Thanks to the wonderful mods for all their hard work on this fest and to rouge_blume for the beta work!
6th of September, 1988
It wasn’t a nightmare, not exactly, Still, Sirius was grateful to have escaped it. The fact was that a memory could be so much worse than a nightmare. They were far too vivid, too real . Everything from the colored light that had bounced off the contours of the Death Eaters’ shiny masks, to the jagged edges of the spellfire, to the crisp arc his wand had made through the air, whip-fast. But it still had not been quite fast enough to Shield him in time.
The worst part of the dream — the memory — wasn’t the pain or the shock of the curse hitting him square in the face, or the smothering ozone smell of combative magic, or the manic laughter that could only have belonged to his cousin, Bellatrix. The worst part of the memory was the look of helplessness that he had glimpsed on Remus’ young face. Barely nineteen back then, and Sirius’ dream had seemed to enhance the clarity of the moment. Time had seemed to slow down. So much so that he had time to catalogue the way Remus’ too-thin frame held his cagey dueling stance; the way his amber eyes had widened beneath his singed, teenage-shaggy fringe, and the way his lips parted to form an ‘ o ’ around an unheard plea.
Remus had been mere paces away from Sirius. Still, he’d been unable to break away from his own duel to protect the man he loved, to whom he’d only recently, finally confessed the true depth of his feelings. Sirius had feared then that the trapped, frantic, heartbroken look on his Moony’s face would be the last thing he’d ever see.
But it hadn’t been, of course. As the dreamed memory receded and Sirius moved towards consciousness, he reminded himself that a decade had passed since that fight. He’d woken up two days after the duel in one of the Order’s safehouses and he’d opened his eyes and watched the worry on his Moony’s face melt into relief. There had been many more duels, there had been other close calls, there had been casualties and betrayals, Horcruxes to destroy, and ultimately Death Eaters to track down and try in court and sentence. And even now, years after the war, there was still so much work to be done to keep the forces of evil and bigotry at bay, policies that needed changing, and stubbornly entrenched myths about the purity of blood to counter. Peace was not a prize that could be won in a single war, but paradoxically enough, a fight that would never be over and sorted.
Even half-asleep, Sirius congratulated himself for having grown so very wise.
The fight may never be truly over, in a philosophical sense, but at any rate, Sirius hadn’t needed to wield his wand as a weapon in a long time, and he comforted himself with that thought. He could hear Remus, just a meter away, opening and closing the wardrobe they shared, in the cottage they shared, in the peacetime life that they shared. Sirius sucked in a deep breath, grateful beyond words to be now and here , instead of then and there . His chest was filled with the smell of Remus’ ginger tea, of white soap, faintly of Padfoot’s fur. Home .
“Good morning, Padfoot,” Remus said, with that uncanny exactitude of his. Eighteen years of shared living space, and Remus had somehow always managed to tell the precise moment when Sirius had shifted from sort-of-asleep to mostly-awake.
“Mornin’, Moony,” Sirius said, face still half-buried in a pillow. He listened for Remus’ smile, the barely-perceptible sound of his lips parting as they curved, but it didn’t come. He’d done more than his fair share of observing Remus in eighteen years, too, and when there was no smile, not even a polite, obligatory smile, it meant something was bothering his Moony. He lifted his head from the pillow, “Alright?” he asked.
“Of course,” Remus said, but he changed the subject just this side of too-quickly for Sirius’ taste, “You ought to get up, you’re on Harry duty today, aren’t you?”
Sirius gave an affirmative hum, and considered asking Remus if he was alright again. Just days before, though, Remus had snapped at him for asking that very question a bit too much, for ‘ badgering him ’, as he’d put it. So he bit his tongue and sat up, rubbing the sand from his eyes before opening them.
Unlike in his dream, there were no sharp edges here. Perhaps that ought to be a source of comfort, that everything was too soft and blunted to harm him, unlike a curse from a Death Eater’s wand. He blinked a couple more times, zeroing in on Remus. His back was to Sirius, and he was green. Or, rather, his jumper was green. Or his shirt. Sirius couldn't quite tell. He got to his feet, teetering slightly and glad that Remus’ back was to him. He’d become rather worried the few times he had seen Sirius lose his balance like that. Maybe it made him a hypocrite, but he couldn’t stand to have Remus fret over him. And he’d much rather not think about it too hard himself.
Sirius crossed the room to Remus, looping his arms around Remus’ fuzzy waist. Jumper, then. He thought Remus stiffened for a second before relaxing as Sirius nuzzled sleepily into the side of his neck, where Remus’ smell was sweetest. Ginger and toffee and white soap and parchment. Home. He covered Sirius’ arms with his own, over his belly, and leaned his cheek against Sirius’ forehead as he asked, “What time is Lily’s appointment?”
“Half-ten,” Sirius mumbled against Remus’ skin, before turning the movement of his lips into lazy kisses.
“ Fuck ,” Remus uttered and for a fraction of a second, Sirius felt the self-satisfied flare low in his gut that he could have Moony swearing with nothing more that feather-light neck kisses, but then his arms were being pushed away and Remus was speaking rather urgently, “You’ve got to go!”
“What?” Sirius asked, perplexed, as Remus shoved a pair of denims into his hands.
Remus looked at him, and though Sirius could see one eyebrow raise he couldn’t quite read the expression on Remus’ handsome face.
“You’re late. Go. ” Remus insisted again, and Sirius followed the green blur of Remus’ arm to the clock on the wall and made a show of widening his eyes as if he could read the time there. He swore and stuffed his legs into the trousers Remus had handed him, grabbing the nearest t-shirt only to discover it was actually a pair of boxers when he had his arm through one of the leg-holes. Remus tutted and pressed a t-shirt into his hands and Sirius could sense that Remus was eyeing him quite skeptically, “You alright, Pads?”
“Fine,” Sirius insisted, voice muffled from speaking through the shirt, “Just a mite worried about Lil,” he added hastily after he managed to conquer the shirt. It wasn’t a lie, so he didn’t feel bad saying it.
“She’ll do splendidly,” Remus assured him, with a vague sort of smile at Sirius’ protectiveness of their little cobbled-together family, “She did with Harry, after all, didn’t she? And that was under far worse circumstances,”
Sirius grimaced slightly at the memory of the last time Lily had been pregnant, in the bleakest days of the war. It had seemed mental, absolutely mental, to bring a sprog into a world that had been so fabulously tearing apart at the seams. But his grimace gave way to a fond smile at the thought of how well it had turned out, despite the odds. Prongs and Lily were the best parents any kids could ask for, and nothing could have prepared Sirius for the delight and devotion his godson inspired in him.
“You always know what to say, Moons,” he said gratefully, tugging Remus into a hug.
Remus hugged him back, and planted a quick kiss on his lips, “I know,” he said, though something about the quip didn’t land sardonically, his tone far too sincere . Sirius wanted to ask if he was alright again, but then Remus was giving him a light shove towards the sitting room and urging him, “Now, go , before you make Lily late for the Healer.”
“Alright, alright,” Sirius said, grabbing his wand from the spot where he always left it on the nightstand to save himself the embarrassment of being caught looking for it when it was right in plain sight, “Love you, Moony, I should be back around lunch.”
He hurried out of the room, and Remus called after him, “I may be out in the glade later. Give everyone my love.”
Sirius grabbed a handful of Floo Powder from the coffee can on the mantle and waited in front of the hearth a moment. He wanted to give Remus the chance to rectify his lapse, to call out an ‘ I love you too ’. When it didn’t come, he shook off his frown before it could take over his face and tossed the Powder on the dying embers and ashes of last night’s fire. He called out Prongs’ address and stepped into the flickering slipstream of the Floo Network, his heart lagging behind in the lingering gravity of the dreamed up memory.
“ There you are!” Prongs exclaimed the instant Sirius emerged into the Potters’ parlor. He winced slightly at the exuberant volume of James’ voice, far too loud for his liking as his usual headache was already beginning to settle in round his temples and straining eyes. Floo-ing tended to made it worse, something about being cramped and the rapidly flashing glimpses into the fireplaces of various homes and businesses as he whirred by. James’ hand landed on his shoulder, giving him a squeeze, “Alright, mate?”
Sirius forced his wince into a smile, “Fine, mate, just slept a bit later than I meant to.”
“Oh, late night?” James teased and from the contrast of his white teeth against his dark skin, Sirius knew James was not so much smiling as he was leering, “Moony keep you up all night again with his—”
“Jamie, quit harassing Padfoot and come on, ” Lily cut in, a blur of auburn hair and rounded belly appearing beside her husband. She gave him a nudge towards the fireplace and leaned up on her tiptoes to plant a sisterly kiss on Sirius’ cheek, “Hate to run right out, Pads, but we’re very nearly late.”Sirius waved off the apology with an indulgent smile, “My own fault. Where’s Prongslet?”
