being an historical record of events surrounding the unfortunate truth-or-dare game of february the twenty-second, and consequences thereof


Please see the Miserabilia community on Livejournal for full archival and amalgamation of my HP works.


1. the first mistake

"Nobody," Remus said, again, without looking up. A cross little line was beginning to fold the space between his eyebrows. "Just leave it, would you? I'm trying to study."

"I would if you'd just tell me." James, the one who probably should have been sounding cross, wasn't a bit. Instead he had a gleeful, we're-on-holiday sound to his voice that Remus didn't care for at all. James cross was a sort of pathetic, harmless thing; James sounding like this could be expected to be dangerous.

"I have. Leave it." He caught the movement out of his peripheral vision, but not quickly enough to defend himself before James swooped in and snatched the book out of his hands, tossing it aside as he plopped down on the bed in front of Remus. Remus sighed, and glared at James, who was making the whole process very difficult by having his glasses skewed oddly and beaming like a twit. "James!"

"Sorry," James said, because he wasn't. "And I meant tell me the truth." Remus opened his mouth, but of course it'd never stood a chance against James's. "It's not like I can't tell, you know. We smitten know our own kind. Who is she?"

Remus rolled his eyes. "Have you seen me drawing anybody's names in hearts on my homework?"

"Nope. But I assumed that's 'cause you're Moony, and you've got dignity and such."

"Yes. I have. Can I have my book back, please?"

"No." Remus glared a little more, and James contrived to pout. It didn't suit him very well, particularly not when he was trying to do it through the remaining half of a grin. "Oh, don't be such a miser. I told you lot about Lily."

"Yes, no matter how many times we asked you not to." James's pout did not improve, and Remus sighed, propping up his knees and leaning his elbows on them. "I don't fancy anyone, James. I don't know where you got this idea."

"Got what idea?" They both glanced up and Peter was in the doorway, looking pink and out-of-breath; Remus half-wondered if he'd run all the way from his remedial Charms lesson just to be back a little sooner. His collar was sticking up lopsidedly around his tie on one side, and he looked quite bright-eyed at the thought of James having had any idea at all.

"Moony fancies someone and won't tell me who," James said, a lot more promptly than Remus would have liked.

Peter's bright-eyed look shifted first to surprise and then to an avid curiosity, which Remus ended up diving for his wand and murmuring "Accio textbook" just to avoid having to see. He could already feel his ears starting to turn to match Peter's flushed face.

"Do you really?" Peter asked.

"No," Remus said, and flipped through for his lost page with a little more force than necessary. Peter didn't move, and when he looked back up he felt instantly sorry at the slight expression of hurt on the boy's face. "Look, Prongs is just being stupid. Forget it, all right?"

Peter shrugged, and headed over to fwump down both his books and himself on his own bed. "All right."

James, for his part, gave a disgusted snort, and flopped down on his back on a perpendicular to Remus's bed. "Fine, fine. Hold out on your best mates, after all we've done for you. We'll just have to learn to live with our disappointment..."

It was probably supposed to be funny. It wasn't. Remus threw the book down into his lap. "Don't -- " he started to snap, except his voice came out pleading, and he stopped himself and looked at his hands. "...you'd just laugh anyway."

Instantly he regretted it. James and Peter were sitting straight up and staring at him at once, looking like a pair of pointers -- and wasn't that getting to be too many dogs entirely? "You do!" James said, aiming an accusing finger at Remus that only heightened the illusion. Remus buried his face back in the book as deeply as he could, wishing that he weren't so stupid, wishing that the backfired prank of James and Sirius's that had ended up with him under a Silencing Charm had happened today, rather than third year.

"I meant if -- " he began, but it was too muffled behind the pages to possibly compete with James's whoop of triumph.

---

2. the unfortunate truth-or-dare game of february the twenty-second

At first Remus thought he was being paranoid for suspecting that James would actually go this far just for an answer. And then, as the game wore on, it gradually occurred to him that, as far as he knew, James Potter had never given up on anything in his entire life.

Either way, though, his (admittedly feeble) protests that stealing Veritaserum for a simple game of Truth or Dare was a bit like swatting a fly with an automobile went unheard.

"Sirius?" Peter was wearing an anxious smile, leaning forward on the edge of his seat. sirius glanced up at him, and smiled himself, drumming his fingers on the knee he'd slung up over the edge of his chair. The weekend having just begun, he was wearing a tight, clinging t-shirt and jeans today, and boots, and the way his hair was getting too long and shaggy and in his eyes meant he looked all the more fetching when he peered up through it, which he undoubtedly knew. After a minute, he shrugged, and Remus remembered to look somewhere else.

"Truth," he said. Peter looked sort of pleased and a little panicked.

"Well... drink up, then." Sirius was already swinging his leg down, though, and reaching for the communal -- and lightly spiked -- bottle of butterbeer in the middle of the table. He took a swig and sat back, and after a few seconds his face smoothed out to a peaceful, staring expression. Peter chewed his lip, and finally put forth, "Why did you really break up with Lucinda?"

"We had a row when I turned up an hour late to get her from the library, and she called me self-aborbed," Sirius said, in that mellow, detached tone Remus still thought was creepy. "I told her I wasn't the one who had to spend two bloody hours in front of the mirror before I'd show my face at breakfast. Pretty much the end of that." James was hooting laughter already, and Remus just winced and cupped his hand over his forehead. They gave the potion a minute to wear off (and it'd had to be very carefully diluted to only last for such a short span; at least James had been paying attention in Potions that week), and then Sirius was blinking and wearing a fuzzy, just-waking-up look. "Bloody hell, Wormtail, what'd you want to know that for?" he said, a bit slurrily, which just got James cracking up again.

Peter was giggling a little too, and at first just shook his head, before he could answer. "James always said you made yourself sound too smooth when you were teling us-- "

Smirking -- whether or not it was forced, it was impossible to tell -- Sirius crossed his legs on the arm of the chair again. "Oh, come off it. It was true." He paused. "Not that we'd probably want to see her if she didn't, mind you."

"You're terrible," Remus murmured into his hand, but he was struggling not to smile. Sirius grinned, honestly now, and poked Remus's knee with the toe of one boot.

"Wicked." He glanced around. "Right, whose turn is it, then? Prongs?"

"Dare." James grinned, and Sirius grinned right back. Looking at them right then you could have sworn they were really brothers, and Remus watched with that little smile still on his face as Sirius leaned over to mutter something in his ear.

James laughed again, shook Sirius's proffered hand, and sprang up from his seat, charging back down into the common room. Sirius followed him at a gleeful jog. Before Peter could even hurry over to the dormitory doorway to watch whatever was going on, the loud, blaring of the klaxons from the girls' dorms burst into the room, followed by a few distant -- and distinctly outraged -- feminine shrieks. Remus buried his face in his hand again.

"I don't even want to know," he muffled out, to no one in particular. Peter came giggling back to his chair, and a moment later Sirius and James ran back into the room, slamming the door behind them before doubling over in breathless laughter.

"Below your usual standards, sir," James managed, when he could finally speak again, and staggered over to thump back down in his chair. "But not bad." Sirius just laughed, and swung back into his own seat, while James wiped his glasses and collected himself, amid occasional snickers.

"I'm fairly certain those are the sorts of things I'm supposed to stop you doing," Remus said, but as he lifted his head again he found that he was smiling at the two of them anyway. James grinned back at him, replacing his glasses on his face.

"Yeah, thanks for that." He sat forward with his elbows on his gangling knees, eyes sparking. "And speaking of which -- you're up, Moony."

"Dare," Remus said instantly. James flopped back in his chair, groaning, and even Sirius was rolling his eyes with a look of amusement.

"You've said nothing but dare this whole game!" Remus shrugged, looking at his hands, which were conveniently not on a line of sight with the bottle in the middle of the table.

"I just feel like dares today." James snorted -- and then he stopped, mid-snort. And began to smile.

Remus's stomach plummeted.

"All right, then," James said, and the sparks were back in his eyes. "Dare you to take a truth."

There was no reason why Remus shouldn't have expected this, but he found himself gaping anyway. It took him a few moments to sputter out anything at all. "That's -- no! That's cheating!"

"Not really," Sirius said, and oh, how Remus could have happily stuffed both of the other boy's clunky ridiculous boots in his mouth just to shut him up right then. "Just a bloody stupid trick, if you ask me."

James threw Sirius an indignant look, but Remus was already on his feet, nearly upsetting the table with the butterbeer. "You know, I -- you go on without me, I don't think I feel like playing anymore."

Suddenly he had everyone's attention, which was more or less the last thing he'd wanted; an entire chorus of protest met the announcement.

"Oh, come on, Moony -- "

"You can't, it's not fair -- "

" -- already put my life in danger twice today -- "

" -- being a girl, it's just a game -- "

"All right," Remus said, mostly out of panic, and flopped back down into the chair. He glared at James, whose contriving to look innocent was even worse than his contriving to pout. "But I want to know what you're going to ask first."

James looked like he was going to protest this, too, but then Sirius gave him one of his Sirius looks, and James folded immediately. "Oh, all right. Hell. Ah..." He scratched one hand into the perpetual mess of his hair, squinching up his nose as he thought. "Fine, I'll ask whether you passed Sirius the answers on that Muggle Studies exam -- "

"Hey."

" -- all right?"

Remus chewed on his thumb, eyeing James. Oh, he should really, really know better... ... but James didn't even look like he was in one of his remotely threatening moods, he looked patient and long-suffering and put-upon, like nothing so much as a boy pandering to the ridiculous insecurities of his friend. Maybe Remus was just being paranoid. Maybe James had really decided to give up for once on having to know every single blessed thing and forgotten about the whole nonsense.

"All right," Remus said at last, and reached for the butterbeer before he could change his mind. "Once."

He almost caught the change in James's expression fast enough to keep himself from swallowing.

Almost.

Oh, no. For someone as daft and largely harmless as James usually was, it was amazing how evil he could look. No, have to fight it. Have to get up. Have to leave. Except he felt so much warmer and calmer, suddenly, so much like staying in the same place, it was so hard to remember what he was worried about...

"Now, Moony," James was saying, leaning forward on his knees and grinning with his glasses sliding down his nose. "Who do you fancy?"

The tiny, locked-up part of Remus that was still capable of panicking noticed a lot of things that his much more relaxed conscious mind was missing over the next few moments, even as it was struggling with all its strength to keep the words back in his mouth that wanted to spill out. He was aware not only of James's grin, but that Peter was smiling and sitting forward, too -- and oh, God, so was Sirius. All of them grinning, laughing a little, waiting to hear the outcome of another good -- if slightly cheap -- joke of James's. For a brief, terrifying moment, Remus found that he hated every last one of them. They were bastards and they had no idea and he hated them.

"Oh, come on," James said, in the midst of all their laughter, "you're fighting, you cheap bastard. It's gonna wear off!"

It was like trying to hold back a sneeze, or a cough, except with all the strength drained out of your muscles. It kept boiling up, and you'd try to make a heroic effort and stuff it back again, and barely even be able to start -- he could feel his mouth working and tried to hold his lips shut -- hold his jaws together --

"Sirius," it came out anyway, right through his gritted teeth.

The silence came in sharp and hard and heavy.

Well, he thought as the serum ebbed away and the pit of his stomach started being able to clench properly, at least they weren't laughing anymore.

He managed to stand up without looking at any of their faces. "I have to go," he muttered, and bolted for the door. He thought he heard someone -- maybe James -- drawing breath to call after him, but if so it was too late; by the time he hit the bottom of the dormitory stairs, he was practically running.

There had to be somewhere in this school a bloke could kill himself without causing anyone too much trouble.

Back in the room the silence continued for several unbearable moments, in which no one quite summoned the courage to look at one another. At length Sirius cleared his throat.

"Good show, Prongs," he said. "Really well done."

Startled out of his startlement, James whipped his head around toward Sirius, yammering his mouth open and shut like a fish's. "I didn't mean -- I mean, how would I -- "

"I know," Sirius cut him off before he could even get started, and stood up. He had a distracted, far-off sort of look on his face, a faint frown that struck James as not quite appropriate, although he couldn't have said how. "Look -- you two carry on without me, all right? I'm gonna go... yeah."

And then he was off himself, leaving James and Peter to stare at each other in silence.

---

3. awfully handsome

The problem, of course, was that Sirius knew all of the places he was likely to hide. After all, who'd come and got him out every last time before, when one thing or another had gotten to be too much for him and he'd gone off to curl up and lick his wounds alone? Who'd nudged him back to a smile with stupid jokes and sympathy, and had him admitting he really was hungry enough for dinner inside a half an hour? Who'd never let him get away with trying to deal with his own troubles by himself?

Who was apparently too bloody stupid to realize that this time was different?

"Hello, Myrtle," Sirius's voice floated over the tops of the stalls, to where Remus was covering his mouth with his hands and tucking his feet up on the toilet seat, trying not to breathe. "Has Remus Lupin come in here today? At all?"

"Remus?" Myrtle's watery voice tilted up into a long, faltering query, and Remus let himself breathe a little. She was keeping him right at the door. Myrtle was a stand-up girl, she really was. "Why, no, I've not seen anyone at all. It's terrible, isn't it, when nobody cares enough to visit you..."

"I'm sure it must be," Sirius's voice headed her off, "I'm really sorry to hear that, Myrtle." (And how did he do that? Remus found himself wondering in his stall. How did he even charm the ghosts, for heaven's sake?) "But if Remus does come in, could you tell him I was looking for him? And -- " His voice trailed off into a sigh, and Remus held his breath again. He could almost see Sirius running his hand through his hair, staring at the floor. "And that I'm worried about him? Please, it's important."

"Worried about him?" Now the quavery uptilt of Myrtle's voice was starting to sound moodily gleeful, and Remus squeezed his eyes shut and prayed Sirius wouldn't take it to mean anything more than the obvious: Myrtle was never happier than when someone else was approaching her level of misery. "Why would you be worried about him? Did something dreadful happen?"

Sirius's response was almost too low to hear; Remus thought it was "You could say that." There was another echoey sigh off the tile floor, and then Sirius seemed to gather himself. "Will you tell him? I'd really appreciate it."

"Well, if he comes, which I don't think is likely, I will." There was a distinct flutter to her voice now, and Remus bit his lip. Hell with the ghosts, Sirius could probably charm corpses.

"Thanks, Myrtle," Sirius's voice said, and it did sound very grateful. And then the door swung and thumped again, and Remus could breathe.

"He's gone!" Myrtle sing-songed, and a moment later she melted through the stall door, blinking at him with a look of enormous pride behind her thick, ephemeral glasses. Remus lowered his feet back to the floor and offered her a thin smile.

"Thanks, Myrtle. You're a lifesaver."

