Tuesday, August 5th, 2003 05:00 pm
Summary: Trapped in a world where he can be neither seen nor heard, Sirius Black struggles to communicate to his friends that he may not be as dead as they think he is... and that something dreadful lurks beyond the veil.

Dedicated to the SBRL list and the noble cause of denial.

06. Forbidden Magic

Sirius watched.

He was not cut out to be a watcher; he was forever a player in the game of life, always in the centre, always in the light. It was, as Snape had noted, ironic that he should be the one totally unable to help.

Sirius watched distrustfully as Remus took some of the books Snape had brought and handed them to Harry. He didn't like the idea of his godson handling Dark Magic texts - he didn't like the thought of Remus touching them, either, if it came down to it - and besides, Snape wasn't telling them everything. Sirius glared at the hook-nosed man, who had seated himself stiffly on the edge of an armchair (as if, Sirius thought savagely, he might catch something from Remus's furniture).

Remus had seated himself on the floor (Sirius had no idea why he always preferred to do research sitting on the floor) and was looking intently at the titles he'd ended up with; Harry was eyeing the cover of one slim, cloth-bound volume warily. When Sirius looked closer, he saw that the silvery threads of the weave seemed to be moving, winding themselves around each other hypnotically. He glanced at Harry, whose eyes had become slightly unfocused. Alarmed, Sirius strode over to his godson and waved in his mirror, trying to get his attention -

"Harry."

Remus's hand came down squarely on the cover of the book, breaking Harry's gaze. The boy jumped and looked up in alarm; a second later, Remus had snatched his hand back with a hiss. The skin was red and raw.

"You might want to avoid touching that volume, Lupin," Snape volunteered lazily. "It's bound in cloth-of-silver."

"If I had a wand," Sirius ground out in a low tone, "you'd be unconscious for a week."

"Ah," said Remus calmly, and Sirius wouldn't even have noticed that he was gritting his teeth around the pain if he hadn't heard that tone after every full moon for eight years. "In that case, Harry, would you mind moving it out of harm's way, under these ones here? You might want to avoid looking at it for too long."

"Silver burns you?" Harry asked in a low voice as he obeyed.

"Sometimes. Purity is important. Any silver substance that has been touched with enchantment is particularly... potent." Remus glanced at the book, one corner of which was just visible beneath a stack of others. "Harry, in the kitchen cabinet there should be a bottle of yellow liquid--"

"Murtlap essence, right?" Harry jumped to his feet. Sirius felt a surge of pride in his godson. "I'll get it. Where do you keep your bowls?"

"The cupboard under the window."

Harry disappeared into the kitchen. Remus flexed his hand and winced. He looked over at Snape, who had yet to open his book and was merely watching.

"Your point?" Remus's voice was deceptively soft.

Snape narrowed his eyes. "What do you mean?"

"I know that was a test as well as you do. What was your point?"

Sirius blinked. A test? He'd thought Snape was just being his usual unpleasant self. Yeah, but Moony was always the subtle one. He'd usually solved the puzzle before me and James had even realised there was one.

"Potter is easily distracted," Snape said coldly.

"He's fifteen."

"He's vulnerable to certain things."

"Is that relevant?"

Sirius looked from one to the other in confusion. "Are you talking in some sort of code? Moony?"

Before either could speak again, Harry re-entered the room with a bowl of yellowish liquid. Remus accepted it with a smile of thanks, placing it on the floor and immersing his burned hand up to the wrist.

Sirius watched Snape again. He knew the Potions Master was holding back. Their brief... communication - his stomach twisted at the memory of Snape seeing into his mind - had not been entirely one-way. Sirius had felt Snape's reactions to certain things, and caught a glimpse of an image that sent cold shivers through his soul. A tall, dark-cloaked figure and a pair of glowing mirrors. When was the greasy git going to deign to mention this to Moony?

Harry sat down - next to Remus, Sirius noticed - and picked up another book with understandable caution. He looked from Remus to Snape and frowned.

"What are we looking for now?" he asked.

"Yeah," echoed Sirius, flopping down on the sofa behind his godson so that he'd be clearly visible if either of his loved ones raised the mirrors. "Come on, tell them what Voldemort's been doing in his spare time."

Snape tapped his fingers against the cover of the book he was holding and appeared to reach a decision.

"There is a certain branch of magic," he said finally, "which has been obsolete for several hundred years."

