Author: victoria p.
Summary: Remus has always loved Death.
Pairings: Remus/Death (Remus/Sirius)
Disclaimer: Very much not mine. Sigh.
Feedback: would be lovely.
Notes: Thanks as always to Jen, Pete/Melissa, Dot, and Meg. Thanks muchly to circe_tigana for the wonderful beta (and the suggestion of switching the order), and to leadensky for making me flesh it out.
You don't need to have read Sandman, you just need to know that every hundred years (I think), Death spends one day as a human being. Let's just ignore The High Cost of Living. *g*
Remus stares at the pretty lady as his mother attempts to stop the bleeding and his father checks to make sure the beast is truly dead. Everything is hazy, the edges soft and fading in the bright moonlight, filtered through his fluttering eyelashes. His whole body hurts; he is freezing and yet burning up. Mum is crying, which he's never seen before, and that scares him more even than the pain. His heart is pounding so hard and fast he thinks it may burst.
"Am I dying?" he asks, his voice a hoarse croak that devolves into a barking cough that sends sharp stabbing pains through his chest. He remembers last summer, when Max, the beloved family dog, got sick and died. Maybe he'll see Max again.
"No," his mother snaps, angry through the tears, though her hands are gentle on his body. "Be still."
The pretty lady smiles at him, and he feels warm for a moment. He knows she'll take care of him when Mum can't.
He tries to tell Mum it's okay, he doesn't mind dying now, when everything goes black.
He wakes in St. Mungo's, and everybody wears serious faces and speaks in hushed voices around him. He knows he was a very bad boy for sneaking out, but it's not until many years later, when he sits here again, holding his mother's hand as she slips away quietly, that he realizes they are not angry with him, that it was not his fault. That some things are nobody's fault.
He keeps his eyes open for the lady with the sweet smile, and when he's well enough to walk around, he catches glimpses of her once or twice in the hospital corridors, though she never stops by to visit him.
He believes she must have been a dream, because his parents don't recall a dark-haired woman in Muggle clothing amongst the healers who saved him that night, but then he sees her again.
He is nine, and has just returned home from Werewolf Support Services. He understands now, what his life is going to be like, and has decided he wants no part of it. He lies in the bathtub, his father's razor cold and sharp against his wrists. He is watching the blood flow sluggishly from his veins when she appears, her lips compressed into a thin line, her arms folded across her chest.
She only has time to say his name reproachfully before his mother bursts into the bathroom and begins sobbing.
Remus is seventeen the next time he sees her, when his father dies suddenly one summer afternoon. She's there with a tender smile and a whispered greeting, and he hears the soft whoosh of dragon's wings when she disappears, and his dad with her.
He has some notion of who she is now, so when James, Lily and Peter die, he imagines she will take care of them, and that gives him a small measure of comfort in his grief. He wishes Sirius hadn't left him alive, so he could be with her as well, and forget he'd ever known Sirius, and loved him.
Three years later, she sits with him at his mother's bedside. Over one long afternoon, they speak of books and music, of poetry and art. Remus loses a little bit more of his heart to her every time they meet, and yet he can't regret his sorrows.
He loves her on some deep level he is unwilling to examine, though she's taken everything else he's loved away.
When Sirius falls, so many years later, the fluttering of the veil reminds him of the soft, slow beat of her wings. He concerns himself with holding onto Harry, because he can only deal with so much loss at one time, and he believes his limit has been reached.
She is small and dark-haired and vaguely familiar. She is too young to have been a classmate at Hogwarts, and likely too old to have been one of his students the year he taught there, though he can't tell for sure. She has the cheerful, efficient demeanor of the nurses at St. Mungo's, so perhaps that’s how he knows her. He has spent too much time visiting the hospital recently. She wanders the train station as if she has no destination in mind, or if she has, she can't quite figure out how to get there. It is a look typical of many wizards and witches when faced with Muggle transportation.
"Are you lost?" he asks, taking in her short black dress, clunky black boots and dark red lipstick as she smiles.
"I-- No. I've missed my train, though." She waves a ticket at him. "And they won't let me on the next train, or give me my money back."
"Bureaucrats," he mutters, and she laughs, like silver bells.
