Solitaire Unraveling – an old HP fic snippet

I know this is very random but in trying to find an old writing to answer a tumblr post, I ran across this fic which I’d planned to be an epic Remus-centric Harry Potter fanfic. I started writing it on Thursday June 29, 2006, but never got beyond the first 9 pages.

It’s kind of awkwardly worded and I ended up stopping and starting over because I wasn’t sure if James and Sirius should have known of each other beforehand or how the Potters and Blacks should have viewed each other, and maybe some parts were too cheesy, etc. I never finished it. But rereading it now, idk. It was kind of fun to read so I decided to share it here just because. All of what you see below is straight from that 2006 document, almost entirely untouched/unedited since then.

Obviously, Harry Potter and all its characters are owned by JK Rowling and whatever other companies own rights.


Solitaire Unraveling


6/29/06 – Thursday

Remus love forever.

S/R love for just as long.

Title from the Mushroomhead song.

Solitaire Unraveling was going to be the title of a collab fic in another fandom years ago, but it never got off the ground. When thinking of this story, I really wanted to examine Remus’ difficulties in letting people in, and, even more so, letting them go once he had accepted them. I wanted to explore how hard it is to trust, and how he had kept himself apart, and how that changed with the Marauders. The song title popped into my head quite suddenly at that point, so I went with it.

But when I looked up the lyrics later, I realized they were far more relevant to the story idea than I had remembered. And that’s the story of this fic’s name. Titillating, I know.

Remus J. Lupin felt distinctly awkward at the Platform of Nine-and-Three-Quarters.

The bag he held clutched to his chest was not nearly as nice as ones children around him carried and his single suitcase seemed pathetically inadequate compared to the large amount of trunks he saw being loaded continuously on Hogwarts Express. Kids his age and older swirled around him, nervous and excited and making more noise than Remus had been subjected to since the remote village that tried to sing and dance away his affliction.

But mostly he felt awkward because of his mother.

“You’ll be alright then, will you?” she asked for the third time, absently rearranging his collar and smoothing his robes at his shoulders. “You’ll be fine?” She was trying to keep the nervous fear from her voice and expression but her body language gave it away as if she shouted.

“Yes, Mum,” he said, only a little glumly because he saw a boy his age look at him sidelong with a slight sneer. He knew his mother meant well but it was rather embarrassing to act like this in front of everyone.

“And, and you know all about the… arrangement, right? You know where to go and.. what to do?” She could not help glancing around to see if anyone was listening, an action that drew more attention to them than anything.

Remus sighed, slightly. He usually was calmer around his parents, had taken to speaking in a soft voice and moving in slow or obvious ways. When he was younger, soon after The Accident as his father referred to it (and his tone of voice always managed to convey capital letters), Remus’ parents had been spooked by sudden movements. He still didn’t know if it was because they feared the wolf would suddenly take over, full moon or no, or if they feared some new threat was coming for their son.

Having a werewolf for a child, Remus supposed, was reason enough to be nervous.

In this case, however, his mother was making him more nervous than if he had been on his own. Doubts and fears were flashing through his mind and he knew he had to stop himself. Otherwise, before he knew it, he would be studying the crowd, wondering who would be too slow to get away from him if he got loose during the full moon, wondering exactly whose lives he would destroy and did he really have the right to endanger anyone anyway?

The noise and energy levels heightened simultaneously, and Remus glanced at the clock. It was only about 10:45 AM but he was feeling a little paranoid. He couldn’t risk missing the 11 AM departure time, because wouldn’t that be the stupidest start to his first journey on his own? Missing the only train that could get him there due to worrying about his damn affliction.

“I know who to ask to show me,” Remus said, looking back at her. He smiled at her, the expression comforting and confident and she had to take a deep breath to keep the tears from shining in her eyes.

What was her child doing, trying to give her the comfort at such a turning point in his own life? He would be killed someday, she thought desperately, simply because he thought of someone else before him. He was too kind and for that alone she tugged him forward into a fierce hug.

