Archiving: All FQF will be archived solely at this site until January 30th, 2005. After that, it's yours to do with as you will.
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended. I do not own Harry Potter, its characters, or anything associated with it. I'm not making any money from this story, and I don't intend to.
Challenge & Summary: Challenge #24: Remus wasn't raised Christian/Wizarding, and doesn't celebrate Christmas.
Author Notes: OotP, slightly AU.
Remus really did wonder where Molly got her energy, sometimes. He supposed it came from her size; she had the same energy he did, it was just spread over a smaller body. Still, her bustling about sometimes made him tired just by watching.
"This is where we'll be for Christmas, Remus, we have to make sure we're ready. I wish we could celebrate at the Burrow, but Harry will be safer here, so here it will be." Molly's monologue continued as she tried to beat the dust from one of Grimmauld Place's many moth eaten rugs.
"Remus!" Remus' head snapped up, he'd realized belatedly that Molly's last paragraph had been directed at him.
"Yes, that's right. Harry will be safer here. Order protection, and such."
Molly scowled. "Remus, I asked if you would prefer ham or turkey for Christmas dinner." Remus winced inwardly; her voice reminded him of his mother when he'd done something particularly stupid.
He finally turned to look at her, craning his neck around the high backed couch. "Why don't you ask Sirius, Molly? This is his house, after all."
The older witch's scowl deepened. "Yes. I suppose that's true."
Remus dug his fingers into the couch to keep his control. He wanted to yell at the witch, really. She'd been nothing but disapproving of Sirius since she'd heard found out he was the "Padfoot" her twins admired so.
He sighed. Sirius had never been affected by other people's disapproval before. It was just another change Azkaban had inflicted, he supposed. He barely recognized Sirius, now.
"It is true," he said, somewhat more crossly than he'd intended. "This is his house, and you should ask him what he wants before you.. Do whatever it is you do for Christmas."
Remus watched Molly's left eye twitch as he sat, drinking his tea. Would she yell at him now, too?
"Yes." It appeared she wouldn't. "You're right." Small mercy, he supposed. "I will have to ask Sirius what he intends to do. I shall go talk to him now. It's been a long time since he's celebrated, I need to make sure he still understands.. Propriety." She walked out of the room without another word.
"Molly! Wait!" Remus spluttered through a mouthful of tea. Lecturing Sirius on "propriety" was not what Remus had had in mind when he'd told Molly to ask. "Damn it, woman, stop." He grabbed her arm to stop her.
"Excuse me, Remus, I need to have a conversation with Sirius."
"Yes. You do. But first you need to have a conversation with me."
Molly's nostrils flared. "Very well."
Remus tried hard not to glare at her. Damn straight, 'very well,' he thought.
"You've been nothing but condescending to Sirius since you got here." He said, reminding himself not to lose his temper. "Frankly, I'm tired of listening to the two of you fight. You are a guest here. It is not your right to be here, it is not your right to do what you please. You are here only because Sirius was kind enough to offer an invitation."
"Albus invited us here, Remus. He keeps the Order safe. He"
"Was invited here by Sirius. After Sirius heard that the Order had nowhere to meet."
Remus admitted to himself that he did enjoy making Molly's eye twitch like that. He did like her, but she made Sirius miserable, and he wouldn't have it.
"You are right, Remus. Thank you for reminding me, I think I had lost sight of that, in my.. Eagerness to be useful." She'd stopped twitching, Remus noted. He didn't think she was pleased, but she knew he was right. "I should go apologize to Sirius. Do you happen to know where he is?"
"Not offhand," Remus answered with a shrug. "You should wait for dinner. He likes to be alone, sometimes. He's not used to so many people, after being alone for so long."
He wasn't sure, but he thought he saw Molly wince at "-for so long." She deserved it. She'd used "Sirius has been this, or that, for so long.." so many times as an excuse for her actions, he was happy to throw it back in her face.
Molly's eyes widened. "Is he alright, Remus? Is there anything I can do to help him?" Remus started; he hadn't expected Molly's bustling to turn towards Sirius.
"No, he's fine," Lies, Remus, you know full well he's not fine. "He just likes the quiet, if you understand. Peace and quiet have been rare for him, so he takes it when he can, now."
