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Thriving Without You

Rating: R
Pairing(s): Remus/Sirius, Remus/OMC, Remus/Tonks friendship
Summary: After the events of Halloween 1981, Remus Lupin finds himself alone. This is the story of how the world did not end that day and Remus learned to live with his Black Dog.
Warnings: This story contains musings on depression and anxiety. Also, I discovered that I am a lesbian who is deathly afraid of actually writing m/m sex scenes.
Word Count: 9450 (this part 3760) 
Author's Notes: I have to admit, my writing style has suffered overexposure to the Ovidian practice of the tricolon and to the distinctly Mallorian style of parataxis - the result of a stimulating Classical education. My complusive need to switch POV is unexplainable, though my beta [info]spaciireth assures me that the story is readable. This is my first Remus/Sirius fanfic and my first full-length fic.

Part One

CRACK.

 

“Hey! Mum! They’re here! They just apparated on the hill! Mum!”

 

There was a nearer, more painful sounding crack as a body fell down the flight of stairs and into the hatstand across from the landing.

 

“It’s okay... I’ll be fi- oh, I’m bleeding. Ow. Mum...”

 

“You’re a witch. You’re of age. Fix it up yourself.”

 

“Oh. And it’s on my clothes. Scorify! That didn’t work either! Ugh!”

 

The thud of combat boots made their way back up the stairs and Andromeda Tonks waved her wand with years of post-Nymphadora-lypse practice as she opened the door to the guests walking up the path. A frustrated scream came from upstairs.

 

“I see that things haven’t changed since I left,” commented Remus and he embraced Andromeda. “Is she really eighteen now, or is a ruse?”

 

“The most convincing!” Andromeda winked as she pulled back. “And Actaeon, I haven’t seen you since school!”

 

Actaeon may have looked a little uncomfortable in this reunion situation, but he smiled widely enough to hide it well as he shook her hand. “It has been an age.”

 

“Now, look at the two of you.” Andromeda bit her lip and stepped back, pushing a lock of hair behind her ear. Remus felt himself going a little red and Actaeon held his hand tighter.

 

“Remus!” Ted had come forth from the garden, wiping off hands grubby with dirt and what looked like motor oil onto an apron tied around a growing gut. “You stranger, step out of the heat. It’s much nicer inside.”

 

“Looks like Andromeda’s been feeding you too well, my friend.” Remus couldn’t wipe the nervous and happy grin from his face. “And I heard Nymphadora upstairs, didn’t I?”

 

A voice wafted from the rafters above.

 

“I’m coming Remus! I’ve just got to change my skirt!” Remus knew better than to be puzzled, but Andromeda simply explained that there had been a stairs incident. And sure enough, here came the casualty, bounding once again stairs, this time noticeably softer without heavy boots.

 

“Wotcher, Remus!” He didn’t even have a moment to look before he was engulfed by a tall girl he couldn’t have recognised even if she had given him a moment to glance at her face. He spat bubblegum pink curls out of his lips. There was an awful lot of hair. “I missed you.”

 

“Let me breathe, Dora.” The girl stepped back and Remus got a good look at her – at his own height now, a young lady stood where he had left a child. She was slender and the features of her face suggested that this was a near natural state for her – except the hair – yes, her mother’s nose, her father’s eyes, that cheeky smile she’d had since he had met her. And there she was, stood barefoot and in a long, summery Muggle dress, still playful as ever.

 

“Who’s this? Is this Actaeon?” She sprang on the balls of her feet and shook his hand. “It was nice of you to come with Remus to lunch. I’m sure he could have found the place on his own.”

 

“Dora, be kind.” Remus gave her a look, but she ignored him. She always ignored those looks.

 

“It’s not like you need a travel buddy now, though.”

