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That Old Black Magic

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Remus Lupin is of the mind that being 16 is nothing short of intolerable.

It's a nothing age, an age where you're absolutely not a child but you're not an adult either, at least not in the eyes of anybody that counts. 16 is an age where as much as you yell and punch your bedroom door in a fit of temper, so hard you wonder if you've broken your fist, you don't actually get much of a say in anything.

Ever.

You get asked your opinions but it's just an appeasement because – guess what? Those opinions? They mean absolutely nothing. So when your parents decide that, actually, being home-schooled isn't going to offer you the same kind of education as attending school – and won’t leave you prepared for a world that's never going to be accepting of what you are – the fact that you don't want to leave home (and really, dealing with your furry little problem in your own cellar has been your saviour) doesn't even matter.

Because of that, because being 16 is dreadful, Remus finds himself here, in the halls of Hogwarts, clutching his pile of books so tightly his fingers are white. He is trying (and mostly failing) to convince himself that he is not going to spontaneously transform and wreak havoc on the school, nor is he seconds away from being beaten within an inch of his life. The worst part of it is that’s he’s late – as in, several days late. The full moon had coincided with the start of term (of course it had, because nothing in his life is ever simple), so Remus hadn’t been able to take the train, he’d missed the sorting and had thus been forced to have an excruciatingly embarrassing private ceremony in Dumbledore’s office. Headmaster Dumbledore is nothing if not warm and welcoming and more than a little bit eccentric but still, Remus hates being the centre of attention. He hasn’t even seen the Great Hall yet, much less had a meal in it; he hasn’t slept in his own bed in the Gryffindor dormitory yet; and he is well aware that showing up now, when Hogwarts has been in session for four days, is going to make him the opposite of inconspicuous.

Swept up in a sea of dark robes (with the odd splash of colour) and loud voices and jostling, he thinks it’s all so rowdy and none of it feels even remotely comfortable. Remus longs for the familiar peace of his kitchen table and the typical pile of books owled to his house directly from Diagon Alley, longs for them so badly it makes him feel sick.

He takes a deep breath, looking at the timetable and hall pass clutched in his free hand, and hopes against hope that he manages to find his first class on time and doesn't have to use the pass – anything to not draw attention to himself. He rounds the corner and stops. Dead.

Not alive but very dead.

Because Sweet Merlin, Remus didn't think guys that beautiful existed outside of the black and white Muggle movies he likes to watch on his dad’s VCR.

Or existed outside his imagination, frankly.

But there he is, this boy leaning casually against the wall and throwing his head back, laughing with abandon at something the small brown-haired girl by his side is saying. His robes hang open and he’s wearing the tightest trousers Remus has ever seen – Gods, how did he even get into them? – and then these boots which Remus is sure must violate the dress code which he’d pored over studiously. And his hair is perfectly tousled, like he doesn’t even pay attention to what it looks like but it’s incapable of working against him: scruffy and falling in his eyes and– fuck, Remus can feel himself start to harden just looking at the boy because being 16 is truly intolerable... and Remus seems to have lost the ability to move and he's just standing, staring.

Way to not draw attention to yourself, Remus. The boy, probably because he feels like he's burning under the weight of Remus' stare, turns around. His gaze is hard, jaw set and eyes almost daring. Remus absolutely does not want to get into a fight on his first day (or, in fact, ever) so why can't he move at all? But something seems to shift in the boy’s eyes and he whispers something to his friend; she turns and looks at Remus, giggles, walks off and then,

'I certainly haven't seen you around before.' His voice is like music, deep and gently teasing, like it’s just barely covering up a laugh and Remus wants to record it and listen to it every night before he goes to sleep – and wow, that even sounds creepy in his head. A slightly confused look crops up on the boy’s face and it's probably because enough time has passed he's wondering whether or not Remus is mute.

'No.' Remus clears his throat, tries again: 'No, I'm new. First day. I’ve been ill?' It comes out like a question, although he doesn’t know why – perhaps because he’s an idiot – but the boy doesn’t seem to notice. He just smiles, just a little, just the slightest curving of pink, pink lips that Remus really needs to touch and Gods, what he needs is to get a grip.

‘That explains the little lost lamb look a bit more, then. Also explains the perfectly knotted tie.’ He gestures to Remus' collar and the young man reaches up to fumble with the item in question a little self-consciously, wondering if he’s inadvertently committed some kind of cardinal sin; is he going to be ripped to shreds just because he wanted to look presentable?

‘Oh, don’t look so panicked.’ The boy laughs a little. ‘I think it’s kind of...it suits you. I just meant there’s not a lot of people ‘round here that care about the dress code and don’t also have their head shoved up their arse. That’s all.’

‘You obviously don’t... Care, I mean. You look fantastic.’ Damn, he needs to learn to think before he speaks because that sounded just like flirting. Remus knows next to nothing about this school, about this boy; whilst he has no plans to go back in the closet any time ever, he also knows that there’s no use looking for trouble either.

The boy just nods. ‘Of course I do.’ Then he holds out a hand and Remus takes it, gingerly. His fingers are long, a little bit of dirt beneath his fingernails and his skin is so soft, Remus kind of wants to never let go.

‘I’m Sirius Black.’

‘Remus. Remus Lupin.’ He fumbles over his words a little, his nerves making him talk too fast. It’s his name, it’s been the same for 16 years – so why, all of a sudden, does he feel like he barely knows what he’s saying? His face is bright red, he knows it is. Remus just wants to die.

‘Well, it’s a pleasure to meet you, Remus Remus Lupin.’ Sirius proceeds to grab Remus' timetable, points him in the right direction and salutes him, once, mouth still curved in that almost smile. Then he’s gone and Remus is in love.

: :

Hogwarts actually isn’t as bad as Remus thought it was going to be; he always did have a tendency to over-dramatise everything in his head, and he finds himself feeling relatively settled pretty quickly. His classmates seem nice: there’s a girl in his History of Magic class called Lily Evans who seems to have taken him under her wing; Remus can’t even bring himself to worry whether she’s been told to do so because she’s sweet and funny and people seem to like her, meaning they’re beginning to like Remus by extension.

There’s also a boy in his Potions class, Severus, who’s a sort-of friend of Lily’s – he’s a Slytherin but Lily doesn’t seem to care and Remus doesn’t mention it, knows all too well not to judge a book by it’s cover. Except there’s something odd going on there because sometimes they’re all chatty and other times when he looks at her like he wants to kill her, his eyes narrowed and his gaze piercing like she’s both precious and poisonous all at once, she just blushes and shuffles her stool a little closer to Remus'. Remus can tell there’s some kind of history between Lily and Severus, maybe some grudge that Severus is harbouring that he can’t always push past, – although he hasn’t figured that out yet, but it’s none of his business anyway. What matters is he’s been here almost a week and he’s making friends.

He keeps wanting to ask about Sirius Black; he’s seen him a couple times in the hallways and the two of them share a couple of classes, but they haven’t spoken because Sirius sits at the back of the class and whenever Remus hasn’t had the buffer of Lily he’s been hiding in plain view at the front. He knows they’re in the same house because he’s seen Sirius leaving the common room as he was on his way to bed on more than one occasion. They even share a dormitory but he’s never actually seen Sirius there, any of his roommates come to think of it; he doesn’t know exactly what they get up to whilst he’s sleeping, and isn’t positive he wants to know.

Sirius Black is possibly the most elusive boy Remus has ever had the pleasure of not-really-knowing. They made eye contact once in the halls and Remus thought he was going to pass out right there on his way to Arithmancy (although his Arithmancy teacher is hot, so that’s fun too). But he’s not quite sure what to say; he’s still trying to find his footing with these people and has no idea how to enquire after this boy, who is clearly at the top of the pecking order, who he’s spoken to once, without coming across as too interested.

He’d learnt pretty quickly that Lily has a boyfriend. ‘–James Potter, you’ve probably seen him around. He comes across as a bit of a dick but he’s actually got one or two redeeming qualities; he can be quite sweet when he wants to be. Plus he plays Quidditch so he has these abs...’ she’d said, fanning herself with her hand. There’s this blonde girl who Remus has deduced is lesbian that they sit with some days at lunch and her presence is comforting, in a way, because if you can be gay and avoid being slaughtered here, well, that’s one less thing Remus has to worry about keeping under wraps. A hell of a lot more seems to go on at Hogwarts outside of classes than Remus had ever imagined and he hadn’t really been prepared for any of it: the on-off relationships and the crushes and the feuds and the love-notes fluttering past his ears in classes. It feels kind of weird to become a part of it all but he thinks he might kind of like it.

‘I have to watch James play Quidditch tomorrow morning,’ Lily tells him on Friday, dropping into the space next to him in the courtyard and nudging their shoulders together – Remus feels his heart lift at the gesture; it seems so simple, so easy. Lily touches him all the time like it’s nothing and Remus still can’t quite wrap his head around having friends who enjoy his company, seek it out even. ‘But it’s Hogsmeade after and we’re all going down. You should come with us.’

Remus shrugs noncommittally; he could go, his parents signed the Hogsmeade form because they wanted him to have the full ‘Hogwarts experience,’ but he’s only sure about Lily, not the larger group as a whole. When Lily nudges him harder with a bony elbow he huffs out a sigh but nods his head in agreement. He’s been trying to keep himself to himself as much as he can, but maybe this won’t be so bad. He wonders whether he should say something – about loving Quidditch, about never having had the chance to play but wishing he could do (knowing it’s probably too late to start at almost 17), about how he couldn’t really anyway when it’s so important for him to go unnoticed, about how good it feels to have friends after so long being alone. He can’t quite find the words, though; he just says a simple, ‘This really means a lot to me, you know? Your inviting me along,’ and leaves it at that.

Lily looks at him sympathetically, squeezes his shoulder but doesn't comment. She already seems to have this sixth sense about what he feels comfortable talking about and what he doesn’t. Remus wonders if that’s just the way she is with everyone or whether they’ve formed a kind of connection already. He kind of hopes for the latter.

As luck would have it (although Remus can’t quite decide whether that luck is bad or good), Sirius Black is also watching Quidditch practice. Lily loops her hand through Remus' arm and half-drags him across the grass to where Sirius stands with a few others at the edge of the pitch. He’s with that girl again, the small dark-haired one he’d been with on Remus' first day. Remus wonders whether she’s his girlfriend; she’s talking animatedly, head and hands moving rapidly in time with her mouth, and Sirius is watching in amusement or bemusement – Remus doesn’t know him well enough to differentiate between the two... or know him at all, really. Sirius is sharing looks with a blond tall boy and the flighty dark-skinned girl; as Lily draws them to a stop a couple of feet away, Remus is unable to do anything other than stand behind Lily’s shoulder and gawk, torn between wanting Sirius to notice him and bolting before he does. Then Lily, with her hand still hooked through Remus' elbow, pulls him forward and says ‘This is Remus. He’s new; can we please not scare him off?’

Lily is friends with Sirius Black and how has this not come up in conversation once? What the hell has Remus even gotten himself into? He feels himself turn beetroot red because they’re all looking at him and Remus hates being the centre of attention.

‘I wonder how James would feel knowing you’ve found yourself another boy toy, Evans,’ Sirius says, glancing at Remus and throwing him a wink. Lily just laughs it off – doesn’t let go of Remus' arm for a second – and it’s only good manners that stop him from yanking himself free. He’s never even met half of these people, and Sirius thinks he’s taking the piss out of Lily, which he veritably isn’t. They’re all going to hate him, Sirius included, and this is not how one goes about making friends at all, really, and–

‘I’m gay,’ Remus says quickly. Well fuck, that wasn’t supposed to happen. There goes staying off the radar... He drops his gaze quickly to the floor.

‘Excellent.’ It’s a small boy, with mousy brown hair and a slightly pointy face. He’s in Remus' transfiguration class, Peter something. The boy continues, ‘Finally someone for Black to focus his attentions on.’

Wait. What?

Remus chances a look up from his feet and over at Sirius, who is rolling his eyes.

‘Thank you, Pettigrew, for that astute observation and your assumption that just because it seems Lupin and I are both gay we plan to skip off into the sunset together. I know you well enough to not even bother with giving you the list of things that are inherently wrong with that statement but it begins with your implication that you being straight means you want to do a four-legged frolic with McGonagall. I’d also like to inform you that you are grossly misinformed: I have never been the only boy at this school that likes cock.’

He turns to Remus then and takes a proper look this time, not the fleeting glance of before. His mouth curves up at one corner and Remus feels his stomach drop right through the floor – the half-smile completely overshadows the fact that Sirius pretty much just told the whole group how unattractive he thinks Remus is. It feels like the story of Remus' life, really: the first guy he really truly has a crush on is actually gay. However, the first guy he really has a crush on has no interest in him at all. You’re up and then you’re down.

‘Hello again, Remus. Welcome to our little band of misfits.’ Remus pulls himself back out of his funk on the realisation that Sirius is speaking to him. He’s confused, though – misfits? He knows enough about teenage politics to know that Sirius Black and his friends, one of whom it seems is Remus' own singular friend, are pretty much at the top of the social pecking order. He has never felt so upside down and out of place in his life.

‘Hey.’ He raises a hand in a small wave and wonders what kind of parallel universe he has fallen into wherein he uses his sexuality to introduce himself and Sirius Black legitimately exists.

‘You never told me you were gay,’ Lily mutters as she shoves him by the shoulder down onto the grass and flops down beside him, fixing him with a stern glare.

‘You never told me you weren’t,’ he fires back because yes alright, maybe he did just use ‘I’m gay’ in place of ‘Hello’ but he resents the idea that he should declare his sexuality as a disclaimer to everyone he meets.

‘Yes I did,’ Lily hisses, pointing towards a group of Gryffindor players where a scruffy-haired boy with glasses is blowing her kisses. ‘Boyfriend, remember?’

‘Does it change anything?’ he asks nervously, not sure what he’ll do if it does and trying to tell himself it won’t.

‘Of course not, stupid.’ She squeezes his knee. ‘Just stay away from Black. He’s trouble.’

‘I am not.’ Sirius says with an affronted air. The boy drops to the grass on the other side of Remus, who all of a sudden cannot breathe – who gave him the right to steal all the air? Sirius goes on, ‘You’re just bitter because your boyfriend loves me more than you. Well, let me remind you, Evans, that he was mine first; he was mine when you were still foolishly pooh-poohing his advances and being too much of a goody-goody to appreciate the genius of our work.’

‘I still don’t appreciate the genius of your work,’ Lily retorts. ‘I think your pranks are childish and harebrained and often quite cruel... and I wish you’d leave James out of them.’

‘Can’t do that, darling girl, not when half of them are 100% his idea.’ Sirius reaches into his robes and then leans over Remus – so close that his arm brushes Remus' chest and Remus can’t help the sudden inhale – and drops a gold and purple box into Lily’s lap. ‘Now have a Chocolate Frog and stop casting aspersions on the good name of the Black family. You’ll give Remus a terrible impression.’

: :

Remus' life changes pretty radically after that first time watching James Potter play Quidditch.

There’s the trip to Hogsmeade, where he finds himself in the middle of a group of six or seven people, buying Every Flavour Beans and drinking butterbeer and laughing so hard his sides hurt. Once at supper, Remus pointed out a flaw in James’ plan for slipping some vomit-inducing potion into Severus’s breakfast, earning him a look of respect from both James and Sirius. All of a sudden, he’s being included in things; he finds himself curled up in the common room with James and Sirius and Peter, doing his homework and rolling his eyes good-naturedly when James not-so-subtly tries to copy. Thereafter he sits at the back of the classroom instead of alone at the front. He doesn’t know why it’s happened – whether they genuinely like him or whether James has latched onto him as a favour to Lily – and he can’t quite bring himself to question it too much. Hogwarts is shaping up to be exactly what his parents promised it would be and he kind of wants to just enjoy it for what it is, for as long as it lasts.

Besides, having been taken under the wing of James Potter and adjusting to this new setup of having friends-that-are-boys means not only is Remus resolutely not lonely, but he’s getting to spend the bulk of his time with people he really likes, who in turn like him. He also gets to be around Sirius; it’s become readily apparent that it’s rare for Sirius to be somewhere that James is not. This works well because there is absolutely no denying that Remus Lupin has a crush of extraordinary magnitude on Sirius Black.

For his part, Sirius is nothing if not friendly and tactile, to the point that Remus wonders if he even knows what a personal boundary is. Sirius is all one-armed bone-crushing hugs and almost violent rugby tackles that leave you trapped beneath him and gasping for air (and doesn’t that plant images in Remus' head that he just cannot shake?) Sirius is all hands on arms and hands on legs and arms casually thrown over shoulders, he’s his head rested against someone else’s legs when they’re in the chair and he’s comfortably seated on the rug. Remus would probably read something into these things, except that Sirius isn’t only like this with him. Sirius is like this with everybody, even more so with Peter and James, in fact; hell, Remus has already lost count of the times he’s seen James and Sirius squashed into one over-stuffed armchair when the common room is busy. So he doesn’t let himself dwell on it too much, tells himself that it just means Sirius has accepted him and now sees him as a friend. He tells himself that combined with spending so much time close to Sirius that he can almost map out the freckles on his nose, this newfound acceptance is more than enough.

He means it, it is more than enough. Remus is not about to make a fool of himself and risk the only real friendships he’s ever really had just because he has a gargantuan crush and knows that Sirius is gay.

Which makes what happens one Saturday evening in late November even harder to explain.

Remus is in the library. It’s late and the large room is deserted (just the way Remus likes it, actually, all low lights and the musky smell of books hanging in the air). The librarian, is mulling around somewhere far enough away for Remus to be able to pretend he’s alone in a world filled with the written word – it’s what he thinks heaven might be like.

He has ten inches to write for Arithmancy, which he actually cannot stand but which he tries harder at anyway because hot teacher. He wants to focus, which he resolutely cannot do in the common room at this time of night with James and Sirius arsing around and Peter hovering around them like an over-eager chinchilla. Remus is totally lost in his work, head resting on the palm of his hand and elbow resting on the table, and he doesn’t even realise anybody is anywhere near him ‘til there’s a not-quite-gentle shove to his arm, which causes him to jolt. His chin slips from the heel of his hand and he looks up, startled.

‘Alright, Remus.’

Remus swallows, hard. Sirius looks incredible. It never ceases to amaze Remus how he manages to make the uniform – the uniform that every single student in the damn school wears – look so freaking hot. Today is no exception; he’s not wearing his robes and his shirt is half untucked, his tie loose and two or three shirt buttons open to expose the hollow of his throat and a hint of collarbone. Remus really really wants to lick. Sirius' eyes are dancing – he always looks like he’s seconds away from laughter, like he knows this joke that nobody else is in on – and his hair is somehow an attractive scraggly mess. Most nights, Remus fantasizes about Sirius' hair, about curling his fingers in it as they kiss and tugging hard enough to make him moan, but he’s barely aware of it now because when Sirius shifts a little, perching on the edge of the table and crossing his arms, Remus gets another flash of that collarbone. Sirius really does have the sexiest collarbone in existence, which is a truly ridiculous statement if ever there was one.

‘What’re you even thinking about, holed up in here all alone on Saturday night?’

‘I really want to kiss you.’

And that is absolutely not what he’d intended to say. The retort he’d formed in his head was something clever and witty about needing a break from James and Sirius' juvenility, about wanting a few hours of sanity – he’s not entirely sure how, in the short journey from his brain to his mouth, that had managed to get turned into I really want to kiss you. Not that it’s untrue; Remus spends approximately 73 percent of every day thinking about kissing Sirius. He just isn’t supposed to tell anybody that, least of all Sirius.

‘Oh,’ Sirius says, eyes widening. Suddenly Remus feels stomach-churningly sick. He opens his mouth to try and snatch the words back, but then Sirius is flicking out his tongue quickly against his bottom lip before worrying that lip between his teeth like he does when he’s deep in thought. Remus always finds that habit remarkably distracting.

‘Sirius, I...’

‘Okay,’ Sirius says with a slight grin and a one-shouldered shrug.

‘Okay?’

‘Okay.’ Sirius nods, and he’s looking at Remus' mouth. The boy of his dreams looks a little flushed and it sounds like he’s saying okay, Remus can kiss him. Remus has to kick himself hard on the ankle to make sure he’s not dreaming.

(It hurts. So... not dreaming, then.)

‘Okay,’ Remus says again, because he’s actually a total imbecile. Sirius laughs a little nervously.

‘As riveting as this conversation is Remus, perhaps we could stop exchanging okay’s and start with the actual kissing?’

‘Okay,’ Remus says again. Then Sirius is leaning down, closer than he’s ever been and Remus sees flecks of gold in his dark brown eyes before they flutter closed and his lips brush gently against Remus' own. It’s just a fleeting press of Sirius' lips against his, a split second of contact before Sirius pulls away just marginally, taking a breath and letting it go, just a quick puff of air that’s warm against Remus' skin. Remus still hasn’t quite gotten his head around the fact that this is actually happening, that Sirius Black is kissing him in the Hogwarts library, when Sirius is closing the gap again; the press is a little harder this time; one of his hands cups Remus by the jaw, fingers pressing into the base of his skull to hold him in place; and a tongue, Sirius' tongue, flickers out, running gently across Remus' bottom lip. In a heartbeat Remus reaches out blindly, fists a hand in Sirius' shirt and tugs him closer, taking advantage of Sirius' huff of surprise to lick hungrily into his mouth. He’s kissing hard and desperate like this might be his only chance – he wants to take all that Sirius is offering.

