A/N: Well, it's been a while. Or perhaps a bit more than a while. But what with one thing and another, there haven't really been any time for fanfiction in my life. I'll try to get better. Now that I've started school again, there has to be something for me to do while I avoid doing what I should be doing.
Love and let love
- Funnel of love, Wanda Jackson
And then it was time for Family Therapy. Remus stood waiting by the door with the others, watching strange cars pull up on the driveway. He saw his father's old Saab parking right behind a very expensive-looking red convertible, from which a very expensive-looking couple were stepping out. The woman was tall and very thin, with brown hair so silky and soft that your fingers ached to touch it, but with eyes so cold and sharp that she made you freeze up and cringe and feel ashamed about your own puny existence. The man driving the car was dressed in a well-tailored grey costume. Diamonds glittered on the watch on his wrist and from the studs on his cuffs, and his grey eyes matched them for brightness as well as hardness.
He saw Sirius stiffen at his side, lifting his chin and crossing his arms in such an obvious display of defiance and – somehow – vulnerability, that Remus had to look away. He turned his gaze to the woman hugging Peter. It was a very stiff, cold hug. Peter's mother was looking embarrassed, and seemed to be choking down a large number of angry words. Her husband was looking harassed and repulsed, and wouldn't even touch Peter. Remus felt sorry for the other boy.
James' father was laughing and joking and talking just a little bit too loudly to fool anyone. He also kept boxing his son playfully over the shoulder, until James angrily pulled away and hissed at him that could he please refrain from knocking his shoulder out of joint. James' mother was looking disapprovingly around her. She didn't seem to like the place. You're not alone, lady, Remus thought bitterly.
They were ushered inside by a fussing Lucius, sat down in a circle and then tried to avoid looking at each other. Remus felt his mother's hand on his shoulder, squeezing it, and felt like a painful jolt in his stomach how much he had missed them.
Umbridge started prattling about what they had done during the past week. Remus noticed Sirius' mother checking her nails with a studious air of cold indifference. Now I know where he gets it from, he thought vehemently, but then he saw the unhappy and helpless expression on Sirius' face, and regretted his thoughts.
"Now, Lily, would you please report out your root?"
Remus was sure that he saw gloating in Umbridge's toadlike features, as Lily blushed faintly under everyone's stares and lowered her head.
"I have no root. You know that."
"Now, Lily, please. Everyone else has really tried, and they have all managed to find the root to their homosexual tendencies. I just don't feel you working with me on this. It's like you don't want to be cured."
Lily angrily turned her face away. "What am I supposed to say? I have always been like this. I even married away my Barbie-dolls to each other when I was little."
"And I stole mother's dress and put it on when I was five" Peter said softly.
"Dressing in drag when you're still in your nappies is a bit different from not having enough Ken-dolls" Sirius' father drawled in a bored voice.
"Now, Mr. Black, that was definitely uncalled for!" Mrs Pettigrew hissed.
"Well, pardon me, but we are paying a lot of money to get our kids fixed, not to sit around and listen to sob-stories about anyone's unhappy childhood all day."
Mrs Black giggled nastily. Her husband continued in a steely voice:
"Sirius, I certainly hope that you are getting more out of this than that… nancy-boy over there." He shot Peter a disgusted look. Peter glared defiantly back at him, tossing his head angrily.
"Jealous because this nancy-boy is getting better sex than you are ever going to have with that inflatable doll you carry around on your arm?" he spat at the older man, nodding at Mrs Black. Peter's mother put a hand over her heart in chock and Nanette's parents cried out in outrage.
Mr Black got to his feet. "I've had enough of this crap" he said coldly. "When we get back from Switzerland, you've better have gotten this gay-thing out of your system. Otherwise… You know what'll happen."
"No college, no car, no money" Mrs Black said, staring down her nose at her son. And then they both swept out of the room. Remus could hear Mr Black talking loudly and angrily to his wife as he started his car.
"…sit in a room with faggots and dykes… what do they think we… bloody freakshow, that's all I'm…"
There was a long, terrible silence, and then Sirius stormed out as well. Remus looked out though the window and saw him standing with his back toward the house, watching his parents drive away. And then he turned away, and Remus caught a glimpse of the expression on his face. Quickly, he turned around and let the curtain drop, feeling miserable and strangely guilty.
"Very well" Umbridge said with false brightness, making everyone – including Lucius and all the parents – wince. "Remus!"
Remus jumped as she suddenly barked his name. "Yes?"
"Your root, please?"
Remus first stared blankly at her. Then he sighed, thinking through his well-rehearsed answer one more time. "Well" he said. "I thought maybe… my family?"
"Oh, good. Go with that."
