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oneturtlebug in rs_small_gifts

Fic: Christmas Past for kittehkat

Title: Christmas Past
Author: quadrant_of_sky / oneturtlebug
Recipient: kittehkat
Rating: PG-13
Highlight for Warnings: ** Angst, mentions of masturbation, mentions of teenage boys having sex, mentions of Remus/Tonks, the f-word, canon-compliant plot (meaning character death – Sirius). *
Word Count: 2,338
Summary:: Remus reflects on being alone for Christmas five times, at five stages in his life.
Author's notes: This was different for me - I've never written a "Five Times" fic before, so hopefully the transitions are smooth enough and everything makes sense. (I tried to span the large time gaps as seamlessly as I could manage, without being confusing.)
kittehkat - I hope you like the fic, and I definitely hope that your holiday is a lot happier than poor Remus’.
Also, thank you to my beta – you know who you are. :)

1.

He was three years old when it happened – somewhere stuck between toddlerhood and childhood. He had words that he could string together, short sentences that would grow in complexity as his body grew. He understood adjectives and could list an object’s most basic characteristics. That’s why, when he saw the wolf out of his fence, he was able to verbalize what he saw: “Big dog.” He approached the fence without apprehension, but with the slow pace of curiosity. The wolf watched quietly, sitting in stillness. “Brown,” the three-year-old murmured, proud of his color recognition. “The big dog is brown.” He had been practicing such sentences with his mother and wanted to share this one with her – he turned briefly to the house, where she sat, laughing with his father. Their voices carried across the yard but became nonsensical by the time they reached his ears. He decided against retrieving her and continued to walk to the fence instead, stopping only when he reached the gate. “Hello, doggie,” he whispered, reaching his hand through the gate. He was a smart child, but not yet able to fully comprehend cause and effect, action and consequence. Later in life, he will always weigh his options and take time before plunging into anything. His friends will tease him for it, and despite his attempts at being rational, he will still make many mistakes. But at three, those faculties weren’t quite developed, and he attempted to pet the wolf. Only then did it snarl, jumping up and clamping its teeth on the boy’s hand. He could hear his parents yelling for him, could hear himself screaming, could see the blood, but he could not process any of these things. His mind went blank and all words left him. Remus Lupin, in that moment, found that pain clouded every inch of his mind, expelling all of the adjectives.

He can’t recall what happens after that memory; everything is blurry. His parents have told him the story, of course, and he remembers the little things – the smell of the hospitals, the Healer that mended his hand, his mother crying. It’s difficult, though, to remember what was said, how he was comforted, whether he was comforted.

His next clear memory is of that year’s Christmas, of the tree he decorated with his father, and how he sat with his parents in front of the tree as they told him that he wouldn’t be able to stay at home that Christmas. He didn’t understand. The moon had just passed – he asked, every night before bed, about the state of the moon, and then dreamed about it in its full glory, over and over. The night before they had told him he had a while before the next full moon. A while was a long time, Remus knew, and that meant he should be able to enjoy Christmas.

They patted him on the head and told him what a big boy he was, what a good boy he was, and how sorry they were. There was a hospital, somewhere far away, where they could take care of special boys like him, and they had just called earlier that day to say they had an opening.

Remus wept until his mother murmured, “We might be able to get rid of the wolf.”

Remus wiped his tears away, then. He wanted the wolf gone.

They traveled as a family – his father took a few days vacation from his Ministry job and his mother asked a neighbor to look after their cat. They would stay through Christmas, and then see how Remus was progressing before they would make any decisions.

The potions they gave him at the center were understudied and had many side effects. Remus Lupin spent Christmas Eve vomiting, sweating, and seizing. They took him away from his parents for close observation, giving him a sedative to help him rest. He spent Christmas day in a hospital room, with only drifting healers for company, falling in and out of an unpleasant, potion-induced sleep.

That was his first Christmas alone.




2.

