The Sugar Quill
Author: Thing1 (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: This Was Falling  Chapter: Chapter 1
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This was falling. But for the first time in his life, Remus allowed everything to come rushing forward. Joy, fear, giddiness, and bitter sorrow all seemed to rush through him at once. There was still the nagging fear that this was wrong, that if he finally let go, and let her in, that he would hurt her. He couldn’t bear that. But that was a maybe, and he knew, he absolutely knew, that walking away from her would hurt her, more than anything else he could ever do.

He stared at her intently. The back of his throat burned and the dull ache he had felt in his chest all day had suddenly turned into a sharp pain. Some detached part of his mind thought ‘how odd – it really does seem to feel like there is a hole in you’. Even wives’ tales and proverbs had their basis in truth. He would not be the first, nor the last, to feel like this. He needed her so much it hurt. Keeping her away from him was too much.

She watched him quietly, never changing her gaze, never changing her expression. Her face was closed, and still. She regarded him will such studied composure, but he saw in her eyes that the face was not showing anything of the struggle playing in her mind. Why am I doing this, he thought. Why are we doing this?

Her pain was as real as his, her fear was as deep, and it just came from a different source. Her fear was that he would leave, that he would decide she wasn’t worth the risk. But she was worth risking everything for. A risk he should have taken long ago.

Remus drew a shuddering breath, then, still never taking her eyes from hers, he quietly and calmly unbuttoned his shirt. He hesitated for a second, before removing it, but in that instant he saw a flicker across her eyes. Trust me. I will never leave you. Let me in, please; let me in.

He was terrified. All the old fears came screaming at him. This would make everything so real; this would make everything so final. She had never met the wolf; she had never actually seen what the physical impact of this horrific curse was. It had all been so distant, almost fantastic, till this instant. Yes, they talked about it, but she had told him once that you can talk about possibilities as much as you like, it still really doesn’t mean you know what you’re going to do when something really happens. Remus felt tears starting to build in his eyes. Oh God, this is it. This will end it all. It’s been so nice pretending, so safe, so sweet. I couldn’t help pretending it could be real. Just for a little while, I needed to steal some sense of loving another person and being loved. It just felt so nice…

"Remus…."

He was so startled when she whispered his name, he felt himself jump. He felt the tears start to crawl slowly down his cheeks. Remus drew a shuddering breath, feeling his face contort in pain, as he hugged his arms tightly around himself, taking a half step back. He finally broke her gaze, and the sobs escaped him. I’ll never look at her like that again. I’ll never get the chance again. I can’t bear this; oh God this hurts too much….

Her arms came around him, holding him tightly to her. He felt her hands grasping his back almost painfully tight as she clenched them into fists. "Stop it, Remus" she whispered against his chest. "Stop it. Don’t do this. Haven’t we suffered enough? Hasn’t there been enough pain? I can’t live with the pain anymore…." He heard the tears in her voice too. " I can’t be alone anymore. I can’t let you walk away from me. I won’t…." Her own voice broke now as she started to sob, still holding him to her tightly.

"Please, Remus," she gasped though her tears, "Please don’t do this. Please, let me in. Please don’t ever, ever let me go. I promise, I promise I’ll never hurt you. Never. Please…."

With that, he opened his arms and pulled her to him, holding her as tightly as she held him. He buried one hand in her beautiful hair, and wrapped the other so tightly around her back he feared she couldn’t breathe. They stood like that for several minutes, weeping quietly, until Remus felt his own tears stop, and he could breathe evenly again. He slowly caressed her back, calming away the last of her own tears, which he could feel soaking one of his shirt fronts, and running down his chest.

"You can’t just push me away. I need you too much to let you do it", she whispered.

"I could never, ever push you away," he whispered back. "I …" He stopped himself before he said it. I just can’t bear to watch you leave me.

"I will not leave you."

Remus froze at those words. She pulled back enough to turn her face up to his. He was suddenly surprised to see how small she seemed against him. Her presence was so strong, so intense, that she commanded attention in any room and always seemed to be larger and stronger than she was. Now, holding her in his arms, he saw that he was a good head taller than her, and it surprised him. He gazed down at her, amazed as he always was at just how startlingly beautiful she looked to him. She had no idea just how lovely she was….

"You are so beautiful. You never let yourself see that, do you? So beautiful…" his voice broke as he felt new tears and a fresh wave of terror go though him. He closed his eyes for a moment, to regain his sense of balance & fight back the fear that was burning in him again.