Molly nodded. "Alright.. I wish there was something I could do to help him feel better. Perhaps he has a favorite dish I could make him?"
Remus bit down a smile. "He's fine, Molly, really. I just thought I'd remind you he exists, before you did the house over in red and green garlands, or something."
"Alright, then.. I think I'll go wash dishes, okay Remus? I'll see you at dinner."
Remus smiled and nodded at her. "See you at dinner, Molly."
"The children will be here from Hogwarts soon, and I thought it would be nice to have a celebration. It is Christmas, after all."
Sirius nodded. "You're right. We should celebrate Christmas.. We've had precious little to celebrate, recently, a change would be nice. Good for everyone. Yes. We should."
Molly clapped her hands together, making Sirius jump. "Let's get started, then! We'll need a tree, of course, and we'll have to plan dinner, and"
"And we must eat this delicious meal we have tonight," Arthur said quietly. "I, for one, am very hungry."
Molly waved her hand and turned to her husband to talk about their children. Arthur smiled and winked at Sirius, who gave a small smile to the older man. Remus suppressed a chuckle as Sirius drew a breath and finally managed a bite of his stew. Molly had been talking at him since he came downstairs, first apologizing for her bullying, then thanking Sirius for his hospitality, then asking about the Christmas celebrations. Remus knew Sirius was grateful to be included, but he also knew Sirius sometimes had "people overload." He suspected five minutes with Molly had been quite enough for Sirius.
As though he knew Remus was thinking of him, Sirius turned to look into Remus' eyes. Remus' spine shivered at Sirius' expression. Only someone who knew about their relationship would recognize the look in Sirius' eyes for love. Molly and Arthur wouldn't know, but Remus got the message perfectly. He returned the look, just for a moment, before sliding back to expressionless. He was sure the others wouldn't see their relationship, but he'd had enough experience with bigotry in his life to err on the side of caution.
Sirius leaned towards him as he pulled apart a bread roll. "Remus," he whispered. "What did we do for Christmas, again?"
Remus stared. Sirius was supposed to be the one who remember these things. Remus wasn't the keeper of tradition but Sirius had forgotten a lot, in Azkaban. Christmas was probably the same.
He shifted in his seat. "Well, Sirius, we usually went to James and Lily's and got completely pissed, then went home to collapse in bed." He didn't mention what else they'd done in bed; Molly and Arthur were right down the table.
"Er.. That's probably not what Molly has in mind, Remus." Sirius said quietly. "I think Lily would probably kill me if I got her son drunk then shagged silly.. He's only fifteen. She and James didn't start until they were sixteen."
Remus choked on chopped carrots and laughter. Sirius' fist pounding on his back only made him laugh harder. Molly and Arthur turned to look at them as Remus' laughter turned to hacking. A final thump on the back, and the carrot dislodged itself from Remus' windpipe.
"May I ask what was so funny?" Arthur said, the skin around his eyes wrinkling with his smile.
"We were just remembering a particularly wild Christmas with James and Lily, when we were just out of Hogwarts."
Arthur laughed. "I think we all had one of those.. First Christmas away from the parents. It's truly something to enjoy."
Remus gave a final cough, his face returning to its normal color. "Yes," he muttered. "It really is something."
He had to admit, Sirius had gotten better at hiding since their school days. The snicker buried in Sirius' coffee mug was only audible to Remus because his ears were better than a normal humans'.
"I just hope Fred and George don't overdo it," Molly said. "They might get themselves in trouble.."
"They're always getting in trouble, dear." Arthur said cheerfully. Remus made a note to ask Sirius if Arthur had been a prankster in school; he didn't seem nearly as upset by rule breaking as Molly. "It's the pleasant sort of trouble, though. I've never known them to be malicious or destructive." He leaned forward to put his hand on his wife's hand. "They'll be fine, Molly. I'm sure of it."
Remus smiled encouragingly at the woman. He wasn't so sure the twins would be fine; the pranking wouldn't get them killed, but this new war might. He could only hope everyone he loved made it through this time.
"I certainly hope so," Molly said quietly. No one at the table thought she was talking about pranking, now.
