A/N: Thanks to Durayan, for permission to write based a fabulous piece of artwork, and to Myth for helping me break through a nasty block in Harry and Remus's communication.
Cry With the Moon
Inspired by Durayan's artwork, "Sorrow"
Harry was on the Quidditch pitch, of course.
Remus had expected that much, and not bothered looking for him in the library or the Great Hall. Quidditch was all Harry had talked about--at least all he'd talked about with anything resembling interest--since he'd gotten the letter formally allowing him to return to the Gryffindor team. No captain had been chosen, and he'd even expressed a dim hope that McGonagall would choose him, since he would be one of the two senior remaining team members in his sixth year. A seventh year girl had joined the team the same year he did, and he considered her his primary competition, though he had hinted darkly that Ron Weasley's accomplishments in last year's cup match might give him an edge as well... after all, he had been chosen as a prefect.
"And of course, I haven't flown for the better part of a year," he'd said yesterday, tossing a stone randomly across a path in the park where he'd met Remus for their weekly talk, a pattern they'd fallen into this summer without ever discussing it. It hit a broken swing and bounced off with a dull thud. "I'm a bit nervous."
"Nervous? Harry, you're a natural flyer. You'll be fine." Remus thought about putting a hand on his shoulder, decided against it at the last minute, and put his hand in his pocket instead. "Really, Harry--Minerva McGonagall told me about the first time she saw you fly. One year won't make it disappear."
Harry sighed and looked across the street at a pair of siblings playing in their neat suburban yard. He looked hungry. "I'm different this year," he said. "I feel different."
"We all do." Remus went to stand beside him, watching the little ones play with their plastic toys, the colors unnaturally bright and garish. "But--"
"Life goes on?" Harry asked sardonically. "Is that the rest of it, Professor?"
"I don't know the rest of it. But I do know you'll be fine on a broomstick."
"I'm not so sure. I wish I could find out before I'm expected to go back."
"I have business at Hogwarts tomorrow," Remus said. "You could come with me. Perhaps you could get a bit of flying in while I talk to Dumbledore."
Harry had not asked to be included in the conversation. He was being kept up to date as much as he could be by the members of the Order, and had not taken an interest in learning more. It was this apathy, after last year's heated outbursts, which had disturbed Remus most deeply. It didn't stop at the war and Voldemort. Harry had simply not taken an interest in anything since Sirius...
Remus clenched his jaw as hard as he could. Some sage guardian he was turning out to be. He could tell Harry that he needed to come to grips with Sirius's death, but he could barely finish the thought himself.
At any rate, it was because of this lethargy that Remus had encouraged Harry's love of Quidditch, hoping that it would bring him out of his numb grief. He had expected to come down from Dumbledore's office and find Harry flying around the pitch, maybe chasing the Snitch, or tossing a Quaffle at the goals to see what it felt like.
Instead, he found Harry sitting on the Quidditch ball crate at the center of the pitch, his Gryffindor uniform sagging around him in the hot July sun. He was leaning forward miserably, and his broomstick lay unused across his knees. Even at a distance, Remus could see that he had covered his face with his hands.
Remus broke into a run.
Harry must have heard him coming, but he didn't move. Remus knelt down beside him.
For a long time, Harry didn't respond to his presence at all. He didn't seem to be crying--there were no hitched breaths, no shaking shoulders. He was simply still as a statue, hiding behind his hands. His glasses hung at a skewed angle from one finger.
He shook his head.
"Talk to me, Harry."
Remus moved around in front of him, placed his hands gently on the gloved wrists, and pried them apart. "Harry, talk."
Harry just blinked at him, his face looking oddly naked without his glasses. Finally, he looked down at the broomstick on his lap for a long moment, then looked up again. "The Firebolt," he said. The words seemed to have used up all his energy, and he fell silent again.
It didn't sink in slowly; instead, the idea drove through Remus's heart like a silver knife.
Sirius had given him the Firebolt.
How had he forgotten? So many tests on that broom, so many whispered discussions. And the growing question in his own mind as each test came up clean, because Remus had never had a doubt as to who had sent that broom. Was it possible... could he believe that...
"Oh, Harry," he said. "I'm sorry. I didn't think. I should have been down here with you when you started."
"I didn't think, either," Harry whispered, his voice barely carrying across the space between them. "I wanted to fly. That was all. Then I realized... he gave me... he'll never watch... I'll never..."
He tried to put his hands over his face again, but Remus didn't let him. "Sirius loved to see you fly. He told me over and over about the match he watched as Padfoot, like I hadn't seen the others at all. He said you were as brilliant in your third year as James was in his seventh. He was proud that you got around that Horntail using the Firebolt. Said he wished he could have seen it, but you made him so happy, sending the long letter explaining everything. He said it was the best thank you letter he ever had." Remus tried on a smile and discovered that it fit oddly but securely. "He read it aloud to me twice at Grimmauld Place. It made him very happy, Harry."
"But I didn't do it thinking about making him happy. I was just telling him because I...because I wanted to brag and..."
"Share it with him."
