Title: where do we go from here (tell me)
Warnings: (Fl)angst, AU (after OotP), non-linear narrative.
Summary: This is, Remus realizes with a start, the longest that he has ever gone without talking to Sirius. The evolution of a relationship in five acts.
Word Count: 2,014
Author's Note: (NB: This was original for pridefulpenguin but had to be assigned).
pridefulpenguin, I have to admit that your request stumped me for the longest time. I'm afraid that, no matter what I tried, this would not let me write it as a higher rating. So I focused on the fluff and angst (emphasis on the angst) part of your request. This is the end result, and while I'm not sure if it's quite what you were looking for, I hope that you enjoy it nonetheless! Title comes from the BtVS episode Once More With Feeling. Many thanks to B for all of her encouragement, hand-holding and quick and speedy beta! ♥
Grimmauld Place is uncharacteristically silent, the only sound that of the continuous clink-clink-clink of Remus’s spoon catching the side of his cup. He stares into his tea for what seems like an eternity, eyes avidly tracing the motion of his spoon as though the whirling liquid holds the answer to life itself. It’s grown cold, but he doesn’t bother to reheat it.
It tastes ashen in his mouth.
Hermione sits across from him, hands folded on her lap and staring at the table with a strange sort of fascination, eyes tracing something Remus thinks must be designs into the top with a meticulous sort of fascination. Remus watches her and idly wonders how many times he can hit his spoon off of his cup before she’ll be forced to look up.
Before she’ll be forced to look at him.
Beside her sits Ron, one hand resting casually on the table, fingers drumming a soft litany of something into the oak. If Remus concentrates, he thinks he can hear him murmuring something under his breath, but it’s far too quiet for him to catch what it is.
"I think," McGonagall says quietly as she enters the room, Dumbledore following closely behind, looking far older than he ever has before, "that we have a problem."
Hermione does look up, then. She casts a nervous glance around the room, and when her gaze lands on Remus, she moves it back to the table almost immediately.
Harry's just about to open his mouth and say something when a hand lands on his shoulder. Almost immediately, Harry falls silent. Remus watches quietly from his place at the table, studying the hand with a sort of detached fascination. "What kind of a problem?" Sirius asks softly from his place behind Harry.
"What kind of a problem?" Snape repeats, voice laced with venom and lips upturned just the slightest in a sneer. "Lupin killed someone, Black. That's an automatic sentence to Azkaban." Snape looks almost gleefull about this.
Sirius snarls at Snape, fingers tighteningdigging painfully into Harry's shoulder. "He saved my life," he says in an oddly calm tone. "Bellatrix would have killed me if Remus hadn't killed her first."
"Perhaps," Snape murmurs, eyes narrowing angrily, "had you not been a complete imbecile and almost gotten yourself killed in the first place, Lupin would not have had to save your neck." The again goes unsaid, but Snape doesn’t have to say it to let it have the same effect.
Sirius scowls, eyes burning angrily with something Remus thinks might regret. "You don't know what you're talking about, Snape."
"I really think I do," Snape replies calmly. "In fact, if we really want to blame someone for Lupin's current predicament, perhaps we should be looking to Potter and his little group of -"
“You leave Harry out of this!”
“Had the boy and his friends not been as stupid and self-centered as they usually tend to be,” Snape continues without pause, “then Black – and all of us – would not have had to go after them.”
Remus gives a quick glance towards Harry, who is staring at the table with a newfound fascination, Ron whispering hurriedly in his ear. Beside them, Hermione looks as though she’ll start crying any moment.
"You’re out of line, Severus," Remus says finally, breaking Snape off. Although his voice is quiet, the rooms falls silent as quickly as though he had shouted. Sirius meets his eye from across the room, a strange, painful sort of expression on his face. "I don't regret it," Remus says, staring back at him.
Molly is the only one who seems to be able to speak. “Remus -”
“I don’t regret it,” he repeats, voice lowering to something just above a whisper as the words come tumbling out of his mouth a second time.
This is, Remus realizes with a start, the longest that he has ever gone without talking to Sirius.
It's been two weeks. Two weeks since Sirius sent Snape to his death, and neither James nor Remus have spoken one word to Sirius since that night. There is a part of Remus that feels just the slightest bit bad about this, because no matter how stupid and rash Sirius can be, he’s still his friend. The thoughts of giving in, though, are never more than brief. No matter how bad Remus feels for Sirius, it is nothing compared to how angry he is with what he did. He could have gotten Snape killed. He could have gotten James killed.
He could have gotten Remus killed.
"Checkmate!" A triumphant shout from James pulls Remus out of his thoughts.
"You cheated," Peter whines, giving James an irritated look.
James looks highly offended at this. "I did not!" he says, running a hand through his hair. "Just because you're rubbish at chess doesn't mean that I cheated."
It's Peter's turn to look offended. "Prat!"
A small smile spreads across his face as he watches his two friends argue. It's a nice thing, Remus thinks, to know that some things don't change. He holds back a full fledged grin when Peter throws a pawn at James.
The grin slips away, though, as soon as Sirius comes through the portrait. James and Peter are too busy arguing to notice, but Remus does. He watches, one hand tightening around his book, as Sirius storms towards the staircase, looking tired and upset. He's staring at the ground, one hand wrapped tightly around the strap of his bag, and it's only when he makes it to the bottom of the staircase that he gives a short glance around the room. He stares at Remus for a long moment, an unreadable look on his face, then hurries up the stairs.
