Disclaimer: If you recognise it then I don't own it. Sadly. All characters are property of the marvellous JK Rowling.
This is Remus/Harry slash. Don't like? Don't read!
The Young, The Old And The FoolishChapter One
It is frequently said that sometimes the loneliest you feel is whilst surrounded by people; those who do not understand you or choose to stay away from you. Or sometimes the loneliness from which you suffer is all down to yourself, because you do not need or want the company of other people. Society is simply the rest of the world banding together and you do not belong in it; you are not a part of it, by your own free will of course.
Remus Lupin stared dejectedly at the sofa opposite him as he observed Harry bounce down next to Sirius who promptly wrapped an arm around his shoulders. Tonks grinned at the addition of Harry's presence and leapt onto him, the three of them easily fitting on a two-seater sofa, sprawled over one another. Remus couldn't help the misery and the bitterness which engulfed him at the sight of three people so close to each other as they were. He could have been a strange part of that; he could have wrapped his arm around Harry or had Tonks leaning her head against his shoulder.
A wry smile touched Remus's lips slightly and he hid behind the book he held in his hands. His eyes stared at the words although they did not read or take in the information presented in the writing in front of him. He would have rather been with Harry, growing closer to him as Sirius was doing and making up for the time he had lost with him over many years. After all, they all had time now; they had the rest of their lives to relax and do what they wanted. The rest of their lives to grow increasingly attached to those with whom they fought the greatest war the Wizarding World had ever seen. Except that Remus couldn't do that. He was too afraid although he no longer knew of what.
His phobia of being physically close to other people had originated, he presumed, with the knowledge that he was a monster. The first day that he had realised he could seriously injure or kill another human being, or worse: that he could make them a monster just like himself. He wasn't worthy of being with anyone else, especially not being blessed with the most amazing company anyone could wish for, which he felt he had been. Remus was greatly attached to everyone who lived in Grimmauld Place, and there were more than a dozen of them, but none more so than Sirius and Harry. What he had done to deserve them he felt he would never know although he knew it must have been something wonderful. Sirius, along with James and Peter, had been the first to have to cope with his unusual fear of being close to or touched by anyone else. The fact that the other three were usually throwing themselves around each other chasing the Snitch on foot in the dorms didn't make things any easier for Remus, especially as he longed to join in.
Still, it hadn't been his place to do so, had it? He was the monster that could have torn them to shreds and, even after they accepted him, Remus had made a silent vow that he would never hurt them. It didn't matter to him that they had known what he was and they weren't afraid or hateful of him but he secretly felt he didn't deserve the casual touches that came so easily to other people. The others had questioned his odd behaviour only once in his presence and after that the subject had been dropped with him forever although Remus strongly suspected that they had talked of it greatly between themselves. It seemed odd to think that something which had originally begun as self-deprivation of physical closeness had slowly become something almost akin to a phobia and Remus just wasn't comfortable being particularly close to anyone. Sirius had understood that all those years ago and still did now.
No one else did though. Tonks thought him very strange indeed and most likely very cool and snobbish from the manner with which he always held himself so aloof and evaded her touches. Of course she had been attempting to date him for the better part of a year before Sirius put an end to Harry's confusion on the matter and told him, in no uncertain terms, that short of growing a penis she had absolutely no chance of being with Remus at all. Harry had laughed at that for a very long time. So had Remus for that matter. However, Tonks still remained in the dark on the matter and Remus still felt very insecure releasing that bit of information about himself to anyone. It was only after a very strong argument from Sirius that he had allowed him to tell Harry. Unfortunately this meant that Remus was still hounded on a regular basis by Tonks but Harry was usually there to bail him out.
Harry remained the enigma. Remus wasn't certain what Harry must feel about him although they frequently had long, uninterrupted conversations together over ridiculous amounts of tea on a vast variety of topics. Remus loved Harry's company and he was almost sure that Harry rather liked his as well; at least he often sought him out amongst the many other people in Grimmauld Place who he could have been spending time with. That always lifted Remus's spirits. What lowered them was Harry's expression of confusion at the winces from Remus when Harry so much as touched him on the shoulder. A metaphorical hand had been offered to him many a time from Harry to get out of the similarly metaphorical cocoon he had built around himself, but he had always been disappointed.
