August 2, 2003
Disclaimers: Not mine in the slightest.
Spoilers: Big ones for OotP.
Summary: The life of a werewolf is, by necessity, a study of control.
Ratings Note: PG-13.
Author's Note: I wanted to see if I could get a handle on Remus.
Acknowledgments: To Debba, for audiencing, and to everyone else who has babbled HP with me.
Feedback: Always welcome. firstname.lastname@example.org
Remus is alone.
This has been true for more of his adult life than it hasn't, but it still pops up at the oddest times, in the meanest ways.
Molly shares tales of Fred and George's pranks with an assumed air of frustrated exhaustion and a truer one of deep-seated pride and affection, and they're all so familiar. Nothing he had done, or nothing he had done without James and Sirius to egg him on, but... still.
It seems wrong not to be able to cut his eyes to the right, to that chair, and be able to share a look, a memory with someone else.
But Shacklebolt has that chair now, and they had barely known each other at Hogwarts, years separating them far more than anything else.
The house at Grimmauld Place is usually empty when he arrives these days, housing nothing more than its own carefully applied protective magics, and portraits (still) shocked dumb with the fact that the Black name is no more.
There is no one to stalk the halls into submission, and no one to call him 'Remus.'
Harry looks at him with James' anger in Lily's eyes and calls him 'Professor,' though he was only one for a year and probably never would be again. And it's only right, really. The way of things.
He was first known to Harry as a professor, and Harry and his friends are young. Such impressions remain, and never mind the facts of the matter. Well, perhaps nothing so harsh as that. Remus has a lot of respect for Harry and his little crew of ever so serious young people, but for all of that they are children, and think as such.
When he's out in the world, doing what little he can as an all-but-outlawed member of society, he doesn't expect to notice it. After all, even before the Order he had been more alone than not, save for the rare and impossible to count on visits from Sirius.
But still, when he uses the Muggle coins to buy the Muggle papers, when he uses the (still) strange paper money to buy and keep his spies, it hits him -- there will never be anyone for him to come home to.
James and Lily won't chide him for not coming to visit their child, who was sprouting like a weed. Peter won't invite him out for a pint. Sirius...
Sirius will not descend upon his flat with false cheer and true affection -- need, even.
Somehow, it's a lot more real now than it used to be.
Something in the wild look in Mrs. Black's painted eyes.
Something in the scent of the wind to temporarily blunted senses. A million familiar things, and none of them his own.
It's a surprise, more than anything else. He expected his grief to be similar to what he'd felt in his teens, after everything was gone, including his trust. He'd been angry then, and terribly sad. On the edge of suicide until Dumbledore had held him in his arms and told him that he was needed, that it wouldn't always be... the way it was.
The surprise comes in that the man wasn't just comforting him in the way that all good people must, that he was right.
He isn't a teenager anymore, and it's been... such a long time since he's felt anything that strongly. Sometimes he wonders if he's done himself a injury, but, really, there were all kinds of reasons for a poor, unsponsored werewolf to take a firm hold on his emotions and keep them... under control.
He doesn't regret what the years have taught him about being cautious, or the way it's second nature to wait until he has a place to be private, to be safe, before letting go.
It's just that with Sirius gone, there are no such places anymore.
And he doesn't really know any of the Order well enough to... what?
Ask for a shoulder to lean on? Some furniture to curse to flinders while he works out his feelings?
Remus chuckles to himself, earning a glare more feral than angry from the portrait for his trouble. He lifts his cup to the woman and she disappears, leaving him alone in the quiet and inescapable sense of age.
There is no room in this world for his grief, in whatever form it eventually decided to take. Not right now, and perhaps not ever again. Ah, but the future is what he's doing his level best to help define, isn't it?
Surely there would be some way to... work it out.
Make friends. Influence people.
Perhaps he could pull Shacklebolt aside somewhere in the midst of grooming the man to be the next Minister. "I say, old chap, why don't we talk about old times? Oh, and while you're at it, could you see what you could do about taking werewolves out of the realm of our equivalent of Animal Control?"
