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something about Remus Lupin
R, slash, Sirius/Remus. One dark night, something surprising comes through James's window. From there on in, Sirius and Remus love each other, abuse each other and lose each other. Two wars, two letters, and fear and loathing in Camden Market.
The bell rang.
Tom, the bartender at the Leaky Cauldron, had a problem. It was men being thrown out by their wives.
He tended to get at least one a month. Dishevelled, unsteady on their feet, and more often than not looking like they’d had one or three too many, having had a bit of a tiff with the old ball-and-chain, and could they have a room for the night, please, if it weren’t too much trouble?
Oh, no, no trouble at all. Three o’clock in the sodding morning. If they had to be hopelessly argumentative and infuriating and insensitive and ruthlessly destroy every last remnant of their wives’ patience, couldn’t they do it at a reasonable hour?
The bell continued to ring.
Tom groaned, held a lantern aloft and took himself downstairs. The man on the other side of the bar was definitely one over the eight. “Room,” he said succinctly, and after a moment, managed, “Please?”
Tom grunted. He was just about to lead the way when he made a double-take, swinging round to face the unexpected guest. “Potter?” he said incredulously.
“Your wife hasn’t thrown you out, has she?” Tom asked. From what he knew of Potter’s wife, he couldn’t decided whether or not this was a likely turn of events.
“Wha-… no! Moody…”
“Moody’s thrown you out?”
“No! Said… said I couldn’ Apparate. Not safe. Too” – a gigantic yawn – “tired.”
Tom nodded. “This way.”
James followed, stifling another yawn. Tom led him up the rickety stairs and into a simply furnished room with large windows, and without a word, he left, closing the door behind him.
James was in no state to quibble at the nature of his accommodations. Without a sideways look, he headed straight towards the bed. He didn’t bother to get under the covers or take off his boots. Within seconds, he was asleep.
The Death Eaters had been at it again. This time in south London; never the same place twice. Oh, they’d got wind of it in time, they’d saved the Muggle-born family, but not without the usual cost. No deaths, but a few serious injuries that needed tending to, and it hadn’t been until the wee small hours that James suddenly found himself sliding off the adrenaline high.
Moody had taken one look and told him that if he really was stupid enough to try and Apparate anywhere, they’d be picking up bits of him over a five-mile area. James was too tired to argue. He’d considered hopping on the Knight Bus back to Godric’s Hollow, but he had no money on him; fighting Death Eaters had one thing to be said for it, and that was it wasn’t fiscally challenging. He supposed he could trudge across to Camden and knock up Sirius and Remus, but he was asleep on his feet and said feet seemed to lead him to Charing Cross Road of their own accord. Tom knew him well enough; he’d slip home for the money in the morning. Anything for a good night’s sleep.
James slept soundly, deeply, dreamlessly.
For about an hour and a half.
The tinkling sound of shattering glass was what woke him up. Something very heavy came through the window and hit the floor with a thud.
To begin with, he thought he’d just ignore it. Maybe if he ignored it, it would go away and he could go back to sleep.
It wasn’t James. It was the something on the floor. Slowly, his brain processed this. There was something on the floor that made noise. A body. There was a body on the floor. And if it made noise, it was probably alive.
With a deep, heartfelt sigh, he clambered to very unsteady feet and stumbled to the window (what was left of it, in any case) and knelt down to inspect the body in the dim yellow light coming from the streetlights outside. For some unexplained sleep-deprived reason, he started at the bottom and worked his way up.
Boots. Familiar, although he wasn’t sure why. Black leather riding boots. No socks. For some reason, this… this person chose to go around without.
Muggle clothes, although that didn’t mean a damn thing. In order to be thrown through a Leaky Cauldron window, you had to be able to see it, and in order to see it, you had to have a bit o’ magic in you somewhere. So… yes. Muggle clothes. Hard to tell in the dim light, but dark colours. Maybe denim, maybe not.
A strangely evocative, familiar smell. Leather. Black leather. James’s sleepy fingers traced the lines of the long trench coat, coming to rest on the collar. There were a few long black hairs tucked into it. James smoothed them away, pushing back the head in order to get a better look at the stranger’s face.
Maybe he should have started here. The eyes were so dark they were almost black, matching the long hair, and they were set in a pale white face. Pale enough to be a vampire, James thought. Although, now he came to think of it properly, not a vampire. He was surprised it had taken him so long to notice. With that facial structure, it could only be…
…a werewolf. The part of James’s brain that was still asleep now seemed ready to stage a revolt and take over the rest of it.
Dazed and horizontal he might be, but Remus was capable of laughing. “All the windows in all the pubs in all the world, and I had to jump through yours.”
“Remus?” James blinked and took a deep breath. “You… you don’t look…”
He stopped. Inside his head, the revolt was becoming a revolution.
“Are you all right?” Remus asked. James had just enough time to realise the irony in the fact a man lying in a field of broken glass had just asked him if he was all right before the revolution took over the government.
“How long since you’ve slept?” Remus asked shrewdly.
The government descended into anarchy.
“Not long, couple of days…”
Remus sighed deeply, stood up and half-dragged, half-carried James back over to the mattress. Then, he brushed the broken glass off himself, took a moment to breathe in the smell of the leather, curled up at the foot of the bed and was asleep in minutes.
If Tom was surprised to see two men where he had left one man the night before, and, what was more, two men who had moments earlier clearly been fast asleep on the same bed, he didn’t show it.
“It’s gettin’ on for ten, Mr Potter. Thought you’d want to be woken up.”
After he had gone, James groaned, rolled over and went back to sleep. Remus sat up and clambered off the bed. With barefooted delicacy, he padded towards the window and shivered in the draught. Drawing his wand, he muttered, “Reparo,” and the glass pieces flew off the floor and back into the pane, once again forming a seamless whole.
“Rise and shine, James,” he said evenly. “Long day of chaos ahead of us.”
Reluctantly, James came back to consciousness. He blinked and rubbed his eyes. “Remus, did you really come through the window last night?”
“It was an accident.”
“But you really did?”
Remus smiled wryly. “I really did. What’s your malady du jour? Hitting the bottle?”
James shook his head. “Nope. Just tiredness. Was out with the Order on a counter-raid. I was planning to stay the night with you and Sirius, actually… I just…”
“Got diverted?” Remus suggested. “Good thing you did. What do you think I was doing out on the streets at three in the morning?”
James knew very well what was coming, but he tried to ward it off nevertheless. “Don’t tell me…”
Remus shrugged. “The path of true love never did run smooth.”
“True love? Is that what you call it?”
“There are more appropriate turns of phrase,” said Remus diplomatically. “I stormed out very impressively, actually. Pity you didn’t see it.”
“I think I saw enough. How did you end up coming through the window?”
Remus paused. “Do you remember before you went to school?
James blinked at the apparent non sequitur. “Yeah?”
“Did you ever make things happen – when you were upset, or angry? Books jumping off tables, pictures going crooked, that kind of thing?”
James nodded. “Yes. Happens to most people, doesn’t it?”
“So I believe. Last night – well, I ran into a couple of Muggles hoping to make a few quid. You know, give us all your money or we’ll stick a knife in your ear.”
James nodded. Yet again, he thought he knew what was coming, but he listened.
“I was rather… upset, shall we say? And Wingardium Leviosa is rather a simple spell, even if you aren’t consciously trying to cast it. Up, up, and away!” Remus laughed and threw his arms out in theatrical fashion. “The problem is, what goes up…”
They both looked at the window.
“…must come down,” James supplied, unable to resist a smile. “You know, for a while last night I thought you were Sirius.”
Remus smiled and self-consciously touched his hair. “It’s only black dye,” he said. “It will apparently wash out, providing I wash it with chlorine. Time will tell.”
“Why didn’t you do it with magic? Why did you do it anyway?”
“Can’t really tell you that.” Remus shifted slightly. “Order work. Let’s just say it’s better I don’t get recognised on the street by passing Death Eaters. They’ll be able to see through a magical disguise, but you know them, they’ll never even consider Muggle tricks.”
“And your eyes?” James squinted, but the end result was the same. Remus’s eyes, normally amber or brown, were so nearly black it was hard to make out his pupils.
“Do you know what contact lenses are?”
“Lucky you.” Remus rubbed fretfully at his eyes. “You’ve no idea how uncomfortable this is.”
