Remus’ first instinct is to run as far away as humanly possible. The small part of his brain that isn’t screaming Bright lights! Way too many people! Things for Sirius to knock off shelves! registers that this is probably a bad sign, but the corner shop closed down several days ago for reasons unknown and Lily is getting pregnant enough that she’s unwilling to simply floo back and forth into the apartment with leftover casserole. It was at the point that they resorted to making soup out of eggnog, packet noodles and flour that Remus finally quashed his instincts to keep as much distance as possible between Sirius and canned goods stacked like the card houses Remus used to make and Sirius used to flick, if only because it was that or be poisoned.
It isn’t just Sirius (looking far too excited for Remus’ peace of mind and already bouncing slightly on the balls of his toes) that makes him wish so very much he were anywhere else in the world, especially back at the flat with a book and possibly some Dairy Milk. Not that they have any. He extracts the list from his pocket and looks down at it. It reads:
-That sauce that comes in jars, pref. w/out creepy Italian man
-Oh god, what do people eat?
-I have no idea
-How we are still alive is a mystery
-Casserole would be good
-What in Merlin’s name goes in a casserole?
To this list he now adds in blunt pencil:
Sirius tugs on his sleeve. ‘C’moooooon, Moonyyyyyy, I’m hungry. Also let’s explore. There’s so much stuff, just look at it all! Just look, Moony, you know I can whine indefinitely-’
The lights are getting to him. Remus squeezes his eyes shut and pinches the bridge of his nose, at which Sirius quiets instantly. He often surprises Remus with how perceptive he has become. Living with only each other in such a small space, they have both learned more about each other than they though possible, which was especially disconcerting at first since after seven years in the same dorm, they naturally assumed they knew everything about one another. But at Hogwarts, the timetable was, to a degree, imposed. Breakfast was at a certain time, curfew was eleven, and Remus’ day if not always Sirius’ was to some degree influenced by what classroom his timetable said he ought to be in at that specific time. Living day-to-day with no one besides occasional cryptic notes from Dumbledore to dictate their next move has caused them to fall into an alarmingly domestic routine of their own, and to develop a synchronicity that James never fails to comment on when he visits. Remus thought for months that it was just his imagination, or that it was only him noticing things about Sirius, until Sirius started bringing him mugs of tea whenever he noticed Remus pinching the bridge of his nose, and if tea didn’t work, sticking his freezing cold nose down the back of Remus’ neck and making sympathetic whimpery noises. It has since somehow become subconscious Remus-code for I would be much calmer and happier if everything were not quite so noisy, and also possibly if I had tea.
Sirius eases the list out of his hand. ‘Right!’ he begins, with slightly overdone confidence. ‘Tea!’
There is a beat while they both stare at the glaringly bright aisles stretching forth into eternity. Remus decides he needs to get a grip on the situation. They’ve been standing stock-still by the entrance for some time and people are starting to give them funny looks. He glances around. ‘We need a trolley first. They’re over there.’
There is a moment where it seems to Remus that time stands still. Then Sirius spots the trolleys.
‘Remus, look, there’s a little chair!’
‘Sirius, you’re not-’
‘Bet you ten Galleons I can fit in the chair.’
‘Neither of us has ten Galleons. And you can’t fit in the ch-’
‘I bet you I can fit in the chair.’
The man by the trolleys is giving him a look that somehow combines befuddlement and utter, utter contempt. Remus grabs Sirius by the sleeve and drags him behind the magazines, Sirius holding onto the trolley handle so it rattles loudly along behind them like tin cans on a newlywed’s broom. Sirius grasps the side of the trolley with both hands and hops on one leg, trying to hook the other into the tiny plastic seat. Remus closes his eyes and waits for the crash. When it doesn’t come, he opens one eye a crack to see Sirius bending over the trolley and muttering to himself. After a moment he realises that Sirius is prodding the seat with his wand.
It quickly becomes apparent that the armchair is not willing to come out of the trolley. Whether enough of its former self has lingered that it is still attached, or it is simply wedged in is difficult to say, but, gazing at the overstuffed chintz mountain looming malevolently at him, he feels they are in more or less the same amount of trouble either way.
Baskets are safe. Baskets are good.
Sirius, unsurprisingly, does not agree. He glares at the basket with undisguised scorn. He glares at Remus as he trails behind him, boring holes in the back of his head. When a small boy skids past with a trolley, he glares at him so hard the child slows down and retreats behind his mother.
This is the fifth time they’ve walked down this same aisle. The only item that has been crossed off the list is that sauce that comes in jars, though, sadly, not w/out creepy Italian man. He rattles cheerily and demonically in the basket and fills Remus’ head with things like have-a a nice-a day-a and mamma mia! and other awful, awful things that he’s pretty sure are not even a bit actually Italian, much like the sauce, which has the consistency of pureed evil and was probably made in Leeds. Remus shuffles around the end of the aisle and into the next. There are cardboard packages, bluey-green ones, and the tea sometimes comes in a green box so he seizes one blindly because you never know, maybe they’ve changed the packaging or something.
TAMPAX! screams the box, while Sirius makes noises like a dying, asthmatic chicken and demonic not-Italian laughter rings in his ears. Extra-absorbent!
