A/N: This chapter's title comes from a full quote from Oscar Wilde's letter to his lover Bosie – it reads, "Your slim gilt soul walks between passion and poetry."
Chapter 4: Between Passion and Poetry
Strange, how love has the power to make you do things you'd never, in your wildest of dreams, imagine yourself doing.
This is the thought that struck Ron as he bent over a piece of parchment in a vacant corner of the library one Saturday afternoon, fervently trying to write a poem. It was now mid-November, and Ron had finally decided how he would go about letting Harry know that he loved him. It might be a stupid plan, but it was the one he had come up with and he wasn't going to change it now: he would attach to Harry's Christmas present a letter or poem he'd written which hinted (not very subtly) at how he felt.
The poetry-writing hadn't exactly come out the way he planned, however. He had initially thought that, though he wasn't the most poetic person in the world, how hard could it be to write a few rhymed lines? But once he put his quill to parchment, he found that transferring his feelings into writing was much more difficult than he'd anticipated. He was disgusted at how his attempts at verse ended up being, in his mind, the most maudlin ditties imaginable:
"Could you view me as more than a friend,
But a soulmate whose love
And devotion for you will never end?
The sound of your voice is sweeter than a jailer's pardon.
I love doing everything with you – playing Quidditch,
Going to Hogsmeade, and even de-gnoming Mum's garden.
I care for you more than all five of my brothers.
I hope you don't mind if I tell you
That I dream of you being my lover."
"Rubbish, absolute rubbish!" he grumbled, crumpling up the parchment so loudly that Madame Pince hissed, "Ssssh!" Hermione, who was sitting at the table with Ron, quickly cast a silencing spell over their corner of the library so that they wouldn't be heard, and looked at what he'd just written.
"This isn't so bad, Ron," she said, smiling. "The bit about the jailer's pardon is actually a pretty good metaphor."
"It'd be better if it weren't followed by that horrid line about de-gnoming the garden at the Burrow," he sighed, lying his head down on the table. "If I gave this to Harry, he'd laugh at me and think it was a joke. And when I told him it wasn't a joke, he'd think I was an absolute twat."
"Harry doesn't think that of you - you know he doesn't!" Hermione protested, looking at Ron incredulously.
"No, actually I really don't know that. Really, Hermione, even if he isn't one hundred percent straight, I don't know why he'd be the least bit interested in me. It's not like I have anything to offer him. I'm not really clever like you, or brave like him...I couldn't even win him on my looks. I'm just an awkward, talentless prat who always has his foot in his mouth."
"Ron, please give yourself some credit," sighed a very annoyed Hermione, who looked like she would slap him if he continued to degrade himself. "After all, I dated you, didn't I? Are you saying that I have bad taste in men?"
"Well, no," Ron sputtered, "but...ugh, there you go tricking me again!"
"Tricking you into what - not beating yourself up? I'm just trying to show you that you already have all those good qualities that you say Harry and I have, and more. As far as I'm concerned, you're meant to be with him. I can see that now. It's why I don't mind letting you go, Ron. I want to see the two of you together as much as you do."
"Thanks, Hermione," he said softly, humbled again by what a great friend she'd been to him during this entire unrequited love ordeal. He wished he had the confidence in himself that she had. "But I still don't want to give him this bloody poem."
"Why not? It doesn't have to be Shakespeare for him to appreciate it. A lot of people love it when their admirers write them corny love poems."
"But I don't want it to be a bunch of sap. I want it to tell him how I really feel."
"Well, does it really do such a terrible job of representing how you feel? Is there any part of that poem that you didn't mean?"
Ron looked down at the poem again, and realized that she was right: he'd meant every word of it. Even the line he hated so much about de-gnoming his garden was true.
Hermione went on, "Are you really going to wait until Christmas to give it to him?"
"Well, I might have no choice. Have you noticed how little he's been around lately?"
"Yeah, he's been doing a disappearing act of his own," Hermione noted, remembering how, that morning, Harry had very vaguely told them that he wouldn't be going to Hogsmeade with them because he had something he needed to do.
"He's probably avoiding me. He probably figured out everything, and is disgusted by the thought of me wanting him," Ron said fearfully. Every now and then, when he was trying to be positive about his chances with Harry, he slipped into a state of pessimism like this. Hermione rebutted him with a shake of her head.
"Ron, unless you've been groping him in your dormitory at night, he probably has no idea yet. I think we'll find out what's going on soon enough."
That evening, the boy once again gazed at himself in the mirror, so angry at what he saw. He felt pathetic. How could he even let himself hope that the one he loved could glance at this body, examine this mind and soul, and find something to love back? Not with how he'd messed things up, he thought.
With a deep breath – as if he were inhaling all of his fears and frustrations – he grabbed some floo powder and threw it into the flames of a nearby fireplace. "Lupin," he called, "are you there?"
The head of the kindly-faced, grey-haired werewolf appeared amidst the flames.
"Yes, I'm here, Harry," he replied. "What is it? Are you okay?"
