This Was Falling
(Repost) Not MWPP story as such, though it does reflect on an event in Remus Lupin's life. When does this take place? Sometime after Book Three, but other than that hey, your guess is as good as mine. This just sort of wrote itself. PG13 for a little gore & language.
Some people love this, some people claims it makes them 'puke'. A word of advice – it you feel nauseous, go read something else. I could care less.
This was falling. But for the first time in his life, Remus allowed everything to come rushing forward. Joy, fear, giddiness, and bitter sorrow all seemed to rush through him at once. There was still the nagging fear that this was wrong, that if he finally let go, and let her in, that he would hurt her. He couldn't bear that. But that was a maybe, and he knew, he absolutely knew, that walking away from her would hurt her, more than anything else he could ever do.
He stared at her intently. The back of his throat burned and the dull ache he had felt in his chest all day had suddenly turned into a sharp pain. Some detached part of his mind thought 'how odd – it really does seem to feel like there is a hole in you'. Even wives' tales and proverbs had their basis in truth. He would not be the first, nor the last, to feel like this. He needed her so much it hurt. Keeping her away from him was too much.
She watched him quietly, never changing her gaze, never changing her expression. Her face was closed, and still. She regarded him will such studied composure, but he saw in her eyes that the face was not showing anything of the struggle playing in her mind. Why am I doing this, he thought. Why are we doing this?
Her pain was as real as his, her fear was as deep, and it just came from a different source. Her fear was that he would leave, that he would decide she wasn't worth the risk. But she was worth risking everything for. A risk he should have taken long ago.
Remus drew a shuddering breath, then, still never taking her eyes from hers, he quietly and calmly unbuttoned his shirt. He hesitated for a second, before removing it, but in that instant he saw a flicker across her eyes. Trust me. I will never, ever leave you. Let me in, please; let me in.
He was terrified. All the old fears came screaming at him. This would make everything so real; this would make everything so final. She had never met the wolf; she had never actually seen what the physical impact of this horrific curse was. It had all been so distant, almost fantastic, till this instant. Yes, they talked about it, but she had told him once that you can talk about possibilities as much as you like, it still really doesn't mean you know what you're going to do when something really happens. Remus felt tears starting to build in his eyes. Oh God, this is it. This will end it all. It's been so nice pretending, so safe, so sweet. I couldn't help pretending it could be real. Just for a little while, I needed to steal some sense of loving another person and being loved. It just felt so nice…
He was so startled when she whispered his name, he felt himself jump. He felt the tears start to crawl slowly down his cheeks. Remus drew a shuddering breath, feeling his face contort in pain, as he hugged his arms tightly around himself, taking a half step back. He finally broke her gaze, and the sobs escaped him. I'll never, ever look at her like that again. I'll never get the chance again. I can't bear this; oh God this hurts too much….
Her arms came around him, holding him tightly to her. He felt her hands grasping his back almost painfully tight as she clenched them into fists. "Stop it, Remus" she whispered against his chest. "Stop it. Don't do this. Haven't we suffered enough? Hasn't there been enough pain? I can't live with the pain anymore…." He heard the tears in her voice too. " I can't be alone anymore. I can't let you walk away from me. I won't…." Her own voice broke now as she started to sob, still holding him to her tightly.
"Please, Remus," she gasped though her tears, "Please don't do this. Please, let me in. Please don't ever, ever let me go. I promise, I promise I'll never hurt you. Never. Please…."
With that, he opened his arms and pulled her to him, holding her as tightly as she held him. He buried one hand in her beautiful hair, and wrapped the other so tightly around her back he feared she couldn't breathe. They stood like that for several minutes, weeping quietly, until Remus felt his own tears stop, and he could breathe evenly again. He slowly caressed her back, calming away the last of her own tears, which he could feel soaking one of his shirt fronts, and running down his chest.
"You can't just push me away. I need you too much to let you do it", she whispered.
"I could never, ever push you away," he whispered back. "I …" He stopped himself before he said it. I just can't bear to watch you leave me.
"I will never, ever leave you."
Remus froze at those words. She pulled back enough to turn her face up to his. He was suddenly surprised to see how small she seemed against him. Her presence was so strong, so intense, that she commanded attention in any room and always seemed to be larger and stronger than she was. Now, holding her in his arms, he saw that he was a good head taller than her, and it surprised him. He gazed down at her, amazed as he always was at just how startlingly beautiful she looked to him. She had no idea just how lovely she was….
"You are so beautiful. You never let yourself see that, do you? So beautiful…" his voice broke as he felt new tears and a fresh wave of terror go though him. He closed his eyes for a moment, to regain his sense of balance & fight back the fear that was burning in him again.
"Re…" His eyes snapped open and he brought a finger to her lips to silence her. She immediately complied, but her eyes glowed at him. He could see fear in them, and total, complete acceptance. He knew in that instant that if he told her to leave, to never come back, that she would do it because he had asked her to. He also knew that it would kill both of them. There was nothing else to do anymore but to let go.
He let go of her and stepped back. She misinterpreted his actions, and she let out a strange chocked sob.
"No, don't go…", she gasped. Remus immediately reached out one hand and brought it to her cheek.
"Shhhhhh. I'm not going anywhere."
He smiled at this, looked her in the eye and said with the first real conviction he had felt in years, "I promise". She gave him a quiet smile, and brought both hands up to grip his forearm. He noticed that her hands were shaking.
"Shhhhh," he said again, running his thumb gently up and down her cheek. Her eyes drifted closed under his caress, but he could still see tears glinting in her eyelashes. He could have stood like that all night, but reluctantly he pulled his hand back. Now that he had taken this step, now that he knew what he was going to do, he had to finish what he had started.
She was not startled and frightened this time when he stepped away from her. Instead, she calmly watched him as he took a deep breath and removed his shirt.
At first, she did not remove her gaze from his eyes. Then she quietly and slowly lowered her eyes to look at him. He felt sick and scared again, but the damage had been done, and now whatever would happen would happen. He wondered what she was thinking now, as she her expression remained quiet and closed.
Years of biting and ripping at his own body in his mindless fury during his transformations had left him covered with scars. Some were small, like little scratches, which barely showed up against his milk white skin. Others were large, brutal gashes that ripped across him. There was a particularly horrific scar on his left side. Instinctively, her breath caught as she saw it, and she reached out to him. He closed his eyes and marveled at how warm her hands felt, how soothing it was just to be touched so simply by another living soul.
"Is this…", she hesitated, not knowing how to ask what she wanted to know. But Remus understood.
"No," he said quietly. He reached for her hand, and then placed it on a smaller, more jagged scar on his left shoulder. "Here."
She nodded, and quietly caressed his shoulder, tracing the lines of the old bite. But instinctively her hand ran down his shoulder and chest, back to the horrible, ripping, 10 inch gashes on his side. He saw a tear run down her face, and she looked at him.
"Then, you did this … to yourself".
She didn't move or say anything for a moment. Then she quietly stepped forward and into his arms. She tucked her head under his chin, and continued to lightly caress the old scar on his side while her other arm wrapped around his back. He held her closely, feeling a little surreal. They stood like that in the moonlight for sometime. Finally, she spoke again.
He kissed her forehead lightly and ran his hands across her back. "What"?
"How did this happen?"
"What?" he asked again.
"This wound, this is much worse than any of the others. How did you do this to yourself?", she stopped and pulled away slightly to look at him. "You thought that you would scare me, that these scars would scare me. They don't. Only this one. This one scares me".
"Why that one?" he asked quietly, and she could see that his face had changed and something dark had come back into his eyes. Obviously, her suspicious were right, and there was more to this scar than the others. She didn't say anything more, but kept looking at him.
Sighing, resolved to do what he had to do, he started to quietly tell her the story, standing there in the moonlight, as the summer air ruffled through the grass in lazy breezes.
"I got that scar from a wound I gave myself the full moon after James and Lily died…." Remus started to tell her quietly.
He remembered the utter despair he had felt that night. The events of the last few weeks had been too much to bear. He had only come to fully realize the grim reality of the situation the morning of the next full moon, as he felt the moon start to pull on him and the dull ache he felt before every full moonrise spread through him. All of his friends were gone. Everyone who had ever loved him, everyone who he had ever loved, was gone. He had loved his friends so deeply, and never ever had he imagined being without them. They were part of him, and if he was there, so were they, right? No. Three of them were dead, and the fourth in jail forever for killing them. As his restlessness grew during the day, he took to pacing his study, running his hands through his hair and ignoring the tears that ran down his face in a constant, unending and unnerving trickle all day. James was dead, Lily was dead, and Peter was dead. Where the hell had he been when they needed him? He was sick, locked away, useless and alone.
He realized with a sharp horror that all the times he had thought he was alone before was a joke. He was lonely, maybe, but he was not alone. Before, he could always, always go find his friends, no matter what. And, more often than not, they had always come to him. Especially Lily; she was constantly coming to collect him and refusing to allow him to spend too much time by himself. But Lily was not coming now. She was not sending James to bring him to their house for dinner. Even Peter, whom they had seen less and less of over the past year, wouldn't be showing up unexpectedly to have lunch with him and quiz him endlessly about what he was doing fighting Death Eaters. And he couldn't even bear to think about Sirius. He still could not believe that Sirius…. It had to be some sick misunderstanding. Sirius had promised him, he'd promised him….
The grief and rage he felt as a man became a terrifying fury in the wolf. When he had woken up the next morning, he saw that he had utterly destroyed the room he had locked himself in. Every one of the walls was covered in deep gashes from his claws. The corners of the thick old wooden door to the room had been gnawed off. The shutters had been ripped from the window, and two of the glass panes between the metal stripping were smashed. Dazed, he looked down at his hands, which were throbbing in pain. There was a deep cut on the top of his left arm, presumably from the glass. He stared in horror at his left hand, seeing that two of his fingernails were gone. The wolf had fought so hard to get free, he had ripped out his claws. Gasping for breath, and fighting the wave of nausea that rose in him, he tried to sit up.
An intense pain came from his left side. He reached a shaking hand down to feel what he had done. He felt three deep gashes on his side. They reached from his lower back up to the middle of his chest. They were still bleeding slowly, and he knew he had to do something for that, but couldn't seem to focus on what he should do. The last time I hurt myself this badly, he thought in his daze, Sirius…. He went numb, but could not fight back the memory. He lay there, aware that he was weeping again, and remembered the last time the wolf had been so frightened. He remembered the promises that were made.
Remus had had a particularly hard month. Things had been getting worse, and he, James and Sirius had been working non-stop to just keep up with everything, let alone gain any sort of advantages. The fear was reaching a fever pitch, and the sense of calm, of some sort of normalcy and good humor he, James, Sirius and Lily had been working so hard to try and hold onto was slipping away. The three of them had felt it, talking less than they normally did, and even occasionally snapping at each other. Lily had snapped them out of one particularly pointless argument brought on by nerves one day by telling Harry, who was perched on her hip, in a loud voice that it was a pity Snape wasn't there to get the thrill of his life watching the world's most famous best friends go at it like at bunch of 12 year old girls arguing over a hair ribbon. Harry had just laughed and batted his mother on the chin with one chubby fist, but the men had instantly shut up, and things had calmed down.
Then the full moon had come round again, and Remus couldn't be with James and Sirius on a particularly dangerous raid. They had been angry with him for being so upset about it.
"Just shut up about it, Remus," James had finally yelled at him. "I have enough to do without worrying myself sick about you too. Go. Be safe. We will be fine. What other platitudes do I have to offer? For God's sake, Moony, this is us. I thought we were beyond having to say anything years ago. We know how much it hurts you to not be here. But don't you know how much it hurts us too, not being with you tonight? Not being able to offer what little miserable comfort we can to you? Do you know what it's felt like to have to watch you suffer all these years and know we can't do a damn thing to stop it?"
Remus was stunned at this outburst. Sirius had walked up behind Remus and put an arm around his shoulders.
"Yeah, you raving egomaniac, " he said with a he said with a grin, though his eyes were grave, "You're worse than any woman I ever dated, you know that? How many times do we have to tell you we love you before you'll quit testing us, eh?"
Remus, for the first time since he was twelve years old and they had confronted him about his lycanthropy, burst into tears in front of his friends. Sirius and James, utterly startled at the uncharacteristic display of raw emotion from Remus, immediately wrapped their arms around him and held him while he cried.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry…" he had gasped. But the other two had shushed him immediately, and just continued to hold him to them.
"Don't you ever be sorry," Sirius said forcefully, "Don't you ever be sorry. What's done is done, and it changes nothing between us. Nothing. Never did, never will."
Remus had finally got control over himself again, and quietly pulled away from his friends, although they did not let him go and retreat into himself so easily. James and Sirius each held on to one arm, and looked at Remus quietly. James spoke first.
"Come for dinner tomorrow. Lily feels left out, staying at home with Harry and never getting to see her friends. She misses you."
Remus nodded and smiled at James. "I miss her, too."
James smiled broadly and patted Remus on the back as he moved past him to pick up his cloak and leave.
"Good. Harry will be happy to see you, too. You'll be impressed. He now knows a few words other than Moony," Remus and Sirius grinned at each other. James continued talking as he walked out the door, in a mock tone of anguish, "Spend a whole week trying to teach my first born to say "daddy", and all it takes is ten minutes with you and his first, and for another week only, word is "Moony". At least, now that his vocabulary has expanded, he will no longer address absolutely every object as "Moony", thank goodness. I don't care how cute Lily thought it was, I was worried he'd end up in Hufflepuff…."
"James' son? Heaven forbid!", said Sirius, rolling his eyes. "Remus, do you need anything?"
Remus shook his head quietly. "Go. Catch up with James, and please, please be safe."
He expected some self-defacing, sarcastic comment from Sirius at this, but he still felt the need to say it. But Sirius was not laughing. He reached over and picked up his own cloak, still not letting go of Remus' arm. He turned to face him again.
"Remus, I'll be over first thing in the morning and I'll make us breakfast and tell you all about what went on tonight. For all we know, it could be nothing and my story will consist of how I sat in a muddy ditch all night listening to James tell me he was cold every ten minutes." Neither of them laughed.
