Title: Healing

Author: tarotgal

Fandom: Harry Potter, set around 1986-87

Rating: PG13

Pairing: post-Sirius/Remus, implied-Remus/lots of men

Disclaimer: LOL Believe me, this isn't sanctioned. It's just for fun

Summary: Remus, who's become a male prostitute after Hogwarts to get by, has an encounter late one night with a dark, mysterious stranger.

Notes: Written in answer to the weekly hatching week 8 accents bunny... because I cannot resist men with accents...

Feedback: Sure, I'd love some





     The air was stale when it did not reek of booze and cigarette smoke. He hardly noticed either any more. Everything felt stale to him, not just the air. The same old pub, the same old toothless barman, the same old trash who wondered in out of the cold night air. In fact, Remus Lupin didn't even flinch when a man took a seat on the barstool next to him and motioned for something to drink.


     Remus looked down at his pint. As he saw the foamy head was dissipating, and he risked a large gulp of it now. It tasted stale as well, and did nothing to numb the pain in the back of his mind, or in his throat. He barely talked nowadays. Simple gestures were enough to convey what he needed to say. A wave of his mug towards the bar tap was pretty straight forward. And a grunt and snatch of money was enough to acknowledge a trick. He didn't have to talk when he bought food, or when he curled up in an alley to sleep, or when he left another library empty-handed as he knew he'd only feel safe while reading inside.


     "Sure is gettin' code out there, ain't it, mate?"


     Remus looked up, realizing the man beside him was addressing him, not the barman. A shot of pain rushed through him, and he pushed it away with help from a few more gulps of beer. "It's winter," Remus said, resisting the need to shiver in his thin, patched jacket. "Course it's bloody cold out." His voice was almost hoarse from infrequent use, but he didn't care. He stared back down at his drink.


     "Oy, no need ta get rude 'bout it an' all. I was just tryin' for a litt'e chat is all." The man with the cockney accent tipped his hat towards him. Remus saw, out of the corner of his eye, but didn't make as though he had. He simply took another gulp of beer. "Look, I 'eard a man cou'd find 'imself a good time in 'ere."


     "I'm not working tonight," Remus replied coldly. His hand gripped the mug tightly, as though clinging to it for security. As long as he still had beer to pour down his throat, he didn't have to speak.


     The man seemed less interested in Remus' harsh voice and cold words and more interested in his body. He reached over, touching Remus' cheek with the back of his hand as though to stroke it. Infuriated, Remus slapped his hand away, glaring over at the man. "I said..." The man's grubby hand had now touched his thigh, snaking its way inward to his crotch. Remus grabbed it and shoved it back with force. "I'm not interested!" He shouted so loudly the barman looked over. He'd been clear and firm with Remus a long time ago. No turning tricks in the pub. Remus obeyed, but this man wasn't making it easy for him and the last thing he wanted was to get kicked out into the cold before closing time. "Lay off me. I'm not for sale tonight," he hissed. Then he picked his shabby self up along with his mug and repositioned himself on a stool at the end of the bar.


     From there he could see the man, and saw that he was staying put and not following. The man looked almost as flustered to have been called on it as Remus was to endure the advances. Remus muttered something under his breath, and downed the last of his beer. A hand dove into his pocket, scrounging for coins. He felt very few. There was a little wizard money, but far too little. By feeling them out, he found the muggle coins and plopped them all down on the counter. It added up to about five pounds. Normally, Remus would count it out, but tonight he didn't care. The man was still staring at him from the other side of the bar, eyeing him as though he were a piece of arse still for sale.


     Remus didn't utter a thank you or a goodnight to the barman. He just pushed off from the bar and started to head across the dark pub. He didn't have the money to drink any more, but usually the barman didn't mind him just sitting in the corner for a while until closing. Truth was, Remus thought the barman might fancy him a bit. It didn't much matter to Remus, so long as he got alcohol and a warm place to stay for a couple hours out of the deal.


     And then he heard it. From somewhere far across the almost empty pub. Unmistakably clear. "hehARSHhhhh!" A sneeze. And not just any sneeze. No... it was a familiar sneeze. A sneeze he knew intimately. A sneeze he'd held tissues for at one point in his life, many years ago. A sneeze that belonged to the one person he most wanted to see in all the world.


     "Padfoot?" he whispered, whipping round and scanning the establishment. His eyes darted from one dark corner to another in a desperate search for the man. He had almost given up hope when he saw a tuft of untidy black hair from a man on the other side of the pub. The man's back was turned, but he was tall and broad in the shoulders. The long black hair was hard to miss, however. As was the leather jacket and turned up collar.


