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sam_storyteller ([personal profile] sam_storyteller) wrote2005-07-07 02:45 pm

Tales From The River House: Russian Literature and Fever Dream

Title: Russian Literature
Rating: PG
Summary: Nine year old Harry confronts the mystery of death.
Warnings: Brief mention of incest (Harry talks about Lord Byron.)

Also available at AO3.

RUSSIAN LITERATURE

"Harry! Sirius!"

Remus entered the River House with a slight shiver; passing the threshold always pinpricked his skin, feeling the Fidelius charm at work. He'd asked Sirius about it once, and Sirius had said he didn't feel anything, but then life within the hidden circle of stones surrounding Betwys Beddau was more peculiar for Remus than for Sirius at any rate.

Since coming here, seven months ago, Remus had gotten used to the odd twinge or tickle on the edge of his consciousness, subtle magical variations more detectable to a werewolf than a human. His dreams were remarkably peaceful; no more visions of Sirius starved and ragged from Azkaban, or Peter slicing his own hand off in service of Voldemort. Still, when he went into the town proper he passed three sunken stones that always gave him the creeps, and he had to be careful not to twitch nervously whenever he was near the school. He'd never been inside it -- they'd come to the agreement that Sirus handled school matters and Remus handled issues of feeding and clothing, because if let Sirius would order Indian food four times a week and allow Harry to run about in Remus' cast-off old shirts.

He tossed his keys on the table near the doorway and closed the door behind him, doing a double-check that his bicycle was locked to the post out front -- not that anyone could see it, but it was habitual by now. The rooms were dark, the sunny kitchen empty; Sirius' boots were missing. He and Harry must have gone down to the river below the back garden. He noted with approval that Harry's cloak and the blanket off the back of the couch were gone too.

He passed down the hallway towards the back door, checking the bedroom he and Sirius shared -- still peculiar to see one bed, and imagine what the neighbours would think. Except they only had one neighbour and nobody came to the River House anyway, as they couldn't see it unless Severus Snape told them. And Severus Snape was in Scotland, and would not come to see them again before they put Harry on the train to Hogwarts in a year and a half.

It was nice, though. Nice to see only one bed in a room where two people slept. Or didn't sleep, he added to himself with a small, wicked smile.

He lingered outside of Harry's room, smiling at the neat bedspread, the general messiness of the rest of the room, the books strewn everywhere and the new posters on the walls -- constellations, dinosaurs, drawings Harry had done. He was improving at a marvelous rate; Remus still had the red-and-white snake he'd drawn, a typical childish marker portrait, but lately Harry's sketches of the wildlife in their garden had taken on a decidedly realistic cast. Birds, hares, the occasional stray cat, fish and frogs, even funny looking plants...

But not snakes.

Harry didn't draw snakes, didn't talk to snakes or seem to notice them. Remus knew they were around -- he'd seen one or two, harmless little garden snakes, and a slightly larger one that was probably the reason they had no troubles with mice -- but as far as Harry was concerned, they didn't exist.

He hefted the courier bag over his shoulder and pushed the back door open, ambling down the path Sirius had worn to the river, the banks just out of view down a slope at the garden's bottom. Harry was there on the blanket, propped up against the rock, Sirius' boots and his own backpack nearby.

"Wotcha, Harry," Remus said, dropping down next to him and unshouldering his bag. "How goes it then?"

"All right," Harry said, wrinkling his nose and scratching the cast on his right leg. "I itch."

"Good! Shows it's healing."

"You always say that."

"It's always true," Remus replied. Harry held up the drawing he was doing, a rather cartoonish sketch of Padfoot with a fish dangling from his mouth. Remus glanced up and saw Padfoot himself splashing up the river, fishless but perfectly happy, spattered with mud. "Are you cold?"

"Nah," Harry said, turning his face to the afternoon sun. March in Wales was chilly, but there were beginning to be warm days again, and Harry had a good thick cloak. "What'd'ja bring me?"

"Oho! 'Bring me anything', he says," Remus replied, unbuckling the top flap of the courier bag. "Padfoot!" he called, and the enormous dog bounded out of the river, shaking himself on his way up the incline. Just before he reached them he changed, and Sirius dropped onto the unoccupied corner of the blanket, hair wet, wearing only a white shirt and trousers rolled to the knee.

"Lend us your coat, Remus," he begged, and Remus slipped out of the thick warm tweed, passing it to Sirius, who covered his chest with it and curled so that he faced them both, pillowing his head on Harry's backpack. "Brilliant fishing," he added.

"Bring us dinner?" Remus asked.

"Brilliant, not successful."

"I'm sure you'll catch one someday," Remus grinned.

"What'd'ja bring us?" Sirius asked. Harry giggled.

"Let's see." Remus dug in the bag. "Wee pencils?" he asked, holding up a handful of small library pencils. Sirius snorted, but Harry took one and started drawing with it idly while he watched Remus dig further. "Overdue notice in the amount of eight pounds, two pence," he continued, passing the bill to Sirius, "and half a chocolate bar from the library vending machine."

"Mine!" Harry claimed it and ate it enthusiastically.

"Books, Remus! The people must have books," Sirius cried.