"Well… I… We have always been… this… greeting-card family, right? But there was one year when father couldn't get a job, so he took care of the house and mother supported the family. So when I saw my father being the mother… maybe I got the wrong ideas about the roles of men and women." Remus hated himself for it. It was complete bullshit, and he knew it.
As he had expected, Umbridge was delighted.
"That's it!" She exclaimed, looking so smug that Remus wanted to hit her. "It's obvious. Your father – your natural role-model – was imasculinated! You started seeing men as submissive by nature, and tried to mimic what you saw. That's it! That's why you're a homosexual."
Remus saw his father looking mortified and ashamed, and his mother didn't seem to know where to look, and he wanted desperately to take his words back. It was so stupid. He didn't feel like anything had become better, rather the opposite. He swallowed, trying to get rid of the sick feeling in his stomach. But it just wouldn't go away.
Outside, Sirius was curled up on the stairs, and from the way his shoulders were shaking, Remus knew he was crying.
It was later that day, when all the parents had packed up and gone home, leaving blessings, admonitions, hearty encouragement and small, pointless gifts of candy to their children. Remus almost felt like he was being bribed. But he supposed he shouldn't be the one to complain. He had very distinctly heard Mrs Evans, on her way out, whispering to her daughter: "Wouldn't it be nice with a car of your own once you graduate from here, sweetheart?"
And Lily had gritted her teeth and said nothing.
Remus, however, felt that there were some things he needed to say, so he gathered whatever courage he could spare and went to seek Sirius out.
He found him on the backyard, hidden behind a thorny thicket. He was sitting on the ground with his knees pressed to his chest, smoking one of his nasty cigarettes. For no reason at all, it appeared, he had stolen one of the hairclips that Umbridge had bestowed on the girls. It was pink, and had a pink kitty with large eyes on it.
It was amazing how small he looked, all of a sudden.
Remus sat down beside him, and he moved away. Resolutely, Remus edged after him. Once more, Sirius scrabbled some centimeters over the yellowing grass, leaving a space between the two of them. Remus gave an exasperated sigh.
"What am I? Contagious?"
Sirius didn't reply. He kept staring at nothing, but the hand holding the cigarette was now trembling ever so slightly. And suddenly, everything seemed so difficult. Remus had been so sure of what he wanted to say, but now he couldn't even remember why he had wanted to talk to Sirius in the first place.
"Your… your parents left quite quickly…" he mumbled, and he cursed the air around him for making his voice sound so thin.
Sirius' eyes flickered slightly, and he replied: "Yes. I can imagine it must be painful to sit for so long with a stick up your arse."
Remus winced. "You shouldn't…"
"And why not?" Sirius spat. "They're my parents. I say whatever I feel about them, and if what I happen to feel is pure and unadulterated loathing then what's it to you?"
Remus shied away. "I didn't mean… I just thought… Well, surely they are only trying to do what is best for you?"
"Ha!" Sirius' voice was hollow, and cold, slate-grey eyes looked at him mockingly. "I didn't believe it at first, but that "I'm so sweet and innocent"-attitude really isn't an act. Amazing." He shook his head in what Remus thought was a very patronizing way, but that didn't repel him as it had in the beginning. Having seen Sirius displaying such evident frailty took away the edge from the other boy's words.
"Maybe" he said. "But I… I'm just trying to be cured, so that I can go back to the way I used to live. I don't want to offend anyone; I just want to be normal."
Sirius sighed, looking up at him. "Please, Remus. This whole thing, this latent heterosexuality and making choices… it's all bullsh-t. It doesn't work. You are what you are. The only trick is not getting caught."
And for a moment there was something, something that hurt, in his eyes and in every exquisite line of his face. And Remus asked the question that he knew would unlock whatever chains it was that held it back:
"So why are you here?"
Sirius looked away. "I got caught." His voice, usually so controlled and smooth, cracked ever so slightly.
"I had… a friend. And we… Well." He shrugged. "My mother caught us in my room one day. They – my parents, that is – had told me they were going to be out, so I thought it was… well… safe."
"What were you doing?" Remus asked, and cursed himself when he saw Sirius' lips twitch in amusement, felt his own face heat with embarrassment.
"What do you think?" he drawled, and Remus, who had a very vivid imagination, did not press the issue further. Instead he asked:
"Were you in love with him?"
Sirius sighed. "Does it matter? I was sent here. I haven't heard from him since. I know mother told his parents." He shrugged, making a bitter and rather ugly face. "It ended there. What I did or didn't feel didn't have anything to do with it."
And he stood up and walked away.
