A Warm Place

Grief doesn't make Remus angry or bitter.

He thinks that if he had been the one to die, Sirius would have raged, might have wept. He'd have drunk himself half-way to hell and poured a bottle of the finest malt over the gravestone in mourning. It would all have been very dramatic and impractical.

Remus can't imagine doing any of those things. He doesn't know how. He only knows how to be useful.

He's very careful as he unwraps Buckbeak's bandages and dresses the wound. The hippogriff snorts and shifts at first, but stills at his soothing word. The cut on its paw is nasty, ragged, healing more slowly than it ought - Remus wonders what crude tool Kreacher must have used. Teeth, nails, rusty knives? His lips thin at the thought.

It's quiet in the house on Grimmauld Street, very quiet. Remus sits down and lets Buckbeak nibble gently at his hair. He wonders if the hippogriff misses Sirius at all. Or whether it even notices that he's gone.

Remus closes his eyes as the grandfather clock in the hallway tolls a-one, a-two, a-three...

* * *

A hand roughly shaking his shoulder drags him back to wakefulness. "Yes?" Remus manages, rubbing the heels of his hands into his eyes and yawning till his jaw cracks. "Has something happened? What's wrong?"

He doesn't need to look to see the scowl. "You're not required to save the world, yet. But since you do have a bed," Snape says acidly. "You might try remembering how to use it."

Slowly Remus hauls himself to his feet, gripping handfuls of hippogriff feather, fingers scrabbling for purchase against the peeling wallpaper. The blood that rushes to his temples makes him feel lightheaded but strangely clear. "Yes," he says wearily. "I should, but I have to- something Emmeline Vance said- I think it could tie into Kingsley's latest tip-off-"

He take a step and pitches forward most ungracefully before steadying himself against the wall. Buckbeak makes an anxious whuffling noise.

"Fool," Snape mutters. "Of all the selfish, melodramatic..."

He wants to tell Snape to shut up. Shut up, Sirius would have snarled, along with a dozen other choice phrases. But Lupin just shrugs, and sags, and sways. He doesn't even object when Snape, looking as black as thunder, puts Remus' arm across his shoulders and begins to half-drag, half-walk him down the hallway.

"I'm not taking your shoes off," Snape says abruptly as they reach the bedroom - Remus can't quite bring himself to call it 'his'. Snape tips him awkwardly onto the bed, which protests with a *squeak* of rusted springs.

There's a moment of silence like a plucked string before Remus says, "Thankyou," tonelessly, because it's the right thing to say, not because he really means it.

He closes his eyes and waits for Snape to leave before turning to sprawl facedown, spreadeagled. His hand reaches out for the space where Sirius should be. "He liked this side better," Remus says out loud, to no one. "Closer to the door."

He hates this room now. He's always hated this room. It's very cold.

* * *

It's the clatter of Tonks tripping over the hatstand, followed by an almighty wail from mater Black, that next wake Remus from restless sleep. His eyes fly open. He's shivering.

"Ow! Sorry, damn, sorry. Oh, dear - shut up, shut up, shut up," he hears Tonks hissing frantically and to no avail.

Remus finds himself straining but failing to hear Snape's reply - the words are lost in the cacophony as one portrait after another wakes and joins the lament. Moody's gruff voice, however, penetrates well enough. "Bloody nuisance, these things. Ought to get rid of the ruddy lot of 'em."

As Remus creeps to the door to listen he realises it's past midnight - Tonks and Moody are leaving, not arriving. It was only meant to be a nap but he's overslept for hours. He should be down there. There's so much work to be done and the Order needs every member working at full capacity, now more than ever. Yes, he should go down, right now, better late than not at all.

Remus' hand is still on the door knob.

After a moment the front door slams and Snape is left alone. The portraits take the noise down a notch but concentrate their venom. Traitor, traitor, they hiss. Filthy mudblood lover. You shame your family, you defile your name. You should die. Die, traitor, die...

Remus takes a step into the hallway and is instantly betrayed by the floorboards' creak. Snape looks upwards immediately. "Lupin?" he says suspiciously.

It's a mistake. The Black ancestors may hate Snape for a traitor, but a half-breed is something else altogether. Remus sighs and shuts the door on the rising screams.

He goes back to bed and this time lies down on Sirius' side, the left hand side, to see if it feels any different, any less empty.

* * *

With Kreacher gone, it's finally safe to sleep with the doors unlocked. Remus doesn't even bother trying the handle, just nudges the door open with his foot. He leans against the frame and waits.

From the darkness within there's a rustle of sheets and after a moment, an irritated voice. "What do you want?"

Remus shrugs. It's dark but there's enough light from the hallway to limn his silhouette, the rise and fall of his stooped shoulders. What do I want? I want to go back, Remus thinks, I want things to be like they were before.

"It's cold," he says out loud. "I can't." He rubs his hand back through his hair, leaving it standing on end. "I can't sleep."

An incredulous snort. "Why? Have you forgotten how?" There's a softly rasping sound, cotton against cotton. "But come to think of it, I wouldn't be surprised. You've done anything but sleep in the past month."

"There's work," Remus says simply. He rubs the arch of his left foot against his right calf. "There's always more work." He takes a step inside the room.

An exasperated sigh. "And do you think you're truly so indispensable? That no work can possibly take place without your invaluable guidance and direction? That you can't stop for a moment to even eat?"

"I eat," Remus says. He tries not to sound defensive.

Another snort. "Don't think we don't notice, Lupin. If you don't stop working yourself to death, and fairly soon, you're going to stop being helpful and start being a hindrance."

"I know. I'm not," Remus says softly. "I just-" He takes another step into the room, and another, and another. "I just can't sleep." He tugs tentatively on the blanket corner.

"What are you doing?" Snape hisses, suddenly sounding anything but composed. "Get out of here. Go back to your own bed."

"I don't." He shouldn't, he knows, but he's so cold and the room is so far away and empty. "I just want to be somewhere warm," Remus says helplessly, pulling back the sheets. He puts his hand down flat on the mattress, warm with the heat from Snape's body.

"Oh for the love of-" Snape mutters angrily, but he shifts to the far side of the bed.

"Thankyou," Remus says, sliding in beside him.

They lie side by side, not touching, not even close. For a long moment there's silence.

"Playing the martyr won't bring him back," Snape says harshly, his voice very loud and close to Remus' ear. "You know that, don't you?"

I know lots of things, Remus wants to say. I know everything, except what counts.

Instead he rolls onto his side, presses his hand to Snape's mouth. "Quiet," he whispers. "I'm trying to sleep."

Snape reaches up and pulls his hand away with fingers that clasp like iron. "Then sleep."

It's not what he wants, it's not even really what he needs, but at least, for now, he's not cold and he's not alone. So he does.


June 2003

[Rowan's Fanfiction]