Sirius Black is an abysmally slow writer, and it drives Remus Lupin up the wall.
When he takes notes in class—which isn’t often, and generally happens only when Remus is too tired to take notes for himself, it’s almost painful to watch Sirius write. His hand moves awkwardly across the page, as if he’s a left hander, trying to write with his right hand, or a child, trying to follow the dotted lines to complete the letter. His handwriting isn’t particularly neat either; it’s all different sizes, and quite often the same letter is written in different ways in the same word. Remus cannot figure it out.
Sirius isn’t taking notes in class today, and so Remus isn’t distracted by observing him, which he will deny ever doing, but really, Remus does spend an embarrassingly large amount of time just observing his friend. Instead, Remus is listening to Professor McGonagall intently, his glasses slipping to the end of his nose as he alternates between looking at her and back down at his notes,rushing to jot something down. Sirius turns and watches him, smiling when Remus absent-mindedly touches the lens of his glasses and leaves an ink stain on them. He tears off a piece of parchment and begins scribbling a note, presumably for Remus, when Professor McGonagall turns to look at him.
“Mr. Black, what is the last thing I said?”
Remus sees Sirius, who definitely hasn’t been listening, glance at Peter’s notes. Luckily for him, Peter keeps meticulous notes of every word said by the professors in class, though he quite often doesn’t understand most of it. “Exceptions to Gamp’s Laws of Elemental Transfiguration, Professor,” Sirius replies confidently, flashing her his trademark grin.
McGonagall raises an eyebrow. “And what did I say was the first exception?”
Sirius thinks for a moment. “Food,” he says, though Remus can hear the slight note of doubt in his voice.
The corner of McGonagall’s mouth twitches up for a moment, the barest hint of a smile on her stern face. “Actually, I didn’t say what the first exception was. I merely mentioned that we would be studying them in your second year.” Sirius’ grin widens, and Remus definitely sees a slight expression of fond amusement on their professor’s face. “Please do pay attention, Mr. Black,” she says, turning around. As soon as her back is turned, Sirius goes back to scribbling his note. A few seconds later, it lands on Remus’ desk with a soft ‘thump.’
You know there’s a spell to keep your glasses on your n
The sentence stops there, presumably interrupted by McGonagall. A little further down, Sirius continues.
Nearly said hand saw instead of Gamp’s Law. Merlin, Peter’s handwriting is bad.
Remus laughs, sharing a grin with Sirius, before looking back at the note. He frowns. Something is odd about, though he can’t quite figure out what it is. He continues writing, when it suddenly hits him. The handwriting. Instead of Sirius’ usual childish scrawl, the note is written in the most elegant cursive handwriting Remus has ever seen. He stares at it, his fingers tracing the perfect swirls. His mother had tried to teach him the Spencerian Script once, but had given up when Remus accidentally made the ink pen explode, unable to control his powers in his frustration to get those damned loops right. He wondered what her reaction would be if she saw handwriting this elegant from an eleven year old boy.
Remus really cannot figure out the mystery of Sirius’ handwriting.
He’s still thinking about it later that day when he’s trying to do his homework in the library. The source of the confusion himself sits down in front of him, a smile on his face.
“Alright there, Re?” Sirius asks.
“Yeah, uhh, just trying to get this homework done ahead of time.”
“Oh,” Sirius pauses. “Full moon in a week, right?” he asks, careful not to sound too pitying—something he knew would just aggravate Remus. Sirius was the only one who knew about Remus’ condition, having noticed the pattern the third time the other boy’s mother ‘was sick.’ He swore not to tell anyone, including James and Peter, who were still oblivious.
“Yep,” Remus says, not really wanting to think about that.
“Alright. Let me know if I can do anything to help,” Sirius says. Remus knows that he genuinely does want to—the mountain of chocolate Remus would wake up to was Sirius trying to help in the way he could.
And the notes, written in that mysterious, abysmal handwriting, of course.
“Why do you change your handwriting?” Remus blurts out, unable to contain his curiosity any longer. Sirius looks taken aback for a moment.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean—that note, that was definitely not your usual handwriting. And you weren’t really concentrating when you wrote it, but you are concentrating when you write notes for me or essays and stuff. So I figured you were changing your handwriting on purpose. But why?”
