable Ear so she could properly figure out what was going on - when Remus said, "honestly, Sirius, you've never been afraid of anything in your life. Why have you started now?"
At first she thought Remus was maybe talking to himself, and then - more desperately - to a picture, but when she saw Remus out her window, hurrying off down the street, Ginny crept back upstairs and searched the corner that Remus had been standing in. No portrait. Nothing to describe why he was talking to a dead person in a stuffy little attic where no one was likely to find him.
"Are you all right, Ginny?" Hermione asked. "You look a bit tired."
"I'm fine," she replied. "How's the game going?"
She and Ron were playing Exploding Snap. Hermione scowled as Ron exploded another of her cards, and Ron chuckled. "She's getting a bit better."
"A bit! I won the last three rounds if you must--"
Ginny slipped back out of the kitchen.
She had seen things that weren't there herself, so the idea that perhaps Remus was possessed did, of course, cross her mind. She read her textbooks, and then Hermione's, and even wrote Luna a vague question about it, asking her to check her father's books just in case there was something in one of those soppy magazines. Luna wrote three pages, two about her vegetable patch and one about the idea that ghouls can suck your soul out quicker than a Dementor, and then two lines that were an apology; never had she heard of invisible ghosts, not of actual people who were once alive and now weren't.
Ginny sighed, sorting the rest of the mail. Two postcards from her mum, both saying she hoped they were staying out of trouble and that she missed them terribly. One from Bill. A long letter for Ron and a slightly shorter one for Hermione - those would be from Harry, of course.
The thing was, Remus seemed perfectly normal. "Hello, Ginny," he said at breakfast, and courteously handed her a bowl of porridge. He told Ron off for not being more careful with his potion making kit, rapidly went through all the notes that Dumbledore left the Order, sent three owls off with Fawkes, and disappeared all in the space of ten minutes. He seemed perfectly fine, perfectly aware.
That was probably the scariest part, seeing Remus over the next few days without any change in behaviour at all. He was staying at Grimmauld Place, too, so she saw quite a bit of him. When he disappeared at breakfast, she couldn't help it. She went up to the attic. She went up to the attic, and saw Remus Lupin wiping his eyes. It was probably from the dust. There was a lot of dust.
She didn't stay.
"Ginny," her mother said, surprised, "Where were you?"
No one lowered their voice in the front hall anymore. You could ring the doorbell and still Old Mrs. Black's portrait was quiet, dormant, asleep. Once, when Fred had come to visit, he'd pulled the drapes open just an inch to peer behind them - with her son and Kreacher dead, it seemed Mrs. Black had abandoned her speech, left them be. Perhaps knowing Sirius was dead, while just a portrait, brought her some measure of peace.
She hopped off the last step, landed right in front of her mother, who was waving an enchanted feather duster around. Ginny sneezed. "No where," and Ginny ducked under her mother's arm to try to escape to the relative peace of the back garden.
No such luck; her mother grabbed her robes, halting her progress. Ginny couldn't wait until she left the house again, left them to put herself in danger. "Where. Were. You." Her mother's teeth were clenched.
"Nowhere," Ginny protested, and broke free - she certainly wasn't going to tell her mother that she'd been watching the wizard currently in charge of keeping them safe talk to his dead friend. She wasn't going to tell on Remus - she wanted to keep him safe. No one else would understand, she was sure, least of all her mother, who hadn't really wanted Sirius around even when he was alive. How awful would it be for Remus, who wanted Sirius back so badly he was seeing things, to have to deal with her mother insinuating 'you're better off without him'?
Her mother glared at her. Ginny repeated, "I wasn't doing anything," and then she said, "I was reading," with a hopeful smile.