"That's more like it," Sirius muttered. He sat back, folding his arms.

Snape, meanwhile, was glaring at Harry again.

"Perhaps it would be best if Potter were to leave--" he began, but Remus interrupted before Harry could even draw breath to protest.

"Harry's a part of this."

"Well said," Sirius muttered. Harry shot a look of surprised gratitude at Remus.

Snape hissed slightly between his teeth - now that was an interesting new mannerism, had he picked it up from Voldemort? Sirius wondered nastily - and looked away.

"As you see fit," Snape said in tones dripping with sarcasm. "As I was saying, certain... practises were abandoned centuries ago. Even Dark Wizards refused to use them, and after a time they dropped out of common knowledge, so that even those who might have dared to break the taboo were unaware of their existence."

Remus was nodding thoughtfully. Harry was trying not to look interested; Sirius well understood his dilemma - this was Snape, after all.

"Mirror magic is one of these." Snape cast a disdainful look at the mirrors Remus and Harry had in their laps. "Not the enchantment of mirrors, obviously, but the use of them in their own right. Specifically, the use of two mirrors. It was known as dicaptromancy."

Remus looked distant. "Yes. I remember..."

He snapped back to the present, and Sirius suddenly wondered where exactly he'd learned so much about the Dark Arts. Sirius knew how he'd picked up some of it - and he firmly closed the door on that set of memories - but he realised for the first time that Remus hadn't been all that forthcoming about the years in which Sirius had been in Azkaban.

"The use of mirror magic," Snape said, settling into an analytical voice that Sirius hadn't ever heard him use - he supposed, grudgingly, that Snape must actually be a passable teacher, "was one of the many avenues the Dark Lord explored during his rise to power. He single-handedly rediscovered an... art..." Snape hesitated over the word as if it tasted bad, "that it had taken covens of dark wizards years to perfect."

"Why?" asked Harry, forgetting himself. Sirius noticed that a faint flash of amusement crossed Remus's face.

"What do you see when you stand between two mirrors, Potter?"

Harry frowned. "My reflection," he said pointedly.

Snape looked as though he wanted to take points from Gryffindor.

"Just one reflection?" Remus asked Harry gently.

"No... a whole set of them..." Harry said slowly. "As if I were standing in a tunnel."

"I bet you were a bloody good teacher, Moony," murmured Sirius, mostly to himself.

"Precisely." Snape drummed his fingers against the book again. "Two mirrors can be used to enhance certain magics - legilimency being, of course, the Dark Lord's primary concern. He also discovered..." Snape hesitated, "... that they can be used to extend life."

"Ah," murmured Remus. He had that distant look again, like he was fitting pieces together.

"You can imagine how interesting he found this. I suspect that his use of mirrors was what prevented his death when he attempted to kill Potter."

"You mean," interrupted Harry, just a second before Sirius also made the connection and sat bolt upright, "that when Voldemort was gone, he was in the same state that Sirius is now?"

"No," Remus answered before Snape could. "He could influence the world, possess people and use certain of his powers..." He glanced quizzically at Snape. "Probably because he'd used other things as well as mirrors."

"Indeed." Snape's mouth twisted in a half-smile. "And I believe he used the... side-effects... to his advantage."

There was a brief silence. This time Remus looked as curious as Harry.

"Dicaptromancy was not abandoned for no reason," Snape continued sharply, as if one of them had questioned him. "There were consequences. The person using it can become... hollow. Too many reflections and not enough soul to go around... Practitioners would simply vanish, or become insane, or they would be found staring mutely into the eyes of a reflection which seemed oddly... alive."

Sirius shuddered. He saw Harry draw his knees up and wrap his arms around them. Remus was utterly still.

"I believe that the Dark Lord has resumed the practice since his resurrection," said Snape. "And I suspect that the 'attacks' on Black were triggered by his use of the mirrors."

Harry sat bolt upright. "Voldemort knows about Sirius? He tried to get to him?"

"Do not say his name," Snape hissed angrily. "That was not what I said, if you had been listening. There are things that live in the space between. Black already knows something about them - don't you, Black?" Remus and Harry both glanced into their mirrors instinctively; Sirius nodded, keeping his eyes on Snape. "Using the mirrors... attracts them. The Dark Lord must have found a way of appeasing them; he has never suffered any loss of self. I suspect that the attacks on Black were merely triggered when their attention was drawn to his position in some way..."

