Word Count: 2881
Notes: For sirena_lupin.
It started when it ended. Sure, it sounded cliche and like something you read in a trite romance novel, but looking back on it, it didn't really start until the smoke cleared and the war was over. They'd lost. She could still remember screaming until her voice gave out, screaming as arms pulled her away from Harry's body, sprawled across the ground with Voldemort standing over him, his wand still extended out and she could still see the blinding green behind her eyelids at night before she fell asleep.
It had started that very night. They all needed comfort, and in some fucked up and bizarre way, this was how she got hers. It started with a timid knock on the thick, grimy door - Grimmauld Place still hadn't been cleaned all the way through and Sirius had refused to let anyone clean up here, on the topmost floor where he spent all his time. She wondered if it would ever be done now, if that's all they could do was clean because the war was over and they had lost. It was something that had been brewing in the back of everyone's mind since the beginning - the real beginning, not the beginning of the end. She'd never thought it was possible. She'd never dreamed of being the one to hear Harry's last scream, to watch him crumble to the ground and see him there, shocked lifeless by a green light that had sucked away everything else Ginny had ever loved.
She waited with her head rested against the door for an answer, a pillow slung under her arm. She couldn't sleep, not tonight, not tomorrow, probably never again. How could she, when all she had left was to wait silently for Grimmald Place to come tumbling down and then, then she'd get to see everyone else consumed by that bright green light, too. It was terrifying, and something she'd never even dreamed of before. It had crept into her darkest nightmares, sure, but it had always been a terrifying thought on the edge of her subconscious.
No one had honestly believed Harry would fail.
When the door opened, Ginny jumped away, shocked and hissing a little to herself for getting so caught up in her thoughts. That could kill her, now. She needed to be on her guard.
"Ginny?" She looked up at Remus, standing tiredly in the door, wrapped up in Sirius' dressing gown. "What are you doing here?"
She knew he didn't mean in Grimmauld Place, but her first instinct was to remind him that there was no other place she could go. The world had gotten inconceivably small in just a single moment. But he didn't mean that, he meant there, at their door. She wrapped her arms tight around her torso and sighed. "I can't sleep."
He put a hand on her shoulder, five reassuring fingers rubbing gently at the tension knot in the crook of her neck. "Neither can we. I doubt anyone will sleep well tonight."
She thought then of the other people inside Grimmauld Place - it had become something of a tent city for what was left of their side. Her father, Tonks, Kingsley, Fred and Angelina, a handful of strangers she hardly knew, and McGonagall - the lone survivor of the Hogwarts Massacre - locked up tight in her room with nothing but the walls and the bed. She'd been driven mad and without Saint Mungo's, there was not much they could do to help her. No one could sleep well tonight. It felt like the whole of the place was holding its breath, waiting for the ax to fall, for the Death Eaters to storm the place and destroy all that was left of the fight against them.
They had nothing but each other, and so when Remus offered to let her come in, to join them for the one night she'd convinced herself she had left, she agreed and joined them.
Grimmauld Place wasn't dark. Remus didn't know if it was a fear of darkness that had somehow been instilled in all of them, but they kept the place as lit up as they could. There were candles in every room, fires burning in every fireplace - anything to scare the darkness out of the furthest corners of the room.
At night, they would huddle together in the kitchen, around the table talking of nothing. There was no news, obviously, since, for all they knew, the Prophet was shut down, or in the hands of the enemy. They talked about nothing, about what needed to be done to the house, about what to do when the food supply ran out. They had enough for five days. After that, one of them would have to venture out to find food. They danced around the subject of what to do now because they could not spend the rest of their lives in Grimmauld Place, hoping for something to happen to change it all.
Remus thought it was silly. All of it. The frustration, the hopelessness, everything. He felt like the walls were closing in on him and he just wanted to get out, enjoy London for the time that it would still be standing. If it were still standing. No one had looked out the windows in days.
When the light started to fade from the fireplace in the kitchen, they scattered like bugs afraid of what was hiding in the dark. Remus would take Sirius' hand and pull him upstairs to the room they had claimed as their own. They would meet Ginny at the top of the stairs, and without fail she would be sitting with her knees to her chest, shoulders shaking as she cried. Sirius would be the one to get down to his knees and hold her for a while. He understood best, anyhow - he'd lost everything in much the same way she had. Remus, too, had lost everything, but at least he had gained Sirius back, even if it had taken twelve years.