"For me, though!" Harry said with sudden vehemence. "I never did anything just to make him happy, and he did for me!"
"What made him happy was that you wanted to share things with him, Harry. You gave him your trust. That's something you don't give easily, and Sirius was proud to have it."
Again, Harry tried to move his hands to cover his face, and again Remus refused to allow it. He knew the instinct, the desire to just retreat inside the private world of the mind. It was his own anesthetic of choice, but like any powerful substance, too much was harmful. Harry had nearly lost himself in his own daydreams before the Mirror of Erised, according to Dumbledore, and now he was losing himself in the dark labyrinth of his mind, where monsters stalked him in the shadows.
His face twisted, his lower lip trembled, and he looked up at the sky, blinking rapidly.
"Harry, it's all right. If you want to cry, you should."
The silver knife twisted, and Remus clamped his jaw against the pain of it. Harry hadn't spoken the words in an accusatory way, or with any anger, but Remus felt ashamed anyway--had he been so far from Harry that it seemed he didn't feel grief? It was just a statement of a fact as Harry knew it, maybe with the expectation--hope, even--that Remus would understand him.
It was a perfectly justified expectation; that somehow hurt the most. Remus had cried the night it happened, but he had certainly not done so in front of others, not even Dumbledore. There had never been a time in his life when tears were a public matter; he had even hidden them from his parents as a child. He could barely stand to cry in his own company. Tears seemed inadequate. Every expression of grief he could imagine seemed inadequate.
Except when the full moon had risen and the Wolf had howled within him and torn at his limbs as it had not since he'd begun taking the Wolfsbane Potion. The first full moon after Sirius had fallen behind the veil had been a black hole in his Remus Lupin's life, and yet, for the first time, Remus had been grateful to the Wolf. He'd awoken the morning after feeling hollow and husked out, bleeding and in pain, but whole and clean.
But to Harry's eyes, there had been no grief. Nothing he could see. Only Professor Lupin, calmly accepting those things which he couldn't change.
Bloody Saint Remus up on his high white horse, as Sirius had called him once long ago, after an argument in which Remus had managed against all reasonable odds to avoid losing his temper in front of the others. And even when Sirius had said it, Remus had responded only by turning on his heel and leaving the room.
It came out, of course; he'd known it would. He hadn't allowed Sirius to be near him at the next moon because he'd known it. And it would be... unseemly. And frightening. Dangerous. It was part of the Wolf, and it was not meant for human company.
Most of the time, Remus still believed that. His emotions were a private matter.
But not this time. Harry needed to know that he wasn't alone.
"I've cried with the moon, Harry," he said. "Have you?"
Harry looked back down at him, a bit confused. "The moon...? I--"
Remus couldn't help smiling, more genuinely this time. He'd forgotten how literally Harry tended to take things. "I mean it metaphorically, Harry."
"Oh." He tugged downward, and Remus let go of his hands this time. He put his glasses on quickly, then stood up, the Firebolt clasped in one hand like a staff, its bristles pointing to the sky. "I guess I've cried a bit," he said, looking away uncomfortably. "I can't very well howl at the moon on Privet Drive. But I... Well, I just don't... not where people are watching. Not where they can hear." He glanced over apologetically. This was obviously not a subject he was accustomed to addressing.
"I do understand that, Harry."
He looked at the broomstick. "I'd trade it in a second--"
"Trade it to whom?" Remus got to his feet. "Harry, Sirius bought you that broom so you could fly. He wouldn't want it to make you feel like this."
"I know. I was thinking about that." He grimaced, and one gloved hand curled itself into a tight fist. "I can't even do what he'd want me to!"
Remus didn't know what to say, how to push the conversation forward. Someone else should have heard this. Harry didn't need a teacher, he needed someone he trusted. Dumbledore, perhaps--Harry loved Dumbledore. Or maybe one of his friends. Or maybe--
Or maybe, his mind whispered, using Sirius's voice as it usually did now, he wanted to talk to you, you ill-tempered git. Maybe it occurred to Harry that you might understand him. Maybe he trusts you. Maybe you were the first link he found to his father, and maybe it's not accidental that he's waiting on the front step at Arabella's every time you go to see him.
Remus ignored the voice. He genuinely enjoyed Harry's company--more than James's, if ugly truth be told--but Harry's connection was to Sirius first, then to Dumbledore. Remus had no business trying to displace that. He would offer friendship and guidance if it was needed, but it wasn't his place to go further.
Harry had turned around and was looking at him owlishly, waiting for something... anything.
"Harry, life..." Remus shook his head. Life went on--it always did--but he hated that platitude as much as Harry did. What good did it do to say "life goes on" when all it meant was that more painful days were coming? "I don't have any answers Harry," he finally said. "I wish I did."
To his surprise, Harry responded with a sigh of relief, leaning into his broom like a weary old man. "I know," he said. "I just want it to stop... catching me like this."
"I wish there were a charm or a hex I could teach you. But the only one I know is Obliviate, and forgetting isn't the answer either."
"It would be a bit difficult to do on myself anyway."