When I stepped between the mirrors, Sirius thought.

"... and that the Dark Lord is unaware of Black's... predicament."

The last word was a sneer, but Sirius barely heard it. He was watching Harry and Remus.

"Then we have a little time," Remus said quietly.

Harry breathed a sigh of relief. Snape appeared totally unconcerned.

"A shame that the mastery of Occlumency was beyond Black's grasp. It appears to be an excellent defence against these... incursions."

"Oh, so that's how you did it," Sirius muttered, remembering the attack in the Great Hall. "Forgive me if I don't fall down on bended knee to thank you."

"The Patronus Charm works too," Harry spoke up, glaring at Snape.

"No doubt," said Snape cuttingly, "but the Patronus Charm requires an active consumption of energy, whereas Occlumency simply renders the subject invisible to--"

"This isn't helping Sirius," Remus interrupted, and Sirius blinked. Oh. No, it wasn't, was it? He'd gotten so caught up in the discussion that he'd forgotten they were trying to help him.

Now there was ironic for you.

Snape nodded curtly and finally opened the book on his lap. "Then I suggest we try to find whatever references to mirror magic may lie in these volumes. Some of them... came into my possession... shortly after the Dark Lord's fall."

Sirius would have liked to ask a lot of questions about that, but he could only watch as Remus and Harry each choose a book - Remus manipulating his choice expertly with his unburned hand - and began to read.

Sirius was becoming heartily sick of only being able to watch.




Remus's head ached. He closed his eyes momentarily and sighed. They'd been searching for hours. It was dark outside now, which meant that it had to be somewhere after nine. He'd lit the lamps and prepared some food not long ago - Snape had looked askance at the poor fare, but Harry had thanked him as enthusiastically as if he'd just been offered the Hogwarts feast - and there was still nothing to help them.

He opened his eyes, and his gaze fell on a silvery corner sticking out from under another book. He absently flexed his hand; the sting of the burn had finally subsided. There was always that one, of course. The one Snape had deliberately failed to warn them of. Remus frowned at it thoughtfully. Why? He'd mentioned Harry's distraction. Remus himself had found that looking at the cloth made him feel faintly sick, but Harry had seemed to find it mesmerising.

It was probably worth a shot. Even at the cost of a certain amount of inconvenience to himself. He unfolded himself from his position on the floor - wincing as a previously unnoticed cramp suddenly seized his leg - and left the room without speaking.

When he came back down the stairs a few minutes later, Harry and Snape were shouting at each other. Remus sighed and passed a hand over his eyes, slumping against the wall. He was honestly proud of how Harry had handled himself today - but the boy still needed to learn not to let Snape goad him. He grimaced. Not that it was a lesson Sirius had ever mastered.

Sirius...


Knowing that he was close to simply giving up in despair, Remus quickly straightened up and strode into the room.

"What is it this time?" he demanded with uncharacteristic asperity. The other two broke off, Harry looking ashamed, Snape sneering at them both.

"He was saying Sirius--"

"I merely said," Snape overrode quickly, "that we might as well stop looking for a solution that is as likely to present itself tomorrow as today--"

"You did not, you said that we might as well give up altogether!"

"While that may be what you heard, Potter, I can assure you that that is not what I--"

"Enough!" Remus shouted. The sound of his raised voice was enough to shock them into sullen silence. It struck him as momentarily amusing that they were both willing to let him take on the role of authority figure, but he brushed it aside.

"We're not giving up," he said simply, crossing the room and pulling on a pair of gloves as he went. "But if necessary we will stop to sleep."

"But what if Sirius--" began Harry.

"We'll take it in turns," Remus said gently. "Someone can watch the mirror at all times."

Snape made a disgusted sound.

"I have a report to make to Dumbledore," he said scornfully. "You can baby-sit Black by yourselves."

Remus regarded him thoughtfully. "It was my understanding that Dumbledore has been out of the country since the day before yesterday, and that he isn't to be contacted except in an emergency."

Snape, caught in the lie - one day he would admit that Remus was as highly placed in the Order as he was - resorted to glowering blackly at the book he had been reading.

Harry looked surprised, however. "Dumbledore's gone?"

Remus nodded. "I believe he left shortly after your leaving feast. Now," he continued, resuming his seat. "I think this book with the... interesting cover bears further examination."

Snape snorted dismissively. "You would be wasting your time. It is of no use to us."

