The Sugar Quill
Author: Chrmisha (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Lying Low at Lupin's  Chapter: Default
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THE PATRONUS CHARM

Lying Low at Lupin’s

By Chrmisha

 

Summary: Remus Lupin and Sirius Black are forced to face the remains of their tattered friendship. This story takes place after GoF when Dumbledore tells Sirius to “lie low at Lupin’s for awhile.” Can they get past the chasm of hurt and betrayal that lies between them?

 

 

It was late in the evening when Remus heard a scratching at the door. Stiffening, he looked up from his book to listen more closely. Scratch, scratch, scratch. And then, WOOF. There was no doubt who that could be. Opening the door, he was overcome by a large black dog who bounded from the entryway into a standing position, his front paws on Remus’s shoulders.

 

“Well hello to you too!”

 

Padfoot wagged his tail eagerly and licked Remus’s face.

 

“Ugh! Get down, you oaf!” Remus said, pushing the door shut.

 

In a blur of black fur, Padfoot was no longer standing in front of him; Sirius was. Sirius embraced Remus heartily.

 

“Thanks for letting me stay here.”

 

“Of course,” said Remus, pulling back to get a better look at the man he hadn’t seen and barely heard from in over a year.

 

Sirius, in human form, looked gaunt and disheveled. His face was sunken, his hair long and unkempt. His robe hung open over tattered Muggle clothes and through the threadbare white shirt, Remus could count Sirius’s ribs. Too thin, much too thin. But the thing that startled Remus the most about Sirius was his eyes––hollow and haunted. Remus shuddered.

 

“You look like hell, Sirius.”

 

Sirius gave Remus a mock wounded look.

 

“Would you like something to eat?”

 

“You know I’d never turn down food.”

 

Remus wondered how long it had been since Sirius had had a good meal.

 

***

 

As Remus prepared the food, Sirius studied the kitchen. The kitchen hadn’t changed. This was the house Remus was raised in. Sirius had spent many summers here with the Lupins. He smiled at the memories momentarily, before the bitterness of reality closed in around him. Although the kitchen hadn’t changed, Remus certainly had. His hair was flecked with gray and fine lines had settled into his face. The marks of loneliness and betrayal, Sirius thought to himself. He shook the thoughts from his mind. Remus was still skinny, maybe even skinnier now. And he seemed more reserved somehow, less open, less trusting. But that too made sense; Remus had lost everything that fateful night thirteen years ago, why would knowing the truth change everything? Sirius had hoped that when Remus learned the truth things would return to normal. What Sirius hadn’t counted on was the fact that even if Remus could forgive him, he couldn’t forgive himself.

 

“Are you eating?” Sirius asked as Remus set a large plate of food in front of him.

 

“No, I ate already.”

 

Sirius watched as Remus sat across the table, browsing the newspaper. There was a time, not too long ago, that a dinner like this would have been filled with conversation and laughter, not this unbearable, indifferent silence.

 

“There’s more in the fridge if you’re still hungry,” Remus said without looking up.

 

How was it that this man, once his best friend, seemed so distant now. Like they hardly knew each other. Perhaps that was true after all these years. It irritated him how Remus could sit so passively, so controlled, when so many emotions whirled up inside of himself. Surely Remus could sense them; his senses were much more refined than those of mere humans.

 

“Thanks for the food,” Sirius said, feeling a bit awkward, but wanting to break the silence, break Remus out of his shell.

 

“Of course.”

 

“I thought maybe we could talk,” Sirius finally said.

 

Remus put down the paper and clasped his hands on the table, looking closely at Sirius. “What do you want to talk about?”

 

“About what happened.”

 

“There’s nothing to talk about,” Remus said, retrieving the newspaper. “It’s over and done with, we both made mistakes.”  

 

“Moony––” Sirius pleaded, but froze at the look Remus gave him. It was a warning look.

 

“Don’t,” Remus said, a muscle twitching in his cheek.

 

Sirius looked down at the table wondering where to go from here.

 

“It’s late, Sirius, get some sleep. You know where the guest room is. I’ll see you in the morning.” With that, Remus gave Sirius that look, that look that said this conversation is over.

