Remus didn’t know what to do. He’d known when he finished Hogwarts that he wanted to continue on to university. It didn’t matter that he hadn’t nailed down exactly what he wanted to study until he was halfway through the applications, only that he was going to school again. Now, as he looked at his bachelor’s degree where it was propped on the bookshelf, newly framed (Sirius had insisted, regardless of Remus’s objections), he realized he didn’t know what happened next. And worse, perhaps, was that he didn’t know what he wanted to happen.
School and his studies would always be an option, and he knew with a sort of inexorable certainty he would return to it somewhere down the line. But where to even begin? He’d done his undergraduate studies in history, but he’d had the opportunity to take classes across fields -- linguistics, classics, even biology and archaeology. A higher degree would mean further specialization, let alone the issue of specializing in a Muggle or a magical field, a choice Remus knew a few of his classmates had been struggling with. And at present, it all seemed to Remus a near impossible decision.
“Just give yourself the summer,” Lily said one afternoon when Remus dropped by St. Mungo’s with lunch for the both of them.
They were sitting on a bench in the park across the square, Lily with her feet folded underneath her, Remus with his legs stretched out and crossed at the ankles. Lily’s sandwich had disappeared within mere minutes, and now she absentmindedly crumpled a napkin in her fist, tossing the little ball back and forth between her hands. Remus, however, seemed more intent on feeding the pigeons than himself and tore off ragged pieces of his bread, rolling them between his fingers before letting them fall to the prancing birds at his feet.
“But then what?” he asked. “Application cycles will pick up in the fall, and it’s probably best I don’t waste time making decisions then.”
Lily shrugged. “Well, a month at least, how about? Take some time to get out of your head. You won’t get anywhere if you get all wrapped up in worrying about the decision instead of making it.”
Remus snorted, uncrossing his legs and startling a wave of pigeons, fluttering up into a nearby tree. “Get out of my head? Easier said than done, Lils. How am I supposed to do something like that in a place like London?”
As if on cue, a siren wailed past them, followed by a cacophony of car horns as drivers tried to get back on the road. Lily was gathering her things, getting to her feet. “You know what I’m going to say.”
“What?” Remus leaned forward, elbows on his knees, as Lily started back across the square.
She turned to face him, threw her arms in the air. “Get out of London!” Grinning, she tossed her hair back over her shoulder. “Thanks for lunch, Rem!”
He wandered for most of the rest of the afternoon, walking up London’s bustling main streets, ducking down twisting, turning alleys, winding along beside the Thames. No matter which direction he went, he had to sidestep harried locals and lost tourists, avoid those calling him into their shops with a polite smile, stumble back from the curb when a taxi or bus went whizzing past. Every moment felt like a disruption, an interruption, as though by simply stepping out into the public streets, Remus was relinquishing something that made him whole and sound and him. It was a feeling that he couldn’t deny he sometimes craved, to surrender and move with the flow of the city and its people. But all of a sudden, it felt like a transgression.
When he got home, Sirius had called out to him before he’d even finished opening the door and stepped inside.
“--oony!” Remus just caught the last bit of his name. “That better be you! I’ve been waiting on dinner until you got back, and at this point I’m starved. If you’d been any longer I think I might have just wasted away, wouldn’t have been too pleasant to come home to then, would I?”
Sirius appeared in the doorway of the kitchen as Remus slipped out of his loafers, dropping them each into the corner beneath the coat rack. Each thump against the floor reminded Remus of his exhaustion, solidified the decision he’d come to just as he was climbing the stairs to their flat. Sirius must have seen it in his face, because he tossed the washcloth he was using to wipe his hands onto the counter and walked over with the slightest of furrowed brows.
“Where’ve you been, anyway?” he asked, taking Remus gently by the hands and guiding him across the living room to the dining table.
“Had lunch with Lily.” Remus let out a breath as he sank into one of the chairs, letting his eyes fall closed for just a moment as Sirius brushed his hair back from his forehead before turning back to the kitchen. “Then I’ve just been walking around.”
“All afternoon?” Sirius called over the clanking of plates and dishes.
“Well, she gave me a lot to think about.”
“What nonsense has Evans got in your head now?” Sirius returned to the table wearing just the smallest of teasing smiles and carrying two plates stacked high with Chinese takeaway. One was much more precariously piled than the other, nearly the entire surface of the plate obscured by rice and egg rolls and vegetables dripping in gooey, brown sauces. This Sirius placed in front of Remus.
With a sigh, Remus snapped apart his chopsticks and began prodding at the food on his plate. He kept his eyes trained securely on the broccoli floret he was currently dragging through a river of soy sauce as he said, “She thinks I should get out of London for a bit this summer.”
Sirius snorted, and although Remus didn’t look up, he heard the rustling of Sirius unfolding his napkin with perhaps a touch more vigor than necessary. “That sounds absurd,” he said. “I don’t understand what she’s getting at--”
“I think she’s right.”
Sirius’s chopsticks cracked so loudly Remus startled in his chair. When he looked up, he saw that in Sirius’s surprise, he’d snapped the wood clear in half.
“You think she’s right?” he asked, incredulous. He was still holding the ruined chopsticks, seemingly completely unaware of their state. “What does that even mean, leave London? She give you anything beyond that, or was that the extent of her brilliant advice? To just drop everything and set off somewhere completely unknown?”
Remus balanced his chopsticks on the edge of his plate and let his tongue out to wet his lips before pressing them together in thought. “That’s all she said. But--” he lifted a hand and cut in before Sirius could offer another objection, “but I think I figured it out, walking around today. I think she’s right, and I think I should go home.”
Sirius eyebrows jerked upwards. “Home?”
“To Wales,” Sirius repeated.
Remus nodded, and they stared at each other for a moment before Sirius shook his head with a short, disbelieving laugh and pushed back from the table, letting his napkin fall from his lap to the floor. He tossed his splintered chopsticks down onto the table and turned away, running a hand through his hair.
“That’s just grand!” he said as he disappeared back into the kitchen. “You have one little lunch date with Evans and all of a sudden you’re ready to leave! To go home, to Wales, for some completely indeterminate amount of time!” There was a messy clatter that made Remus flinch, as though Sirius had flung a number of dishes into the sink without a second thought. “And where does that leave me, Moony? Just waiting here for you, in this flat? I can’t believe you want to leave--”
The screeching of Remus’s own chair against the wooden floor buried the rest of his sentence, and when Remus moved to stand in the doorway to the kitchen, he found Sirius leaning over the sink, his knuckles white around the edge of the counter and his chin tucked toward his chest.