"Next time you go. The mud on the road is unbelievable, and I nearly got run down twice," Remus answered. "You're lucky I brought you anything at all. I did get a rather nice biography of Byron -- "

" -- scandalous. Don't let Harry read it."

"He was in love with his sister," Harry said, not looking up from his drawing.

"Who told you that?" Sirius asked, flabbergasted.

"Boy at school," Harry replied.

Remus shrugged. "Your job, not mine," he said wickedly to Sirius, drawing out another volume titled Guards! Guards! "New Terry Pratchett paperback... "

"The suspense is killing me," Sirius said, clutching his heart and wrinkling Remus' coat. Remus peered into his bag.

"Well, I have the Mabinogion -- have you read it, Harry?"

Harry scowled at the teasing. "I have and you know it," he sulked.

"All right then. Here's a good one! Poems about dinosaurs."

Harry glanced at it. "That's a kids' book," he said dismissively.

"Who said it was for you? I rather like it." Remus opened it and read aloud. "Dimetrodon, Dimetrodon, you were here, and now you're gone. More lovely verse was never spoken. True, too, which is an added bonus."

Harry put down the pencil and paper and tugged at the bag. Remus relented and took out a handful of books.

"For Harry, we have The Hobbit and A Wrinkle in Time," Remus announced. "Also a book on art, as per requested, and one on treasure hunting."

"When I get outta my cast, I'm gonna go treasure hunting in the river," Harry announced. The list of things Harry would do when he got out of his cast was an impressive one, and included chasing the neighbour's cat that kept tormenting Padfoot, building a tree fort, and discovering the secret entrance to Narnia he was sure was somewhere nearby. He was also going to excavate for dinosaur bones, which was part of the reason he had the cast in the first place; a misstep while climbing a tree so he could "see like dinosaurs did" put him in a leg cast and Sirius in hysteric parental hyperventilation until the ambulance arrived.

"Somehow, Harry, I doubt there's any Spanish gold in the river, but I'm sure it'll be fun to look," Remus said.

"Me next," Sirius demanded, leaning across Harry. Harry tickled his ribs, and he pinned the boy against the rock playfully until Harry cried surrender.

"For Sirius Black, gourmet of depressive literature, I have Anna Karenina, Heart of Darkness, and a couple of cheap murder mysteries. And the paper," he said, passing across the local rag, irredeemable except for the crossword, which it stole from back copies of The New York Times.

Sirius accepted the books and gave Remus a grin that made his pulse race before withdrawing back to his side of the blanket. "Librarian recommending things again?" he asked. "I think she fancies you."

"She's got very low standards, then," Remus replied.

"Eight pounds in late fees and she still lets you take books out. She glowers at me if I even go in."

"Miss Howards fancies Sirius," Harry announced, drawing up his good leg and propping The Hobbit open on it.

"Does she now?" Remus asked, amused.

"She always makes sure she looks good before he comes to get me," Harry said. "And she does this, you know, when she says hi to him." He put his hand on Remus' arm and threw his head back. "Ahahaha, Mister Black!" he said, in a high voice.

"That's her!" Sirius said, falling over laughing. "Reckon if I asked her to dinner she'd let you skip a grade?" he asked, and Harry grinned at him.

"Well, while you two plot to commit felonious acts, I'm going to go start dinner," Remus said, kissing Harry on the forehead, even though Harry pulled away and scrubbed at it afterwards. Sirius kissed the boy too as Harry leaned back, and Harry wailed in nine-year-old embarrassment.

"We'll be up in a bit," Sirius promised, settling back against the rock and opening Anna Karenina.

"I'll call you for dinner," Remus replied, rising and passing towards the house. He turned as he crested the incline, and could see two black-haired heads bent over their books in the waning spring light.

***

Sirius was deep in the first chapter of his novel when Harry took a deep breath, the sort small children take before speaking, and often have to hold when they decide whether to speak or not. Harry, apparently more indecisive than most, let out the breath, and then drew it in again.

"Sirius," he said, then exhaled once more.

"Yes?" Sirius asked, sensing that he should probably pretend he was still reading his book.

"Why d'you read sad books?"

Sirius hmphed. "I don't know. I like tragedies. I like seeing how people can be brave and dignified even when they're in trouble."

"Like Aslan in the Narnia books."

"Yes, like Aslan. It was sad, but it was sort of good, wasn't it?" Sirius asked, glancing up at Harry, who shrugged.

"I guess so."

"Something troubling you, pup?"

"Dunno." Harry broke the lead on the little pencil, and picked up the big one he'd been using before. "People die a lot in sad books."

"Sometimes they do."

"Do they become ghosts?"

This would have been much easier if they'd been Muggles. Muggles didn't have ghosts as House chaperones at school. "Sometimes. Usually not."

"What happens if they don't become ghosts?"

"Nobody really knows. Some people think they get reborn into other bodies, some people think there's a place they go after death," Sirius said, rather pleased with himself for being so rational and coherent about this.

"You think snakes go somewhere when they die?" Harry asked in a very small voice. Sirius closed his book and wrapped his arm around Harry's still-thin shoulders.

