Story summary: Set six years after the Goblet of Fire, and almost a year after Voldemort has been defeated. How has the wizarding society changed as the aftermath of the war? How are people coping with the world around them, and with the past? Why are Sirius Black and Severus Snape sleeping in one, four poster bed?
Thanks: My thanks go to Kalena, who suffered my outbursts of creativity patiently even though it wasn't her fandom, and who has been the most wonderful friend, cheerleader, and mentor. The story wouldn't have been written if it weren't for her.
The most wonderful beta readers: Thanks to Tracey for careful continuity check, well-thought suggestions, and detailed grammar and style help; to Emcee for British English help and a thorough grammar surgery; to Johanna for helpful pointers and canon watch; and to moj, who gave the story the first reading. As I'm not a native speaker of English, I needed a lot of help to weed out grammar, spelling and stylistic mistakes. There are undoubtedly many still left. If anything catches your eye, please let me know.
Feedback: If you read the story and liked it, or didn't like it, please let me know. It's the first story I've ever written--your feedback is very important to me. Contact me at thetaeridani @ yahoo.com
The title of the story has been inspired by the following poem by Anthony Weir:
My bones were formed by sorrow
And it's a cheerful and optimistic story, don't run away!
Shade More Than Man
The next few days passed uneventfully, with Sirius slowly getting used to the lazy, quiet routine of enforced bed-rest. Then, one morning, he woke up to the sound of raised voices.
"... to have my wicked way with your godfather!" A familiar, coldly derisive sneer.
"Yeah? So why is he tied to the bed then? Let him go, you bastard!" Could that be Harry?
Sirius opened his eyes to see Remus and Harry standing next to his bed. Remus was, as always, tranquil; Harry looked furious.
"Sirius! Are you all right? What did he do to you?" Harry sat down on the bed and looked into Sirius' face intently.
"Uh," Sirius said intelligently. "What's going on?" He looked to Remus. "How did you know I was here?"
"Severus owled informing us you'll be staying with him for a time."
Bastard. Sirius glared at Snape, who shrugged and left the room.
"We were concerned--we had been trying to find you for some time already--and we decided to come and see how you were," Remus added.
"You were spotted going into the dungeons, but never coming back!" Harry blurted out.
"Harry, it's all right. I'm... I need a potion Severus is making for me and he let me stay here for the holidays. It's nothing serious. Don't worry about it."
The look on Harry's face said that he didn't believe it wasn't serious.
"Why don't you come to stay with us?" he asked gently. Then, unexpectedly, blushed. "Um. You did know we were living together, didn't you?"
"Yes, I knew." Sirius smiled.
"Great! I mean... I was afraid you might not approve." Harry was beaming now.
Sirius felt his smile fade as he grasped the full meaning of Harry’s words. Approve? Living together? Surely Harry couldn't mean...
"What the hell... Damn you, Lupin, what HAVE YOU DONE TO HIM!" Blood was pounding deafeningly in his ears and throat. "Tell me you didn't...!"
"He didn't DO anything TO me!" Harry yelled back, shielding Lupin defensively. "How could you say something like that!"
Lupin was completely white, clasping his hands tightly and looking straight at them, slightly hunched in the chair by Sirius' bed. He raised his face and looked at Harry.
"Harry, leave us, please," he said very quietly.
Harry glared at Sirius, but left the room, squeezing Lupin's shoulder as he went. Sirius covered his face with his hands and tried to calm the blinding fury that coursed through him. Lupin returned to watching his own hands. He always did that when Sirius was angry--withdrew completely and refused to participate. It made Sirius queasy to notice the familiarity of the reaction.
He should never have left Harry with Remus. He should have been there for the boy, instead of wallowing in self-pity. What was he supposed to do now? What was the adult thing to do? Nothing in his life had prepared him for this. He would kill to protect the boy; he would punch whoever threatened him in the face until it turned bloody; he would yell at them. But he had no idea how he could protect Harry from that. From Remus. James couldn't have chosen a worst godfather for his son.
