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***

Remus has not seen Regulus in almost a year now, the last time having been as catastrophic as it had.

Regulus had spent all year teaching and growing out his hair and that evening as they spent quiet time in front of the fire Regulus had taken one of his mother’s golden kanzashi and put up his hair, just like Sirius used to and of course Remus had ended up sobbing like a little baby and that was just a whole amount of awkward he was not eager to go through again.

Regulus lives in a small flat outside of London with a little balcony garden where he grows his plants and herbs and when Remus thinks of him – as he does often and always fondly – he imagines the man in his soft cotton jinbei, hair streaming down his shoulders, watering his Venomous Tentacula by hand.

He’s adopted a black stray that he lovingly refers to as Siri and though he will never admit it, he’s softened around the edges, years of parental oppression long behind him and Hogwarts now more like a home than it’s ever been.

They correspondence via letters because, Remus supposes, they’re kind of in the same boat now, at any rate. Regulus’ ex-boyfriend is in Azkaban rotting away too, and who else has he that’s left on their side, anyway? They’re the only ones left that remember what it was like before, really, so they go through the motions together, share pot-pie recipes and exchange Christmas gifts. They’ve moved on.

He tells him stories of the greenhouses and new paintings that have popped up over the year, the tall Christmas trees with exaggerated decorations and how once he went down to talk to his house and the giant squid was popping up right next to the tall windows, scaring half the first years half to death, and, more recently, of how Harry Potter absolutely obliterated sassy-ass Lucius Malfoy’s kid and Remus reads his letters with a sting of jealousy and a whole lot of joy because life has never been fair, and he has learned not to weep over spilt pumpkin juice by now.

Things have happened, Remus knows. It’s in the way Regulus doesn’t say anything much in his latest letters, generalisations of end-of-term exams and how a bunch of redheaded third years had managed to switch all his potion labels around. Remus tries to imagine he feels uncomfortable, keeping the truth hidden and to himself, so much so that he spends his nights kicking off the blankets and staring aimlessly at his bedroom ceiling – but then if he’s being honest, Regulus is probably most proficient at keeping secrets, and he probably sleeps extremely well in his silk sheets.

Remus drives his car there and parks a few blocks away so he can walk and clear his head. The neighbourhood is clean and quiet, mostly older people and singles. He knows Regulus uses a vast combination of spells to keep his patio hidden from muggles, but he’s already wondering what the nightshade will look like in full bloom, contemplates whether Regulus still grows black roses.

When he lets himself into the flat, there is the sound of Regulus’ mortar and pestle coming from the small kitchen. He calls to announce his arrival before he turns the corner and then just kind of stands there for a moment because—

Regulus is still more Orion, more hard shoulder lines and strong chin, too small for how tall he stands. His eyes, almond-shaped and dark, haunted even now with the sins of his past and the departure of innocence from his childhood. He’s wearing a deep green yukata with the obi tight around his waist and he looks more like a Black than he has in a while. There’s blood on his hands – it’s no longer there of course, but Remus can always still kind of see it, white knuckles stained red with Sirius’ blood after their tumble in the courtyard. Regulus’ fists, however, could never do the damage his words did.

He is more Orion but yet so strikingly Sirius – long black hair flowing down his back, kohl accentuating the sharpness of his eyes and the corner of his pink mouth, so obscenely standing out again his white skin, perking up in half a grin.

Next to him there is a boy with eyes like emeralds, baring an uncanny resemblance to the first friend he ever made, way back when on his first trip on the Hogwarts express – Harry has a dark afro of kinky hair sitting on the top of his head and he is sweating above his cauldron, sleeves pushed up his arms as the far too big sweater hangs off his body. His round-rimmed glasses threaten to slide all the way down his nose but he’s staring up at Remus with wonder in his eyes, a polite smile overtaking his thin face.

He looks out of place in this space – Regulus’ kitchen is stocked with wooden cabinets holding glass jars of plucked ingredients, sage and rosemary and other herbs hang above his kitchenette, the cat is playing on top of the terrarium in the corner that houses his yellow bellied sea snake which he keeps for its venom, and, Remus supposes, its company. Harry looks lost with his still prim condition potion’s book and his wand next to his chopping board and the chopping itself is surely what Regulus would call abysmal. He is here, perhaps not just for private potion’s classes, but also mostly just to get used to what living with magic is like.