“I can’t believe you’re staying here for the holidays,” Sirius Black declared, a hint of taunting in his tone. “I bet you’re the only one who’s going to stay behind.”

Hogwarts is a little scary, a little difficult, and a lot lonely, Remus realized during his first few months at the school. He had to work as harder than many of his classmates when it came to practicing magic. His father had barely spoken to Remus about magic prior to his acceptance to Hogwarts. Neither of his parents had expected him to be permitted to attend the school, due to his condition, and both had committed themselves to a mostly-Muggle lifestyle, so as not to alienate their son. On top of that disadvantage, his monthly absences set Remus back in lessons, so half of each month was spent playing catch-up.

He had hoped that coming to Hogwarts would mean making friends, easily and quickly, but that had not happened. Maybe he was too quiet, or maybe his classmates thought it was strange that he was absent from lessons so frequently. Whatever the reason, Remus found that it was difficult to make friends.

He spent a lot of time with Peter and James, fellow first-year Gryffindors, and they were nice, but James and Sirius had become quick, close friends, and Peter often gravitated toward James, since they were childhood friends. This was the barrier preventing Remus from becoming close to the two boys; Sirius was not fond of Remus, and Remus didn’t find him to be very nice. In fact, Remus thought Sirius was very spoiled and a bit mean, and tried to avoid him as much as possible.

“At least the food will be good,” Peter piped up, throwing a sympathetic looking Remus’ way. “I’m not looking forward to my mum’s cooking.” He made a face.

“I’d rather eat bad cooking than spend the holiday alone,” Sirius stated. “Besides, isn’t your Mum sick, Remus? You visit her all the time, shouldn’t you be with her for Christmas?”

“I’d rather not talk about it,” Remus said, rummaging through his trunk for a book.

“I’d be ashamed of being a loser, too,” Sirius said offhandedly to James, who made a displeased face in response.

“Shut it, Sirius,” James warned.

“I’m just saying -”

Remus interrupted Sirius by slamming his trunk shut. Forget the book, he thought to himself, leaving the dormitory and storming down to the common room.

“Remus!” James called, following after him. Remus turned around. “Sorry, about Sirius,” James said, as though he were responsible for the other boy. “He’s – he...He has a lot of trouble at home, you know. His parents are still really upset about the whole Gryffindor thing. Sometimes I feel like he just needs to take it out on someone else, you know? He doesn’t really mean it.”

“I know,” Remus replied with a sigh. He had heard the Howlers, had seen Sirius after the meeting he had with Dumbledore and his parents. He knew that James was right. But it didn’t make Remus feel better, and it didn’t make Sirius’ taunting okay.

A few days later, Remus sat alone in the common room. All the other Gryffindors had left for the holiday, and his only company was the books his parents had sent him for Christmas and the glow of the fire. Hogwarts seemed extra cold and lonely when no one was around, and he found he missed James, Peter, and even Sirius. At least having someone make fun of him made him feel human.




3.

Being fifteen was confusing for Remus. Somehow wanking off in the shower had become something terribly frightening. It had evolved beyond the solitary act it was supposed to be and had instead become shrouded in the phrase, “Let me help you with that.” It seemed Remus could never have a moment alone, anymore. The second he touched himself, Sirius appeared, as though he had discovered an enchantment that alerted him every time Remus dared allow his fingers to explore his own body. “All boys do this,” Sirius would assure him, grinning as he grabbed Remus with one hand and himself with the other. “Don’t just stand there – help.”

The first time Sirius kissed him, he said he was caught up in the moment and that Remus was a Nancy for bringing it up. The second time, Sirius said he was curious, and told Remus to never bring it up again. The third time Sirius kissed him somewhere other than his lips, and Remus had reciprocated. There was no going back, and Remus knew it. They were stuck in a cycle of fingers and tongues, and neither of them seemed able to stop its pull. Every time Remus told himself it had to stop, he ended right back in Sirius’ bed, in Sirius’ shower – in Sirius.

