Pink Green Blue

Here at the End of All Things by Hourglass nomineenotsosoft

Rating: PG. Created: January 11th, 2006. Updated: January 11th, 2006. Read Reviews (21)
Disclaimer: Characters, the magical world, etc, is property of J. K. Rowling and Warner Bros, not the owner of this fic.

Here at the End of All Things

Summary: Here at the end of all things, she thinks absently, immediately confused at what brought about this fleeting, unprovoked musing.

Disclaimer: I don't own the lyrics or the characters.

Author's note: I sat down to write this with absolutely no plot in mind, and it developed of its own accord. I love it, and I hate it. It's rough around the edges, but maybe it has promise? I'm not sure, but I'm tired of tweaking it, so take it or leave it as it is. :)

&&&

Bones, sinking like stones,
All that we fought for,
And homes, places we've grown,
All of us are done for.
And we live in a beautiful world,
Yeah we do, yeah we do,
We live in a beautiful world.
Oh, all that I know,
There's nothing here to run from,
Cause, yeah, everybody here's got somebody to lean on.

[Don’t Panic, Coldplay]

&&&

It’s late June at Hogwarts, and the grounds are crowded with students lolling lazily about, enjoying the warm weather and stress-free jubilation that always accompanies the end of exams and the beginning of freedom. The grass is a vibrant green and soft and springy – perfect for flopping down on with a good book or good company. The rippling water of the lake is sparkling almost blindingly in the hot sun, and a few of the more adventurous souls have ventured into the shallow water with trouser legs rolled up or skirts dipping just barely into chilly wetness, skipping stones or splashing each other playfully.

Beneath the shade of a large beech tree, four boys are slumped unceremoniously on the ground, eyes only barely open, ties loose and shirts untucked, robes discarded entirely. One of the boys, a tall and lanky youth with sandy brown hair speckled liberally with gray, sits twirling a blade of grass idly between his fingers. Another, a boy with blond hair and a round, honest face, is making sport of closing first one eye and then the other, watching in amusement as his visual perception changes with each slow wink. The other two boys, both with black hair and lazily confident demeanors, are leaning back against adjacent sides of the large tree trunk, legs spread out in front of them, looks of speculative contemplation on their faces.

“So, I s’pose we’re really adults now,” says one of the boys with black hair, breaking the languid silence that has settled amongst them and sounding somewhat disappointed by this momentous proclamation.

His fellow black-haired companion laughs softly, and his eyes sparkle merrily behind round glasses. “But still young at heart, Padfoot. Never fear.”

“And still remarkably dim-witted, most like,” adds the boy with sandy hair, flicking the blade of grass from between his fingers and watching as it flutters to the ground, soon lost among its still-rooted peers. “Will you stop winking like a bloody idiot, Peter? You look deranged. It’s unsettling.”

Peter frowns and puts an end to his game – but not before casting a loathing glance in the general direction of his friend, one eye still closed. “I can’t help it, Moony. I’m bored.” His tenor voice lilts upward in what is almost – but not quite – a whine.

“You’d better enjoy it while it lasts, Pete,” advises the bespectacled boy, running a hand absently through his artlessly mussed hair. “Auror training starts in a month.”

Peter rolls his eyes at his friend’s forgetful nature. “Well, that’s all very well for you, James,” he says patiently, “as you are training to be an Auror. I, on the other hand, start my internship with the Department of Experimental Charms in a mere two weeks.”

James laughs at his oversight. “Right you are, Wormtail. My mistake.”

Moony – or Remus to all but the four boys sitting under the beech tree – looks noticeably uncomfortable at the offhand mention of careers and imminent internships. James casts a quick glance in his friend’s direction, clears his throat awkwardly, and falls silent, not sure what the proper protocol is in a situation of this delicate nature. He knows this is hard for Remus – being the only one among the four who doesn’t have any promising job prospects to boast of or look forward to. It’s unfair, and a dull rage surfaces within James at the mere thought of the injustice, but he’s learned by now that it’s a sore subject with Remus – one he prefers not to discuss at all, much to James’s consternation.

“We’ve got to cut Prongs some slack, Peter,” Remus says dryly. “His capacity for functioning thought of late has been limited almost exclusively to fantasies of Auror training and Lily Evans in her knickers.” Remus is smiling, his tone deceptively light, but James knows it’s all for show; his friend is eager for a subject change.

“Business as usual, then,” drawls Sirius, glancing sideways at James and adopting a studiously bored manner.

