Sirius had thought a date night would be all they needed. The romantic, passion-filled evenings were few and far between now and had been for the past three years. Date night had gone from slow walks in Hogsmeade and weekend getaways to the seaside and morning cafe trips to falling asleep on the couch and kisses squeezed in between one of them being in the shower and one of them at the bathroom counter.
When the crack in the foundation first appeared, Sirius ignored it, naming it grief and deciding it was just going to be something else they were going to have to live with. Like the tapestry in the sitting room at Number 12. They could make jokes about it, they could cover it up with glamorous velvet curtains and decorate it with snowflakes for the holidays, but it was still there. Sirius stepped around the crack because there were other things holding him and Remus together. There was still love to be had. And besides that, Sirius was used to broken things. He was used to moving through the world as a fragmented person, even more so since the death of his best friends, leaving holes that couldn't be filled with flowers or firewhiskey or countless casseroles from well-meaning onlookers. He had gone from World’s Coolest Godfather to One of Two People This Kid has Left in a single, terrible night and that was something Sirius just had to live with as well. Sirius could deal with broken.
But a single crack wasn’t the same as a shift in tectonic plates. Sirius couldn’t attribute it to grief or paperwork or the juggling of glass balls neither Sirius nor Remus thought they would have in their hand. Sirius struggled to keep his balance with every invisible, unspoken argument and every off-handed remark from both of their mouths.
Until date night ended, and Sirius stood in the kitchen pouring expensive champagne down the drain, Remus disappearing into the shower. Harry was at the Weasleys for the night, and at the beginning of the day, Sirius had been looking forward to ending it in bed on top of Remus. There were still rose petals in the bedroom, which he was certain Remus had probably moved out of the way to get to their bathroom. Nevermind the soap Sirius had bought with the intention of enjoying a long bath with his husband; nevermind the chocolate-covered strawberries in the fridge; nevermind the record player still spinning Carole King.
Because what was supposed to be date night had turned into the first night Sirius could hear it.
The ground rumbling beneath his feet.
The flash of lightning, striking the same place twice.
Their hearts fracturing along identical fault lines for the millionth time.
The way Sirius had said my dear and stalled, sounding just like his father as he did so. Because Orion Black did not love his wife, she was an asset; a business transaction. Terms of endearment were always accompanied by my to remind her where she belonged, to whom she belonged. And not that Sirius thought Remus belonged to him because they were married. No. My, in this case, was said with bitterness, shame, guilt, and contempt for still being attached to this other man entirely.
What happened to the person who used to be proud to love this man?
Sirius sighed, going upstairs to their bedroom, and into the bathroom. He waited, leaning against the counter until the water stopped running, thinking about seventeen and the years they spent showering together or not at all. Space too small for the both of them unless bodies were pressed together so tightly, they were practically one person. Knees knocking, hearts pounding in tandem, sharing soap and dreams for their future under hot water.
Remus stepped out, grabbing a towel to put around his waist.
“I’m sorry,” Sirius said first.
“I’m sorry too.”
Sirius swallowed and looked down at the ground, daring himself to be brave enough to say this next part. “I can’t do this anymore, Remus.”
“So we don’t try date night again.”
“That’s not what I mean and you know it.”
Sirius picked his head back up. Remus hadn’t moved any closer.
A silence as wide as the ocean flung between them. Sirius could’ve shouted and it wouldn’t have made a difference.
“I thought… it was just…everything else. But I think it’s actually us that’s the problem. Because everything else is pretty great, all things considered.”
“You said my like I’m a burden.”
“And I said I was sorry.”
"You always do..." Remus looked away from Sirius, crossing his arms over his chest protectively. "Do we fix it? Us? Or are you done?”
“I’m willing to try.”
“Some…muggles go to counseling. We could try that but fuck Sirius, you’re going to have to talk to me.”
“And you’re going to have to stop making lists of the ways I’ve disappointed you to throw back in my face when it’s convenient.”
“I'm willing to try too."
"You don't have to knock, Moony..." Harry said, his hand holding onto Remus' as they waited outside the door of Grimmauld Place, though it looked different these days with its mustard yellow door and its wipe your paws welcome mat. "The magic knows us!"
"I'm...going to knock because it's the polite thing to do when you don't live somewhere anymore," Remus explained gently, looking down at Harry. His weekend bag was over Remus's shoulder full of clothes that Remus didn't get around to washing, while Harry clutched that weekend's art project in his hand, eager to show Sirius.