Sirius tastes like aniseed and Merlin does he know how to kiss, varying the pressure before Remus even knows what he wants: hard and then gentle and then rough and hard again so that Remus is glad he’s still seated because his knees feel weak. He sucks Remus' lips into his mouth, nibbling at them gently, licking at his teeth and past them, letting out these breathy little almost-moans that go right to Remus' cock. Whilst Remus is in little doubt about his own kissing technique, whilst he’s matching Sirius with everything he has (and garnering those sounds so he must be doing a lot of things right), Sirius still holds him in place with one firm hand, fingers in the hair at the nape of Remus' neck giving him full control – and fuck that’s really really hot. They break away finally, both flushed and breathing heavily, and Sirius looks down at him. His eyes are dark and heavy, his lips kiss-plump as he says, ‘Well, Remus. They do say it’s always the quiet ones.’ Without missing a beat he pushes Remus' chair away from the table a little, grabbing him below the shoulder to pull him to his feet. Sirius' hands grab him firmly by the hips as he wobbles, a little unsteady. The other boy leans in again and Remus' added height makes the angle a little better than it had been before. Remus grins dopily and closes his eyes, stepping a little closer to meet him–

‘Mr. Lupin. Are you still in here?’

‘Fuck,’ Remus mutters, stepping back and feeling his face redden. ‘Fuck.’ For a moment there he’d forgotten they were still in the library. ‘Err, yes,’ he calls back, voice a little higher pitched than usual, ‘Just finishing off.’

Sirius is laughing quietly now, eyes crinkling up adorably – he doesn’t look fazed in the least. He leans in, touches his lips to Remus' just once and then steps away. ‘She’s a dragon and she loathes me. I’ll see you in the common room.’ Then he’s gone and Remus is incapable of doing anything but dropping back into his seat in a daze.

: :

Nothing changes.

Remus isn't entirely sure what he expected – it was just a kiss, not a dose of Amortentia – but still, he'd expected something to be different and nothing is. Sirius still grins at him from across the table at breakfast, reaching over to grab the last slice of toast off Remus' plate. He flashes Remus a wink as he takes a huge bite then turns his full attention to the parchment that James has pulled out of his Charms book – but even that wink is nothing new. Later in class he still holds a seat for Remus and when classes are done for the day, he still flops down beside him in the courtyard, asking Peter to run along and find some pumpkin juice. He wriggles around ‘til his head is comfortably situated in Remus' lap – which, Remus isn't going to lie, has the potential to get really awkward really fast.

'Play with my hair, Remus? You give the best head massages.'

'You're such a fucking queen, Sirius.' James kicks at Sirius' foot, releasing a model snitch into the air and catching it one-handed. Sirius just gives him the finger. 'Fuck off, Potter.'

'Also,' James says, 'you've known him for – what, 10 weeks? No offence, Lupin, but he gives the best head massages? I've been playing with your fucking hair since first year, ‘s fucking rich, that.'

'What can I say, James? I've been tempted by the new boy.'

And even that's not new, not really. Remus has to pretend that sitting in the winter sun with his fingers combing out the knots in Sirius' hair, that watching the way the sunlight falls just so across the planes of his face and makes him look like something you could never even dream up, is something he's fine with, when just last week they were snogging in the library.

He's not so fine with it.

He doesn't know what this means and Remus is pretty shit at being in the dark. He needs facts and figures and he needs to know what to expect. And Sirius? He’s a fucking enigma. Is he not bringing that night in the library up because he regrets it? Is he acting like it never happened because he's ashamed? Is this what Sirius does, kisses random boys in secret and then pretends like it never happened? Is it going to happen again?

It's enough to drive a guy crazy at the best of times, but now? Now it’s edging closer to the full moon; Remus feels like his body is too big for his skin, he’s uncomfortable and on edge and hyper-aware. He wants to pin Sirius down right there and then until he gets answers. He wants to pin Sirius down and rub all over him, to stake his claim no matter what that kiss meant.

Mine mine mine.

He doesn't, though. Instead he tells James that his latest prank might be a step too far, that he has no desire to be expelled from Hogwarts before the end of the first term and so wants no part of it. Next he agrees to help work out the final details of the spell because they're his friends and he likes to be included; despite his misgivings, whatever they're plotting always sounds like fun.

It's worth it to see Sirius' face light up. 'Atta boy, Remus,’ he says, ‘I swear I don't know how we ever survived without you.'

Remus just shakes his head – 'So melodramatic, Sirius, it's really rather uncalled for.’ But he likes the praise, stores it away for later. Then he shoves Sirius' head out of his lap unceremoniously, ignoring the yelps of displeasure, and pushes himself to his feet.

'I'm going for a shower. I can still smell that potion you annihilated earlier.'

(Which is code for, ‘I am this close to getting a boner and I do not want that to happen whilst your head is in my lap and we're plotting fuck-knows-what.’)

He shouldn’t be as surprised as he is when Sirius turns up in the bathroom a little while later.

He wonders whether something happening twice makes it a pattern – and why does Sirius have to sneak up on him, why he can’t just announce his presence like a normal person or, you know, knock? Remus is just getting dressed, with only his pyjama pants on, and he’s bent over with his head beneath a towel, vigorously drying his hair, so he doesn’t hear Sirius come in. He has no idea that he’s not alone, in fact, until he feels cold fingers on his hipbone – he jumps backwards, curses loudly and drops the towel to the floor, fixing Sirius with a glare that he’s sure isn’t half as intimidating as he’d like thanks to his state of undress and damp hair. Sirius grins, hands shoved deep in his trouser pockets.

‘What are you doing?’ Remus hisses, ‘Can a guy not even shower in peace with you around?’

Sirius cocks a hip and slowly runs his eyes from Remus' bare feet all the way up to his eyes. Remus feels decidedly more naked than he is.

‘I’m admiring the view,’ Sirius says.

‘Yes, well, I’m not an oil painting and I’m trying to get dressed, so if you don’t mind...’

He doesn’t know why he’s angry, except that all week Sirius has been acting like nothing at all happened between them – not even as little as a knowing look or a discreet touch – and now here he is sneaking into the bathroom, all flirtatious and sultry, and Remus is so confused. He’s been taken unawares once again, which he hates, and he feels in no way in control of this situation, which he also hates. He can feel the wolf fighting against him, desperate to touch, to kiss and hold.

‘I don’t mind at all.’ Sirius grins and closes the gap between them in three steps; he’s crowding into Remus' space and backing him up against the wall, gripping his wrists and capturing his mouth in a vicious kiss only to pull away to kiss gently along Remus' jaw, down to his neck. Sirius' tongue flickers out to lick away a droplet of water and then suck gently on the skin beneath. Remus groans, his head falling back to smack against the wall, and he doesn’t even care – Sirius is nipping at his collarbone now, which is fucking rich considering Remus has wet dreams about Sirius' collarbone and there will be consequences if he doesn’t get a chance to return the favour. The taller boy’s fingers are still circling Remus' wrists almost hard enough to hurt and God, he has no clue what is going on but he’s not stupid enough to question it. He wants Sirius' mouth back on his, yesterday; he yanks his wrists free, grabbing Sirius' face in both hands and hissing, ‘Kiss me.’

Sirius laughs lowly but doesn’t refuse. His hands no longer hold Remus by the wrists, coming to rest on his hips instead with fingers gently tracing a pattern on the bare skin. They’re dipping tentatively below the waistband of his pants and back up again, his touch barely there but enough to drive Remus crazy. It’s nothing like the kiss from last week: Sirius is slow now, gentle like he’s trying to send Remus a message by kissing him so deeply, so thoroughly and tenderly that it makes Remus want to cry – it’s all he can do when he loops his arms around Sirius' neck and kisses back.

‘Anyway...’ Sirius says eventually, pulling back with a grin. Remus wants to groan because he’s just so gorgeous, all wild hair and laughing eyes, a flush riding high on his cheeks. ‘The reason I came looking for you is to tell you that James has sweet-talked some supper out of the house elves and if you don’t hurry up Peter will have eaten it all, so stop arsing around and get dressed. I’ll save you a chocolate muffin.’

And then he’s gone and Remus is uncomfortably hard in his pyjama pants. The taste of Sirius is still on his lips, the ghost of his touch still lingers on the bare skin of his hips – he knows he’ll be wanking to this for weeks but it’s still not enough and he still has no clue what it means. He supposes he could ask him: ‘Hey Sirius, that’s twice now you’ve kissed me. What’s that about; are we boyfriends?’ Except there’s always the chance Sirius will laugh, or say no, or both, and then what? Suddenly it hits that Sirius is his best friend, and as frustrating as it’s going to become if the boy makes a habit of snogging Remus' face off and then just sauntering away, it’s infinitely better than Sirius not being around at all. Remus would hate to rock the boat.

It takes a stern conversation with his reflection – and the dredging up of long-repressed memories of his Great Uncle Ralph noisily slurping noodle soup – to get rid of his erection, but by the time he’s shrugged into his favourite jeans and pulled his tattiest, comfiest jumper over his head he’s convinced that he can beat Sirius Black at his own game. Whatever his game may be.

‘You’re missing all the fun,’ Peter yells in a high-pitched shriek at him when he enters the common room. Remus flinches as he crosses the room and folds himself down onto the floor, crossing his legs beneath him and reaching for a glass of pumpkin juice.

‘Really?’ He quirks an eyebrow and Lily rolls her eyes from her spot in the circle of James’ arms, her eyes meeting Remus' to share a knowing smile. It’s nice to have been so readily accepted by James, Peter, and Sirius (well, more than accepted by Sirius, really). It’s nice that their band of three has so easily expanded to include a fourth but he’s still so grateful for Lily, sees her as a kindred spirit almost; someone else who loves these idiot boys as much as he does, but who is capable of seeing their lunacy for what it is.

‘Not really,’ she tells him, ‘just these three being their usual juvenile selves.’

‘What she means,’ James interjects with a wicked grin, ‘is that Sirius walked in here earlier looking thoroughly well-fucked and he won’t tell us who the lucky boy is.’

‘Black and someone sitting in a tree,’ Peter cackles. Remus can’t resist glancing over at Sirius and feels his own face redden a little, absently hopes nobody notices. For his part, Sirius is lounging against the sofa arm, arms behind his head and one leg dangling and he looks utterly bored by the whole conversation. He yawns, stretches a little then throws Remus a smile, reaching down between the sofa and his thigh to grab a cake that he throws in Remus' general direction.

‘Saved you a muffin, Remus.’

‘Thanks,’ Remus says slowly, catching it one-handed and smiling softly but Sirius has already looked away again, back to James and Peter as though all he’d done was save him a cake; as though it didn’t matter. They’d been referring to him, they must have been – Sirius had been kiss-flushed when he’d left the bathroom and he hadn’t had time to go anywhere else, to go to somebody else, before coming to the common room (Remus really hopes Sirius wouldn’t do that anyway). Remus' heart is thundering a little in his chest – what is Sirius going to say? The wolf wants him to stake his claim, shout, ‘Me, he was kissing me and he’s not well-fucked, not yet,’ but the boy knows to keep quiet. He peels the wrapper slowly from his cake, picks off a chocolate chip and lets it melt on his tongue, feigning disinterest in the conversation around him.

‘Clearly,’ Sirius is saying, still sprawled out on the sofa, ‘you two need to get laid. If you were getting some yourselves I can guarantee you’d be a lot less interested in my sex life.’

‘You are courting, then?’ Peter asks gleefully.

‘No, Peter, I am not courting because it’s not the 1800s and if it were then we’d all be far too gentlemanly to be discussing such things in front of a lady... which is code, boys, for mind your own fucking business and let me have that last eclair.’

And that’s that. Sirius has demanded an end to the conversation and so the conversation ends. Peter makes them bet how many chocolate drops he can fit in his mouth at onc, Lily is telling him he’ll make himself sick, and James and Sirius are egging him on (of course). The whole thing is forgotten, except that it’s really, really not forgotten; the only thing Remus himself can concentrate on is the feel of Sirius' hands, the long fingers that so recently had been pressing marks into his skin. He thinks about the curve of Sirius' neck as he throws his head back in laughter (and about how he really wants to bite it). Every so often Sirius will glance in his direction, as though he can feel the weight of Remus' stare, and his mouth, his perfectly perfect mouth will curve up in the semblance of a smile. In those moments Remus' breath stutters in his throat – Sirius Black is going to be the death of him.

: :

The full moon is horrible.

The full moons are always horrible, but they’ve been worse since he’s had to spend them in the Shrieking Shack – he gets why Dumbledore is so insistent on his spending the moon there, safely away from the school, understands why completely, but still it's horrible and he wakes up afterwards aching and feeling overwhelmingly isolated. Madam Pomfrey is usually there at daybreak to give him all kinds of potions and ointments – something in the wolf means he can heal fast with some shuteye, can get back to class and make excuses for his absence before anybody can raise a suspicious eyebrow – but still, it’s never going to be his favourite time of the month.

This time, though, it's worse.

This time the wolf is angry and vicious, more so than usual. Remus doesn't know what at, exactly, has never been that good at channelling its thoughts; has never tried very hard either, choosing to keep himself as separate as possible from the beast. With nobody to attack it goes wild, howling and flinging itself from one wall to another, growling and biting and being utterly self-destructive: ripping lumps of fur from its own body, biting hard enough for its own gums and limbs to bleed. Maybe it’s frustration at being held hostage like this, or maybe it's Remus' own frustrations coming through because of whatever’s going on with Sirius – he's pissed off at Sirius for playing games and pissed off with himself for letting him and he just wants all of the time.

Whatever the reason, the wolf is out of control and Remus is a mess when it's over.

He lets himself be moved to the hospital wing and vaguely wonders how many bones he's broken, whether the cuts will scar, whether it will ever stop hurting – all before he's drugged into a deep sleep.

His sleep is deep and dreamless, and it lasts for a day and a night. Then, like something out of his mum's romance novels, the sound of Sirius' voice wakes him. Except it's not so much romantic as it is deafening: Sirius is yelling, demanding to see him; Pomfrey refuses; Sirius yells louder, shouting for him almost desperately.

James quietly says they'll come back. There's a part of him that wants to call out, wants nothing more than to see his best friends, to see Sirius, but he feels so foggy and hasn't even looked in a mirror... They're going to ask questions that he’ll be able to dodge later, back in the common room, but he can't face that now – God, he can barely remember his own name. He says nothing, wraps Sirius' concern around him like a blanket and goes back to sleep.

He still feels a little fragile when he slinks into the Great Hall later for dinner – he winces a little as he sits down and hopes nobody notices. Sirius is watching him worriedly; it’s an expression that’s so rarely seen on his face that Remus almost wants to laugh, to rib him a little, but before he gets the chance Sirius is shuffling over a little to give Remus extra room and his hand touches Remus' elbow so gently that Remus wonders if he imagined it. It’s so uncharacteristically tender that his retort gets lost along the way.

‘Alright?’ Sirius asks softly.

Remus nods and flashes him a smile. ‘Course I am, why wouldn’t I be? Pass the chicken, Pete?’ Again, he tries not to wince as he reaches to take the proffered plate. Fuck, his ribs are still really sore. Bastard wolf.

‘Oh, I don’t know,’ Sirius retorts, ‘Perhaps because you’ve just spent the better part of the last two days in the hospital wing with some mysterious illness and now you’re moving like you’re made of glass.’

‘Pads,’ James says it warningly, like they’ve talked about this already. It’s probably true, they probably have. He’s calling him Pads again, too – Remus has noticed the strange nicknames the three of them have before, which he doesn’t understand and can’t quite bring himself to ask about. Beside him Sirius sets his jaw and opens his mouth to speak again. Remus elbows him in the ribs before he gets chance.

‘I’m fine, Sirius, really, although I’m grateful for your concern. I never knew you cared.’

‘You don’t seem fine... and what are you talking about? Of course I care.’

‘And,’ Remus carries on as though Sirius hasn’t spoken (although something blooms warm in his chest at the other’s admission), ‘there’s no mystery. I fell down the steps to the Astronomy Tower, like a total moron, top to bottom. Hit every single step on the way and I don’t mind telling you it hurt – solid stone, those steps are. Managed to totally shatter a few bones, but I drank a bit of Skelegrow and slept it off.’

‘You expect us to believe that.’ Sirius eyes him narrowly. Don’t take me for an idiot, he seems to be saying, and Remus doesn’t want to. He hates lying to his friends but what choice does he have, really?

‘Believe what you want,’ he says with a shrug, spearing a piece of chicken viciously with his fork, unsure whether he’s angry at Sirius for not taking his words at face value or at Fenrir Greyback for making it so that this is Remus' life. ‘But not everything is a drama, Sirius. Sometimes people just slip and hurt themselves.’

: :

It’s a little strange for a few days afterwards. Sirius seems reluctant to let Remus out of his sight for long, which is nice at first but quickly becomes maddening – it’s not like he seems to want him around for sexy reasons, which is what Remus can’t help hoping for, but rather wants to fetch and carry for him, follow him around like an over-friendly dog. Whilst Sirius is making sure Remus is never on his own, it seems like they’re never alone either and Remus really isn’t sick – he actually always feels amazing in the week or so after the full moon – so being treated like an invalid is quickly driving him batty. Sirius keeps looking at him funny, too, to the point that Remus wonders if he’s a secret Occlumens and tries to spend as much time as possible thinking ‘fuck off, Sirius’ even if he won’t say it.

Sirius remains ever present.

The times Sirius isn’t looking at him strangely, he’s opening his mouth as though he has something to say and then closing it quickly, pressing his lips together as though preventing the words from escaping unbidden. Remus half-considers out and out hiding from him but he has those puppy dog eyes and really does seem worried, which is kind of sweet if unwarranted. So he doesn’t say a thing and just hopes that by the time everyone gets back from Christmas break everything will be back to normal.

He’s not exactly hiding from Sirius, except he totally is. Everyone’s in a mad holiday rush, flying around making sure they’ve not left anything behind that they might need over the next two weeks. Remus isn’t going home for the holidays so he has no need to pack, while Sirius is in most trouble out of all them as he is the definition of disorganised. It seems like the perfect opportunity for Remus to grab his book and slip behind the heavy curtains of his bed and be alone. Except Sirius Black must actually be part dog and has managed to sniff him out: he’s there, poking his head through the curtains and then grinning triumphantly, as though he’s just won a game of hide and seek. Sirius pushes his way through the heavy velvet and sits cross-legged at the end of the bed, looking at Remus like he’s some kind of prize.

‘Finished your packing?’

‘What?’ Sirius asks and looks at him in surprise, as though he hadn’t expected him to talk. As though Remus was going to just sit there and let Sirius watch him read, like that isn’t all kinds of weird. ‘Oh. No. Not started, actually.’

‘You’re cutting it a bit close, aren’t you? The train leaves in like half an hour.’

‘I would be,’ Sirius agrees. ‘Except... I’m staying put.’

‘Staying...you’re what?’

‘I’m not exactly on the best of terms with my mother.’ He looks away as he says it, tugs at a loose thread on Remus' bedspread. Remus' chest tightens; there’s something there when Sirius brings up his family, some vulnerability that he doesn’t show usually, and it makes Remus want to hold him. Make whatever it is better.

‘Truth be told,’ Sirius says, ‘I can’t stand to spend any more time in that house than I absolutely have to. I usually go back with James, but somehow he’s managed to swing Lily staying over at the Potters’ from Boxing Day on – and being third wheel to those two is the worst. I figured staying on here would be better than that at least. I mean, you’re here, so...’ He trails off with a shrug of his shoulders, then seems to give himself a mental shake and fixes Remus with a grin that’s cock-sure and a little disarming. He holds out a hand to pull Remus to his feet: ‘Come on then, let’s go wave them off!’

That means two whole weeks of just him and Sirius with no other friends and no classes and no anything really. Maybe Sirius will continue to treat him like a fragile doll or maybe he’ll go back to flitting indecisively between the act like Remus is just one of the boys and the shameless flirtation; either way, Remus isn’t sure how he’s supposed to survive.

After a week of Sirius' hovering (and starting to suggest things only to break off mid-sentence like he thinks Remus might break if they do anything more strenuous than fuck all), Remus decides that the only way to get through this is to confront him. When Remus had suggested a game of Exploding Snap, he’d given Remus a worried look in response and asked if he wouldn’t prefer to go to the library. Exploding Snap; Remus Lupin is a werewolf, he survives much worse than a card game every single month. Sirius has never gone voluntarily to the library in his life. Apart from that time when they kissed – Remus is pretty sure he’s not being invited there for a repeat performance. Sirius probably thinks Remus’ll keel over and die if he gets a hard-on.

So he decides enough is enough that evening – Christmas Eve, in fact – while he’s looking for something in his trunk. Sirius steps in to help him shove the trunk back under his bed like he hasn’t done it himself three times a week since September.

‘I'm alright, you know,’ he says conversationally, not wanting seem like he’s making a big deal or picking a fight. Merlin knows Sirius is nothing if not a touchy bugger. Remus arches his back from where he's knelt on the dormitory floor until his shoulders touch the carpet – his back gives a series of cracks, muffled but still satisfying. He smiles smugly to himself at the look on Sirius' face when he sits back up. Alright, and I'm flexible too.

Okay, maybe he did want to elicit some sort of reaction – he can't deny the kick he gets out of the way Sirius' eyes darken, the way his Adam's apple bobs as he swallows hard.

'See?’ Remus says, ‘All fixed. Good as new.'

'Can’t blame a guy for giving a damn,' Sirius says back, shoving the trunk the last inch back under the bed with his foot. The boy takes a seat on the floor, leaning back on his hands. It's to his credit, Remus thinks, that his voice is perfectly level, his shock at Remus' bendiness gone as quickly as it arrived '...Not when you're going to go around being all broken and secretive.'

‘I'm not broken, now. I'm fine. And I'm not being secretive. I told you what happened.'

‘Yes. Yes, you are. You did not fall down the stairs,' Sirius says a little crossly, like this is something Sirius has the right to be pissed off about. Remus rolls his eyes. Honestly? How long can this go on for?

'If I said I fell then I fell and if I say I'm fine then I'm fine. You're driving me bonkers with this mother hen act.' He tries to glare but Sirius just grins – he has to look away to avoid grinning back.

