A conversation on the rooftop of number 12 Grimmauld Place. Note: This is a first draft, so any and all critique is useful, so long as it's constructive. "This sucks" isn't going to cut it. The...
Peering down the steep slope of the roof, he wondered randomly what would happen if he were to let himself slide down the shingles like a raindrop and splatter on the ground beneath. Would the others think it had been an accident? That he'd simply been sitting up on the backbone of the house and slipped? Or would they somehow know that it had been intentional?
They'd probably know. He had his wand, if he slipped he could DisApparate to safety, unless he somehow contrived to hit his head. Given that Molly had apparently known what he was thinking simply from the way he was looking at the bread knife as he commented that he wanted nothing so much as to go to sleep and never wake up, he was certain he wouldn't be able to fool anyone now.
He wasn't certain whether that was a pity or not. He wasn't certain of a lot of things.
He was certain that Sirius was gone. It hadn't been some strange sort of nightmare that he would wake up from. Sirius was gone, again, and this time he wouldn't be coming back.
This was an odd certainty. After all, he'd been certain that Sirius wasn't coming back before, that he would rot in Azkaban and eventually self destruct like all of the prisoners there, but that had felt different. Then there had been pain, the bone jarring shock of betrayal, the drawn out mental scream of knowing James, Lily, and Peter were gone and it was Sirius' fault. It had been agony.
He'd gotten through it. He'd found other people to spend time with, found odd jobs to focus on until he was inevitably 'let go', he'd worked his way through the grieving process and accepted that there was no more Sirius or James, no Lily or Peter. By the time he actually saw his old friend again, he'd even forgotten how much he missed the other man.
He was certain that what he'd said earlier was true. He wanted nothing so much as to lay down, go to sleep, and never wake up again. He was tired, beyond thought, beyond feeling. He wasn't sad. He wasn't angry. He wasn't scared. He was, perhaps, a little melancholy, a touch apathetic, but mostly he was very, very tired.
He didn't have the strength to grieve a second time. He'd been there, done that, it was old hat and there was nothing left to give. He was hollow, like one of Severus' beakers, only without any assurance that he would be full again.
Severus. He was growing more and more certain that nothing he could do would ever make up for the fact that once he'd been young and very, very stupid. Oddly, he'd never really disliked the other man, even during school when he had been young and stupid. Admittedly, he hadn't really liked him either back then, particularly at fifteen when the only thing that seemed to bring the foul tempered Slytherin any sort of joy was cursing flies and trying to get Remus and his friends expelled, but one stupid fifteen year old deserves another. He'd tried to make up for letting his lack of like and fear of losing the only three friends he had over ride his lack of dislike, but it just wasn't working. Severus had been brooding, poking at infected emotional wounds until Remus wasn't even certain the Potions Master could understand what it was like if he tried...
Closing his mind, he tried to remember the fear. He tried to remember waking up in cold sweats from nightmares where he was all alone, where the others had left him and there was no one. It was odd. The nightmare had become reality twelve years ago and he'd survived it. He'd conquered the fear.
It felt like he'd lost something when the nightmare went away.
There was a noise to his right, a soft rustle, a body in motion. He turned his head, feeling vaguely that the appearance of another body on the roof should surprise him but not really bothered to drag up the shock.
Albus Dumbledore sat down next to him. "Lovely evening, isn't it? How long do you think we can sit here before we're drenched by a passing storm cloud?"
"I have no idea." Somehow Remus managed to drag up a small smile, or maybe just an approximation of a smile. It was more a reflexive muscle motion anyway, as he certainly wasn't feeling any happier than he'd been a moment ago.
"Well, it's a good thing we aren't made out of sugar. I'm sure the others would be quite distraught if we were to melt away."
Remus sighed and looked back out to where the sun was sinking in the horizon. He really didn't feel like having someone try to cheer him up. The twins had tried that earlier and it had resulted in him being covered in some sort of unholy marriage between meringue and glue. "Perhaps we should go back inside."