James deigns to answer this affront with a swift and dignified kick to Sirius’s ankle, which Sirius promptly returns. Before it can morph into an all-out wrestling match, however – not the first among these two – Remus clears his throat pointedly and says, “I s’pose the two of you are just itching to start fighting crime… vanquishing the dark forces… battling unseen evils older than the dawn of time… yadda yadda yadda – you get the point. Perhaps – if you’re lucky – you’ll even get to prevent an apocalypse or two.”

Sirius snorts with laughter, but James looks uncommonly thoughtful. “Apocalypse plural, Moony? What would that be, anyway?”

“Apocalypsi?” Remus scratches his head in perplexity. “No, that can’t be right. Apocalypses?”

“‘Apocalypsi’?” mocks Sirius with a scoff, wagging his head quickly back and forth to shake his shaggy, too-long hair out of laughing gray eyes. “And to think people – and by ‘people’ I mean ‘Lily Evans’, of course – claim you’re the smart one of us.”

“Oh, shove it, Sirius,” Remus says with a good-natured grin. “‘Apocalypses’ just doesn’t sound right. Too hard to say. Trips up the tongue. And for the record, Lily’s right: I am smarter than you three pillocks.”

“But ‘apocalypsi’ just doesn’t look right,” James muses pensively, choosing to ignore completely Remus’s insult. “This does present a pickle. Has anyone got a dictionary on them? Remus?”

“Now why would you assume I’d have a dictionary on me?”

James shrugs, unabashed. “It seemed like a safe assumption.”

Peter chooses this moment to let out a long, lingering yawn, a clear indication of the amount of interest he has invested in this entire symposium.

“Yep,” Sirius says with a conclusive nod of his head. “We’re adults now. Just listen to this scintillating, grown-up conversation. And wake up, Wormtail, I think we’ve graduated past naptime and diaper changes.” He shoots Peter an assessing, dubious look. “Some of us have, at least.”

Peter flashes Sirius a succinct but effective hand gesture.

James laughs and for a moment feels suspended in a timeless limbo, lazing about with his three best friends beneath the comfortable shade of their favorite tree, poking fun at each other and themselves as they’d always done, since they were eleven and clueless and laughably prepubescent. They are four grains of motionless sand locked in time’s perpetual hourglass, resting stationary and unawares as all the other tiny specks of dirt fall cascading past them into the black hole leading – where does it lead? – to the other side of the hourglass, he supposes – all sifting and shifting in their frenetic rush to reach the finish line – wherever or whatever that may be. He can picture it clearly.

And then the moment passes, and he feels weighted down by the force of an overwhelming, irreversible sense of finality. He’s falling through that hole now, packed in amongst thousands upon thousands of other grains of identical sand, all looking exactly like him: dispensable and ultimately unmemorable.

He shivers despite the heat; of the two sensations, James isn’t quite certain which scares him most.

&&&

Come to me now,
And lay your hands over me.
Even if it's a lie,
Say it will be all right,
And I shall believe.
I'm broken in two,
And I know you're on to me,
That I only come home,
When I'm so all alone,
But I do believe,
That not everything is gonna be the way
You think it ought to be.
It seems like every time I try to make it right,
It all comes down on me.
Please say honestly you won't give up on me,
And I shall believe.
And I shall believe.

[I Shall Believe, Sheryl Crow]

&&&

Lily Evans stands very still for several moments, staring blankly at her half-packed trunk, wondering vaguely how throwing things haphazardly into a fairly large and spacious piece of luggage can be so time-consuming and dull. All the windows are open in the tower dormitory that’s been her home for seven years, and a warm breeze rustles playfully through her tangled waves of hair, whispering at her to abandon responsibility and race outside to twirl unceasingly in the sunshine just like she’s a little girl again. She glances askance at her packing and walks over to one of the windows, looking out across the crowded grounds and enjoying the warmth of the sun slanting diagonally across her lightly freckled cheeks.

She is surprised at how quickly her eyes instinctively seek out a group of four absurdly inseparable boys, but she’s too far up to distinguish anyone’s features with any certainty. Perhaps they are down there, dozing or chatting peacefully underneath what she can’t help but think of as “their” tree – but she can’t be positive. It’s entirely possible, after all, that they’re roaming freely through the Forbidden Forest or that they’ve snuck off to Hogsmeade again, in a characteristic hunt for trouble – or what they’d surely call “harmless fun.”

She smiles and sighs, watching cross-eyed as a lock of crimson hair dances across her face in a sudden gust of wind.

Here at the end of all things, she thinks absently, immediately confused at what brought about this fleeting, unprovoked musing.