'Secretive.' Sirius clasps his hands round his ankles and rests his chin on his knees. He continues, 'Very, very secretive. Also, there's some line ‘round here somewhere about protesting too much.'

'There's a line you’ve crossed into being a pesky little shit.'

'Yet still you want to kiss me.'

It comes from nowhere and Remus wants to growl in frustration. Pesky little shit is an understatement; also, why is Sirius always so maddeningly right?

'I want you to fuck off,' Remus snaps. He means it; maybe the desire to touch his lips to Sirius' is always there at the back of his mind, but still. He's so fucking done with this.

'You want to kiss me,' Sirius repeats smugly.

‘I don't.’

‘I know you do.’

‘I don't.’

‘You do.’

'Stop it. I am not engaging in this pathetic game with you. I grew out of that at five years old.'

'It’s why you’re being so fucking annoying about all of this. You want me to kiss the secrets out of you.' Sirius is unperturbed by Remus' frustration.

'I don't have any– umph...'

Sirius' mouth is on his again, with the weight of Sirius' lean body pushing him against the years-old carpet as he nibbles on Remus' bottom lip. Remus just groans into it, thinks, 'here we go again' even as his arms come up to wrap around Sirius' back. He could do this forever, he thinks, lay in the Gryffindor boys’ dormitory and kiss Sirius Black... except it's not fair. Sirius can't just keep switching on and off like a switch whenever he pleases, and certainly not with the intention to wheedle information out of him. Remus pushes him hard, up and away, meeting his gaze and then having to look away quickly; the mixture of confusion and hurt in Sirius' eyes is like a punch to the stomach.

'What the hell are you doing?' Remus snaps. Sirius shrugs but he looks unsure, his cockiness of moments before all but gone. 'You can't just keep doing that. Kissing me. I'm not someone, some... I mean, you can't just kiss me whenever you feel like it, Sirius, and then ignore me afterwards.'

'When have I ignored you?' Sirius shoots back. 'When?'

'Fine, you haven't ignored me per se. But you haven't treated me the way people are meant to treat people they've kissed either!'

'I never saw you complaining when we were sucking face, Remus. And you know what else? Nobody uses per se in normal conversation!'

It’s the most stupid comeback in the history of comebacks in what is probably the most stupid fight in the history of fights. Remus opens his mouth to retort that people say ‘per se’ all the time in civilised conversation, actually. Also, that maybe they should stop fighting and carry on kissing and he’s sorry he spoke, but Sirius, being a touchy bugger, is on his feet and gone, only stopping at the door to yell, 'Happy fucking Christmas!' back at Remus. Oh fabulous, it's midnight. Christmas Day.

Remus finds him by the lake.

Typical Sirius – can't just sulk somewhere indoors by a fire when it's December and the ground is frozen. He's shivering, shoulders shaking and teeth chattering; Remus sighs heavily and throws the spare heavyweight robe he'd grabbed from the dormitory over the boy’s shoulders, then crouches down beside him.

They can't fall out at Christmas.

Sirius doesn't move, doesn't acknowledge him at all, though after a few moments his shivers lessen. Remus exhales and he can see his breath in the air – he remembers when he was 11 years old and used to pretend he was a dragon, running around breathing smoke and roaring, oblivious to his mother's fear that the wolf was taking over. He exhales again, harder. Sees Sirius do the same, the puffs of air mingling before them. He wants to say something poetic about that but even if they were on good terms Sirius would only snort and punch him in the shoulder, probably tell him to stop being soft.

'Come inside,' he says softly instead.

'No.'

'Stop being such an idiot, Sirius, it's minus 15 out here at least. Come in.'

'I'm fine.'

'That may well be...' He tries to keep his tone light, slides on his metaphorical kid gloves, 'but I'm fucking freezing. And I got you a present.'

That does it. Sirius is just so Sirius sometimes and will never be able to resist the lure of a gift; he turns his head just a little with one eyebrow quirked questioningly and Remus huffs a laugh.

'Since it's Christmas and all.'

'I suppose I could,' Sirius says slowly, 'if you're really that cold.'

Remus laughs – he can't help it – and leans forward, brushing his lips gently to Sirius'. It's the first time he's initiated anything between them and it makes him nervous but he doesn't let that slow him, somehow. It's Christmas Day and Sirius looks adorable, with his pink nose and his bright eyes, mouth gently curling in a smile he's trying not to show. Sirius' lips are ice cold beneath Remus' still-warm ones and he inhales sharply at the closemouthed press of lips to lips but he doesn't pull away. Remus moves to a stand, holding out a hand to pull Sirius to his feet.

It's a silent walk back to the castle. Remus knows it's not over, not fine; eventually, something will have to give and this whatever-it-is between them that's causing the fighting and the kissing will have to be addressed. But it's Christmas and Remus pushes it to one side. He points to his own bed as he heats two mugs of cocoa even though it's half past one in the morning. Sirius shrugs out of his robes, pouting in what he probably thinks is a provocative manner.

'Fuck off, Sirius, and get in bed.’ He adds, ‘pyjamas on' as an afterthought even though he'd rather they weren't, honestly.

It makes something clench and twist in his chest when he hands Sirius a mug and wriggles under his own bedclothes: the sight of a boy, of Sirius, in his bed, propped up against his pillows. He looks younger somehow like this, or not so much younger as less world-wise – he looks like a boy just being rather than a young man always trying too hard. Sirius is still a little cold, his nose still red, and he's burrowed beneath the blankets sipping his cocoa in plaid flannel pyjamas and watching Remus through criminally long lashes. Remus could cry he looks so perfect. Wants to kiss him ‘til he forgets his own name.

'Merry Christmas,' he says, sliding under the covers and dropping a package onto Sirius' lap. 'Ah! You bastard, fuck.' Remus jumps away, nearly sending his cocoa flying. 'Keep your feet on your own side.'

'I like that I have a side,' Sirius says, pressing a toe to Remus' ankle again and pulling it away with a wicked grin at Remus' glare. He goes fishing beneath the covers and finds a wrapped rectangular parcel, pulling it out with a flourish.

'And this one’s for you.'

Remus doesn't even want to begin to fathom how and when Sirius managed to stash a present in his bed.

'You first,' Sirius says tapping the gift with his forefinger. 'Open it.'

'We could do it together.'

'Just open it, Remus, before I do it for you.'

It's perfect. Perfect, perfect, perfect. Remus can't speak; he swallows down a lump in his throat and blinks away the tear in his eye, running a finger over the binding. The Complete Works of Sherlock Holmes, hard-backed and gilded and probably worth a fortune.

It's the most beautiful book he's ever seen.

'You went on about those hounds of wherever for so long...' Sirius says 'And I don’t get the appeal, personally; it seems pretty boring, the language is barely English, the pictures don’t move, and that Holmes guy is clearly on something, unless all Muggles are just mental, but–'

'It’s perfect,' Remus breathes. 'I love it.'

'Good,' Sirius says, simple as that as though he hasn't just made Remus' life, as though it’s not the most perfect and thoughtful gift he's ever received. He shuffles his feet excitedly beneath the bed covers. 'My turn.'

Sirius rips off the paper in a hurry, with no finesse at all, desperate to get at its contents. Remus doesn't even have time to wonder if he likes it before he's pinned against his pillow and Sirius is straddling him, murmuring, 'thank you, thank you, thank you,' and punctuating each word with a kiss to his face: cheek, chin, eyebrow.

'You like it then?' He laughs and Sirius groans, kisses the parts of his face he missed before.

He continues, 'I thought if you we're going to keep messing about with that stupid bike you needed a proper jacket.'

It's secondhand, of course – Remus can hardly afford new – but it's real leather, soft and well-worn and smelling of engine oil (and as such smelling a little of Sirius). It had screamed Sirius at him when he'd seen it. It zips up the front, with snap button flaps at the top and bottom and a belt just above the waistband, pockets and a collar that Remus somehow knows Sirius will wear turned up. He wonders if he should tell him his first thought had been that the grey of the leather matches Sirius' eyes.

‘You are my absolute favourite thing,’ Sirius murmurs, and this time Remus doesn’t even want to wonder what it means when Sirius kisses him. He just goes with it and opens his mouth to let Sirius lick his way in, lets his arms run down over the planes of the other boy’s back and up under his pyjama shirt, with hands pressing into the small of Sirius' back where the skin is soft and warm. Sirius' hands bracket Remus' head on the pillow as they kiss and combined, it all makes Remus feel enclosed, owned almost: Sirius' hands by his head, his body heavy and warm over him, his mouth tasting, teasing, taking.

He likes it.

He likes it when Sirius shifts a little above him, and he lets his legs fall open a little more so Sirius can settle between them. Their bodies are touching hip to chest; he likes the way Sirius' legs tangle in his, feet still cold, and the way he makes these breathy little noises into Remus' mouth as they kiss. When Sirius pulls away just a little and Remus opens his eyes, for the first time he notices the light smattering of freckles that cover his nose. He’s warm, a little heavy but not uncomfortably so, and when he rolls his hips down at the exact same moment that he leans in to nip at Remus' bottom lip with his teeth, Remus can’t help his entire body shuddering in response.

Sirius grins against his mouth and shifts a little so he’s half laying on Remus and half on the mattress. Remus knows that’s the other boy’s cock he can feel hard against his hip but he doesn’t have time to focus on it, really – now that he doesn’t need them to support his weight, one of Sirius' hands is moving to cup his jaw, gently. He leans in, nosing at Remus' temple, peppering feather-light kisses across his face and then finally, finally, finds his mouth again. He’s sucking Remus' bottom lip into his mouth and he’s rocking a little against Remus' hip and it feels so fucking good.

‘Okay?’ Sirius murmurs, pulling away a little again, fingertips tracing the lightest of patterns across Remus' cheekbones. The expression in his eyes is one Remus can’t quite place; he can only nod twice in response and tug Sirius in again before either of them has too much time to think about exactly what it is they’re doing or what it means. Remus grips one of his biceps and pulls him closer ‘til Sirius murmurs, ‘Fuck, Remus..’ into his mouth and rolls back on top of him, not breaking the kiss, not even for a second. Remus grabs blindly: arse, hips, thighs, he doesn’t care, just needs to be touching. He takes hold and can’t not just rut up against him. Sirius groans again, says a low, ‘–fucking hell Remus you’re so gorgeous like this.’

Remus is holding on, body trembling with every press of his cock against Sirius solid above him, holding him down. When Sirius shifts slightly that’s his cock right there pressed against Remus' – Remus tips his head back, letting out a moan of his own. Sirius wastes no time in pressing kisses to the long column of his neck, with his tongue flicking out to lick away the sweat that’s gathered there. He’s sucking, nibbling; it’s going to leave a mark, but Remus can’t even begin to care. They’re still completely dressed, for goodness sake.

‘Sirius. Sirius. Sirius...’ It’s like the only word he can remember all of a sudden, the only word that matters as he rolls his hips up. Sirius presses down and Remus' hands are under Sirius' shirt, fingernails pressing into the bare skin there as he thrusts his hips up erratically. Sirius lifts himself a little, grasps Remus by the biceps and moans, ‘Look at me.’ The change of angle is perfect – it’s too much and Remus' eyes fly open just for a second. Sirius is right there, so close, eyes dark and breath coming fast. He keeps his hips moving and in turn Remus is coming, coming hard into his pyjama pants at 2:30 am on Christmas morning.

: :

Remus expects it to be weird when he wakes up with Sirius' head on his chest and one leg bent across Remus' thighs. He remembers Lily telling him about the awkward first morning after with James – how they hadn't been able to look each other in the eye when they woke and she'd had to sneak back to the girls’ dormitory before it got light. They'd avoided each other for two days afterwards.

Given the way Sirius acts, or rather doesn't act when they've only kissed, Remus is expecting this morning to be a disaster. Weirdly though, it isn't. Sirius snuggles a little when Remus stretches, burrowing himself impossibly closer. He says into the fabric of Remus' pyjama top, 'You smell like Christmas.'

'I don't think that's me,' Remus responds dryly, 'I think that might actually be Christmas itself.'

It’s true. Remus has never known anything like Hogwarts at Christmas. The castle is filled with the aroma of holly and fir trees, eggnog and cinnamon and roasted chestnuts. There’s mistletoe everywhere, which he feels like he’s spending his life avoiding, and there are actual fairies, white and sparkling ones that flutter around the enormous trees, decorated in house colours, that seem to have appeared from nowhere. Just yesterday he saw Dumbledore, Nearly Headless Nick, and a random suit of armour caught up in a rousing rendition of ‘Good King Wenceslas’ and he hadn’t been able to refuse their demands that he join in for the final verse. It’s like heaven; it’s like everything you imagine Christmas to be but it never quite is. Remus doesn’t know that he can ever go back to Christmas at home after this.

'Oh, yeah.' Sirius rolls onto his back and stretches himself, body arching off the bed and then flopping heavily back down. He gives a satisfied groan. 'Hey, do you think I could get away with wearing my jacket to breakfast?'

'I think you've gotten away with worse.'

'Hmm.' Sirius hums, wriggling a little beneath the covers. They might not be snuggled up anymore but Remus can still feel the heat from his body and if he moves his foot just a little, just like that, it touches Sirius pyjama-clad calf. 'I really really have,’ he replies, and then: ‘Why's your bed so much comfier than mine?'

'Luck of the draw. Or perhaps they dole out mattresses based on academic record and as yours is less than exemplary...'

'I’ll just have to sleep in your bed more often, won’t I?'

Remus would absolutely not be opposed to that.

Christmas is Remus' favourite holiday. He loves the sounds, the smells, and the colours; he loves the carols and the crisp morning air and the exchanging of gifts. This year, he loves Hogwarts and all its splendour, loves sitting cross-legged with the few other remaining Gryffindors on the common room floor and throwing wrapping paper into the fire, loves the ooh's and the aah's that follow. He likes the camaraderie – there are no house wars, just everyone together singing carols and being merry. He loves Sirius wearing the leather jacket over his pyjamas – Sirius does wear it to breakfast and McGonnagall lets out a long-suffering sigh but doesn't say a word, so Remus loves her too.

Remus loves the breakfast feast, especially when Sirius grabs the crispiest piece of bacon from under the nose of an unsuspecting first year and drops it on Remus’ plate ('I know you like your bacon crispy.') Over Christmas dinner Sirius leans forward lasciviously and says, 'Hey Remus, want to pull my cracker?' then laughs at his own joke for a full five minutes. When it starts to snow that night, he likes how Sirius grabs him by the hand right there in front of everyone and makes him go outside and make snow angels: Remus sits and looks up as Sirius spins slowly in a circle, arms stretched out and catching snowflakes on his tongue and eyelashes – looking so adorable that it's all Remus can do to not just grab hold of his stupid adorable face and kiss him into the next year. When the two boys can stay up no longer Sirius clambers into Remus' bed without even asking, tugging him close and whispering, 'Merry Christmas, Remus,' into his hair. He falls asleep before Remus can say it back. He says it anyway and he thinks as he closes his eyes that it's the best Christmas ever.

On Boxing Day it all falls apart.

Sirius is sitting at the end of the bed when Remus wakes up. He's already dressed wearing one of Remus' jumpers, which makes Remus' morning wood twitch against his stomach (apparently he thinks clothes sharing is hot – something to file away for later, then), and Sirius looks uncharacteristically pensive.

Sirius is never pensive.

'What are you doing?' Remus murmurs sleepily, rubbing at his eyes with one hand and patting blindly at the pillow with the other. 'Come back to bed.'

'I'm not tired,' Sirius says softly.

'So don't sleep,' He half sits up and grabs at Sirius ankle and tugs. '...but get your arse back up here.'

Sirius doesn't move.

'I need to talk to you.'

'Right now?'

'I've been waiting for you to wake up for ages. Remus, I know.'

'You're talking in riddles,' Remus says grumpily, 'and I have no idea what you're talking about. I also don't really care at this moment, frankly. If you're not coming back to bed can you at least just be quiet?'

'Remus.' He sounds desperate almost and squeezes at Remus' ankle beneath the covers. Remus sighs heavily, pushing himself into a half-sit, propped against the pillows. He knows Sirius well enough to know that he's like a dog with a bone; he stands a much better chance of getting back to sleep if he just hears Sirius out.

'Okay. What do you know that it's imperative I also know? This better be good.'

'I know...about you.'

'What about me? My being gay is hardly classified information – if it wasn’t clear when we kissed then it definitely should’ve been by the first time we got off together.' He grins, hoping he can tempt Sirius up to his end of the bed for more of the same.

'Remus– I..' Sirius starts talking. Stops. Swallows a couple of times. 'I.. Merlin, this is fucking shit, I hope you know that, and I have tried to not do this – I've tried to make you confide in me, actually talk to me, but you won't and I can't carry on making out like everything is fucking fine when there's this you're not telling me, so really this is your own fault. We're Marauders, Remus, you're supposed to tell me.'

Remus can’t even dwell on the fact that Sirius has just included him, has called him a Marauder. His heart thunders against his ribcage, beating too fast... and it's not excitement, not the same as it usually is when he’s this close to Sirius. This feeling is panic. Sheer unadulterated panic. Sirius can't know. He can't. Remus has been so careful.

He must be talking about something else, but what? There is never anything but that, really.

'I don't know what you mean,' he says, but his voice is strangled and it's a half-hearted lie even to his own ears.

'I know. Remus, I know you didn't fall down the stairs the other week, I know why you were in the hospital wing, and I know where you were before that.' He stresses the last bit, looks at Remus with pleading eyes – work with me here, they say. Meet me halfway.

He knows. Remus knows he knows, can see it in his face, but Sirius can't say it, can't say, I know you're a werewolf. Remus doesn't blame him; he struggles to come to terms with it even to himself sometimes, this repulsive affliction. Here he is the day after Christmas in bed with a beautiful boy who somehow knows his secret. Remus thinks he might be sick.

'How?' he asks weakly. There's no point denying it anymore but he can't admit it either. 'How can you possibly?'

Sirius winces then, as though his words have caught up with him. 'James is going to kill me for telling you.'

James? What? He has got to be fucking kidding.

'How.' He grits it out through tightly clenched teeth, hands curled into fists on the bedcovers and eyes boring into Sirius'.

'We followed you,' Sirius says finally, softly. 'Last month. We followed you to the Shack.'

'Expelliarmus.'

Remus isn't even aware of reaching for his wand; he’s pointed it at Sirius' chest and spat out the curse before he's even had chance to think about it – doesn't know if it's anger or self-preservation, just knows he's shaking like a leaf and gripping his wand hard enough to snap it. Sirius falls back through the curtains and lands with a thud and an ‘oomph’ on the floor. Bit of a poor choice, really, Remus thinks belatedly as he throws himself out of bed and grabs some clothes... a disarming spell when Sirius doesn't even have his wand to hand, but it's done the trick. Sirius lays on the floor stunned as Remus flies out of the door without giving him a second glance.

Sirius might know the castle like the back of his hand but Remus has sixteen years’ worth of practise at being invisible and he utilises it for the rest of the day. It takes him approximately 3 hours and 32 minutes to stop shaking with more fury than he's ever felt in his life and then he just feels a mess: panicked and scared and still so very angry and betrayed too, in a way. It's all such a fucking mess. These are the first friends he'd ever really had and now it's all over; everything is ruined because they call themselves the fucking Marauders, think everything's an adventure and can't mind their own business. This is Remus' life that they're playing with – it might be some story they’ll be able to over-dramatise at dinner parties ‘til they're sixty, about the werewolf kid at school, but it's his reality and they had no right. Now they know and what is he supposed to do?

He stays hidden ‘til it's dark and it’s cold and he's shivering, then sneaks back through to the dormitory on tiptoes, avoiding the creaking floorboard, and slips into his bed.

His bed that isn't empty.

Sirius opens his eyes as the mattress dips. Remus cannot believe that any of this is even real; he bites down on his lower lip and refuses to make eye contact, wants to tell the boy to get back over to his own bed but isn't about to give him the satisfaction.

'Remus.'

'Don't,' Remus hisses angrily, pulling the covers up over his shoulders and turning onto his side – he can still hear Sirius breathing behind him. It takes him a long time to fall asleep.

The next day Remus heads off to the Shack after breakfast. He figures he'll hide out there ‘til lunch and then eat his meal at the relatively empty Slytherin table – a surefire way to make sure Sirius keeps his distance. It makes him glad for the slackening of rules for the holiday period. He’d awoken with Sirius draped over him this morning and it had startled him how right it felt, how quickly this has become familiar. Now he's here pacing the small dusty room of the Shack that he's used to seeing only one night a month; it feels as claustrophobic now as it does then. Obviously he's forgotten who he's dealing with though, because he's genuinely surprised when Sirius steps into the room, his expression defiant like he expects Remus to send him packing.

‘Hey.’

He says it softly, softly enough that Remus thinks he can probably get away with pretending he hasn’t heard, so he does. He carries on pacing, holding himself a little bit taller, little bit straighter. It’s just fucking typical, isn’t it, that Sirius can’t take a hint, doesn’t get that Remus has been avoiding him for the best part of two days for a reason. And also, who does he think he is? This place, the Shack, it’s his. Fine, initially it might have been a place for Remus to come to be the wolf, a place designed to keep the rest of the student body safe. Still, as much as he hates being confined here, as much as he feels suffocated usually, it’s supposed to be his safe space. Sirius has no right to take that from him.

Sirius is just inside the doorway, his body angled slightly as though he’s expecting Remus to pounce, as though he’s ready to run at any second.

I’m not the wolf now, Remus wants to say, you don’t have to look so fucking scared.

But he doesn’t say it or anything else and Sirius sighs heavily.

‘I don’t know why you’re so mad at me.’

Remus rounds on him then, eyes blazing as he takes a step forward. Sirius flinches, just barely, but holds his ground.

‘Are you being serious right now? You don’t know why I’m so mad.’ Remus’ hands move of their own accord to his head, grasping at handfuls of hair and tugging in frustration. This would be what ‘tearing your hair out’ refers to, then.

