The Shape of His Hands
Archive: SBRL, Azkaban's Lair, blanket permission granted
Summary: Harry is confused and intrigued when he sees Remus and Sirius together one night at 12 Grimmauld Place.
Spoilers: None, really.
Rating: PG13, perhaps. There is no sex in this story, but there are some sexual themes
Disclaimer: None of these characters, events or plotlines are mine; no profit is being made.
Notes: This is more or less a gen story, but there is a kind of subtext. I happened to come across some so-called Harry/Sirius/Remus "chan" not long ago; and w/o wishing to give offense to anyone regarding their personal cup of tea, I myself was a bit squicked. I'd also seen one of Wacca's beautiful line drawings on her website – Scratchy Sketches - and that provided a great deal of inspiration too.
She is an incredibly talented artist; check out some of her work while you're there.
Warnings: Sub-text, sexual confusion, teenage identity crisis
Feedback: Always appreciated, always needed.
NOTE – EDITED 10/22/04 FOR SMALL CANON INCONSISTENCY
The Shape of His Hands
Harry had not meant to see. And having seen, he had not meant to look. He hadn't, really. He'd actually meant to look away, really he had, because what he had seen was very clearly none of his business at all, and it was very, very wrong of him to spy and peek the way he had done.
But none of his good intentions mattered much now. He had seen, and he had looked. He'd looked long and he'd looked hard, and he had not been able to get all he'd seen and heard out of his head since.
Two nights ago, near two-thirty in the morning, he'd been unable to sleep in the borrowed bedroom he shared with Ron at Sirius' horrible old house. Ron had been snoring away for hours, not a single hitch in his steady slumber, and Harry had wondered how he could possibly sleep like that with his father in the hospital and his whole family disrupted and rooted out of their own home for the holidays. Still, he remembered that Arthur Weasley was recovering well, and that his friend Ron had always been able to sleep with ease, anywhere, any time. It was one of the things that Harry, ordinarily, liked about Ron.
Ordinarily, that was. That night, however, Harry had felt slightly tempted to put a pillow over Ron's snoring face. When Ron's somnolent snores had begun to take on a distinctly smug sound to Harry's ears, he'd known it was no good and had gotten out of bed quietly. He'd slipped his bathrobe on but left his slippers off, the better to glide silently out of their room.
Harry had quietly made his way down toward the ground floor of the house, pulling his woolen robe closer about himself against the dank chill of the stairway. There was a study down there off the main entrance hallway, Harry knew; he'd seen it during his first visit to this place. There were several well stocked bookshelves, one or two armchairs, and even a halfway comfortable looking sofa in that study. Harry's plan, in so far as he'd had one, had been to comb the bookshelves in the study, locate at least one book in the Black household that might not scare him into a coma, and attempt to read his case of insomnia into submission. The long journey down, through the darkened house, had been so creepy and cold that he'd added lighting a fire in the study fireplace to his planned agenda as item number one.
The whole house had been as still as a tomb so late at night. He supposed that all of Sirius' other guests had long ago sought their beds and were long asleep, like sane people. Only he was creeping about on the stairs like a thief, padding through the chilly gloom in the darkest watches of the night.
So, once he'd gotten down to the last landing of the stairs; just above the entrance corridor and near to the front door, he'd been terribly startled to hear the hissing of whispered words coming out of the darkness below him. He'd shrunken back into the deepest shadows of the landing and crouched down instantly, more out of instinct than out of any specific fear.
"Hang on a sec – I'll get it. Lumos."
It was Sirius' voice, Harry had realized, and then a moment later his godfather's face was faintly limned in the dim light burning at the end of his wand. Harry could see that he was muttering the incantations that would remove some of the warding spells on the door while he was speedily working all the latches and locks. Remus Lupin slipped quickly inside the door the moment Sirius had gotten it open, and then both men had immediately set to work resetting all the wards and locks without a single word to one another.
All was well, Harry had realized, relieved. He was just about to stand up out of his cocoon of shadows and give both men a great big hello, when it occurred to him that he might well startle them both so badly that a barrage of flying hexes could easily ensue. Both had their wands out, and neither looked especially relaxed, not while the door was still not fully re-warded. He crouched a little deeper into his hiding place and kept quiet, asking himself, not for the first time, how on earth he managed to get himself into stupid situations like this with such dismal regularity.