"Re…" His eyes snapped open and he brought a finger to her lips to silence her. She immediately complied, but her eyes glowed at him. He could see fear in them, and total, complete acceptance. He knew in that instant that if he told her to leave, to never come back, that she would do it because he had asked her to. He also knew that it would kill both of them. There was nothing else to do anymore but to let go.

He let go of her and stepped back. She misinterpreted his actions, and she let out a strange chocked sob.

"No, don’t go…", she gasped. Remus immediately reached out one hand and brought it to her cheek.

"Shhhhhh. I’m not going anywhere."

"Promise?"

He smiled at this, looked her in the eye and said with the first real conviction he had felt in years,

"I promise". She gave him a quiet smile, and brought both hands up to grip his forearm. He noticed that her hands were shaking.

"Shhhhh," he said again, running his thumb gently up and down her cheek. Her eyes drifted closed under his caress, but he could still see tears glinting in her eyelashes. He could have stood like that all night, but reluctantly he pulled his hand back. Now that he had taken this step, now that he knew what he was going to do, he had to finish what he had started.

She was not startled and frightened this time when he stepped away from her. Instead, she calmly watched him as he took a deep breath and removed his shirt.

At first, she did not remove her gaze from his eyes. Then she quietly and slowly lowered her eyes to look at him. He felt sick and scared again, but the damage had been done, and now whatever would happen would happen. He wondered what she was thinking now, as she her expression remained quiet and closed.

Years of biting and ripping at his own body in his mindless fury during his transformations had left him covered with scars. Some were small, like little scratches, which barely showed up against his milk white skin. Others were large, brutal gashes that ripped across him. There was a particularly horrific scar on his left side. Instinctively, her breath caught as she saw it, and she reached out to him. He closed his eyes and marvelled at how warm her hands felt, how soothing it was just to be touched so simply by another living soul.

"Is this…", she hesitated, not knowing how to ask what she wanted to know. But Remus understood.

"No," he said quietly. He reached for her hand, and then placed it on a smaller, more jagged scar on his left shoulder. "Here."

She nodded, and quietly caressed his shoulder, tracing the lines of the old bite. But instinctively her hand ran down his shoulder and chest, back to the horrible, ripping, 10 inch gashes on his side. He saw a tear run down her face, and she looked at him.

"Then, you did this … to yourself".

He nodded.

She didn’t move or say anything for a moment. Then she quietly stepped forward and into his arms. She tucked her head under his chin, and continued to lightly caress the old scar on his side while her other arm wrapped around his back. He held her closely, feeling a little surreal. They stood like that in the moonlight for sometime. Finally, she spoke again.

"Remus"?

He kissed her forehead lightly and ran his hands across her back. "What"?

"How did this happen?"

"What?" he asked again.

"This wound, this is much worse than any of the others. How did you do this to yourself?", she stopped and pulled away slightly to look at him. "You thought that you would scare me, that these scars would scare me. They don’t. Only this one. This one scares me".

"Why that one?" he asked quietly, and she could see that his face had changed and something dark had come back into his eyes. Obviously, her suspicious were right, and there was more to this scar than the others. She didn’t say anything more, but kept looking at him.

Sighing, resolved to do what he had to do, he started to quietly tell her the story, standing there in the moonlight, as the summer air ruffled through the grass in lazy breezes.

"I got that scar from a wound I gave myself the full moon after James and Lily died…." Remus started to tell her quietly.

***

He told her of the utter despair he had felt that night. The events of the last few weeks had been too much to bear. He had only come to fully realize the grim reality of the situation the morning of the next full moon, as he felt the moon start to pull on him and the dull ache he felt before every full moonrise spread through him. All of his friends were gone. He had loved his friends so deeply, and never ever had he imagined being without them. They were part of him, and if he was there, so were they, right? No. Three of them were dead, and the fourth in jail forever for killing them.

As his restlessness grew during the day, he took to pacing his study, running his hands through his hair and ignoring the tears that ran down his face in a constant, unending and unnerving trickle all day. James was dead, Lily was dead, and Peter was dead. Where the hell had he been when they needed him? He was sick, locked away, useless and alone.

He realized with a sharp horror that all the times he had thought he was alone before was a joke. He was lonely, maybe, but he was not alone. Before, he could always, always go find his friends, no matter what. And, more often than not, they had always come to him. Especially Lily; she was constantly coming to collect him and refusing to allow him to spend too much time by himself. But Lily was not coming now. She was not sending James to bring him to their house for dinner. Even Peter, whom they had seen less and less of over the past year, wouldn’t be showing up unexpectedly to have lunch with him and quiz him endlessly about what he was doing fighting Death Eaters. And he couldn’t even bear to think about Sirius. He still could not believe that Sirius…. It had to be some sick misunderstanding. Sirius had promised him, he’d promised him….