     Remus reached beneath his coat, slipping his hand around his wand. If it was... if it really, truly was Padfoot... then he'd need his wand out and at the ready. He was only going to get one chance at the curse, but it'd been a chance he'd wanted every night in his dreams. He wanted to see Padfoot in order to kill him. With a deep breath and determination, Remus headed straight over to the table.


     But it couldn't be Padfoot, could it? Sirius was in Azkaban prison, from which there was absolutely no escape. And even so, what would he be doing out here, in the middle of nowhere, at a muggle pub? Unless he was there specifically waiting for Remus. Unless, somehow he had tracked Remus down and was now going to do him in. He'd killed James, Lily and Peter, and now it was Remus' turn. Remus' heart fluttered and he gripped his wand tighter. He'd kill the man right now, in front of all the muggles if he had to. He didn't care, and he knew Sirius wouldn't care. And, yet, how could it possibly be Sirius? He would have heard if someone had escaped Azkaban. Unless the news just hadn't made it as far as the muggle world, yet. It had been days since he had seen another wizard, let alone read the Daily Profit. It was entirely possibly that Sirius had escaped and Remus just had not been told yet. After all, who would bother telling Remus? Who even knew where Remus was? Apparently, Sirius Black did.


     Remus approached the man from behind, and stood his ground. With a deep breath, he said firmly, "Sirius?"


     The man turned. Same pale eyes. Same dark hair. Same build. But the face... the face was so completely different. He looked kinder, softer somehow. His cheeks were round, his chin weak, his mouth narrower, his nose pointier.


     "S-s-sorry," Remus managed, releasing his grip on his wand. "I thought you were somebody I knew. And old friend of sorts. I'm sorry to have bothered you." His voice was rough, scratchy, though filled with relief and disappointment all at once. He had been sure, for a few seconds there. He had been hopeful. And now... it was a stranger. Then again, Remus was a stranger to everyone these days, including himself.


     Remus looked him over for a moment, the clean face, the clean hair, the clean clothes. This man did not belong here in this pub. He was completely out of his element here. Not to mention that the man looked ill. He was pale, but his cheeks were rosy and his nose was likewise. As Remus watched, something came over the man like a wave, making him gasp and turn back again. Remus saw his hand grip the wooden table in front of him. Then he pitched forward with another strong sneeze. "harshhhhhh!" He paused, hunched forward, breathing with congestion. "huh... huhURShhhuhhh!" He sniffed hard and sat back in his chair with a deep sigh.


     "You're not from around here, are you?" Remus asked, once it looked like the man was done sneezing.


     "Figured oout my accent from my sneezes, did ye?" the man replied, turning in his chair to face Remus again. He was rubbing the back of his hand repeatedly at his nose, and sniffling quietly.


     "No..." Remus said softly. "You just... well you don't look like most of the clientele. And I've never seen you in here before."


     The man nodded. "Aye, I suppose that's so." He still sniffled and rubbed at his nose.


     Remus sighed inwardly and fished around in his other pocket for a hanky. They were always useful to have, so he lifted a few each month from the ministry's hospital ward. It was the least they could do after what they put him through every month. The drugs. The restraints. The neglect. The insults. But without a safe place to transform, Remus didn't trust himself as a wolf, and waking up the morning after the full moon in the ministry ward, broken and abused was better than waking up to find he'd gone on a killing spree. Plus, the handkerchiefs and bandages he swiped each month made life on the streets or flat-hopping a little more bearable.


     Locating the handkerchief, clean and pressed, he handed it over to the man. "Here," he offered.


     The man looked up at it a moment, before gratefully accepting it. He rubbed at his nose, and then blew lightly. "Thank ye greatly," he said, rubbing a dry spot at his nose. "I came doon wi' this just a wee bit ago and havena been doin' much tae get rid o' it. I guess I just thought it might gae awa if I did nothing."


     Remus knew that feeling intimately, and it jabbed at his heart now. He hardly every spoke, and never made conversation with anyone willingly. And yet, he felt compelled to do so now. "You're... you're from Scotland, aren't you?" he asked. The man nodded. "The highlands, I'd reckon." The man nodded again, looking a bit impressed. "I went to school in Scotland," Remus explained, thinking of the long train trip north from King's Cross.


     "Anaplace I might know?" the man asked, sounding interesting.


     Shaking his head, "Doubt it. It was a private school for, ah, special people." He gave the normal, hinting look, but the man did not seem to pick up on it.


