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dear_tiger in rs_small_gifts

Fic: Defense Tactics - for liseuse

Title: Defense Tactics
Author: dear_tiger
Recipient: liseuse
Rating: PG-13
Highlight for Warnings: *swearing*
Word Count: 2,700
Summary: During the first winter out of Hogwarts, there is too much politics, bad cooking and booby traps in Remus’s life.
Author's notes: My dad has often told me about some black-and-white Czech B-movie called Odella Hasn’t Eaten Yet. Apparently, it’s about a carnivorous plant. It strikes me as the kind of movie Remus might watch. And thank you, Molly, for being an awesome beta!

…And there the armies of Ughumb the Bloodthirsty met with those of Dagenbar the Big-Eared, and so terrible was the battle that…

No. Stop it.

Remus looks at the goblin whose name is most definitely not Dagenbar the Big-Eared and gives him the most confident smile he can manage.

“By Tuesday, Mister Lupin,” says the goblin. His enormous ears flop and quiver even as he moves a stack of parchment rolls across the desk towards Remus.

Do you ears hang low, thinks Remus, do they wobble… No!

“Absolutely,” he says, though he is feeling far from confident.

“Very good.” The goblin adjusts his glasses – wobble-wobble, go his ears – and stands up without offering his hand. “We’ll be expecting it then.”

Remus shrinks the papers and puts them in his coat pocket, but they still bulge out. He will probably have to barricade himself inside to finish translation by Tuesday, and Gringotts does not even pay that well.

Outside, the wind tosses fine snow powder in his face. Remus stands on the marble stairs, pulling on his gloves, and looks around Diagon Alley. Even with Christmas so close, there are not a lot of people around, definitely not as many as he remembers from his early years when his father used to take him here. Maybe it’s because he grew bigger, and most people don’t tower over him anymore; walking through London is not like being in a forest these days. More likely, though, wizards don’t like leaving their homes to walk in the open streets with strangers, potentially Muggle-born.

From where he is standing, Remus has a good view of the street, so it’s easy for him to spot a familiar figure with his hands full of colorful leaflets and a red scarf wrapped around his neck. Most people try to give the man a wide berth as they pass him, but he strategically picked a place where people coming around the corner inevitably run into him. Remus cannot hear but can see him wave his hands animatedly as he is talking to an elderly wizard with a bushy moustache. The wizard wrinkles a yellow leaflet in his hand and hurries away. Remus winces.

“Hello!” he hears Sirius say to some young witch as he comes closer. A red leaflet is quickly showed into her hands, and she automatically takes it. “Magical England needs help of young, courageous – and may I add, quite a bit pretty – people like yourself. Did you know that Minister Lyonhart actually has a map in his office which shows places the Aurors are not allowed to search or raid? Did you know that?”

“I might have heard about that,” the girl mumbles. “I think there was something on the radio…”

“And quite right you are!” Sirius’s fingers are red from cold, as well as the tips of his ears and nose; there are beads of water on his scarf where his breath melts the snow. But his eyes gleam, and Remus somehow does not think he noticed the cold at all. “And do you know what is in those areas? No? Well, they just happen to contain summer houses, familial cemeteries, et cetera, that belong to pure-blood families which are, so to speak, friends with the Ministry. And I say this is no time for favoritism!” The girl is obviously waiting for her chance to escape, so Sirius speaks faster. “We need your help now to elect a new Minister. England needs someone who understands that we are in a state of war, so please give your support to Millicent Bagnold. There is a lot you can do to help!”

When the girl leaves, Sirius scans the street with a predatory eye and finally notices Remus. “Moony! What are you doing sneaking up on me?”

“Hey you.” Remus pulls him towards a wall and away from the moving crowd. “You know, you might have more success if you bought them a drink first.”

“What do you think I do in the evenings?” Sirius rummages in his pocket and pulls out a peppermint candy. “Here, I saved one for you. I got attacked by Santa Claus and barely got away with my life and a handful of candy.”

Remus sighs. “What is it with all these people pouncing on you at street corners?”

“Is that criticism?” Sirius narrows his eyes. “Give me that candy back!”

Remus sticks the candy in his mouth and backs away just in case.

“I got a lot of work,” he says. “I’ll see you at home.”