Myrtle preened, in the sort of way that said such praise could hardly last. "He's awfully handsome, isn't he?" she added after a moment, bobbing up to the top of the toilet cubicle, as if buoyed on the memory of Sirius. Remus could relate. He would have sworn that if she could have had any color in her at all, Myrtle would have been blushing a bit. "It must have been just terrible, having to say that in front of him."

Remus didn't say much of anything to that, but he was glad at least Myrtle was having a good time.

---

4. lies, the good kind

After missing both lunch and dinner, Remus ended up ravenous, and finally in mid-evening he gave in to his gnawing stomach and snuck down to the kitchen. Somehow he even managed it without being seen by anyone he knew, which struck him as a minor but welcome miracle, considering. The house-elves were only too happy to provide him with food, particularly when he was as extravagant with his praise as he was tonight. Only when he was so tired that he could no longer keep his eyes open did he finally make his way back to Gryffindor Tower, and mumble "Fiat lux" to the Fat Lady, who barely even woke up all the way as she swung back to let him in.

Miracles were on his side tonight; when he tiptoed into the dormitory room, the lights had already been doused, and the only sounds of life in the room were the slow heavy breaths of three figures that were already buried in their beds. Tomorrow, maybe, he'd be able to face them again, but not today. Not tonight. Not now. He breathed out in silence, and went to his bed to undress in the dark, pondering the long distance to his toothbrush for only a moment before giving up and deciding tomorrow was good enough. Bed was welcoming and safe, and he pulled the covers nearly over his head, wondering if he could make the morning never come if he only wanted it badly enough.

And no sooner had he lain down than the figure in the next bed had rolled over and had moonlight glinting off its open eyes, and he realized for at least the third time today that he just should have known better.

"Hey," Sirius's voice whispered across the space between their beds. "Are you all right?" Remus only considered pretending to be asleep for half a second; there was no way Sirius would buy it.

"Fine," he said, as quietly and shortly as he could. Sirius rolled over a little further, propping an elbow underneath him, which wasn't a good sign at all.

"Where did you go? I was looking all over for you."

"Nowhere." I'm tired, Sirius. I don't want to talk. Shut up. Let me sleep.

His eyes were adjusting to the dark; he could see now that Sirius had an uneasy, shifting frown on his face, like it kept trying to be a reassuring smile and faltering back. "I'm sorry, Moony," he said at last, again in that half-whisper. "That was... well, a really rotten thing to have happen." He waited, but Remus didn't say anything, and finally he heard Sirius give out a little sigh. "Look -- don't hate James forever, all right? He was after me all day, asking if I'd found you yet. He feels really awful."

"Good," Remus muttered, and then wished he hadn't. But Sirius's mouth just curved into a little half-smile, and he settled back to his pillow again. His hair was still falling in his eyes. In the moonlight it looked even softer.

He supposed he hadn't really expected Sirius to hate him, if he were honest with himself. He didn't know what he'd expected. Whatever it was, though, it probably hadn't been this: Sirius behaving... not as though nothing had happened at all, not exactly, but as though something had happened and it only involved Remus. More than that -- as though the same thing had happened, but the name that had come out of Remus's mouth had been someone other than Sirius's, James's maybe.

Yes -- actually, that was exactly it. Sirius was just being comforting, the way Sirius always was if something happened to Remus that left him unhappy or in pain, and doing it as if what had happened in the game before had had nothing to do with himself whatsoever. A really rotten thing to have happen. Nothing more or less.

Remus had no idea how that thought managed simultaneously to make him feel so much better, and yet so apocalyptically worse.

"It's all right, you know," Sirius said, after just long enough that Remus had begun to hope that this time he might actually stop. His voice had fallen even softer. "I'm not upset or anything."

Remus burrowed a little deeper into the blankets, because there didn't seem to be any good response to that. "...All right."

"You're still my mate, and all." He paused. "Are you really all right? 'Cause, you seem a little..."

"I'm fine," Remus cut him off. Trying not to be too sharp, and not knowing why he was bothering. "I'm just... well. I'm embarrassed. And tired. And I want to sleep, okay?"

"Yeah." Remus didn't look at his face, didn't want to see the puzzled, shut-out expression. Didn't want to see how much Sirius really just... couldn't get it. "Okay. I... well. Never mind. ...'Night, Moony."

And Remus took in a slow, quiet breath, and let it out again.

"Good night, Sirius."

---

5. a brief word of explanation

When a girl confessed to her friends that she fancied Sirius Black, it wasn't exactly as if anyone ever said, "Why?"

Still, maybe they should have. Forewarned might be forearmed, or at least strongly cautioned. But no -- every last one just thought the reason Sirius had never kept a girlfriend for more than two weeks before was because he'd never tried her.

Remus had no such illusions. He didn't even anticipate being tried in the first place, unless his patience counted. And he wasn't so certain he could have said why, even if someone had asked him. Well -- possibly he could have made an itemized list, and some charts and diagrams, but that still wouldn't have explained it. There were much more powerful forces at work.

What he was going to miss most were the fantasies: the brief pockets of indulgence and daydream, when he could construct hilariously elaborate scenarios and play them out in the back of his mind and dismiss them, guiltily, whenever someone else came into the room. What he was going to miss was the dim, glimmering, distant possibility of hope, which was somehow only real in its dimness and in its distance. What he was going to miss was pretending not to look at the line of Sirius's shoulder from the back in History of Magic and chewing on the pad of his thumb and Sirius never knowing. Because now Sirius would know, and now it was just awful, it was cheap and pathetic and awful. He might not be able to explain why, but he knew exactly why he hadn't said anything: because he'd wanted it to be all his, and now it wasn't anymore. Fact itself had crushed all the life out of that nebulous fantasy-hope, as he'd always suspected it would. If he tried to think back on the daydreams now, he winced at how stupid they seemed. How painted and two-dimensional. He tried to follow one along and ended up slipping down sideroads into misery and resentment.

None of it belonged to him anymore, and it made him feel small and bereft and bleeding.

---

6. out of earshot

"Prongs?" James sighed, and leaned a little closer over his broomstick. This would be at least the third time, and the plaintive tone was starting to grate. "Remus fancies me."

"I know, Sirius." He took a little more broomstick polish and began rubbing it in, bumping up his glasses as they started to slide down. The sunlight gleamed magnificently off the handle already, but that had never much stopped him. "What do you want me to do about it?"

Sirius didn't answer that right away; he flopped down on his back in the Quidditch pitch's short grass, folding his arms behind his head. His tie had come off and gotten stuffed in his trouser pocket at some point, and now his shirt was half-open, and James's sleeves were rolled up above his elbows. It was an unseasonably warm day for early March, even with the rarity of direct sunlight. James half-suspected someone on the Quidditch teams had gotten really industrious for the match tomorrow. "You don't secretly have a crush on me, do you?" he asked instead, glancing over at James. "Or, say, Peter?"

James tilted his head down toward Sirius, quirking his eyebrow in that way he clearly thought looked much cooler than it did. "Kiss me," he deadpanned, "you fool." Sirius snorted, and flung his tie at James's face.

"Pillock." James threw it back, and his broom hovered patiently above his lap where he'd left it until his supporting hand was back around its neck. "I just mean -- it'd almost surprise me less. Moony just isn't, you know..."

"Stupid?" James suggested. Sirius snorted and swatted at James again, but without much real intent, and with a little distracted frown.

"Well -- yeah, sort of. I was gonna say 'a girl,' but that'll do." James gave him a withering look, and he sighed and rolled over onto his belly, plucking at blades of grass. "I don't mean girls are stupid, I just..." He paused, and frowned, and propped up on his elbows. "...Actually, maybe I do."

"Watch it, Paddy."

Sirius rolled his eyes. "All right. 'Girls' hereby being understood to exclude one Lily Evans. Who has proved herself to be not stupid if only by continuing to loathe and despise you."

"Thank you."

"My pleasure, sir." Holding a blade of grass close to his face, he folded its ends in and began absent attempts to tie it in a knot as he spoke. "It's -- when it's girls, it makes sense, you know? It's sort of like they don't know any better."

"'Cause they don't know you that well, so they don't know what an utter berk you are," James said, examining the flow of the twigs at the end of his broomstick. "And Remus does, and apparently he fancies you anyway."

"Yes!" Sirius rolled over and sat up again. "That's exactly it. How do you do that?"

James paused long enough to lift his head and smirk, bumping up his glasses again. "By not being an utter berk who can't string two words together." This time he got a handful of grass in the face.

After the wrestling match that ensued had concluded itself, and James's Cleansweep had been restored to safety some few feet away, Sirius flopped back down in the grass and sighed. "What am I supposed to do?"

"About being an utter berk?" Sirius glared at him, and James hid his laugh in a cough. "Dunno. Tell him to quit on it?"

Sirius frowned, a small, troubled frown, and turned his attention back to the grass. "You think I should?"

James shrugged. "Well, do you want him to quit on it?"

He hadn't intended that to be a stumper; from the way Sirius had been whining But Remus fancies me! all morning, it had seemed obvious he felt his life was unacceptably complicated by this development. But Sirius lay staring at an ant crawling up a blade of grass with his hair flopping in his out-of-focus eyes and a frown growing on his face for so long that James started to wonder if Sirius hadn't heard the question at all. And then: "No," he said, at last.

He glanced up to read James's face after a beat, and whatever he saw there made him uncomfortable enough to shift onto his side. "Am I an awful person, d'you think?"

James bit down on his first, instinctive response -- or any of a hundred flip ones, for that matter -- and shrugged again. "That all depends," he said. "Do you want him to keep fancying you because it's some sort of ego trip for you?"

Sirius flew back up to a sitting position, fixing James with a disbelieving, furious glare. "Of course not! Bloody hell, James!"

"Good," James said, mildly. "Because if you did, I'd like to know so I could pound you for it."

"Well, I don't. Do you even have to ask?" James thought it politic not to answer this, but Sirius was already flopping back down and didn't seem to notice the omission.

"All right, then. Do you want him to keep fancying you because you fancy him back?"

Sirius's frown came back, and he stared up at the few clouds floating across the sky. "Not exactly," he admitted, after another long pause.

"I think you're venturing into awful person territory, then, mate." Sirius made a growling noise and shut his eyes. James shrugged, although Sirius couldn't see it. "Sorry."

"I don't not fancy him, either." There was a defensive tone in his voice, but a genuine one, too. "It's just that I never really thought about it. I mean... he's my mate."

"So am I," James pointed out. Sirius snorted.

"Yeah, and I never thought about snogging you, either."

"No, I mean..." James sighed, and pulled his knees up to sit cross-legged, propping his elbows on them. "Has it even occurred to you that you act differently with Remus than you do with the rest of us? Have you noticed?"

Sirius opened his eyes, and frowned at James. "What do you mean?"

"You -- sort of touch him a lot." Sirius's frown grew even more skeptical, and James pressed on. "I mean, you know when we were playing the game, just before I made him tell? When he said you were terrible and you tapped your toe on his knee?"

Sirius let out a loud, explosive snort, rolling his eyes. "What, is that a sign you want to get engaged on your planet?"

"No, it's something you don't ever do to me. Or Peter. Or anyone else, for that matter, with the possible exception of girls." Sirius was already opening his mouth for an indignant retort, but too slow. "Look, when he sits next to you in class, you put your arm up on the back of his chair. You didn't wonder that one day why that git Bulstrode kept asking you if you were on a date?"

"I assumed the 'git' part covered it." Sirius was scowling by now, and he propped himself up on his elbows to better glare at James. "What are you going on about? I mean, I'm sorry if my touching my friend sometimes upsets you -- "

"I'm trying to make a point. Shut it. My point is that you flirt with Moony."

"I do not flirt with Moony."

"Yes, you do. What about all the stupid jokes you make? 'You don't love me anymore' this and 'That's the man I married' that?"

Sirius glared. "They're jokes. Like you said. Now I can't joke around with my friends either?"

James peered over his glasses at Sirius, which was far less functional than it was stylish. "You tell me. You don't make cracks like that to me."

"Because you'd punch me."

"Wouldn't. I'd just think you were being stupid. And why shouldn't he punch you?"

"Because he's Remus!" Sirius made a noise of disgust and sat up again, brushing loose grass off his back. "What the hell are you getting at, James?"

"I'm getting at that you flirt with Moony, and I don't believe you've never really thought about it," James said. Sirius opened his mouth again -- hesitated -- and then closed it, and settled into a grouchy slump.

"Well, I've never thought about it where I could hear myself," he said. "Do you believe that?" James considered this, and nodded.

"Then maybe you should."

Sirius muttered something, under his breath, too low for James to hear.

James tilted his head. "What?"

"I don't want to," Sirius repeated, much louder and with his teeth bared in a snarl. They both sat in startled silence for a moment, James staring at Sirius who was staring at the grass, and then James frowned.

"Why not?"

Sirius shoved a hand through his hair, as though he were suddenly angry at it for getting in his eyes like that. "Because... I don't know. I don't know about fancying anyone, but... what if it turns out I want to snog him? Or something? And then things get weird, or I mess something up, or something else awful happens?" He sighed, finally looking back up at James. "Present company excluded, Moony's the best friend I've ever had. If I lost him over something stupid like sex, what kind of a git would I be?"

The moments where James didn't say anything, just sat staring at Sirius with no legible expression he was aware of on his face, dragged on for a long time -- so long Sirius finally began to fidget and look uncomfortable. Finally, James said, "Don't mind me, I'm just trying to figure out how such a great bloody coward as you ever got sorted into Gryffindor."

The mingled hurt in Sirius's look of infuriated indignation almost made him regret saying it. Almost. "James -- "

"You won't even think about whether you might fancy Remus because you're scared things'll get weird?" James cut him off. "What do you expect? Me to give you a medal?"

"I'm not scared!" Sirius snapped. "I'm trying not to do something stupid that'd lose me one of my best friends! I'm trying to be responsible, for once in my life, you might be a bit proud of me."

"I might, if you weren't being such a great bloody coward." Sirius glared, and James shook his head. "Fine, you're trying to be responsible. I'm just wondering where Remus gets a say in all this."

Sirius's glare began to falter into a mistrustful frown. "He has a say."

"D'you think he knows that?"

They stared at each other. Finally, Sirius snorted, with an air of false heartiness. "'Course he does. Why wouldn't he?"

James sighed. "Come on, Padfoot, it's Remus. He hasn't always got the confidence of you or I, you know. And it's not like you've given him the impression you're just madly interested in him."

"Oh yeah? I thought I was the one who was always flirting with him."

"I mean, since he said something about it." Sirius struggled for something to say for a moment, but finally gave up in defeat, flopping back on the grass.

"Well... he's already had a say, then, hasn't he?" He glanced at James, but turned his head away again just as fast. "And I'm having my say. And my say is -- no. I'd rather not get into it."

"Are you gonna tell him that?" James asked, almost before he was done. Sirius threw him another irritated look.