A tense week before Hogwarts let out for the Christmas holiday, Remus had whispered the word love to Sirius – a side-effect of spending every waking and sleeping moment with the boy, a complication of skin-against-skin, mingled sweat and soft panting. A mistake, definitely a mistake. Sirius had laughed cruelly and had told him to grow up, to man up, to fuck off. He didn’t visit Remus in the shower that week, and Remus hadn’t crept into Sirius’ bed.

Now the common room was empty, the three other beds in their dorm room were unoccupied, and Remus was alone. Everyone was gone for the holiday and Remus tried to busy himself with homework. He tried not to think about how Sirius hadn’t said goodbye, how he had ruined everything. He spent Christmas alone, with no word from his friends, a modest package from his parents, and a paper cut.

The day after Christmas, he received an owl from Sirius, upon which only two words were written: Me too.




4.

It’s because of the war, Remus told himself over and over again, sitting by himself at the table in their flat, dinner cold and uneaten. Everything is a mess because of the war. He stood, acknowledging that Sirius wouldn’t be coming home – not for the warmth of the flat, not for Christmas dinner, and certainly not for him – and cleared the table without using magic. He needed something to do, needed to busy both his hands – shaking as they were – and his mind. He could see his reflection in the kitchen window as he washed the dishes – gaunt, pale, defeated. Everything was going wrong, everyone was in pain, and he was alone – all because of the war.

He had expected Sirius to come home to him for Christmas, at least. He had hoped that for one evening, they could leave all the tension at the door. Was it so difficult to put aside the hurtful words that had been spoken? Remus had done it, time and time again, since first meeting Sirius. He would do it again, gladly, if only Sirius would come home. They had both said cruel things to each other – had both accused each other of horrible things. No one fully trusted anyone, anymore. More than anything, Remus wanted to put an end to that.

Once the dishes were washed, Remus decided to go to bed. He made sure to fix the sheets and the blankets as Sirius preferred them, just in case. He made sure the flat was comfortable by Sirius’ standards – which often meant a bit too hot for Remus’.

He tossed and turned all night – alone.




5.

It’s late. Nymphadora is already asleep and Remus is setting her gift under the tree. Staring at their home, quiet and still in all its decoration, he cannot help but think of all those Christmases that he has piled up over the years – all those Christmases he spent by himself. He thinks that he can divide his life into before the first war and after the first war, waiting for Sirius and mourning Sirius. The Christmases he has spent in mourning pile up so that they seem like one long holiday, rather than a series of holidays – of regrets, broken promises and unfulfilled wishes. The monotony of mourning is only broken by the single Christmas he spent with Sirius at Grimmauld – but even that was marred by a screaming portrait, of tension and of nightmares. That was the night Remus had to admit that what Azkaban had taken would never be returned to Sirius.

He had lost hope that night, and had lost Sirius thereafter.

Remus considers fleeing, again.

He disgusts himself. It isn't his lycanthropy that looms in the back of his mind, like everyone believes, like he leads them to believe.

It's that he has a wife, and she is still a child, and they are going to be parents. It's that they have created something that is part Lupin, part Tonks and part Black. It's terrifying that there's a little bit of Sirius in there, mixed in with all the genes that make up the little being inside of her. Somehow, he and Nymphadora have made much more than he and Sirius ever could have done together. It's so close to the ideal, to an ungraspable dream that Remus had buried long ago.

But he gains control. He thinks of Harry, of the war, of Nymphadora and all the pain he has caused her already. He thinks of the unnamed child inside of her and wonders if he’ll always see Sirius when he looks at it, wonders if he’ll ever be able to explain his regrets. He wonders if there will be a day where he won’t have to lie to Nymphadora - Yes, everything is fine.

He wonders if they’ll ever be able to stop pretending.

He slips into the covers and turns with his back to Nymphadora. It's Christmas Eve. His wife sleeps beside him, a child in her belly. And yet Remus Lupin is more alone than he has been in any Christmas past.