"I don't think so." Dumbledore replied, rooting around in his robes for something and eventually coming up with small bag of faintly oval shaped yellow things. "It's too crowded inside for a proper conversation about anything serious. Lemon drop?" He extended the bag to Remus.
After a reluctant pause, the werewolf took a drop. "You've been talking to Molly, haven't you?"
"Oh, I wouldn't say that." A second lemon drop found itself being removed from the bag and popped into the Headmaster's mouth. "We haven't been talking so much as she descended upon me the second I arrived and proclaimed it imperative that I do something to get you out of the...what was the word? Funk?...yes, the funk you were in. She also mentioned something about you staring longingly at the bread knife earlier."
The way the other man said 'funk' was rewarded with a half snort of reflexive laughter. "It sounds like she was a lot less adamant with you than she was with me. I found myself with the bread knife being waved under my nose while she yelled at me. Something to the tune of 'don't you dare consider committing suicide, Harry needs you, what would Harry do if he were to lose you now, how could you be so selfish, killing yourself is the coward's way out' and then at the end 'you were born, you have an obligation to your parents to live' or something similar."
"Ah yes, the grand duty of life." Dumbledore chuckled. "Finish what your parents started. Possibly the second worst reason for living known to man."
Remus blinked. He turned back to the older man and studied him, curiously. "What's the worst reason?"
"Guilty conscience." Dumbledore's blue eyes, their usual twinkling a bit subdued, met Remus' over the rim of the Headmaster's half-moon glasses. "No one person may be the center of the universe, Remus, but everyone is the center of their own life. Putting others first is only a good idea if it makes you feel better, otherwise it's just one more thing to run you down. Now Molly is a born mother and wife. Having someone to dote on makes her feel needed and whole and worthwhile. Take away her family and she'd be miserable. Severus, on the other hand, while he might make sacrifices for other people, is far more self-centered in his needs. The entire world could go hang and as long as it meant no one was bothering him, he'd be more or less peachy with the loss, although he'd probably miss the occasional praise of his underappreciated genius."
"But," Turning once more to look across the street, Remus tried to puzzle through what the other man was saying, "Why should we keep living then? If friends and family aren't a good enough reason...what is?"
"Well, I'd say because you want to live. Or because you don't want to die, one or the other. Of course, not wanting to die can become a bit of an obsession. No one lives forever, after all."
"What if you don't want to live?" Remus pulled his knees to his chest and settled his chin on them. "I'm tired, Albus. The world keeps turning and turning and nothing's getting done and nothing's really changing except that people keep going away. All of the things people talk about...love, home, a steady job...none of them are really there. There's nothing to hold onto, no guarantee that there will ever be something. I really don't want to go through my entire life just hoping that something will come along, actively searching for that something, and then get to the end and still have nothing. It's pointless."
"Well," The older man sighed, "That is a bit of a sticky question. There are, as you said, no guarantees in life. However, I've discovered that if you keep looking, you can generally find something to keep you going. Most of the time it's a pleasant something, although certain individuals I've known have the most surprisingly negative stimuli to keep them going. I have to wonder how they do it. Of course, even that isn't a guarantee and if you can't find something...well, then you have to decide if you keep living because it's expected of you or stop because you want to stop. No one can decide that for you."
Closing his eyes, Remus turned the words over in his mind. At the same time, he remembered...
He remembered Harry, urging him to go and pull back the Veil and make certain that Sirius was alright. He remembered the look on the boy's face when it sunk in that Sirius wasn't alright and that there wasn't anything to be done about the fact.
He remembered rushing into the room and finding Molly, desperately trying to combat the boggart of her dead family.
He remembered Severus' rather cross expression as he reported that he couldn't find Harry and that it was quite likely the teenager had run off in an attempt to rescue his perfectly safe Godfather.
All around him there were people, lives, all inter-connected. The greater good, that was what the Order was fighting for, what he'd dedicated his life for. What really gave him the right to back out now? "I...I don't want to be selfish. After all, I made a promise when I joined the Order."
