Sirius Implications, Chapter 17: "As best we can"
The animagus' hand strayed to the pocket in which Hope knew he carried around the letters from Harry and Remus. She had read Remus' letter before giving it to him:
I don't really know what to say, but I want to say something. Merlin, Sirius, I am filled with so much anger and so much confusion toward you. But through it all, I am also filled with so much love for you. To me you ARE my brother and I cannot stop caring about you. I don't understand the actions that have separated us, but I suspect you don't, either. Please, my friend, try... I've lost too many of those I love, including you. Come back to us... come back to yourself.
Sirius began crying softly and Hope simply handed him tissues... they did that a lot now. Hope knew this was what the animagus needed. Her ability to pulse him with healing energy had helped, even comforted him, but they both keenly felt the absence of a loved one's presence and support for the suffering man.
The letter to Hope had very little to do with Sirius and was rather a bit more... personal. Both of the letters cheered up the persons to whom they were addressed ...Hope a bit more than Sirius. But then, she reflected, her general spirits were in nowhere near the state Sirius' were. They did have one thing in common, however: they both wished Remus Lupin was at Roanoke, not Hogwarts.
Both Healer and patient were distracted by a soft but rapid and insistent tapping on the door. Hope frowned. The staff knew better than to interrupt her when her office door was closed and the students couldn't disturb her... there was a simple ward over the door when it was closed. She took a breath, handed Sirius another tissue, and considered the fact that it must be important.
She rose and went to the door, opening it a fraction. Bittle stood bouncing on the threshold. In typical fashion he proudly handed her a folded parchment and disappeared with a *crack*.
Forgive the interruption, but I thought you might want to know that Prof. Remus Lupin of Hogwarts Academy is waiting in the ward
"Sirius, I may have some good news for you. Please just stay put for a moment, I'll be back soon." With that Hope disappeared through the door almost as quickly as Bittle.
In a flash she was through the door to the ward and spied Lupin and Bob both sitting, coffee mugs in hand. At the sound of the door Lupin looked up and saw Hope. Without a word a smirking Bob took Lupin's mug and left through the door on his end of the ward. Hope felt a rush of longing and didn't know if it belonged to her or to Lupin and she didn't particularly care.
They met in the middle, embracing so hard that both felt a bit out of breath. Pulling apart slightly, they shared a tender kiss before Hope's professional responsibilities re-asserted themselves.
"It really IS you... I didn't dare hope," she said.
"Remus Lupin to the rescue," he said, smile in his voice, "Always wanted to say that."
Hope felt a small, inelegant snort of amusement leave her. "Well, you are a very welcome presence but I don't know if you know what you've gotten yourself into."
"It's serious enough that my Headmaster told me to forget the rest of the term and come to Roanoke. Is Sirius... he hasn't..."
"No, no... nothing like that," Hope said, then let a sigh escape, "Sirius is physically well but emotionally very fragile. He's made some serious breakthroughs... and revelations. Remus, telling me what he told me is enough to undo anyone; and to deal with it alone in the midst of strangers..."
"He needed a friend."
"Then I'm you're man, I expect."
"Remus, you need to understand that his feelings toward Severus Snape have not changed and he is still quite angry and confused. I do think that will change in time, but first he has to deal with the things he has revealed to me."
"How bad were those things?"
"Bad, Remus... but I think he will tell you himself. He needs to tell you himself."
"Alright, then. Albus told me you needed me to help him and that's why I'm here. When can I see him?"
"Now, if you like, he's waiting in my office," Hope said. Remus nodded. "But I need to say this first, Remus. I don't want you to be dishonest with him about your feelings but I need you here to support him. Can you keep your anger in check?"
"Define 'in check'"
"I don't want you to lie about being angry but If you could try and avoid any outbursts or expressions of hostility for a few days, at least, it would help. Remus, he feels that he's lost the only people he loves... who love him. In order for him to have motivation to change, he needs to know there will still be people in his life who care about him. He needs to know there is hope."
"Of course there's hope! I still care about him... it's just- there's a lot going on."
"I know, Remus, but I also know that you care about him a great deal and that what makes you so angry is that you're hurt and confused by Sirius' behavior; and you've the right. But he's so fragile right now..."
"Don't worry, Hope... Sirius is... he's the closest thing to a brother I've ever had. I've never been closer to anyone. I want to help him. I'll do what you think best."
"Thank you, Remus," Hope said placing a soft kiss on the werewolf's cheek and leading him to the door.