He was startled and thoroughly embarrassed but a quick glance to the side showed the snide boy from before being similarly fussed over by his mother. He felt a bit of vindictive pride at that and briefly hugged her back.

“You just be careful,” she whispered fiercely into his hair, hugging him tighter, as if by pulling him close enough she could meld their bodies and cure him of his illness. “Make sure you know exactly what to do and owl your father and me immediately if something is wrong, alright?”

“I know, I will,” he said, his voice muffled by her clothing.

She nodded and suddenly pulled away. Her face was turned but he could still see the glint in her eyes as she struggled not to cry. “Right, then, off with you,” she said a bit thickly, placing the handle to his suitcase in his hand. “Hurry along or you’ll miss the train.”

Remus nodded, smiled once more with a murmured, “Goodbye, then,” and then turned and wove through the crowds to board Hogwarts Express. He really should have moved his luggage in earlier and come back out to say goodbye but he’d thought that would be too difficult. He was unaccustomed to being away from his parents and running away only to run back only to leave again…

Well, it all seemed rather complicated and he thought it may tempt some homesickness out of him prematurely.

It took a bit of time to struggle his way through the train and, with his typical panic that never made it to his face, he realized that most of the compartments were already full. He moved further down the hallway, looking in each window, with each step feeling more and more out of place.

What if they didn’t have enough room? What if everyone had already made friends on the platform? What if his companions were loud and rude and didn’t let him read? What if he couldn’t go after all?

He could feel his heart pounding so hard that he absently assigned the description of ‘slamming’ to it, but in the third to last compartment he felt a moment of profound relief. It was mostly empty, save one boy leaning against the wall, staring out the window with wide eyes. He looked equally apprehensive and excited and that alone put Remus at ease.

“Excuse me?” Remus said hesitantly as he hovered in the doorway.

The boy looked over, startled, and stared with growing fear, as if he had done something wrong. “Yes, what is it?” he asked, clearly paranoid. “I didn’t do anything wrong! This room was open and…”

“No, I’m sure it’s fine,” Remus said hastily, hitching the bag strap higher on his shoulder. “Only I haven’t a place to sit for the train ride and I was wondering if those spots were taken.” He tilted his head toward the three remaining spaces on the seats.

The boy’s tension immediately relaxed and he smiled. “Right! Of course that’s what you want. No one’s here, so it’ll be you and me now, then.”

Remus smiled gratefully and pulled his tattered suitcase and patched bag in with him. His parents really could have afforded better but Remus already felt guilty enough with them spending so much money carting him around the world trying to find a cure that he knew would never be found. He insisted on wearing out everything he owned before getting anything new and it worked quite well. If he were entirely honest with himself anyway, he would note that he actually preferred well-worn possessions. They carried a history that could be seen at a glance, had clearly been so well-loved that even a stranger would know immediately. It was merely an unfortunate part of society that Remus’ definition of ‘well-loved’ was labeled ‘shabby’ for nearly everyone else.

“What’s your name?” the boy asked as Remus finished stowing away his luggage and dropped into the seat across him.

“Remus Lupin, pleased to meet you. And you?”

“Peter Pettigrew,” said Peter, who smiled a little nervously at him. “Maybe we’ll be friends.”

“Maybe,” Remus said, with the slightest tilt to his lips, and he looked down at the book he had brought for light reading.

Silence fell in the room for several long minutes, as Remus read to calm his nerves and Peter alternatively stared fixedly out the window and fidgeted in his seat. It had to be nearing 11AM but the train had not taken off yet.

Remus was just idly wondering how they had managed to have a half-empty room when the train had seemed so full, when he heard a distant, indignant shout, “What do you mean you didn’t save me a spot?” Remus ignored the outburst but in his peripheral vision he could see Peter squirm and try to crane his neck to see into the hall without being too obvious about it.