"James, can I ask you something?" James didn't answer, only quirked his mouth to one side, but Sirius kept going anyway. "Which do you really, honestly think would make him feel best?" He ticked off on his fingers. "'Well, my goodness, Remus, I don't really fancy you and I've honestly not the foggiest what the whole thing is about, but I'd love a good meaningless snog if you're up for it'? 'Sorry, Remus, but I've decided I don't even want to think about returning your affections. Want a game of Exploding Snap'? Or, 'All that was really terrible, Remus, but you're still my mate, and we'll never bring it up again unless you want to'?"

...All right, James had to admit for a minute that there wasn't a lot he could say to that.

"So you do want to snog him," was all it was, when he did think of something. Sirius rolled his eyes, and rolled back onto his side in the grass.

"What if I do? You trying to set us up now?"

"Nah. Just trying to figure out where you stand in all this." James held up his hands, palms-out, warding off any further argument. "All right. Fine. Do whatever you want. Just promise me you'll at least talk to him, all right? Don't let him keep wandering about thinking you hate him and he's no good, because you know that's what he's doing right now."

Sirius's expression met this statement with no little disbelief, but he sighed and made a flapping go-on gesture at James. "I will, I will, I was going to anyway. He's been avoiding me for weeks now. I'm sick of it."

"And put in a good word for me?" James pressed. Sirius raised his eyebrows, and James contrived to look pleading, which was a good sight better than either his pout or his innocent look. "He's still not talking to me. I want out of the doghouse."

Sirius snorted, growing half a grin. "I want you out too. It's getting damn crowded in there." James snorted back, and attempted to shove Sirius's face down into the grass, which resulted in a couple more minutes' wrestling -- in the course of which Sirius became Padfoot, much to James's amusement and his accusations, nonetheless, of cheating. He ended up tossing sticks for the dog for another half-hour or so, though, and when they went in Sirius was Sirius again, it was almost dark and almost time for dinner, and James had only begun to wonder if Sirius did that sometimes just so he wouldn't have to think anymore.

---

7. the second mistake

"Hey." Remus glanced up from packing his books back into his bag; the look on his face -- almost fearful, before the shutters closed down again -- made Sirius wince on the inside. "Can I talk to you?"

Remus frowned a bit, but nodded, closing up his bag. "All right," he said.

Transfiguration was their last class of the day, but there were still a few students lingering to talk to Professor McGonagall about O.W.L.s, so Sirius steered Remus out of the classroom and down the hall a ways, looking for a place with at least a little bit of privacy. They ended up coming up a flight of stairs, dodging Peeves, who was hiding in suits of armor and making them stick their feet out to trip passing students, and ducking into an empty classroom almost on the other side of the castle. It seemed like a lot of trouble, but the last thing Sirius wanted to do right now was make Remus feel awkward in front of other people.

"Why are you avoiding me?" he asked, as soon as he'd shut the door and they were alone. "Did I do something?"

Remus stared at the floor, leaning up against the classroom door, and now pinned there by Sirius's arm. Sirius didn't move it, either; at least Remus couldn't run off that way. "I'm not avoiding you," he said.

"Yes, you are." He looked hard at Remus, and Remus continued to look at the floor. "Look at me."

Remus glanced up at Sirius for all of a half-second before dropping his eyes back down. Sirius sighed.

"What I'm getting at is that you've hardly done that once in the last couple weeks, Moony." He tilted his head, trying to get his own line of sight down under Remus's, but it was hopeless; he was just too much taller. "Did I do something? Because if I did, tell me. Or tell James, I'm sure he'd love an excuse to thump me." And there, subtle hint about James planted.

Remus shook his head, and actually made himself look up at Sirius. He looked paler than he usually did in mid-month, and his eyes were large and earnest. A surge of frustrated affection alarmed Sirius all at once; it made him want to hug Remus and then shake him. "No, you didn't do anything. I promise. I'm not mad at you, Sirius."

"Then you're still upset about that stupid game," Sirius said, and Remus's eyes dropped again immediately. Lovely. Like this wouldn't be hard enough even if Remus would actually look at him. He tried to smile, in the hopes that Remus might see it in his peripheral vision and feel better. "Oh, come on, Moony... it was just us. I make a fool of myself in front of you all the time."

A tiny smile twinged at the corners of Remus's mouth, although Sirius got the impression he didn't mean it very much. "You're a lot better at it," he said to the floor. Sirius tried to take that as encouragement.

"Well, I've had more practice." Remus's mouth twitched up a little further, then fell again. Sirius touched his shoulder, and Remus at least didn't flinch. "It's okay, you know," he said. "Everyone's all but forgotten it by now." Which was, in fact, a bald-faced lie, but the good kind of lie, Sirius thought. Remus sighed a little, and lifted one shoulder in a half-shrug.

"I just feel stupid," he admitted, almost in a whisper, after a long pause. Sirius squeezed his shoulder a little.

"Well -- don't." Which didn't come out as reassuring as he'd meant it, but none of this quite was. "I mean, it's not the end of the world, is it? You'll get over it, and in a couple of months we'll be laughing about -- "

Remus's expression never flickered, at least not as far as Sirius could see, but he could hear Remus's fingers tighten into a deathgrip on the strap of his bag.

Oh, stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Now that they'd come out, the words kept echoing back into his head, and listening to them made him want to punch himself. Not to mention made it hard to think of anything else to say.

"That was, ah, a really shitty thing to say, wasn't it?" he said, at last. Remus nodded, calmly enough, and Sirius winced. "Right. Er... look, I didn't mean it like -- "

"Yes, you did," Remus said, and finally looked back up at him; he sounded tired, but almost amused, albeit in a horrible, aching way. "It's all right."

"No, I didn't. Really. Listen to me." Sirius fell back a little from the door, finally letting Remus out of the trap of his arm, and felt even worse when he saw Remus immediately relax. "I just... I mean, you've had better ideas. Including the thing with the trick wands in third year." He tried on a smile, but it felt far too small and too sick on his face. How on earth did he always manage to ruin things like this?

Remus gave him a wan answering half-smile, and he supposed he'd have to settle for that. "It's all right, Sirius," he said again. "I understand."

No, you don't, Sirius wanted to say, but he couldn't; he didn't even know where to begin. He'd already long since burned that bridge, hadn't he?

"All right," he said instead, and let it go. "So will you quit avoiding me?"

Remus sighed, and looked put-upon, and that was a slight improvement. "I wasn't avoiding you."

"You were, and you are." Sirius said. "And I miss you." It was just the truth, but at the way Remus's expression softened and warmed, he was instantly glad that he'd said it.

"All right," Remus said, and actually smiled a little. "I'm sorry." Sirius waved off the apology, and let his arm slip back around Remus's shoulders (where it belonged, the back of his mind thought with a touch of sulkiness) for a light half-hug.

"You should talk to James again, too," he added, as he was letting go and picking back up his own bag. "I mean, it's not like he can help being such a tremendous git, he was just born that way." He hefted the strap over his shoulder and grinned at Remus, who managed another smile back. "See you at dinner?"

"Of course," Remus said, and Sirius slipped by him and out the door. As he did he was again in close enough proximity that he could smell Remus; not that Remus stank of anything stupid like cologne or aftershave, but he had just a faint smell of sweat and soap that was peculiar to him, and that Sirius had missed lately. That, in fact, he found himself a little disappointed not to have gotten more of, as he passed through the hallway and headed upstairs. On an impulse, he held up the hand he'd had on Remus's shoulder to his face and sniffed it, to see if a whiff or two had remained clinging to his skin.

And there was something there -- but faint, very faint, and he got so deeply absorbed in trying to tease it out with his nose that he almost didn't jump in time when the suit of armor he was passing stuck out its foot in front of him.

---

8. counterproductivity

By the time he got to Quidditch practice, Sirius was actually feeling quite good about the way that had gone, and quite good in general. After all, he had done the right thing. He'd settled things with Remus, and while it might be a little odd for a while, he felt confident things would settle back down and be just like before. Now he would have his friend back, and wouldn't lose him; and moreover, for once he'd thought things through and resisted the temptation to do something stupid. Why shouldn't he feel good? All things considered, the day had really been an unanticipated success.

None of which explained why he played for absolute shit all afternoon. After the third time or so that the Quaffle made a serene, uninterrupted parabola right over his head and into the goal while he stared into space, Miller had an absolute tantrum at him, very nearly sent him off the pitch before he and James could plead his case. "So sorry if we're intruding on your thoughts, Black!" the captain shouted, turning an amazing shade of fuschia as he waved his broomstick in a perilous arc around his head, while Sirius tried to look as contrite as possible. "Do let us know if you ever decide to concentrate on the game, I'm sure we'd all be really excited!"

And Sirius couldn't even have said what was wrong. Nothing was wrong. He felt fine. He just couldn't concentrate to save his life all of a sudden -- and a couple of times, concentrating to save his life was very nearly a literal issue. Bits of the conversation with Remus earlier kept replaying in his mind, until it was difficult to think about anything else, including the Quaffle.

They broke practice early, and if Sirius had really been thinking about it and not about Remus again, he might have surmised from the dirty looks in his direction that he was partly responsible. Distraction made him slow returning to the locker room, and slower getting his Quidditch robes off, until he ended up the last one not only in the shower room, but in the entire locker room as he stepped in to shower. That was all right. He'd meet up with James later, and he hadn't really wanted to talk to anyone right now anyway. His thoughts were a nice place to be lost at the moment, and he wanted to follow them to their end.

He had missed Remus. A lot, in fact. He'd especially missed touching Remus, which was a surprising but interesting thing to note. He didn't entirely buy James's claim that it was flirting, but he did like touching Remus, being close to him, keeping an arm around his shoulders or ruffling his hair or sprawling with a book across his lap. But he'd always been like that with Remus, even in first year. There was something about Remus that just... felt right. It felt good to be near him and in contact with him. The idea that things might get weird with Remus, that they might never return to their previous state of things, that he wouldn't be able to touch Remus in any way or at any time that he felt like it for fear of making one or both of them uncomfortable -- that thought made him feel so sick and unhappy that he didn't even like to think about it for very long. He'd really done the right thing, he absolutely had. Losing that would be more than he could stand.

And no, he'd never been like that with James, but he and James were different. They wrestled or punched each other or hugged when it was important, and that was how they made physical contact. There wasn't any reason why he should be with James like he was with Remus, for that matter; James wasn't Remus. Why on earth shouldn't he be expected to treat his friends differently? They were different people. James he traded insults with and collaborated on pranks with and loved in the unspoken unsentimental way of a brother; Peter he teased sometimes, but really, you had to, or the boy was never going to learn how to grow a spine. Remus, though, he would never have even thought about teasing or picking on. Remus got enough of that from other people, most of them people Sirius would never in a million years want to associate himself with, and it wasn't Remus's idea of a good time. So he teased Remus too sometimes, but in his own unique, special, Remus way: embarrassing him with compliments, scandalizing him (or, more recently and to Sirius's delight, getting him to play along) with professions of love and romance, gentle, affectionate things that made Remus blush, because he was adorable when he blushed, and that let him know he was valued. Was that flirting? Well, Sirius supposed it could be, if you looked at it that way, but he certainly hadn't been. It was just taking care of Remus. It was being Remus's friend.

He just liked making Remus happy.

And, all right, he did find Remus attractive. Of course Remus was attractive. Well, Remus himself might not spot you the "of course," but he was biased and didn't count a bit as far as Sirius was concerned. Yes, Remus was a bit gangly and knobbly and awkward these days, but he'd grow out of it, and actually it was sort of charming on him; Sirius couldn't imagine that he'd have any trouble getting dates if he just didn't keep to himself so much. But what did it matter if he thought Remus was attractive? It wasn't like he was going to do anything about it. He cared about Remus far too much to risk that. He felt a little guilty when he thought of James's admonitions, it was true; he hated to think of Remus thinking that Sirius wasn't interested in him at all. But how, why would he tell Remus? It would only complicate matters. It would confuse Remus; it would confuse both of them.

Still, as he turned the water on in the shower, he found himself thinking about what it would be like to kiss Remus. And there was no harm in that, was there? Just thinking about it? It didn't mean he was going to do it, or even that he necessarily wanted to, for that matter. It was just curiosity, that was all.

He thought it would be good. Remus would taste good; Remus smelled good, after all. As warm and right-feeling as touching Remus ever was, only more so. Sirius let his eyes close, let the water fall over him, and tried to picture it. His lips would be smooth, and hot -- Remus was always very warm. He had sort of a large nose, its tip would press into Sirius's cheek, and once he had that detail the rest of it just fell into place all at once and he could almost feel it, could almost feel Remus's tongue making small, timid swipes between his own lips. He pictured meeting it with the tip of his own tongue, teasing it, and Remus's body getting heavy in his arms.

What would Remus do? He fancied Sirius, Sirius knew that, that probably meant he'd like it. Hopefully it would make him happy. Sirius thought about himself; when he kissed a girl he'd been after for a while for the first time, it always made him feel like he was floating for a while, like someone had knocked the floor away and his feet were just holding him up on their own. Remus floaty, he found as he considered it, was a sight that he would dearly like to see. Remus smiling, warm and blushing again, possibly pulling back pink and wide-eyed and hissing Sirius! -- all depending on how public it was, probably. The thought of greeting Remus in the Great Hall like always, and then suddenly kissing him instead of the usual arm slung around his shoulders or his waist, made Sirius grin to himself, turning his face up into the rivulets of water.

If he fancied Sirius, would it make him hard? One would hope, Sirius supposed. That was a nice thought -- kissing Remus, pulling his waist close and feeling his prick hardening against Sirius's thigh. Here in the shower, it made his own (halfway there already) jump and twitch its way to full attention, making him sigh a little and roll his head forward to expose the nape of his neck to the water. All right, probably better not in public. If it were somewhere with just the two of them, then, somewhere he could pin Remus up against a wall and rub against that hardness, just to see what Remus would do. He imagined the noises Remus would make, the little gasps and whimpers, the sort of sounds he was used to hearing Remus make from pain being redeemed by the look that would be on Remus's face... oh, he'd be beautiful. His face would flush and he would cling to Sirius and grind his hips forward, and taste sweet and rich and as warm as he smelled with Sirius's tongue inside his mouth and Sirius's knee between his legs and Sirius's hands on his, on his waist, touching him, and he'd be so happy and like it, he'd like it --

And then Sirius was standing with his elbow propped on the wall of the shower room, the water pouring down over his back and his hair and washing thin white threads down the drain, with his other hand still wrapped around his softening cock. Panting a foggy spot in and out of existence on the cool tile wall. The strength all left his muscles at once, and then he leaned first his cheek on the tiles, and then his whole head and chest, slumping against it and just breathing. It took a few minutes of this before he got enough strength back to even wash his hands.

Oh, this probably wasn't a good sign.

---

9. ideologies in conflict, and also a nap

"Really? Sirius blinked. "Who says?"

Remus sighed, burrowing his head a little deeper into the hollow of Sirius's shoulder. "Everybody."