‘No, because...’

‘You could have been killed,’ Remus screams. ‘Do you get that? I could have killed you.’ That’s it, the thing that’s been prickling beneath his skin since yesterday morning and refusing to make itself known. He’s not just angry because Sirius knows his secret, he’s angry because Sirius put himself in harm’s way, in his way; if the wolf had gotten even a whiff of Sirius' scent he would have destroyed him and Remus would have been powerless to stop it. The very thought of it scares him to his core.

‘But you didn’t,’ Sirius says, as though that makes it all okay, as though the fact that he managed – and Remus doesn’t even understand how – to get away with his life makes the fact he took that risk okay. He continues, ‘You didn’t kill me, did you?’

Remus crosses the room in three large strides, coming to a stop less than 6 inches from where Sirius is standing, and snaps his fingers, just once, millimetres from his face. Sirius jerks back instinctively.

‘That fast,’ Remus yells. ‘It would have been over as fast as that and I would have woken up in the morning and you would have been dead, mauled and probably damn near unrecognisable. You’d be dead and I’d have killed you and do you think I’d be able to live with that?’

‘Remus.’

‘Why don’t you get it? You do not always get to be privy to every single detail of every person’s life, Sirius. People are allowed to not tell you everything – they have that right and you need to accept that often when they choose to exercise it, it’s for your own good.’

‘Remus, stop. You don’t understand.’

‘No, Sirius. You don’t understand. You have no idea what you have just barged your way into. What the fuck are we supposed to do now, just carry on like nothing has changed? Everything has changed.’

They’re still standing so close, close enough that Remus can see every fleck of gold and green and brown in Sirius' eyes, eyes that are open and sure and focussed right on his. Remus hasn’t been this wound up in a long long time – his chest is heaving and he’s shaking to boot.

Sirius holds his gaze, with a demeanour utterly calm as he says, as calmly as if they were just discussing the same weather, ‘I don’t care, you know, that you’re....that.’

‘Of course you care. You can’t even say it,’ Remus spits.

‘Fine.’ Sirius is still looking him right in the eye. ‘Remus Lupin, I do not care that you are a werewolf.

‘You should care, you stupid stupid boy. You should care.’

‘I’d have thought you’d have worked it out by now, but I very rarely do the things that people think I should be doing.’

His kiss feels like proving a point, or maybe like an answer; like Sirius has taken Remus' ‘what are we supposed to do now?’ and answered it by crashing their lips together, which obviously isn’t any kind of solution at all, long-term.

It’s not even a short-term solution.

It doesn’t even take him by surprise, not really. Now he recognises the glint in Sirius' eyes when he’s making that split-second decision to touch his lips to Remus'; he sees the movement of Sirius’ hand as he reaches out to tug Remus forward a little harshly, closing the barely there gap between them. Remus doesn’t resist and would like to say it’s because he’s too confused in that instant to do anything but go along with it, but the truth of it is he doesn’t really want to. Once Sirius' mouth is on his, that’s it, really – he’s kind of helpless to do anything other than just kiss him back.

If Sirius' kisses feel like proving a point then Remus' feel like proving him wrong, with his hand in Sirius' hair, twisting and pulling and not even caring a little bit about being gentle. Sirius, the stupid stubborn boy, kisses like it’s going to solve everything; Remus kisses like it never ever will. But how can he not? He’s been half in love with Sirius since the day he met him, and doesn’t quite know how to do much other than kiss and be kissed. Besides, if this is how Sirius wants to communicate then who is Remus to argue – he’ll get his message across any way he can right now.

It’s angry, kind of: they’re pulling hair and clashing teeth and sinking teeth into lips too hard to qualify as just nips. It feels so much better than he ever expected it would, letting out his feelings like this. Remus has had it in his head all along that this stuff is supposed to be overwrought with the reinforcement of positive emotions, with silent declarations of a four letter word that he feels so so strongly but is too afraid to ever let take shape. Now this, backing Sirius up against the wall with a knee firm between the other’s thighs, all while they tug at outer layers of clothing and kiss hard enough to bruise, is something else entirely; it feels good, finding a way to express himself that isn’t long words and careful intonation. It’s utterly unknown and hugely satisfying all at once.

He’s still a little angry when Sirius finally breaks the kiss, turning to press his lips to the curve of Remus' jaw – Sirius knows his secret, he followed him to the Shack, he could have died, you can’t fix that with a kiss – and it startles him a little when Sirius touches their foreheads together. He says softly, ‘I don’t fucking care, Remus. You really ought to stop being such an uptight dick about it all.’

‘I am not being an uptight dick about...’ and Sirius grins, like it’s all fine now, and he actually rolls his eyes then leans in again, pressing dry closemouthed kisses all over Remus' face, his chin, his cheeks, his jaw, down the bridge of his nose. Remus is trying so hard to be angry, he really really is, but it’s hard when Sirius is ignoring his indignant squawks in favour of nibbling at the skin over his Adam’s apple and murmuring a gentle, ‘hush, hush,’ into his neck where it vibrates and tickles. Remus has to swallow down a smile.

‘You can’t just kiss your way out of this,’ he retorts, forcing himself to take a step backwards out of Sirius' embrace, folding his arms over his chest and regarding Sirius crossly.

‘I’m not kissing my way out of anything. I’m trying to kiss my way into your pants.’

‘You’re incorrigible.’

‘You talk like you swallowed a dictionary.’ Sirius reaches out with grabby hands. ‘Come back here, we need to kiss some more.’

‘No.’ Remus shakes his head and takes another step back. ‘You can’t just do that. I’m really fucking mad at you right now, and this is all an absurd mess. You can’t just dismiss it like that, like I was just having a temper tantrum and now it’s done so we can move on like nothing’s wrong.’

‘You kind of were, though. Having a tantrum, I mean.’

He growls a little. ‘You are the most frustrating person.’

Sirius shakes his head with fondness. ‘Only because I’m right.’

‘You’re not right. You’re the opposite of right.’

‘Wrong then, wordsmith.’

Remus ignores him.

‘You’re not right and I am not throwing a tantrum, I am justifiably angry. At you. There’s a difference. This is serious and you should be treating it as such; you can’t just shrug it off and forget about it, not this time. This is so much bigger than you.’

Sirius is regarding him with a slightly quizzical expression – it’s one he gets a lot when Remus is doing something he can’t quite get his head around, like reading for pleasure, and it’s infuriating. It’s not as if Remus is something there for Sirius to study.

‘I’d like it if you just went away now.’ Remus says it quietly but forcefully, taking a third step back and looking pointedly at the door. Sirius waits a beat, and Remus can feel the weight of his stare when he pushes himself off the wall and makes a show of dusting off his trousers.

‘Fair enough, Remus. If that’s what you really want.’

‘Yes, please.’

‘I mean it, though. I really don’t care.’

: :

The weird thing is that in retrospect, Sirius really has been acting like he doesn’t care. In fact, he acts like he’s done every time something has happened between them: by acting like it’s nothing. Remus doesn’t quite know what he expected but he’d thought that something would be different once his secret became something that neither of them was keeping anymore. He thought Sirius would have something to say, perhaps, some opinion or any reaction at all, really, that he’d want to share now that he could.

But he doesn’t.

He grins easily when Remus shows up for dinner. Later, he wriggles his way onto the sofa in the common room where Remus is reading a Quidditch magazine somebody has left behind, burrowing into the cushions and resting his feet in Remus' lap. He sleeps in Remus' bed again every night without once asking. One night Remus has a nightmare where he’s the wolf but he’s still more him than usual and he (they? He likes to think of it as a separate entity to him) – they have chased Sirius through the forest until he’s collapsed, panting and crying and begging for mercy. The wolf’s teeth are bared right over Sirius' neck and Sirius is saying his name over and over. Remus, Remus... Remus can’t make it stop. He wakes shaking and sweating and yelling Sirius' name and Sirius is there, with strong arms circling him, pulling him back down, holding him close and tight and pressing kisses into his hair. Sirius rubs at his back for what feels like hours ‘til he falls asleep again.

Remus can’t stop thinking about it.

Sirius knows. James knows. They could be dead. They know. They will always know. Everything will change now – it has to – and how is he supposed to keep them safe, how can he keep them close? He’s never had friends like this before and now he has to lose them because he can’t see how they can make this work, especially when Sirius seems to be treating him like a pet project. The other boy spends the next three days following him around the rather barren hallways of Hogwarts, acting as though admitting he knows about the wolf gives him free rein to ask whatever he wants.

‘When’s the next full moon?’

Remus doesn’t answer.

‘Does it hurt? When you change?’

Remus doesn’t answer.

‘Was it that Greyback?’

Remus doesn’t answer.

‘Maybe we can find a cure?’

Remus doesn’t answer.

‘It’s in two weeks, the next one. I went to the library. I checked because I am a good friend.’

Remus doesn’t answer.

‘I’m going to come with you to the Shack next time. Oh, the others’ll be back then. We’ll all come.’

That does it.

‘You will not. You will stay the hell away, Sirius, or so help me it won’t be the wolf that kills you, it’ll be me.’

‘Sorry old pal, no can do. You’re a Marauder now; we stick together. All for one and one for all.’

‘That’s a Musketeer, you idiot, and no. This is not up for discussion. I am not some circus freakshow, you do not get to bring your little friends along to watch the big bad wolf. There will be no sticking together, at least not involving me. You can all stick together as far away from me as you can get. Do you hear me?’

‘I wish you’d hear me out. I’m trying to tell you we can help.’

‘I’m trying to tell you that you can’t. The wolf– it’s not, I can’t... It doesn’t care who you are, Sirius. It doesn’t care how important you are to me, it doesn’t make distinctions. If you follow me, if it knows you’re there, then it will either kill you or it will turn you.’

‘I’m important to you? Really?’

Remus doesn’t answer.

: :

James goes absolutely mental.

It’d be fun to watch, actually, if Remus didn’t have this horrible knot in his gut. If he wasn’t still waiting for it all to blow up in his face.

They’re in the courtyard and they don’t know Remus is there – he doesn’t make himself known, which, fine, is probably really sneaky but it serves them all right, really. Sirius has his hands on his hips and he juts out his chin defiantly as James throws his hands up in the air in frustration.

You and me both, mate, Remus thinks. Welcome to my life.

James shakes his head and Sirius joins in the gesticulating. James shoves at his shoulder and Remus edges a little closer, close enough to be able to hear what they’re saying.

‘You’re a fucking idiot. I knew you couldn’t be trusted. You’re such a dick.’

‘Fuck off. Remus isn’t one of our little schemes, James. You don’t get first and last say when it comes to him.’

‘I do if you’re going to be a dick about it. We were supposed to wait for him to come to us.’

‘He wasn’t coming though, was he? He was trying to carry it all himself, practically had a fucking hunchback from the weight of it.’

‘He would have done if you’d given him the chance. It’s called patience. It’s called earning his trust, which we’ll never fucking have now. What did you do, drop it on him on Christmas Day? Fancy another parsnip, Remus? Oh, by the way, I know you’re a werewolf. You’re a fucking dick, Sirius.’

‘It was Boxing Day, actually, smart arse; it was still better than your plan, which was basically treating him like an idiot and pretending like we didn’t know for as long as he held out. He deserves better than that.’

‘He didn’t tell us for a reason. We should have respected that. We should never have followed him in the first place.’

‘Yeah well, we did.’

‘And that total breach of his privacy is exactly why we should have let him come to us in his own time.’

‘But he wasn’t coming.’

Then they’re on the floor, rolling around in the courtyard dust. In the scuffle they let loose muttered swear words and flying limbs, poorly aimed kicks and punches that miss their mark just by a fraction. Peter steps nervously all around them, hands flapping uselessly at his sides as he mutters, ‘Hey, hey chaps, come on stop it stop it.’

For fuck’s sake, they’re going to get detention and James has only been back half a day.

Remus rolls his eyes and marches over, grabbing Sirius by the collar of his shirt and hauling him up and off James, who clambers quickly to his feet. He gives Sirius a shake, not letting go of his collar, and shakes harder when the other boy tries to pull free – ‘Lemme go already, Lupin.’ Remus wonders briefly if this is what McGonagall feels like every day of her life. All of a sudden, he has a new admiration for their long-suffering head of house.

‘Alright, Remus?’ James at least has the decency to look a little shame-faced – one of his hands comes up to rub at the back of his neck. His face is red and an angry-looking scratch runs down his left cheek.

‘Alright, James. Happy New Year.’ Remus nods at him but doesn’t smile.

‘Will you get the hell off me?’ Sirius hisses. Remus shakes him again and tightens his hold.

‘I don’t know, are you going to stop behaving like an animal?’

‘He started it.’ Sirius kicks a foot in James’s direction.

‘Yeah well, he hasn’t been driving me insane for the past two weeks, so...’ He lets go anyway, shoving Sirius away hard (and into Peter, who only just manages to catch him and save them both from toppling over).

‘Some thanks I get for trying to look out for you,’ Sirius says to him, adjusting his shirt and giving Remus a look. He does have a hell of a shiner – it looks like it’s going to kill in a couple of hours. Remus is half tempted to just leave it, except it would only have to be explained away soon enough.

‘Don’t be such a drama queen.’ He reaches for his wand and casts a couple of healing spells, cleaning up Sirius' eye, then James’ scratch and the cut on his bottom lip.

‘Thanks, Remus.’ James still looks a little sheepish, ‘And sorry about...you know, the whole wolf thing. Not sorry you are one, I mean, just sorry we found out and Sirius was such a cock about forcing it out of you. Except– I am kind of sorry you are one because that must be shite for you and you don’t deserve it... but not– I’m not sorry because I care... ‘cause I don’t. Care. None of us do, you should know that. We, well, you’re still you and I’m sorry if being you sucks but we still like having you around anyway. We all have our afflictions – look at Peter, he’s got to live with that face which is worse than whatever you have to deal with I’m sure – and I’m sorry if we (and by we I will always mean Sirius) have fucked that up. So thanks for the, you know, spell. And sorry about everything else.’

‘Merlin, James. Do you know, some days I really miss being home-schooled.’

: :

Remus wonders if this is what friendship is all about: the fact that James, Peter and Sirius are all trying exceptionally hard to pretend like everything is the same as it was before they took it upon themselves to follow him down to the Shack and watch him transform into a werewolf.

Or at least James and Sirius are trying. Remus thinks Peter really is either just totally oblivious or happy to just do whatever James and Sirius tell him to do. It’s disconcerting, the way that James seems to be so utterly accepting of anything that crosses his path, even this, and the way Sirius seems to be acting more like a normal functioning member of society and less like a nosy Sirius with him around; he hasn’t asked nearly so many questions since school started again. Remus knows this has nothing to do with him no longer wanting the answers – Sirius always wants all of the answers – and everything to do with the fact that James is an expert in sharp, perfectly aimed kicks to the ankle bone, kicks that smart enough to bring tears to the eyes, and Sirius is on the receiving end of one of them every time he veers towards a conversation topic that Remus can only assume they’ve deemed ‘out of bounds.’

(He reaches these assumptions based on the fact that whilst they are being extraordinarily ordinary to his face, there have been several occasions when he’s spotted the pair huddled whispering soberly in a corner only to look at him with too-bright grins when he approaches. A couple of times he’s turned up after the others to the common room and Sirius has opened his mouth to speak only for James to elbow him hard in the ribs so his words get lost in a yelp. Remus is grateful for that at least; Sirius' show of solidarity, which until now had been cleverly disguised as incessant questioning, had become more than a little too much. He’s glad James is back and keeping him in check – or at least, as much ‘in check’ as one can keep Sirius Black.)

So all three of them know and Remus knows all three of them know and they’ve all sworn to not say a word to another soul, which is something at least. The other boys are being fine, outwardly, too; however, they’re talking about him behind his back – and he knows they’re going to – hell, they just found out one of their elite group is a beast, they have to process it. He gets that... but he can’t help the fact that it makes him feel weird. He can’t help the fact that yes, up until now he’s categorically not wanted to try and talk about it with them but now he’s kind of mad that they’re acting like there’s nothing to say. Remus knows that they know that he’s a werewolf: surely they should have something to say?

It’s a situation that he has no idea how to navigate given that he’s never been in a situation even remotely like it before – apart from when he came out to his parents, of course. After that bombshell there had been the sound of his mum and dad’s hushed whispers over late night cups of tea for a few weeks, and that’d been the worst of it. Remus suspects that it isn’t going to work if he tries handling his friends finding out he’s a wolf in the same way he handled his parents finding out he’s a boy that likes boys. It’s just plain weird, this whole friendship thing, and he seems to be spending an inordinate amount of time pretending things that are happening aren’t.

He figures all he can do is follow their lead – which is fine, to a point.

It’s fine unless what they’re discussing behind his back is a plan to come to the Shack for the full moon.

‘I need to talk to you,’ Remus says sternly, placing his hands on his hips and looking down his nose at James, who’s sprawled on his back on his bed while reading The Prophet. James looks up at his friend in surprise – as if he hasn’t heard him approach – and pushes his glasses back up his nose with his forefinger.

‘Alright, Lupin? What’s up?’

‘It’s the full moon tomorrow.’

‘Is it?’

Remus doesn’t even bother rolling his eyes. James Potter is the worst actor ever to act and Remus has no idea how he manages to worm his way out of so many detentions, because actually, that innocent ‘I don’t have the faintest idea what you’re talking about’ face that he’s pulling right now? It’s the worst.

‘You’re to stay away.’

‘Listen, Remus.’ James scrabbles into a sitting position, all long arms and gangly legs. His expression is remarkably serious... for him.

‘I mean it, James. No if’s, no but’s, you have to stay away from the Shack ‘til it’s over. You have to swear it. I’ll petrify the lot of you if you don’t – and don’t think I don’t mean it.’

The boy had been about to argue the point – it had been right there in his eyes – but there was obviously something in Remus' tone or in his expression that made it clear he’d not be swayed on this. Remus is glad of that; he doesn’t particularly want to risk expulsion by casting a full body-bind curse on his best friends, but if it’s the lesser of two evils then he’ll do it.

‘Fine,’ James sighs. ‘I’ll stay away.’

‘Do you swear, on Lily?’

‘I swear.’

‘And Sirius?’

James looks at him cagily. ‘What about him?’

‘You’re to keep him away, too.’

‘I can’t swear that. You know what Sirius is like; he’s a law unto himself.’

‘You have to try,’ Remus says a little desperately. ‘You have to try to make sure that he stays away. Promise me.’

James pauses. He looks like he’s weighing something in his mind.

Finally, he shrugs his shoulders and speaks: ‘Whatever, Remus. If it makes you happy, I promise that I will do my best to make sure that that ridiculous boy known to us as Sirius Black stays well away from you until you are wholly yourself again. Alright?’

‘Alright,’ Remus says in relief, because James is a man of his word and if anybody can keep Sirius distracted, it’s him.

‘Good. Then bugger off,’ he says and shakes his newspaper in Remus' general direction. ‘I’m busy.’

: :

Instantly aware the mattress beneath him is harder than he’s used to, Remus stretches out slowly when he awakes, reaches his arms above his head, extends one leg and then another – his toes point and back arches with the stretch of each tired muscle, with the relief that nothing seems to be too badly damaged, this time. The Shack always feels cold in the morning and he's tired, a little achy, still feeling a little fuzzy ‘round the edges in the way he often does afterwards, but he doesn't feel like he's just done battle with a thousand ogres and lost. This can only be seen as a good thing.

He closes his eyes; he’s in no rush to go anywhere and if he knows anything it’s that it’s best to take this slowly, to make sure he’s in one piece rather than act like nothing happened and cause more damage. Hesitantly, he takes some deep breaths – nope, no shooting pains through his chest – so a month without several broken ribs then. This is rapidly shaping up to be the best ‘morning after’ in a long long time. Remus absolutely hates broken ribs for the thing about breaking your ribs is that it fucking hurts and wizard medicine, for all it's advancements, hasn't seemed to find a way around that. Madam Pomfrey can heal all his broken bones but it doesn't mean he won't have to spend a good couple of days afterwards feeling like he's been sucker punched every time he moves. Naturally it could be worse, Remus knows that. It could always be worse – and when it comes to this, well, Muggle medicine would just leave his broken ribs to heal under their own steam and the pain would last a couple of months instead of a couple of days. Thus, if Remus were in Muggle hands he'd be– well, dead probably, or at the very least in permanent agony. Still, it's nice to wake up and not hurt for once.

The wolf must've been feeling uncharacteristically gentle towards its human counterpart last night. Remus is grateful for that, even if he doesn't understand it.

When he opens his eyes properly and glances around the dingy room that he's under strict instructions to remain in until someone comes to get him, he spots a big fuck-off black dog sitting and watching him from the shadows. He curses, a muttered 'shit,' and he’s bolt upright against the headboard of the battered single bed in less than a second. The remarkable thing is not so much his reaction, but the fact that it doesn't hurt. At all. He must be feeling alright, more or less. He doesn't have time to marvel on this small wonder, though, mostly because of the big fuck-off black dog watching him from the shadows. He's a little preoccupied.

He sits still – as still as he can manage, barely even breathes – and watches it.

The dog stares back.

It’s like a battle of wills, almost, except that Remus doesn’t particularly want to win, he just doesn’t want to be mauled to pieces, especially not when the morning had been going so well.

He wonders briefly where it’s come from – must be from Hogsmeade, probably got locked out of the house when its owners went to bed... Except when he squints he can’t see a collar, so it’s probably wild and rabid and it’s just his luck, he comes out of a moon relatively unscathed for once and gets attacked by a wild dog. How on earth did it get in? The Shack is hardly easy access. He doesn’t have much time to dwell on any of those things because the dog has clearly gotten tired of sitting and watching and it is padding across the room. Towards him. Remus is fully backed up against the headboard of his bed and can’t really see a way out.

This is not how he expected to die.