     "Special people..." the main said with a smile. "I could tell that much just by lookin' at ye." His eyes sparkled, almost exactly as Sirius' used to.


     Remus gave a weak sigh. "I'm sorry. I'm not--"


     "I ken," the man said quickly. "I heard ye talkin' tae that man at the bar earlier. I wasna tryin' tae make a move. Ye're just... ye're a good lad, is all." He nodded towards the handkerchief. Then he gestured towards the chair across from him at the small table. "Would ye care fer a drink?" Remus swayed uncertainly on the spot, his hand in his pocket, the lack of coins at his fingers. "It's the least I can dae tae thank ye. Come on."


     Remus gave a brief nod, taking a seat across from the man at the table. The man ordered over two beers, which came over in no time, and Remus noticed that the man who had been hitting on him at the bar had left already. He felt a bit of relief in that, which helped the first few sips of beer go down without objection. He sighed as he set it down on the table afterwards.


     "The name's Alexander, by the way," he told Remus.


     Remus nodded. He wasn't precisely sure how to respond. He wasn't used to giving his real name. No one knew him by his real name any more, and he was perfectly happy with that. Anonymity was an important part of his life now. Now he went by his middle name, John. Always. He even had a set of muggle identification with the name John Lupin on it.


     He looked up from his beer, taking a deep breath. "You can call me..." but his voice dropped away. Not only was it difficult to say, but it wasn't the right time.


     The man, Alexander, was struggling with another sneeze. He looked as though he wanted to hold out until Remus finished, but wasn't able to. Now that Remus had paused, he took advantage of it to turn and bury his nose in the handkerchief. "hurShhhh! harShuhhh! hehShuhhhh!" He sniffed hard and rubbed at his nose with weary strokes. "I'm sorra..." he said softly. "What were ye, sniff, gaein', sniff sniff, tae say?"


     Remus felt something within him lighten. Perhaps it was the beer, or perhaps it was the fact that this man sneezed just like Sirius did, right down to the last sniffle. Or perhaps he just felt sorry for the poor guy. He leaned forward and said, in a whisper so that he could not be overheard, "Remus. My name's Remus."


     Alexander smiled and nodded. "Cheers," he said, the 'r' sound rolling off his tongue from his deep Scottish burr. He raised his pint along with the sentiment and took a sip.


     Not knowing how to follow that, and figuring it best to stay on the man's good side, he nodded back respectfully and took a few gulps of his own beer. There wasn't much more to say past the names now. It was as though both men had wanted it to grow and now that it was teetering on the brink of friendship there wasn't enough there to get it to that last step.


     "HARShhhh! Hah-hah-ArShuhhhhh!" The man sneezed again, abandoning the drink to tend to his nose with both hands. He blew his nose, then rubbed at it.


     "Looks like a pretty bad cold," Remus said, glad to find something to say.


     Alexander nodded wearily. "Wouldna guess I onla just came doon wi' it today. I feel like a train's run me over alreada."


     Remus gave him a sympathetic look. He seemed pretty miserable.


     "Look," Alexander said, leaned forward to get closer to Remus, both elbows on the table. "I wasna gaein' to ask, but ye seem like a kind lad. I've got myself a hotel room--" Noticing the way Remus stiffened and pulled back, he continued on quickly. "Wi' twa beds." He held up two fingers. "And I was wonderin' if ye'd spend the night wi' me. I need someone tae look after me. Someone tae make sure my fever doesna get too bad. Someone who knows the area and can run oout and get me some med..." His face fell. "Medi-hah-ARShhhhhh! Ah... Sniff! Medicine."


     Remus looked on concernedly. "You've a fever?" The man nodded as he rubbed at his nose. "Are you sure it's just a cold? I know a clinic a couple blocks away if you want to get checked out."


     "Aye, tis just a cold," he said. "I alwas have fevers wi' my colds. I dinna ken why that is." Remus reached over and put the back of his hand to Alexander's forehead. It was warmer than it should have been. "I've just the sneezin', though. Barely a tickle in my throat, even. Just the sneezin' and the light fever." He gave his nose a rub. By this time he'd forgotten his beer completely. Remus was almost done with his, however. "So, what dae ye say about tonight?"


     Remus had been thinking of it all the while, and glad to have been distracted by the fever to give himself more time to think. He'd spent the night in hotel rooms with tricks many times. He considered himself lucky when they shelled out the money for the warm place to sleep through the cold. But this was different. This was strange. This was awkward. They seemed to have been heading for friend, but then bypassed it completely to some place strange where Remus was starting to actually care about the guy. And that was somewhere Remus certainly did not want to go.