“What, you looking like Sirius?” James asked.
“I don’t look that much like him,” Remus complained. “Besides, that wasn’t the intention. I just had to make myself look different.”
James paused and thought about it. He’d made the connection without even realising he was doing it. Dark hair and eyes, pale skin, but a lot of people had those; he had them himself. So why…
He took a deep breath, and it came to him. Not just looks, but the smell. It was present even now, blending into the background by virtue of its familiarity. He pointed to the black bundle Remus had been using as a pillow. “The coat.”
“This?” Remus picked it up and shook it out. The smell of the leather became even stronger.
“Yeah… that’s Sirius’s coat, isn’t it?”
Remus grinned. “He hung it on my hook. And when you’re trying to storm out of the flat, you don’t usually pay that much attention.” He swung the coat around his shoulders and brushed his hair out of his eyes. “Time for me to go, methinks.”
“Where?” James asked, knowing the answer.
“Back,” Remus replied, and James noticed he didn’t say ‘home.’ “I ought to tell the love of my life where I’ve been all night. I’ll tell him it was in the same bed as you.”
James felt his mouth fall open. “We didn’t… we didn’t…”
“No, we didn’t. But he doesn’t have to know that.”
James sighed. “Remus, let me ask you something.”
“Do you have any idea what you’re doing?”
“Not at all,” said Remus cheerfully. “You’d better be getting home, you know, Lily will be worried. I’ll see you soon.”
And with a crack, he was gone.
Keys jangled in the lock, but Remus entered the house without a sound. He closed the door behind him and silently laid the keys down on the table. He turned around…
Remus stared expressionlessly forwards. Sirius, wild-eyed and furious, was standing there with his hands clenched into fists. “Where the hell have you been?”
“Let’s see.” Remus was deliberately calm, mocking him with every word and every movement. “I was on out the streets for a while, bit chilly, so I got into a fight with a couple of Muggles and went through a window into James’s bed. How about you?”
Sirius seemed about to rush forwards, but changed his mind at the last moment, hanging back. “Do you know how worried I was?” he asked through gritted teeth.
“Not at all?” suggested Remus. “Or maybe a tiny little bit. Does it matter?”
This time, Sirius didn’t hang back. “You fucking bastard!” he yelled. “I was up the whole night waiting for you!” He moved, arms stretched forwards.
“Get off!” Remus shook off the wandering hands. “Don’t touch me, I bite.”
“Oh, you do?” Sirius’s voice had dropped to be barely a whisper. “You can’t scare me, Remus. I’ve seen you at your worst. I’ve seen you fucking naked and bleeding to death.”
Remus’s eyes narrowed. “At risk of sounding cliché, you ain’t seen nothing yet.”
Sirius’s answer was to pin him against the door, head pushed back. It was another kiss, hard and passionate and deeply twisted, until Remus bit down hard on his tongue.
Sirius yelped and leapt backwards. For the moment, he was stunned silent. Remus stood his ground, eyes flashing. His tone was no longer calm. “You were worried, were you?” he growled. “The hell you were, Sirius. Since when did you care about me? I’m just your fucking toy! Yours to use and abuse!”
“I never…” Sirius began furiously, moving forwards again, but Remus held him off.
“Don’t touch me,” he hissed. “Don’t.”
Sirius moved forwards, then stopped as if stung. “You know what?” he said in even, measured tones. “I don’t have to listen to this. Fuck you, Remus Lupin. I don’t need this and I don’t need you. ”
Remus didn’t reply. Nor did he slam the door behind him. He closed it quietly, and for that, Sirius truly hated him.
Sirius ran to the window and lifted the sash. Remus was on the street outside, head down, hands in his pockets, heading north. “That’s my coat!” Sirius yelled.
It took a moment for the reply to drift back up. “Come and fucking get it!”
Sirius grabbed the keys off the table and threw them as hard as he could through the window. He didn’t look to see if he’d hit Remus. He hoped he had.
Remus picked the keys up off the pavement and went back after a day or two; neither he nor Sirius expected it to be any other way. Remus didn’t bother closing the door quietly behind him – it slammed hard enough to bounce open again, but neither of them noticed. Already on top of each other…
“…fucking each other senseless,” James complained later to Lily. “They’re worse than rabbits.”
“How do you know?” Lily asked, amused.
“I used to share a dormitory with them, remember?
“No, they didn’t, but I know them, and they shouldn’t be together like this.”
“Like what?” she asked, but he wouldn’t answer.
At two am, the baby woke up, and Lily gave James a kick. “Your turn…” she mumbled sleepily.
James sat up and grabbed blindly at his glasses. They had fallen off the bedside table, so he spend some time fumbling across the floor for them, and by the time he had them perched securely on his nose, the baby was wailing loudly enough to wake the proverbial seven sleepers.
Wondering absently why it would take more noise to wake seven sleepers than one, James took a few steps over to the crib by the door. With a backwards glance at Lily, who had her fingers in her ears, he lifted Harry gently out of the blankets and moved silently out of the room, closing the door quietly behind him.
The rocking-chair by the living-room window proved the best place for his purposes. James settled his son on his knees and began to rock gently, back and forth, back and forth, letting the creaking rhythm soothe the crying baby. After a point, Harry’s wails became mere whimpers and James dared breathe a sigh of relief. Feeling suddenly comfortable, he continued rocking, ready to wait until Harry fell asleep.
It would be a few minutes yet; Harry’s eyes were wide open, startlingly green in the dim light from in through the window. James felt momentarily self-conscious in the face of the steady gaze, and was moved to speak. “Feeling better?” he asked. “Don’t worry, I won’t sing.”
Those eyes remained steadfastly open, so James tried again. “It’s not as if my singing is that bad,” he said. “I mean, you didn’t have to cry so much.” He paused to smile, then went on: “Sirius thought it was hilarious. He would. It’s not as if he could get you to sleep, either…”
He sighed deeply. “Sirius isn’t getting much sleep at nights either, from what I hear. And it’s for a variety of different reasons.”
Harry blinked. James stuck his tongue out at him and grinned. “You’re far too young to be hearing about that. Adults only, I think.” He frowned. “Not that Sirius is all that grown up, really. He’s twenty, and so’s Remus… no, wait, Remus is still nineteen. They’re not really old enough to be… what? What is it?”
Harry had screwed up his eyes, obliterating the bright green, and his lips were quivering. James began to rock again in earnest. “Hush,” he soothed. “It’s all right, don’t cry, please don’t cry… your mum’ll go spare…”
Harry whimpered, and James held his breath. But after a moment, Harry seemed to settle, his breathing slowing in time with the rocking motion. “It’s okay,” James muttered. “It’s okay…”
They rocked in silence for some time, moonlight falling over man and child. James began to feel tiredness creeping over him by degrees, and he was just considering laying Harry back down in his crib when suddenly, the baby’s eyes opened again, widened in what seemed to James like fear. The silence pressed down. Instinctively, James turned towards the window…
There was nothing there. But James wasn’t reassured, clutching Harry slightly tighter and not allowing the chair to rock. There was a moment of brief, tense stillness as James stared up at the window…
Harry wailed and James saw it.
An apparition, stark, horrific black and white like a photograph negative, eyes staring out of dead whiteness, and blending with the black of night, a mass of tangled hair…
James all-but-howled. “Sirius!”
Carefully, he laid Harry on the seat of the chair and opened the window. Sirius clambered awkwardly through it, brushing himself off. “Was out there for ages,” he complained. “Didn’t want to wake anyone up but I thought you’d never see me…”
“Sirius.” James’s hands were on his hips. “What are you doing here?”
Sirius seemed to be brought up short. “Um,” he began, shrugging helplessly, “I… well… Remus and me…”
James cut him off. “Ah.”
For a minute, there was nothing new to be said. They stared at each other, James resigned, Sirius guilty but defiant.
Finally, James moved. He picked Harry up off the chair, and with a nod at Sirius, he went back into the other room, deposited the baby carefully into the crib and closed the door. When he got back to the living-room, Sirius was sitting on the floor, leaning against the wall. His head was in his hands.
“Sirius?” James tried.
“What do I do?” Sirius muttered without lifting his head. “James, what the fuck do I do?”
“You know what about!” Sirius raised his eyes. “About me… and Remus… and… and…”
“What actually happened?” asked James gently.