He lay there, heaving and choking on his own anger and the sense of betrayal, until Remus spoke quietly, "Tell me why you think it's wrong."
"Why do I think it's WRONG? Remus, you were his teacher! His mentor! You could have been his father, for goodness sake! And you tell me you don't know why it's wrong?" He felt bile rise in his throat.
"You believe I abused my position, Sirius? That's what is making you angry?"
"I left a child in your care!" Sirius exploded again. "And what have you done? You seduced him!"
"Harry is not a child anymore," Lupin said firmly. Then he added, quietly again, "And I didn't seduce him."
"Not a child--! He's been looking up to you for years! You are a figure of authority to him--a father!"
"No, I'm not," Remus disagreed with surprising vehemence. "You are! Harry's been treating me as his friend for years, not as a replacement for his father. He had that--in you."
"I wasn't there," Sirius said bitterly.
"It didn't matter! He understood you were hiding from Aurors. And he was used to not being able to be with the people he loved. And, Sirius, he's twenty. He hasn't been a child for a very long time. Perhaps not since the day Voldemort murdered that boy in front of him. And he saw much worse after he graduated. He's... we're... we are happy with each other."
Sirius listened, desperately wanting Lupin to explain everything and make it right in some miraculous way, but it was only getting worse.
"I can't... I just can't believe you are one of those..." Perverts. All anger fled, leaving behind exhaustion and overwhelming despair. "How long has it been going on?"
Remus glanced at him quickly and looked down again. "We've been close friends since Harry's seventh year. We started having a relationship six months ago."
Sirius uncovered his face and stared at Remus in confusion. "Six months? But... you said... you mean you weren't? When he was at school, when that boy died?"
"Merlin, no! Of course not. How could you even think that!" Remus looked hurt. "I'm not interested in children, Sirius."
Thank goodness for that, at least. Sirius wiped his face with a corner of the sheet and sat up, hugging his knees. He was at a loss. How could this be happening?
"Why are you interested in him?" he asked finally. "Why him? Because he's young? Because he's been close at hand? Because he's James' son? Because he's famous?"
"Is this what upsets you? That I may want him for all the wrong reasons?" Remus asked gently.
"Just tell me. Help me make some sense of this, damn it. You are still my friend," he added suddenly, thinking that Remus might not understand that. How it made things so much more difficult.
Remus looked up at him, with those familiar, bottomless, shining amber eyes.
"I am," he said. "I think I understand why it's so difficult for you. You never had the chance to see him grow up, to become a man. But he is a man now, and I haven't seen him as a child for a long time, anyway. I told you I didn't seduce him. Don't think I tried to leverage his innocence. He had other lovers before me. Sirius, all the things you've said--I was as irrationally upset as you are. When he told me he had a lover, before he graduated, I was angry too, so angry I wanted to strangle someone. And, absurdly, I felt that I had failed him, that I allowed someone to corrupt a child. He had other lovers later and I learned to accept that. When we... admitted we were attracted to each other, we were coming together as equals. Yes, I was older. But it also meant I could offer him things a younger lover couldn't; patience, experience, help when he was fighting memories."
"And what was in it for you? I'm not asking you why you love him--but why like that?"
Remus sighed. "You may not like the answer," he warned.
"He's an alpha," Remus said simply.
The air left Sirius' lungs with a whoosh. Pieces of his world were falling back into place, and he understood suddenly what was so overwhelmingly wrong with the image of Remus as an aggressor; Remus as an active pursuer. Why it all seemed so warped and false.
"Oh," he said feebly and cleared his throat. "Does he know? That you... er, see it like that?"
Remus looked uncomfortable. "No, I didn't want to, well, to push the role on him. Besides, you are the only one I've ever talked to about this--about seeing human beings that way."
Huh. "It's still very weird," he informed Remus. He needed to get used to it, though, he thought--there was no point in trying to wrench them apart. Better to stay close and watch them, help Harry if necessary--and Remus too. He reached out and grabbed Remus' wrist. "Don't hurt him."
