Author's Note: This was written for HGRH35, one of my amazing betas, as a birthday gift. I hope that you all enjoy it as well. MNF
For the Love of Grace:
A Knots One-Shot
Dedicated to Collinda: My inspiration for Grace and for her devotion to the character of Remus Lupin. Love is there for all of us, we just have to be open to it.
Author's Note: This is placed after the events of chapters twelve and thirteen, but before the accident in the lab in chapter fourteen.
August 4, 1982:
Remus Lupin POV:
I know that there are people who find the moonlight beautiful, even see it as a good omen, the way the full moon signals that we have passed through another month and are headed forward to a new one. The predictability of time being on it's ceaseless march. It was a feeling that I had never understood. I hated the moon, ever since I was a small child.
I wasn't surprised years ago, when Muggles sent that ship up there to the moon, and found out that it was nothing, just a lifeless lump of dirt. A dusty and dead mass that did nothing more than circle around the earth, pulling at the waters and making my life hell. No one could fully comprehend what a night like tonight was like.
It always started a few days before, I could feel my body craving flesh. I tried to eat undercooked or even raw meat on those days, but it really didn't satiate the desire. Can you comprehend just how horrific it is to simultaneously desire something, and be moved to near vomiting by the idea of eating it? The feeling grew steadily stronger, until the day of the full moon, I couldn't bring myself to eat at all. Finally, as I reached adulthood, I allowed myself to curb the cravings with small animals when I was in wolf form. A squirrel or badger were easy enough to come by, and while hedgehog tasted good, you had to go at it from the underside, one of those things you learn by trial and error. A real treat was wild boar, and they all knew it. No one commented on what a sloppy eater I was. I never went after deer or foxes, just didn't seem right. I only ate once I was changed over. But part of me always felt the guilt that I desired, craved, needed that kill and the flesh that it brought. I was ashamed of what I was. After days of craving, the painful part began.
Precisely at moonrise, I could feel my body start to rip apart. First, my nails would grow. I had to make sure that my shoes and socks were removed well before moonrise, or else I would ruin another pair that magic could not stitch back together. In honesty, it was best if I was naked before the moonrise. The elongated fingernails made it hard to undo buttons and zippers, and I would just tear at the clothes, again rendering an outfit useless.
I tried to hide this for the first year that the boys, my friends, came out with me. Finally, I had to tell James -- embarrassed and humiliated because I was trying to protect the little that my family was able to give me -- and he understood. In a move of solidarity, they all undressed before they changed over. It was one of those acts, it made no sense for them to do it, since their clothes weren't damaged in their changes, but it meant everything to me. When Ellie joined us, she slipped into the small little toilet area to change, not wanting to be naked in front of us, or raise the ire of her older brother who knew that Sirius would be admiring her in a way that would upset him.
The dynamic between the three of them was always something to watch. There was an ease about their friendship with each other, and eventually me as well. Each one complimented the other, and they were fierce about the different kinds of love that they had for the others. They were the first people that made me feel as if I had a family.
My parents had tried, but given that I was bitten so young, and so little was known at the time, it made it hard on my Mum and Dad. It always felt to me like Mum was afraid to touch me, even when I was just a little boy who was sick and craved the touch of his mother. Dad got better over time, but they both died fearful of what I was. I felt confident of that. I really never had people who loved me until I met the Potters. Sirius said that it was the same way with him. The stories that he told, the things that we'd all see that had happened to him and Ellie at the hands of both his mother and father were shocking. Sirius said that he didn't know parents could love their children until he saw the Potters with Ellie and James. We became brothers -- James, Sirius and I and James and I were Ellie's big brothers. Sirius had always been something else with her.
Something moving among the trees brought me back to reality. Sirius and I were at the cabin again. It was better, having him back with me, as opposed to the months when I was completely alone here while he was imprisoned. Okay, in those months we were both imprisoned, just in different ways. Part of me thought that I might always be that way, but I would never begrudge him his happiness -- he had fought long and hard for it. It was so good to see him and Ellie having a life, and better than that, a future that was bright. I learned about love, and felt it vicariously through both of the couples that I had been close to.
James and Lily had that sort of stormy love/hate passion. They were so much alike, and so in love -- it reminded me of Katherine and Petruchio from The Taming of the Shrew; not that Lily was ever a shrew, but she was strong–willed. It took forever for James to win her over. It wasn't that she didn't share his feelings, she clearly did from very early on. I think it was more that he needed to prove that he was worthy of her. I would have told her on the first day that I saw something growing between them, if she'd asked me. Anyone who would accept me, with my deep and unchanging flaw, as a friend and brother was worthy of her love.
Ellie and Sirius however, they were completely different. Their love was instant, deep, and almost fated in nature. They were Romeo and Juliet. They were Elinor and Edward from Sense and Sensibility. Truly in love but something always coming between them. I had doubted that I would ever see them living with each other, much less having children. Now both were coming true, and if they truly did have the law on their side, they would be wed within a year. If anyone deserved to be happy in their lives, it was Ellie and Sirius, if nothing more than as a reason for all of the pain they had endured to make sense.
Sirius rolled over and lifted his massive head to check on me. We were both lying on the floor of the cabin, keeping warm by the fire and enjoying the very soft bear rug that Ellie had gotten from somewhere that covered most of the floor in the small cottage that was once a starting place for family hunts. She never did tell me what it was that her family hunted. I supposed she didn't want to find out either, for we both had a sinking feeling that it was those like me. It was a popular Wizarding sport in the late nineteenth century.