     "I can pay ye fer yer time, if that's what ye're worried about," Alexander said.


     Remus wasn't quite sure what to say to that either. Truth was that he wasn't in a position to refuse money. But it felt even more awkward to accept that offer. "You don't need to pay me," Remus said gruffly. He grabbed his pint, his hand tightening around it so much that his knuckles went white, and downed the rest of the beer all at once. It didn't help give him the needed confidence, but it calmed the jumpiness in his stomach a little.


     "So that's a yes? Ye'll come over?"


     "Yeah," Remus said, wiping the back of his hand across his mouth. "Yeah, I'll... come."


     The chairs scraped along the wooden floor as they booth stood. As Remus, a bit light-headed, got his bearings, Alexander rushed over to the bar to settle his bill. Remus slowly followed him out into the dark, cold night.


     He shoved his hands in his pockets and bowed his head to the wind as they walked, though keeping an eye on Alexander's leather jacket the whole time. The sound of his sniffling was enough of a guide, though. Several times Remus was tempted to duck into one of the dark alleys and apparate away. But something compelled him to stay, further than just his word.


     It was strange for this man to ask a male prostitute for some company and not want sex. Stranger still, he seemed to understand that Remus was the type who could look after him. He seemed to know Remus was a kind soul, a caregiver by nature. And Remus somehow seemed compelled to assist in healing the ailing man tonight. It was difficult for him to understand, as he climbed the stairs of the hotel behind the almost stranger, but somehow he needed to do this, wanted to do this. Or, at least, wanted to believe there was a reason that on his one night off a man from out of town turned up reminding him so much of the only lover he'd ever wanted.


     The hotel room was warm. Blissfully warm. It was also a far deal better than any place he'd slept in quite a long while. The carpets were fluffy and spotless, the beds made with crisp sheets and clean blankets. And the loo practically glowed with a lemon-fresh shine. A small suitcase rested at the foot of one of the beds, and it was onto this bed that Alexander collapsed, sniffling and coughing a little.


     "Thought you said you were only sneezing," Remus said, watching as the man half curled up on top of the bed.


     "Tis the cold air getting' tae me," he replied, patting the base of his neck. Remus nodded with understanding. The wind was terribly sharp outside, and his system had taken a few moments to adjust to the warmth of the room when they entered it finally.


     Remus walked over to the bed, and gently tugged at the neck of the leather jacket. The material was familiar to his fingers, and he found himself thinking longingly of those trips behind Sirius on his motorbike, holding on as they flew off together. "Let me help you take your jacket off," he offered, tugging at it a little.


     The man looked up at him, wide-eyed. "I told ye that ye didna have to--"


     Remus sighed. "I'm not. I just thought you'd be more comfortable lying under the covers instead of on top of them." Alexander looked a little relieved at this, and Remus had the odd impression that he was actually intimidated by Remus, or at least the idea of Remus. Or perhaps the man had simply had a hard sort of day and wasn't the type to quickly unwind. But he let Remus take his jacket off and hang it up in the closet. And let Remus slip his shoes off and then cover him with the sheet and blankets. "Warmer?" he asked, instinctively rubbing a hand up and down Alexander's upper arm through the blankets.


     Alexander nodded. He struggled and shuffled around beneath the covers for a moment before pulling out some bills. Remus' heart leapt for a moment at the sight of them. He'd told the man he didn't want payment. Was he going to have to refuse money that was being so willingly given? "Would ye gae tae the market? Or the chemist's? Whatever's closest, I've no idea what's around here, and pick up some things fer me?" He shoved a few bills into Remus' nearby hand. "Tissues, juice, cold pills ... and maybe something fer a headache. I think I feel one comin' on."


     Remus took the money, nodding. He flipped through the bills, making mental calculations. "This..." It was far too much for what the man was asking.


     "I know," the man said, pulling out Remus' handkerchief and rubbing at his nose. "Just keep whatever's left over fer your troubles. Oh, and..." He handed over the door key. Apparently he had some faith that Remus was not going to run out on him with the money and never return.


     And though the thought had seriously crossed his mind, Remus didn't intend to. Oddly, he really did want to get this man the care he needed. Though he was also entertaining the idea of running out on him in the middle of the night. Remus headed back out into the cold of the night, trying to think of the nearest place open at this time of night that would have such things. As he walked, he tried to go over the night in his mind, wondering how he had managed to get himself into this. He was too nice, he knew that. He'd spent the last five years trying to be as mean and gruff as he could because it just didn't pay to care about people. No matter how much you love, or how much you care, they all leave. It's better not to get attached. It's better to stay cold and mean to the world because it was always cold and mean back. At least... usually it was.


