Five Times Remus Lupin Never Said, "I Love You" (But Wanted To)
After that night, when his friends (friends, what a joke, he should have known something like him could never have something as wonderful as friendship) cornered him and told them they knew, Remus couldn't face any of them. He'd fled, as soon as he'd seen the certainty in their eyes, the fear in Peter's and the anger in Sirius's. He couldn't bear looking at James, his first friend and the one who'd pulled him into their group, so he didn't know what his eyes had held. He'd ran, mind whirling with half-formed plans of flight from Hogwarts and all civilized lands.
And then James had cornered him once again, frighteningly tall even at twelve. He'd pushed Remus against the wall, eyes fierce, and demanded to know why Remus hadn't told them sooner, why they'd had to piece it together themselves.
"I-I didn't want you to see me as a monster… I wanted you to still be my friends… I'm sorry, I'll move out tomorrow – no, tonight. Just please don't tell anyone else, please, oh god. Dumbledore will be in so much trouble and God, I'm so sorry. I'm leaving, don't worry and, and I –"
His voice was higher than any girl's and choked with tears, and he was determined to look anywhere but at James while words flew out of his mouth faster than they ever had before. Because of this, he never saw James' punch. But he sure did feel it. When he blinked the shocked tears out of his eyes and looked up, it was to see a furious face haloed by the blindingly bright bathroom lights. If Remus had ever read the Bible he'd have thought of Jesus.
"Don't be a prat! You-you stupid –" James's vocabulary didn't contain enough swear words to fully express what he thought Remus was, and so settled for kicking the tiled walls. When he finished hopping around in agony and finally composed himself, or as much as an embarrassed and red faced twelve-year-old can, he muttered, "We'll always be friends you git. You should've just told us."
And right at that moment, Remus was suddenly overcome with the desire to throw himself at James and cry and tell him how much he loves him. His face grew red as James's at the thought and he can't bring himself to do it, it's not manly and god knows that he had enough problems without worrying about being teased for being girly. So he just followed James out of the bathroom and back into the dorm, where Peter was even more skittish than usual and smiled at Remus so hard that he could count every tooth, and where Sirius slung an arm around him in a carefully casual manner and cracked jokes just a tad too forcefully.
(Years later, as he stands in front a burned house with a handful of illegally picked posies in his hands he wishes he had told James right from the start what he felt)
Everyday, like clockwork, Peter would sidle up to Remus shame-faced and beg to copy his homework. Everyday Remus refused, but would concede to patiently work with Peter through the hardest of them. It was Peter's offhand comment that Remus made much more sense than old Professor Oppins that gave Remus the idea to be a teacher. He shot it down immediately of course because who would ever let their child be taught by a werewolf? But he never forgot the idea, nor that Peter had been the one to give it to him. So he was a little more patient with Peter after that, and tried to shield him from the worst of Sirius' bullying.
Peter in turn became more open with him, and Remus learned that Peter wasn't a stupid as everyone, even he, had assumed; that he had a crafty side that lent itself brilliantly to the Marauder's schemes. But also that he a soft side, a vulnerable need to be liked just like Remus did.
One time, after Sirius had been crueler than usual, no doubt blowing off steam after getting yet another howler from his mother, Remus found Peter crying. He was immediately thrown. He'd seen how hurt Peter could get, but he'd also always seen Peter laugh it off. In fact, he seen Peter laugh it off not ten minutes ago when Sirius had snidely commented on how Peter was so stupid and really quite ugly especially compared to the rest of them that it was no wonder he'd never had a girl before, even in their 6th year.
Remus squatted uncomfortably beside Peter as the smaller boy snuffled about what an ass Sirius was. When Peter finally gave him a watery-eyed smile, Remus was filled the sudden urge to tell the boy to kick Sirius in the nuts next time he was such an ass because Peter was a great guy and he had people who loved him, Remus loved him like mad, and he shouldn't let a prick like Sirius get him down. But he knew that guys didn't say cheesy lines like that, especially about feelings, especially to another bloke. So he just told Peter the first bit and managed to get a real laugh out of the boy. Relieved, he convinced himself that he did his duty and fled with only a few pangs of his conscience.
(He regrets not telling Peter how much he was loved, because maybe if Peter had known that he wouldn't have sought it in the arms of Voldemort. But maybes couldn't change anything and as he looks down on the sniveling man lying prostrate before him he can't help but feel a wash of grief and love for the sniffling schoolboy who died all those years ago)
He'd been studiously avoiding Sirius for weeks after The Incident before the other boy finally cracked. On the way to Transfiguration, Sirius grabbed him by the scruff of his neck and threw him into a handy closet, crushing his lips against Remus's to stop the explosion of pent-up fury. Remus was so shocked he couldn't do anything, but not so shocked that he didn't realize that the lips pressed against his own felt good. When Sirius finally broke away, still clutching Remus's lapels like a life raft, he pressed his forehead to Remus's collarbone and cried like a baby.