“I need to be somewhere else, Sirius,” he said, leaning over and letting his shoulder come to rest against the door jamb. “I don’t know what it is, but I can’t figure out what I want here, what I should do next, and I need to be some place I can think through all that--”
“Even me, then?” Sirius flicked his chin up and tossed his hair back, turning to face Remus with his hip against the countertop, arms folded over his chest. “All that includes me, does it? You need to leave because you have to figure out where I fit in, if I even do--”
Remus crossed the kitchen in two long steps and gripped Sirius by the waist. “Do you think I’m leaving you?” he breathed. Sirius had been nearly glaring at him before, but at the note of disbelief in Remus’s voice, he dropped his eyes, staring determinedly at Remus’s collar instead.
“No, no, Pads,” Remus murmured, snaking one arm around Sirius’s waist to pull him close and using the other to grip the back of Sirius’s head and tuck him against his chest. “I want to leave, but I want to leave London, I don’t want to leave you.”
Sirius’s arms were still folded between them, pressing against the uppermost part of Remus’s stomach, and they dug in deeper as Sirius took a breath. “But I’m in London,” he said, the words muffled by Remus’s shirt. “And you didn’t ask me to come.”
Pulling back just enough to see his face, Remus gently took Sirius’s chin and tilted it upward, forcing Sirius to find his eyes. “I couldn’t ask you to come. You have a job here right now, responsibilities, obligations. And I don’t know how long I’ll be gone.”
Remus watched something in Sirius’s eyes harden, like the edges of a lake at the first frost. “But I would. I would come.”
“I know you would.” Remus leaned down and pressed a kiss first to Sirius’s forehead, and then found his lips. “But you don’t have to. I’ll write, and I’ll come back on weekends. You’ll hardly notice I’m gone.”
Sirius finally let his arms drop and wrapped them around Remus’s back. “That’s funny,” he murmured, tucking his head back into the crook of Remus’s shoulder. “Hardly notice you’re gone. You’re hysterical, Moony.”
It seemed to Remus that he spent longer at the door kissing Sirius goodbye than he did packing his rucksack. When he finally managed to extricate himself and slip out into the hallway, he simply stood for a moment, chewing idly on his lower lip. He’d said he wanted to go home to Wales, and he did, but really only one town in Wales came to mind. And now that he was faced with the actual reality of returning there, he wasn’t exactly sure if it was the best place to get out of his head, as Lily had so eloquently put it. Still, he’d made up his mind. So, with one last steadying breath, Remus turned on the spot and disappeared with a crack.
When he opened his eyes, he found himself in one of the alleys off the main drag of Abergavenny, Wales. He recognized it almost immediately as one of the places he used to hide out in search of a dark corner to catch his breath after nicking something -- usually a magazine -- from one of the local shops. Running a hand over the brick wall of the building beside him, Remus felt a peculiar prickle dance up his spine, as though a ghost had brushed too close.
As he approached the end of the alley and glanced down the street, he knew immediately he wouldn’t be able to stay here. He might have grown up in this little town, with its tiny bustling main street at the base of the Black Mountains, but it didn’t bring any sort of comfort to be back here. In fact, the familiarity he felt every time he recognized a storefront, a street sign, a face he couldn’t quite place before they turned away, was nothing short of unsettling.
He stayed in Abergavenny for just a couple of days, to get his bearings, but even then he did his best to avoid the general bustle of small town life. He popped into shops and taverns for a spot to eat after dark and walked the old streets long after the moon had risen, opting to spend the majority of his days in his hotel room studying maps of the surrounding area. His entire childhood, he had operated in the shadows of Abergavenny, and even now, years later, it startled him when the townspeople spoke to him, in either English or Welsh. It was easiest to slip back into his old habits and continue to avoid the daytime happenings he’d been hidden from for so long. After finally talking a local mechanic out of a used car, a 1970 Ford Cortina that had simply been sitting on his lot without any sales prospects, Remus threw his rucksack into the backseat and set off farther into the mountains.
Cwmdu sat just at the base of the larger hills, a village so small one could drive through it without realizing it was anything more than a pub on the side of the road. Remus had, however, been looking for it particularly. In his cursory research of the area, he couldn’t think of a better place to sit alone with his thoughts than a quiet tavern nestled beneath the mountains that served the odd traveler or camper from time to time. He pulled over, the gravel crunching beneath the tires.
Inside, the tavern consisted of several small, connected rooms, as the old house had been converted into a pub with rooms for rent on the upper floors. The floorboards creaked, almost invitingly, beneath Remus’s feet and he walked slowly toward the large, sturdy bar he could see at the back of the next room, where a broad man with a full beard was wiping down glasses. When he approached, Remus placed both hands on the bar, and it wasn’t until he’d been standing there for a couple of seconds before the man turned his attention to him.
Remus swallowed, and thought through every word of his next sentence before he said in Welsh, “Excuse me, I’m wondering if you need any help around here. I’m looking to pick up some work.”
The man’s eyebrows lifted just slightly, but nothing else about his face changed. Remus could imagine it wasn’t every day that someone came in here speaking Welsh. In fact, he was a bit surprised he could do it himself. It had been coming back over the past couple days in Abergavenny, but it had still been so long since he’d actually used it with any frequency. The man had been silent for so long, Remus was beginning to wonder if he really had messed up his Welsh, when he finally spoke.
“What’re you asking?” The man’s voice was gruff, and he kept his eyes on Remus as he tossed the washcloth over his shoulder and placed the cleaned glass in its empty space beneath the bar.
“I don’t need much,” Remus said quickly. “Room and board, or just a bit to live off each week. But really, just somewhere to stay if you don’t have the money to pay me.”
There was a little jerk of the man’s shoulders, that Remus hoped he wasn’t mistaking for a laugh, and then a smile actually broke through his stony countenance.
“I’ll set you up with a room upstairs,” he said, coming around the bar. “We’ll be happy to have the help. Business tends to start to pick up this time of year.”
Remus looked around the nearly empty tavern and then back to the barman, his eyebrows raised in a silent question. This time, he definitely laughed.
“When this is how it is most of the time, even one new face means the dinner rush.” He clapped Remus on the shoulder. “What did you say your name was?”
“Gethin,” the man -- Gethin -- responded with a dip of his head. “Welcome.”
And, for the first time since setting foot back in Wales, Remus did feel welcome.
When Gethin had said, We’ll be happy to have the help, really he’d meant, I’d be happy to have the help. He was owner, innkeeper, bartender, maid, accountant, general manager, and sometimes even cook. So when Gethin said he had to run down to town for a couple of errands, Remus worked his first shift behind the bar that very evening.
He became accustomed to it quite quickly, much faster than he might have expected. It did take him a few days to understand everyone’s accents again without pause -- he had stared, wide-eyed, at a customer who had just ordered and could only manage a soft, “Sorry?” more than he’d like to admit -- but soon enough he was chatting with his customers in Welsh. It was almost too easy to let his world shrink to the little pathway behind the bar, and to those sitting just on the other side of it.
