Remus lowered his head further into the book he had propped up on his desk. He could feel it. He knew it was coming. He was squinting and grinding his teeth in anticipation.
Thwamp… Thwamp …
A tennis ball very quickly entered his peripheral vision before impacting on the tower of books stacked to his right, causing them to all crash onto the floor. He sighed and lay his face down on his hard wooden desk, closing his eyes.
“Oh shit! Oh sorry! I’m sorry, Moony.” He heard banging about next to him.
“It’s fine…” He said exhaling slowly. Just breathe. In… and out… He felt a small breeze next to his face where the books were being restacked next to him.
“I’m sorry. I promise I didn’t even mean to do it this time.” Remus sighed again and slowly opened his eyes. Sirius was crouched down next to him, trying to gather up the mess he’d made. Again. For the third time. And that was just this morning. He looked up at Remus with his huge, sad puppy eyes and his pouty lips.
“I’m just… I’m just so bored. So. Bored.” Sirius sat back on the floor and started picking at a loose edge of a floorboard. Remus wanted to snap. He wanted to shout, ‘Don’t pick at that! Don’t throw that ball! Don’t make mess! Just sit.’ But that was would be pointless, because telling Sirius to ‘just sit’ was like telling… well… a puppy to. You look away and a few seconds later they’re not sitting, but are definitely chewing up your homework.
“It’s just… you’ve got all your books, and your homework, and your Moony things. And I’ve just got… me. And well this tennis ball. But I’m guessing I don’t have the tennis ball anymore. And you won’t talk to me. And I have nothing to do.”
Remus looked at Sirius again. Doing that face, again. He buried his face in his hands. That face meant trouble. He knew it. And he was powerless to stop it. Sirius did have things to do. Lots of things. Like all of the homework they had been set for the summer in order to prepare them for their final year, and the ever impending NEWT doom. But Sirius didn’t do homework, of course. He usually frolicked with James, causing mayhem and frightening the innocent muggles of the English countryside. But not this summer. Sirius had been firmly relocated away from his all-time best friend and mischief maker, James, and in with long-suffering, sensible Remus. Something to do with exposing things better left unexposed in the presence of old ladies with known heart conditions. Which had definitely put a spanner in Remus’ summer plans which had involved a lot of homework, relaxing music, and reading. Yes. Definitely lots of reading.
But all of these things where becoming increasingly difficult to do with a fidgety teenage boy kept trapped in your room and who longed to be set free into the wild once more.
“Please, Moony.” He felt Sirius’ breath tickling his ear. “Old buddy, old pal. Old chummy, chumster. Just a quick walk. It’s cruel, you know, to keep pets locked up inside all day. I promise that I won’t even poo this time.”
And that’s how Remus came to be dragging himself through the long country grass and being continuously bounded into by a massive, black dog. Whilst generally nice people, Remus’ parents did worry an awful lot since his… accident. They had gone through great pains to relocate their lives time and time again, when things had gotten a bit out of hand, and had finally come to settle in a nice little unknown village. Population of about 30 elderly people and encased in beautiful fields that went on forever. So, whilst they did love having Sirius around (or so they rather hastily assured) it was on one condition. Everything and anything magic related kept locked up, safe and tight. Including Sirius. No wandering off.
But Sirius, of course, had managed to find a loophole in all of this extra careful planning. He had confidently assured Remus that it didn’t count if he wasn’t Sirius Black – Ultimate Naked Mischief Maker – but Padfoot the dog. For security reasons, of course. Although anyone would think he preferred being a dog, Remus thought as he watched Sirius bound through the grass after some birds and barking gleefully.
He smiled to himself as he strolled lazily after Sirius. It was nice having him here, even if it did interrupt his original, studious plans. Remus’ summers could often be very long and tedious with his parents keeping an unnaturally close eye on him. He loved them but they could be a bit suffocating at times. He didn’t need to be watched every hour of the day to remind him to be safe, his ugly scars were enough reminder on their own. At least Sirius didn’t pay any attention to them. That was the great thing about Pads… those kinds of awkward things just didn’t seem to matter to him.
Remus’ head suddenly snapped up to the sound of frantically happy barking. A way off into the distance he could see Sirius galloping around a blurry figure. He felt his ‘days without incident’ mental clock reset to zero.
Remus set off at a run. The long, yellowed grass whipping at his jeans as he sprinted towards the commotion. As he drew nearer the figure became clearer, and a few seconds later Remus jogged up to a cheerful girl and a, not so cheerful, tiny dog who was cowering behind her.
“I’m so sorry,” Remus blurted out automatically. “Sirius, stop it! What are you playing at?!” Sirius crouched forward in a playful stance, wagging his tail frantically at the girl. Of course. The girl straightened up and smiled shyly at Remus.
