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I.

Remus moves into Sirius’ flat the April after they leave Hogwarts. He spends the first week sleeping alone in the second bedroom, and then he kisses Sirius on the mouth one night instead of telling him off for forgetting milk and bread at the grocery, and he stops sleeping alone in the second bedroom after that.

“Aren’t you going to move your stuff in here?” Sirius asks three days later as Remus gets out of bed and stumbles towards the door to the hall so he can fetch some fresh clothes from the other bedroom.

Remus turns around to see Sirius lying in the middle of the bed, swathed in sheets and pillows, sleep-groggy and smug the way that only someone who has just been very well fucked ever is. The sunlight through the open window turns the tips of his eyelashes gold.

Remus thinks, for the first time in his life: I love you. He is nineteen years old and standing utterly naked in Sirius Black’s bedroom with the taste of Sirius Black’s skin still in his mouth. Truth be told, Remus is not particularly surprised by this revelation. He feels, mostly, that it has been a long time coming indeed, and he rather wishes it had chosen a more convenient moment to make itself known.

“No,” he says, instead of the dozens of other things he wants to say. “What’ll James and Peter say if they come over and see all my crap in your bedroom?”

“I think my first question is what the hell are James and Peter doing in my bedroom, those pervs,” Sirius says. He doesn’t argue with Remus, though, which is telling; his silence says everything that Remus needs to know.

Remus goes into the other room and dresses. He leaves his things in the second bedroom (except his books, which—as Sirius does not have a single bookshelf in his barely furnished flat—are scattered throughout every room in small stacks), and that night he and Sirius break in the second bed and sleep curled around each other. They switch between the two beds every few nights or so for variety’s sake.

James and Peter never venture into the bedrooms, as it happens, but—the principle of the thing still holds. And since Sirius doesn’t seem keen on ever telling James that Remus didn’t move in for anything other than innocent and platonic purposes, Remus supposes the principle will continue to hold.

 

-

 

“You’re pregnant,” Remus says. He stares at Lily, who looks pleased (and, Remus thinks, terrified), then at her stomach, which looks exactly the same as it always has.

Sirius smacks James so hard that his glasses fall off. “You tosser,” Sirius says, “what’d you go and do that for?”

“That’s exactly what I said when we found out,” Lily says, thoughtfully, and Remus laughs at the look on James’ face.

“First of all, it’s only half my fault,” James says as he fumbles for his glasses, “so I don’t understand why I’m the only one getting smacked around here.”

“Are you suggesting that we smack your girlfriend around?” Remus asks.

“Go ahead and try,” Lily says.

Sirius eyes her warily. “You have cat reflexes. No thank you.”

Lily smirks at him, and Sirius smirks right back.

“And second of all,” James says loudly, ignoring them, “way to be there for a guy, Pads. Not even a congratulations.”

Sirius seems genuinely bemused. “What for?” he asks, and this time James smacks him.

Before James and Sirius start an all-out scuffle, Lily adds, “We’re getting married, too." Sirius stops trying to pull the back of James’ shirt over his face and stares at him instead. Remus feels as if he’s been punched in the solar plexus.

“Oh James, you didn’t,” Remus says. “Not right after finding out you’d knocked her up. That’s….”

But James is blushing, the tips of his ears bright red. He pushes his glasses up his nose and looks to Lily for help. Sirius is still staring at him; he looks almost angry about something, but Remus can’t, for the life of him, figure out what.

“He didn’t,” Lily says. “I did. Right before I told him about that first thing.”

Sirius looks appalled. “That’s the worst engagement story I’ve ever heard.”

“I don’t know,” Remus muses. “I think it’s charming. And quite fitting. James never could figure out what to bloody say, even though he’s had a ring since last summer.”

James turns, if possible, even redder. Lily looks immensely pleased.

“I don’t know what she sees in you, mate,” Sirius says to James.

“I’m marrying him for his inheritance,” Lily agrees, and James sputters.

Sirius just bats his eyes at her. “If only I’d known, my darling dearest! I’d never have let Mummy write me out of the will.”

“Oh, shove it, you.” But Lily grins at him. “Come help me in the kitchen, would you? The dessert’s almost done.”

“Isn’t that a job for your whipped fiancé?” Sirius asks, but he goes with her, slinging his arm over her shoulder and ducking his head towards hers so that their faces are close, and she laughs.