There was a time when Remus would have been jealous, watching Sirius take the time to comfort a woman, to hold her against him and kiss her hair and whisper things to her, but Remus didn't fear that anymore. So much had changed since they were teenagers sharing a flat. He knew their love had a sort of toughness that had lasted ages, separated by hate and fear and hundreds of miles.
So when Sirius lifted her into his arms and brought her into their bedroom, he didn't bat an eyelash. It was something new, after all, and new things would become rarer and rarer with the passing of time.
Time was kept with marks on parchment. Sirius never wrote them, never looked at them, because when he did, all he could see were the walls of his cell at Azkaban, covered in long, thin scratches. So he would ask Remus every day, and Remus would smile faintly, look up from his book, and always answer "Tuesday".
There was no way to know what day it was. Remus guessed that it was the twenty-first of July, because there were twenty four marks on the parchment and the war had ended on the twenty-seventh of June.
Twenty four days of nothing.
Twenty four nights of Ginny crying outside their door.
576 hours of knowing, without a doubt in his head, that he'd failed completely.
He could not change the past. He wished every day that he could, but what was done was done and all that was left was to protect those around him. He had Remus, still, and the few of the Order that were left - and Ginny, who had somehow managed to make her way into his heart in a way none of Harry's other friends, not even Ron, had been able to. There was something about her, about the way they could both mourn the same thing and understand each other, that made him wish she were fifteen years older and more the type to want to engage in threesomes with ex-cons and werewolves.
That night when he carried her into his and Remus' bed, he kept her in his arms long after she'd fallen asleep.
That was the night the sky rained fire.
By midnight, the city was on fire. Ginny was shocked out of sleep by the sounds of women screaming in the street and she untangled herself from Sirius, her own scream strangled in her throat as she ran to the window and threw it open, watching with wide eyes. The sky was orange, smoke filling the air and it looked like daylight if you didn't watch the streets below. There was madness down there. Men and women running zigzag across the streets, some frantically screaming as their clothes caught on fire, too.
She watched, tears dripping down her face, as they tried in vain to put it out. It was fruitless. Magical fire could hardly be put out by water.
Hands were on her shoulders then, Remus turning her around and pulling her down, away from the window as she cried again.
"Please, Ginny," he whispered. "Don't watch. Come back to bed."
"I. How can we just sit here?"
"What can we do?" He squeezed her and picked her up, pulling her to her feet and toward the bed. "There's ten of us, Ginny. There's no hope."
"All we can do is survive," Sirius murmured from the bed, reaching out for her. "It's over and we're on the losing side."
She tucked herself into Sirius' arms. He pressed a kiss to her forehead and cradled her close, trying as best he could to block out the sounds of London screaming as it burned to the ground.
In the morning, the fires still burned. They closed up the windows so they didn't have to watch, but the smell still invaded the front rooms downstairs. The ash and rotting smell of burning flesh and hair made them all sick to their stomaches, so they stopped going into those rooms. They took the back stairs to the kitchen when they bothered to go down there, and when they didn't, when there was no reason at all, they stayed in the upper floors.
Ginny spent her days reading. The Black family library was extensive and there wasn't a topic there that wasn't covered. She obsessed over the Dark Arts books, trying to find a way to save the world, to bring back Harry, to stop this all from having happened. She wasn't a miracle worker. She wasn't a brain, like Hermione had been. She wasn't lucky, like Harry. It felt to her like every day the world got smaller and smaller and the cause got even more hopeless, but she kept reading. Sometimes, Remus would be in the library, too, offering her smiles and touches and things that felt so human she craved them more and more with every passing minute.
She was going to find a way, because if she didn't, then what was the point to any of this? There would be no end in sight, no way out of their self-imposed prison.
When she went to bed that night, she kissed Sirius squarely on the mouth. She told herself she just needed the reassurance that she was still alive.
"She's the only woman here that's not mental or my cousin."
"It doesn't matter that she's half my age."
"It doesn't matter that she was dating my godson."
