The house was at the end of an unusually long driveway, up a small hill. Once it came fully into view Sirius pulled out his phone and took a picture of it. It was nothing special. Just a faded yellow house that seemed incongruous with the grey December skies. It had probably been built in the sixties and renovated a few times since. The paint was faded but it didn't look that old.
"Doesn't look like much," Sirius said, his breath visible in the cold air.
"Dude, it's practically on the coast," his best friend James said, with a look of disbelief.
James was house really wasn't on the coast but the coast was certainly visible in the horizon. This was the fifth place they had looked at this week and only looked great because it wasn't packed with other students. The Craigslist ad had described it as a fixer-upper but the rent was on the low end of what Sirius could afford. James could afford more but he had promised Sirius he would follow no matter where he went.
The ad had few details about the residents of the house. There were two of them including an owner named Lily. Sirius had only communicated with her via email and text. He pictured her as being vaguely middle aged and folksy. The other resident was presumably her partner of indeterminate gender. Sirius kept holding out hope for queer roommates but all the other places they looked at were seemingly occupied by cishets. It would be nice to be able to relax about being queer and trans for once.
Sirius and James arrived on the porch, Sirius finding the creaking of the wood oddly unsettling. The only furniture on porch was an old wooden chair that didn't look especially comfy or stable. James knocked on the door and got no response.
"Are you sure this is the right place?" James asked.
"Yeah," Sirius said but he double checked the address just in case.
James knocked again and the door finally unlocked then quickly opened. A young woman, perhaps their age, stood behind the door. She was a smiling figure with dark-red hair, incredibly striking green eyes and a light brown complexion. She distinctly smelled like pot.
"You're here to see the house?" she asked.
"Yeah," Sirius said.
"Great. Come inside. Please," she said, stepping aside.
James and Sirius wiped their feet aggressively on the welcome mat then stepped inside the house. The floors were all wooden and every step they made echoed just a little through the house. There was barely any furniture in the house, minus a few old and very dusty paintings and a sofa that looked nearly as old but somewhat more comfortable than the old chair on the porch.
"I'm Lily, by the way," the owner said, extending her hand to both of them to shake.
"James," James said, shaking her hand.
"Sirius,' Sirius said before doing the same.
"Cool. So, let me show you around. Remus and I literally just moved in three days ago. I'm sorry it's so cold. The heater doesn't work," Lily said, cringing.
She was far cuter than what Sirius had envisioned the owner of this home looking like. She was tallish and chubby. In her red sweater and dark-blue pyjama bottoms she looked cozy. Sirius glanced at James as they followed her into the kitchen. Sirius smiled and tried to suppress a chuckle at the way James was looking at their new potential roommate. He seemed very pleased to meet her.
"This is the kitchen. Umm… I don't think the dishwasher works. The oven seems kinda new. It works fine. The microwave is new. I bought that," Lily said, gesturing around the kitchen.
"This place seems kinda big. Bigger than I thought," James said.
"Yeah, it's bigger on the inside," Lily said, grinning proudly.
James gave a big laugh for what Sirius thought was a slightly outdated Doctor Who reference. God, they were already flirting, Sirius thought with some annoyance. Sirius had conflicting thoughts on he heard people talk about it and the things they loved about it he was mostly freaked out. And then you add in the notion of heartbreak and it didn't seem any more appealing.
Romance was passé and an old way of handling relationships. He prided himself on never succumbing to those baser urges to pair up and mate, feeling like he was perfectly fine on his own. He supposed he couldn't discount the possibility that he could meet someone but in twenty years of life no one incredible enough had presented themselves.
The idea of sex was intellectually appealing to some small degree. He experienced the physical response but he had never felt the urge to go out and find a person to do it with. He really didn't see what the big deal was. It seemed such a strange thing for people to obsess over. He didn't understand why anyone would want to have sex for the sake of it. Surely, it wasn't that great and he couldn't imagine just hooking up with someone.
"Obviously, there's plenty of cupboard space for everyone," Lily said, opening and shutting some cupboards.
"Looks good," James said, Sirius briefly catching James glancing at her butt as she leaned up to open a cupboard.
Lily then showed them the dining room, complete with an old but sturdy-looking table that matched the other furnishings.