 

~~~

 

“Why didn’t you tell me!” A spray of bubbles and water left the sink and covered Remus’ shirt front, soaking him to the skin a clean line. With steadfast school-teacher-li-ness he continued to wash the lunch dishes.

 

“I thought I had made it clear enough in my letters. That I had made a friend, that I was living with him, that we were going to travel together...” Remus passed her a dripping bowl and started on another.

 

Nymphadora flicked the tea towel in Remus’ general direction and got to work on her drying duties. “But I didn’t know that he was that sort of friend. How was I supposed to guess? I didn’t even know that you were, you know...” She made a limp sort of wrist movement.

 

“Queer as a silver Galleon?” He narrowed his eyes a little.

 

“Yeah. Why didn’t I know that.” She looked down, twisted the tea towel for a moment and looked back at him. “He seems nice, though. I’m happy that you’ve found someone.”

 

Remus gave her a half-hug, sodden clothes and soapy cutlery in the opposite hand. “That means a lot to me, Nymphadora. Thanks.”

 

They continued in silence, in a routine that still fell into place after 7 years’ distance. The silence was broken only by the chink of china and the rumble of Actaeon’s laughter from the sitting room as he and Andromeda reminisced on their own time at Hogwarts.

 

“Doesn’t it bother you that he’s the same age as my mum?” said Nymphadora suddenly.

 

“Sorry?” Remus held back a laugh.

 

“I mean...”

 

“Dora, yes, he’s a few years older than me, but hardly ancient. Remember, I was out of high school when you were barely out of nappies.”

 

“That wasn’t what I meant,” she mumbled under her breath.

 

“You might be of age, Dora, but you’re not as old as all that yet.” Remus chuckled and mussed her pink curls like he used to do. She looked mortally offended.

 

“Mean.”

 

~~~

 

Remus’ voice greeted me as soon as I apparated over the threshold of his townhouse for our weekly tea and catch-up.

 

“I hear you’ve got a girlfriend now, Tonks.”

 

I almost dropped the dish of scones Mum had sent me with, but a steady hand was there to catch the plate as I toppled to the ground. Another hand, owned by the same scratchy-wool-jumper-wearing man, pulled me to my feet again.

 

“Nice, Remus. Way to scare a girl. Lucky I didn’t hex you!” I waved my finger threateningly and stumbled a little.

 

“Oh, I’m sure. So, what’s all this then?” He took the plate of scones off into the kitchen as I removed my cloak and placed it over a chair. “Actaeon told me that he saw the two of you out for coffee and out for coffee, if you get my drift.”

 

I could feel my face going bright red and I attempted to morph a little whiter. Remus didn’t see anyway, he was laughing to himself as he busied himself with the kettle and tea cups.

 

“It’s just... one of those things, you know.” I tried to brush it off, not sure I wanted to talk about this to a man who I had had a thing for since I was about 11. I sat at the kitchen table and put my feet up on the chair opposite.

 

“Mmhmm,” replied Remus as he passed me my tea. “All this nonchalance from a girl who only two years ago was grilling me on why I had not informed her of my oh-so-important love-life. So, my hypocritical friend, do tell.” He spread jam across a scone and took a bite, leaning forward in an overly dramatic ‘I’m listening’ kind of way and wiggled his eyebrows. I giggled nervously. A happy Remus was still a new thing to me, a strange and amusing thing.

 

“She’s just a girl from school. There was some interest then, some more interest now. It seemed like a good idea to act on it.” I shrugged and tried again to not make a deal of this, but I knew it was in vain.

 

“A good idea, really?” Remus grinned and sipped at his tea, letting me stew in my thoughts for a moment before changing his tone. “It’s nice to know that you’re seeing someone, Actaeon agrees with me. I just always assumed that someone would be someone like Bill Weasley or that Cassius fellow from your Muggle Studies class that you used to write about incessantly.”

 

“Cassius was a dream,” I had to admit. “And if the chance had arisen, I would have. But with Lucia-”

 

“Oh, it’s Lucia, is it?”

 

“-it’s all so new and exciting. And something we could never have done at school.”

 

Not for the first time, I wondered about Remus’ own school days.