“Oh Remus, there you are,” Regulus waves him over, whisking his wand to clear the potions ingredients off the table, “this is the man Hagrid told you about mister Potter, he took half the pictures in that album.”

Harry is polite which is a little bit painful but it’s better than nothing and maybe Remus wants to cry again, but happy tears now, because is he as happy and healthy as Remus had wished he would be, growing up? Probably not, because Regulus does not invite all his students into his house, only the ones that need a safe-haven to do their homework and hide their powers from their disapproving families and that in itself speaks volumes, but he is alive which is more than can be said about anyone else who’s ever faced Lord Voldemort.

Perhaps he’s fattened up a little bit too, with all those delicious Hogwarts meals, and he shows “mister Lupin” a handcrafted book Hagrid gave him, in all his infinite affection for the boy, with pictures of his parents and it’s absolutely lovely.

They sit in Regulus’ small living room, with the windows thrown wide open and the gentle breeze making the wind chimes sing. While Regulus makes them tea Harry looks around the room curiously, lingering over the golden snitch buzzing away in a jar by the fireplace, and then talking proudly of his own first capture of the golden snitch. They talk about Quidditch and the boy blooms open like one of Regulus’ flowers, hesitant voice but energetic hand gestures.

He watches the pictures on the fireplace move and Remus comes up next to him; it’s the softest parallel between a young wizard and his teacher, as Remus is sure Regulus himself had stood in front of Slughorn’s fireplace countless time, admiring the many pictures he gathered of his students there.

There’s the picture of Sirius and Regulus as small boys in matching indigo kimono, the smaller Black boy grasping at his brother’s hand. They wave, smiling in the picture, but there’s already a hollow in their eyes that Remus isn’t sure he’s imagining, but he can feel it there, as if Orion’s rough hands and Walburga’s harsh words are in the picture, too.

The next picture is one of Regulus at Hogwarts, with the Slytherin Quidditch team, Regulus as seeker in the middle, happily showing off his caught snitch. His team mates are patting his back and he looks happy in this moment, proud of himself, and it’s heart-warming.

There’s more pictures of Regulus with his students and Regulus with Bellatrix, Andromeda and Narcissa, and a picture taken the summer before Hogwarts with Regulus, Sirius, James, Peter, and lastly Remus, all eating Forteque’s ice cream and laughing, but there are none of Severus Snape, where once there had been mostly those, and it’s an observation that leaves Remus’ chest feel a little more hollow, every time.

They drink tea and flip through Harry’s album together and Remus kind of forgets, because suddenly he is back at Hogwarts and he’s talking about how they met and how good James was at Quidditch, and what a bright witch Lilly had been and how immaculate her potions were. And Harry’s eyes are twinkling, his mouth slack around his cup as he continues to listen in astonishment.

Harry says, “he looks a lot like you,” when he sees this Japanese teenager standing next to his parents, all smiles on their wedding, all three of the wedding attendants waving at the three of them on the couch and Regulus nods, “yes, he did,” and Harry seems to almost get it because he doesn’t pry further.

Remus isn’t sure if he mentions Sirius just the once or over a thousand times, and it doesn’t hurt that much, this way, with Harry’s canines showing as he listens to his father and mother’s marvellous life.

Later, Kreacher comes in from the hallway with the groceries and Harry looks up as if broken from a trance, eyes wide and cheeks flushed with excitement.

“Thank you for doing the shopping Kreacher,” Regulus smiles at the house elf, receiving a polite nod in return, Kreacher’s beady eyes trailing over the guests, “can you go feed mother next?”

Remus laughs, knowing that this is the endearment Regulus uses to refer to his snake – Kreacher answers immediately, “of course young master,” and Harry just looks generally confused and a little surprised, staring at the back of the house elf as he disappears in the kitchen.

“He’s a house elf,” Regulus explains patiently to the dazed boy, “he can be a little grumpy, but he helps me out a lot.”