That night, the first night Remus had spent entirely alone for many years, his loneliness and anxiety had made the wolf feel trapped and confused. The wolf, desperate to get out, desperate to soothe the fear, had attacked the room with a fury it had never felt before. He succeeded in smashing a large hole in the wall next to the door, although he couldn't get through the wooden frame, and had cut his leg deeply on a splintered piece of the wainscoting. When Sirius arrived, Remus was still laying on the floor, dazed and starting to feel dizzy from the loss of blood.
"Remus?" He heard Sirius' voice from the other side of the door, but it would be useless to call out. He had placed silencing charms on the room, so there would be no risk of anyone hearing him. Sound got in, so he could hear if anyone was trying to break into his house, but nothing got out. He was too tired to get up anyway….
"Remus!" It was no longer a question. "Remus, can you hear me? Get back from the door, Remus. Remus? Damn it!" He could hear Sirius muttering something, but the door remained closed. "Remus? Remus! Did you charm the door? What the hell have you done? Damn it, damn it!" He now heard Sirius trying to force the door.
"That's it! I'm just going to finish what you did to the wall…." Sirius then proceeded to actually kick at the hole in the wall to make it big enough for him to get through, venting his own anger and fear in the process. He finally got through the hole, and looked around the room. Sirius went over to Remus and dropped down on his knees next to him. Sirius' voice now sounded like it was coming out of a fog bank, and Remus could no longer see the edges of the room.
"Remus…Moony…Wake up now. Please. Are you okay? Oh my God, oh my God…." Sirius had just rolled Remus over onto his back and noticed the cut on Remus' leg, and the size of the pool of blood Remus was lying in. Sirius picked Remus up and moved him to the bed. Sirius piled blankets on him, and tentatively put pressure on the wound to staunch the blood flow. The pain was excruciating and Remus screamed and tried to push Sirius away. But he was no match for the healthy and now every frightened Sirius, who held him down with a surprising force.
"Remus, I know it hurts, but I've got to do something until I can get help. Do you understand? Just nod."
Remus nodded weakly.
"Good. Remus, how do I get the door open? What did you do to it?"
"Yes," said Sirius quietly through clenched teeth, "I got that part. But what charm? I couldn't get it open. What's the counter spell?"
"There isn't one. It'll open itself when the charm wears off." Sirius looked both furious and terrified at the same time.
"In fifteen hours…"
"What good does that do me? When did you set it? I need to get you out of here now, now! Why the hell did you put such a stupid charm on the sodding door?!"
"Just in case. Just in case…"
"In case of what?!" Sirius was starting to feel panicked. The pool of blood on the floor looked huge, and the bleeding had not stopped. He had to do something to stop the bleeding, but was scared that that wouldn't be enough.
"You can't do this to me, you prat. You just can't bloody do this to me." Sirius talked to himself as he carefully cleaned the blood away from the wound on Remus' leg. He needed to be able to see what he was doing if the healing charms were going to work. Remus moaned and tried to turn away, but Sirius held him down. "Don't move, Remus!"
Remus finally looked up at Sirius. He hadn't realized what a mess Sirius was when he had come into the room. His hair was soaking wet, and his left side was covered with mud and grime. There were dark circles under his eyes, and Remus could now see that Sirius was crying, the tears smudging his filthy face.
"You look awful…."
"Speak for yourself. Actually, don't speak. Just lay there as quietly as possible. Don't even move." Sirius had finished doing what he could for the wound and now sat back on his knees next to Remus.
"I said no talking," Sirius snapped. Then a fresh wave of tears came, and he swore as he grasped Remus' hand. "Everyone's fine. Just cold, and tired, and filthy. And scared. Very scared."
Remus looked as through he might say something, then thought better of it.
Sirius smirked. "Good boy." Then his expression dropped. Sirius looked towards the door, still firmly shut, then looked slowly around the room and back at Remus. Remus was watching him through half closed eyes. He looked like a nightmare, covered in his own clotting blood, which even made his hair stick out at odd angles on one side. Sirius reached out and smoothed the hair into place. Somehow, that only managed to make Remus look is usual calm, cool, collected and very tightly controlled self, even through Sirius' hand came back red with blood. Sirius choked at the sight, and started crying in earnest.
"Don't you dare die on me, Moony. Don't you dare. Don't you leave me. I will never, ever leave you."
Sirius grinned at him, though his tears were still flowing freely. "I Promise".
Remus managed a weak smile in return.
But you did leave me, and you took everything with you. Look at me now…. Somehow, Remus got up. He slowly retrieved his wand from where he had hidden it the night before and removed the charms on the door. After the incident when he had cut open his leg, he had sworn to Sirius, on his mother's grave, that he would never ever use a timed charm again. Last night, in spite of everything, he remembered that promise, and had kept it. He left the room and went to care for his injuries.
The wounds on his side were gruesome, but he managed to patch himself up. Some sane part of his consciousness spoke through his exhaustion and said that he should go immediately to the hospital, that the gashes needed to be tended to by a proper healer. But he couldn't face them; he could not face those people and tell them what had happened. Because there would be no solace from the looks they would give him. The fear, the disgust, the stony masks; they would not speak with him, or meet his eye. They would bandage his wounds, and send him on his way as quickly as possible. But they would remember his face, with utter clarity. And if they ever saw him again, they would know exactly what a monster he was. No, there was no place to go now and be safe. There was no one left who believed he was a man, not a thing.
Because the wounds were not tended to properly, they left terrible scars when they finally healed weeks later. That was fine with Remus.
Remus stopped talking. He knew in his mind that she had probably figured most of that out for herself before he ever told her the details. Certainly she knew that there was a very good reason why he had that scar. At the time, he had wanted to hurt. He smiled into her hair. Never could get anything past her, never will. So damn smart.
"The wolf feels everything you don't let yourself feel. And then you let it turn on you." She said quietly. See? She got it in one.
"It took me years to figure that one out, you know. It's no fair you breaking down all my walls and learning all my secrets in one night".
She laughed quietly, and said, "My God Remus, I've spent years trying to figure all this out. It was just time to finally do something about it. I meant what I said; I can't bear to loose you, and I won't let you go". She paused a moment, then continued, almost in a whisper, "Sirius told me what you said to him. That you were thinking of leaving again, that you couldn't bear the idea of hurting me. He felt that you were trying to justify running off by getting him to promise to look out for me. I agreed with him."
Remus grimaced. "Yes, I think that's probably right".
"We also agreed that you were not going to get away with it, no matter what".
Now Remus laughed quietly.
"It must have been very, very wonderful for you when you learned that Sirius was innocent," she said.
Remus thought about that. 'Very, very wonderful' would not have been the phrase he would choose to describe that event. But having Sirius back, that was definitely wonderful. Learning the truth had lifted a weight off of him he had not realized was there until it suddenly vanished, and the new lightness felt wonderful. Not being alone anymore? That was indeed very, very wonderful.
She sighed. She had stopped caressing his side at some point during his story and had wrapped both of her arms around him. They stood there wrapped in each other's arms for a long time. Their silences had always been as rich as their conversations. They had spent many hours just working together quietly side by side, or having lunch, or just walking through the fields and woods, barely speaking but in total, happy companionship. She finally chuckled against his chest, and he gasped at the sensation that brought.
"What?" he managed to ask.
"I was thinking about Sirius instructing Harry in the finer points of setting off fireworks undetected this afternoon. Very earnest he was. Glad to see someone taking pride in their work." She looked up at him and he could clearly see the laughter in her eyes. "You two must have been terrors when you were at school together."
"Terror seems a bit harsh. Well, maybe Sirius was, but he was trying to be. So was James, come to think of it."
"And you were the voice of reason?"
"Is that totally impossible to comprehend?" he laughed softly.
"No," she said quietly, looking up at him again, "I see that completely. It takes a very great and a very strong heart to offer reason in the face of adversity, to be the voice of sanity when all you feel yourself is lost and out of control. It's care for others, isn't it? That's what keeps us going, and that's what gives us the deepest scars. Because only if you bother to care for someone else can you ever be hurt by them".
"I will never, ever hurt you."
She smiled at him. "I've always known that. I'm just glad you understand that now too."
Remus blinked. She was right; he finally, totally understood and accepted that he would not hurt her, that this was right, and that there was no reason left on earth for him to fear this. He took her face in his hands, and kissed her.
Oh yes, this was falling.
She woke up hearing music running through her head. 'And the way things go you never know where love will lead you to'. That's for damn sure, ladies, thank you very much. 'And everything we've ever dreamed lies before me and you'. I'm going to have to agree with that one, too.
She looked at him lying next to her, holding her closely to him with one arm draped over her, and smiled. She rolled over quietly so as not to disturb him, though his arm tightened instinctively around her again when she had settled back in against his chest. The light from the meadow was just starting to show through the trees outside the window, but the birds had not yet started to stir in the garden below them.
It had been a very stressful few days, especially for someone so used to holding everything in as tightly as possible, and who feared emotional outbreaks more than anything else. Except airplanes, of course. Wretched things. No, don't think about that. Just think about this; just enjoy feeling totally warm and safe and free. For once, just don't over think it. Just let it happen. It's going to be okay…. She was aware that she had started crying again. This was getting ridiculous; she so rarely cried, and now over the past three days she felt like she had been making up for lost time. Thirty- odd years of never, ever letting myself cry, and look at me. But at least, these are happy tears.
She was startled by the sound of his voice, unaware that he had woken up.
"What's wrong?" She heard fear in his voice. No. There is nothing left to fear with us .I thought we'd settled that last night….
She turned to face him, and his hand came up to wipe her face. The small gesture was so sweet, it made her close her eyes and catch her breath. Everything I ever dreamed about, every small touch. Something so in contrast to everything I've ever felt, or allowed myself to feel. Everything I ever forbade myself to believe was real. But that's over.
Katie reached up and pulled Remus' face down so she could kiss him softly on the cheek. "Nothing's wrong, Remus, nothing. I'm just still so wound up from everything, I seem to have taken on the annoying habit of bursting into tears like some git schoolchild over everything and nothing." She moved in closer to him and nuzzled his neck. "Everything is very right. I'm just a little startled over that, I think."
He laughed quietly. "I thought we agreed no thinking for a bit."
"Well, that was at least four hours ago. That's a bit, wouldn't you say?" She smiled against his skin. She just loved the way he smelled, that wonderful masculine scent that made her feel protected and loved at the same time. That's got to be some ancestral brain-stem response females have to males. Keep them together, pheromone sort of thing. She giggled quietly. That defiantly qualifies as over thinking.
"Did you just giggle, Miss Davies?
"Beg pardon, Mr. Lupin. Thinking again."
"Well," he said with false solemnity, "that will have to stop. Right now."
She leaned back a bit so she could see his face and gave him quite a look. "You'll have about as much success there as you'd have trying to stem the flow of the tides, I believe."
"Ah, but the moon and I are on intimate terms. Perhaps she can be persuaded."
Katie was startled at this comment. Remus never, ever, made light of his condition, even in the very rare times he consented to talk about it at all. He even addressed it in the third person most of the time; 'the wolf', not himself. She looked into his eyes, expecting to find the shadow she normally saw whenever they talked about it. But there was only laughter, and a quiet happy glow she knew he could see in her eyes as well.
"What a long, strange trip it's been…"
"Nothing," she smiled as she gently pulled his face down to hers, "just a bit if the Berkeley in me, that's all."
"I've no idea what that means, but we'll just let that go shall we?" He kissed her deeply, and she marveled again at the amazing sensation of falling that brought on. But she was safe, not going anywhere, held tightly to him; never, ever to be let go again. Never let me get used to this, never let me take this for granted. It was too hard won. For both of us.
They lay there in each other's arms kissing for some time. Katie could hear that the birds were starting to sing outside the open window. Ah, there you are, she thought absently, running her hands through Remus' hair, good morning to you, too.
She finally, reluctantly, pulled back from him, and reached up to brush the bangs off of his forehead.
"We need to get up soon."
She blushed. "You've got a houseful of impressionable teenagers at the moment. It doesn't seem a very good idea to stroll down to breakfast together late. Especially when I don't even live here. Ahem."
Remus seemed rather nonplused at the idea himself. "The entire focus of this household for the past two weeks, in case you had not noticed, was on guaranteeing that we would come down to breakfast together. Late. I would feel badly if we didn't award a prize for all that hard work."
"Not at all."
She looked at him and sighed. "I am getting up and going to get some tea. I guess a couple of thirty-somethings can get away with things the younger generation can't. Oh excellent, you've just made me admit I'm hardly a teenager anymore. Is this how all our mornings are going to start from now on?" she teased, as she moved to get out of the bed.
Remus turned her back to look at him. He had a very serious expression on his face now.
"You're right. That's not a proper way to start the day. May I suggest we try something else?"
"Good morning," he whispered, kissing her gently. "I love you."
She could feel herself shaking all over as she stared into his eyes. Damn, look at that. He really does.
"Good recovery," she whispered back, then quickly got up, pulled on one of his robes from the closet, and quietly left the room. She felt very dizzy for some reason, and went to sit on the top of the stairs for a moment. She could feel herself grinning like an idiot as she pulled his robe more tightly around her. I'm going to wake up, I just know it. This has just been the best dream I've ever had. It's that same dream I've been having for years, ever since he came in to see Mrs. Noyes, and I just couldn't stop myself….
Katie looked over to see a man she didn't recognize speaking quietly with Mrs. Noyes. He was tall and thin, with light brown hair that was starting to grey. His face looked tired, but he was speaking with a warm smile and his eyes were bright. Mrs. Noyes addressed him as 'young Mr. Lupin', but she didn't recognize the name, either. Perhaps, she thought sadly, the son of another friend she's lost.
She went back to what she was doing. Katie had come to the south of England to work with Mrs. Noyes a few months ago. She had on good authority that if you wanted to really learn the magical healing arts, this was the way to go. For years, she had divided her attention between both the magical and the muggle communities, but now she felt tired, and had opted to devote herself full time to becoming a true healer. Katie was reluctant to admit to herself that what she was probably doing really was finding a safe place to hide. But she went on just getting through each day as quietly as she could. At least, if I do this well, I can make a positive difference in other people's lives. God knows I'll never figure out my own. She rolled her eyes at her own words. Stop being such a self-serving prat, girl, and get on with it.
"Katie, dear, could you come here a moment?"
Katie set down the herbs she was preparing, and walked across the room.