Once the security of the door met with their combined approval, Sirius had spoken to Lupin.
"You're three days later than we expected. I've been going daft. Didn't you remember to bring some Floo powder with you? You could have made a call."
"Flipping vampires," Lupin had answered irritably, pulling his muffler off his neck and shrugging out of his cloak. "Wouldn't light a fire if it meant beheading at dawn – not even in a howling blizzard - it'd ruin all the precious Gothic ambience in their godawful old ruins. Now. Right. Attendezvous, if you please. I've been freezing my arse off in a crumbling old ruin of a castle in Transylvania for three days, negotiating nonstop with a horrible lot of bloodsucking old nutters with zero communication skills, my head aches and there's a hole in my left boot, and now if you're going to just stand there yelling at me for being late - I. Will. Be. Most. Put. Out."
Sirius had laughed quietly at this, his eyes sparkling in the dim light.
"Ah, Moony, right you are. Absolutely right. Not at all a proper welcome home. What was I thinking? You must forgive me."
Professor Lupin had smiled then, and Harry had been able to see, even in the faint light of Sirius' wand, that his smile was rather an odd one. It was almost … an arch smile, Harry had thought, if that was the right word.
"Hmmph," Lupin had snorted, still looking rather more pleased to Harry than his cranky remarks seemed to indicate. "I'm afraid that now you'll just have to persuade me to forgive. Can you be persuasive, Sirius?"
"Why, yes, I believe I can …" Sirius had purred, and then, to Harry's shock, he'd taken Professor Lupin into his arms and kissed him thoroughly, right on the mouth. To Harry's further amazement, Lupin had not only not resisted this onslaught of snogging; neither squirming to get out of Sirius' embrace nor screaming aloud for the psychiatric staff at Saint Mungos, but he'd actually thrown his arms around Sirius' neck and kissed him back.
They're together – Harry's stunned mind shouted at him. How could I not have noticed it before?
A quieter mental voice supplied an answer only a split-second later.
You did notice it before. You just didn't know what it was you were noticing. You are only fifteen, after all, and the private lives of adults are hardly an open book to you, even if you are the famous Boy-Who-Lived. You're also the boy who has not lived all that long just yet, and who's barely even kissed a girl yet (without making her cry, anyway), much less done anything … else …and there's a whole world of things you don't know about private matters like this. You'd been thinking that love and sex and all that were only for girls and boys, but you've always known it wasn't quite that simple, haven't you? You've known it doesn't always have to be that way, or not only that way, haven't you?
You've sometimes wondered if it would have to be only that way for you, haven't you?
Harry had tried to shunt that last thought aside as he'd watched Sirius kissing Professor Lupin. He knew he ought not to be watching this, because this was clearly a very private thing, not for anyone else's eyes. But he had been unable to look away.
The way Sirius touched Lupin was like no touching Harry had ever seen before. He'd kissed Lupin's mouth and his chin and the scar on his nose; he'd smoothed some of the damp hair off Lupin's forehead and cheeks and kissed his ears, he'd rubbed Lupin's back and kneaded at the muscles in the back of Lupin's neck; he'd done all of this and more in no time at all. Never had Harry seen any touching at all that had looked so good and sweet and loving and kind and … well… sexy as the way Sirius had touched Harry's former teacher. Sirius was loving him, just loving him so completely, all with nothing more than touches. It looked wonderful. Surely being touched like that must make Lupin feel like the most important person in the world. Surely he must feel like the best and the most wanted person anywhere.
A strange sort of hungry longing had awakened in Harry as he'd watched, and he'd wondered how it would be, how it might feel, if someone would only touch him like that.
Someone. Someone who loved him. But who?
He'd watched Sirius' hands moving on Lupin, on his back, on his neck, on his shoulders. Something about the shape of those hands; the long, slim fingers, the narrow palms, the oddly delicate bones of the wrists; something about the shape had seemed achingly familiar to Harry. He'd almost felt as if he knew what those hands would feel like, were they on him and not Lupin.