“Up in his room finishing his Maths homework,” Lily answered as Prongs tossed a measure of Floo Powder into the grate, causing green flames to flare up in a merry haze. “He’s to finish his lessons before he touches that broomstick,” Lily added in the no-nonsense tone that Sirius considered to be her best impression of McGonagall.
“Yeah, yeah, I know the drill, mum ,” Sirius teased, earning a friendly swat to his shoulder before Lily followed James into the Floo with a swirl of dark red hair.
Sirius made it only to the first step before he heard a smaller pair of feet pounding down the stairs and a delighted voice crowed, “ Paddy !”
Sirius caught his eight-year-old godson in a massive hug, grinning ear-to-ear at the diminutive of his nickname that only Harry used, “Ahoy there, Prongslet!” Harry gave his waist an extra mighty squeeze, eliciting a grunt from him, before letting Sirius go to set his askew glasses back on the bridge of his nose, “Your mum tells me you have Maths to finish up?”
“I finished them,” Harry announced, puffing his chest out slightly.
“Is that so?” Sirius asked, trying to keep his voice stern even as he failed to tamp down a broad smile at the miniature version of his best friend that stood before him, the hint of his mother’s green eyes glinting just perceptibly.
“Yes, it is so,” Harry insisted, grabbing Sirius’ hand and tugging him up the stairs behind him, “C’mon, you can look over it and everything.”
Sirius let himself be led up the stairs and into Harry’s room. He couldn’t help the nostalgic smile as he entered the bedroom. He recalled how they’d sat in the center of the empty room — James had been on an Order mission, so it had just been Sirius, Remus, and a very round-bellied Lily — and considered the color of the walls. They had charmed them back and forth between pink and blue, indecisive of the Potter-to-be’s sex, until Lily had gone on a hormonally-enhanced but perfectly sensible little tirade about how asinine the concept of gender, and by extension, gendered pastels for babies even was .
They’d absently tried out a series of less gendered pastels, lilac, buttery yellow, pistachio green, before Sirius had grown weary of pastels and charmed the walls the same Gryffindor scarlet as the dorm the Marauders had shared for seven years. ‘ They might not be Sorted into Gryffindor,’ Lily had pointed out. Moony had patted her swollen ankle consolingly and provided a tidy solution with three flicks of his wand. He had charmed one wall a rich lapis blue, one a cheerful pineapple yellow, and one a lush kelly green, leaving one sporting proud Gryffindor red. Lily had laughed and smiled gratefully at Remus and deemed it ‘good enough for now ’.
But Harry had turned eight in July and the walls remained the same, an optimistic visual representation of the better, more united future that they had dared to imagine. A bunch of twenty years old, scared shitless that they may not live to see twenty-one. The colorful walls were obscured in some places now by shelves, Quidditch posters, framed photos, and spell-o-taped drawings. Sirius squinted to see the one over the desk that depicted a rather lopsided dog, rendered inexpertly in black crayon by a younger Harry than the one that gripped his hand now. With his free hand, Harry snatched a paper from the cluttered surface of the desk against the Ravenclaw-blue wall and shoved it into Sirius’ hands, “See?” he proclaimed, “I told you I finished my Maths.”
“So you have,” Sirius said, peering down at the paper. He strained to make out the strings of numbers scrawled in Harry’s less-than-perfect penmanship, feeling the delicate tissues behind his eyes throb with the effort, a queasy spinning sensation reappearing in his temples. He pretended to look over the work a moment longer, allowing his eyes to slip out of focus in actuality. When Harry shifted his weight impatiently from one foot to the other beside him, Sirius decided he’d looked at the paper for a convincingly long amount of time, and handed the schoolwork back to his godson, and said, “Everything seems to be in order here, Prongslet, my good chap.”
Harry blew a raspberry and giggled, as he tended to do whenever Sirius would trot out the posh formality that he had been forced to speak back when he had been Harry’s age himself. It didn’t make it a worthwhile way to have been brought up, but he was quite happy to finally get some use out of all that pomp and circumstance. Nothing was worthless if it could be used to draw a giggle like that from his Harry. Harry all but threw the paper back at his desk and tugged Sirius back down the stairs again, “ C’mon, Paddy!” he whined, “I did my work, now we can go fly !”
Like any godfather worth his salt, Sirius gave in happily. To be honest, he was as eager to fly as Harry was. There was nothing quite like chumming about with an eight-year-old to make one feel like a child again, and honestly, Sirius had never felt so much like a child when he actually was one. He reminded Harry as they got the brooms from the shed that they were to fly no further than Arabella Figg’s house, earning an eyeroll (which he sensed even if he didn’t quite see it) and a dutiful agreement.
And then, they were in the air. It was early September and the air had the very first hint of the coming autumnal chill in it. As it rushed against Sirius’ face and tangled in his hair, he willed it to blow away all his worries and concerns. This time of year always felt hopeful to him, the back-to-Hogwarts season , as he used to call it when as a boy. A time where he’d wriggle free of the constraints of Grimmauld Place and be at home with his Marauders again.
That same optimism flooded into him now. Lily’s pregnancy would proceed perfectly and in a few months there would be another little Potter for him and Moony to spoil rotten. The Ministry would keep moving in the right direction, equality and justice supplanting inequity and bigotry. Remus would finish his book and start spending less time observing wild fairies and garden gnomes, and the distance Sirius felt yawning between them would mend.Then, maybe then, Remus would say his ‘I love you too’ s every day. The wind stole the sigh from Sirius’ lips and then his thoughts were diverted again by a gleeful voice challenging him to a race.
Up in the air, it didn’t matter as much whether the houses and trees had crisp outlines. He could see the blur of Harry’s orange t-shirt and he could pretend in these blissful minutes that it was the speed and the motion that made it a blur. Like a tongue prodding at a sore tooth, he thought again of the duel that he’d dreamed of, of the many other spells and curses his flesh had absorbed in the front lines of the war, and wondered which arcing flash of light had been the one to do this slow, insidious damage to his brain. Then he pushed the thought away again and continued to weave through the sky, chasing the laughing bolt of orange that was his godson.
After a long race with plenty of cheating and no clear winner, Harry slowed until he was alongside Sirius, “Hey, Paddy, I’m hungry,” he stated conversationally. Harry had a charming way of doing that which he’d learned or inherited from James, expressing his needs or wants plainly, without whining or apologizing for it. Sirius loved it, and was grateful that, like his dad, Harry had never known any reason to hesitate or feel guilty for having needs.
“Let’s get you something to eat, then,” Sirius said with a smile, gradually spiraling down towards the Potters’ back garden.
“Paddy!” Harry exclaimed with a surprised laugh, pointing at the next house over, “It’s this one!”
Sirius’ stomach turned over but he laughed along tightly, “You caught me,” he said, ruffling Harry’s hair as he flew past him, landing only a little shakily in the correct garden, “I was trying to trick you.”
“You can’t trick me , Paddy,” Harry said, a little haughtily as he touched down without so much as a wobble, “This is my home!”
Sirius’ embarrassment at his own mistake was washed away with Harry’s carefree laughter at having outsmarted the ‘trick’. He was glad that to Harry, home was never an elusive concept and he was proud of his part in giving the boy that sense of security. That was much more important than whether he found the house itself easy to identify from above. Harry stowed the broomsticks in the shed and they ambled back into the house, into the kitchen, “What do you fancy, young sir, to break your fast?” Sirius asked.
Harry giggled and then fell silent for a thoughtful moment before proclaiming with mock solemnity, “Weetabix,”
“Very well, your excellency, it shall be done,” Sirius bowed floridly, and was rewarded with more of Harry’s infectious laughter.
It was a good thing that Sirius knew the layout of the Potter kitchen as well as he knew his own, because he had a bowl filled with cereal in no time, with Harry none the wiser that Sirius’ head was beginning to throb too much to read what it said on the Muggle cereal box. “Milk, your highness?” Sirius asked and Harry chirped in the affirmative. Sirius opened the ice box, retrieving the glass bottle of the white liquid from the top shelf just as the telltale whoosh of the Floo sounded from the parlor, and a moment later Lily and James’ silhouettes appeared in the kitchen doorway. There was a round of happy greetings and Lily recounted that the appointment with the Healer had gone well before kissing the top of Harry’s messy head and excusing herself to have a kip. Sirius’ attention moved to Prongs when he realized his best mate was giving him some sort of a funny look, one he couldn’t easily identify, “Prongs?” he prompted.
James waved him off, taking over preparing his son’s cereal with uncharacteristic brusqueness. Sirius stepped aside, feeling a little stung as he watched James put the milk back in the ice box and pull out a different bottle instead before pouring a splash into the bowl, dropping a spoon into it and passing it to Harry, “Do your old dad a favor and go eat that in the parlor, Harry, won’t you?”