Remus petted Sirius's hair with fumbling fingers and tried to whisper soothing words while his voice cracked under all the roiling emotions Sirius was inspiring. Sirius finally managed to stop crying and look up at him with red-rimmed eyes that managed to be angry and begging all at once.
"I-I didn't mean to" he whispered hoarsely, and now there is only pleading in his eyes, "I was just so angry, so angry at what he was saying about you. I just… I lost my head. I never meant for this to happen. Please," He pressed himself impossibly closer and nearly croons the words in Remus's ear and all Remus can think is how he can feel Sirius's tears against his neck and how Sirius's lips have swollen from crying and are so close. But then he remembers the pain of betrayal and pushes the other boys away, panting like he'd run a marathon.
He swallowed the desperate "I love you" and "kiss me again" and clenched his fists to avoid shoving the other boy against the door and doing God-knows-what with him, starting to walk back towards the door and sanity.
Then Sirius muttered, "I love you" so hopelessly that Remus had to turn around, and seeing the normally proud Black kneel at his feet, begging like the animal Remus knows he is, nearly shattered his resolve. But he'd already given his trust to Sirius, fully and whole-heartedly, and look where that had gotten him. He couldn't give Sirius his heart, not now, not yet. So he walked out the door and straight to his dorm room to cry over feelings he didn't even know the names of.
(When he sees Sirius again for the first time, he wants to tell Sirius that he loves him, but the broken man before him is not the Sirius that he loved so long ago and so he settles for hugging him so tight they nearly melt into each others. And as he breathes in the smell of rats and dirt and Sirius, he regrets not saying it then, because if could've brought himself to trust Sirius one more time then maybe Sirius would have trusted him as well and this twisted story would never have had to happen)
The first time Harry asked him for Patronus lessons, Lupin had to bite his tongue and remind himself that this boy doesn't know that Remus was there at his birth, rocked him to sleep, and bought him as many toys as his pitifully small bank account could allow. He can't allow himself to shower the small boy in front of him with his limitless love, can't break the carefully construed illusion that allows him to spend precious moments with the boy he still thinks of as at least partly his.
He swallowed his tearful declarations of love and instead simply marveled at child who stood before him, living and breathing against all the odds. And he saw Lily's kindness and James' loyalty and Sirius' brashness (because really, what thirteen-year-old thinks he can master the patronus? And for a quiddich match?) and even Peter's vulnerability. But he couldn't see himself, and he quickly told himself that that's for the best. He can't be any kind of father for Harry, and would never want to be. Harry had, has, the best father in the world and Remus never could compete against James. His love can't hope to hold a candle to James's.
He quickly took a few steps back and assumed his best teaching voice, shaking the cobwebs of memory from his head, and lifted his wand to show Harry the proper movements.
(It's not until Remus is in the carriage and trundling away from the only home he's even known that he realizes that Harry might have needed to hear the words Remus needed to say)
Tonks tells him that she loves him, eyes on the ground, and all he can see is a scared little girl who doesn't know what she's doing. But then she looks up at him and tells him that what she feels is real, and she doesn't give a rat's arse what Remus says about it and her hair flames back into its usual vibrant pink. And then all he can see is a woman, a beautiful and strong and alive woman, and he realizes to his dread and horror that he loves her too. His heart is nearly bursting with it and the intensity frightens him. He begins to move toward her, to do what he doesn't know, when he sees himself reflected in her large eyes.
He sees the grey in his hair, the scars and wrinkles adorning his face, and they're like a cold splash of water rousing his senses once more. He immediately steps back, and he can see the hurt in her eyes but he can also still see himself. Too old. Too poor. Too dangerous.
So he puts on his best teaching voice and gently tells her that he while he cares about her she's too young for him, but that she'll find another better man soon. And she wilts before him, all the color draining from her and leaving her looking as gray as him. He knows that that's all he can do, take her color away, but god, he feels like only she could ever color his world and make it bright once more. But he knows that the price would be too high, so he just pats her awkwardly on the shoulder, once, and turns away.
(Even as he's walking away from her he regrets his decision. But he's never been able to help anyone he loved before, and he loves her too much to not be able to help her. So he just chants his mantra "Too old. Too poor. Too dangerous." under his breathe and hides his shaking hands in his threadbare pockets and walks away. Sometimes he feels like all he ever does is walk away)