There was a muffled answer to the shout and then an answer to that in the same indignant tone as before, but quieter so the words could not be heard. After a moment, there was a huff and footsteps stomped further down the hall.

A boy appeared suddenly in the doorway, almost walking past before he glanced in and noticed the extra space. “Are those empty?” he asked intently, dragging a cart of luggage behind him.

“Yes,” Peter said a little breathlessly, for the boy was quite handsome and had the air of royalty. He seemed the sort that would easily rise to popularity and Peter’s expression led Remus to believe that Peter was the sort to appreciate that.

“Good,” the boy said firmly and dragged everything into the cramped quarters. As he started loading his luggage onto the racks, he grinned briefly at the two of them. “I’m Sirius. You’ll be happy, later, that you met me before I’ve gained a fan club.”

Remus blinked slowly, staring at the words on the page before him that he had not read since Sirius appeared. Sirius’ arrogance was almost something to admire but only ‘almost.’ Overall, Remus was not terribly impressed.

Peter, however, definitely was. “Really?” he asked, eyes widening. He scooted over immediately, giving Sirius far more room than was necessary.

“Really,” Sirius said with a confident nod as he dropped to the seat next to Peter and spread out in a lounge. “I plan to rule the school by third year.” His tone was offhanded and casual, yet there was no doubt he believed it.

Peter stared at him, rather like a fan mute in the presence of a celebrity, and Remus chose to say nothing. He began reading again, trying to tune them out. Peter seemed alright, if a bit prone to infatuation, but Sirius was perhaps too exaggerated for words. What sort of person declared such a thing before they had even begun their trip?

“What, only the third year?” A fourth boy appeared in the doorway, hair as dark as Sirius’ but far more unruly, although he had the same sort of handsome face and confidence. He did not hold himself like royalty; he seemed more like a celebrity than anything. “Let’s make a bet – I can do the same by second.”

Sirius raised one fine dark eyebrow and gave the newcomer a haughty once-over. “And you are?” he asked, as if speaking to someone on the level of house elves.

“James Potter, your new compartment mate.” He smirked as he pulled his own trolley into the room and began piling his luggage next to Remus’ in the rack.

“I don’t recall inviting you,” Sirius said idly as he watched James.

And I don’t recall inviting you, thought Remus to himself, though his eyes never left the page.

James shrugged easily. “Got held up and this was the only compartment left. What are you, anyway, the rejects?” He glanced at the other three, his tone light and a little teasing, though he was clearly curious why everywhere else was jammed full far before this one.

“Of course not,” Sirius said imperiously. “Haven’t you ever heard the phrase, ‘Save the best for last’?”

“Right, like that works anywhere outside of cake and presents,” James said dismissively, dropping into the seat next to Remus. They both bounced very briefly and Remus felt a pang of irritation. He was just trying to read and they were squabbling over ridiculous topics and some part of him started to feel vaguely claustrophobic.

It was like that when he was nervous, really. He was never claustrophobic, except when he realized something important was out of his control, and then everything closed in around him. Maybe he got that from being chained in small huts once a month for half his life, a feeling of terrible, terrifying loss of self-control at the same time that he was placed in a room far too small for his sense of comfort.

Whatever the case, he really wished James would scoot over another centimeter or five and get out of his personal space.

“If you’ve such a problem with our company, we can kick you out any time you want, mate,” Sirius said with a hard smile that did not reach his grey eyes.

“Nah, outcasts are fine as long as they don’t get in my way. Who are you two, anyway?” Remus did not look up but he saw James looking curiously in his and Peter’s direction.

“Peter Pettigrew,” said Peter with a shy smile.

Remus waited a moment, seeing if he had to even bother answering or if James would forget or someone would sidetrack him in conversation. There was only silence, though, so he said, “Remus Lupin.”