"Not at all."
Sirius turned over in bed and looked up at Remus through his hair. "Damnit, Moony, you're supposed to be talking me out of this!"
"Oh," He set his book down on the nightstand. "Here I was thinking I was supposed to be talking you in to it. It's not like we can go to the pub and pull a bloke for the night."
Sirius turned a little red at that, turning his face into the pillow and Remus chuckled, reaching over and rubbing his bare back. "Although it would break her heart if you kicked her out in the morning. Remember that."
"You lose interest faster than anyone I know, Padfoot."
Sirius turned back over and wrapped his arms around Remus' middle, knocking the book away with the top of his head and kissing the bare skin of Remus' chest. "I haven't gotten sick of you, have I?"
"I expect you won't." Remus looked thoughtful for a moment and then he sighed, settling down next to Sirius. He was beautiful, even in how much he'd changed over the last decade and a half. He was the last thing Remus had, the thing he'd almost lost three times in his lifetime and he couldn't bear that again. He didn't want to. Azkaban had taken Sirius' happiness. The veil had stolen away his life. The war had stolen away what was left of his family. What would be left after Grimmauld Place stole the last of the fight out of him? When the fire went out behind his eyes?
Remus hoped he didn't live to see that day, but he feared that he would.
When Remus was just out of Hogwarts and had been living with Sirius for just a few months, they pulled their first Muggle. It had been Sirius' idea, of course, and Remus had gone along with it for curiosity's sake. It had been awkward, he hadn't known what to say or do, but it had been worth it to watch Sirius' eyes as the man - David, he barely remembered - wrapped his lips around Remus. It was the look on Sirius' face, not anything at all that David did, that brought Remus over the edge.
Remus would never get over the awkwardness of it all, though. There was no easy way to ask someone if they'd like to shag you and your boyfriend and this time, this night, it was even harder because she was so young, so damaged, and they would not be saying goodbye to her in the morning.
It would be a permanent change if it happened at all. Maybe she wasn't even interested. He didn't think that, though. He decided to let Sirius do all the talking and just excuse himself from the room. It worked best like that.
He sat outside of the bedroom for half an hour, ignoring all the sounds around him and opting to look outside the window for the first time in days.
The city was still burning, a ball of fire on the horizon like the sun was setting in the sky. The buildings around them were smoldering ash and there were people - live people, he was glad to see, huddled together in the streets.
There was still something to fight for, he realized, but they had no means to fight it. He didn't know what to feel about that revelation, but he felt a profound sadness fill him up as he pushed the curtains closed and started back to the bedroom.
The morning came with awkward small talk and touches here and there, with Sirius and Remus both wondering if Arthur was going to break down the door - she was only sixteen, after all - but it turned out they didn't have to worry about it.
When the light hit the windows, they realized there was something different, some new smell permiating the air and when they hurriedly got dressed and excused themselves downstairs, they found the source.
Harry Potter had come home, but not in the way they'd all secretly been hoping.
His body was sprawled across the table and Voldemort, Voldemort was standing there, too, with Snape at his side and the smell was so terrible that Sirius dropped to his knees and emptied his stomach onto the floor.
Remus' hands grabbed Ginny again, keeping her back from doing something rash with one eye on Sirius and the other eye watching their uninvited guests. They hadn't thought, not in their wildest dreams, that this would happen. That their one safe haven would be destroyed by Dumbledore's one mistake in judgment.
"What are you doing here?"
It was Ginny's voice that hissed out the words, so low in her throat Remus almost mistook it for Parseltongue.
Voldemort did not offer an answer, he just stepped down from the table with a grace Remus hadn't thought possible. He knew in that moment that it was over, that they were all going to die right then and there - that maybe this was his punishment for taking a sixteen year old girl to bed with his lover.
He never imagined that Voldemort would simply push him to his knees next to Sirius and then turn on Ginny.
"You are all fools, but I never imagined you would all be cowards, too." His thin lips formed a sort of twisted smile and Remus was, not for the first time in this long war, terrified. "The great Gryffindor spirit," he turned to Remus then. "Reduced to cowering in a kitchen."
Remus didn't turn away, not even when the kitchen filled with green light.
It started at the end.