"I'm alright, I suppose...well, actually I'm not," Harry admitted. He was glad that it wasn't the full moon as he asked hesitantly, "Are you busy right now? Could I floo into Grimmauld Place and talk with you?"
"Of course, my boy. I'm not busy at all."
In another moment, Harry found himself standing inside the dark, somber dining room of his late godfather's old home. Dusting the ashes off his clothes and wiping his glasses, he turned toward Remus Lupin – the last surviving Marauder (Harry refused to count Wormtail among them), and the man who was now the closest thing he had to a father figure. The older wizard was already off in the kitchen, heating some water for tea on the stove.
"I hope you don't mind that I only have-"
"Tea bags are just fine," Harry interrupted, smiling a little. He took a seat at the small, simple round table made of unfinished wood that stood in the center of the dining room. It seemed that Lupin, even though he'd been living at Grimmauld Place for several months now, hadn't done much decorating. The house looked very much the same since Harry had last seen it, when it served as the headquarters for the Order of the Phoenix, and Sirius was still alive...
Harry tried not to sadden himself too much with thoughts of Sirius as Lupin took a seat across from him and handed him a mug of steaming hot tea.
"Thanks for letting me show up here with no notice," he said, stirring his drink with a spoon. Lupin gave him one of his characteristic gentle smiles and replied,
"Actually, I've been hoping for quite some time that you would drop by and visit me. I knew you couldn't over the summer, having to stay with your relatives. Speaking of which, I hope they didn't give you much trouble over the holiday?"
"No, your threats last June seemed to work. They definitely weren't nice to me by any means, but they weren't as horrible as they've been before. You have no idea what a relief that was."
"I'd do anything to look out for you, Harry. What did you want to talk about?" Lupin inquired, cutting to the chase.
Harry was quiet for a moment, continuing to stir his tea. He wanted to tell Lupin everything – telling him was, after all, what he'd come here for. But a small part of him felt silly for thinking that there was anyone who would understand.
"Is it Sirius?" Lupin dared to ask. "You don't know how much I've hated being silent about that. I wanted desperately to talk to you about it whenever you felt ready."
"Thank you," Harry said quietly. "I miss him, and I still don't know how to make sense of what happened to him...I used to blame myself..."
"Oh, Harry," Lupin said, and for a moment it looked as though tears were welling up in his grey eyes.
"But I don't anymore," Harry continued, not wanting to upset the older wizard. "Someone helped me out a lot, by listening while I just stood there and yelled and cried about it for awhile. You know, I was able to get it out finally. And after that I realized that it really wasn't my fault...even though, in a way, it would be so much easier for me if it were my fault, because then I could have someone to blame. Someone besides Bellatrix and Voldemort..."
Lupin nodded in understanding. "I know. I also wished I could convince myself that there was something else I could have done."
"But the thing is, Lupin, as much as I do want to talk to you about Sirius sometime soon...because you know more about him than any other living person I know, and I know you miss him as much as I do...I really wanted to talk to you about something else tonight."
Lupin looked slightly surprised, but nonetheless let Harry know he was listening by the "I'm-all-ears" look he adopted. Harry realized that Lupin was waiting for him to continue, so he took in a sharp little breath and began,
"I wanted to talk to about...the person I was telling you about, the one who listened to me and helped me so much. Because I actually think I've, er...fallen in love with this person."
A wide smile crossed Lupin's pale, tired face. It was the happiest Harry had seen him look in a very long time.
"Really?" was all Lupin said. "May I ask who the lucky lady is?"
Another sharp intake of breath.
"It's not a girl, Lupin...it's Ron. I'm in love with Ron."
For a second – maybe not even an entire second, just a fraction of one – Harry saw the expression of shock he'd been expecting. But as soon as that fraction of a second was over, Lupin laughed – a small, strange laugh – and leaned back in his chair, looking up at the ceiling.
"Oh, I'm such an ass," Lupin muttered, sounding almost as if he were talking to himself. "How could I, of all people, make an assumption like that..."
"Um, Lupin?" Harry asked, bewildered. "What are you...what are you talking about?"
"Nothing, Harry – nevermind. So you're in love with Ron? Congratulations!"
"Thanks," Harry replied lamely. Then, "I – I honestly didn't think you'd be giving me your congratulations. I didn't think I'd be congratulated by anyone."
"Harry, I couldn't care less if the person you care about is male or female, if that's what you mean. With the state of things today, the fact that people are still falling in love at all is a wonderful thing," Lupin replied seriously. "Your parents had the courage to stay together during the First War, and I always applauded them for it. Many people, during times like these, don't dare form relationships because they're afraid of what they might lose. I'm happy to find that you're not like that. And I must say that you've picked a very worthy person to set your sights on."
"Yeah, I have," Harry said, a smile creeping its way onto his face at the thought of Ron. Then, remembering why he'd been compelled to talk to Lupin, his smile faded and he added, "But there's a problem, a big one. Ron doesn't know...and I'm not sure if I should let him know..."
"Why haven't you told him?"
"Well, because it's not easy," Harry said, surprised that Lupin didn't see what was causing him to hesitate. "Until very recently, he was dating Hermione. Then they broke up, and neither one of them told me the reason why. I had my suspicions about it - I considered the tiny chance that maybe Ron liked me - but I didn't want to get my hopes up. And now..."
