Title: Hanging On

Author: tarotgal

Fandom: Harry Potter (somewhere during/after book 7)

Rating: PG (I suppose, for implications, but a very weak PG)

Pairings: past Sirius/Remus, Bill/Remus

Disclaimer: Not mine! No money! Leave me alone, it's just an angsty ficlette!

Summary: Short ficlette. Remus visits the attic alone. Bill understands and gives him something to hold onto.

Feedback: Sure :-)



Hanging On


     Remus spent his days and nights up in the attic of Number 12, and always emerged with puffy red eyes and a stuffy nose. "My allergies," he'd shrug and tell anyone who called him on it, but they all learned quickly not to. Partly because they knew it wasn't true and the real truth would be too painful, and partly because if they did Remus would launch into a whole discussion about his werewolf senses allowing him to be even more susceptible to irritants like dust.


     They had been hopeful when Remus and Bill began dating. Despite the streaks of grey in his hair and the tiredness with which Remus sometimes moved, he seemed as young as ever when he was around Bill. Bill would hold him in front of the fire in the evenings after dinner, and Remus would snuggle into Bill's arms, nestling beneath the man's leather jacket. Bill would find new books to bring over to Remus as extra excuses to visit, but Remus not only actually read them but did so in record speed. None of this, however, kept him from the attic.


     Almost two years passed before Remus finally allowed Bill to go up to the attic with him. In fact, Remus had been the one to bring up the subject. "There are some boxes I've hung onto for too long," he said solemnly. "They should really go to Harry." Then he took Bill's hand and led him up the stairs.


     The attic was packed full of things in such a maze that as soon as Remus disappeared behind a stack of boxes, Bill had to work hard to locate him again. Laughing over the fact that it was as bad as a pyramid, Bill navigated through the attic. He found Remus hovering over a box of old school robes, most of which were black but a few of which had been turned terrible colors. There was one which was so obnoxiously rainbow tie-dyed that Bill had to avert his eyes lest he be blinded by the horror. Bill sat on the floor, leaning back against some boxes and asked how it had come to be that way, and Remus launched into a story about a Marauder prank gone terribly wrong. By the time it was over, Remus' head was in Bill's lap and Bill could hardly stop laughing long enough to dodge Remus' arms as they swung around demonstrating the escape maneuver.


     When that story was over, the next box brought two more stories. Bill had to plead with Remus to stop the second one because his stomach couldn't take much more. Remus was wiping tears of laughter from his own eyes and complied. Then came boxes that looked as though they had not been touched for a while.


     Remus took one off the top of a stack by the wall and handed it quickly over to Bill. "Please... open... I cannot..." he said, turning and cupping a hand to his face.


     Bill froze, not knowing what to do with the box. There was a thick layer of dust upon it, but Remus clearly knew what was inside and couldn't bring himself to even look at it. Torn between what Remus had said and what Remus was now doing, Bill looked from the box to his lover and back again, hoping something would help him make up his mind. What finally did, was hearing a small sniffle from Remus. In a flash, Bill abandoned the box and put his hands on Remus' shoulders. "We don't have to do this now," he whispered. "If it hurts too much, I can take Harry up here myself some time." Remus was silent, but his breaths irregular. Bill feared that the man was so close to tears that he could not even speak. So Bill tried again. "It's not as though you're throwing it out, you're just putting it in his hands for safe-keeping. But you don't have to do that even. Nothing says you have to look at these things or get rid of them if they mean that much to you." Remus reached up, holding onto Bill's hand and giving it a tight squeeze.


     Then Remus tightened and took in a strangled breath. Bill's heart fell for him. His admiration of the man went so much further than anything now could take down. He had seen Remus through his worst ten times over. He was used to seeing Remus cry over the best friends he would never have again, and the lover he had lost forever. Bill buried his face in Remus' flannel shirt-clad shoulder and wrapped his arms around the man from behind, hugging tightly. Remus' breath caught, and he snapped forward with a vicious sneeze. "HEH-ARKSHIHHH!" Bill jumped, startled at the sound. But Remus was in no condition to do anything. "IHTCH! ITCHH! HITCH! IHSHH!"


     "Rem?" Bill relinquished his hold and turned Remus in place to get a better look at him.