“What’s that you’re reading, Remus?” James asked, craning his neck to read the title scrawled across the top of the page. “’Hogwarts, a History’? Huh. Sounds exciting.”

“I’m finding it very interesting, yes,” Remus said a little coolly, hoping to fend James and his sarcasm off. “There are loads of facts.”

James was relentless, though. “Yeah? Anything useful, like trapdoors and secret passageways?”

“Well,” Remus said dryly, “it would hardly constitute a ‘secret passageway’ if its whereabouts were put in a mass-produced book. Unless they thought being so stupidly obvious would throw off the majority of readers.”

James and Sirius stared at him, perhaps taken aback by the sudden show of backbone. Peter looked between the three of them nervously, apparently unsure how to respond. But then James threw his head back and laughed, Peter followed his lead, and Sirius smirked a little as he settled back in his seat.

Remus did not look up from his book but his heart was hammering. For a moment, he thought he had overstepped some unwritten bounds. And wouldn’t that have been grand, alienating the first people he met on his first day, before they’d even started the trip? He found himself rereading the same sentence for the third time in a row but James’ laughter and Peter’s tittering put him a bit at ease. It didn’t sound like the cruel sort of laughter that had been aimed at him before; this was the sort shared between friends.

The sort Remus had never been included in before.

“If I –“ Remus’ words were so sudden that they caught even him by surprise and for a moment he fell silent as he stared at the book, furiously pretending he was still reading and hoping maybe they would not notice.

But James stopped laughing and looked at him quizzically, and Peter was still chuckling but he seemed to have thought Remus’ response was funny before the others; he just needed an excuse to show it. Sirius’ eyes were half-closed as he settled into the seat like he owned it, but the dark glitter of his grey eyes was definitely in Remus’ direction.

Heat rose to his cheeks, but Remus forced it away before there was more than a pink tinge. He cleared his throat and risked glancing up, a bit skittishly, at the other three. His gaze finally settled on James at his right, and he said, gathering his bravery, “If I find anything… like that…”

He paused momentarily, caught by James’ hazel eyes so intent in his direction. Generally, the only people who were ever this close to Remus were his family and the people they visited to try to cure him. On the latter, they always held a sort of objective pity or disgust, as if they could not look at Remus as just a boy, but instead saw him as a disease that must be cured or destroyed, and he was just the shell keeping that illness alive.

“Ah, I’ll… Er, you’ll be the first to know,” Remus finished a little lamely, looking down at his book in shame. What was he thinking? Why would they care? The moment they stepped off this train at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, they would forget about the bookish boy in the corner. Sirius would rule the school, if James did not first, and Peter would follow whoever caught his interest the most. There was no place for a person such as Remus in there, who sometimes felt he was so poor that had never even been able to afford friendship before.

A warm hand clapped on his shoulder suddenly and Remus looked up quickly. He thought James was going to push him away, say something degrading or look at him with pity for wanting to be so close to someone popular and vibrantly alive, but instead he saw an easy smile.

“Brilliant,” James said, dropping his hand and leaning back. “You can be the researcher. I’ll be counting on you.”

And when Remus smiled sidelong at James, a little shyly with his head tipped and hair half-concealing his expression, he thought he must seem rather like Peter, standing bright-eyed and awed in the shadow of a kind giant.

When Hogwarts Express finally took off, Remus was already back to reading, Sirius had apparently fallen asleep, James had pulled out a beat-up book of Quidditch and Peter was leaning forward, trying to crane his neck to see the pictures that James occasionally exclaimed about. His stories were enthusiastic and loud, and Remus had a hard time reading when he went on about something he was especially excited about.

(“See here? He was the best Seeker Japan ever had, and he blew it all on his last game! He was too cocky, right? Spent the whole time watching the Snitch, figuring he could get it when his team was so far ahead it would throw the other into shame. But then his team did bad and just when the Snitch was all that could have won them the game, the other Seeker got it. Loads of people lost money on him and were right pissed at him. It’s his own fault though, right? Bollocksed it all up for no reason. Oh! And this game here? Bludger got a ref right square in the noggin. Knocked him out and got the other team two free shots when he woke up. He was ready to roll heads, but he looked so stupid getting hit that everyone laughed at him anyway.”)

