Remus used to be afraid that love would end, cut off abruptly like a road that reaches the sea. In bed, spreading Sirius's hair over his own shoulder until it covered the rough white scar of teeth, he couldn't help wondering, could this be the last time?
Before that there was a time when he thought love would never start. Sirius was a compass needle pointed infallibly towards James, and Remus was askew and separate. Southwest, east north east, always the wrong direction. And then the world shifted invisibly, and everything came into line.
The last time, when it finally happened, was nine days before James and Lily died. He and Sirius had been quarreling, and afterwards they lay on their backs and didn't touch.
Remus was a little relieved to stop wondering.
In the first year after Sirius went to prison, Remus sold off Sirius's things, one by one. Then he sold their flat and moved to a bedsit. He slept with thirty-one men that year, and eight women, and he noted all their names down on the back of an old shopping list that Sirius had written.
In the second year, the money ran out and Remus still couldn't find a job. He started selling off his own things. He slept with five people before he stopped writing down their names.
In the third year, he moved out of London and went on the dole. He was sick a lot, and he didn't sleep with anyone.
In the fourth year, he realized that he'd now been apart from Sirius longer than they'd been together.
After that night at Hogwarts, he didn't see Sirius again for months. When Sirius turned up, he stank and there were fleas in his hair. Remus cut it for him, down almost to the skin. He thought of asking Sirius to cut his too, so they could be cold and shorn together, beginning again. But when he put the shears down, Sirius started to cry.
There'd been maybe fifty words between them by the time they went to bed, and they were silent in the dark a long time before they kissed. It was all so quiet, the whole thing, even when Sirius pushed inside him too fast and it hurt. But afterwards Sirius said "Remus, Remus, Remus, Remus, Remus, Remus, Remus." On and on. Remus listened while his name grew strange with repetition, while it turned mysterious and new.
He rested his hand on Sirius's bare head, on the defenseless skin over his bones, and started to wonder again if this would be the last time.
Sirius had been dead for four months when Remus first went to bed with Tonks. He licked all the soft, wet, womanly places on her and made her come twice before he slipped inside. Sometimes, in guttering swoops and flashes, he remembered the last time with Sirius, but mostly he was able not to.
It was a pity fuck, that first night. He knows it. But he likes her best for how little she pities him. If he marries her, and he thinks he will, he might learn to be pitiless with himself, to be brave again.
Not that she isn't kind. For the first few months she let him talk about Sirius, and then she let him stop.
Once, on Order business, she disguised herself as a man. That night there was a little pause between them, a silence, and Remus knew from her stillness that she'd do it if he asked. He could have one more last time with Sirius.
But he'd had too many already.
Remus used to be afraid that love would end.
Now, he's afraid that it never, never will.