"Of course, lad," he murmured, kissing Harry's hair, and this time the boy didn't pull away. He glanced down and saw Harry was drawing a coiled, sinuous figure. "Thinking about Snake?"

"Sorta." Harry curled into his godfather's warmth, slightly. "A snake came and talked to me today."

"Really?"

"Right up on the rock, while you were fishing. She said Hello Boy and I said Hello Snake without even thinking about it." Harry put the drawing pad down. "She was nice. She's got a burrow down by the river."

"Yeah? You have a good talk?"

"Yeah. She didn't know my Snake. Snakes aren't really very bright, sometimes," Harry added. "My Snake was pretty smart, for a snake."

Sirius smoothed Harry's hair, gently. "I'm sorry, Harry."

"S'okay," Harry said. "When I get outta my cast I'm gonna go see her burrow. She said I could if I kept you and Remus from walking on it."

"Promise we won't," Sirius said with a grin.

"I liked talking to her," Harry continued. "Maybe...after school some day can we go to the pet store? They have snakes there. I could say hi."

"You could," Sirius agreed. "As long as we distract the owner."

"And if one of them was smart, like Snake, could we take him home?"

Sirius wondered how he'd ever lived without Harry, without the swell of his heart when his boy was near, the cold-sweat terror when he was hurt, the stunning pride when he'd done well. And sometimes, like now, all three at once.

"Of course, Harry," he said. "Whichever one you like."

Harry nodded and gently pulled out of his godfather's embrace, pushing himself up on the rock and reaching for his crutch nearby. "I'd like that," he said, as Sirius gathered the drawing supplies and folded the blanket over his arm. "I hope we're having potatoes for dinner..."

***

Sirius much preferred washing up after Remus cooked to cooking himself; not a little of this was the fact that Remus, being a tidy-minded person, tended to wash as he went, with the result that usually there wasn't much left to clean by the time he got to the sink. So he dutifully rolled up his sleeves and set to work with the distinctly non-magical scrubbing brush and soap while Harry went to his room to study and Remus, as usual, lingered in the kitchen, either reading or doing the crossword.

It was a comfortable existence for the most part. During the day, Remus worked at the little bookshop in town, cycling in every morning while Sirius walked Harry to school. For a while Sirius had Loafed, something he was extremely good at, until it was time to pick Harry up; eventually he'd taken up studying the town's history and found a job giving once-daily tours of Rhos Y Beddau, the less-than-impressive moor which had once hosted a fair-sized circle of standing stones and now hosted the bog that had swallowed them.

It was easy enough work once he learned how to operate an automobile, and made him an object of attention, which he somewhat enjoyed. It also meant he was back at Betwys Beddau in time to pick Harry up and take him wandering or, lately, try to occupy him with more sedentary activities. Harry was not, by and large, a sedentary child.

"What's a six letter word for an aging Muggle rock star?" Remus asked, tapping the pen against the newspaper.

"Harry wants a new pet snake," Sirius said, resting his hands on the rim of the sink.

"That's a lot longer than six letters," Remus said mildly, looking up. "Really more of a band name, that one."

Sirius glared at him over his shoulder.

"Sorry," Remus muttered. "Well, I think that's grand, of course. How do you know?"

"He told me."

"I'd hoped he might, sooner or later. I was..." Remus pursed his lips. "Sorry, I suppose, that he'd stopped."

"I wasn't," Sirius grumbled. "Well, all right. I'm sorry the lad's pet died and all, but it's a very Dark Arts sort of a talent to have, you know."

Remus folded the paper and stood, crossing to lean on the counter near the sink. "You are," he reminded him, "Cohabitating with a Dark Creature, you know."

"You aren't a creature," Sirius answered, drying his hands on the dishtowel. "But you know, Voldemort was a Parselmouth. A lot of Dark wizards have been."

"A lot of Dark wizards have also come from the Black family," Remus said with a smile. "It doesn't mean anything, beyond what it means. Which is that somehow Harry ended a Parselmouth, and would like a new pet snake."

"It worries me."

"He's a bright, cheerful little boy, Sirius. We're raising him right. He's seen what Dark Arts do to a person, even more than you and I have."

Sirius bowed his head, and Remus reached up to brush a lock of hair away from his temple.

"We never saw it coming with Peter," Sirius murmured.

"We didn't want to," Remus corrected, gently.

"Well, I bloody well don't want to see Harry -- "

"Harry won't," Remus said quickly. "We'll make sure of it."

"How?"

"We just will."

Sirius looked pensive. Remus sighed.

"Too much Russian literature, Sirius, I've told you. When he said he wanted another pet, what did you think?"

Sirius shrugged. "I was glad. He'd stopped mourning Snake."

"And have you ever been known to ignore your impulses?" Remus asked with a smile.

Sirius scowled and muttered, "No."

Remus took his arm and led him gently down the hallway, stopping outside Harry's door. Harry was sitting on a chair, one leg awkwardly tilted off it, bending over his desk to take notes out of a history textbook. They stood there for a moment, watching him, until Remus' fingers slipped down Sirius' sleeve and twined with his.

"That's your boy, Sirius," he said softly.

Sirius was still a little while longer, and then his thumb brushed the back of Remus' hand. Remus smiled and left him there, watching Harry work until the boy turned and gave him a bright smile. Sirius smiled back, and went to do the rest of the washing up.