 

Sirius sat at the table alone for a long time before getting to his feet. As he climbed the familiar stairs to the guest room, he remembered running up these stairs as a teenager, running after Remus on some new and crazy adventure. What he wouldn’t give to go back to that time, to be carefree, to do it all over again, knowing what he knew now. James and Lily would still be alive, Harry would have parents, Moony and Padfoot would still be pack mates. And Peter, Peter would be rotting away in a cell in Azkaban for the rest of his worthless life.

 

The door to the guest room was already open. The small room was dark and cold. Sirius wavered in the doorway, shivering. Grabbing the pillow and blankets off the bed, he headed back to the living room. The fire was burning down, but he stoked it and laid on the couch watching it. Sighing, he drifted off to sleep.

 

***

 

Remus lay in bed, memories swarming over him in that state between awareness and sleep. He remembered Padfoot and Prongs and Wormtail. He remembered running through the Forbidden Forest under the full moon, Padfoot pacing him, keeping him in line. Wormtail, the rat, hung onto Prongs for dear life. Prongs was part of the pack too, but not in the same way. Prongs wasn’t a canine. He couldn’t run and jump and frolic the way he and Padfoot could. He couldn’t bury his teeth in Moony’s hindquarters to keep him in line when necessary. And when James had gotten married, Prongs didn’t join the wolf during full moons anymore. Who knows where Peter was, probably cavorting with Death Eaters. Padfoot, though, never missed a full moon. Padfoot, his pack mate, his companion. He never left the wolf alone, not until the end, not until he started doubting him. The wolf had never felt so alone in all its life.

 

Remus jumped when he heard the screams. Blood curdling screams––Sirius’s screams. But they weren’t coming from the room next door, they were farther away, they were coming from downstairs. Why had Sirius slept downstairs? He groaned and lay back in his bed, trying to ignore them. His heart raced. Why was he so angry? Why couldn’t he just forgive Sirius and get on with it? No, he couldn’t do that. He couldn’t let Sirius back in. How could Sirius have doubted his allegiance, his friendship? How could he have taken their relationship so lightly? Sirius had meant the world to Remus, Remus had trusted his life to him, and Sirius had just thrown that trust and him away. He couldn’t let himself trust Sirius like that ever again. Still, the screams bored their way into his heart as he pulled the pillows over his head, willing them to stop. Finally, there was silence. He closed his eyes, his heart still pounding, as he heard movement in the kitchen. Had he been a better man, he’d have gone to talk to Sirius. But right now he was hurt and angry and full of resentment. He rolled over and after a long while, fell back to sleep.

 

Remus got up the next morning feeling rather guilty. Sirius was asleep on the couch, the sun shining through the windows. He went into the kitchen to make eggs and bacon, Sirius’s favorite.

 

“Good morning,” he called, flipping the eggs. His keen senses told him Sirius was standing in the kitchen doorway even though he hadn’t turned around to look.

 

“Hmm,” came the groggy response.

 

“You never were much of a morning person,” Remus replied. He looked over his shoulder. Sirius had moved to sit at the table, his chin in his hands, his eyes closed. “You don’t have to get up, you know, you could sleep some more.”

 

“Hmm.”

 

Remus put the food on plates and placed a mug of straight black coffee in front of Sirius. Remus hated coffee, but knew it was the only thing that got Sirius going in the morning. The aroma seemed to awaken Sirius’s senses; his nose twitched and his hand instinctively reached out for the warm mug and pulled it towards his lips.

 

“You know how long it’s been since I’ve had coffee?” Sirius asked, tasting it reverently.

 

They ate in silence, Sirius still waking up and Remus planning out his day. He had to leave early that afternoon on Order business.

 

***

 

Sirius ate the last piece of bacon and left the remaining toast for Remus. He’d been pondering how to start this conversation, it had been eating at him for the last year and he couldn’t wait any longer.

 

“Remus?” was all he said, but from the look on Remus’s face, Remus knew what was coming.

 

Remus’s fingers had clasped his tea cup more firmly, his knuckles turning white. The neutral expression on his face hardened and his eyes were a cooler gray.

 

“Can we talk?” Sirius pressed.

 

Remus set down his mug and got up to leave.

