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Christmas in July

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July 1, 1995

“When Dumbledore told you to lie low here, I don’t think he meant for you to bound out of the door any chance you get,” said Remus, while putting the kettle on and starting to crack some eggs in a bowl, not even looking in Sirius’ direction.

Sirius took his hand from the kitchen door handle. He was going to sneak out again, but he did sleep in a little this morning and apparently Remus was still a very early riser. All Sirius wanted to do was to transform and run to the nearest village center to see if he could pick up some news, but he knew that Remus thought even that was risky.

Sirius turned and made for the kitchen table.

“I wasn’t going to go far. And I just want to have some news. It’s been a week. He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named could be taking over the Ministry by now,” said Sirius in a slightly whiny voice.

Remus just looked at him. Sirius smiled to try to disarm him, but he knew he was a bit rusty. Remus just turned back to the cooking.

“It’s too dangerous, Sirius. The Death Eaters must know that you are an Animagus by now. And we need to trust Dumbledore to tell us what we need to do next.”

“It’s just boring.”

“Hey!”

“Not spending time with you. It has been nice to catch up again. But I’ve been stuck in this cottage for a week and I don’t like confined spaces anymore. I spent enough time confined.”

“You sneak out every morning. And evening. Don’t think I didn’t notice.”

Remus brought over some toast and jam to the table and went back to the stove to finish the eggs. Sirius grabbed one toast and started to put a lot of strawberry jam on it. He missed sweets after so many months in a cave and Remus knew it. Sirius suspected he was being fattened up.

“I just want to run around. It’s a small village in Wales. I don’t think there are any magical folks, other than you, here anyway.”

“Not the point.” Remus finished the eggs and divided them on two plates. Then he used his wand to move the plates, the forks, and tea cups full of tea to the table. Sirius happily tucked in. Perhaps there were advantages to not missing breakfast.

They ate in silence for a while. Once Sirius was full, he started getting restless again, but sneaking out would not be the same with another person watching. He did get up to move around the room to look at the knick knacks on the wall shelves and cabinets. He had never visited Remus’ parents’ cottage before.

“Well, you are sort of stuck here too. You haven’t left much in the last week,” said Sirius as he picked up a little bird statue, only to put it right back when it started to chirp. “Don’t you want to go out for something other than groceries?”

“Not really. My meager employment is done by mail lately. You noticed me writing, surely?”

“I did. But I’m sure it must be driving you nuts to be stuck in a house with your old friend, no matter how much we had to catch up on.”

“Not really. We lived seven years in one room in Hogwarts with two other boys - I actually like the company.”

“No girl in the village to visit?”

“No. And I don’t have to go shopping today, so don’t think you could sneak out somehow.” Remus was still drinking his tea. Sirius picked up a little mini car on the window sill, but it didn’t make any noise. Probably Muggle.

“It’s not about that. I was just curious. You were always secretive about any relationships, even in school.”

“Werewolf. Not a big dating pool.”

“Just wanted to live vicariously. My prospects for a proper relationship were a bit dull lately, living in a cave and all. And being a fugitive.”

“That would do it.”

Sirius kept roaming. Out of the corner of his eye he saw something glitter. On top of the shelf in the corner, in the back behind some other little objects, was a little snow globe. It had what looked like a little ice rink inside or a little lake with some little tiny figures. Sirius reached for it.

As he did, Remus suddenly said sharply, “Don’t touch that.”

Sirius already had it in his hand. “Why not? It looks pretty.”

“Just put it back, will you. It was my gran’s. My father’s mother. She said it shows us past lives and it is dangerous to have such knowledge.”

“Why do you have it then?”

“My da didn’t want to destroy it. Sirius, put it back.”

Sirius took a look at it. The little figurines seemed to be spinning. One had very black hair. He just wanted to shake it a little to make a little snow.

December 25, 1804

He was no longer in the kitchen. He was in one enormous library, tall with with many leather bound books lining the shelf. There were no ladders anywhere. Wizarding library then. There was a big table with maps on it and several very comfortable looking chairs. It looked a little like the library in his childhood home, but it was much brighter. There was a large window overlooking a snowy landscape with slight hills and trees and no other building in sight. He was definitely not in London or Wales.

He was also dressed differently. Gone were his plain trousers and a shirt he had borrowed from Remus. Instead, he was dressed in very expensive clothes, including a very warm green coat with a tail, knee breeches and riding boots. And a cravat. He has seen these types of clothes before in the portraits of his long dead ancestors lining the walls.