Harry turned to stare at him. "Then why did you bring it?"

Remus also looked at Snape for a long moment. "Because it has a similar effect on the mind to that of the dicaptromancy?" he guessed. Snape nodded curtly. "And you wanted to see how we would react."

Harry blinked. "How can it be anything like diclap-- di-- er, mirror magic?" he asked, stifling a yawn as he did so.

"Mirrors were once made of polished silver, Harry," Remus said absently. He picked up the book cautiously, infinitely glad of the gloves now protecting his skin. "Or of bronze, for those of lesser means. Even now, particularly advanced magic requires a silver mirror, not a glass one."

Snape glanced up in irritation when he opened the book. "I told you: that won't be of any help."

"What is it, then?"

Snape shrugged. "Dream magic. Vapid stuff." He returned to his reading.

Remus and Harry looked at each other. They both remembered the discussion they'd had earlier. Quickly, trying not to read too fast, Remus began to flip through the pages. Harry abandoned his own book and scrambled across to read over his shoulder.

Most of it was, indeed, the sort of vague, inconclusive ramblings that typified oneiromancy. Prophecies gleaned from the sort of dreams that Remus, cynically, tended to attribute to eating rich food before bed; flashes of insight into the workings of the subconscious; occasional useful information on the prevention of nightmares. Remus made an absentminded note to remember that for Sirius - then caught himself up. They had to get Sirius back before he could start worrying about his sleeping patterns.

Remus spared a glance at the mirror lying on the carpet by his side. He could just see Sirius, who was reading over his other shoulder, face intent.

He looked... different, in the mirror. Remus hadn't really had a chance to notice before. His face lacked the strain of a year spent in hiding, or the ravages of Azkaban. He by no means resembled his twenty-one-year-old self, but he looked like... like he should look, if he'd had one damned second just to be free in the last fifteen years.

Remus vowed, silently and vehemently, that if - no, when - they found a way to bring him back, he would not allow Sirius to be caged again. No matter what Dumbledore might say, no matter what the Order might require; if they had to flee the country and go to Africa or somewhere, Remus was going to find Sirius somewhere to spread his wings.

Harry quietly asked if he could turn the page, bringing Remus back to himself. He nodded. He realised that Sirius was watching him in the mirror. His eyes - his eyes reflected everything - Azkaban, Grimmauld Place, death, betrayal and sorrow. And anger - Sirius had always channelled his pain into anger. Remus held his gaze silently. There had been times, before, when they'd had no need of speech to communicate. He saw Sirius's eyes widen slightly, and he knew then that words were still a mere formality between them.

Nonetheless, when he saw Sirius lean forward and murmur a phrase into his ear, he shivered and closed his eyes. He wanted to say-- but Harry was still reading, and Snape was across the room, and he had to concentrate. Later - I'll tell him later...

Remus stopped mid-thought. He'd lost Sirius twice. When was he going to learn that he would run out of laters?

I love you too, he mouthed, letting Sirius see the words in the mirror.

Sirius stared at him - and raised a hand to brush his cheek - and it suddenly occurred to Remus that he'd never said that aloud - that he'd always put it off until later--

"Professor Lupin?"

Tearing his eyes away from the mirror - blinking rapidly against tears that he daren't shed - Remus shook his head once and said, "Yes, Harry?"

"Are you alright?"

Harry had edged around so that he was reading from the side; he was looking up at Remus with concerned green eyes. It was strange; sometimes he was so like James, but that expression would never have crossed James's face at fifteen. Not that James hadn't cared - but Harry, when he wasn't clouded by anger, had a certain selflessness that had been alien to his father at the same age.

"I'm fine," Remus said, trying to convince himself as much as Harry. He dared not look at the mirror again. Something occurred to him. "You know, I'm not your teacher any more. You don't have to call me Professor."

Harry looked startled. He began say something, but he was interrupted by a derisive snort. They'd almost forgotten Snape was there. From across the room, he drawled sarcastically, "Oh, are we on first name terms now, Remus?"

"You are, of course, always welcome to call me by my given name, Severus," Remus said pleasantly.

Snape looked at him sharply, as if unsure whether or not that had been a subtle taunt.

"As are you, Harry," Remus continued. He hadn't quite intended to say that - he didn't imagine that Harry would find the idea particularly comfortable - but now that he had, he rather hoped Harry would take him up on it.

