Remus lies in bed, bathed in shadows. For the moment, he's sleeping, and Sirius can only thank Merlin that he seems to have found some peace.
It's always difficult, the day following a full moon.
It was different, back at Hogwarts. Sirius had James to help him, not only there when Remus was changed and out of his head, but for the mornings after, when he needed someone else to help drag Remus back to Gryffindor tower. Merlin knew Peter was never any real help in that area. But now that James has Lily and they're trying to start a family, and Peter is increasingly less underfoot...
It all falls to Sirius.
In some ways, it's a curse. But more often than not, Sirius muses, it's a blessing.
Remus lets out a low moan as Sirius turns to leave him be, and Sirius pauses, holding his breath. Is he awake, or dreaming? When Remus thrashes weakly underneath the blankets, Sirius decides it doesn't matter, and goes to him.
"Shh, Moony," he whispers, drawing closer to the side of the bed. "It's all right."
"Sirius?" Remus' voice is hoarse, raw, evidence of the howling he couldn't control. "Are you there?"
It hurts to see him this way — shattered, broken, body beaten nearly as severely as his spirit — and it still makes Sirius want to find that bastard Greyback and make him pay. Remus doesn't deserve this, definitely doesn't deserve the guilt he's internalised, but it cannot be changed. All they can do is deal with it as best they can.
"Yeah, I'm here." He only means to let Remus know he's not alone, to let him rest, but when he sees the way Remus shakes underneath the blankets, Sirius can't help but need to do more. He settles himself on the edge of the bed and puts his hand lightly on Remus' shoulder. "Right here."
Remus gives him an exhausted smile, eyes half-lidded, and it's another of those looks that always makes Sirius feel as if he's breaking from the inside out. Shared pain is half pain, and shared joy is double joy, and damn it, it's both when Remus looks at him this way. "Don't leave."
"Wouldn't dream of it," Sirius murmurs, moving aside the blanket and climbing into bed alongside his best friend who is now much more than that. He gathers Remus into his arms, mindful of the new bruises and scratches along his arms and torso, and places a light kiss between his shoulder blades. "Sleep now, Moony. You need your rest."
"I don't want to sleep," Remus murmurs, and the exhaustion in his voice belies his words. "I can't."
"The nightmares again?" Sirius asks. It had taken Remus forever to confess to them, though Sirius had suspected since the days when James was still around to help. Moony has always talked in his sleep, usually just an incomprehensible muttering, or even occasionally a chuckle, but the tone is always much different the night before the change, and the day following. The night before, it's pleading, desperate bargains to avoid what will come no matter what they do. And after...
After, it's despair and broken weeping and murmured apologies. Hearing it is worse than anything else Sirius has ever known. Being disowned has nothing on this.
"Yes, the nightmares," Remus says, burying his face into the pillow. His body shakes with the sobbing he tries to hide, and all Sirius can do is hold him closer. He can't say that everything's all right, because they both know it's not. There are some days where Remus can't even look him in the eye, ashamed of what he becomes once each month, terrified of the things he thinks he might have done, but can't remember.
"Hey," Sirius whispers after a moment, tugging gently so that Remus finally rolls over and faces him. "Open your eyes and look at me." When he complies, Sirius smiles softly. "You aren't what you fear. You are Remus John Lupin. You are a wizard. You —" he puts a finger to Remus' lips when he starts to interrupt. "You are a kind, compassionate person, a loyal friend, and a good man." He strokes Remus' cheek lightly, running a thumb just below a new bruise. "You're never a burden."
Remus gives a shuddering sigh, and Sirius knows he's touched upon the key. "You're worth my time, and worth my love. Honestly, other than the fact that I'm dead gorgeous, I don't know why you put up with me."
He gets a small laugh in response, and just that alone thrills Sirius. If Remus can laugh at his ridiculousness, the worst is over. "It must be because you're a good kisser," Remus tells him with that light smile, and it's amazing how much just that does for the way he looks. It takes five years off his face easily, and his eyes lose that haunted, dull look. This is the Moony he fell for, the one with light eyes and an easy smile, his soft voice hiding a well of mischief and spirit beneath it. He loves every variation of the man, at all times of the month, but this is who drew him in, who keeps him here through the worst of it. This is the man who keeps him grounded, keeps him sane in his less-rational moments, and shows him that not all of life has to be some violent reaction to something. Sometimes, a slow, smouldering burn can be better than any large explosion.
"Yes, that must be it after all," Sirius responds, only too happy to take the kiss Remus offers, a light, soft thing that deepens into something more. It is a thank you — a thank you for the bed, a thank you for the safe place to change, and, most importantly, a thank you for the reassurance. Moony needs to be liked, always has, and he still carries around that ridiculous fear that someday, Sirius will decide he's no longer worth the trouble.
But Sirius won't do that. And if it takes the rest of his life, he's going to make Remus see that.