It was Marlene’s birthday, the summer between sixth and seventh year. Lily Evans had thrown her a surprise party, and nearly everyone had received an invitation. That was to say, some had received an invitation with a plus one. When Remus’ invite had dropped in his lap on the last day of school, the fellow marauders had hounded him until they got the time, date and location, with promises to at least bring presents and try not to crash the party for Merlin’s sake.
Sirius had spent the past fortnight at the Potter’s home. His home, really. It had been for a long time, but he’d only really accepted it the the Christmas before last, when James had insisted he come home with him. He’d been awfully embarrassed when he called Mrs. Potter ‘Mom’ but she’d taken it in stride. At the dinner table, Fleamont Potter had expressed his pride at how well his sons were doing in school. Cheeks burning — something he would deny adamantly, later — Sirius hadn’t felt happier since successfully becoming Padfoot.
They’d all flooed over to Moony’s, so that they could all make their way to one of the portkeys that Evans had set up after calling in a favour with one of the older Prewett boys that had graduated Hogwarts a year or two prior. James and Sirius stepped out of the Lupin fireplace not five minutes before Peter came tumbling out.
“You never were great with the floo, were you, Wormtail?” James teased, his tone matching the playful grin he wore.
Peter offered a sheepish grin in return, dodging a hand Sirius sent his way to ruffle his hair. “Well, I’m here, aren’t I?” he shot back with ease, smacking Sirius’ hand after a second attempt at his carefully styled — if slightly sooty — hair.
Breaking away from Peter, Sirius slung an arm around Remus’ shoulders, bare arm settling on the soft fabric of his worn blue jumper. His favourite jumper, at that. Not that Sirius paid an inordinate amount of attention to the things that Remus liked.
When his smiling green eyes met his own however, he had to offer a quirk of his lips and turned to look away, trying not to look suspicious after catching himself staring at his friend for the hundredth time. Perhaps he’d done it often enough for it to be brushed off as a ‘Sirius thing.’ Godric, he sure hoped so.
If asked to pinpoint when he started to develop feelings for Remus, Sirius didn’t think he’d be able to give a straight answer, unsure of when the ‘normal’ emotions of friendship turned to jittery butterflies in his stomach whenever Remus sent him one of his genuine smiles. All he knew, was that one day it had stuck him that he cared a hell of a lot for the other boy in a far less innocent way than the other two Marauders. Sirius didn’t think he could forgive himself if he ever revealed his stupid feelings to him. After all, Remus was straight, and he didn’t want to do anything that would ever make their friendship strained. Sure, the other marauders knew that Sirius didn’t just chase skirts, but for him to be interested — very interested — in Remus... That was a different story entirely.
James, who felt that he probably had a chance with Evans, or a better one than at the beginning of sixth year anyway, now that she’d started talking to him willingly, was itching to leave, urging the others to grab their things and head out.
“Yes, mother,” Sirius told James, after Remus had slipped out from under his arm to fetch his wand from his room. Humouring James, he checked the pockets of his leather jacket for the gift he’d brought for Marlene and, more importantly, for the pack of cigarettes he’d tucked in there before heading out the door, opting to wait outside for his friends as it was still rather warm out.
⌁ 9¾ ⌁
Although there were quite a few people already present in the forest clearing where a tent and lights had been set up, Marlene had yet to arrive, as Lily would be bringing her there at precisely nine.That meant that Sirius had time to bum around and greet some people, so with a salute aimed in the general direction of his friends, he made his way into the crowds. Though the majority of the guests were from their year, there were some older and younger kids that knew Marlene or the people there. At the refreshment table, Sirius bumped into Fabian and Gideon Prewett, who pressed a cup of punch into his hands, promising that the cauldron where it came from was ‘nearly bottomless’ thanks to some clever spellwork on their part. A sip of it told him that it was spiked, but not with as heavy a hand as he’d expect the twins to have, something he was sure he had Evans to thank for.
With five minutes left until Lily arrived with Marlene, Sirius caught sight of Remus and James, and he slipped his hand into the crook of Remus’ elbow. “You handsome blokes come here often?” he teased, pitching his voice lower. It invoked a slight redness on Remus’ cheeks, and a playful shove — that did nothing to distract Sirius from the pleased thrill that the sight of Remus blushing sent through him — from James. There was no time for more words to be exchanged however, as a hush of anticipation had fallen over the gathered guests.