She turns away from the window and gazes at the canopied bed to her left, where Madelyn Bristow is napping serenely in a tangle of kicked-off sheets and piles of unpacked shirts, skirts, and underwear. Their other roommate, Charlotte Cooper, must be outside, enjoying the sunshine and palpable excitement wending its way throughout the castle and grounds; her trunk is already neatly packed, the pristine cleanliness of her side of the room contrasting sharply with the disordered chaos reigning among Lily’s and Madelyn’s beds and floor space. She looks at the mess created by her packing and groans; she’ll never finish at this rate.

Lily can’t explain the pensive, passive mood that’s stopping her from chunking her belongings into her trunk in one giant heap and running outside to join in the enticing exuberance of her fellow peers. It all feels horribly out of place, this infectious happiness and charged atmosphere of anticipation. What is it they are all looking forward to with such unreserved enthusiasm? War? Uncertainty? Death?

Fear?

Lily fears. She fears so intensely that it clutches at her insides and causes her to shudder convulsively so that she’s suddenly short of breath, her flesh prickling unnervingly. What it is she fears, she can’t say with any certainty. But it causes her to jolt awake from a deep sleep, her breathing panicked and heavy, her heart hammering, her body glistening with sweat. It causes her to lose her appetite, causes her to glance compulsively behind her back as she’s walking down a deserted corridor, causes her heart to contract painfully every time he walks into a room she’s in and immediately seeks out her red hair and green eyes, his own eyes warm and inviting behind his glasses when they finally meet hers from across the crowd.

Here at the end of all things….

It’s quiet and tranquil and sunny and warm in the round tower room that Lily has come to love so dearly.

Tomorrow is the first day of the rest of your life, she commands her brain firmly.

But her mind staunchly refuses to accept this panicked credo.

&&&

All around me are familiar faces,
Worn out places, worn out faces.
Bright and early for the daily races,
Going nowhere, going nowhere.
Their tears are filling up their glasses,
No expression, no expression.
Hide my head, I wanna drown my sorrow,
No tomorrow, no tomorrow.
And I find it kind of funny,
I find it kind of sad,
The dreams in which I'm dying,
Are the best I've ever had.
I find it hard to tell you,
I find it hard to take,
When people run in circles,
It's a very, very, mad world.

[Mad World, Gary Jules]

&&&

Remus sits on the worn steps outside the entrance of the castle, elbows resting on his knees, chin resting on his palms. The sun is setting behind the castle, and where Remus is sitting is already cast in the darkening shadow of dusk. The grounds are deserted now; everyone else has journeyed inside for the last, raucous feast of the school year. The house cup will be awarded, of course, though Remus doesn’t feel he is missing much; Gryffindor has won by a landslide for the seventh year in row, thanks largely in part to James’s stellar Quidditch skills.

Remus lifts his head to glance up at the emerging moon and knows the full moon won’t be long in coming. His entire body can sense it, every muscle that much tenser, every sense perceptibly heightened. He closes his eyes tightly and feels a sudden urge to take off running into the darkening shadows of the Forbidden Forest, to keep on running into he collapses from exhaustion and is left abandoned to whatever fate the sinister forest has in store for him. He’d rather be a bloody carcass left to the vultures than be this half-human, half-… monster… that he can never fully escape, despite his constant, concentrated repressions and willful self-delusions.

It’s all he can manage to restrain himself from leaping up and breaking into a frenzied run when he hears – and smells, thanks to his heightened wolf senses – someone moving behind him. He glances back; it’s Peter, shuffling forward with a dinner roll in one hand, which he quickly tosses to Remus once he sees his friend has noted his appearance. Remus rips off a piece of bread and stuffs it into his mouth as Peter drops down with a heavy sigh onto the step next to him.

“‘Lo, Peter.”

“We’re not like James and Sirius, are we?” Peter says by way of greeting, and Remus is taken aback by the unfamiliar, insightful tone of voice Peter has adopted in place of his usual unassuming manner.

“What d’you mean?” Remus asks cautiously through mouthfuls of roll, though he could probably name a million ways in which he and Peter are nothing like James Potter and Sirius Black just off the top of his head.

“We’ve got nothing to look forward to after tomorrow,” Peter elaborates blandly, staring straight ahead into the encroaching darkness of night. “We’re not going to change the world. We’re not going to put a stop to You-Know-Who. James and Sirius… they’ll be fighting. What’ll we be doing, I wonder?”

And though Remus wants to protest, though he wants with every fiber of his being to deny what Peter is saying so matter-of-factly, what will he be doing? They’d rejected his Auror application. The Ministry doesn’t want him. He’s too much of a liability. You can’t trust a werewolf, after all, especially not in these dark times.