“To make it easier to read,” Sirius replies, except he says it more like a question than an answer.
“Nah, that can’t be it. I really do appreciate you taking notes for me, but that handwriting can be a real headache to read. No offence.” Sirius shrugs, indicating none taken. “So why do you do it?”
Sirius chews his lip for a long while, thinking. Remus isn’t sure if he’s crossed a line. He doesn’t think he has, but Sirius is a mystery that he hasn’t solved yet. Right when Remus is about to say that he doesn’t need to answer if he doesn’t want to, Sirius speaks.
“My family hired a private tutor to teach me, before I came here. I learned most stuff from her, Latin and piano and all the other nonsense that respectable young Purebloods must know.” He says the last bit like he’s mimicking someone, the capital P in pureblood implied from his tone. “But the one thing my mother took upon herself to teach me was how to write. Ridiculous as it may be to try and teach a five year old some bloody fancy script, she hardwired it into my brain.” Sirius shrugs. “I figured that if I try to not write like her, I’m kind of removing myself from them somehow, I guess? I don’t know, it doesn’t really make sense.” He fiddles with the sleeves of his robe.
Remus thinks for a moment. “Isn’t it a pain?”
“Oh yeah, it is. Why do you think I write so slowly?” Sirius chuckles. “But I don’t know. I just hate to think that I’m anything like her. Or any of my family, for that matter.”
“You aren’t like them in all the ways that matter, Sirius,” Remus insists. His friend smiles at him, though it seems a bit put-on.
“I know,” he says. “Maybe I’ll stop changing it.” He doesn’t sound too sure about that. Remus purses his lips, thinking.
“Right. I have an idea.”
Sirius looks up at him curiously. “And what may that be, Mr. Lupin?”
“I want you to list out every swear word you can think of. And make sure to write it in the fanciest handwriting possible.” Remus takes a parchment from his bag and hands it to Sirius, along with a quill. “Go on.”
Sirius grins. “Sounds like fun.”
“That’s not a swear word.” Remus says.
“Yes it is.”
“No, its a bunch of swear words jammed up together!”
“Does it matter?”
“...No, I guess not.”
“What? You’re the one who told me to make this list!”
“Eugh, I did not need that mental image in my head.”
“No you’re not.”
“What does that one even say?”
“It’s a swear word in Thai!”
“But you’ve written it in English?”
“Well, yeah. You told me to write it in my English handwriting.”
Remus shakes his head, sighing.
Ultimately, Sirius has a list of about a hundred swear words—though Remus doesn’t think that most of them really do count as words. Semantics, he figures; they serve the purpose.
“Alright, Mr. Lupin, while I did thoroughly enjoy this exercise, what was the point of it?”
“Look at that list. Does that handwriting look like your mother’s?”
“Yeah, it does.”
“But would your mother ever say any of those?”
Sirius laughs. “Absolutely not.”
“Exactly. The handwriting may look alike, but you’re nothing like her.”
Sirius looks thoughtful for a while, but then he looks up at Remus with a broad smile on his face.
“Thank you, Re,” he says.
Sirius begins handing in essays that are written in handwriting vastly different to what the teachers have seen from him in the past few months. The teachers are a bit suspicious, but when McGonagall intercepts a note Sirius is passing to James about skipping the next period to try and find that supposed secret passage behind the tapestry on the fifth floor, she is finally convinced that the handwriting is his. (Five points from Gryffindor, Mr. Black. I’ll be checking in with Professor Slughorn to make sure you two turn up to class. A pause. And that secret passage collapsed about fifty years ago.)
Sirius also keeps the list of swear words with him, until the parchment is faded and torn. He and James compete to try and weave as many of them into their conversations as possible. (Peter spits his juice out in surprise when James compares Snape to ‘Slughorn’s slug.’) Eventually, a prefect catches him with the list, and though she commends Sirius for his creativity on some of them, she is obligated to confiscate it.
Remus and Sirius don’t mind though. It’s served its purpose.