"I actually got this table at Goodwill. Umm… Yeah, I inherited this place from my Great Aunt. She didn't have any kids and my sister is married and they have their own house. But most of the furniture and stuff still went to other relatives or got sold. But I want to make it nice," Lily said, smiling and nodding in a way that projected confidence.
"Sooo there are two rooms and maybe the basement that I'm trying to rent out right now. One room is downstairs, another is upstairs and the basement is… Oh. Uh… Well, it's a basement," she said and laughed with a snort.
"Is there an attic?" Sirius asked, thinking it could be neat to live in an attic.
"Yeah. My friend Remus lives up there," Lily said.
So Remus wasn't her partner, apparently. James was probably happy about that, Sirius wagered.
"Is he home?" James asked.
"Yeah. Hopefully, he'll come down at some point. He's kinda shy," Lily said apologetically.
"I guess show us the upstairs room first," Sirius said.
They walked back through the kitchen to the hallway by the living room and headed up the wooden staircase, a distinct marijuana smell increasing as they made their way up.
"This is my room," Lily said, gesturing at the door on the right side of the hallway that was half open and clearly the source of the marijuana smell.
Inside the door Sirius could see a bed that was covered in stuffed animals, boxes strewn about the floor, an acoustic guitar leaning against a corner and a few fancy looking bongs on a table. A large pansexual flag hung over her bed and Sirius resisted the urge to pump his fist in approval.
"Nice," James said.
Behind them were two doors. Lily opened one door and said, "We want to turn this into like a library-study type thing. Unless we end up needing the money, I guess."
She then opened the other door and said, "So this is the upstairs room. It's larger than the downstairs room. Slightly. I can't really tell the difference."
It was just an empty room, looking much like the rest of the house.
"Are we going to fight over this one?" James said, playfully grinning at Sirius.
"Nah. You take it," Sirius said, thinking it would not only be less crowded downstairs but the smell of marijuana might not be so constant.
"This is the upstairs bathroom. It needs a new lightbulb. I can get that later," Lily said, flipping the switch repeatedly as if it might turn on if she tried enough.
Sirius popped his head inside, swiping dark hair out of his eyes to behind his left ear. There was a conservatively sized shower surrounded by glass that Sirius was certain was no less than seventy-five percent transparent. He hoped the lock on the door worked.
"Remus?" Lily called up to the door up the staircase at the end of the hallway that presumably lead to the attic.
After there was no response she shrugged and headed back downstairs. The downstairs room looked identical to the upstairs room.
"Yeah, I'll take it," Sirius said, looking forward to having a view of the coast out his back window.
"Awesome. Do you guys want to see the basement space? Oh, do you know anyone who might be interested?" she pleaded.
"Oh. Um. Maybe. Pete?" Sirius said, glancing at James and feeling bad for having forgotten to ask if there was room for Peter.
"Our friend Peter lives with his mom right now. He's not really in the market now but I think he could be persuaded. What do you want for it?" James asked.
"I'd take three-hundred a month for it. It's pretty small," Lily said.
"I think I can convince him," James said.
"Cool. That would be great," Lily said and lead them back to the kitchen where she opened a door that Sirius had before assumed was a closet but actually lead to a short sets of steps.
The room below was in fact small but the walls were covered in wood unlike the rooms above. There was definitely enough room for a twin-size bed and a few small furnishing. Peter didn't own much, though, and Sirius bet he would be happy to be near the kitchen.
"Is there another bathroom?" Sirius asked.
"Yeah!" Lily said, taking them back down the hallway and opening the door next to the room Sirius had claimed.
"Just a tub down here. But you'll have this bathroom to yourself most of the time… unless your friend moves in," Lily said.
Sirius was rather fond of hot baths. He could already see himself putting on some music and relaxing with a nice bubble bath.
"Nice," Sirius said.
"OK. Anything else?" Lily asked, walking into the living room and leaning back against the sofa and smiling.
"Do you have any plans for like… a TV? Maybe a stereo?" James asked.
"I mostly just watch Netflix on my laptop," Lily said.
"I've got a TV. It's really too big for my room anyway. I've also got an Xbox," James said, looking proud.
"No shit? Well, hey, if you want to share, I won't say no. Do you smoke weed?" Lily asked hopefully.
"Sometimes," James said.
