Tearing Down Walls
“Are you –“ Remus stopped himself, not wanting to put up with that old name pun that had stopped being funny before their first week in Hogwarts had been over.
“Yes I am,” Sirius answered nonetheless, though not amused either. “You’re perfect for each other.”
“We are not perfect. She’s got her whole life ahead of her.”
“And you are old and poor and damaged. Merlin, I’ve heard your stupid arguments a thousand time. I don’t want to go over them again.”
“Then stop bringing up this subject.”
Remus was frustrated. All had been good before his friend had started making constant comments about him and Dora. Until the both of them could no longer ignore the grain of truth in his mockery. Things had started to go downhill from there.
He had known her since her birth, tagging along when Sirius had went to meet his baby cousin for the first time. And then he had become her friend and confidant.
She had a crush on him, nothing more. It would be over pretty soon and then it would only be awkward if he would react any different to her advances. They were friends, and he wanted them to stay friends. That would not happen if he gave in to her pleading and his own bloody feelings – which really weren’t helping.
But this was not only between them. What would he tell Andromeda and Ted if he asked out their daughter with whom he had spent hours and days alone during her childhood. ‘Hey there, don’t worry I was waiting until she was of age and out of Hogwarts before I made my move on her.’ Brilliant idea.
“You should at least talk to her about this.” Remus opened his mouth to protest, but Sirius stopped him with a glare. “She is old enough to know what she wants. And, believe me, she cherishes your friendship so much, she wouldn’t risk it if she wasn’t sure about this.”
“Funny, to me it seems like she has completely lost her mind.”
“You certainly are as stubborn as only old men can be.”
Remus did not deem that worthy of an answer. Instead he made his way over to the door, intent on getting out of the house for a while to clear his head, and maybe find some Death Eaters to keep him occupied.
“Damn you, Remus. Don’t run away and leave me here all alone,” Sirius shouted, but to no avail. His friend did not even look back. Muttering obscenities under his breath, he did not bother to get up and run after Remus. They were all so very adamant on him staying put and not leaving the house, and he was not so sure he could stick to that, if he went down now and saw the front door open right in front of him, with freedom so alluringly close.
Instead he refilled his glass and gripped it with bony hands, refusing to give into the urge to throw it against the nearest wall. Ever since coming back into his childhood home, he had destroyed a whole wagon load of dishes. Seeing his mother’s good china shatter on the floor had been very satisfactory. Doing it in front of her thrice damned portrait even more so.
He kept sitting there in the library, the only room in the house that seemed the least bit inviting, due to Remus – always a book lover – taking care of it. It would probably be a good idea to do some more cleaning and sorting through his family’s stuff, lest the children encountered some of the more dangerous artefacts that were bound to be lying around, but he could not get himself to care.
Being locked up here, of all places, was not doing him any good. It was hard to escape the nightmares the dementors left him when waking up brought no relief either. The first moments after opening his eyes always left him in a panic, thinking he was back home during the holidays after fifth year, expecting his mother to show up any second to start yelling and cursing.
Remembering all that had happened and why he was back, was not helping at all.
When he heard the front door open, he was pleasantly surprised, thinking that Remus had changed his mind and come back. But just as he wanted to call out and apologize and try to be better company this time, someone else’s voice interrupted him.
“Remus,” Dora sounded almost reluctant. “Are you here?” Her steps came up the stairs and closer to the library door. Everyone knew that was where the werewolf could be found most of the time.
“Remus,” she repeated, sticking her head into the room, eyes hopeful at seeing the fire burning. But when she recognized Sirius, her face fell. “Oh.”
“Only me,” he offered, caught between being hurt at her obvious disappointment and relief at having another human being there with him.
“So, Remus is out?” When he nodded, she sighed and entered, sitting down in Remus’ usual seat, as if that would call him back.
“Yeah,” Sirius nodded, then raised his bottle. “Want some?”
For a moment it seemed like she would refuse, no doubt thinking about the Order meeting later or her job. But she extended her hand, shrugging. “Why not.”
He poured her a generous amount. “You don’t look good.”
“Geez, thanks cousin. You don’t look that healthy either. Still not over your twelve years long island vacation?” her tone was biting, but as soon as the words left her mouth, she looked down apologetically. “I’m –“
“He’ll come around.”
At that her head snapped up, eyes filled with hope and suspicion. “What?”