"And Severus made a promise when he joined the Death Eaters. We aren't going to kill you for changing your mind, Remus. Now, certain parties might never forgive you if you do decide to end it all. I know I for one would be most displeased, but that's because I'm a selfish old man who enjoys your company and doesn't want that taken away from him. I have often wondered why someone putting themselves out of their own misery is viewed as selfish while a mob of people insisting that said person keep on being miserable indefinitely wasn't. Seems most selfish to me and a poor way to make someone feel better about themselves. After all, if the fact they're making everyone else happy is what's keeping someone going, how is telling them that they're only doing the bare minimum required of them and are utter failures if they stop going to help them?" There was a pause. "Although I suppose now I'm just rambling."
"No need to stop." Remus lifted his head a little and gave another of those weak smiles. "It's interesting. Not at all what I expected to hear from you."
Dumbledore winked at him. "Figured I'd sound a bit more like Molly, hmm?" The Headmaster sighed and closed his own eyes for a moment. Across the street from them, the sky had filled with clouds and the air was full with the smell and sound of rain. "You aren't the only one who gets tired, Remus. Far from the only one. I'm nearly two hundred years old, and if you think there are days I haven't wanted to lay down and give up, you're very much mistaken. I've kept going. Others haven't. We're all individuals with our own breaking points, so there's no real point in screaming that I've gotten through this, you can do it too, because the only way to know whether you can get something or not is to do it. Not everyone can and the best judge of whether you can get through something or not is you. Now, there are other ways to cope than, say, jumping off of this roof. You could change your name, pack your bags, move, and start over again from scratch. It will upset everyone around you just as much, but at least you'll still be alive and who knows? Maybe you'll find whatever it is you need to get by. You could stay where you are and tough it out. You could do a lot of things, just be aware there will always be someone there ready to pitch a fit because you've made the wrong choice."
"Joyous thought, really." Remus sighed, then eyed the other man speculatively. "You've done this before."
"Done what?" The question was deliberately innocent, accompanied by the consumption of another lemon drop. "Sat on a roof top talking to someone about the meaning of life, the universe, and all of that rubbish while eating lemon drops and waiting to be drenched? No. However, I have had several conversations with people about the advantages and disadvantages of lying down and giving up."
"Anyone I know?" The question was pure, idle curiosity.
"Well, Severus for one." The corners of Dumbledore's mouth quirked. "He has at least one good depression fit a year. Fortunately, they're quite easy to head off, if one knows how to go about it."
"Simply point out that he's right and no one gives a flying rats ass if he lives or dies, so long as he leaves behind lots of useful potions research that they can claim as their own after he's gone." The Headmaster paused. "And then duck, because if there's anything close at hand that's good for throwing, he'll lob it at your head."
Remus laughed. He didn't really mean to, it just started, touched off by the image of Dumbledore dodging some sort of projectile hurled by the perpetually put out Potions Master and then it wouldn't stop. Soon he was hiccupping, crying, one hand clinging to Dumbledore's robes to keep himself from truly sliding off the roof and accidentally breaking his neck.
One of the Headmaster's arms wrapped around his shoulders, helping to hold him in place. When the laughter finally softened, he murmured, "I want you to promise me something, Remus. It's a selfish promise, I realize, but I am only a selfish old man, after all. Whatever you chose, at least wait until the end of the war. For Harry, for the Order, for society at large. Hell, for Severus, if you want. Merlin knows that man needs as many people to glare at as possible to keep him content until he can gain some sort of large scale recognition for a job well done. And who knows, perhaps you'll be killed and you won't have to worry about what the others think of you."
"Alright." Remus closed his eyes again. They could afford to just sit for a moment, couldn't they? The rain was hitting the edge of the roof, but they weren't made of sugar, and he didn't want to go back yet. "Until the end of the war. After that..."
"After that, I'll do my best to honour any decision you make. I promise."