Writing to Sirius wasn’t difficult. He looked forward to it, in fact, sitting in his cozy room above the tavern and scribbling across a piece of parchment in the soft lamplight. His days weren’t exactly full of breathtaking, hair-raising adventures, but he easily filled his letters all the same. The issue was finding an owl to deliver them.
He had never had one of his own, having spent his school years depending on the owls of his friends to return his correspondence. There was a small -- very small -- Owl Post Office in Abergavenny, but they housed only a limited number of owls. Even when one was available, it was only every so often that he could slip out of the pub during business hours and take the short drive down to town. Piles of neatly folded letters accumulated on the edge of his desk. The owls often squawked in indignation when he stepped into the post office with so many in his hands.
Getting back to London was even harder, but in this case he didn’t have any lazy owls to blame. The days simply slipped away from him, and Remus would find himself lying in bed, late into the morning, having fully intended to go back to London that weekend, only to suddenly realize it was Sunday. Every day sleeping until the sun was high in the sky, every night making small talk, pulling draughts, collapsing into his bed in the quiet hours when it felt like he was the last person awake in the world -- it was all peacefully monotonous. Hypnotizing, almost. He paid so little attention to anything other than his day-to-day, he only noticed the stubble on his jaw when he had to scratch at it, the longer curls when he had to push one out of his eyes. Everything other than the rhythm of the comings and goings in the Farmers Arms started to fall away.
One night, as Remus was mindlessly running his dishcloth over the length of the bar, Gethin came up to the corner. He leaned over with his elbows on the polished wood, the sharp turn of the bar pressing into his stomach. Remus glanced at him, but quickly looked back down at the spot he was working on.
“Just got two blokes at a table over there,” Gethin said in Welsh.
Remus gave a disinterested sort of hum. Usually if Gethin came over to put in a drink order, it didn’t come with this sort of preamble. He wasn’t one to bury the lead.
“They said their drinks should be on the house, since they know the barman.”
“What?” Remus was so startled he responded in English. His head snapped up, and he looked with wide, rounded eyes at Gethin, who was wearing an amused smile and simply gestured to a table with a tip of his head. Remus knew, before he turned, what he would see, and yet the sight still made his heart leap and lodge itself in his throat.
James was waving both arms in the air, as though trying to get Remus’s attention from a boat stranded at sea. He was grinning, mouth open as though he had just finished laughing or was just about to start, and Remus could tell it was taking nearly everything in him to stay in his seat. The chair could have been vibrating with all his residual energy. Sirius sat beside him, leaning back in his chair with his legs extended out in front of him. Both his arms and his ankles were crossed, and he was staring across the room at Remus with that knowing smirk, the one that said he knew he’d done something wrong but he was proud of it. The one that drove Remus crazy.
Remus let out a breath of disbelief, almost a laugh, and tossed the washcloth over his shoulder. “Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me,” he muttered. He pulled out a tray and started filling three pints.
Sirius hadn’t been able to help himself. Waiting for the day Remus might turn up back in London had nearly driven him mad, regardless of the pile of envelopes sometimes dropped into his lap by a very flustered and very exhausted owl. When Remus’s last letter had ended with, I’ll see you soon, Sirius decided he would take this as more of a request than a promise and determined it was well past time to take matters into his own hands. It took next to nothing to get James on board.
“I think we should go and pay Moony a visit,” Sirius had said as they walked back to the Ministry from taking their lunch.
“Brilliant,” James had said, clapping his hands together. “Shall we go tonight, then?”
So they left that very night, following the details Remus had sprinkled throughout his letters -- which, given that he hadn’t been writing with any sort of intention to give directions, weren’t necessarily the easiest to decipher. They arrived in Abergavenny, booked a couple of rooms at the local inn, and then set off for Cwmdu. Both much less accustomed to a Muggle lifestyle, and both certainly without driver’s licenses or any sort of driving experience, they were forced to resort to apparition. Luckily, James had brought his cloak to keep them hidden from straying Muggle eyes.
Now, as Sirius watched Remus make his way over to them, a tray of three overflowing pints balanced on his left hand, he couldn’t be happier about their impromptu getaway. Sirius had missed him terribly, had even lain in bed staring at the ceiling, his heart beating out an angry pulse against his ribcage for having been left behind like this. But then again, anger was simply easier than the loneliness and the yearning he buried with every swallow, and it dissipated the moment Remus caught his eye. There was something peaceful, and easy, in just the way he looked at him, but Sirius wouldn’t have been able to look away regardless. He’d let his hair grow out -- all of it. His soft curls fell across his forehead, brushing against his eyebrows, and still more curled around his ears and along the base of his neck. A warm stubble had appeared across his cheeks and along his jaw, and Sirius found that all he could think of was how it would feel against his lips.
Remus placed the tray down on the table and distributed the glasses before settling himself in a chair. He took his pint in both hands and leaned forward, looking between the both of them. Sirius would have sat and stared for hours, uninterrupted, if Remus didn’t open his mouth.
“What’re you doing here?” he asked. Sirius’s eyebrows shot up. He could see James’s mouth drop open out of the corner of his eye. Neither of them had been prepared for the strength with which Remus’s accent had returned.
His vowels were longer. He dropped a number of his consonants. You had lost the y sound almost completely. He stared at them expectantly for an answer, but James and Sirius could only look at each other in disbelief until James burst out laughing.
“Moony,” he practically squealed. “Oi, mate, we’ve only heard you like this when you’re proper smashed! You haven’t been drinking on the job, have you?”
Clearly too aware of himself all of a sudden, Remus immediately dropped his eyes to the table, running a hand over his jaw before up through the curls on his forehead. “No, haven’t been drinking.” He spoke slower now, as though he were actively trying to fight his way out of the accent he’d fallen into with every syllable, to no avail.
There was something so earnest about it, some shadow of the quiet, studious boy he’d met over a decade ago at school, that Sirius moved closer before he could stop himself and placed a hand on Remus’s knee underneath the table. But Remus visibly stiffened, and a moment later his fingers curled around Sirius’s, moving his hand back to Sirius’s own lap. With one last squeeze, he let it drop.
Eyes still downturned, he murmured. “Muggle pub, Pads, in a Muggle town. You know that’s not-- We can’t--”
Sirius clenched his fingers into a fist against his thigh. He didn’t care what the rules or the laws were, written or unwritten. Suddenly this all felt like some cruel joke. Dipping his head to try and put himself in Remus’s line of sight, he practically hissed, “I haven’t seen you in weeks, and now you’re telling me I can’t even touch--”
“Just not here,” Remus cut in sharply, finally looking up to meet Sirius’s gaze. After a moment, the hard edges of his expression seemed to soften, and he added, much more gently, “Later.”
James clapped and then rubbed his hands together, pulling both of their attention. “To answer your original question,” he shifted in his seat, took a long sip of his beer, “we came to see you! It’s been ages--”
“A lifetime,” Sirius muttered, and Remus’s eyes flickered to him for a moment.