He walks towards The Leaky Cauldron while Sirius grabs some new victim and goes on about Millicent Bagnold. That damn scarf is too bright, Remus thinks. It’s not a dignified Gryffindor red but more like a deranged, screaming revolution red. He got it for Sirius as a joke when Sirius along with James and some other recruits from the Auror Academy started this campaign in support of Bagnold, and now it stands out too much in the crowd, like a bloody semaphore.

At the door of the pub, Remus turns around and looks down the street again. Sirius is there, a tropical parrot with his multicolored leaflets and his communist scarf.


On Monday, Sirius comes home from the Academy with his hand in a brace. A Healer fixed it but told him not to disturb it for a day, so it’s Remus who is sitting at the desk with a quill while Sirius paces the room, sprouting ideas.

“Millicent Bagnold,” he is saying, “led the counterattack in Durham in April of 1977.”

…of 1977, writes Remus.

He hates the political aspect of every war and does not trust politicians. Minister this, Minister that, leave me the fuck alone, Remus thinks. This is not his battle.

“…she has the courage, will and strength to win this war,” Sirius goes on, “and… and all that jazz, Remus, come on, help me, you are good with words.”

…and a lovely bunch of coconuts, Remus writes.


Sirius loves setting up traps all over the flat, and sometimes he forgets to even tell Remus, who lives there, to say nothing of James, Lily and Peter. Sometimes he forgets himself. On some memorable occasions, Peter got stuck to the ceiling, Lily got sucked into the icebox and James fell into a hidden gap by the bedroom door, where he broke his glasses and discovered what happened to Sirius’s left boot from the dragonhide pair. It’s a work of pure genius: Sirius expands cracks in the tiles, spaces between floorboards and the insides of old mugs. The flat was a minefield during their first three months out of Hogwarts. Remus loves pulling the defensive and the trapping spells apart, adding a clever twist and putting them back together because it drives Sirius mad.

“I just want to be ready,” Sirius explains as he pulls Remus out of the quicksand rug. “Why did you use Lumos anyway? This spell is triggered by Lumos; the switch is right here.”

“Ah,” says Remus, watching Sirius’s hand reach for the light switch. “Silly me.”

Sirius flips the switch and is immediately thrown across the hallway and into the bathroom. There is a sucking noise, and a moment later Sirius’s voice comes as if from a small space beneath the floor. “Fuck me, that hurt.”

Remus walks over to the bathtub and peers inside to see Sirius’s eye staring at him through the drain.

“To answer your question from before,” says Remus, “I did not use the sodding switch because it’s booby-trapped. Because it throws you right into the bathtub and locks you in the drain, and I spent five hours down there yesterday. Sirius, for fuck’s sake, if you are getting attacked, it’s going to be on the street corner passing out leaflets, or on Auror patrol. The outer wards stay, but the inside traps have to go.”

The eye disappears and is replaced by Sirius’s mouth. “All right,” it says. “You win.”

There is a terrible sort of intensity in everything Sirius does to fight Voldemort, and Remus wonders if he is going to give himself a heart attack in the end, or if maybe this, this fascination with the war, will blow over in a year or two. After the traps are gone, Sirius starts getting up early so he could go for a run before the Academy classes.

Remus in his turn develops a strong reaction to the red scarf: his heart rate goes haywire every time he sets eyes on it. He was not afraid when Dumbledore offered the four of them to join the Order of the Phoenix. He was, naturally, frightened by their first encounter with the Death Eaters, but that went away. This fear does not: he can look over the crowd and pick out that scarf, and he is afraid that someone else might too. It’s like a marker for anyone with a wand who has anything against the appointment of Millicent Bagnold, which probably includes a lot of Voldemort’s followers.

While Sirius’s first fall and winter of the war are marked with mad activity, Remus remembers his as one long fit of anxiety.


Sirius is quite beautiful with his aristocratic nose, dark hair and pale eyes; Remus always notices after a couple of glasses of alcohol. Four hours into Christmas celebration, he still has enough sense not to stare but he is slowly forgetting why it would not be appropriate.

“Gabrielle!” says Peter, nudging Remus’s side with his foot. “I will introduce you to Gabrielle. I told her about you, and she is veeery interested.” Somehow he manages to make that “very” sound carnivorous.

Ah, Remus thinks, Odella hasn’t eaten yet.

“Thanks, mate, but I’ll pass.”

“What?” Peter is drunk and therefore louder than usual. “Have you even seen her? She has tits like… like…”

“Watermelons?” Sirius offers. Peter throws a Quidditch magazine at him.