Her mother's face cleared, and she beamed. "Oh, Ginny, I'm sorry." She hugged Ginny. "It's just dealing with those brothers of yours for so many years, it makes me suspicious - and then, it's not safe now, you know that--"
Ginny patted her mother on the back, and then moved into the kitchen to brew a pot of tea. She went to put the whole pot on a tray, then paused; she filled a cup instead, with two sugars and milk, the way she saw Sirius make it once, early in the morning, when him and Professor Lupin hadn't known anyone else was up. "Ginny," her mother told her absently, "you don't like sugar and milk."
"Oh." Ginny tried to look surprised, then shrugged. "It's all right this way. I'm getting a taste for it. Bye mum."
None of it spilled on the way up the stairs, and she was glad. She wanted a cup of tea, but when Remus took it with a brief nod as thanks, she relinquished it gladly.
to die once is death enough,
be sure, for any life-time.
Back before Ginny was possessed by a wizard of unspeakable evil, she didn't really know how to lie very well. When she did something naughty her mother always knew, could smell it on her clothes like the faint odor of dungbombs. After she was possessed by a wizard of unspeakable evil, Ginny found she could lie. It was possible the two things were not connected at all; twelve is a very important age in a young witch's life, with change happening daily.
"Don't be stupid," Remus said sharply. Ginny held her breath, and then relaxed as Remus said, "of course we're watching him." Her footsteps fell more loudly as she heard Remus pace around. Her relaxation lasted just until Remus huffed, "we wouldn't leave Harry alone."
Ginny froze. "No," and then a long pause. "No," Remus said, more softly. "Yes, of course."
She made a racket going down the stairs.
At tea that day, the few Order members visiting - Kingsley and Tonks found time to sit themselves down - and the Weasleys were a quiet group. Ginny heard people saying things like, "how did it go last night?" and "at least they're admitting--" and the words ran together, sounds making sense subconsciously, but registering as vowels and consonants from another language, maybe Goblin.
"How was Harry today?" broke through her thoughts. She dropped her spoon, looked up to see that Remus was the one to ask it. She saw his food, cold and congealed, she saw his hands limp on the table cloth, and she saw him not quite meeting anyone's eyes.
Tonks told him, "good," and then, "better. I saw that cousin of his."
Remus smiled briefly. "Little bastard, he is," and then, "I'd best get back to my chores upstairs," and then, "Ginny, would you mind helping me?"
It was funny to know what Voldemort was like as a teenager, barely older than she and Harry now. He really did seem to be such a nice person.
"So you know my little secret?" Remus asked her as they mounted the stairs together. Ginny tripped over her shoe, and Remus reached around to steady her, cool fingers on her elbow. "It's all right, Ginny," Remus said, and halted, stumbling in the dark to light a candle. "Sirius has already died twice to me. I don't think he can manage a third."
"Oh," Ginny said softly, and swallowed. "I, uh, where is he?"
"He's behind you." Remus's voice was wry, full of a little bit of humor, the voice he liked to use when explaining something in the classroom he thought they'd like. The voice was also a little bit veiled, since Ginny didn't get it, was something else that was a part of the adult world she only had one foot in. Perhaps this was actually a veil on the adult world she was already close to stepping beyond, that feeling of having fewer and fewer people in on the joke. "He sneaks up on me all the time."
Ginny turned around, slowly, to stare at a poster of a Quidditch Team that was disbanded in 1974 permanently. Someone had had it signed; the players, probably eager to fly around the picture at one point, were sitting still. The candle made them look more alive than they actually were, since the flickering gave them the appearance of motion even when they weren't. Ginny knew that Muggle photographs didn't move, and wondered if that was how a Muggle would see wizarding photos, like flickering candles, surreal and unbelievable. She wanted to poke the picture just to make something move in the corner where Sirius was supposed to be sitting.
"Go on," Remus said, impatient. Ginny started. He added, "say hello."
It was obvious Remus wasn't reprimanding her; he was only ever that impatient with Sirius. Once last year, going upstairs to her room, Ginny had heard the two of them having a bit of a row through a half-open door - it was the first time she'd ever heard Remus lose his patience. It was one of the most obvious ways to tell that Remus was fond of him.