"Nobody I know. No, I mean it. Who told you that?"

"My parents," said Remus's muffled voice, and Sirius winced. "For one. Plus everyone on the telly, and the radio, and in books and newspapers, and..."

"All right, I get it. If you say so."

As far as books went for their own part, a small heap of textbooks and spellbooks had piled up beside their stretched-out legs on Sirius's bed; they really had probably started out with the intention of studying, but talking had gotten more interesting long before even when Remus had admitted that there were other reasons he'd been afraid of their response to his admission during the truth-or-dare game (which they both now spoke of in very careful, circuitous terms, when they did at all). Sirius's complete incomprehension was, to say the least, not the response he had been expecting.

The arm around him tucked him a little closer by its grip on his shoulder, and he nuzzled closer into Sirius's chest in response, enjoying the small guilty pleasure of still getting to touch him. "But everybody does it, right? Isn't it kind of... I dunno, hypocritical of them? I mean, what if they decided they fancied a go? They'd feel right stupid then." Remus shook his head, slow and frowning, and felt Sirius's head shift to peer down at him. "What're you head-shaking at?"

"Not everybody does it, Sirius," Remus said, quietly. Sirius was quiet for a few seconds, then snorted a little, poking Remus in the arm.

"All right, not everybody. But a lot of people, still."

"Not a lot of Muggles," Remus said. He could feel his voice getting even quieter, and he could feel Sirius looking at him. He didn't want to picture Sirius's expression, but he couldn't help it.

"Really?" He paused, and blew air out between his teeth, as if to get hair off his forehead. "...Are you sure? I mean, they don't just keep quiet about it?"

"I'm pretty sure." Remus let his hand rest on Sirius's chest, trying not to think about it too hard. "There are people who do, but, well... they're perverts. As far as everyone's concerned. Like people who sleep with animals, or -- or children."

"What?" Sirius shifted his position with more force this time, pushing Remus into meeting his disbelieving gaze. "That's... crazy. Hell, it's not like it hurts anyone."

"No, but it's wrong, and it's disgusting, and..." Remus sighed, and looked first down and then back up at Sirius. "Wizards don't think that? I mean, I never exactly thought to ask my grandmother about it."

Sirius shrugged, giving Remus's head a gentle bounce. "Well, you wouldn't want to tell your mother about it, and you certainly wouldn't want to tell my mother about it, but I've never heard anybody call it wrong or disgusting or anything. It's just, well..." He gnawed on his thumb for a moment, thinking, and Remus tried desperately not to watch this process. Or think about what Sirius's teeth and lips must feel like on the edge of a finger. God, what was wrong with him? "Eventually you're supposed to get married and have a litter of brats and all, especially if you come from one of the godawful old inbred family lines like mine. But before you do that, or if you don't have an insane nasty harpy of a mother -- " Remus smiled and gave Sirius a gentle elbow in the side, and Sirius grinned back -- "and you decide you don't much want a litter of brats, you can sleep with women or with men, or whoever. It's nobody else's business as long as you keep it to yourself." He shrugged. "Hell, my uncle Alphard even moved in with a man. When I was seven or so, I think, from what I've put together. A Muggle, too, which is why my mum breaks out all in hives if you so much as mention him." He glanced at Remus and grinned. "He's one of my favorite relatives. He's got a shop in Diagon Alley, we should visit him sometime."

"I'd love to," Remus agreed, with genuine enthusiasm. And an inward raised eyebrow. He understood that Sirius had a lot of relatives, but it still struck him as odd he'd never heard about that one. "So... people just sort of -- sleep with whoever?" Sirius nodded, with a little half-shrug. He found himself frowning slightly, although it got lost in a small yawn that he stifled on the back of his hand. He hadn't been sleeping all that well, not that that was any surprise. "I've never known anyone to be with someone of the same sex, though."

"Well, people don't talk about it much in public. I mean, it's not like dating a girl, you don't go waving it about in people's faces. But it happens." Sirius pondered for another moment, and propped his chin on the top of Remus's head in the process, making Remus duck his head down a bit to oblige him. "You know Hilarion Westlin and Tybalt Flynn? Sixth years -- Flynn's in Hufflepuff?" Remus nodded, and then bumped his head back up to stare at Sirius as he suddenly understood what was being implied. Sirius nodded, with a casual air that Remus couldn't decide if it was feigned or not. "They've had a thing for almost a year now."

"You're joking." Sirius shook his head, beginning to smirk a little now, and Remus blushed for no good reason and looked away. "That's -- I wouldn't have had any idea."

"That's the way they prefer it, I understand." His hand wandered from Remus's shoulder, started scritching absently at Remus's hair. "There's others, too, but they keep things private pretty well. It happens. Nobody's going out of their way to hand out medals, but nobody thinks it's disgusting, either." He snorted, and his hand opened for a moment to press Remus's head closer to his chest, a small protective gesture Remus was almost certain was unconscious. "No wonder you ran off, if you'd been hearing stuff like that."

Remus shrugged a little, inching free of both the embrace and the subject. "Well... all right." He sighed, and closed his eyes, resting his head on Sirius's shoulder. It was warm, and if it was a bit hard, the smell of Sirius buried in the fabric of his shirt made up for it. "I guess it all just takes some getting used to."

"I bet." And Sirius's voice wasn't even amused; admiring, if anything. "I can't imagine how weird it must be to get dropped into a whole new world like this. I'd probably be worthless if I got put in with a bunch of Muggles all of a sudden."

Remus sighed, but without opening his eyes. "You'd probably charm them all so much they wouldn't care what you didn't know." Sirius laughed a little, not with any particular agreement, and Remus smiled. An absent little smile, and one that went away fast, as he couldn't stop thinking about what had been said. Again, he supposed he hadn't expected Sirius to affect tremendous distaste and call him disgusting, at least not to his face, but the fact that it was so not an issue at all to Sirius -- well, it was disconcerting, and not a little enviable. He wondered... he wondered something, he was sure of it, but he kept losing track. Sirius was just awfully comfortable.

He felt Sirius's hand brush hair back from his forehead, an uncharacteristically soft touch that almost made him shiver. "You going to sleep on me?" Sirius asked, this time in a murmur.

"Mm. If you don't mind." Sirius chuckled, and settled him into a more comfortable position, arms linked around his shoulders.

"Go right ahead." He said something after that, too -- possibly along the lines of I'll be right here, not studying -- but Remus missed it; things were too dark and peaceful in his brain, and they swallowed everything else. He did feel Sirius's lips brushing against his forehead, as he dozed off, but even that was easy to dismiss in the weakness of his conscious mind. It did, however, slip its way, serpentine, into his dreams, where it coiled around and became something else entirely, and made it so he woke up hours later embarrassed and having to excuse himself to the toilet.

---

10. the importance of timing

Of course, there was really only so much of Remus Lupin curled up on you, twitching, shivering, whimpering, and obviously being in the grip of a really interesting dream that anyone could be reasonably expected to take. The door shut and Sirius closed his eyes, took a few long, deep breaths, and waited for the hard-on he was sporting to die back down.

And waited.

And kept waiting.

And said fuck it and unzipped his trousers.

Sirius was slow to come. He always had been, at least as long as it had been of any relevance to anyone. Fortunately, this had been taken for prowess by the majority of his prior conquests, but really all it was was physiology: it took him a long time to get off, and that was all there was to it. However, he had never really even considered that it might be a hindrance of any sort until he was still perhaps about twenty seconds off from an orgasm and Remus opened the door and came back into the room.

"I don't suppose you got any studying d-- " he was saying, and then he broke off very neatly when he actually saw Sirius, sprawled wide-eyed and open-mouthed on the bed with his legs kicked out at odd angles, his hair flopping in his eyes and his prick out in his hand. He froze for a second, and then slumped on the doorframe, gracing this display with a look of -- amusement?

"You want a hand with that?" he said.

At least, that was what Sirius thought he said. Afterward -- as little as half a second afterward, in fact -- he tried to convince himself that that wasn't actually what he had heard. Remus couldn't possibly have said that. That was quite beyond human imagining.

And then Remus had uttered a hasty "I'll be outside, then," and had gone and shut the door again, and Sirius was left staring at the place where he had been, still with his mouth flopping open and his eyes bugging out in what he was certain was a hilarious landed-fish expression of surprise.

He hoped Remus had left the immediate area before he got his wits about him again enough to resume. He was certain the loud creaking noise his bed made with the sheer force of his fucking his hand could be heard outside the room. And as it turned out, he had a lot less than twenty seconds left in him now.

And all he could think about as he jerked on his cock and ground his hips around in a circle into the mattress was Remus's voice, over and over, saying its impossible, You want a hand with that?

After the last of the shudders had left him, he just toppled over on his side on the bed, very nearly hitting his head on one of the books, and breathed. And tried not to think too hard about any of the implications of all this.

And finally he got up, breezed out to the toilet himself to wash up, and came back as quickly as possible.

On his return he found Remus back in the room, sitting on his own bed now and looking both contrite and embarrassed. Sirius sat down beside him and put an arm around his shoulders (although he found himself a little self-conscious about which one). Before Remus could say a word, he stampeded over him: "Look, it's okay. Bunch of blokes in a dormitory, it's bound to happen. Don't worry about it."

Remus closed his mouth again on whatever he'd been about to say... and then a look of such mischief came over his face that Sirius was momentarily thunderstruck. "Feel better now, at least?"

...Oh, now this was simply unfair. And to think he'd come in here trying to comfort this great prat. Sirius broke into an enormous grin and poked Remus hard in the chest. "Do you?" he countered -- and was gratified to see Remus come over the approximate color of a ripe tomato. The glare he got in response already had him laughing, and he grabbed Remus a little closer by his shoulders. "Oh, so it's only funny if it's me, is it?"

"I admit there's a bit of a double standard," Remus said. He was still pink, and it was only then that Sirius realized that reeling him in like that had brought them into what one might call kissing distance. His laughter dried up, but only for half a second.

"Double standard this -- " and then he had his fingers rippling on Remus's sides, right at the spot where a twelve-year-old boy had first discovered one of his best friends was very, very ticklish. And that didn't give him much time to think about uncomfortable sexual tension, did it?

Remus yelped, jumped, and grabbed for his hands. "Don't you dare, Sirius Bla -- aagh!" They were both laughing now, and when he managed to swat Sirius away, Sirius just jumped him and pinned both his wrists with one hand while attacking with the other. "Help!" he yelled in the direction of the open door, getting somewhat less coherent between all the thrashing and the laughing. "Help, he's killing me!"

Dim, appreciative laughter floated up through the open door, from the common room. "Do you know how much detention you get for killing a prefect, Black?" an amused voice called up then, and that was the end of Sirius; he fell back off of Remus onto the bed and then onto the floor with a thud, laughing so hard tears squeezed out of the corners of his eyes. Remus kicking him, not unkindly, in the back of the head did not improve matters.

"Get off the floor and let's go to dinner, you horrible bastard," Remus managed, between snickers, and reached down a hand to help Sirius up. And as he staggered to his feet and they made the way down to the Great Hall, it occurred to him vaguely that it hadn't really been all that funny. It was just that it was the first time in weeks that he'd felt like things between him and Remus were really, honestly okay. Nothing was going to go wrong; even in these, the worst of all possible circumstances, they had come out all right. It wasn't going to get weird, and they were going to be fine.

Everything was going to be fine.

---

11. poor impulse control

"A bit of off-moon cartography," was how James had suggested it, and the other three had jumped at the chance; the map was coming along too slowly, especially amid exams, and there was only so much you could remember when you had four legs at the time -- and though Remus offered a few token protests about the danger, he was eager to get a chance to see the grounds at night when he was himself. They came back at a run, laughing, at a few hours still before dawn, after sheets of rain started pouring down out of nowhere. Getting back into the castle safely seemed easiest if they split up, especially since James's Invisibility Cloak didn't really cover all of them at once anymore, and so James and Peter took the front and the cloak and Sirius and Remus took one of the passages, heading as quickly and discreetly back into the hallway as they could, trying to keep their half-nervous laughter all breath and silence.

Remus was stumbling along a few steps behind Sirius, his over-long legs tripping over each other and making it hard to keep up, thinking of how loud the wet slapping of their clothes was as they ran and trying not to think of Sirius's hand wrapped around his wrist pulling him along, thinking about how they were dripping water all over the floor and someone was surely going to get suspicious the next day, if not tonight, thinking of whether James's cloak would show water-droplets in the dim light inside the castle and if that might not get them caught, thinking of a hundred thousand other things when Sirius pulled him all at once around a corner into a narrow gauntlet of side-hallway and reeled Remus in by his grip on Remus's wrist and kissed him.

It happened so fast, and it took him so long to register what was going on, that for a second he felt cheated -- like it had happened while he was out, and he'd missed it. But then Sirius was kissing him, kissing him, Sirius's lips damp and cool and flush on his own lips and then interlocked with them, then opening them, and oh God that was Sirius's tongue in his mouth, and Sirius was wet and his wet hair was heavy and tickling against Remus's forehead and his hand around Remus's wrist burned like a firebrand. Sirius was warm and wet and in his mouth and inside him and he tasted like rain and night and copper.

And it couldn't last, and so Remus somehow pulled back his head; not all the way, just enough so that he could actually move his lips. "What are you doing?" he whispered.

And Sirius grinned. It pulled his lips taut and smooth where they still brushed Remus's, and his breath feathered across Remus's mouth as he spoke.

"What does it look like?" he whispered back, and pressed his mouth back into Remus's, his body back into Remus's, his tongue back between Remus's lips. At least this time Remus was ready -- although honestly, was there any way he could ever be entirely ready for that?

This time he managed the presence of mind to kiss back, not that he had any real idea what he was doing. He made an awkward jab to get his tongue up against the probing tip of Sirius's, and felt Sirius flick them together, first just once and then again and again too fast to keep track, and then his knees were unlocked and he was having trouble staying standing up and trying to keep himself from moaning. It was all right, though, because somehow Sirius's arms had gotten around his waist, and his own had landed around Sirius's shoulders, and together they were holding him up. Their clothes were a mess of wet and cold and heavy in between them, but he could feel all the heat that was Sirius's chest, burning through against him --

And then it was over, and Sirius was just holding his wrist again, grinning down at him, and being flushed and breathless and far too close. "Come on," he hissed. "We're going to get caught."

And with that he left one last kiss on Remus's dazed, waiting mouth, and then they were both off and running again. If it were possible, Remus's legs were even more uncooperative than they had been before.