Remus watches them go. So does James. James looks slightly astonished—due, Remus is almost entirely sure, to the mere fact of Lily Evans’ existence. Remus can’t help but empathize.

Lily comes back to tell them dessert is ready, if Remus and Sirius want to have some before they go back home. The look Lily gives Remus at this is warm, meaningful, and her mouth tilts at the edges like she’s happy for him.

(“What did you say to Lily?” Remus asks later, when it’s just him and Sirius and the dark bedroom (Sirius’, tonight) yawning open above them. “When you were in the kitchen together.”

Sirius traces the outline of Remus’ mouth with his fingertip, slowly. For a long time, he says nothing, until, finally: “Congratulations.”)

 

-

 

Sirius’ hands weave through Remus’ hair, toying with a loose curl. His touch is gentle, a welcome pleasure to distract Remus from his dizzying nausea.

“Hallo, Moony,” Sirius says. “Are you sick?”

“’M not,” Remus says; although, perhaps he is. He shivers and reminds himself, forcefully, that he will not throw up. He has already thrown up—several times in fact. He’s not certain whether there’s anything left in his system to throw up.

Sirius’ fingertips brush over Remus’ closed eyelids. “What do you call this, then?”

Remus laughs, hoarsely. “Low tide.”

Sirius’ hand pulls away. “You’re not a werewolf all the time.” He sounds as if he believes that. After a long moment, he adds, quietly: “You can’t still feel it, can you?”

The moon? Yes, Remus can feel it. He doesn’t know how to explain it—how to put into words the subtle pull of the faceless new moon, which turns his stomach inside-out on the bad months—and all his months are, lately. He feels it in his empty lungs and he feels it in the cage of his ribs and he feels it in his hollow throat: the moon, the moon, the moon.

“I am, though,” Remus says. He can practically hear Sirius’ frown, and can’t bear to open his eyes. “It’s not just something that happens to me every twenty-eight days, Sirius. It’s…I am.”

The pad of Sirius’ thumb touches Remus’ mouth, pulls gently at his lower lip.

“Don’t,” Remus says. “I was sick fifteen minutes ago.”

Sirius just laughs, deep in his throat, and leans in and kisses Remus. His hands are warm on either side of Remus’ face, bracing him, and Remus tilts his head back and wants to cry, but he doesn’t. That would be silly.

I love you, he thinks, for what feels like the hundredth time. He can feel Sirius smiling against his mouth.

 

-

 

Remus traces the line of Sirius’ neck with his tongue, the dip between his collarbones. Sirius arches up against him, his fingertips scrabbling at Remus’ shoulders, his back. Remus kisses him, once, before trailing down the length of Sirius’ body and sliding his fingers beneath the hem of his boxers.

Sirius watches him from beneath the indelicate bloom of his eyelashes, trembling. Remus can feel it all through his body; the strain of Sirius’ legs against the mattress.

“Hm,” Remus hums, before pulling down Sirius’ boxers and licking up the underside of his cock. Sirius bucks in his hands, crying out, and Remus swallows the shudder of Sirius’ arched waning-moon spine with his tongue on the sine of Sirius’ hips. He scrapes his teeth against Sirius’ hipbones, never hard enough to break skin; never hard enough to leave a mark. He runs his thumb over the tip of Sirius’ cock and hides a smile when Sirius groans beneath him.

“Moony,” Sirius says. “Moony, I—”

“I’m certain that I told you not to speak,” Remus says, and Sirius shuts up, a flush spreading over his cheekbones. Remus says, “That’s better,” and puts his mouth to Sirius’ cock.

Sirius starts straining against him again, too soon. Vaguely irritated, Remus pulls away. “What?”

Sirius is blushing. That, more than anything else about this, makes Remus want to kiss him—everywhere, all over, on the mouth for hours. “Wanna fuck you.”

Remus lifts an eyebrow at him. “Yeah?”

Sirius nods, up and down.

Remus kicks off his boxers. “I can arrange that.”

Sirius makes as if to get up from where he is lying on the bed, but Remus pushes him back down again, his palms spread wide and open on Sirius’ chest.

“Trust me,” Remus says, and Sirius—does.