A loud pop of apparition — Marlene’s older sister was in on the plan, and a portkey had been deemed too suspicious by Lily — cued a chorus of “surprise!” from all those gathered, followed by Marlene’s surprised laughter.
The birthday girl was soon led to a table set up specifically for gifts, which took some time to unwrap. Some waited until the more insistent guests had passed before joining the circle of people around her. James was near the outskirts with Peter, doing his best impression of a kicked puppy while Lily busied herself with helping Marlene. Sirius hung back, not having wrapped the charm bracelet he’d bought for Marlene, and chatted to a few others.
Some were interested in the rumour that he and Marlene were an item, but Sirius brushed them off, not bothering to answer anything directly. Not that he didn’t understand where the rumour came from. Rather the opposite. When he’d realized that he had feelings for Remus, he’d began to pursue Marlene, in an attempt to keep his mind off him. Sure, he’d gone and taken her out to Hogsmeade a few times, and they’d snogged in the common room, but it wasn’t long before she pointed out that Sirius didn’t care too much for her, and that she’d noticed who it was that he really wanted. He hadn’t bothered to deny anything, of course, taking the opportunity to talk to someone about it. Sirius was fairly certain that Evans knew as well, but she’d never spoken to him about the breakup, and he was content to know his secret was safe.
A drink or two later, and Sirius started at slender fingers wrapping around his wrist, only to find it was Marlene.
“Happy birthday, McKinnon.” Sirius pulled her into a hug, before reaching into his pocket to retrieve her gift. “I couldn’t find any wrapping paper but I — ”
“Oh, I love it! Thank you, Black, it’s lovely,” Marlene interrupted, pressing a kiss to his cheek. A Ravenclaw girl that Sirius recognized helped her put the bracelet on while she admired the charms, and with another kiss to his cheek, she was gone again, off to speak to someone else again. A fond smile playing on his face, Sirius shook his head, and looked over at Remus.
“I did tell you that you had nothing to worry about, didn’t I?” he gently prodded.
“Yeah, alright mate, you told me so, I got it. You know me better than I know myself sometimes, I swear.”
Remus smiled, head ducking down to look at the ground, before meeting Sirius’ eyes. “I told Lily that I’d try to help her manage the presents, I’ll see you later, though, right?”
Sirius waved him off with a smile. How could he not, when Remus was so endearingly generous. Sure, he had his moods around the full moon, but when he was feeling up to it, Remus was the kindest person around.
Downing another shot of firewhiskey, Sirius excused himself, and stepped past the treeline of the clearing to find himself a bit of privacy to have a smoke. Pulling out a cigarette, he put it loosely between his lips so he could light it with the tip of his wand. Taking a long, slow, drag, he leant against a tree. Sirius let his head fall back to look up at the stars, and attempted to clear his head of thoughts. He wanted Remus, in every way. Not as some cheap fling that the general student body believed he favoured, but by his side, for as long as Remus would have him.
Deciding that the stars weren’t being particularly helpful in easing his contemplation, Sirius pushed away from the tree, and began to pick his way around the clearing, staying just past where the lights cast their glow, out of sight of most everyone, as they weren’t looking for him beyond the trees. He spotted Evans’ head of fiery hair, and found himself looking for Remus nearby, a small, private smile on his face when he spotted the familiar mop of sandy blonde-brown hair, only for it to slip away when he noted that he was dancing with someone. Remus didn’t particularly like to dance, Sirius knew. So she had to be rather interesting if Remus was willing to dance with her. He was laughing. Really laughing, and she had her arms around his neck and —
Shaking his head, Sirius fought back unbidden anger. He had no right to be angry, Remus didn’t belong to him, and he had every right to do what made him happy. The girl he was with, she was a year younger, and had been getting help from Remus with her Arithmancy homework for a few months. Sirius supposed he should have seen it coming. Cigarette no longer important, he let it drop to the forest floor, crushing it into the dirt with his heel to make sure it had gone out.
He felt cold, a strange mix of bitterness, sadness, and regret. Briskly, he walked over to the refreshments, pilfering a bottle of firewhiskey that had not yet been opened, before walking deeper into the woods. Once he couldn’t hear the sounds of the party anymore, he looked for a place to sit, eventually settling at the base of a large tree, opposite the direction of where he’d come from.