Somehow they all got back to the dormitory uncaught and unscathed -- except for one careless banged shin on James's part, that was -- and sat up all in a heap on James's bed for some time longer, laughing and retelling while Remus sat with a quill at the center and took notes. Sirius sat next to Remus, very close next to Remus in fact, peering over his shoulder and offering the occasional laugh or correction, with his hand planted in the bed behind Remus's back so that he could lean over and see. His proximity was a constant, warm, intruding presence at the edge of Remus's consciousness, and every now and then Sirius even lifted the fingers of his supporting hand and just let them rest on the small of Remus's back, just above the waistband of his trousers. Remus didn't know how he was supposed to breathe when Sirius was doing that, let alone keep from shivering and let alone keep writing, but somehow he did all three, and every now and then when he looked up Sirius was just grinning and looking at him. With his dark hair tumbling in his eyes and his fingers resting, four hot steady spots, right at the base of Remus's spine.

The four of them stayed up until nobody could keep his eyes open any longer, until greyish-blue dawn light started to seep in through the window, and when they finally went to bed Remus and Sirius didn't say a word to each other beforehand or even exchange a significant glance. And by the time they went to sleep, Remus had more or less convinced himself that it was all a fluke; that it had been a sudden, inexplicable impulse of Sirius's, that it would undoubtedly never be repeated, that as far as Sirius was concerned everything was back to normal now and the best Remus could hope for would be to keep it as a fond memory.

Still, as Remus burrowed into the cool dry sheets in the dark of his bedcurtains, there was simply nothing for it: he felt like he was flying, except he had never liked flying this well. He closed his eyes and lay floating on the edge of sleep, and played over and over in his mind, until he had it memorized, the moment when Sirius's hand around his wrist had tightened and pulled him in, and when Sirius's warm, wet mouth had closed over his and begun to make its leisurely way inside. Try as he might, reassure himself that it was nothing but an isolated incident as he might, he had a feeling that all the same, he was going to be seeing that moment in his head before he fell asleep for many, many a night yet to come.

Which was not, of course, to say that he had any complaints.

---

12. then again, maybe not

That was the first time. The second time was less than a week later, between classes one afternoon. Sirius walked with Remus after Muggle Studies almost to where they would have split off for Ancient Runes and Arithmancy, respectively, and then at the last moment dragged him into another empty classroom (Remus was starting to sense a theme). Before Remus could have protested even if he'd wanted to, Sirius's mouth was already all over him again, this time with a bit more of Sirius's hands, and when they fell apart again it was all he could do not to just lean up against the door and pant.

"We're going to be late," he managed in a small breathless voice, and could have kicked himself. And could have kicked himself again for not quite having the guts to add, Not that I care, kiss me again. And Sirius just grinned, and straightened the front of Remus's robes absently where he'd been using them for handholds.

"I know, I know." As he opened the door and he and Remus headed back out, he added in a thoughtful tone, "Keep running up against time limits, don't we? Next time I ought to plan better."

And he'd turned and vanished down the hall before Remus could even properly stop dead in his tracks.

Admittedly, they didn't get a lot of time alone for next times, what with one thing or another and with Peter and James also being occupants of their room. Still, he was just beginning to think they were developing a pattern of sorts when another week or so later, Sirius started seeing Leonora Fairfax, who was in sixth year and had a rather amazing amount of blonde hair. After finding this out by being treated to an accidental view of the two of them snogging on a couch in the common room one evening, Remus went up to the dormitory with his lips pressed very tightly together, and ended up flopped on his bed with a book closed on his chest and thinking as though it were a record with a scratch on it that well, that was the end of that.

The full moon was approaching, which only left Remus even more out-of-sorts than he had been, when the first spring Hogsmeade weekend rolled around; Sirius, of course, took Leonora, as it had still been less than two weeks and thus their relationship remained on solid ground. The day rolled by until it was afternoon, and James (after several disappointing hunts for the wild and elusive Lily Evans), Peter, and Remus found themselves hanging about in the Three Broomsticks, James and Peter avidly discussing how one would best make eggs float around the gate to the Shrieking Shack and hurl themselves at passersby, and Remus chewing moodily on a bit of Honeydukes chocolate and giving serious thought to just going back to the castle and lying down. And then the door opened, and in came Sirius -- alone.

"'Lo, Padfoot," James said without really looking up from the discussion, absently hooking the table's fourth and empty chair out for Sirius with his foot. "What happened to Leonora?"

Sirius shrugged and sat down, straddling the chair the wrong way round. "Wandered off with some other girls," he said, without a great deal of interest, and swiped a sip of James's butterbeer. "What're you lot up to?"

"Are you sure you shouldn't go find her?" Remus put in, quietly, before James or Peter could start talking. He didn't know what the tone of his voice sounded like, but he didn't much care; he was tired, and irritated, and he could feel his body getting ready to change, and his friends were a bunch of idiots, frankly, and he didn't care what he -- they -- thought right now.

Sirius caught it, though, whatever the tone was, and glanced over at him with a frown, but before he could say anything James had already started talking about the whole thing with the eggs ("A bit stupid, but at least it's seasonal," was Sirius's response), and the conversation was carried well away. At last, James and Peter ended up trucking back to the castle, to go after the kitchens and the spellbooks, and Sirius and Remus were left to walk out to the Shack and hold the perimeter.

"Maybe I ought to give them a hand," Remus said as they walked, casting a longing eye toward the entrance to the Honeydukes passage. But then Sirius's hand fell on the small of his back, and he jumped a little.

"Oh, come on, Moony, don't you all ditch me." Sirius paused until they had reached the gate, and then turned to Remus, frowning in a way that made Remus look at his shoes. "Are you all right? You seem a little weird."

Remus shrugged, without looking up, leaning his back on the uneven spikes. "I just think it's a stupid prank," he said, after a long moment's thought. "And... I don't know. I'm tired."

And you went and got a girlfriend, so I suppose I'm as terrible at kissing as I feared. Now will you stop looking at me like that?

He almost jumped again when Sirius's fingertips reached out and brushed hair out of his eyes; all the skin woke up underneath them, nerves tingling like they'd been touched with broken wires. "I thought you looked a little peaky," Sirius said, and when Remus finally dared looking up at him he had a worried, warm little frown on his face that made Remus's insides seem to melt. "Getting close, eh?"

Remus shrugged a little, which he hoped was the universal sign for I-don't-want-to-talk-about-it, and squinted up at Sirius. Sirius, for some reason, wasn't taking his hand away, just kept brushing back hair that wasn't, strictly speaking, there anymore. Remus chose to ignore that. "A bit. Yes. ...It's nothing, really. You don't have to worry."

Sirius smiled, his warm, melting smile that Remus was slowly realizing he seldom saw Sirius give to anyone else. "Can I worry if I just want to, then?" he asked. He didn't even wait for an answer before leaning forward and starting into the third time.

And once Remus got over his initial alarm, a clearer picture of things began to form in his own mind, one that made him almost happy in a cynical sort of way. No, there was nothing at all mutually exclusive to Sirius about dating girls and kissing one of his best friends, and why should there be? Hadn't Sirius said It's not like dating a girl when they'd talked about this before? Honestly, it had been stupid of him to expect anything otherwise. And at least it meant he didn't get shoved out of the picture every time Sirius got distracted by a pretty pair of legs.

The fourth time, the time just before he gave up counting altogether, was the night before the full moon, when he was lying awake in bed trying not to think, and then the curtains pulled open a crack and suddenly a large, warm mass of Sirius had found its way into his bed, and was lying curled around behind him with an arm slung around his middle. He almost didn't think much of this at first -- they'd ended up in each other's beds on more than one occasion when they were younger, and even the complexities of recent events were easily forgotten in the familiar company of Sirius's body. But then he turned over to face Sirius, and the other boy was large and warm and very close under a thin layer of t-shirt and boxer shorts, and suddenly it was very hard to think of anything so innocent as a pair of twelve-year-olds curled up together to sleep.

"No time limits now," Sirius barely whispered, easier to feel than hear with his grin again just touching Remus's parted lips. "That's better, isn't it?"

Remus would have agreed, but then his mouth was awfully busy.

They kissed and necked until they both fell asleep, and when Remus woke up the next morning with his eyes squinted up against the golden sunlight pouring through the windows, with his hair all a mess and Sirius's arm around him and what he was fairly certain was the same erection he'd dozed off with the night before, all he found he could think of was how used he ought to feel, and how very, very good he felt instead.

---

13. accidents and deliberations

Not that full moon, but the next one -- and the one before was one he would never particularly want to think of again -- Remus woke up in the Shrieking Shack aching and tired and naked, and colder than he might have expected for late May, but with a large, solid warmth wrapped around behind him and with its arm slung around his middle. A large, solid, fully clothed warmth, with its breathing hot on the back of his neck and its large palm pressed to his bare belly.

As he came up out of sleep, his first thought was Mmm, Sirius, and his second thought was Oh, God, Sirius.

"Sirius!" he hissed, and the body next to him stirred and made a bleary, quizzical sound. They were tangled in a heap of dusty sheets that had gotten dragged off the bed onto the floor, and he struggled to free himself enough to sit up. He at least got upright enough to actually see Sirius; the other boy's eyes were puffed half-closed, and he was regarding Remus with a look of sleepy puzzlement upon which chagrin was fast dawning. "Sirius, what on earth are you doing here?"

"I was sleeping," Sirius mumbled, and yawned, scrubbing at his eyes as he propped himself on an elbow. Remus tried to focus on his panic and anger and not on the fact that this brought Sirius up to direct eye level with his own groin.

"I told you all not to come this time! What's the matter with you?" His mind all the while chattering back and forth, He could have been -- and But he wasn't -- Sirius, for his part, made a disgruntled noise and flopped back down on his side.

"Lots of things. I wanted to. What are you making such a big deal for?"

Remus let out a small, high noise of frustration, yanking at the flopping mess of his hair. "Sirius, you shouldn't have come. You could have been hurt. I told you -- Don't you remember what happened last time?"

Sirius opened his eyes again, and this time they opened all the way, as he regarded Remus with a long, even look. Without sitting up, of course. "'Course I do," he said. "A stupid accident that wasn't your fault." Remus tried to open his mouth, but Sirius kept talking over him. "So Wormtail lost his grip once, changed back too early. James's been working with him; it won't happen again. And even if it does -- Remus, nothing happened." He came down hard on those words, hard enough that he actually scrambled up to sit next to Remus himself, hunching down to look him straight in the eye. "Nothing happened. Did you get that? Everything worked like it was supposed to. We kept you away from him. You didn't hurt anyone."

Remus stared at his hands, feeling knots tying themselves inside his throat. "I can't do it anymore," he said, choking all the words past them. "I mean -- we can't do this. It's too dangerous, I can't risk that I might -- "

"You can so," Sirius cut him off, and grabbed Remus's hands from his lap, holding them in both his own. "And if you can't, we can. This was our idea, remember? A little danger, yeah, but so what? You're more important." He said this in the matter-of-fact tone that drove Remus crazy, that made him want to kiss Sirius and to club him. That tone of voice that wouldn't allow argument, and you couldn't ever tell if it was because he was so firmly convinced or because he didn't think your opinion was that important. The tone that was supposed to be charming, and was, but it made a couple stops at infuriating along the way.

"I don't want to hurt you," Remus whispered, raising his eyes just enough to look at Sirius. And Sirius smiled, and reached out to brush Remus's hair aside, and by the time his hand got there all Remus's resolve had already vanished.

"You haven't," he said. "You won't."

So Remus sighed, and lay back down in the pile of sheets on the board floor, and Sirius flopped his arm back across Remus's chest. And... oh, right. He was naked, wasn't he? ...Hell.

"Where are James and Peter, then?" he asked, after a moment. There was a shifting of warmth and fabric at his side as Sirius shrugged.

"You told us not to come this time," he repeated, smirking only a little. "They actually took you at your word, but I'm far too obnoxious for that." Remus snorted agreement, and rested his hand over Sirius's. And shivered; having lain still again for a few seconds, he could feel the draft across the floor now. It made Sirius frown, tucking his chin down to Remus's shoulder. "Are you cold?"

"A bit -- a bit cold, yes."

Sirius nodded, and shifted position, Remus assumed to get up and get the clothing he'd stored in the cabinet the night before -- but then "Here," Sirius was murmuring, and before Remus had quite processed anything he'd rolled over to sprawl on top of Remus's body, using himself as a human blanket. It was suddenly and forcefully brought to Remus's -- and, God help him, probably Sirius's -- attention that he was hard. He thought he could have lived without either of them knowing that.

Whatever Sirius had noticed of all this, it made him smile, and press a soft kiss into Remus's mouth from his excellent vantage point. Remus was more than happy to return it. The last month had been filled with one incident after another of just getting serious about a few stolen kisses, and then having their time alone cut short again -- not to mention two fresh girlfriends on Sirius's part, which meant even less kissing time available to Remus. Recklessness or no, nudity or no, he was finding himself more and more pleased that Sirius was here.

Especially with Sirius's tongue slipping into his mouth like that, and Sirius's warm hands first on his shoulders and then wrapping around underneath the nape of his neck, holding his head up to easier kissing distance. Sirius's hair grazed against his forehead, tickling him a little, and as Sirius shifted position so that his legs were less awkward and nerve-pinching across Remus's, the fabric of his trousers grazed Remus's bare erection almost the same way. Remus let out a muffled yelp and then winced straight away, and the sudden toothiness of the kiss as Sirius grinned against his mouth didn't help make him any less embarrassed. Sirius moved his leg again -- this time deliberately, a soft, long kiss of fabric against very warm flesh. Remus squeezed his eyes shut and tried to pretend he didn't notice -- which was mostly funny, all things considered.

At least when Sirius pulled back out of the kiss, he was breathing much harder than he'd been before. That was marginally comforting. "Remus?" he said, low, his hair falling forward around his eyes and making them look that much darker. They were solemn and quiet suddenly, and sent another nervous thrill through Remus's body all by themselves; just now they seemed like the eyes of a much older man. "Can I ask you something important?"

Remus blinked up at him -- wonderful, and now Sirius was expecting him to think? -- and finally cleared his throat, inching his hips back away from Sirius's leg. "What... all right. What about?"

Sirius didn't answer that, just kept staring down at Remus, absently stroking the back of his neck. When at last he did speak, what he said was, "Is this going to be okay?" Remus frowned, and Sirius ducked his head down, but in the end did come back to meet Remus's eyes again. "I mean... this isn't going to get weird, is it? If something goes wrong, or -- if I do something stupid, or if it's got to stop for some reason -- we'll still be friends, right?"

Of all the things he hadn't been expecting. "Sirius -- "

"I mean, I like doing all this stuff," Sirius cut across, still trying to finish. "A lot, honest. It's great. You're the best kisser I've ever known." And fortunately, he was too wound up in the seriousness of his point to notice Remus going pink at the ears. "But you're my mate, too, and... hell, I don't know. I'm just saying, if I thought it was going to lose me having you as a friend, I'd stop all this right now." Looking down at Remus all the while from a height of no more than two inches, his mouth close and his breath warm and only a little morning-sour. "I wouldn't want to, but I'd do it. 'Cause you're more important."

There was a long minute where there was just nothing Remus could say to that.