"Well, you'll have to smoke some weed with me sometime. My treat," Lily said with a grin.
James rubbed a dark hand on his chin then with enthusiasm.
"You're welcome to join too, Sirius," Lily said.
"I'm kinda neutral on pot. But thanks for the offer," Sirius said with a small smile.
"OK. Cool. Well, when do you want to move in… or do you want more time to decide?" Lily asked.
"Nah… I think we're sold. This weekend?" James said.
"Sounds good to me. Maybe Remus will be feeling more social," Lily said, though she looked doubtful.
Sirius was curious what this reclusive fellow in the attic was like. Certainly, not outgoing.
"It was nice meeting you," Sirius said.
"You too!" Lily said as they headed to the door.
"Yeah," James said.
"See you this weekend. Text me!" Lily said as they went out the front door.
"Will do," James said as they headed back down the driveway.
"Well?" Sirius said.
"Well, what?" James replied.
"Come on, man. I know you too well. Don't hold out on me," Sirius said, grinning with anticipation.
"Yeah. OK. She's fucking cute. Really cute. Like… how is it even legal to be that cute? That's really unfair," James said.
Sirius chuckled, thinking how predictable James was, though he wasn't wrong about how cute she was.
"Did you see her dimples?" James said and Sirius smiled, knowing this was all he was going to hear for the rest of the week until they moved in.
Remus's phone dinged. A text from Lily. He checked it and took a sigh of relief. They were gone now. He shuffled out of his room to pee then went downstairs to grab a drink. Lily was sitting on the kitchen counter and eating one of her almond milk puddings.
"Hey," Lily said.
"Hey," Remus replied.
"You missed the new roommates," Lily said, stating the obvious.
"Yeah. Do they seem nice?" Remus asked.
"Yeah. They're both really cute," Lily said with a small grin.
"Oh?" Remus asked, grabbing a cold root beer from the fridge.
"Yeah. Actually, James is pretty hot," she said wistfully.
"Well… um… that's nice," Remus said and started to head back upstairs.
"Wait," Lily said, sliding off the counter and tossing the the empty pudding container into the recycling bin and dropping her spoon into the sink.
"Huh?" Remus said, turning around.
"Are you OK?" Lily said with concern.
"Yeah," Remus said, defensively.
Lily skeptically tilted her head.
"You're a bad liar, Remus Lupin," Lily said with a frown.
"I'm anxious. I'll get over it. I've never lived with strangers before," Remus said.
Lily brushed at his hair at his forehead with her finger tips then gave him a tight hug.
"You'll be fine. I promise. If you have any problems let me know and I'll do whatever I can to make things easier," Lily said.
Lily gave the best hugs. Remus didn't really understand what he had done to be blessed with such a wonderful best friend.
"Thanks. You're far too good to me. What did I ever do to deserve your friendship?" Remus said.
"Stuff," Lily said, giving him a soft kiss on the check and patting him on the shoulder.
"No, really. I have nothing of value to offer you or anyone. Doesn't seem like a very solid investment," Remus said.
Lily pursed her lips and shook her head.
"You have plenty to offer. Speaking of which, wanna come up to my room and watch Netflix with me?" Lily asked with a smile.
"Like what?" Remus said.
"I dunno. Stuff," Lily said.
"You're so good with words," Remus said.
"Yeah," Lily replied, walking past him and heading upstairs.
"Do you mind if smoke?" Lily asked, entering her room.
"Just don't blow it in my face and we're cool," Remus said, flopping onto her bed.
Remus didn't particularly care for weed but was usually willing to compromise to spend time with his best friend. After all, he had known she was a stoner when he first befriended her five years ago. He really couldn't complain.
Remus had never exactly been good at making friends when he moved to a new town where everyone seemed straight, white and boring and not entirely welcoming to a queer, half-Korean kid like him. When the gift of friendship was extended to him from someone as cool as Lily Evans, he couldn't say no.
Lily was the polyamorous, pagan, pansexual daughter of a Puerto Rican mother and an English father. She was also openly dating two different people when he met her, an ambitious undertaking for a fifteen year old he'd thought.
The idea of dating more than one person at a time had never occurred to Remus before meeting her. Admittedly, even the idea of dating one person had remained elusive to Remus. No person he would ever be attracted to would ever find him an acceptable partner.