 

“When you were at school...” I trailed off, not sure if this was within the realm of ask-ability. “Did you ever have a boy...? I mean, was there anyone?”

 

A strange expression passed over his face, a halfway point between joyful reminiscence and anguish. Even with years of studying and copying, I doubt I could have mirrored the expression. He then smiled, clasping his tea cup in the story-telling fashion of his I had not seen in nearly a decade.

 

“There was Sirius.”

 

And when Remus told me everything that he was willing to tell me, I couldn’t quite believe that it had never clicked in my mind. All I wanted to do was to fix it all. The most striking thing was just how fixed it already was, though. At once I was proud of and worried for and loving towards and as many emotions as I could be.

 

And, as horrible and teenage as it sounds, my heart broke for him when I opened the Daily Prophet as I sat down to breakfast the next Friday. We didn’t have tea and catch-up that Friday.

  

 

 

Remus,

 

How are you settling into Hogwarts? I’m sorry I didn’t write sooner – work has been hectic, as you can imagine. I won’t say much, but I’m glad that Dumbledore listened to us and offered you the job. You’ll be much safer there. Harry too. Does he look very much like your friend James?  Keep an eye on him. Knowing you, the two of you are already thick as thieves. I’ll have a new teacher’s pet to compete with, won’t I?

 

I just winked at you. You can’t see that on a page, so I’m telling you. Oh! This is just like when you sent me the letters on your tour, only now I’m not a child and we’re both in work and there’s a mass-murdering ex-friend of yours on the loose.

 

Stay safe and don’t go looking for danger, no matter how much you might miss it.

 

Horrendous hugs and killer kisses,

Tonks

 

~~~

 

Dora,

 

I’ll thank you to stay out of my official files. I don’t want to know how safe or not I am. I get enough pandering and funny looks from my colleagues as it is. Harry looks just like James, it’s uncanny. I have moments when I forget that he isn’t, moments when I forget that I’m now a teacher. I swear, the place hasn’t changed a bit.

 

Could I bother you to go around to my place and water the plants? I’ve put the spare key in the envelope. Please do try not to lose it.

 

Best wishes,

Remus.

 

~~~

 

REMUS,

 

WHY DID YOU NOT TELL ME THAT ACTAEON PACKED UP? THE BASTARD!

 

I just saw him in the lift at St Mungo’s, making his delivery of Wolfsbane (which reminds me, is Snape brewing it okay for you?) and he was really cold towards me. I shook it off, just assuming he was intimidated by the large group of Aurors he was sharing the lift with.

 

I DID NOT EXPECT AN EMPTY HOUSE WHEN I WENT TO WATER THE PLANTS. Honestly, Remus. This is horrible.

 

Do you want me to hit him for you?

 

Also, it’s Tonks. As in:

 

Love, Tonks.

 

~~~

 

Tonks-as-in-Tonks,

 

That won’t be necessary. I was the one to break it off. It didn’t seem fair to him, to keep him hanging while I hide at Hogwarts.

 

R

 

~~~

 

 

“R”,

 

Fix It.

 