"You're not going to lose me," he said, finally, in a soft reasonable voice. "I can't even imagine what you'd have to do to lose me, but it'd have to be really awful."

Sirius leveled a withering gaze at him, although his mouth was twitching with the beginning bits of a smile. "This is me we're talking about, Moony."

"No, I mean really awful. Horrific crimes against humanity." Remus considered, locking his fingers behind Sirius's back as he did. It was almost comfortable having Sirius as a blanket, when he wasn't thinking about it. "And not to me, either. I expect you could murder me and after five minutes of your sorriest look even my vengeful ghost would give up and forgive you." Sirius laughed, and nuzzled his face against the side of Remus's neck.

"So what you're saying is," he said, lifting his mouth just enough to be understood, "as far as you're concerned, as long as I'm not... committing genocide, or eating babies, or setting little old ladies on fire -- we can snog and still be mates?" He peered up at Remus from around the corner of his chin, his eyes gleaming out of the shaggy curtain of his hair. And Remus smiled, because what else was there to do?

"Yes," he said, and kissed Sirius's forehead, as it was there. "That is what I'm saying."

"Right," said Sirius, and lifted up to kiss him again, and it was such a hard wet slipping kiss this time that Remus's head felt like it would just lift clear off from the rest of him and float away.

Of course, now Remus was far too self-conscious about this, and found himself sort of wishing Sirius had never said that about his being a good kisser. How was he supposed to live up to that? He didn't even know what he was doing. He managed to keep worrying about it for a good thirty seconds, too, which must have been some kind of record, before the sheer fact of Sirius kissing him once again overwhelmed all other concerns. Oh, now Sirius was a great kisser; he was all lazy intensity and wet, hot tongue, with little soft touches that said at once that he was in no particular hurry and that there was no place he would rather be. Although Remus had to admit that partcould have been wishful thinking. And that he could have been biased.

There was a hand on his side. There hadn't been a hand on his side before. He tensed a little against the tickle, almost squirming back out of the kiss, but then the hand -- the big, hard, callused warm hand, whose twin was next to his shoulder as Sirius's elbow propped him up off the floor -- slipped downward. It grazed his hip, the side of his thigh, and then ran its knuckles back up the same way, this time diverting onto his stomach and his ribs. That brought on a very different kind of squirming altogether, and he tried to hold himself still. Yes, he was naked, wasn't he? He really ought to do something about that.

And Sirius's thigh was pressed right up against his prick, warm and -- warm, mostly, it was cold in here, especially on the floor. He pressed himself closer to Sirius to escape the draught, and that pressed his erection closer to Sirius's leg, and then he was helpless not to grind while he was there, sending the same spreading burn up through his cock and through his face. Sirius didn't grin this time, which was lucky, as Remus might actually have died if he had; he just pushed his tongue between Remus's lips and his knee between Remus's legs on the same hot dizzying forward surge. Remus let escape what he was certain was the world's most undignified whimpering noise, panting and blowing breath between Sirius's lips, and forced himself not to squirm, only to realize after several minutes of more kissing that he was doing it again and couldn't stop.

Sirius was on top of him. What was he supposed to do? Sirius Black, his closest friend, his crush of he didn't know how many years now, who smelled warm and dark and rich and had all this hair getting in both their faces and his hand all over Remus's stomach, was kissing him and lying on top of him. What in the world could he be expected to do except grab fistfuls of the back of Sirius's shirt (all very well for him, wasn't it, he had a shirt) and hang on for his life?

The world had narrowed down considerably, anyway, and now there were only two mouths, and the delicious friction of fabric on bare skin where Remus's legs were inexorably wrapping around the back of Sirius's and pulling him up against the other boy's body. When there would never be anything else, what did it matter?

As breathing started to be a lot more of a challenge for Remus, Sirius pulled loose from the kiss -- Remus fancied to make it easier for him, although he doubted if Sirius were paying that much attention. At the very least, it was for Sirius to start kissing his way down Remus's neck, though, and there was no way Remus was going to argue with that. He kept huffing breath across the spots that his lips and tongue had just wetted, and every time made Remus twitch and gasp and hitch his hips up against Sirius's thigh, knotting and reknotting his fingers in the fabric over Sirius's shoulders. The warm hard lines of Sirius through his clothes against Remus's naked body, the heat of his tongue, the burn on Remus's cock -- it was all too much, he'd been hard too long, he was desperate and sweating and splayed --

"Sirius -- Sirius, Sirius -- " he kept gasping it into Sirius's ear, having a hard time remembering from one to the next if he'd said it already or just tried to. "God Sirius if you don't stop I'm, I'm going to come -- "

"Do you want me to stop?" His voice was a low, in-the-chest rumble that should have been silly and somehow wasn't at all. And there was something solid and uncomfortable rubbing up against his belly as Sirius moved against him, and it was Sirius's prick, Sirius was hard, he had somehow made Sirius hard, and Remus shuddered and dug his fingers past the fistfuls of Sirius's shirt down into the flesh of his back and threw his head all the way back with his mouth open just to breathe. Answering almost took more strength than he had.

"No -- "

"Well, I suppose you'd better come, then, hadn't you," Sirius hissed in his ear, and as though he'd hit a switch, that was the end of it. Remus was gone.

He fucked Sirius's leg like anything less would make him go mad, and came in a small explosion of heat and wetness and sparks behind his eyes, and fell into a limp, twitching heap of limbs buried in the sheets and the dust and the weight of Sirius's body, and lay there for a long time staring at the ceiling, wondering how he had lived so many years of his life already without ever once coming on Sirius Black's leg before.

Of course, it only took a few seconds more for the realization to set in that he had just come on Sirius Black's leg.

"Oh -- god, I'm sorry -- " He tried to prop himself up on his elbows, which was a struggle under Sirius's panting, hot weight. "Your clothes, I, um..."

After a moment Sirius raised his head; he was still panting, but grinning at the same time, which gave him a peculiarly doglike look that had nothing at all to do with the little squeeze in Remus's stomach that moment of eye contact caused. "Yeah," he agreed, "suppose I ought to get out of them before they take any more damage."

Why he started with his shirt, though, was of course anybody's guess.

It was a little disappointing when Sirius rolled off to one side, the better to deal with his clothes, but at least it improved the view -- which, at the moment, was a view of Sirius wrangling his trousers off, his hair shagging down in his eyes as he eeled his body around in the dust on the floor. It took him a couple of tries to keep a hold on the zipper long enough to get it down, and then he was muttering swears under his breath as the front placket and his underwear both caught briefly on his insistent erection; Remus had to bite his lip to keep from laughing. Sometimes it was just nice to see Sirius be inept at anything physical -- and particularly nice when it involved Sirius being highly aroused, for that matter. And then Sirius knocked off his shoes and socks, and then peeled out of his remaining clothes and kicked them away, with only a moment's trouble with one stubborn inverted trouser-leg.

It was inescapable, really. With Sirius's thighs sprawling apart like that there was just nowhere else Remus could look. Sirius's balls rested against the inside of one thigh as he lay on his side, darkened and skimmed with hair; more wiry dark curls of it made a nest for his cock, where it lay thick and heavy against his lower belly. Remus swallowed, tracing it with his eyes. Thick and heavy and hard, his brain amended unnecessarily: Sirius was already wincing and supporting its weight with his free hand, and it looked almost painfully solid, veins forced out from the skin and a pale drop of fluid just forming at its tip. The thought that he could have done that to anyone, and not just anyone but Sirius, made Remus's mouth dry up and his brain take a dangerous reel around his head.

Except that was preempted by the fact that shit Sirius was looking at him. And smiling a little. And this time he really was going to die.

"What?" was all that Sirius said, though, instead of the teasing Remus had been half-expecting, and the little laugh with which he said it sounded almost nervous. Almost as if he didn't have people staring at his cock every day of the week -- which, actually, maybe he didn't, when you looked at it that way. Whatever the reason, though, the sound made Remus feel far better; if nothing else, at least he wasn't the only poor awkward bastard here. It was better enough, in fact, that he could even smile back, could even find the courage to roll over on his own side, plant a hand in Sirius's shoulder, and shove him over to his other side, so that Remus could curl around behind him. The startled look on Sirius's face made Remus smile; the last time he'd gotten Sirius looking like that --

"Want a hand with that?" he murmured, and felt Sirius's chest shake with almost soundless laughter. And then with a small rattling hiss as Remus's hand closed around his cock, between Sirius's hand and the skin. It was smooth and warm in his palm, and twitching now and then. And big. Quite big.

He was glad he'd changed their positions; this was just like wanking himself off, wasn't it? Except, well... not at all like that.

"I couldn't believe you actually said that," Sirius muttered, the words smile-shaped, burying his mouth in Remus's hair as he did so that his breath made Remus shiver. It was coming much faster now. "If I'd gotten a grip, do you -- know how fast I would have said yes?" Remus's hand tightened involuntarily, and a long groan dragged out of Sirius's throat, which made it hard to answer at first. He was actually doing this, touching Sirius like this, he couldn't get the thought all the way inside his mind.

"...Really?" He tried to stifle his own faster breathing against Sirius's neck, which just made Sirius's hips jerk up into his hand, his cock sliding through Remus's fingers. God, he couldn't be getting hard again already -- "You would?"

Sirius nodded, so fast and jerky he bonked his chin on Remus's head and made them both laugh with no breath behind it. His eyes were slit almost shut; just the barest dark glints peeped through the lids. "I was thinking about you." His voice had fallen to a whisper, all of the words having to come out on a single exhale. "You doing the same thing. Were you thinking of me?"

Oh, he absolutely could be hard again already, not just getting but hard. He couldn't breathe; somehow, though, his hand kept moving on Sirius's cock all on its own. Squeezing down to its base and then dragging back up. "Y-yes..."

Sirius moaned. "Were you?"

"Yes -- "

"Like this?" He could hear the tiniest edge of a smile ghosting around Sirius's words again, and growled a little. That wasn't fair, he was supposed to be the one who couldn't talk or think or do anything properly. "That why you turned me over? Is this how you touch yourself?"

"Sirius..." The name ended up dragged out on a choking, moaning sob, as Remus's hips ground his renewed erection helplessly into Sirius's ass. "I... mostly... I think about you, too, God -- " At least then Sirius made a sound, a 'ngh!' sound, and thrust into Remus's fumbling hand. He turned his head back, craning his neck and his shoulders, getting his lips near Remus's.

"Don't, don't stop -- yes." He moaned again, and Remus thought he would go utterly mad if he had to hear that sound one more time and not come on the spot. "Yes, come on, harder -- aah..."

His coherency trailed off there, and then he was just jerking in small, urgent thrusts into Remus's hand, puffing out fast voiced breaths with every one and clinging to Remus's wrist in a deathgrip as it moved faster and faster. Finally, he let out a long, dry, dying sound; his whole body spasmed into a trembling arch, and he came hard and shuddering, his cock jumping and spurting in Remus's hand. He stayed rigid and shaking for several seconds, lips moving slightly around his harsh heavy breath, and then collapsed, boneless, into Remus's arms.

Then he was very quiet for a while.

Finally -- just when Remus was almost starting to worry, ridiculous though it was -- Sirius stretched, and yawned with jaw-cracking intensity, and rolled over to face Remus again. Smiling, he picked a few strands of Remus's hair out of his eyes, kissed him once, and then rolled himself up to a lazy sitting position. "I need the commode," was about the closest to pillow-talk he got, before hauling himself to his feet. And flopping back into the sheets, Remus supposed he would have been an idiot to expect anything more.

Still, there was nothing he could really find fault with in watching a naked, slightly sticky Sirius pad across the room, so he did that for a while -- until, that was, Sirius stopped in the doorway, turning back to grin at Remus over his shoulder. That melting, stomach-fluttering, damnable grin.

"And you ought to know," he said, "if you're not still hard by the time I get back, you're in serious trouble."

And then he had gone, leaving only the tangle of his clothes and his barefoot footprints in the surrounding dust.

It took several different angles and several moments of consideration for Remus to decide not only that this statement meant Sirius was an utter bastard, but that he himself might well be in love.

---

14. privacy

As ways to finish out the last full moon of the year went, it wasn't bad. They finally staggered back down to the castle near suppertime, laughing and spent and famished and wobbly and far behind on their studying -- and with their hands linked almost until the castle, which had Remus spending the entire walk with a funny, knotted feeling in his stomach. Of course it didn't mean anything, especially not to Sirius, but there was no reason he had to think about that part right now. And then they were eating and talking and laughing with Peter and James between them, and then Remus had an extremely agitated Madame Pomfrey to reassure that he was fine and he'd just forgotten to come up sooner, and by the time they went to bed that night they'd hardly spoken again since they came back, and Remus was left alone to lie awake staring at his bed canopy, still hurting a little in his arms and legs and replaying every moment, everything Sirius's tongue in his mouth had done and everywhere Sirius's hands had gone, until he was flushed and breathing hard and had to stop before he'd have to take himself off to the toilet yet again.

And then, on the other hand, it was the last full moon of the year. Classes turned into a frenzy, and then O.W.L.s hit, and all of a sudden they never seemed to have five free minutes in which they were also alone and not exhausted. Nothing got weird -- actually, after that first time, things actually became more natural again, as though all the tension in between them had been released and left them as they had been before -- but nothing else happened, either, to the point where by the time the tests were over and the year was winding down Remus was sort of wondering if it ever would again. Before, that was, less than three days before the train was due to take them home, when the two of them came back from one of the last feeble post-exam attempts at class (Care of Magical Creatures, which had largely been spent having enthusiastic swordfights with levitating sticks), and found themselves miraculously alone in the dorm room.

And they had no sooner entered the room than Sirius had kicked the door shut and shoved Remus up against the wall, giving him a long, hard, dizzying kiss that made him drop his bookbag.

"I'm going to kill everyone," Sirius muttered through gritted teeth, which Remus could feel with Sirius's lips pressed so hard to his neck. Sirius had already shed his outer robes, it being very warm, and Remus hooked his hands into Sirius's back pockets, shivering.

"You can't kill everyone, Sirius." Sirius made a small disgruntled noise, and nipped Remus's neck, making him gasp before he could recover enough to smile. "I mean it. You'd go to Azkaban, and then we'd never get any time alone."

Sirius fetched a sigh, and blew hair out of his eyes, slinging his arms around Remus's shoulders. And his knee between Remus's legs. "All right... can I just teleport everyone else on the grounds to somewhere very far away?"

"No." Sirius glared at Remus, who did his best to look contrite. "I mean, no, you can't. Physically."

"I could study," Sirius said, and Remus laughed.

"On a day like today?" And before Sirius could think up a good answer for that one, Remus was kissing him. Maybe that would show him.

At least, until the door banged open again, and there came the loud and distinctive sound of James Potter groaning in disgust. "Oh, for heaven's sake, honestly." Remus flushed and pulled away, but Sirius just leaned his elbow on the wall and glared around Remus, smirking. Remus wasn't sure how Sirius managed to glare and smirk at the same time, but it was impressive. Sniffing, James brushed past them into the room, followed by Peter, who Remus wished wouldn't gawk like that. "You'd think some people would get a room already."

