Each fist bump came with the name as Remus stood by the door after morning skate. He smiled at each of them, even the ones breathing too hard to actually say anything.
“How’s the thigh feel?” He asked a sweaty Kasey as he waddled in with his goalie pads, helmet perched on top of his head.
Kasey shrugged. “Little tight. Might be in later.”
Remus nodded. “Good. Do some heat before, alright? I’ll work it out.”
He nodded, waving his blocker behind his shoulder as he headed towards his stall.
“Remus Mother Fucking Lupin.” Remus heard a second before he was being taken beneath a very sweat-damp arm.
Remus groaned. “James.”
“Did you see my goal? See me steal it from Pads?”
Remus elbowed him hard in the ribs, right where his pads ended above his hockey pants. James grunted and let go.
“Yes, very pretty.”
“Right?” James grinned, then turned to walk backwards farther into the locker room. “Hey, re-tape my shoulder later? Before I go?”
James winked at him. “Thanks, Fruit-Loop.”
Remus rolled his eyes, but smiled back at him. He would allow that the nickname was ridiculous, but he couldn’t deny that he loved it. He was part of this team, even if he wasn’t an actual player.
He looked back to the hall and frowned. “Hey, Pots,” he called out, and James looked up. He was already stripped down to his underarmour. “Where’s Black?”
James hesitated and a few of the other guys looked up, too.
“Captain’s still on the ice.” He finally said, sharing a knowing look with Remus.
Remus nodded. “Right. Thanks.”
Sirius was right where James had said he would be, doing slow loops around the rink that would abruptly end, exploding into a break away up the ice, puck slick on his stick and whipped into the goal. Again. Again.
Remus sat at the sidelines, waiting for Sirius to see him first. It took him five more goals. While he wasn’t looking, Remus watched his face. So intense. So intent on pretending he wasn’t favoring his right ankle like he was. Remus sat on the bench and folded his elbows on the boards.
“Want to share something with the class there, Loops?”
Remus shook his head. “Just you. No need to alert the media.”
Sirius skated over, ducking out of his helmet and coming to a hard stop in front of Remus. “Well?” He said, leaning on the boards just beside Remus, mirroring his position.
“You’re still favoring your foot.”
“Damn it, Remus.”
Remus spread his hands. “If I don’t point it out, who will?”
Sirius looked away with a shake of his head. The cardinal red and gold of his jersey set off his tan skin against the ice.
“Padfoot.” Remus sighed. “I wouldn’t point it out of I didn’t think I had to.”
“I want—” Sirius pressed his lips together.
“You want to be ready.”
“I need to be ready.” Sirius looked back to Remus. “I’m their captain, Re.”
Remus fought back a shaky breath. It always startled him, knocked the wind out of him a little, when Sirius called him that. It felt more intimate, more like they knew each other, like they were friends. Rather than Remus just being his physical therapist. And not even his, at that. The team’s.
“You’re my captain, too.” Remus smiled, tilting his head down a little. “Speaking as a fan, that is.”
It made Sirius laugh, which made Remus have to busy himself with pretending to straighten some stray water bottles left behind to hide the way his cheeks and neck heated.
“Let me look at it after you shower, alright? That’s it. I know you want to be ready, and I promised you I’d do everything in my power to get you there. I intend to keep that promise, but you have to tell me when you’re not feeling one hundred percent.” Remus raised his eyebrows. “You have to be honest with me.”
Sirius nodded exaggeratedly as he unlatched the bench door, grumbling. “Yeah, yeah, yeah.” But he smiled again. “Thanks, Loops.”
“Sure.” Remus nodded.
As Sirius walked towards the locker room, Remus tried to reason with his flopping heart.
It was cliche, was the thing.
Remus muttered to himself about it back home, microwaving himself some left over chicken and rice. A trainer falling for the heartthrob captain. Not to mention that it was Sirius Black. Sirius was always getting ribbed by the team that anyone who looked at him fell for him. Remus tried to laugh along when it was brought up at the occasional team dinner he was invited out to.
It was a hard thing to do.
It was cliche and it was pathetic. He sat down in front of his couch so he could more easily eat at the low coffee table and turned on the TV. As the season approached, the NHL network was ramping up stat comparisons and player profiles. Among all the rookies, the press couldn’t seem to resist doing what seemed like their monthly story on “The Rival Captains.” Sirius’ face was splashed up on the screen besides Snape’s. Remus rolled his eyes.
“Of course,” the reporter was saying, “the hockey world is more than eager for one of the first match ups of the 2019 NHL season, between the Gryffindor Lions and the Slytherin Snakes.”
“Not to mention,” The suit to the left of the table said, leaning forward with a chuckle, “we’re just raring for our two favorite captains to meet again. The Lion’s Sirius Black and the Snake’s Severus Snape were drafted together in 2015. Just two years later Black was made the youngest captain in NHL history, Snape one year behind him and, well…” The reporters laughed together again. “It looks like Snape hasn’t forgotten. Black went onto beat Snape in points up until last year when Black was out with a broken ankle, allowing Snape to pull ahead.”