"Um... yeah, okay," Harry said after a moment. He glanced at Snape. Then he smiled. "If you don't mind."

Remus nodded, unaccountably touched. He shook himself slightly and turned the page on the book. "This doesn't seem to be much use, does it?" he said after a slight pause.

"I did tell you."

They ignored Snape.

Remus flicked through the pages rapidly, his gloved fingers awkward, without stopping to read more than a few words at a time. The book was handwritten, in several different scripts. It seemed to have been a sort of collective diary for an ancient coven - members of the coven had written their experiences and experiments on parchment, which must have been magically recopied into book form at a later date. The scraps of dreams seemed to have become repetitive even for a group of dedicated oneiromancers after a while, however, and Remus caught references to other magics - usually along the lines of scrying and divination.

He was just about to close the book when he came across a drawing that all but stopped his heart.

It was the Gateway.

"Impossible," he breathed. Harry stared at the picture, than at him. Remus flicked back to the front of the book. There were several dates listed on the frontispiece - the date that someone had created this copy, the date of the copy before that... finally, at the very bottom, the estimated date of the original scrolls.

The Gateway can't be that old.


"What is it?" Harry was asking anxiously.

Remus showed him the date.

"But that's..." Harry trailed off. "That's before the Ministry of Magic was even founded."

"Not just the Ministry," Remus said. "It even predates the Wizards' Council."

Harry frowned. "Muggles call that the Dark Ages."

"So do wizards," Remus said grimly. "And if it hadn't been for Merlin, it might have spiralled into darkness unending... but that's not the point. I always thought the early Ministry had brought the Gateway into being. This indicates otherwise. Not only that, but either the Gateway can be moved - or the Ministry of Magic was intentionally constructed around it."

Remus turned back to the illustration. There were notes all around it, scribbled in a tiny hand - he longed to read it all, to learn the story behind the Gateway's existence, but a sense of urgency was driving him now. He skimmed quickly ahead.

What he found turned his blood to ice.




"What? What is it?" Harry asked again. Professor Lupin had fallen silent as he scanned the pages of the small, silver-bound book. Harry had heard him suck in his breath sharply at least twice. And now he had lost all colour. He looked like someone torn between rage and horror.

"Lupin?" snapped Snape. Harry jumped. He'd completely forgotten the other man's presence. "Lupin, what can you possibly have found to horrify you in an ancient dream diary?"

Lupin suddenly closed the book with a crack that resounded through the room. He had shut his eyes and appeared to be thinking very deeply. Or possibly struggling not to be sick. Or possibly, Harry thought, both.

"Prof--" He stopped, hesitated. "Um... R- Re-- er. What is it? Are you okay?"

Lupin opened his eyes and nodded mutely. Harry was startled. He'd expected to see that half-lost, half-hurt look that had flashed through Lupin's eyes several times today. Instead... Harry almost recoiled. He had never seen anyone look so angry. He had never imagined that Remus Lupin could look so angry.

"You've never read it," Lupin said softly to Snape. It was a statement, not a question, but Snape nodded anyway. "Of course not. Dream magic. Too... vapid..."

He broke off with a hiss and Harry saw his hands clench hard on the book. He hoped that the thin-looking gloves Lupin currently wore were enough to protect him from the silver. Snape actually looked somewhat taken-aback.

"You are saying that there is more in that book than the whims of oneiromancy?"

Lupin stood abruptly. "I'll be back in a moment."

He left the room, still holding the book.

Harry stared after him, alarmed. Had he just discovered something bad? Something that meant they couldn't help Sirius? He quickly picked up his mirror, but his godfather had vanished. Harry panicked for a second, before it occurred to him that Sirius had probably followed Lupin.

He hoped Lupin was alright. Or... Remus, rather. Harry frowned to himself. Remus. He couldn't quite make it fit right in his head. On the one hand, he called Sirius by his first name, and Lu- Remus was right, he was no longer his teacher. On the other hand, he was so used to thinking about "Professor Lupin"; the title fitted him effortlessly, so that Harry included it instinctively even as he forgot he was supposed to call Snape "sir". Sirius had said something once - at Christmas, he thought - "Moony was born to be a teacher, Harry. You should've seen him at school. I only wish..."

