Survivors (Living Dead Remix) by Azurine

If you squint really hard you can probably see some Remus/Sirius.

"Remus doesnít remember how he ended up at the kitchen table with Hermione the first time."

Penknife for writing the original. Victoria P. for running the Remix Redux. Victoria P. again for being my beta reader, even though she was very, very busy.

Written for the Remix Redux challenge, original by Penknife.

Date Completed May 15th, 2004

Remus doesn't remember how he ended up at the kitchen table with Hermione the first time, but itís become a habit now, and one that she recognized quickly, in the same way she spotted the pattern to his ďillnessesĒ at Hogwarts. He wonders sometimes what else sheís discerned about him, things he has yet to realize she knows.

He wonders if she knows what heís discerned about her.

Hermione doesnít ever talk about it, but Remus is aware of the strained relationship between Harry and his friends. He sees the tension in their faces, hears the anger in Harryís voice. The anger he tries so hard to hide.

Sirius doesnít bother to try.

Sirius is always angry with Remus when Remus returns after several days away. Angry at him for doing the things Sirius canít, for simply being able to leave at all. Itís not Remusís fault, and thereís nothing he can do about it, but Sirius has never been rational in his anger, and he's even less so now. He is bitter and resentful, and chafing under the restrictions imposed on him, so he takes it out on all of them.

Just like Harry.

This is the part no one talks about. The part where Voldemort eats away at them from the inside, pulling apart what were once strong, vital relationships, one stitch at a time, until theyíre fighting each other as much as they are him. Itís the same now as it was back when Harry was just a baby, and even though this time Remus knows whatís happening, he feels just as powerless to stop it.

So rather than dealing with Sirius, Remus simply avoids him on his first night back. He joins Hermione in the kitchen, and they sit at the table together and page through a small mountain of books, some so dusty even Kreacher, tucked away in his bed under the water tank, can't help but sneeze. They look up counter-spells and cleansing charms, doing what they can to speed the cleaning process and make the house more comfortable for them all.

Itís the closest thing Hermione has to schoolwork, and she tackles it with a fervor, absorbing the knowledge she seems to need to survive like other people need air. In some ways, she reminds Remus of himself when he was at Hogwarts. Quieter and more studious than her friends, a little older than her years, and more worried about the rules and what will happen if they break them. And still getting caught up in their exploits anyway.

Remus remembers what it was like to believe he and his friends were practically invincible.

Some days he still feels the loss of that belief quite keenly.

There's something otherworldly about the time they spend in the kitchen, hidden away from Harry's resentment and Sirius's sarcasm and Molly's despair. They drink tea and sneeze and eat the sweets Molly leaves for them (and, before they learned to be careful, the occasional Nosebleed Nougat, courtesy of Fred and George). They scribble notes on Mollyís lists of things that need to be cleaned and things that need to be exorcised and things that just donít seem right for some reason, and they never talk about anyone else in the house, ever.

Hiding is what theyíre doing, and they both know it.

But the longer they keep doing it, the harder it is to *not* do it. Soon itís not just his first night back at Grimmauld Place Remus spends in the kitchen, because it seems like Hermione is *always* there and he canít help the way he ends up in that chair across the table from her. Which only makes Sirius more angry, and less desirable as company.

In private, Sirius mocks Remus for spending so much time with Hermione. Remus laughs and pretends that the barbs are good-natured, because nothing he can say will make Sirius stop. Sirius has always been jealous of anyone who takes Remus's attention away from him, a trait that has returned in spades as Sirius grows more and miserable at Grimmauld Place.

Sirius escaped from Azkaban without a thought to what he would do after he found Peter, the odds he would remain free so small as to barely make it a consideration. But Sirius has always been driven, a risk-taker, and his first year of post-Azkaban life, focused as he was on Harry and the Triwizard Tournament, brought a little of the old Sirius back, distracted him from his own problems.

All these months later, life as a fugitive has become life as a prisoner in his hated motherís house, and Remus knows Sirius wonít be able to bear it forever. Not with the portrait of his dead mother chasing him through the house with her taunts and insults. Not with Snape bearing down on him every chance he gets.

All the maturity, all the wisdom and stability Sirius gained in those last few years before he went to prison, all the good things the Potter family brought forth in him, have all been stripped away by Azkaban, like it stripped away the youth from his face. Azkaban has boiled Sirius down to the gritty, sour essence that runs through all of the Blacks, and there is nothing in any of the dusty books that will fix him.

Remus can only watch him and wait for him to self-destruct.

Living in this house, the very walls around him feeding his anger, it probably wonít take long.

Harry will be devastated by the loss of Sirius, and they will have to keep an eye on him for a while afterwards so he doesnít do anything foolish.

Eventually he will learn, as Remus has, to focus on the living and let the dead fade away.

On their last night all together in the house before the new term begins at Hogwarts, Sirius appears in the kitchen doorway with a glass of firewhisky, his mouth holding just the trace of a sneer.

Remus feels a sudden and intense flash of irritation, which just as quickly dissolves into shame when Sirius turns his sunken eyes on him. This house is killing Sirius, painstakingly finishing what the dementors started, and Remus feels a little guilty sometimes that being here is the best he's had it in ages. He has a house to come back to, and people to talk to, and for once he isn't worrying about money, or hiding his secret from the people around him.

Maybe Sirius knows all that.

Maybe that's another reason he's so angry at him.

ďIíll be going along tomorrow,Ē Sirius says, and Remus can tell by the set of Siriusís shoulders that heís expecting an argument, but Remus merely nods and goes back to his book.

Before Sirius can say anything else, Hermione finds the Bundimun-removing spell Molly has been anxiously hoping for, and Remus notes the book and page number on a piece of parchment. Pleased with yet more progress, they share a smile before Hermione reads off the next item on Mollyís list and they start shuffling through the books again.

When Remus checks the doorway, Sirius is gone, leaving nothing but the faint smell of firewhisky and a lingering sense of sorrow to mark that he was ever there.

The End

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