“--since you’ve been back in London,” James pressed on, “but we figured why wait for you to find your way back, eh? Might as well pop up here for a spell and see how you’ve been getting on.”
“How’d you know where I’d be?” Remus wiped the condensation from his glass on his trousers.
“Your letters,” Sirius said, running a finger around the thick edge of the tumbler. “Although it’s been like sitting down to read a novel every time they arrive. Has coming up here somehow made you forget how the post works, Moony? It’s usually one at a time, and then I write back, and we carry on like that.”
The corners of Remus’s mouth ticked upward, and he hid the growing smile in a sip of his drink. “The owls here are a bit… out of practice, I’d say. They often get behind schedule.”
“Well, tell us how it’s been!” James urged, reaching over and clapping Remus on the shoulder. Something in Sirius’s stomach lurched. There was nothing to be misconstrued about this gesture, it was simply friendly from every angle, but he couldn’t help the surge of jealousy that James could touch Remus without consequence.
“It’s been fine,” Remus said with a definitive nod. “Good. Quiet. Things are simple, the same every day.”
Sirius had leaned back from the table and crossed his arms again. “So you think you want to stay?”
“What? No.” The affirmative nodding had now become a quick shake of his head. “I mean, for a bit longer, yeah, but I’m not-- I don’t want to stay. Why would you think that?”
“You haven’t been back.” Sirius was the only one who hadn’t started on his drink. “At all. You haven’t been back to London at all since you left.”
“Padfoot,” James said quietly, trying to kick him underneath the table but only managing to jostle his chair instead.
“No,” Sirius said, keeping his gaze on Remus, despite the fact that he was once again studying the wood grain of the table. “I think I deserve to know why my boy--”
“Sirius.” Whenever Remus said his name like that, it always sliced right through whatever he was saying.
Pressing his lips together, Sirius took a deep breath. “I think I deserve to know why you disappeared up here, with only a promise to come back and no plans to follow through.”
“I lose track of time,” Remus said softly. “I forget what day it is. I keep meaning to come back, and all of a sudden it’s Sunday evening and I’ve missed the weekend.” He glanced up, and Sirius saw that shadow of desperation he was managing to keep out of his words. “I keep meaning to.”
Sirius leaned forward on the table and stopped just short of reaching over to place his hand on Remus’s arm. He saw Remus follow the aborted movement, however, and knew it was clear what he’d intended. “I want you to come home.”
Remus nodded, a sort of languid, rhythmic movement. “And I will,” he said. “Soon.”
“So,” James said, banging his hands down on the table, enough to jar both Remus and Sirius into a pair of startled smiles. “We’re here now, Moony, what’s there to do?”
With a soft snort, Remus shook his head. “If you told me you were coming, I would have told you not to. This is just about it, lads, sit in a pub and drink.”
“Now, that’s an activity we’re quite practiced at, wouldn’t you say?” James lifted his glass before taking a long sip. When he surfaced, he looked at Sirius and raised his eyebrows in mock concern. “But you there are falling behind, mate! What’s gotten into you?”
Sirius huffed a sigh and let an amused smile tug at his lips. “I’m getting there,” he said into his glass.
Remus spoke over the top of his tumbler, poised to take a sip when he’d finished. “Where are you two staying, anyway? Not here, I would’ve known about that.”
“Little place, the Kings Arms,” Sirius said. “Down in Abergavenny.”
Remus choked on his beer, sending him into a coughing fit as he slammed his glass down on the table and sloshed a further wave over his hand. Sirius leaned over and clapped him on the back. If he let his other hand linger on his shoulder for just a moment, so be it.
“I take you’ve heard of it then,” James said, his brow furrowed slightly in concern.
“No, I--” Remus coughed again into the crook of his elbow. “I mean yes, I’ve heard of it, it’s just--” He cut himself off as he swallowed and gave a quick shake of his head. “I’ve never thought of you two in Abergavenny, that’s all.”
As Remus’s coughing had subsided, Sirius had settled back into his own seat, albeit reluctantly, though he still sat perched on the edge, like a wind-up toy that just hadn’t yet been let go. “I don’t know why you ever would have,” he said.
Turning to look at Sirius, Remus was silent for a moment as he ran a hand over his jaw. He wasn’t avoiding Sirius’s eye, but there was still something unfocused about his gaze. “I grew up in Abergavenny,” he said finally. “This -- well, not this, down the hill -- is where I spent summers.”
“Moony,” James said, breathless and stunned. “This is where-- Abergavenny is your hometown?”
Remus nodded, and there was something defeated about the gesture, as though he were confessing to a crime he knew he didn’t commit but couldn’t prove otherwise.
“You have to show us,” Sirius said, pulling Remus’s attention again. How long he had wondered about where Remus had grown up, how many nights he’d spent conjuring images of various Welsh towns, of little cottages and a toddler-sized Remus running through its rooms. He never thought he’d have anything but his own imagination -- Remus had no photos, never spoke of his childhood, had never even told them the name of his town -- but now here they were, with the single best tour guide for the circumstances. “You have to take us around, Moony. We have to see it.”
Remus held his gaze for a moment, and Sirius could almost see the churning consideration behind his eyes, the moment he abandoned the possibility of objection and settled instead into a sort of solemn resignation.
“Alright,” he said. “When I’ve finished up here for the night, we’ll drive around a bit, and I’ll take you back to your hotel. But really,” he had been speaking to both of them, but now he focused distinctly on Sirius, “there isn’t much to see.”
James slammed his open palm on the table for the second time that night. “I’m sorry, Moony, did you say we’d drive around for a bit? Do you think--?”
“No,” Remus said firmly, and Sirius couldn’t help but laugh at the way the mischievous smile fell so quickly from James’s face. “I should have been more clear. No one but me will be behind the wheel tonight, got it?”
Both James and Sirius began to protest vehemently, but Remus simply held up his hand. “I don’t care how badly Lily wants you to learn how to drive, Prongs. I’ve told her time and again she’ll have to be the one to teach you.”
James slouched back in his chair with a disappointed little huff, and Remus looked around at their empty glasses. “Shall I get us another round?”
They sat and drank, talking and laughing, with Remus popping up now and again to help a customer who appeared at the bar, well into the evening. Finally Remus declared he could lock up the tavern for the night, and after a cursory cleaning (he promised himself he’d make up for it when he opened the next day), he bounded upstairs to retrieve his car keys and then led the other two outside.
“This is what you’ve been driving around?” Sirius asked as they approached the old car, sitting alone outside the pub. It was boxy, small, and had a line of paint down the side. He really couldn’t tell how Remus managed to fold himself into the front seat.
“Oh, come on, Pads, you’ve got an opinion about this, too?” James said as he ran a hand over the car and made his way around to the other side. He opened the back door, stood up on the threshold, and folded his arms on the roof. “What do you have to be picky about? You don’t know anything about cars!”