“Doesn’t matter. He said stuff… I said stuff… doesn’t matter.” Sirius groaned deeply. “Nothing matters. S’always the same.”
“You can’t live with him, you can’t live without him?” James suggested.
Sirius attempted to glare, but didn’t succeed. “I hate this,” he stated.
“Sirius, this can’t go on.” James was very definite about that. He had sneaked a look at his watch when putting Harry down, and it was coming up on three. “This can’t go on. What are you going to do about it?”
Sirius groaned again. “Dunno…”
“Do you love him?”
“It’s a simple question,” James told him. “Do you love him?”
Sirius shook his head, then nodded. “Yeah…”
“Does he love you?”
Sirius blinked. “Not tonight, but I… I think so.”
“Then you don’t have any choice.” James paused, then: “Actually, you do. You can go home and make this work. Or, you can go home, tell Remus it’s over, get the hell out and never go back.”
Sirius’s head descended into his hands again. “I can’t,” he said. “I can’t.”
“Just can’t.” His head was still in his hands. “You don’t know what it’s like.”
James looked keenly at him. “Try telling me what it’s like, then.”
Sirius appeared to consider, then spoke. “He’s so… dangerous all the time. Like, he never gets angry, he never raises his voice, even, and then suddenly he’ll go off just like that, crack, and even then, even then he has to keep me at arm’s length all the time, he won’t ever let me any closer, and it’s a war, he could be killed, I could be killed…”
“Dangerous.” James thought about it. “Sirius, he’s a werewolf.”
“I know! You think I don’t know that? Bloody hell.” He stopped, and then: “I can’t be having with this any more. I can’t. It’s too much on top of everything else.”
James reached out and patted his shoulder. There didn’t seem to be much else he could say. For the first time, there was real silence, unbroken.
The door opened. James turned towards it, expecting in his tired state for it to be Lily wondering at the noise, but there was no-one there. Realising it was the wrong door he was looking at, he turned to look down the length of the room.
Someone was standing there in the other doorway. It was Remus. Light from the window fell softly on him, making his hair shine in silver highlights on the black. His eyes were back to their natural colour and too bright.
“Sirius,” he said softly. “Please come home.”
Remus looked up. “Yes?
Sirius stood up suddenly, letting knife and fork clatter onto his plate. “I’ve got to go out.”
He was already moving towards the door, and Remus knew better than to ask where he was going. “When will you be back?”
“Don’t know. Don’t wait up.”
“I hadn’t intended to.”
“Good. Where’s my coat?”
Remus glanced around for it, shifted in his chair and felt the slither of the leather. “It’s here,” he said, pulling it off the back of the chair. Sirius made to grab it, but Remus wouldn’t let it go. Standing up, he held it so Sirius could put his arms in the sleeves.
“Thanks,” Sirius said, then looked surprised at himself. Abruptly breaking any eye contact, he moved towards the door. “Moony…” he began.
“Yes?” Remus responded, silently daring him to say what stayed unspoken.
“Nothing.” Sirius blinked, then grabbed his keys. The door closed behind him.
Remus stood there for a moment, then walked slowly towards Sirius’s chair, pushing it in. Methodically, he cleared the table, gathering up plates, putting them into the sink, and throwing unused cutlery into the drawer. When he had finished, he glanced at the clock on the wall and went round closing all the windows. Not long after that, he went to bed fully dressed, sleeping fitfully and only taking up one half of the blankets.
At four o’clock in the morning, he was woken by the sound of loud, insistent knocking. In a moment, he had realised he was still alone and thought it was Sirius, but Sirius would have let himself in. Remus groaned, but the knocking persisted.
Stumbling to his feet, he padded down the stairs and across the floor, cool against his bare feet, and tugged at the heavy door.
He was instantly blinded. Staggering back, he rubbed at his eyes and tried to see something beyond the circle of dazzling white lights, but to no avail. A voice called, “Remus Lupin?”
“Yes…” he replied with difficulty, and was immediately grabbed by several pairs of hands. He tried struggling and crying out, but more hands were thrust into his mouth and a voice muttered, “Stupefy.”
There was a brief blaze of red light, then nothingness.
When his eyes opened again, it was because someone had just forced his mouth open with a spoon. He gathered his wits together in time to know what was coming, and tried to resist, but he was too late; a small glass vial shattered and a few drops of liquid trickled between his lips.
Nothingness, again; but tinged with awareness. Judging from the stone walls, he was in a room underground, and it was filled with people with anxious, hopeful faces. Lots of them had their eyes on him.
A voice that seemed to come from nowhere and everywhere at once asked, “What is your name?
He might feel disembodied and curiously detached from everything, but he had to answer. He could stop himself from answering as easily as he could stop himself from breathing. “Remus Lupin.”
“How old are you?”
“Twenty-one years five months.”
“Are you a werewolf?”
A brief pause while people whispered to each other, and then the voice again. “Do you know where you are?”
“No. I think I might be at the Ministry of Magic.”
Brief, stifled laughter, then: “Do you know what date it is?”
Remus wondered vaguely why they didn’t just look it up, but he had to answer. “Yesterday was the thirtieth of October.”
Someone took a deep breath, and asked, “Do you know the current whereabouts of Sirius Black?”
“No. He said he had to go out. He didn’t say where.”
“When was this?”
“I don’t know. Maybe around ten.”
“Have you seen him again since then?”
Another pause; more whispering. Someone seemed to be angry, and there were the sounds of an argument being conducted in low voices. Finally, concessions seemed to be made and an agreement reached.
The unseen questioner was back. There was a moment of tense silence, and then the voice demanded, “Have you ever worked for Voldemort? Are you a Death Eater?”
Several people seemed to exhale at the same time, and then the voice spoke again, but this time it seemed to be addressing someone else in the room. “All right, you can take him.”
And then someone else’s hands were on Remus, but they were gentle, smoothing his hair away from his face. “It’s all right, Remus,” said their owner, and even through his mental haze, Remus recognised the voice. Dumbledore.
“It’s all right,” Dumbledore said again. “I’ve got you.”
And so he had; Remus felt himself being helped to his feet, and the mist behind his eyes was clearing, but it wasn’t all right and it never would be, never again.
Some time later, Sirius was huddled against the wall, thinking of him. Thinking of James, and Lily, and Harry. Trying to think of them.
Trying to think of the last supper, the last night in the flat in Camden Town, the red check tablecloth, the dog collar and lead hanging off the back of the door, the dim sounds of the market coming from the window, the warmth of the air and the smell of food…
And he thought of them. But the Dementors were connoisseurs, and so he thought of them as a backdrop to Remus, standing in the doorway and shouting, “I’m just your fucking toy, Sirius! Yours to use and abuse!”
When Harry was very small, people used to stop and talk to him in shops. Men in funny hats would bow to him, and women in long dresses would try to shake his hand. Aunt Petunia didn’t like it. She used to get very angry. He didn’t know why.
One day, Dudley was ill and stayed off school, so Harry had to go without him. When it came to three o’clock, Harry went to stand at the gates as usual, but Aunt Petunia didn’t come. She must have forgotten about him, he thought. He didn’t want to walk home alone, so he was wondering what to do when he saw a man looking at him. He was a strange man, wearing black boots and a long leather coat with a small rainbow on the collar. He was quite young – younger than Aunt Petunia, Harry decided – and he had long brown hair. Harry had seen men with long hair before, but Aunt Petunia always sniffed and muttered under her breath when she saw them. Harry wasn’t sure why she did that. This man looked nice.
“Hello,” Harry said uncertainly.
“Hello, Harry,” said the man. “Are you lost?
“No.” Harry shook his head. “My aunt was supposed to come and get me, but she hasn’t come.”
“Hasn’t she? Where do you live?”
“Privet Drive,” Harry told the man. He really was nice. He smiled properly when Harry was talking to him, and not many people did that.
“Should I take you home?” he asked.
“Yes, please,” Harry said, but then paused. “I’m not supposed to talk to strangers,” he said regretfully.
The man seemed to think about it. “Well, then,” he said, “if I tell you my name, will I be a stranger?”
“No,” Harry said decidedly. He didn’t want this man to be a stranger. “What’s your name?”
The man looked like he was thinking about something and wanted to laugh. “Twoflower,” he said.
Harry stamped his foot. “That can’t be your name!”
The man looked like he wanted to laugh again. “And why not, pray?”