“Oh no, no need to apologise. He’s a lovely dog, aren’t you boy?” Her dog gave a little whine from behind her and she turned to pick it up. It took one look at Remus before pulling back its lips and snarling at him. Remus stood there awkwardly, wishing he was back at home amongst his books. She looked delightedly from Sirius to Remus. “He’s very big, what kind of dog is he?”
Remus stood there blinking at her. What kind of dog was he? He looked at Sirius trying to come up with some kind of plausible answer.
“Uh… sorry. He’s… he’s not actually my dog. I’m looking after him. For a friend. I don’t actually know… what kind of dog he is,” Remus trailed off, suddenly very interested in his shoe. He heard Sirius give another playful bark, moving over to the girl and rolling over so that she could rub his stomach. Remus rolled his eyes. Typical. Sirius had only been here a couple of days and already he’d found a girl to make trouble with. At least Sirius was disguised as a dog which would minimize the damage somewhat. Her dog looked displeased at being ignored and begun to viciously growl at Remus. Dogs. Urgh.
“I’m sorry. Maybe we should go.” He said as he eyed up the dog and took a step to move around her, hoping for her to drop the conversation and move off. Her smile disappeared.
“Oh, I’m sorry to have kept you. If you have somewhere to be.”
“It’s not that!” He said hastily. “It’s just… well…” He gestured towards Sirius who had now caught sight of a squirrel and was madly chasing after it. That said it all about Sirius really.
“Of course,” she nodded, pretending to understand. “Well, if you’re ever around again maybe we could go for a walk together? Charlie gets pretty lonely without any little doggy friends to play with.” Remus looked at ‘Charlie’ who was still growing and licking his lips anxiously. Somehow he very much doubted that.
“Yes, great idea!” He wondered if that was enthusiastic enough. Better smile as well. He did, and obviously showed far too much teeth for Charlie’s liking who began to bark at him. “Well, goodbye. Nice to meet you.”
“Goodbye,” she said without moving. She kept standing there waiting, and the silence dragged on uncomfortably. Remus shifted his weight onto his other leg. She bit her lip awkwardly before quickly turning around and hurrying off. Too late Remus realised she had been waiting for his name. He went to step forward and call after her, but she was already fading off into the distance now. Too late.
Remus let his head hang back with his usual pained expression that always made an appearance when Sirius was around. He heard some scratching in the dirt and turned around violently to have it out at Sirius.
“What the fuck was that?!” He began without getting any further. He closed his eyes and forcefully swung his head away, causing him to lose balance and stumble off. “Naked. Very naked.”
“We’re best friends. There’s no secrets between us, old buddy, old pal.” He heard Sirius chuckle. Remus turned decisively in the opposite direction so he could open his eyes. The way was clear. Just a beautiful, summer’s day in an empty field. No naked boys in this field. Nope. “I have an aching feeling in my chest, or is it my stomach? Like sadness. You’re making a man feel very exposed over here.”
“That’s because you are,” Remus replied, still refusing to turn around.
“It’s nothing you haven’t seen before. Since when did Moony, connoisseur of naked night time frolics get coy about a bit of well-deserved exposure.” Remus swallowed. Suddenly his throat was very dry. “Oh. Oh. Hey, you’re not still awkward about that thing? That thing with… whatshername? Anna?”
“Yeah. That’s what I said. It was a party and it was dark. The matter was resolved rather efficiently I would say.” He sounded so smug and pleased with himself. Remus kicked his shoe in the dirt again, focusing on the tiny hole that was developing on the front of the left shoe. “If anyone should be embarrassed it would be me, and I’m not. Sirius Black does not do embarrassment. Remus Lupin is being a big wet-pants, and I declare this situation will go on no longer!” He paused for breath.
“I think I need a drink,” Remus interrupted, not wanting to hear anymore and began to walk off. “Very thirsty. It’s very hot, you know. Hydration is very important. Particularly for dogs.”
“Great idea!” Sirius called after him cheerfully. “Get me an ice cream too!”
The warm, soggy air enveloped Remus as he lay on the grass. He was just coming round from a very satisfying nap. He smiled dreamily. The taste of his orange ice-pop still lingered in his mouth. Everything was quiet except for the birds singing in the trees, and the breeze ruffling his hair. Everything was peaceful.
Everything was quiet.
Everything was peaceful.
Everything was quiet. What was wrong with that sentence? And why was the air so hot? The air which was much harder to breather and smelled funny. Surely, it hadn’t gotten any hotter as the day was wearing on. Sirius better not have pooped again.
His chest ached. Why couldn’t he moved?
Remus panicked, unable to sit up with the feeling of a dead weight crushing him. He opened his eyes and was greeted by a very sleepy face inches from his.
“Bonjour,” Sirius mumbled. “Or is it different if it’s the afternoon?”