Comments

D:

*is slayed*

I...wow. It's just, wow, this was very powerful, incredibly sad and lonely. What I love is that in every piece, you managed to capture a different voice - Remus's voice at three years old is very different from when he is eleven, and subsequently for fifteen, and so on. I don't quite know how you managed to do that, just that you did, and so well too, that I feel a different sense of loneliness from Remus for each of these five pieces. It's incredible how different types of loneliness can feel - being trapped by himself when his parents should be there, feeling like he doesn't have friends, not having the reciprocity of love, losing love and finally having love, but still feeling very lost. The last one is so painful because of his solitude even with company...

Gah, I rambled, didn't I? Point is, this is powerful stuff. I adore it even though it twists my heart, and I think you did a really good job with this ♥
Thank you for your lovely comment! :) I'm glad you enjoyed it.
this is so sad wtf ;-; it's gorgeously written and I like the sort of hazy quality it has? kind of as though you're looking at it through frosted glass or something. Idk, that's what it's like for me, anyway.

*goes to cry in the corner*
Thank you :)
Oh, lordy that was depressing, but it was also quite beautiful. The first paragraph so stunning and realistic that I must have read it like four time. Damn, you did a truly amazing job of capturing both the heart and mind of the situation and I really wanted to just pick poor Remus up and hug him.

And, as each section progressed, the sadness grew until, the last section became the most depressing of all. Being alone whilst with others is the most terrible feeling of all and you captured that well.

I also liked how we got to know Sirius without truly meeting him, and saw his own failings and fears conquered as he came to realize he loved Remus. Seeing the denial and eventual acceptance through Remus eyes was poignant.

This was really well done!
Thank you for your lovely comment! :)
Heartbreaking and beautiful and brilliant
Thank you :)
I really like your very powerful story. I sensed this loneliness is there in the canon man and this is what drew me to fanfiction. Rowling didn't really explore the reasons for his being the man we "meet" in his few pages. But from your short tale, I really see him.
This especially moved me:
He disgusts himself. It isn't his lycanthropy that looms in the back of his mind, like everyone believes, like he leads them to believe.

It's that he has a wife, and she is still a child, and they are going to be parents. It's that they have created something that is part Lupin, part Tonks and part Black. It's terrifying that there's a little bit of Sirius in there, mixed in with all the genes that make up the little being inside of her. Somehow, he and Nymphadora have made much more than he and Sirius ever could have done together. It's so close to the ideal, to an ungraspable dream that Remus had buried long ago.
Thank you! I'm glad you like it :)
Ahhhh, baby Remus! D:

Oh, dear, I can see the boys being just like that in the beginning -- Remus and Sirius hating one another a bit, not understanding. And then it blossoming into that kind of painful shame between them in their teens? Great development.

Argh, the lonliness of the fourth time. Giving up so much for someone who's just not there, who's not coming, it's so sad.

he and Nymphadora have made much more than he and Sirius ever could have done together
Ohhh, ouch. That line hit me like a rush of cold water that leaves your skin prickling and painful. I love how many ways that works, though. Lovely line. It captures this whole section really well, but also flits back to the years before.

Oh, you did such a wonderful job! Thank you for bringing the hurt and angst! I love suffering sometimes, it does a heart good and builds it up stronger, I think. Just lovely, thank you so much!
I'm so glad you like it! I was so excited to see that you had requested some angst - it's my favorite genre in fic, and I didn't expect to see any requests for angsty fics for this exchange.