"We've got a room," Sirius pointed out, still not taking his hands off of Remus. "It just happens to have these other two gits in it." James chucked a pillow at Sirius, which, predictably, hit Remus instead when Sirius ducked.

"Whoops -- sorry about that, Moony --"

Remus sighed, and threw it back at James, who caught it. "No, you're not." James grinned, and Remus took the opportunity to make a somewhat sheepish retreat from Sirius's arms back to the safety of his own bed.

Where, of course, he was joined by a flying tangle of Sirius seconds later -- not that Remus particularly minded. In fact, he imagined the way he wrapped around the other boy was rather welcoming. He was sure James was rolling his eyes at Peter somewhere beyond the half-closed bedcurtain, but as he couldn't see it, he decided not to let it bother him. "Speaking of not getting any time alone," he murmured into Sirius's hair, and both felt and heard the answering snort.

"You're the one who wouldn't let me kill them." Sirius nuzzled the top of his head, and he closed his eyes, listening to Sirius's chuffing laugh through his chest. "Hell with it. You want to just shag on the table in the Great Hall at dinner and be damned to everyone else?"

Remus spluttered. "S-sirius!" Sirius was already laughing, though, and eventually he joined in. "Well -- yes, but still!"

And all right, so maybe it did give him a secret little thrill of pleasure to hear Sirius so frustrated with their inability to touch one another lately. Sirius might yet think better of this, when the novelty eventually wore off, but at least for now Remus had his attention -- his undivided attention, at that, as the end of the year hadn't really given him much time for girls, either. And if only wishful thinking made it more than just that, so what? It was his, for the time being. It would do.

Sirius flopped them both back onto the bed, startling Remus for a moment, and grinned. "Or we could just do it here and ignore the two gits," he suggested.

James's voice, from the other side of the curtain, sounded distinctly unamused, in that amused sort of way. "We can hear you, you know." Remus groaned and buried his blush in Sirius's shoulder, as Sirius laughed -- with a sudden, odd glint in his eyes.

"Oh, is that bothering you?" he called back innocently, and before James could respond, shifted position enough that he could get his wand out of his back pocket. First the bedcurtains closed themselves all the way -- and then Sirius murmured something else, with another wand movement that had no effect that Remus could see. Remus frowned, and asked what he'd done. Or at least, tried to, because no sound came out of his mouth.

...Oh, really. Well, at least now he knew Sirius had actually practiced his Silencing Charms like he'd promised.

Sirius grinned, looking thoroughly pleased with himself, and Remus couldn't help but smile back; he was difficult to resist, even Silenced. (Maybe especially Silenced.) He glanced at the bedcurtains, laughed a little without any sound, and just lunged at Sirius again, catching his mouth in his own lips and teeth and knocking him flat on the bed, wand forgotten. Even the bedsprings, which should have been complaining about such treatment, suddenly had nothing to say.

It was really a shame to have to use the Charm; in the course of the lengthy, breathless day they'd spent after the full moon, he'd really gotten to like hearing Sirius talking to him, and had replayed every last phrase in his head while jerking off at least once since. Of course, this was its own sort of fun, and nice in a way. Intimate, somehow, and with a strange, safe feeling to it that Remus had difficulty placing. Although he found it better not to think about James and Peter still being in the room, probably having at least some idea of what was going on, and not being all that far away, apart from the curtain. But then, he didn't imagine they were going take this past kissing anyway.

By the time he realized he'd been wrong, though, they'd been kissing for quite a while, and it was really too late to do anything about it. Sirius's hand was already tucked inside the front of his trousers, clutching a palmful of Remus's cock and balls, and he was gasping and rocking down his hips and making no noise at all. He'd gotten hard so fast he hadn't even noticed when it happened, and now he just ground himself down, his legs braced and shaking on either side of Sirius's thighs and shoving himself into Sirius's hand, pressing his face into Sirius's warm shirt and panting breath into it with Sirius's other hand tangling its fingers in his hair and holding him close. Sirius's palm felt rough and warm as it slid over his skin, waking up all the nerves and filling Remus's balls with a leaden solid ache, and as it slipped back out as suddenly as it had pushed in, making Remus moan a soundless impatient moan that had Sirius's lips curving in a grin. He pulled back just enough to unfasten the front of Remus's trousers, and then drew him out, stroking him with a firm solid grip that made Remus immediately shudder and collapse on top of Sirius, his legs unable to hold him anymore. He trapped Sirius's arm between them, but the hand just kept moving, a little stifled in its range but largely undeterred.

Good. Fast. Too good. He clung to Sirius, trying to think of anything that wouldn't make him come within seconds -- James and Peter were right there, for God's sake -- but it wasn't helping. Sirius was warm and his hand was so good, it was just hard and large and perfect and wrapped around him and stroked him just as hard as he wanted, and he couldn't hold out against it...

Unfortunately, what they'd both managed to forget (and Remus would kick himself quite a lot for that later), was just how much concentration on the part of the caster the Silencing Charm required to be maintained. And Sirius was becoming awfully focused on the handjob he was giving.

And a few seconds later, when Remus gave up and drove his hips down into Sirius's hand in a jerky final drive and came, only half of his loud, ragged moan came out Silenced. The other half came out, well, loud and ragged, and perfectly audible.

There was a moment of shocked silence, during which Remus's presence of mind came back enough for him not only to wonder if one could die of embarrassment, but to actually pray for it.

And then James was the one spluttering, exploding a "Bloody hell!" from the other side of the curtain, and that was when Sirius started laughing.

---

15. the third mistake

It didn't take as many pleading, cajoling, and bargaining owls as it probably should have to convince Remus to come visit Sirius that summer, and though he would never quite be sorry about that, later he sometimes wondered how things might have been different if it had. "It'll be okay," Sirius's letters practically begged, "I'll keep you completely away from my parents, they'll never even know you're there. But for pity's sake, Moony, you've got to save me. The boredom would kill me even if my mother weren't determined to do the job herself."

He'd never been much good at saying no to Sirius to begin with, and neither the letters nor the loneliness made it any easier. It had only been a month away from Hogwarts, and he already missed Sirius so badly it was like a constant stabbing ache just under his ribs; hell, he'd missed Sirius after just a week, maybe even after a day. And James and Peter almost as much, for that matter -- but it was Sirius he was thinking about kissing every night, Sirius he'd gotten used to having around him at all times, even the full moon now... and, most importantly, Sirius who really, really wanted him to come and visit over the summer holiday.

And at first, it had been okay. The Knight Bus (which Remus had never used before, and which had made him quite nervous and no little sick) pulled up to the corner of Grimmauld Place, and he got off with his knapsack and only stood for a moment, staring helplessly at the line of ramshackle Muggle houses. Then a bit of shadow detached itself from the side of one brick wall, and by the time it had emerged into the cloudy sunlight it had resolved into Sirius, looking paler and a bit less healthy than he normally did at Hogwarts, but Sirius all the same. A lot of that color seemed to come back into him as he grinned at Remus, though, and Remus was helpless not to grin back, and then Sirius was running at him and grabbing him up in a hug that nearly lifted Remus's feet off the ground (although not quite, and Remus would almost have sworn that Sirius seemed shorter on him than he had been the last time they'd seen each other).

"All right, Moony?" he murmured, and Remus hugged him back a little tighter by way of answer. Sirius drew back, smiling, just enough to lean his cheek next to Remus's, and their lips close enough together to feel each other's breath; Remus let out a small nervous laugh, clutching one of his hands in Sirius's hair.

"Going to kiss me in the middle of the Muggle street?" he asked, and Sirius laughed under his breath. He pulled back all the way this time, holding Remus at arm's length and grinning at him.

"I was thinking about it." Remus just smiled, and Sirius squeezed his shoulders. "Damn, it's good to see you. Hell, it's good to see anybody who's not related to me, but especially you. Here, I've got your bag -- "

"Oh, you don't have to..." But Sirius already had, and had started walking in what was presumably the direction of the house, without a second thought. Well, all right. "Your hair's gotten longer," Remus noted, trotting a little to catch up with him. A non sequitur, perhaps, but it had; it had gone quite beyond flopping in Sirius's eyes and over his collar and was now on the run toward shoulder-length. He'd pulled the front parts of it back from his face in a little knot that was impossibly charming.

"Yeah, it's driving me mad." Sirius hoisted the bag on his other shoulder and used his free arm to grab Remus's waist close again, grinning at him. "I can't believe you're here! We'd better get in and up to my room, I don't know how long we've got to hide you. Mum's out taking ickle Reggikins to shop for new dresses or something, and Dad's, well, just out. Oh, er, and don't touch the door, it'll scream."

Sirius clearly didn't find the house growing out from between its two neighbors very interesting anymore, but Remus couldn't take his eyes off it; it was a jerky, too-fast process, like watching stop-motion photography. At least it took his mind off Sirius's rather disquieting welcoming litany, and any questions he might have wanted to ask. Sirius took his wand out of his pocket and tapped the (snake-shaped, Remus saw, with a nervous flutter in his stomach) door-handle, and the door swung open all on its own, revealing a gloomy-looking corridor into which Sirius ushered, and then followed him.

Once they were inside, Sirius took a hold of his wrist again, and pulled him along at a brisk pace, up a flight of treacherous stairs and down a hallway to the door at its end. Once inside, Remus breathed easier again; scowling portraits and troll-leg umbrella stands along the way apart, this was definitely Sirius's territory. Very enthusiastic Quidditch posters covered the walls, and there was even one that didn't move at all -- for the Rolling Stones, on whom Sirius had been instantly sold, much to his own surprise, by a previous Muggle-born girlfriend. These days the girl was long gone, but the music remained. Clothing was tossed on every available surface, but especially the bed, which was so absurdly enormous that more than half of it was still made and had books and magazines piled on it, and still the remaining rumpled, unmade area was more than large enough for a Sirius-sized person. All of the furniture looked ancient, valuable, and recently ill-treated.

Sirius shut the door behind them and set Remus's bag down on a mostly-empty chair, then simply swept all the debris with his arm off the bed and onto the floor; Remus winced at the long series of thuds. Then, however, Sirius had flopped down and was patting the mattress next to him, grinning, and in the face of that it was impossible to remain perturbed. Remus climbed onto the bed with him, somewhat more awkwardly, and was instantly wound up in Sirius's arms, being kissed with a great deal of exuberance. Sirius still smelled the same, even amidst the musty, dead, unfamiliar smell of this house, and Remus's body still reacted the same way it ever had. By the time their lips slipped apart, he felt almost giddy, which Sirius's fingers combing through his hair did nothing to stop. They just lay holding on to one another for a moment, breathing on uneven rhythms that came together and then divided again.

Playing with the small knot of Sirius's hair and smiling, Remus finally gave voice to one of the safer of his questions. "What did you mean, your father's just out? Is he working?"

Sirius snorted, not exactly with amusement, and rolled over onto his stomach. "Nah, I meant that figuratively. My dad's a nutter. Has been since I was small. I didn't tell you?" He glanced up, and seeing Remus's stricken expression, softened immediately. "Oh, it's all right, don't worry about it. It gets a bit old having to explain who I am again every time I see him, but really, I'd take him over my mum any day. At least the gibberish he yells usually isn't nearly as horrible." He wriggled back onto his side, letting his hand rest on Remus's arm and then petting it. "From what I've heard, he was worse than she was when he was normal, but I don't remember it at all. And these days he's sort of all right."

"Oh." Which was perhaps the least suitable response possible for such a revelation, but Remus was hard put to think of anything better. "Erm. I'm sorry." Sirius just waved this off, though, and pulled Remus down on top of his chest, hugging him again.

"It's really good to see you, you know." He kissed the top of Remus's hair, making Remus smile as best he could buried in Sirius's shirt, and then tilted Remus's head back up with a hand under his chin, so that Remus could see his grin and the strands of dark hair that had fallen loose into his eyes. "Hey -- want to see if we can give my mother explosive diarrhea long-distance just by having sex in the house?"

"Sirius!" Remus burst out, but on a wave of laughter, and they were kissing again anyway before he could even begin to protest.

The great and unprecedented pleasure of having a locking door between themselves and the rest of the world quickly overcame any objections he might have had, anyway, and led to other things as well. Actually intentional nudity, for one. And though taking off his clothes with an already-naked Sirius sprawled back on the bed watching him was nearly unbearable, Remus had to admit to himself it was also very enjoyable on another level. The sliding warmth of kissing like this, skin on skin, and on an actual bed that was big enough for both of them (and probably another three people besides)... it was all beyond good, the perfect answer to a steady buzz of want that had been at the back of Remus's mind so long he'd nearly forgotten about it.

It was some time later, and Remus was sprawled on his back panting and squirming and with Sirius perched above him squeezing a hand down the length of his cock in a slow steady cycle, when he finally began to hear other voices in the house, distant and downstairs. Sirius raised his head for a moment, and Remus could almost see Padfoot's ears perking in the gesture, before Sirius turned back down to Remus with a breathless grin.

"Shh," he whispered, and slid two of his fingers into Remus's open mouth as though they'd been meant to be there all along. Remus's moan did come out quieter, muffled like that, although when he started sucking on the fingers it turned out not to be him they had to worry about silencing.

No one bothered them, as it turned out, and the rest of the afternoon was spent much as that last one in the Shrieking Shack had been, until finally Sirius put on clothing just long enough to go downstairs and retrieve some dinner. Remus waited in the bedroom, half-dressed, and just after he picked up Sirius's footsteps approaching the room again, he then heard a high, severe female voice calling faintly up the stairs: "Are you planning to introduce your friend to me, Sirius?"

There was a definite tone of suspicion in her voice, and Remus held his breath with his teeth in his lip. What would he do if --

"No!" Sirius's voice called back, cheerfully, without his footsteps ever stopping. And then Sirius was back inside the room, and holding two ornate plates that had been filled with chicken and rolls and some sort of green, and he just grinned and kicked shut the door and handed one over to Remus. "Nosy old bitch," Sirius said with the same good humor, and handed Remus his plate. "Sorry about the no silverware; I was afraid I'd drop something."

The bed probably would have been big enough for them both to stretch out completely and still not touch each other, but Remus fell asleep that night halfway on top of Sirius anyway, and with the muzzy thought that he could spend the rest of the summer this way and be quite content.

He woke up earlier than he would have liked the next morning, but couldn't get back to sleep no matter how he shut his eyes or shifted position; it was waking up in such an unfamiliar place, he suspected. Finally he gave up and crawled over Sirius -- who was still dead to the world, for his part -- and across the lengthy expanse of bed between himself and his knapsack, which he pulled clean clothes out of and put them on before padding down the hall to the bathroom. By the time he was finished washing up he was starving, and considering the hour decided to risk sneaking downstairs to the kitchen. He crept past the other door along the hallway, which he thought might be Regulus's, and down the stairs, gritting his teeth and ignoring the whispered "Well, I never!"s and "In our house, can you imagine!"s of the portraits he passed.