"Katie, dear, this is young Remus Lupin. Remus, my new assistant, Katie Davies."
"Hello, young Remus Lupin." He laughed softly, and took her offered hand.
"Just Remus, thank you new assistant Katie Davies." She noticed two nasty looking scars on the top of his hand. Ouch. Wonder how he did that.
"Yes, very amusing you two. Now, Katie, Remus here needs a few things. Please help him, as I'm late for a few appointments. Remus, take what you need, and we'll settle the accounts later."
"Not another word. Wait until you hear what I need done." With that she left, and Remus turned back to Katie.
"What is it that you need, then?" she asked, looking up at him. Goodness, slate grey eyes. You don't see many of those. Very pretty. She blinked. Where the hell did that come from?
Remus handed her a list of tonics and potions written on a small piece of parchment. The handwriting was impossibly neat and even. Wow. This is a controlled gentleman. She raised an eyebrow at him.
"That's beautiful script," she said in an amused voice.
Remus smiled again at her, and simply said "Thank you".
"I tend not to be able to even read my own notes, unfortunately." She read the list. "These are going to take some time to prepare. Will you wait? I can get you some tea, if you like."
She looked back up at him as she spoke. His eyes seemed to light up a bit when she asked if he wanted to stay and have tea while she worked, but as he started to answer her, something caught his eye in the street. She followed his glance and saw one of the witches who lived in town standing across the street with her two young children. She looked like she was getting ready to cross over and come into the shop. She looked back at Remus, who quickly lowered his eyes when he saw her returning his gaze. But not fast enough for her not to notice that something dark had shadowed his expression.
"No, thank you. I have several errands to run," he glanced nervously back out at the witch and her family, who were now definitely on their way into the shop. "I'll be back in a few hours. Thank you." He left abruptly, before the witch and her children had finished crossing the street and entered the store.
That was odd. He definitely wanted out of here, fast.She looked up as the woman entered with her children in tow. Why didn't he want to risk bumping into them? He wanted to stay, he was going to stay. Why…don't I just mind my own damn business? She went to help the witch, but her thoughts stayed with young Remus Lupin, and why he had had such a hurt look in his eyes when he left.
Katie was working on Remus' list when Mrs. Noyes returned. Katie wanted to ask her about Remus, who's abrupt departure still troubled her for some reason. But she didn't want to come off sounding like some old gossip. Luckily, Mrs. Noyes opened the discussion.
"Is this for Remus? He's coming back to get this today? Good. We'll have to ask him to stay for dinner, as it'll be a long walk back on an empty stomach for him."
"Where does he live then? Not in town?"
"Oh no. Young Mr. Lupin lives miles away in that house out at the very end of the road that leads to the meadow in the forest. His parents bought the house years ago, when he was about 7 or 8, I think. Wonderful people. Adored that boy, and with good reason; such a sweetie."
Katie had to laugh inwardly. Mrs. Noyes tended to describe everyone she'd ever met as a sweetie.
Katie looked out the window in the direction of the woods. She knew the house, as she had seen it once when she had opted for cutting through the woods and across the meadow, rather than following the long road that ran around them. It was an ancient Tudor, and she remembered at the time when she passed it looking at it closely. It was sorely in need of paint, and a new thatch. The wooden timbers in the walls had turned grey with age. She remembered thinking at the time that the house looked, well, tired and withdrawn. Like it had seen too much. For God's sake, Katie, it's a house, not a Byronic poem.
But the garden stood in strong contrast to the house. It was immaculate, and very beautiful. Funny, she had thought, why put so much effort into the garden and let the house rot away?
"Remus grows the best herbs and flowers for miles. Very talented. The key to every great healer is a great gardener, I can tell you right now. He was away for a long time, but he's back now, thank goodness. And he's just about the nicest young man I've ever met, apart from Mr. Noyes, of course. Tends to keep to himself, though, so it's always a treat for me when he does come down to see me."
That explains the immaculate garden. "Is he a healer himself?"
"No, no. Dreadful at potions, actually. I knew his potions master from Hogwarts, you see. He got good grades, of course, but no gift for healing. But a very good wizard nonetheless. Now, what can we serve for dinner that he'll like…."?
Remus returned to the shop at dusk, just before they closed. He walked in and smiled warmly at Katie, who felt herself returning the smile without thinking. He seems so nice. Why did he go out of his way to avoid that family?
"Everything ready?" he asked
Mrs. Noyes came downstairs from the flat above the store as soon as she heard Remus' voice.
"No, not till after dinner. Now hang up your cloak and join us. No excuses." She turned on her heel and left. Remus stood in the middle of the room looking vaguely stunned. Katie had to smile.
"I can recommend from experience that it's not the best idea to cross her when she tells you to do something in that tone."
Remus laughed as he walked over to her, removing his cloak.
"Yes, I believe that is sound advice." He stopped next to her and looked down into her face. Think, think of something to say, don't just stand here gazing at him like an idiot.
"Mrs. Noyes says you grow excellent herbs and flowers."
"That's very kind of her."
Katie had no idea where her next comment came from.
"Do you think you might teach me something about gardening?" she asked. "I mean, a healer should know how to grow their own gardens, really. Well, grow what herbs they can. At the very least some of the basic medicinal flowers…." You are babbling, girl. Look at his face. You've gone and stunned another one. Can't learn to leave it alone, can you? Can't figure out that this is just not something you're meant to be a part of. Can't….
"I'd be delighted."
Katie felt herself turn red. "Really?"
He smiled again. "Really."
Katie's thoughts returned to the present, and she laughed as she stood up on the stairs and started to make her way down to the kitchen to get some tea to bring back up to the bedroom for them. Oh, yes. I definitely dreamed about this one from day one. But it certainly didn't turn out to be some simple little daydream. A struggle of equals, yes. Both equally reticent and equally terrified Step by tiny, step, though we made it.
As she walked down the stairs, her mind drifted back again to that spring and summer he had spent diligently teaching her how to develop and manage a magical herb garden. He was so easy to be with. He was patience incarnate, and she soon came to cherish the sense of calm she felt only with him. But one day in late August they had a frightening row that she had been so certain then would be the end of any friendship they had. How could I have realized then that it would really be the first barrier we needed to pass to get here now? In retrospect, she knew now why he had been as angry with her as he was. But at the time, she could not even begin to understand why he reacted to the situation the way that he had. All she could think was that once again, she had completely screwed up a good thing by wanting too much.
It started because she had not woken him up from an afternoon nap at the time he had asked her to. He had looked exhausted that morning when she arrived, and seemed a little stiff. Still, he said it was nothing, but later in the day he had finally said he needed to lie down.
"Please wake me up at four, would you?"
But at four, when she had gone into the study where he was sleeping on the couch, she couldn't bring herself to disturb him, and decided instead she'd surprise him by making dinner, and waking him when it was ready. She was working quietly when, around 6:45, he practically ran into the kitchen.
She jumped, surprised by the sharp edge to his voice. "What is it?"
"I told you to wake me at four. Why are you still here? You need to be getting home. Now." He was absolutely furious.
Katie numbly stopped what she was doing, grabbed her cloak from the chair, and pushed blindly past him to get to the front room so she could use the fire to go back to the shop. See? See what happens when you do stupid things like this? You're doing nothing but intruding on him, taking advantage of him. For what? Because you want to live in some fantasy that maybe he…but he doesn't. And he won't. So just stop it right now and get out of this house. You don't belong here.
She heard him swear loudly behind her, then call out her name. She didn't stop. She couldn't face him, she just felt so humiliated, and she was damned if she was going to cry in front of him. But if she didn't get out of there fast, that's exactly what was going to happen. She was startled when he caught up with her, and grabbed her by the arms.
"I'm sorry," she said in a very shaky voice. "I'll go now, I'm sorry. Just let go" But he did not let her go.
"Katie…Katie please; I'm sorry I yelled. I was just startled. I lost my temper. Please don't leave like this."
"It's all right. You asked me to do something, and I didn't do it. You have every right to be cross. Now I'll just leave." Her voice was very controlled, and she refused to look him in the eye. She could feel her throat burning, and her eyes were watering fiercely. I am not, not, going to let go. I am not going to totally and utterly humiliate myself, damn it….
She tried to pull out of his grip, but he did not release her. Instead, he suddenly stepped forward and wrapped his arms tightly around her. She was too stunned by this to move. What is he doing?
"Katie," he said in the most miserable tone of voice she had ever heard, "I didn't mean to yell. Please, please forgive me. You need to leave, but I can't let you leave so angry with me, I can't …"
Still too shocked to move, Katie heard herself say, in an equally miserable tone, "I'm not angry with you, Remus, but please let me go now so I can leave you in peace."
His grip around her tightened for a moment, then he stepped back. He looked as miserable as he sounded, and Katie had a fair idea that she probably looked just as pathetic. She moved past him to the fireplace, and heard him mumble "You're hardly leaving me in peace…." Her cheeks burned again in shame for having taken advantage of his kindness. She took out her wand and started a fire. But as she reached up to grab some floo powder and make an escape from this wretched scene, he grabbed her hand and made her look at him. His eyes seemed more wild and intense than she had ever seen them, and they startled her.
"Please, come back tomorrow. Promise me you'll come back. Then we can talk."
She had no intention of making any such promises to him. She knew he was leaving for a few weeks in three days, so all she had to do was stay away from him until then. Then, this will all be over….
"Let me go, Remus. Now. Please."
"No." There was an edge to his voice she had never heard before. His face was paler than usual, the lines more pronounced. He seemed to be in pain, but his grip on her hand was so tight it almost hurt her. "No, Katie. I can't let you leave angry. Promise me we can talk about this when…."
She was not about to relent. "When what?! I'm not making you any promises," she said with a venom that surprised her. But it worked, and he immediately dropped her hand. She grabbed the floo powder and got out of that house as fast as she could. Seconds later she stood shaking in the kitchen of the shop, unable to even begin to understand what the hell had just happened between them. She finally burst into tears, completely confused and reasonably certain she would never, ever see him again.
Katie left the shop early the next morning, leaving a note for Mrs. Noyes saying that she would be gone for several days, looking to collect some ingredients she needed. She did not return for four days, to make certain that Remus was gone. To be sure he had left, she walked home through the forest and across the medow, past his house. It stood empty, and she stayed on the road gazing at the house for several minutes, lost in thought. She had the odd sensation that something seemed to be missing, but finally turned and walked back to the village.
When she got to her rooms, she was flabbergasted to see them covered with flowers. That was what had been missing from the house. All the flowers in the front beds had been cut, and were now covering her front room. This is ridiculous, she thought, but she felt a smile spread across her face. Then she saw a note, written in neat, even script, propped up against the largest vase of flowers.
This seems a very small and rather silly thing to do by way of an apology for what happened the other day. Please, forgive me for upsetting you. I overreacted. I'll be by the shop when I get back and we will talk about it, provided you have not decided to never see me again. Please, don't decide that. Or, at least, wait until I can see you and talk to you before you decide that.
You should know that the dinner you made was wonderful, thank you. Next time, I'll cook to make up for you doing all of that hard work and my utterly ruining your efforts. Please note that I am being very positive and saying, "next time", not "if".
Enjoy the flowers. They turned out well this year, I think. You are going to be a wonderful gardener. I have just noticed that I am starting to babble. Please, send a message soon, and let me know what you decide.
I'm not asking you to make any promises.
He was indeed babbling, but somehow that made it much better than if he had composed some dry, formal prose, making it sound like he was making an appointment to see a Ministry official, and not trying to convince her he truly did want to see her again.
She sent him a quick note that afternoon. She said to stop by the shop when he got back, and she promised that she would talk to him.
Katie checked on the bottom stair, and looked though the windows by the front door at the garden. The flowerbeds were full again, of course. She smiled at the memory of the wonderful and ridiculous sight of all those flowers in her rooms. Mrs. Noyes confessed that she had let Remus in even though Katie was not there, and hoped that because it was such a sweet surprise, that Katie didn't mind. Katie had laughed and assured her she did not mind at all. She lost track of time while he was gone, and had been startled one day to finally hear his voice again.
She looked up quickly from the potion she was working on to see Remus standing in the doorway. She hadn't seen him in weeks, not since that frightening scene in the living room. She felt her chest tighten and the now familiar freefall sensation he gave her every time she saw him wash over her. Don't blush…damn it. This is so unfair. I can't help it, and I can't stand it, but I wouldn't give it up for anything.
"Good morning yourself."
"And what is the new assistant Katie Davies working on now?" He asked in a light voice, smiling at her.
God, what a beautiful smile.She cringed inwardly at that reaction. Snap out of it; you let yourself think that, you'll just hurt yourself again. Spending a lifetime falling in love with men who want nothing to do with you seems more than a little pathetic for someone everyone thinks is so damn smart, idiot. She seemed to have lost what he asked while she was mentally berating herself.
"Sorry, what was that?" she asked a little more sharply than she intended.
Remus' smile faded somewhat at her tone, and he looked away this time as he spoke again, in his normal, controlled, polite voice, "I was just curious as to what you've been working on the past few weeks."
Idiot, now you've upset him and he's going to leave, most likely as quickly as possible. Well, that's probably best anyway.
"It's the new wolfsbane potion. Mrs. Noyes asked me if I would learn how to make it. It's bloody complicated, but I think I've got it down now. I think it is supposed to smell this awful…." She stopped speaking as she turned back to look at him. He had gone quite pale, and his eyes had turned dark and sad.
"I know," she said, looking away from him quickly and back at the cauldron, "I think it's very sad too, that someone has to suffer such a horrific curse. I can't even begin to imagine what it must be like, to be so lost to yourself and helpless to do anything about it. To live with the fear that someday you might pass on the horror, completely out of control of your own senses."
Remus didn't say anything for several minutes. Katie kept her attention on the cauldron, but she sensed that he wanted to say something, so she waited in silence for him to speak.
"Did Mrs. Noyes tell you why she wanted you to do this?" he finally asked quietly.
"I imagine because she knows someone who needs it. I do not tend to question her requests." She answered him softly, still staring into the depths of the cauldron.
There was another long pause.
"Did she tell you who that was?" he finally asked, in an overly even tone.
Katie was very surprised by the question, but kept her focus on the cauldron.