The beast comes to a stop at the side of the bed. Remus eyes it warily, waiting for it to pounce, except it doesn’t look like it wants to pounce anymore; it looks like it’s smiling at him, like it’s laughing almost. Its tongue hangs out of its mouth, ears perked and tail wagging. Maybe Remus is more injured than he thought, maybe he’s brain damaged because he finds himself reaching out a hand – he can hear his mum’s voice in the back of his mind, ‘Never ever ever try to stroke a dog without its owner’s permission, Remus, no matter how gentle it might look’ – and the dog dips its head a little as Remus touches it gently at first, with just a soft stroke to the silky soft fur between its ears, and then a little firmer, fingers burrowing in the thicker fur at the back of its neck and scratching a little. The dog lets out a little keening noise and tries to get closer, pushes itself against Remus' hand. Its tail is still wagging and Remus laughs.

‘Hello, boy. Are you a boy?’

The dogs nods his head. The dog nods his head. Definitely brain damage. Remus laughs again, then proceeds to shuffle forward on the bed and swing his legs over the side, his toes curling against the cold of the floor. The dogs whines a little again, moves impossibly closer, and the heat of its body is warm and solid against his bare leg. He wonders whether it’s weird, being naked in front of a dog, but decides pretty quickly that what’s weird is that he’s even asking himself that question, and that if he were wiser he would probably focus on bringing his sanity into question right now.

‘Where’d you come from, huh? Who d’you belong to?’

He’s still scratching his fingers through the dog’s long black fur as he talks and it looks up at him with grand shining eyes, resting its head atop his thigh and turning its head a little to press its damp nose to Remus' skin. The hound looks hopefully up at him. I want to belong to you, it seems to be saying, Let’s be best friends. It’s so reminiscent of how Sirius looks when he wants something, all puppy dog eyes and ‘I’m so adorable you can’t refuse me,’ that Remus can’t help but laugh again, dropping off the bed and onto the floor. He pulls the blanket with him and wraps an arm around the dog to tug it closer. The dog licks his face then nudges at his shoulder insistently with his nose, so Remus leans forward a little – seems like that’s what it wants, anyway – and it laps gently at a spot below his shoulder blade. Remus gasps; it stings, and when he twists and looks back over his shoulder there’s a gash, one he hadn’t even noticed, really. How had the dog known? It’s probably highly unsanitary, having an animal from unknown origins lick at your wounds, but now that he knows it’s there it really hurts and it’s kind of soothing so he can’t bring himself to push it away.

‘Thanks,’ he says, like it understands. Then: ‘You’re lovely, aren’t you? Such a bonny boy. I’d take you with me if I could, except you probably have a lovely home already, a lovely family.’

The dog lets out a low growl of disagreement and Remus grins.

‘I bet you do. And you can’t come with me anyway...’ He pushes the pooch away finally, taking it by the jaw and looking into its eyes. ‘–because dogs are not on the list of approved pets and I already have an owl. You should probably go home. Pomfrey’ll be here in a minute and you don’t want her casting a spell on you in a panic; you do look a little intimidating at first. She seems harmless but trust me, she’s as frightening as you look.’

The dog seems to sigh but it unfolds itself to a stand. It really is as though it understands every word he’s saying, Remus thinks as it pushes its wet nose against his cheek just once more. Then it turns and pads towards and out of the door – gone. He feels suddenly bereft, and he misses Sirius, randomly, deep in the pit of his stomach. Remus wonders absently where the dog came from and if he’ll see it again.

: :

It's a Saturday, which is perfect: it's so much better when the day after the full moon falls on a weekend. They're all on Remus' bed, heavy curtains concealing them from any other Gryffindor that should decide to spend his Saturday afternoon in the dormitory (not that any would, Remus surmises, seeing as it’s a perfect winter’s day and they're only inside because he'd decided to make the most of the opportunity to nap and had instead been rudely awakened by the three of them piling onto his bed). A silencing charm has been cast, just in case. Remus and Sirius sit at the head with backs against the headboard and Remus lets himself wonder idly whether Sirius has positioned himself on purpose, so that his thigh presses against Remus' own. He hopes so – he inches just a millimetre or so closer, just because he can.

'You alright?' Sirius follows up his question with a featherlight touch, fingertips just barely grazing the back of Remus' hand where it rests on his thigh. It's a gesture that adds weight to his otherwise casually phrased enquiry and it makes Remus' breath catch. Sirius is Sirius – and god knows he's tactile – but he's never like this; there are never private, tender ministrations, not in public. Somehow this briefest of touches feels almost painfully intimate.

'I'm alright.'

'It was okay?' Sirius presses, shifting a little so he can look Remus in the eye. His gaze is searching, as though trying to read between some invisible lines.

'It's never okay,' Remus says mildly with a shrug, because it's true. The full moon is always unequivocally awful. God. They got themselves involved, so they can just deal with the harsh truths of it: why should he sugarcoat? 'But it wasn't horrific. I mean, it's definitely been worse.'

'Like the time we found out. You were bad then. Didn’t see you for days,' Peter says knowingly with a sympathetic grimace.

Remus nods. ‘Exactly.’ He gives Sirius a soft smile, a gentle reminder – you can stop worrying now, here I am alive and kicking – and feels his heart skip again when the smile is returned, Sirius' eyes soft and the curve of his lips gentle. It’s ridiculous, the enormity of Remus' feelings for this boy. He holds his gaze for a beat, tucks the smile in his pocket and moves on, before their lingering glances arouse suspicion.

'Something weird happened this morning, though,’ he says.

'What do you mean? Like what?' James asks from the end of the bed. He leans forwards a little bit, forearms resting on bent legs and eyebrows raised in interest. Remus grins. Good old James, always loves a story.

‘There was a dog,’ he says, pausing for dramatic effect, ‘right there in the Shack with me when I woke up. A massive black thing just sitting like it had been there awhile, watching me. I have no idea how it got in.’

He’s debating whether to tell them how he still swears it understood what he was saying, how he felt like he knew it somehow, but he doesn’t get the chance; suddenly Peter is choking on fresh air, coughing and spluttering. Rather than thwack him on the back, James is elbowing him hard in the ribs and shooting a fierce glare in Sirius' direction. Sirius hasn’t moved, is still lounging against Remus' pillows with a smirk on his face.

‘Jeez, Wormtail,’ he says lightly, ‘die quietly.’

James kicks out at him then, socked foot making a thudding contact with Sirius' leg. His eyes blaze as he elbows Peter hard again and mutters, ‘Get a fucking grip, Pete.’

‘Are you alright?’ Remus asks, slightly confused.

‘He’s fine,’ James says with a forced smile. Peter nods his agreement, face red and eyes streaming. ‘But we’re late for...things and we have to...go. Come on.’

He pushes Peter off the bed and the other boy falls in a coughing heap onto the floor, then scrambles back to his feet, avoiding Remus' eyes.

‘Sirius,’ James says firmly.

‘Go on then,’ Sirius says, not moving. ‘You go.’

‘You’re coming with us.’ There’s a warning in his tone, Remus could hear it a mile off even through his confusion, but Sirius just shakes his head.

‘M’not. I’m staying here with Remus.’

There’s a moment then – Remus has seen it before, this battle of wills between the two of them: sometimes it results in a scuffle but most times, like now, it’s like a silent war. Eyes piercing, jaws set... They have this way of communicating that doesn’t need words. Eventually James sighs, throwing his hands up in the air. He’s lost, this time at least.

‘Fine. Stop here then, but...’ James swallows down the rest of his sentence – Remus can see him do it in the sudden bob of his Adam’s apple. Something is going on, he’s missing something, but he has no idea what. James grabs Peter almost roughly by the arm, throws a quick ‘see you later’ to Remus and a last angry glare at Sirius. Moments later they’re gone.

‘What on earth was all that about?’

‘Who cares?’ Sirius asks. He moves lightning fast to throw a leg over Remus' thighs – the boy lets out an oomph of surprise – and straddle him. ‘Tell me more about this dog.’

Remus’ hands move to Sirius' legs, holding him in place. This feels like an intentional distraction. Remus will not be distracted.

‘Don’t you think that was a bit...weird?’ he presses on, because it was ridiculously weird.

‘I think James and Peter are always a bit weird. I also think I’ve wanted you on your own all sodding day so I am exceedingly grateful for their particular brand of weirdness.’

He leans in to brush his lips gently against Remus', teasing them open with a flick of his tongue. Alright, maybe Remus will be distracted after all.

For now he’s given up trying to figure out any of this whatever-it-is between them. Sirius the best thing to ever happen to him. Granted, it might not be saying much given that his life doesn’t even amount to two decades. Remus might not know where it’s going, really, but still he knows how it makes him feel and he never wants it to stop. He also knows that Sirius sleeps in his bed most nights, to the extent that Remus is now used to waking up to the feel of Sirius' hard cock pressed against his back or of Sirius’ hand down his pyjama pants slowly jerking him off; he is has long since gotten used to being pressed into dark corners or tugged into empty rooms so that Sirius can kiss the breath from his lungs. He tells himself it’s better not to care what it means, tells himself it doesn’t matter as much as what he has right in front of him: Sirius, beautiful and real and seeming to want Remus just as much in return.

‘Was it cute?’ Sirius asks breathlessly when they finally pull apart, breath coming fast. Remus is half hard already – he thinks sometimes that Sirius could probably make him come just from kissing. He does not want to stop doing what they’re doing right now to talk.

‘Was what cute?’

‘The dog.’ Sirius says it like Remus is stupid for not keeping up.

‘I must be doing something wrong,’ Remus says, moving a hand from Sirius' leg to tug him down by the back of his neck ‘...if you’re still thinking about some mangy dog.’

‘Mangy?’ Sirius sounds almost offended, wriggling free and sitting back up. ‘Mangy.’

‘Well no, it wasn’t mangy actually. It was lovely, all glossy, black coat and silky soft ears, but that’s hardly the point Sirius. The point is I don’t want to talk about a dog right now.’

‘It was cute then?’

‘Why are you more bothered about how cute it was than the fact that it could have killed me?’’

‘It wouldn’t have killed you,’ Sirius says knowingly. Remus raises an eyebrow. ‘It’ll have been too busy falling head over heels in puppy love with you to think about killing you.’

‘Why are we talking about this,’ Remus wonders aloud, ‘when there are much better ways we could be occupying our mouths?’

Sirius grins and it’s wicked and dirty; it’s the grin Remus likes best and he only ever sees it directed at him. Sirius leans down, teeth catching on the curve of his jaw, and it makes Remus' hips buck off the bed.

‘Oh,’ Sirius says, ‘Hello. I see what you’re saying.’

‘What?’ Remus asks, breathlessly, fingers curling around Sirius' biceps. ‘What am I saying?’

‘You’re saying I should put my mouth to better use.’ And he wriggles his hips just so, that’s his arse pressing against Remus' now-slightly-more-than-half-hard cock, and Remus gasps. Sirius scoots back a little and rucks Remus' t-shirt up just a bit, letting his fingers dance across the bare skin of his belly – it’s slightly concave as Remus sucks in a breath at the unexpected touch. Sirius skims the light trail of hair and flicks a finger against the waistband of his jeans before popping the fly one-handed. ‘And I think maybe you’re right.’

Remus closes his eyes.

 

: :

One day in February Sirius gets a letter.

It’s not unusual, really. They all get letters all the time but this letter in particular is delivered by Sirius' brother rather than by one of the huge lustrous Black family owls – that in itself strikes Remus as odd. They’re lounge in the courtyard in the sunshine when Regulus draws to a stop in front of them and holds out the heavy cream parchment, the Black family seal emblazoned in a deep red wax. It strikes the others as a little peculiar, too, which is apparent in the way Sirius stiffens and the way James takes a breath, looks at Sirius out of the corner of his eye and then over at Remus questioningly.

Remus shrugs: he has no idea.

‘Alright, Reg.’ Sirius grins as he takes the letter, but it’s forced. It makes Remus' heart clench although he can’t quite place why. Regulus looks down at him, his expression slightly haughty although his mouth twitches a little as though he’s trying to fight back a smile. The green of his tie is jarring on a boy so similar to Sirius. Remus wonders, not for the first time, what it must be like to be someone like Sirius when your surname is Black.

Regulus looks like his older brother, on the surface: he is equally handsome if a little less sure of himself, and perhaps a little more judgemental. His hair is slicked away from his face, his tie knotted perfectly at his neck. He wears the Slytherin badge, not to mention the name Black, with pride. Remus looks at Sirius grinning up at his brother, his Gryffindor tie loose around his neck, his hair a shaggy mess. his fingers holding the envelope so tightly his knuckles are white. He remembers stories of Muggle posters magically fastened to the walls of Sirius’ bedroom at home, his two-fingered gesture to family values he could never be convinced to get behind.

‘She tell you what all this is about? What’s the crazy witch want this time?’ Sirius waves the letter in front of him. Regulus smiles a little but it doesn’t reach his eyes and he curls his hands into fists by his sides, then uncurls them slowly, fixing his gaze just to the right of Sirius like he can’t meet his eyes. Sirius' eyes soften and he extends a leg, poking his foot gently against the toe of Regulus’s shiny black shoe.

‘It’s alright, Reg, I know you’re just her messenger.’

Regulus stiffens a little at that, shoulders back and head held high as he steps back just a fraction, out of the reach of Sirius' foot. ‘Toujours Pur,’ he says, soft like a prayer yet firm like a promise, his pronunciation so much better than schoolboy French. Sirius rolls his eyes.

‘Fuck’s sake, kid, lighten up. You’ll go the same way as her if you’re not careful.’

‘Sooner that than go the same way as you,’ Regulus retorts, jutting out his chin proudly, but there’s a slight tremor in his voice as he watches Sirius rip the letter open.

‘We both know you don’t mean that.’ Then, grin becoming a glare: ‘I’m not a circus show; you don’t have to watch me read it.’

‘She said I should.’ He sounds almost apologetic. Sirius sighs but lets his expression soften into something almost fond.

‘Oh alright then, no point in both of us feeling her wrath. She wants my response probably; I don’t need to read it to pass that along. You can tell her from me, Regulus: fuck you, Mother dear, sincerely. And don’t edit out the fuck please, it’s all the more effective coming from your pretty little mouth.’

‘This could all be avoided,’ Regulus says, sounding a little pained – he obviously knows more about the contents of the letter than he’s letting on. ‘–if you’d just choose your friends more carefully.’ He shoots Remus a dirty look. ‘If you’d just made different and better decisions it could all be different. Mother loves you, Sirius.’

‘I do choose my friends carefully, it’s just a shame you can’t choose your family. If I could, I’d still choose you, despite what you might think.’ He looks hard at Regulus then adds, ‘And you don’t have to choose them. You have a choice – maybe someday you’ll have the bottle to make the right one. Listen, what I mean is if we both leave her then she’s screwed; she wants an heir more than she wants a son, Reg. She wants me, she needs you and if she hasn’t got either of us then she’s got nothing, she’s fucked pretty much. Remember that.’ Sirius shrugs then, his expression closing over as though he’s been caught out giving a damn. He schools it into a cocky smirk. ‘Whatever, though. Thanks for the concern, baby brother.’

‘What’s it say?’ James asks, leaning forward as Sirius opens up the parchment and begins to read. Sirius doesn’t answer, eyes scanning the contents of the letter quickly, face paling. Remus feels his heartbeat pick up – something feels wrong about all of this. He doesn’t know much about Sirius' relationship with his family. Sirius doesn’t talk about it much, but it’s not hard to put the pieces together; the Black family are one of the richest, most powerful, most staunchly elitist pureblood families in the wizarding world and Sirius is Sirius. Remus remembers snatches of conversation from months ago: Sirius saying he was never going back, James saying he always had a place to stay with him, the two of them laughing about Gryffindor banners and Sirius' mother screaming, Sirius pushing an owled letter to one side at breakfast... ‘She’s off her fucking trolley pulling the shit she has. She can’t make me do anything; I’m not a fucking child. My entire family is mental. Sharing their blood, calling them family, calling her Mother, it sticks in my fucking throat.’

‘Sirius?’ James says again, nervously this time, neck craning as Sirius crumples the piece of paper into a ball in his fist. He shakes his head just once and looks up at his brother.

‘Fuck you all, Regulus. Just...fuck you all.’ Without a look or another word to any of them, he pushes himself to a stand, strides quickly away. Regulus stumbles over himself in a hurry to catch up, his calls for Sirius to wait and hang on a minute making him sound every bit the younger brother.

Everything is off for days after that.

Sirius makes himself scarce, sitting silently beside them in class or at mealtimes but not saying a word. Even James can’t raise a smile from him and Remus daren’t even try. Sirius’ eyes are dark, his face like thunder; he looks almost unrecognisable. They don’t see him in the common room, can’t find him anywhere when their time is their own – it throws everything off kilter: they don’t seem to know how to act, or how to react, and it makes everybody uneasy. Sirius is usually so vocal, has always seemed to wear his heart on his sleeve and is quick to shout out his displeasure, so this withdrawing, this shutting them all out, it’s different and it’s unnerving. It’s plain to Remus that he’s been avoiding them all – even James – since he got that letter, they just don’t know why.

He’s slept in his own bed every night since, and Remus lies awake in the dark with ears straining desperately to hear any sound at all from Sirius' bed and comes up with nothing. He’s desperate to bridge the gap but having no idea where to start.

By the third night he can’t take it anymore.

It’s never been this way, has always been Sirius sneaking into Remus' bed and not the other way around. As he pushes the heavy curtains to one side and slips past them his heart is thundering against his ribcage. Sirius obviously wants to be left alone, and maybe he should be respecting that – if he hexes him across the dormitory in a temper, well, that’s going to take some explaining. Except Sirius is stubborn and he doesn’t talk, at least not about himself. Remus feels like all of this, the way he’s withdrawn into himself, is just going to end up being one big downward spiral and that – without being too heartless – the other boy just needs to get a grip and deal with it before he drives himself crazy. This is the only way Remus knows to go about it, really. The bed dips as he climbs onto it. Sirius doesn’t move but there’s a change in his breathing and Remus knows he’s awake.

‘It’s me,’ he whispers, although who else would it be, really? He slips beneath the covers, cold already just from the few moments he’s been out of bed. He burrows down, lies in silence while warming his toes for a long minute and then moves his hand a little, his fingers reaching for Sirius' hand where it lies beneath the covers and tangling their fingers together when the other boy doesn’t pull away. He doesn’t say anything, just lies there, and eventually as Sirius' breathing evens out he allows himself to relax. Remus gives the hand in his a gentle squeeze and closes his eyes.

‘She disinherited me,’ Sirius whispers into the darkness and Remus startles. He’d almost been asleep and the whisper sounds loud in the silence of the room. He doesn’t answer, just shifts a little so he can see Sirius' profile in the darkness as he talks. ‘Apparently her gay Gryffindor disappointment of a son has finally pushed her too far.’

The way Regulus had looked at him the day he’d delivered the letter flashes in Remus' mind and he swallows hard. ‘Because of me?’

‘Partly,’ Sirius says honestly. ‘Seems she’s had Regulus keeping tabs on me, so you know.... Don’t go feeling all guilty though–’ He nudges at Remus with a cold toe, and Remus thinks he can see his mouth curve up a little in the semblance of a smile as he continues, ‘This has been a long time coming and it’s about so much more than me fucking a half-blood werewolf. Besides, I couldn’t care less about what she thinks.’

He sounds convincing, his tone light and almost jocular – he would probably have anyone else fooled. Remus, though, doesn’t fall into the category of ‘anyone else.’

‘It’s okay,’ Remus says gently, ‘if you do care.’ He doesn’t know what else to say really, except that he’s sorry – not just that he is what he is, but that Sirius is in this situation at all; that this how his life is and has always been; that he’s been forced to grow up with a family that doesn’t understand him and has no desire to try. Remus has never been so grateful for his own parents as he is right now. Guiltily, he also feels a little panicked – if Sirius' mother knows about Remus, about his secrets, what does that mean for him? Is she going to expose him? Will he be forced to leave Hogwarts, or worse? He pushes it down, the fear: this isn’t about him.

‘I don’t,’ Sirius says fiercely. ‘I don’t care.’ He moves, rolling quickly on top of Remus and kissing him, relentless and untamed. ‘I don’t even care that she’s blasted my name off the bloody Black family fucking tree.’

Well shit.

‘Stop it.’ Remus rolls Sirius off and away, trying to ignore the twitch of his cock in his pyjama pants – it feels good, it always feels good, but it also feels wrong. He’d be the worst kind of friend to let Sirius just hide from something as big as this. ‘Not now, not now.’

‘Oh, I get it. You don’t want me either,’ Sirius says angrily, all attempts at pretending to be unaffected gone now that he can direct his emotions in Remus' direction. ‘Fuck off back to your own bed, then. Don’t be a prick tease.’

‘Don’t be so absurd,’ Remus says lightly, reaching out an arm and tugging Sirius back against him. ‘It’s not about that. I just... we should talk.’

‘There’s nothing to say.’ Yet he doesn’t pull away, lets Remus stroke soothingly up and down his arm.

‘I think there is. I know what it’s like, Sirius, I understand how it feels to not have a rightful place and to feel shit about things you can’t help. I know that you can’t shut people out. It doesn’t work.’

‘You don’t know anything,’ Sirius hisses into the darkness. ‘God, you act like you have a fucking monopoly on hard times but guess what, Remus? You don’t because you know what, everybody that matters to you accepts you. Nobody gives a fucking fuck what happens to you at the full moon, everybody loves you regardless. Poor old Lupin, it must really fucking awful to be surrounded by all that love and acceptance and lack of judgement.’

Remus wants to retort, to step in and defend himself and say, ‘Actually, it’s not that easy at all, it’s like having every bone in your body ripped through your skin every month and it’s agony at best...’ Yes, he has been lucky and yes, the people he’s trusted with this so far have been incredible about it, but for every one person that accepts him there are a million out there that won’t – he has to walk around with this giant fucking stigma attached to him and either keep big parts of himself hidden or risk being ostracized at every turn. Still Sirius is talking in loud whispers, body tense beside him.