Remus smiled. "Not really. Foolish and dangerous, but not difficult."
"Foolish and dangerous." Harry returned the smile, somewhat shakily. "I'm surprised I haven't tried it yet."
"Mmm." Remus raised an eyebrow. "Please do me a favor, Harry, and don't. I don't care for Gilderoy Lockhart, and I know I'd have to stop and talk to him whenever I went to visit you."
Harry laughed, then stopped abruptly, looking as though he'd been surprised by the sound of it. "Thanks, Professor," he said. "I'll keep it in mind. Good object lesson."
Remus wanted desperately to keep the subject moving, so he grasped for the only idea he could see. "Harry, when are you going to stop calling me 'Professor'? I haven't taught you for more than two years."
"You'll be back. I may as well not get out of practice."
"Harry, they've passed laws--"
"Stupid laws. I mean, it can't be because you're dangerous. They let Umbridge teach, and she was dangerous all the time. Maybe if Hermione could take a break from elves' rights for five minutes..."
It was working. Harry's voice was gaining strength. And, Remus had to admit, there was something nice about Harry's indignation on his behalf. "I appreciate the thought, Harry," he said. "But things are so fragile with the Ministry right now. I don't want to push it." He reached out to touch Harry's shoulder, changed his mind, then changed it again and placed his hand decisively on Harry's left arm. It was not thrown off. "Anyway," he said, "I understand that there's a fairly good Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher at Hogwarts now."
"Really? Who did Dumbledore get?"
Remus patted Harry's arm, then withdrew his hand. "I meant you, Harry. Neville told me about your classes. He was very excited."
Harry started to protest--he got as far as "I'm not a..."--then just shrugged and smiled. "Neville's good at it."
"With someone who understands him."
"But you understood him, too. I wish... I mean, we all wish you would come back."
"I wish I could."
Harry was quiet for a minute, then he bit his lip. "Professor... when you taught me the Patronus charm, did you... feel good?"
Remus fought a grin and lost. "Yes, Harry."
"And when Neville beat his boggart?"
"I rather enjoyed it."
"What about when Hermione got all the answers right?"
"Always a good moment. And a frequent one."
Harry smiled widely--genuinely--and shook his head in disbelief. "I was starting to think I was a bit odd."
"Not at all."
"Do you remember Parvati Patil?"
"Yes. Pretty girl. One of Sybil Trelawney's favorites, as I recall."
"Yeah. I took her to the Yule Ball during the Triwizard Tournament. She blasted a table into sawdust with a Reductor curse last year." The smile brightened, like starlight revealed when the wind tossed the eaves of the Forbidden Forest. "Luna Lovegood and the Creeveys are a little spotty, but when they're on, they can do anything. Cho has a great Patronus."
Remus felt laughter rising up, not in hilarity but in a sudden, ascending joy, though he had a feeling Harry would think he was laughing at his enthusiasm and restrained himself with some difficulty. "I see."
"And you should see Neville, Professor. You should see him!"
Harry's voice was so earnest, his face so open, that Remus couldn't fight it any more. He laughed aloud. Harry's face started to fall, but Remus couldn't stop laughing, so he offered what reassurance he could by reaching out and putting an arm over the boy's shoulders. "You've caught it, Harry. You really have a healthy case of teacher fever. I remember it."
"I guess I have..."
"Fun, isn't it?"
Harry looked awkward, then nodded and laughed. "It really is."
"You'll be fine, Harry." Remus squeezed Harry's shoulders. "You're going to be just fine."
"Maybe. Maybe I will." He stepped away and looked up at the goals, the Firebolt now held loosely in his hand, parallel to the ground. He took a deep, slow breath, then looked over his shoulder. "Thank you, Professor. I-- Well, you know."
"Yes, Harry. I know. And you're welcome."
Harry nodded and took another cleansing breath. "Are you in a hurry to get back to Grimmauld Place?" he asked.
"Then would you mind if I..." He pointed up at the goal posts and shrugged.
"I'd enjoy it."
"Great. When I get up there, just let out the Snitch. I'll see if I can beat Ginny's time in the last game." He shook his head. "Never thought I'd hear myself say that." He looked at the broom uncertainly, his face pale and nervous then grasped it firmly by the tail. "Here goes," he said, and mounted it, taking off with a fluid movement. A few seconds later, he was soaring above the pitch, taking brief dives and circling the goals.
"Now, Professor!" he called down, his voice not as jubilant as it might have been last year, but strong and somehow relieved.
Remus opened the crate that held the balls, and pulled the Snitch from its tiny compartment. It fluttered amiably against his hand. He let it go.
Harry gave it a moment's lead time to lose itself, then began to fly in a Seeker's pattern, high up, looking for it. He looped around the goals at each end of the pitch, then dove and skimmed low enough that he had to tuck his feet up to avoid the grass. The Snitch caught the light near the far goals, and Harry rose to catch it, giving Remus a grin as he passed.
Remus watched from the center of the pitch, and smiled as Harry waved down at him from the goals, the Snitch flashing like a small sun in his hand.