"Come on, Remus," she says, taking his hand. He must know her, because she knows his name, and there aren't many people who touch him even casually these days, and she is almost eager about it, wrapping her small hand around his and pulling him forward.
He's surprised at how much he likes the feel of her hand in his, and the way she strokes her thumb over the back of his hand makes him think she's enjoying it too. It's been a while since anyone enjoyed touching him. Three months, two weeks and six days. He could probably pin it down to the hour and minute, but he pushes thoughts of Sirius away. Not now, not today.
Instead, he leads her through the station, focusing on this moment and the next. He's always had an easy time slipping through a crowd, and she stays close, her body warm and soft against his side.
When they are out on the street, free for a moment of the rushing mass of people, she stretches her arms wide and takes a deep breath. "Oh, that's lovely."
Remus sniffs the air experimentally, but smells nothing but exhaust overlaid with the damp scent of autumn, and the odor of wet wool emanating from the people around them, some of whom were obviously caught in the rain earlier and have yet to dry off.
He doesn't remark upon it, though, simply raises an eyebrow and asks, "Diagon Alley?"
"Fortescue's," she says impishly.
He opens his mouth to say that it's barely noon, but closes it again. He's not her father. And she's old enough to make her own decisions.
"Pralines and cream," he decides, mouth watering already.
She grins. "Raspberry chocolate swirl. With nuts and whipped cream."
"And a cherry on top?"
She leans against him and looks him in the eye. "If you play your cards right."
He raises an eyebrow as his body reacts, telling himself he's imagining it, that pretty young women don't hit on men like him, and haven't for years. "I see," is all he says, though.
She murmurs, "I'll bet you do," almost too softly for him to hear.
They chat amiably over ice cream. She eats slowly, deliberately, and licks her spoon clean when she's done, clearly savoring the taste of raspberries and chocolate. He enjoys watching the way her tongue wraps around the shiny metal, probably more than he should. Enjoys it more, possibly, than the sweet, nutty taste of his own sundae.
Then she leads him, not at all unwillingly, back into Muggle London. She is eager and determined, pointing out interesting sights or people, asking questions when something is different from what she remembers, as if she hasn't been there in years, though she doesn't look old enough to remember some of the things she does.
He feels at ease with her the way he has with few people in the last fifteen years, as if perhaps he's known her for a very long time. When they're in the record shop, she hums softly and shimmies a little as she walks; he finds himself entranced by the sway of her hips. She laughs when he's able to name some of the songs playing on the speakers -- most wizarding folk don't go in for Muggle rock music. He appreciates that she doesn't press him to buy things he can't afford, even if he had the money people keep trying to give him nowadays -- Dumbledore feeling responsible, Harry feeling guilty, Tonks feeling unentitled to her inheritance.
It occurs to him as she's modeling lipsticks for him in Marks and Sparks, sending a flash of white-hot anger and embarrassment through him. "I don't need your pity, Nymphadora."
She faces his scowl serenely, smiling lips a dewy and kissable pink. "That's good, because I'm not Nymphadora. And why do people torture their children with such names?" She takes the bag containing her purchases from the vacuous salesgirl in the white labcoat and leads him to the escalator. Wrapping her arm around his, she looks at him as if he's daft. "Really, Remus, if I were Tonks, why would I bother spending money on lipstick?" And she has just spent a lot of money on lipstick, and seems to have loved every moment of it, though he finds the whole enterprise inexplicable. She certainly doesn't need cosmetic enhancement.
"You have a point." A thought is tickling the back of his brain, but he can't quite pin it down. She must be a friend of Tonks's, though he's fairly certain he's met the one or two now in the Order. "But you still haven't told me your name."
"Oh, names. Pfft. I have so many. Live a little, Remus. Let some things remain a mystery."
She runs up the last few steps of the escalator, and puts her hands on his shoulders as he rides to the top, leaning over to kiss him, letting the movement of the stairs bring him closer.
She's warm, and tastes of ice cream and lipstick, sunshine and a thousand unnameable things he thinks he may remember but isn't quite sure, and she pulls away before he has time to figure it out.
She smiles a secret smile and slips her hand into his.
"Because I want to." He opens his mouth to ask again, but she silences him with another kiss. "I want to," she repeats against his lips, and because he wants to, as well, he chooses to accept it.