"Persuaded yet, Moony, old thing?" Sirius had purred some more, quietly.
Professor Lupin was purring too, Harry noticed. Between the two of them, it sounded like a whole houseful of happy kitties was down there lapping gallons of cream, and Lupin looked about as pleased as a house cat that'd just successfully stolen a whole turkey.
"Mmm. No. I'm afraid not. I really think you must persuade me some more, Paddy."
Paddy? Huh? What? For 'Padfoot'? A pet-name of a pet-name?
There had been a certain dry meticulousness in Lupin's voice as he'd said this last; he'd sounded exactly as reasonable and well modulated as Harry had ever heard him in a classroom, and Harry, even through his increasing emotional agitation, was able to perceive that this precision, under these circumstances, was actually pretty funny.
Sirius had apparently thought so too, since he'd laughed aloud before kissing Lupin one more time.
"You're a tough sell, Lupin. Always have been. You look terrible, you know. Have you eaten?"
"God, no. Vampires are the worst hosts on the planet. They don't eat themselves, so of course all they serve guests are vinegary old vintages from their own moldy wine-cellars. Only the reds too, don't you know. Simply gruesome. And then they watch every drop down your throat as if you were picking their pockets. Three days of nattering away at all of them for hours on end, and not a ham sandwich in sight. I'm starving."
"It was much too dangerous a mission, Remus. I told Dumbledore I thought so weeks ago. You shouldn't have gone."
"Who else? Most vampires would rather swallow a bucket of holy water than touch a drop of werewolf blood. I was safe enough. I even think I may have gotten our position across too, at least to some of them. Vampires are generally bloody stupid, you know how they are – live forever; get hidebound and senile – but I really do think I might have made some of them see my –"
"Made them see your point. I don't doubt that you did, you could debate anyone into anything, given enough time. And enough vinegary Medoc. And I still think it was too damned dangerous, incidentally. Let's get down into the kitchen, we'll see if we can find some leftovers for you."
The two of them had started off down the corridor, toward the back stairs to the kitchen, and Sirius had thrown a friendly arm around Lupin's shoulders, hugging him as they'd walked. Harry had watched, silently, until they were out of sight. He'd felt so confused he was actually a bit dizzy. How could Sirius kiss Lupin like a lover one moment, and hug him like a brother the next? Just how many ways did Sirius know how to love people?
Harry had crept back up into his room, quietly as he could, mindful of Ron snoring nearby and trying hard not to wake him. Although, earlier on in the night, Ron's snores had been driving Harry a bit mad, now Harry was very glad indeed that Ron was asleep and snoring, rather than awake and asking him where he'd been and what he'd been doing. There were so many thoughts in Harry's head that he felt he couldn't share with anyone, not even Ron, his best friend in the world. Harry was more or less convinced that some of these thoughts were fairly improper thoughts, not exactly fit for public discussion, and he was absolutely certain that wondering how it might feel to kiss his godfather the way Lupin had was as far from a proper thought as it was possible to get.
I do NOT have a crush on Sirius – Harry's mind had declared miserably as he'd lain down in his bed. Please, God, I DON'T. Please make it so I don't.
Harry resolved to put the whole confusing mess out of his mind, for the rest of the night, certainly, and till the day he died too, with any luck, and after a time, he actually had done just that. Harry might have been just a small, skinny boy with weird hair, bad eyesight, and a lot of empty, hungry spots in his heart, but he also had a will of iron. Once he'd rigorously controlled all his hot, jumbled thoughts, he'd fallen asleep.
His dreams, however, had not been subject to the same iron will and control. They'd been a chaotic mélange of not quite random images, impressions and disconnected sensations: Ron in a bed in a graveyard, snoring so loud that the dead were coming out of their graves; the pleased, turkey-stealing cat look Harry had seen on Professor Lupin's face; the feel of Sirius' cheek against Harry's, both smooth and slightly whiskery; the face of Cho Chang, a girl at school that Harry rather suspected he fancied; Harry's Firebolt, diving at the ground toward the snitch, Harry atop it; the sparkle in Sirius' large grey eyes as he laughed at something Lupin was saying; Harry on the back of a hippogriff, shooting straight up into the sky and Harry squeezing, squeezing the creature's sturdy body between his thighs, fearful of falling off, and then - falling anyway, falling, falling, tumbling through nothing, tumbling into a final dream-image-impression-sensation – the shape of Sirius' hand, warm and huge and loving and comforting, resting on Harry's belly in an intimate caress.
