Author's Note: The product of being up much too late with nothing to do; it's rather sketchy, I know—more of a snapshot of Grimmauld Place than anything else. This fic can be read with photographic illustrations at -plentyofpaperdotlivejournaldotcom, and don't forget the hyphen. (By the way, if you can catch my brief allusion to Bob Dylan, I will fangirl you.)
Also (shameless self-promotion), watch for my not-exactly-epic, but longer-than-usual, Remus/Tonks fic The Wise and the Lovely, featuring as a theme Edna St. Vincent Millay's "Dirge Without Music", as well as cameos by Dylan Thomas and T.S. Eliot. In short, way too much poetry.
by Vintage Blue
He is reading by lamplight, in a stately, derelict Grimmauld Place armchair, half-curled into it in the manner she thinks must have been his as a child.
(When she imagines Remus as a child, she cannot help but imagine him old.)
She has watched him read as if books were anchors bound in cloth; she remembers him stumbling over words in a strange, absent fire that her child-self did not understand, the November after the October she understood only vaguely more. (She asked, once, long red hair coming down her shoulders in tangled disorder. He looked at red-haired child-Dora, put his hands over the book, looked away from her. "It reminds me of something," he said. She thought his voice sounded distant, tunnel-far.)
When he reads to her now (and sometimes to Sirius, but Sirius does not often have patience for poetry), his is sometimes absent-eyed, but he tells her one evening, as Sirius' old record player sings rebelliously into his ancestral home (what did you see, my blue-eyed son?), that he has a future to begin living in (he thinks), and not mostly a past. (All the ribbons are faded in his past, but he has lived in remembering anyway. She laughs at him. "Yes," she says, "trying to be useful in the middle of a war with a dangerous fugitive and England's clumsiest Auror is a profoundly bright future," but she knows. She remembers him saying to her mother, years ago, "Andromeda, your house is warm." She remembers that once he hoisted child-Dora to his shoulders, and his hands were cold.)
She uncurls herself from the hearthrug where she has been sprawling, cat-like. Remus looks up from his blue-bound tome, and she watches, fascinated, as the bones move languorously beneath the skin of his hand. (His hands are scarred, and lined, and perhaps they begin to look tired, but they are not old hands, whatever he might say. It is only his eyes that are old. Sirius said, once, "He's been old since he was eleven," with an exasperated sort of laugh. "Six," said Remus quietly, and glanced briefly towards the dim window and the darkening sky. Six, she thinks, is a terrible time to have to grow up.)
"Have you been asleep?" he says now. The book rests on his lap.
She stretches. "No. Not quite." She feels her hair. It is coming loose: still the dark red-brown she tightened it to this morning before going to work, but it has lengthened, loosened, stretching towards her shoulders as if it, too, is tired. Again, she stretches, arms out before her. "I'm going," she says. "I have loads to do tomorrow. Where is Sirius? I want to say goodbye."
He shuts the book, rests a hand on it. "Upstairs, I think, with Buckbeak. You might want to pass on saying goodbye to him tonight. He's been—well, you saw him at dinner."
(He had been more angry than usual; she wondered if the day was one of the many anniversaries of things he had not yet forgotten. Later, he'd glanced up at a portrait of some dour ancestor and waved his half-empty wineglass at it, made a sardonic toast to the Blacks, and to a bitter legacy.
Sirius, she thinks, has more of a future than Remus, even if half of it is still Azkaban-shackled. Remus, she thinks, only lingers in the past nowadays: Sirius has kept himself in thrall within it, and the past before, perhaps because he does not know how to forget, and is still too angry to learn.)
She smiles, not quite grimly (she is not sure that she knows how to be grim, even now), touches Remus' hand. "It's dreadfully dark in here. I'm going to light some more candles before I go: is that all right?"
He looks at her, smiling too. "Yes," he says. "It would be all right. Thank you, Dora."
She lights him candles, and they glimmer steadily in the night-dark.
(His eyes, she thinks, are really not so old, not in candlelight. It is only the darkness.)