‘My family hates me. My own mother hates me so much that she blasted my name off the family tree. Do you even understand what that means to us, what she’s saying? She’s saying I am dead to her. She’s my mum, for fuck’s sake. He’s my brother. They’re supposed to love me unconditionally; that’s the deal, isn’t it? And I know I despise her, I know everything that they stand for makes me sick, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt. I fucking hate that, I hate that she makes me feel like this. That I let her make me feel like this.’

Remus pulls him closer, wraps his arms around him and presses his face into Sirius' hair. He wishes, wishes so hard that he had the words to make this better. And he doesn’t; there is nothing you can say, nothing that will make it fine to be 17 years old and cast out by your family, tossed aside as though you never meant anything just because you’re trying to be a better person, just because you’re brave enough to resist doing things, things you won’t agree with just because that’s expected of you. Remus loves that Sirius defies expectation, he just wishes for Sirius’ sake that defying expectation didn’t have to mean this.

‘You are a better person,’ Remus whispers without even realising really that he’s speaking. ‘You are the best person.’

Sirius breath hitches and he huffs out a faint sob Remus' chest. Remus just holds him tighter.

‘I’m fine,’ Sirius murmurs, words muffled a little by Remus' shirt. ‘–with hating them. I am fine with that. And if getting their approval means I have to be like them then I really don’t want it and I’d die before I got involved in any of that pureblood bullshit they build their lives around, I would. I swear it. That said, hating them doesn’t make it fair for them to hate me. You know?’

‘I know.’ Remus murmurs although he doesn’t, not really.

‘I’m sorry, though. I know it’s pretty shit, what you have to deal with. I know my family issues are nothing next to that. They’re nothing I can’t handle, anyway.’ He squeezes Remus a little tighter, his tone light all of a sudden as though he’s brushing it off, the way he feels, dismissing it completely – it’s so typical of him, really, because he’s Sirius and he never opens up and he doesn’t talk about real proper serious things: this is the deepest conversation they’ve had in almost six months of knowing one another. Maybe it’s the darkness, Remus muses, that’s led him to open up more than he would ordinarily. It’s somehow easier to talk when nobody can look into your eyes.

The moment has passed now – he can tell by the shift in Sirius’ demeanor, in the way his hand is creeping underneath Remus’ pyjama shirt. He’s done talking, is probably going to go back to pretending like it’s all fine; part of Remus feels like he should push a little harder, try for more, but what would be the point? Sirius is nothing if not stubborn. He won’t talk if he doesn’t want to talk, if it’s not on his terms.

‘It’s all relative.’ Remus shrugs, trying to keep his tone equally light: ‘One man’s castle and all that.’ A beat. ‘I wouldn’t swap with you, if that helps.’

Sirius laughs then – it’s the first time he’s heard it in four days and he hadn’t realised how much he’d missed it, the way it bubbles up from nowhere – and it makes him grin in return, a face-splitting smile that he buries in Sirius' hair. He is so screwed when it comes to this boy.

‘If it helps?’ Sirius is still laughing. ‘That you’d rather be a fucking werewolf than a Black? Thanks, Remus, that’s...that’s really really great.’

‘I just meant,’ he tries to explain, ‘that it’s okay for you to feel shit. I’d feel shit if I was you too, because, you know, being disinherited and your mum not loving you and all that? It’s fairly shit. So you’re justified in feeling pretty awful.’

That just makes Sirius laugh harder. The boy wheezes out, ‘At least– at least I don’t have to lock myself away once a month so I don’t give the rest of the population lycanthropy.’ Then Remus is laughing too, face buried in Sirius' hair and Sirius' face pressed to his chest, arms wrapping and legs tangling. They press close as they laugh and laugh and laugh, and Merlin knows it’s not even remotely funny, any of it, but it’s kind of cathartic all the same.

: :

A couple of days later they’re in the third floor corridor, just past the entrance to the Clock Tower. Sirius has Remus backed up against the wall, hands beneath his shirt pressing fingernail patterns into his skin as he sucks a mark to the curve of the other boy’s collarbone. They’re standing in the shadows and although the corridor is almost always deserted at this hour – classes finished and the library closed – there’s always the chance someone could round the corner and find them. Remus gets a certain thrill from that, tips his head back against the wall to give Sirius better access and lets out a low moan.

He doesn’t think he’s an exhibitionist or anything – God, he’s made living under the radar into an art form – so it’s probably more to do with the fact that if they’re caught then people will know. It takes it all out of their hands then: he won’t need to worry about why Sirius can barely keep his hands to himself when they’re alone but is so damn secretive the rest of the time. The hot and cold still makes Remus uneasy – not enough to do anything about it, but it’s there all the same, prickling a little under his skin. He’ll address it eventually, just not now, not when Sirius is kissing him and touching him and it feels so good. Not when all of this is going on with Sirius and his family. He’s been better since that talk the other night, slightly less withdrawn, slightly less brooding, but he’s still not fine. Remus supposes he probably can’t expect him to be – being cast off by your family is a big deal no matter how much you hate them, no matter that you’ve cast yourself off already, but he can’t help feeling like it’s more than that. He isn’t quite sure just how to get Sirius to tell him what exactly that something missing is.

He moves his hands to grip Sirius by the hips, tugging him closer, when they both notice the sound of footfalls coming down the corridor rapidly. Sirius jumps back as though he’s been burned, running a hand through his hair and giving Remus a look that he can’t quite decipher. Remus smiles, he hopes reassuringly, and shoves his shirt tails back into his trousers, straightening his tie just in time for Regulus to round the corner. Sirius mutters a low ‘fuck shit wank fuck’ under his breath that makes Remus want to giggle. He doesn’t; there’s a sudden flash of something in Sirius' eyes that lets him know that taking this anything less than seriously would be a mistake.

‘Fuck,’ Sirius says again, grabbing a handful of the hair at the nape of his neck the way he does, Remus has come to learn, when he’s nervous. Remus isn’t sure what to do suddenly so he does nothing, he just stays leaning against the wall in a nonchalant manner. Remus has never been nonchalant in his life, though, so he doubts he’s pulling it off now.

‘Are you trying to aggravate her?’ Regulus hisses at his brother, throwing Remus a suspicious glance and coming to a stop in front of them. He fixes Sirius with a fierce glare. Sirius shrugs his shoulders and stares back just as hard, expression defiant.

‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.’

‘Mother made herself perfectly clear in her letter how she feels about the company you keep.’

‘I rather don’t see how that’s any of her business anymore. And besides, the only way she could possibly have any idea what company I’m keeping is if you tell her.’ Sirius jabs a finger hard in Regulus’s chest.

‘Ow. That hurt, you dick.’

‘Was meant to.’ Sirius grins then in another one of those sudden mood switches that are so unique to him; the more Remus gets to know him the more he realises they’re a defense mechanism, hiding behind a smile lest anybody see what’s going on beneath the surface. To Remus' surprise Regulus smiles back. They look remarkably alike when they smile and Remus feels a sudden rush of pity for his friend – Remus always wanted a brother or a sister, felt the hole they would have filled almost painfully some days before he came to Hogwarts, and he can’t imagine what it must be like for Sirius, to have had a brother and to now have him ripped away.

‘I meant what I said the other day,’ Sirius says, giving his brother a pointed look. ‘You don’t have to be her puppet. This whole being disowned thing, it’s got its perks. Namely not having to listen to her manic squawking at family parties.’

Regulus huffs out a laugh.

‘And imagine, if she cut you off too we could be shunned together. The literal Black Sheep. We’d be infamous. It’d be enough to give her a coronary most likely. Kill the old hag off.’

‘Shut up, Sirius. Don’t talk about her like that.’

‘They’ve gotten under your skin Regulus, but you know they’re full of shit.’

‘I know you’re full of shit.’

‘You love me.’ It’s the same cocky tone he takes when he’s trying to convince Remus or James or Peter to do something they don’t particularly want to do. It feels fake somehow though, like Sirius is trying to say something without actually saying much at all. Maybe it’s just in Remus' head, maybe he’s looking for something that isn’t even there, but to his ears it sounds a little like a question, like he’s looking for confirmation of the fact.

Usually, when Sirius adopts this tone, this you love me so do let me have my way, with them they laugh, roll their eyes, accuse him of diversionary tactics. To Remus’ surprise, Regulus has a remarkably similar reaction.

‘That’s hardly the point.’ He looks much older than his fifteen years as he looks disparagingly at his older brother. Remus has to swallow down a smile.

‘That’s exactly the point, baby brother. I actually give a fuck but she’s just using you. It’s not about love, not with her – she can’t love because she hasn’t got a fucking heart; she doesn’t care about you, she just cares what she can do with you. She had all her hopes pinned on me, the daft bat. She’s lost her rightful heir so she’s got a point to prove with you because you’re all she has. She needs someone with a bit of backbone, Reg, someone who has more personality than a wet weekend, don’t you see? She needs me but all she’s got left is you.’

It’s clear he’s said something wrong, crossed an invisible line somewhere; the moment has passed and Regulus’ face is closed, his arms folded defensively across his chest.

‘Why are you two up here anyway?’

Sirius rolls his eyes, making exasperation known. ‘Mind your own business, then, if you’re going to be like that.’

‘Homework,’ Remus answers quickly. No point in antagonising the kid.

God, they really are so similar: the snark and bite, the way they’re open until they’re very much not – and now they stand looking daggers at one another. Remus wishes he could know them in a different world, together without all of this, because Sirius deserves a brother and Regulus looks like he needs one. ‘We need to go up to the Clock Tower.’

‘What homework? For what subject?’

‘It’s big boys homework for big sixth year boys like us,’ Sirius says annoyingly. ‘I think the more interesting question is what are you doing up here?’

‘I don’t have to answer to you,’ Regulus bites. Remus has to cough away a laugh; he wonders if Sirius, who right now looks like he could spit feathers, has any how alike he and his brother really are.

‘No,’ Sirius says conversationally, and Remus knows there’s something bubbling beneath the surface, that Sirius is holding back, ‘I don’t suppose you do. But listen...’ He reaches out lightning fast, long fingers fastening round his brother’s wrist and holding tight. He ignores Regulus’s yelp of indignation. ‘You don’t have to answer to her either. I’m still your brother so maybe you’ll just think about it a bit before you send your little owl back to her.’

He looks right into Regulus’ eyes for a long moment – Regulus looks back unblinking, and maybe it’s Remus' imagination but it feels like something passes between them, like some conversation that doesn’t need words. Then Sirius is shoving Regulus back, hard enough that he stumbles a little, almost falls.

‘Fine,’ Regulus says, regaining his balance and rubbing at his wrist. ‘Whatever you want, big brother. I’ll send the abridged version. It makes no odds anyway – pure blood will out in the end.’

‘Fuck off back to your Slytherin mates. Lupin and I have homework to do.’

Once Regulus has turned the corner Remus asks, ‘What was all that about?’ He reaches out to pull Sirius back close. Sirius steps back out of reach and Remus feels that something twist in his stomach again.

‘Nothing.’ He waves a hand dismissively. ‘Just Regulus being an annoying little shit. Again. Let’s go back to the common room.’

Remus doesn’t want to go back to the common room, back to Sirius trying to pretend. It feels like all either of them do these days is pretend: pretend that Remus isn’t a werewolf; pretend (absolutely unconvincingly) that Sirius doesn’t care about this whole mess with his family; pretend like they are nothing more to each other than they are to James or Peter. It feels like too much suddenly; combined, it’s too hard.

‘It doesn’t feel like nothing,’ he tries, not moving from the wall but not reaching out for Sirius again either. ‘It feels like something. I’m not just someone you can fob off, Sirius. You can talk to me, you should talk to me.’

He’s half-expecting Sirius to swear, kick the wall, walk off and leave him there, all of which are typical Sirius Black reactions, all ways he has of hiding how he really feels behind a fit of temper or a too-bright laugh – and there hasn’t been much of the latter of late – but he doesn’t. He just sighs heavily, shoulders dropping in defeat. Remus aches to hold him.

‘You’re insufferable, you know that?’

Though tempted to respond, Remus just waits.

‘It’s just... I know how it looks, I hear the things he says, the things he gets up to that make my stomach turn. I heard him calling some kid a filthy Mudblood the other week and I wanted to kill him with my bare hands – but he’s not a bad person. He’s going to end up another Bellatrix but he’s not like them, I know him. He’s not. They’ve convinced him that being a Black is the same as being royalty and... He’s an idiot, that’s all.’

Remus isn’t sure how accurate any of this is, truth be told; from what he knows Regulus Black is a hair’s breadth from getting well and truly embroiled in the Dark Arts, assuming he’s not in that position already. People are murmuring the name Lord Voldemort and they whisper about his ever-growing band of followers (the Death Eaters), of which rumour has it Sirius’ cousin Bellatrix is one, perhaps more of his family even – Sirius himself has said he wouldn’t be surprised. People are wondering what it all means, what might happen, and Merlin, Remus hates himself for even thinking it because this is Sirius’ brother, but everything he knows about him, everything he’s heard... Well, if the kid were to turn out to have the Dark Mark Remus wouldn’t be all that shocked, but Sirius looks pained. It’s obviously bothering him; he obviously sees something in his brother that isn’t in plain sight – and he would know, Remus surmises.

‘Maybe if you talked to him one on one, you could turn him around?’ he tries.

Sirius snorts. ‘Do you think I haven’t tried? He’s grown up listening to all this pureblood bullshit – he’s bought into it all, he thinks buying into it will earn him some respect. He wants to be special and they’ve convinced him that he is. She made him choose, them or me. You don’t need three guesses to know which side of the fence he’s sat himself on.’

: :

The thing about being homeschooled is there is absolutely zero drama. As in, none whatsoever.

At Hogwarts? There’s drama.

Remus is a werewolf, so there’s always that, and he never really thought about it before but he kind of feels like it’s always the build up to the moon or the fallout from the moon. He’s still not entirely convinced that his friends will be able to stay away, because hello, Remus has met them. Ergo, he will single-handedly be responsible for either killing them all or turning them all... and he’s not sure which will be worse. That feels like drama.

Then James and Lily have a fight, a big screaming fight that has the whole school whispering about it for days – and Remus is caught in the middle of that, kind of, because he loves both of them. They’re not talking, but it’s that annoying kind of not talking, the ‘Remus, please tell James that no we are still not speaking’ and ‘Lupin, tell Lily I don’t even care’ kind which means they obviously want to be talking, which in turn is indicative that they’ll be all loved up again in no time flat. Still, from where Remus is standing it’s difficult and unnecessary drama.

Peter is Peter: he accidentally eats some vomiting pastilles meant for some poor unsuspecting Slytherin and spends a day and a half throwing up... God, that sort of stuff seems to happen to him all of the time because he never learns not to eat things that have been anywhere near either James or Sirius unless they come in sealed packets. Peter is just a mess of avoidable drama, truth be told.

And then there’s Sirius and Sirius is still not quite fine about this whole family thing.

Drama. Drama drama drama.

Remus keeps catching the boy with a faraway pained look on his face. He hisses if anyone asks him if he’s alright, and tries to claim he’s ‘fine, Merlin’s sake, leave me the fuck alone,’ but he’s not, although he’s better than he’d been immediately following the Letter. If you didn’t know him then you wouldn’t know anything had happened at all, now, but Remus does know him.

Remus knows Sirius and knowing Sirius has him worried.

He’s worried because Sirius isn’t sleeping. He still crawls into bed with Remus some nights – some, not all but he doesn’t sleep. They kiss, they get off, and it’s good, always mindblowingly good, but then when Remus drifts off to sleep, Sirius doesn’t. Remus will wake in the early hours of the morning, moonlight squeezing through the gap in the curtains and casting the bed in eerie shadow and Sirius will be folded against him, his eyes closed but the pattern of his breathing making it so clear that sleep is nothing but a pretense.

He’s still quiet too, which is probably the worst thing because it’s just so unequivocally not Sirius. He’s fine if you keep him engaged; Remus is so grateful for James, who seemingly manages to do just that without effort. Remus is a bit stuck for ideas, truth be told, save from kissing Sirius into oblivion – and that’s so clearly not the best course of action. If Sirius isn’t occupied, though, then he’s quiet and withdrawn and will rip your head off if you dare to call him out on it. Remus does sometimes with a carefully phrased ‘Are you alright?’ because he’d rather have his head ripped off than do nothing and watch Sirius struggling. He’s caught Sirius talking to Regulus a couple of times too, which wouldn’t be strange on its own – people do talk to their siblings, after all – but with everything that’s happened it kind of makes Remus wonder what they’re talking about. Sometimes he catches Sirius looking at him and he doesn’t know what that expression means, except it leaves him with a knot in his belly because it doesn’t feel like a look that means anything good.He doesn’t really know what to do about it though, that’s the issue.

He’s trying to help, when he can, trying to count to ten when Sirius is being an absolute dick even though it goes against the grain. Pretty early on, he worked out that the only way to survive in this group, the only way to be a Marauder, truly, is to give as good as you get; they don’t appreciate a doormat, any of them. Don’t suffer fools gladly. He’s not rising now though because it’s not Sirius' fault, really, that he’s out of sorts. Remus bites his tongue and responds to Sirius' ever snappier, ever snarkier retorts with a soft smile and a bit of understanding; offering words of reassurance that Sirius hasn’t asked for but that he’s sure are needed; helping him with homework; saving him the biggest slice of pie at dinner. All just little things, small unremarkable things on their own, but he hopes when put together they let Sirius know that Remus is there.

He thinks Sirius appreciates it, even though he never says so.

‘What I am right now,’ Sirius says, bumping their shoulders together as he drops onto the sofa beside Remus. ‘...is very very sorry. I am the sorriest person to ever be sorry.’

‘For?’ Remus looks at him in confusion. He does this constantly, walks into a room and starts talking as though they’re already in the middle of a conversation, as though Remus is intimately acquainted with the inner workings of his brain. He’s worried a little bit, because what could Sirius possibly have to be sorry for? His mind automatically jumps to the worst case scenarios even though Sirius is smiling, doesn’t actually look all that sorry at all. But then the bloke’s smiling and he’s actually initiating a conversation so that’s something; Remus wonders when he stopped seeing Sirius as the cutest guy in school (that he’s fortunate enough to get to snog on a semi-regular basis) and started seeing him as somebody whose every action needs to be marked down and analysed. He wonders if he has a future as a Healer.

Sirius sighs. That’s another thing he always does: acts like Remus is stupid when he doesn’t pick up his train of thought immediately.

‘Christmas,’ he says. ‘Or rather– before Christmas, really. Specifically the period of time between that first moon and Boxing Day.’

‘Okay?’ Remus is lost.

‘Because oh my gods, I must have driven you crazy watching you all the time with my big worried eyes and whispering about you in corners and not letting you do anything for yourself and treating you like you might break.’

‘Well…yes. You did, a bit.’ Remus is so lost.

‘I’m fine, Remus, really.’ Sirius nudges their shoulders together again, staying leaned in this time, a heavy but familiar weight against Remus' side as he draws his knees up beneath him, curling closer. Remus wants to move his arm, to slide it along the sofa back and then down to pull Sirius flush to his side, but he doesn’t because it’s the common room and, well, he doesn’t know how that would be received.

‘So you can stop,’ Sirius continues, ‘with the fussing, because frankly, I find you much more appealing when you’re not patting my back and muttering ‘there there’s and you are pinning me into the mattress and biting marks onto my chest. Just an FYI.’

Remus feels his breath catch – it’s so frustrating sometimes, the way Sirius knows exactly what to say to get him hot beneath the collar without even trying. He wishes he was capable of doing the same; that he could flirt, talk a little dirty without feeling so utterly awkward. Sirius doesn’t seem to mind, though, seems to like Remus just as much when he’s blushing and nervous as he does when Remus is making him fall apart, moaning out curse words that are swallowed up by an expertly cast silencing charm. Rather than see it he can sense Sirius grin next to him; he knows exactly what he’s doing, the bastard.

‘Yes, well,’ Remus says dryly (it’s easier somehow when he’s not actually looking at him), ‘we’re not all sexual deviants like you. Just an FYI.’

Sirius laughs then, loud and barking, making James look over at them in surprise, eyes raised questioningly. Remus wonders briefly if he overheard their conversation but quickly decides not: there’s no way he wouldn’t say something if he had.

‘You’re so full of shit, Remus,’ Sirius says affectionately, shuffling a little and dropping his head to Remus' shoulder. ‘But I mean it. Stop with the bloody fussing.’

: :

‘It’s absolutely maddening,’ Remus tells James a couple of days later. They’re lounging out on the grounds, as far away from the castle as they can get without being out-of-bounds. ‘The way he’s so closed off about everything.’

James raises an eyebrow pointedly, tipping his head forward a little so as to look at Remus over the rims of his glasses.

Remus shakes his head. ‘That was different,’ he protests. ‘I didn’t tell you about the wolf for your own good. It’s an entirely different kind of secret.’

‘Whatever you need to tell yourself, Lupin. I think maybe he is fine though? I mean, he says he is.’

‘I disagree.’

‘It’s not like it’s anything new,’ James points out. ‘Sirius has been at loggerheads with his family forever. He hates them, they hate him – it’s like one of those facts of life, as unchangeable as night following day.’

‘But he’s been disinherited.’

‘Which is unequivocally a good thing, because he hates them and they’re bonkers, so.’ James shrugs again. ‘Besides, he’d already disinherited them, pretty much. You worry too much, Remus. It’s very counter-productive in a Marauder. You should probably curb the habit.’

‘He’s worried about his brother, though.’

‘Oh, Reg can look after himself... Oh fucking hell, you have got to be fucking kidding me.’

He breaks off, jaw dropping open in what looks like dismay. Remus leans forward a little to follow his gaze.

It’s a dog.