Harry awakened from the dream with an iron scream locked behind his lips and a warm indiscretion pooling in his pajama bottoms. He had never felt quite so miserable and sickeningly humiliated in his life.
The next two days were dreadful. He had tried to concentrate on acting normally; he'd spent as much time as possible having fun with Ron and Hermione and the rest of the Weasley children. He'd made acting like a regular kid and having regular kid fun his new mission in life. He'd laughed a bit hysterically at every one of Fred and George's jokes, and he'd listened to one of Hermione's lectures on how to plan his homework assignments back at school with such rigid intensity that she'd actually broken off in mid-lecture and asked him if he felt quite all right.
All to little avail. One evening, over dinner, when Lupin had just asked him, off-handedly, to pass the salt, he'd been so shaken that he'd upset his glass of pumpkin juice all over the table and had then knocked his whole plate of shepherd's pie flying when he'd risen abruptly from the table to get a dishrag to mop the mess up. The next day, when he'd been in the parlor, lost in a blue funk of thought, Sirius had happened to come in without Harry hearing him, and when he'd said "Harry?" – Harry had been so startled that he'd jumped like a scalded cat and uttered a dry, breathy scream. When Sirius had tried to put a concerned hand on Harry's back, Harry had flushed scarlet to the roots of his hair and had fled the room in a mad flurry of completely unintelligible excuses.
It was impossible, Harry had finally admitted to himself. He was losing his mind, and something had to be done. He was getting more nervous, not less, as time went by, and he had not dared to sleep since he'd had that first horrible, yet blackly exciting, dream. If things went on like this much longer, he'd probably be going to Saint Mungos when the holidays were over rather than back to Hogwarts. He was just going to have to pull himself together and talk to Sirius about it. Or something. The very idea of talking to his godfather about any aspect of the last two days and all the confused feelings he'd suffered throughout filled Harry with pure dread, but also with a kind of trembly, hot anticipation.
And all that had led him to this night, when he'd lain in his bed for hours, waiting for Ron and everyone else in the household to fall into deep slumber, completely sleepless himself and tossing anxiously at intervals while he waited. Eventually, the house had quieted enough to satisfy Harry at last, and he'd slipped out of his mussed bed clothes, and had taken his invisibility cloak out of his trunk.
The thin, tissuey fabric of the cloak had felt cool and a bit unpleasant to Harry as he'd draped it over his head, like small streams of some cool liquid dripping down his skin. He couldn't remember ever noticing the cloak feeling quite like that to him before. He'd eased his bedroom door open silently, and crept out into the hall.
He was determined to talk to Sirius, privately, and although he had absolutely no idea what he might say to his godfather, he was completely certain that he wanted – no – that he needed – so much – to do it. He knew Sirius' bedroom was up on the floor above his, and he made his way up the stairs silently, bare feet on the cold risers, each step feeling uncomfortably similar to a step off a cliff. He found himself in the dark corridor that led to Sirius' room all too soon, and he drifted down that hall to the door he wanted with his stomach tumbling nauseatingly inside him. A few steps more, and then he was standing outside the door. He put his hand on the doorknob and twisted, as quietly as he could.
Harry, despite his all his agitation and itchy discomfort with what he was doing, was still pleased to note that Sirius' door was unlocked and unwarded.
About a week ago, when Sirius had noticed that Harry looked tired and asked him about it, he'd been forced to admit to his concerned host that his house itself was a bit unnerving, and that he, Harry, had not been sleeping well. Sirius had not been offended at all by this confession, on the contrary. He'd said he didn't blame Harry one bit, and laughed a little. Then he'd admitted that when he had been a boy sleeping in this house, he'd always cast every warding spell he could think of on his bedroom door every night, and sometimes pushed a heavy bureau across the threshold too, for good measure. He'd said he was glad that at least Harry had Ron as a roommate to help keep the creeps back a bit, and then he'd ruffled Harry's hair affectionately.