Harry hesitated for a second, bowl in hand, “Can I watch the telly?” he asked.
“Sure, yeah,” James said a little distractedly and waited until the sound of some telly program filtered in from the next room before turning to face Sirius, “Honestly, Pads, what the hell?” he asked, keeping his voice low and calm so that Harry would not sense anything amiss.
Sirius bristled nonetheless, “Good question, Prongsie,” he countered and then felt a slice of worry slither down his chest, “Wait, it’s not… is there something up with Lily?”
James’ head tilted suddenly to the side, “No? No, I mean, what the hell with the potion , you arseface,”
“Potion?” Sirius repeated, uncomprehendingly.
“I don't know if your mind's elsewhere, or, or this is your idea of a bloody unfunny joke, or what , but I need you to take this seriously, Padfoot,” James said, and Sirius knew he must mean business if he was saying the word ‘serious’ without fear of inviting puns. “I can’t leave Harry — my kids, Padfoot — alone with you if you’re not going to take good care of them.”
At that, anger and offense flashed brightly in Sirius’ chest, seeming to burn his veins, “What the fuck , Prongs,” he hissed, affronted, “I love Harry like he’s my own , I would never be careless with—”
“Oh, come off it ,” James interrupted hotly, tapping his knuckles lightly against the spot on the counter where Harry’s bowl had rested moments before, “What the hell was that when I came in, then?”
Sirius’ face folded with anger and confusion, “I was fixing my godson a bloody bowl of cereal, I didn’t realize that didn’t meet your standards of ‘ taking good care ’,”
James stared at him. He leaned in very close for a moment, so close that his hazel eyes behind his glasses actually came into nearly-sharp focus for a few seconds before they widened and he stepped back. “Gotta go tell Lils something,” he said in a rush, bopping Sirius’ shoulder with one hand and growling, “Don’t fucking move from this spot, I’ll be right back,” and then he was gone in a flash, thumping up the stairs.
For some reason, probably because he knew James better than he knew himself, Sirius didn’t budge. He didn’t have to wait long before James skidded back into the kitchen, grabbing him ‘round the forearm and dragging him into the parlor in pretty much the same way his son had dragged Sirius around all morning. “James?” he asked as James scooped up some Floo Powder into his hand.
“We’re going on a little adventure,” James said, his trademark grin seeming slightly wobbly, though that might have just been Sirius’ eyes playing tricks on him.
“Can I come?” Harry piped up behind them, hopeful.
“Sorry, kiddo, not this time,” James said, “Mummy should be coming down in a jiff and I’ll be back home before too long. Be good, yeah?”
Harry nodded along, attention already sliding back to the telly.
“Prongs?” Sirius inquired, but James only rolled his eyes and tugged Sirius into the green fire, calling out ‘The Leaky Cauldron’ as he did. Sirius shut his eyes tightly against the migraine-pounding whirl of the Floo Network and then was stumbling into James as they spilled out into the familiar pub. It was rather loud with all the witches and wizards milling about, and Sirius’ head ached all the worse in response. James didn’t speak again until they were out on the cobbled street, his grip on Sirius’ arm still pulling him along insistently, “James, what the—”
“Why didn’t you just say something ?” James interrupted in exasperation, “I would’ve brought you ages ago and have had you all sorted!”
“Where exactly are we going?” Sirius asked, keeping his eyes down, knowing all of the muddled visual stimuli would throw off his balance if he kept his head up.
“My Optimagist, you git,” James replied.
“What?” Sirius responded, a little shrilly, at the expense of his own headache, “I don’t need a bloody Optimagist !”
James tsk ed, “Like hell you don’t, you just served your godchild Weetabix with Prenatal Pep Potion,”
Sirius felt the blood drain from his face and his legs came damn near to buckling from under him, “What? No, that was—”
“That was a flask of perfectly clearly marked potion,” James halted, steadying Sirius with a hand on each of his shoulders. Sirius squirmed beneath his best friend’s scrutiny, “You couldn’t read that, though. You couldn’t even see the bloody label, right?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Sirius huffed unconvincingly.
James groaned, “Honestly, Pads. My dad, me, Harry, don’t you think I would know what poor eyesight looks like by now?”
Sirius shrugged in response.
“How long has it been a problem?” James asked, undeterred.
“Dunno,” Sirius evaded, scuffing the toe of his boot against the cobbles of the road. Prongs had it all backwards. An Optimagist could do precious little for the kind of curse damage he suspected he had incurred. He didn’t look at James, but he could feel his intent gaze for a long, silent minute.
Then he swore under his breath, “This must be what has Moony in knots,” he muttered.
Upon hearing that, Sirius’ eyes snapped up to try and decipher James’ foggy facial expression, “' In knots' ...? What did Moony say ?” Moony had insisted so many times that everything was fine, that he was alright, and Sirius had tried to believe him, but it dawned on him now that maybe his boyfriend had simply been confiding his concerns elsewhere.
He could see James’ left eyebrow arch higher as he said, “You idiot, you really thought you could hide this from him? He’s Moony ,”
“James, please, tell me what he said,” Sirius begged.
James seemed to consider breaking Remus’ confidence and then his shoulders stiffened and he shook his head, “No, Pads, sorry. You can ask him yourself after we’ve gotten some bloody glasses onto that pretty face of yours.”
“I-I don’t want to go in there,” Sirius whined, digging his heels in as James made to guide him into the storefront.
“Why not?” James demanded, before adding sourly, “ Please , Merlin, tell me you’re not just being vain .”
If he was honest with himself, vanity did play some small part in it. Or not vanity , precisely, but concern for his image. He’d had so little control of his own body and wardrobe as a child under his parents’ thumb that ever since he’d left home and gained some measure of autonomy, he had taken great pride and pleasure in curating his appearance to be just the way he wanted it. He knew, of course, that that stuff didn’t really properly matter but that didn’t mean he didn’t feel a certain twinge of unease at the thought that something outside his control might alter the way he presented his image. He chafed against being forced to wear anything, and glasses were no exception to that.
It wasn’t just that, though. That hardly entered into it. What would happen when this Optimagist fellow got a look at his eyes — which, yes, he knew were not working correctly, he wasn’t a fool — only to sit back in his chair and remark gravely that his eyesight was only a symptom of a much bigger problem? A bigger problem of the incurable variety, as he feared and suspected. It could just be paranoia, but he couldn’t seem to shake the sense that one of those curses that had hit him years ago had to be responsible. He couldn’t have slipped through the war as unscathed as he appeared, not when so many better witches and wizards than he had suffered worse fates.
“I-I just don’t want them,” Sirius managed to stammer out, knowing it sounded petulant, knowing it wasn’t a good enough excuse.
“I love you, Pads,” James said, wearily, “But I honestly don’t care if you want them, because like it or not, you need them.”
Without another word, James had bodily hefted Sirius through the door and now there was no turning back. Sirius set his jaw and fumed as James politely spoke to the young witch behind the front counter, explaining that his friend needed his eyes looked at and would likely need to be fitted with his first pair of spectacles. After a moment, the witch left the desk, presumably to go consult with the Optimagist himself and James looked back at Sirius. Sirius couldn’t see him well enough to be positive, but he thought his best friend’s demeanor softened a bit.
“C’mon, Padfoot,” James coaxed, “Don’t be cross with me. I’m trying to help,”
Of course, he was. All James ever bloody did was try to help, which made it infuriatingly difficult to stay angry with him, “I know,” Sirius allowed in a grumble, “I just think this is a bit much.”
“A bit much?” James asked, bemused.
“I mean…” Sirius pushed his hair back from his face in frustration, admitting the situation aloud for the first time, “Fine, alright, so maybe my eyes aren’t what they used to be, but can’t we just charm them or something?”
James was silent for a few seconds and Sirius fidgeted under the pressure of his friend’s patronizing gaze, “Do you honestly think I would have been wearing these things since I was seven years old if there was some charm that could sort it out for me?”
Sirius sighed, “I know,” he admitted, “I know Optimagy doesn’t work that way.”
“Quite right, my dear boy,” An unfamiliar voice chimed in, and Sirius looked up to see a blur of what he thought were blond curls. It took a moment for Sirius to realize that the woman was holding out a hand to him, “My name’s Cecilia Reuben, and though I can’t promise to fix your problems with a charm, I can promise that you will leave here able to see more clearly than you do right now,”
Sirius took her hand and shook it, “I’m Sirius Black,” he introduced, feeling a bit more awkward than was normal for him.
“Oh, James!” she exclaimed, turning her attention back to Prongs but still holding Sirius’ hand loosely, “ This is the Sirius I’ve heard so much about!?”
Sirius chuckled awkwardly, “He’s told you about me?”
