Categories > Books > Harry Potter

The Animal on Your Back

by Laylah 4 reviews

Remus, Sirius, and the struggle with the beast. Nothing is working out the way it should. Set during Order of the Phoenix.

Category: Harry Potter - Rating: R - Genres: Angst, Drama - Characters: Lupin, Sirius - Warnings: [!] [X] - Published: 2005-05-21 - Updated: 2005-05-21 - 1540 words - Complete

The Animal on Your Back

This house is a bloody monstrosity, in every sense of the word. It's too big, as if four generations of Dark wizards should be living here at any given time. It's too dark, as if nobody who's lived here in all the centuries it's been standing has ever thought that sunlight would be nice. And its very air is poison, choking me every day that I stay here.

But I stay, because I don't have anywhere else to go. And he stays, for the same reason. And despite how fucking big the house is, I can't seem to get away from him.

He always used to sleep late, but not any more. I get up at dawn to try to have my tea and breakfast before he's come down to the kitchen, and still most days I'm only halfway through before he comes slouching into the room, the lines in his face still smudged from sleep, and says, "Good morning, Remus." Faintly hopeful, as if this is going to be the morning that everything is suddenly -- magically -- all right.

And I try to relax, I really do. I try to smile instead of baring my teeth when I say, "Good morning, Sirius. Sleep well?"

He shrugs, and pours himself some tea, and says, "Not too badly," but the circles under his eyes are darker than they were the day before. "And you?"

"As well as can be expected. You know," And that's all I can manage. The air is thick between us, as charged as if we were snarling at each other. I excuse myself as quickly as I can. His hurt look, like he's a kicked puppy, follows me down the hall.

I can't decide what's worse: the parts of the house that stink of his family, inbred and cruel and mad, or the parts that smell like him, lonely and desperate and feral. All of it raises my hackles, makes me feel less than human.

Which I suppose I am. But I only feel that way here.

When he starts in on another screaming row with his mother's portrait, or curses Kreacher for one appalling habit or another, I'm almost relieved. I can hear his voice, and that means I know where he is. I can hear the animal rage in him, under the human words. It's horrible, but it's almost grounding.

If there isn't Order business to take care of, and many days there isn't, I try to clean the parts of the house that will let me. I open windows, employ cleaning charms, try to get a breeze in to stir the dust of the upstairs rooms. It occurs to me that I am trying to mark my territory; that I want to make at least some part of this house comfortable enough to relax in. When Sirius comes looking for me, I am always just leaving.

The night before the full moon, Snape shows up with my Wolfsbane. Sirius picks fights with him. I hate it and I don't blame him, both at the same time. Picking fights with Snape belongs to our youth. It's simple. It makes sense. I suspect that I don't make sense to Sirius anymore.

On my way down to the basement the next night, to lock myself in until the moon sets, he stops me.

"Look," he says. "You're -- you're safe with that stuff, right? So you don't have to be in there." His hand is warm on my arm, sweaty, human. "Come out running with me. Come out to the park. I miss you."

My stomach churns, and I tell myself that it's the potion disagreeing with me. "I miss you too. But...not like this. I don't want to go running."

"Can I stay here with you, then?" His grip is loosening. He's already given up.

I hug him tight, briefly, because I can't stand the smell of misery that comes off him, the smell of animal pain. "I'll see you tomorrow," I tell him.

I turn away when he drops to all fours, into his other skin, shrugging off his human shape easily. I don't want to see it. Padfoot is a very handsome dog, but I miss Sirius Black.

I know why he does it, why he did it in Azkaban. It's familiar, like fighting with Snape: it makes the world simple, for a little while. I lock the door to the basement behind me. In the brain of a dog, or a wolf, there is nothing as complex as despair. I strip off my robes, folding them up and leaving them in a pile by the door.

Every time I perform this horrible little ritual, I have to bite my tongue not to scream. It's not the pain -- or at least, not only the pain. It's the loss. It's leaving my humanity in a neat little pile by the door, all my thoughts and words drowning as the animal takes control.

The moon rises. I can't see it from down here, but I can feel it in my bones, stretching and shifting, twisting and pulling, dragging muscles with them into shapes they should never take....

And then, for a few hours, I'm only half-there. Touch is nothing. Sight is flattened. Everything has a distinctive smell, from my fur to my clothes to the lock on the door. My robes don't smell like my body, this body. When I drowse, I have fitful dreams about chasing things through the woods, where everything smells bright and sharp and real, and I lick sweet, coppery blood from my jaws.

It's mid-morning when I put my human self back together and unlock the door. Padfoot is lying at the top of the stairs, watching me, his head on his paws. I step over him and head up to my room. And when he follows me, padding softly down the hall, I close the door in his face. I hate myself for it, but I can't find comfort in the animal anymore.

A week later he tries again, in his own shape. Either I have forgotten to lock my door, or the house just gives him free rein; in any case, when I wake up in the dark he's sitting on the edge of my bed. He's only wearing his shorts, and the waning moon provides just enough light for me to see how hungry he still is, his ribs shadowed and his eyes pleading.

"Sirius," I say, as calmly as I can. Trying to pretend this is normal.

"Please," he says, and I know how much that costs him. "Don't push me away."

I pull the covers back. There are probably words I could say, but I can't find them. There's only enough humanity in this house for one of us, it seems. When he can pull it together enough to wear a man's shape, speak a human tongue, then I am reduced to this shivering, mute thing, baring my throat in silence.

"I've missed you," he says as he crawls in beside me. "I've missed you so much."

The answer to that should be easy; I know the words: /I've missed you, too/. They're even true. But they stick in my throat, and I choke on them as his hands skate down my chest, over my stomach, down --

I close my eyes when he wraps his fingers around my cock, and I try to relax. I try to feel something, anything at all besides this panic. I try to remember how much I used to want him.

Nothing comes, just this sordid moment, the musty sheets and the still air, and the smell of the beast clinging to him even now. I can't manage to get hard, just rigid with tension. I know that I'm ruining any chance we have left, but it's all I can do to stay there, in bed with him, and not run like a beaten dog.

He gives up eventually. I apologize. He asks if he should leave. I tell him he doesn't have to. He falls asleep clinging to me. I lie awake until dawn, staring at the ceiling. He doesn't try again.

After that we avoid each other almost completely. He doesn't try to speak to me at meals, and when I catch him looking at me with the hurt, confused eyes of a lost puppy, I don't apologize, because I'm not supposed to see it.

And then, one horrible afternoon, the message from Snape: Harry has run away from school. He might be on his way to the Department of Mysteries, and if he is, there's a Death Eater ambush waiting for him there.

Sirius panics. Snape tries to order him to stay at the house (/Sit. Stay. Good dog/), but Sirius won't listen. "He's all I have left!" he yells, after Snape has gone and as I'm preparing to leave. "He's all I have, and I'm not going to stay here if he's in trouble!"

I can't argue with him anymore. I've lost the right. I can't tell him, Please stay here, stay safe, for my sake. So instead I just say, "Come on. Let's go."

It's the last thing I say to him.
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