There’s an understatement there, perhaps more than one, because Regulus almost died when Kreacher almost did, and then Kreacher almost died when Regulus almost did, too. It’s complicated, Remus always thought, but as he watches Regulus’ eyes slip to the mantel and then to Kreacher and back again, he thinks maybe it’s not that complicated after all.

There’s a sudden honking from a car outside the flat, and Harry jumps up from the couch frantically.

“That must be my uncle,” he explains, and then nothing else as he runs back to the kitchen to gather his stuff.

They watch him go and they both get up to see him out. Harry thanks the both of them profoundly and tells “professor Black” to tell Neville and Seamus he said hi and then he’s spurting down the stairs as the car honks a second time, impatient.

Remus glances outside the window just to make sure – he sees the large man with the huge moustache shout at Harry as he quickly gets in the car – Regulus coming up beside him, shrugging his shoulders.

“Sev was right about those muggles, they’re horrible,” they watch the car disappear down the street and there’s this vague feeling in Remus’ stomach that feels like empty, “he lives with Lily’s sister now, they absolutely loathe magic. I just reminded them that I know hexes they can only dream of, and that I am old enough to use them without reprimand, too.”

There’s a lot of Slytherin in his smirk, and Remus has to laugh at that – things aren’t all that bad. Are they good? With Harry’s uncle shouting abuse and his own aunt shunning him? Hell no. But Harry could be dead, and that would be much worse.

They end up cooking together, too, neither having any further plans for the evening, so they prepare meat and vegetables and sit together on the patio in between the strong-smelling dittany and the blooming nightshade.

"He's nice," Regulus says at length, distracted by the snapping sound of his self-fertilising shrubs momentarily, "Sirius would have liked him."

It's a kind of desolate, absentmindedly phrased thought, Regulus' dark eyes on the shrubs and his brain some far distant place trying to correctly interpret the sound and act accordingly – it strikes something old and deep and hurtful in Remus, something ancient, perhaps something that's always just been there, even before the bite, because he feels this anger as if it was born and raised with him, not moon cycle grown.

"Sirius would have seen him dead," it hurts to say it, so he bites it, all teeth and years of spite, because he's taught himself this; Sirius is the bad guy here, not him, and he will not be blamed for the ways he tried to overcome his grief.

Regulus takes out his packet of cigarettes, doesn't meet Remus' eyes. He's staring, somewhere far-off again, and Remus wonders if Regulus too, dreams of a world where it is Sirius sitting on this bench with him, instead.

"I don't know," he says eventually, and it comes out of his mouth with the smoke, fleeting, barely there. His eyes are black, and his face flashes with past memories, not all of them bad, per say, but not most of them good, "I just don't know Remus."

His voice is too soft and too forgiving and Remus wants to stomp out his heart because there is always hope fluttering there and it is killing him. So he grits his teeth, balls his fists, and spits, "I bet Peter would know, that is, if he were still alive."

Regulus doesn't say anything to that, because there's nothing he really can say to that. Remus looks as he inhales and then exhales the smoke through his nose and they sit in silence until the raging Hungarian Horntail in his stomach settles down and he no longer feels upset, just sleepy, and Regulus takes his hand, too gentle, and they continue to exist in the setting light of the sun.

***

That summer Remus visits Regulus' place often. He thinks maybe they're just lonely, but if he's being honest he's missed Regulus, dark and broody and always smoking and in the evenings sometimes he closes his eyes and remembers Sirius and it's not as painful as it used to be, with the smell of smoke and spices mixing, not until he opens his eyes.

Some days he has the young Malfoy boy over, and Remus entertains himself by watching them brew potions together, chops up Regulus' frog brains and laughs as Draco makes a face when Regulus critiques his cutting technique. Some days a thin mousy boy called Theodore Nott joins Draco, and Remus knows the boy's parents, sees the boy's sunken face, and knows why he's there. They are both eager learners, though Theo seems to lack some dexterity and the skill that comes naturally to Draco, all rough edges in his face and clean measurements with pale hands.