There is something about supermarkets that makes it impossible to keep track of where you are in them. It doesn’t matter how many times Remus rounds the corner of Fish and Poultry and ends up in Feminine Hygiene- which is more times than he cares to remember- when you’re dragging your way towards the end of any aisle, the next aisle is always a land of infinite possibilities. And it always, always turns out to be Feminine Hygiene. Remus knows more about Feminine Hygiene than a bloke who has spent the last several months holed up in a tiny apartment enthusiastically buggering and being buggered by another bloke has any right to. He wishes he didn’t.
Remus consults his list for the eighth time that minute. Along with that sauce that comes in jars, milk and bread have now been successfully crossed off. For a brief but confusing time bacon was also crossed off until they identified it as vegetarian bacon. Sirius still hasn’t quite recovered. They each have one handle of the basket, but since they are more or less propping one another up at this juncture it is wedged uncomfortably between their legs. From the looks people are giving them, Remus imagines that they look like the world’s worst three-legged race contestants.
‘Remus, please’, croaks Sirius into his ear. ‘We have enough. We can, look, we can toast the bread and, and spread the sauce on it, it’ll be just like jam. Lovely jam. Lovely, tomatoey jam.’
‘I am not leaving without my tea and my Dairy Milk’, says Remus dully. ‘I don’t care if we die of scurvy, but if I’m going to die I am at least dying in the arms of my Dairy Milk.’
‘Moony, look, there’s vitamins and everything. Tomatoes. Vegetables or fruit or whatnot. Lots of vitamins.’
They both contemplate the jar of sauce. Sirius wisely gives up his point. ‘Besides, what happened to dying in my arms, eh? Have you forsooken me?’
‘One more aisle, and we’ll see’, says Remus. ‘Heinous grammar notwithstanding.’
The sauce did not spread like jam, lovely or otherwise. It dribbled in places, and smeared in others, and left little regurgitated blobs hither and thither, and generally made the bread soggily, drippily red in an anaemic sort of way. It tasted, according to instant unanimous consensus, like the sort of thing Pete would eat. As Pete has been known to eat chocolate digestives dipped in Marmite, this seemed to be the signal that they should stop eating it. Instead they are sprawled on the sofa, Sirius’ head in Remus’ lap, dipping Dairy Milk into mugs of tea while Remus tries to convince himself that camomile counts as a vitamin. Remus is beginning to drift off, tea balanced precariously on the sofa arm and threatening to upend itself over Sirius’ head at any moment. Then the customary whoosh accompanied by coughing fit and the muffled curses of someone who never, ever learns clonking his head on the mantle (despite the sign on the inside of the chimney reading in enormous letters DUCK, JAMES, YOU PLONKER) makes him jump enough to drop three entire squares of Dairy Milk into his tea, forever ruining both tea and chocolate.
‘YARGHH’, says Sirius, sitting bolt upright and colliding with the underside of Remus’ chin. Remus’ mug of tea slips sideways off the arm of the sofa quietly enough that Remus only catches it in time to save the mug, but not the tea, which spills all over his hands in a burning, murky tide. He swivels round to see James stagger out of the fireplace like a drunken, sooty giraffe, clutching at his head and muttering to himself. Without missing a beat, he careers over to the cupboards and starts opening doors at random, feeling around to the very corners.
‘Hello to you, too’, says Remus. ‘Such an unexpected pleasure. How can we help you this fine eve-’
‘Lily’, says James distractedly from inside the cupboard, ‘she can’t cook, what with, you know-’
‘Carrying around half her own body weight in Potter sproglet? Proceed’, says Remus.
James has somehow managed to fit nearly his entire torso into the cupboard. ‘So I thought, you know, Modern Man, the times they are a-changing, why shouldn’t I be able to cook my own dinner? And Lily was asleep, so she couldn’t tell me, you know, things that you’re not supposed to do, like, er, putting raw pasta in the microwave-’
Remus drops his head into his hands. Sirius snorts.
‘Anyway’, he continues over the rattling of pans, ‘there were bad, bad smells, Lily woke up and yelled, and I’m really bloody hungry and in the name of Merlin, where the fuck is all your food?’
‘Don’t have any’, says Sirius. James pulls his head out of the cupboard and stares, horror-struck. ‘Unless you fancy toast with tomato dribble.’ He slides the jar over the counter in James’ direction. One of the many wonderful things about their apartment is that they can reach the kitchen from the living room. James opens the jar and takes a long, deep sniff. Then he chokes and shoves it away. ‘Merlin’s left bollock, is this what Muggles eat? Muggles and domesticated poofs. I think I’ll stick to dry toast.’
‘Dry toast’, says Sirius, ‘is for the elderly infirm. And people with consumption in arsey novels. And you can bloody well talk about domesticated, Mr My-Bird-Can’t-Even-Walk-And-She-Still-Managed-To-Chuck-Me-Out.’
James gives an outraged howl and lunges across the countertop. Sirius grabs him by the collar and yanks so that he falls over the counter and onto the sofa in a flail of limbs. A stray bony knee whisks the jar of sauce neatly off the edge of the counter and onto the floor, where it explodes into a gory, watery mess of broken glass and pale red dribble. No-one, not even Remus, who hates mess, mourns its passing, though he is mostly occupied with vacating the sofa. Plus ça change, thinks Remus, watching James and Sirius try to poke each other in the eye as they topple off the tiny sofa with a thud to roll around at his feet. Neither of them notices as he gets out a cloth and starts sweeping up at the mess. Creepy Italian Man leers up at him from the floor. Remus balls him up, ignoring the gloop dripping out from between his fingers. He throws him in the bin, and imagines a tiny, Italian Nooooooooo being cut off by the sound of the lid. It’s immensely satisfying.