The problem is... the problem is that he's getting older, and there's just too much to deal with now. How would he ever begin?
Unbidden, the image of Sirius: Sprawled in his one armchair, gesturing wildly with his glass of firewhiskey, and telling him to get on with it, Remus, surely something must have happened in the last decade to people he remembered.
And if he couldn't deal with his anger then, with the huge and impossible fact that he was no longer the man -- the boy -- Sirius knew, and that none of the survivors would have been remotely recognizable to the young man in the raddled, tattooed old man's body, that they weren't the same anymore, that the world had left both of them behind, that it was what it was and nothing could change it --
He thinks that it should've been better than this. Even with Sirius' name still blackened, even with the wizarding world happy without werewolves, it should've been a reunion. The type spoken of in books, with manly hugs and tears, and long nights spent in cheerfully maudlin reminiscence.
What it had been was... a series of increasingly random moments stolen from the wider world, in which Sirius stayed long enough for Remus to feel claustrophobic, in which they drank far too much and said nothing at all of any consequence. In which Remus' bed stayed cold and empty, because he could see nothing in Sirius' eyes but the reflection of grey hair and age lines, and what Sirius could see...
Well, he didn't know then and he doesn't know now, and, as it happens, he will not ever know.
And really, whose fault was that?
The acoustics in this house are strange. Things that should be muffled echo, and you were far more likely to hear what was going on two floors down than what was right next door. Lupin hears the front door open, feels various wards falling and being set again, and breathes deeply.
Another mission, or perhaps someone stopping here in an attempt to find some rest before wandering back out into the world. If he is lucky, it won't be anyone who wants to talk.
He doesn't think he's entirely up to that.
He spells the water hot again, and tugs the container of tea closer to the edge of the counter, hoping it will do all the speaking for him. Wondering, idly, if this might not be the definition of grief for him now.
The portrait on the wall offers nothing but a view of empty chairs, and a fireplace more cheerful than it has any right to be.
Ah, wishes did come true. "Severus. There's water on."
A sniff from somewhere over his shoulder. "I do, in fact, still possess functional eyes."
"Good on you."
A snort of something far closer to disgust than amusement, and he can hear Snape pottering around. The scent of cinnamon tea does its level best to spice the stale air of a house that hasn't had a window open in decades, and Lupin thinks about retiring to his room.
Of heading back into London proper, despite the fact that it's much too soon for any of his spies to have come up with something useful, or even get themselves killed in any spectacular ways.
He settles on closing his eyes against all of it, and tries to pull up a few memories to play with. His mother's kitchen, Gryffindor doing something unlikely on the Quidditch pitch, Sirius laughing, eyes bright with nothing but stolen happiness --
"You do have a room, Lupin. There's no need for you to sleep in the kitchen."
"I'm not asleep."
"Meditation? I wasn't aware werewolves took to Mysticism. Though perhaps you could be someone's familiar."
And there's a sneer in the man's voice, and he really is just as nasty and unpalatable as he's always been, but... Remus opens his eyes and stares into a face no more time-raddled than it should be. Crow's feet creeping around black eyes, mouth twisted into a sneer polished with practice. He smiles. "It's good to see you, too, Severus."
A narrow look of purest suspicion, and... something else. Something that smells like concern, despite the raw unlikeliness of it. Remus smiles a little wider and closes his eyes again.
James trying to spell his hair into behaving, the old woman out in the countryside who left steaks for that sweet little dog who was always crying so much, the --
"I. I'm sorry. About your loss."
Fuck. Fuck. "Drink your tea."
And it's a moment that passes so quickly, like slipping into old, comfortable shoes before you realize you even want them, like drinking before you remembered you wanted to be sober tonight, and at the end of it Snape is up against the wall, and he has the man's robes bunched in his fists, and he's close enough that Snape's surprised exhale is a wash of heat and cinnamon over his cheeks. "Don't," he says. "You don't get to --" He growls to himself and forces his fists to unclench, his muscles to relax against the old, familiar need to destroy.
