A light dusting of snow blanketed the courtyard in front of Number Twelve Grimmauld Place, covering the litter-strewn brown grass and giving the area a bright, clean look that might fool a passerby into thinking the grim little street had some life and cheer to it - an assumption that, just a few days prior, would have been at least partly true.
It was a new year now, and Remus Lupin knew better. As he wiped his boots on the crusty mat atop the steps, the snow that clung to them turned dirty and gray. The heavy door swung open at a whispered incantation, hissing a low creaking sound that made Remus cringe, but the hallway remained silent. He stepped gratefully inside; oppressive though it was, at least the house was warm.
“Sirius?” he asked quietly once he’d passed Walburga’s wretched portrait. “It’s me.”
“In here,” Sirius called from the kitchen, and Remus turned the corner to find him staring vaguely at the flames licking the bottom of the large cooking cauldron. It was the same place Remus had left him three days ago, first for Hogwarts with the kids and then to follow up with an old contact of Dumbledore’s.
“Oh good, you’re back,” Sirius said flatly, taking a sip from a teacup that Remus strongly suspected held something other than tea. “They’re back at school, then?”
Remus snorted, taking the seat next to Sirius. “You say that like you haven’t already interrogated Tonks and Mad-Eye about every detail of the trip.” Sirius shrugged, unperturbed, eyes not moving from the dancing flames. “You need a shower,” Remus added, snagging the teacup and taking a swig himself. It burned his throat. “And I need something to eat, I’m famished.”
He wasn’t, really - Remus knew hunger and discomfort better than he knew anyone in the world, save the man beside him - but Sirius rose anyway. Time and distance hadn’t dulled Sirius’ need to care for him, not any more than lies and mistrust had during those years when they’d lived together, slept together, and fought together; even then, Sirius hadn’t missed a single moon, and it had been all the more heartbreaking to be tended to when that was the only familiar thing left between them.
Sirius ladled leftover stew into a bowl for Remus and then one for himself, almost as an afterthought. It had lost much of its flavor but warmed Remus from the inside as they ate in silence.
“Arthur’s back at work,” Remus said some minutes later, laying his spoon down next to the empty bowl.
Sirius snorted. “Lucky sod,” he muttered bitterly. “Even the Ministry would be better than here.”
Remus twisted his lips into a wry smile. “What about living with Molly after a near death experience?” he countered. “Merlin love her, but he’s probably just relieved to be out of bed and eating something besides soup.” He gestured at the cauldron, now nearly empty, and while he thought about it cast a silent preservation charm over the remnants.
Sirius tilted his tea cup in silent acknowledgment. “He married her,” he said unsympathetically. “She wasn’t this bad the first time around, was she?”
They’d not known the Weasleys well, back in the day. Molly’s brothers had been on the front lines of the Order but she and Arthur had kept to themselves, happy to lend a hand or offer information when asked but generally distracted with their young sons and the grief that came with losing Fabian and Gideon.
“She has more to lose now,” Remus replied quietly. The image of Harry dead on the floor of the drawing room, Molly weeping beside it, flashed through his mind. “She knows what’s at stake.”
“What about me, then?” Sirius asked, straightening in his seat. “If it were me that were attacked, would you dote on me and worry yourself sick?” He flashed a sharp smile at Remus, who recognized the sudden shift in mood - familiar and potentially dangerous, and his heart sped up accordingly.
“Don’t I worry enough?” he said mildly, looking steadily at Sirius. “Half the grey is your fault as it is.”
Sirius barked out a laugh that hurt to listen to and abruptly launched himself forward, fisting a hand in Remus’ hair. “You’re right,” he murmured, his face very close to Remus’. “Look at this one here - I think that’s from second year, with the mermaids.” He fingered a few soft strands; goosebumps rose on the back of Remus’ neck. “And here, this might have been that time on the Astronomy Tower.”
Remus laughed quietly, taking care not to move. “Which time?” he asked. “The mattresses, or with Flitwick?”
“Oh Merlin, I’d forgotten Flitwick,” Sirius replied, his smile softening into something a little fonder. “All right, then, that might be this one.” He teased the hair behind Remus’ ear. “And here, this must be…”
“New Years,” Remus finished for him, picking a safe memory from the millions that haunted his sleep. “In ‘76. That was worse than most duels I’ve been through.”
A smirk tugged at Sirius’ lips. “The snowball fight?” he asked, and seemed to grow distant. “Of course it was worse than duelling, considering you actually lost.”
“That remains -” Remus began hotly, but Sirius cut him off just as he had that New Year’s Day so many years ago, with a roll of his eyes and the firm press of his lips against Remus’.
Remus wasted no time kissing back, threading his fingers through the hair at Sirius’ nape - hair that even now had only the slightest hints of grey, but felt brittler than he remembered. Sirius groaned as he tugged at it, lifting his chin so that Remus could trail kisses down the length of his neck, paler than ever from the long months inside.
They didn’t do this often, not like before. When Sirius first showed up after the tournament with bloody feet and news that once again turned Remus’ life upside down, he’d fucked Remus against the counter, left them both spent and shaking before retreating inward once more. Remus didn’t push, too frightened that to push at all would be to push away, and instead took what Sirius gave on the rare occasions he gave it: the last night at the cottage and again the first night at Grimmauld, after Harry’s trial, after a particularly grim letter from Dumbledore.
It was always rough and raw and tinged with bitterness, and each encounter left Remus aching in every way he knew how. It was like pushing on a bruise, the sort of hurt that he couldn’t resist, and in the quiet moments after - the space of a few heartbeats, a few heavy breaths that could be mistaken for sobs and Sirius’ weight against him, the thick scent that was somehow the most familiar thing he’d known in too many years - he could almost, almost pretend.