Ginny stared at the Quidditch poster, squinted her eyes. She finally murmured, "Remus, I'm, I'm sorry," and she stepped towards him, where he was already making himself comfortable on a little stool. Her sock was falling down. She put a hand on his knee, and felt the cold bone. "I'm sorry," she repeated, and then, "I don't see him."
Remus looked from the floorboards to Ginny, and back again. "You don't? But he's--" and Remus blinked, opened his mouth, closed it again. "Oh," he said quietly, and then, "well, why can I see him?"
"I don't know," Ginny replied softly. She squeezed his knee. Adults weren't supposed to need helping, certainly not teachers that could take on Voldemort, see their best friend die without crying. She added, "maybe it's some kind of, of magic, a link between. Um. you two."
Remus stood up; Ginny's arm fell. He smiled at her. It wasn't his usual kind smile, it was twisted somehow, aimed inward. "Thank you, Ginny," he mumbled, and looked at the place where he'd sworn Sirius Black's ghost had been. "But we both know it's something more mundane than that, don't we."
Ginny looked up at him, legs crossed and feeling a chill from the draft through the window. "We don't," but Remus replied,
"oh, we do," and then said, "I think we're fairly sure that it's just me cracking up."
Ginny sat with him for over an hour, her watch told her. Remus gave her some chocolate, and said more than once that she'd best get downstairs. Each time he tried to coax her into going she'd counter with the fact that if she went downstairs she'd have to do something boring and messy. He finally handed her a stack of old children's comics to read, and she turned the pages, sneezing each time.
The comics couldn't have been from the Black family; they must have been something else someone was storing up here against decay and ruin. Boxes and boxes of things, brought from other places and kept in the Black Manor, other people's junk. Perhaps they were Sirius's comics, saved for so many years by Remus himself. Maybe they were just junk.
"Are they any good?" Remus asked the wall. Ginny opened her mouth, but already, Remus's head tilted, and he quirked his mouth. "Well, that's good to know."
Ginny hesitated, then, "what did he say?"
"That they beat sitting here moping." Remus shrugged. "I suppose that's what he thinks I'm doing. Moping because I've gone funny in the head over--" and he paused, whether to hear Sirius or just because he refused to continue the sentence, Ginny didn't know. Remus finally said, "I have not always been funny in the head," and then he sighed.
"You're not moping," Ginny told him, putting the comic down. "You're thinking. They're two different things."
Remus didn't have to listen to an inaudible voice to give his answer. "He wouldn't say so."
Ginny was already getting ready to go downstairs for tea, the low murmuring beside her dying off slowly, embers of a fire of a voice. Remus's voice was always cracked and raspy. She stood, stretched slowly, and glanced at her watch - her mother would come looking any minute now - when Remus stood up, too, and raised his voice. "I don't want to take two steps back," Remus told the air, irritated.
Dust flew off the little garrett windowsill and when he waved his hand through the air, Ginny could see the particles swirled up, foggy and grey. "That's stupid," he added, and then a pause, and then, "no, you don't have to."
Ginny sat back down, on a tin trunk that advertised to be the perfect holding place for a troll (there was a flier spell-o-taped to the outside of the lid proclaiming this; she hadn't opened it in case there really was a troll inside) and didn't make any noise.
"Well, all right," Remus finally said, grudgingly. "In Boggle-slap, you have to." After a moment, Remus glanced over at Ginny. "oh, right, of course, she wouldn't know - it's a game that Harry's father made up. it was this utterly ridiculous thing that involved charming most of the flagstones in the courtyard before breakfast and then watching all the first years step on them. To get across you had to know the precise order of steps to take. The first was always, three forward, two back."
Remus glanced over to the corner again, and his face crunched up.
"That's not fair. He didn't do it to be funny." A pause, and Remus looked angry. "All right, maybe he did." Another pause, and then Remus put a hand over his eyes. "Well, it not's funny now."
must the book end, as you would end it
She still couldn't believe that her Tom was responsible for the death of a Muggle-born witch while he was still in school, while he was younger than Fred and George.