“Only every time he’s been in here since he was eleven,” Cecilia Reuben explained, with a melodic laugh that put Sirius somewhat at ease, “Come on, let’s get a look at those lovely eyes of yours and you can tell me if the gossips James has been telling me for the past eighteen years are anywhere near the truth,”
Sirius glanced a bit frantically back at James as Cecilia led him away. She seemed like a perfectly charming person, but Sirius’ fear of what she might find in his head reared up again.
“I’ll be right out here,” James reassured him, “Don’t worry, Pads, you’re in good hands.”
Sirius tried to smile at James, but then the door was closing between them and he was in the back room alone with this Cecilia. She seemed to sense his tension as she led him over to a seat that faced a wall. She gave his hand a reassuring squeeze, “There’s no need to be nervous, Sirius,” she said soothingly, “None of this will be painful or frightening, I just need to ascertain what is wrong with your eyes so that I know what exactly your lenses will be correcting.”
Sirius nodded stiffly. He had fought bravely in the bloody war, he could very well withstand a bloody eye examination. Sensing his continued discomfort, Cecilia asked, “So, you’re one of the infamous Marauders then?”
There was nothing Sirius could do to keep the proud smile from spreading across his face, “Damn right, I am,” he said. It had been hard the first few years after Peter had admitted his betrayal of the Order and been shuffled off into hiding somewhere. It was hard to claim the title of Marauder without a twinge of betrayal and hurt. But he had made peace with it a long time ago now, not quite forgiven Pete but learned to at least be grateful that he had come clean before he had done too much irreparable damage.
Cecilia laughed as she gathered a couple devices Sirius couldn’t quite make out, “Pardon me if this is prying,” she said, as she held up a device to his left eye and he felt a surge of magical energy and blinked rapidly a couple times against the odd sensation, “But James has told me some very romantic tales about you and your other friend,” she repeated the process on Sirius’ right eye, “Remus, was it?”
Sirius felt the flush warm on his cheeks, but the pride in his tone only grew as he confirmed, “Yes, Remus. I couldn’t be happier to report that James was telling the truth. In fact, the truth was probably a good deal more romantic than whatever version you heard,”
“How lovely,” Cecilia cooed, as she erected a small pane of glass in front of Sirius’ left eye. A flick of her wand and a plush eye-patch covered his right eye, “Now I’m going to adjust this glass according to the diagnostics I just did, and I’ll need you to tell me as your view of the picture on the wall there gets clearer, do you understand?”
Sirius answered affirmatively, his misgivings evaporating as he followed Cecilia’s simple instructions, his jaw falling open when several taps of her wand later, he found himself able to read out every line of text on the wall. A quill automatically scribbled down Cecilia’s findings, and they repeated the process on Sirius’ other eye, with occasional friendly questions about James or Remus sprinkled in. Again, Sirius could hardly believe it when the text on the wall became legible and he laughed out in astonished delight when Cecilia Vanished the eye-patch and he was able to blink both of his eyes open and read clearly.
“ See? ” Cecilia prompted, seeming to delight in the obvious pun, “Didn’t I tell you there was nothing to be afraid of?” Now that he could see her properly, Sirius found that Cecilia’s motherly demeanor and kindness were very much reflected in her face. Her question, however, reminded him of some of the fears he had come in with and he found that he was comfortable enough with her to ask the question that had been haunting him for so long.
“Cecilia,” he said, “My eyesight… is, I mean to say, was it spell damage that did this to me?”
Cecilia’s brow furrowed deeply, “Spell damage?”
“Well, I, you know,” Sirius nibbled the inside of his cheek, focusing on the amazing fact that he could make out each individual hair on Cecilia’s head, “I did a lot of dueling in the war, I wondered if…”
“Oh, you poor dear,” Cecilia said sweetly, shaking her head and offering him a comforting smile, “Of course, you’d worry, but no. I don’t see any sign at all in your eyes of anything like that. It would have shown up in my diagnostic charms if there was any magical damage or illness present.”
Relief washed over Sirius in a wave, followed closely by confusion, “But, if-if not, then why…?”
“Why else, my dear,” Cecilia said, picking up her wand again and levitating the small glass panes over to an angled work surface similar to a drafting table, “The perfectly natural deterioration of living and growing older.”
The answer hit Sirius like a bloom of frost around his heart. How had that never occurred to him? He mulled this over, trying desperately not to panic, as Cecilia excused herself to go fetch James from the lobby.
“Alright, Pads?” James greeted happily, upon entering the room. Sirius remained distracted by what Cecilia had said, instead of considering the parchment she had handed him which displayed the different styles of frames with their corresponding prices. They all looked alright to him, and James suggested an aviator style. Sirius accepted the suggestion distractedly. He listened to James and Cecilia chat as she adeptly transfigured the spectacles, and then she was handing them over to James and went to sort out the price with the front desk witch.
“You ready?” James asked, holding up the glasses as the door shut behind Cecilia, “I ought to warn you, I’m a lot more dashing than the last time you saw me.”
“Git,” Sirius scoffed but nodded, “Yeah, go on, then,” he allowed. His unease notwithstanding, he was eager to have back the brief clarity of sight that he’d experienced while Cecilia had been testing his eyes. With great care not to poke him in the ear or eye, James put the glasses on his face and Sirius didn’t manage to bite back the shocked, “Merlin fuck,” that escaped him upon seeing James.
Because, fuck. He hadn’t realized, he so had not realized how bloody bad it had gotten! He knew James had been teasing about how much more dashing he had become, but how long had it actually been since he’d seen his best mate — his brother — so clearly? There were small lines he didn’t remember on James’ face, around his eyes and along his brow. His unruly hair was still black as night, but there was no denying he was older . He looked more like his dad now, like Fleamont, and Sirius was surprised to feel tears welling in his eyes.
“Pads?” James said, concern flickering across his face, the tiny nuance of expression that Sirius had been blind to for so long, “Alright, mate?”
“Sweet Circe, it’s so good to see you,” he choked out, voice thick.
Ever the sentimentalist, James' eyes teared up behind his own glasses, “You see me every week, you prat,” he pointed out, though his tone was soft, loving.
“Yeah, but…” Sirius made a show of looking James up and down, giving a watery smirk as he teased, “I had no idea you’d grown so distinguished in your old age.”
James rolled his eyes and reached into his pocket, “Look who’s talking,” he said, opening his two-way mirror, the twin of which rested in Sirius’ own pocket, and held it up to show Sirius his own reflection.
Before his eyes, Sirius’ mischievous smirk fell away, replaced by a look of slightly queasy awe. There was something uncomfortable, off-kilter, about not quite recognizing his own face. Well, it wasn’t that he didn’t recognize it, it was unmistakably him , but it was as if he had taken a nap for a few years and only just woken up to witness the visible passage of time written across his own features. As for the glasses, his vanity was forgotten, for as it turned out, though they weren't the most fashionable specs in the world, they certainly did nothing to detract from his features. But it was the features themself that had changed .
How long had the corners of his eyes been creased by those subtle crow’s feet? When had those strands of silver appeared at his temples, contrasting with the inky darkness of the rest of his hair? If his own face had changed so much without him knowing it, what else had he missed? He touched his face, his fingertips tracing the sharp line of a cheekbone, more defined now that all the baby fat of his teens and early twenties had melted away. Somehow seeing the reflection and feeling the sensation at the same time made it more real, and he glanced back up at James in disbelief.
“I know, right?” James agreed, admiringly, proudly, “Handsome bloody devil, aren’t you? Honestly,” he shook his head gravely, “I don’t know how you could bear it, going about without properly seeing that gorgeous face? I couldn’t live that way.”
“You’re an idiot,” Sirius said airily, shoving James’ mirror back towards him. James chuckled and Sirius’ fingers tightened momentarily around James’ hand, “Thank you,” he said sincerely.
James smiled at him softly but then his smile widened into a roguish leer.
“What?” Sirius asked, equally suspicious and thrilled by the familiar sight of that signature Marauder grin that he hadn’t even known he was missing.
“Oh-ho,” James’ eyes glittered, “You think we look dashing, just wait ‘til you see Moony.”
That was all it took to send a rush of anticipatory heat through Sirius, blooming out behind his sternum and rushing upward to blush his cheeks and down to pool in his groin. Merlin . He shared his home with Moony, but he hadn’t seen him — really, clearly seen him — in so long, too long. His head swam with a barrage of all the looks he loved best on Moony; folded into his favorite chair and frowning contemplatively down at a book; head thrown back in rapturous carnal pleasure, scars a pale contrast to the heated flush of his skin; distractedly whistling to himself as he fixed another cup of tea, barefoot in the kitchen; curled up in sleep, pale lashes fluttering slightly with dreaming, breath restful and deep. How old were the memories of those treasured looks, how long had it been since Sirius had seen them in all their glorious detail? How much had they changed? What delightfully lovable habits had Remus picked up that he didn’t even know about ?