"Why do we celebrate Christmas, Remus?"
"Well," Remus muttered, leaning back on the pillows. "Lily was quite adamant about making Christmas a family time. She and James held parties, when we were young, and later, Lily organized parties for the Order only. It was quite important to her, I remember."
Sirius pressed his face against his lover's neck. "Why was it important to her?"
Remus blinked. "Erm.. It was an important time for her family. Old habits die hard, perhaps?"
"Well," Sirius mumbled. "I know that's not it.. Habit, that is."
"Well, think about it. If we only celebrated Christmas out of habit, it would have died by now. There's got to be some other reason."
Remus sighed and ran his fingers through Sirius' long dark hair. He loved the way it looked against his own pale skin. Running the fine strands through his fingers, Remus felt his throat close. He could have had twelve more years with Sirius. Twelve years he instead spent wandering, wondering why he'd been left untouched.
"There has to be some other reason, Remus.. I remember there being a reason for Christmas."
Remus blinked and shook his head. He'd forgotten Sirius' musings.
"You're right. There does."
Silence reigned for a while, then a while longer, then even longer. Sirius shifted in Remus' arms, clearly waiting for him to say something more.
"Well, what more is there, then?"
Remus frowned. "For most people, it's a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ."
Sirius nodded. "Thus 'Christmas.' That makes sense.. Why do we celebrate that, again?"
Remus couldn't help snorting. Sirius' question was just so blunt. He'd nearly forgotten how blunt Sirius could be..
"It's the birth of the savior. It's really very important to some people."
"I see. Why?"
Was he two years old? So many whys.. He supposed he was being a hypocrite; he did encourage everyone else to ask questions. They just usually didn't take it to heart the way Sirius did.
Remus shifted again, getting his legs tangled in the sheets. "I don't know."
"You don't know? How can you not know?" Sirius' head tilted up to look at Remus.
"I'm not a Christian, Sirius."
"You're not? I don't remember that.. I think I'd remember you being Jewish or whatever else. You'd have had food restrictions."
"I'm not religious, Sirius."
Remus choked with laughter at the wordless inquiry. Again, the Sirius he remembered. Young Sirius had never bothered with words if a grunt or sigh could convey the idea.
"I'm an atheist, dear. I don't do religion."
"Really? Did I know that?"
Remus tightened his arms around Sirius. "Yes, you did know that. Everyone did.. Lily was never happy about it, but she was quiet about it."
Sirius nodded slowly. "So.. You can't tell me what Christmas is about?"
"Not if you want to know about the traditions, I can't."
Sirius sighed and snuggled closer into Remus' arms. He wished he could remember..
It had been perfect. The tree was beautiful in the dusty light of the one truly habitable room in Grimmauld Place, there were evergreen garlands everywhere, and the doxies and biting spiders normally inhabiting the old house had been temporarily chased off by the swarm of ever-light lightening bugs Remus had kidnapped.
The tree even had presents under it. Most of the presents were from the Weasleys; Sirius had been horribly depressed he couldn't go out to get Harry anything, and had stayed depressed until he noticed Remus' similar depression. He'd asked his lover what was wrong, and they'd come to the perfect conclusion. Remus, who could go out but had no money, would get the presents that Sirius, who had money but no way to safely go out, bought. Remus had called it "a lovely solution for an absolutely pathetic situation. It's probably best not to think about it too much, yeah?"
Sirius stared at the beautiful tree as he sat on the couch. It was so beautiful.. He could almost imagine it was Christmas at Godric's Hollow again. The tree, the garlands, what was left of the presents.. It made a perfect picture.
Almost perfect. It would have been better as a portrait, rather than a still life.
Even when he was little, Christmas hadn't been a time to be alone.
Grimmauld Place had emptied into St. Mungo's for Christmas. Everyone had left, except Sirius. Sirius couldn't leave. So Sirius had been left behind.
He kept his smile in place, though there was no one there to see it. Maybe if he kept pretending, he would actually feel happy like everyone else. He just had to keep the act up.
Curled on the ratty old couch in front of the Christmas tree, Sirius Black smiled as he cried himself to sleep.