Challenge #: 25 - "Write a story which centers on a character's secret guilty pleasure."
Fandom: Harry Potter
Disclaimer: Don't own. Don't sue.
Word count: 628
Summary: "Though we are separated now, I know that he cries every night before he sleeps." Remus reconciles his own grief with Harry's. And this is why we don't write stupid stories at 2 am when we have work the next day.
Warnings: Probably spoilers for OotP. Very death-oriented. Probably not most people's idea of a 'secret guilty pleasure.'
A Rotten End to a Lovely Day
We’re all waiting for the collapse, it seems. The rug’s been pulled out from under us and we’re suspended, floating, falling, knowing we will someday hit the ground but still aware of the delay as we hang, weightless in perpetuity, and just wait for the moment of impact.
And I know how it will feel, once we finally land and all of our uncertainties are unceremoniously stripped away. The tailbone will connect first and it will send sparks of pain dancing up our spines all the way up behind our eyelids when, for the first time, we will all finally realize that one of many has left and will not be coming back. One, two, three, four, I’ve felt it all before and I know the signs very well. The grief is most painful before the trauma has even registered, before you realize that you’ll have to throw his toothbrush away because he’ll no longer be needing it. It’s painful because it’s not grief: it’s guilt. Survivor’s guilt. That awful ache in the pit of your stomach that screams at you in the middle of the night: you could have done something! It could have been you; it should have been you! And you sing and dance a heady tango with the ‘what if?’s and are tortured by the questions that will never be answered.
‘Did you ever think as a hearse goes by/that you might be the next to die?’ And then it isn’t guilt that wraps its choking fingers around your abdomen, it’s fear. Real fear, for the first time in ages. You saw two people who were dead come back to life and now one of them is dead again and you’re very sure that next time it will be you wrapped in a pall of tears and decay. Though I am sure the astonishment will be mild; I have witnessed the subtle day-to-day transformation of my features in the mirror as they have progressed from mildly unhealthy to positively skeletal. I smell death upon myself and it recalls a black lace veil, laced with an essence of cedar and draped across my line of vision.
In adult grief, there is no greater pleasure than watching a child cry the tears you cannot, echoing the unfairness that you feel in the honesty of their youth. The disbelief, the helpless rage, it was all transferred to me through his touch, the skin of his cheek pressed hotly against my own as I sought to restrain him, to hold him tightly lest death come to claim him as well, greedy mistress that she is. I knew every thought in his mind, every emotion clawing at his larynx, regurgitating in the soft grey matter of his brain as he struggled for comprehension, because I felt them too. The only difference was that he could weep for his loss, as I cannot.
Though we are separated now, I know that he cries every night before he sleeps. I know because I did the same fourteen years ago. But now his tears are my only catharsis, though I’m sure he remains unaware. There is something voyeuristic about longing to see his shoulders shake with his sadness, to hear the soft choking noises of his sobs; the perversion tugs at my inhuman side. But my own tears must come to fruition vicariously through him; there is no desire to hold or be held, only the desperate hunger for the knowledge that he can cry—that he does cry—for the father that he never had and the replacement so quick to abandon him and the knowledge that the next to die may be himself.
Those nights when you cannot sleep, all you really want to do is watch another person suffering.