Feeling assured that I was still calm and hadn't moved, Sirius laid his head back down and made a soft, almost purring–like sound. I knew that he was thinking about Ellie. These nights were more subdued now, since James' passing. We didn't run as much, when we did, it made the memories that much harder to bear. We certainly didn't trample and ramble through the forests like we had when we were at Hogwarts. The joviality of those days was gone, ripped apart one night by...I tried not to think about it, for it still was hard for me to understand why it had happened. It was really the aftermath that I didn't want to think about it. I lost my one shot at love that night.
To this day, I don't know why I didn't tell Grace the truth sooner. I suppose that it was because I was afraid that she would run, even though Ellie and Lily promised that she wouldn't. The three of them, they were almost like the female version of the Marauders, or some sort of trio of seductive witches or even "The Brides of Dracula" from literature. One redhead, one blonde and my brown–haired beauty. Her hair was, is I corrected myself, like pulled caramel; so many browns, both light and dark in it that you couldn't come up with any other way to describe it. If the lights were low in the room, it would look as dark as chestnuts; if we were out in the sunlight, it was a cascade of darkly spun gold and bronze. They were the prettiest girls at the school, and everyone knew it, and a lot of others were jealous.
Grace's eyes, they too were interesting. They were blue, but so blue that they were almost violet in hue. When you got close, really close, you could see speckles of gold in them. Mrs. Potter had always kept a large bed of bearded iris by her back door. Grace's eyes always reminded me of them, the way that the light would play with the purple and yellow and...there were many times that I just got lost in her eyes.
Her lips...there was nothing softer than Grace's lips. I had never kissed a girl before Grace, I haven't really since. It was good for me that she knew what she was doing, because I was completely lacking in technique or variation. I was often awed by the fact that she wanted to be with me. She wanted to hold my hand, she wanted to snuggle with me. She wanted to kiss me! Hell, if I'd let her, she would have been intimate with me. But I always backed away, only let her get so close. Fear is what kept me from telling her. I was always afraid that I would lose her, and in the end, my not telling her is what made her run.
I swear that my heart stopped when she stepped in the way of that curse the other day, taking it for Ellie and the baby. I felt proud of her, and the actions that she'd taken for her friend. At the same time, fear welled within me when I saw her go down. Nothing mattered more to me in that second than getting her someplace safe and protecting her. It surprised me at the time that my feelings were still so strong. We'd only had a few weeks where we were back in each others lives in any way, and here were these deep and profound long–lost emotions bubbling back to the surface.
I sighed and laid my head back down, thinking about Grace still. She'd told me that she wanted to try again, that she missed me, that she knew she still felt deeply about me. I had shied away from her words when she first spoke them. Someone like me didn't deserve someone so beautiful and alive as Grace. I had always hoped that she would find another, one that was worthy of her once we were over. But that didn't happen.
Last night I found Ellie sitting outside alone. I know that she has a lot going through her mind and heart, and her loss of her brother and Lily is never far from her, even with Sirius so close now. I hate when she reads me in seconds, and goes right to the heart of the matter.
"She still loves you, deeply," Ellie murmured. I said nothing in response. Maybe if I was quiet, she'd drop it. "You still love her. Only a fool would let love get away again, my dear friend."
She said nothing else, but it was enough. She'd put the idea in my head before I'd come here, knowing that I'd spend all night thinking about what she'd said. Clearly, Grace wasn't going anywhere. She wanted to see this baby born as much as I did, and would do anything she could to make sure that would happen. She was part of our family. The question I needed to answer was if she was going to be like my sister, or if I would let her be more?
We had talked about that, night and day, when everything had fallen apart. She'd accepted my reasoning for not telling her and I accepted her apology for just running away from me and us after she knew. In my heart I always thought that would be her response. But then she told me that she wanted to try again, that she wanted us to be a part of Harry and eventually the baby's life; as a couple, Aunt Grace and Uncle Mus.
I had to think long and hard about it. If James and Lily were the warring ying and yang of each other, and Ellie and Sirius were star-crossed lovers, then what were we? Beauty and the Beast? Quasimodo and Esmeralda; oh wait, they both die, so not such a good analogy. Remus, stop this, I berated myself, we're not characters from a story. We are real people, and one of us has a rather lethal problem.
I lay there, thinking only about Grace. How I loved her touch. How I loved watching over her that night in the infirmary at Hogwarts. How I....how I still loved her. I guess that there isn't any debate then, is there?
I was thankful for the moonset and the slow knitting together of my body. Since the night was so very quiet, I didn't have a scratch or wound on me, only the places where my flesh had torn so that the wolf's fur could come through. Those wounds healed on their own, sped along by Ellie's potions. The last thing to recede were my finger and toe nails, and they too were quickly back to normal.
Sirius sat up, and turned toward me, still naked. Of all of us, Sirius had always been the most comfortable being undressed. It didn't surprise me to find out that the first time he met Ellie and James, he was naked. He tossed me my pile of clothing, and I dressed, quickly.
"Whoa, in a rush there mate?" he asked me. I knew he was anxious to get back to Ellie, but I was anxious too.
"I just...there's something that I want to...I just need to get back." He laughed at my answer.
We were both quickly dressed, and Sirius put out the last of the embers of our fire, and closed and sealed the house until we next needed it. Within seconds, were we walking through the wards on the little house that we were all sharing now. As I opened the door, I saw her, lounging on the couch, Harry telling her a rather animated tale. I hoped that the toddler would forgive me for interrupting him.
I went and knelt before her, taking her hand.
"Grace, my sweet Grace, I have missed you so much. If you will still have me, please allow me the courtesy of courting you again," I said or asked or whatever the heck it was. The words sort of tumbled out of me, but it was the beautiful smile that broke across her face that was more of an answer before her words reached me.
"Yes, you silly wolfman. Now, kiss me," she commanded. Who was I to deny her? Maybe there was a storybook ending for us too...one that was uniquely our own, and had yet to be written.