Another Cup of Tea
a/n: Characters and associated plotline property of J.K. Rowling. No infrigment of her copyright intended, and this story is strictly for enjoyment and thus, nothing is being earned or gained from this other than the appreciation of other fans. WARNING: OotP spoilers.
Harry wandered up and down along the shelves of the library at Grimmauld Place, kicking at the rugs and jumping out of the way of those that tried to bite at his toes. Mrs. Weasley's cleaning efforts had cleared out most of the dangerous books over the past year, and Harry was left scanning titles like "Potions for the Pureblood" and "Dangerous Dark Creatures and Methods for Extermination." The house was silent, except for the occasional creak of the old wooden floors. He'd been there barely an hour and already the feeling of loss in his stomach had overwhelmed him. Everywhere in the house reminded him of Sirius. The chair Sirius had sat in at dinner, the book Sirius had been reading when they were last in the library, the tapestry that Sirius had hated so much…
The floorboards upstairs creaked ominously and Harry glanced up at the ceiling. The Weasleys had picked him up and brought him to Grimmauld Place, but they had to go back to the Burrow to collect Ron and Ginny's school things before moving in for the last few weeks of the summer. The routine was going to be the same as the year before. They would stay at headquarters until the term began when they'd be accompanied by Moody, Tonks, and Lupin to the train.
So, on his first day at the one place other than Hogwarts and the Burrow that Harry sort of considered his home, he was all alone.
Well, not completely alone. Remus Lupin was upstairs somewhere, in a guest bedroom he had claimed for his own when he and Sirius had moved in. It had been a full moon the night before and Molly Weasley had informed Harry to let Lupin rest and to keep himself busy downstairs. But Harry could hear someone moving about upstairs and he figured Lupin had to be up and about.
"Perhaps he'd like some tea?" Harry thought. He made his way to the kitchen and scrounged around for a teapot that wasn't made of pure goblin silver, like all of the Black family tea service. Finally, he came upon an old, cracked China teapot and brewed a bit of lemon tea. Grabbing two cups, he jogged past the creepy house-elf heads in the front foyer and made his way up the stairs.
There was a door shut and bolted at the end of the hallway that had a faint light coming from underneath. Harry approached it and put his ear to the wall. From inside, he could hear a chair move and the sound of papers shuffling. He raised his hand and knocked.
"Hold on a moment," called out a voice, hoarse and barely audible. The bolt on the door slid open and the voice called out again.
Harry pushed open the heavy mahogany door to find his former Dark Arts professor sitting at an old desk, covered in papers. Remus Lupin looked like an utter mess. He was wearing an old house coat and slippers with flannel sleep pants. His hair was sticking up at odd angles and his eyes were sunk deep into their sockets, surrounded by dark purplish shadows. Stubble lined his jaw and crept down his neck, and his cheeks were flushed slightly pink. Other than that bit of color, he was pale as death.
"Hi, Harry," he said, forcing the same smile he'd put on the day Harry wished him farewell when he'd resigned from his teaching post, and the same smile he'd worn when they parted at the train last year. "I'm sorry I didn't come to fetch you this morning. I wasn't quite in any state to go anywhe…"
He broke off, coughing. When the fit finally ceased, he continued,
"Sorry. As I said, I wasn't in a state to be going anywhere. How are you? Come in, sit down."
He gestured to a nearby arm chair and Harry came further into the large room.
"Do you want some tea?" he asked. "I thought maybe you would. I just made it. If you just want to go back to bed, I understand. Mrs. Weasley told me not to bother you."
Lupin smiled tiredly and shook his head.
"You're not bothering me. Tea would be lovely, Harry. I'd enjoy the company."
He got up and crossed the room to sink down onto the sofa opposite the boy, watching as Harry poured out the cups.
"Was it…was it bad?" asked Harry, handing Lupin a cup. "Last night, I mean?"
Lupin gave a soft, bitter chuckle.
"No," he replied. "I…well, never mind. Let's just say it hasn't been the best three months and it's getting to me on the moons."
Harry took a sip of tea and looked up.
"Because of Sirius, you mean?"
Lupin nearly choked and gave an odd, strangled sound. His cup clattered down onto his saucer and he set it on the nearby table.
"Sorry," he said. "No, not that. It's just been a long summer."
He paused, coughing softly into the crook of his arm.
"You miss him, don't you?" he asked when the coughing faded.
"Do you miss him more than my mom and dad?" Harry asked softly.
"Gods," sighed Remus. "I miss them everyday. But it's faded…that hurt…"
He paused for a moment, gathering his teacup back into his hands and looking down into the liquid.
"With Sirius, it was…it was like I got him back and then…then he was gone again. It feels like it was a dream…"
He stopped and looked up at Harry.
"I shouldn't be talking about this nonsense with you," he said, smiling wearily. "How are you? How was your summer?"
Harry shook his head and sighed.
"It was fine. Same as ever."
He took another sip of his tea, and then put it down hard so that it clinked loudly on the table and made Remus jump slightly.
"No, it wasn't fine. I have no idea what is going on, as always, and…"
Harry sighed deeply and looked up at Lupin, as if regretting what he had just said. He hastily changed the subject.
"Why was your summer so bad?"
Remus sipped his tea in silence for a few moments before he spoke.
"It was fine."
"Why is it that you and I lie about our lives?" replied Harry softly.