***

Title: Fever Dream
Rating: PG
Summary: Remus drifts between worlds sometimes.
Warnings: None.

Also available at AO3.

FEVER DREAM

Remus Lupin once read that a werewolf was one of the most efficient sentient machines ever to exist. For something which could read, philosophise, consider its own soul and use spoken language, it was also disease resistant, with a metabolism that didn't quit and an enviable capacity for healing. Werewolves could go without air for three days before their brains shut down, survive ten without water and indefinitely without food, though of course there came a point where weakness set in and they died of thirst or inability to operate their own lungs. They felt cold, but did not die from it until their blood froze solid -- and their blood had a lower freezing point than humans'.

Still, they were susceptible to certain things -- for one, self-mutilation in wolf-shape. There was also Lycanthropic Degenerative Neuropathy, the great fear of a werewolf's life, in which blindness and hallucination led to incurable neurological decay and madness. No one bothered to study it. One less werewolf, after all. The general cure was a pistol and a chambered silver bullet.

There were also certain forms of diseases, specifically magical influenzas, that affected them -- maladies called the three-hour-bug in humans because they were there and gone so fast, but which, because of their own speedy metabolisms, kept up with a werewolf for days.

A few months after Sirius fell through the veil and shortly after Harry's arrival -- sullen, angry, and apathetic -- at Grimmauld Place, Remus fell ill, which was something of a relief to him, as it meant he wouldn't be asked to comfort Harry. He was the logical choice; he had known Sirius the longest, and Molly felt comforting Harry would help him struggle through his own mourning. Harry hated him, though, and Remus was glad of any excuse to be out of the boy's presence. He, after all, had held Harry back; had not protected Sirius as a friend ought; had failed to be the great Defence Against the Dark Arts master which Harry remembered from two years before.

He drifted mostly, conscious enough to know where he was, fevered just enough for his perceptions to be slightly distorted. Molly brought him meals and a soothing potion that made it possible to sleep; he felt he could taste the bitterness with which Severus must have brewed it. He still took it though, at least at night, and it kept him from kicking the covers away and wandering the house, unable to be still.

It was late afternoon and he was slipping in and out of sleep, and the dreams that came with it...

He woke with a start to find himself standing in an unfamiliar room, brightly lit by the afternoon sun. He rubbed his eyes blearily, but he felt alert and awake -- perhaps he'd been walking in his sleep when the fever broke.

This didn't look like Grimmauld Place. There were bookshelves along the walls, filled with texts and odd knicknacks, broken by the presence of two dressers with the usual spare-change-and-cologne-bottle detritus on them. Drawings hung on the walls where the bookshelves weren't, some by a childish hand, some clearly purchased prints.

The bed was large, simply made, and covered with a green-patterned quilt which was rumpled beneath a sleeping body --

"Sirius," he breathed softly. God, he'd died. He'd died and there was an afterlife and Sirius was here waiting for him. He knew that broad back, the smooth black hair the way Sirius used to wear it before Azkaban --

Sirius was holding someone in his arms, and Remus felt the usual twinge of disappointment. Not me, not ever me, the litany went in his head, replacing the usual chorus lately, he's dead, he's gone now.

He circled the bed, wondering if Sirius was awake, but he was struck instead by something else...

He's holding me.

Himself, a little less careworn by years, less grey in his hair, fewer lines on his face and a different pattern of scars, but undoubtedly him. Shivering, eyes closed, face flushed. Feverish.

He crouched at the edge of the bed until he was on eye-level with the other Remus, and put out a tentative hand.

Brown eyes snapped open and regarded him warily, pupils slightly more dilated than they ought to be.

"You," the bed-Remus croaked hoarsely. "Who are you?"

"It's me, Moony," Sirius mumbled against his neck. "I didn't mean to wake you."

"I'm sorry, I don't know how I got here," Remus said softly to his other-self on the bed. Sirius didn't appear to hear him.

"You're me," bed-Remus mumbled.

"Hush, you're delirious," Sirius said.

"Somehow," Remus agreed.

"I'm ill. Dreaming."

"That's right, Moony. It's okay, I'm here."

Remus' heart seized up when he saw Sirius plant a kiss on the side of the other Remus' neck, wrap his arm around his waist more tightly, fingers spread intimately over his belly.

"Boggart -- spirit -- incubus -- " the fevered Remus continued. "You're not real."

"I am real," Sirius protested affectionately. "You're just a bit sick, that's all. Try to sleep."

"Why're you here?" Bed-Remus demanded of him. Remus shook his head.

"I don't know," he said, at the same time Sirius said "Because I love you."

The other Remus closed his eyes and seemed to melt back into the warmth of the man holding him. Remus watched in a certain amount of agony -- his Sirius was dead, his Sirius had never said that, his Sirius couldn't hold him through his illness.

"Where's Harry?" Bed-Remus asked after a moment, and Sirius murmured reassuringly to him. Remus moved away, around the bed and towards the door, wondering if Harry was here in this strange place -- and if that meant Harry was dead also.