“Remus is stubborn as hell. But so are you. It will take some time, but he will see eventually, that you are serious about this.”
“He thinks I’m not –“ Dora sputtered.
“He thinks he is not good enough for you,” Sirius smirked. “As I’m sure he has told you a hundred times already.”
“Only once or twice actually. He usually runs away before we can even argue.” Sighing, she downed the amber liquid and held out her glass for him to refill it.
“He values you above most other things. He wants you to be happy, but,” after hesitating for a second, Sirius decided to be blunt, “He doesn’t want to be hurt again.”
“What?” Dora blurted out, voice laced with disbelief.
“He’ll deny it, of course. In fact, I don’t think he’s even aware of it. It’s just,” he looked up helplessly. He had never been good at all things containing emotions. “After Halloween – He lost everything and, somehow, then he found you, and you caught him and helped him up again.
“He loves you. Not only romantically. Also in a deeper kind of way. Because you’ve been there for him after we have left him.”
Suddenly a thought crossed his mind and made him laugh, which caused Dora to look at him strangely. “It’s – Well, the two of you have been friends for longer than we have. You know,” at that, bitterness crept into his voice, “Our all-encompassing, unbreakable friendship. Brothers for life. All that nonsense.
“You were what, five?, when you met at the funeral, and still your word was worth more than our silly vows.” He leaned back, by then talking mostly to himself. “You said you’d be his friend, and you were. Just like that. I wonder where it all went wrong for us.”
They sat in silence for a while, Sirius pondering the shattered pieces of their bond, Dora thinking intently about his words, too caught up in her own problems to offer him any comfort.
“So you say, he thinks that this is just – a mood?” she blinked several times. “He thinks I’ve got a crush, like a silly school girl on her teacher, and when I’ve had a shag I’ll let him fall and be on my way.”
Despite it being inappropriate, Sirius had to chuckle at her being so upset, but he sobered up fast when she sent him a withering glare.
“Are you sure it is not a mood?” it seemed like she wanted to jump up and hit him, but she caught herself and thought about his words.
“Yes,” she finally offered. “This is nothing like with the boys at school or Damien in Auror training. That was nice and all, but –“ She had no words, but Sirius thought he understood her nonetheless.
“What do I do if he -,” Dora trailed off, uncertain, maybe even a bit afraid.
“He loves you,” Sirius repeated his earlier sentiment. “It is obvious.”
At that she chuckled. “To all but us, you mean?”
But he shook his head. “I’m sure he knows. He would just never act on it. He’s,” searching for the right word, he threw a look at the door leading to the rest of his hated home. “He is terrified of losing you.”
He felt like he needed to elaborate further. “I know he is afraid of losing me. When I came back I – Well, I know he still cares for me and we are friends, but he keeps his distance. He’s always ready to jump up and be out of the door. All to save himself some of the pain when I leave him again.”
“When you leave him again,” the tense protectiveness in her voice made him smile.
“Yes. I mean, it’s only a matter of time. I’m an escaped convict, innocent or not. The Ministry is searching for me. And I’m sure one day, probably soon, I’ll snap and refuse to be left behind when all of you go out onto a mission or other. One day, I won’t be coming back.”
It was a rare occurrence for Sirius to be so pragmatic. His nonchalance added weight to his statement.
“When he quit his teaching job, he told me he’d rather leave than be thrown out. That’s the same thing then?”
“But how do I make him see that I don’t plan on leaving him anytime soon. Or let him leave?” she asked in a frustrated tone.
Before Sirius had a chance to answer, though, the door opened and the very subject of their discussion entered the library, an apologetic expression on his face.
“I’m sorry, Sirius, I shouldn’t have –“ when his eyes fell on Dora, he stopped cold, eyes darting between them suspiciously. “I’m sorry,” he then repeated, voice far more polite, detached even. “I didn’t know you had a guest.”
Again, Sirius was interrupted before he could open his mouth – and possibly defuse the situation before it blew up into their faces.
“Guest?” Dora snapped. “Is that what I am now? Just another Order member. Or maybe nothing more than Sirius’ distant cousin coming over for tea?”
Remus flinched at her tone, but did not make a move to calm her down. Instead he turned back around. “I’ll leave you to it then. I hope I didn’t interrupt anything important.”