He'd stopped, but Harry had known what he meant. It had been Sirius's fault - indirectly, of course - that Lupin had been forced to leave. It had comforted him - Sirius could at least partly understand how he felt about Cedric. Harry stopped. Had he ever actually mentioned that to Sirius? Had he ever told him that he felt they had a lot in common?

Snape was still watching the door, apparently so distracted that he hadn't even thought of sneering at Harry. Harry considered deliberately starting another argument - anything to alleviate the tension of waiting for Lupin to return - but was surprised at how easily he subdued the urge. He'd worried a lot this year about disappointing Sirius - by not living up to his father's standards, by not taking enough risks - but he found the thought of disappointing Lupin even more uncomfortable. He knew, deep down, that he hadn't really let Sirius down - Sirius just had to learn to accept who he was - but that failing Remus would mean that he'd failed to live up to what Remus believed Harry himself was capable of.

At that point Remus reappeared. He was slipping his mirror back into his pocket, and Harry guessed he'd been talking to Sirius. He wondered what his godfather had had to say in reply.

"This book," Remus said without preamble, holding up the volume in one gloved hand, "covers a period of almost fifty years. During that time, the coven evolved from a fairly harmless gathering of oneiromancers into a group of hardened Dark Wizards."

He sat down on one end of the sofa with a tired sigh. Harry debated for a moment, then unfolded himself from the floor and took the other end. Remus was flicking through the pages of the book, his face twisting slightly in disgust.

"It started out innocently enough," he continued in a hard sort of voice. "One or two members became... impatient with the vague nature of the magic. They started trying to take a more active turn - to use magic to influence dreams, rather than interpreting them. Not unlike certain practises today; medical magic, meditative trances..." Remus stopped with the book open on a particular page.

"As the stronger wizards took command they attracted more who thought like they did... the more passive ones drifted away... they began to explore avenues of communication with the so-called "higher planes", channelling their dreams until they could control their sleeping selves and converse with what they considered to be beings of great power."

Remus looked slightly less grim; for the first time that Harry could remember, there was scorn on his face.

"Most of it was undoubtedly a product of hallucinogenic substances and the over-liberal application of certain potions, but they were on to something. There was power there, to be used or abused. Their practises widened to include certain of the Dark Arts. And eventually, they stumbled upon the Gateway.

"It isn't clear whether they found it, fully-formed, or if they somehow brought it into being; regardless, it was a breakthrough. They studied it, much as modern wizardry studies it now, but with even less regard for the possible consequences. They used Dark magic as often as not. Some of them dreamed on its threshold, and awoke mad."

Harry shuddered convulsively, remembering the voices. He sometimes heard them still, on the edge of sleep. Was he going to go mad? He'd only listened for a moment...

"They were obsessed with it," Remus continued quietly. "They didn't know if beyond it lay death, or something else. Sometimes, in trances, they thought they could see beings - people - entering or leaving it. They were constantly seeking a way for a living person to pass the veil."

Remus looked at the book again, turned a page and shivered. He reached for his mirror, lifted it and looked for a long moment. Then he continued.

"They had enemies. And servile followers who could be coerced into obedience. They... experimented. They drugged them, they Stunned them, they poisoned them nigh-unto death and they sent them into fits - anything to cross that threshold. Many died in the process. Others... did not."

Remus's hands had tightened on the book. Harry happened to catch a glimpse of Snape; the Potions Master was listening intently, his face for once unguarded. There was a measure of fascination there that revolted Harry.

"Those who passed through the archway simply vanished. Anybody who lifted the veil to look through saw only the other side of the Gate. So they kept trying. Victim after victim, hysterical follower after ecstatic seer - they discovered that there was a fine line to walk, that to pass the threshold a person must be fading from consciousness or from life - dying or falling asleep."

Harry nodded. He'd seen Sirius hit with a Stunning spell. He'd seen his godfather fall, unable to save himself but still - just - reacting to what had happened to him, falling into unconsciousness with the fear of death in his eyes.

"Then..." Remus drew breath slowly. "Then they began to find ways to make contact with those who had... crossed. Their images could be seen in the reflection of a reflection. They could be seen in dreams and certain trances. Some people could even--" he glanced at the book "--perform a magic they called dreamwalking, in which they seem to have wandered the same space in which Sirius is trapped.

"It became obvious that those who'd gone through the Gateway had not passed on, either to death or to a higher state of existence. They were caught out of the world, and they couldn't even see each other. The coven lost its drive. They made no particular effort to reach those who had already crossed over; they moved on to other pursuits, to necromancy and demonology and other Dark Arts."