Harry sat close to Remus and Remus moved away slightly. If he stood too close then the same thing would happen. Remus fancied that he could almost see the pain in Harry's eyes during these moments and Merlin knew that Harry had had enough pain in his life already. There was no need for him to be adding more of it, not when he loved him so dearly.
Remus stared across the room again, his eyes travelling over the top of his unread book to Harry, Sirius and Tonks. Sirius and Tonks were beginning to argue over something, most likely which one of them was the better Beater, and Harry was listening and looking amused. His eyes flickered towards Remus on the opposite sofa in a way which suggested he had done so before and was just checking to see whether anything had changed since he last looked.
It had changed, although only just. Harry noticed Remus's eyes upon them instead of staring at the book he held in his hands. He hadn't turned a page in a very long time now and Harry wondered why he bothered to use it as an unnecessary shield to ineffectively hide the fact that he was lost in thought. He let it slide; after all, Remus seemed to be lost in thought a lot these days and if he wanted to talk about what was on his mind then surely he would do so without having to be prompted.
"Dinner's ready!" Molly's voice echoed through the house, magically amplified in order that all occupants of the house from the garden to the attic would be able to hear it. It worked well and a moment later Harry, Remus, Sirius, Tonks, Arthur, Bill, Charlie, Fred, George, Hermione, Fleur, McGonagall, Snape, Mad Eye and Kingsley were all seated in the dining room and Molly ran round them all, ensuring that everyone got as much as they needed. Although in some cases she made sure that they got more than they needed.
"A full house tonight," Molly said cheerfully when she eventually returned to her own seat and stared around at her large family, mostly adopted. She couldn't help but feel a pang at the two seats which remained untaken and at the thought of her youngest two children, lost to the war. Ron had died with dignity and bravery as he duelled to save Hermione. She was quickly surrounded by Death Eaters during battle and could not get out alone. Sadly she had escaped with her life, only to see her fiancé fall moments later.
He had been the last from the Order to fall and Ginny had been one of the first. She had not died with dignity whilst in the middle of bravely saving someone she loved. She had been careless and had taken a potion which would supposedly make her the object of all those who laid eyes on her. She had conveniently taken it whilst standing next to Harry and, as the poison slowly killed her, it had been he to chastise her for her foolishness. He had been less inclined to reprimand her behaviour once he found out that she was dead, not unconscious as he had first believed. The fact that his last words to her were: "It's not my fault you were stupid enough to drink a mysterious potion you found, is it?" didn't do much for his self-esteem.
The rest of the meal was conducted in silence from Molly as she contemplated the short lives of her children whilst lively conversation continued all around her and even Severus was seen to smile upon occasion.
Molly walked round and heaped more food onto the plates of Harry, Sirius and Severus, all of whom tried to prevent her from doing so and failed miserably. Her un-debatable excuses for force-feeding them being that Sirius was still very thin after his experience in Death before Remus dragged him back out and that Severus was in a similar state after being on the run from the very Order with whom he worked for the better part of a year before he was accepted back into the fold. Of course they had all argued at one point or another that all that had finished with Harry's striking down Voldemort after destroying the last of the Horcruxes almost a year ago now. That never stopped her however, and she usually piled yet more food onto Harry's plate after that particular reminder.
"If I'm going to be fed to death then you're coming down with me, Potter," Severus muttered to him before repeating the argument which had been used so frequently and, sure enough, Harry soon had more food than he'd had a moment before.
After dinner Remus returned to the lounge in which he'd been sat before and resumed reading the book he had hidden behind earlier on. It was not long before his peace was broken and Harry walked into the room, a book of his own in his hands. Immediately Remus noticed his mistake but it was too late to do anything which Harry would not notice and therefore, too late to do something which would not hurt his feelings excessively.
Remus was sitting in the middle of one of the sofas and, knowing Harry, he would choose to come and sit next to him instead of choosing to lie on one of the other sofas in the room. That would make it so that they were both very close together and therefore that would be very awkward for Remus with the strange illness that he had given himself.
Harry sat down next to him and it was as awful as Remus has predicted. He felt so cruel for doing it but at the same time he couldn't exactly stay sitting with Harry so close to him without wanting to shuffle away… He shrank back into the corner of the larger sofa which he had situated himself on and made the mistake of looking up. Into Harry's eyes.