Remus moves so that his knees are on either side of Sirius’ hips, and then he looks down at him. “Can I trust you to keep your hands to yourself?”

“Probably not,” Sirius says, sounding somewhat abashed. As if to prove his point, he traces one slender hand up Remus’ bare thigh.

Remus slaps him away. “That’s what I thought.” He summons the nearest available object useful in this sort of situation, and a tie comes flying out of Sirius’ dresser. Remus catches it and binds Sirius’ hands to the headboard of the bed, careful not to make the knot too tight but still strong enough to keep Sirius from breaking free.

Sirius looks up at Remus’ face the whole time, his grey-bright eyes glittering. Remus leans in and kisses him on the nose. “Let me know if that starts to hurt you.”

“’Course,” Sirius says. He tries to lean up into another kiss, but Remus pulls away.

“All right,” he says, more to himself than to Sirius. He summons the lube and condoms from the bedside table and, slowly—more to fuck with Sirius than for any other reason—straddles Sirius’ dick, rolling his hips once, twice, as he does so.

Sirius sucks in a breath. “Moony—”

“Ah ah ah,” Remus says, and rides him, forcing a gentle pace despite the desperate way that Sirius pulls on the tie binding him to the bed and the frantic rocking of Sirius’ hips as he tries to fuck Remus harder.

Sirius comes first. He shudders apart beneath Remus and screams as he does so. Remus’ face goes warm, all at once.

“Finally,” he says, and he rides out Sirius’ orgasm with his hand on his own cock and comes not long afterwards, all over Sirius’ chest.

Sirius makes a face at him. “Thanks a lot, Moony.”

“Shut up,” Remus says, but he’s blushing. “If you didn’t like it, we don’t have to do it like that again.”

“I didn’t say that,” Sirius says, and Remus bites the inside of his mouth to keep from smiling. He casts a cleaning charm and then reaches up to untie Sirius’ hands. There are red marks around his wrists. Remus kisses each one, right above the pulse.

Sirius wriggles beneath him. “Get off me, you great lump. I can’t feel my legs.”

“Drama queen.” But Remus does as he’s told. He kicks the sheets out of the way and curls against Sirius’ side, suddenly sleepy. Sirius puts his arm around him and kisses the top of his head, tracing the scars on Remus’ back with his fingers. Remus tries not to shudder at his touch.

A while later, just before Remus falls asleep, Sirius speaks. “Remus,” he says, softly, like he’s not sure whether Remus is awake. “I….”

He trails off. Remus falls asleep. He doesn’t think anything of it until much, much later.

 

-

 

It’s not that it bothers Remus when he notices. Not necessarily. It’s just not something they talk about. Sirius comes home from whatever Order business Dumbledore sends him on and kisses Remus on the mouth and they fall into bed. Remus comes home from living with unregistered werewolves for the past two weeks and kisses Sirius on the mouth and they fall into bed. It’s not as if Remus had ever expected anything else; not from Sirius.

He doesn’t know. He doesn’t know. He doesn’t need Sirius to say things that he doesn’t mean and he doesn’t need Sirius to say things that he does, but—

But.

Remus catches Lily and James kissing one night after Harry is born. Sirius is in the small kitchen cradling Harry to his chest, reverent. He looks just the way Remus imagines he did as a small boy, bowed in prayer. Remus doesn’t know whether Sirius ever prayed—or to whom, or what about—but he can’t shake the image despite this. Sirius has got crooked studs on his jacket that he put there himself, and Harry blinks sleepily at them, the way they catch the light, and Sirius’ breath goes in and out.

Remus slips away. The moonlight—waxing gibbous —is streaming in through the kitchen windows, and it makes the bones in Remus’ chest ache, dull pain just behind his sternum. As if someone has reached their hands between his ribs and started, ever so gently, to break them apart.

James and Lily are standing close to each other in the dark hallway, whispering. Remus stops, trapped between them and Sirius and Harry. Lily’s hands are braced on James’ shoulders, and she’s crying.

“Shh,” James says. He wipes her face with the pads of his thumbs, but his hands are shaking. “Lily—”

“I’m sorry,” she says, furious with herself, and then she laughs, tears still streaming down her face. “I’m sorry, fuck, I’m sorry.”