Sirius rolled his eyes as he walked toward the passenger side door. “I do know this probably wasn’t the top car on the market, even in its own year.”
Huffing out a laugh as they slid into their respective seats, Remus slipped the key into the ignition. “Yeah, well, you don’t exactly get pick of the lot when you’re picking up a car for what amounts to a couple of cigarettes and a packet of beef jerky.” He glanced over, took in Sirius’s horrified expression, and broke into a grin. “I’m kidding,” he said. But the next moment he locked eyes with James in the rearview mirror and mouthed, I’m not kidding. The backseat erupted with laughter.
Remus took the twists and turns on the dark roads down to Abergavenny like he knew them by heart, the emerald green of the trees and hills rushing past them on either side, briefly illuminated in the car’s dull headlights. Sirius, however, wasn’t looking at the scenery. He couldn’t take his eyes off Remus. They drove with all the windows down, because Remus claimed they were jammed and he couldn’t get them back up, but Sirius thought he would have chosen it anyway. The wind drowned out James’s seemingly endless chatter from the back seat, and it rushed through the curls on Remus’s forehead, sending them dancing across his brow, in a way that Sirius found mesmerizing.
The way Remus handled the car made it seem as though the only thing he’d done in his life was drive. He’d lit a cigarette nearly the moment they’d pulled onto the road, and he sat with it dangling between two fingers, his elbow resting on the open window ledge. His other hand lay lazily across the top of the steering wheel, and he seemed able to smoothly guide the car around various turns with just the slightest twitch of his wrist. And when he needed to switch gears, it was a seamless transition. He moved the cigarette to hang from the corner of his mouth, placed his now free hand on the wheel, and dropped the other to the gear shift. The car hardly hitched.
Watching Remus’s hand tense around the gear shift, the easy curl of his fingers behind the steering wheel, Sirius found himself moments away from asking him to pull over and shoving James out onto the side of the road. He settled for reaching over and placing a hand on Remus’s knee. This time, Remus glanced over and smiled around his cigarette.
When they reached town, Remus pulled easily into a spot on the main street. They hadn’t exactly left the pub on the early side, and many of the shops had locked their doors and turned out their lights, but Remus still led James and Sirius along. He walked mostly in silence, although every here and there he pointed out something he remembered from his youth -- the market his dad sent him to for groceries, the corner shop he used to hang around for the chance to grab a magazine or a pack of cigarettes, the intersection where he’d crashed his bike and cut open his knee. Sirius listened with rapt attention, and every place took on a slightly different sheen with Remus’s narration. He could almost see Remus sitting on the grass beside his upturned bike, loitering beneath the corner shop’s awning, turning down the sidewalk with a paper bag of groceries. In his head, they were all eleven. That was the youngest Remus he knew.
“Oh,” Remus said with slight surprise as they passed a shop that still had its lights on. They could see a middle aged man standing at the back behind the till, flipping through a book. “I can’t believe they’re still open. Come on.” He stepped up and held the door open for them.
James slipped inside, and Sirius stopped on the threshold to ask, “What is it?”
“A little secondhand shop.” Remus herded him inside, letting the door close behind them and the bell jingle above. “I couldn’t always afford the records at the shop down the street, so I’d come here and see if anybody had left something off. Found older stuff usually, you know, but it was the best I could do.”
Sirius smiled slightly and glanced around. James was already nearly elbow deep in one of the boxes, digging through and pulling out items to momentarily examine them before letting them drop back into the disorganized jumble. The man behind the counter had lifted his head at the sound of the bell and was now staring intently at Remus, confusion evident in the wrinkle of his brow.
Stepping up beside Remus, where he was already rifling through a box of records, Sirius leaned back on his elbows and said quietly. “Do you know him? The guy who works here?”
Remus glanced quickly over his shoulder before back down into the box in front of him. “He looks like the same guy who ran the shop when I was a kid,” he said. “But I can’t imagine he has any idea who I am.”
At the sound of his name, however, Remus straightened, stiffened, and turned. Sirius followed his gaze to find that the man had come out from behind the counter and was walking slowly through the shelves towards them.
“Remus?” he said again. And then, in Welsh, “Is that you?”
He had slipped his hands into his pockets, no doubt, Sirius thought, because he didn’t know what else to do with them, and he was watching the man approach with an evident sense of disbelief. He couldn’t seem to shake the shock, because he answered in English. “You remember me?”
Suddenly the man’s face broke into a wide grin. “Oi, I can’t believe it! Little Remus Lupin. Not so little anymore though, eh?” He looked up to the top of Remus’s head and chuckled. “Thought you’d disappeared for good, we did. How have you been? What brings you back?”
It was several rounds of opening and closing his mouth before Remus could find the words. “I-- I’ve been good,” he said, taking a moment to clear his throat. “I’m actually just-- on holiday. Wasn’t too far, figured we’d drop in. I’m sorry, though, you said we?”
The shopkeeper clasped his hands together in front of him. “Aye, the other owners on the block and me. It’s hard to forget a bright little boy like you. We’re always wondering what you’ve gotten up to when we get together and chat. Just as long as you promise not to nick anything from my shop this time around, eh?”
Remus’s face and neck had gone a deep, blotchy red, and he tucked his chin, letting his hair fall over his forehead. “You-- you knew about that?” he asked, nearly breathlessly.
The depth and sincerity of the man’s laugh startled all three of them alike -- James even looked up from his scavenging on the other side of the shop -- and it was a moment before he could answer. “Of course we knew. Don’t survive very long in a little town like this if you don’t know where your inventory’s going.”
Now, Remus seemed to blanch. “Well, why didn’t you ever say anything?” he asked. There was a pleading note to his voice. “I should never-- I mean, I was a stupid kid, but it doesn’t excuse-- can I pay you now? Whatever you think is fair?”
The shopkeeper waved him off, that easy smile still on his face. “Come now, come now,” he said. “It was nothing. We always knew you didn’t mean any harm by it, what was the point of raising a whole big fuss? Anyway, I’m sure you’ve kicked the habit, it’s in the past.”
Remus blinked at him, eyes wide. “Certainly,” he managed.
“Come, come then,” the shopkeeper said, waving him over toward a back corner of the shop. “I remember you always did like records, didn’t you? I’ve got a few more I haven’t put out yet, come take a look.”
Glancing at Sirius, Remus offered a little shrug before following the shopkeeper back through the shelves, leaving Sirius to wind his way over to James. He had moved on from his first box of interest and was now digging through what looked like an entire pile of old family photographs.
Sirius leaned over his shoulder, plucking one from the throng and examining it for a moment before letting it fall back in. “Why on earth would someone bring these to a secondhand shop?” he said quietly. “Who’s going to buy someone else’s family photographs?”
