ETA 2009: remixed here by romanticalgirl.
Caught in the Downpour
It was raining in April, the worst kind of rain that came just when you'd decided to wear a thin shirt because it had looked like it was going to be a nice day.
Not that any day could be very nice, anymore.
"Why don't you just apparate home, you idiot?"
Remus spun around, but of course, no one was there. "Oh," he said. "It's you again." As if he could ever mistake that voice, phantom as it may be. "Go home, Sirius."
"But I am home. Just here for a visit. The smart little Remus with wings and a halo that used to sit on your shoulder seems to be doing a rotten job of keeping you out of the rain, so I thought I'd give it a try."
Remus sighed, and wrapped his arms around himself tightly. "That's very altruistic, but as I still think I'm simply going insane for hearing your voice, I'll not start heeding its judgment quite yet."
"But you're getting all wet!"
"That's what water does."
"Oh, I see. Still trying to punish yourself for everything."
Remus stopped in his tracks. "I—what?"
"You've always done it, its one of the stupidest things about you, and there aren't that many."
Remus realized standing in the rain was doing nothing to get him either home or dryer. "Go away," he said tiredly and started walking again. "Go away, and please leave me alone. Even disembodied voices shouldn't be out in this rain."
"Worried about me? Don't you fret, Monsieur Lupin." He could practically hear the smirk Sirius would have been wearing, if he were here. "A little fall of rain can hardly hurt me now."
"Maybe it's a freak magical storm that sweeps wandering spirits from this earth into a hellish dimension," he said sourly. "Full of toadlike pink hags with ribbons and porcelain kittens."
"That was the longest sentence you've said this month, wasn't it?"
Remus didn't reply, just picked up his pace in the vain hope that the voice would stay behind or maybe get soaked into some puddle.
"Look, would you please conjure yourself a jumper? Or at least an umbrella? That wet t-shirt would win you Tonks maybe, but even a Black isn't worth the cost of your death."
"Tonks is dead," Remus muttered with pursed lips. "If you were real, you'd know that."
"Is she?" It must have been his imagination, because non-existent voices couldn't speak more softly, them being non-existent.
"Yes," he answered tightly. "Not a drop of Black blood left in this world, with her parents gone too."
"Well, there's not going to be much Lupin left, either, if you don't start taking care of yourself. You look like a stick-werewolf."
"I doubt the world would miss me much."
"You know, sometimes I want to be solid again so I feel the wind in my hair playing Quidditch, or ride my bike, or smell some old fashioned Weasley cooking, but you're the only one who makes me want to be corporeal just so I can punch your face."
Just ignore it, Remus thought silently. If you don't think about it long enough, it'll evaporate.
"I'm not going to go away just because you're not talking to me," he heard, after a while. Sirius had always had the ability to guess what he was thinking.
No. Sirius was only a figment of his slowly falling apart sanity, so of course he knew what he was thinking.
"Take your wand out. Point it at your clothes. Say: "Impervius". Then conjure an umbrella, I saw you doing it in your NEWTs, it was red with brown stripes because you couldn't match colors if even if your test scored depended on it. Come on, Moony. Moons. Remy. Moonboy—"
"Stop it!" Remus snapped out his wand, and having no target to point at, clenched it at his side. "We're not children, you can't just wheedle me into doing what you want—"
"Then stop sulking already and act like a grown up!"
"That's rich, coming from you. If you'd had the maturity to stop rushing into things and not gotten yourself killed—"
"At least I was doing everything I could to help Harry so that the next time someone died it would be Voldemort and not him!"
"Well, you failed, didn't you? Dying isn’t much help. So you can keep your advice to yourself."
"You're so infuriating, you know that?" Hearing that soft bemusement that so rightfully belonged to Sirius, Remus gripped his wand so tightly he thought it might break. The wind was blowing raindrops that stung his face like drops of acid. "You insist on fighting with me instead of realizing that if you catch your death out here, Harry's really going to be left all alone. Or do you think that with James, me and you gone, the last Marauder left will be happy to pick up protecting the boy?"
"I didn't think it was going to rain today, that's all!" Remus exploded. "I made a stupid decision, it's my fault I didn't bring an umbrella, so it stands to reason I'm going to get wet! That's all there is to it!"
"If it were Harry, that's what you'd tell him?"
"Yes! You have to learn to live with your mistakes!" Remus's march accelerated yet again with some particularly ferocious stomps. "But Harry's a big boy now," he added with bitterness. "He's already learned that."
"God, Remus, you're such a bloody idiot."
This isn't Sirius, he repeated to himself. It's not. It's not. It's just the edges of his mind fraying when it's too close to the full moon.
"You're right,” the voice went on, suddenly sharp. “Harry's a big boy now. He's been living with all of our mistakes for the past seventeen years, mine too, you think I don't know that? Do you think he doesn't know that? But he doesn't need you to be his lecturer now! You're not his teacher anymore."
"I'm not his anything anymore." The less you are, the less opportunities you have to fuck things up. "Just a useful member of the Order. What's left of it. That's it."
"Look, however worthless you misguidedly feel right now, he still needs you."