The grief and rage he felt as a man became a terrifying fury in the wolf. When he had woken up the next morning, he saw that he had utterly destroyed the room he had locked himself in. Every one of the walls was covered in deep gashes from his claws. The corners of the thick old wooden door to the room had been gnawed off. The shutters had been ripped from the window, and two of the glass panes between the metal stripping were smashed. Dazed, he looked down at his hands, which were throbbing in pain. There was a deep cut on the top of his left arm, presumably from the glass. He stared in horror at his left hand, seeing that two of his fingernails were gone. The wolf had fought so hard to get free, he had ripped out his claws. Gasping for breath, and fighting the wave of nausea that rose in him, he tried to sit up.

An intense pain came from his left side. He reached a shaking hand down to feel what he had done. He felt three deep gashes on his side. They reached from his lower back up to the middle of his chest. They were still bleeding slowly, and he knew he had to do something for that, but couldn’t seem to focus on what he should do. The last time I hurt myself this badly, he thought in his daze, Sirius…. He went numb, but could not fight back the memory. He lay there, aware that he was weeping again, and remembered the last time the wolf had been so frightened. He remembered the promises that were made.

***

Remus had had a particularly hard month. Things had been getting worse, and he, James and Sirius had been working non-stop to just keep up with everything, let alone gain any sort of advantages. The fear was reaching a fever pitch, and the sense of calm, of some sort of normalcy and good humour he, James, Sirius and Lily had been working so hard to try and hold onto was slipping away. The three of them had felt it, talking less than they normally did, and even occasionally snapping at each other. Lily had pulled them out of one particularly pointless argument brought on by nerves one day by telling Harry, who was perched on her hip, in a loud voice that it was a pity Snape wasn’t there to get the thrill of his life watching Hogwarts’ most famous best friends go at it like at bunch of 12 year old girls arguing over a hair ribbon. Harry had just laughed and batted his mother on the chin with one chubby fist, but the men had instantly shut up, and things had calmed down.

Then the full moon had come round again, and Remus couldn’t be with James and Sirius on a particularly dangerous raid. They had been angry with him for being so upset about it.

"Just shut up about it, Remus," James had finally yelled at him. "I have enough to do without worrying myself sick about you too. Go. Be safe. We will be fine. What other platitudes do I have to offer? For God’s sake, Moony, this is us. I thought we were beyond having to say anything years ago. We know how much it hurts you to not be here. But don’t you know how much it hurts us too, not being with you tonight? Not being able to offer what little miserable comfort we can to you? Do you know what it’s felt like to have to watch you suffer all these years and know we can’t do a damn thing to stop it?"

Remus was stunned at this outburst. Sirius had walked up behind Remus and put an arm around his shoulders.

"Yeah, you raving egomaniac, " he said with a he said with a grin, though his eyes were grave, "You’re worse than any woman I ever dated, you know that? How many times do we have to tell you we love you before you’ll quit testing us, eh?"

Remus, for the first time since he was twelve years old and they had confronted him about his lycanthropy, burst into tears in front of his friends. Sirius and James, utterly startled at the uncharacteristic display of raw emotion from Remus, immediately wrapped their arms around him and held him while he cried.

"I’m sorry, I’m sorry…" he had gasped. But the other two had shushed him immediately, and just continued to hold him to them.

"Don’t you ever be sorry," Sirius said forcefully, "Don’t you ever be sorry. What’s done is done, and it changes nothing between us. Nothing. Never did, never will."

Remus finally got control over himself again, and quietly pulled away from his friends, although they did not let him go and retreat into himself so easily. James and Sirius each held on to one arm, and looked at Remus quietly. James spoke first.

"Come for dinner tomorrow. Lily feels left out, staying at home with Harry and never getting to see her friends. She misses you."

Remus nodded and smiled at James. "I miss her, too."

James smiled broadly and patted Remus on the back as he moved past him to pick up his cloak and leave.

"Good. Harry will be happy to see you, too. You’ll be impressed. He now knows a few words other than Moony," Remus and Sirius grinned at each other. James continued talking as he walked out the door, in a mock tone of anguish, "Spend a whole week trying to teach my first born to say "daddy", and all it takes is ten minutes with you and his first, and for another week only, word is "Moony". At least, now that his vocabulary has expanded, he will no longer address absolutely every object as "Moony", thank goodness. I don’t care how cute Lily thought it was, I was worried he’d end up in Hufflepuff…."