:) Thanks!
Oh, that was gorgeous. It actually made me a bit breathless with how achy and hurty it was. Number 3 and 4 in particular made something twist and hurt inside. It's been a while since I experienced such a visceral reaction to a fic... just wonderful. :)
Thank you!
Ohhh, this is so brilliant! I love the progression of Christmases!
Thank you!
This is lovely and sad and brilliant and makes my heart ache. I like that all of the emotions feel true, I especially like four. Waiting for someone you know isn't coming but not being able to give up hope that they might anyway? That's such a horrible feeling and you captured it beautifully. Well done.
Thank you very much.
Wow, this is impressive, preserving some of Remus' self-hatred and Sirius' cruelty and discussing them with a calm, dispassionate tone that disarms your reader. Really beautifully done! Maggie
Thank you!!
This is heartbreaking and really beautifully done. I really loved the first one, and the way Remus and Sirius aren't immediate friends; I do think Sirius would have a cruel streak.
Thank you!
Oh, the angst! Really great job here. :(

*cuddles Remus*
Thank you!

He does need cuddles, for sure!
That was utterly wonderful. The simplicity of Remus wandering out to pat the wolf was actually terribly heartbreaking! Such a small slip.

I liked how Sirius wasn't all gooey over him from the beginning; he was actually a bit mean, a bit callous. Not a pushover and always protecting himself first and foremost.

I think the last one is the real soul-killer. The fact that the unborn child is part lupin, tonks and black, and that scares him, is a very interesting revelation. The line about how they've been able to accomplish more than he and sirius ever could is painful. Also, how remus divides his life into waiting for sirius and mourning sirius. Just doesn't ever seem like he ever found time to become his own person in this fic; he was always in the shadow or being haunted by the ghost of Sirius.

Angsty, painful, tragic, breathtaking.
Thank you for your lovely comment!
Ooh, that was good! A shame, but I really was not going to read it because I'm not all that fond of heavy angst, but then decided to take a peek anyway and ended up finishing everything :) Yes, it's very sad, but it's so beautifully written, and the angst is between the lines, which is the best. Meaning that you show sadness through the situations instead of describing how horrible he felt. Erm, I'm not very articulate today. You let the reader get into Remus's head, and that makes the story very powerful.

And I absolutely loved your characterization of Sirius. In part three, all that bullshit about being caught in the moment, then giving Remus crap for even mentioning love, then acting like a jerk and then writing "Me too" - awww, my favorite! That was so in character.
Thank you for giving the fic a chance. I'm glad that you liked it despite the angst.
Oh I loved this very much. So heartbreaking, beautifully written, simply gorgeous. ♥
Thank you!
COOL, THANKS, GONNA GO FALL OUT MY WINDOW NOW.







Seriously though, well done - I especially liked how you explored the dynamic of the ever-changing R/S relationship... from first year, fifth year, and then what Azkaban had taken... the whole thing really was very enjoyable despite the heavy weight on my heart :/
Don't fall! :(

Thank you! I'm glad you liked it, even with the heavy weight.
aww remus! :( this is rather sad but well done. i like the progression from each Christmas to the next. and you know what? you could actually slip in Remus' Christmas Eve at the Burrow (ch 16, US version of HBP) and it would fit just nicely.

nice job! <3
Thanks!
This is going to make no sense, really, so forgive me. But this story is sharp. It has edges--jagged ones--that rip. It hurts and leaves everything laid open, bare and exposed. It's a wonderful piece! Like werewolfsfan said, it's a great explanation between the man we see in the books and the sense of loneliness that we get from him.
Well done!
Thank you very much!
This is beautiful and lonely.
Thanks!
Oh, I'm so glad! Thank you!!
Oh, so perfectly sad! All those wonderful details of misery! The present tense of the last part makes his loneliness complete and final.
Thank you!
Agh, what an angst bucket! But I loved it regardless. =)
Remus's character is so tragic, not only because of his lycanthropy, but because of everything else he's been through. I love that you added that last little bit about him being alone even though he technically has a family - he just seemed to fade after Sirius died, regardless of any good that happened. *sigh* This was a heartbreaker, but very well done!
Thank you!
Lovely and painful. Poor Remus, I'm afraid this does seem like what he was handed. Well done!
Thank you!