So now, Harry, as distracted as he was, was also glad to know that his godfather apparently no longer felt he had to sleep behind warded and barricaded doors in his own home. Although, Harry had to admit to himself, all that might change after tonight. He eased the unguarded door open silently and slipped inside.
There was more light inside the bedroom than Harry had expected, since a banked fire was burning low in the small fireplace on the far side of the chamber. It was only the dimmest orange glow, not enough to hold all the deepest shadows back or to distinguish any of the black, indeterminate shapes of furniture by, but certainly enough to reveal that Sirius was in his bed, and was, indeed, sleeping. Harry could not quite make out his godfather's face by the low, flickering light, but he could tell he was asleep by the sound of his breathing. Harry drifted silently toward the bed, only so he could see better, he told himself, perhaps a bit desperately.
He found his way to the side of the bed and came up short far too quickly for his own comfort; he seemed to be doing an awful lot of moving about without much conscious volition lately. He stood above the bed and looked down, watching the dim, flickering orange glow play across the planes of Sirius' face. After a time, he let the Invisibility Cloak slip off his head and shoulders, and stood revealed in the faint light, had anyone been awake to see him. Here he was, hovering at his godfather's bedside like a specter, watching him sleep, Harry thought, and he felt both ashamed and exhilarated, as though he was on the verge of unraveling some mystery that he had no earthly right to unravel.
Asleep and seen by firelight, the harsher lines of Sirius' face were smoothed out, and he looked much younger than he was. Some of the characteristic Black haughtiness was smoothed away too, and Harry could see, by this dimmer yet somehow more revealing light, that much of that apparent hauteur was only an accident of aquiline bone structure and high contrast coloring. Asleep, Sirius looked a great deal less worn and a hundred times more approachable than he did awake. The expressive mouth looked softer, more gentle, and it was both a bit disappointing and a bit reassuring to Harry that the striking eyes were currently shut.
He didn't like to imagine how Sirius' eyes might look if he could see Harry now; lurking uninvited at his bedside, staring down at him like a lovesick girl. Long, uncomfortable minutes passed, and Harry was slowly realizing that for all his muddled intentions, he really had no idea at all what he needed to say to Sirius, or to ask him, or to ask him for. He knew he needed something, needed it terribly, but he was also beginning to fear that he could never get whatever it was, because he didn't know what it was.
"He's beautiful, isn't he?"
An immensely quiet voice, coming from the deep patch of shadow to the side of the fireplace, a black blob that Harry had tentatively identified earlier as an armchair.
Lupin's voice. Harry blushed hotly in the dimness.
"I always thought so, anyway. Perhaps you do too, Harry?"
Harry stammered, trying to keep his voice down to the barest minimum. If he awakened Sirius now, he was certain; he'd simply implode from sheer embarrassment.
"I'm – I was just – I – I'm sorry if I – "
"On the other hand, he doesn't really like to hear about it very much," Lupin continued, softly, as though he was completely untroubled by the dubious circumstances and oblivious to Harry's guilty verbal fumbling. "Never has. He inherited his looks from a family he hated, for one thing, and he was always just a little too pretty as a very young man, if you see what I mean. It sometimes caused him some trouble."
Harry, for all of his nervousness, looked back to Sirius' face for a moment. Yes, he could see how the fine bones and fair, milky skin and glossy black hair might have been interpreted as more pretty than handsome, once upon a time. Even now, when Sirius was much older and far less unmarked by woes than he must have been as a boy, there was still a ghost of all that left, still there in his face. Harry tried to imagine, for a moment, how he might like to be stuck for life behind a pretty face that he'd never asked for and didn't really want.
"Of course, when he was about twelve, he had one of those growth spurts that sometimes happen to young boys. For a couple of years there, he looked more like a giraffe than anything else." Lupin added, and Harry could hear the smile in his voice without needing to see it.
He looked over at Lupin; trying to see into the shadows where his chair must be.