“I don’t understand,” says James; he is sitting on the floor by the Christmas tree, shaking presents one after another. “Why does Pete suddenly get all the birds?”

“Because he is a celebrity now,” says Lily. “What with that radio job.”

“Ah, come on, Lils, I’ve only done two shows so far!”

“And you stole all Prongs’s jokes from school,” adds Remus.

“There you have it,” says James. “Mystery solved.”

By unspoken agreement, they are celebrating their first Christmas out of school the adult way. It’s not quite as brilliant as they imagined, but it’s another unspoken agreement to overlook the lopsided Christmas tree, the ruined pudding, the takeaway feast and the practically bare flat that James and Lily share. There is too little food and too much alcohol, and everybody except for Sirius secretly misses their family gatherings, or so Remus suspects. But it will get better, Remus thinks; they will figure out the right proportions for Christmas. For now, there is enough of the dusty carpet for him to lie on and enough rock-and-roll records for him to get distracted.

Sirius is on the edge of his visual field, in the corner where Remus deliberately does not look because it’s just wrong to be this attracted to him after this little wine.

“It’s not the radio,” says Peter. “I get all the birds because James is branded, Sirius tries to be Lenin and Remus smokes too much.”

“Well, fuck me,” says Sirius from where he is slumped in an ancient chair that James dragged from his parents’ attic, “I was shooting for Che Guevara. Oi, Moony, fancy a smoke?”

“I do, as a matter of fact.” Remus slowly gets up from the floor, feeling sleepy and heavy. “Need to get the watermelon tits out of my head.”

But he does not even get a chance to find his pack because as soon as Sirius joins him at the balcony door, Peter lets out a joyful yell. “Mistletoe!”

They both slowly turn to stare at him; he is very obviously drunk, and when Peter is drunk, this little streak comes out in him, this buried dislike for Sirius, which Sirius always returns. Remus wonders why he forgets about it every bloody time.

“Yuck!” says James. “What a sick, sick mind you do have, Wormtail.”

Peter and Sirius are glaring at each other across the room, and Remus thinks that no, this is perhaps not the worst Christmas he has ever had, but oh, it’s getting there. Adult life is really turning out to be total shite. Lily appears uncomfortable, and James is suddenly very serious and looks like he is about to jump between the two.

Remus laughs then – loud, exaggerated and playing more pissed then he really is. Every head turns to him. He puts his hand on the back of Sirius’s neck – soft hair trickling his wrist, coldness growing in his stomach – and pulls him closer. Sirius stares at him like he just sprouted a second head. Remus pauses for a moment, nose to nose with him, and carefully presses his mouth to Sirius’s.

It’s a small kiss, dry and entirely unremarkable, and Sirius does not even return it. Remus pulls away – Lily mouths ‘Good lad’ to him – and steps out on the balcony. “Come on,” he says over his shoulder. “I want that smoke.”

He thinks that Sirius will be there in a minute and that he should probably find his cigarettes, but for that minute he is alone, so he stands there and lets the sense of regret fill him, not unlike cold water.


On Tuesday morning, the goblins are in a foul mood. Through the large windows of Gringotts anyone can see a large crowd gathered in Diagon Alley, and like it usually happens with crowds, there is rubbish everywhere.

Dagenbar the Big-Eared takes the papers from Remus and counts out galleons, gritting his teeth like it pains him. “Thank you, mister Lupin,” he says, and then leaves without offering his hand. Remus shrugs and walks out the door.

He stands on the marble stairs again and looks down at the noisy, agitated mass of people with their banners and signs with things like Demand Lyonhart’s resignation and Bagnold for Minister painted on them. It does not take him long to pick out the red scarf, but Sirius notices him first and pushes through the crowd towards Gringotts stairs. Remus meets him halfway down.

“Moony!” Sirius casts a warming charm on a step and sits down. “How are the goblins?”

“Sulking.” He sits next to Sirius who is already pulling out sandwiches and a thermos. “They’ll probably try to feed us to the dragons for having lunch on their stairs.” And still, he pours tea into the only cup and takes a sandwich from Sirius’s frozen fingers.

“Fuck ‘em,” mumbles Sirius around his food. Slow, lazy snowflakes land on his shoulders and in his hair, and he looks peaceful and happy in the middle of a demonstration.