He turned in the hallway towards a faint sound and found another door; putting his ear to it he could hear childish humming, and every horror film he'd seen as a boy (his Muggle mother had adored the cinema) came back to him. Haunting, ghostly humming --

He turned the knob, however, and opened the door; on the other side was a brightly decorated child's room lined with bookshelves as the other had been, though there appeared to be more books in piles on the floor, bedside table, desk, bed --

At the desk under the window was a small, thin boy, nine or ten at the most, doing sums out of a textbook. He was humming to himself as he did them and a snake, coiled nearby, was idly swaying in time to the wordless noise. The boy turned when the door opened, and Remus stared at him in shock.

It was Harry, but not Harry as he'd ever seen him -- too young to be even thirteen, though the bright green eyes and the dark scar on his forehead were the same. James' face. Lily's eyes. He had never even seen James when James was this young, but who else could it be?

"Hi Remus," Harry said nonchalantly, and turned back to mark his place in the book. He held out his hand to the snake, which slithered up under his shirt-sleeve and wrapped itself around his neck. "Are you better?"

"Hi...hello Harry," Remus said uncertainly. "I...I'm not sure."

Harry shrugged. "I'm almost done with my maths homework. Will you read it when I'm finished?"

"Er...yes, if you like," Remus answered. "Harry -- "

"Do you want lunch? Sirius forgot breakfast," Harry said, slipping off the chair. "I made some eggs but they tasted funny, so I threw them out."

"Wise boy," Remus murmured bewilderedly as Harry brushed past him into the hallway. He followed the boy into a kitchen near the front of the house, slightly messy but fairly well-organised, with a pan -- clearly from Harry's failed eggs -- soaking in the sink.

"You want cheese toasties?" Harry asked, standing on his toes to reach a loaf of bread in a cupboard. Remus reached past him and took it down, setting it on the counter. Harry took out eight slices -- "We'll make one for Sirius, he didn't eat at all since yesterday," -- and began to butter them placidly, handing a block of cheese from the Muggle fridge to Remus, who found a knife in one of the drawers and cut enough slices for four sandwiches. Apparently Harry ate two.

Harry lifted the lid on a contraption Remus recognised as a waffle iron, with the irons inverted to make a griddle, and placed the sandwiches on it carefully, closing the lid and plugging it in.

"I'm glad you're better," he said, resting his hands on the counter and his chin on his hands to watch the toasties cook through the narrow gap between the two griddle-irons. "Sirius said if you weren't better by tomorrow, charm or not he was going to leave me with Bethany and go fetch a Healer from St. Mungo's."

"Bethany?" Remus asked. Harry gave him a grin but did not explain.

"She says next time I come to see her we're going to make peanut-butter cookies," he said. "Last time she told me she thinks you and Sirius are Pagans and she always has to watch me on the full moon because you go out to do sacred-arcane-rites-of-power at Rhos Y Beddau. She says that's why Sirius is always running off the kids who go up there to smoke and stuff."

Remus murmured something neutral, and Harry lifted the lid of the iron, wrinkling his nose. "Few more minutes. Are we Pagans, Remus?"

Remus shook his head. "No, I...I doubt it..."

"When I get to be a wizard, can I do sacred-arcane-rites-of-power?"

Harry turned his face up questioningly. Remus looked down at him, still confused but very pleased to see Harry so talkative, so cheerful.

"I imagine you could," he muttered.

"Can you get the plates?" Harry said, gesturing to a cupboard, and Remus took down three plates. Harry left the counter and went to the fridge, pouring two glasses of milk and one of orange juice into tumblers procured from another cupboard. He checked the food again and deftly tweaked the toasties, now a golden brown, onto the plates. He took the milk-glasses and tucked them into the crook of one arm along with two of the plates. Remus was automatically reaching for the orange juice and the third plate when Sirius appeared in the doorway.

Remus felt himself stumble a little against the counter, but there was a peculiar sensation that he was leaving his body for a moment --

"Harry, who are you talking to in here?" Sirius asked as Remus gasped for breath, feeling like he was dissolving.

"Remus," Harry answered, with a nod of his head -- and then stared at where Remus had been standing, but was now slowly drifting away.

***

In the sunlit kitchen, Sirius looked at Harry, concerned for a moment. "What do you mean, Harry? Remus is in bed."

"He was just here," Harry said. "He got the plates down for me."

He held out one of the sandwiches, which Sirius took absently, and set the tumblers back on the table. "He came and got me in my room."

"Harry, tell me honestly, no pretending."

"I'm not pretending," Harry said indignantly. "I'm almost ten, you know, I'm not a child."

"I know, Harry, but this is serious. If you saw a ghost, or some kind of spirit -- "

"He wasn't a ghost. He sliced the cheese for me and everything. I'm not making it up!" Harry insisted. Sirius took a thoughtful bite of his sandwich.

"Did he say anything to you?" he asked.

"I guess. He said hi, and that he'd look at my homework when it was done. When you came in he just disappeared."

"He left?"

"No. He disappeared. Like dissolving in the air."

Sirius reached up into one of the high cupboards and fumbled for a moment before bringing down a velvet-wrapped object. He unrolled it slowly, revealing his and Remus' wands, charmed not to function unless they were in danger. He gave his an experimental flick. Nothing happened.