Here he arrived at the root of the problem; the thing that had been bothering him so much that he'd felt the need to see his older mentor.
"I've been kind of avoiding Ron lately, because I didn't want him to suss out how I felt. I guess I've been acting that way, on purpose, so that he wouldn't be able to tell one way or another. When he broke up with Hermione I should have made my move right then, but for some reason it just made me more afraid. And I think I just ruined my chances completely. I don't even know if I've even been as good a friend to him as I used to be. And that's horrid of me, because part of the reason why I fell in love with him is because I realized what a great friend he's been to me, what an amazing person he really is. But now I doubt that there's any reason why he could like me now, let alone love me."
Lupin had remained silent while Harry was taking. Now that he had paused and his speech seemed to be over, Lupin stood up out of his chair and crossed over to the other side of the room. It took a few moments before Harry realized what he was looking at – a photograph of the Black family that was taken when Sirius was a young man, next to the tapestry of "The Noble and Most Ancient House of Black." Lupin lightly touched Sirius' form with his thin finger.
"Harry, there's something that I should tell you, as well," he said at last, not taking his eyes off the picture. "I knew I wanted to tell you someday, but I was waiting for the right time. I'm certain that now, more than any other, is that time." He turned back to Harry, and sat down at the table again.
"Please don't think," he said sincerely, gazing intently at Harry with a very grave look on his face, "that I don't know what you're going through. I know exactly what you are going through, because I went through it myself. You see...I was in love with my best friend, when I was your age. I was in love with Sirius."
Now it was Harry's turn to be shocked. All he could do was stammer, "W-what? No one ever told - said anything to me about it..."
"No, of course they didn't. For one thing, I'm a private man, you know that. I suppose all those years of hiding my lycanthropy have made me used to it. And Sirius and I decided together, long ago, that we would only only divulge it on a 'need-to-know' basis. Your parents knew, of course, and I'm sure others had strong suspicions. As of last year, we still were not quite ready to tell you. We thought you had more important things to worry about than two middle-aged gay wizards."
Lupin saw Harry's subsequent look and said gently, "Yes, Sirius knew how I felt about him; it wasn't my secret forever. We were together. After we met again two years ago in the Shrieking Shack and I found out that he'd never betrayed James and Lily, we picked things back up. We were still together when he died."
Finally finding his voice, Harry asked, "But you're saying that you did keep it a secret from him at one point? When did you...?"
"Not until our sixth year at Hogwarts. I'd had a crush on him long before that. But I didn't do anything about it for ages, because...well, for some of the same reasons that you gave me for hiding your feelings from Ron. I didn't think that Sirius could care for me in that way. He was...very popular with the girls. He never had any serious girlfriends, but he managed to convince everyone that he enjoyed all the female attention he received. And considering my condition, I didn't feel I was particularly worthy of being loved."
He paused to smile as if at some happy memory before he continued, "I'd started to form a friendship with your mother, since we were both prefects and were forced to spend a lot of time together. I trusted her enough to tell her how I felt about Sirius, and she encouraged me to tell him. If not for Lily, I doubt I would have screwed up the courage and taken the plunge myself. I'm almost certain that, otherwise, Sirius and I never would have had what we had."
"So... you're telling me I should 'take the plunge' and tell Ron?" Harry said slowly.
"What I'm telling you, Harry, is that I was this close to missing out on what was the most passionate, most fulfilling relationship I've experienced...or ever will. Sirius had been my friend since I first set foot into Hogwarts, and I will always be grateful for those years of friendship. But he was also the love of my life. When I think of all that I could have missed, because of my insecurity and cowardice..."
Lupin put his hand over his face and rubbed his eyes, as if he did not want to even imagine what it would have been like if his cowardice had won out.
"Oh, God, Remus," said Harry as realization set in. "The two of you were separated for twelve years while he was in Azkaban. And you didn't just lose an old friend when Sirius died - you lost your..." He stopped, not knowing what noun to use. Boyfriend? Lover? Husband? Partner? None of those words seemed like they could adequately describe what Sirius and Remus probably meant to one another. "I'm so, so sorry," Harry said, tears filling his eyes. "I had no idea...and all this time you've been suffering alone..."
"Don't you spend a moment worrying about me," Lupin said firmly, even as his voice cracked. "Sirius and I had a good run. I've already had my chance at a loving relationship; you haven't yet. And I don't want you to have the regrets I almost had. Whatever fears may be holding you back now, it will be worth it, no matter what the outcome may be, to tell Ron. You've already missed out on so much – knowing your parents, and you only had two years with your godfather. You couldn't have prevented those losses, but you have all the power in the world now. It would kill me to see this become yet another thing you've missed out on."
Harry got up from the table, hugged him tightly, and said quickly,
"You're right, Lupin. You're absolutely right. I have to go, but I'll be back soon and I promise that when I do, I'll have good news." Without another word he floo powdered back to Hogwarts, his tea still swirling in his cup.