“The hell you will,” when it was obvious that he did not intend to stay and talk, Dora jumped to her feet and all but ran across the room, grabbing Remus’ arm and dragging him back in and towards his seat. After pushing him into it, she did not sit back down again, but stayed right in front of him, glaring at him with an intensity that would have made her mother proud.
“You will not leave this room, Remus Lupin, until you have come to your senses.”
He looked up at her uneasily. “Dora –“
“And don’t you dare call me that when you don’t mean it.”
Sirius decided that this was his clue to leave. He did not want to be caught in the crossfire, which was more than probable if he interpreted the pleading glances his friend was sending him right. But Remus knew his stance on things. No need to be pulled into what would surely turn out to be a pretty ugly affair.
After his one possible saviour had closed the door behind him, Remus sighed. “Do-,” he began, then corrected himself, “Tonks.” She winced at that, which made him feel guilty, but she had insisted on it. “I don’t know what you want to hear.”
She deflated somewhat at his tone. “I want you to stop being so bloody defensive when it comes to us.”
“There is no us –“
“Due to you denying that it could be.”
They glared at each other.
“Sirius said –“
“So Sirius was giving you tips on relationships?” Remus mouth curled into a mocking smile. “Don’t you know that he’s never been one to keep a girl for longer than a month? Or do you think he’s gathered some life-changing experience in Azkaban.” He was glad their friend had left them alone. It was not his intention to hurt Sirius, too.
“I didn’t ask for advice on girls, but on you.” That, Dora noted with smug satisfaction, shut him up. Only not for very long.
“And what was it that Professor Sirius had to say about me?”
She regarded him thoughtfully for a second, then decided to be honest. “That you don’t want to be hurt.” He clearly had not expected that. “This is not some hormone-driven thing, Remus. I wouldn’t do that to you. I –“
“You don’t know what you’d be getting yourself into.”
Anger sparked again inside her stomach. “That –“
He cut her off again, voice strangely soft. “Maybe I don’t want you to be hurt either.”
“If this is about you being too old and a bloody werewolf –“
“Of course it is,” he said, still calm, making her feel foolish about her outbursts. “You’re an Auror. What do you think the Ministry will say, when you decide to go out with a Dark Creature? A half-breed?”
“I don’t care what they say,” her voice was almost desperate by now. “I know you want me to think about my career and life and whatnot. But I don’t care about any of that, if I cannot be happy. And being with you has always made me happy. And now we could be – something so much better than what we’ve been up until now.”
“Or it will fall apart as fast as it has come upon us,” he smiled sadly, “and then we’d be nothing at all.”
Only part of her registered what he really meant to say with that. The other, much bigger part, had halted at the fact that he had said ‘what has come upon us’. As in both of them.
“So you do feel the same,” he looked up sheepishly, no doubt cursing himself for his foolish choice of words. But before he could attempt to twist the words around, she continued hastily. “Don’t lie to me. You promised once you’d never do that.”
Remus stayed silent for what seemed like an eternity, looking at everything but her. “Yes,” he finally admitted, still avoiding her eyes. “But that doesn’t make it right.”
Dora laughed at that, not happy in any way, but both, desperate and relieved. “Sometimes I think this is the only right thing in the world.”
That brought a smile on his lips. During her teenage years she had read quite a couple of cheesy romance novels. This sounded like something right out of one of them. The young, beautiful and, of course, misunderstood heroine trying to make her chosen one see her undying love for him. Though he really would not have anything against a happy end for them.
Remus opened his arms for her. “Come here.”
“Does that mean you’re giving in?” she asked, her voice laced with doubt.
“No,“ he admitted. “That means, that I don’t want to fight with you.”
That was most likely the best she could get at this point. So she gave him a small smile and let herself sink into his embrace, glad to at least be able to hold him again. Those past weeks had been horrible.
And, she guessed, this was a first step into the right direction. Sirius had been right. They were both stubborn. Now she only had to prove, that she was far more so than Remus could ever be. Black blood, and all that.
“I don’t want to lose you,” Remus murmured into her hair.
“You won’t,” she promised.
Only a fortnight later, Sirius had to prove the truth of his words and get himself killed, and in a most avoidable way at that, leaving Remus desperate and grieving and more set than ever to not let anything above friendship happen between them.
The walls he was erecting between them were almost visible to her, and the distance hurt, even more so because her cousin’s death had hit her harder than she had thought possible.But she had managed to get through to Remus once before. Somehow, she would manage again. And this time, she would not let him leave, ever again.