“Peter owled this morning to apologize for Christmas.”

“Oh, that.” Sirius takes the cup that Remus passes him. “Nah, we all got pissed, that’s all.”

“We did pretty well, didn’t we?” says Remus with a warm smile, thinking of the lopsided Christmas tree that finally collapsed after midnight.

“We are bloody geniuses. But for the next year, one of us needs to learn how to cook.”

“Speaking of cooking.” Remus pulls a small foil-wrapped something out of his pocket and drops it in Sirius’s lap. “Lily says ‘Sorry about the pudding’”.

Sirius pulls out the slice of cake – flat and greenish – and sniffs at it suspiciously. “What’s this then?”

“Be careful, it’s frozen to the core.”

“Smells like fried eggs.”

“Tastes like them, too. She says it’s an old Irish recipe called ‘Cool Bastard’, and she also promises to keep practicing.”

Sirius hides the cake and brushes crumbs off his knees. “Right then, I’m going back. There is just one more thing.” He leans forward and presses a soft, unhurried kiss to Remus’s lips. “For good luck,” he says.

“Good luck?” Remus repeats dumbly.

“Well, yes. I kissed a Dark Creature on the steps of Gringott’s; nothing stranger than this can possibly happen to me today.”

As Remus watches the red scarf disappear in the crowd, he thinks that maybe they will be okay after all. I ate a green cake for breakfast, and I was kissed by a Che Guevara impersonator. Nothing stranger can possibly happen to me today.


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Oh, I like this a lot. ♥
Oh wow. Wow. This is just lovely. The mix of humour with Remus writing rubbish into his translation to show his distaste for politics, the anxiety that is beautifully shown with the blindingly red scarf, the undercurrent of tension in the group of friends - I like this very, very much ♥ There's so much in it, the ending is kinda hopeful but not overly fluffy, and just, LOVE. ♥

Very lovely!
this is absolutely lovely. I love the sense of impending danger that you've managed to get across; very excellent.

It’s not a dignified Gryffindor red but more like a deranged, screaming revolution red

I really liked this bit:

“Well, yes. I kissed a Dark Creature on the steps of Gringott’s; nothing stranger than this can possibly happen to me today.”

As Remus watches the red scarf disappear in the crowd, he thinks that maybe they will be okay after all. I ate a green cake for breakfast, and I was kissed by a Che Guevara impersonator. Nothing stranger can possibly happen to me today.

So bloody perfect, such an original story. *bows*


Honestly, I have no idea where to start. I guess maybe that there should be a comedy warning on this thing, because my roommate is sleeping on the couch next to me and I - seriously! - had to bite my fist to keep from laughing during the whole bit about the booby trapped apartment. SO GOOD!

Everything about this was just so real. This was one of my favorite lines, in the sense of, "yes, exactly yes."

But it will get better, Remus thinks; they will figure out the right proportions for Christmas.

You capture so well the whole feeling of being out of college, trying to be adults, trying to get by, trying to get involved...

I ate a green cake for breakfast, and I was kissed by a Che Guevara impersonator. Nothing stranger can possibly happen to me today.

Just, perfect. And I really, really love your Remus here - a heavy smoking, politic-hating prankster, maybe still not quite sure what he wants...

Sorry, I keep using ... because I'm not sure how to end my sentences/thoughts right now, so I should just stop - and you should just know, it was wonderful!
It goes both ways, dude: you almost made me choke on my sandwich. To deprive your roommate of sleep is my life's goal! :) And thank you for giving love to Remus here, makes me very happy.
oh hurray! i love the addition of Odella, the idea of Remus watching Czech B movies is absolutely hilarious. this is such a funny and sweet and endearing story. well done :)

one thing i missed however - "A red leaflet is quickly showed into her hands, and she automatically takes it." i'm assuming that should be shoved sorry!
Yeah, I see that. No worries, you did an awesome beta job :) I'm not gonna fix it here, just in case it goes into the mod thingie-whatchama-call-it again, but I'll fix it in my files. Thanks! :) I was doubtful about Odella but she just seemed to fit so well. I'm so glad you liked it.
wow, i wasn't expecting to like that one as much as I did. But i liked it very very much!

i loved sirius's commie scarf, remus's transcribing efforts, the whole thing about the booby traps in their flat was wonderful, sirius getting trapped under the bath drain utterly priceless. i like how sirius makes these boobytraps, and remus finds and modifies them.

the christmas scene where everyone's a bit drunk was really good. the kiss sweet and very purposely casual. i LOVED the line about peter a bit drunk brings out his resentment of sirius, and vice versa. very telling.

