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[personal profile] sentential
title: Crossing the Acheron
fandom: Harry Potter
pairing: Remus/Sirius
rating: PG-13
summary: Remus considers visiting Sirius during his years in Azkaban. His imagined reuinions are nothing like the real one.
spoilers/notes: Spoilers through PoA. The Acheron is one of the five rivers said to surround the underworld in Greek mythology. Written in February 2010. 793 words.

Remus thinks about going to see Sirius. He thinks about it a million times. He considers looking into those eyes: imagines them glazed, hard and hateful, — like the look they used get when someone brought up his family — sees them fierce with madness. Worse than this though — far worse — is when Remus imagines them looking just the same as always: the way they’d close slightly as he formed a genuine smile and said Remus’ name, pleased to have been visited by the only old friend he had left after his betrayal of all others.

There are, of course, the fantasy scenes. The scenes in which Sirius convinces him that it’s all a mistake. There are tears and there are hands which press together in the most intimate show of solidarity. In some of these scenes Sirius is a broken man, realistic for all his years in Azkaban, crouched on the floor and scared of his own shadow. In others, Remus’ mind kindly removes any semblance of reality. They are sat by the lake or sequestered in the Shrieking Shack as though the world had never become dark and cruel and complicated. There are so many ways of playing out the meeting, so many, and so few of them lead to a happy conclusion. Most involve Sirius’ face laughing like the newspaper headline had reported, laughing because he was so ruthless, so heartless and because he had fooled everyone.

He had fooled everyone but most of all Remus, most of all the man-boy he’d managed to convince day-by-day and piece-by-piece that he was in love with him. Every little movement had been a lie. Every time he’d come home to some stupidly endearing note, a surprise birthday party, an ugly piece of furniture bought for their shitty flat, every cheap gift selected so carefully because Remus refused to accept anything that cost more than he could afford to reciprocate with, every touch, every eye following him across a room: a lie.

To visit Sirius in Azkaban would be closure, it would be finality. Every tiny hope inevitably splintered like the bow of a ship on a bay of rocks. In not going, he could permit a lighthouse. The lighthouse keeper was not diligent. He did not keep his torch burning as a signal and warning and beacon of hope but sometimes he would light it up just to see if it still worked. If he went, there would be no hope. There would be no illusions. There would only be the cold hard truth, the truth Remus knew already, that Sirius had betrayed them, betrayed them all. (Sometimes he thought especially me and then hated himself for it. You’re alive, he’d think, you’re alive and you shouldn’t wish you weren’t. Think of James and Peter and Lily. You are alive. You’re still alive.)

He came close to going once. He stood on the dock, waiting for the ferryman, thinking — honestly believing — that he would step on the tiny boat to Azkaban, go there and end all this doubt and all this hope and have an end of it. The boat was tiny, slim and dark. It looked half-rotted with age and, at the stern, the ferryman stood, a stooped Charon figure who waited some minutes before asking Remus if he was crossing. Remus declined to do so but did not move from the dock until the boat had again disappeared from sight and he was left with the awful reunions of his imagination and the profundity of his cowardice.

The reunion, when it does occur, is better than Remus’ mind could ever fabricate. This is because it is real and because it is true and because, although Sirius looks more haggard and more broken than any of his imagined selves, his eyes gleam with hope at the sight of a friend who is once again a friend. It is better than Remus ever imagined because Remus can love and pity Sirius without self-loathing and because everything that passes between them is real. The lighthouse keeper, previously so negligent about casting the light which it is his vocation to provide, has taken up his station because he has realised that the world is worth saving — every last boat. Remus honestly feels, for the first time in too many years, that love is worth something. The whole world shifts on its axis probably just the same amount as usual but to Remus it feels like every object, every feeling, every word has been redefined. And, no matter what happens after that moment, nothing will be as bad as it once was because of this small truth.

That one man is guilty of a crime and not another can redefine everything.
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