With many thanks to Anne for a) the wonderful beta job, and b) actually letting me use and expound upon the idea of Remus and Sirius using “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury as a means to show - or share - love. Or something like that.

~These~ show actual quotes from the book, while simple Italics don’t.

To Jo. Because she’s Jo. And because we are so swimming at the Forty Foot.

Funny that the day after happened to be Remus's birthday. According to his mother, November 2nd was the day to celebrate his existence. Rejoice in life. Rejoice in love. Rejoice...simply rejoice. His mother had said. His mother had died. His father had moved. His lover had betrayed his best friend, killed another, and was on his way to Azkaban, to rot among Dementors for the rest of his miserable, fucking life.

A book flew out of his shaking hands to thump softly on the wooden wall. The rubbish bin made a hollow noise as the book landed at the bottom, above the pieces of parchment with perfidious handwriting flashing across them. Black. Black ink. He had always used black ink, somehow avoiding the seemingly unavoidable pun and merely making it an observation. Didn't you notice? Always black.

Always Black.

His hand reached towards the next book, he dared not look at its title. Treacherous fingers, they knew the cover well enough. Or rather, the pattern of the wrinkles. The feel of sharp bends and soft curls. The dog-eared book weighed next to nothing, but it took strange effort to hold onto it. No effort. Instinct. His fingers refused to let go, even as his mind screamed at him to do so.

Rejoice...rejoice...rejoice... Rejoice, that's what they all were doing now, out on the streets, owls swooping so often, it was a miracle so few Muggles took notice. What did it matter? What did any of it matter?

The war that they had waged, that they had fought had ended abruptly. In their favour. Then why had they paid with their lives, their minds, their sanity?

"The Boy Who Lived". Now condemned to a life of no mother, no father, no roots. Just a scar on the forehead and those damn green eyes that Lily had been wise enough to pass onto him. "Breathtaking," James had said once.

They both were alone in the world now.

A quill lay next to him on the bed, black ink staining the rumpled sheets beneath it. It was intoxicating to look at. What had he been writing? A suicide note? A notice to the landlord, part of the rent and an apology? A list of things to remember to pack? One and the same. All the same.

The book fell open, obscuring the title. The dry pages flipped, showing marks, marks everywhere - tiny notes, exclamation points, impromptu love notes... Underlined passages, ones that had been read over and over. The cover was sullied on the back. They hadn't even waited that time. Seemed more important to be in each other than to care about some pieces of Muggle paper stuck together to make any sort of sense. Black words on grey paper.

A page fell open and stayed. Feeling betrayed by his own eyes, he read:

~"Ten minutes after death a man's a speck of black dust. Let's not quibble over individuals with memoriums. Forget them. Burn all, burn everything. Fire is bright and fire is clean."~

He glanced over at the fireplace. The fire was crackling, bright...bright and clean. It would surely renew him if he allowed himself to let the book go. Surely, it would release him from this hell, from this horror in which he'd so suddenly found himself. Please, please, for the love of God, let the fire release him.

An undignified, sorrowful, harsh sob escaped his lips as he fell to his knees. Was he actually expected to go on, to continue living? How, how could that be expected of him?

No life could ever be worse than hell, and yet he seemed to be facing it now.

The book was still clutched in his fist, nails digging into the thin paper, leaving indentations, marks, his fingernails leaving marks... Not on soft skin, there was no skin now. His arms closed around empty space as sobs wracked his body, his cry unending.

Burn, burn, it was the only way, burn all, do not quibble over individuals...

"I feel like I can't be without you, you are my life. Like a limb that supports my weight."

Individual...speck of black dust...

"We'll be together then, won't we? I want to see what you look like with all your hair grey, your face wrinkled and wizened, because, you know, it has to happen sometime...hey, that hurt!"

Hand still clutching the pages, he closed his mouth and let his head fall forward. His eyes fell shut and tears made their way down his cheeks. They burned.

"I'll come to you. I swear. No matter what happens in this war, no matter if it seems impossible, I will come to you. But you have to promise me, please, promise me. You will let me in. You will come for me, too. Promise me, Remus, I won't lose you like I did my family."

Promise...rejoice. Burn.

A hand that seemed to be working on its own lifted in the air. Treacherous fingers clutched their load tighter.

Defeated, he let the book go. It fell with a soft thud against the wall.

He hadn't done it. And now he knew he never would.

He would his mind. His past life was gone. It was time to endure a new one.

Forget them all. Do not quibble over individuals. Fire is bright. Fire is clean.

In an hour, a knapsack over his shoulder, Remus walked out of the flat. It was in his bag, something making him stuff it in there at the last minute.

His mind void of any thought, lines came unbidden:

~"Do not ask for guarantees. And don't look to be saved by any one thing, person, machine, or library. Do your own bit of saving, and if you drown, at least die knowing you were headed for shore."~

He hoped to God that Sirius had not forgotten.

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