"Certainly not. Anonymity would be key here I think. Who ever it is would want their condition kept a closely guarded secret. Most people are very unkind towards people and things they do not understand. Natural defense mechanism of the brain, I suspect, though what purpose blind cruelty can actually serve, I have never figured out." She turned to look at him now.
He was smiling softly, but he still looked very sad. "Most people would tend to think that this might be a rather important bit of information."
She turned back to the cauldron with a sarcastic grunt. "I rarely give a damn about what other people think."
"But, werewolves are very dangerous monsters…."
She turned and looked at him sharply. "Are they indeed? Any more so than the monsters who walk openly through the daylight? The ones who live in 'polite' society and we pretend not to notice? The ones who turn blind eyes on poverty, who dedicate their political lives to securing their own fortunes, who beat their children, who take funding away from medical research and give it to their old school chums to build factories that dump waste in our water and destroy our air? Who shuns and ridicules those monsters? They're far worse, they choose to do those things!"
He said nothing at this outburst, just stood there staring at her. She turned away again, blinded by sudden tears. Just listen to you. So opinionated aren't you? Always have to be right? Why lash out at him like that? Pushing away again aren't you, trying to make him leave you on your conditions, not walk away through any choice. Reject before rejected, as always.
"Katie?" She wiped her eyes quickly and turned around to face him with what she hoped was a defiant look, but what felt more like a blotchy grimace. She jumped in surprise to find that he had come up closely behind her.
"Yes?" she said in a near whisper.
He had a very set look on his face now. Katie had the distinct impression that something rather important was about to happen.
"The potion is for me."
She was totally unprepared for this. She stared at him, the total impact of his statement sinking in. He was watching her now with a vaguely terrified look. He's waiting to see what I'll do. He thinks…what? That I'm going to scream? She did actually feel like screaming, but not from fear, but from the total anguish she felt to think of what Remus must go through every day, just waiting until the moon came back and turned him into …What? I need to sit down…no, don't. Don't move, don't upset him. Try and be… normal. This is Remus, and he hasn't changed from the Remus you knew a minute ago before he said this. Speak, damn it…look at him, he's waiting for something to happen. Don't let him down. Don't do what he obviously thinks you're going to do. He's still special; he's still…he's still the best thing in your miserable life.
"How does the potion help the lycanthropy?" she asked in what was the most normal tone she could manage, but they both heard her voice waver at the end of the question.
It was his turn to be stunned. This was obviously not what he had expected her to say, Katie noted with an odd feeling of relief. He waited a few moments before answering, and Katie had the impression that he was fighting to keep his composure as well. Oh, what a pair. Both so good at pretending everything is okay, in preventing any emotional outbursts that could rock any boats. It's the only way we get through the day without screaming, isn't it?
"I haven't actually had the opportunity to try it yet. But I understand that while it doesn't in fact stop the transformation itself, it allows the victim to keep their own mind while in the wolf's body. Then the monstrous, senseless mind of the wolf that only thinks about…about killing… can't get out and…take over."
She nodded, not trusting her own voice. She understood what that meant, keeping that mindless fury in check. How could something like this be a part of Remus? He's the least monstrous person I've ever met. And, the most controlled…
"Thank you for this," he continued in a small, tired voice, "it…it will all the difference to me."
She stood there, mutely nodding again. This time she couldn't speak if she wanted to. He caught her eyes, and they stared at each other for a few moments. Say something, damn it; look at what this is doing to him. You need to get your wits about you, now, this instant. But she still couldn't find a voice. She saw his eyes seem to close down, and he nodded quietly, and started to turn away. That did it.
"No! Don't go, don't go…" she reached out blindly and wrapped her arms around him, as he had done the night he had scared her so deeply. She heard him gasp with surprise, but she didn't let go. Don't go. I couldn't bear it. I couldn't stand it while you were gone. All I thought about was you coming back.
After a few moments, he slowly slid his arms around her, and rested his cheek on the top of her head. Katie was amazed to realize that she could hear his heart beating. What an amazing sound, she thought in a daze, what an incredible thing, to hear someone else's heart beating like that. It was the most soothing thing she had ever heard in her life. After a few moments he began to speak in a low voice. Katie was startled again, as she felt his voice rumbling through his chest. This is too much…
"I had decided to tell you anyway. Decided that this was something you needed to know. This is too important, and I couldn't bear having you so upset with me for going off on you like I did…."
She suddenly understood. She found her voice, and interrupted him.
"It was a full moon that night, wasn't it? That's why I needed to get home. That's why you were so angry I hadn't woken you when you asked me to."
She felt him nod. "If I hadn't woken up when I did, I would have been woken soon enough by the transformation, but then it would have been too late. I don't think I could have bared it if something… if I… God, Katie at best I would have killed you." She could feel him start to cry quietly. "I couldn't have lived with that, you know."
"But you didn't." He didn't reply, but simply tightened his hold on her. They stood there for a few more minutes, and then he quietly let go of her and stepped back. She reluctantly let him go, but she knew that they were both drained and on edge from everything that had just happened. She thought about his words 'At best I would have killed you', and knew that he would have considered it a far greater horror to have simply bitten her and given her his curse. But this was not the time to discuss it. He looked at her quietly, but his face was closed. He still thinks that this is somehow going to change everything. That I'm going to turn around and just walk out and never talk to him again. Not a chance, young Remus Lupin.
He had turned to go, still not speaking. Oh no, this won't do.
"I'll bring the potion over tomorrow when it's finished."
Remus looked at her again, his face closed. "That's not necessary, but thank you. I can come by and pick it up."
"Oh, I don't think so. I believe you owe me a dinner, and I intend to collect," she smiled at him.
He froze, and then smiled perhaps the biggest, most purely happy smile she had ever seen on his face. It took her breath away.
Katie grinned at the memory of that smile, as she stepped off the stairway and turned towards the kitchen. It was a smile she had never seen again until last night. A smile she intended to see a lot more of in the future.
Sirius came downstairs quietly and went into the kitchen. He seemed to be the only one up so far, but it was early yet. In the years since he had left Azkaban, he had slept little. He felt this raw urgency to try and get as much out of every free day he had now. He made some tea and sat at the table, watching the sun start to light up the sky through the large kitchen window.
It was the end of the summer. Harry had been allowed to come and stay with Sirius at Remus', and they had asked Ron & Hermione to come as well. The house was packed, and Sirius reveled in how good it felt being surrounded again by the people he cared for. They had all spent the days picnicking in the meadow, hiking through the forest, replanting Remus' garden, and talking about everything and nothing constantly.
With Katie's encouragement, he and Remus had even been recounting some of their more outrageous Marauder anecdotes. It had been bittersweet for all of them telling the stories and looking through Remus' old photographs. Sirius, Remus and even Harry had been reduced to tears more than once, but Sirius felt relieved, and even joyful, from the experience. That's what Katie intended. At least for Remus. She knew he needed to just remember something so good….
Sirius had turned those stories into conversations that he and Remus needed to have, but had always found an excuse for putting off over the last year. Particularly conversations about letting go of all the horrors of their pasts, and finding joy in the future. Remus was as reticent as ever to talk about himself, but Sirius was relentless. He needed to be; Remus had too much to loose by not letting go; by trying to run away from his feelings.
He heard someone coming down the back stairs, and turned.
"Goodness, Sirius. This is early, even for you," said Hermione with a yawn as she trudged over sleepily to sit next to him at the table. She put her arms out on the table and sunk her head into them with a small groan. Sirius chuckled and returned his gaze to the meadow behind the house.
"Worried about something are we?" he asked her merrily in a soft voice.
"I know, keep making fun of me," she said in a muffled voice. "It was great fun to tease me all day yesterday, why should today be any different?"
"Surely not all day, my dear," he said, giving her a pat on the back. She just huffed indignantly at him and didn't look up.
"Want some tea? Solution to all life's problems you know."
"Who on earth told you that? Yes please…." She raised her head and looked at him with a tired expression. "Surely not your divination instructor".
"No, no. It was Remus. Years ago. He was trying to make me drink some horrible herbal tea concoction to help me with a particularly nasty cold."
Hermione had to smile at this. "That," she said firmly, "does not sound like anything Remus would say. Not without a thorough explanation of why, of course." She gave Sirius an expectant look.
"At the time, I think he firmly believed that dedicating himself to curing me of that cold would indeed be the solution to all life's problems. I refused to go the hospital wing, and my constant coughing, moaning and snoring were keeping the others from getting much sleep". He handed her a cup of tea and sat back down.
"That sounds like Remus. Finding the nicest possible way to get you to do something you don't want to do."
"Indeed. James had voted for killing me outright".
Hermione had to laugh at that, but Sirius shushed her gently. "Let's not wake the whole house."
"Sorry!" she whispered with mock indignation. They drank their tea in silence, until Sirius suddenly stood up and opened the window. A large barn owl flew in and Hermione jumped up, looking at the owl with something akin to terror on her face.
"Relax. This is the paper, see?"
"I can't take this. I'm going to try and get some more sleep."
"Shall I wake you if any more owls come?" asked Sirius with a mischievous glint in his eye.
"No. Thank you. See you later." Hermione dropped her teacup by the sink and went back up the stairs.
Sirius laughed to himself, and picked up the paper. The O.W.L.S. results were due to be sent today. Harry, Ron and Hermione had spent all day yesterday quietly pretending not to be nervous about it. Naturally, Sirius had taken every opportunity to get a few teasing comments in. He had even managed to draw Remus into a mock discussion about what happened to students who botched the O.W.L.S. in front of them. Expecting this treatment from Sirius, they had not paid him much mind. But when Remus went on in grave tones about snapped wands and wizards forced to pretend to be psychics for muggles, they had looked terrified. Remus couldn't keep it up though, and had started laughing, telling them all to just calm down, he had no doubts whatsoever that they would all do very well indeed.
He heard footsteps on the stairs again. Thinking it was Hermione come back, he pretended to be very interested in the paper, and did not look around. He heard a teacup again then said, in grave tones. "You know, maybe you can make a habit of these early mornings to start working on your N.E.W.T.s."
"Thank you, but no" came a laughing voice. Sirius looked up to see Katie standing at the stove pouring tea into two cups. She put the kettle back on the stovetop, then turned to face him with an amused expression. That, thought Sirius with delight, is Remus' robe.
"I am right in thinking that now I only have to concern myself with the younger members of this household needlessly worrying about things they should not be worrying about?"
"Well, for a little while at least. I'm not making any guarantees past Tuesday afternoon."
Sirius' looked at her quietly. Its no wonder Remus loves this woman so much. She's really quite wonderful. And unique. Just like Remus.
"I take it you jumped."
"Yes. But that has got to be the most terrifying experience of my life. I honestly didn't know what he'd do. I wasn't even sure what I was doing. Except for hurting him. That was very clear to me. I almost let it go…."
Sirius had to laugh quietly.
"Not a chance. I knew this was a sure thing." From the day we met.
Sirius was exhausted by the time he'd reached the village Remus lived outside of. He couldn't resist going down the old high street to get across town. It was early yet, so he couldn't see anyone about. Besides, all they'll see is a dog, for goodness sakes. Just better be careful the muggles don't pick me up as a stray.
It hadn't changed from when he'd last been here so long ago, but little villages like this rarely did. He remembered coming down here with James, Remus and Remus' father, who had kept a watchful, but indulging, eye on them. He had adored Remus' parents, who were always so happy to see him. They had been very surprised at first when Remus had told them that he and James knew about his being a werewolf, but were utterly delighted to see that it really didn't make a difference to them, that they were still Remus' best friends. Other than them, we were probably the only people who ever really loved Remus. He had wept bitterly when Remus' mother had died the winter after they had graduated from Hogwarts. Sirius had had strained relationships with his own parents, but the Lupins had always been wonderful to him, and were always there when he needed them. And Mr. Lupin had passed while he was in Azkaban. I wish I could have seen Mr. Lupin one last time, that he knew the truth, that I didn't….Stop thinking about these things, damn it. Focus. There's too much going on for you to just wallow.
Sirius passed the pub, and laughed to himself. They had had one particularly interesting night in that pub which resulted in Remus' father collecting them from the muggle police station with a very angry look on his face. He had had his revenge though the next day, when he proceeded to rise at the crack of dawn, get the boys up, and make them come help him remove an old tree from the corner of the paddock. In the bright summer sun. With no magic. I have never, ever been so sick in all my life….
The last shop on the road was the appocothrey. Mrs. Noyes. Great old witch. She was an excellent healer; she'd set two of Sirius' numerous broken bones over the course of several rather dangerous summer adventures. Mrs. Lupin had grown many of the plants and herbs Mrs. Noyes used, and Sirius remembered that Remus had said that he was doing that now. She knew about Remus, and it never made any difference to her either. See, Moony? We're not all idiots….I'll have to ask Remus to come get something from her for my hands and feet later.
Sirius' paws were cut and worn from the long trip down, and ached terribly. He turned at a sudden noise to see someone coming out of the store. It wasn't Mrs. Noyes, but a younger witch with long brown hair and pale skin. She turned around and saw Sirius looking at her. She looked rather taken aback at first, then, he saw something flicker across her light brown eyes. Rather pretty, isn't she?
The witch stepped over and knelt in front of him. She patted his head, and looked in his eyes.
"Padfoot, I presume?"
Sirius felt like he was going to faint. What the…? How can she possibly…? Who is this woman? He instinctively stepped back from her, and let out a small growl. She just laughed at that, and stood back up.
"Remus can't wait to see you. All I've heard about for the past two days are some of the rather outrageous things you two used to get up to."
This has got to be some sort of trap, he thought as he stepped back from her further. But who the hell even knows about this?
"Fine, have it your way. You can walk with me to Remus' or you can go by yourself. Either way, I'll see you there." She turned and started to head off in the direction of the Lupin house.
Sirius stood frozen to the spot, not sure what he should do at this point. She knows. Remus must have told her. Who the hell is she for Remus to do that? She knows him that well? This isn't the sort of thing you bring up in a casual conversation. I'd find this interesting if I wasn't scared out of wits… But it was interesting. Not knowing exactly why he did it, he finally took off down the road after her. When he caught up so that he could walk by her side, she smiled down at him.
"Don't be mad at Remus. Or should I say Moony? He told me all about it last summer when he came back."
Did he now.This defiantly was interesting.