On some days Draco brings what appears to be a close friend, an Italian boy named Blaise Zabini. He has no interest in potions whatsoever and spends most of his time watching Draco and complaining, nudging the boy with his head or nose, not embarrassed in front of the adults even as the pale boy's cheeks go flaming red. He spends a lot of his time whistling, talking to Regulus' plants, annoying Kreacher and just generally staring at Draco. He appears to have no intention whatsoever to learn anything new, or even review some of his first year material; whenever Regulus even dares suggest anything of the likes the boy just kind of shrieks, "professor Black!" indignantly, and then flings himself across the balcony bars dramatically.

When later Remus wonders aloud as to where Regulus gets the patience to deal with such an insufferable brat, Regulus just shrugs his shoulders and says, "I just really love that gay ass kid," very seriously, so Remus has no idea if he means it or not.

He supposes it doesn’t matter, either, because Draco is always pale, face a rigidly constructed mask of hidden emotions, but he smiles around Blaise, and Remus thinks everyone needs someone they can smile around. So maybe Regulus has ulterior motives – when doesn’t he? – but he’s making an in-distress child smile by inviting his not-so-polite best friend, and if that makes a difference, who is Remus to judge?

Remus personally likes days when Seamus is around the best. He likes the eagerness in the Hufflepuff boy, the sarcasm that lines the Ravenclaw girl’s speech, but he loves Seamus’ stories most. It is not through Regulus’ well-constructed thought-through comments that Remus learns what happened at Hogwarts, but through Seamus’ accented, all-over-the-place storytelling.

“Oh yeah did you hear Harry vanquished our DADA teacher?” he says while adding powdered rat spleens to his potion, “oh it was quite the adventure,” he says as he stirs the pot, “he also beat a troll, well I mean Ron did, but Ron also beat McGonagall’s chess game, it was all very weird!”

So he strings together the passing events, and Regulus watches approvingly as Seamus creates the puzzle for him, offers him piece after piece until it becomes a clear picture. Regulus tells him he hates telling stories, and Seamus is way better at it, anyway.

Neville is scared of brewing potions, always adding a little bit too much roots or not enough seeds and he’s always just anxiously stirring into a concoction that is neither the right colour nor the right smell. Regulus teaches him all the plant names in his kitchen, lets him water his Venomous Tentacula and gives him Polypody to grow in his own garden. He learns where all the potions ingredients come from, and how Regulus harvests his herbs and where he stores them, and Remus thinks by the end of summer the boy has bloomed, more beautifully than Regulus’ nightshade has.

September comes and goes and Remus promises he will check up on Kreacher every now and then, but the apartment is different without Regulus and he feels like an intruder. After work he returns to his cottage and he kind of falls into this old pattern again – work, alone time, work, alone time. It doesn’t bother him, this life suits him, but he thinks back of the summer and misses its warmth.

Regulus writes him, and once a month he sends him a sufficient batch of Wolfsbane and they’ve rekindled their friendship, all awkwardness left behind, and it makes Remus a better person for it, he’s sure.

Full moons come and go and he meets with colleagues for a drink and he waters the black roses Regulus gave him when they met last, and it’s all very life-like. He is living and taking up space and maybe he doesn’t exactly love it, but he enjoys it well enough.

Harry writes him letters too, but only because Remus wrote him first, he’s sure of it. He is always very polite, the times they’ve met over summer having softened his weariness, but not enough for him to fully let down his guard yet. Remus supposes with a childhood like Harry’s, it takes a lot more than a couple of stories to break down his walls.

He’s gone Christmas shopping when he gets home late one day and Regulus’ head is in his fireplace.

“I’ve been here for half an hour!” Regulus complains, every inch of him a little child that hasn’t gotten the candies he wanted, “he talks to snakes!”

Remus isn’t sure what Regulus is talking about – he’s still half in his coat and the bags he brought have been unceremoniously dropped by the door – worrying about snakes had been the last thing on his mind as he entered and saw his ex-boyfriend’s little brother’s head lighting up his fireplace green.

“Um? He what?” Remus takes off his scarf and then just kind of stares at Regulus – now the fireplace glow is green, but Remus imagines that the younger man may actually be blushing.

“Listen, don’t judge me, but I brought mother to Hogwarts with me,” yes, Remus is quite sure, with Regulus’ eyes downturned, that the raven is blushing, “and I’m pretty sure she’s been chatting with him and giving him potions tips, because he’s always sitting down next to her cage and whispering shit and doing way too well for what a train wreck he is!”