It’s the dog, the black one from that morning in the Shack, loping across the grass towards them, still massive but somehow less menacing; it could be that’s because of the daylight or the fact that Remus kind of knows it now. It feels like an old friend trotting towards them and coming to sit by their feet.

‘You have got to be fucking kidding me,’ James says again.

‘It’s alright,’ Remus says. He wouldn’t ever have imagined that James was scared of dogs; he’d been pretty keen to offer the wolf some weird form of moral support at the next full moon (which is in the next couple of days, although Remus is trying not to dwell). How James thought he could help Remus isn’t quite sure, it had all been a bit vague and garbled and hadn’t progressed much past ‘I’ll be there for you, mate, you know,’ – but he certainly hadn’t seemed to be scared of the potential danger involved. That’s James all over though, never scared of the things he should be scared of but apparently scared of dogs. This one is relatively menacing-looking though; even Remus had been a little unnerved by it at first.

‘It’s the dog I told you about, from the Shack. I don’t think he’s dangerous.’

‘Are you out of your fucking mind?’

‘Honestly, James, he’s fine.’ Remus reaches out a hand to scratch behind the dog’s ears, letting it creep a couple of inches closer and angle its head against his hand, giving him better access.

‘He is the opposite of fine,’ James snaps – he sounds more angry than afraid and is glaring at the dog as though it’s personally responsible for the cancelled Quidditch practice that morning.

The dog seems to roll its eyes, except it’s a dog... Remus really doesn’t know what it is about this animal that has him fixated on thinking its mind works like that of a human. It seems to sense that James is less than pleased with it though, moving away from Remus' petting and placing a heavy paw on James’s leg.

‘He is the opposite of fine,’ James repeats, shoving the dog away, hard. ‘Get the hell off me, you ugly brute.’

‘James!’

The dog lets out a pitiful whine. Remus can’t blame it; he has no idea what’s gotten into his friend.

‘What on earth is wrong with you?’

‘Sirius,’ James says after a beat, looking a combination of pained and thoroughly pissed off.

‘What?’ Remus wonders if being friends with these boys means he’s going to spend the rest of his life trying to decipher their thought processes. James is looking at the dog again now, and the dog looks back, tongue hanging from its mouth as though it’s laughing.

‘I don’t know what the hell is wrong with you that you’re suddenly incapable of sticking to a plan, Padfoot, but I hope you know what you’re doing right now.’

Padfoot? Padfoot. Remus is sure he’s heard James say that somewhere before, but he has no time to try and remember when, because in a transformation much less graceful than ever demonstrated by McGonagall the dog has stopped being the dog and is now:

‘Sirius?’

Sirius is laughing and making jazz hands as if this should be the greatest thing Remus has ever seen. Remus has absolutely zero clue what is happening: Sirius is an Animagus; Sirius as an Animagus takes the form of a dog; it’s not just any dog, it’s the dog, from the morning after the full moon; if Sirius is the dog then it means he broke his promise and totally ignored the fact that Remus had begged him to stay away. He feels like his head might explode.

He looks at Sirius, who’s still grinning like the cat that got the cream. Or the canary. Or maybe both, he looks that pleased with himself.

Then he looks at James, who looks a little shamefaced. Probably because he’s been in on this big fat secret all along, obviously he knew that Sirius could do this. Gods, he’s probably an Animagus himself.

All of a sudden Remus feels less like part of the group than he ever has; he feels like an idiot.

‘You have got to be fucking kidding me,’ he says finally, because he has to say something. He’s vaguely aware that he’s echoing James’ sentiments of just moments before, wonders what it is about Sirius Black that he regularly leaves the most eloquent of people at a loss for words. He says it again: ‘You have got to be kidding me.’

‘Not kidding,’ Sirius says, still smiling and pointing to himself like Remus just won a raffle and his own ability to transform into a dog at will is the prize. ‘Actual bona fide Animagus. You want to see me do it again?’

‘No,’ Remus snaps. ‘I don’t.’

‘It’s the best though, right?’

‘Which part?’ Remus asks sharply, ‘The part where you’ve made transforming into an animal something you do for fun when doing the same is the bane of my life? Or the part where you lied to me about it? Or the part where you showed a complete lack of regard for something you knew I felt strongly about and broke your promise to not turn up at the Shack months ago? Which part, exactly, is the best?’

‘I never lied,’ Sirius says slowly, smile fading at the realisation that Remus is not as overjoyed by his revelation as he’d thought he would be. ‘I just never said.’

‘So you lied by omission. It’s as bad.’

He doesn't get it. Remus doesn't know why he feels like this, hurt and betrayed and angry and afraid – he can do nothing but feel it thrumming beneath his skin as Sirius says his name, confused and questioning. James swears, says, 'This is not going at all well. This is not what we talked about.'

Somehow it's that, more than anything else, the fact that they've talked about it that pushes him over the edge; he has to jump to his feet and walk away, fast, before they can see the tears in his eyes.

Fucking Sirius Black.

The problem, really, is that Remus never knows where he is with him, or even who Sirius is: he's this madcap boy with an easy smile and overflowing confidence but then in the next breath he's quiet and brooding with the weight of the world on his shoulders. He'll pin Remus down and tickle him until they both can't breathe for laughing, then he’ll roll away and start a conversation with James as though nothing just happened. Sirius will kiss him fiercely and possessively in a darkened corner, gripping so hard his fingertips leave bruises on Remus' hips. He'll hold Remus through his post-moon nightmares, pressing barely there kisses to his hair, and in his sleep Sirius always whispers Remus’ name, like it’s of the utmost importance.

He's beautiful and he's angry and sometimes when they kiss in the darkness of Remus' bed he feels like he’s just waiting for Sirius to break; he's selfish and so, so giving; he's funny and he's clever and he's thoughtless but so well-intentioned. He's everything but he's so unknown; no matter how close you get you're never close enough. He never shows you all he is.

He's also, it turns out, a secret Animagus.

Remus is so, so screwed.

: :

It's James that comes to find him a little while later, strolling into the library and sliding casually into a chair. Remus ignores him, doesn't even look up.

James says, too casually to be casual, 'Sirius is worried about you, you know.'

'Where is he then?'

He gives James a sideways glance, sees him shrug his shoulders. Remus is bitter and he knows he's being unreasonable but he can't help it. He wanted it to be Sirius, he always wants it to be Sirius.

'Being sullen somewhere, I suppose,’ James responds. ‘You know what he's like when he feels guilty.'

Remus doesn't answer, instead feigning interest in the book that lies open on the table in front of him. In all honesty he's read the same page five times.

James clears his throat. ‘Besides which, you’re hiding out here. I think Sirius is allergic to this place.’

To the contrary, Remus wants to say, this is the first place we kissed. Right here at this table. But he just lets James keep talking.

'He does feel bad, for upsetting you. We were going to tell you properly, we had a plan and everything... but Sirius is a bit of an arse. It's not his fault, really; he's been crawling out of his skin for weeks. I think keeping it from you got to be too much.'

'I’m sure.'

'He's going to be insufferable ‘til you talk to him.'

'He should be talking to me.'

'Yes, but he won't. You know what he's like, and he likes you. I mean, I think maybe he really likes you.'

Remus snorts. This is possibly one of the weirdest conversations he's had with James Potter (which is saying quite a lot) and he's not entirely sure how he's supposed to react right now. Is James saying Sirius likes him as in fancies him? If so, Remus kind of knows that already – still, this is a reveal from someone not-Sirius with what has to be the worst timing ever. Also it’s weird and awkward and embarrassing. Besides which, Remus can’t quite see anything clearly past the insanity that was choosing these three ridiculous boys as his friends.

James shrugs his shoulders again.

'Anyway, that's not the point. What I came here to say is sorry. Again. Fuck I apologise to you a lot. I’m sorry for how this turned out. You've got every right to be severely pissed off with us but it's new territory for us too. And Sirius meant well... Just don't overthink it.'

Remus raises an eyebrow looking at James, who gives him a cockeyed smile in return.

'You do that – overthink. I've noticed. So don't.'

'You're one, too, aren't you?'

James nods.

'A dog?'

'A stag.'

'Pete?'

'Rat.'

'Right.'

'Look, Lupin, I mean it. For your own bloody sake, don't overthink. You're one of us. We're trying here, okay? Take some time – fine, fair enough – but hear us out. And don’t be too hard on old Padfoot.'

He stands up, leaning forward to bounce his fist off Remus' shoulder, then he's gone and Remus lets his head fall to the table with a sigh.

: :

He finds the three of them in the dormitory; the door is open and he knocks once on the doorframe but doesn’t wait for an answer before sliding inside and pushing it closed behind him. He crosses the room to lean against the nearest bedpost belonging to Peter’s four-poster. They look up all at once, all three of them totally in sync, and it makes him want to smile. James and Sirius are cross-legged on Peter’s bed and Peter’s sprawled out on his stomach on the floor. Seems unfair, really, that he be relegated – it’s his bed, after all – but he’s always this eager to please.

‘Alright, men?’

‘Alright, Lupin.’ James smiles at him. Remus manages to smile back, gaze flickering to Sirius, who is eyeing him nervously.

There’s a moment of silence then where nobody knows what to say and it’s awkward. It’s never been awkward before, not even when they didn’t really know each other. Remus hates it. He wonders if he massively overreacted to the whole thing, whether perhaps he should have just offered Sirius a high five and been done with it, but he didn’t and honestly, he still has a knot in his gut even if they deemed his reaction too much. He looks down at the floor, toeing at a worn mark on the carpet.

‘I don’t get why you’re so upset,’ Sirius says in frustration, managing somehow to look both annoyed and contrite all at once.

‘No.’ Remus says honestly, ‘Neither do I.’

‘It’s the shock,’ Peter says knowingly. ‘I’ve seen you transform, Padfoot. You’re hardly a picture of grace.’

‘Remus is a werewolf,’ Sirius retorts. ‘He makes my transformation look poetic. Also, hello kettle, this is pot. You’re black.’

‘I don’t understand...’ Remus tries, ignoring the light-hearted bickering and trying to get his thoughts in order. James was right: he should hear them out, but they need to hear him out too – and there’s absolutely zero point to any of it if he doesn’t even know how he himself feels.

He tries again: ‘I don’t understand how, because this is seriously advanced magic; I don’t understand why you didn’t tell me, because we’re supposed to be friends and you know keep learning things about me without my permission and surely fairs fair; I don’t understand why you even did it in the first place. I mean, what exactly happened? You just woke up one morning and thought, Hey, wouldn’t it be cool if we were animals?’

‘Pretty much.’ James nods, a small smile playing on the corners of his mouth. Remus huffs out a sigh.

‘I don’t understand.’

‘Because we could.’

Remus raises an incredulous eyebrow and Sirius grins.

‘You see, Transfiguration blew our minds first year and then when we learnt about Animagi properly in third year, well, who doesn’t want to be able to switch from a human to an animal? Apart from you, obviously. We weren’t supposed to do it – it’s like, fodder for detention ‘til we die, which made us want to even more – and we weren’t supposed to be able to which made us all the more determined that we should.’

‘You’re telling me you became Animagi just to break the rules?’ Remus asks in disbelief.

‘I’d like to say there was some grand self-sacrificing reason. But there wasn’t. We were just…bored. It became an obsession kind of; we weren’t giving up ‘til we’d mastered it.’

‘Well.’ Peter says sagely, ‘Plus Sirius had a thing for this Ravenclaw boy and he said it couldn’t be done by anyone underage so you know, we had to disprove his theory. Probably Padfoot thought he stood a better chance of wooing him if he had four legs.’

‘I didn’t have a thing for him,’ Sirius says quickly, ‘I just don’t like people making assumptions about what I can and can’t do that’s all.’

‘Irrelevant, really.’ James grins. ‘Since nobody even knows we can do it except us. And you.’

Remus shakes his head from side to side. Really, he doesn’t know what he expected them to say but somehow three schoolboys mastering the advanced and illegal magic required to become Animagi just because they had nothing better to do and their honour was at stake, it seems utterly implausible. It seems like a halfcocked story, as if they can’t think of a better explanation. Except it’s them and as implausible as it seems, it’s also exactly the kind of thing they’d do.

‘Maybe it’s because we knew you were coming,’ Sirius says, a little dreamily. ‘Maybe somehow we knew you’d turn up here and you’d need us. We did it for you, Remus. Ain’t that grand?’

‘We didn’t though,’ Peter says in confusion. ‘We didn’t know he was coming.’

‘Subliminally,’ Sirius says with an impatient flick of his wrist. ‘Like on some deep level we knew he’d come and that’s…’

‘The biggest crock of shit I ever heard.’ Remus pauses a beat and then: ‘You do realise it’s illegal, right?’

‘Why no.’ Sirius rolls his eyes, says a little snippily, ‘We are all clearly oblivious to the law, Remus. Thanks so much for pointing that out.’

‘This bad boy thing you’ve got going on,’ Remus spits, suddenly angry again, wound up by Sirius' sarcasm and his devil-may-care attitude. ‘It’s not nearly as hot as you think it is.’

‘More than half the school,’ Sirius drawls cockily, ‘would beg to differ.’

‘Alright, alright.’ It’s James, always the peacemaker, holding out his hands to calm them as they stare daggers at one another. ‘Thing is, Lupin, whatever our reasons were, here we are. We can all do it and you’d be an idiot not to realise that it could benefit you.’

‘I don’t see how.’

‘No,’ Sirius mumbles, ‘because your head’s so far up your arse it’s too dark to see anything.’

Remus opens his mouth to retort but James gets there first – he throws Sirius a look and says sharply, ‘Shut up, Padfoot, won’t you? Listen, Lupin. We can change. We can change at the full moon, we can help you and we can be there; the wolf won’t bother about us in animal form, we know that because Sirius already proved it. You don’t have to be alone.’

There it is, heavy in the air surrounding him, thick and cloying and making his chest tight: he doesn’t have to be alone.

Alone, lonely, it’s something Remus is used to. It’s something he’s had to be used to because sure, he’s lucky enough to be surrounded by people who do a pretty good job of caring about him despite the fact, but it doesn’t change the reality that he’s not an Animagus, he’s a werewolf. He’s a wild animal: he’s dangerous and bloodthirsty. People can be around when he’s human, but it all hangs in a fine balance, dependent on the condition that the times he’s not human never become real for them; they know what happens but it happens out of sight, out of mind. It’s always been that way for their own safety. However much they might care, however much Remus might care, the wolf doesn’t. It would kill them, turn them, in a heartbeat.

So Remus has been alone.

Every single time he turns alone and it’s terrifying every time, it’s agonising every time. He comes back to himself alone every time and every time he lays there alone, exhausted and in pain and disgusted with himself, until somebody comes to fix him up and hide away the evidence of the battle between wolf and boy for another few weeks.

The times he’s needed somebody the most have always been the times that nobody has been around. Knowing that it has to be that way has never made it any less lonely and now, here they are: Peter, James, Sirius, offering him a solution on a platter.

You don’t have to be alone.

He swallows hard, trying to dislodge the lump that’s formed in his throat. He wants it to work – he wonders if he can make it work, wonders if it would be too selfish of him to say, Yes, yes okay, let’s try, because he doesn’t know, really, how safe it would be – but now that’s it’s there within his grasp he wants it, so badly.

‘You don’t have to be alone, Remus.’ Sirius says it the second time, softly like a promise, his eyes meeting Remus' and holding them. He’s on his feet and crossing the space between them in three, maybe four, short steps, wrapping his arms around Remus and tugging him close against his chest. Remus clings right back, hands fisting in Sirius' jumper as James shares an amused glance and eyeroll with Peter before following only a heartbeat behind while Peter laughs from his spot on the carpet.

They tumble to the floor, the three of them, Peter’s laughs becoming a squawk as they fall half on top of him, a tangle of eight arms and eight legs, all holding tight at the same time as they try to scrabble free.

‘Worst cuddle pile ever,’ Peter wheezes from the bottom of it, and Remus has no more words, he just laughs. Laughs and laughs and laughs.

He doesn’t have to be alone.

: :

They fall into a strange sense of normality after that.

Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs accompany him to the full moon and he doesn’t seriously injure them; they decide that werewolf equals honorary Animagi and they christen him ‘Moony’ in some kind of ceremony that would be frightening if it weren’t so ridiculous. In the third month, they decide that they should try leaving the Shack whilst Remus is turned. He worries about having been seen that Thursday evening when a wolf, a dog, a stag and a rat had roamed the Forbidden Forest. However, the others have this down to a fine art and it feels so good to be free like this that he can’t bring himself to worry too much. When he comes to the next morning and he’s side by side by side with James and Sirius sitting on the floor, a rat asleep on James’s shoulder, he has to admit he doesn’t think he’s ever felt so good.

He does, admittedly, have the tendency to view the positives in his life through rose-tinted glasses, though. It’s not been perfect; the boys, for example, had pretended to be fine about the first full moon Remus had (reluctantly) agreed to let them be a part of. It had all been pretense, though, because Peter had been green, his knees so wobbly he could barely stand, and whilst they tried to cover it up with bravado James and Sirius’ nerves had been equally apparent. That in turn had made Remus nervous, as if he wasn’t jittery enough. He had visions of hurting them and still wasn’t entirely sure that any of them really grasped the severity of the situation, just saw it all as another adventure. He couldn’t quite convince them that if they didn’t take care, if they weren’t sensible – which in itself was a worry because when were they ever sensible?– then they’d be caught. What was the punishment, exactly, for three illegal Animagi and a werewolf being caught hanging around the periphery of Hogwarts?

So it had been strained. Things between Remus and Sirius had been strained because actually, Remus thought, if they were going to go into this together then they should probably talk about it: Sirius should tell Remus he’s worried – it’s not like Remus wouldn’t understand – and they could work it out. But he hadn’t, and he seemingly wasn’t going to. Sirius acts like it’s nothing, like it’s exciting and any bruises or scratches collected along the way are just battle scars, just fodder for good stories (usually the fictional kind). Him and James egg each other on, Peter looks nauseous 99% of the time (probably because a rat doesn’t stand half a chance next to a wolf) and Remus chews the skin at the side of his thumbnail almost down to the bone.

Definitely less than perfect.

But still, overall things are good and overall is what counts.

Sirius still sneaks into his bed most nights and he also still acts like Remus is nothing more than one of the boys whenever anybody is around. That, that one small detail, is holding everything back from being pretty damn perfect.

‘We need to talk.’ Remus isn’t even really aware that it’s on his mind until he’s said it. It’s true, though. It’s been true for a while. They’re sitting on Remus' bed during a sunny Saturday afternoon in late April, taking advantage of everybody flocking outdoors to spend some valuable time alone. ‘I can’t. I can’t do this.’

Sirius rocks back onto his haunches and looks at him warily. ‘What is it exactly, Remus, that you cannot do?’

His tone is cold, colder than it’s ever been when talking to him, even when they’ve been fighting. It makes Remus' heart clench; he knows what Sirius is doing, knows he’s afraid of what Remus is going to say and is closing himself off before Remus gets the chance to hurt him. It makes him feel bad a little, but it also makes him feel frustrated, because isn’t this part of the problem? They’re best friends and they’re more than best friends but they’ve never actually talked about what that means and where it’s going. He knows he has to tread carefully, though: Sirius is fragile, frayed at the edges and always expecting rejection.

‘Do you know what it’s like,’ he tries, ‘to always have this need to touch you and to never know whether I can?’

‘You can,’ Sirius says quietly reaching out slowly. Remus moves just out of reach of his outstretched fingers.

‘That’s what I mean. Now I can – now, when nobody can see. Don’t you get it? My entire life feels like one big secret, every day. I don’t want to be with you if you’re ashamed to be with me.’

Sirius runs a hand through his hair the way he always does when he’s frustrated and Remus tries to ignore the way his heart races in a panic in his chest. This could be it. This could be make or break; Sirius could turn around right now and say it’s this, what they have, or nothing and Remus knows if it comes to that then he has to choose nothing, has to follow his head no matter how loudly his heart might scream, not because he doesn’t care about Sirius but because he cares about himself too much to let this go on when it looks like the only person who’ll end up hurt is himself. Sirius doesn’t speak, just sits a hair’s breadth away from him and looks.

‘Say something, then. Don’t just sit and stare at me.’

‘Is that what you think?’ Sirius asks after too long a pause. ‘That I’m ashamed of being with you?’

‘What else am I supposed to think? You’re all over me whenever we’re alone, can’t get enough of me, but then whenever there’s anyone else around, anyone at all, you act like I’m nothing more to you than James, or Peter. Everyone knows you’re gay, so it’s not that. What else could it be?’

‘I’m not ashamed.’

‘Then what?’

‘What do you want from me?’ Sirius asks sharply. ‘You want to be boyfriends, is that it? You want me to snog you across the breakfast table or suck you off in the back of Divination whilst everyone else is pretending to be in a fucking trance? You want love letters and flowers and hand-holding in the corridors? What do you want from me?’

The thing is, Remus does want all of those things, with the exception of Divination blowjobs (he doubts anybody could maintain an erection in that godawful class even if they wanted to); the rest of it is exactly what he dreams about when he allows himself to dream about it at all, and if he were to put a label on whatever it is between Sirius and him then ‘boyfriends’ would be the label he’d choose. Maybe that makes him an idiot; he doesn’t care anymore, he wants it regardless, not so much what everybody else has – he knows it’s never going to be like Jane and Rochester for example, for them - but what they could have, utterly unique and perfect for it. What he wants is just Sirius, the real one; he wants the best, most genuine version of Sirius to be his partner in the truest sense of the word.

What Remus wants is what he knows he could have with this boy if Sirius would just be honest about it.

‘What I want,’ he says carefully, enunciating each word slowly to try and hide the quiver in his voice, ‘is to feel like I matter.’

‘You matter,’ Sirius says – barks, really, which kind of belies the sentiment in his words. ‘You matter, Moony, alright? Why is that not enough? Why can you not matter, quietly, just to me? Why do you need a big song and dance and fucking performance?’

