The Sugar Quill
Author: DarkWitch (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Outside of Time  Chapter: Default
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Outside of Time

Outside of Time

He floated, outside of time, simply drifting: weightless, thoughtless, mindless.

There was no sensation of time passing, he thought when at last words became parts of thoughts. Grew to halves of thoughts. Combined to form whole thoughts. No sense of where he'd been, where he was, where he was going. Everything was grey. Comforting.

Nothing.

Carefree, he let himself drift, as if dancing to soundless music, dancing without movement. No urgency, no pain, no sorrow, no care. He knew that these things had once been his, but the knowledge seemed to belong not to another person but to another world entirely. He knew it, but the knowledge did not touch him.

He was unmoved.

And so he drifted, for another endless time, until his thoughts began to form a pattern.

Urgency about what? Pain for what? For whom? Sorrow at what? Care for whom?

And still this did not touch him, safe in the place between life and death, safe outside of time. It was a mantra, a soothing repetition of words that meant nothing to him.

It was reflex.

It was a rhythm.

A heartbeat.

And it was distant.

It was Other.

But he thought, when he thought at all, that he would remember. Sometime.

The thought was not alarming, unconnected as it was to anything he now knew. In that place out of time, it meant little to him, and he was content to drift.

Caught in the grey as in a mother's embrace, he floated.

Healed, though he was not aware of it.

And when it was time to remember, it came to him slowly. One by one, as though his time in the grey nothingness had grown to encompass what he once had been, as though a film had begun to play in the back of his mind, at the unknown speed that was the pace of the grey.

James. Smiling. Black hair untidy. Hazel eyes sparkling. So beautiful. So...lost, he thought, and discovered that the thought held no pain. There was only knowledge, and a sorrow that was as distant as Mars, or Pluto. Dead. James was dead. Again, there was no pain, though he knew that at some time he must have felt it. No pain, only a curious sense of finality.

The fight was over for James.

And for Lily. Red-haired, green-eyed laughing girl. So perfectly matched to James. So compassionate, so loving, so beautiful. The sister he'd never had. The sorrow he'd felt for James, that distant, almost disinterested, sorrow, returned. She'd been so lovely.

But she was at peace now, and that was a comfortable thought.

Peter. Shy, sandy-haired and brown-eyed. Average. So insecure. So easily led. He knew what Peter had done. He knew that he must have felt anger, once. But it seemed so distant, so unimportant here in the grey. Some scores, perhaps, weren't meant to be settled.

He thought about that. From what he knew of the mind the memories came from--his mind, though it was hard to believe, in this place--he must have hated Peter. Must have burned for revenge. For justice. For what had been taken from him.

It might as well have taken place in another universe, he thought, and found contentment in the idea. Here in the grey, outside of that time, he felt only a mild, disconnected pity for the person Peter still was. Would always be. Here in the grey, he knew as though it were carved in stone that Peter would not change. Could not change. His insecurity was so much a part of him now that he would always be the young man who had craved acceptance, who had needed but never found his place in the world.

Peter, he thought wonderingly, as though Peter were someone he had never known, only heard about a long, long time ago. How lucky they had all been. All of them save Peter.

It wasn't forgiveness he felt, not here in the grey. It was acceptance, gentle as a night-wave upon sand, soft as a whisper. Acceptance, and a vague sort of pity.

Peter was beyond him, and that was not good, not bad, not sad.

It simply was.

Remus. Bright eyes laughing. Longish hair, smiling face. Pale and thin. If James had been beautiful, Remus was pure pleasure to look at.

That pleasure was less distant. Closer to him, even in the grey.

Long limbs moving with that odd, animal grace. Those piercing eyes. The slender, strong body he knew so well, remembered so well.

Even in the grey.

It wasn't the pain of separation he felt, here outside of time, but the haunting sweetness of good memories, rendered gently in muted tones. Remus was elsewhere. They wouldn't meet again until Remus was with him in the grey. He knew it, and the knowledge connected, shot through grey and into his mind, where it made a home.