Regulus says it all very sharply, but there’s no real malice in the statement. If anything he seems to be hiding some kind of misplaced pride, and Remus has to purse his lips – normal wizards would find talking to snakes a very ominous sign, but leave it to Regulus to be excited over it.

“Oh well I mean…” Remus isn’t sure what he means because he is caught between wanting to scold Regulus and going over to Hogwarts right away to have a sit-down with Harry. He feels fourteen all over again, forced to reconcile Sirius and Peter after the former broke into the latter’s Honeydukes stash. If only life could ever be that simple again, “that’s new,” it just kind of blurts out because he’s kind of thinking of something else now, before Regulus’ indignant spluttering brings him back to the here and now.

“I should tell him it’s weird right?” Regulus rambles on, uprightly confused as to how best to deal with the situation, “and tell his little bitch ass he isn’t cheating any longer I mean can you believe mother though? The audacity!” he turns his nose up and Remus isn’t sure what is making the younger man more upset – the infidelity of his pupil, or his pet snake.

Remus eventually manages to calm him down, and the situation in itself, though not that funny, is really very funny. For a moment Regulus is not Hogwarts’ potion teacher, but Sirius’ snobby brother that needs a talking to. Remus has missed that in his life, he thinks.

He tells Regulus he’ll contact Harry about it and not to worry about mother, because she’s only being the helpful being he’s raised her to be – he’s pretty sure half of what he’s saying is just in jest, but Regulus listens to him with narrowed eyes and then nods and says, “you’re much more of a nurturer anyway,” whatever that may mean.

He spends the rest of the night thinking about how to broach the subject, exactly, because he can’t just say “hey your teacher brought a snake to Hogwarts because he’s kind of a nutter but please don’t talk to it because that’s making him more of a nutter” because that would probably make him sound like a nutter. He really wants Harry to realise no one is a nutter.

He ends up writing a somewhat casual letter, and although he doesn’t want Harry to feel as if they’re talking about him behind his back it’s very difficult to state his point without making that obvious. So he just generalises a little bit and writes things like, “some wizards have special talents” and “sometimes special talents are misunderstood” and “I am here for you regardless” and then finishes it with, “professor Black calls his snake mother, in case you hadn’t realised” and thinks that’s as obvious he can make it without making it painfully so.

That very evening he sends the letter, because he’s just bought Harry some leather-bound books on Defence against the Dark Arts for Christmas and he doesn’t want the two messages getting confused in any way.

It turns out he doesn’t have to worry, because two days later he has a letter back with Harry spilling the pumpkin pasties; the first time he talked to a snake he accidentally set it on his cousin but mother was really nice to him and reminded him to stir clockwise instead of anti-clockwise and she wasn’t as obvious about it as Hermione was.

The last sentence reads "am I weird?" and Remus thinks Harry is more of a Gryffindor than Sirius ever was, so bravely asking questions he needs to hear the answers to.

He writes a new letter and talks about You-Know-Who talking to snakes and how it's an odd coincidence but then Harry also survived his dead curse so perhaps it's not a weird coincidence, just a coincidence they don't understand yet. He also adds his Christmas gift, and a picture of the Marauders at the winter solstice party in Hogsmeade in their sixth year – they are all wearing ridiculous muggle accessories on which Lilly had insisted, to hide their identity. Sirius is wearing a black and white police hat to hide his long hair, and a costume Remus has since then seen on a muggle nurse with black tights underneath. Peter has whiskers drawn on his face and is wearing fake cat ears and a very fluffy tail, and Remus is in full clown make-up; too-big shoes included. James is wearing a fake moustache, a cowboy hat to hide his hair, and suspenders.

On the back of the picture he writes, "all the best people are".

He ignores how his stomach erupts into flitterbies as nurse Sirius winks at him and quickly finds an envelope for the picture, so that he no longer has to watch clown Remus flatter into nurse Sirius' side, thus losing a whole lot of white make-up and gaining the redness of Sirius' cheeks lighting up his pale skin.