"I won't," Remus answered solemnly. His face looked younger now that the conversation was behind them. "I was afraid you objected to us because we're both men," he said. "Harry thought... you were avoiding us."
Sirius expressed his opinion about that with a loud snort. "I'm the last person to condemn anybody for finding men attractive. You should have known better."
"I told him you were open-minded," Remus smiled, embarrassed. "I guess I didn't take everything into consideration..."
"Yes, I've shown commendable open-mindedness, haven't I?" Sirius observed unhappily. "I'm sorry, Moony. I had no right." He didn't, anymore. He should have been there... for both of them.
"You were protecting your cub," Remus smiled. "You had every right. Will you talk to Harry?"
Sirius swallowed. "Not right now. I'm not strong enough." He felt worn to the last shred. "I'll tell him I'm sorry for the yelling but... I don't think I'm up to a long conversation. Do you think it'll be all right if I asked him to come again tomorrow?" Right now, he wanted to take his potion and go to sleep. Would Remus think he was a coward?
Lupin was staring at him with bright, keen eyes. "Sirius. Would you tell me what's wrong with you? You are obviously unwell, and you haven't been in touch for so long... What happened? Did... someone hurt you?"
"No, it's nothing like that. I just... I've been trying to find a job, but it wasn't going well. I was out of it--couldn't fit in anymore, you know? I felt bad about so many things. When the war ended, I didn't have even that to spur me on. I spent a lot of time as a dog--just wandering around. It felt good that way." Remus smiled, but his eyes were concerned. "Didn't Snape tell you? He says it's some kind of disease he can cure." Mental illness. He looked for signs of revulsion in Moony's eyes.
"Black Sorrow..." Remus whispered, and squeezed Sirius’ hand almost painfully. "No, Severus didn't tell me. All he said was that you were here."
"Do you think I'm a coward?" he choked, gripping Remus' hand back. "Moony?"
"No! I don't think you are a coward. Is this what's hurting you most?" Sirius nodded, unable to speak. "It has nothing to do with cowardice. When we were children... it was such an anathema to us, wasn't it?" Sirius could only nod again. "Courage is something different when you are an adult... it's not the same as bravery and laughing at danger."
"I just... can't stop wanting to hide." Sirius' voice was hoarse and strained. He hoped he wouldn't cry; that'd be too much to bear. "I'm running away from more and more things. Avoiding confrontations. Even with you."
"What would you need to confront me about?" Remus looked puzzled.
"Not really confront, but... I came here to apologise to Snape for almost getting him killed back then, you know?" Remus went still. "I knew I had to come and talk to you about it now that we are both adults, but I couldn't. I destroyed our friendship, and I knew you'd never trust me again." Oh, fucking great. He was crying now. Can you humiliate yourself any further, Black? He swiped his face angrily with his sleeve and turned to face the wall. "Sorry," he managed through his clenched throat.
"I let them lock you away in Azkaban," Remus whispered. "I think we're more than even."
They stayed like that for a while; Sirius breathing carefully and forcing himself not to cry, Remus sitting by the bed and stroking his shoulders. Finally Sirius calmed down enough to notice the yells and hissing coming from the study. It seemed that Harry and Severus were engaged in their own version of catharsis. Sirius sighed and sat up.
"We'll talk about it," he promised Lupin. "Could you get Snape? I think I need the potion."
"I'll tell him." Remus got up. "Listen--I'll take Harry home now and talk to him. He'll come to see you soon, all right? You should rest." He hugged Sirius briefly and left.
Sirius curled into a tight ball again, trying to preserve some of the warmth of Remus' touch. Snape appeared several minutes later, so he uncurled and tried to look normal.
"I need the potion," he said in a very steady voice.
"It's too early for another dose. I'll give you something else." Snape handed him a tiny glass.
"What's in it?" he asked, not really caring.
"Ingredients," Snape snapped nastily. "And chocolate," he added, as an afterthought. "Since you said you don't have canine blood after all."
It tasted good, Sirius decided, feeling the chocolate warm up his stomach. Soon, he relaxed enough to doze off, waking only when Snape insisted on forcing some broth down his throat.
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