Was this what heartbreak felt like? Did he even have the right to feel heartbreak? Sirius twisted the cap of the bottle viciously, tearing the seal open without a second thought, and took a swig, letting the burn of the whiskey slide down his throat. Warmth filled him, but only for a fleeting moment. Another swig from the bottle, and then again. His face felt damp, and he rubbed at his cheeks angrily, planting the bottle between his legs as his head fell forward, long hair obscuring his face.
⌁ 9¾ ⌁
Imagine Sirius’ surprise when he heard the telltale sound of a person’s footsteps picking their way through the trees towards him. When the person reached him, they stumbled over Sirius’ outstretched leg before coming to crouch in front of him.
He was sure he made a pitiful sight, head hanging, hair tangled from running his fingers through it, the bottle of firewhiskey still in his loose grip. Glancing up, he found Remus’ face hovering above his, before he took a seat next to him, patient to wait for Sirius to speak first. He probably wasn’t expecting Sirius to lay his head on his shoulder, but Remus didn’t seem to mind when he did.
“‘M just in a bad mood, Moony,” Sirius mumbled, confident that he didn’t have to speak up for Remus to hear him. The fact that he had seen Remus with a girl didn’t matter, not when he was here, with Sirius, to comfort him, to see what was wrong. He didn’t know how much time had passed since he’d left, but he did know that Remus’ presence was comforting, and simply sitting next to him was making him feel better.
“A bad mood wouldn’t have you out here drinking half a bottle of firewhiskey all on your own,” Remus’ gentle response came. “I’m here to listen, if you want.”
“Don’t want to talk about it,” Sirius insisted, “I want to cheer up instead, y’know?”
“Would it help if I told you that James managed to climb a tree and fall into the cake that we had for Marlene, all because he was trying to impress Lily again?”
Sirius chuckled, and nodded, effectively rubbing his head into Remus’ jaw. “Yeah, that helps.”
After a moment of silence, during which Sirius decided he was going to make himself act like less of a mess, to attempt to look a bit less pathetic, he grumbled. The firewhiskey had certainly succeeded in making him feel warm, and with Remus’ tendency to act as a human furnace, Sirius was far too warm. Standing, he shrugged out of his jacket, leaving him in a loose muggle band t-shirt that Remus had gotten him for his birthday. He bent over to reach into his pocket and took another cigarette from his pack, lighting it up before offering Remus a hand up.
The ground, which sloped down from the base of the tree, uneven as it was, caused Remus to stumble, only for Sirius to catch him, steadying him with a hand on his waist, his wrist — as he was holding his cigarette and didn’t want to burn Remus — catching his shoulder. Their proximity made the both of them pause, Sirius’ breath catching in his throat.
Whether it was the firewhiskey or sheer impulse, Sirius didn’t know, but one moment he was staring into green eyes, and the next he was moving to wrap his arms around Remus’ neck, eyes falling closed as he pressed forward to kiss him.
Remus was frozen under him, and it sent everything inside of Sirius careening to a halt as he rejoined reality. He pulled away so quickly it was as if the physical contact burned him.
“Christ,” he breathed, stumbling a step back, his cigarette falling from his fingers, forgotten. “Fucking shit. I'm so sorry Remus. I didn't mean — "
Remus, clearly still caught off guard, yet calm as ever, put a gentle hand on Sirius’ shoulder, stopping the flow of apologetic words. “I get it, Sirius, it's alright. Having had as much as you have, I'm not surprised that you'd do something you'd regret. I won't hold you accountable for it.”
“You- You're saying you understand that I wouldn't have done that if I were sober?” Sirius found himself asking.
Remus flinched at the words, but nodded. “I get that you don't really want to kiss me. That you'd rather I were someone else.”
The self deprecation clear in Remus’ tone left a sour taste in Sirius mouth. How could Remus, kind, wonderful Remus, believe that? How could he think that? He thought that... “I don't want to kiss you ? That's what you think? Godric, Remus, how wrong could you be? You're brilliant, but you don't see that I do want to kiss you?”
“You're wrong. Drunk or sober, I always want to kiss you.”
“Padfoot, you're drunk,” Remus reminded.
“I know, mate. That's why I'm telling you all this in the first place. I don't have the impulse control that would normally keep me from telling you how much I care about you. Different from Prongs and Peter. I want to be with you, even though I know you won't have me, but I can't help how I feel, right?” Sirius said, barrelling on. Some part of him was screaming that he would regret this, but he wouldn't stand for having Remus feel unwanted.