“What on earth are you sorry for?” James asks her. His voice is gentle—Remus has never heard James speak like this, not ever, not in the nearly ten years that Remus has known him. As he watches, James leans in and tilts Lily’s chin up for a kiss.

A howl builds in the hollow of Remus’ throat. He swallows it.

“I’m so scared.” Lily is whispering, her fingers curled in James’ shirt and pulling him close, so that their foreheads touch. “All the time. It’s so stupid. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to cry.”

“Lily,” James says. “I don’t care if you cry. I love you. I’m going to make sure nothing ever, ever happens to you, and not to Harry, either. I love you.”

Lily laughs again, but more genuinely this time. “Bastard,” she says. “God help me. I love you.” She kisses him. “I do.”

And Remus—can’t stand them, suddenly, fiercely; all of them, James and Lily and Sirius and Harry and Peter, too, for leaving an hour ago and declining when Remus had asked if he’d wanted company on the way home.

“Apparating, and all that,” Peter had said, and shrugged, and then he was gone.

There’s a circle here that doesn’t touch Peter, and it doesn’t touch Remus, either—James and Lily and Harry and Sirius, somehow, impossibly; Remus doesn’t know how it happened or when it happened, only that he’s not a part of it. And even if he were—even if the others think he is—he’s not; he’s not. The howl in his chest widens his ribs. He can feel the moon-peak in his blood, and it tastes like wet metal in his mouth.

He moves back into the kitchen, silently, avoiding the squares of moonlight on the floor. Sirius is humming, his back to Remus, and rocking Harry in his arms.

“I love you,” Sirius says.

Remus’ entire body thrills at the words—I do, I do, I do—but then Sirius laughs, and brushes the dark hair from Harry’s forehead, and says, “Yes, you, you tiny little thing. I think I’ve gone soft.”

Remus looks at them, bathed in starlight, and can't look any longer. He retreats into another room, Disapparates as quietly as he can, an makes it to the bathroom of his and Sirius’ flat before he throws up. When he closes his eyes, he sees the afterimage of the moon, and he grips the edge of the toilet bowl with fingers that buzz numb and rubs his eyes with his other hand until he sees stars.

Sirius comes home a few minutes later. There’s the crack of Apparition, and then his voice. “Remus?”

Remus flushes the toilet and manages to stand. Sirius is in the bathroom doorway, looking pale.

“I didn’t know where you were,” Sirius says. “You could’ve told me you were leaving.”

Remus rubs at his eyes. “I’m going to bed.”

Sirius doesn’t move to let Remus pass, which forces Remus to brush against him; the warmth of his body is like an electric shock. Remus falls into bed and kicks off his shoes and spells the curtains of the window closed, shutting out the night sky. Sirius comes in after him, hesitatingly.

“Remus?”

Remus thinks about telling him all of it. I’m scared, Sirius. So fucking scared. You’re the only reason I haven’t torn myself to shreds on the full moon, and I can’t tell you that I love you.

He doesn’t know how to say it. So he doesn’t.

 

-

 

St. Mungo’s smells like a mausoleum—or maybe that’s the morgue several floors below, smelling so strongly of death that Remus’ heightened sense of smell can’t escape it. There’s blood in Remus’ mouth and his hands are shaking and somewhere nearby, Sirius is dying.

That’s what it looked like, at least, when Remus had Apparated to St. Mungo’s after Caradoc Dearborn showed up at the flat and told him Sirius was being taken to the hospital. The Healers had rolled Sirius’ gurney right past Remus when he’d arrived, and there’d been blood, everywhere. When he’d tried to follow them down the hallway, several Healers had stopped him. He’d struggled, punched one of them in the nose, and it had taken three people to hold him back. He’s still trembling all over, and his lower lit is split. He doesn’t remember how that happened.

Caradoc looks as if he doesn’t know what to say—like he wasn’t expecting this violent a reaction. No one ever does, from Remus.

“He’ll be okay,” Caradoc says. “It’s going to be fine.”

“What happened,” Remus says, his voice flat. His hands feel empty at his sides, and that’s when he realizes one of the Healers has taken his wand.

“Trap,” Caradoc says. He’s holding his arm to his chest, but there’s no blood on him anywhere—Remus would smell it. “I don’t know what happened, but they knew we were going to be there. Someone leaked a false trail and we picked it up, or maybe they found out we were going to show and set up a welcoming committee for us—”

“That’s not possible,” Remus says. “That’s not—how can that be possible? Who?”