He caught his likeness in the small mirror on one of the walls and almost dropped the snow globe he was still holding in his hands. His hair was still very black but his features looked different. Not completely different. He was still handsome and had very sharp eyebrows but his nose was longer and his mouth looked wrong. It was not his face but still familiar somehow.

And then he recognized it. At one point, his father had taken him to one of the country estates in Cambridgeshire and the walls were lined with portraits of Blacks going back four centuries. Sirius was especially curious about any portraits of relatives who had the same name as him. This face was that of an great-great-many times great-uncle who lived maybe two centuries ago, who stared down at him with amusement and even winked at him. Sirius liked that painting. It was one of the few that didn’t scowl at him and admonish him to be a proper Black heir.

If he looked like that Sirius Black, then he must be in his manor, somewhere outside Edinburgh around the beginning of the nineteenth century.

Sirius looked down at the snow globe. There were no longer two figures outside on the ice. Now he saw a kitchen and a little table with two small people standing around. Carefully, so as not to shake it, Sirius placed the little snow globe on a tiny table by one of the armchairs in the corner of the room. There was an oil lamp on the table and a few other little decorative objects. Hopefully, the snow globe would not be noticed.

He was just contemplating what to do next, looking out on the snowy ground, when the door behind him opened.

When he turned he saw an old house-elf stumble by carrying a duster. She looked a little startled to see him but quickly bowed with her head touching the ground. Sirius wondered how her spine didn’t creak.

“Happy Christmas, Master Sirius,” said the house-elf. “Forgive me, Dotty didn’t realize that Master Sirius didn’t go ice skating this morning as he was planning to.”

“I...was. Yes. I was just delayed. Reading.”

“Of course, Master Sirius. There is still time before all the guests arrive for the Christmas party. And your other guests are still at breakfast. Dotty did polish your skates last night, I did. Dotty knew you want practicing for the Edinburgh Wizarding Skate Club competition.”

“So I do. You know, going outside in the snow is an excellent idea, Dotty. Where did you leave the skates?”

“In the usual place, Master Sirius. By the entrance hall bench with your cloak.”

“Of course. Thank you, Dotty. And where do I usually skate? By that lake over there?”

“Certainly, Master Sirius. Are you feeling all right? You have not caught a chill?” Dotty looked terrified at the prospect.

“Not at the least.”

Dotty bowed again and Sirius all but bounded out of the room. The prospect of fresh winter air and freedom was too much to resist. He didn’t have to hide here. This Sirius Black was not a fugitive wanted by the Aurors and Death Eaters alike. There were no Death Eaters here. And he hadn’t been skating since he was a boy - as ice skating was considered an aristocratic sport in Wizarding families and it was one activity his father did not object to.

As he passed the door, he rounded about and poked his head back in.

“Oh, and Dotty...don’t dust in the library today. In fact, close it to visitors and don’t let anyone in but me.”

Dotty frowned but nodded, starting to leave the room.

Sirius headed toward where he thought the entrance was and found his skates and cloak. The few house-elves he met on the way bowed politely but didn’t ask him questions, for which he was grateful. He heard a few voices coming from the next floor and the stairway, presumably his guests, and walked faster in order to avoid them all. There was snow and cold and ice ahead and he was going to enjoy every moment in the fresh air.

The lake wasn’t far and it took no time to put on his skates to the best of his ability; he had to fasten them with leather thongs that were a little strange. The metal ice skate itself was fastened to a wooden platform that Sirius had to attach to his boots. His first steps were a little wobbly, it has been so long, and these skates were less stable but before long he could move much more steadily and even managed to do a circle. Sirius figured that after one afternoon he could even try jumping again.

As he was making his tenth circle, however, he noticed a figure skating toward him. The lake was not that big, since it was artificial, but it was still big enough to be possible for someone to initially fail to notice another person on the far side of it.

As the person came closer, his features were familiar, although Sirius was sure he had never met him before.

The gentleman did stumble a bit when he finally noticed Sirius, but then he skated closer and raised his hat in greeting. His clothing was respectable but a little shabby. Sirius nodded in return.

“Good morning, Mr. Black. I did not expect anyone to be out this morning, as it is a holiday. I’m sorry if I’m disturbing you.”

“Not at all, Mr…? Forgive me, I have forgotten your name. You are one of my guests?”