They finally reached Remus' house. Sirius was sad to see that the house looked much worse for wear than the last time he's been here. Well, a lot has happened, hasn't it? But Mrs. Lupin's garden… The garden was still gorgeous. He saw that in the decorative beds, Remus still planted the same flowers his mother always had. Sirius again thought of Mr. Lupin passing away, thinking that he had done such terrible things to the people he had said he'd loved. He was so lost in thought he didn't notice Remus coming around from the back.
"Remus! Look what I've found wandering the high street!"
Sirius looked up suddenly to see Remus standing in front of him. Remus knelt down and gave Sirius a tight hug. Sirius threw all caution to the winds, changed back into his human form, and returned Remus' embrace. I've missed him so much; it's been so hard to have to stay away from everyone…
Sirius pulled back and grabbed Remus by the shoulders. "How the hell did she know who I was?"
Remus looked taken aback by the outburst for a moment, then smiled quietly and stood up, turning to the woman standing next to them. "Katie Davies, meet Sirius Black. I did tell you he's supposed to be the charming one, yes?"
"I'm sure he's lovely when he's not furious with you."
Remus laughed, and, much to Sirius' surprise, put an arm around the woman's shoulders and gave her a quick, affectionate squeeze. She gave him a shy smile and squeezed his hand, then, with a smiling glance at Sirius, she turned and went into the house. Remus watched her go for a moment, still smiling, then turned and offered Sirius a hand up.
"Come on you, let's get you inside and get some breakfast in you."
"Thanks. Katie, you said her name was?" Remus nodded.
"What's she do then? Does she live here?"
Remus gave him a sharp look, then quickly ducked his head, giving a forced laugh. "Certainly not, Padfoot. She works for Mrs. Noyes, and she lives there with her. She's learning to be a healer."
"Ah. What's she doing coming over here to see you at the crack of dawn then?"
"Well, she helps me with the garden a lot; she's trying to learn how to grow and manage her own garden so when her apprenticeship is up, she can grow some of her own stocks wherever she chooses to practice."
I see."How long have you been doing that then?"
"Oh, about three years now, I think."
Three years? That's a bit much. She should be more than capable of growing her own garden. Either she's an imbecile, which I fell safe in assuming is not the case, or…."Strange you never mentioned her in your letters." Keeping her safe and away, are we Remus? Oh this is proving to be an interesting day indeed…My God, I don't think I have ever seen Remus blush.
Remus had gone slightly red, and turned quickly to start walking into the house. "Didn't I? Well, it's hardly worth any fuss. Just a student, after all." She is clearly more than some student you're helping. A pretty student at that.
"She also," continued Remus in a quiet voice, "prepares the wolfsbane potion for me."
So she knows. Everything. This isn't just some casual friendship, but that's what Remus wants it to look like. He probably keeps her at a nice safe distance, doesn't he? Wants to keep her around, but not too close. Probably thinks…. Same old Remus. Maybe a direct approach? Those always prove interesting with him.
Remus turned back to look at Sirius from the doorway. Oh, I know that look. The 'I'll be damned if you're going to get anything from me' look. What the hell….
"Are you in love with her?"
Remus looked utterly taken aback, then a look of pure terror crossed his face before he turned sharply away and opened the front door.
"Oh do shut up, Padfoot."
Katie gave Sirius a surprised look. 'You knew this was a sure thing from day one? You must be mad. I couldn't even let myself dare to dream this might be real until last night. I just, well…"
"You're just as tightly wound and shut up as Remus; yes I also figured that one out pretty quickly too. You two have been slowly driving me mad with your little dance for a year now. One of you living in a tightly constructed little world of what you would and would not allow yourself to see or feel was bad enough, but having two of you about was a nightmare. I mean this in the nicest possible way, of course." Sirius was smiling broadly. Katie turned to pick up the teacups, then looked back at Sirius.
"I know how much you love Remus…."
"I've become rather fond of you, too. Despite your being such a hard head. I guess I have a soft spot for the type."
She gave a shy smile, and continued, "yes, anyway…"
"Katie, that tea is getting cold. Go back to bed."
She blushed furiously at that and Sirius had to laugh. "Oh for heavens' sake, Katie, shoo. Enjoy the moment. Carpe Diem and all that."
Never one to let something past her, even if she was a little off put, Katie said, with a wink, "I think you mean Carpe Remus."
Sirius laughed harder, and Katie turned and left the kitchen.
Yes, this is going to be just fine, thank God. This is right, and wonderful, and about bloody time.Sirius looked absently at the paper, but turned his attention back to the window. About bloody time.
Sirius soon figured out Remus and Katie's carefully constructed routine after a few weeks at the house. She would come over and spend the day working with Remus, then go back to the shop. Occasionally she would stay for dinner, which, for some reason, Remus always insisted on cooking, even when she offered. Sirius had once commented that, as a healer, she should be a pretty good cook, so why was Remus so reluctant to let her? Remus had just laughed and said he owed her. He offered no further comment, and Sirius let it go.
And so it went on, month after month. Katie would show up every few days or so, when Remus was home. She and Remus would work for hours without talking to each other. They would go off into the woods and bring back other ingredients when Katie needed them. It was all very controlled, all very studied. This was their routine, and neither one was going to do anything to rock the boat. But they were both still lonely. Sirius could see that although Remus always brightened up considerably when Katie was with him, he was still closed and the air of sadness Remus had picked up during the years Sirius was locked away never really left him. Katie carried her own similar sense of tightly held emotions, and lingering sadness. This has got to stop. I know why Remus is so closed off, but I wonder why Katie is? I'm not sure I know her well enough to ask that…. I doubt from the look of it even Remus could get away with asking that.
Katie also always brought Remus his wolfsbane potion a few days before the full moon. Sirius found the effect of the potion fascinating. The actual transformations were still very painful for Remus, but he simply transformed into a large grey wolf, and usually spent the night curled up on the hearthrug in his study. It was really amazing. At first, Sirius had gone into his old routine of assuming his animagus form, and staying with Remus all night as he had in the past. But one day he decided it wasn't necessary.
While Remus lay in front of the fire, Sirius transformed back and sat on the couch watching him sleep. This is not the wolf, this is Remus, and Remus alone. He's free.
Remus had suddenly woken up, and turned to see Sirius sitting there watching him. Startled, he leapt to his feet, and jumped away from Sirius towards the door. He lay flat on the floor and clawed at the edges of the door, evidently trying to get as far from Sirius as he could. He thinks he's going to hurt me; even now, he thinks the wolf will somehow get out…
"Moony! Stop it!"
Remus froze, then turned to look at Sirius. His ears lay flat back and somehow Remus managed to look miserable and frightened even in his wolf's body.
"Moony, it's okay. See? You're fine. You're not going to hurt me. It's just us here; the wolf isn't here. Just you and me. Come here." Remus stood frozen for a few more moments, pressed up against the door. Then, slowly, he stepped forward and walked slowly over to Sirius. Sirius beamed at him.
"My God, Remus. This is wonderful. It's amazing!" He slowly reached out and stoked Remus' face.
Remus looked up at him, and Sirius could see that Remus was still frightened and shaken, but was starting to calm a bit. "Come up here and sit next to me on the couch."
Remus again hesitated, but then jumped up onto the couch, and lay down next to Sirius. Sirius laughed, but he could feel his eyes filling with tears. "See Moony? There's nothing left to fear, is there?" He put an arm over the wolf, and went to sleep.
But the next morning, Remus was very angry with him. Sirius had woken up first, while Remus was still in his wolf's body, and left the room. A while later, he winced as he heard the unmistakable cries of Remus transforming back into his normal form. I have to talk to Katie. Maybe she can do something to the potion so the pain can be controlled as well. No doubt Remus never told her that the potion doesn't help that. Certainly he's never, ever allowed her in the house while this is going on, even if he is harmless. Sirius waited in the kitchen for him to appear. Remus came in after a few minutes, and Sirius looked over at him with a smile…that froze the instant he saw Remus' expression. Oh, he's absolutely furious.
"What the hell were you doing?"
"What was all that last night? Are you insane? You know how stupid that was? Don't you ever.…" He was shaking with rage. Sirius was taken aback by this. But it was okay….
"Shut up! Don't you dare tell me that this was alright; don't you dare say anything so utterly, completely stupid! How did you know what was going to happen? How did you know that just because the wolf seemed harmless that it was? What would have happened? If you tempted the wolf, and the potion can't really control that? All I've ever known is that it controls the urge to go looking for…for… Not that it stops the urge. You put that opportunity right there, right there in front of me and…."
"And you didn't do anything but curl up and go to sleep," said Sirius forcefully.
"You had no idea that was what was going to happen!" Remus was now fighting back tears, and had turned red with anger. "What if…what if…." He couldn't go on, just stood there clenching his fists and shaking.
"Well, now we know. It's okay." That did it. Remus lashed out and hit Sirius hard across the face. Sirius was completely shocked. Remus had never, ever hit anyone in his life, but Sirius had finally pushed too far. He took a moment to collect himself, then looked back at Remus, who now had a dazed expression, as if he couldn't believe what he had just done.
"I'm sorry, Remus," he said in a whisper, "I'm sorry. I didn't think that…"
"You didn't think at all, did you?" Remus said in a snarl. "You didn't think about anything but yourself. You didn't think about me, about what it would have done to me if your little experiment had gone wrong, did you? You just did what the hell you wanted to. Always right, aren't you? Always know what's best."
Sirius said nothing. At this point, there was nothing he could say to Remus. He was right, Sirius hadn't thought that Remus would hurt him, but he'd given no thought to what it would have done to Remus if he was wrong.
Remus turned and left. Sirius didn't see him all morning. When Katie arrived after lunch, again keeping with their never discussed but firmly set schedule that she was never to come over on days after the full moon until afternoon, Sirius had simply told her that Remus was very upset, and he wasn't sure where he was. Katie did not ask him what was wrong, of course, and had simply gone off to find Remus. Sirius saw them later, sitting together side by side silently out in the garden, working on one of the beds. Katie came to say goodbye to him that evening.
"Did he tell you what was wrong?"
"No. I'm sure it's none of my business. Besides, he's fine now."
"Fine, or just back in control?"
Katie just gave him a look, and left. Remus refused to talk to Sirius for two days. Then, on the third day, it all went back to normal, like nothing had ever happened.
Sirius still felt awful when he thought about that incident. It really was a stupid, stupid thing to do. Even if it was alright in the end, Remus had a damn good point. I could have been wrong, and then what? Could I have changed fast enough? Probably not. The wolf was very, very fast.
Sirius got up and went to start breakfast. The sun was fully up over the trees now, and people would start arriving for breakfast. As he started to make up some pancake batter, Ron and Harry appeared.
Sirius smiled at them, and offered them some tea. Ron made a face and helped himself to some milk instead. "Where is everyone then? Are we the first up?"
"Hermione was here earlier. Couldn't sleep very well." Ron groaned and Harry pulled a face. "Remus is right; you three are going to end up pre-maturely grey like him if you don't relax. She went back to bed, but I expect she'll be back soon. And Katie came down for some tea, but she went back to bed too."
"Katie's here?" said Harry, sounding hopeful.
"Went back to bed, did you say?" asked Ron, with a grin.
Sirius nodded again, but they could see him grinning too.
"So you were right! She's here now? With Remus? That's great!" Sirius turned and shushed them.
"I feel obliged at this point to say that while this is perfectly acceptable for Remus and Katie, it is utterly unacceptable for you two. For the moment at least. Now, with my 'parental' duties taken care of, I will agree with you Ron, this is great. It's wonderful. And it's about damn time. They had me scared, the stubborn twits. But in the end, they didn't let me down."
"Good for Remus," said Harry, with a smile. "She's wonderful."
"Yes, she is. But she's also as stubborn, and as controlled, as Remus. Quite a pair."
"So he's not leaving then?"
"I doubt it very much."
Not that he didn't try. Last ditch attempt to hide, wasn't it? To run away.
I'd have killed him if he did, of course
Yesterday, they had been visited by Dumbledore. He was checking to see that Sirius and Harry were alright, but he also spent several hours speaking with Remus alone in the study. Remus had been working with the Aurors again, and he and Dumbledore had needed to discuss where things stood. Dumbledore had left late that afternoon, after telling Harry, Ron and Hermione that he was certain that their O.W.L.S. would be wonderful, and that he was looking forward to seeing them again shortly at school. They had all looked vaguely ill, and had retreated into the garden to discuss what was going to happen, for the umpteenth time, if they botched the tests.
Sirius and Remus were in the kitchen preparing dinner, and could hear the heated debate coming through the window. Sirius laughed, and turned to Remus.
"Oh, I am so going to miss hearing this argument twice a day once they've gone back to school."
"I can imagine."
"Do you think we'll have it memorized by then? So we can run through it ourselves a few times a week for old times' sake? I don't think I could stand the peace and quiet."
"Sorry, I think that might be overkill. Just a few more days now, anyway. I'm going to go to London soon, myself. You'll have all the peace and quiet you need," said Remus.
Sirius chuckled. "Only 'till you get back. Anyway, I actually like all the tumult. This has been great."
"Yes it has," Remus replied with a strangely sad tone. "But all good things, right?"
They continued to prepare the meal in silence. Katie came in a few minutes later. Sirius looked up to see her give Remus the smile only Remus ever got. "Nearly finished? I've got the table set."
Remus smiled at her, but quickly turned away. Sirius thought he looked oddly strained, but said nothing. He turned to Katie instead and told her they'd be right out with the food. As soon as she had left the kitchen, Sirius went over to Remus, who was now washing his hands in the sink. I've got a very unhappy feeling about this…
"When are you getting back from London then?" He tried to keep his tone light, but he could hear the edge in the question. Remus did not look at him or say anything.
Remus grabbed a towel and wrung his hands. Sirius recognized that he was now facing the overly tight and controlled Remus who would not, under any circumstances, raise his voice or let any slip of emotion show. I knew it; bastard. He's not going to get away with this. But I can't pick a fight with him now before dinner, and especially not in front of everyone. This is going to be a knockdown.
Dinner was, as had been the standard for the past few weeks, rather loud and raucous. Sirius had told them, with great flourish and a few dry comments from Remus, a particularly wild tale about a time in their sixth year when Remus had decided it might be fun to see what would happen if they hexed the Slytherin dining table so that their plates repelled their food. The end result was that as anyone tried to put food on their plate, it had flown back in their face.