Remus looks back at his book, blinking back something he won't admit are tears, and wonders just how much longer he can do this.
"Sirius, be careful with him!" Lily shouts, eyes wide with fear, as she runs across the yard towards the animagus. "If you hurt him -"
Sirius barely has time to duck as Lily hurls herself in between him and Harry. Changing back to his human form, he glares at her. "Don't get your knickers in a twist, Lily. We were just playing!"
"You could have killed him!"
"I was bringing him his bloody blanket! The Prongslet would not stop crying without it!"
"You obnoxious -"
James and Remus watch from the doorway, matching expressions of amusement on their faces, as Lily hits Sirius upside the head before grabbing Harry and storming back inside the house. A moment later, Sirius sulks in behind her, rubbing at his head and muttering curses under his breath.
James grins at him before giving him a clap on the back. "Tough luck, mate."
"Your wife is mad, Prongs, did you know?" Sirius grumbles as he slides inside the doorway, grabbing Remus's hand and entwining their fingers.
Remus snorts. "She'd have to be mad to have married James."
This time it's Remus who gets hit upside the head. "I hate you both," James mutters before following Lily down the hall. "Prats!"
Sirius gives Remus an amused look. "He loves us."
"Can't get enough of us, really," Remus replies airily, a small grin on his face.
"We'd better go check on Harry," Sirius says in a very dramatic sort of way. "He needs us there to make sure Lily and James don't do anything, you know, parental."
"Too right," Remus murmurs as Sirius drags him down the hall, hand still clasping Remus's tightly.
Remus hops off of the stool amongst cheers, a ridiculously stupid looking grin plastered across his face. He's here, he thinks to himself as he wanders over to the Gryffindor table, he's actually here.
He sits down next to a girl who introduces herself as Lily and across from a sulking, horrified looking dark-haired boy. Remus looks at him for a moment, remembering that he was one of the first few to have been sorted. He can't remember his name.
"Hello," he says quietly.
The boy pulls his eyes away from the sorting ceremony and stares at Remus for a long time. A few moments pass, and Remus is just about to excuse himself and apologize for interrupting when the boy finally speaks. "Hello."
"My name is Remus," he says softly. "What's yours?"
The dark-haired boy looks past Remus for a moment, his gaze lingering on the Slytherin table. Remus looks as well and sees a dark-haired girl giving the boy an angry look. You're in trouble, she mouths to him. So much trouble. Remus frowns and looks back to the boy, who now has a determined look on his face. "I'm Sirius," he says, holding out a hand. "Sirius Black. Nice to meet you, Remus."
Remus can barely keep a ridiculous grin from spreading across his face as he takes Sirius's hand. He's made a friend, he thinks, his first friend. "It's nice to meet you, Sirius."
"Are you going to sit there all night?" a gruff voice asks somewhere behind him, and Remus doesn't have to look up to know that Sirius is staring at him with an irritating half-smile, half-grimace on his face, narrowed eyes studying Remus thoughtfully.
“Possibly,” Remus murmurs softly, turning just slightly to look back at Sirius.
Sirius is silent for a long moment. “Do you mind if I sit down?” he asks finally, dark eyes studying the floor with interest.
Remus nods, and Sirius sits down beside him, one arm resting on the table. "I wanted to -" he cuts himself off, almost as though he's unsure of what to say, and then he starts again. "I wanted to make sure you were okay."
He can't help but smile just a bit at that. It's funny, he thinks, the way that they don't have any idea how to talk to each other anymore. A long time ago, he remembers, they could hold a conversation for hours. Now, they're lucky if they can hold a conversation that lasts five minutes. "I'm fine," he says after a long moment.
"No, you're not." he replies, eyeing Remus critically. "You didn't have to do it."
Remus does look up at this, eyes blazing with something he thinks is fear. "You're wrong," he says, fingers clenching at his spoon painfully. "She would have killed you if I hadn't."
Sirius simply nods at this, because as much as he may want to argue, he knows that Remus is right. If Remus hadn't killed her, she would have killed Sirius without a second thought. "Thank you," he says finally, looking up at Remus.
They sit in silence for a long time, Remus stirring his tea with a renewed vigor, Sirius tapping his fingers against the table softly. Finally, Sirius breaks the silence. "How long are we going to do this?" he asks, staring at the table again.
Remus doesn't have to ask what he means. "I don't think that things can be the way they used to be," he says softly. "You and I...we're not the same people we used to be."
"I know that," Sirius snaps, leaning forward in his seat. "I'm not saying we have to go back to the way things used to be. I know we aren't those people. There's too much between us now for it to be like that. I'm just saying..." Sirius drifts off and bites at his lip, obviously trying to think of a way to say what he wants to without irritating or scaring Remus off. "What if we start over?" he says finally.
Remus raises an eyebrow. "Start over?"
"Start over," Sirius confirms with a nod. He holds his hand out to you and, for the briefest second, the years melt away and it's not Remus-the-Professor and Sirius-the-Convict anymore. It's Remus Lupin and it's Sirius Black, and when Remus takes his hand he can't help but let a small smile spread across his face.
Remus isn't sure where they'll go from here, but at least he won't be alone.