“For now.” The right one said. “I don’t know about you, Dean, but I’m still looking at that game tape, that hit by Snape on Black. There’s major debate about how intentional that hit was.”
“Well, let’s not imply Snape was intentional with anything—“
“Oh, no, let’s.” Remus snarked at the TV, shaking his head.
“—And so the rivalry continues. The Lions were cast out of the playoffs in just the first round without their captain, while the Snakes went on until round three. Who will make it this year? Well, we’ll see.”
“It’ll be an exciting season, with both Black and Snape on the ice again, that’s for sure.”
“Sure is, Lee. I’m Dean Thomas.”
“And I’m Lee Jordan. This was Rink Talk, thanks for watching everyone.”
Remus changed the channel angrily. He hoped Sirius hadn’t seen any of that. He didn’t need any of that rivalry bullshit right now. Snape was a good player, so was Sirius. When they were out on the rink, they weren’t just playing each other. It was team against team.
Remus didn’t know about that hit on Sirius. He’d watched the tape just as much as anyone else, maybe more. How Sirius’ stick hadn’t even come within inches from the puck before Snape had careened into him, skate hooking on skate, and twisting Sirius’ ankle grotesquely, bringing him down hard. It was a painful thing to watch, made even worse with Snape denying any dirty play, saying he had thought Sirius was going right for the puck.
His phone lit up while he was brushing his teeth and he picked it up from where he had tossed it on the end of the bed. It was James.
Pots: TEAM DINNER?? YES?? KNUTTY WANTS TO GO TO THREE BROOMSTICKS??? YES??
Remus laughed and quickly sucked toothpaste back into his mouth.
Sounds good, he typed out, and received a string of thumbs-up emojis in reply.
James had been drafted one year before Sirius, and Remus found it strange to think about that one year before Sirius arrived. Of course, they’d all known about him. It was hard not to know about the kid who’d been a prodigy since the age of seven. Remus could remember watching videos of him on Youtube, mesmerized by the way he moved on the ice. He wouldn’t admit it aloud, but he still watched those videos.
It had been a good first year. Of course, he’d only been an assistant then, but Moody, the head trainer, had seen right away how much all the guys loved him, how much Remus was able to help them with what they needed. Just a few months into the season, he had been brought on full time.
The next year, the Lions had won the draw and Sirius came to them, stony-faced and quiet, barely looking up in the locker room. Nobody had known what to make of it, especially not Remus. It was different, seeing Sirius quiet and clipped in interviews online. Every player was like that. Remus had thought Sirius would be different in real life, friendly like James and Finn, Kasey, Leo…all the guys. Now, four years later, Sirius was better. He laughed, he smiled more. He joked around with the guys in the locker room. But that hadn’t become obvious until two years ago, maybe, and it was him loosening up that made all the guys vote him their captain. They cared for him. Remus cared for him. He cared for all of them. Remus thought James had gotten through to him, in the end because, the next thing anyone knew, they were joined at the hip. Sirius, the perfect center, James, his winger. An absolute machine on the ice. Remus’ throat got tight sometimes, watching them out there, but he wouldn’t tell anyone that, either.
He crawled into bed, kicking the sheets back and pulling his computer into his lap. He knew he shouldn’t, but he pulled up the video of the hit again. There were awful videos, ten minutes long, playing it on loop while some idiot talked about their history. Remus hated the sight of Snape’s face. His long nose. His greasy, black hair. He hated him more for the things he said on the ice. And that hit on Sirius. Remus watched it again.
Sirius, flying up the ice towards the Snakes’ goal, towards the puck. It had barely left Leo Knut’s stick before Snape had boarded Sirius. In the video, the sound of Sirius hitting the boards was muffled, but Remus had been right on the bench. He’d heard the crack. He’d sat there, knuckles white, throat getting tighter and tighter with every second Sirius stayed down. Finally, after James had long since leaped off the bench to go to him, Sirius had turned over. Jaw tight. Eyes wide and terrified. He’d thrashed a little with the pain, leg perfectly still.
And then he had looked right at Remus.
Remus will never forget it.
They’d held eye contact until the medic had torn his attention away. It had left Remus feeling split open wide and raw.
The video ended with Sirius leaving the ice, and James going after Snape. James had gotten kicked out of the game. Remus had never heard Coach Weasley yell that loud. Arthur Weasley, former Lions player, was known for being even tempered. He was made fun of league wide for being borderline goofy, and sweet. But he’d led the Lions, before James and Sirius’ time, to two Stanley Cups. So, no one could really complain about him. That night, though, he’d ripped James a new one.
Remus slammed his computer shut, trying to ignore the familiar guilt bubbling up in his chest.
Sirius wanted to be ready. He knew Sirius wanted to be ready for this season, and Remus wanted to do everything in his power to get him there. But he couldn’t make a broken bone heal any faster.
It was what plagued him as he got to sleep that night, mulling exercises and stretches over in his head, seeing Sirius’ eyes, disappointed and annoyed with him, until he fell asleep.
His last thought was that he would do anything he could, anything at all, to have Sirius ready in time for their first game against the Durmstrang Eagles, set to be in just three weeks time.