"Remus did that?" asked Ron with a grin. "That's brilliant. How does it work?"
"That," said Remus "is something I am afraid I cannot divulge."
"We'll just get Hermione to look it up if you don't tell us…."
"You will not. Sirius, stop giving them dangerous ideas. Remus, you must be able to stop him."
"I doubt it, Hermione," smiled Remus
"Ah, Moony, my friend, these three need to realize that good old Remus Lupin, Professor is merely an alibi for good old Remus Lupin, Marauder, who is just as mischievous and downright dangerous as I myself ever was, thank you very much."
"Oh, surely not, Sirius," said Harry, in a teasing voice.
"Ever ask him who came up with the idea for the Marauder's Map? Better yet, ask him who came up with the password for that map…."
Remus had a very amused expression on his face, but he said nothing, simply raised an eyebrow at Sirius, who was now grinning from ear to ear.
"What's the password to the map?" asked Katie.
Remus, Sirius, Harry and Ron each put down their cutlery, placed a hand over their hearts, and said in unison in grave tones, "I solemnly swear that I am up to no good", then burst out laughing.
Katie looked over at Hermione. "They're joking, right?"
"No. That's the password. Remus, did you really come up with that? Honestly."
"Why do you think his name's first on the map? Right Moony?"
Remus leaned over and whispered in Katie's ear, "Ask Padfoot there to tell you how to close the map, why don't you?"
"Padfoot, how do you close the map?"
Sirius rounded on her with a twinkle in his eye. "You just tell it politely "mischief managed"."
After dinner, while the others cleaned up, Sirius and Remus walked outside onto the back lawn. They could hear the others' voices coming from the house behind them. They themselves did not talk, as they walked out into the paddock. They continued in amiable silence until they came to an old stump in the back corner. Sirius stopped and looked at it, and felt a guilty smile cross his face. He looked up at Remus, who wore a similar expression.
"Your dad was so mad at us."
"He certainly was," laughed Remus quietly. "But I think he rather enjoyed making us pay for our sins with this tree. I'd almost swear I remember him laughing the first time James got sick."
"I always remember your father laughing."
Remus did not reply to this, and kept his gaze fixed on the stump. The sun was finally setting, and it was starting to get dark. But Sirius could still see the expression on Remus' face. He could still see Remus' cheek moving as he clenched his teeth. Better get on with this right now.
"You're not really going to leave, are you?"
"You're here. You can take care of the house for me, since you can't wander around loose just yet. Stay here and keep up the garden." Remus kept his gaze fixed on the stump.
That did not stop Sirius from glaring at him. "Is it just the garden then that I'm supposed to keep going?" he finally asked in a dangerously low tone. "Is it just the garden that will suffer if you leave it?"
Remus still didn't look at him. But now Sirius saw that a tear had started to slowly crawl down Remus' cheek. Finally, Remus said "Yes" very softly through his clenched teeth.
This,thought Sirius, is going to be excruciatingly painful.
"That's a bunch of crap, and you bloody well know it."
Remus closed his eyes. "Don't Sirius, just …don't"
"I'm not going to let you do it. I'm not going to let you walk away from this. From her. I asked you once if you were in love with her…."
"And I remember telling you to shut up. Now I'm telling you again."
Good, he's getting angry. Press on….
"I did then, but I'm not going to now. Why won't you let it happen? She's obviously in love with you, too. I've been watching you two circle each other for months. No doubt this was going on long before I got here. You've been given a hell of a thing Remus; you've been given something very few people get a real shot at. Lily and James had it…."
Remus started to cry softly at this comment, and Sirius felt his own tears starting, but went on.
"Remember how happy they were? Remember how good it felt just to be with them, to see that? You have that now. It's right here. You aren't just watching it, you're doing it. How can you turn that away? How can you walk away from it?"
Remus shook his head, but said nothing.
"I won't let you do it."
"I can't, Sirius, I just can't…" Remus looked over at Sirius with a wretched expression. "I can't risk it…."
"Risk what? Being happy?"
"You've seen it. You've seen how terrible it is…."
"Are we back to this? Are we back to this wretched and pointless argument? I'm not having it anymore. I am finished with this argument. It is over. You know that." Remus opened his mouth to say something, but Sirius cut him off.
"Yes, I know what you're going to say. You're right. You're not cured. I would do anything, absolutely anything, if that could happen. But it is under control. It is not a danger now. There's always a risk, but I think that you have lived long enough to know that some risks are worth taking, no matter what. I refuse to believe that you would ever, in any way shape or form, hurt that woman. But if you leave, you will hurt her more than anything else you, or that wolf, could ever do. If you leave, you're telling her she doesn't mean anything to you; that she's not worth risking anything for. That's just not true."
Sirius took a deep breath. "This isn't about the wolf anymore. That's just your excuse; your very convenient excuse. Something to hide behind. This is about your fear of letting anyone else near you, of risking letting anyone else hurt you as deeply as you've been hurt by others. Like me."
"Don't say that…."
"It's true. But I'm not going to discuss it now. You stay here and think about it. I'm going back in the house." He turned to go. He had taken a few steps, when he stopped and turned back.
"Your mum and dad would have loved her, you know. They would have loved her, because she loves you. Do you think they would want you to give up on this? How do you think they would feel, seeing the son they loved so much, so unhappy? Especially when he didn't need to be. This is so right. Just let it happen, Remus."
Remus turned away and walked out into the meadow.
Sirius walked back to the house. He felt awful for bringing the Lupins into this, but it was true. And Remus had loved his parents dearly. If he thought that maybe he was doing something that would have upset them, he would rethink his actions. Or maybe not. I have no idea how this is going to turn out. Now I need to talk to Katie. This should be equally painful.
Sirius walked into the front room to find Katie sitting on the couch, watching the fire. The others seemed to have gone off somewhere. She looked up as he entered. Sirius saw her eyes dart past him, to the door. He's not here. He's standing out there, trying to convince himself he doesn't need you; trying to convince himself he isn't in love with you…trying to convince himself that you couldn't possibly love him or need him, too. And that's just not true. Sirius knew that no matter what, he had to get her to go to him now. If he didn't, Remus would indeed leave.
"He's in the meadow."
"Ah." Of course; just accept it. Don't question it.
"You need to talk to him. Now. About everything. He's told me he intends to leave for London soon, and asked me to take care of the house."
She looked upset at this.
"He's leaving again? When will he be back?"
"Katie, I'm not sure he intends to come back. For a very long time. He asked me to take care of the house and to make sure the garden was okay."
Katie's eyes filled with tears, but she quickly looked away from him and into the fire. Come on, Katie; let go.
"Katie, what he was trying to get me to do was to promise that I would stay here and make sure that you were okay." She didn't move. "Did you hear me?"
"Why should he worry about that?" She said in her 'controlled' voice, which was unnervingly like Remus'.
He walked over and sat next to her on the sofa, then said softly, "Because he loves you more than anything he has ever loved in his entire life. And he's terrified of that."
She didn't move.
"Katie, he's convinced that he will hurt you. That the wolf will hurt you. The wolf is everything horrifying and terrible he's ever experienced in his life, and it has a hell of a grip on him. Don't think I'm making light of this. I know how awful his curse is. I've seen it damn near kill him. But Remus is also the strongest, most gentle and caring person I have ever known. But you are the only one who will ever get him to really believe that, I think."
She watched the fire for a few moments, then looked at him and spoke in an equally quiet voice, "You've been with him…with the wolf. You've seen it."
Sirius nodded slowly. Katie looked back at the fire. She continued in the same quiet voice, "Is it very painful for him then?"
Katie's head sank into her hands, and she stared at the floor, looking utterly miserable. Sirius understood how she felt. Part of loving Remus was knowing that you could never be able to take away that pain, and that hurt like hell.
"But you're being there for him? That helps," he told her.
"How? How can it help? Obviously he doesn't think so…."
Sirius shook his head. "You've very wrong there. It's not just the wolf, but the wolf is the front he uses. Remus has lost practically everyone he ever loved, and who loved him. Think how hard his life has been. Because of what happened to him. The wolf represents all that pain. You've seen how he's shunned? How he's lost? But I'm not the one you need to have this conversation with. You need to go out to the meadow and talk to him. If you don't, Katie, he will leave. I know you don't want that. I'll be damned if I'm going to let him get away with that."
Katie stayed still a few minutes. Then she sat up, wiped her eyes, and smiled at Sirius. "I agree. We can't let him get away with that."
"That's my girl. Go. Jump in. He's worth it."
Taking a deep breath, Katie stood up and stepped out of the house, and started walking across the lawn out into the meadow. Sirius could see Remus still standing in the moonlight, his back to her. Don't let this go Remus; please don't let this go. He turned and went upstairs to go to bed. Whatever was going to happen was going to happen now, and he had done all that he could do. Don't let me down Remus. He stopped on the stairs at that thought. Remus has never, ever let me down. He smiled. This is going to be okay.
Sirius finished making the pancakes. Ron and Harry laid the table for breakfast, and Hermione walked in, still looking exhausted. The boys grinned at her.
"Oh leave me alone. Sirius, is there more tea?"
"We're off bothering you. There's far more interesting things afoot now," said Ron.
"Really? What's that."
"Katie's here," said Harry.
Hermione raised an eyebrow. "Oh yes, that's much more interesting, "she said in a tired voice. "Well, anything to get you all to…."
"She never left last night," added Harry quietly.
"Hermione! You're the brain-box. Think about what we just told you!"
At that moment, Katie and Remus walked into the kitchen. Ron, Harry and Sirius grinned. Remus pointedly ignored them, but was smiling when he sat down at the table. Katie did smile at them and sat down next to Remus. Hermione sat next to Katie.
"Morning Katie. You're here early."
Katie laughed. "Actually, Hermione, I never left."
"Really? Where did you …. Oh." Hermione grinned. She just noticed that Katie was wearing one of Remus' robes. "Right. Well that's taken care of then. Bravo you two."
Everyone burst out laughing.
"Now I always thought all women started planning some sort of great big out-of-control wedding with enchanted flowers and such when they were eight or so."
"I am hardly all women," Oh, no; you are definitely one of a kind… "and honestly, I never gave this sort of thing much thought." Katie frowned slightly, then looked out the window. Remus reached over and brushed her cheek so that she turned back to look at him.
She shook her head, and he could see tears in her eyes now. Why is this upsetting her so much? Unless…unless she doesn't want to get married. Maybe she just said yes to humor me, and she doesn't really want to do it. Maybe….
"Remus." He stared into her eyes. Please don't say….
"Remus, I don't know what you're thinking right now, but I can tell by the look on your face it isn't good. Stop it. I love you, and I do want to get married," he felt his mouth twitch as she said this, and saw her smile. "Yes, I thought that was where you might have gone. Don't be a twit, love. I want to get married, I just don't want some silly big thing made of it, that's all. I want it very small and simple. Besides," she added with a large smile, "the proposal itself was quite grand. That was all about us. Weddings seem to be all about other people. Which brings up another point."
He raised an eyebrow at her, unsure where this was going.
"I assume Sirius will be best man?"
"Well then it will be a very small wedding indeed, unless you intend to have a best dog, and I think that that would look a bit odd, even if there are some people who think that sort of thing is cute. We can only have people there who know the truth about Sirius, and that's not exactly a crowd."
I hadn't even thought about that. She's right, but….
"What about your family? Do you think they'll recognize him? I mean, he hardly looks even remotely like that picture they've put out, but still."
Katie got up from the table and walked over to the sink with their dinner dishes. She had a rather hard and closed expression on her face. "That will not be an issue. They won't be here; simple as that."
Remus was surprised at this response, and went over to her. She did not look up or say anything further, but instead busied herself with the dishes. He stood there for a moment, then slowly stood behind her and wrapped his arms around her. He could feel her shaking, but didn't know if it was because of the embrace, or because she was angry. What's this about, love? Don't you want them here? Katie had rarely talked about her family, but she never said anything that would make him think she wouldn't welcome them at her own wedding.
"Katie, of course your family will be here. It's your wedding."
Katie shook her head. "That's right. It's my wedding. Our wedding. This is a very big deal to me, and I don't want it to just turn into one more thing about them. They won't be here. End of discussion."
Like hell it is.
"Remus, drop it!" she said in an angry tone. Then she put her head in her hands. Remus held her a little tighter, but kept his mouth shut for the moment. Finally she turned and leaned into him.
"Please, Remus. It's not a big deal. I just…I just don't feel any need to invite them all the way here for this. We'll send them an announcement or something. I just want to have a simple, quiet, beautiful little ceremony with the people we love the most there with us. Besides," she reached up and pulled his face down to her, "all I'll see is you, anyway". She kissed him.
Yes, excellent diversionary tactic, but this is not the end of the discussion. I don't care anymore if they're here or not; I do care why you don't want them to come. I'd give almost anything to have my parents here; to have them meet you. Just once….
Sirius walked in, and let out a loud wolf whistle as he went to get something for his supper. Remus reluctantly let go of Katie.
"Hasn't that gotten old yet?"
"Certainly not. Expect a lifetime of such comments from me." Sirius winked at Katie, who made a face at him and laughed. She looked back at Remus and took his hand.
"I need to be getting back now. I'll see you tomorrow."
Sirius gave a dramatic sigh at this. "I still don't understand why you haven't just moved in here, Katie. You're over here most of the time anyway. It seems silly."
"I'm not moving in here until after we get married. Call it a quirk, but that's the deal."
"Well, at least it only took Remus four weeks to propose to you, after taking four years to get up the nerve to…"
"…finally admit that he loved you; thank you, Remus, what did you think I was going to say?"
"I couldn't begin to imagine, but the possibilities seemed terrifying."
Katie laughed and walked out the kitchen door, after giving Remus a quick kiss. Remus smiled as he watched her leave. I love your quirks. Like at first, when you insisted on being so 'polite' in front of the 'children'. 15 and 16 year olds are hardly children, but you had a point. I certainly wasn't going to win any arguments….
While Harry, Ron & Hermione were still with Remus at the very end of the summer, Katie had refused to spend the night at the house. Remus had been upset the first day, when she told him she was going home. Nerves. It was all still so new. She had shushed him quietly when he protested, and her eyes were shining at him.
