Date: Tuesday, June 24, 2003 11:44 AM Title: Too Little, Too Late (Harry Potter) Author: Victoria P. [firstname.lastname@example.org] Summary: Remus runs into an ex at a bar. Spoilers: Major OotP spoilers. Read at your own risk. Rating: PG Disclaimer: Dude, if they were mine, Remus and Sirius would be frolicking on a beach in the Caribbean. Archive: Lists, Muse's Fool. Feedback: Rings my chimes Notes: Thanks to Jen, Pete/Melissa, Dot, and Meg. Helps tremendously if, in addition to having read OotP, you've read Always Something In Between http://www.unfitforsociety.net/musesfool/alwayssomething.htm as that's where Gracie first shows up. Things will make a little more sense if you do.
Too Little, Too Late
Grace Fellowes had a headache. The Muggles with whom she was meeting just wouldn't stop talking, and the cigars they smoked made her eyes water and her lungs burn.
Excusing herself, she pushed her way through the happy hour crowd toward the exit. She needed air. She felt a hand on her backside and turned to glare at a man in a navy suit, biting her tongue to avoid hexing him.
And slammed right into a man standing at the bar, spilling his drink. They both jumped to avoid having to wear the scotch home.
"I'm so sorry," she said, and she found herself looking up into a pale, careworn face, a face she knew very well, even after twenty-odd years. "Remus Lupin?"
His brow furrowed for a moment, then cleared. "Gracie Chadwick?"
"Fellowes, now," she said, holding up her left hand, wedding band gleaming gold in the dim light of the pub.
He nodded. "Right."
She'd invited him to the wedding -- he'd been her first boyfriend, after all, and a good one, before--
She looked down at the bar. He had a newspaper spread out in front of him, and only by looking closely could she tell it was "The Daily Prophet". He'd charmed the pictures into stillness, but the smiling, handsome face of Sirius Black stared up at her.
He'd been posthumously cleared of all wrongdoing, and the story was splashed across the first five pages of the Prophet.
"Have a drink, Gracie," Remus said. She wondered how long he'd been standing there, wondered what he was doing in the bar of the St. Regis to begin with.
Then she imagined losing Patrick and decided not to ask. "Okay."
He waved the publican over and she soon had a glass of Stolichnaya in hand.
"You look good," he said after they'd stared at each other over the drinks for a moment. She glanced at herself in the mirror over the bar, then again down at the picture of Sirius.
"Thanks." How else could she respond to that?
He laughed, but there was no humor in it. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean--"
"I know. I -- it was a long time ago, Remus. We were so young, weren't we?"
"Young and stupid, yes." He sipped his scotch and she watched his Adam's apple bob up and down; she remembered kissing that throat, leaving marks that had to be covered with glamours. She recalled his lips on her skin, hot and possessive, and could feel herself flushing.
"You still smell the same," he said abruptly. "Sherbert lemons and vanilla."
She blinked. "I--"
He waved a hand. "I'm being maudlin, I know. I apologize to you and to your husband for anything I may say that could be considered out of line."
She touched his arm for a moment, unsure if the contact would be welcome. "Remus, I-- I can't even imagine what you're going through. If you need anything -- anything at all -- let me know." She fumbled for her wallet, extracted a business card and wrote on the back of it.
He took it, curiosity replacing the dead look in his eyes. "A telephone number? You work for Gringotts and yet you have a telephone?"
"I'm a liaison between the goblins and some Muggle investment firms," she explained. "They don't use owls or Floo powder, so we make do with telephones and fax machines and overnight mail. We have an office set up to resemble a Muggle working environment. It's really quite interesting. In some ways, technology trumps magic."
"Can they raise the dead?" he asked, and she had to look away from the raw pain on his face, in his voice.
"N-no. Of course not. No one can--"
"Then they're not much use, are they?" he said flatly. He downed the rest of his drink and set the glass on the bar with so much force she was surprised it didn't shatter.
He grabbed her hand, stroked her palm with his thumb. His hand was large, warm, powerful. But he was gentle with her, and she trusted him. She always had. "Do you have children, Gracie?"
"Keep them safe. Dark times are here."
She thought of Marie, Celeste and Noel, and a chill ran down her spine at the thought of anything happening to them.
"I know. I-- If there's anything I can do," she repeated helplessly.
He turned his head, and she followed his gaze. Her clients were getting restless. One of them was heading their way.
"I'll be in touch if we need you," he said, pulling some Muggle money out of his pocket and throwing it on the bar. He gathered up his newspaper, tucked it under one arm.
"I'm glad they cleared his name," she whispered, "and I'm so sorry --" she broke off. "It's too little, too late, though, isn't it?" She thought of the twelve years Sirius had lost, and wondered how Remus would survive losing the man he loved again, permanently this time.
He laughed again, just as bitter as before. "You could say that."
Then he did something completely unexpected. He leaned in and kissed her briefly -- chastely -- on the lips. He was out the door before she had time to recover. She licked her lips, which now tasted of scotch and something else that was just Remus, almost unchanged even after all these years.
The client reached her and she turned, pasting a smile on her face. "I do apologize, Bob. Ran into an old school friend. You know how it is."
"Of course, Grace, of course."
She let him lead her back to the table, but excused herself shortly thereafter. Her hands were shaking, and she felt a strong need to kiss her husband and hug her children tight.
She prayed Remus never called, but promised herself she'd be ready if he did.
It was the least she could do, even if it was too little, too late.
The Muse's Fool: http://www.unfitforsociety.net/musesfool diary: http://musesfool.diaryland.com LJ: http://musesfool.livejournal.com
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