"It's a funny thing, Ginny. People are capable of horrible things at sixteen years old," Remus said to her while they were dusting the mantle. "It only sometimes makes them horrible people."
She was so surprised she dropped her dust rag; Remus couldn't possibly have known what she was thinking about. Tom wasn't in every thought she had; he'd faded and she'd pushed him out of her mind. "It's possible," she started to say softly, picking up her rag, but then stopped; Remus was shaking his head.
"It's not possible, not really," he told her. "I know that. There was a pause, and then, "yes, well, you always *were* the optimistic one." Remus shook his head, rolled his eyes at Ginny. "Sirius wants you to know that he did something very awful when he was sixteen, and he turned out all right."
Remus nodded. "He did. But we've all done horrible things." He stared off into the distance. "It comes with the territory." His eyes swivelled to hers, suddenly, opened his mouth to speak, and then closed it. A pause. "He says that if he'd had his way, things would have turned out differently, but you can't write your own ending." Remus snorted, and leaned heavily on the wall, hand to his forehead. Ginny wasn't quite sure if he was angry or laughing. He added, "Sirius did hate his cousin, you know."
your tearful music
Ginny felt the tears on her face, rather than in her eyes; her cheeks were wet, she was obviously crying, but only her chest and her skin knew it. Her eyes were numb. One streaked down, and her lips were wet. Remus continued to watch her. "It's hard," he said.
"I'm so, I'm sorry," she mumbled, because no one deserved the regrets and bad feelings, the only things that Remus had in abundance. His face was serene, looking slightly over her shoulder.
"Don't cry," he said, too lightly, and the entire thing was surreal - she must be sad for something, here she was crying. Remus patted her hair, gently, and she couldn't help but lean into it; strange, that Remus was the one comforting her about his own loss. Ginny hiccupped; it was Remus she was sad for, and she leaned up and kissed him sloppy on the cheek.
Remus didn't move, he didn't tremble, just kept awkwardly patting her hair. Ginny swallowed, and felt stupid; she mumbled, "I'm sorry," again.
She had nothing to give him, yet; he didn't need her clumsy comfort.
Remus said, "Ginny," and then, "I'm not going to--" and then he sighed. "Sirius says," he said quietly, "that I should give you a proper kiss. He's a bit perverse."
Ginny was startled enough to look up, wipe her eyes. "Really?"
Remus smiled at her. "Maybe more than a little perverse. In school, he used to," and he looked away, blushed a little bit, "try to get us caught." Ginny sat, and watched Remus look at something she couldn't see. "He was good about trying to make sure that I, we, everyone he could, didn't feel like our lives were anything but normal."
Ginny wiped her eyes. "Did it work?"
Remus closed his eyes briefly, something Ginny had come to realize meant he was trying not to listen to the Sirius in front of him. After a moment he told her, "he says it did."
When Ginny was a little girl, she had a secret diary that talked back to her. She spilled out all of her secrets to it, everything she'd ever learned and lived up until that point in her life. The thing of it was, when Tom Riddle took her life it was like starting over, because everything that had come before was invalidated by his existence inside her thoughts.
"What was it like?" she repeated. Ginny's chin was resting in the palm of her hand, perched on a box. Her knees were always cold up here. "It was like, because he knew everything about me, I didn't have any past anymore."
Remus nodded, eyes glazed over, lurching a bit to one side. He wasn't needed for guard duty; it was too close to the full moon and he was barely functional. "Like you didn't have any past," he said, carefully. Ginny, having six older and wiser brothers, knew he was concentrating on not slurring. "cats have nine lives," he said.
"What?" Ginny reached a hand out to steady him, gently pressed his shoulder back against the wall.
"Nine lives, cats do," Remus said. He blinked several times. "No, you stupid git, cats, not wolves." He looked towards Ginny. "Sirius says I'm already living my fifth life," and then he closed his eyes. One hand came to cover his face.