“It’s not a real name,” said Harry seriously. “Real people aren’t called Twoflower.”
“Then maybe I’m not a real person.”
Harry considered this. Finally he asked, “Are you a ghost?”
“Not quite.” Twoflower smiled at him. “Come on, let’s take you home.” He held out his hand, and after a moment’s hesitation, Harry took it. They started walking in the direction of Privet Drive, past the last of the other schoolchildren and their parents.
“How old are you, Harry?” asked the man as they walked.
“Almost seven,” said Harry with deliberation. “It’s my birthday soon.”
“Is it really? Mine, too.”
“How old are you?” wondered Harry. Usually, he didn’t ask questions because his aunt and uncle didn’t like it, but somehow he thought it would be all right.
Twoflower grinned at him. “A hundred and two.”
Harry stamped his foot. “Really!”
“Oh, really? Really, I’m twenty-seven.”
“Wow,” said Harry. “That’s old.”
“I hoped not,” the man replied. “Do you really think so?”
“You’re a grown-up,” Harry persisted. He didn’t think he had ever argued with a grown-up before. It was a strange feeling. “Grown-up enough to… to… drive cars and get married an’ stuff.” He paused, and asked, “Are you married?”
“One day, Harry,” said the man, “you won’t dare ask people that kind of question. Hold off that day as long as you can.”
“Are you married?” asked Harry stubbornly.
He shook his head. “Not very much.” While he spoke, his fingers were on the small rainbow patch on his coat. Harry thought it was pretty.
“Ah, here we are… Privet Drive. This is where you said you lived, isn’t it? What number?”
“Four,” said Harry. He didn’t want to go home yet, he thought. He wanted to stay and talk to the strange man some more. He paused on the corner by the street sign, not walking any further. “I’m nearly there, I’m okay now,” he said.
“I’m sure you are,” said the man, “but I think I’d better take you all the way home, just in case.”
Harry didn’t argue. It meant the man would stay for longer, and he gripped his hand tightly as they walked up to the door of number four and rang the bell.
Aunt Petunia answered. “Oh, it’s you,” she said dismissively, and went back inside, leaving the door open.
“Goodbye, Harry,” said the man. His expression was suddenly serious.
“Bye,” said Harry gloomily. And then, remembering his manners: “Thanks for bringing me home.”
“You’re very welcome.” He smiled, and then he went away, walking down the path towards the road. Harry watched him go, and wondered if he really was a ghost. Aunt Petunia didn’t seem to be able to see him.
He also wondered how you could be “not very much” married.
During his third year at Hogwarts, Harry never got around to asking how Lupin knew his name.
When the owl arrived, Remus was asleep on the kitchen floor. He didn’t wake up until the messenger had been tapping at the window for several minutes, and even then, he dragged himself across the floor and onto a chair rather than get to his feet. With a groan, he reached for the window catch and let the owl in. It flew around the room once or twice, ruffling its feathers in annoyance, then dropped a letter into Remus’s hands, flying down to perch on the back of the chair.
Remus and the owl stared at each other for a few seconds. Finally, Remus managed to get some words out. “Over by the stove.”
The owl blinked and flew down to the offered owl treats. Remus’s own owl, a tawny creature with one or two white feathers, opened a single eye before going back to sleep. Meanwhile, Remus was reading his letter.
I am aware of today’s date
and do not, therefore, expect this letter finds you well. However, this news
could not wait. I am sure you know you are not Sirius’s only correspondent and
will not be surprised at what I am about to tell you. Due to circumstances which
he himself will explain, Sirius will be joining you in Camden within the next
Take care of yourself until
then, and inform Sirius that Harry is currently safe with his relatives, and
should by no account be moved.
Remus read it twice. Then he folded it neatly into quarters and threw it onto the kitchen table. The owl was hooting softly, but he ignored it.
After a moment, he risked standing up. He stayed on his feet, if swaying slightly, and walked slowly across the floor to the table. There was an ordinary ballpoint pen sitting there, and he reached for it, turning the letter over. With a shaking hand, he scrawled:
The owl fluttered down for it, sweeping it out of his hands and soaring out of the window in one movement.
Remus watched it go. Once the sound of the furiously flapping feathers had quite died away, he walked over to the sink and stuck his head under the tap. The icy water flowed down into his hair, nose and mouth, and he couldn’t breathe. Then he retrieved his wand, cleaned up the blood and fur, closed the window and settled down to wait.
He didn’t do much that day. He read the newspaper and couldn’t concentrate on it. He alphabetised his books and got P and Q mixed up. He tried to make a sandwich at lunchtime but forgot to put any butter in it.
Come evening, he was lying listlessly in a chair, eagle-feather quill fallen from his fingers. The house was silent except for the faint sounds of traffic outside.
Just when night was falling in a purple sweep across London, there came a mournful scratch at the door. Remus got up to open it. On the doorstep was a bedraggled looking black dog, holding a newspaper in his mouth. It was the Daily Prophet.
Remus leaned down and wrapped his arms around the dog’s neck. It submitted to the touch, whining a little and pawing at the ground.
Sirius transformed as Remus stood up, so when the rearrangement of reality had taken place, man and werewolf were still clinging to each other, with the faint scent of thick winter fur hanging about them both.
The door to number twelve, Grimmauld Place opened with a resounding clang. The sound echoed through the house, reverberating over and over in the silent rooms.
Sirius dropped his bag on the ground with a thud. He stepped delicately into the hall, taking it all in – the damp carpet, the musty air, the old Black family heirlooms, the curtained portrait on the wall. Dust rose from the floor where he walked, drifting back down again under the weight of history.
“I hate this place.”
Remus said nothing. He entered the hallway, his footsteps just as light, and sat on the foot of the stairs, watching Sirius prowl around like a caged animal. “Just the same,” Sirius growled. “Hasn’t changed a bit. It wouldn’t, would it?”
Remus remained silent. For a moment, something stirred in his mind, and he remembered the blunt moments, what it felt like to bite straight through furniture out of hatred, but he didn’t speak. After a moment, when even Sirius had fallen silent, he stood up and ran a finger along the wall. The dust stood out on his fingertip. “Better get to work,” he said after a while. “The place needs to be fit for living in.”
“It never will be,” Sirius muttered, half under his breath. “It’s fit for dying in.”
Sirius lifted his head, and his eyes were bright in the half-light of the house. “Let’s start, then,” he said, and there was a shade of acceptance in his tone.
Wordlessly, Remus drew his wand, muttered some words, and waved it in a complex figure-of-eight pattern. Following its path, the dust began to disperse.
They worked in silence to begin with. The ancient creaky floors were soon marked with their footprints, showing clearly in dust that was then removed by a few flicks of a wand. Remus worked slowly and methodically, clearing and then cleaning and then polishing, making his way through far faster than Sirius, who aimed randomly, doing things as they occurred to him and getting distracted more often than not.
He stopped for a moment once or twice; standing back, he watched Remus working by the window, flicking his wand at it, once, twice, the grime receding in great waves so light began to seep through the glass for the first time in fifty years. Remus’s unkempt hair was falling in his face again; he pushed it back behind his ears unthinkingly and paused to dip his wand-tip in a bucket of water to clean it. An unbidden thought, a thought that stemmed from his own years in this house, was creeping into Sirius’s mind: hardly a job for Remus.
He tried to stop it, but his subconscious persisted. It’s more for the likes of house-elves; it’s beneath him, that’s what it is.
He remembered a conversation he had had with Remus when they were young. Back when he, Sirius, impetuous and fearless, wondered why Remus guarded his secret. Don’t be ashamed of who you are, he’d said. And all the while, Sirius himself had been ashamed – of his home, his family, himself, he’d been ashamed of everything connected with this house and its inhabitants, and he’d been ashamed of their values most of all. I come from a family of raging purebloods, he said, and laughed, as in don’t take it seriously, it’s all a joke to Sirius Black.
And yet, something of his family was in him, he couldn’t deny it; something that insisted menial work was for the lower classes, not for us, and not for Remus either – Remus who was his friend, Remus whom he had loved and defended, Remus whose blood was pure.
Because it was; lycanthropy or not, it was, and there was no getting away from it.
“Penny for them?” Remus said, pausing.
“Not worth it,” Sirius said, and aimed his wand at a moth-eaten curtain. A single word, and it was falling, disintegrating, combusting, and gone.