"I think you'd better spend the rest of the day with us," Sirius said, gathering up the juice and the other sandwich. "Come on, you can do your homework in our room. I'm sure Remus would like some orange juice."

Harry shrugged and helped carry the food into the bedroom his godfather and Remus shared. Remus was asleep, breath rattling a little in his throat; Harry climbed up on the edge of the bed and carefully balanced his milk against his knee, eating neatly.

"We'll let him sleep," Sirius said softly, setting the juice on the bedside table. He put a broad, capable hand over Remus' forehead for a moment and then gave Harry a smile. "I think the fever's going down."

He settled onto the bed and kept watchful eyes on Harry and Remus, but when Remus woke that evening the fever had gone, and Harry and Sirius agreed not to tell him about the stranger in their house.

***

Harry spent most of his time in 'his' room these days, the room in the old Black townhouse which Molly had fixed with bright Quidditch posters and a desk and chair for him. He did a lot of his summer homework, because he didn't want to do much else. Lately he'd taken to sleeping twelve and fourteen hours a day.

He was curled up on the bed, reading a boring text on advanced Charms, when there was a brief knock on the door.

"Go away," he called, but the knob turned, and he rolled to glare at whoever had interrupted his sulking.

Remus stood in the doorway, hand still on the doorknob, wearing a threadbare white shirt over equally worn green pyjama bottoms. Harry hadn't bothered to see him while he was sick, and he looked rather ghastly, skin tight over his cheekbones, eyes sunken more than usual and a little too bright.

"What do you want," Harry asked. He knew Remus had been avoiding him because the older man hated him, wished he had gone through the Veil instead of Sirius, because everyone knew Remus loved Sirius and Harry was just a stupid boy Sirius had been defending. Harry had merely been waiting for Remus to say even a word to him, to open his mouth and confirm it.

He had thought Remus had favoured him just a little, at school, but clearly he was just another reminder of his dead parents, whom Remus had loved much more than he loved Harry.

"Stand up," Remus said, voice soft but clear, tone steady. Harry scowled but obeyed, defiantly looking him in the eye, daring him to say it. Remus moved forward slowly and slightly unsteadily, as if he was unsure of his feet.

"Are you still sick?" Harry asked, because it looked as if the man was going to fall over if he did much more.

"The fever's broken," Remus answered calmly, now standing in front of him, sweeping Harry with his eyes. Harry shifted uncomfortably.

"Do you need something?" he asked angrily.

To his shock, Remus reached out and pulled him into a hug, wrapping his arms around Harry's shoulders, one hand on his neck, firmly holding him in the embrace. After a confused second, Harry leaned into the sudden warmth, resting his palms flat on Remus' chest, burying his face in the collar of his shirt. He felt Remus stroke the back of his head and something broke; he sobbed, convulsively, and Remus made a soft shushing noise as tears poured out of him, getting both their shirts wet.

Remus murmured words, but Harry couldn't hear them over his own ragged breathing; he suspected they were more a comforting background noise in any case, and let the tension drain out of his chest and shoulders in tears, for minutes on end.

"I'm sorry," he heard Remus say, when his sobs had subsided a little. "I'm sorry I didn't come for you sooner, Harry. I'm sorry I didn't take you away from them the minute you showed magic, even before -- " the other man's voice cracked, but when Harry looked up, Remus' eyes were dry. "I'm so sorry, Harry."

Harry burrowed into the soft white shirt again until his breathing had steadied. Remus spoke in a low monotone, but the words were soothing.

"I loved your father as much as it is possible to love," he said, rubbing small circles on Harry's back. "And your mother too. She was the most wonderful woman, you know, more forgiving than James had any right to deserve, and she loved us more than we deserved, too, once we stopped being idiots. By god how she loved you, Harry. She made up songs for you, bought you more toys than you knew what to do with, sat and held you for hours -- the rest of us could barely get a look at you. James was no better. All he did was brag about what a bright, handsome little boy you were, and he was right."

Harry felt the arms around his shoulders loosen. He moved back a little, wiping at his eyes in embarrassment.

"Sirius had no idea how to be a parent, Harry, but he loved you just as much as James and Lily did," Remus said. "It all went wrong, I know that, but he did love you, and so do I."

Harry glanced up sharply. Remus gave him a small smile.

"I've neglected you because I thought there were others who could better help you find your way, but it hurts to see you so lost." He drew a deep breath. "I won't leave you alone anymore."

Harry felt tears threaten again, so he sat on the edge of the bed, wiping his nose with his hand. "I thought you hated me," he muttered.

"I know. I didn't. I was scared of you. Scared that you hated me," Remus added, dry irony seeping into his tone. "And it's a big job, you know. It's easy to take responsibility for teaching a few hundred children how to hex a Hinkypunk. It's a little more difficult to take on just one."

"You needn't, then -- " Harry began, defiant once more, but Remus held up a hand.

"That's why I'm here," he said. "It's my job now. So," he added, sitting on the bed next to Harry. "The rest of the summer, I am at your disposal. What do you need?"

Harry considered this for a minute, but he suddenly wanted to be out of this room, somewhere warm and safe, and there was only one place like that in Grimmauld Place.