Caradoc shakes his head. “I don’t know.” He doesn’t meet Remus’ eyes.

I wouldn’t do this, Remus thinks. Damn you, goddamn you, I wouldn’t do this. I’d tear out the throat of whoever did this to him with my fucking teeth, and you still think that I did it.

Sirius, at least, will know the truth. Sirius must know all of it. If he doesn’t know by now, then Remus doesn’t think he ever will.

He spends a long night pacing the hospital waiting room. He’s not the only one there, but no one speaks, and he’s the only one there for Sirius. James is too far away to be reached now. He’s talking of using the Fidelius Charm. Remus hopes to God that he doesn’t choose Sirius to be the Secret Keeper.

But of course James will. He will.

A Healer tells Remus that Sirius has stabilized, but he’ll need constant medical care until at least morning and won’t be able to have visitors until then.

“If you want to go home and get some rest, you can,” she says.

“No,” Remus says. He sits down.

It’s an hour past dawn when he can finally see Sirius. Sirius is barely half-awake, but he tries to push himself upright when he sees Remus come into the room.

“Hi,” he says.

Remus takes his hand and grips it. Slowly, he stops shaking.

“I thought you were dying,” Remus says, finally, because someone needs to say something.

Sirius swallows. He’s still pale from blood-loss.

“So did I,” he says.

Remus presses the palm of Sirius’ hand to his forehead, closes his eyes.

After a moment, Sirius speaks, and his voice is so quiet that Remus can barely hear him. “Don’t tell James.”

Remus’ chest tightens. “I’ve kept your secrets this long,” he says, and is surprised by how bitter he sounds. “What’s one more?”

Sirius blinks at him in the early morning light. He looks small, and tired, and very, very young.

Remus wonders if he knows. For the first time, he thinks—maybe he doesn’t.

 

-

 

The flat is empty. Remus knows it is, because it was empty when he left yesterday to report to the Ministry for questioning. They’d asked his name. They’d ask whether he was a werewolf. They’d asked if he’d known that Sirius was working for Voldemort—if Remus had known, then, what was coming.

“No,” Remus had said. He’d been crying. Or he hadn’t been—he can’t remember, now.

The flat is empty, and James and Lily and Peter are dead, and Harry is gone, and Sirius is going to trial that day to receive his life sentence in Azkaban. Remus knows this is what will happen. He feels it in his bones, like the moon-glide.

He swallows. If he speaks it to the empty flat, it will be over. He will hear it and that will be the end of it all. Sirius betrayed James and Lily to Voldemort, Remus thinks, and he opens his mouth to say it.

“I love you,” he says instead. His voice doesn’t break. The room is empty, and the first November of the rest of his life has just begun, and he is in love with Sirius Black.

“So,” Remus says, and he nearly laughs. “There you have it.”

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

II.

It’s raining the night that Sirius knocks on Remus’ door; a light, early summer rain that Remus doesn’t think befits the mood. He wants to peer though the window and tell Sirius to come back tomorrow, when it’s supposed to be storming. Or next week, when the full moon rises.

He doesn’t do either of these things. He opens the door, and Sirius looks back at him, his dark hair clinging to his face in wet, shiny streaks. He looks old—older than Remus has ever been able to imagine Sirius being.

Sirius clears his throat and says nothing. Remus can’t look him in the face; when he looks down, he sees that Sirius’ hands are bloody from walking so far on Padfoot’s paws. Remus almost wishes Sirius hadn’t had enough strength left to turn back into himself tonight; he can’t help but think this would be easier to deal with in the morning.

“Well, come in, then,” Remus says, and Sirius does. Remus closes the door behind him. It’s very quiet in the tiny cottage once the door has been shut against the light patter of rain outside. Remus can hear Sirius breathing, evenly, and he wonders if his heartbeat is keeping pace.

“I guess you’ll want to clean up first,” Remus says.

“I’d rather sleep before anything else,” Sirius says. “I’m used to being dirty, and what’s another night?" He looks down at his hands. Remus thinks this might be what a self-conscious Sirius Black looks like. “Might wash my hands first, though.”