     Remus darted into the first open store he passed. The wind outside was picking up, and with it snowflakes had begun to fall. His face was awfully cold, he knew that much, but the alcohol still running through his system kept the chill off his bones. Remus grabbed a pack of orange juice bottles from the shelf as they didn't need refrigeration until opened and were small enough to drink in one shot. He located the tissues, grabbing a box at random, then double-thinking it and taking the largest box he could find. Alexander was sneezing a lot, and if he went through tissues the way Sirius had, he'd need the whole thing before his cold was gone. The medicines were next, though slightly more difficult. He'd never used muggle medicines before, and the variety was a bit overwhelming.


     "May I help you?" asked the store clerk, rounding on him with a stern look.


     Remus could hardly blame him. He knew he must not look as well groomed as the usual customer. "Trying to find something for a cold and a headache," Remus replied, trying to keep his answer as short as possible. The man looked him over skeptically. Unshaven, patched and dirty clothes, cold amber eyes. "Look, I've got a sick friend and a handful of money," he flashed the bills, "So could you help me out?"


     The man smiled at the money and nodded helpfully. Remus left the store with all Alexander had requested, as well as a loaf of bread for himself and a package of tea bags.


     He was really starting to feel the cold in the air by the time he returned to the hotel room, fumbling with the key and the two bags which contained his purchases. Alexander was still in bed when Remus entered, but had apparently been up and back again as he was now in his pajamas. Remus couldn't recall the last time he'd been in pajamas. It was too much trouble to change, usually. Even when he had a crummy flat to stay in, it was too much of an extravagance to buy pajamas when he could just crash on the couch in the morning after coming home from work.


     Alexander was, not surprisingly, sneezing. While he clutched the handkerchief in one hand, he covered his nose and mouth with the other as they shook him rather forcefully. "hah-URShooo! arSHhhhh! HURShuhhh!" When finished, he rubbed his nose with the handkerchief and looked up at Remus. "Did ye, sniff sniff, find everathing all right?" Alexander asked, propping himself up on his elbows.


     Remus nodded. He hovered beside the bed, taking out the tissues, and opening the box immediately for him. Alexander set to work blowing his nose at once. "Do you want the medicine now?" he asked, taking those boxes out next.


     Alexander nodded. "Could you get me a glass of water for them?"


     Not quite understanding, Remus obeyed. There were four overturned glasses sitting beside the sink in the loo, waiting to be used. He filled one with lukewarm water and returned to see Alexander shaking two pills from one of the bottles out onto his palm. He popped them in his mouth, and washed them down with water. Remus tried not to look as though he'd never seen this behavior before. "I, ah, I got you some tea, too," Remus told him. "I know you didn't ask for it, but it might help clear you up a little. Would you like me to make you some? I fancy having some myself right now."


     "Yes, but--" About to nod and about to inquire as to how Remus planned on making tea without a stove, Alexander instead grabbed a fresh tissue and covered his nose quickly. "heh-ARShhhh! EhhShhh! HERShuhhh! Ehh-heh-UHShhh!"


     Remus left him to sneeze in private, while he took the package of tea to the sink. He ran hot water into two cups, then looked back over his shoulder. Then man sat up, sneezing repeatedly, long, shaggy black hair falling alongside his face, body shaking weakly from the strong sneezes. While Alexander was distracted, Remus snuck his wand out and tapped both glasses with a whisper. The water in each swirled and began to steam. He dropped a teabag into each, dunking a few times, then using the strings to squeeze them out before disposing of them. The tea was raspberry flavored, but Remus also spoke a soft sweetening spell to make them taste much better. He returned when the sound of sneezing had died down. "Hope this tastes all right."


     He handed one to Alexander and hovered there a moment to make sure he approved of it. Alexander took a few sips, then sighed. A smile crossed his face. "Aye, tis wonderful. Thank ye."


     Remus smiled back and sat down on the other bed as he drank his. He had to admit that it warmed him up much better than the alcohol had. He hadn't had proper tea in a long while, really not since those few years after Hogwarts. He and Sirius used to share morning tea all the time back then. They'd been quiet and tired, enjoying their tea together. As he sipped his tea in silence, he couldn't help but notice the similarity. Alexander finished his with a yawn, and Remus left both glasses in the sink to rinse them out later.