Sirius looked up when Hope opened the door and stepped through. Remus was behind her, following her into the room. The animagus' eyes widened in disbelief.
"Remie?" he asked in a small, hopeful voice.
"Sirius!" the werewolf exclaimed warmly, stepping past Hope to pull his friend to his feet and into an embrace. Hope felt Lupin's surprise and concern at seeing this vulnerable version of his old friend. When the two men pulled apart Hope indicated Remus might sit beside Sirius on the couch.
"I can't ...when did you ...why- ...is everything?" the animagus was babbling.
"Albus Dumbledore heard you were having a difficult time and sent Remus to support you, Sirius," Hope supplied.
"But- ... Dumbledore??"
"Yes, Siri, Albus sent me... just because he's angry doesn't mean he's stopped caring. None of us have, not me, not Harry..."
"But then why can't- No... I know that. But... the term's not over, don't you have examinations?"
"No, my substitute does, Ptolomey help her."
The look on the animagus' face was one of wonder and hope, before he dissolved in tears once again. Remus looked at Hope, distress on his face.
"It's alright. It's good, actually. Here," Hope said, handing him the box of tissues.
+ + + +
"He's so ...different" Remus said to Hope over early morning latte the next day. "I know that it's good but it's ... scary, I suppose."
"He's so... vulnerable, it frightens me to see him so fragile I don't know what to say or do."
"Remus, I told you to be honest and I meant it... when you've got to be honest about something he might find difficult, just try to lead with love... that's all you can do."
The werewolf nodded and took a sip as they continued to walk.
"There's something else, isn't there?" Hope asked.
"The thought of what could render him so... make him so undone, that scares me, too. What will I do when he tells me? Will I be able to handle it?"
Hope stopped and placed a hand on Remus' arm. "You will, it will be hard to hear, but you'll be able to handle it... just follow your heart and you'll be fine."
"Just follow your heart" the words came back to Remus later, as he sat with his friend in Sirius' new rooms. They were seated on the couch facing a large window which afforded a view of the white capped waves of the ocean. There were a few muggle sailboats about on the waves, looking -at this distance- like toys in a child's bathtub.
"I never told you much about my family did I?" Sirius asked, breaking the silence.
"No, you never did, Padfoot." he said gently
"I -I ... I had a brother Remus. His name was Perseus. He died when I was nine..."
+ + + +
When Sirius was talked out, hours later, both men had shed more than a few tears and Remus held the man he liked to think of as a brother in his arms. Sirius blew his nose in a rather abused tissue and let it drop.
"Care for another?" Remus said with a smirk, reaching for the tissue box.
"Thanks," Sirius said with a large sniff.
As Sirius sat up to blow his nose and scrub at his face Remus rose and moved a few steps to the window and looked out into the twilight. He stared for a moment at a point in the distance without seeing it. Finally, he turned.
"I- I had no idea, Sirius... none"
"No one did," Sirius said in a hollow voice.
"I wish- I wish I could just..."
"Just what? Undo it all?"
"Well, yes! But more than that... I want... dammit, I'm so angry this happened to you, to your brother!"
Suddenly, Sirius' expression changed, became more animated.
"Now do you understand? Don't you get it now?"
"Get what?" Remus replied, confused.
"Why I hate him... Snape!"
"Atox?" Remus asked hoping that was the answer and knowing it wasn't.
"NO! Well, of course! But I meant Severus" Black answered, agitated.
Remus was speechless. He felt trapped by his feelings. He didn't understand but he was worried, concerned, about his friend and wasn't sure he should tell him the truth.
"I'm not asking you to lie," Hope's voice echoed in his head.
"Fine," Remus thought, "So what do I say?"
"Just try to lead with love," Hope said in his memory, "That's all you can do."
Remus bit his lip, deciding.
"Sirius," he said gently, putting his hand on his friend's shoulder, "I understand why you hate Atox, but you'll have to explain to me why you hate Severus."
The animagus scowled, "Don't be ridiculous, Severus is Atox' son!"
"Yes, I know that but... I don't understand..."
"He's just like him! I knew that the minute I saw him on the train platform that first day!"
"But," Remus asked, genuine confusion in his voice, "how could you?"
Sirius shook off Remus' hand and rose in agitation moving away and turning back suddenly. "How could he not be just like him he's a Snape, he is the man's Son... have you ever looked in his eyes?" Through the agitation Remus could sense some desperation, pleading.
"Like father like son?" Remus asked.
"Oh, Sirius, but that's not necessarily true!" Remus said, his voice tight with sadness and distress. "Earth and Elements, you're not like YOUR father, not at all!"