“All right,” Remus says, instead of telling Sirius he’ll feel better if he washes up before he sleeps. He goes into the bathroom and runs a washcloth under warm water and then picks up some soap and a towel, anyway.

“For your hands.” He gives Sirius the washcloth. Sirius wipes at the blood, wincing as he dislodges the gravel embedded in his palms. “Long walk?”

Sirius doesn’t dignify this unnecessary question with an answer. Remus can’t blame him. He doesn’t know what to say, what to do. No one ever told him how he is supposed to react when his best friend who he hadn’t seen in thirteen years before last June shows up at his house to stay for a while.

“Dry off, at least,” Remus says. Sirius is dripping all over the floor. Sirius takes the towel and does as Remus told him, which is about all the strangeness that Remus can take for one night. He sets the soap on the counter and retreats into the living room, where he’s brought sheets and a pillow for the couch.

“Bedroom’s down the hall,” he says. “I’ll see you in the morning, shall I?”

Sirius appears in the doorway, his hair tousled, dark bruises under his gray eyes. “What?”

Remus gestures at the couch, helplessly. “I’ll sleep here tonight.”

“I’m not kicking you out of your own bed, Moony, honestly.”

The nickname shocks something inside Remus, painfully. Sirius had used it in the Shack last year, but this feels different. They’re alone, now. They’re the only ones who ever knew all the different ways that Sirius ever said that name.

“I’ll sleep as Padfoot,” Sirius says, “if you insist on me having the bed.” He sounds acutely uncomfortable. “I usually sleep as a dog, anyway. Because—” He hesitates, then shrugs, smiling crookedly, as if it pains him. “Nightmares.”

“Oh.” Remus stares at him. “I mean—if you’re sure.”

Sirius nods. Eventually, Remus realizes they’ve been staring at each other without moving for quite a long time now, and he starts towards the hallway.

“Bedroom’s right here,” he says. “I’ll—well….” He trails off. He doesn’t know what he means to say. Sirius is here and it’s been fourteen years since they were alone together, and Remus still doesn’t know what to say to him. He never, ever has.

“Your voice is different,” Sirius says out of nowhere. “I mean—I think it is, it’s still hard for me to—well, never mind. You sound different, though.”

“It’s a werewolf thing,” Remus says. “Our voices—the strain of the moon, eventually….”

Sirius nods, like he understands. “Howling.” Padfoot has howled at the moon before. But it’s not—it’s not the same. Remus doesn’t know how to explain, and decides not to bother.

“Yes,” he says. “That’s why.”

Sirius gives a cursory look around the small bedroom, and then he looks at Remus, meeting his eyes for a full second before he transforms. Then Padfoot sits in his place, his head cocked expectantly.

Remus lets out a breath he didn’t know he was holding. He pats the bedcovers, and Padfoot jumps up, turns a few times, and collapses with a whuffing noise. His gray eyes watch Remus.

Remus runs his hand over Padfoot’s head and bites the inside of his mouth, hard. Padfoot closes his eyes at Remus’ touch, and after a few moments, he’s asleep.

Remus leaves the room and goes outside to stand, for a moment, in the fresh air. The rain has lifted, and the night is clear and cold and smells like summer, and clouds hide the sky.

 

-

 

It’s still overcast when Remus wakes tangled in the sheets and a warm, sleeping dog curled against his side. He gets out of bed quietly, quickly, and makes himself a cup of tea. His hands are steady. Fourteen years feels like an eternity and a mere moment, both. This strange telescoping of time disorients Remus; was it yesterday that he woke up to Sirius’ face on the front of every newspaper, laughing above the headline: ‘BLACK SENTENCED TO LIFE IN AZKABAN’? Did it ever even happen at all?

There’s the sound of paws on the floor, and then bare feet. Sirius looks into the kitchen.

“Bath?” he asks, as if wondering where it is. The cottage is so small that this question is unnecessary, and Remus knows the real question is whether Sirius may use it.

Remus waves a hand, and Sirius goes. Remus hears the bathroom door open, then the sound of Sirius sucking in a deep, shocked breath, and footsteps in the hall again, faster this time. Sirius reappears, breathing hard, and jumps when he sees Remus looking at him.

“I didn’t—” He tugs at his hair, frustrated. “The window. It’s got bars. I didn’t—I wasn’t expecting it. It’s fine.” He turns back around and goes into the cramped, tiny bathroom and closes the door to his cell.