For reasons he might never understand, Lily quickly took to him and helped Remus come to terms with his own sexual feelings, such as they were. He still didn't understand how to label himself. Lily was always so comfortable and confident with her labels. Remus felt weird trying to use them, worried that if he assigned anything to himself he would just change his mind and have to give them out all over again.
Remus had generally found himself mostly attracted to other men but not exclusively and it varied with different people. Remus never had been able to get a grasp on what it was he felt for Lily. She was certainly attractive and he certainly loved her but they had a camaraderie that might be difficult to overcome for anything else. He mostly tried not to think about things and enjoy them as they were. That lead to far less stress.
He wondered if he could ever be non-monogamous like her. It seemed so complicated. She was still seeing two different people back in her hometown that she only communicated with on her phone and the internet. When Remus had questioned how you could even continue a relationship that way she explained that almost anything you could do in person could be done in some form over the internet, even sex.
Remus didn't think a long distance thing would ever work for him. He had plenty of online friends but what he really wanted was… more than that. It was difficult for him to put into words. More than just physical intimacy but definitely including that. He'd be grateful just for one person to do… whatever it was he wanted with.
Lily got her bong ready and told Remus to get on her laptop and pick something stupid to watch. Remus wasn't sure what she meant exactly so he just picked a random sitcom to watch. He knew he was just going to pass out from comfort and the second-hand smoke anyway. Lily slid in bed next to him, and pressed her shoulder against his.
Halfway through the first episode of whatever it was, Remus began to drift off, thinking that Lily really was far too good to him.
Sirius couldn't believe he had been living in the house for a week and had yet to meet the mysterious roommate living up in the attic. He could hear him sometimes, walking about up there or using the upstairs bathroom. Sometimes he was in Lily's room and Sirius could hear his voice muffled and distant.
Not that he was sure why he cared. Sirius had mostly been keeping to himself anyway. It was time for the holidays and Sirius had few good memories of that time of year. The wound of a Christmas four years before when an anonymous relative had outed him as being trans and gay still felt deep and sore. Of course, he didn't really think of himself as gay exactly. He preferred to call himself queer. But he had definitely hoped to move out of his parents's home before they found out he was trans.
The Black family household had descended into chaos as his mother spewed threats and slurs of many sorts. She threatened to toss him onto the streets so he did her one better and ran away to the safety of his best friend's parents. After that his parents never seemed to care what happened to him and he made a pact with himself to stop celebrating the holidays and focus on self-care.
Sirius stretched and looked at his phone. It was half-past midnight. He'd gotten three texts from James, all three about Lily Evans. He'd talked to her for twenty minutes in the kitchen about one of those anime that James loved that it turned out she also loved. James was into this girl. Way into her and he barely knew her.
James had fallen hard and fast for a few girls in the time Sirius had known him, though it had been almost two years since his breakup with Charity Burbage. That breakup had been hard on James, even though they hadn't been involved for all that long. It was almost funny how quickly they had got involved then crashed and burned.
This was the problem with romance in Sirius's mind: everyone did it wrong! How come no one ever let things develop over time? Why couldn't they build a history together rather than racing to some sort of idealized finish line? It was all so foolish as far as he was concerned. Why rush into heartbreak?
Sirius slid out of bed, sliding his phone into his pocket, feeling hungry. He left his room and went down to the kitchen where he yelped in surprise at the figure casually standing next to the counter and looking at his phone.
"Oh. Hi. I'm Sirius," Sirius said.
"Hi. Uhhh. I'm Remus?" the stranger said, almost as if he was uncertain of his own identity.
Remus was a very pleasant looking young man with honey-brown hair and lips that looked ever so full and soft. He was gorgeous. Sirius wanted to run back to his room to scream into his pillow but instead he tried to remain calm and continue about his business. He silently made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and tried not to think about the hottie who was still casually hanging about in the kitchen, an angel gracing mere mortals with his presence.
"So… umm.. How are you?" Sirius asked.
"Fine," Remus said.
"That's good," Sirius replied, feeling stupid.
This guy clearly wasn't interested in talking to him. Out of your league, Black, give it up.
"Do you like living here?" Sirius said.
"Sure," Remus said.
The time to retreat is now, Sirius told himself but couldn't seem to stop himself.
