Disclaimers: Not mine in the slightest.
Spoilers: Big ones for OotP.
Summary: The life of a werewolf is, by necessity, a
study of control.
Ratings Note: PG-13.
Author's Note: I wanted to see if I could get a handle on
Acknowledgments: To Debba, for audiencing, and to
everyone else who has babbled HP with me.
Feedback: Always welcome. firstname.lastname@example.org
Remus is alone.
This has been true for more of his adult life than it
hasn't, but it still pops up at the oddest times, in the
Molly shares tales of Fred and George's pranks with
an assumed air of frustrated exhaustion and a truer
one of deep-seated pride and affection, and they're
all so *familiar*. Nothing he had done, or nothing he
had done without James and Sirius to egg him on,
It seems wrong not to be able to cut his eyes to the
right, to *that* chair, and be able to share a look, a
memory with someone else.
But Shacklebolt has that chair now, and they had
barely known each other at Hogwarts, years
separating them far more than anything else.
The house at Grimmauld Place is usually empty when
he arrives these days, housing nothing more than its
own carefully applied protective magics, and portraits
(still) shocked dumb with the fact that the Black name
is no more.
There is no one to stalk the halls into submission, and
no one to call him 'Remus.'
Harry looks at him with James' anger in Lily's eyes and
calls him 'Professor,' though he was only one for a year
and probably never would be again. And it's only right,
really. The way of things.
He was first known to Harry as a professor, and Harry
and his friends are young. Such impressions remain,
and never mind the facts of the matter. Well, perhaps
nothing so harsh as that. Remus has a lot of respect for
Harry and his little crew of ever so *serious* young
people, but for all of that they *are* children, and think
When he's out in the world, doing what little he can as
an all-but-outlawed member of society, he doesn't
expect to notice it. After all, even before the Order he
had been more alone than not, save for the rare and
impossible to count on visits from Sirius.
But still, when he uses the Muggle coins to buy the
Muggle papers, when he uses the (still) strange paper
money to buy and keep his spies, it hits him -- there will
never be anyone for him to come home to.
James and Lily won't chide him for not coming to visit
their child, who was sprouting like a weed. Peter won't
invite him out for a pint. Sirius...
Sirius will not descend upon his flat with false cheer and
true affection -- need, even.
Somehow, it's a lot more real now than it used to be.
Something in the wild look in Mrs. Black's painted eyes.
Something in the scent of the wind to temporarily
blunted senses. A million familiar things, and none of
them his own.
It's a surprise, more than anything else. He expected his
grief to be similar to what he'd felt in his teens, after
everything was gone, including his trust. He'd been angry
then, and terribly sad. On the edge of suicide until
Dumbledore had held him in his arms and told him that he
was needed, that it wouldn't always be... the way it was.
The surprise comes in that the man wasn't just comforting
him in the way that all good people must, that he was
He isn't a teenager anymore, and it's been... such a long
time since he's felt anything that strongly. Sometimes he
wonders if he's done himself a injury, but, really, there
were all kinds of reasons for a poor, unsponsored
werewolf to take a firm hold on his emotions and keep
them... under control.
He doesn't regret what the years have taught him about
being cautious, or the way it's second nature to wait
until he has a place to be private, to be *safe*, before
It's just that with Sirius gone, there are no such places
And he doesn't really know any of the Order well enough
Ask for a shoulder to lean on? Some furniture to curse
to flinders while he works out his *feelings*?
Remus chuckles to himself, earning a glare more feral
than angry from the portrait for his trouble. He lifts his
cup to the woman and she disappears, leaving him alone
in the quiet and inescapable sense of age.
There is no room in this world for his grief, in whatever
form it eventually decided to take. Not right now, and
perhaps not ever again. Ah, but the future is what he's
doing his level best to help define, isn't it?
Surely there would be some way to... work it out.
Make friends. Influence people.
Perhaps he could pull Shacklebolt aside somewhere in
the midst of grooming the man to be the next Minister.
"I say, old chap, why don't we talk about old times? Oh,
and while you're at it, could you see what you could do
about taking werewolves out of the realm of our
equivalent of Animal Control?"