James shrugged. “I think they’re kind of nice,” he said, flipping through a stack in his hands and letting each one fall back into the box after he’d looked it over. “They’re like, a sort of window into someone’s life, you know? You don’t think that’s worth looking through?”
“I didn’t say that,” Sirius said, leaning against the shelf with his hip and crossing his arms over his chest. “My question is just, why would you buy it?”
“Maybe you find one that just really-- OI!” James let every photo except for one tumble back into the box. He gripped the little polaroid with both hands, and then turned to Sirius with wide eyes.
“Alright, Pads,” he said slowly. “If you think I’ve gone mad, you have to tell me, okay? But I don’t think I have, this is just-- it’s too remarkable.”
“What on earth are you on about?”
Before Sirius had even finished the question, James turned the photo around and shoved it into his face. “Tell me,” he said, tapping one side of the photo with his index finger, “that isn’t Remus’s dad.”
Sirius nearly gasped as he practically ripped the photo from James’s hands, bringing it close to his chest so he could look down at it without the glare of the overhead lights. James moved around to stand by his shoulder.
“If that’s Lyall, then that would be…” Sirius trailed off as his eyes grazed over the woman beside Lyall, and the little toddler standing between them, grasping one of their hands each.
“Remus,” James said quietly. “And his mum.”
It had been a long time since Sirius had been rendered truly speechless. If there were anything, however, that he found himself thinking about more than the places in which Remus had grown up, it was what his mum looked like. His dad had been in the papers, had been cited in magical academic articles, and they’d always said Remus was the spitting image of him. That being the case, though, Sirius had very little to go off of when he thought of Hope. She was a faceless entity, haunting his mental constructions of Remus’s childhood, but now all of a sudden here she was, looking up at him with a serene and nearly blissful smile. It took Sirius a moment to realize that the dimple Remus got in his cheek when he laughed came from his mum.
“We have to show him,” James said, and he’d snatched the photo back from Sirius before he could so much as open his mouth. They wound back through the shop and found Remus flipping through a stack of records, nodding along as the shopkeeper commented here and there about each one. With little regard for the ongoing conversation, James stepped right up between them and slapped the photograph down on the topmost record Remus was holding.
“Tell me that isn’t you,” he said. There was a shadow of triumph in his voice, as though this were exactly the thing he’d been looking for, and Sirius knew even before he saw Remus’s shoulders begin to slump that it was nowhere close to what Remus would feel when he looked at this photo.
“That…” Remus trailed off with a slow shake of his head, placing the records back into their box and pinching the edge of the photo between thumb and forefinger. “Yeah. That’s me. Us.”
“I can hardly believe it,” James said. “And what are the odds? Digging that out of one of the boxes back there? But really, Moony, look at that! You all look so happy.”
Remus stared intently at the picture for a moment, and Sirius watched the shadow descend over his expression. “I must have been about three here,” he said quietly, finally looking up at James with that hard gaze. “Which means this was, well… before.”
James’s entire face fell, and he opened his mouth to begin a profuse apology, Sirius was sure, but Remus had turned back to the shopkeeper before he could get a single word out.
“Where did you get this?” he asked politely. “And do you happen to know if there were others?”
The shopkeeper hardly glanced at the photo before he was nodding. “Your father came in a few years ago, boxes and boxes of things. A couple were just full of photos. Must’ve been clearing things out of the house before he left.”
Sirius could have sworn he felt every muscle in Remus’s body stiffen, but he certainly saw the way the edge of the photo crinkled under his thumb as he tightened his grip.
“He left?” Remus asked quietly.
The shopkeeper nodded again. “Don’t ask me where he was going, ‘cause I couldn’t tell you that. But he was up and out of here like anything, just a few years ago now.”
Remus swallowed, and he placed the photo down on the counter, pressing his palm flat over it for a moment. “Thanks for everything tonight,” he said finally. The words were somewhat stilted, rough at the edges of the syllables. “It’s late, and we should get going. We don’t want to keep you.”
“Oh, it’s been nothing, lad!” the shopkeeper said with a wave of his hand. “Grand to see you back in here. You have a good night then, eh?”
Even the nod Remus gave to the man before he turned to go was stiff, and his hand trailed off the photograph nearly in slow motion, as though there were some part of him that didn’t want to leave it behind. Before following him back toward the front of the shop, Sirius slipped the photo off the counter and into his pocket.
He reached Remus’s side just as he was pushing the door open with his shoulder, and the tinkling bell nearly obscured his question. “You didn’t know?” He glanced back to see James making his way toward the front of the shop. “That your dad left?”
Remus looked down at his feet, then met Sirius’s eye for just a moment before looking off down the street again. He clenched his jaw. “No. I didn’t know.”
James pushed through the door behind them, rubbing his hands together. “So! Where to now, lads?”
They looked expectantly at Remus, who was standing nearly as still as a statue except for the nervous way he was jingling the car keys in his fist.
“I want to go to the house,” he said after a moment.
“The house?” James asked.
“Your house?” Sirius said at the same time.
Remus only nodded before setting off down the sidewalk back toward where they’d parked the car.
The car rolled to a stop at the end of a long dirt drive, brush pushing in from either side and whispering against the metal. A small wooden cottage stood before them, so dark it nearly blended in with the trees behind it. A number of the windows were boarded or broken, and the whole house looked merely like a shadow of the family home that must have once occupied this little clearing.
Sirius looked over and found Remus staring intently out the windshield, hunched over the steering wheel, which he was gripping tightly with both hands. His grip was so strong his knuckles were turning white, as though he were trying to hold on to the reins of a horse that might bolt at any moment rather than the steering wheel of a stationary car. James leaned up between the two front seats and cocked his head to get a better look.
“That’s it, then?” he asked. He seemed to have processed his mistake back at the shop to some extent, because his voice was a lot gentler than it had been when he’d introduced the photograph.
Remus managed to pry one of his hands from the steering wheel and gestured vaguely to one side of the house now nearly entirely lost to a series of overgrown bushes. “That’s where I used to hide my bike,” he said quietly. “I wasn’t allowed… I didn’t want my dad to find it.”
The rest of the car remained silent, but Remus didn’t seem to take that as discouragement. In fact, he hardly seemed to register it at all. “And we used to have a garden, under the front window, just there,” he pointed. “My room was toward the back, you can’t see it from here. I used to… there was a drain pipe just by my window I would climb down to sneak out. Most nights.” There, he seemed to falter.
James gripped his shoulder. “What do you think? You wanna go inside, mate?”
Remus turned to look at him. “You want to break in? To my old house?”
“Well, it’s your house, isn’t it?” James shrugged. “Clearly no one else has moved in, so I say it’s yours.”
Before anyone could respond, James had climbed out of the car and thrown the door shut behind him. He was striding across the lawn before Remus and Sirius had even gotten out of their seatbelts.