Sirius smiled. The destruction was something.
There was more to come. Remus was the first to discover the portrait.
He cleared the dust from the floor below it first, then drew back the curtains. For a moment he stared in surprise; a moment too many.
“Traitors! Fools! Defiling the house of my fathers!”
Remus took a helpless step back and Sirius skidded into the hall, eyes wild. At the sight of him, the old woman’s face contorted; her mouth opened into a great cavern of rage. “You! Traitor! Consorting with half-breeds! Flaunting your perversity in my house! Traitor Gryffindor! Traitor! Traitor!”
Sirius didn’t need a moment to compose himself. He was already furious, furious with all his inherited capacity for fury. “Shut up!” he yelled, and Remus jumped. “Just shut up!”
“You dare speak like that to me, you…”
“Shut up!” Sirius yelled again. “You fucking bitch, you haven’t changed!”
“Sirius,” Remus attempted to put in, but was silenced.
“Half-breed! Monster!” she screamed at him.
Sirius took a step back, momentarily speechless, then drew his wand. “Incendio!” he yelled out.
But Remus had countered it; the flames only had a second to sweep over the portrait before a rush of water doused them. The malevolent subject turned her back to them, and Remus led Sirius away before further words could be exchanged.
Sirius was still breathless with anger. Remus waited for a moment before speaking. “We’ll take it down,” he promised. “We will. But you can’t burn everything in this house that reminds you of something you don’t want to be reminded of. You’d torch the place before the day was out.”
“It’s more than a reminder!” Sirius managed to say. “You remember her, don’t you? Don’t tell me you don’t!”
Remus nodded. “I do remember.”
“I kept her away from you.” Sirius was becoming reflective. “I couldn’t have her anywhere near you. Not you.”
Remus said nothing.
“And in the end I couldn’t, because I’m her, I’m her son, she’s where I’ve come from.”
Remus shook his head. “You know and I know that blood means nothing.” He paused. “Now I’m going out in the hallway, and I’m going to close the portrait curtains. No matter what she shouts, promise you won’t come in and lose your temper. Promise?”
Sirius nodded, and Remus slipped back out. On a whim, he cast a cloud of smoke into the air, obscuring his own approach and yanking the curtains forward before the outburst could launch itself from the canvas.
That done, he lingered; Sirius was clattering around in the room behind him, and Remus wanted to give him a chance to calm down properly.
He stuck his head out of the door for a moment. Night was falling over London, and it was June; the day had been a long one. Turning slightly, he called, “Sirius!”
“Yeah?” Sirius was even more dishevelled than usual, and there were cobwebs caught in his hair.
“Time to stop.”
“Yeah, okay.” Sirius blinked. “Now what?”
The hallway was looking better as Remus led the way up the stairs. Some light from outside was managing to creep in through the discoloured glass in the windows, making the house seem less of a mausoleum. Once they reached the upstairs landing, they both paused. It was barely touched; the dust was still thick enough to show their footprints, and only one doorknob had had the touch of a human hand in the last decade. They had cleared only one bedroom, and they both knew it.
Remus paused, his hand on the door. “Sirius…” he began, tentatively, slowly.
“Let’s go home,” Sirius put in quickly.
Remus thought about it for a moment; the small house in Camden, the warm cosy kitchen, the table with its red check tablecloth, the last thirteen years and then the last month of Sirius, living with him…
Sirius said nothing.
“No,” said Remus again, and with more confidence this time. “We’re staying here. We have to.”
Sirius stared at him. Then: “There’s no room.”
“We’ll make room.” He pushed open the door and smiled. “The bed’s bloody big enough for six.”
Sirius was still staring at him, eyes wide as if he had never seen him before. Remus eventually began to feel self-conscious at the searching gaze.
“Fine,” Sirius said at last.
The bed was certainly big enough. It was big enough to be a barrier. Night fell and they lay at either side of it, fully-dressed and keeping their distance. Remus fell asleep first because he always did; he could fall asleep anywhere. On his desk in class – Sirius smiled to himself – or on the floor, having fallen off his bed in the middle of the night, or in an armchair, a book fallen from his fingers, or – and Sirius was aware of the nearby presence of personality, the lupine pride and passion that meant he could never give voice to these treacherous thoughts – in the Forest, on the damp, bloodstained floorboards of the Shrieking Shack, and in the darkened alleyways, on the street.
By daybreak, Sirius still hadn’t slept, but along with the coming of the light, it had dawned on him that the old right, to protect and cherish, was his no longer, gone thirteen years and another life ago.
In the morning, the rest of the Order arrived. “Oh, you’ve made a good start,” said Molly Weasley briskly, “but there’s lots to do yet. Come on, boys! Chop chop!”
Sirius and Remus watched in gentle bemusement as she set her children to work. Dust was dispersed, vermin infestations were dealt with, food was put into the oven. By midday, the house was abuzz with activity.
“My mother will be turning in her grave,” Sirius said, smiling grimly and pointing at her portrait.
“Glad to hear it,” said Remus absently. When any of the Weasleys were present, they invariably brought winds of change with them, fresh and clean and bustling. But when the two of them were alone, back to how they had been the day before, the ancient, stifling atmosphere of the house seemed to weigh down once more. It made him edgy. Apparently Sirius felt the same; he was still staring moodily at his mother’s portrait.
The kitchen, off to one side, was filled with the sounds of cooking, and the bedrooms upstairs were being enthusiastically fumigated. But the hallway was still darkened, still silent, and Sirius drew Remus forwards, gently, carefully, almost as if he were thinking about something else, and kissed him.
Several thoughts bubbled up like fountains in Remus’s mind, including one that was almost two decades old – he’s doing this to shock his mother – but one of them held precedence.
“We’re too old for this, Sirius,” he said softly.
“Do you really think so?” Sirius might have been embarrassed, he might not; it was hard to tell.
“I don’t know.” It was becoming hard to think. Sirius, just by being at the edge of his vision as he used to be, was the same distraction he had always been. “But this isn’t a good idea. This is a war…”
“So was last time! Do you not… don’t you still…”
“Yes, of course.” And as Remus said it, he knew it was true. It hadn’t been in his thoughts; not for years. Not when Sirius turned up on his doorstep four weeks earlier, not in the comfortable month that followed, not in these tense two days and the uncomfortable night, and yet at the same time it had been. Lurking beneath his thoughts and actions, an old ghost of a feeling. Almost without thinking about it, he pulled at Sirius and kissed him back. And even as he let go, Sirius was watching him impassively, waiting for him to say something more.
He didn’t, but they were holding each other again and the softness and silence were only the background to what happened next, tentative and tinged with memory.
They moved eventually; they couldn’t stay there in the hallway, and they both walked into the kitchen with bland expressions and wide eyes. Molly looked up at the sight of them, surprised.
And later that day, later that night, another bedroom had been cleared but they didn’t use it. They lay at either sides of the bed, fully-dressed, keeping their distance: but all the same, they were closer, and Sirius fell asleep first.
In the morning, Molly sent the children off wherever they wanted to go. The twins were glad to be able to get down to Diagon Alley for an hour or two, and Hermione took Ginny and Ron to see Muggle London. Charlie and Bill lingered around the house, catching up on years of brotherly conversation, and Molly herself went out to do some pruning in the garden.
At lunchtime, armed with wand and secateurs, she entered the darkened hallway to see a scene like that of the day before, playing out in stifling silence. It had happened gradually and all at once, and while Remus had never been given to public displays of affection even in happier times, it was so dark, so quiet, so hidden away from the world, that it seemed natural, like breathing. He knew he ought to feel embarrassed as he lifted his head, but Sirius was still leaning on his shoulders and he felt nothing but numbness.
Molly didn’t scream, or shriek, or do anything either of them had perhaps expected. It might be that she, too, was rebelling against the oppressive atmosphere of the old house.
Her only words were, “Be careful,” and Remus turned his head and stared at her, standing there quietly. He tried to speak, but couldn’t.
She laid a hand on his arm. “Be careful,” she said again. “Some people ought not to know.”
And she left, heading back towards the sunlight outside.
Remus stared at Sirius. The mood might have been killed, but he was suddenly certain of the right thing to do. He grabbed Sirius’s arm – “Come on!” – and half-dragged him out into the garden, following Molly.
