They'd been stargazing for twenty minutes when Sirius made a small noise of surprise. "That one's moving," he remarked. "How rude."
Remus, who'd been close to falling asleep, squinted at the heavens. "Which one?"
"The moving one."
"Thank you, you pedantic bastard."
"Pffft." Sirius shifted closer and used Remus' hand to point toward the general area in which Stars Were Not Doing What They Ought. "Up there by the dippy constellation. With the swoop."
Remus arched an eyebrow. "How long did your mother make you study astronomy?"
"And at Hogwarts?"
"I'm just saying – it takes real honest-to-goodness talent to learn so little for so long."
"Thank you." Sirius yanked at Remus' hand and ignored the latter's snickering. "Would you look up?"
Remus did so. "Oh yeah. I see it."
"Should we tell someone?"
"Tell someone what?"
"That the stars are moving." Sirius gestured expansively at the night sky. "The rest of them seem content enough, but what if they all get it into their head to start rearranging themselves?"
Remus stared at him. "Six years of private tutors . . . "
". . . and seven years at Hogwarts, yes, yes, we've been over this."
"Not a scrap of star-knowledge remains . . ."
Sirius huffed. "I know where my star is, thankyouverymuch."
". . . and yet you can recite every verse of 'Lawks, How My Quidditch Balls Do Get Around'."
"That if you mentally dumped a couple of verses of a song about the sexual exploits of Chasers, you might have room in that noggin' of yours to remember that not everything in the night sky is a star."
Sirius blinked. "Not a star?"
"Can't be. No blinking lights."
Sirius looked back at the heavens. "Santa?"
"Griselda McMartin on a bender again? You know she's not supposed to fly a broom after that last incident."
Remus shook his head. "It's not purple enough. And it's too far away."
"So what is it?"
"A satellite, most likely."
"A what now?"
"Satellite. Muggle thing. Helps them predict the weather, spy on each other . . ."
Sirius frowned. "How's the hell's a bit of light help 'em do that?"
"It's not a light. It's a big lump of machinery that they put in orbit." There was absolute silence. "Sirius you have to be joking. You wrote a paper on international space programs in Muggle studies, October '74."
"No, you wrote a paper on international space programs and I copied it. And we'll pretend you don't still remember which papers we wrote when, shall we?"
Remus made a guttural noise of disdain. "Says the man who can remember exactly how each of his farts smelled in second year."
"That," protested Sirius, "is important information to know."
"Whereas understanding Muggle satellites is utterly useless."
Sirius squirmed. "Well . . . ok but . . . but I have you to tell me those things, Moony."
Remus pffted. "You want me to explain satellites."
Sirius flipped onto his stomach and nodded enthusiastically. "Please? Explain? Reassure me that I'm not Chicken Licken and that the sky's not about to fall on my head?" He snuffled his nose into Remus' neck, making the latter chuckle despite himself. "Please?"
"Stop, stop . . ." Remus swatted at the man who was now intent on licking at his ear. "Geroff you daft dog."
Sirius panted happily. "Tell me?"
Remus sighed and pulled his wand out of his pocket. "Accio Encyclopedia Britannica, Volume 25." There was a thumping noise from inside the Lupin cottage, and the tinkling of glass as a window broke. "Shit." Remus put out a hand and grabbed the leather-bound book that whistled toward them.
There was a distant yell of frustration. "Remus Lupin!"
"Sorry Mum!" Remus aimed a hasty reparo back at the house.
"She'll have you for that."
"She'll have you, I'll make sure of it."
Sirius wriggled up against Remus and laid his head on his shoulder. "Do your worst. Satellites."
"Lumos." Remus opened up the book and found the right place. "So, the Muggles send satellites," he pointed at a photograph of an ugly metal contraption, "into space on rockets." He flipped the page and pointed at another picture. "When they're high enough, the rockets dump the satellites out to circle the earth. The satellites are programmed to take pictures of us or listen in on conversations, and they send the information back to various folks down here using radio waves."
"Radio waves?" Sirius lifted his head, confused. "The same invisible wigglies that your mother harnesses in that Muggle contraption so she can torture me with Elvis?"
"More or less."
"Hmppf." Sirius snuggled back down. "So how do people catch the invisible radio waves from the satellites?"
Remus flipped another page. "With these," he said, pointing to a picture of several satellite dishes, antenna pointed toward the heavens.
"So they sort of catch the invisible wigglies like . . ."
"Like a cup would catch water under a running tap."
"Huh." Sirius frowned. "So how do the right wigglies get to the right cup?"
"Well, you have to have a cup specially designed to pick up the wigglies. And if the wigglies are particularly important, only a specially constructed cup will do it."
Sirius peered at the satellite dishes. "Can I have one of those?"
"Not even for m'birthday?"
"Tragic." Remus set the book aside.
There was a long pause. "I like stars better than satellites," said Sirius, thoughtfully.
"Although they're distant. Aloof little buggers."
"Oh I dunno." Remus' hand crept under Sirius' shirt. "I know how to make the Dog Star howl."
Sirius shivered. "There's more to learn about celestial bodies?"
"Infinitely more," said Remus, smiling before he cast a silencing spell. "All kinds of other wigglies perform well when they're cupped."
Sirius lifted his head and leered. "Is this a hands-on lesson?"
It was a kiss to make the satellites blush.