They walk a little slower now, stay closer together, and whenever he sees a shadowed corner, he pulls her to him and kisses her again, tangling his hands in her dark, silky curls and enjoying the way her breath hitches against his lips and in his mouth. She clings to him, soft and yielding against the hard planes of his body, and he's already calculating the possibilities. He cannot take her back to Grimmauld Place, and he cannot afford a room at the Leaky Cauldron, and he knows exactly how he wants this day to end.
"Are you a wizard or are you a wizard?" she asks, but her exasperation is softened by affectionate good humor, and her lips are against his when she says it, so he simply laughs.
"What did you have in mind?" His voice is husky as he contemplates casting a simple obscurus charm, and having her up against the wall in the ladies' changing room.
"The changing room--"
"Are you a Legilimens?" he interrupts.
"No, but it's rather obvious," she says, kissing him again.
An older woman passing by frowns at him, but her male companion grins widely, and Remus realizes he looks old to them, too old to be snogging mysterious young women in the ladies' apparel section of Marks and Spencer.
It seems rather sordid, and he wants this to be right, but he doesn't want to lose his chance, and he's afraid of what he'll say should she offer to spring for a room at the Leaky Cauldron, or someplace less respectable.
She doesn't, just pulls him along to the fitting room. When it empties, they slip by the bored salesgirl sitting at the desk and into one of the cubicles. He locks the door with a spell as well as with the flimsy latch; he whispers obscuring and silencing charms, just in case, before enlarging the room slightly.
He's barely done speaking when she pushes him down onto the cushioned bench attached to the back wall. She straddles him, her knees on either side of his hips, and they kiss in a fierce clash of lips, teeth and tongues. Her mouth is hot and hungry over his, and their kisses have a desperate edge -- she kisses as if she's never kissed before, he as if he never will again.
She threads her fingers through his hair and yanks his head back so she can skim his neck with her lips and teeth, and he lets her, his hands sliding up her thighs, enjoying the feel of her skin against his palms and the pads of his fingers.
Crossing her arms, she grabs the hem of her dress and pulls it over her head, letting it flutter to the floor behind her. Her skin is pale as moonlight against the black cotton of her bra and panties, soft and beautiful and begging for his touch. She rocks against him and even through their clothing he can feel her heat, longs to bury himself in it. He slides the straps of her bra down her arms, enjoying the way her breath hitches when he touches her. She shivers in pleasure when he leans forward to suck at her nipple, dragging his tongue across it, savoring the taste and texture.
Her hands are deft, first unbuttoning his shirt so she can run her hands over his chest, then making short work of his belt and fly so she can curl her fingers around his already-hard cock. She strokes him gently at first, and then with a little more force when he closes his hand over hers to show her what he likes.
He raises his head from her breasts and she whimpers. Knowing that he's put that dazed, hungry look on her face, that she wants him as much as he wants her, sets another wave of heat blossoming under his skin.
"I still don't know your name," he says, voice hoarse with need.
"Does it matter?" she asks.
There was a time when it didn't, a time when the only sex he had was anonymous, in men's rooms and back alleys and flophouses that smelled of piss and come. But he's had enough anonymous sex in his life, and wants this to be something good, something to hold onto when he needs it.
"Yes," he says after what feels like an eternity in the space of a heartbeat.
She sighs and he wonders if he's ruined the whole thing. It wouldn't be the first time.
"And you complained about Nymphadora." She smiles enigmatically and he realizes, "That's not your name."
"No." She nibbles on his earlobe and says, "You know who I am."
And he's sure he does, though he still can't place her, and at the moment, it doesn't really matter. He slips his hand between them, sliding his fingers beneath the elastic of her panties so he can caress her wet folds.
She wraps her arms around his neck and gasps into his mouth as he finds her clit, the thrust of her hips a wordless command. With his other hand he grabs his wand and, with a mumbled spell, vanishes her knickers. She giggles against his lips, which tickles, and he smiles and kisses her. She rises up on her knees and sinks down onto him, her hands clutching his shoulders as she slides up and down with agonizing slowness. He grabs her arse, silken skin over firm flesh, and thrusts up, impatient, but she just throws her head back and moans, long hair brushing over the backs of his hands, and continues at her own pace.