“What are you doing on top of me? Get off before someone sees! Get off, GET OFF, GET OFF!” Remus wriggled around but Sirius was surprisingly heavy for someone who looked so slight.
“Ssh,” Sirius said lazily before putting his head back down again. Remus lifted his head up and bit down on a clump of curls, trying to pull it far enough to inflict some sort of pain that would make him move.
“GET OFF, YOU FUCKING ASSHOLE!” Sirius’ head jerked up with that annoyingly smug grin plastered all over his face.
“Such language! And from such a promising, young gentleman such as yourself. Why, whatever would your parents think?” Remus felt his cheeks go very red. What on earth was he thinking, agreeing for have Sirius come stay with him. Of course he would be like that. Sirius’ name may only have been a few letters off, but serious was definitely not a thing he could be. “That is no way to talk to another respectful young gentleman, such as myself, you know old boy!”
“You! Respectful! Gentleman! What rubbish!” Remus snorted. “Nothing about you is respectful or gentlemanly, not even your socks!” Sirius grinned.
“Well it’s a good job I’m not wearing any then, isn’t it old sport?” Remus froze. Of course he wasn’t wearing any socks. Sirius didn’t have clothes when he changed back into a human. He felt a prickly heat creep up his neck.
“SIRIUS. I’ve had enough now, get off. Please, get off me. This isn’t funny anymore.” Remus squirmed. It wasn’t funny. It was never funny from the beginning, but now it was especially not funny. Sirius flattened himself to add more pressure onto Remus, effectively pinning him to the ground. Remus shifted, turning his head to look away into the dirt. His deep breaths causing the dirt to blow away from him.
He could feel the mocking smile on Sirius’ face. He didn’t need to look at it to know. He knew that face and every reaction it could possibly give. Sirius liked to think he was Mr. Charming and Mr. Unpredictable. But Remus knew every dirty and dusty thought in that head of his. He knew the taunting voice he would use when he spoke. The way he would smile to the right side, and raise his eyebrow. It was all for effect you see, everything to him was a performance. And Remus knew all the tricks in the book. Sirius took an intake of breath.
“You know, old boy, I have a rather strange itch. Just around my stomach area. I think I must have been bitten by a bug or something, it’s awful ticklish. I think I just need to put my hand down there and give it a good old scratch.” Remus wriggled around desperately. “The more you wriggle, the more it’s driving this itch wild.” Remus turned his head to look at Sirius. He knew he was trying to put on his best stern face, and he knew how pathetic it would look.
“Just get off, Sirius.” He tried to make it sound authoritative. He knew he failed. He saw the way Sirius’ eyes lit up, it was the look he and James got when they were infected with mischievous purpose.
“Now that’s an idea.” It wasn’t said maliciously. Remus had hoped that would be the silver lining in all of this. Sirius was a dick, but never cruel. Whilst it may be in his blood, it wasn’t in his nature to be cruel, as the past had shown. All Remus had hoped was that, in time, when the truth came out the fact that they were friends, or potentially even best friends in a way, would save him from the worst of it. Remus decided he could deal with being the laughing stock at school, but nothing would prepare him for being outcast by those who had accepted him despite all his other flaws.
Sirius inhaled. Here it came.
Remus turned his face away, closing his eyes so that Sirius wouldn’t get the pleasure of seeing any tears. Shame was one thing, crying was quite another.
Remus felt the hot breath tickling his ear, the brush of Sirius’ curls against his cheek as he leaned in.
“You know, considering you’re supposed to be the know it all of the year, you really can be thicker than Peter some times.” Remus frowned. “Books will only get you so far in life. Stop wriggling around like a loon, and focus on real life for a second.”
Remus’ body went rigid. His eyebrows knit in confusion and concentration. Sirius sighed, warming Remus’ cheek, and shifted his weight ever so slightly upwards.
Remus peeked one eye open, still frozen in place. When nothing changed, he peeked the other one open and turned his head to look up at Sirius who was now hovering inches from his face.
“But, I don’t understand.” He mumbled. Sirius rolled his eyes.
“Whatever. Don’t make a big deal out of it. Summer of love and all that. Or was that last year?” He squinted in thought before tossing his head in dismissal.
“But, what about Anna?” Sirius glared at him. His face faking sternness.
“I think you’ll find her name is Maria. And anyway, I promise you, in this moment it is advisable to stop talking. Take it from me, the dog with attention span of a fly.” He smiled.
Remus nodded, pressing his lips together and looking altogether frightened out of his mind.
“Shutting up. Promptly. Very much shutting up.”
Sirius looked down at Remus, his messy hair falling around his face. Doing a face that, for the first time in their entire friendship, Remus could not place. Remus watched as the corner of Sirius’ mouth curved upwards, and as he bit down slowly on his lip.
“You can shut up, for now. But I promise you, it won’t last for very long.”