"I saw you two by the door, two nights ago," Harry said. "When you got back in so late. Sirius kissed you. I saw it."
Harry wasn't sure whether he was accusing, or trying to explain his own actions. Perhaps Lupin could decide the question for him.
"Yes, we thought perhaps you had. You've been acting like a right little nutter for the past two days, you know, Harry, if you'll forgive me for saying. You haven't been able to meet our eyes or stay in the same room with either one of us for more than a few moments at a time. We both thought it might be something like that."
"I'm not … you know … angry, or anything like that," Harry said quickly. "It's just … you know … I was just -"
"Surprised? Confused? Intrigued? Jealous? All of the above?"
"Jealous?!" Harry hissed indignantly, shocked and disproportionately angry. He felt as though Lupin had just accused him of something despicable, when he was the one who was… well …
"Perhaps you'll forgive me for being blunt, Harry, but you do seem to be in a rather compromising position yourself just now," Lupin interrupted Harry's hot, chaotic thoughts smoothly. "I don't actually recall Sirius inviting you to sneak into his room some night soon and stare at him."
"But I'm not … I wasn't doing anything wrong. I was just looking. You're the one who-"
"Who loves him? I'll plead guilty to that charge, certainly. But I'm not the only one, am I?"
Harry ignored this question to ask one of his own. "How long? How long have you been together, I mean?"
"Forever, it sometimes seems." Lupin answered without hesitation. "Since we were seventeen, technically, but it's really been a lot longer than that. We grew up together, in a way. We met in our first year at Hogwarts; you've known that, Harry. The same year you met Ron, now I think about it."
"But Ron and I aren't … you know."
"No. You aren't. And Sirius and I weren't – 'you know' – either, when we were your age. I'm wondering if that's a part of what's bothering you?"
"I'm not … gay," Harry declared hotly. "If that's what you mean."
"Actually, that's not what I meant at all. It would be unforgivably rude of me to speculate on the matter, quite frankly. It's none of my business. Surely you must agree."
This answer had the strange effect of calming all of Harry's growing irritation and leaving him both curious for more information and willing to reveal more of himself at the same time.
"Is Sirius?" Harry asked softly. "Gay, that is? Are you?"
After a pause, Lupin responded quietly. "I couldn't answer for Sirius. These things, Harry, they're just not as cut and dried as most adults like to make them seem to people your age. I know a lot about him certainly, more than most, I suppose, but I still couldn't say. We don't ever really know everything about the people we love, you know. No matter what the Muggle movies would have you believe."
"And you? Could you say for yourself?"
"I'm afraid I can't, Harry. The truth is, I just don't know. Sorry I can't be more help. The thing is, I've never been with anyone else."
"Really?" Harry asked, looking down at Sirius' sleeping face for a moment. He turned back toward the clump of shadows that was Lupin. "You've never loved anyone else?"
"No, indeed," Lupin answered, laughing a little. "I've loved a great many people. I loved my parents. I loved Peter Pettigrew, long ago; it still breaks my heart, what happened to him. And I loved your father, Harry, you can't imagine how much. Your mother too. I greatly fear that I'm even beginning to love you, difficult little sod that you are. I've just never been with anyone other than Sirius."
Harry felt his face creasing into an amused grin before he was fully aware of just how pleased he was. It felt good to know that Lupin did like him and wasn't angry with him for sneaking into this room the way he had. Harry thought Lupin might have been trying to tell him that there was still room for Harry somewhere in the equation, that there were lots of different kinds of love.
"Why?" Harry asked, surprised at his own temerity. It was just that there was something essentially good and decent about Remus Lupin, something that made him very easy to talk to, even if he was very hard to know. "Didn't you ever… you know …wasn't there ever anyone..?"
"I'm really not sure. I don't think it matters. I've never been very good at being close to people; I guess that must be part of the reason. There's always been so much about it that I don't understand easily. But Sirius… he's … he's like the wind. Can you understand what I mean? You can't bolt the doors and close the drapes tight enough to keep him out. You just can't stop him loving you, if he takes a mind to do it. And maybe that's it, Harry, maybe that's the answer you've been looking for."