 

Sirius reached over the table and put his hand on Remus’s shoulder to stop him. “Please, you don’t have to talk, just listen.” Sirius saw the angry flicker behind Remus’s eyes; he pulled back his hand and sat down, clearing his throat. “I need to talk. I need to get this off my chest. Even if you don’t need to hear it.” Sirius’s voice grew quieter. “Even if you don’t want to hear it,” Sirius said solemnly, staring into his coffee mug.

 

He heard Remus exhale and felt him sit back down as the table shifted slightly under Remus’s weight.

 

Sirius took a deep breath. He was sure he’d only have one chance at this. “I wanted to apologize for, well, for everything really, but most of all, for doubting you.”

 

Remus studied the pained look on his friend’s face, but felt a chill go through him at the same time. He had lost so much in such a short amount of time so many years ago; Sirius could never understand what he’d taken from him.

 

“You don’t need to apologize,” Remus said coolly. But he knew that wasn’t true. Part of him wanted to know why Sirius had doubted him, the other part didn’t ever want to know. How could his friend, his pack mate, doubt him? He’d never doubted Sirius, not once. Afterwards, his mind reeled with the news. Not Sirius, it couldn’t have been Sirius. Their whole relationship had been built on trust, and that trust had been shattered into a million pieces that Remus doubted could ever be repaired.

 

“Yes, I do, Moo– Remus.” Remus. He hadn’t called him that in years. He was Moony, always Moony. The name Remus sounded foreign to him. It was a sign of the vast distance between them. This was going to be harder than he thought.

 

Sirius had his elbows on the table and was rubbing his throbbing temples. He had to make Moony understand. He had lost everything when he was sent to Azkaban––a man innocent of the murders he’d been accused of, but guilty of many other crimes, like abandoning his best friend. For twelve long years he’d explained to the Remus in his head how sorry he was, how he’d betrayed him, how he wasn’t worthy of his forgiveness or friendship. Those explanations fell on deaf ears, he couldn’t let that happen now, not with the real Remus Lupin sitting in front of him, a captive audience.

 

Sirius put his hands on the table and closed his eyes, remembering. “I remember when it happened. Dumbledore had warned us all that their was a traitor in our midst. I couldn’t believe it was one of us. It had to be someone else. Still, I kept a close eye on you and Peter. Peter, what a joke.” Sirius snorted, shaking his head. He cleared his throat and his voice changed to something more serious, more somber. “Do you remember that night in Owl’s Talon, that seedy wizard’s bar on the East side of London? It was just you and me after a long day of doing work for the Order.”

 

Remus thought back, absently running his fingers across his forehead. “Vaguely.”

 

“Do you remember the conversation we had?”

 

He searched his memory but nothing specific came to mind, just that he had felt very angry at Sirius, but he couldn’t remember why. He shook his head.

 

“Well, it had been a particularly bad day. We were both in a bad mood, drowning our sorrows in some hard liquor. The war was raging and it was at a point where it could go either way. I had made a comment at the time about the giants and other Dark creatures joining forces with Voldemort and how bad things were getting.”

 

Sirius had a far away look in his eyes, as if he was reliving that moment.

 

“You were very quiet, and I didn’t know why.” Sirius paused. “I don’t remember exactly what I said next, but it made you very angry. And then you said something like, ‘I think sometimes you forget that I’m a Dark creature.’” He stopped a moment to think, absently taking a sip of his coffee.

 

“I didn’t think much of it that night. But it kept nagging at me, in the back of my mind. Your curse is one of Dark magic. Perhaps Voldemort, being a Dark wizard, would have power over those cursed by Dark magic. Perhaps he could control you somehow, get you to do things against your will. I was going crazy with worry at the time,” his voice crawled to a whisper then, filled with shame, “you were an easy target.”

 

He didn’t look up to see the surprised look on Remus’s face, or the look of anger and betrayal that quickly followed it.

 

“And then, after that, I started noticing, or maybe I just was paying more attention, that you didn’t seem as worried as the rest of us. You didn’t seem as upset, or scared. You seemed–– indifferent, almost. That made me think that maybe you’d cut a deal with him or something. I don’t know, it all seems so ridiculous now…” Sirius’s voice trailed off.

 

Sirius looked up to see Remus’s head in his hands. He had no idea what Remus was thinking or feeling.