“There’s a newer edition of that, you know,” Sirius said boredly after James’ third reiteration of the wonders rampant on the thirtieth page.

James looked over, shrugging. “I know, but I like this one most. The others have terrible pictures.”

Sirius raised an eyebrow, apparently finding the comment interesting enough to come fully awake. “Are you mad? Jeremy Sidle took the pictures in the Fifth – it was only, what? Nicolai Canter for that one, right? Canter took terrible pictures – always aimed it in the wrong direction and missed all the action, didn’t he?”

“Well he did a good job on this one right here,” James said firmly, if a little hotly. He turned the book around, pointing at a picture of a Seeker narrowly avoiding a Bludger, Beater, and Chaser as he sped toward the ground, snatching the Snitch nearly out of the hands of the other Seeker and arcing back up with his hand held triumphantly to the sky. The other Seeker was so angry that he raced up and, though there were no words, clearly started yelling at him, waving his hands around and pointing at the ground and then the referee. Just before the picture restarted, the angry Seeker punched the other one, and the teams converged on the two, trying to pull them apart.

Sirius looked distinctly unimpressed. “So Canter got one good picture out of, what? A hundred? Hundred and fifty? The man was a total dolt.”

“Yeah?” James said, straight backed and indignant. “And who’re you to say all this, anyway?”

Sirius raised his eyebrows slightly, a small smirk settling on his lips. “Well, I’m Sirius Black, aren’t I? That’s all I really need.”

“A Black,” James said dismissively with a sneering lift to his lip. “Like I need to listen to anything one of them says.”

“And a Black has to listen to a Potter?” Sirius said back challengingly. “You’re just showing off ruddy old Quidditch books to make yourself feel smart, aren’t you?”

“Peter was interested and I had the book, Black. I bet—I bet—“ He had been waving his hand in Remus’ direction but stopped, looking over with mild confusion. “What was your name again?”

“Remus,” Remus said quietly as he tried to pretend he was still reading Hogwarts, A History. It wasn’t going too well by then. He couldn’t help watching the argument out of the corner of his eye.

“Right. I bet Remus agrees with me too, don’t you, Remus? Sirius over there’s just being a pillock, isn’t he?”

“I really don’t have an opinion on the matter, thank you,” Remus said, calmly turning the page.

“Ha!” Sirius’ triumphant laugh was something close to a bark as he pointed at Remus. “See there? The little bookworm agrees with me. Bet he knows good pictures and books when he sees them, don’t you, Remus?”

And now Remus found himself the center of attention for two very headstrong, angry boys, and wished he knew how to turn invisible. “I really don’t—“ he started, but the trolley witch could be heard coming down the corridor at that moment and he had never felt so relieved in his life. He had read that a woman would provide sweets for them and immediately dug into his pockets for change.

“Ah, sweets,” he said as distraction, standing and inching his way between James and Sirius to get to the door. “Think I’ll have a Chocolate Frog.”

James and Sirius glared at each other, raising the tension in the air about fourteen degrees, but they each bought some sweets as well, and Peter bought more than the others combined. Sitting down to Cauldron Cakes, Chocolate Frogs, Fizzing Whizzbees, and all sorts of other sweets, they settled into tense silence as they began to eat.

After a few minutes of crinkling wrappers and quiet, Sirius said confidently, “I’m right, you know.”

James kicked him.

* * *

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry loomed before him, menacing and wonderful and magical all at once. There was no way those spires could support themselves, and although Remus had been around the world, he still felt he had never seen anything so magnificent.

“Wow,” Peter breathed at his side, and Remus had to inwardly agree.

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