Characters: Remus and Sirius
Disclaimer: They're not mine. I'm just here to play with them. Like Ken and well, Ken.
Wordcount: 2,398 thereabouts.
Summary: Give me just one part of you to cling to, and keep me everywhere you are. It's just enough to steal my heart and run and fade out with the falling sun.
Notes: Written for blanketforts, I've incorporated prompts 20 thru 31 and will continue the story using prompts from wellymuck. A huge thank you again to kethlenda for continuing to beta, I really appreciate it.
Part One here Part Two here
He pauses at the entrance of the antechamber, the smell of dirt and rot filling his nose from the piles of dust-covered books piled haphazardly around him. Feeling the books sliding from his arms, he adjusts them and takes a moment to watch her while she’s unaware. She looks unhealthy, her skin the pale color of someone who has been spending too much time indoors. Everything about her bespeaks neglect, from the tangles in her long hair to the dark rings under her eyes.
Two weeks they’ve been here in this underground cavern, two weeks of endless searching through ancient books and scrolls, many predating the birth of Christ. Their skin is dry and scratchy, their noses and eyes red from continuous sneezing as they disturb items not moved for over two millennium.
All for a dangerous dark spell Dumbledore heard of a long, long time ago in his youth. Two weeks of snatched sleep crouched over books, and food eaten only when the hunger became too great.
Eva Thornwood carefully lowers the scroll of parchment she is reading as Remus approaches the long table they’re using as work space. He smiles at her from around the stack of books and scrolls in his arms.
“Any luck?” He asks as he gently transfers every book and scroll from his arms to the worn surface of the tabletop.
Eva grimaces and sits up straight, her back cracking loudly in the silence. The candles set in candelabras in the middle of the table flicker from her movements, throwing dancing shadows across the earthen wall behind her. She stretches arms over head for a moment before collapsing deeper into the chair. “I don’t know,” she answers honestly. “I think I may have something, however I’m not sure if it’s a clue or just a retelling of a local legend. It’s so difficult separating the Muggle lore from our Wizarding history.”
“Do the pages discuss immortality?”
“Of a sort,” Eva says as she rubs the back of her neck. “I’ll have to do a complete translation to be sure. Which is the only reason I haven’t said anything until now, the few words I’ve been able to translate without my books seem to be leaning towards a curse instead of a spell.”
“Really?” Remus raises an eyebrow as he watches Eva yawn. “Can I see it?”
“Of course,” she says, carefully rolling the scroll and handing it to him. “If it is indeed a wizarding curse, I suppose it may be prudent for me to start the translation.” Eva pushes rolls of parchment and detritus aside until she unearths her quill and a stopper of ink. She leans over and rummages through her sack, murmuring under her breath, “I know my book is in here somewhere. I must have packed it. Where is it? Ah, here it is.”
Remus carefully unrolls the faded yellow paper, taking care to not touch the crumbling edges. “What language is this?”
Eva looks up, her eyes unfocused for a moment. “Sanskrit.”
“You can translate Sanskrit?” Remus opens his mouth in surprise.
“If I do it very slowly and have my book to guide me,” Eva says as she lifts the heavy book she just unearthed from the depths of her bag. She bends her head down to the paper.
He carefully rolls the scroll back into a tube before laying it down on the table. “You need sleep, Eva, in a real bed. How long have we been cooped up down here in this dungeon breathing this stale air? A week? Two? I’ve lost track of time.” This lie slides from his mouth easily. His body will never allow the passage of time to evade him. The pulling and shifting he feels deep inside like an ache tells him the full moon is nigh. He’ll have to leave soon and would prefer for Eva not to be down here alone while he’s gone.
Eva faintly smiles without looking up. “You sound like my older brother, always wanting me to slow down, to rest as he needed to. I’ll be fine, Remus.”
“Eva, please. I have to leave for a few days and I’ll feel more comfortable if you take the time to catch up on your sleep.”