Once they were out there, Sirius seemed to relax. Molly had retreated to the other end of the garden, industriously attacking flowerbeds and not looking behind her, and the sun was warm, the grass was overgrown but lush green, and they were out of the house.
“That better?” Remus asked, purely rhetorically.
Sirius answered anyway. “Yes,” he said emphatically, and then, after a pause: “What did she mean, be careful?”
“You know what she meant.” Remus’s tone carried no hint of emotion.
“No, I really don’t. Who’s going to find out? Who’s going to make a fuss even if they do?”
Remus considered. “Moody…” he began, then stopped. Alastor Moody had many of the demonstrative traits of social paranoia, but this wasn’t one of them. As long as members of his command practised constant vigilance, he positively endorsed sexual experimentation up to and beyond the call of duty.
And the other Order members, apart from Dumbledore, were young. Remus smiled briefly; despite everything, it had been good to be young. Free, liberal, tolerant, understanding – for if a young, libertine werewolf couldn’t be those things, who could? And even now, he had nothing to fear.
“You’re right,” he said. “We only have to worry about people who know you’re innocent, and we don’t need to worry about them.” He paused, and then asked, “What about the children?”
“What about them?” asked Sirius.
“Well, do we hide from them? Tell them about it?”
“Harry already knows,” said Sirius calmly.
“I suspect he’s forgotten,” replied Remus equally calmly. “Thirteen years will do that to a boy.”
“Fine, whatever!” Sirius seemed to be getting impatient with the conversation, and inwardly Remus tensed. “Then we’ll tell him again! Tell all of them, for fuck’s sake!”
Remus didn’t reply. Instead, he looked out across the garden at where Molly was ruthlessly attacking an overgrown bush with a pair of secateurs. Thwack. Thwack.
“Or maybe not?” Sirius suggested as he followed Remus’s gaze.
There was a pause before Remus spoke.
“Interesting that we’ve talked about this for so long without actually deciding what it is we’re talking about.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, what are we talking about? One misplaced moment of passion in a darkened room or all that till-death-do-us-part-stuff? We’re not teenagers, for heaven’s sake!”
Sirius stared at him for a moment. “When did you stop swearing?”
Remus stared back. “What?”
“What did you say? For heaven’s sake? You never used to say stuff like that. It used to be fuck or nothing with you. ”
Remus was still staring, but he had relaxed slightly. “Oh, I don’t know. I lived alone for so long, and besides, I can’t swear, I’m a teacher. Remember?”
It was clear from Sirius’s expression that he hadn’t remembered. Remus threw his hands up in despair. “This is ridiculous. We’re not the same people we were thirteen years ago, and it’s useless trying to pretend we are. I think it’s naïve to think we can pick up where we left off.”
“I didn’t say we should do that.” Sirius’s voice was rising. “Do you remember where we left off? Do you remember what it used to be like? Bloody hell.”
Remus didn’t say anything for a moment. At some point in the last minute, he had lost the momentum required to carry on with the conversation. “It was…” he began, and then couldn’t go on. There were no words that could encapsulate, that could reduce the remembered months and years into a few neat sentences.
“It was,” Sirius stated. “It just was.”
Remus nodded. He was leaning back on the grass, warm in the sunshine. After a moment, Sirius joined him, staring up at the sky. When their hands met, neither commented, but neither pulled away.
It was getting late. Remus walked slowly down the dark street, hands in his pockets, the toes of his boots scraping across the cobbles. He was tired and hungry, having been on Order business all day with no time for breakfast or lunch. Sighing a little, he turned the corner into Grimmauld Place and almost walked into the back of a girl walking a short distance in front of him. He was about to apologise when he realised she hadn’t actually noticed him. Grinning to himself, he yelled, “Constant vigilance!”
The girl jumped. Her hair stood on end, literally, and turned pink. She wheeled round, contrition writ large on her features – until she saw who it was. “You bastard.”
Remus laughed. “My dear Nymphadora.”
“Remus! You had me scared to death! I thought it was Moody about to have a right go!”
“Sorry,” he said, not sounding sorry at all, and she glared at him. They had fallen into step with each other, and were approaching number twelve. Tonks was about to reach out for the doorbell, but Remus stayed her hand. “Hang on,” he muttered, drawing his wand. A couple of muttered words, and the door swung noiselessly open.
“Oh,” said Tonks approvingly. “You have the spare key.”
He nodded, and they entered the shadowed hallway. Moving softly as not to wake the portrait, they made their way into the kitchen. It was mostly quiet, and the lamps had not yet been lit. Sirius was asleep in a chair with his head on the table.
He woke at the sound of their footsteps. Remus and Tonks were standing in the doorway, illuminated by the soft yellow twilight flowing in from behind them. Through sleep-blurred eyes, Sirius saw they had been laughing; Remus’s head was thrown back and his long hair was spilling out over his shoulders; Tonks was metamorphosing in amusement.
When Sirius spoke, it was with the kind of natural, easy humour he had feared lost in Azkaban. “Been on a date, have you?”
Tonks laughed and her hair darkened to purple. “Very funny. As if.”
“Yeah,” Sirius agreed, “especially since you’re not Remus’s type.”
Tonks stuck her tongue out, not seeing the look of amused indignation cross Remus’s features. “I should think not. He’s slightly older than me.”
“Even if you were the last woman on earth…” Sirius began, but she cut him off.
“It’s all right, you don’t have to spell it out for me. See you later, Remus.” Mischievously, she kissed the top of his head and skipped out of the kitchen.
Remus started to laugh. “‘Last woman on earth?’” he asked, falling into a chair beside Sirius in a single graceful movement. “Do you know me but at all?”
He paused, then slipped a hand into his robes. Almost out of nowhere, a bottle of white wine appeared on the table, and he grinned. “Don’t tell Moody. I appropriated it for the Order.”
Sirius held the bottle while Remus used his wand as a corkscrew. “Let’s be fair,” he said. “There’s enough for everyone.”
Remus smiled, poured two glasses, and levitated the bottle off to the sideboard for later.
Sirius took a sip, allowing the taste of the moment to carry him along with it. Something about it, something about the warm summer air and the last of the golden sunlight and the way Remus was blending in with it all, made him wide-eyed and dreamy. He was ready to be free with his words, ready to talk and laugh, because this moment, its beauty, were too short and transitory for him to not.
He was laughing now, remembering. “Last woman on earth,” he repeated.
Remus raised his eyebrows, but Sirius nodded emphatically. “You’re as gay as a goose!”
“I am not.” Remus was almost sulking, but his eyes were bright with amusement. He had fallen back in his chair, letting his limbs spill insolently out of it, his head on Sirius’s shoulder with the natural ease of old. “I’ve had girlfriends.”
“Name one.” Sirius grinned.
“Lily!” Remus’s delight in saying her name was obvious; almost as if this summer night had swept away the guilt and pain, leaving only the joy of the old friendship.
Sirius’s brow furrowed. “No, Moony. You’re getting it wrong. See, Lily was James’s girlfriend…”
“Before that.” Remus blinked. “Did I never tell you?”
“No, you never did!”
“Ah.” Remus had let his arm fall round Sirius’s shoulders, and their breathing had synchronised. “It was just one summer. A few months. We didn’t do much but smoke and kiss and lie on the grass.”
For a moment, they were both remembering it. The last year of childhood, punctuated by sunshine and mischief and love, but lurking beneath the crisp shadows, the darkness to come…
Sirius wouldn’t have asked the question, but he was no longer in control of the words that fell from his lips. “Did you love her?”
“Nah.” And in that careless utterance, Sirius heard something of the boy, the younger self who had had that voice and those eyes.
Remus was smiling, thinking about it. “I didn’t love her. I was sixteen and I liked her and I thought she was beautiful.”
“She was.” Sirius allowed himself to think of her; her face, her hair, her eyes. And then… “So were you.”
Remus merely looked at him, eyes wide and questioning.
“You were,” Sirius persisted, feeling drunk with emotion. “You were, and I… I loved…”
Thud, clatter; and there was a person standing at the door.
“Anyone for tea?” Bill Weasley paused and stared. “Mum sent me… she said to ask…”
“We’ll be there in a minute,” Remus assured him, standing up so his robes fell smoothly back into place. His long hair was showing grey.