“Well, yes. I kissed a Dark Creature on the steps of Gringott’s; nothing stranger than this can possibly happen to me today.”

I love this line soooo much.

Wonderful fic, planned and executed really well from start to finish!
Oh, thank you! I'm really happy you liked that Peter bit :)
I love the booby trapped apartment & Sirius in his far-too-bright scarf, the semi-competent first attempt at Christmas Dinner & Remus' comments about the goblins. Very fun :-D
I love this so much. Everything about it. ♥
Oh. I'm always a sucker for a wanabe communist Sirius. This was a fun read and a sweet end. :)
This is really sweet. I especially liked the booby traps and sulky goblins! :D
This is utterly wonderful, so real! There are so many different elements and you’ve put them together into such a fascinating, satisfying whole. I adore the scenes in the wintry Diagon Alley: perhaps due to your Remus’s sensitive perceptions of Sirius, they become like vivid memories of moments I’ve shared with someone I’ve loved. And these moments are – just as the whole story is – lovely in unusual ways. It’s excellent how you show the two young men’s different activities and approaches to the war. The magic is inventive and hilarious, and the Christmas scene looks excellently realistic. I’m glad you gave so much space for Peter.
Thank you :) It's so great that this touched something personal for you; it's more than I could hope for. And Peter definitely deserves more space. I really want to write about his wizarding radio show one day.

You write dialogue like a pro, kiddo: your Peter is fantastic, your Sirius is guileless (and still a little bit unhinged), and your Remus is just a wee jaded, and his humor is dry almost to the point of brittle, and it's just ;aslkf;salkf;alskf;lkaf it's exactly the way it should be, man. Exactly. And it's still so lovely-sweet.

I kind of want you to continue this - ahaha, selfish - I feel like this burgeoning change in their relationship is something you've got a brilliant handle on here, and the settings are gloriously written. And, you know, your writing just gets better and better: this is just so, so good.
Hehe, funny you should say that; I was thinking of Lethifold when writing this. They are not connected in any way, but I thought that this was the beginning, and now I just have to write the middle.
And seeing how you are one of my heroes among writiers and I want to be like you when I grow up, hell, this is one kick-ass compliment. So I'm gonna go explode with happiness in the corner over there now, thankyouverymuch ;)
OMG how does your dad know 'Adéla ještě nevečeřela'?! :) Yup, I happen to be Czech and know that movie :) I guess that maybe Remus would watch it, purely for the amusement factor though lol

Anyways, I loved it :) A fic with a Czech reference and Che Guevara, what's not to love? :) Awesome :)
Dude! I will google it and see if I can read a single word of what comes up, because I grew up hearing about that movie and I want to see it :) That is so awesome that you know it, I never expected that! No idea how my dad knows about it. He is Russian, though, so that helps. He has a carnivorous plant at home that he calls Odella (or Adela, I suppose).

Come on, it's a black-and-white Czech B movie about a man-eating plant, that alone is a reason enough for Remus to watch it, I think :)
Oh, from beginning to end this was just wonderful - and being in Remus' head was the best part of all. "Do your ears hang low?" Hilarious. In fact, all of what Remus thought/said was fantastic.

I love it all, but I have to admit that the booby-trapped apartment was the best part. I read it like three times because I just loved it so much.
Sirius flips the switch and is immediately thrown across the hallway and into the bathroom. There is a sucking noise, and a moment later Sirius’s voice comes as if from a small space beneath the floor. “Fuck me, that hurt.”
OMG, that was funny.

And dare I admit that I would have totally fallen for Sirius' campaign? Yeah, a hot conspiracy theorist (especially if it's true) or Che impersonator would have totally done it for me.Did you know that Minister Lyonhart actually has a map in his office which shows places the Aurors are not allowed to search or raid? Did you know that? I found myself thinking, "Yeah, the Bush administration did many of those same things." I'm a bad person. My husband would have gone for it, too, honestly. Good for Che!Sirius.

And good for YOU for writing something so delightful!
I am sure that Sirius would have been absolutely thrilled :) Thank you!
By the way, that's an awesome icon.
Very cute - I'm glad Sirius finally returned that kiss! Nice job. =)
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