‘I...’

‘And another thing. It works both ways, do you know? I don’t recall you ever grabbing hold of me and kissing me senseless where somebody could see. In fact, to the fucking contrary, you spring away like I’m fucking toxic as soon as you hear a floorboard creak. You ever think about that?’

‘Because I thought you didn’t want...’

‘What about what you want, why not try taking charge of your own life? If you want to hold my hand across a cauldron in the Potions classroom then do it, but don’t do fucking nothing and then come crying to me for being a failure as your boyfriend.’

‘And that would have been okay, would it, if I’d done that? You’d have held my hand in front of everybody, pleased as punch?’ Remus snaps back, though he feels like he already knows his answer: he can remember forgetting himself once whilst watching a Quidditch game, sitting side by side with Sirius in the stands and reaching to lace their fingers together without even thinking. Sirius had pulled away, hadn’t even looked at him and then avoided eye contact for hours afterwards.

Sirius lets out a frustrated groan, curling his hands into fists and bouncing them hard off his thighs. ‘Why can’t you just trust me? Why can’t you just think that I have my reasons and leave it at that?’

‘Because I’m a part of this too.’ Remus isn’t quite shouting, but he’s close. ‘Whatever your reasons, they affect me as much as you. How the hell am I supposed to trust you when you won’t even talk to me about where we stand?’

‘I cannot be bothered,’ Sirius snaps, ‘with you and your girly fucking feelings.’

It’s only after Sirius has slammed out of the room that Remus realises he never answered the question and he referred to himself as his boyfriend.

: :

Remus feels the mattress dip to his side a little while later – he knows it’s Sirius but he doesn’t open his eyes, not even when he feels cool fingers trace the outline of his jaw. He pretends to be asleep, screwing up his nose and rolling over onto his stomach. He has nothing to say, truth be told – wouldn’t want to burden Sirius with his girly feelings – and besides, he’s resolutely decided that he is not going to waste any more time with Sirius until the bloke can have an actual grown-up conversation and stop being such an arse about everything that matters.

It would be easier if Sirius didn’t smell so good.

‘I know you’re awake.’ And then there’s a hand sliding beneath his t-shirt. He jerks away suddenly, the cold of Sirius' hand against his warm stomach almost painful.

‘Go away. I hate you. Why are you so cold?’ he hisses out, throwing a glare back over his shoulder.

Sirius grins, eyes sparkling, and kicks off his shoes, clambering with zero grace onto the bed and straddling Remus' hips, leaning to press a warm kiss to the top of his spine before poking him gently in the shoulder. Remus has never been able to fathom it, the way Sirius can seemingly go from blind fury to unadulterated joy like flicking a switch; how he can wound with his words and then kiss it all better before you’ve even had time to let his words sink in.

‘Roll over.’

‘What are you doing?’ He does as he’s told, lying back against the pillows. Sirius sits, heavy and comforting across his middle, hands running aimlessly up and down Remus' arms, making him shiver.

‘I’m kissing you,’ Sirius says, and then he does, gentle and featherlight, as though Remus is something precious and breakable.

‘You’re the most...’

‘What?’ Remus asks, still a little pissed off and as always, a lot confused.

‘I just–’

‘You just what?’

Sirius has something to say, he can sense it, and the longer it remains unsaid, the tighter the knot in Remus' stomach becomes. Sirius bites down on his lower lip; Remus really wants to lick there, which is absolutely not something he should be focussing on right now.

‘I want you so badly and sometimes I can’t believe you’re here and it scares me.” Sirius never admits to fear. He runs a finger over Remus' hipbone, watching the way the stomach muscles underneath tense at his touch. ‘It scares me because I could fuck things up for you so badly, so easily. It makes me wary sometimes, I want to keep you safe is all; I am not ashamed of you, Remus. Don’t ever say that. Ever.’

‘I don’t need you to keep me safe. I can look after myself and I can’t be somebody you keep secret,’ Remus says quickly, words falling over themselves in a hurry to be heard. ‘If you want this, you have to want it for real. Or you have to be honest with me at least... you can’t keep hiding behind excuses.’

‘I do want it for real,’ Sirius says earnestly.. ‘You don’t even know how much. You’re not James, though; I’m not Lily. It can never be that simple for us.’

‘Why not?’ Remus hopes he comes off as carefully inquisitive instead of like a petulant child. He feels like they might be getting somewhere, maybe, like this Sirius straddling his thighs and stroking his arms is actually, finally opening up to him.

‘You don’t understand.’

Or not.

‘Then make me,’ Remus pleads.

Sirius' shoulders slump. His eyes fall closed for a moment and Remus can see him carefully weighing the words before he opens them again, looks at Remus searchingly.

‘It’s you,’ he says finally, softly. ‘–and I did not want to have this conversation but you’re like a dog with a fucking bone, you know? You just can’t leave it alone. It’s you. She’ll get at me by getting at you and I can’t fucking win. If I keep things quiet with us you think I don’t care, but if she finds out, if everyone finds out that I am in a relationship with a man, and not just any man but a werewolf with a Muggle parent and I’m not even trying to be discreet about it then your life as you know it here? It’s over. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do and I don’t know how to make you happy.’

‘I don’t have the slightest clue what you’re talking about.’

Sirius moves lightning fast; he scrabbles away for something beneath the next bed over – his own – and finally reclaims his spot with Remus beneath him. A piece of parchment, worn at the creases, is grasped tightly in his hand. He waves it a couple of inches above Remus' face.

‘She didn’t just disinherit me.’

‘I don’t see,’ Remus says carefully, ‘what could be worse than that. Really.’

‘The disinheritance wasn’t a shock.’ He says it airily, the way he does when he’s trying to pretend nonchalance. ‘To be fair, I’d pretty much erased them from my life already anyway. She... she knows about you.’

‘I know, you said before. You mean the wolf, right?’

Sirius nods. ‘About the wolf. About us. Or at least, she suspects about us. Regulus suspects about us and clearly reports back like a good little son and fake heir.’

‘That’s what you meant before. When you said part of the reason she’d gone this far was me.’

‘She knows you’re a werewolf, she strongly suspects we are more than just friends, and she is convinced I have only chosen to fool around with a half-blood beast – her words, not mine – to anger her, which is fucking insane, actually. I’m with you because of you. She wanted me to distance myself from you and from the danger you bring to my life and if I refused? She’d expose you.’

‘Oh.’

‘That’s it?’ Sirius quirks an eyebrow. ‘Oh?’

‘I think...’ He pauses.

He thinks a lot of things, really. He’s not surprised that Sirius' family know he’s a werewolf; he’s on a register so anybody could find out if they really wanted, and Walburga seems like the kind of person who would carefully vet all her son’s associates. He’s not really surprised that Sirius hasn’t told him before – he has some weird kind of hero complex, probably thought he was protecting Remus somehow. What he doesn’t quite get is why he hasn’t been exposed already – he is everything Mrs. Black hates, and he is fooling around with her eldest son. What reason could she have for not destroying him? She could have had him out of Hogwarts and away from Sirius in an instant, so why hasn’t she?

‘I think,’ he continues, because it’s the only thing that makes any sense, ‘that maybe her heart is in the right place.’

Sirius' jaw drops. ‘Are you mental? First off, she doesn’t have a heart. Secondly, did you miss the part where she threatened to expose you if I didn’t stop seeing you?’

‘That’s exactly my point. She’s trying to keep you safe. The danger I bring to your life, remember? She’s trying to protect you.’

‘I don’t get how you can have been through what you’ve been through and still see the best in people.’ Sirius looks down at him, mouth curving in a half smile. ‘You’re so wrong, though. She’s not trying to protect me, she’s trying to protect her reputation and she’s trying to exercise some control. She hates that I refuse to listen to a word she says so she’s using you to make me toe the line. Simple.’

‘Except...’

‘Except nothing.’ Sirius squeezes his arms lightly. ‘It’s sweet of you to try but there is honestly no good in that woman, you’re wasting time trying to find any. And that’s why,’ he says with a shrug of his shoulders, ‘I’ve been careful about what we do and where. Because I don’t trust my brother and I’d never forgive myself if she ruined your life because I’m permanently distracted by your face.’

‘What’s wrong with my face?’

‘It’s perfect. That’s what’s wrong with it. Your face is perfect and you’re perfect and I think– Fuck, Remus, I think I fucking love you, alright?’

Remus' heart does a loop the loop and falls out through the soles of his feet right there, leaving him breathless. Sirius loves him.

He can’t speak, can barely even breathe. Sirius looks down at him, eyes wide and panicked, as though he never meant to say it, as though he’s just waiting for Remus to laugh in his face. He looks at him and he waits, fingers gripping Remus' arms tightly, a sure indication of his nerves.

Remus smiles. ‘Alright.’

They kiss and it’s desperate and dirty, all tongues and teeth and gasps and bites. Remus knows they really need to address the fact that he can and must make his own decisions, but Sirius loves him, is tugging his t-shirt up and over his head, and surely nothing matters more than that.

It’s different somehow, then: the way Sirius kisses him, the way he touches Sirius in return, almost reverently; it’s going to go further this time, Remus just knows it, and he’s beyond ready. Sirius locks eyes with him and Remus doesn’t even need to speak, to nod because Sirius just knows, Adam’s apple bobbing hard in his throat as he inserts one finger, – Remus doesn’t even think to wonder where the lubrication came from because this is Sirius and he is always prepared – two, three, then Sirius is pushing inside him, slowly, so slowly and it’s reverent almost, as though he needs to take his time and make it last. As though he knows this first time matters; it will never be the first time again.. His fingers tangle with Remus’, gripping hard as he waits a beat, and Remus almost has to beg him to please, Sirius, just move. Sirius’ eyes are shining, never looking away from Remus’ for a second. His usual chant of fuck Remus fuck fuck fuck is replaced with a steady stream of So good Remus, I love you as though now that he’s said it once he wants to keep on saying it forever. The way his voice breaks on Remus’ name as he comes is enough to make Remus choke out a sob as his own orgasm takes him a little by surprise: he never knew it could be like this.

‘We’ll figure it out, Remus, okay?’ Sirius says into the damp skin of Remus’s neck. ‘We’ll figure it out.’

Remus knows that in time, they will.

: :

‘We still have to be careful,’ Sirius says.

They’re in the library: Remus is actually studying and Sirius is lounging, rocking his chair back onto two legs, striking a precarious balance and idly making his quill float around the table. Remus has tried telling him that if he’s going to be here then he may as well do his homework but Sirius just rolls his eyes good-naturedly wearing his tried and tested ‘come on Lupin, get with the program’ look; he says that he couldn’t possibly work even if he wanted to because Remus and his face are far too distracting. It’s become a thing between them, since the Day (when everything changed), how Sirius thinks Remus’ face is perfect. He drops it quite casually into conversation and in return Remus just rolls his eyes and pretends like it doesn’t give him butterflies every single time.

Remus puts his head back down and studies his book, then bites down on the grin that threatens to break out on his face as Sirius drops his chair back onto four legs and toes at Remus’s ankle. Footsie, in the library, with his boyfriend. Who ever would have thought.

‘Stop it,’ he says, although actually he doesn’t want Sirius to stop at all. ‘And careful about what?’

‘This.’ Sirius pokes at his ankle again. ‘Us. I mean, I’m crazy about you, you know that right? Good crazy, not batshit crazy. You know that.’

That’s new too, the way Sirius now takes every opportunity to let Remus know how he feels, like the realisation that Remus thought he was ashamed had truly horrified him and he needs to put it right. Remus puts down his quill and offers Sirius a smile, a silent I do know. Carry on.

‘But the thing is, Moony, is that you are very clearly two things that most of the world is…’ He pauses, searching for the right word. ‘–uncomfortable with. Gay and a werewolf.’

‘A gay werewolf.’

Sirius laughs, grabbing his hand right there in the (almost deserted) library and pressing a kiss to his knuckles. ‘Exactly. And I know you’re trying to see the best in her because you’re Moony and you’re delightful and that’s the kind of shit you do, but I swear she will make our lives hell.’

‘Your mother will. Sirius, we talked about this. Once school’s done I don’t care – I’ll have to tell folk anyway, potential employers and whatnot. I’m obliged to, by order of the Ministry.’

‘I know. But we have another year ‘til then. Let’s just try not to give her any ammunition.’ He raises an eyebrow. ‘We can do what the hell we want though, you know, when we’re alone.’

‘I kind of feel for her,’ Remus says slowly. He knows he’s treading a thin line, that Sirius is vehement in his dislike of his family and will turn on a sickle if he thinks anybody is taking their side over his; they’re bordering on insane, therefore siding with them is sheer insanity. ‘What I mean is, she’s obviously very strong on family values.’

‘That’s one way of putting it.’

‘And she obviously cares what people think.’

‘So polite, Remus, so polite.’

‘And, well, you just said it yourself – people aren’t exactly comfortable with homosexuality, are they, so I imagine it’s pretty hard for someone like your mum having people judge you when they find out you’re gay.’

‘Judge her.’

‘That, too. Let’s be honest: part of the reason you’re so open about your sexuality is to piss her off.’

Sirius just shrugs.

‘So she has you – her first born son – and you openly stand against everything she believes in…’

‘Because her beliefs are fucking bullshit,’ Sirius interrupts angrily.

‘Well yes, but still, it bothers her doesn’t it? That’s my point. And then on top of that you’re dating a werewolf – she’s probably scared you’re going to get lynched. Guess it must be hard for her, being a mother and being in the political position she’s in, to know what to do.’

‘I don’t get why you’re so determined to see something good in her. It’s not there. She hates me, she hates you, too – said it to Reg at Christmas.’ In what Remus supposes is a convincing impression of his mother he says, ‘He thinks he’s a nice boy, now, I’m sure – is probably charmed by his quaint little life and his exotic Muggle origins – but the fact of the matter is he isn’t exotic, he’s filthy. He is a Muggle, as good as, and more than that he is a wild animal. This fling doesn’t understand loyalty. Greyback and his pack, they turn people to werewolves just to pass the time. Sirius is taking a risk he should not be taking both by associating himself with that kind of filth and by being around a monster like that and you need to make him understand that, Regulus.’

Remus flinches a little at the mention of Fenrir Greyback, an instinctive reaction born of the agony he relives merely at the sound of the werewolf’s name, not to mention years of vivid nightmares. He pushes it to one side to make his point.

‘That’s what I mean. She’s worried about you. She thinks I’m going to hurt you. She thinks you’re making life difficult for yourself and fine, she has some seriously fucked up views, but she’s still your mother, Sirius... I refuse to believe she feels nothing for you, not when there’s evidence to the contrary.’

Something flashes in Sirius’ eyes then, some emotion that’s gone before Remus has time to put a name to it. The boy scratches his nail along a groove in the table, obviously gathering his thoughts.

‘It doesn’t matter,’ he says finally, ‘because the situation is what it is and it’s not going to change. Whether it comes from a place of love or not – and I am telling you it doesn’t – the fact is she is off her fucking trolley and also, I disowned her, she disinherited me. It’s all irrelevant. The point is, we’ll just get school done with without letting her proving how powerful she is and after we can get on with the rest of our lives.’

‘We won’t antagonise her you mean?’

‘That is exactly what I mean,’ Sirius agrees.

‘Okay.’

So they don’t antagonise her.

They lie low, and it’s fine because Remus is well-practised in that anyway and it doesn’t hurt anymore now that he knows that Sirius properly wants him. They share a bed every night and Sirius unravels him and puts him back together in ways that Remus never thought anybody could. They fall asleep sated and content, tangled limbs and shared breath, and most mornings get each other off again hastily before breakfast. Sirius now sits that bit closer to Remus, thigh pressed against thigh when the Common Room is busy and when they stand in the warm sun of the almost summer, Sirius’ fingers will be hooked subtly through Remus’ belt loops. Remus helps Sirius with his homework like always, sticks a little note inside his rolled parchment every time; he gets a thrill when Sirius finds it and blushes red to the tips of his ears, and in return scraps of paper usually flutter past Remus’ ears and land on his desk – he knows full well when he opens it he’ll find red ink and his name inside a heart, but the thrill remains. He hooks his foot around Sirius’ ankle beneath desks or tables and Sirius gives him a sideways glance and a secret smile; if there’s a choice between madcap adventures with James or doing nothing with Remus, sometimes Sirius now chooses Remus and will sit curled into him as he reads. There’s a difference, Remus decides, between thinking you’re somebody’s secret and being in a real solid relationship that only exists for the two of you – he has never been happier than he is right now with this crazy, beautiful boy by his side.

: :

‘Do you know what’s wrong with Sirius?’

‘I didn’t know anything was?’ Remus looks up worriedly from his book as James flops onto the grass next to him.

‘He’s acting oddly.’

‘He’s Sirius.’

‘Well, yes, but this is more than normal.’

‘How so?’

James looks at him with one eyebrow quirked as though Remus is being deliberately obtuse, which he isn’t. He hasn’t noticed anything different about his boyfriend – his boyfriend – at all.

‘He’s been mooning all over the place, for one.’ It sounds pointed, except maybe Remus is just paranoid because they’re being careful. They haven’t said anything to any of their friends and Remus is sure that all the secret touches have been just that: secret. It’s torture actually, because it’s very hard to know that Sirius Black is yours for the kissing and to not be able to kiss him whenever you want.

‘Hmmm.’ Remus goes for non-committal and James just sighs.

‘His head is not on straight, Remus. This morning I talked to him for a full five minutes and do you know what he did?’

‘No. What did he do?’

‘He stared out of the window with this glazed look on his face, like this.’ James schools his expression into one of blissed out dreaminess.

‘That...’ Remus retorts, swallowing down a grin and turning the page in his book, ‘is exactly how you look when you’re thinking about Lily.’

‘Exactly!’ James pokes him hard in the thigh. ‘That’s my point. Sirius is acting very un-Sirius-like. You expect it from me, I have Lily. Sirius does not have Lily and yet…He’s all dreamy, he was waxing poetic about the sky at dawn yesterday morning when we got up to break into the kitchens and charm the porridge - that was a good one, watching people sing every word and not know why is the best - and when the fuck has Padfoot ever noticed a sunrise before? He missed out on a perfectly good prank-ortunity two days ago because he had something better to do.’

Me, Remus thinks, he was doing me, but he doesn’t say anything, just shrugs his shoulders and tries to ignore the warm feeling blossoming in his stomach. The truth is he’s been the same: his head is full of Sirius, all the time, so that whenever he’s not around he’s been struggling to think of anything but. It’s thrilling to realise that maybe Sirius has been feeling the same; it’s another one of those moments when Remus feels like he needs to pinch himself, because surely this must all be an elaborate and remarkably detailed dream?

James is looking at him over the top of his glasses, like he’s waiting for Remus to answer all of his questions, like he thinks that Remus has the answers and is holding back. Remus just shrugs again. He’s not good at this; feigning ignorance in the face of direct questioning is not his forte.

‘Amortentia?’ he offers, and James just rolls his eyes.

‘That’s all you have.’

‘That or sunstroke.’ Remus bumps his shoulder against Potter’s. ‘Or you know, maybe Sirius is just weird and you’re reading too much into it.’

‘Something,’ James says, narrowing his eyes, ‘is afoot.’

 

: :

When Remus is finally satisfied with his History of Magic essay a few days later and allows himself to leave the library, he finds them all in the common room.

Peter’s curled up in an armchair. Lily is folded against James on a sofa looking like she was made to fit in that space beneath his arms and Sirius sits on the floor, knees bent and elbows resting on them as he leans forward to listen to what James is saying. The room is empty save for the four of them, which doesn’t happen often. Remus stops for a second in the portrait hole, swallowing down a sudden lump in his throat as he watches them all there together, the four people who have in less than a year become the most important people to him, relaxed and easy and so perfect. Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs, who have accepted him so readily; call him ‘Moony’ like it’s nothing but a name – or more than that, like everything about him is something worth knowing – and Lily, pretty, clever, wonderful Lily, to whom he owes so much, really.

Sirius looks over at him after a beat as though able to feel Remus’ gaze upon him and his face lights up in a smile so filled with joy that Remus can’t not return it. That’s his boyfriend, and fine, they have to keep it under wraps for a while but it doesn’t make it any less real: Sirius Black is his boyfriend. Sirius Black loves him. How is this Remus Lupin’s life?

‘Finally decided not to be such a swot, did you, Remus?’ Sirius asks, but it’s affectionate and Remus doesn’t bite. He crosses the room, startling a little at the feel of familiar fingers fastening around his ankle as he passes Sirius’ place on the floor.

He raises an eyebrow questioningly and Sirius sits back a little, letting his knees fall open and patting the space on the carpet between them. Remus pauses, glancing over at the vacant armchair where it would obviously make so much more sense to sit and then back down at Sirius, who smiles back up at him encouragingly, and he thinks fuck it. These are his best friends, and he trusts them with everything else in his life, it’s only fair he trust them with this, too – besides, he’s never going to be one capable of resisting the lure of Sirius’ arms. He sits down, shuffles back a little and leans so that his back is flush with Sirius’ chest, allowing his hand to come to rest on the denim of Sirius thigh as the other boy leans forward, presses a dry closemouthed kiss to the side of his neck. Peter swears, rooting around in the pocket of his jeans. He throws a galleon across the room which James catches one-handed with a smug smile.

‘Fuck’s sake, lads,’ Peter says, giving James the finger as the other boy kisses the galleon and holds it aloft. ‘Could you not have just waited ‘til the summer?’

Of course they’ve been betting on them, Remus realises with a surprised laugh. Why does that fact surprise him even a little bit?

‘No,’ Sirius retorts, looking at Peter as though he just suggested they skip the Quidditch match in order to work on extra credit for Herbology; as though the very idea of not being with Remus right now is insanity. He laces his fingers through Remus’ and squeezes gently. ‘We really, really couldn’t.’

~fin.