     "Feel free tae use the shower if ye like," Alexander said, lying back down on his side and curling up beneath the covers. He yawned again. "Ach, and give me a good shove if my snorin' wakes ye up in the middle o' the night."


     Remus nodded, though absolutely sure he would not be bothered by it. Sirius had snored, whether he was stuffed or not. And as Remus' residences were usually out on the street or in the parts of town no one ever wanted to sleep in, he was no stranger to sleeping through noise.


     Remus did, however, take a long, hot shower. And when finished and had crawled back into his clothes, he felt much warmer all-around. If he did indeed end up skipping out on Alexander once the man was asleep, at least he had a little money and a warm shower under his belt. With another luck, another couple nights of indiscriminate sex for money would land him enough to pay a month's rent in some hole in the wall. And then it would be at least warm and dry.


     Alexander was still awake when he returned, and the light between the two beds had been dimmed down to its lowest setting. "You doing all right?" Remus asked, heading over to Alexander, who was curled up and looking miserable and shivery. He felt the man's forehead. It was still as warm as before, but no worse.


     "It's been a hard day," Alexander replied, closing his eyes. "And this cold isna making it any better." He sniffed hard, and Remus could see tears in his eyes. "Didna tell ye why I came doon here, did I?" he asked as Remus climbed into the bed opposite him.


     "You don't need to," Remus said at once. In addition to anonymity as far as names when his tricks were concerned, Remus was used to all personal information being withheld as well. They weren't about to ask him why he looked so shabby on top of his handsome features or why he was peddling his arse on the streets. And likewise Remus didn't ask what they did for a living or why they were eliciting sex from a male prostitute.


     "I was in London fer a business trip last week," Alexander said anyway. "And I'd an old friend tae see on my way home." He coughed and plumped his pillow a bit to make it a little higher and help himself breathe. "So when ye said that bit about an old friend earlier taeday when ye me... well, it felt like things comin' taegether, ye ken?"


     Remus did understand. A least a little bit. He had a strange feeling about all this. He wondered if he'd have been so compelled to go with the man if he hadn't reminded Remus so much of Sirius.


     "ARShuhhhh! Sniff!" Alexander blew his nose a few times, then waited a little while before speaking again. "Who was he? This friend ye mistook me fer? Handsome lad, I bet?"


     Remus grinned, wishing he hadn't. But that had been such a Padfoot-like thing to say. Problem was, he now hated Padfoot and everything he'd been. "He used to be my lover," Remus admitted, wondering why in the world he was telling the man this. For someone who had barely spoken for years, he was suddenly finding it easy to speak to this complete stranger. And, yet, he wasn't a stranger at all, really. He was Alexander from the Highlands, who was sick and needed help. And, apparently, needed conversation right now. That wasn't something Remus was used to, but his voice seemed to grow re-accustomed to it the more he used it. "But he did some things I couldn't forgive him for and now he's... well, somewhere from which he'll never return."


     "I'm sorra." It was Alexander's turn to look sympathetic now. "hehhh..." That and sneezy. "HERUShhhh! HEHShhhh!" His sneezing came so strong, and so quick, he found it difficult to catch his breath until it was all over. And even then, he strained for it. Remus slipped out of bed and headed over to him with one of the pillows from Remus' bed. He slid it under Alexander's head, and reached over to pat the man on the back a little. Alexander smiled, looking up at him. "The friend I visited this morn," he said, his voice sounding rather stuffy. "She's gone, as well. Died some years back. I never made it over here tae realla say goodbye until now."


     "I'm sorry," Remus echoed, his patting turning to rubbing. Soft, comforting strokes.


     "We were friends in our childhood," Alexander went on. "After primary, she went tae a private school and we didna see much o' each other. But it still hurt when I found out she'd been killed."


     Killed. Remus' hand paused a bit in its petting. That was something he understood all too well. It was the reason he stuck around in this town instead of living closer to a big city. It was the closest muggle town to Godrick's Hollow. He'd been living there with Sirius when it happened... and afterward he could not bring himself to leave the area. "I'm so sorry," Remus said, knowing there really weren't words that could heal that sort of pain. He'd spent years reading books in the search for some. But in the end, there was always just pain and sadness. And as he'd never had anyone to share those with, there wasn't much point in trying to feel anything but cold all the time.


     "She'd moved in wi' her husband a year or twa befer it happened. I'd been away durin' her weddin'... I feel bad now fer missin' it. But what's realla strange is I think she knew somehow she was gaein' tae die. She wrote a letter tae her famila, sayin' that she looved them. And then next we hear, she's gone."