"Can you at least do a fun knock? Like jingle bells?" asked Harry and Remus smiled, reaching up his fist to rap out a pattern to the rhythm of his favorite Christmas song, Harry giggling and adding his own off-tempo knocks. The door opened, Sirius standing there with a confused expression on his face at the noise that probably didn't sound one bit like jingle bells. It probably sounded like impatience if anything.
"Padfoot!" Harry exclaimed, rushing towards the other man and throwing his arms around his legs. Sirius bent over to kiss Harry on the top of his head, tattooed arms returning the embrace. Remus felt the familiar pain return.
How do long do you think the ache will last? He had been asking anyone and everyone he could find but hadn't come any closer to finding an answer. It had been months since they had separated, months since Remus had temporarily moved into a spare bedroom in Number 12 before finding his own flat. Months since the ministry wanted to take Harry away entirely from him. Remus counted his blessings every day that he got every other weekend and a month in the summer. And still...it wasn't enough to completely diminish the burn in his chest when he saw Sirius. When he saw Sirius with their kid, in the place he had once considered home.
He knocked now.
"I made a drawing with Remus, can I put it on the fridge?" Harry asked, pulling away from Sirius' knees to smile up at his godfather.
"Can you put it on the fridge? What kind of ridiculous question is that, my love? Of course, you can put it on the fridge! Right next to your other....ones..." Sirius smiled as he watched Harry take off into the home, turning his head to follow him until he disappeared down the hallway entirely.
"Uh...here's his bag. I didn't have time to wash before drop off so..."
"Don't worry about it," Sirius waved him off, taking the backpack from Remus.
And this was the part Remus hated the most. The awkward space between drop off and leaving again; between stay and go; between I love you and I can't do this anymore. Remus shifted on his feet and cleared his throat.
"Was he alright this weekend?" Sirius asked
"He didn't sleep well..." Remus trailed off. Harry never napped at Remus's flat. And why would he? When the room was smaller; when the sheets were rougher; when there was certainly more noise at Remus' flat than in the quiet palace of Grimmauld Place. When Sirius wasn't in the house. Something about monsters in closets, and Remus just wasn't the right person to scare those away.
"He'll probably pass out right after dinner," Sirius smiled, "What's the picture?"
"We did some string art....painted all over the kitchen. I'm sure he'll tell you about it."
"You always did the most creative things..."
"I saw a squirrel in your yard," Remus said quickly, hating that nowadays he grasped at anything to start a conversation when once upon another time, Sirius was his favorite person to talk about nothing with.
"Mhmm?" Sirius asked raising an eyebrow and laughing a little, "How's work?"
"Oh...you know," Remus shrugged, "How's...yours?"
"Still don't work, Moons. Not that much has changed in 9 months."
Remus bit his tongue to keep from saying that everything seemingly changed overnight between them. One moment Remus was thinking the couples counseling was working, the next Sirius was at the foot of their bed saying I don’t have it in me to keep trying, Remus. I'm so tired. And maybe Remus was resentful. Because Sirius didn't let anything go.
Sirius remembered the name of the kid who pushed his brother into the mud when he was five years old and for years into Hogwarts played pranks on this unsuspecting Slytherin.
Sirius remembered the ministry officials who had doubted him and weren't going to give him a fair trial after Lily and James had died, never forgiving Dumbledore for standing by idly.
Sirius remembered the coffee shop he went to once that accidentally sweetened Remus's coffee and they never went there again.
Stubborn, opinionated, entitled, relentless, passionate, protective Sirius Black didn't let anything go.
Except for Remus.
"I should...be getting back," Remus said, "Tell him I said--"
"You can say goodbye to him, here--"
"No, Sirius, it's okay, he's clearly happy to be home."
"Hey," Sirius' eyebrows furrowed, "It's just--"
"An adjustment, I know." Remus' hands went into his pockets fingers hitting car keys. An old beat-up thing Remus had bought on a used lot. Because Remus was competing with centuries of money, and a massive house, and a luxury car and a motorcycle and blood wards and a piece of paper from James and Lily who specified who was the godfather and who…wasn’t. Because Remus didn't need another reason for the courts to deem him an unfit parent-- suppose there's an emergency at your child's muggle school Mr. Lupin, do you intend to apparate there? "I'll see you in two weeks."
"Yeah, I should..." Sirius inclined his head back towards the inside of the house, "Invitation for dinner is still standing. Whenever you...want."
But I won't.