Even this was better than it had been, back before, when Sirius couldn’t even meet his eyes for fear of what he’d see in them.
Tonight was different. Quieter. Remus wondered if they were perhaps too tired to muster that energy, the adrenaline and righteous rage that had fuelled them for so long. It was a relief to let it go, to sink into Sirius and let all of the sharp pieces inside him melt into something soft and warm.
They took their time, long lazy kisses in the kitchen before Sirius pulled back just far enough for Remus to see how his eyes had darkened. His unkept beard scratched at Remus’ fingers and he closed his eyes at the sensation; it was so easy to imagine they were somewhere else, anywhere else. He remembered that first kiss again, how they’d trudged up to their dorm after hours in the snow, soaking wet, cheeks flushed with cold and wind and the burn where Sirius’ stubble had scraped his skin.
Like before, Sirius dragged him upstairs, and it was a whimsical notion that had Remus drawing his wand as they stumbled into the bedroom they so rarely shared.
Sirius laughed when the first snowflakes drifted down from the ceiling - it was an honest, delighted sound and it warmed Remus more than the stew, the drink, and the kisses they’d shared combined. “Romantic, Moony,” Sirius teased, the glow of the lamps behind him shadowing the lines on his face and making him seem even younger.
“I have my moments,” Remus agreed, surging forward to kiss him again.
The snow fell more thickly around them, slicking their skin and clinging to their clothes as they undressed each other with quick, familiar hands. Remus could feel hot blood in his cheeks, thundering in his ears, and he wondered vaguely how he could have so much to spare when he was as hard as he’d ever been, gasping as Sirius pushed him down onto the thick quilt and reached for his wand.
“God,” Remus gritted out, clenching as the warmth of the spell flooded him. He blinked snowflakes out of his eyes, clung to Sirius’ back as Sirius leaned over him and took himself in hand. “God damn it, Sirius…”
A smile split Sirius’ face and it didn’t matter that it was a little broken, a little sharp - as he slid home his eyes fluttered closed and it took everything that Remus had to keep his own open, to relish the sight of Sirius, his Sirius, with flushed cheeks and damp hair sticking to his forehead, lines vanishing from his face as he began to move, and it was like they had been thrown back in time. The room around them disappeared as Sirius moved and Remus met him, breath by breath, thrust by thrust. Sirius’ thumbs dug into Remus’ shoulders, the mattress beneath them made little squeaking sounds, and Sirius’ lips were parted and chapped and red, red like the curtains in their dorm room, like the pillows in their tiny flat, like the sun setting over Hogwarts that day so many years ago when they’d collapsed, wet and exhausted, against the snowy banks of the lake and called a truce to a snowball fight that Remus had lost but, when Sirius had leaned towards with dark hooded eyes, couldn’t help but feel like he’d won.
“Please,” he said now, his throat as tight as the rest of him. Sirius dug in deeper, landed a clumsy kiss near Remus’ mouth. “Please, I can’t…”
Sirius’ hands were cold when he reached between them, propping himself up with an elbow near Remus’ head and long fingers that circled Remus’ cock. He wasn’t gentle, but the moment for gentleness had long passed; as he drove into Remus again and again, filling him, splitting him open, Remus finally closed his eyes and let the tightness build, first in his stomach and then further down, coiling and trembling and at last bursting free.
It didn’t take long for Sirius to follow him with a ragged cry. Remus held him through it, tracing fingers up and down the length of his back and pressing soft kisses into the damp hair near his ear. Snow continued to fall over them, cool droplets melting into heated skin.
Beyond where Sirius lay panting atop him Remus could see the old decorations that colored the room. Gryffindor banners draped the walls, the same faded red and gold of their old dorm, and striped scarves hung off the bedposts and the wardrobe. The motorcycle posters were shabby and yellowing with age, and they made Remus feel old, because he’d sat with Sirius as he carefully cut up Muggle magazines and selected his favorite models. James had helped with the spellwork, and Peter with the paint job, but Remus had been the first one to ride the real thing; he’d clutched Sirius and gritted his teeth so hard he’d had a headache for days, but what a ride it had been.
James and Peter - there they were, on the wall across from the bed, directly in Remus’ eyeline. The four of them, young, so young that forget old, Remus felt ancient as he stared at the smooth faces and wide smiles.
He thought of the photo he knew was hidden away, appropriately enough in the wardrobe closet. Sirius had had no shame in flaunting posters of muggle girls; he’d delighted in the rage he could incite in his parents, and his charmwork protected them from damage or removal. Even so, he’d not been able to stomach what his family might have done had they seen, had they known, just what Remus was to him, and so he’d kept that photo secret, and when he’d fled Remus had his own copy to showcase proudly in the shabby living room of their flat.
He’d burned it, of course, and now Remus thought that these pictures - this little time capsule of a room - were just about all that was left of the four boys on the wall. Dusty scarves, fading photos, a boy with James’ hair and Lily’s eyes…
...and Remus and Sirius, or some version of them.
Sirius shifted off him and collapsed into the mattress. That’s it, then, Remus thought faintly. The chill of the still-falling snow seemed to reach deeper inside him as he waited for Sirius to rise and slink away.
“‘S fucking cold,” Sirius said instead. Remus watched, frozen with something other than cold, as he reached for the thick quilt at the end of the bed and pulled it over them. And for the first time in over fifteen years, he settled himself next to Remus and stayed.