"Well. Albus mentioned that you needed someone to talk to --"
"And he sent you?"
Another narrow look, and Snape pauses in the straightening of his robes. "Do try to think for a moment, Lupin. Would I really be here for... that?"
He needs to be away from here. He needs... someplace open, someplace empty save for tiny creatures no one would miss. He needs -- he hisses to himself and shakes it off, internally. "Why are you here?"
Snape doesn't bother to look at him before spelling away the mess of spilled tea and broken crockery. "A moment's peace before I'm forced to return to the company of spotty adolescents and adult incompetents. Though I'm beginning to think the company would be better there."
"I'm not keeping you."
Another sniff, and Snape looks him up and down, sizing him up for whatever private scale the man had behind his eyes. "You couldn't. But while I'm here, I would suggest you find someone who does want your company, Lupin. The Order could do without your charming brand of incipient psychosis."
Lupin snorts to himself and goes to make himself another cup of tea. "Noted, Severus. Now if you could just bugger off my day would be complete."
"You -- Christ. Lupin. You can't keep going on like this."
He manages, barely, to keep himself from crushing a cup in his fist. "This doesn't concern you, Snape."
"My life is in your hands, you pathetic excuse --"
He forces himself to look -- only look -- at the man, knowing that whatever's on his face should be enough to get his point across without resorting to violence. "I think you want to be very, very careful about what you say next, Snape."
The man recoils as if slapped, before narrowing his eyes again. "And I think you need to step back from yourself, Lupin. You just threatened me. After throwing me around like a child. Is this really how you want to behave?"
And right now... right now behaving like this is exactly what he wants, or as close to it as he can get without blood being shed. Because Sirius is dead, and had been dead to him for years before the man had the bloody stupid brass to resurrect himself -- a teenager in everything but looks, and a prat besides, and none of this had anything to do with the life he imagined for himself when he was a child, and none of it was fucking -- fucking fair and. Christ.
He turns back to the cabinet and breathes, slowly and carefully. Fixes his tea and turns back when he has something like control.
"You have my apologies, Severus."
"Oh, Merlin's bollocks, man, don't apologize to me. Get a hold of yourself. Do whatever it is werewolves do when they're pissed off --"
"I don't really think rampant bloodshed would be appropriate."
"Oh, I don't know. I'm sure there are few strays in this neighborhood that the populace wouldn't miss."
Lupin chokes on his tea, surprised into a laugh. "That's... that's bloody horrible."
A twitch of a smile. "Mm. So am I. So are you, as far as the Ministry is concerned. Cope with it. Live with it. You seem to have been doing a good enough job of it until now, and Sirius isn't the last of us who is going to die horribly before it's over."
"He's the last one I gave a toss about."
"Terribly romantic, I'm sure. And wouldn't he be thrilled to see what you're making of it?"
"Oh, I don't know. I daresay he'd be rather pleased at the thought of you getting tossed around the room." But it doesn't come out with anything like what he wants it to, and he doesn't want to touch what it does, and Sirius is.
And he is alone, caught again by nothing but the truth, trapped in a house full of insane portraits and the miasma of dark magic, alone. With Severus bloody Snape and a cup of tea that might as well be ashes.
He slides to the floor and sets the tea beside him, breathing as evenly as he can manage.
A swirl of black robes and a muttered curse and Snape is there, pulling him into an awkward, bony hug that he can't bring himself to refuse. Still. "I'm not going to cry on your shoulder."
"Color me wounded." Whispered into his hair and Remus feels himself tense with a scream he won't give, with everything he won't give and has no one to give to. He forces his head down and breathes in the man's scent, all ghosts of potions past and something strangely green, like plants chopped down in their prime.
Like the sort of death that doesn't have the courtesy to lie still.
"It... it will pass, Lupin."
He clenches his fist in the man's hair, not quite yanking at it. "Shut up."
And he does, and holds him tighter.
And Lupin takes it for his own, and doesn't make a sound.
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