     "I understand," Remus breathed heavily, his eyes closed. He wished badly that he'd purchased some alcohol when he'd last been out. But all the stores were closed now and probably the pubs as well.


     "heh-hehURSHhhhh!" Alexander sneezed freely, his hand not making it up in time. Looking a bit embarrassed, he took several tissues and covered his nose with them, rubbing his nose and holding them there just in case. "She was pregnant, last I'd heard. I couldna even tell ye what happened about that." He gave a shrug.


     "What..." Remus started, not at all sure he wanted the answer, but somehow feeling compelled to ask just the same. He wasn't used to asking things like this... and knew he shouldn't be. His throat closed up and his mouth went dry at the thought. It couldn't be... it just couldn't. He closed his eyes, hoping that maybe if he didn't look at Alexander, it might help. "What was your friend's name?"


     "Och, I didna say did I?" he chuckled. "Sorra. It was Lily."


     Remus tensed, sucking in a sharp breath. "Lily Evans," Remus whispered, his eyes still closed. He stood, not wanting Alexander to see he was shaking. And he needed air in order to say it, "Married name... Potter."


     With a few startled coughs, Alexander sat up. His eyes were wide. "H-how..." he stuttered.


     "That special school I went to in Scotland," Remus replied. His heart was beating so fast separate beats could not be discerned. He was starting to feel sick to his stomach with grief again, something he had worked for years to overcome. "Her husband, James, was one of my best friends. That old friend I said you looked like was..." Remus couldn't say it. Absolutely could not. How could you tell a complete stranger his childhood friend was killed by your lover? He'd been their best man at the wedding, and their murderer as well as far as Remus was concerned. Remus' hand clutched at his stomach. A flash of heat and dizziness came over him. He was going to get sick. He hated getting sick. Hated it more than almost anything. Breathing became harder, swallowing became harder. He closed his eyes, trying to forget all this as he sank down onto the edge of the other bed and bent over a bit around his stomach.


     "Remus?" He felt a warm hand on his forehead and smiled at the irony of the situation. Things had a way of working out strangely when he was involved... and he really should be quite so surprised at this tie between them. He opened his eyes. "I'm all right," he said, reaching out and guiding Alexander to sit on the bed beside him, for the man looked terribly weak standing up.


     He pulled the blanket on the bed up and around then both, for he could tell by Alexander's shivering that the man was cold, but he wasn't feeling much warmer at the moment. "Thanks..." Alexander said, clutching the blanket close to his body to keep the warmth in. "So... so ye know wha' happened tae them?" he said softly. "I mean, about the car crash and all?"


     "Car..." Remus nodded and sniffed hard, blinking back tears. It didn't feel quite so bad this way. He didn't have to explain about betrayal, about murder, about fear, about wizarding politics, about Voldemort and about the fighting. "Yes, the car crash," Remus nodded. "It wasn't their fault," he said softly.


     "Didna think so," Alexander replied. "I didna even know they had a car." His breath caught and immediately he cupped his hand to his face. "hah-hah-ARShhhh! AHSHhhh! ARshuhhh!" He sniffed hard and rubbed the back of his hand at his nose.


     Another strange feeling overtook Remus. There was something familiar about this. And not just because it was the way Sirius sneezed. Somehow he felt as though he was meant to be here. "Bless you," he whispered. Feeling the sickness slip from his chest, he got up and retrieved the tissue box, holding it on his lap as he sat down. He pulled the blanket around himself again and fed Alexander tissues. He petted Alexander again, a hand on the back of the man's head, stroking comfortingly.


     "The baby..." Alexander said after a few moments of silence. "Was it a wee laddie or a lassie? I ne'er knew."


     Remus gave a soft smile. "They had a boy," he explained. Having lived amongst muggles nearly since it all happened, Remus found it easier being around people who didn't know about Voldemort and the Boy Who Lived. People who didn't know that the boy responsible for saving the wizarding and muggle worlds was the son of his best friends. A little boy he used to take care of and feed and change diapers for. But talking about it now after so long, with a muggle who had no idea of the importance of the boy was a strange and different sort of feeling indeed. It simplified it somehow. Made it not quite so painful. "Named him Harry. Harry Potter. And he... he survived the... the accident. His parents gave their lives for him."


     "Shite..." Alexander breathed, sounding amazed. "I wasna told..."


     Remus nodded. "His Aunt and Uncle took him in. They live a bit south of London now."