"What answer?" Harry asked quietly. In this moment, he felt very small, and terribly, terribly lonely, and he felt as though, if he were to look too closely at Sirius' face once more, he might actually start crying. There was an answer here somewhere; he was so glad and so grateful that Lupin seemed to have guessed how much he needed one.
"You were wondering what it was about him, weren't you? What was so special? How you felt? You've been a bit confused since you saw us together the other night, and you were thinking that maybe it was that, being close, kissing … sex and all that?"
Harry nodded dumbly, a miserable flush rising in his cheeks that he guessed Lupin could probably see, even by the faint light of the fire.
"But that's not really it, you know, Harry. Not at all. That's not what's special about Sirius. Haven't you guessed yet what it really is?"
Harry shook his head slowly. Maybe he'd come close, maybe there was a vague outline of something in his mind. There had been strange images of Sirius in his head since that night, disconnected impressions: the shape of Sirius' hands, the feel of the skin of his cheek, the touch of his hair, the warmth and solidity of his body. There was something, but Harry had been unable to make any sense out of any of it. It had seemed so tactile, so based on the sense of touch … and yet … that wasn't quite it … that wasn't right.
"He loves so hard. That's what it really is," Lupin was saying. "Like no one I've ever known. It's his greatest strength, you know, as well as the origin of almost all the worst things in his life. He loves so fiercely. If you're one of his people, he'll kill for you; die for you; live for you - no questions asked, no way on earth to stop him. He doesn't do it on purpose, either, not out of any special choice. It's just how he is."
Harry nodded, unaware that the tears he'd been so afraid of earlier had started to slip quietly out of his eyes.
"And you are one of his people, Harry. He loves you too. Don't you know that yet?"
Harry was unable to respond. There was not a single thing he could think of to say. He saw Lupin slowly rising out of his chair and his nest of shadows, becoming visible as he moved over to the mantelpiece above the fire. He was clothed in a dressing robe and pajamas. He took a small wooden box off the shelf and opened it.
"I found this for you, last night. I was sorting through all my old pictures. Would you like to see it?"
Lupin was standing by the fire, holding the box, gazing calmly at him, giving him a clear choice. Come to the fire or stay at his godfather's bedside. After a few moments, Harry went to the fire.
Lupin smiled gently and brought a single battered photograph out of the box. He leaned down and put it in Harry's hand.
Harry looked at the picture. It was Sirius, fourteen years younger, asleep, just as he was tonight. He looked beautiful in the picture, too, just as beautiful as he'd looked to Harry, earlier tonight. There was a tiny, dark haired baby in his arms, also fast asleep.
"You see?" said Lupin. "He's loved you all your life."
Harry's tears tightened and coalesced into a single, quiet, harsh sob. He didn't even hear it. This was it, this was it - this was the place where all strange images and sensations and impressions that had so deviled him for the last two days had come from. One of Sirius' hands was resting on the baby's stomach – Harry's stomach – looking huge against the tiny body. Harry could recognize the shape of that hand. That shape had been in his dreams, the feel of that hand on his body, tormenting him. And now he saw that there was nothing to fear at all, nothing to be ashamed of. All his images, all his impressions, all his dreams, they weren't desires at all. They were only memories.
"Oh, my God," Harry whispered aloud, and sat down abruptly. Unfortunately, there wasn't a chair nearby, and so Harry wound up suddenly sitting down, quite hard, on the floor, an undignified and highly uncomfortable position. So he was really very surprised to see Lupin folding himself down to join Harry on the floor a moment later. He looked every bit as uncomfortable on the hard surface as Harry himself felt, but he also looked very pleased and very satisfied.
"Oh, thank God," Harry said. "Oh, Professor. Thank you so much. I've been so scared."
"You are, without a doubt, the single most rewarding student I have ever had the pleasure to teach, young Potter. No lie."
"Oh, good God, how can you say that? What an idiot I am!"
Now Lupin chuckled. "Well, not so much an idiot, I don't think. I know you won't want to hear this; I never did when I was your age - but you are only fifteen. There's a whole lot about yourself that you needn't decide just yet."