“Leave?” Eva looks up with alarm, and then almost as if a rope has been pulled the worry lines across her forehead smooth. She glances up at the ceiling of the cavernous room as if she can see the night stars shimmering in the dark sky above. “Of course, Remus, I have been remiss in keeping track of the days.”
Remus is puzzled, but relieved as she begins to clean the end of her freshly dipped quill. Her remark is forgotten as she caps her ink and reaches underneath the table for her sack. “I can, of course, work on the translation while you are gone and sleep at the same time. There may be some books hidden in my father’s library…” she breaks off, her expression hardening.
“Eva, I’ll only be gone for two days. How do you propose to translate the four feet of scroll in front of you, get some rest and look for forbidden books in your father’s library? Where ever did you go to school? You have the ethics the Transfiguration professor I had while I attended Hogwarts; however, I definitely would have remembered you.”
She smiles at his compliment and tucks an errant strand of hair behind her ear. “Thank you. You’re right, of course, I didn’t attend Hogwarts. I would have loved to,” her voice changes and she whispers, “my brother was very ill and could not attend. My father thought it best if we were both tutored at home so there would be no bitterness or jealousy directed my way by him.”
Remus watched as a faint color crept into her cheeks. “I think I would have very much loved attending Hogwarts,” she said with quiet longing. “But, what’s done is done and the solitude of my childhood afforded me the ability to learn things I might not have normally been able to in a structured environment.”
Her answer sounds wooden, and her already pale face tightens as she continues to place her belongings into her bag.
“Were you lonely?”
Eva smiles bitterly. “Oh course. I was three years younger than my brother. My tutors changed every year, and my father allowed no outside contact beyond our walls because of my brother’s illness.
“I did what I could; I made the best of it. At one point the house must have belonged to a family of Muggles, so I spent many days exploring the grounds and house. I found many hidden treasures in the attic; so as a result, I can without a doubt quote a sonnet from Shakespeare while mixing a polyjuice potion.”
“Shakespeare? I’ve read a few of his works. Hamlet, Timon of Athens, MacBeth and Julius Caesar, of course.”
“Only the tragedies?” Eva asks, her voice lightening at the change of subject. “You’ve never read any of the comedies? The Merchant of Venice, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Much Ado About Nothing? Have you read none of the sonnets? I still have quite a few memorized. For shame,” she says as Remus frowns. “And you call yourself a scholar.”
This jab stings. “You have sonnets memorized? Whisper me a sonnet then,” Remus teases.
Eva tilts her head, watching him for a moment as if gauging his seriousness.
“Freeze, freeze thou bitter sky,
that does not bite so nigh as benefits forgot:
Though thou the waters warp,
thy sting is not so sharp as a friend remembered not.”
“Brilliant!” Remus exclaims.
Eva crosses her eyes at him and sticks out her tongue as she closes her rucksack and pulls the heavy strap over her shoulder. “Should we leave everything else as it is? I don’t believe it will be disturbed. What do you say?”
The moon tugs at his heart. Only hours left now until the moon rises. The sooner he arrives in Hogsmeade, the better he’ll feel. Besides, Sirius will be waiting for him in the Shack and…well. He isn’t quite ready to explore how his pulse jumps at the thought of seeing Sirius again. “Let’s leave it.”
They begin to speak of food as they make the long trek up the stone staircase to the world above. Eggs, sausage, bacon, bangers and mash. Both break out with ringing laughter as their stomachs growl loudly. When they reach the final antechamber before breaking the surface, they pause only long enough to don the heavy fur-lined cloaks needed before venturing outside.
“My friends and I were quite convinced I would be somewhere warm, somewhere exotic, like Africa, in the desert. Sirius, for one was sure I would return outfitted as a Bedouin. But alas, I’m still stuck in the icy clutches of winter.”