Remus gets up and knocks. There’s silence. “Sirius?”

More silence, and then Sirius opens the door. His face is flushed. “Why have you got fucking bars on your window, Remus?”

“I don’t know,” Remus says. “It’s a bathroom, sometimes they have bars,” but he does have to admit that it seems a little strange once he’s been asked about it. He steps into the tiny bathroom.

Sirius just looks at him. “What are you doing?”

“Running the tap.” Remus turns the bath on and touches his wand to the faucet to try and get the water to stay hot. Soon, steam rises from the tub as it fills.

“Get in, then,” Remus says.

“I’m an adult,” Sirius says, “I can bathe myself,” but he strips down, still with that hesitant self-consciousness that Remus has never seen in him before, and gets into the bath.

“Okay,” Remus says. “I’m leaving the door open. I’ll be right outside.”

He goes out into the hallway and leans with his back to the wall, closing his eyes. He’d known it when he saw Sirius last year, but Sirius looks ill, wasted away; there’s hard angles to his body that hadn’t been there fourteen years ago, and scars that Remus doesn’t recognize. It’s like the boy he knew then never existed at all.

The bath starts to drain. Remus hears Sirius getting out of the water and goes to fetch some clean clothes. He hands them to Sirius without looking through the door.

“They’re all I’ve got,” Remus says. “I hope they fit you.”

“Your clothes never fit me,” Sirius says, but he puts them on.

 

-

 

There was a study that Remus read not long after Sirius went to Azkaban. It showed how prolonged dementor exposure causes memory loss in prisoners that can take months to reverse itself. Remus remembers how angry he’d been at Sirius for this, and he can’t remember why.

But now—Remus doesn’t know, and doesn’t want to know, how much Sirius has forgotten in his twelve years in prison. No subjects that had been in Azkaban for more than ten years had been examined in the study. Most prisoners who are there that long are there for life.

Remus bites his tongue on all his do you remember?s, even though he wants, desperately, to ask them—did any of that really happen? he might say. Did we exist the way I think we did: you and me and James and Lily and even Harry, near the end?

He wants to ask if Sirius ever really loved him, or if that is an illusion of time, too. But that’s not fair. Not now.

 

-

 

The sky cracks open that afternoon, and it rains and rains, thunder making the walls of the tiny cottage rattle.

“Think we’ll hear from Harry?” Sirius asks as he watches the rain streak against the windowpanes.

“I hope so.” Remus hesitates—he hadn’t wanted to ask when Sirius had first shown up, and he wasn’t sure whether Sirius wanted to discuss it at all, but now Sirius has brought it up, so maybe it’s safe. “Dumbledore didn’t explain what happened in his letter, and what I’ve managed to get from the Prophet is obviously utter rubbish,” Remus says. “What happened?”

Sirius tells him: about the third task of the Triwizard Tournament, the Portkey, the graveyard. He tells Remus about priori incantatem, and Harry seeing Lily and James. Cedric Diggory's death. Peter. Voldemort, back from the dead.

Remus stares down at the dinner he’s been preparing. “I knew he was back,” he says. “Dumbledore said that much. But—Harry….”

“He’ll be all right,” Sirius says. There’s a fierce note in his voice. “He’s strong.”

“I know he is,” Remus says, slightly stung. He taught Harry for a year—he was the one who saw Harry master the Patronus Charm. But all that means is that Remus has had more time with Harry than Sirius has, and it seems childish to bring that up.

“I missed so much,” Sirius says. “I missed him growing up. I missed everything, Remus.”

Remus doesn’t know what to say to this. He takes the pan off the stove and sits down at the table. Sirius’ knee bumps against his, and Sirius leaves it there. “So did I,” Remus says.

“What’d you do all these years?” Sirius asks. “I mean—I don’t want to—”

“It’s all right.” Remus shrugs. “I left England for a long time. Dumbledore called me back to teach last year. Before that I was—I wandered, a little. I never had enough money to do any of the things I really wanted to do. I got by.”

“No boyfriends?” Sirius asks.

“Never for long.”

“Girlfriends?”

Remus doesn’t know how to decipher the way that Sirius is looking at him, so he decides, for once in his life, not to try. “Never for long.”

