Autumn approached, and Sirius sank deeper and deeper into himself.
Remus watched when he could, between his own work outside of 12 Grimmauld Place. It was difficult, to be a proper friend, to allow for Sirius' understandable snarls and sulks when he himself was near exhaustion with his own worries. But he tried. It was what friends did, after all. And it was *especially* what whatever-it-was-that-they-were-to-each-other did.
* * *
Harry was no help, and Remus didn't like to push anyone when it came to matters like this. It was meant to be fun, after all. A diversion. No point in trying to force someone to relax.
Ron gave him a startled look of utter terror, then began laughing as he walked out.
He wasn't asking Hermione again. The last time he'd asked her, she'd politely removed the paper from him, done the whole thing, and returned it to him with a satisfied little smirk. She'd also corrected his spelling on the notes he'd made next to two of the more difficult clues. He'd taken to buying two copies of the Times and leaving the second for her, now. It was easier on one's ego.
Molly was helpful, occasionally, as she bustled around frying shirt collars and mending eggs or whatever it was that she was doing, but she got stuck about as quickly as he did. And it wasn't as if she was even in the house every time he was.
Therefore, it was quite a relief to see Sirius. Asking him wouldn't be an act of pity, of trying to help the poor prisoner be happy. Remus was only too aware of being sensitive. Not appearing patronising. Sirius contributing to this damn crossword would actually help *Remus*, because he was beginning to take it personally. So Remus looked up from his Times and smiled a genuine, happy smile, as Sirius stalked into the kitchen. "Will you help me with the crossword?" he asked casually. "I'm stuck on thirteen across."
With a muttered cross word of his own, Sirius kept on stalking right across the kitchen and out again. Remus wasn't even sure Sirius had even *seen* him.
* * *
Perhaps something more orchestrated. More carefully planned. It was difficult, to be spontaneous given everything that was happening, and the grey grim cloud that clung to everything Sirius did.
Not like when they were boys and had acres of spare time, to go rambling in autumn's late afternoon sunlight. Finding apples, making them pour down on each other. The crunch of a sweet Golden Delicious in his teeth. Shoving each other amiably, telling stupid jokes and reducing each other to tears of helpless laughter.
Remus stood still for a moment.. "Apples," he muttered to himself, then he felt his cheeks stretch in a grin. "Apples, of course."
* * *
It took some preparation, and some cajoling of -- then firm threats to -- Kreacher, but Remus finally managed it. He couldn't wait to see Sirius' *face*.
He was breathing hard, hot even though it was chilly outside, when Sirius finally appeared on one of his regular patrols. Remus spared a moment to wonder at how many miles Sirius must've walked in the last week.
"Remus," Sirius acknowledged grimly.
Remus grinned at him, and grabbed his arm, ignoring Sirius' tension. "Come upstairs, Sirius, I've got something to show you."
Why was he moving so *slowly*?! Remus had to practically drag him. They went past Harry's bedroom, which smelled like teenage boy in a way that had nothing to do with however many times Harry showered. They went past the room the Weasleys took when they stayed (talcum powder, mostly), then past Buckbeak's room (surprisingly clean). Up more stairs, and into the attics.
They stopped at the first one.
Remus opened his mouth to say proudly, "Here," but then his mouth just kept on opening until his jaw was practically touching the floor. There were -- there were so many apples. At least four varieties, possibly more, including one he was fairly sure shouldn't be able to exist in this reality.
Sirius' voice was surprisingly calm. "So, er, was this what you were intending to show me?"
"Er, not exactly," Remus said, then he ran out of words. He tried again. "Er. Er, well, I ordered some of these. A couple of hundred, anyway. But I didn't –" He gestured helplessly.
Sirius was actually beginning to grin. Only a little. Just a twitch, at the corner of his mouth. A crease at the edge of an eye. Impossible to read to someone who knew him less well.
He bent down and read the various notes. Remus was still dumbstruck, but beginning to relax. Just a little. There were so many apples. What were they going to *do*? He could just picture Molly Weasley's reaction if he asked her how they should cook the ones they didn't eat raw.
Sirius was staring at him. This wasn't a bad thing in itself, not with that gleam in his eye, but he hadn't read the last label, and he was teetering on the edge of laughter or tears or possibly both, and all Remus wanted to do was hug him and let him explode as he needed to.
Sirius bent down and peered at his label.
My dear, dearest Sirius,
These apples are from the woods near James's parents' house. May they bring back happy memories.
He didn't *say* anything. Why wasn't he talking? Remus tried not to squirm, but he was beginning to feel like he was in trouble for not getting his homework submitted on time. Silence was a powerful weapon.
At last he spoke. "And how did you get the apples up here?"
Remus swallowed. "I told Kreacher to take them up last night while you were asleep. I ordered him not to tell anyone, and I suppose the others must have all done the same. Now I think about it, he did look a bit shifty, but then he always does. . ."
He didn't want to drop eye contact with Sirius, but it was impossible not to stare at the huge mountains of apples. Really, they were so high there should be tiny little apple-people on some kind of epic apple-quest heading towards the top to meet an apple-guardian who'd give them apple-wisdom.
Sirius snorted. Remus' head snapped around. Oh, good, he wasn't having a seizure. That was always good, but extra specially good right now because he'd so badly wanted this to go well, and it'd gone so dismayingly strange.
Sirius plonked to the floor, laughing his arse off. Remus watched him, bemused, then sat down with him, laughing too. It was humour, joy, release from tension, and something to do instead of grabbing Sirius and hugging him, demanding to know why he thought he was unimportant and forgotten when he was loved, so very, very loved.
Oh, juggling now. Very cute --
One landed on Remus' chest, making him oof, but then Sirius landed on him too. He stared into Remus' face, then kissed him.
"Thank you, thank you," he whispered against Remus's mouth, "thank you, I love you, thank you." He began to laugh again, still comfortable on top of Remus, fitting together as they always did.
Even the most careful plans could come undone, but that was perfectly all right. Remus grinned up into Sirius' face, open, unguarded, *happy* for once, and craned up to kiss him gently. More than all right.