The problem is... the problem is that he's getting older,
and there's just too *much* to deal with now. How
would he ever begin?
Unbidden, the image of Sirius: Sprawled in his one
armchair, gesturing wildly with his glass of firewhiskey,
and telling him to get *on* with it, Remus, surely
something must have happened in the last decade to
people *he* remembered.
And if he couldn't deal with his anger then, with the huge
and impossible *fact* that he was no longer the man --
the *boy* -- Sirius knew, and that none of the survivors
would have been remotely recognizable to the young man
in the raddled, tattooed old man's body, that they weren't
the same anymore, that the world had left both of them
behind, that it was what it *was* and nothing could
change it --
He thinks that it should've been better than this. Even with
Sirius' name still blackened, even with the wizarding world
happy without werewolves, it should've been a *reunion*.
The type spoken of in books, with manly hugs and tears,
and long nights spent in cheerfully maudlin reminiscence.
What it had been was... a series of increasingly random
moments stolen from the wider world, in which Sirius
stayed long enough for Remus to feel claustrophobic, in
which they drank far too much and said nothing at all of
any consequence. In which Remus' bed stayed cold and
empty, because he could see nothing in Sirius' eyes but
the reflection of grey hair and age lines, and what Sirius
Well, he didn't know then and he doesn't know now, and,
as it happens, he will not *ever* know.
And really, whose fault was that?
The acoustics in this house are strange. Things that should
be muffled echo, and you were far more likely to hear what
was going on two floors down than what was right next
door. Lupin hears the front door open, feels various wards
falling and being set again, and breathes deeply.
Another mission, or perhaps someone stopping here in an
attempt to find some rest before wandering back out into
the world. If he is lucky, it won't be anyone who wants to
He doesn't think he's entirely up to that.
He spells the water hot again, and tugs the container of tea
closer to the edge of the counter, hoping it will do all the
speaking for him. Wondering, idly, if this might not be the
definition of grief for him now.
The portrait on the wall offers nothing but a view of empty
chairs, and a fireplace more cheerful than it has any right to
Ah, wishes did come true. "Severus. There's water on."
A sniff from somewhere over his shoulder. "I do, in fact, still
possess functional eyes."
"Good on you."
A snort of something far closer to disgust than amusement,
and he can hear Snape pottering around. The scent of
cinnamon tea does its level best to spice the stale air of a
house that hasn't had a window open in decades, and Lupin
thinks about retiring to his room.
Of heading back into London proper, despite the fact that it's
much too soon for any of his spies to have come up with
something useful, or even get themselves killed in any
He settles on closing his eyes against all of it, and tries to
pull up a few memories to play with. His mother's kitchen,
Gryffindor doing something unlikely on the Quidditch pitch,
Sirius laughing, eyes bright with nothing but stolen
"You *do* have a room, Lupin. There's no need for you to
sleep in the kitchen."
"I'm not asleep."
"Meditation? I wasn't aware werewolves took to Mysticism.
Though perhaps you could be someone's familiar."
And there's a sneer in the man's voice, and he really is just
as nasty and unpalatable as he's always been, but... Remus
opens his eyes and stares into a face no more time-raddled
than it should be. Crow's feet creeping around black eyes,
mouth twisted into a sneer polished with practice. He smiles.
"It's good to see you, too, Severus."
A narrow look of purest suspicion, and... something else.
Something that *smells* like concern, despite the raw
unlikeliness of it. Remus smiles a little wider and closes his
James trying to spell his hair into behaving, the old woman
out in the countryside who left steaks for that sweet little
dog who was always crying so much, the --
"I. I'm sorry. About your loss."
Fuck. *Fuck*. "Drink your tea."
And it's a moment that passes so quickly, like slipping into
old, comfortable shoes before you realize you even want
them, like drinking before you remembered you wanted to
be sober tonight, and at the end of it Snape is up against
the wall, and he has the man's robes bunched in his fists,
and he's close enough that Snape's surprised exhale is a
wash of heat and cinnamon over his cheeks. "Don't," he
says. "You don't get to --" He growls to himself and forces
his fists to unclench, his muscles to relax against the old,
familiar need to destroy.