“Right,” Bill said, and closed the door behind him. Remus stood there a moment longer, and Sirius saw, in the absence of sunlight, a thirty-five-year old werewolf, tired and drawn, swaying slightly from foot to foot and casting a shaking shadow across the floor.
Night had fallen long ago; he was tired and hungry and fed up, his hair falling in his eyes as he stood there waiting.
Remus was conscious of the water in front of him, deep black and reflecting lights in smooth steady ripples. The heavy, clanking noises of the port were deadened by the still warm air, and he wondered momentarily if he had somehow misinterpreted his instructions. Inland of him, the dim yellow streetlights spilled over the cobblestones, illuminating people heading towards the town, but he was alone by the waterside, the gentle waves lapping at the cobbles a few feet below him.
Remus jumped; the stranger had crept up almost without warning. He was dressed all in black so only his eyes were clearly visible in the sodium lights, and Remus took an involuntary step back. Quickly skimming the stranger’s attire revealed what he sought, however; the most incongruous of secret symbols, the Star of David. It was pinned on the other man’s lapel, glowing dimly.
Remus felt ready to speak. “Oui, puis-je vous aider?”
The man was scrutinising him. “Comment appelez-vous?”
Remus took a deep breath, uncomfortably aware that his voice might well carry across the water. “Remus Lupin. Rémi,” he added as an afterthought, tasting the strange word as he said it.
“Bien.” Remus noticed he didn’t offer his own name. “Est-ce que vous etes…” He paused. Remus waited patiently, knowing what would come.
“Vous etes loup-garou?”
“Oui. Je dois aller…”
“D’accord.” The man blinked, then handed over a small package.
“Merci beaucoup.” Remus was suddenly tired, and thinking of Sirius. He would be home soon; there was no need to worry about boats and trains, for once. They didn’t recommend Apparition over long distances, but Remus felt suddenly reckless – it didn’t matter, nothing mattered….
Besides, it wasn’t so far, even with the choppy waters of the English Channel to cope with. Thirty-two miles at the outside. Not far…
“C’est loin?” The stranger – one of the Continental contacts of the Order, Remus was sure – seemed to have guessed his thoughts.
Remus shook his head. “Trente-deux… non, cinquante kilomètres.”
The man smiled. “C’est vrai. Bonne nuit, M. Lupin.”
“Bonne nuit.” Remus nodded at him, then looked away towards the water.
When he turned his head the stranger was gone, Apparated somewhere no doubt. Remus yawned, suddenly caring very little for Continental packages or top-secret pick-ups. Three days on Order business, no proper meals, very little sleep; even his clothes, Muggle out of necessity, were irritating him.
He closed his eyes. He could Apparate to the doorstep of Grimmauld Place, be far removed from this French port that smelled of fish in a mere instant.
Or… he could do better than that.
He was tired, exhausted, beyond that, he was tired enough to project his magic around him in a palpable cloud. Concentrating, he drew it in and focused it. The wards around Grimmauld Place were impenetrable… almost. He could feel them from where he stood; best to avoid them and just Apparate into the street. But he was so tired, and he wanted Sirius so much, and he could feel it, feel him, and that was his magic, his and Sirius’s, bound together, protecting the old house, and he was far gone enough to just go with the flow, follow and find the breaks in the lines of the world, and his eyes were tightly closed…
He didn’t open them again, but he knew he was in the kitchen. Sirius leapt up from the table, caught him before he fell, and although Molly was clucking in the background, held him, kissed him, whispered, “I missed you.”
Remus opened his eyes for just one moment. “Je suis desolé,” he whispered back, and closed them again, ready to fall asleep in Sirius’s arms on the kitchen floor.
Molly was still clucking, but her maternal instincts were kicking in. “Get him off the floor, for heaven’s sake! I don’t know what Dumbledore was thinking, sending him off in the back of beyond with no-one to look after him properly, hasn’t had a good meal in days I’ll wager…”
Roughly, Sirius manhandled Remus into a chair, abruptly embarrassed by any show of emotion. Conscious of his ducked head, Tonks was carefully averting her eyes, and after a minute she got up to close the door. The children were still awake in their various parts of the house and could look in at any moment.
The moment was passing. A second later, Remus’s eyes opened clearly; he was tired but lucid and Sirius felt the atmosphere subtly change. With a bump, he let his body flow down from the chair and pulled Remus with him so they were entangled on the floor. Molly sighed, grabbed Tonks’ arm and headed towards the door. Before she closed it behind them, she took the opportunity to give Sirius the sternest of glares. “I don’t know what you think you’re playing at,” she said, “but for heaven’s sake get it over with and let Remus get some sleep.”
Remus was ignoring her. He was looking up at Sirius. “You didn’t have to wait up for me.”
“Yeah, I did.” Sirius was emphatic.
“Padfoot” – how long, too long, since he’d used the nickname – “what is it?”
Sirius looked at him straight in the eyes. “Do you remember that night?”
Remus wanted to ask which night, when, which night out of so many nights, nights of love and hate and blood and fur, but the dim lantern light threw his thoughts into sharp clarity and he knew which night. “The last night.”
“Yeah… before I left, when you gave me my coat… do you remember?”
A word so soft it was barely spoken. “Yes.”
“I wanted to tell you… something.” He stopped, and didn’t seem able to speak. Slowly, Remus stood up and threw his wizard’s cloak off his shoulders. Underneath it, he was wearing a leather trench coat. Sirius reached for it slowly, wonderingly, and pulled at it, pulled Remus closer, and seemed able to speak again. “You were standing there by the table, you were clearing up… and you looked so beautiful and I loved you so much.”
Remus sat still for a few moments. Sirius looked at him, through him, along the soft lines of his face and hair, trying to see the twelve lost years on him.
When Remus spoke, it was in the half-light of dreams. “Plus ca change, c’est la meme chose.”
The sun shone down on the Muggle street, softly illuminating Harry Potter walking down it, with the Dursley family trailing in his wake.
None of them turned to look back, not even Harry, so no-one saw as Remus Lupin slipped back into King’s Cross station. Turning round, he realised that as he had been watching Harry, he had been being watched himself. Molly Weasley was standing next to him, her eyes running over him in silent scrutiny, and Remus was surprised to see the concern in her expression.
“Remus,” said Molly quietly. “How long until the full moon?”
“Just a few days,” he admitted. He hadn’t been thinking about it, he realised with a jerk. It was never far from his thoughts, but not now. This was the first time in a long while that something else had driven it out so thoroughly and completely. The thought made him feel oddly… human…
Someone had overheard their beginnings of a conversation. Mad-Eye Moody seemed ready to say something. He opened his mouth a few times, like a codfish, then apparently changed his mind and moved off towards the Weasley twins. In the end, it was Molly who spoke next. “Remus?”
“Are you… are you taking your… you know, your potion? Wolfsbane?”
Remus smiled. “Yes. Having Severus Snape in the Order of the Phoenix is beneficial in at least one way.”
The question was being asked on Moody’s behalf. Moody would trust anyone Dumbledore trusted, but his ever-increasing paranoia meant that having an obviously Dark creature in the Order grated on his battle-scarred nerves. Remus’s outwardly quiet demeanour only served to unnerve the Auror further. Remus had never felt particularly threatened. It was worth it, he’d decided, to see Mad-Eye at a loss.
“It’s just…” Molly went on, with difficulty. “It’s just… you have forgotten before, and… well, you know what happened…”
“I won’t forget,” Remus promised her, but she didn’t seem quite content. He waited for her to speak again, and when she did it was with further trepidation. “You know when you transform?”
“Yes,” said Remus slowly.
“You might be alone this time, because of… well, you know… and I just wondered… will you be all right?”
Remus gazed at her steadily. “When Sirius was in Azkaban,” he said quietly, “I survived one hundred and forty-four transformations alone. I think I can manage one more.”
Molly smiled at him, but didn’t speak. As she turned away to tend to her family, Remus realised Moody must have heard what he’d said as well. Neither of them had noticed the significance in his last remark. Molly would never suspect such a thing, and Moody was so much on his guard for the darkness out there that he never thought to look for the darkness within.
When he got back to Grimmauld Place, he sat on the floor and stared at the wall and waited for the knock at the door. It came exactly on time; Snape was nothing if not punctual. But when Remus looked opened the door and looked out, he was gone. The only evidence for his presence was a smoking goblet on the floor.