"Remus, it's not that I don't want to stay," she had started, turning slightly pink, "but I think that until the younger generation go back to school it's not the...well, most appropriate thing to do."
Remus had been surprised at this. "Katie, it's hardly any secret that, well…." Now it was his turn to blush, and he smiled shyly at her. She grinned in response, but shook her head.
"I know that, silly. I have no problem with that; but I can't help but think that their parents might not think that this was the best example we could be setting. Being completely caught in the moment was one thing. This is entirely different." She shrugged. "Call me quirky, but I insist on being …polite…in front of the children."
Remus had to agree with that, and walked her back to the village. At the foot of the stairs inside the shop, before she went up to her rooms, Remus took her in his arms and gave her a lingering goodnight kiss. He loved the dizzy sensation and the giddiness he felt every time he touched her like this. So free; so joyful. Like nothing terrible has ever happened. I could just stand here all night like this…
They broke apart quickly and turned to see Mrs. Noyes standing in the door to the shop, looking at the pair of them with a surprised, yet pleased, expression. They both turned red and looked at the floor. Mrs. Noyes burst out laughing and came quickly over to them. She hugged each of them, saying: "Why the guilty looks? You're hardly some 14 year olds I've caught in the shed. Oh I am very, very happy for you. This is lovely. I thought this might be going on, but you certainly took your time over it, didn't you?"
Remus had to laugh at that. Too bad she can't commiserate with Sirius. They'd have their own little Greek chorus going.
"Yes, well, that seems to be the general opinion." He winked at Katie, who laughed herself, and turned to Mrs. Noyes.
"We just finally figured a few things out ourselves, thank you." She looked up a Remus, who stepped back to her side and put an arm around her. "It's still a little new."
Mrs. Noyes was still beaming at them. "Yes, I remember that feeling. Very giddy, it made me. I kept walking into things for several days. First time I met Mr. Noyes' mother, I tripped over a rug in her front hall and broke a table. Lovely first impression that made." She turned to go up the stairs. "I'll say goodnight then. Oh yes, I am pleased about this."
When she had closed the door, Remus looked down at Katie and chuckled. "I may be going greyer by the minute, but I still feel like a 14 year old who was just caught in the shed."
Katie giggled, and gave him a kiss on the cheek. "Then there's a nice polite 14 year old kiss for you. Good night. I'll be over in the morning after breakfast."
"No, no, come for breakfast." I want you back as soon as possible.
Katie shook her head as she climbed up the stairs. "I'll definitely be having breakfast, and a long talk, no doubt, with Mrs. Noyes. She'd be very put out if I didn't, I think." She stopped at the door, and turned back to face Remus.
"Good night," she said quietly, "I love you."
Oh, this is going to be so wonderful.
The next day, Remus and Katie continued discussing plans for the wedding. Remus had not yet brought up the subject of her family again, but was waiting for the right time to get to it. He decided to concentrate on the actual date of the wedding instead.
"So, when is this very small, very quiet, very dignified little event going to take place, then?" he asked while they were busy replanting some bulbs in the greenhouse. Katie looked up and gave him a grin.
"I never said anything about being dignified, love."
"Really? Maybe we should let Sirius plan all this then. That could prove interesting, and it certainly wouldn't be overly dignified," laughed Remus. Actually, it would likely be rather undignified. But probably fun.
"You know, Sirius would probably up and surprise you if you let him do something like that. I bet he would actually put together something very lovely and probably hopelessly romantic. I figured out a while back that he may be sassy, but he is also a big softy when it comes to doing right by his friends. I bet that he would instinctively do something amazing."
"He'd have to overcome his first instinct to cause a ruckus."
Katie giggled as she finished the pot she was working on, then turned to face Remus.
"Alright, oh eager one. You set the date. Whatever date you choose is fine with me. Anytime, anyplace."
Katie left a while later to go help Mrs. Noyes do her rounds. Remus found Sirius, and they took a picnic lunch out into the meadow. Although it was early October, the weather was mild, and they decided to take advantage of the opportunity to be outside. Sirius in particular preferred being outside as much as possible, for a number of very good reasons.
Remus filled him in on his conversation with Katie from that morning.
"So you get to set the date then?" grinned Sirius. "I'm free tomorrow, you know."
Remus laughed. "Bit too soon, I think, even if she did say anytime, anyplace."
"Will you get married here? You should, it's just so beautiful."
Remus nodded. "Yes. I felt that, well…." Not sure how to continue, his voice trailed off. Sirius said nothing, but watched him with an expectant look. I want my mum and dad to be here so much. I can't stop thinking about them, about what it would have been like to have them with me now. He looked at Sirius, and said to him quietly, "It feels like, if we get married here, in the garden, well, that …that my parents would somehow be a part of it all. Does that make any sense?"
Sirius smiled. "That makes perfect sense. And, personally, I think they will definitely be here in some way. I don't think anything in heaven or earth could stop them." He looked away across the meadow.
Remus and Sirius sat there on the grass, lost in their own thoughts for some time. Remus found himself absently listening to the birds, and running through pictures in his mind of his parents; he could almost see himself and his father across the way, his dad teaching him how to fly a broom. Remus had hated flying, but somehow his dad made it okay. Just like everything else. He looked over to Sirius, and started to say something, but stopped when he saw that Sirius was crying.
"What is it? What's wrong?"
Sirius looked over at him, and gave an apologetic sounding laugh. "Oh, nothing. Nothing. I was just remembering James and Lily's wedding. What fun that was, and how damn young we all were".
Remus felt tears in his own eyes at that. He had carefully not been thinking about James and Lily's wedding, although he had promised Katie he would try harder to remember the good things; to not let them fade away into nothing. He closed his eyes, and lay back on the grass. Suddenly he could see it all again; he could hear his friends' voices; he remembered the things that were said….
James was right again. Still, after all this time.
Oh, that was such an incredible day.
Remus and Sirius had dutifully collected James two hours early for the ceremony, per Lily's specific request. James had complained, but they insisted that it was part of their wedding gift.
"I thought the gifts were supposed to be for both of us, "grumbled James, "this just seems to be benefiting Lily and thoroughly disrupting me."
"Hush up man, "said Sirius, giving his most dangerous smile, "this day isn't about you or what you want. This is Lily's day, and Moony and I are going to be certain she gets what she wants. Which, for some odd reason, is you. So just deal with it."
Remus had laughed at this little tirade.
"I think Prongs might have something to do with this day, Padfoot."
"Just a prop."
"Oh that's very nice, Padfoot. You're supposed to be supporting me, not bothering me."
"Don't fuss. You sound like a first year, and here you are about to well and truly become a full-fledged grown-up. I mean, married, for goodness sake!" They all laughed, but James looked thoughtful.
They had sat together on the couch in silence for a while, just relaxing and trying not to get too wound up thinking about what was going to happen. Eventually they noticed that people had started to arrive, and decided it was time to finish dressing. Sirius finished first, and went to check on how things were going downstairs. Remus smiled at James.
"I think he had to go work out some nerves."
"I know how he feels. Ugh." Remus laughed and told James he wasn't allowed to leave the room.
"Yes, yes." James stood looking at Remus for a few moments. All of a sudden James broke into a grin, and started to cry at the same time. Remus was very surprised, but stepped over to grip James by the arms.
"What's the matter?"
"Nothing. Nothing at all. I just…. In five minutes, I'm going downstairs and I'm getting married. I can't believe it's finally happening. All that planning, all that fuss, I never really had time to think about what this really means. I think it all just hit me. At least these are very, very happy tears. Don't give me that look; I can't wait to see how you hold up on your wedding day."
Remus froze, and his face became very controlled. My wedding day? You must be mad. I'm never getting married. How could I possibly?
"Don't you think that Moony," said James quietly. Remus looked at him quickly, then turned and busied himself with something on the dresser. "Remus, you will get married. To some very, very lucky and, I am sure, rather intelligent, woman."
Remus said nothing. There was nothing to say. But James wasn't about to let it go.
"Remus, you think that you can't let yourself fall in love because the wolf makes any lasting relationship impossible. I can tell you from personal experience that that's untrue to start with. You feel, for some reason I have never been able to understand, that you aren't worth the effort because of something totally beyond your control that happened to you. I know it isn't easy and I know that you have been, and will always be, treated very badly by stupid, ignorant people."
"They're just scared people, James. They have a right to be."
"No one has the right to condemn someone before they know the truth. It makes no difference to the people who know you and care about you. The only reason we ever got angry with you about the wolf, as I recall, was that you didn't tell us because you thought we'd never talk to you again, or worse. Who was making judgment calls then? You had a right to be scared, but because you were so busy being scared, you didn't let yourself realize that it wasn't ever going to stop us being your friends. You will find a woman who thinks just like us, I know it. A woman to whom this makes no difference. Lily doesn't think it makes any difference, but of course she's taken…." Remus had to grin at that.
"You think that somehow you're less than others. But that's utterly untrue. If anything, Remus, you're more. Promise me you won't be so busy knowing that you're going to be shunned that you miss yourself being loved ever again."
Remus just nodded, not trusting himself to speak. Sirius came back at that moment.
"Time to go, gentlemen."
They went downstairs to meet up with the rest of the wedding party. They all very politely said good morning to Lily's sister, who managed to actually saw hello back to them in a civil tone, no doubt carried away by the spirit of the day. She took Remus' arm, and they started down the aisle.
As he escorted Petunia to the front, he looked over the crowd. Quite a turnout. He saw his father sitting near the front. As Remus passed, his father gave him a wink. Remus smiled back. I haven't seen him look this happy since mum passed. He was so thrilled to hear that James was getting married, and so touched when James personally went out to the house to invite him. Actually, he more ordered him to come than invited him. James had worried now that Mrs. Lupin had died that Mr. Lupin spent too much time alone, and he and Lily had made a point of going to visit him every so often. But that was James for you.
Sirius and James came next, both grinning from ear to ear. Remus saw Minerva McGonagal give Dumbledore a look he recognized well as her "those two can be up to no good with those expressions" face, but they both laughed. Not their problem anymore. Finally, Lily's father brought her up the aisle, and after kissing her on the cheek, gave her hand to James, and went to sit down in front. Lily looked about as happy as Remus had ever seen anyone in his life.
They started the ceremony, and Remus was suddenly struck with the sensation of how real all of this was. This is really happening. They are getting married; they are grown-up, adult people, and they are getting married. This isn't a bunch of children goofing off and playing games. We're all grown-up now. His gaze, which had seemed to fog over, went back to James and Lily, who were in the middle of their vows. They planned this day for months. I never paid attention to how much thought they put into it. I thought Lily was just being obsessive going on for days about which card to use for the invitations. But it really was important; it had to be important, as important as what all of this means. They even chose this day because it's the new moon tomorrow…because this is when I feel best and feel strongest. Not just so that I could be here, but also be here at my best, and be part of all this. That was important too. He started crying. But James was right. These were very, very happy tears.
And James had also been right about everything else he said that day. Remus was getting married, despite everything, to a woman who did not love him any less for the wolf. She loved him simply for the man he was, wolf and all. Pretty amazing.
"I just had a thought."
"Not that unusual for you. I'd be started if you didn't have a thought," said Sirius in a lightly teasing voice. Remus gave him a bemused smile.
"Yes, very witty. Really, I want to ask you something. It just occurred to me when I was sitting here thinking about Lily and James."
Remus took a deep breath, and let it out slowly. I can't tell if this is a good idea or not. This is still a very touchy subject; he still blames himself for their deaths. We'll see how he reacts.
"I think," said Remus quietly, "that Katie and I should get married on Halloween. For so long that has been the worst day of the year for me, for us; I want to take that day back. I think that doing something so good on that day is the best way to remember James and Lily. Not to mourn them, but to celebrate them." He looked hesitantly at Sirius. "Does that sound odd, or awful?"
Sirius just leaned over and gave Remus a hug. Finally he said in a choked voice, "I think that this would thrill them. It's perfect."
Katie came back in the early evening, to have dinner with them. Sirius had excused himself early, and gone to bed. He hadn't been sleeping well again, and Katie had made him a sleeping potion and insisted he take it because she was worried about the dark circles that had come back under his eyes. Sirius had gracefully, for once, accepted it, and left. So it's just us here. What ever has been bothering her, now's the best time to get it out. I'll just tell her the date Sirius and I decided on, and go from there. He found her in the study, getting the fire going.
He walked over and embraced her tightly. Then he leaned back and stroked her hair while he gazed at her face. I just love her hair, I love the color and feel of it. So rich….well I'm obviously a little too easily distracted. I need to be focused if this conversation is going to get anywhere.
"October 31st. Here. In the garden."
She stared at him. "What?"
"You heard me. I want to get married then right here in the garden on Halloween. Eve of All Saint's, and all that. It'll be beautiful."
She opened her mouth to say something, but suddenly stopped. She turned away from him and walked to the doorway, and stood staring out into the garden. Remus was very surprised at this reaction. Why is this a problem?
"Katie? I thought you said anytime, anywhere. Don't you want to get married here? I thought, well, it's important to me that we do this here at the house."
She came back to him quickly and shushed him. "No, no. The house is perfect. Of course you want to be here, all your memories of your parents are here, and this way they can be with us." It scares me sometimes how well she knows me. But if it's not the place, then it's the date.
"Why not October 31st? I had thought that day because…well because for so long the only thing Halloween has been to me is the anniversary of Lily and James' deaths. Of everything that happened that night. I want to give that day such a happy memory that all of that darkness will finally be gone. I'll finally be free of it. And I couldn't think of anything more joyful in my life than marrying you on that day…." He stopped as he realized that for some inexplicable reason she had started to cry. He kissed her hair and pulled her into his arms, but she did not return his embrace and started to cry harder. "What, Katie? Please, what is it?"
"I don't deserve to get married on that day," she said in a small voice. "Especially after what you just said." That makes no sense at all….Don't cry, God, I hate to see you cry. Why is this so damn hard….
"Love, that makes no sense to me. Please, tell me why. What's so wrong with that day?"
She took a long time to answer him. Remus knew from experience that he just had to wait this out. Finally, she spoke is a very quiet, but shaky, voice.