He’ll be lucky if he can find a job doing custodial work somewhere. Maybe he can partner up with Filch and Mrs. Norris, become the caretaker’s new ornery assistant….

Now there’s a depressing thought.

“I s’pose we’ll be fighting to stay alive, Pete,” Remus says with a wry smile. “And that’s a worthy cause, right?”

Peter frowns. “Sometimes I’m not so sure.”

Sometimes neither am I, Remus thinks, but he doesn’t say this out loud. Instead his says, “James and Sirius aren’t so great, you know. As a matter of fact, they’re bloody dunderheads most of the time. D’you remember the time Sirius got it stuck in his head that he could rappel down the side of Gryffindor Tower without the aid of magic, using our bed sheets as his only tool? Got stuck less than halfway down and was dangling there like an idiot for a good ten minutes before James finally helped him back up – nearly toppling out the window himself in the process, I might add.” He grins in remembrance. “See? Not so great.”

Peter, however, is not to be deterred. “They are great, Remus. And they’ll die for it someday.”

It takes Remus a moment to process this brash statement, so uncharacteristic of Peter, but when he does, he discovers he is outraged – bloody well pissed off, in fact. Not at Peter, exactly, but at the entire situation, at himself, at James and Sirius for being so goddamned self-sacrificing and noble.

“Then at least their deaths won’t be in vain,” he says sharply and rises from his perch on the steps, preparing to go back inside. “There are things worth dying for, Peter. You’ve just got to realize what they are.”

Remus realizes what they are. They are friends who discover your darkest secret and refuse to turn their backs on you. They are friends who go days without sleeping, their heads buried nonstop in books detailing transfigurations that should be inconceivable for wizards of their age and experience. They are friends who will lie shamelessly and put themselves at risk so that you don’t have to go through something they can’t possibly understand entirely alone. They are foolhardy friends, perhaps, but they are fearless and loyal. They are friends who would lay their necks on the block for you, and they are friends who make you want to do the same.

They are friends who would go and find you if you took off running into the Forbidden Forest, friends who would drag you back kicking and screaming, friends who would then proceed to knock some much needed sense into you.

Yes, there are things worth dying for.

“Come on, Pete. Let’s go find James and Sirius.”

&&&

I come to you, so silent in the night,
So stealthy, so animal quiet.
I'll be your savior, steadfast and true.
I'll come to your emotional rescue.
I'll come to your emotional rescue.
Yeah, you should be mine, mine.
Yes, you could be mine.
Tonight and every night.
I will be your knight in shining armour,
Coming to your emotional rescue.

[Emotional Rescue, Rolling Stones]

&&&

“There’s only one way we’re going to solve this,” she says calmly, evenly, her eyes and voice equally steady, a clear indication that she means business. It is the demeanor she adopts when handing out detentions on patrol, and it never fails to intimidate an unworthy opponent.

One Sirius Black, however, is indeed a worthy opponent in the shrewd and well-practiced eyes of one Lily Evans.

“I agree,” he says from across the worn, rickety table they are sitting at in the Gryffindor common room, matching Lily’s grave demeanor with an intensity of his own.

“Are you ready?”

Her eyes flash dangerously.

“I’m ready.”

He leans forward in his seat.

They raise their hands in preparation, each poised with one palm flat, facing upwards, the other hand clenched in a fist directly above it.

“One, two, thr— ”

“No!” James interjects suddenly, rising up with a burst of energy from his pouf and placing a staying hand into the air between Lily and Sirius. “You two are not spending all night playing Paper, Rock, Scissors again. It never ends; you both always choose scissors.” He takes a calming breath and closes his eyes. “You’d think one of you would have the good sense to throw down a rock every once in a while. Just once, even.”

Sirius and Lily turn to face James with identical glowers on their faces, and James recalls nostalgically the days when Lily and Sirius hated the sight of one another. As a united coalition, they are damned near impossible to control. They really are too alike for their own good, James thinks, though you’d never guess it upon first meeting them. Both are stubborn and pragmatic, as eloquent as they are blunt, fiercely loyal to friends and equally fierce in their hatred of enemies, and both are cleverer by far than the average seventeen-year-old.

Most of the time, at least, he amends silently, looking across at the two glaring teenagers, whose hands are still suspended in midair, ready for action.

“It’s called strategy, James,” Lily sniffs with great poise, winking across the table at Sirius, who looks from Lily’s air of quiet dignity to James’s air of sardonic skepticism and can’t suppress a grin of amused enjoyment.