"We could have lunch," he said hopefully, and Remus grinned at him.

"Lunch sounds fine," he answered, and followed Harry out of his room, down into the heated comfort of the kitchen.

END

[identity profile] andy-star.livejournal.com 2005-08-01 01:22 pm (UTC)(link)
*randomly pops out of nowhere*

Just read these two for about the fifth time. Just want to say: not only is Fever Dream the best of the Tales from the River House (I loves it, preciousss!) but having read Anna Karenina between my last reading of Russian Literature and this one, I'm interested to know what Sirius thought of it :)

Harry is so adorable, though I'm sure you know this :D

[identity profile] sam-storyteller.livejournal.com 2005-08-01 06:16 pm (UTC)(link)
Thank you! I do love Fever Dream, I like to play with the thin barrier between the two worlds.

Unfortunately, I couldn't tell you what this particular Sirius thinks of Anna Karenina -- I haven't read it myself :D

[identity profile] amberlynne.livejournal.com 2005-08-06 08:35 pm (UTC)(link)
It's mean to make people cry, you know! *sniffle* That was lovely.

[identity profile] sam-storyteller.livejournal.com 2005-08-07 09:40 pm (UTC)(link)
*pats and offers hanky* there there. :D

aw man!

[identity profile] thedeec.livejournal.com 2005-08-25 09:14 am (UTC)(link)
cow. you and your stupid story. made me cry. at office too. garn
*furiously wipes away tears* AU rocks. i hate that everyone is dying in HP canon. and that sirius is gone.
mwaaaahhhaa

[identity profile] ka33.livejournal.com 2005-08-30 02:17 am (UTC)(link)
I seem to be on a copperbadge bender ... this was perfect.

Ahh...tears...

[identity profile] mya-in-ab.livejournal.com 2005-08-31 03:06 am (UTC)(link)
This is (the Fever one-shot) the one that sends me to the verge of tears. I love the interplay between the two worlds; perhaps it's because you've brought in the "real-world"/canon Harry&Remus and given Remus a glimpse of what he doesn't have. It just hurts me, to see him missing Sirius and then to see "himself" and Sirius to comfortably situated...

^_^ Ahh...either way, I love it. Tears and all.

...

[identity profile] carliejae.livejournal.com 2005-09-13 12:19 pm (UTC)(link)
Dude... I just finished Stealing Harry... And now this... And you are without a doubt the best writer ever >_<
You made me cry so much my dorm mates told me to shut the hell up (I go to boarding school)

Re: ...

[identity profile] sam-storyteller.livejournal.com 2005-09-14 05:02 pm (UTC)(link)
Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it -- and that it touched you :)

[identity profile] tyrnuffel.livejournal.com 2005-09-17 04:09 pm (UTC)(link)
Sirius' boots were missing. They must have gone down to the river below the back garden.

I actually imagined boots going to the river... =P

I love this fic, it's without a doubt the BEST one I have ever read =D

[identity profile] sam-storyteller.livejournal.com 2005-09-17 10:52 pm (UTC)(link)
Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it. And you're right, it does sound like the boots went down to the river...

[identity profile] baranduyn.livejournal.com 2005-09-26 08:56 pm (UTC)(link)
Just finished Fever Dream. Crying now. Bastard. ;)

[identity profile] cerridwen666.livejournal.com 2005-09-30 04:05 am (UTC)(link)
Crying now, you bleeding bastard. Argh...*wipes furiously at face*

[identity profile] rameana.livejournal.com 2005-10-10 12:45 am (UTC)(link)
*cries* I loved it!

[identity profile] crazy-catlady.livejournal.com 2005-11-10 05:50 am (UTC)(link)
Fever dream was simply wonderful.

[identity profile] ladyphoenixia.livejournal.com 2006-01-16 08:17 am (UTC)(link)
*squee* Have just been reading through Stealing Harry today (excellent fic, that!) but I coulodn't not comment on Fever Dream. I love how you integrate the canon universe and your own AU, and especially that you made Remus talk to Harry. Because he needs it.

[identity profile] malinbe.livejournal.com 2006-03-22 10:26 pm (UTC)(link)
I've just found out you had these. You made me cry. I hate you.
I'm a liar, I loved this.

[identity profile] sam-storyteller.livejournal.com 2006-03-23 04:50 am (UTC)(link)
*grins* thank you!

[identity profile] verito295.livejournal.com 2006-04-13 05:36 pm (UTC)(link)
*sniffles* I loved both stories *sniffles* *off to read more*

[identity profile] sparkysparky.livejournal.com 2006-04-24 12:28 am (UTC)(link)
Man, Fever Dreams never fails to make me cry. I am such a sap, lol, but I really wish this was how the first chapter of HBP went, with Remus and Harry bonding and such. Anyway, this is still one of my favorite Universes. :-D

[identity profile] myid.livejournal.com 2006-06-10 07:45 pm (UTC)(link)
There is so much warmth in your stories! Needless to say, you also have an impressive command of language. Thank you for giving others access to these stories--it's more helpful to me than I can say.