     Remus had the back of his hand pressed to his nose, and his eyes were watering. His breathing came in short, labored gasps, and he barely had time to look upon Bill before more sneezes struck. "IHChhh! ITChhhh! IHSHH! KIHSHH! YITCHH!" Bill yanked a handkerchief from his pocket and forced it on Remus. "Thah-HAH-IHSFF! IHCHFFF! Sniff! SNIFF! Thag you," Remus said and honked his nose into the handkerchief. He waved his other hand dismissively. "Id's jusd by allergies." He wiped the back of his hand against his eyes to brush away the tears that the forceful sneezes had inspired, but his hand lingered there as he felt compelled to rub at his eyes. "Ahh!" He growled in frustration. "Itches dow! Dabbit!" Bill resisted the urge to smile at the stuffy-nosed swearing and pulled Remus' hand from his face. Rubbing itchy eyes would only make things worse, he knew. Luckily, another strong fit of sneezing overpowered him and distracted him from his eyes. "IHChhhh! IHCHH! IHTChhhh! EHTCHH! heh...hihhh... hihIHHHKshhhh!" Remus blew his nose hard into the handkerchief, then looked up, blinking the tears away, looking into Bill's eyes. "So, what's in the box?"


     A bit stunned, Bill froze again. He saw Remus' lip twitch, and before he knew it, they had both dissolved into laughter. The fit of laughter, which had been accompanied by more sneezes, ended with them crumpled in a heap together on the floor. "I said I had bad allergies whed I was ub here," Remus told him. Bill nodded and laughed, cradling Remus' head in his arms and holding the handkerchief for him. "You all thought I was ub here cryig, did't you?" Bill tried to deny it, but Remus knew better. "Well, baybe I did a little, but the truth is, there's dowhere I feel happier." He picked up Bill's hand and squeezed it. Bill nuzzled him and wrapped his other arm around Remus' torso with a tight hug. Bill had been the one Remus chose to invite up there, to share the private, happy moments with. Bill, who had seen him through the tears and heartache. Bill, who had opened him back up again in a way Remus had never thought possible. In many ways it was easier to share the sad times with Bill, because Bill always understood when to hold Remus and when to give him needed space. That was how their relationship had started, after all, built upon death and tragedy. But that didn't mean that Remus didn't want to try and share the humor with him as well. "Blease," he said, snuggling close. "Go od add obed the box."


     Bill pulled the offending box over, covered Remus' nose and mouth with the hanky, then pulled the flaps open. Dust rose into the air, small particles drifting over them, and over the rest of the attic. Remus coughed, but laughed when he saw that inside the box was a collection of old yearbooks and term papers. "Oh fadtastig!" Remus exclaimed, leafing through the top yearbook. "You cad see how buch dorkier we looked id the years leadig ub to sevedth. Just wait udtil you see our haircuts!" Bill laughed heartily at the scrawny young wizard in his third year yearbook picture, trying to both fend off Sirius' picture self from crawling into his frame, and keep James' photo from hexing Severus Snapes' too badly, even though it was on the opposite page. "There's a worse ode of be id Charbs Club..." Remus said, flipping through the pages as Bill slid arms around him from behind and hugged, then started leafing through the papers, amused at the variety of topics and marks.


     When they finally climbed down from the attic, Remus was still sniffling and snuffling. They were both in dire need of a shower, the dust covering them so much that Remus only had to get a whiff of Bill's hair in order to set him off sneezing again. When they set down the boxes they'd brought in the kitchen, Tonks looked up from her cup of tea. She gave Remus a sympathetic look, thanks to his flushed nose and cheeks and his bloodshot eyes. Remus coughed and croaked out, "It's odly allergies."


     Tonks nodded. "Oh of course, Remus." She quickly excused herself, claiming she had a message to deliver.


     Bill wrapped himself around Remus from behind again, hugging tightly. At being so close, and the fact that the sudden hug had stirred up the dust on their clothes, Remus' nose twitched with the need to sneeze. "We'd best get into the shower right away," Bill suggested.


     Remus nodded, open-mouthed. "ihhh...ihhCHHH! IHTCHH! HETCHHH! Sniff! SNIFF!" He scrubbed his palm against his nose. "Why do you thig I wadted you to cub alog with be?" Bill grinned and steered him away from the kitchen to lead him up the stairs. Remus hung off him, sniffling and chuckling mischievously as he pulled their clothing off, item by item, along the way.