"But.. But... no, he has to be..." Sirius said sitting heavily.
"Sirius," Remus said sitting beside him and taking his friend's hand, searching his eyes intently, "Isn't it possible that Severus didn't follow in his father's footsteps?"
"Then why did he know more dark curses than most seventh years before he even started school?"
"I don't know, but I have my suspicions."
"Right," Sirius said, standing up suddenly once again.
Remus rose and moved to his friend. When he spoke his voice was soft, the pain he felt evident. "Sirius, what you've told me today breaks my heart... I hurt so much for you... when I think about it... I can't breathe. Merlin..." The werewolf trailed off, voice tight. After a few breaths he continued. "I've only felt that way twice before and only once this intensely."
The animagus looked up, curious, "When?"
Remus paused, unsure. Finally, he spoke, "Sirius, you remember when you had that flashback when we first got here?"
"Yeah," he said softly, "I - Remie I..."
"No, no... Siri, don't apologize, that's not why I asked. Sirius, I realized you were having a flashback because I'd seen a few before." Remus chewed a knuckle for a moment, then continued, "Sirius, I saw a grown man revert back to a child... a child fleeing his parents in sheer terror... so frightened that... for a moment I thought he might die."
Sirius' brow was drawn in surprise and compassion. "You've seen someone else flashback? Who?"
Remus bit his lip. Had he gone too far? Should he have brought this up now?
"Remus," Sirius' voice was anxious, fearful. "Don't- don't tell me that. You can't."
"You can't tell me it was him... you can't!" Sirius said, voice rising in fear.
Remus moved to his friend swiftly, pulling him to him, "Shhhhh, Sirius, it's alright. It will be alright, I promise."
"You can't promise" a muffled voice rose, trembling.
"I..." Remus started, and then realized he couldn't promise Sirius that... not that. "I can promise you that I'll stand by you. I don't understand, and I'm worried, and I've even been angry, but I care about you, Sirius! I love you like a brother and I don't abandon the people I love!"
"You will, you will once you see!" the animagus insisted pulling away.
"See what, Sirius?"
"No... noooo it means I'm just like him! JUST LIKE HIM! DON'T YOU UNDERSTAND?"
"What means you're like him? Like who?" Remus asked, his own panic rising in the face of his friend's.
"My father! I am like him! If I did that- I AM!" Sirius cried and turning from his friend and falling to his knees beside the couch. He buried his head in the cushions and pummeled them with his fists at the same time.
"No, Sirius, NO!" Remus said, dropping beside him, hands fluttering, unsure if he should touch him. "Sirius you're nothing like him, nothing."
"I am! If he's not - I am!" Sirius cried out becoming even more agitated and beginning to tear at the cushions.
+ + + +
Hope was clearly uncomfortable. She paced back and forward in the faculty longue while her colleagues chatted before dinner. Lila could tell she was anxious about something but forcing herself to do nothing. The headmistress wasn't sure she liked that, but she trusted her healer and forced herself to turn her mind to the comments about English Literature being made by Professor Alex Pope.
As they sat down for the meal Hope was clearly still distracted, uncomfortable. She pushed her food around but did not eat, merely sipping her water, almost compulsively. Soon even this stopped as she sat perfectly still. Suddenly, she rose swiftly, overturning her chair in her haste as she rushed from the room.
Lila opened her mouth and then closed it again, looking to her colleagues. Questioning looks met her gaze. She took a breath. "If she needed our help she would have asked for it." With that, she speared some chicken and resumed her meal.
+ + + +
"I am! If he's not - I am!" Sirius cried out, becoming even more agitated and beginning to tear at the cushions.
"Sirius! Please!" Remus said, trying to catch his friend's frantic hands
Sirius resisted, unseeing, repeating "If he's not - I am!" over and again.
Then, Hope was beside Remus reaching out to catch hold of her patient. Together they managed to catch the flailing hands and turn the animagus to face them. His eyes were wild but lucid as he caught sight of the two people with him.
"Don't you see Remie? I'm just like him!"
"Like who, Sirius, who?" Hope asked, her voice demanding his attention.
"My father! I'm just like Sir!"
"Why? Why do you think that, Sirius?"
"Because if he's not I am!" The animagus tried to pull away and curl into himself but Remus pulled him into his lap, gripping his shoulders firmly while Hope took his face in her hands.
"Tell me what you mean, Sirius," she asked, "If who is not? Not what?"
"S-Severus," Sirius said miserably, still struggling to hide his head, "If he's not like his father then I'm... I -I'm like mine!"