Lupin looked up with a newfound amazement for James and Lily's son.
"Your mother used to ask me that," he said. "You and I, Harry, we're…we're…"
"Different?" offered Harry.
"Different," Lupin agreed and they lapsed into silence again.
"You know things, though," said Harry finally.
"I don't know anything."
Harry sighed heavily and shifted in the armchair so that he was sitting cross-legged on the sagging cushion.
"What do you want to know?" asked Lupin suddenly.
"I want to know about him, and I want to know about my parents. I want to know more than what I saw in the Pensive."
Remus pulled his feet out of his slippers and tucked his legs underneath him on the couch. He coughed a few times and pulled out his handkerchief again to wipe his nose.
"Never mind," said Harry, standing up. "You're ill and I'm bothering you."
"No, no," Lupin insisted. "Sit down. I like talking to you, Harry."
"You didn't talk to me much when you taught at Hogwarts."
Lupin raised his eyebrows.
"You're awfully forward today."
Harry sighed again. "I want answers. I'm sick of waiting around for people to tell me things on their own."
Smiling, Lupin finished off his last mouthful of tea.
"Fine, then. I couldn't very well tell you everything at Hogwarts. Too much of my life with your parents circled back to Sirius. But I'll tell you know. What do you want to know about them?"
Harry shrugged, suddenly looking much younger than sixteen.
"I don't know," he replied softly. "What was my mum's favorite food? What position did Sirius play in Quidditch? What did my dad like to talk about?"
Remus grinned as if a floodgate of memories had suddenly opened in his head.
"Your mum loved corned beef hash."
Harry pulled a face.
"Aunt Petunia loves having me make that."
"James hated it."
They laughed softly at the shared memories.
"Sirius was a Beater. I'm sure you guessed as much. He and the Weasley twins are eerily alike in some aspects. He even talked about opening a joke shop once when he wasn't confident that he was going to be a top-notch Auror."
"He trained to be an Auror?" Harry asked, perking up.
"Almost," replied Remus, chuckling. "He applied with your mum and dad, and his grades were just good enough. But we all went right to work with starting up the Order after graduation. Only your dad had any formal Auror training, and that was private lessons with Dumbledore and Moody."
"You didn't apply?"
"But you had top marks!" said Harry. "You were a prefect!"
"I was...am…also a werewolf," replied Lupin darkly. "I didn't bother to fill out the application. I wasn't eligible to work at the Ministry, so I doubted that the Auror program would be keen to hire me either."
"That's not fair. You're better at Defense than anyone I know."
"I think you've got one up on me there, Harry. You're virtually indestructible, it seems."
Harry snorted in disagreement and looked down at his hands.
"And my dad?" he asked, dropping the previous subject.
"James…" Remus said, smiling again. "What can I tell you about James? Well, he loved your mum wildly, he wanted to open a restaurant, he…"
"What?" said Harry, laughing.
"Oh yes," replied Lupin, laughing too. "He was keen on going into a partnership with Madame Rosmerta at one point in our 5th year. He was a fine connoisseur of Butterbeer in his youth and Firewhiskey when we graduated. He used to talk about opening a place down in Godric's Hollow when he and your mum first got married."
"Why didn't he? He became an Auror instead?"
"It was out of necessity. The world was going into dark times. We needed more Aurors than chefs and bartenders."
Harry nodded solemnly.
"Sirius told me that you wanted to be an Auror, though," said Remus.
"I think I do," replied Harry. "It's all besides Quidditch that I'm good at and I think Professor McGonagall would be disappointed if I told her that I wanted to make a career of Quidditch."
"You'll get in, no problem."
"What did you want to do, then?" asked Harry. "Since you couldn't be an Auror?"
"I didn't have much of a choice," Lupin replied. "Anything that involved human interaction was pretty much off limits. I worked strictly for the Order and did freelance work on the side. Mostly things like clearing out doxies and boggarts and the like."
"That's so unfair," said Harry.
"As Sirius was fond of saying, not much in life is fair. He used to say it was unfair that all of this burden that was placed on you, unfair that I couldn't stay in my position at Hogwarts, unfair that he had to stay locked up in this damn hell hole."
"He hated it here," Harry said, gesturing to the old, decrepit house. "And I…he left…he wasn't supposed to but he thought that I was…"
He trailed off, choking on the words.
Remus stood from his place on the sofa and crossed to Harry. He knelt by the armchair and pulled the boy into a hug. It was uncharacteristic of either of them, but both relaxed into the embrace until Harry finally pulled away, wiping, he hoped casually, at his eyes.
"Thanks," he said softly.
"Anytime," Lupin replied. "More tea?"
"No, thank you. I think I'll go unpack my things. Ron should be back soon."
"Enjoy," said Lupin. "Thank you kindly for the company."
Harry nodded and crossed to the door. Just as he was leaving the room, Lupin called out,
The boy turned back, questioning.
"I know I'm not as hip, or as wild, or as open as Sirius, but if you want to talk, I'm here."
"Thanks. Can I join you for a cup of tea tomorrow?"
"I'd like that," Lupin replied.
Harry nodded and shut the door behind him as Remus sunk back into the sofa, closing his eyes.
For the first time in a long while, he didn't feel so lonely.
"I'd like that very much," he said aloud to the empty room, before reaching for another cup of tea.