He glances over at the mirror and is mesmerized by the way her body moves above his, the curves and hollows, the stretch of muscle under soft skin. And then he has to close his eyes, because she's tightening around him and the pleasure is becoming unbearable.
She takes one of his hands and moves his fingers over her clit as she starts to lose control. She shudders and comes; he swallows her cries of pleasure with a deep kiss, plunging his tongue into her mouth in the same rhythm as his cock thrusts into her body. With a low growl, Remus spills himself inside her, orgasm ripping through him like a violent summer storm.
She rests her head in the crook of his neck, sweaty black hair sticking to her fair skin and spilling over onto him. He smiles. They sit for a few moments, and he runs his hands over her back, drops light kisses on her hair, feeling free -- feeling good -- for the first time in months.
Finally, she rises, and with another softly spoken spell, he cleans them both up. They dress in silence, awkward now in ways they weren't earlier.
He knows there are ways to do this -- to walk away without feeling like an utter berk, to ask if he can see her again without sounding like a bumbling fool. He can't remember how to do either, and he's sure he's about to say something completely inane and stupid when she says, "Thank you, Remus. It's been a very long time. I've had a wonderful day."
She cups his cheek and brushes her thumb over his lips, standing on tiptoe to give him a brief, chaste kiss.
He stares down into her dark eyes and she says, "I'll see you soon, though you probably won't be happy about it."
He feels a soft rush of air through the small, humid cubicle, like the beat of dragon's wings overhead, and then she's gone.
He sinks back down onto the bench and realizes why she was so familiar, and then laughs, only slightly bitter, at the odd way some dreams do come true.
Remus pauses on the threshold of the kitchen, hope sparking in his heart.
"Is it time, then?"
The woman -- well, he knows deep down that she's not actually a woman, but he also knows he can't wrap his mind around what she really is, so he tends not to think about it -- turns and smiles sadly.
"Not for you, Remus." She gestures with her head and he sees Kreacher sprawled flat on the pantry floor. He's not surprised at the vicious glee welling up within him at the sight. It is not what he's been secretly hoping for, but it'll do for now.
"How--" he begins and stops. She cocks her head and waits, though he's fairly certain she knows what he's going to ask. "Is--"
She shakes her head. "What do you believe?"
"Nothing. Everything." He makes an impatient, frustrated noise. "What has that to do with anything?"
She crosses her arms over her chest. "Okay, then. What did he believe?"
Remus drops his gaze. Sirius had believed in everything, in nothing, in himself above all else. He was a star, burning bright and then falling, and even in his absence influencing everything he'd ever touched, pulling it into his orbit somehow.
Remus looks up, meets her dark, unfathomable eyes. "He believed he would live forever."
"No one does, Remus. You know that."
"I'll have an end eventually," she says, and she seems almost cheerful about it. "After everything else has gone."
She walks across the room and for the first time since he's known her -- and he's known her almost all his life -- she hesitates, reaching a hand toward him and letting it drop before they touch. He closes his eyes for a moment, remembering the taste and feel of her skin beneath his hands and lips, scenes from their day together flashing through his memory.
"Get some rest, Remus," she says gently, interrupting his reverie. "And really, it feels like a burden now, but when the time actually comes, you may not be so willing."
She's right, of course, or he wouldn't still be here. When push has come to shove, he's chosen to live, though the reasons have changed over the years, from defiance to hope to vengeance, with myriad other emotions in between.
Now, though, he has nothing but the futile sense of a job unfinished, along with the vestiges of loyalty to James and Sirius, expressed in the need to protect Harry. And yes, vengeance again, against Peter, against Bellatrix. He'd have killed Kreacher himself if he weren't aware of how pointless it was, and how little it would assuage the grief to which he thought he'd long ago inured himself.
He cannot understand Voldemort's fear of death, his desire to avoid it forever. It is this as much as anything that made joining the Death Eaters repugnant to him. He cannot ever imagine not wanting Death. He doesn't believe in love at first sight, but he's loved her since the first time they met, and he'd gladly trade what life he has left for her embrace.
He shakes his head at these fancies; he's too old for such nonsense now, and has too many things that need doing.
But that night, in his cold, empty bed, he finds himself thinking of her, and when he brings himself off, for the first time in a long time, he sees her face, not Sirius's, when he closes his eyes.
Feedback is absolutely delightful.