"All that day means to me is everything I ever did wrong in my life. Because of what happened…to your friends. I remember that night, you know. I remember hearing that the Potters, James and Lily, had been killed. I remember everyone celebrating that Voldemort was dead," she cringed. "Or at least we all thought he was. I remember hearing about Harry, and do you know what I thought?" She was crying even harder now. "All I could think about, the only thing that I could feel, was how lucky Harry was. Not that he lived, not that he'd brought down Voldemort, but that he'd had parents who loved him so much, that they died for him. And I …I…"she was shaking now and gasping for breath through her tears. "And I was so goddamn jealous."
She was weeping so hard now, she sank to her knees and sat on the floor. Remus was too stunned to move.
"For years, as I watched my parents grow more and more distant, I watched myself pull further and further away from everyone and everything. I seemed helpless to stop it. I knew it was happening, but I let it happen. I was too weak to do anything. I let this wretched sense of numb helplessness completely ruin any feelings I had left. I was so angry. These were my parents, the ones who always said that they would be there for me, but never truly were. Never. They were just too wrapped up in their own little problems. I never seemed to do anything well enough for them. When I got good grades, they said that that was expected. When I showed any success, their only response was good, now do something better. And every now and then, every time I tried so hard to reach out, to ask for help, they couldn't pull away fast enough. But I still loved them, more than anything."
"After that night, I left. And I was not going to look back, and I was damned if I would ever ask for help from them again. I would make my own way, and I would never, ever let anyone else get close to me ever again. I was never going to give anyone that much control over me. That's what being in love always meant to me, before you. It meant being helpless; letting someone have so much control over how I thought and what I felt, and not caring what they did with that. It just didn't matter to them. And every year on Halloween, I would wonder where Harry Potter was now, and cry when I thought about what his parents did for him. I would just sit there and wallow in my own self-pity. Just how am I supposed to tell you how selfish I am? How do I look you in the eye, and say these things? Now you know why I didn't want my family here…. I can't bear to look at them and think how utterly selfish I am."
"I never, ever, wanted to say any of this to you. What you would think of me. When you told me about…about everything…. When you told me who your best friends were, and what it meant to loose them, what all of that horrible, horrible night meant to you. When I saw what it did to you, when the wolf went wild from all of that pain and rage and tried to kill you…."
Remus dropped to his knees next to her, and wrapped his arms around her. How can she think that? Does she think I wouldn't love her? How can she possibly think that; she knows what she means to me. She can't hang onto this; she can't think like this. I can't let her…
"Katie, love," he said very softly, rocking her slowly in his arms, "you have to let this go. You have to forgive yourself. I don't think you're selfish at all. I understand what it means to be shut out; but you have to let your parents in. You can't ignore them. I know you; I know what a great and caring heart you have. You just care about every living thing in the universe except yourself. Now I know why. Maybe you deserve to be angry, Katie, but you also deserve to be happy. With me." Listen to yourself; how many times has someone said this to you? Suddenly, he understood with utter clarity everything his friends had ever said to him. He had never doubted that they loved him, but he never believed that they could possibly feel the things he felt. I was so very, very wrong. And so is she.
"You just said yourself; you do still love them. And I think they love you, in their own way. They probably feel just as lost without you."
"But you were so close to your parents. They loved you so much. You can't understand. They left me. Not physically, but mentally. I just didn't matter enough to them. Why?" she buried her head against Remus' shoulder and sobbed bitter, angry tears.
Remus thought about this, and then decided to tell her about something that had happened long ago. When I thought that everyone would leave me, too…
"Once when I was very young, a few months after a was bitten, I had a nightmare. In the dream, I had woken up, and the house was very dark. I was scared so I went to try and find my mum and dad. But they weren't there. I ran all through the house, calling for them, but they weren't there. I knew why they'd gone though. It was because I was a monster now, not their little boy. I woke up; I must have cried out in my sleep, because my father had just run in. He looked very worried. I hadn't seen my parents smile, not like they used to, ever since I was bit. The dream was so real to me….all I could think was how they must, just…. My dad held me, and asked me what the dream was, but I didn't want to tell him. I couldn't say it. He just sat there on my bed, holding me. When I finally calmed down, he tucked me back in, and gave me the first real smile I had seen on his face in months. And he said, "Remus, there's nothing to be frightened of. Ever. I'm right here, and so is mum. We're right here. Now, go back to sleep, and when you wake up, I'll still be right here." I finally fell back asleep, and when I woke up in the morning, he was still sitting there, smiling at me. I couldn't believe it. He had sat there on my bed, all night, and waited for me to wake up. He didn't say anything, just smiled at me, then left. I knew in that moment that my father loved me, and would not leave me. He didn't say anything. I don't think my father, or my mother, ever told me they loved me. Not in words. But in everything they did. So I do understand what you mean. I really do."
Katie had stopped crying, but still did not speak. She did, finally, wrap her arms around him.
"I love you, Remus. I'm not afraid of that. It's the first thing I haven't been afraid of in years. And if you want to get married on Halloween, then so be it. It's your decision."
Remus held her closer. "It's our decision, love. Everything now is our decision."
Katie looked at him, and somehow managed a weak smile. "Okay, then. We both decide that that is the perfect night to get married." She kissed him, deeply, and held him close.
Finally they broke apart. Remus looked at her quietly.
"Let's go to bed," he said in a soft voice. "Just to sleep. I don't think I could bear letting go of you tonight."
The next morning, Katie had woken up first, but he noticed that she had sat on the edge of the bed and waited for him to wake up before she left. Oh, my God, never let me get used to this woman; never let me take her for granted in any small way. Once she saw that he was awake, she gave him a kiss.
"Good morning. I love you." Remus laughed and sat up.
"I love you, too. Feeling better?"
She smiled happily. "Much. Thank you."
"Good. It's Sirius' turn to make breakfast. Don't you dare let him talk you into doing it for him."
She laughed quietly, but her look had become serious.
"Hmmm?" he replied, with a yawn.
"I was thinking about Sirius just now. Or rather, you and Sirius. Can I ask you something?"
She watched him with a very solemn expression. She didn't say anything for a moment, then took his hand and continued, "Remus, I was thinking about what happened last night. About finally putting things to rest. I…I know that there is one thing that you and Sirius have never talked about. Something you need to. I know that it will be very, very hard for both of you. But you need to do it." She looked at him.
I know. I know what she's talking about but….I don't know if this is something I can ever ask. It's too hard, for both of us.
"Remus, I'm not going to do anything so Byzantine as insisting that you do this. But I think you should. It's the last thing isn't it? You said once that what we needed, more than anything, was to be free of the past."
Yes, I remember that. But this…. Maybe this is something that should never, ever be discussed.
"I love you, Remus. And so does Sirius. Very much. You need to ask him why…" Remus reached out a hand and silenced her. But he still said nothing. She nodded, and left.
Remus thought about what Katie had said all morning. Finally, he went to find Sirius. We need to talk; we need to get this over with.
This was the one last conversation they truly needed to have. The one they had put off as long as possible. Remus remembered saying something very flip and controlled about it that night all those years ago in the Shrieking Shack, but there had been far more important and pressing things going on that night. He thought of how upset Katie had been last night, of everything she had just told him, and of what he had said to her. She was right, calling his bluff, however politely, on this subject.
He found Sirius working on some reports for the Aurors. Remus' reports, of course…. There is no simple or easy way to start this. So right from the top, then.
"Sirius, will you tell me something?"
"Of course. Moony, anything."
Remus looked strained, and felt a little fearful of what was about to happen. Maybe I should just let this go. Just go on with my life. This may not be something I don't want to hear. I mean really not want to hear…. But Katie is right; I need to know. I need to try and settle this.
Sirius was looking at him, and Remus could see in his expression that Sirius was starting to pick up on Remus' nervousness. He knows that this isn't going to be good. Just get it over with. Now.
"Sirius, why did you choose Peter and not me to replace you as secret keeper?"
Sirius' cheek twitched, but he kept his eyes locked with Remus'. Remus saw them blazing, and could only imagine what Sirius' felt now. You know he's not recovered from Azkaban just yet. You know he still wakes up screaming from the nightmares, and you have to go push it. Not just any button, the button. But I need to know. Maybe, if we just get this out and over with, some of the pain will finally go away. For both of us.
Sirius finally turned away and went to stand in front of the fire. Remus kept his gaze fixed on some unseen point in the room as he listened to what Sirius had to say.
"Ever since that morning I had come back and found you dying from what had happened during the full moon, I had felt… afraid of you. Or afraid for you, I'm not sure. I felt like I didn't recognize you. I couldn't believe what you had done; I'd never seen the wolf do anything like that; I'd never seen so much damage. And I could not understand what was going on inside of you to do that. And I think…I think…" Sirius had to stop here for a few moments to regain his composure. Remus continued to stare into space as he listened to Sirius' voice.
"I told James that using Peter would be the perfect bluff. Nobody would ever think that Peter could do it, nobody would ever think that I would allow anyone but myself to do it. But I knew I couldn't…that I was too obvious. Lily said that if I wasn't going to do it, she wanted you. And she was having no arguments. But I stood there, in their living room, while Lily held Harry in her arms and James sat next to her on the couch, and slowly and calmly explained that I didn't think it would be a good idea. That you were not yourself, and that I was worried about you. I never actually said that I considered you might be the spy, but I certainly inferred that something was very wrong. Lily figured that out, though. And she handed Harry to James, stood up, and slapped me across the face." Remus started crying. Oh, I shouldn't have done this. I never, ever wanted to hear this. This is why he wakes up screaming….
" Lily was so angry with me, Remus. She was as angry as I've ever seen anyone in my life. But I wouldn't give up. James took Harry into another room while Lily and I were literally screaming at each other. But I wasn't going to budge. I was so damn smart, wasn't I? Lily was sweet, being loyal to you, like she always was no matter what, all our lives. And that's what I convinced myself it was. Just Lily being loyal to her old friend Remus. She wasn't capable of showing any sense in the matter, because she had always, always stood up for you, and never tolerated anyone being unkind to you. But I would nave none of it. You weren't going to be the secret keeper, and that was the end of the discussion. You couldn't handle it."
"Lily tried again to convince me to do it, before she agreed to Peter. But I had made up my mind; I was not going to be the secret keeper. I couldn't stop thinking about what would happen if I wasn't strong enough when they came for me. What if I …." He chocked to a stop. "You hear this? You see where all of this goes to? Where it leads to. Once again, it's all about me, isn't it? What I think is best, what I worry about. Just like that night last year when I changed back into a man when we were waiting out the full moon together. You were so right, Remus, the next day. You said I didn't think about you at all; that I had just done what I damn well pleased, and that I didn't think about you at all. I didn't. I did exactly what I wanted and never considered the other possibilities."
"And that arrogance, that total self-centered egomaniacal attitude is what got James and Lily killed. And it got me sent to Azkaban, which I deserved, and you? It got you shut up in some private hell I am only just beginning to really understand, because you lost practically everyone you ever loved in one night, and you've never again trusted anyone to come that close to you. I had thought…I had thought…." Sirius couldn't speak through his tears for a few moments, but finally managed to finish, "I had thought, before all of this happened, that we had finally, finally gotten through to you. That you really, truly understood that despite everything, it would be okay. That you deserved just as much from life as anyone else. It would never be easy, but who really has it easy? Then it all fell apart. I was so angry with you that day, and so scared… you almost died. You almost died right there next to me; I almost lost you. I couldn't have taken that. I was so scared and so damn angry with you for letting that happen…." He stopped again, unable to speak any longer.
Remus stood there, shocked and stunned from what Sirius had said to him. He's not to blame…
"Sirius, it really, truly, wasn't your fault. Maybe you were right about me. I didn't know who I was at the time. I was just so scared, so frightened all of the time. Maybe I would have been a terrible secret keeper…."
"No!" Sirius had finally turned to face him. His eyes were red from the tears, and he was shaking. "No, Remus, this was all my fault." I can't let this happen. We both blame ourselves for this. We both live in some wretched place because of this. We need to stop, now.
Remus very carefully considered his next statement. Then he spoke in a very quiet deliberate voice. "James and Lily did agree to Peter, though."
Sirius turned red in an instant. "Are you saying that this was their fault?" he said in the most dangerous tone Remus had ever heard. "Are you saying…."
Remus stepped over to him, and grabbed him by the arms. "I am saying, Sirius, that this was nobody's fault at all. This is what happened. Might it have happened differently? Not a day goes by that I don't dream it did. I still love James and Lily with all my heart. I really do. I look at Harry, and I hope that they can see him, and can see how wonderful he's turned out to be. I still cry when I hear a song that I know they loved. You said to me, a long time ago, that what's done is done. And it changes nothing. I think…I think we both need to believe that now, don't you?"
Sirius began to weep bitter tears, but let Remus hold him. They stayed like that for a long time. Finally, Sirius pulled back. He looked a fright, but he smiled at Remus.
"Thank you, " he said in a horse voice. "I truly am sorry Moony. Not, "he said holding up a hand as Remus started to speak. "for what happened. But for letting my own fear somehow convince me that you were untrustworthy. That is simply untrue. I cannot imagine a more loyal and true friend."
"I won't let you continue to blame yourself."
Sirius smiled again. "I don't think I do anymore; well, maybe a little, but I'm working on it. Get married on Halloween. Put all those ghosts to rest. Make sure Dumbledore will let Harry be here, so we can have Lily and James with us."
Remus smiled at that. "You told me that you were sure my parents would be here. Don't you think Lily and James will be able to make it even if Harry can't come?"
Sirius shook his head. "Your parents are here because you're here. You, their son. Living proof of everything they loved about each other. Harry is living proof of how much Lily and James loved each other, and he needs to be here."
Remus' smile shook, but he nodded. "Yes, I think I see your point."
Katie looked up as Remus and Sirius walked into the garden. They both looked awful, their faces blotchy and their eyes red and puffy, but they were smiling. Sirius came over to Katie and gave her a tight hug.
"Take care of my Moony, Katie girl. Or there will be trouble." Sirius pulled back and looked at her with a warm smile.
"Good. Now, since we have a date, we can move onto more interesting things. Like card stock for instance," he said winking at Remus.
Remus burst out laughing, both from the comment itself and from the look of confusion on Katie's face.
Yes, I think we can all be getting on now. Everything will be okay.