There’s a long moment before Sirius asks, quietly, “Why?”

Remus’ hands convulse on the table before he can stop himself. “It may have escaped your notice,” he says, and it shocks him, how calm he sounds, “at least until it occurred to you that I might be spying for Voldemort, but I am a werewolf. That tends to make relationships difficult.”

A long silence. Sirius doesn’t say he’s sorry. Remus supposes he’s grateful for that.

 

-

 

That night, Sirius insists on sleeping on the couch. Remus—privately relieved—lets him, and falls asleep with his back to the wall in his own bed. The blankets smell like wet dog.

He wakes up just after midnight, when it’s still pitch-black. Padfoot is curling up at Remus’ side, silently. Remus lies motionless for a long time, and then he reaches down, carefully, and buries his hand in the soft fur of Padfoot’s neck.

He wakes up again in the very early morning. Sirius is huddled at the foot of Remus’ bed, shaking, staring wide-eyed out the window with his hands curled around the pane.

“Sirius,” Remus says, sleepily. When Sirius turns his head, Remus can see that he is crying.

“Sirius.” Remus is wide awake now, and he sits up. “What—”

“Nothing,” Sirius says. He rubs, angrily, at his eyes. “Just—my memory, it’s still—some of it still comes back to me, when I’m not thinking about it. I’ve got most of it. There’s just a few moments here and there. I don’t realize they’re missing until they come back.”

He swallows and looks back outside. The night is clear now, and full of stars. The moon has already set.

“James,” Sirius says, finally. “I always thought—it’s not that I was ashamed,” he says. “I was scared. I don’t know why I was so scared. I loved him. That’s why, I think. He—without him—” He trails off again, a little desperately. “He was a better friend than I deserved. I didn’t deserve him. That’s what I remember.”

“Sirius,” Remus says again. There’s a painful ache in his chest, malignant, as if it can only be removed by scalpel. “You and James were the best things that ever happened to each other. James knew that.”

“No I wasn’t,” Sirius says. “He had Lily, and Harry.”

“Yeah, well,” Remus says. “I never said you were the only best thing that ever happened to him. There were others. That doesn’t make you any less important. And you had Lily and Harry, too.”

Sirius is silent. When he turns to look back at the stars, he looks as he once did, fourteen years ago—young, and beautiful.

“I had other things then, too,” Sirius says. “If we’re counting.” He doesn’t look at Remus.

“Go back to sleep, Sirius,” Remus says, and he rolls over to make room on the bed.

 

-

 

Remus wakes up for the third time in the late morning, sunlight slanting in at steep angles through the window. Sirius is fast asleep and snoring, on his side facing Remus, his hands pulled in close to his chest. Remus watches him for a moment, still blinking away the last traces of sleep. He doesn’t know whether he should get up and move to the couch or if he should go and shower or if he should curl into the warm parenthesis of Sirius’ body, trail his fingertips over Sirius’ new scars. In the end, he does nothing; lies rigid on the bed with none of his limbs touching Sirius, until Sirius wakes up.

Sirius blinks awake, looks at Remus. He swallows and mumbles something that sounds, if Remus were willing to interpret it, like ‘sorry.’

“Shut up,” Remus whispers. “Don’t fucking say that. Don’t say that to me now.”

Sirius stares at him. His hair is long and tangled on the pillow, and Remus wants to tug it, to tilt Sirius’ head back and expose his throat, to put his tongue on the line of his jaw. He lies there, motionless, aching, and Sirius looks back at him.

“I missed you, Moony,” Sirius says. His voice is soft, an exhalation. He doesn’t sound scared to say it. He sounds like he’s been waiting a long time. “I missed you so fucking much.”

Remus closes his eyes against the wet. “Don’t say that.”

“I did,” Sirius insists; “I did, Moony, Remus, I did, I did,” and the bed shifts as he moves in close, and he kisses Remus, gently, on the mouth.

Remus makes a choking noise and leans in when Sirius pulls away. “Don’t,” he says, because it’s all that he knows to say.

“I will,” Sirius says. “Fuck, I will. Look at me.”

Remus shakes his head.

“I love you,” Sirius says. He presses in close, his mouth soft on Remus’ throat, but his teeth are cold like bullet shells.

“I loved you then,” Sirius says, fiercely, and knows.