Remus finally glanced up, first at Harry, then at Snape.

"This is the first time mirrors are mentioned other than in passing," he said, indicating the page. "Someone continued their experiments with two mirrors. They found that they could enhance their energy to unimaginable levels. And they discovered what they refer to as the demons of the space between.

"Images are powerful things, Harry - many people thought wizarding photographs were demonic for a long time - and in the space between two mirrors there are a thousand images and only one soul to go around. The space between is full of... things... that hunger for a soul."

Remus turned a couple more pages, although Harry didn't think he really needed to refresh his memory. He looked as though the knowledge had been burned into his mind with one reading.

"It doesn't... say as much here... but I think," he said slowly. "I think that the space between is like a world in constant darkness for its demons. When someone pours power into two mirrors, it's as if they shone a light over everything. The demons can see. They can see the Gateway - the way out."

Remus lifted the book slightly, and when he spoke again it was obvious that he was reading aloud.

"'All your doubts,'" he read quietly, "'all your fears... all your darknesses... all your pain.'" He lowered the book. "That was what they found in the space between."

"The wizards became afraid. They started to abandon the practice of dicaptromancy. Too many dicaptromancers suffered horrible fates - or vanished without trace. They left the Gateway alone - spreading warnings to the effect that it was lethal to pass through it - and passed on the message that mirrors were dangerous."

Remus looked up again.

"The account finishes there, for the most part. The coven was all but dissolved. Somebody took the writings, though. Somebody wrote a lot more after that. She..." he hesitated, "I think it was a witch - some of her language, and some of the things she says..." He sighed. "I don't suppose we'll ever know. She had been dragged along with the coven when it turned to darker pursuits. She was repulsed by what they were doing, but too afraid to leave. Then someone she cared about - loved, I think - was forced through the veil. When the coven disbanded, she took all the notes she could find, and used them, and what she knew of dicaptromancy, to do something that none of the others had - that none had wanted to do.

"She found a way to bring her back."

Harry stared at Remus, hope rising anew from the ashes. He'd thought... the way Remus was talking... that there was no chance for Sirius...

"How?" For a moment Harry thought he'd said it, but then he realised that it had been Snape who had spoken.

Remus held up the book. "She wrote it all in here. There is a ritual - some of it veers close to Dark Magic. There is a certain amount of oneiromancy - not difficult to anyone with a degree of mental control - and some charm work, and then, finally..." He hesitated. "The final component is dicaptromancy. Two mirrors have to be used."

"I see," said Snape quietly. "Does it happen to mention whether she succeeded?"

Remus glanced away. "No."

Snape nodded. "Then we are back where we started."

Harry looked at Remus, who had just looked over at him. Their eyes met. Neither of them needed to speak.

"At least we understand the connection now," Snape continued, half to himself. Harry frowned in confusion; Remus looked quizzically at Snape.

"Is it not obvious to you?" the hook-nosed man asked, with a hint of his usual patronising tone. "The Dark Lord began using dicaptromancy with a level of power that no-one had touched before - his predecessors had always disdained mirrors and other tricks of Divination - and he lit up this 'space between' like a beacon." Snape smiled unpleasantly, although Harry didn't get the impression he was enjoying himself this time. "The... beings therein were able to see, for the first time, clearly. They could see the way out, and no doubt they could also see the souls who had been trapped there for centuries."

Harry jumped, horrified at the thought. He'd just assumed, when Remus had been talking about people passing the veil, that they'd died or passed on or, or... anything but that they'd been stuck between worlds for hundreds of years.

Snape's eyes were hard. "They consumed the trapped souls in vast quantities, and so the Dark Lord was unaware of them, for they had no need to touch him. And in the wake of this feast and with the gift of sight, certain of them began to pass the Gateway..."

"Dementors are blind," Harry whispered in a slightly shaking voice.

Snape nodded coolly. "Perhaps that was how the Dark Lord controlled them - whether he knew it or not. He could give them the light they needed, by using his mirrors, to make their prey easy and plentiful."

"But none have come through since he returned," Remus continued. "Either because he hasn't used his mirrors enough, or because the supply of trapped souls has been exhausted."

Snape smiled again, and it turned Harry's stomach to see. "Oh, not exhausted, Lupin," he said softly. "There is at least one left, after all."

- end chapter six -

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