Ghosts of his Youth

"You can't stay in bed all day, sweetheart. I need you to take Teddy to the toy shop."

There was no response from under the covers. Tonks huffed, hair turning a violent shade of red, and pulled the curtains open. She hoped, fleetingly, that the sunlight would rouse her husband. A grumble came from under the sheets and blankets, and if even possible, seemed to tighten over his prone form.

"Not today, Nymphadora. I just…can't." his voice sounded rough, unused.

She crossed her arms with frustration, standing beside the bed. She bit down hard on her lip. "Remus, couldn't you have chosen another day to go into one of your funks? Does it do you any good? Does it ever make it better? Do you honestly think Sirius would want you to be this way?!" she cried.

Sheets were thrown back rather suddenly. "Don't you dare bring him into this. Don't you dare say his name." His voice was not muffled now and frightening.

Tears stung at Tonks' eyes when he raised his voice. She stood there, letting the tears slide down her face. She was angry at Remus, at herself, and at Sirius even. Years of frustration and work, she wondered if it would ever end. She hadn't known it would be this hard.

"I'm sorry." He said finally, breaking the tense silence.

She ran to the bed, curling in against his back. "No, I'm sorry. I never should have…it's just so hard, Remus." She whispered, running her fingers through his hair. She placed a kiss underneath his ear. "Let me fix this. If only you'd let me in."

The earnestness in her voice must have struck a chord, because his fingers came up to meet hers. And though he spoke no words, the tight entangling of his fingers with hers spoke volumes. He was begging to be pulled up and saved from the dark abyss of his memories.

*

The darkness came and went. It could be triggered as easily as using a certain tea cup or pulling on an old pair of socks. It could overshadow an afternoon, a weekend, or just a fleeting moment. All Remus knew was that he could not escape the darkness when it crept upon him. He merely had to sit there and endure.

One early January morning, Remus tiptoed his way into the kitchen to make a cup of tea. He pushed aside the curtain above the sink and saw that snow had fallen overnight. Feeling as though the wind had been knocked out of his lungs, Remus gripped the edge of the countertop, knuckles turning white. Staring out the window, he watched as the ghosts of his childhood played before his eyes.

Sirius was there, with his pirate grin, dark hair falling into his eyes. He came, weapons loaded, ready to attack with snowballs, kisses, or worse, tickles.

As quick as the vision appeared, it vanished and Remus was left watching his empty yard bleached of all color and life. But he stayed, hoping he'd return, giving him another cherished glimpse into the past.

"Good morning, love."

He heard his wife, but wouldn't break his concentration.

"Remus, darling, your tea has gone cold. What's the matter?"

He stayed still, listening to his heartbeat and the air coming into his lungs and leaving them, counting the seconds to her realization.

"Oh, Remus."

Ah. Only seven this time, he thought without feeling.

He allowed himself to be pulled from the counter and pushed down into a chair. Tea was reheated and placed in front of him on the table, newspaper opened to the crossword, the baby laid in his arms. He took a moment to look at his wife. She looked so tired and worn down and Remus knew it was mostly, if not all, his fault.

"There we go." She said with a smile that barely met her eyes, "I've got to run to the Ministry but I should be back by the afternoon. I think Teddy would benefit greatly from a stroll in the park today."

Remus knew what she really meant, but he nodded all the same.

"Don't forget to bundle up!" She kissed father and son on the forehead and apparated.

Remus relished the silence. He looked down at Teddy, who smiled at him sweetly. His hair was getting more aqua by the day, Remus remarked with a half smirk. Teddy's pudgy little fingers found their way to Remus' index finger and squeezed tight.

"Quite a grip you've got there, Ted." He said, and then with a flash, he remembered that one grey morning in bed with Nymphadora.

Holding on for dear life.

It was then that Remus Lupin vowed to try and heal his wounds and mend his twice broken heart. If not for Nymphadora or himself, then for the innocent and gorgeous life he had created and held in his arms.