He got to his feet so suddenly that his head spun slightly, the serrated claws of his headache still clinging on and his head a bit spinny with the adjustment his eyes were making to the new specs.
Prongs snickered at his obvious eagerness, patting him between the shoulderblades and leading him out into the lobby to pay, “C’mon, four-eyes,” he mocked fondly, “Let’s get you home.”
Had it not been for the promise of Moony in all his splendor waiting at home, Sirius could have easily lost a day or three in Diagon Alley, drinking in all the sights he hadn’t seen acutely in such a long time. There were so many little details, things one would normally take for granted, that Sirius had all but forgotten. Each individual cobblestone had its own reflections and shadows! Each shop window caught the reflections of everything in the street and changed as he moved by! There were books with unfamiliar titles in the display of Flourish and Blotts, streamlined recent models of broomsticks in the window of Quality Quidditch Supplies! Everyone’s clothes and hair and faces held so much more information than Sirius was accustomed to getting! But none of it, none of it , could compete with the revelation that he knew awaited him at home.
Back in the Leaky Cauldron, Sirius hesitated before the fireplace. He turned back to Prongs, who would be Floo-ing back home to Lily and Harry once Sirius had gone, “Prongs,” he said, remembering their interaction from earlier, “You said before, Moony was—”
“No, Pads,” James said firmly, “I can’t.”
“I know, I know,” Sirius said, taking a deep breath and allowing the kind of vulnerability he could only ever stomach with his Marauders, “Just… do, do you think we’ll be alright? I mean, can I fix it? Does he still—?”
“Of course, ” James tugged him into a tight embrace, thumping his back manfully, “Don’t be daft, you two mutts are bloody soulmates. Go drool over the fact that you can count his every eyelash and grovel a bit, explain what an idiot you’ve been, snog each other silly, and everything will be just fine.”
Sirius gave James a tight squeeze and then released him, stepping back, “Okay, alright, yeah,” he tossed some Floo Powder into the fire, “Wish me luck?” he asked, over his shoulder.
“Woof-woof,” James said instead, with a ridiculous wink.
Sirius laughed at James’ wonderful idiocy, announced his own address into the fire and stepped through. He reminded himself as the fireplaces flashed by him in a blur that three trips was too many times to travel by Floo in one day, and then he was spilling into his own sitting room.
He shook off the cinders as his doggy counterpart would have shaken water from his fur, calling into the cottage, “Moony?” There was no response and he moved quickly through the small house, “Remus?” Not in the bedroom, not in the loo, not in the kitchen, the sitting room. Sirius huffed in impatience, trying to keep focused on the task of finding his boyfriend and not getting distracted by the changes he hadn’t noticed in his own home. There had been two hooks beside the door, but at some point, Moony had added two more, laden with scarves and hats. There was a rusty stain in the sink where the faucet dripped, which Sirius was sure he’d never seen. The framed photo of the Marauders — all four of them, faffing about after a Quidditch match — that had been taken from the mantel in disgust after learning of Peter’s betrayal had at some point been returned to its rightful place.
Full of nervous energy, Sirius picked up Remus’ teacup from earlier in the day, glancing briefly at the tea leaves without much interest in trying to remember what sort of fate they spelled. But then his eyes noticed it, the scrap of parchment on the table that had been held in place beneath the teacup. He put the teacup down and snatched up the note instead.
Pads - I’ve gone to the fairy glade, will be back by sundown. I miss you. - Moony
Sirius’ eyes read the words several times, and even after he’d stopped reading it, he stared at the handwriting. It was cramped, as it always had been, sort of an improper blend of cursive and print. He noted the sharp little loop formed at the bottom of the ‘ y ’s and the ‘ g ’ in ‘glade’ , the way the ‘ a ’s and ‘ o ’s looked a little too alike for an untrained eye to differentiate easily.
‘ I miss you ’.
Moony missed him? It had only been a few hours since they’d seen each other! Perhaps it was meant to be sweet? It wasn’t really Remus’ style, to cling like that. That was much more typical of Sirius. Or it had been once, he acknowledged. Back before he’d been reluctant to let Remus near enough to perhaps notice that something was wrong with him.
What was the last time he’d actually read one of Remus’ little notes? He left them for Sirius often. Sirius used to leave them for Remus, too. It was a habit they had gotten into during the war, when not knowing where your loved ones were could be a cause for real concern. It had been a habit they hadn’t broken. They bore little resemblance to the long meandering missives they’d exchanged during holidays back in their Hogwarts years, but were little two- or three-sentence reassurances of their whereabouts.
Sirius had stopped leaving them when his handwriting had suffered, knowing that Remus would notice the change, just as Sirius would have noticed if the loops on Remus’ ‘ y ’s had changed, or if his ‘ a ’s had developed well-distinguished tails that set them apart from the ‘ o ’s. He cursed himself, because of course not writing them at all had also probably not escaped Remus’ notice. Note still in hand, Sirius hurried to the bedroom they shared, pulling open the nightstand drawer where he’d stashed all the notes from Remus that had been unreadable to him. His heart sank as he read through a handful of them.
Pads - Popped over to Prongs’, apparently Lily has news. I miss you. - Moony
Padfoot - I’m out talking with the gnomes by the church. If you read this, tell me ‘chocolate frogs’ when you see me. - M
Pads - Off to the shops in search of more ginger. I miss you. - Moons
Pads - I don’t think you read these. I’m going to the glade. - M
Padfoot - Looking for doxies in town today. Do you miss me at all? - Moony
Pads - I’ve gone to Diagon for a couple things. If you read this, ask me about Gringotts later. - M
Pads - Lily + Harry came by, we’ve gone for a stroll. I miss you. - Moony
Pads - Don’t worry if I’m not in when you get home, I’m at the shops. Would you worry? - M
“ Fuck fuck fuck, ” Sirius muttered to himself leaving the notes strewn across the bed as he flew to his feet, his heart floating somewhere around his knees. How could he be such a bloody idiot? He and Remus had trusted each other with everything for more than half of their lives. What had he been thinking? That concealing something like this from Remus would protect him? Of course, he’d noticed — not exactly easy to fool, his Moony, too clever — and now the he thought, what, that Sirius had fallen out of love with him? It was unthinkable! But there had always been a blind spot to his Moony’s cleverness when it came to himself. Fuck.
Sirius hardly noticed that he was moving, rushing from the cottage and tromping off in the direction of the glade where Remus had been observing and acquainting himself with the fairies for several months. He was obviously enamored with the place and had brought Sirius along once. Honestly, the place had made him nervous. It had been too hard to tell where the brush ended and the moss began, everything a greenish blur. It had been made harder to navigate still by the dappled sunlight through the leaves, which had painted everything in abstract splotches. Sirius had not gone back with Remus a second time, and even with his diminished eyesight he had not missed the signs of Remus’ disappointment in that; those he had pretended not to notice.
Even hurrying along as he was, pain and worry gripping him at the knowledge that his stubbornness and fear had sown doubt in his Moony, Sirius was overwhelmed by the beauty of nature. It was late afternoon, the sky above a rich blue, frothy ribbons of white clouds captivating Sirius with their ephemeral shapes. The plants amazed him. He’d forgotten how each individual leaf caught light and shadow, the veins tracing a symmetrical framework across panes of green like stained glass, luminous where the sun struck directly. The trees which had loomed mysteriously when he had not quite seen them before were not as threatening now. Instead, they were comforting, like the walls of a home, protective and steadfast, their bark so much more intricate than he could have pretended to know.
Sirius realized he was nearing the location of the glade where Moony had passed many hours. And then he heard him, and that was the true sound of safety, the song of home. Even if it had only been mere hours, hearing the familiar deep timbre of Remus’ voice here quelled some of the anxiety that burbled away in Sirius’ gut. He couldn’t hear what Remus was saying, he was too quiet, but that was part of his charm, part of what made animals and creatures and children trust him so very readily. He spoke softly, but confidently, clearly, gently. His tone did not patronize, because he treated everyone and everything with respect. Of course, because Moony knew , he knew what a valuable gift respect was, he knew what it was to be denied it.
Sirius crept closer, knowing he should announce himself but he was rather reluctant to interrupt the soft conversation. He moved from behind a tree and was met with too much beauty all at once. The glade bore no resemblance to the muddle of greens he had experienced on his first and only visit to the place. It was too subtle, he realized, too delicate for his impaired eyes to have seen before. The wild magic was actually visible in the air, as if veils of gauzy lace were strung above and through the clearing, shimmering like sunlight striking dew-strung spiderwebs, casting prismatic reflections and rainbows along the moss and ferns and leggy wildflowers.