“Tell me that again when you're sober, and I might believe you,” Remus said. His voice was so quiet, Sirius didn't know what to make of it. Before he could really think about it, Remus was bending down to pick up his jacket and the bottle, slinging the warm leather back over Sirius’ shoulders, before he was leading the way back to the clearing.
⌁ 9¾ ⌁
Waking up was an absolute nightmare. His head was pounding, and the light streaming in past the useless thin curtain wasn't helping in the slightest. A solid five minutes later, Sirius had managed to turn towards the bedside table, glad to find a Hangover Cure waiting for him, which he downed without a second thought.
The potion took a moment to take effect, but when it did, his headache and nausea ebbed away enough for him to sit up and look around, recognising the room as Remus’. Not one to forget the night prior after an evening of drinking, the memories of what he'd done hit him, and he groaned, burying himself back in the blankets and pillows. He'd gone and royally fucked everything up, hadn't he?
“That bad?” came Remus’ teasing voice from the doorway. “I left you a Cure. Came to see if you were awake. I've made breakfast. My parents are out running errands.”
“Where'd you sleep?”
The question seemed to take Remus aback. “A mat on the floor.”
“You didn't have to do that, I could've gone home.”
“James had already left. I sent him a message, you can leave after breakfast if you want.”
“We’re having a talk at breakfast, aren't we?” Sirius asked, looking up to find Remus nodding solemn confirmation. He pulled himself out of bed, running a hand through the unruly mess his hair had to be, and pulled on his jeans over his pants. Then, he followed Remus down the stairs, all while attempting to rub the wrinkles out of his shirt from having slept in it.
Breakfast, as was practice at the Lupin home, was delicious. Fried eggs, sausages, and beans on toast, the best food he could ask for with the remnants of his hangover.
“I’m sure that you’ll have no trouble remembering what happened last night if you put your mind to it, like you usually would,” Remus commented idly, looking down at his plate rather than at Sirius.
“I meant what I said, Remus,” he responded earnestly, determined to make eye contact the moment the other looked up from his plate. He didn’t expect to be met with a skeptical eyebrow however. “All of it. I don’t know why you don’t believe me.”
“You’ve never given me a sign that you wanted to be anything other than my friend, Pads.”
“Right, because friends stare at each other’s faces for a long amount of time, and are always seeking contact. That’s friendship alright,” Sirius retorted sarcastically. “Look. I don’t know what you want to hear, but now that I’ve gone and done it, I’ll tell you how I feel. Then you don’t have to look at me again, if you don't want to, alright? You don’t have to have anything to do with me if you don’t want to. Say the word and I’m out of your sight.”
“I would never, Sirius. No. I would never ask you to do that.”
“Alright, I believe you, it was a stupid offer, obviously, I just... I’d convinced myself I’d ruin things if I told you that I care about you. That it would wreck our friendship.” Sirius took a sip of tea. “I really don’t know when I started liking you. Just that I do. It kinda just hit me, in fifth year. That’s why I went off with Marlene, mind you, trying to keep from acting weird around you. She figured it out. Said that I look at you like you hung the moon. For all I care, you could’ve. You’re wonderful, Moony. You’re kind and thoughtful, and smart. You’re calculating when you want to be. It’s endearing how bad you are at lying most of the time, and it’s endearing when you’re grumpy and you won’t talk to me unless I give you chocolate. I like every part of you Remus.”
Remus, who hadn’t eaten a bite of food since Sirius had started talking, pushed away from the table, and stood. Expecting the other to leave, Sirius offered a small smile and looked down at his food instead. He’d anticipated Remus needing time to process what he’d said, at the very least. It didn’t mean it was bad.
Of course, Remus hadn’t left the room. Instead, a warm hand cupped his chin, and made him look up to meet Remus’ wide grin, green eyes shining. Sirius stood, then, understanding, and wrapped his arms around his friend’s waist, pulling him close.
“I was really hoping to hear that. That you meant it, that you feel the same,” Remus whispered, both of his hands on Sirius’ cheeks, pulling him in for a sweet kiss.
Sirius wasn’t sure where things would lead from that moment, but he knew, then and there, that with Remus at his side, he could conquer the world if he wanted to.