“I must imagine many people pass through your walls. And you know my uncle better than me; you and I only met briefly last night. My uncle is Cassius Angustus. I’m Lupin. Remus Lupin.”

Sirius stared in shock. Now he could see the familiar shape of the eyes and mouth, but the rest of the face was strange. Even the voice was different. This was probably Remus’ ancestor. It was strange to think that their families have met centuries earlier.

Remus fidgeted a little at Sirius’ silence. “I can go, Mr. Black. I really don’t want to impose. I just wanted to get some practice in. My uncle thinks I should try to enter the skating club and I will be taking their test in a few weeks. While I can do a reasonable figure eight and can jump over one hat, I cannot jump over two yet.”

“No, no. I apologize, Mr. Lupin. You just reminded me of an old friend. Please, continue. I myself only wanted to enjoy the weather.”

“It is freezing.”

“Yes, but we are outside and the cold is pleasant on the cheeks, and this wind smells delicious.”

Remus smiled and Sirius did in return. Sirius was feeling suddenly happy. It had been so long since he had that feeling that he barely recognized it.

They continued to skate together around the lake making small talk. Mostly Sirius let Remus talk, since he didn’t want to blunder in the details of the life of this Sirius Black. But this Remus was a good conversationalist and they easily moved from topic to topic from literature to the war with Napoleon, in which many wizards were involved through business interests.

They were about to head back when Remus decided to try jumping just for practice. He managed to clear the hat but then couldn’t hold his balance and fell on his side. Sirius winced.

Sirius skated closer and offered his hand to pull Remus back up, but as Remus took it and tried to get up, he overbalanced on the way up and Sirius found himself lying right next to him. At least Remus kind of cushioned his fall. Sirius started laughing. And after a few groans Remus was chuckling too. Sirius looked at him and found Remus’s face close to his, smiling and happy.

And then they were kissing. It was not something Sirius had planned but there they were and he really didn’t feel like stopping. Remus didn’t pull away either. On the contrary, his hand held Sirius by the jacket and pulled him even closer. They did have to stop eventually, as it was getting a little chilly lying there on the ice.

They helped each other up, and started skating back to the shore closest to the house. They were both silent. Sirius was enjoying the moment.

As they took off their skates, Remus finally said, “Well, this was a pleasant outing, Mr. Black. Thank you for letting me keep you company.”

“It was, Mr. Lupin. I’m glad you joined me.”

“Perhaps we can continue our conversation this evening after the party.” Remus was looking directly at him, not shy at all.

“Sounds perfect,” said Sirius.

As they parted in the hall, Sirius walked back to the library. The house was getting visibly crowded and he wanted to avoid all the guests and questions. All he was thinking about was Remus and the way it felt kissing him, but in his mind he saw his Remus, with his light freckles and tired features. Nothing like this young man who just spent an hour skating with him. His Remus was an old friend, whom Sirius never really saw in a romantic way. But he was certainly thinking of it now. He needed to get back and try something.

July 1, 1995

“Give it here.”

Sirius was back in the kitchen and Remus just very carefully but effectively plucked the snow globe out of his hands. Remus went to put it back.

“I told you, Sirius, it is dangerous. Don’t try it.”

“Right. Past lives.”

“You can even get stuck, according to my gran...Why are you looking at me like that?”

“I can’t look at you?”

“Like you haven’t seen me before. Like that.”

“I haven’t. Seen you. Not really.”

“Are you ok, Padfoot? I know being stuck here is no fun for you, but I have books or even games.”

“I’m great, Remus. I want to try something. I figure if our friendship is still here after all that happened, it will survive this too.”

Remus just looked very puzzled and was probably about to offer some more tea. But Sirius never waited when he was sure of something.

Sirius moved closer and Remus just looked confused. He didn’t have a chance to do much other than make a noise of surprise and then Sirius was kissing him. Sirius made the kiss light enough but clear enough in meaning, pulling back a little to give Remus a chance to stop. But Remus just looked at him with his honey eyes and his perfectly lined face and kissed him back. After a moment, they pulled back, smiling.

“Happy Christmas, Moony,” said Sirius grinning. He didn’t mind being stuck inside anymore.

“It’s July, Sirius. Are you going bonkers?”

“It is July. Happy Christmas anyway.”

“It certainly feels like getting a present to me,” said Remus.

“That’s what I think too,” said Sirius and pulled him in for another kiss.