T

 

~~~

 

 

I couldn’t believe Sirius broke in again – I was still much too scared to tell anyone about the passageways though, or his animagus ability. The longer I left it, the more to blame I was going to be if anything further went awry, and I hated betraying Dumbledore’s trust like that. I knew that I wasn’t actively helping Sirius, but that was as good as.

 

It was unusually kind of Dumbledore to allow me a visitor considering the security at Hogwarts. Actaeon arrived in a bluster of mid-January snow, as most of the school emptied out on their way to Hogsmeade to fill their pockets with all manner of things to amuse and annoy teachers until Easter. His gaze shook me to the core and it took all my strength not to embrace him there in front of those milling around the gates. I jerked my head in the direction of the castle and we walked slowly along the drive and through the building, climbing stairs and travelling along corridors until we reached my rooms. I bolted the door.

 

Barely had the words “I’m so sorry” left my mouth before his lips crushed against my own, pushing any thoughts of worry or anger or betrayal from my mind. The whole world in that moment was the warm body against mine, the strong arms holding me up again when I wanted to fall, the hard evidence of mutual attraction. I kissed him back hungrily, grasping his shirt in my hands and pulling him closer, willing him to be nearer than was humanly possible. Clothes were discarded in abandon and as I re-learned every contour of his body, there was an intensity about it all that I had not experienced since our first nights in Istanbul.

 

But the moment was over all too quickly and I clung to my lover in desperation, as if I let him out of my arms he would leave me again. He kissed me and offered me more apologies than I ever deserved. There we lay together, on my four-poster bed.

 

“Just like school, right?” chuckled Actaeon as I stroked his side.

 

“So much better than school,” I replied.

 

We could hear the excited cries of the students returning from Hogsmeade, his signal to leave. I helped him dress, kissing him as leisurely as our brief time allowed us, and then he helped me.  I kissed him once last time before we left my rooms and I took him back to the gate. A handshake, a goodbye. It was so familiar, so safe, so...

 

...wrong.

 

My Actaeon. To be destroyed by dogs and wolves.

 

How was I to know what was going to happen on that fateful Thursday? How was I to know that I was to regain a friend, regain a thousand feelings that I had thought lost forever?

 

And worst of all, what I hadn’t expected was the waiting game that I was forced to play. Waiting for Actaeon to believe me, waiting for him to understand, then for him to stop his dramatics. Waiting for him to come back. Waiting for it to stop hurting.

 

And now I’m waiting for you.

 

 

Remus Lupin was used to short notes. Short notes usually said things like “Don’t bother coming back to work” and “Your application has been rejected, thank you” or they were attached to gifts from Nymphadora and said things like “Wear this, or you’ll catch cold” and “These are especially tasty”. Within a week he had received two very short and very out of the ordinary notes.

 

The first arrived via an official-looking owl and stated “He’s back in the country. Be willing to open your home for him.” Remus did not like this note, however it came from Dumbledore and that meant it was the sort that ought not to be ignored.

 

The second arrived by scrawny owl and destroyed what was left of his relationship with Actaeon Belby, the man who he had fallen in love with, the man who cared about and for him, the brother of the man whose potion had changed his life. This note said, in a script that he hadn’t seen in nearly thirteen years, “I love you”.

 

There had been a time when this note would not have been unwelcome, but now it seemed out of place and empty. And ridiculous and out of character. And Remus wondered what possessed the author to write it. And Actaeon had picked up his suitcase and left for the last time (maybe). And Remus picked up the nearest quill and scrawled back an “I hate you”.

 

This hate that Remus felt, it wasn’t malicious or hurtful. It was the hate of hurting and of betrayal and of why are you bothering me with your existence. He could still remember the absolute joy at seeing Pettigrew’s name on the Map and the instantaneous feeling of triumph at knowing that Sirius had not betrayed him... but years of emotion cannot be disappeared by a single moment of relief, of friendship, of... undeniable love. The quick embrace had sent frizzles of energy through his whole body and it wasn’t enough. But.

 

For Remus, the entire point of the past decade, the quest to lose the Black Dog, had come to a fruitless conclusion. It was beyond infuriating, beyond frustrating. He wanted to rage and to scream and, by Merlin, Sirius was going to suffer for this.

 