As if the place itself was not breathtaking enough, its occupants too adorned it with more beauty still. Fairies flitted and wove from flower to tree, their slender forms and opalescent wings shimmering and flashing. And one, one very lucky fairy, was conversing with a wizard whose beauty surpassed all that of the glade and its inhabitants, the sight of whom stunned a gasp of wonderment from Sirius.
Time seemed to suspend — not unlike in Sirius’ dream — as the wizard turned, his eyes finally meeting Sirius’. His eyes were gold, molten with brilliance, kindness, good humored Marauder mischief, and presently, surprise.
“Oh!” Remus gasped. His brows — one bisected by a scar, just as Sirius remembered and yet better too than Sirius remembered — furrowed, “Padfoot,” he stared for a second, his lips — the spectrum’s most perfect pink, like ripe fruit, like new petals — parted, clearly caught very much off guard. With a barely perceptible giggle, the fairy he had been talking to fluttered away and Remus seemed to find his words, “I— Sirius, you don’t usually come here—”
“I’m sorry,” Sirius said at once, the words pushing straight up from his heart and out of his mouth, aching with the pain and confusion he’d caused, that he absolutely must fix.
“Is everything alright?” Remus asked, clambering with his odd angular grace from his seated position onto his knees, “Lily, is—?”
“Lily’s fine,” Sirius interrupted, feeling almost dizzy with trying to take in the sight of Remus, the way the splintered sunlight caught in his hair, a riot of copper, silver, and gold, and seemed to sing in each freckle on his cheeks, “I’m sorry I didn’t come here with you before, I didn’t understand the appeal until now,”
“Until…?” Remus’ words petered out as his gaze found the incongruous detail in Sirius’ appearance and lingered around his eyes, “Sirius,” he said, in that calm tone.
“Yes, Moony?” Sirius asked, his gaze dropping to his feet, noting the contrast between the smooth black leather of his shoes and the many textures and hues of organic greens and browns underfoot.
“You’re wearing spectacles,” Remus said. An observation, not a question.
“So I am,” Sirius agreed mildly.
Remus was quiet for a moment before asking seriously, “Are they enchanted to make the ground very interesting?”
“What? No?” Sirius looked up, startled by the bizarre question, only to discover that Remus was much closer. He had gotten to his feet and stood only a couple of steps away and Sirius was bowled over by the sight of him. Because of course, he was. How could he be anything but amazed, when he was the same Moony he’d ever been? Back at Hogwarts in second-hand robes, he'd been beautiful; and in the war, eyes blood-shot with sleepless anxiety and dueling with perfectly imperfect form, he'd been beautiful; even through the blur of Sirius’ eyes, Remus had been an impressionist palette of beauty.
Yet, somehow, this was even more. He was even more beautiful to Sirius than ever, the wealth of silver woven into the tawny curls of his hair, the small lines on his face that revealed that he’d done more laughing than worrying in recent years, the way his long frame was softened and thickened with years of peace time and eating his fill. It filled Sirius' heart such that he feared it might burst.
“Well, you were looking at it with great interest,” Remus explained, as Sirius’ eyes roved all over him , more than interested, greedy, reverent, drunken.
“Looking at what?” Sirius asked dreamily, realizing that Prongs had been right, he could count Remus’ eyelashes if he wanted to! And he wanted to. Once he’d looked his fill at the rest of him, committed all of him to memory in all his exquisite intricacy.
Remus’ lips bent into a half-smirk that Sirius had somehow not realized that he had been yearning to see again, “The ground,” Remus said, slowly. Sirius wasn’t sure what that meant, but he didn’t feel too concerned.
“Oh,” he said, taking another step towards Remus.
Those magnificent gold eyes widened slightly with something that resembled worry, “Are you feeling okay, Padfoot?” he asked gently.
It was too gentle, too soft, and Sirius feared for a wild second that Remus had to be an apparition, too good to be true. To prove to himself he was real, just as he had with his own face while peering into James’ mirror, he lifted his hand and stroked Remus’ cheek. That made it real, very real. Because Remus’ stubble felt the same as always, the same as it had felt every time he had cupped his cheek to kiss him, terrified that if he didn’t, he would miss Remus’ mouth and the ruse would be up. But now he could not only feel the warmth and roughness, but see it.
“I’m an idiot,” Sirius said, breathless.
“That’s hardly news,” Remus pointed out cheekily, but the worry had not dissolved from his expression, “But are you alright?”
“You’re so beautiful ,” Sirius breathed out, memorizing every bit of Remus’ face.
To his amazement, that face blushed a wondrous pink, the eyes and mouth giving away surprise.
“Merlin, did Lily’s Healer slip you something?” Remus said as his gaze darted to the side and Sirius ached. It should not surprise Remus this much to be told he was beautiful. Even if Sirius could not see his face at all, he should never have stopped telling him. Because seeing him didn’t matter, shouldn’t have mattered, his Moony’s beauty was so much more than skin-deep.
“No, I—” Sirius cut himself off as Moony glanced back at him, those eyes simply undid him, but there was no excusing the doubt that he had put there, “Moony, look at you, ”
Remus fidgeted a bit uneasily under Sirius’ unrelenting scrutiny, “Not as young as I used to be,” he deflected in a would-be joking tone, the insecurity in the words apparent.
Sirius shook his head slightly and Remus began to turn away, “No, no, it’s brilliant,” he blurted out, “Moony, truly, you look better than ever.”
Remus scoffed, “There really is something wrong with your eyes, mate.”
Mate. That was odd, they hadn’t called each other that in many years. Not since Hogwarts when there was still some attempt at keeping up appearances of a platonic relationship. Moony was turning away again, and Sirius felt shaky with a sense of urgency.
“Moony,” he said, and he was a little surprised by how watery his voice was, as tears prickled his eyes. The change in tone had Remus facing him again and he tried to be as honest as he could be, “I… I used to be terrified of it, you know,” he admitted, “That we wouldn’t even live long enough to see each other g-go grey,” he reached up, tugging very gently at the silvering strands above Remus’ ear.
Remus softened into the touch, reaching up to very delicately touch the silver in Sirius’ own hair before drawing away again. He knelt by the spot he had sat before, gathering notebooks and other belongings.
“It’s alright, Sirius,” Remus said, his own voice choked and his back to Sirius.
“What’s alright?” Sirius asked, confused by the peculiar tone in Remus’ voice.
“I… I’ve been putting this off, but, look, I know ,” Remus said, bent over his satchel, “I know it’s time — past time, maybe — for you to m-move on, and I mean, that was the war , but the war’s long over. You haven’t got to stick around like what we used to—”
“What?” Sirius balked, unable to listen to another word, “Stick around?”
Remus’ shoulders shuddered with a heavy sigh and he got back to his feet. Though he faced Sirius, he did not close the distance between them or lift his gaze to Sirius’ face, “I know you love me,” he said, voice oddly flat, cracking slightly as he went on, “And I’ll always love you. But I know you’re unhappy. And you’re my best friend, I can’t bear you staying out of obligation.”
“What are you on about , Moony?” Sirius asked, feeling thrown by the whiplash. He’d thought Remus’ initial reaction to the glasses was okay, but this was different, this was worse. The doubt in the notes, the ‘ I love you ’s left unsaid, the times — it occurred to him only just now — after shagging that Moony’s face against his shoulder had seemed to leave behind more wetness than it should. Why hadn’t he realized those were tears? Why had Remus not said anything? Why had he let this fester for so long?
“Circe, shit, I’m not—”
“ Please, ” Remus’ voice broke dreadfully, and Sirius almost wished he couldn’t see the hopeless look on his face. It reminded him too much of Moony’s younger face, the one he had just seen in his dreamed up memory this morning — helpless mid-duel, watching Sirius fall and believing there was nothing he could do to keep from losing him.
“Don’t patronize me,” Remus begged in a thin voice, hands held out as if to still Sirius, “You’ve been drifting away for ages, don’t pretend you don’t know it. I’m not angry anymore, Pads.”
“Moony,” Sirius said as he took a step closer, desperate to lift the burden of loss from Remus, “That’s what I was trying to say , trying to apologize for! I know I’ve seemed distant, I finally read your notes and I feel—”
“My notes?” Remus interrupted, confusion transposing atop the grief on his face.
“All the notes you’ve left me, when you weren’t home,” Sirius explained in a rush, “When you were here or nipped to the shops or—”
“I knew you weren’t reading them,” Remus sniffed and Sirius doubted whether it was true that he was no longer angry. Then Remus cocked his head, “Why didn’t you…? You saved them…? Read them now… Padfoot, why? ”
“I, er,” Sirius tapped the side of his glasses’ frame, “I couldn’t read them before,”
Remus’ brow furrowed very deeply and he considered Sirius, “You… you couldn’t read ?” now it was Sirius’ turn to squirm under Remus’ intense scrutiny, “Sirius, I,” Remus gasped out a mirthless laugh, “I thought you were mucking around with the bloody glasses!” he exclaimed, immediately asking firmly, “Why have I never seen them? How long have you needed them for?”