“I’m sorry to disappoint,” she says as she raises the hood of her cloak. “I had heard of this cavern a long time ago, but never had the opportunity or need to explore it until now. Still, there may be a chance for Sirius to get his secret wish of seeing you in a kufiyya. My Ministry sanctioned mission is to explore a ruin recently uncovered in Egypt. After we exhaust our avenues here, you may join me if you wish. The Ministry believes I’m on holiday while they clear the site of Muggle archeologists and have their curse-breakers sweep the area. Hopefully, the poor Muggles haven’t been cursed too bad, I’ve encountered ancient Egyptian curses before. They’re nasty. ”
“How did you end up at the Ministry?” Finally Remus found the perfect excuse to ask the question he’s been dying to know the answer to ever since they first met.
“Would you like the official answer or the real one?”
“There’s a difference?”
“Of course,” she said as she knelt to do the laces on her heavy boots. “There are always two sides of the story when it comes to politics, Remus.”
“Officially, I achieved an Outstanding in my History of Magic N.E.W.T. and it was only natural I was bound for a position in the Ministry. Unofficially, at one time my grandfather was the head of the office of Magical Law Enforcement. There were some rumors of involvement with Grindelwald, but before any charges could be brought to trial, my grandparents and aunt disappeared. Soon after, my father married my mother and withdrew from the Wizarding community and started a family. After it became apparent my brother’s condition was incurable, my father saw no reason to ever re-emerge in Wizarding society.
“When my N.E.W.T scores were reviewed, I believe the Ministry saw offering me a job as a way to keep their finger on the pulse of my family, so to speak. I don’t believe I was offered a position within the Ministry for anything else other than a reason to spy on my family,” she shrugged her shoulders. “I saw it as a way to research what happened to my family years ago.”
“Have you asked your father what happened?”
“Of course,” Eva answers, her face hidden. “He refuses to talk about it.”
And when she turns to him, he sees in her face an emotion that embarrasses him and causes him to drop his eyes and busy his fingers with his laces. It is a look so raw, so full of torment and he knows instinctively she’s never spoken of this before. There are old wounds there, unhealed wounds that even now still ooze with pain, rage and fear.
“Would you like to join me for lunch before leaving for your home?” Remus asks before he’s really thought about it. “I was going to apparate into Hogmeade and meet…”
“Yes,” he says uncomfortably. “I’m sure he’s sorry for the way he treated you that morning.”
Eva grunts and it sounds like a cross between and chuckle and a sob. “Oh, I’m sure. ‘What are you doing here, Pigeon? Isn’t it enough I said I’d contact you later? Right now is not a very good time, you’ll have to leave.’” She does such a good impression of Sirius Remus feels his heart take an extra beat. “I remember his sock had a big gaping hole in the toe. It’s odd I would remember that, isn’t it?”
“He’s not like that normally. He’s not usually so antisocial. It must have been a combination of me leaving and the surprise of seeing you there in the doorway, I mean, I was surprised too.”
“You shouldn’t have to apologize for him, Remus.” But Remus always has. Ever since the middle of their first year, Remus has apologized for Sirius in one way or another.
“I’m sure Sirius would be quite glad to see you.”
She gives him a look that makes him wish his words could have frozen between them, only liquefying and being heard once she was gone. And when she laughs, it’s mirthless and full of misery.
Remus doesn’t know how to respond to the extra hurt in her voice. Everything he’s done since telling her she he has to leave has been a disaster. “I’m sorry,” he says when he’s not sure what else to say.
“I know you are,” Eva says as she turns to leave through the crack in the cave. “I just wish everyone else was.”
Remus watches as she disappears before beginning to follow her. He’s surprised by the Shakespearean quote that fills his mind. Now is the winter of our discontent.
They walk up the mountain in silence, the wind whirling around them making it impossible to speak or even Apparate. There is a Portkey at the top, hidden in a cave here at the far edge of loneliness.
He needs to see Sirius. It’s like a physical ache, a withdrawal symptom of a drug he had no idea he was addicted to until he realized he would be able to partake in it again soon.
When the moon completes its cycle and he sees Eva again, he will offer his help in her quest to uncover the truth about her family. He has a suspicion about her brother and why she does not seem surprised about his reason for leaving.
She didn’t ask, not because she wasn’t curious, but because she knew he’d lie to her.
And maybe she already knew the truth.
To be continued…