“Is that what it’s called?” James asks, raising both eyebrows in apparent surprise. “I suppose I never bothered to learn the great intricacies involved in a heated game of Paper, Rock, Scissors. It’s strategy, of course. I see that now. My apologies, Lily, dear.”

“I don’t suppose you’ve come to realize that there is a point in which you can abuse sarcasm?”

Is there?” James asks in the same incredulous tone. “Well, I suppose if anyone would know, it’d be you, Lily.”

“I am not sarcastic,” Lily sulks, sounding affronted.

“This from the girl who once said she’d rather date the giant squid than me.”

“That wasn’t sarcasm, Potter,” Lily says with great patience, attempting valiantly not to smile at the fifth-year memory. “Though it’s a fine distinction, I’ll admit. Now trouser it. It’s not the right time of day for your so-called comedy, and I want to play Sirius at a game of chess.”

“When is the right time of day for my so-called comedy, then?”

“I don’t know.” Lily smiles sweetly. “I have yet to discover if one exists.”

And so passes their last evening in Gryffindor Tower.

On the whole, James reflects with satisfaction, eyes fixed on Lily’s face, which is drawn in pretty concentration as she contemplates her first move on the chessboard, it isn’t half bad.

&&&

I awake to see that no one is free.
We're all fugitives.
Look at the way we live,
Down here, I cannot sleep from fear, no.
I said, which way do I turn?
Oh, I forget everything I learn.
That the spies came out of the water,
But you're feeling so bad cause you know.
Though spies hide out in every corner,
But you can't touch them, no,
'Cause they're all spies.

[Spies, Coldplay]

&&&

Peter is huddled under the silken, fluid folds of James’s invisibility cloak, a roaming phantom undetectable to everyone but himself – though, granted, there’s no one out to see him this late at night anyway, except maybe Filch or Mrs. Norris. He is tiptoeing up and down the labyrinthine corridors of the castle, rediscovering for the last time old hidden passageways and bidding a final farewell to all his favorite haunts.

It is well past midnight, and Peter is the only one of his roommates still awake. He’d quietly nicked the invisibility cloak from James’s trunk when he was sure everyone was asleep, and since then has been drifting aimlessly throughout the castle, staring mindlessly at sleeping portraits and scurrying past Mrs. Norris with his trademark, rodent-like stealth.

He is dreading the coming dawn and their subsequent exodus from Hogwarts, utterly and completely. There is no trace of suppressed excitement or unacknowledged anticipation hiding submerged within his subconscious. No, there is certainly none of that such nonsense. He is looking forward to leaving Hogwarts with less gusto than he looks forward to one of his biannual trips to the dentist.

He climbs the winding staircase leading to the owlery and hefts himself up onto one of the thick stone ledges of an open window. Most of the owls are out hunting right now, and the quiet, drafty room reeks of owl droppings and dead rodents.

He briefly considers penning a letter, though he knows this is a ridiculous, fleeting notion. He’ll be seeing his mother in less than twenty-four hours, and Sirius, Remus, and James would think him bonkers if they received a letter from him at breakfast tomorrow morning. There’s no one else to whom he can conceivably write, except, perhaps, old Aunt Gladys, who Peter hasn’t actually seen in many years.

From his view outside the tower, he can just barely make out the dark, looming goalposts that mark the site of the Quidditch field. Peter has never had much skill on a broomstick. He’s nothing like James, who makes riding a broom look as easy and natural as breathing. He can’t even compete with Sirius, who, though he doesn’t come close to matching James’s skill, can at least swoop and dive through the air with relative ease. Every time Peter gets on a broomstick, his palms become sweaty, and he’s hit with an instant, almost overwhelming case of vertigo. He has always felt much safer on firm, solid ground. Peter has never been much of a daredevil.

And starting tomorrow, he knows, he’ll probably begin to lose all the hard-earned courage and valor he’s managed to hone after seven years of trying to keep up with Sirius, James, and even Remus. Sometimes, when they are all laughing and reckless and in danger of being caught at any moment, Peter can convince himself that he is just as courageous as his three roommates, just as daring and intrepid.

But tonight, on the eve of his official graduation from Hogwarts, he can harbor no such delusions.

Peter is more practical than James, Sirius, and Remus, less idealistic and more sensible and prudent. He doesn’t know why he was placed in Gryffindor seven years ago, though he can’t really imagine any other house that would be more suitable. He’s not particularly smart like all the Ravenclaws, nor is he especially hardworking like the Hufflepuffs, and he’s never thought himself cunning enough to be a Slytherin. But he’s not brave, either, so it’s beyond his capabilities to understand why that batty old hat chose to make him a Gryffindor.