 

Speaking at the table Remus said, “I didn’t show any emotion then because you guys were all so emotional and so scared; I thought it would be better if one of us appeared strong. I thought we all needed an anchor in the storm we were so caught up in. I decided it would be me, that I would be that anchor. It never occurred to me that my actions might be misinterpreted.”

 

In a quieter voice, Remus added, “I was scared out of my mind, Sirius, just like the rest of you. I just didn’t show it around you. You weren’t there towards the end, you started avoiding me so you never knew, but the wolf went crazy during those months, all that pent up fear and anxiety.”

 

Sirius closed his eyes and let out his breath, a fresh wave of guilt coursing through his veins.

 

“I never suspected you Sirius, not for an instant. When you first started avoiding me, I thought it was just because you were busy. But then I began to wonder if maybe you suspected me.” Remus paused, shaking his head still in his hands.

 

“After it was all over, I couldn’t believe what had happened, I couldn’t believe it was you. I started looking back then, to see if I could make sense of it somehow. And then it occurred to me. You had started avoiding me. That must have been when you’d switched sides, not wanting to be around me for fear I might discover your secret. I tried to convince myself of that.” But I couldn’t.

 

Sirius swallowed against the lump in his throat, his voice breaking slightly as he spoke. “Remus, I’m so sorry. Not just for doubting you, but for abandoning you.” He saw Remus flinch at his words. Abandonment. Suddenly Sirius felt as if he deserved all that time in Azkaban.

 

Before he lost his nerve, he pushed on. “You know, I used to transform every full moon. To try in some small way to give you comfort, or maybe it was myself I was trying to comfort. Either way, I spent the full moon as Padfoot. That was the only time I felt close to you. I could sense the wolf somehow, his sense of loneliness, his sense of longing for his pack mate, his sense of betrayal.” Betrayal. That last word stung in his throat. He shook his head, “Or maybe it was all just in my messed up head.”

 

Remus was very still, staring down at the table, his vision going blurry.

 

“You know, I might not have killed James and Lily myself, but I deserved to go to Azkaban for what I did to you.”

 

Remus clenched his teeth and blinked rapidly to force the tears back, his breath a bit ragged. When he finally looked up a little while later, Sirius was leaning over bent arms at the kitchen sink, staring absently out the window. Remus watched his shoulders rise and fall with each breath. Remus put his head back in his hands.

 

After a long silence he said, “Sirius, I have to leave on Order business this afternoon. I won’t be back until Friday.”

 

He looked up to see Sirius nod, still not facing him.

 

So that’s it, huh, Moony? Nothing I can do to make you forgive me. Not that I deserve it, but I thought, maybe… He heard Moony’s chair slide back as he left the kitchen. Sirius buried his head in his hands, shaking.

 

***

 

When Remus got back, he noticed the blankets and pillows still on the couch, all balled up as if they’d been slept in. Sirius was standing in the kitchen, looking absently out the window into the gardens. Remus stopped short at the sight of him.

 

“My god, Sirius,” he blurted out.

 

Sirius’s hollow, haunted eyes looked through him. Large, dark smudges lay beneath them. He looked thinner somehow, like he hadn’t eaten in days. Remus felt like he was watching a ghost. He put down his things and grasped Sirius by the shoulders, forcing him to face him. Sirius eyes swiveled to meet Remus’s, but still they looked empty, vacant.

 

“When is the last time you slept? Or ate for that matter?”

 

Sirius stared blankly at him but did not answer.

 

“Here, sit, I’ll make you some food.”

 

Sirius obliged, collapsing into a pulled out chair at the table.

 

Remus threw together some ham sandwiches and told Sirius about the business he’d been attending to. It wasn’t anything exciting, but it was something to talk about. Remus set the plate of sandwiches on the table and rummaged through the refrigerator to see if there was anything else he could find that looked appetizing.

 

“Eat,” he commanded, sitting down across from Sirius. Reluctantly, Sirius picked up a sandwich and nibbled at it. Remus did not like the haunted look about him one bit.

 

“Have you slept at all in the last four days?”

 

Sirius shook his head.

 

“Did something happen while I was gone?”

 

Finally, Sirius’s eyes met Remus’s, but they only made Remus feel even more disconcerted. “No, nothing happened.”

 

“Well, that couch certainly isn’t very comfortable, I’m not surprised you can’t sleep on it. Sleep in the guest room tonight, I insist. Not to mention I’d rather not have my living room turned into a bedroom.”