And suddenly, Sirius was everywhere. Okay, so they went to every class together, and the premises weren't very big, so it wasn't strange that they saw each other a lot. It wasn't that. It was just that somehow, he became so much more noticeable, and it wasn't like he hadn't been that in the first place. The Healing Hands Centre seemed to be filled with nothing else except Sirius, no matter where Remus turned. And when he closed his eyes to sleep at night, he was haunted by image after image; Sirius wrestling with James during one of the lessons, Sirius doing obscene things with his fingers as soon as Lucius turned his back to him, Sirius and Clarice doing the chicken dance instead of the waltz they were supposed to be practicing, Sirius comforting Peter when he had received just one too many of Umbridge's nasty little remarks. Sirius being silly and shameless and charming and obnoxious and… and Sirius being Sirius.
And Sirius when he tore off his shirt to bask in the sun, Sirius undressing for bed, Sirius coming out of the showers, soaking wet and…
Remus' eyes snapped open as he became acutely aware of that his mind was going in the wrong direction, since his body obviously was very eagerly trying to follow. This was not helped, either, by a sudden stifled moan that from what Remus could tell, issued from Severus' bed. He remembered what Peter had said…
"You're so innocent that it's sweet. He uses it for pleasure. Didn't you listen today? The guy's a masochist. He likes pain. So if you hear some strange noises coming from his bed tonight, you'll know what it is."
…and blushed in the darkness. Where had he put those earplugs?
Another moan – and an unbidden thought of what he might do to Sirius to make him sound like that – later, Remus slipped out of bed, his own shocker clutched tightly in his hand, as if it was his only lifeline in a world that was sinking. He needed to find somewhere private. Not that he was going to do something… embarrassing, oh no, he just… just… that is… He was going to go somewhere where he could better resist temptation! Yes, that was it. Far away from Sirius and sleeping boys and Sirius and masochists and Sirius … well, completely ordinary stuff like that…
And empty room that looked like an office down the corridor proved to be extremely Sirius-free. Not allowing himself to really think of what he was doing, Remus leaned against the wall, pushed down his pyjama-bottoms and… and realised that he was, in fact, not alone in the room.
Quickly getting acceptable and hoping to god that he hadn't been seen, Remus snuck toward the desk dominating the other half of the room and peered over the opposite edge.
Janna. Clarice. And… a definite absence of clothes…
Remus flew back as if an explosion had gone off in front of him, crashing into the wall, with a dull thunk. His mind told him to cry out, and so he did.
It was a very stupid thing to cry out, but it was the only thing he managed. Janna and Clarice were on their feet and dressed faster than what ought to be possible, and both of them tried to grab Remus, attempting to shut him up. Which proved to be a bad idea, considering that Remus was still holding his shocker, and he was panicked enough to use it. There was a brief and – for the girls, at least – painful struggle, and then the lights came on.
The three youths blinked, uncertain, and then all hell broke loose.
"What do you call this?!" shrieked Umbridge. "Premature sexual simulation?!"
"They were kissing!" Remus gasped, but was drowned by a flood of desperate denials from Janna and Clarice.
"Bullshit! We were just… this…!"
"Nothing happened, we weren't…!"
"Janna" said Umbridge, and her voice was low and deadly cold. "I am disappointed. I thought you had what it took to get out of here clear. And as for you…" She turned her gaze on Clarice, and Remus swallowed hastily when he saw the loathing there. But she didn't say anything else, just grabbed the two girls by the shoulders and marched them away. She didn't even look back at Remus. And that was just as well, for the moment she turned away, his knees gave way. He sunk down on the carpet, shivering as if he never would stop.
Remus woke up in an empty room, cringing as memories from the evening before reached him. He had a feeling he was not going to be very popular now. He dressed slowly in the ghastly blue uniform of the Healing Hands centre, watching the clouds drift past outside the widows… which were tinted blue. This place went beyond creepy and careened off on some completely unknown scale.
He dragged his feet on his way to the kitchen, his head throbbing with the beginning of a headache. The passed night kept playing and replaying itself in his mind, and he wasn't even sure he wanted it to stop. Maybe he deserved it.
Going back to bed had been the worst part of it. He had to pass Umbridge's office on his way there, and it had been impossible not to hear the raised voices inside. Janna seemed to be terrified; Clarice anguished and angry.
"I can't go back home. They won't let me!"
"I'm not interested in anyone's sob-stories. I want to know who started it! Who? Someone has got to start talking!"
Shaking his head, trying without success to clear it, Remus gritted his teeth and stepped into the kitchen. A wall of silence hit him. Everyone was staring down at their plates and pushing their breakfast around miserably. Sirius was slumped over on the table with his head propped on his arms. Lily was relentlessly stabbing a piece of sausage with her fork. Peter was sobbing quietly.