These days he doesn’t feel so affronted when met with the sight of his over-affectionate self and Sirius, canoodling in Marauders pictures he still has hanging off his bedroom wall, but it’s also just a little weird, because obviously, picture-Remus hasn’t gotten the owl about Sirius being a traitor and all, and also, Sirius just doesn’t look like a traitor in their pictures. Not that there’s a traitor look, but Remus was always pretty sure big black dog cuddling into his front wasn’t it.

He used to take a lot of pictures but now instead of cheerfully taking his camera everywhere he goes, he hides it shamefully underneath his bed with all the pictures. He doesn’t indulge in the full feeling his heart gets, watching his former self and his former lover smooching in the Gryffindor dorm. It feels dirty now, and he doesn’t need any more dirt in his life, thank you very much.

As it turns out, it will be getting a little dirtier, as he is forced to watch from the sidelines as Hogwarts almost goes to hell except that before it really does Harry tells the “big ass pussy snake” as Regulus puts it, to leave the school alone and then when that doesn’t work and the snake abducts a little girl to take revenge on Harry’s sassy mouth he follows it into a hidden chamber or something and then stabs it with a sword.

It’s Regulus that tells him the story in his letter first, and then Harry tells him again in his, and he thinks he kind of gets the gist of it. Apparently, a House Elf tried to seriously maim him too, but after meeting grumpy Kreacher he had just stupidly assumed it was a House Elf thing to do and taken no heed to it.

It’s safe to say Remus worries, but only because Harry appears to be a special kind of dense.

He goes round for tea at Regulus’ when the man first comes home and he just seems generally very upset that there was a hidden chamber with a big ass snake and that, he says: “that little sassy mouth stabbed it! I could have experimented with it! Honestly, Gryffindors,” and he huffs a lot and gives Remus side-eye as if he is to blame for the ridiculousness that a lot of his house-members possess.

His hemlock is blooming, and Remus helps him water the rest of his plants. Mother is back in her terrarium, and the sunset is glorious, as if the light had been dim without Regulus here. His hair has grown longer, and he watches him put it up with his wand as he goes to scrub the soil of his hands and he has to swallow something thick because he looks a lot like his brother like this – profile askew with the bright light and weird angle, raven hair up on his head in a messy bun and his pale neck revealed to the light, long and tender and—

His shoulders give it all away though and Remus catches himself before doing anything silly like reach out. Regulus gives him a look like maybe he knows, but he doesn’t comment, merely steps aside so Remus can use the faucet as well.

As far as summers go it’s a pretty catastrophic one though. He’s trimming his bushes when the paper arrives, and he doesn’t think much of it at first, because the owl just kind of swoops in, patiently waiting on his bench with its leg out to receive payment, and it’s all very ordinary stuff.

His cabin is on the edge of the woods, and he doesn’t usually receive visitors – he always goes out to drink with his colleagues, and Regulus doesn’t like being away from his home in summer – so it’s a little odd when he hears the wind chimes out front chime to announce a visitor. He thinks that if this was a novel, the clouds would have been turning dark overhead, but in reality it is a bright summer day and sweat is prickling down his neck.

He takes his time, pays the owl its fee and puts down his watering can before going into the house with his paper in hand, distracted by the pretty music of his chimes – they haven’t chimed for a visitor in ages, and he’s almost forgotten what it sounds like. He wonders about who it could be at his door as he stomps his feet on the rug to get off the mud, and then takes his shirt from where he left it by the counter to cover up his torso. He’s far away, too hot to be bothered.

It’s almost a coincidence, he thinks, how at the exact moment that he opens the door, his eye catches the front page of the daily prophet.

Sirius’ hair is impossibly long – it’s waving down his shoulders and back, falling into his face with a nonchalant grace, dark like the night sky. He’s in old raggedy prisoner’s robes, but he’s winking and waving, pursing his pink lips and batting his long lashes and Remus almost drops the paper right there because it reads “Escape from Azkaban” and that’s not a context Remus ever wanted to see Sirius put in but there he is, winking all the while.

Dumbledore’s hair is equally long but his face is much less enthusiastic, worry lining the wrinkles in his brow.

They spend a lot of time talking and drinking tea, and it’s overall a little distressing but also familiar. He hasn’t seen Albus in years, though they exchange the occasional letter, and to know that he is still involved, still on their side, it’s comforting.