 

Sirius just nodded. He was a guest, he reminded himself. He would do as Remus asked. In fact, he thought, he’d do just about anything Remus asked if it meant regaining his trust.

 

After Sirius had finished eating, Remus put their plates in the sink. “Go, get some rest.”

 

Sirius looked at him with empty eyes that sent shivers up Remus’s spine.

 

“Please, we can talk in the morning if you like.” About anything, I don’t care. Just don’t look at me like that.

 

***

 

Sirius padded heavily up the stairs, collapsing on the guest bed fully clothed. He shut his eyes against the darkness, pulling the covers over his head and trying to steady his breathing. He hated the darkness, and he dreaded the dreams that encroached on his consciousness, pulling at him, punishing him.

 

He awoke in a cold sweat. He felt like he couldn’t breath and his heart was trying to pound its way out of his chest. He was shaking, or maybe he was being shaken. His mouth was dry––and open. He must have been screaming again. Ugh.  The memories came rushing back, the terror, the dementors. He squeezed his eyes shut, trying to make them go away.

 

“Sirius?”

 

The soft voice filtered through his consciousness as he felt a warm hand pressing against his shoulder. He realized that that hand wasn’t just placed there, it had always been there. It had been there when he woke up, it had probably been there when he was screaming.

 

Sirius turned his eyes to meet the gray ones that were filled with compassion and concern. “Moony?”

 

Remus nodded, a sad smile on his face. “Move over.”

 

Sirius looked up at him for a second before scooting to the far side of the bed. Remus crawled in beside him, still looking into those desperately haunted eyes.

 

“I’m sorry too. I’m sorry you suffered all those years, and still now.” Remus thought he saw something akin to life flash behind Sirius’s dark eyes. “And, Padfoot, I do forgive you, for doubting me.”

 

“And for abandoning you?”

 

Remus cringed inwardly. That one was a bit harder.

 

Sirius looked away. “I don’t blame you, Moony, I wouldn’t forgive me either.”

 

Remus put a hand on Sirius’s shoulder. “You’ll have to convince the wolf on that one, Padfoot.”

 

Sirius noticed the small smile slip across Remus’s lips. The wolf was asking for his pack mate. Sirius closed his eyes and let out a relieved breath. The next full moon was less than a week away, and for the first time in over thirteen years, neither of them would be alone.

 

“Moony?” Sirius said, looking up to meet those comforting gray eyes. “I hate the dark. I can’t sleep in the dark. And I’m freezing.”

 

Remus seemed to ponder this for a moment before lighting the lantern on the bedside table and digging in his robes for something. It suddenly occurred to him why Sirius had slept on the couch––the fire, the light, the warmth––the antithesis of Azkaban. Remus felt a twinge of guilt for insisting he sleep here in the guest room.

 

“Eat this, it will help,” Remus said, handing Sirius a Chocolate Frog. “There are no dementors here, Sirius, and even if there were, I’d never let them hurt you.”

 

Sirius closed his eyes, letting the warmth of the chocolate and Remus’s words spread through him.

 

“Go to sleep, Sirius, I won’t let anything harm you, I promise. You’re safe here, you’re safe with me.”

 

Sirius nodded gratefully and pulled the covers tightly against his body, shivering slightly beneath them.

 

They laid quietly for a long time, Remus waiting for Sirius to fall asleep before allowing sleep to come to himself.

 

“Sirius?” Remus finally whispered.

 

Sirius looked up to see Remus watching him.

 

“Would it help if you transformed? Does Padfoot dream?”

 

Sirius considered this. “Probably, but I think he dreams more about chasing rabbits and things.”

 

Remus nodded and Sirius shrugged his shoulders. Throwing back the covers, Remus watched in the dim light of the room as the man next to him became a dog. As if it were old times, Remus scratched Padfoot behind the ears as the dog nuzzled next to him, laying his head contentedly on Remus’s chest. Remus savored this closeness and camaraderie, something he hadn’t felt in a very long time. He stroked Padfoot’s furry head.

 

“Good night, Padfoot, sweet dreams.”

 

Remus felt the large dog settle into his chest more heavily as he drifted off to sleep, Remus right behind him.

 

//
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