Ginny watched Remus shake his head slowly, back and forth, back and forth. She asked in a small voice, "what were your other four?"
He didn't lift his head. "Before I was bitten," he started, "and then when James and Lily were still alive, and while Sirius was guilty, and then before the Department of Mysteries."
Ginny put a hand on his shoulder again; Remus didn't answer her, or Sirius, or whatever presences he felt. She had watched him argue with an invisible person long enough to know that Remus divided and compartmentalized his life in those strict terms, by those strict divisors. Each of them signalled another life that Remus had lost.
"You'd think," Remus mumbled, echoing Ginny's thoughts, "that eventually you'd run out of things to give up."
Ginny took a breath. She hadn't told anyone this, she even didn't dare think it around anyone. "I miss Tom sometimes."
She held her breath for a moment, a pause, but the world didn't cave in on itself because of her admission. Instead, Remus lifted his head and glared at the old brick. "Of course I miss you," he said, and then, "I don't know how to stop."
Ginny divided her life into before Tom and after Tom, but there were so many other small divisions that Tom had faded. Looking at the brickwork, Ginny suspected that for some people, that for Remus, even if those divisions faded, they were continually brought up by fresh wounds, just enough that they never stopped being like the mortar between one's life; the patchwork and foundation for everything, barriers and boundaries of events that scarred so deep they defined everything.
Remus sighed. "You're not real," he said to the brick, and then glanced at Ginny. His tone broke Ginny's heart. "Sirius, it doesn't matter." More than anything, she wished that she could hear Sirius too, be able to add her voice to his in assuring Remus that something did.
now, my solemn ones, leaving the rest unsaid
They say things like Muggle car wrecks happen so fast that, even an hour later, you can't quite remember what happened. The world shakes, there are loud sounds everywhere, but the actual visual memory is somehow lost. Such important moments shouldn't be lost like that, but they are.
Ginny couldn't remember Sirius's face when he fell into beyond the veil. She'd seen enough in life to suspect that Remus probably couldn't either. He probably remembered the feeling, not the sound.
Ginny held Remus's slick hand, squeezed it gently. He wasn't crying. He wasn't doing anything except smiling a little sardonically and shaking his head. After over two weeks, she still couldn't read the causes of his amusement or his sadness, could merely identify them. She felt desperate; squeezed his hand, tugged on it a bit. They had to get out of the attic before Sirius, gone, would consume them both. She hadn't even loved him and already his gap had overcome her life, in the faces of her friends, in the wariness of the adults around her. "Please," she whispered, "let's go."
"Just a minute."
Two weeks and she couldn't say anything; there was nothing she could say, this grief wasn't her own. It wasn't even Remus's grief, it was simply there, in the air, waiting for its time. Ginny could feel it, quietly waiting for Remus to be able to let it in. The sadness lingering on his skin now wasn't of Sirius's making, not fresh anyway - it was an old, comfortable thing.
Ginny moved closer to him, put her arm around his waist delicately, left it hovering in the air, barely touching his back. "I understand that, that funny things can haunt you." She gulped. Someone had to pull him back. "But."
Remus turned to her, slowly. Ginny left her sentence hanging - the fact was, the things that hung over you, refusing to leave, there was no logic to it, nothing could be said. Nothing would be said. Remus sighed, low, and she felt his body tense under her arm. "He used to joke about that. The first time around, I mean." Remus glanced over to the brick, and then back at Ginny. "He'd say, 'don't worry, if we die we'll just come back and haunt you'. Him and James. It was their little joke."
Ginny tightened her arm.
Remus shook his head. There weren't tears glistening on his cheeks, he wasn't sobbing. He was staring at the damned attic wall. That was the attic wall, and Sirius's ghost was not real. He might as well be talking to himself.
"You know, I always --" he started, and then trailed off, leaving the rest unsaid. No one was there to listen. Sirius wasn't coming back.