[identity profile] lady-game.livejournal.com 2006-06-25 06:21 am (UTC)(link)
Fever Dream broke my heart just then. Honestly. That's about the closest I've ever come to crying at a fanfic.
I read Stealing Harry ages ago, and read/am reading Laocoon's Children as soon as you post(ed) them, but for some reason I failed to read these.
My favourite characters in the books are Snape, Sirius and Remus, and for that reason alone Stealing Harry is gold. But if you made me pick a favourite, it would have to be Remus, partly due to the fact that Sirius has been disposed by upholstery and the verdict is still out on Snape. But there's something so heart aching about Remus. It's always fascinated me, how he could possibly survive when his friends, his family, disappeared in the space of two days and left him completely alone. I just read PoA again, and I was sitting there trying to imagne how much it would have hurt him to see Harry every day for a year and not tell him anything. And so reading Stealing Harry was tinged with a bit of regret, because while I was over the moon that Sirius and Remus got their chance with Harry, it was so sad to think that the Sirius and Remus I fell in love with in the books never got that chance. And then you went and actually chucked book!Remus into the SH universe, and hence the heart break. Remus has enough to deal with emotionally as it is, but the thought of him crossing the universes and actually seeing what could have been... It makes it even sadder because I thought this is what HBP would be like, I thought Remus would, not so much take Sirius's place, but just be there for Harry.
But anyway, enough of me ranting, I just want to say that this is one of the best and most emotinally resonant (is that even a term!?) fics I've ever read. So thank you for letting us read it.

~*Lady*~

[identity profile] sam-storyteller.livejournal.com 2006-06-26 03:38 pm (UTC)(link)
You've just put your finger on why precisely Remus is my favourite too. :) Glad you enjoyed the stories!

[identity profile] cosmicm.livejournal.com 2006-08-03 06:04 am (UTC)(link)
"Well, while you two plot to commit felonious acts, I'm going to go start dinner," Remus said, kissing Harry on the forehead, even though Harry pulled away and scrubbed at it afterwards. Sirius kissed the boy too as Harry leaned back, and Harry wailed in nine-year-old embarrassment.

That part made me giggle like mad. Harry is so adorable!, I love him to death.

And much love to Fever Dream. I can't even begin to describe how much I love it.
>:
I love you. ;D

~CosmicM

-geegle-

(Anonymous) 2006-08-08 02:57 pm (UTC)(link)
"Miss Howards fancies Sirius," Harry announced, drawing up his good leg and propping The Hobbit open on it.

"Does she now?" Remus asked, amused.

"She always makes sure she looks good before he comes to get me," Harry said. "And she does this, you know, when she says hi to him." He put his hand on Remus' arm and threw his head back. "Ahahaha, Mister Black!" he said, in a high voice.


xDDD Cracks me up.
I usually detest Harry but your one is just... FWAAA!
Fever dream made me cry. :3
You meanie. Genius meanie.

(Anonymous) 2006-08-17 08:09 pm (UTC)(link)
OMG! Fever dream was just about the best short little story i've ever read. i loved how the reality where sirius and remus stole harry so affected the remus from canon. i loved how he went to harry and tried to mend their relationship after seeing.. whatever it is he thought he saw.

mm. yeah. i read stealing harry too, and i wish someone would wipe my memory so i could read it again without skipping chunks or knowing what's ahead. you're a fantastic author.
-Kim

[identity profile] treppie.livejournal.com 2006-08-25 02:25 pm (UTC)(link)
Fever dream? Made me all misty. Really lovely work. Loved the bit with stealing-universe Harry and cannon-universe Remus in the kitchen.

[identity profile] sam-storyteller.livejournal.com 2006-08-25 03:24 pm (UTC)(link)
Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it :)

Tales From The River House: Russian Literature and Fever Dream

[identity profile] ravenpan.livejournal.com 2006-11-27 08:24 pm (UTC)(link)
Those were... Wow. I just... *speechless* gorgeous they were.

[identity profile] invisible-eyes.livejournal.com 2007-01-26 09:01 pm (UTC)(link)
*sighs* Fever Dream was just lovely. Sad, but lovely. If only HBP Remus and Harry could have a bonding moment like that... it was just lovely how seeing what could have been in your universe had such an effect on canon Remus.
And broken leg!Harry was just the cutest, especially when combined with worried parent Sirius! :)

[identity profile] kileaiya.livejournal.com 2007-03-11 02:13 am (UTC)(link)
Russian Literature was lovely, but Fever Dream... Oh my, Fever Dream was just brilliant. *sniffle*

[identity profile] notlefthanded.livejournal.com 2007-03-30 01:57 am (UTC)(link)
I'm rererererereading the Stealing-Harry-verse and just wanted to say how much I love these stories. Everyone is so human and fragile, and capable of more than they thought they could be. You seem to write each character with such compassion. Your Harry, and the way your Remus and Sirius feel about him, and the way you describe Lily with her infant son - it melts something in me and makes me want a child. I don't know that you could know what a feat that is.

When I reread Sorcerer's Stone, like I am now, I am enraged and sickened anew at how the Dursleys treat Harry. My God, real humans treat real children that way.

And in Fever Dream, the way Harry and Remus grieve together, the way they project their own guilt onto each other, their awful brokenness... I just can't express the depth with which it touches me, and how real it feels.

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