"James’ son? Heaven forbid!" said Sirius, rolling his eyes. "Remus, do you need anything?"

Remus shook his head quietly. "Go. Catch up with James, and please, please be safe."

He expected some self-defacing, sarcastic comment from Sirius at this, but he still felt the need to say it. But Sirius was not laughing. He reached over and picked up his own cloak, still not letting go of Remus’ arm. He turned to face him again.

"Remus, I’ll be over first thing in the morning and I’ll make us breakfast and tell you all about what went on tonight. For all we know, it could be nothing and my story will consist of how I sat in a muddy ditch all night listening to James tell me he was cold every ten minutes." Neither of them laughed.

***

That night, the full moon Remus had spent entirely alone for many years, his loneliness and anxiety had made the wolf feel trapped and confused. The wolf, desperate to get out, desperate to soothe the fear, had attacked the room with a fury it had never felt before. He succeeded in smashing a large hole in the wall next to the door, although he couldn’t get through the wooden frame, and had cut his leg deeply on a splintered piece of the wainscoting. When Sirius arrived, Remus was still laying on the floor, dazed and starting to feel dizzy from the loss of blood.

"Remus?" He heard Sirius’ voice from the other side of the door, but it would be useless to call out. He had placed silencing charms on the room, so there would be no risk of anyone hearing him. Sound got in, so he could hear if anyone was trying to break into his house, but nothing got out. He was too tired to get up anyway….

"Remus!" It was no longer a question. "Remus, can you hear me? Get back from the door, Remus. Remus? Damn it!" He could hear Sirius muttering something, but the door remained closed. "Remus? Remus! Did you charm the door? What the hell have you done? Damn it, damn it!" He now heard Sirius trying to force the door.

"That’s it! I’m just going to finish what you did to the wall…." Sirius then proceeded to actually kick at the hole in the wall to make it big enough for him to get through, venting his own anger and fear in the process. He finally got through the hole, and looked around the room. Sirius went over to Remus and dropped down on his knees next to him. Sirius’ voice now sounded like it was coming out of a fog bank, and Remus could no longer see the edges of the room.

"Remus…Moony…Wake up now. Please. Are you okay? Oh my God, oh my God…." Sirius had just rolled Remus over onto his back and noticed the cut on Remus’ leg, and the size of the pool of blood Remus was lying in. Sirius picked Remus up and moved him to the bed. Sirius piled blankets on him, and tentatively put pressure on the wound to staunch the blood flow. The pain was excruciating and Remus screamed and tried to push Sirius away. But he was no match for the healthy and now every frightened Sirius, who held him down with a surprising force.

"Remus, I know it hurts, but I’ve got to do something until I can get help. Do you understand? Just nod."

Remus nodded weakly.

"Good. Remus, how do I get the door open? What did you do to it?"

"Charmed it…"

"Yes," said Sirius quietly through clenched teeth, "I got that part. But what charm? I couldn’t get it open. What’s the counter spell?"

"There isn’t one. It’ll open itself when the charm wears off." Sirius looked both furious and terrified at the same time.

"When?"

"In fifteen hours…"

"What good does that do me? When did you set it? I need to get you out of here now, now! Why the hell did you put such a stupid charm on the sodding door?!"

"Just in case. Just in case…"

"In case of what?!" Sirius was starting to feel panicked. The pool of blood on the floor looked huge, and the bleeding had not stopped. He had to do something to stop the bleeding, but was scared that that wouldn’t be enough.

"You can’t do this to me, you prat. You just can’t bloody do this to me." Sirius talked to himself as he carefully cleaned the blood away from the wound on Remus’ leg. He needed to be able to see what he was doing if the healing charms were going to work. Remus moaned and tried to turn away, but Sirius held him down. "Don’t move, Remus!"

Remus finally looked up at Sirius. He hadn’t realized what a mess Sirius was when he had come into the room. His hair was soaking wet, and his left side was covered with mud and grime. There were dark circles under his eyes, and Remus could now see that Sirius was crying, the tears smudging his filthy face.

"You look awful…."

"Speak for yourself. Actually, don’t speak. Just lay there as quietly as possible. Don’t even move." Sirius had finished doing what he could for the wound and now sat back on his knees next to Remus.

"Is James…"

"I said no talking," Sirius snapped. Then a fresh wave of tears came, and he swore as he grasped Remus’ hand. "Everyone’s fine. Just cold, and tired, and filthy. And scared. Very scared."

Remus looked as through he might say something, then thought better of it.