The “real world” – life outside of Hogwarts – scares Peter. You-Know-Who – he can’t bear even to think the name Voldemort, much less say it out loud like Remus, Sirius, and James do with regularity – terrifies him. Even his entry-level internship with the Department of Experimental Charms intimidates him. He can’t imagine leaping into the frontlines of the war like James and Sirius are doing. A part of him wants to go home to his mum tomorrow and simply resume the life he’d led before he’d started Hogwarts, when he was nothing but a mere, innocuous child.

He could wake up at whatever time of day he pleased, and his mum would have a fresh, piping-hot breakfast of sausage, eggs, and toast waiting for him. He could play outside or stay in with a book or even only sit still and watch his mum clean the house and cook dinner. There would be no Death Eaters, no You-Know-Who, no folding open the Daily Prophet to read of the latest deaths and torture and unending suffering.

It is a mental image that pleases Peter, and he knows then that he is not ready to grow up and be an adult.

The adult world alarms him, and he wants nothing more than to burrow himself under the covers of his bed at home and hibernate until this infernal war is finally over.

An owl whooshes past Peter’s head, flying in through the open window with a dead rat clutched in its sharp, razor-like talons.

That could be me one day, Peter thinks, disgusted, and he shivers, utterly terrified of boarding that train tomorrow.

It’s survival of the fittest, he decides, and though he knows he is not the fittest by far, he also knows he will do anything to survive.

&&&

Hold your glass up, hold it in.
Never betray the way you've always known it is.
One day I'll be wondering how ,
I got so old just wondering how.
I never got cold wearing nothing in the snow.
This is way beyond my remote concern,
Of being condescending.
All these squawking birds won't quit.
Building nothing, laying bricks.

[Caring is Creepy, The Shins]

&&&

Sirius Black has never been what one would call an early riser, usually preferring to stumble out of bed well past noon on most weekends. On the morning of his final departure from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, however, he finds himself awake and alert before it is even fully light outside. He lies immobile for a few minutes, listening to the muted snores of his still-sleeping roommates and staring blankly up at a canopied ceiling of bright scarlet before hopping out of bed and padding quietly over to the window, gazing out at the vast landscape before him, gray and seemingly lifeless in the predawn light. Far off across the grounds, the Whomping Willow stirs to life, whipping and weaving of its own volition in the still, windless air. Instinctively, Sirius turns to look at Remus. He is still fast asleep, Sirius can see, but even in repose his face is etched with permanent lines of worry. He’d had the weight of the world placed on his shoulders when he was barely old enough to speak; his hair had been graying before he reached his teens. Sirius casts his eyes downward in shame; he knows if Remus could see the look of unguarded pity in them right now, he’d be furious.

He dresses in silence, throwing on a pair of worn trousers, leaving his shirt untucked and wrinkled. He doesn’t bother with a tie or robes at all; dress code won’t be enforced today, and for once he’s in no danger of garnering a detention. It hasn’t fully dawned on him yet that he’ll never be in danger of receiving detention again. When it does finally hit him, it’ll hit like a fist to the stomach, and he’ll feel a mourning sense of irretrievable loss – but for now he remains blissfully ignorant.

He walks down to the Great Hall, whistling tunelessly, stomach rumbling with hunger, eyes fixed on his feet as he traipses down the steps of the marble stairway and across the worn, flagged stones of the entrance hall. It is because of this that he fails to notice another boy coming up from the dungeons, head buried in a leather-bound book, and it isn’t until they careen headfirst and send each other sprawling to the floor that they glance up and glare at each other in suddenly tense silence.

They pick themselves up from the ground in unison and stand facing each other with identical looks of hostile contempt marring their usually handsome features.

The resemblance between the two boys, an uninformed spectator might observe, is uncanny.

To the two boys at hand, however, the resemblance is simply deplorable.

Sirius gazes at the hardened, impassive, unmistakable face of his younger brother and feels a sickening lurch deep in his gut.

On closer inspection, of course, they don’t look exactly alike. Regulus is shorter than Sirius, thinner and more angular. He wears his black hair short, and instead of the cool, gray eyes that are Sirius’s trademark, Regulus has pale, shocking blue eyes that are framed by lashes so thick they’re almost effeminate. His clothing is pristine, not wrinkled and worn as Sirius’s is, and he is also wearing a green and silver tie looped loosely around his neck.

This identifying mark is perhaps the most pronounced difference between the two, Sirius thinks ruefully, absently fingering the fraying hem of his untucked school shirt, his other hand rhythmically clenching and unclenching.