Sirius shrugged and looked away, feeling like a sullen teenager again, caught in misconduct, “Don’t rightly know,” he grumbled, “It’s been a while.”
“How long has it been since you could see well enough to read ?” Remus grilled.
Sirius squirmed and admitted quietly, “‘Bout a year,”
“A year?!” Remus swore, “What in Merlin’s name is wrong with you? Do you have any idea how dangerous that is? You kept on babysitting Harry! ” Remus’ voice grew shrill and unforgiving on their godson’s name and Sirius rather wished he could disappear, but Remus was not finished, “You could have, have… any number of…”
Sirius glanced at Remus’ face, and watched it dawn on him, realization of all of the things that Sirius had stopped doing altogether, “Fuck, Sirius, of course ,” Remus tugged at his hair with one hand, waving the other as he rattled off, “Reading, and cooking, and the crosswords, even following Quidditch!” Remus sucked in a tight breath, “I thought you were just… should have realized . Fuck, it’s me who’s an idiot, I cannot believe I didn’t see it! ”
“I didn’t want you to see it,” Sirius pointed out.
“Why the fuck not?” Remus demanded.
Sirius hesitated, the words for the feeling, the fear, eluding him, “I don’t know exactly.”
“ Please tell me you weren’t just being vain,” Remus pleaded.
Sirius couldn’t help the small affronted scoff, “Prongs said the same bloody thing,” he said, shaking his head.
“Well, you have been known to be a bit of a peacock, love,” Remus winced sharply as the endearment slipped into his speech.
“I wasn’t being a peacock, ” Sirius insisted, finally confessing, “I… I knew you’d drag me to a bloody Healer, and I… well, I was scared of what they might find.”
Remus grew oddly still, “Is there… more, Sirius? Is something…?”
Sirius shook his head, shoving his hair back in frustration, “No, the Optimagist said there’s nothing wrong, I’m just getting old.”
“Ah,” Remus nodded once, visibly relieved before he scowled slightly, “You do realize if something had been wrong, ignoring it wasn’t going to fix it.”
“I know,” Sirius sighed, unable to keep from staring at Remus, “Believe me, I feel plenty foolish. All those headaches and, and making you doubt—”
“Wait,” Remus interrupted, a flicker of hope on his face threatening to break Sirius’ heart, “So… if, if it was your eyesight you’ve been lying about,” he stammered, faltered, “Do you, I, I mean, if that’s why you’ve been distant, behaving like, like—”
“Moony, honestly,” Sirius broke Remus’ panicked ramble as tenderly as he could, assuring him with all the sincerity he could summon, “What you said before is bollocks. Loving you could never, ever be an obligation.” Sirius watched as Remus’ Adam's apple bobbed twice before he continued, “Even if I went as blind as a bat, that wouldn’t change a thing,” he promised. “I… I’ve missed too much by keeping secrets and being a colossal arse, but I’m not going to miss out on growing old with you, you’re going to be the most magnificent old codger, you—”
Before he could derail too far from his point, Remus’ lips covered his, the distance between them suddenly and blissfully gone. Sirius’ eyes fell shut and he was in familiar, wonderfully familiar territory. Because kissing Moony, making love to Moony, this he could do by feel. Fuck, he could do this by instinct alone, as if the map to his Moony was indelibly tattooed inside his own skin. His arms wrapped around Remus, pulling him closer, and in his eagerness, he hooked one leg around Remus’ waist, only to promptly lose his balance and bring them both down, collapsing onto the soft moss underfoot. Tittering laughs from the fairies were echoed by Remus’ huff of a laugh but he did not pull away for a second. Remus lay halfway on top of Sirius and he tangled his fingers in his hair, deepening their kiss.
When Sirius breathed in deep through his nose, he discovered an oddly pleasant scent, of flowers and butterscotch and reluctantly pulled back from Remus. He watched Remus’ eyes open, the pale countable lashes making way for the smoldering amber, the kiss-red lips stretching into a knowing grin. Sirius’ eyes caught a fairy flitting by and understanding clicked.
“That smell, are they doing that?” he asked.
Remus leaned back in, and kissed him, “Yes,” he explained between decadent kisses, “They have great influence over their environment. Magizoologists never paid it any bloody mind.”
“Of course not,” Sirius grumbled into Remus’ delicious lips, “Gits,”
“Mm,” Remus agreed, kissing him every few words, “Not just smells, they can, alter the quality of the light, the pressure, the tension in the, air”
“So can you, Moons,” Sirius sighed, rapt.
Remus rolled his eyes, “Fool,” but kissed him properly again.
Sirius felt like he was melting into the forest floor, Remus’ kiss reducing him to mush, with the exception of his cock which was growing impatient to be free of his denims. Then, tragically, Remus broke the kiss again. Sirius groaned and peered up at him, finding Remus’ expression crumpled in a well-known expression of thinking too hard.
“Moony?” he reached up to cup his lover’s face in his hands.
“Sirius, I’m confused,” Remus admitted. Sirius cocked his head and Remus sighed, before elaborating, “I-I mean, I understand that you were concealing your diminishing eyesight, that you were afraid to go to the Healer and get bad news,” Sirius grimaced at the succinct summary of how stupid his behavior had been, “But there’s more, isn’t there?”
Sirius frowned, “No, that about covers it.”
Remus mirrored his frown, “Please, Pads, I can’t bear you lying to me any more than you already have.” Sirius winced and Remus sighed, resting his head on Sirius’ shoulder, “Why were you so sure it would be bad news?”
Sirius was quiet for long minutes, carding his fingers through Remus’ hair and trying to find the most honest answer to his question. Finally he said, “It didn’t seem like it could be anything but bad news,”
Remus considered that for a second, and then said, “Explain, please.”
Sirius groaned, but tried, “I mean… well, it doesn’t seem fair as it is. So many people — our friends — didn’t even live to see the end of the war, and… why should I…?” he huffed, impatient with his own difficulty articulating, and Remus’ arms tightened around his waist. “I… I reckon as much as I’ve always looked forward to you as an old man — and Merlin, I have , Moony, since we were kids and you’d grumble if we got bacon grease on your newspaper at breakfast. You’ll be brilliant — but… I s’pose I never thought I’d be an old man,”
Remus made a whine in his throat, pressing his face into the crook of Sirius’ neck, “Padfoot…”
“I’m happy, grateful to be alive,” he assured, “But… I always thought, you know… between my parents, and the war, and my knack for getting into trouble…” He shrugged a bit, “I mean, ‘ die young, stay pretty ’, you know?”
Remus hummed grimly, remarked against Sirius’ collarbone, “ ‘Life in the fast lane’,”
Sirius nodded, “I just…” he buried his face in Remus’ hair, holding him tighter as he admitted softly, “Is it mad to feel like I wasn’t designed to grow old?”
“Yes,” Remus answered without hesitation, lifting himself back up enough to look down at Sirius firmly, “It’s especially mad given that you have yet to turn thirty ,”
Sirius squeezed his aching eyes shut, embarrassed, “I’m being an idiot…”
Remus tutted and petted his hair back from his face, “Listen, Pads, I know getting older is frightening. I feel it, too. I can’t seem to stay up later than midnight, even on the new moon, and thank Merlin for Wolfsbane , but I've been feeling my age the last few moons even with—”
A numbing lance of worry shot through Sirius and his voice came out flat as he questioned, “The last few moons?”
“It’s nothing, really,” Remus shook his head, “Just the arthritis is worse than it used to be, and I seem to need to rest for longer after, but—”
Worry and terror clanged like cymbals in Sirius’ head. How fucking blind was he, really, that he hadn’t noticed? Poor eyesight was no excuse there, “Moony,” his voice shook, “The average werewolf—”
“Oh, God, please, don’t,” Remus gripped his jaw and kissed him once, hard, “You know that statistic is useless. It’s from long before I was even bitten, and there was next to no one registered, and it didn’t even differentiate deaths caused by lycanthropy and death caused by say, murder, or suicide, or starvation, so—”
“ Moony, ” Sirius interrupted, desperate to stop the dreadful words that had no place in his Moony’s mouth, “I don’t care about the numbers, but if you’ve been feeling…” it dawned on him what a filthy hypocrite he was and how bloody insensitive. “ Fuck, I’m a prat. Throwing around terms like ‘ growing old together ’ when—”
“We will, Pads,” Remus comforted, voice gone low and raspy, “We will.”
Sirius shook his head, “Nothing is guaranteed, Moons, we both know that.”