"What do— I'm doing everything I can to help him,” Remus responded, through a mixed jumble of anger and helplessness. “I've traveled across the continent in search of horcruxes. I've battled more Death Eaters than I can count. I've led our people, Tonks and Fletcher and seventh year students, who trusted me, to their deaths. I've killed for him. What more," his voice almost broke in anguish, "do you want me to do? I’m not his teacher, I’m not his friend, I can’t be his father, or his godfather, or his mentor, who’ve all gone—” and this time, his voice did break “—and left shoes too large for me to fill.”
Rain spattered his hair across his forehead, and Remus viciously wiped his brow to clear his eyes, almost stabbing himself with his wand.
“You’re not supposed to be any of those.”
God, he wanted to scream with aggravation, you exasperating, interfering, superior dead prick!
“All you have to do is be Remus.”
Remus continued marching against the wind for a few minutes in silence, trying to control his emotions before they unleashed themselves in some destructive manner. “That doesn’t mean anything,” he said finally. “If you were trying to be wise and cryptic, you should know that you were never any good.”
“But better than when I was alive, no? I’ve found that death has a way of honing these useless little skills.” The voice paused. “You’re not laughing. Right.” It paused again, and then sighed—or, perhaps, the wind shook the trees a bit harder. “Look, Moony, I love you, but I’m not about to start waxing poetic about how important or wonderful you are or how highly I think of you, because you already know.”
If you’re not Sirius, Remus thought at his brain, I will you to shut. Off. Now.
And still he was listening.
“You really don’t realize how much you mean to Harry.”
“Don’t interrupt me now that you’re finally listening. I said you. As Remus Lupin. Not as Professor, or as friend-of-his-dad’s, but as yourself.”
“Harry’s still alive. He’s doing fine.”
“You’ve distanced yourself so much, how can you have any idea of how he’s doing?” Remus flushed. “Forget I said that, I’m just making you feel guiltier. Listen, Harry’s not doing so fine right now, all right? He’s more alike you than you think. And he needs you to go and—I dunno, talk some sense into him - although lord knows you don’t seem to possess much regarding yourself - because Ron and Hermione, despite being great friends, don’t have the power to make or do everything right, and again, I stress, you. Remus. Not as a replacement for anyone.”
Shivering in an unexpected gust of freezing wind, Remus imagined Harry abruptly – almost a man but to him still a boy, a duplicated version of James with the same messy hair slim figure but wet now, fighting a rainstorm and gales of winds with nothing but a thin layer of cloth and round spectacles protecting his eyes, hard with determination, warding off Ron and Hermione who are trying to get him to put a coat on in the biting cold. Suddenly, there was nothing he wanted more than to be there with a warm blanket and a gentle reprimand, don’t be stubborn, Harry.
But he wasn’t there; he was here, and he had let Harry down in so many ways he wasn’t sure if he could look him in the face. For a second he felt an ache in his chest so great that he slowed to a stop just to breathe, shoes sinking halfway into mud.
“I wouldn’t know where to start,” he whispered.
“Do you believe in Harry?”
The first war had left it’s mark on Remus, and he had to think hard in order to be honest. Images of Voldemort flashed through his mind, of dead bodies, deadly curses whizzing in the air and professional, trained, agile Aurors collapsing one by one. And then of Harry as a baby, screaming as he was being given away, and Harry as a pupil, willingly facing dementors, and Harry recounting the events of Dumbledore’s murder, and declaring he wasn’t returning to Hogwarts with no regret in his eyes, back straight and unbending under all the burdens he carried.
“Well,” the voice hummed, “I think he could do with you telling him that.”
Remus looked up at the sky, searching for a sign – a shift of the clouds, or a ray of sunshine, perhaps, a rainbow, an angel, anything to indicate that someone was talking to him from… beyond. Finding nothing and feeling foolish, he blew out a sigh, and apparated into the living room of his house.
His dripping attire was making a puddle of rainwater and mud on the floor, so he quickly muttered a drying spell followed by a cleaning charm. The rain pounded on the windows. When had the afternoon drizzle turned into a storm? And he’d actually considered that it would turn out to be a nice day…
He peered through the window, thinking to catch perhaps a glimpse of sunshine in the distance, but the weather remained consistently gloomy.
“Isn’t it beautiful, Moony?”
He jumped at the sound, and couldn’t stop the automatic twist around to see if anyone was there. “I don’t remember you harboring that sentiment five minutes ago.”
“Obviously, that’s when you were trying to get yourself drowned. But cheer up! It’s just a bit of rain, now. Helps the flowers grow.”
Remus smiled wistfully. “They put on productions of musicals in Azkaban, didn’t they?”
He felt a sudden warmth as a burst of real laughter rang throughout the room, through him. “I wouldn’t want to give you nightmares so I’ll keep that particular information to myself until I see you.” The voice started to fade. “You know it’s true, though. The rain. It’ll makes everything go all muddy at first, and probably flood out some rat holes, and it’s hell on your-well, my coat, but eventually, it’ll help the flowers grow. Last piece of cryptic wisdom from Padfoot.”
And the voice was gone.
Damn it, I can't seem to be able to cut conversations short.
Feedback of any sort is nice :-)