Janna and Clarice weren't there.
Trying not to look at anyone, Remus took a seat by the table and started butter a piece of toast that quite possibly had fossilised since it had been put on the table. The scraping of the buttering knife was all that was to be heard.
Clarice was standing in the doorway, a packed bag in her hands. She looked forlorn and a lost, and strangely misplaced now that she was wearing her own clothes instead of her pink uniform. Peter jumped to his feet with a small whimper and drew her into a hug. One by one, they all said goodbye to her, wishing her good luck and telling her to take care of herself. Remus, not sure what to do with himself, just watched. But when she turned to leave, he finally found his voice again.
"Where's Janna?" he asked.
Clarice turned around and looked at him with a gaze that seemed to go right through him. "Umbridge let her stay, but she locked her up in the small outhouse in the garden. I don't know when she'll come out."
"Oh… I… Where will you go now?"
She shrugged, looking uneasy. "Don't know, really. Anywhere. Wherever I go is better than here, anyway."
And she turned and walked away.
Remus sat down again, his head spinning. Clarice had no home now. Probably no money either. What was she supposed to do? Why had he panicked like that? Why couldn't he just have walked away?
"I wish I could've seen those girls in action. Before someone turned Mary Sue on us," Lily said coldly, not looking up from her sausage-torturing.
"If anyone would've squealed on me," Severus said, throwing Remus a filthy look, "heads would have rolled."
"Oh, really? What would you do? Tie him to your bed and zap him to death? Or are you running low on batteries?" There was some muffled, awkward laughter, and Sirius was staring angrily at Severus. "Just give him a break, okay?"
He got no answer, but Severus got to his feet, blushing angrily, and stormed out of the room. Some seconds later, Peter followed him.
Remus said nothing. He was glad that Sirius had defended him, but he sure as hell hadn't deserved it.
"Uhm… are you alright?"
There was a long, awkward silence, and then Sirius put his hand under Remus' chin and lifted it gently but firmly. "I'm not angry with you."
"Oh, so what? You probably just panicked. Clarice wasn't angry with you."
"How do you know that?" Remus tried to look away, but suddenly Sirius' hand on his chin turned into a vice-grip.
"Because if she was, she would've knocked you out flat, you stupid thing." Despite that there was impatience in his voice, his eyes were warm. "She understands, don't you worry. And besides, I don't think she really wanted to be here anyway."
"None of us do," Remus answered quietly. "But that doesn't mean we want to leave. You don't, do you?"
Sirius' face hardened, and he looked away. "No. I don't."
"Well, neither did Clarice. And her parents won't let her come back."
"Well, that's not your fault."
"No! Listen to me." There was a kind of urgency in Sirius' voice that he had never heard before, a deep undertone of emotion that made it tremble and almost fail. "That Clarice has nowhere to go right now is her parents' fault, do you hear me? No one else's. If they don't let her come back home because of something she cannot help, then something's wrong with them. And even if Clarice would've stayed, even if she would've graduated, that wouldn't have changed that there is something wrong with them. You don't try to change your child, Remus! You let them be what they are and you love them for it."
Remus closed his eyes, not wanting for Sirius to see just how deep those words had really struck him. "My parents love me," he whispered.
Sirius' hand loosened its grip on his chin and instead came to rest gently against his cheek. "I'm sure they do, Remus," he said soothingly, "but that doesn't change the fact that this is wrong. They want you to become something you're not, something you've never been." He put his hand over Remus' mouth when he tried to protest. "Don't you try. You're as gay as the rest of us – well, not James – and I'm quite sure that you've never been anything else.
There is nothing that can be done about it. And that is a good thing. We aren't the ones that have to change."
Remus slowly lifted his gaze and looked into the storm of pearly-grey sincerity that was the other boy's eyes. For a moment, all protests were swept from his mind, and he didn't even know why he was trying to argue.
"But… everyone still dislikes me" he finally managed, sounding rather petulant and childish even to his own mind. Sirius gave him a tight little smile.
"They're all frightened. That could've been them, and they all know it. They're just as cured as Clarice ever was. And I think Snape is so terrified that he can barely think straight – pardon the pun. That is why he is being so nasty."
"Why?" Remus mumbled.
"Didn't you see his dad?" Sirius said darkly. "He was stark raving mad. I wouldn't want to be in Snape's shoes if he fails."
Remus looked down, swallowed what he wanted to say, for he had a feeling that it would only do harm. But the question still echoed in his head:
What will your parents do to you if you fail?
A/N: Oh, the drama.
Hah, oh yes, in the movie André says "...before someone turned Nancy Drew on us". I just couldn't resist changing it to "Mary Sue".