Remus stared at it with a kind of amused bitternesss. For the use of Dumbledore’s pet werewolf…
Tame… the word lingered in his head as he lifted the goblet.
And dropped it.
The goblet smashed on the ground, the smoking liquid gushing over his bare feet. Calmly, he stepped back, reached for his wand and muttered, “Reparo.” The goblet was in one piece again, but the potion was gone, swiftly trickling away and evaporating. He smiled.
It wasn’t the only time he did it. Molly made him eat and sleep, the twins made him smile on occasion with their latest inventions, and even Snape was heard to remark he seemed almost heartless in his determination to be unaffected. He only smiled; he thought about the seven-times-smashed goblet, and then he thought of poor, misguided Severus Snape, all his hard work going to waste…
On the night of the full moon, he placed the required charms on the door and went to do the same for the windows. The clouds were shifting; there wasn’t much time left. Taking a step back, he whispered the charms and then put down the wand just as his ragged fingernails started curling into claws.
Late in the summer, early in the evening, Dumbledore came to collect the French parcel. He found Remus standing in the front doorway, leaning against the frame. The pale warm light was illuminating one side of his face, letting soft shadows form around his eyes. Those eyes, almond-shaped amber, were burning with the feverish light that bespoke of a soaring body temperature and accompanying latent anger: this is your fault this is your fault this is your fault.
“Remus, you did well.” Dumbledore’s voice was soft. “Thank you.”
Remus nodded and turned away, walking quietly and swiftly around the house and into the garden. He didn’t wait to see what Dumbledore would do, ignoring him completely as he moved away. In the dying light, Molly was pruning the flowerbeds and Ron and Hermione were sitting at the edge of the lawn, idly pulling up daisies and talking.
They didn’t notice him. He lay down in the overhanging shade of a tree, staring up at the sky, conscious of the long grass beneath him. It was cool to the touch and pleasant in contrast to the heat of his skin. His lips were slightly parted, his breathing audible, and he knew that perhaps, maybe, he wasn’t quite in his right mind.
A flock of swallows was winging by overhead, black against the colours of the sky, and he followed their flight with his eyes until they were out of sight. Soon it would be getting dark. Already, he could see a glimmer of cold white light in the overgrown bushes. Fireflies. Small stars, beautiful like the ones slipping out from behind the horizon.
There were footsteps. His hearing was sharper than most; he heard the soft rustling of the grass as someone came up behind him. He turned to see him sitting there, watching him with eyes that gave away nothing.
Remus sighed deeply. “Hello, Harry.”
“Professor Lupin.” It was a formal mode of address delivered in a formal tone of voice, but Remus didn’t comment on it.
“How are you?” he asked.
“Okay.” Harry wasn’t looking at him; eyes on the ground, he was methodically shredding pieces of grass.
“Yeah?” Remus smiled suddenly. “You’re okay? You do know it’s all right not to be?”
“Well, is it all right just to be okay?” Harry was staring at him now, exuding teenage defensiveness.
“Of course. What’s not okay is lying to me.”
“I’m not lying to you!”
“Never said you were.” Remus could feel something, and he was surprised. Feeling… feeling was good. It meant no numbness. It meant he felt free. “It’s just that if my godfather had died a couple of months ago, I wouldn’t be okay at all. Far from it.”
“Professor, with all due respect…” Harry was staring straight at him.
“Excuse me?” Remus asked, and shook himself inwardly. He was being cruel, he knew, playing the clueless stranger with aplomb; but he was no stranger to grief…
“Please” – and Harry almost sounded guilty – “I don’t want to talk about it.”
“About what? Sirius? His being dead?”
“Shut up!” Harry yelled, and Ron and Hermione looked round. At the foot of the garden, Molly was beginning to move across to then.
Remus decided to cut to the chase. “What did you say?”
Harry was standing up, standing over him, hands on hips. “You don’t know what it’s like!”
Some of the pretend anger mutated into reality. Remus was on his feet before he knew it; eyes flashing, head thrown back, he said quietly, “I don’t know what it feels like?”
Harry was silent for the moment, still glaring, still furious.
“Harry.” Remus’s voice was gentle again; no anger, just the parry and thrust of revelation. “I loved Sirius. I loved him. In every single way. Do you understand me?”
Harry merely stared at him. Molly was getting closer by the second, getting ready to jump in…
There was a breathless silence. And then the plaintive voice of a child confused: “Professor Lupin?”
Remus held up one hand. “Stop, Harry. I’m not your teacher. I’m not your godfather. I don’t even think I’m your friend, not at the moment.”
And then the charade was over, the game played out; all that was left was a simple admission. “But I’d like to be.”
Harry stood there for a moment, swaying slightly. Then: “I’d like that, too.”
Remus smiled. Behind him, Molly Weasley undertook a sharp U-turn and careered into Ron and Hermione coming the other way.
Harry and Remus didn’t notice. They walked together towards the house.
Remus didn’t speak for a moment, and when he did, it was in a quiet voice coming from far away. “When you were James’s son, Lily’s baby, Sirius’s godson, I had no claim on you.”
Harry didn’t speak.
“And now,” Remus said, still looking out from some distance behind his own eyes, “I still don’t. But you loved Sirius, and so did I, and well, maybe that’s a start.”
Harry nodded. “Yeah, I think so.”
And in the sunlight and silence, it was enough.
Remus strode through the house, cloak flying out behind him, feeling younger. At his right side was the Boy Who Lived.
They crossed the hallway, keeping step with each other, sending the dust motes whirling. The evening sunlight was scattering in every direction and the portrait had been taken down.
Hermione opened the front door and laughed at the sight of them. “Harry! Where did you get that? Camden Market?”
Remus smiled. “Originally,” he said quietly.
Harry shook his head at Hermione, not understanding. “Moony gave it to me,” he said shyly, turning around. The soft leather coat flowed around him, enveloping him in its familiar smell. He rubbed it between his fingers, enjoying the feel of it, and looked up at Hermione. “What do you think?”
She grinned. “It suits you.”
It did. He twirled again, with more confidence this time, and the coat flew out in a large flat whirl. Remus smiled again. “You remind me…”
“Of Sirius?” Harry’s eyes were shining.
“And myself,” Remus told him. “When we were younger.”
“Is that a good thing?” Harry asked, laughing.
“Yes,” said Remus seriously, and then he was laughing too, caught up in the moment. Hermione giggled, grabbed Harry’s hands and spun round, letting herself be catapulted through the door. “See you later!” she yelled as she disappeared.
In her wake she left silence, charged with sunlight and sweetness. Harry looked up at Remus, and apropos of nothing: “You must have really loved him.”
Remus looked back, taking in the light and the leather and those green eyes. “I did,” he said, and was horrified to feel tears in his eyes. “I really did.”
“That’s why you gave me the coat,” Harry said, and it wasn’t a question. He skipped to the door, still smiling, and was gone.
Remus settled himself by the window. He watched the Order coming through the garden, listened to the sounds of talking and laughter and the hiss and sizzle of cooking in the house behind him, and rubbed two fingertips over his eyes.
It was a couple of minutes before he noticed Molly standing in the doorway and looked up. “Oh…”
She didn’t say anything for the moment, coming to sit beside him. He moved to make room for her and was surprised to feel her hands in his. He opened his palms to see the tissues. “I’m sorry,” he said, and when after using the tissues the tears wouldn’t stop, “I shouldn’t be… oh, fuck.”
Her eyebrows raised, and Remus remembered something. “Sirius,” he said incoherently. “Sirius… used to like to make me swear.” He took a shuddering breath, and went on, “Looks like he’s still doing it.” The tissue was already shredded. “Fuck.”
“Remus.” Molly gently pushed his hair out of his eyes, using the moment to look after him the way she did Harry and her children. She let the touch linger, making sure he was able to listen. “My mum used to say that tears for mourning are bitter, salty; but not tears for love. Without the hurt and the bitterness, tears for love are sweet…”
Her voice was tailing off, but Remus heard the whisper, “It’s going to be all right.”
Outside, Harry, Ron and Hermione were running down the path towards the street, shouting and laughing. Tonks was coming the other way, shouting good-naturedly back at them, and Moody was looking ready to commit murder for the flagrant lack of paranoia all around.
Remus took a deep breath and licked the salt from his lips. The sun was setting, but the darkness was a long, long way off.
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