Remus isn’t sure what they talk about, but only because he’s put the paper on the side table and Sirius keeps making obscene gestures at him. He’s pretty sure this is all a dream anyway, because Sirius hasn’t been on the first page of the paper way back since when they first caught him, and back then he was just kind of screaming, pain edged in his face. He’s pretty sure that Sirius winking and making faces under that obnoxious header will turn out to be a fantasy, and he’ll wake up any moment now, watering can still in hand as he’s dozed off with the heady scent of his roses outside.

Except that when Dumbledore gets up to leave he kind of pinches his own elbow and then when he waves Dumbledore off he pinches his own cheek and he doesn’t wake up, not even later when he rams his head into the fridge.

So he ends up with a teaching job and a paper that’s making crude hand gestures.

He’s pretty sure at that point the summer can’t get worse, at any rate.

It’s doesn’t really. Just a bit.

Regulus writes him letters every day with poorly veiled concern for his safety – “Sirius probably broke out for a shag” he writes, but Remus isn’t sure he’s joking – and Remus spends a lot of days in his bed, annoyed that of all seasons to escape, Sirius chose the hottest one, so that he can not even properly sulk in his bed, making pillow fords and hiding under blankets. Instead he lays sweating and uncomfortable and stares out of the window.

On days that he does drag his butt out of his bed, he visits Regulus, who tries to distract him by feeding him chocolate triple fudge cake and has Seamus tell him more silly stories – if the boy realises he’s being used for his accent, he doesn’t show it, just talks an endless stream of accented words as he watches his friend Dean Thomas brew potions.

Harry is as oblivious as ever, just kind of sweats over his cauldron and doesn’t mention anything about anyone – there’s a possibility he hasn’t heard the wizarding news, or that the man in the wanted posters, with his too long hair, ghostly thin, grimy face and pinpricks of a beard doesn’t resemble Regulus that much anymore, after all. Remus cokes it up to Harry being the most oblivious boy he has ever met, but he doesn’t blame him and is thankful for it, at any rate.

It’s a disastrous enough summer without having to have the your-Godfather-got-your-parents-killed-and-I-used-to-date-him-and-your-beloved-potion-teacher-is-his-brother talk. Remus may be more of a nurturer than Regulus, but he’s pretty sure no one is enough of a nurturer to make that sound good.

Also, Harry does this really stupid thing where instead of confiding in Remus – they write letters for Merlin’s sake, he could have dropped a hint! – he lets his uncle and his uncle’s sister bully him until he explodes, and makes the woman explode too, apparently. She doesn’t burst, but from what Remus hears it was a close call.

He then also runs away into the wide world where Sirius Black is roaming free – a murderous killer who has absolutely no scrupulous – and apparently ends up at the leaky cauldron.

Remus hears about it from his friends at the Ministry, but it was quite a frantic search, and he kind of wants to laugh because he got a letter from Harry saying he accidentally turned his not-really-aunt into a balloon and then met the Minister for Magic, as if it was some kind of teenage-dream-come-true experience, instead of a nearly lethal one that sent the whole Ministry into a panic.

They hang out in Diagon Alley before Dumbledore can even implore him to by letter, but only because Remus really wants to. He thinks this is what they were supposed to be doing all those years, anyway, that this is the exact kind of thing he would have ended up doing with Harry if his parents had lived, and he doesn’t dwell on the twinge in his heart, but on the smile on Harry’s face.

They eat a lot of ice cream, and Harry is blossoming, opening up and feeling comfortable, and there’s no tenseness in his shoulders, no extra gears turning in his head. Remus marvels as every day he feels Harry trust him a little more, but then it’s also a very painful realisation, as there is such an important detail that he’s hiding from him.

Sirius no longer bats his lashes at him from wanted posters, there’s always just tears in his eyes.

Remus doesn’t pretend to understand all things, not even most things, but he doesn’t understand why these days his heart is just always feeling heavy.

Full moon comes and then goes and he wakes up in his cabin feeling worse than he has in years now, despite the potion Regulus has supplied him with ever so dutifully – it’s like he misses everyone more than he has in a very long time and it is such an overwhelming feeling of loss that he can barely breathe with it, thick regret stuck in his lungs.

***