Regulus is the first to move, as Sirius knew he would be. He lets out an almost inaudible grunt of derision and disgust before turning to stride purposefully toward the closed double doors of the Great Hall, his book – probably some Dark Arts tome, if Sirius knows his brother at all – clutched firmly at his side.

“Regulus—” Sirius chokes out with a start, not quite sure what else he has to say other than his brother’s name, but it’s too late. The heavy oak door is already swinging shut. Regulus is already gone.

Perhaps it is for the best.

What would he have said, after all? What could he have said?

I’m sorry?

He isn’t, though.

It doesn’t have to be this way?

But it does have to be this way, Sirius knows, though he still doesn’t fully understand it. The once-close brothers cannot now coexist in peace. They stand on opposite ends of a bottomless chasm, and Sirius cannot think how to bridge the gulf that widens daily between them.

Regulus stands safe, content, and smug on the far side, the rest of their illustrious family positioned firmly and resolutely behind him, matching looks of haughty disdain marring each and every one of their faces.

Sirius stands prideful and alone on the other side, stubborn in his upright posture, his set jaw, the look of pig-headed triumph in his penetrating eyes – but in the end, still very, very alone.

He is shaken by his brief encounter with his brother, though he immediately hates himself for this. He had felt a tangible hatred emanating from Regulus that had both scared and shocked him. When had it become so bad? Sirius can’t venture a guess; they haven’t spoken in over a year, after all, not since Sirius left the Black house to take up residence with the Potters. Had the progression been gradual or had it been sudden and violent? Sirius is ashamed to realize he has no idea; he usually doesn’t spare Regulus a second thought.

When, he wonders, had his own brother become a stranger to him?

There is only one person sitting at the Gryffindor table when Sirius enters the Great Hall: Lily Evans, looking exhausted, as though she hadn’t slept well the night before.

She doesn’t look up until he slides into the seat next to her, but her brow furrows immediately upon catching sight of his pale, drawn face. “You all right, Black?”

“Huh? Oh. Yeah….” He shakes his head. “Yeah, I’m fine.”

“You don’t look fine,” Lily says frankly, taking a bite of toast, watching Sirius shrewdly as he reaches forward to pour a goblet of pumpkin juice.

Sirius sighs and rolls his neck to release it of some tension. “It’s just – what do you do when – Godric, this sounds ridiculous – what do you do when you realize you don’t recognize your own family anymore?”

Lily swallows loudly, looking stricken. “I don’t know,” she says quietly after a moment’s contemplation. “I guess you start to make a new one.”

They turn to their food in silence, but Sirius is relieved to find he’s not feeling so scared and shaken anymore.

You start to make a new one.

Lucky for him, he already has.

&&&

I am no superman.
I have no answers for you.
I am no hero, oh, that’s for sure.
But I do know one thing for sure:
Is where you are, is where I belong.
I do know, where you go is where I want to be.
Where are you going, where do you go?
Are you looking for answers, to questions under the stars?
If along the way you are growing weary,
You can rest with me until a brighter day.
It’s okay, where are you going, where do you go?

[Where Are You Going, Dave Matthews]

&&&

Lily hops off the Hogwarts Express – unencumbered by her trunk, which she has shrunk to fit in her pocket – following Remus through the crowd, who is ambling after Peter, who is hurrying to keep up with Sirius, who is pushing people aside to stay in step with James.

James is leading them to a sparsely populated area of the crowded platform, irritated by the throng and his subsequent inability to say a proper goodbye to Lily and his friends.

All the seventh-years are in a virtual frenzy, calling out to friends in different houses, saying tearful goodbyes to their roommates of seven years, making plans to reunite as soon as possible, smiling and laughing and crying all at once.

Lily pauses to apprehend Madelyn and Charlotte, hugging them both tightly to her, promising to owl, promising they’ll see each other soon. That familiar surge of panic is threatening to loom up and overwhelm her again, and she is reluctant to let go of her friends, irrationally – or perhaps rationally – afraid she’ll never see them again.

She detaches from them to save herself from any unnecessary embarrassment, bites her bottom lip hard, and after one last final “goodbye,” turns to catch up with James, Sirius, Remus, and Peter.

They are saying their goodbyes in typical Marauder fashion, Lily can tell. They are all breezily confident, they are all forthright and ready with their laughs, and they all appear to be blissfully blasé, untroubled and exasperatingly nonchalant.

