By: Rynne

Remus pours the tea. You see him do it, hear him, but arenít really aware of him. He is there, as he has always been there. Except in Azkaban, a part of you whispers. He wasnít there in Azkaban. You stifle that voice; you wouldnít want Remus in Azkaban. Not Remus, because no matter how strong you know he is, he must be protected. The world is hard enough for him, and you couldnít bear to make it any harder.

And he pours tea. When he is tired, he pours tea. When he is stressed, he pours tea. When he is calm, he pours tea. And you sit there, watching him pour the tea. Watching the dark golden stream of liquid flow easily from the kettle to the teacup. Watching his hands move without shaking from the kettle to the cup, watching him bring the cup to his mouth, and watching him drink.

ďWould you like some tea, Sirius?Ē he offers, and you nod, dumbly. Itís hard for you to break the comfortable routine of Remusís tea ceremony, and you donít even want to try. He offers, you receive, and you are both happy. Remusís tea is something to hold onto as your life crumbles beneath you, something old and familiar, something you never want to let go. Remusís tea is a constant, and lately your life has been anything but constant.

Again, Remus pours the tea. Now into your cup the darkened liquid splashes. It is your cup that you raise to your mouth, your cup that you gently set down after sipping the tea within. Your cup that you stare into as you both fall silent. The tea stares at you back, its smooth surface marred by a few ripples, mocking your life by its very smoothness, its stillness, so unlike your own tormented soul. Abruptly, you bring the cup to your lips again and drink the tea down, distantly welcoming the sensation of it burning down your throat. It means you are alive.

ďMore tea, Sirius?Ē Remus asks calmly. Placidly. His eyes are closed, no emotion showing on his face. For a moment, you hate him for that very faÁade, but then you are ashamed of yourself. You know how hard he has worked to become that stoic. You envy him for that very stoniness of face, that ability to completely close off his heart. It was never something you were able to do.

ďNo,Ē you say, your voice hoarse. You havenít used it in days, but you havenít had a reason to use it in days. Youíve been in the air, on the ground, almost anything except in contact with people. But people would shy away from you anyway, be afraid of you, try to stop you, capture you. Except for him, that is.

He is your safe haven. Again and again, you run to him for sanctuary. And he gives it to you, without question or complaint. Just calm acceptance, perhaps even a hint of happiness, though you are sure you are imagining things. You donít deserve him, and he deserves far more than you. He deserves someone who can offer him more than silence, more than the shadow of mistrust, more than a shattered heart and a broken soul. You want to give him more.

You put the cup down, the clink of china against china echoing in the room. Remus shows no sign of having heard it as he sips his tea, the cup to his lips in a smooth familiar motion, then back down to the saucer. The remainder of the tea barely sloshes the inside of the cup as he sets it and the saucer down on the table, then turns his full attention to you, his tea ceremony over and done with. You shiver under that direct amber gaze, those unreadable eyes boring into your own. You feel as if your entire soul is stripped bare, peeled away like an onion as he examines each layer. You feel as though he can see into the desolate wasteland of your mind, pry into the deepest corners, let loose the darkest shadows, and then he will condemn you.

You donít want him to condemn you. You want desperately, almost more than anything else, for him to accept you and understand, for he is the only one who can. The only one who also has a monster inside, raging against the bars of a cage painstakingly built around it and against it, that it not break free. The only one who has shadow demons come in the night to steal his peace of mind. Except for you, that is.

You sit at the table, looking down into the empty teacup, willing yourself not to look up and into his eyes. You are afraid of what you might see in them. You donít want to know if he hates you. Then a hand lightly touches your wrist, and you look up, almost involuntarily. Your pale blue eyes meet his amber ones again, and inside them you can see nothing but compassion and acceptance and understanding.

You donít understand how he can accept you so easily. You are a murderer, if not by deed than be negligence. It is your fault that James and Lily are dead as if it were you who cast the curse upon them, and you know it. You know it very well, Azkaban having hammered it into you, day and night, just what you have done to them.

And yet again you are the bearer of bad news. The Triwizard Tournament, passed. Cedric Diggory, dead. Your godson, in shock and pain. Lord Voldemort, risen again. And all because you didnít kill a rat. At the request of the boy you loved more than anything else, you did not kill the rat, and so he is free to kill more than James and Lily, more than those innocent Muggles on that blown-up street long ago.

ďSirius,Ē Remus says, touches your wrist again. You grab his hand in your own, hold on tight, as if holding his hand will destroy the nightmares and the shadows that have arisen all around you. He tenses for a second, then relaxes, gives your hand a squeeze. He smiles, one obviously meant to be reassuring, and strangely enough, you are reassured. His smile alone can do that, has always been able to do that.

ďRemus,Ē you rasp as a shudder passes through your body, your nameless demons coming to feast upon your soul again. They canít tolerate your happiness, those demons. They stole away your dreams. They stole away your godson. But you wonít let them steal away Remus. You clasp his hand harder, almost afraid to let him go, for what if he was not there as soon as you did? It happened all too often in Azkaban.

His chair scrapes the kitchen tiles as he rises gracefully to his feet. You follow, though not as gracefully, getting heavily to your feet without lessening your clutch on his hand. He makes no move to remove it, for which you are grateful. He seems to sense that you need it, and without question or complaint, he lets you have it. You donít know why he does this for you, but right now it doesnít matter. All that matters is that he does it.

He leads you into the next room, and you follow, saying nothing, for nothing need be said. He leads you to the sofa, its deep blue cushions worn and faded, covered with gray and brown patches, but still comfortable as it always was. Together you sink down onto the sofa, and he pulls you close to him, pillowing your head on his shoulder, wrapping one arm around your back, putting the other hand on the back of your head. You sit like that for several minutes until gradually you become aware of the tears running down your cheeks, their salty wetness seeping into the fraying gray of Remusís robe. But he doesnít care.

You let the tears run down, let the soggy patch on Remusís shoulder grow, and he lets it too. The tears come, faster and faster, until you are sobbing silently into his shoulder, your arms flung about his neck. You want to howl with your pent-up grief, and so you do, your whole body shaking as you let it loose. Remus simply strokes your hair, murmurs a comforting phrase that you canít even make out because of your sobbing.

After a time, your shakes lessen, and your tears dry on your cheeks. Slowly you sit up, wiping your eyes on the sleeve of your robe. You smile at him tremulously, and he returns it. You move out of his embrace, but remain sitting with him on the sofa. Now the silence is comfortable, no longer tense and uneasy. You feel almost strong again, almost as if you can face the world again. The tea sits on the kitchen table, unmoved, unmoving, and forgotten. You are yourself again.