(And that was what Remus especially did not want to think about. He didn’t want to think about the years upon years that Sirius had spent in Azkaban, innocent and suffering those horrors. He didn’t want to think of how close that soul which he longed to reach out to again had been to being destroyed. He especially didn’t want to think about how he would have felt had Sirius died and he had not known of his innocence. Would he have been glad? Would he have cried? Would he have even cared enough to give it more than a passing thought?)

 

(Yes, always.)

 

And Remus knew by now that he could never expect anything in his life to turn out at all as he had hoped or dreamed or wished or planned or guessed or wanted. It didn’t surprise him when Dumbledore sent the word – via Patronus, which should have been clue enough – that the Order was to be reconvened. Shortly following this, another official-looking owl and another note, “Open your heart to him”, arrived. Remus knew for sure that the headmaster was attempting to match-make.

 

(He’d guessed that the old man had been doing so since they were at school.)

 

(And he didn’t even mind.)

 

And in much the same way that Remus had marked his new ‘alone’ life in 1981, in a calm of Ministry paperwork in an unremarkable setting, Sirius arrived on an entirely unremarkable day. It was not too hot, nor too cold. The sun was shining in its 10am sort of way, just starting to warm the front room. There was a pot of tea on the table and the newspaper was in the midway state between half-read and not yet finished, a tricky point around 21 down in the crossword.

 

And there was suddenly a Black Dog in the room. Not the one that had lived with Remus and the Tonks Family, nor the one that travelled to Europe and grew smaller in Turkey and never left the place. This was an actual dog. The muddy footprints suggested that it had come through from the porch while Remus had not been looking.

 

Remus, hands shaking more than a little, took a slow, deep breath and looked at the dog.

 

“Hello, Sirius.”

 

Then there was a man where the dog had been. The muddy clothes suggested that it was the same creature. The man was different than he had been. Where there had been fullness, now was lean. Beautiful hair was matted and long and in desperate need of care.

 

(The whole of him was in desperate need of care.)

 

“Remus... I...”

 

Remus didn’t say anything. He didn’t dare to, because he knew that he could only say hurtful things or sad things or no things at all in this moment. No things at all seemed best.

 

He stood slowly from his chair and walked out of the room, waving his hand loosely in what he hoped was perceived as a beckon. Pausing at a linen cupboard, he passed a towel and comb and a razor and scissors and soap (and how did that all fit in there) to the man. He pointed down the hall and left the man to figure out the rest.

 

After an anxious half-hour of tapping his pen against the crossword and Not Concentrating on Anything, he was almost surprised when Sirius Black stepped into the room.

 

Not quite Sirius as he had been, but now he was Sirius as he was: clean and shaven and his hair a little shorter. And he would do.

 

(He would more than do.)

 

But Remus still did not move from his chair.

 

“How are we going to make this work?”

 

With a familiar bark-like laugh that reverberated to his centre, his old friend replied.

 

“Let’s pretend it’s 1981 again and we’ll start afresh.”

 

Remus stood up slowly and moved towards the man, inching closer and still afraid.

 

 “Do you think we can really forget the past? Even if we want to?”

 

Sirius reached out and gently held Remus’ hand.

 

“Oh, I’m sure I can. My family was always very good at conveniently forgetting what they didn’t want to acknow –”

 

Remus stopped him abruptly with a kiss, chaste and careful. He didn’t linger.

 

“This doesn’t mean that you’re forgiven.”

 

“So, maybe not forget? Perhaps selectively ignore.”

 

Remus nodded and Sirius pulled him into a tight clasp. He buried his nose in Remus’ greying hair and whispered fiercely.

 

“I’m sorry that it hurt you, Remus. Not just the misunderstanding, but my stupidity. I didn’t know what I had with you until the Dementors were drawing it away from me. All that played in my head was me telling you I wasn’t interested, then me asking you to move in, then all those girls, then the jealously I felt about your boys, and I thought you were the traitor and that’s why I needed to keep you close. But I kept you because I loved you.”

 

Sirius pulled away slightly, with the manic glint in his eye that had made Remus melt inside since fifth year.

 

“You’ve waited your whole life to be told that I love you, Moony, and I’ve been quite backwards in coming forwards. I love you, I love you, and you’ll never escape me now!”

 

 Sirius dipped Remus unexpectedly and placed a theatrical kiss on his lips. Remus pulled himself back upright and smiled widely.

 

(The whole thing was utterly ridiculous.)

 

“You great fool. However did I get on without you?”

 

(And it still wasn’t fixed.)

 

(Remus didn’t care.)



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