"Too right!" Harry said fervently, and Lupin shushed him, throwing an amused glance at their sleeping companion.
"Poor boy …" Lupin said thoughtfully, and suddenly ruffled Harry's hair, so much like his father's had been. Lupin had never, so far as Harry could recall, touched him in such an affectionate way before. "I sometimes wonder if Albus really made the right decision, putting you into your aunt's care. I know he kept you safe that way, but I still sometimes wonder…"
"You wonder..?" Harry prompted.
"Oh, we all adored you when you were small, you see. We all thought you were the cutest little thing in the history of the world. Between us, I think we very nearly petted you to death. We actually used to squabble about whose turn it was to hold you, or play with you. Sirius was the worst of us, of course. Once he'd get his paws on you, it was all Lily could do to get you away from him, much less any of the rest of us. And then everything went so horribly wrong for us all, and Dumbledore had you whisked away to a home where you'd be safe and cared for and free of fear, but where no one would ever play with you or pet you again. I sometimes wonder how high a price safety should really come at."
Harry felt a sudden impulse, odd but wholly glad. He precipitately threw his arms around Remus Lupin and hugged him soundly. And once he had an armful of surprised and pleased and perhaps slightly blushy werewolf fully in his grasp, he squeezed, good and hard.
"Why, Harry," Lupin said, just a bit primly.
"You, too?" Harry asked, grinning. "Did you use to play with me too, when I was a baby?"
Lupin looked severe for a moment, gazing at Harry with a slightly crooked mouth.
"And just who do you think taught you how to play peek-a-boo, young man? Don't tell me you've forgotten that?"
They both laughed easily. Harry scrambled up off the floor, feeling infinitely lighter than he had in days. Lupin followed, his older bones moving a touch slower than Harry's had.
Harry looked over at Sirius, just for a second, still sleeping like the proverbial dead. He wondered, idly, if it might wake him up if Harry were to set a cannon off by his bed.
"I'd better say good-night, Professor Lupin," he whispered. "It's a miracle we didn't wake him as it is."
"Oh, I wouldn't worry about it, if I were you," Lupin said. "Good night, Harry. Sleep well."
"I will," Harry answered lightly, and then he slipped out the bedroom door.
Lupin watched the door for a few moments more, and then sighed quietly. He went to the bed where Sirius was and slowly sat down on it.
"What a magnificent teacher you must have been, Remus," Sirius said quietly, no trace of sleepiness in his low voice at all. "Dumbledore was mad to ever let you leave the school."
"It was unavoidable," Remus murmured, and stretched out at his full length on the bed. "He could hardly have kept me, even if I had been willing to stay. I do miss it, though, I must confess. Teaching."
"Because, quite clearly, you were born to do it," Sirius remarked, and raised himself on one elbow, so that he could kiss Remus' temple. "A life calling; a true gift. Thank you for handling that for me, by the way."
"He was just a bit confused. And lonely. And caught up in some of the earliest memories he has. We agreed it might not be best for him if you handled it yourself."
"Thank you anyway. Do you really think I used to look like a giraffe?"
Remus laughed, long, softly, and hard. "Sometimes I still think you look like a giraffe, Paddy. A very handsome giraffe, mind you. Give us another kiss, quick, before I fall asleep, hmm?"
Sirius was not slow to comply, even if Remus was busy insulting him fairly thoroughly. It was hardly the first time Sirius had ever been exposed to the business end of his favorite werewolf's dry wit.
A while later, just before both of them drifted off to sleep, Sirius asked "D'you think he'll be all right now, then? Harry?"
Remus did not answer for a long while, and Sirius had begun to think that perhaps he'd already dozed off. But then he did answer the question, and Sirius could hear the small, lonely, unendingly weary tone in his quiet voice.
"I think he'll be all right as he can be. And we can't really hope for more than that. You might want to try being a little more affectionate with him in future, just a little at a time. I suspect he needs that, especially from you. I did, when I was his age. And you were there for me then, just as you are for him now. Yes, I think he'll be all right."
"You were, in the end. Look at you now," Sirius pointed out, fondly.
"With your help. Always with your help. Good night, Sirius."
"Good night, Moony. Sleep well."