"Well. Albus mentioned that you needed someone to talk
"And he sent *you*?"
Another narrow look, and Snape pauses in the straightening
of his robes. "Do try to think for a moment, Lupin. Would I
really be here for... that?"
He needs to be away from here. He needs... someplace
open, someplace empty save for tiny creatures no one
would miss. He needs -- he hisses to himself and shakes it
off, internally. "Why *are* you here?"
Snape doesn't bother to look at him before spelling away
the mess of spilled tea and broken crockery. "A moment's
peace before I'm forced to return to the company of spotty
adolescents and adult incompetents. Though I'm beginning
to think the company would be better there."
"I'm not keeping you."
Another sniff, and Snape looks him up and down, sizing him
up for whatever private scale the man had behind his eyes.
"You couldn't. But while I'm here, I would suggest you find
someone who *does* want your company, Lupin. The Order
could do without your charming brand of incipient psychosis."
Lupin snorts to himself and goes to make himself another
cup of tea. "Noted, Severus. Now if you could just bugger off
my day would be complete."
"You -- Christ. Lupin. You can't keep going on like this."
He manages, barely, to keep himself from crushing a cup in
his fist. "This doesn't concern you, Snape."
"My *life* is in your hands, you pathetic excuse --"
He forces himself to look -- only look -- at the man, knowing
that whatever's on his face should be enough to get his
point across without resorting to violence. "I think you
want to be very, very careful about what you say next,
The man recoils as if slapped, before narrowing his eyes
again. "And I think you need to step back from yourself,
Lupin. You just threatened me. *After* throwing me
around like a child. Is this really how you want to
And right now... right now behaving like this is *exactly*
what he wants, or as close to it as he can get without
blood being shed. Because Sirius is dead, and had been
dead to him for years before the man had the bloody
stupid *brass* to resurrect himself -- a teenager in
everything but looks, and a prat besides, and none of this
had anything to do with the life he imagined for himself
when he was a child, and none of it was fucking -- fucking
*fair* and. Christ.
He turns back to the cabinet and breathes, slowly and
carefully. Fixes his tea and turns back when he has
something like control.
"You have my apologies, Severus."
"Oh, Merlin's *bollocks*, man, don't apologize to *me*.
Get a hold of yourself. Do whatever it is werewolves do
when they're pissed off --"
"I don't really think rampant bloodshed would be
"Oh, I don't know. I'm sure there are few strays in this
neighborhood that the populace wouldn't miss."
Lupin chokes on his tea, surprised into a laugh. "That's...
that's bloody *horrible*."
A twitch of a smile. "Mm. So am I. So are you, as far as
the Ministry is concerned. Cope with it. *Live* with it.
You seem to have been doing a good enough job of it
until now, and Sirius isn't the last of us who is going to
die horribly before it's over."
"He's the last one I gave a toss about."
"Terribly romantic, I'm sure. And wouldn't he be thrilled to
see what you're making of it?"
"Oh, I don't know. I daresay he'd be rather pleased at the
thought of *you* getting tossed around the room." But it
doesn't come out with anything like what he wants it to,
and he doesn't want to *touch* what it does, and Sirius is.
And he is alone, caught again by nothing but the truth,
trapped in a house full of insane portraits and the miasma
of dark magic, alone. With Severus bloody Snape and a
cup of tea that might as well be ashes.
He slides to the floor and sets the tea beside him,
breathing as evenly as he can manage.
A swirl of black robes and a muttered curse and Snape is
there, pulling him into an awkward, bony hug that he
can't bring himself to refuse. Still. "I'm not going to cry
on your shoulder."
"Color me wounded." Whispered into his hair and Remus
feels himself tense with a scream he won't give, with
everything he won't give and has no one to give *to*. He
forces his head down and breathes in the man's scent, all
ghosts of potions past and something strangely *green*,
like plants chopped down in their prime.
Like the sort of death that doesn't have the courtesy to lie
"It... it will pass, Lupin."
He clenches his fist in the man's hair, not quite yanking at it.
And he does, and holds him tighter.
And Lupin takes it for his own, and doesn't make a