Harry frowned slightly as Remus moved away from him, unable to conceal the hurt he felt at such a rejection, and a rejection it most certainly was. The man couldn't bear even to sit next to him! It was very puzzling, especially since Harry was beginning to feel that they were getting quite close with their long conversations and the fact that Harry felt he could tell Remus almost anything… But perhaps he had been mistaken.
Remus hated this. He hated that he had brought this on himself and he was strongly regretting the fact that he couldn't so much as touch another human being without feeling the sudden need to escape. He stared up at Harry and saw the flicker of pain before it was hidden behind an expressionless mask. He would never see anything through that, Remus knew; he had tried many a time to discern the smallest amount of information from Harry's countenance when he had looked in such a way but it had always been for nothing. It had to be acknowledged that Harry was, alarmingly, almost as good at hiding his feelings and squashing away himself as Severus and that was not a good thing. Not any longer.
Harry had curled his legs up at the other end of the sofa now, as far away from Remus as he could possibly be without moving and that would have been extremely rude, he knew that. He also knew that by doing so he would have acted in much the same manner as Remus but out of spite. Harry was aware that Remus probably didn't act the way he did for no particular reason and so by mimicking him so childishly it would ruin any chance he ever had of knowing just why the man did what he did…
Remus knew that Harry would never actually come out and say anything about the way he avoided touching him and being close to him at all costs, even though they seemed so emotionally close when they talked together. Still, even then that was usually conducted with the kitchen table between them or the space between two sofas. They were never actually close although often when they spoke together they felt it. The wretchedness that engulfed Remus as he stared at Harry for a moment was overwhelming. There was a space of little more than a foot between them but to Harry and Remus they felt it may as well have been a great chasm for the closeness they felt to the other.
Harry could not last long under the unusual silence which had enveloped them both. The awkwardness between them coupled with the unhappiness he felt at Remus's rejection all added up to an unbearable atmosphere. He was out of there within five minutes when he felt he could take it no longer.
"You know, even when wandering about looking like Christmas was cancelled, people often pay attention to where they're going," Sirius told Harry when he walked into the back of him. He found himself staring at his godfather who had clearly been plotting something or other; he was stood outside Snape's room and nothing good ever came of that. "What's wrong, kiddo?"
"Okay, firstly: the fact that you still call me 'kiddo' when I'm eighteen and secondly: Remus."
Sirius sighed. He knew that he was going to have to have this conversation with Harry at some point and it was probably overdue as it was. He just didn't like the fact that he was going to have to tell Harry that Remus would never be close to him; he was never close to anyone. In that respect he seemed almost like the complete opposite of Harry who was always close to someone and seemed insecure if he wasn't.
Harry found himself being lead into Sirius's room and Sirius sat down on the edge of his bed. Harry sat down next to him, tucking his feet up next to him and watching Sirius with interest as to what he was going to say concerning Remus.
The conversation was short but to the point and when Harry was left at the end of it so that Sirius could jump Snape when he left his room, he lay down on Sirius's amazingly soft bed and wondered whether Remus really pushed everyone away because he had originally felt that he was a monster. Sirius had made it very clear that the issue was not to be discussed with Remus except in the very unlikely event of Remus bringing it up himself but Harry had many questions and Sirius couldn't answer most of them. Maybe Remus wouldn't be able to either, Harry mused as he finally got up off the bed and wandered back downstairs in search of his book which he realised he had left in the lounge. With Remus.
Remus stared at Harry as he re-entered the room, presumably to get his book back after disappearing to who knows where for quite some time. The loneliness he had been feeling for a while now was threatening to take over and become a big issue for him as he watched Harry pick up his book. For a moment Remus feared that he would sit down next to him again and he would be pushed into the same previously unpleasant situation but the reality felt far worse. He watched glumly as Harry curled up on another sofa, as far away from him as it was possible to be. The warm smile which Harry bestowed upon him only seemed to make things more painful and Remus knew that without a doubt that Sirius had been talking to Harry about him.
The loneliness washed over him and the chasm reopened, wider than ever. Remus sighed inwardly, knowing that he had brought this upon himself and resolved then and there that things were going to change.