“That’s not exactly how the law works,” Remus muttered, but he got out and followed all the same.
It took very little to jiggle the lock and get the door open, and in no time, the three of them were standing in the bare bones of what had been Remus’s childhood living room. It was clear Lyall had gotten rid of a lot, but he’d left the foundations, the pieces hardest to move. The couch still sat in the middle of the room, cushions dull and dusty, and a lamp still stood in one of the corners. None of them spoke. Nothing seemed like the right thing to say.
Slowly, they broke off in their own directions, and Sirius climbed the creaking stairs to the second floor. There was a small landing, a narrow hall, and a closed door at the end of it. The room behind it would have faced toward the back of the lot, and Sirius knew what he would find before he even closed his fingers around the doorknob.
The walls were still covered in pages ripped from magazines, from textbooks, notebook paper covered edge to edge in Remus’s messy, nearly unreadable hand. There was an old faded football poster, maps pasted up beside diagrams of constellations and city streets Remus had tried to draw for himself. The textbook sheets had maintained their glossy sheen and were hung in rows beside the bed -- still unmade, as though Remus had just gotten out of bed that morning -- with little notations crammed into the margins.
“Is this what you expected?
Sirius turned at the sound of Remus’s voice and found him leaning against the door jamb, hands in his pockets, and he couldn’t help but smile.
“I don’t know what I was expecting,” he said, as Remus took a couple of steps farther into the room, “but this all seems very fitting. I can’t believe he left this all behind like this.”
The amused glint vanished from Remus’s eye as he glanced around, and he reached out and let his fingers brush over one of the curling edges of a tacked up piece of paper. “I can,” he said. “He wasn’t exactly ever the sentimental type.”
“But to clear out everything else,” Sirius said. “And leave all this? It looks like he hardly even came in here.”
“Wouldn’t surprise me. He didn’t much while I was home, I can imagine it was even less when I wasn’t here. It was really the one place that I felt…” Remus shook his head slightly. “It was like I was living in his house, but this was mine.”
Sirius watched him closely. “What made it feel like that?” he asked gently.
“I made it that way.” The flicker of mirth flashed again in Remus’s eye, and he gestured for Sirius to come over by the closet. He opened the door and ran his hand up the jamb, stopping about two-thirds of the way up.
“Here, replace my hand with yours,” he said, and Sirius stepped up beside him to slip his hand beneath Remus’s against the wood. “You feel that?”
Sirius could just feel the nicks in the molding underneath his fingers, and he ran them slowly up and down. Some were easy to figure out, simple lines slashed into the doorway, but others were more complicated, and he could have sworn they were letters. “What are these?”
“I used to try and keep track of my height,” Remus said softly from just behind him. “They’re probably wildly inaccurate, since I had to try to measure myself and mark the spot all at once, but I’d cut it into the wood, and then I’d try to scratch the date in beside it.”
Sirius let out a laugh. “There’s a great big gap here.” He reached a bit higher to hit the next mark. “This must’ve been when you sprouted like a tree over fourth year.”
“Which reminds me,” Remus said suddenly, and with the briefest of touches to Sirius’s waist he moved back to the middle of the room. “If these are still… Well, I’m sure you’ll get a kick out of this.” He knelt by the foot of his bed and began pressing on the old floorboards until one gave way beneath the heel of his hand. He caught the other end and held it up as he fished around beneath the floor and retrieved an old, leatherbound journal.
“I used to keep these over the summer,” he said, pushing himself back to his feet and holding the book out to Sirius, who had followed him across the room to this new discovery. “This is the one I filled after fourth year.”
Sirius took the journal but looked up at Remus with a questioning lift of his brow. “What exactly am I about to find in here?” He tried to sound wary, but he couldn’t help the teasing edge that crept in.
Remus only smiled. “Open it.”
Flipping to a random page, Sirius found an entry dated in mid-July and quickly scanned down the hurried handwriting. Much to his astonishment, his own name jumped out at him, nearly every other sentence.
“You wrote about… me?”
“Don’t get all warm and fuzzy yet,” Remus said through a laugh. “Read some of it.”
Sirius returned his attention to the notebook and cleared his throat. “I think I lost an entire year of studies to staring at Sirius,” he read. “ He’s gorgeous. It’s ridiculous. And the worst part is that he knows it, and I hate him for that. You know what, I think I just hate him. I can hate him and still think he’s fit, can’t I? ”
“You know, I think the sentiment still stands,” Remus said, and Sirius slapped him across the chest with the journal.
“You bastard,” he said, sending Remus into a peal of laughter. But he looked down at the notebook again, studying the way Remus had scratched out his name all those years ago. After another moment, he asked, “You really thought I was fit?”
Remus groaned. “You still are, and you’re still as ridiculous as ever, you know that?”
Now it was Sirius’s turn to laugh, and he brushed past Remus to kneel down and return to the notebook to its hiding place. As he was pushing the floorboard back into position, he happened to glance under the bed and noticed a stack of magazines nearly lost in shadow.
“And what might these be?” he said. Remus tried to object, but Sirius had already pulled them out into the dim moonlight and was flipping through the covers, his eyes growing ever wider.
“Remus Lupin,” he said in a hushed tone as he pushed himself back to his feet. “These are men’s underwear catalogs. Don’t tell me this is what you were nicking from the shops!”
Remus had gone bright red and was running a hand up the back of his head, letting his fingers curl in his hair. “Oh, shut it,” he mumbled, making a grab for the stack of magazines, but Sirius kept them out of his reach. “Couldn’t exactly buy them, could I? Don’t act like you’ve never done the same.”
Many of the pages were still folded down at the corners, and Sirius was looking at these particularly, unable to keep from laughing to himself. Whenever he landed on one just bordering on obscene, he lifted it to show Remus, who kept, unsuccessfully, trying to rip it out of Sirius’s hands.
“Oh, this is too good, Moony,” he said, shaking his head as he continued to flip through the pages. He stopped on one and folded the cover back, holding it up in front of his chest to show Remus. “Is this what I should wear to bed next time? Think I could still put in an order through the catalog?”
Remus reached out again, and Sirius held the magazine out to the side, but Remus was going for his waist instead and pulled him close. “Trust me,” he said, wrapping his arms more tightly around Sirius’s back. “I’ve never been disappointed.”
Letting the magazine drop to the floor, Sirius looped his arms around Remus’s neck and ran his fingers through the curls there. “So now I get to touch you?”
Remus huffed a soft breath of laughter and leaned in closer. “Isn’t it some sort of rite of passage to snog in your childhood bedroom?”
Just before their lips met, they heard an immense crash from downstairs, and they sprang apart. They looked at each other for a moment as they heard the front door slam, and then both immediately went for the stairs. They found James pacing on the front lawn, one hand firmly on his hip and the other running continuously through his hair. He didn’t even look at them when they approached, merely stayed his course across the overgrown grass.