"Why?" Remus interjected, incredulous
"I... He... if Atox abused him... if he made him suffer too ...and then I did..." Sirius trailed off gulping for breath, voice shaking. "I made him suffer, too... I did to him what... what he-" Sirius dissolved into tears and pushed against Remus. "Remie, go away, don't look at me!"
"No, I won't go away! I care about you, Sirius."
Sirius stilled suddenly. "I'm a monster, Remie, who tortured an abused child to exact revenge against him for something he did not do." The weariness and self-contempt in his voice cut through Remus' heart.
"You are no monster, Siri!" Remus choked out
Hope once again took Sirius face in her hands, turning him to look at her.
"Sirius Black, look at me." she commanded in her best "teacher" voice. "You are not a monster, you are an abused child who was deprived of the resources he needed to learn to cope with his feelings. Your father was a monster. Severus' father was a monster. The evil man who brought them together, Voldemort, is a monster, but you are not, do you hear me?"
For a moment all three were perfectly still, then Sirius nodded.
"But what I did..." He whispered, "I did that, no- anyone else."
"Yes you did, Sirius," Hope said gently, "But there are reasons why, the blame is not entirely yours."
"But some of the blame IS mine. It is!"
"Perhaps, perhaps not. But, Sirius, there is forgiveness.. And healing."
"Yes, Sirius!" Remus said, passionately, "Please, trust us, let us help you... we... I love you. I know I'm not your real brother but... Dammit, I love you as if you were."
Sirius caught his breath and whispered, "Still?"
"Merlin, yes, my friend!"
+ + + +
"It's not like the muggle movies, Remus," Hope said later, leaning into him on the porch swing they'd retreated to after a sedated Sirius had fallen asleep under Bob's watchful eye. "People don't just have a nice, big blowout and suddenly life is perfect. It's going to take a while, I long while... but he IS on his way."
"Thank all the elements," Remus whispered, turning to place a kiss atop her head, "When I think what he's been through... my god, why didn't I see it?"
"Probably because he'd been trained from birth not to show anything... any weakness, any emotion, that anything was wrong at all."
"But I should have guessed, I should have known... I claimed to love him like a brother and there he was suffering right in front of me!"
"Don't. Don't you do it, too. There is enough real guilt and shame here without your taking responsibility for what others did. This isn't your fault, either."
They were silent for long moments, listening to the small noises that filled the night. Finally Remus drew in his breath, "Hope, how do you do it?"
"Do what?" she answered turning her head to look up at him.
"Live with it... all the horrible things people do to one another,"
She sighed, "Some days I'm not really sure, Remus. I just do the best I can. Same as you, probably."
"Remus, you've seen a lot of human depravity up close and personal. Voldemort managed to take away just about everyone you truly cared about. Then, the bastard comes back to life to have another go. How do you do it?"
Remus said nothing for a moment, then, "As best I can, I suppose."
FOUR MONTHS LATER:
"Are you sure, Severus?" Remus asked, yet again.
"Remus!" the other man replied, annoyance clearly in his voice, "Will you please cease asking me that?! I wouldn't BE here if I wasn't sure."
"Remus, stop it! Stop treating me like I'm made of spun glass!" he growled, and immediately regretted it when he saw the stunned expression on the werewolf's face. "Remus, your support has been... Remus I can't tell you what it's meant to me. To have someone worried about me is... well it's strange. But I need to do this and I WILL be alright." He snorted, "If you don't believe me, believe Albus. Do you really think he would have let me within two hundred kilometers of this place if he didn't think it would be alright?"
"Well..." Remus conceded, a sly grin quirking the corner of his mouth, "The overprotective old coot DID let you come..."
"HUMPH!" a loud voice broke out from behind him.
"Hi Albus!" Remus said cheerfully without turning as Snape coughed into his hand to cover his amusement.
They were saved by the appearance of a clinic Psychiatric Mediwizard.
"Welcome gentlemen." she said in measured tones, "I am doctor Erikson."
"I am Severus Snape, and this is Remus Lupin and Albus Dumbledore."
"A pleasure. Professor Lupin, Headmaster, you may wait in the room to your right. Professor Snape, if you'll come with me Sirius is waiting to see you. We're all very glad you came."
(Final Author's Note: Many, many thanks to faithful reader/reviewers, especially my fellow OWLs: HiBob and Ozma. Thanks Tarawen for your enthusiasm and interest. Finally, thanks, RavenDancer, for being a true friend and a supportive writing peer!