     "Petunia?" Alexander gave a laugh. "She and Lily used tae fight all the time. It's hard tae believe she o' all people--"


     "There was no one else to take him," Remus whispered, with great regret. Though the ministry probably would not have let him take Harry, Dumbledore had briefly entertained the notion. But in the end, a werewolf taking care of a baby on his own was a risky proposition. It was only made worse by the fact that Remus had been poor and with no solid home or job after the flat he and Sirius had shared was denied him. Still Remus wished he could have done something. He knew it wasn't fair to Harry.


     "HAHShhhh! Harshhuhhh! HehShhhh!" Alexander sneezed hard, falling forward with each and taking the tissue Remus held out for him when they were through. He looked weary from the news as much as the cold, and shivered again beside Remus.


     "I think you'd best lie down again," Remus suggested. He felt Alexander's forehead and decided it was slightly warmer.


     Alexander breathed out hard, stuffed-up and clearly on the brink of sneezing more. He nodded wearily and readied himself to stand.


     "You can stay here," Remus offered softly. Alexander stared at him quizzically. "Really. Something tells me I could use the company of a friend as much as you could right now. And I'll be able to keep a better eye on you." Alexander still looked a bit worried, and Remus clarified. "As a friend, of course."


     Alexander scrubbed a balled-up tissue at his nose, sniffling. "Friends once removed," he said, starting to smile.


     "No," Remus said, shaking his head. He hadn't had a friend since... well, since it happened. Didn't want one. It just didn't pay to get attached to people. After all, he'd spent the first eleven years of his life without friends, tearing himself apart inside and out. And after he saw what became of his friends, it was hard not to want the same. But there was something about this night, this man. They'd been brought together for a reason. And Remus was damned if he could think of a better one than this. "Just friends. If... if that's all right with you."


     He sniffed, but nodded. Then Remus helped him up and pulled down the covers, tossing the blanket they'd been using over the bed again. Then Alexander crawled under the covers and Remus did the same. Remus let Alexander get settled and get comfortable, then scooted up behind the man. He patted his shoulder and back gently and reassuringly. Alexander sniffled and scooted back a little to get closer to Remus. "Could ye put yer arm around me?" he asked. Glancing over his shoulder, he added, "Just as a friend o' course. I think I would feel better tae feel that ye're there."


     Remus obliged and draped his arm around Alexander from behind. He gave a tight squeeze, then relaxed. His nose was but a few centimeters from the back of Alexander's head. His whole body was close as well, but keeping a little bit of distance between them as Remus didn't want to make Alexander uncomfortable by feeling something he couldn't help. Despite the arrangement they'd made, Remus really didn't think he'd mind letting the man service him. But Alexander was clearly not in a state for such things. And Remus thought it for the best. This whole night had brought back memories he thought he never wanted to admit to. The night had made him talk and open up as he thought he never would again. But in the end it wasn't really so bad. And there was actually someone to share the pain with now. Even if the man didn't really understand what had happened, he was hurting from the loss as well.


     Remus felt Alexander tense up, then shake in place from a sneeze. "herSHHH! hah-ARShhh!"


     Remus handed over the tissue box quickly, keeping hold of the man while he blew his nose to prove that Remus wasn't going anywhere. "You all right?" he whispered, pulling the strands of black hair back from the man's face. He'd done the same to Sirius many a time, following it with a kiss. But this time, there was no kiss. Simply a soft caressing of fingers against cheek. "Can I get you anything else before you fall asleep?"


     The man shook his head. "Nay, I'm all right." He paused, sniffed, and corrected himself. "Well, I'm set fer the night at least. Och, Remus?" he said softly, straining his neck to look back over his shoulder. "I'm sorra fer yer loss as well. But I'm glad I ran intae ye. It was nice tae finally know about Lily... and nice tae know about the baby, and that she had friends after she left home. I'm glad she had ye tae remember her."


     "Thank you," Remus said, with a slight smile. "Now get some rest, all right?"


     He nodded and turned back around, rubbing his cheek into the soft pillow. "Aye, I will," he agreed with a yawn. He fell asleep more quickly than anyone Remus had ever seen, his clients included.


     Remus smiled and shook his head, still reeling a bit from the odd events of the night. He couldn't imagine what the next morning was going to be like, but he was sure now he was going to stick around for it. He was supposed to be taking care of Alexander, after all. Though it seemed Alexander wasn't the only one who felt better this night. Unable to resist, Remus gave the man's cheek a light kiss in gratitude and hugged him a little closer before relaxing and giving in to sleep.