James came to such a quick halt that they could practically hear tires screeching on asphalt. He whirled on Remus, and pointed a strong, accusing finger back toward the house. “I went down to the basement,” he said through heaving breaths. “I went down to the fucking torture chamber under that godforsaken house. I-- You-- I can’t believe--” He ran his hands up over his face and dropped down to a squat, shaking his head slowly from side to side.
“Prongs--” Remus tried again, but suddenly James was back on his feet, and all of the anger had flared once again to the surface.
“I don’t know what you’re going to say,” he practically spit. “But it doesn’t matter. Because I can’t think of a single thing you could say that would ever make me feel better about the fact that that-- that that exists.” He pinched the bridge of his nose and squeezed his eyes shut. “I’m leaving. We’re leaving. I’ll be in the car.”
As James stalked off across the grass, Sirius turned to Remus with his hands out and eyebrows raised in a sort of, What was that all about? gesture.
Remus sighed, and looked back toward the house over his shoulder. “The basement is where I used to spend full moons. It was the only part of the house my dad could secure well enough. So I’m sure there are a number of, well… security measures he left behind.”
Every inch of Sirius’s body went numb, right down to his toes, and he stepped up close to Remus and took his face between his hands. He waited until Remus found his eyes with his own and then said, “Do you want to burn it down?”
There was a flash of alarm in Remus’s eyes, but Sirius held firm and ran a thumb over his cheekbone. “I’m serious, Moony. If you want to burn this house to the ground, we’ll make it happen.”
They stood still and silent for a moment before Remus leaned in and pressed a light kiss to Sirius’s forehead. “I’m afraid that wouldn’t do anything about the basement, love.”
When they arrived back at the hotel, James nearly had the door open before the car had come to a complete stop, and he was up the stairs by the time Remus and Sirius stepped inside. As they stood in front of Sirius’s door, he looked down the hall to James’s and shook his head slightly as he fished his key out of his pocket.
“He’s being dramatic.” Sirius pushed the door open and led the way into the small room.
“You would be the expert on dramatics,” Remus said as he followed him in and let the door click closed behind him.
Sirius rolled his eyes and dropped the keys onto the nightstand with a clatter. “I’m just glad we got separate rooms.”
“I’m surprised.” Remus leaned up against the wall and slipped his hands into his pockets. “Didn’t think the two of you could spend the night alone, honestly.”
Unbuttoning his collar, Sirius turned to Remus with lifted brows. “You think after living with that,” he gestured in the general direction of James’s room, “for seven years, I’d want to do it again? Madness, Moony. That’s madness.”
Remus pushed off the wall and crossed the room, sitting down on the edge of the bed. “Well I’d better be careful then, shouldn’t I?” he said. “For all I know you might get sick of me, too.”
Despite the glimmer of a smile at the edge of his lips, something tightened in Sirius’s chest. He moved over and slipped in between Remus’s knees. As he placed his hands on Remus’s shoulders, trailing them up the side of his neck, Remus’s hands found their way to Sirius’s waist, and he looked up expectantly into Sirius’s face.
“Never,” Sirius said quietly. He slowly lowered himself so he was straddling Remus, one knee on either side of his hips, and he tossed his hair over one shoulder. “Do you hear me? I could never be sick of you.”
After taking a deep breath, Remus let his hands run up over Sirius’s back, and he turned and kissed the palm of one of his hands that had found its way to his jaw. He let his eyes fall closed, and he kept them closed even as he started talking.
“I came all this way.” His hands came back to rest on Sirius’s hips, and his grip tightened for a moment. “I left London, I came to Wales, to my fucking hometown, and I don’t feel any closer to figuring any of it out. In fact,” his eyes fluttered open, and they flickered between Sirius’s in an earnest search, for what Sirius wasn’t quite sure, “I feel a little bit further from myself.”
Sirius sighed, letting his forehead come to rest against Remus’s as he ran his thumb over cheek, the stubble prickling beneath his skin.
“I told you Evans was filling your head with nonsense,” he murmured. “You didn’t need to get out of London.”
“I could hardly hear myself think.”
Sirius pulled back, perching himself more securely in Remus’s lap and running both hands back through his curls. “Yes, it’s loud.” He watched one of the warm, brown locks of hair curl around his fingers and then fall back with the others. “It’s busy. But it’s London. It’s where your life is now, Remus. It’s where your life is.”
Remus merely watched him. His fingers had dipped beneath Sirius’s shirt, and he was making slow circles with his thumbs over Sirius’s sides. When he continued to sit in silence, Sirius pressed on.
“You’re not this kid anymore,” he said, dropping his hands to Remus’s chest and beginning to play with a stray thread at the collar of his t-shirt. “That’s not your house anymore. You didn’t need anything from this place, because it didn’t have anything to give you.”
“But I grew up here,” Remus said quietly. “That’s-- That’s a part of me. This town, and everything that happened in it, or in that house. It always will be.”
Sirius dropped his head forward for a moment and closed his eyes. He felt Remus’s fingers still against his skin. “But that’s what I’m trying to say.” He tossed his head back and shook the hair out of his eyes. “That might be true, but you’re more than this place. And that’s why there isn’t anything for you here, at least I don’t think the sort of answers you’re looking for.”
A light sort of contentment had started to replace the somber glint of his amber eyes, but even as Remus tilted his chin up and pulled Sirius closer to him, Sirius kept on talking. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d been the one to delay a kiss -- a kiss, that in this case, had been weeks in the making.
“In fact,” he said, wrapping his arms around Remus’s shoulders. “I don’t think you need anything from anywhere. I don’t think you ever had to leave London in the first place, and it’s not just because I didn’t want you to go.”
Remus hummed softly. “Why is it, then?”
“Because you’re going to figure out what you want no matter where you are, Moony,” Sirius whispered. “Because it’s about you. It’s about what you want. Regardless of where in the world you are.” He leaned in to close the distance between them but then pulled back suddenly, fixing Remus with a stern look. “But I better be there.”
Sirius could tell Remus was trying not to smile, from the way he was biting hard on his lower lip, but the expression came through all the same. “You think so?”
“I do.” Sirius gave a definitive nod.
“Well, you might be right,” Remus said, pulling Sirius back toward him with a gentle but steady pressure on his hips, “because I can already think of one thing I want.”
“And what would that be?”
Remus’s lips finally -- finally -- found Sirius’s, and Sirius melted into him, pressing as close as he possibly could. The softness of Remus’s hair between his fingers, the calluses on Remus’s hands against his back, the scratch of Remus’s stubble against his lips, it all blended together into a single sensation so strong it wiped clear any thought that popped into Sirius’s head.
When they pulled apart for breath, Remus rocked his forehead against Sirius’s and murmured, “Take a guess.”