Of course, Lily thinks, it’s doubtless they’ll see one another soon. Armageddon couldn’t separate the four of them. This isn’t goodbye for them. It’s “see you later – probably later today, in fact.”

As Lily enters the group, the four boys turn as one to grin widely at her, eliciting from her an answering foolish grin of her own. When had she come to love them so much? It’s ludicrous, really; they annoy her to no end, right? But she’s not so sure of the answer to that anymore.

Remus steps forward first and folds her awkwardly into his arms. “I expect we’ll be seeing a lot of each other, Lily,” he says, quirking an eyebrow at her and smiling. “So there’s no need for tears.”

“Don’t flatter yourself,” she says with a laugh, looking up into his careworn eyes and smiling lightly, wondering vaguely how it can be that Remus is only seventeen.

It’s Peter’s turn next. “I can’t say I don’t miss watching you serve James resounding set-downs, Lily,” he says nostalgically, blue eyes bright and cheery. “But it’s nice to have you as a friend at last.”

Lily is touched by this rare display of sentimentality from the usually rather unremarkable Peter and is horrified to find she is in danger of tearing up. She ruffles his hair instead of dissolving into a puddle of maudlin waste and turns to grin up at Sirius, who is gazing down at her with that familiar half-smirk, half-smile on his handsome face.

Lily isn’t sure what the appropriate goodbye etiquette should be for them. They’d spent the majority of their seven years at Hogwarts despising one another. She’d seen him as Potter’s number one cohort and partner in crime, arrogant, cocky, and irritating beyond belief. And he, in contrast, had seen her as the self-righteous, frigid bitch who adamantly refused to eat a slice of well-deserved humble pie and give his best mate a shot.

When she and James had first started dated, things had been awkward with Sirius – stilted, almost like walking on eggshells at all times. Gradually, they’d come to accept each other; eventually, they’d even come to like one another.

How exactly, she muses, do you go about saying goodbye to your boyfriend’s best friend? Especially when, once upon a time, that boyfriend’s best friend utterly despised you – and you him?

Sirius answers this unspoken question for her, reaching out and sweeping her into his arms, theatrically twirling her in an attention-grabbing circle, and pecking her lightly on the forehead before setting her down, both slightly out of breath.

“And so we come to the end of our journey together, Evans,” he says, mock serious. “I must bid you adieu, perhaps never to set eyes on your fair visage again.”

“You really are the most ridiculous prat I have ever met, Sirius Black.”

And that, Lily reflects with satisfaction, is how you say goodbye to your boyfriend’s best friend, who you once hated with an unholy passion.

Surprisingly simple.

Sirius, Remus, and Peter then shuffle away at a pointed look from James, at last giving the couple some semblance of relative privacy. Lily takes a step closer to James, eyes unnaturally bright with emotion, heart hammering faster for no reason she can logically ascertain, a ridiculous grin plastered on her face. She takes his hands in hers, marveling inwardly at the size of them, and bites her lip; sappy goodbyes were never her forte.

“Well, Potter, it’s been a helluva a year.”

“I’ll say.”

“I can honestly say I never thought I’d see the day when I’d be dating my ill-gotten stalker.”

James squeezes her hands and pulls her in closer before bringing a warm, Quidditch calloused hand up to cradle her chin in his palm. “Your lack of sentimentality bowls me over, Lily, really.”

She lets out a laugh that is, embarrassingly enough, half a sob, and then she’s being wrapped into his arms, and she’s squeezing him so tightly she can’t breathe, all joking and awkwardness cast suddenly aside.

“I think I might just be the tiniest bit in love with you, James Potter,” she blurts into his shoulder, her voice muffled from the fabric of his shirt, though she knows he understood her because he immediately tenses and pulls back from her, hazel eyes wide with shock behind his glasses.

She laughs again, long and loud, unaccountably happy, reveling in the look of utter befuddlement on James’s adorable face.

Here at the end of all things, she thinks, and though her stomach still clenches, soon James’s mouth is on hers, and the world makes sense again.

&&&

Read and review!

Privacy Policy, Terms of Service. Coding created by Cine and constantly hacked by DNA since her disappearance. HARRY POTTER © and all related are the property of J.K. Rowling and various publishers, including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books, Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros. Entertainment. All works (stories and art) on unknowableroom.org are based on the original work with no copyright or trademark infringement intended. Unknowable Room is an unofficial, non-profit site not affiliated with afore mentioned entities. All works hosted on UR.org are property of their respected owner(s). No material may be reproduced from this site without expressed permission from its creator. UR.org takes no responsibility for views or opinions expressed by members. UR.org takes no responsibility for views or opinions expressed by members.