"So what do you do? Are you in college?" Sirius asked, hoping they would at least have that in common.
"No. I… uh… I write," Remus said.
"Oh really? Like what?" Sirius asked.
Remus looked uncomfortable and ready to flee at any moment. Good going, Sirius, he told himself.
"Fanfic," Remus said with a worried look on his face, aimed at the floor.
"Really? I read fanfic. What fandom do you write?" Sirius asked, smiling at Remus with interest.
"I've really got into Stucky shipping," Remus said.
"What's Stucky?" Sirius said.
"Oh uh… the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Captain America. It's uh… have you seen The Winter Soldier?" Remus asked.
"No. I don't really watch that many movies anymore. I saw Iron Man ages ago," Sirius replied, cursing himself for rejecting all of James and Peter's invitations to watch those films.
"Oh… Well, you should watch the Captain America movies. Winter Soldier is great. Anyhow, Stucky is from that," Remus said, seeming to warm up a little.
"Oh. Well, maybe I will. Then I could read one of your fics!" Sirius grinned but Remus looked sort of mortified despite nodding.
"Well… it was nice to meet you, Remus," Sirius said his sandwich fully prepared and no longer providing him an excuse to remain.
"You too," Remus said.
"Oh, hey. We should exchange numbers. Could come in handy since we live together," Sirius said, setting his plate back down and pulling out his phone.
"OK," Remus said and they both repeated their numbers to each other.
Of course, Sirius wanted Remus's number for other reasons but had no intention of abusing the power. He didn't want to lose contact with the reclusive hottie who lived in the attic.
"Well, umm… Goodnight," Sirius said and went back to his bedroom, where he set his food down then furiously texted at James as fast as he could get his fingers to move.
Why didn't you tell me he was hot?
Remus hit send and waited for a reply.
I… literally did
You undersold it. He is sooo hot.
Which one do you mean?
Oh. Right. Yeah, he's hot too.
Remus stared up at the wood ceiling of the attic. He kept replaying the conversation in his mind and picturing Sirius's smooth, dark hair and grey eyes. Picturing the shapes his thin lips made when he spoke. He was tall and slender and had an aristocratic look to him, at least as aristocratic one could look in pyjamas.
Remus's phone chimed.
Anyhow, glad you are making friends with the new roommates.
Was this what a crush was like? Why did it make him feel so anxious? It was exciting but also sort of terrifying. He wanted to talk to Sirius again but he was also afraid to talk to him again. What if it went poorly? After all, he still knew nothing about Sirius. Maybe he should've asked Sirius some personal questions. Maybe it was wrong to just let him ask the questions. How did people even manage shit like this?
No, it was much easier to be alone. Much safer. He shouldn't pursue such flights of fancy. He laid in bed and tried to put the grey-eyed Mr. Black out of his mind but found little relief from his feelings.
Sirius woke up exhausted the next morning. Thoughts of the reclusive Mr. Lupin had made achieving sleep difficult. Sirius was angry with himself. This sort of thing happened to other people, not him. Sirius had always been so good about not letting attractions overwhelm him but there was something different about Remus. But how? He didn't even know anything about him!
Sure, he did. He was hot. Really hot. He didn't understand how someone so beautiful could be so shy and unsure. He wondered what his lips felt like. He wondered… No, he couldn't get started down that track again. That was what lead him to not getting any sleep in the first damn place.
Still.. Sirius knew that no photograph he had ever taken was as beautiful as Remus Lupin. But Sirius didn't do photography anymore. Not since…
Painful memories were bubbling up to the surface. Sirius closed his eyes and took some deep breaths. He couldn't let himself go there, not right now.
He checked his phone and felt his heart begin to race when it showed he had a text from Remus, pushing his pain aside.
Hey, lemme know if you watch any MCU movies. Or um.. Idk. We could watch some together if you wanted.
Sirius glared at the text with wide eyes like he was holding the secret to the darkest questions of the universe in his hands.
Sure. That would be cool.
Well, I've stepped right in it now, Sirius thought, clutching his phone to his chest. He was waiting for a chime signaling Remus's response and thought to himself that this was what it was like. This was the stupid shit people wrote songs about, the stupid shit people fucked up their lives over and the worst part was that he had never been more excited in his entire life.