Remus swallowed hard, forced to agree gravely. “No… I suppose it’s not…” His eyes searched Sirius’ hungrily.
For a suffocating moment, Sirius imagined the world without those eyes in it, a world without the home he had carved out for himself in the shape of Remus’ arms, and the scent of Remus’ tea, and the cadence of Remus’ voice. The feeling was chased away by a fervent need to prove to himself that they were both here, now. He pulled Remus into a searing kiss. “I’m sorry,” Sirius said, swearing against Remus’ lips, “I wasted so much time, precious time,” Remus met him with the same intensity, licking into him like a man starved, “Won’t waste another bloody minute with you,”
“Yeah,” Remus panted against him. “Yes, yeah,” his teeth dragged marvelously across Sirius’ lower lip, sending sparks through him, “We, we’ll make the most of every day,” he vowed against Sirius’ chin as his hands pushed Sirius’ shirt up.
Sirius sat up, “Yeah,” he agreed, as Remus pulled his shirt off over his head and he quickly peeled away Remus’ green jumper, nudging the t-shirt beneath aside and kissing the words into the freckles of his shoulder, “Yeah, every day,”
Remus’ hands deftly undid the flies of Sirius’ denims and he sighed as the pressure covering his erection let up. “You swear?” Remus asked and Sirius’ eyes flicked up to his, the look there threatening to break his heart. The pink cheeks, the wet lips, the amber eyes shining with love and lust, and shadowed by vulnerability and doubt.
Sirius pulled him in by the nape of the neck, kissing him hard and deep and honest, “‘Course I swear,” he gave him a reassuring Marauder grin, “I solemnly swear.”
Remus chuckled, “I solemnly swear,” he agreed. He made short work of his own trousers, unimpeded by Sirius’ heated kisses. And then Remus was pressing Sirius to the ground, the moss soft and cool against his bare back, and wearing his own grin like a promise, “The most of every single day,” he breathed, eyes taking in the sight of Sirius before him as if he too had gone far too long without seeing him properly.
Sirius lay back and watched, enraptured as he watched Remus’ skin be revealed. It felt practically like the first time he’d seen it, peeling back Remus’ careworn pajamas behind the red velvet curtains of the four-poster in their dorm. They had been too foolish to even call it love for the first couple of years after they had finally fallen together, and now they’d gone and lost sight of it again.
But things were different. Their love was intact. They were surrounded by green and gold instead of red, and they were both older. Remus was not the shy, spotty virgin he had been all those years ago. He was so much older, with so many more scars than Sirius had seen clearly in a long time — though the newest was still a few years old — and his belly lovely and soft. Sirius had never seen anything more beautiful. His lust had been roaring a frantic need in his blood but in the wake of Remus’ nakedness, and the trust that glowed in his eyes even after Sirius’ foolish dishonesty, the feeling shifted. As they shed the last of their clothes, Sirius was brimming with reverence for this man and a deep abiding sense of how blessed he was to share love with him.
Remus caught the way Sirius was watching him and leaned down to kiss him, soft and sweet, “I can’t believe I thought I was ready to let you go,” he admitted, as he wandlessly performed the lubrication charm they’d both perfected years ago.
Sirius sighed at the first brush of Remus’ warm, slick fingers over his arse, “Good job you haven’t got to,” he said.
Remus leaned and kissed the jut of his hip as he pressed a finger inside, smiling at Sirius’ gasp, “Never, Padfoot,”
“Never,” Sirius agreed breathlessly, before Remus’ clever fingers robbed him of any eloquence beyond moans and sighs. They’d done this so many times, but Sirius found himself watching Remus as if he’d never seen him knelt between his thighs before, never seen the hungry focus on his face as he prepped him patiently. He hadn’t, in a way, had never seen it like this. The last time he’d seen it properly had been too long ago. He didn’t close his eyes for more than the millisecond of a blink until Remus entered him, and both the sensation and the view were too beautiful to bear without respite.
Sirius could tell from the way that Remus made love to him — slowly, deeply, luxuriously — that he felt much as Sirius did. That this was too precious to waste, and that they had come far too close to losing it, “I-I love you,” Sirius gasped out, as Remus’ hand wrapped around him, drawing him sweetly nearer to the precipice of his pleasure.
“I love you, too,” Remus said, low and warm, and Sirius’ eyes prickled with love. Remus had never stopped saying it altogether, but it had ceased to be something Sirius relied on hearing, and hearing it now was everything.
“Oh, Merlin, you do, don’t you?” Sirius begged, halfway to a sob as his climax closed in and his heart heaved with emotion and sudden, raw insecurity, “You still do, you haven’t stopped?”
“Oh, God, Sirius, yes,” Remus’ thrusts faltered and his brow crumbled as his own orgasm neared, “I love you, I love you, I never stopped, I never could,” his hand tightened around Sirius, twisting just so and falling into Sirius’ favorite tempo, “I love you, Padfoot, so much, so, ah!” Remus’ litany was broken as Sirius came, Remus barely a second behind him. It was bliss, pleasure firing in a wild white haze between his nerves but Sirius kept his eyes open, gazing up at Remus in his own ecstasy, crowned by the sunset-painted sky beyond the trees.
They curled together on the soft moss for long minutes, the evening air cooling the sweat upon their skin, the worries that had plagued them too long finally receding. Sirius was looking at Remus, at the way his face relaxed as he drowsed. And then a fairy flitted over, alighting weightlessly on Remus’ shoulder, leaning her tiny face to his ear and saying something in a tiny voice that made Remus blush and chuckle before she flew away again, tittering.
“What did she say?” Sirius asked.
Remus rolled his eyes, “ ‘I told you so'. "
Sirius quirked an eyebrow at that and Remus sighed before explaining, “They are very intuitive. They… well, if you must know, they perceived that I had been bracing myself for a heartbreak these last few months, but they were under the impression that someone was still very much in love with me.”
“Smart little buggers. They have been bloody underestimated by wizardkind. No shock there, I’m afraid.” Remus hummed in agreement. He seemed relieved that that had been the part Sirius chose to comment on, but he couldn’t leave it unsaid, “I’m sorry, Moons. I never should have let my love be in doubt, I hate that you were braced for heartbreak,” he reached out and caressed the line of Remus’ jaw, “Of course, I’m still in love with you,”
“I could say the same, I reckon," Remus observed, and Sirius nodded wordlessly and snuggled closer, "I understand why you behaved the way you did, and we can’t change the past at any rate,” Remus went on, “Just… make the most of every day from here on out, yeah?”
Sirius leaned in to kiss him, “That’s right,” he said, “No more secrets.”
“Well, in that case, erm…” Remus shifted slightly.
“What is it?” Sirius asked, halfway sitting up as a bolt of fear shot through him.
“It’s nothing important,” Remus assured, looking sorry for having made him worry, he pulled him back down into their cuddle, “Promise.”
“Okay,” Sirius said, “Tell me anyway?”
Remus chewed his lip for a second before losing his battle to keep from smirking, “We have got to find you some better frames,” he admitted, reaching up to tap a finger against the new spectacles.
Sirius rolled his eyes, “I knew I shouldn’t have listened to Prongs. He said they looked good.”
“Only because you’d make anything look good,” Remus smiled indulgently at Sirius, “Speaking of Prongs, I ought to let him know about this, he’ll be chuffed to say his ‘I told you so’ s, too,”
“He nearly slipped and told me something you’d said,” Sirius said, “Loyal bugger wouldn’t, though.”
Remus smiled fondly at that, “Good old Prongs,” his smile faltered a little, “I’d… asked if I could stay at theirs, if,” he shrugged, “You know...” Sirius squeezed Remus, hating that he’d thought he’d need a place to stay, that their home together was so tenuous, “I think he was more upset that I thought I needed to ask to stay than to hear we might call it quits,”
Sirius snorted, despite himself, “He would be.”
“Only because he was the only one clever enough to know we’d be staying together,” Remus pointed out, kissing Sirius soundly before sitting up and beginning to gather his clothes. “Come along, then, I’m bloody starving.”
Sirius had to agree, his stomach’s rumbling giving him away as they both dressed, “Oh!” Remus exclaimed happily as they left the glade, hand-in-hand. Sirius looked at him curiously, grateful to find that his improved vision held true in the gathering dark, “After we eat, you can help me with this morning’s crossword!”
Sirius grinned, “I didn’t realize you still did those,” he had to admit.
Remus shrugged, “I only find half the answers without you,” he confessed.
“Well,” Sirius couldn’t resist a goofy waggle of his eyebrows as he offered, “Thank Merlin you've got me, then, and I'm not going anywhere.”
Sirius wondered if it was just a trick of his eyes adjusting to the new specs, but he thought Remus’ smile was so bright it could have lit their way home more brilliantly than any lumos charm.