Still, he felt no pain. He knew they had been separated, knew that after Azkaban he and Remus had been as close as two people could be, and he knew a curious sweet sadness. But he would not wish for Remus to be here, now. The knowledge had connected, and he had begun to feel again, and he could not wish for Remus to be here. To be dead, floating in the grey.

Dead.

He was dead.

He felt his heart contract for the first time since he'd found himself in the grey. He would have cried out if he'd had a voice to cry out with.

Dead.

Separated from Remus.

From Harry.

It was if the grey receded to a pinprick, to nothing, and all the pain in the world rushed in to take its place. He felt doubled-over with the force of it, breathless, agonised with a frenzy of hurt such as he had never suspected could exist in the world. It took him, waltzed with him endlessly until it was all he knew, and what had been grey became dark and tortured.

He didn't know when it stopped. It might have lasted moments, and ended so gradually he hadn't noticed.

It might have lasted aeons, and stopped with the force of a blow.

All he knew was that after some nameless time, he felt something different, and that something was regret.

It slid through him, easing him back into the grey steadily.

So many things left undone.

Unsaid.

He'd wanted to protect Harry, and that was a job he now had to entrust to others.

He'd wanted to talk with Remus, get out of his mother's house, feel sunshine on his face, let Remus convince him he could hope again. He hadn't gotten the chance.

He'd wanted to tell Harry things--about James, about Lily, about how excited they'd been when Harry was born, about how hard they'd tried to protect him, how much they'd loved him. He could only hope that Moony would take up that thread.

Moony.

Even when he was awash with regret, the thought of Moony could make him smile.

And the smile healed, though he was unaware of it.

He'd wanted to see Frank and Alice in hospital, even if they never knew he'd been there. No chance of that now.

He'd goddamned well wanted to find a way to take his mother's goddamned portrait off the wall.

He shocked himself by starting to laugh, and that brought more memories, good memories.

Padfoot, Prongs, and Wormtail laughing wearily as they made their way back up to the Castle after a full moon. The first time he'd woken up beside Remus, lying on the floor because they'd both rolled out of bed in a sprawl of arms and legs and laughter. Sneaking to the kitchen after hours, snickering along the corridors at school. Running back to the Common Room with James, in tears of laughter after the dungbombs they'd planted had all gone off at the same time, enveloping Filch in cursing clouds of foul-smelling smoke.

The first time he'd seen Harry. Every time he'd seen Harry, from the night Harry was born until that day at the Ministry, that last day...

He shook that thought off for the moment. Time enough to deal with that later...

Harry, as Lily had said one drunken night not long before they'd gone into hiding, was the best of both of his parents. He smiled at the thought. Harry had Lily's eyes and Lily's heart; James's looks and James's quiet leadership; both of his parents' courage, and both of their fight. He had fallen in love with the little miniature-of-his-father-but-red-and-wrinkly baby he'd first seen less than an hour after Harry's birth. And as much as he'd lost in the last fourteen years of his life, his love for Harry had always stayed as strong as it had been the first time he'd held him in his arms.

It was the thought of Harry that had stopped him cold, had brought home to him just how much he'd lost. And it was the thought of Harry that made him think--not in the disconnected way of the grey, but in the way he once had, quickly and with certainty.

He wondered idly, as he considered more important things, if it was passing through the veil that had allowed him to stay so long in the grey, that allowed him to remember and feel and think.

He forgot the thought nearly as soon as it had formed. It was distant and distinct from him, as his thoughts of Lily and James had been and still were. As his memories of Peter were.

Not, of course, that he intended to forget about Peter. But Peter the boy, the insecure young man he'd felt vague pity for, was unimportant. The Peter he intended to remember was the Peter who had betrayed his best friends, who had brought Voldemort back to his body, who posed a threat to Harry.

Harry was the important thing.

Moony would understand.

Thinking of Harry, Sirius left the grey and moved on.

//
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