Sirius smirked. "Good boy." Then his expression dropped. Sirius looked towards the door, still firmly shut, then looked slowly around the room and back at Remus. Remus was watching him through half closed eyes. He looked like a nightmare, covered in his own clotting blood, which even made his hair stick out at odd angles on one side. Sirius reached out and smoothed the hair into place. Somehow, that only managed to make Remus look is usual calm, cool, collected and very tightly controlled self, even through Sirius’ hand came back red with blood. Sirius choked at the sight, and started crying in earnest.

"Don’t you dare die on me, Moony. Don’t you dare. Don’t you leave me. I will never, ever leave you."

"Promise?"

Sirius grinned at him, though his tears were still flowing freely. "I promise."

Remus managed a weak smile in return.

***

But you did leave me, and you took everything with you. Look at me now…. Somehow, Remus got up. He slowly retrieved his wand from where he had hidden it the night before and removed the charms on the door. After the incident when he had cut open his leg, he had sworn to Sirius, on his mother’s grave, that he would never ever use a timed charm again. Last night, in spite of everything, he remembered that promise, and had kept it. He left the room and went to care for his injuries.

The wounds on his side were gruesome, but he managed to patch himself up. Some sane part of his consciousness spoke through his exhaustion and said that he should go immediately to the hospital; that the gashes needed to be tended to by a proper healer. But he couldn’t face them; he could not face those people and tell them what had happened. Because there would be no solace from the looks they would give him. The fear, the disgust, the stony masks; they would not speak with him, or meet his eye. They would bandage his wounds, and send him on his way as quickly as possible. But they would remember his face, with utter clarity. And if they ever saw him again, they would know exactly what a monster he was.

Because the wounds were not tended to properly, they left terrible scars when they finally healed weeks later. That was fine with Remus.

***

Remus stopped talking. He knew in his mind that she had probably figured most of that out for herself before he ever told her the details. Certainly she knew that there was a very good reason why he had that scar. At the time, he had wanted to hurt. He smiled into her hair. Never could get anything past her, never will. So damn smart

"The wolf feels everything you don’t let yourself feel. And then you let it turn on you." She said quietly. See? She got it in one.

"It took me years to figure that one out, you know. It’s no fair you breaking down all my walls and learning all my secrets in one night."

She laughed quietly, and said, "My God Remus, I’ve spent years trying to figure all this out. It was just time to finally do something about it. I meant what I said; I can’t bear to lose you, and I won’t let you go." She paused a moment, then continued, almost in a whisper, "Sirius told me what you said to him. That you were thinking of leaving again, that you couldn’t bear the idea of hurting me. He felt that you were trying to justify running off by getting him to promise to look out for me. I agreed with him."

Remus grimaced. "Yes, I think that’s probably right."

"We also agreed that you were not going to get away with it, no matter what."

Now Remus laughed quietly.

"It must have been very, very wonderful for you when you learned that Sirius was innocent," she said.

Remus thought about that. ‘Very, very wonderful’ would not have been the phrase he would choose to describe that event. But having Sirius back was definitely wonderful. Learning the truth had lifted a weight off of him he had not realized was there until it suddenly vanished, and the new lightness did indeed feel wonderful.

"Yes."

She sighed. She had stopped caressing his side at some point during his story and had wrapped both of her arms around him. They stood there in each other’s arms for a long time. Their silences had always been as rich as their conversations. They had spent many hours just working together quietly side by side, or having lunch, or just walking through the fields and woods, barely speaking but in total, happy companionship. She finally chuckled against his chest, and he gasped at the sensation that brought.

"What?" he managed to ask.

"I was thinking about Sirius instructing Harry in the finer points of setting off fireworks undetected this afternoon. Very earnest he was. Glad to see someone taking pride in their work." She looked up at him and he could clearly see the laughter in her eyes. "You two must have been terrors when you were at school together."

"Terror seems a bit harsh. Well, maybe Sirius was, but he was trying to be. So was James, come to think of it."

"And you were the voice of reason?"

"Is that totally impossible to comprehend?" he laughed softly.

"No," she said quietly, looking up at him again, "I see that completely. It takes a very great and a very strong heart to offer reason in the face of adversity, to be the voice of sanity when all you feel yourself is lost and out of control. It’s care for others, isn’t it? That’s what keeps us going, and that’s what gives us the deepest scars. Because only if you bother to care for someone else can you ever be hurt by them."

"I will never hurt you."

She smiled at him. "I’ve always known that. I’m just glad you understand that now too."

Remus blinked. She was right; he finally, totally understood and accepted that he would not hurt her, that this was right, and that there was no reason left on earth for him to fear this. He took her face in his hands, and kissed her.

Oh yes, this was falling.

Part 2...

***

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