The house was even more forbidding when he was alone, and he tried desperately to mark the turns he had made, hoping he could keep from getting lost on the way back. When he finally found the dining room, which would have to have a kitchen attached to it somewhere, he was so relieved that for a moment he didn't notice that he wasn't alone -- and then the woman seated at the far end of the enormous table cleared her throat, and he jumped so hard he was surprised he hadn't left his skin behind.

Sirius's mother was not a woman Remus could imagine being anyone's mother; there was nothing remotely comforting or maternal about her person, and little resemblance to her son that Remus could see. Her dark hair was threaded heavily with silver, and pulled back into a knot at the back of her head that managed to be both intricate and severe. There was an ageless tautness to her skin, and her dark eyes tilted up slightly, lending her a feline look that was almost funny, considering. She wore long, voluminous robes of a dark purple velvet, belted and immaculate, and what Remus was fairly certain was a small fortune in gemstones set in silver around her neck, although somehow she made the pendant look tasteful and discreet. Now, as Remus stood frozen in the doorway, she in turn sat paused in the act of spreading a meticulous circle of jam on a meticulously sliced biscuit, staring at Remus with the pursed lips of a woman who might have just spotted a rat nibbling in her pantry.

"Oh," he said, which came out on an embarrassing squeak, and cleared his own throat. "Er. Hello."

"You must be Sirius's friend from school," Mrs. Black said, "about whom I have heard so little." Her dry, strong voice filled the room easily. At last she set down her biscuit and knife and folded her hands on the table. With a nervous jolt Remus realized all at once exactly how he must look to her: a gangly boy with his hair still mussed from sleep, dressed in shabby trousers and a threadbare t-shirt, barefoot, hanging in the doorway gawking. He suppressed a strong urge to try to pat himself down into something more presentable.

"I -- yes, I am." He hesitated a moment longer, and then took an awkward step into the room, steeling himself to attempt a smile. Mrs. Black didn't return it, but he supposed that was more than he should have expected. "I'm Remus -- Remus Lupin."

Mrs. Black's eyes seemed to narrow slightly, but she only ushered him further into the room with an impatient, graceful gesture. He took a few more steps forward, bringing him at least up to the foot of the table. "I'm afraid I don't know your name," she said, her voice gone colder and drier if anything, if that were possible. "Are your parents wizards, boy?"

Remus wasn't certain how he felt about being called 'boy,' but he didn't think it was a good idea to argue the point. He considered sitting down for a moment -- Sirius's mother made his legs feel a little unsteady just by looking at him -- but as he hadn't been invited, he just kept standing behind the chair. "Er -- no," he said. A single muscle twitched in Mrs. Black's jaw, and he pressed on in desperation. "Well, my mother's mother was, and her sister, I think, but they died before I was born. I, I wish they hadn't, I would've liked to have -- "

"And how is it you know my son?" Mrs. Black cut him off, now biting off the words in small, precise pieces. Remus winced. This was not going well. Even he could tell this was not going well. He stared at the table, which was already immaculately set although the other places were empty.

"We're in the same house together," he said, trying not to let his voice tremble. He couldn't see what Mrs. Black's response to that was, but a second later he realized he wouldn't have wanted to -- hadn't Sirius gotten a Howler from his mother when she'd heard he'd been Sorted into Gryffindor? Oh, how could he be so stupid?

He cast about for something else to say, but there wasn't anything, and Mrs. Black had fallen silent. His hands got anxious when he did, and he absently picked up a fork from one of the place settings to fidget with it.

And dropped it, hissing, as blinding pain seared into his fingertips. Pure silver. He shoved them into his mouth, his eyes tearing up, blisters already puffing up -- oh, God he was stupid -- God, that hurt --

There was a loud rumble of chair-legs on the wood floor as Mrs. Black stood up from the table. Remus stumbled back a few steps when he looked at her; her eyes were blazing, her face a dead, constricted mask of comprehension, horror, and loathing.

And that was the scene upon which Sirius, also barefoot and hastily dressed, stumbled into the room, and uttered a soft, distinct "Shit."

"Sirius a word with you please," Mrs. Black said all in one breath, barely moving her white, compressed lips. Sirius caught Remus by the shoulders and aimed him toward the door, still staring at his mother with a mute rage that almost matched hers.

"Go on," he muttered. "I'll be up in a minute, okay?"

Remus didn't wait to give acknowledgement; he just rushed out of the room, his fingers still stuffed in his mouth. He'd barely crossed two rooms before the voices exploded in outraged screams behind him.

"A WEREWOLF! A WEREWOLF AND A MUDBLOOD, AND IN MY HOUSE! IN THE HOUSE OF MY FATHERS AND ANCESTORS!"

"BETTER A WEREWOLF THAN A BANSHEE -- "

"HOW DARE YOU SPEAK TO ME LIKE THAT! BRINGING HOME YOUR FILTHY ANIMALS TO STROLL ABOUT MY HOME AS IF THEY -- "

"DON'T YOU CALL MY FRIENDS NAMES, THEN! AND IT'S MY HOME, TOO! WHAT'D YOU DO TO HIM, WHY WERE HIS FINGERS -- "

Remus squeezed his eyes shut as he ran up the stairs, whimpering on every breath, trying not to let them turn into sobs or the burning behind his eyes turn into tears. At least the portraits had all been offended into silence; now they only stared, in the same mute horror as Sirius's mother had.

He turned into the hallway, the screaming following at his back no matter how he tried to shut it out, and found the other door open and Regulus Black leaning out of it, listening to the row from the dining room with his mouth hanging open. Regulus Remus had met on several occasions before, and hedid look a bit like Sirius, although mentioning this to Sirius would have been a task for someone with a death wish; what was handsome and strong on Sirius's face, though, was much softer and more vulnerable on Regulus's, and the younger boy was considerably skinnier and spottier. When he saw Remus coming up the hallway, his eyes widened in a slow, dawning understanding that made Remus's stomach sink. Then it had shifted and tightened, all at once, into terrified disgust, and he ducked back into his room with a small, involuntary squeak of fear.

And Remus almost let it go, almost walked right by -- he had nothing against Regulus but couldn't possibly deal with anything more right now -- and then his stomach slipped down another few notches. What if Regulus told someone? His friends in Slytherin, for example?

He stopped in the doorway, and looked in. Regulus was curled up on his own, slightly less massive bed, in his considerably neater room, and scrambled backward when he saw Remus in the door, gasping. Remus's stomach clenched again, and he found that, actually, it was possible to feel worse. He'd never thought Regulus was so bad as Sirius had made him out to be; although he'd had to cover it with affected disdain to impress his friends at school, Regulus had always seemed to Remus to have a younger sibling's poorly-disguised adoration of his brother, and of his brother's friends -- particularly Remus, for some reason the older boy couldn't possibly fathom, but it had always endeared Reg to him all the same. And Sirius had always been awfully hard on his little brother, and even more so after Regulus had been Sorted into Slytherin year before last.

And now Regulus was looking at Remus as though he were fully expecting to be eaten alive.

"Regulus," Remus said finally, in a weak voice, and Regulus's expression twisted all at once into a grimace of mingled anger and fear.

"Get out, werewolf!" he snarled, and Remus recoiled as though slapped.

"Regulus, I'm sorry," he tried again after a moment, taking a half-step inside the room that made Regulus scramble back again with a low whine. He wasn't sure what he was sorry for, exactly, but he was, and getting sorrier by the minute. "But -- please, Reg, listen -- you're going to want to tell people about this, and you can't, you really mustn't. I'll be in a lot of trouble if you do."

Regulus brows drew into a small, worried frown for a moment, one that almost gave Remus a moment's hope -- and then he went shuttered and mistrustful again. "You ought to be," he said, this time in a more truculent tone. "My mum says werewolves are nasty half-breeds who ought to be rounded up and skinned."

Remus closed his eyes for a moment. Well, at least she hadn't said that to him.

"But you know me," he pressed on once he'd recovered, taking another step into the room with a small, earnest smile. At least this one didn't make Reg try to escape again; he was back to his puzzled frown, as though this were perhaps not how he'd been led to expect a werewolf to behave. "I'm still just Remus, right? It's not -- "

"Oi! What's going on?"

It hadn't even occurred to Remus that the shouting downstairs had stopped, nor even consciously that he heard footsteps on the stairs, until suddenly Sirius was coming up the hallway, leftover thunder and rage written across his face. He came into the room behind Remus before Remus could stop him, and pushed past, glowering, toward Regulus, who was cowering again all at once. "What's all this?" Sirius demanded, again, grabbing for Regulus, who rolled out of his grasp in what looked like a practiced move. "You going to write all your slimy little friends now and tell them about the big bad werewolf, is that it?"

"Sirius, no -- " Remus said in barely more than a whisper, but Sirius wasn't listening, and neither was Regulus.

"What if I am?" Regulus shot back, from just beyond arm's reach across the bed, and Sirius sneered.

"Apart from that I'll kill you? Dumbledore'll throw you out. He's why Remus is going to Hogwarts in the first place, you know. If you tell anyone, how angry do you think he's going to be?"

Regulus's expression of surprise wasn't quite comical. "You're -- you're lying!" Sirius laughed, without any humor in it.

"Oh yeah? Try me."

"Sirius, please," Remus begged again, and this time Sirius took pity; he took Remus by the arm and pulled him out of the room, glaring at Regulus over his shoulder as he did. They stumbled back into Sirius's room, Remus barely able to breathe, Sirius staring at the floor and still with that frightening sense of rage without a target hanging about him.

"You shouldn't have been so hard on him, Sirius, he's just -- " Remus began, but Sirius stopped him.

"You've got to leave," he said, quietly, without looking up at Remus. A long moment's awkward silence hung in the air, and then Remus swallowed.

"I -- oh. Yes. I thought... yes. I'll." He made for his knapsack, but Sirius caught him by the shoulders again halfway, and yanked him into a hard, painful hug.

"I'm... shit, Remus, I'm sorry. This was a stupid idea in the first place, I never should have told you to come here." Sirius let out a low growl of frustration, deep in his throat, and clutched Remus's shoulder in his fingers as though he didn't ever intend to release him. "That awful bloody bitch -- "

"It's all right." Remus pulled away carefully, and smiled at Sirius; he could feel his lips trembling, though, and doubted it was very convincing. Sirius's expression only provided confirmation. "I understand. I -- I'm sorry for causing so much trouble." Sirius made a disgusted, explosive sound at this, and held on to Remus for several more seconds before finally letting him go for his bag. "I'll see you soon, all right? Maybe... maybe you can come over to my house, or something."

"Yeah, maybe in thirty years or so when I'm not grounded anymore," Sirius grumbled, but he hugged Remus again with the same amount of force. "Take care, Moony."

And Remus tried, again, to smile. "You too," he said; and then Sirius was herding him down the stairs and to the door, trying to get him out before Mrs. Black could notice the exit and things could get any worse. Because, apparently, they always could.

---

16. release

It was perhaps three days later when James opened his door on a rainy, ugly night, and found a soaking wet, weary-looking Sirius standing on his doorstep, hauling his trunk behind him and standing hunched down like he'd been through the wars. "Could you turn a dog out on a night like this?" he asked, and managed a smile.

For a moment all James could do was gape. "Good God, man, what's happened to you?" he sputtered out, when he was finally able to. "What are you doing here?"

"Dripping, mostly," was Sirius's reply. "Could I come in, please?"

"Oh -- right." He backed off, and let Sirius inside. "Really, though, what happened?"

"I've run away from home," Sirius said, with a bleary, distracted sort of good cheer. He really was dripping. "For real this time, I think, since my mother's cut me out of her will and disowned me and all. Do you have something to eat, maybe? I'm starving."

For once in his life, James Potter stood speechless; fortunately, though, just then the two elder Potters came into the room with near-identical frowns, and regarding Sirius with startlement."

"Sirius?" Mrs. Potter asked, and then hurried across the room to commence motherly fussing. "Good gracious, you're soaked through! What's the matter, shouldn't you be at home? Not that I'm not pleased to see you, of course, dear."

"I was just telling James I've run away," Sirius repeated, as James's mouth worked soundlessly. "Had the row to end all rows with my mum, she's disowned me and was going to throw me out, except I told her she couldn't 'cause I was throwing me out. Nice to see you again, Mr. and Mrs. Potter."

"Oh, Sirius!" Mrs. Potter exclaimed, pressing a hand to her mouth, her eyes round, and that was when James got enough of his breath and sense back to whoop.

"You didn't! Oh, bloody brilliant, mate, wait'll we tell Remus and Peter -- "

"James, language!" Mrs. Potter snapped, but went largely unheard as James flung himself onto Sirius in a terrific bear-hug. She made a brave attempt to keep talking around the two teenaged boys nonetheless, however. "Sirius, are you hungry? Would you like something to eat?"

"That'd be great," Sirius said muffled over James's shoulder, and she started bustling around the kitchen, amid James's laughter. The glee was contagious; before too long Sirius was laughing as well, albeit in a somewhat dazed, distracted way.

"What are you going to do?" James calmed down enough to ask, finally. Still laughing, Sirius shook his head.

"No idea! I, well, if you don't mind, I was hoping I could stay here for a while..."

"Oh, of course, Sirius," Mr. Potter interrupted, just as Mrs. Potter was saying, "Certainly, dear, you're always welcome." Sirius grinned at James, who grinned back, and they hugged again before finally splitting apart.

"All right, here's what we'll do," James said, with a getting-down-to-business air. "You stay here, get fed, get dried off, I'm gonna go owl Peter and Remus and tell them what's happened."

"Remus first," Sirius said immediately, and then threw a sheepish grin around at all three curious Potters before returning to James with a meaningful look. "He'll be worried. It's, ah, a long story."

"Right." James looked at him for a long moment, while both their grins grew huge again, and then leapt into the air, punching it with his fist in triumph. "Freedom!" his voice remained, even as he was tearing down the hall toward the stairs to his room.

And Sirius just sat down at the Potters' table, dripping on the tablecloth and on the floor, and as Mrs. Potter set down a plate of eggs in front of him and began to coo over him again he found that he just couldn't seem to stop laughing.

---

Moony,

All right, first of all -- don't panic. I've got Sirius here. He had a blazing row with his mum and he's run away from home, but he's fine. He's run away for good, too. I think she's cut him out of the family's money, and everything. He's fine, though, really, though he seems a bit... well, odd. You'll have to see for yourself, I guess. But he insisted that I had to write to you right away, and tell you that he's okay. I'm writing to Peter, too, but Sirius was really worried about you.

I asked Mum, and she says it's all right if you come visit too. I figured you'd want to see him. He won't stop talking about you, either, so I guess we'll be putting up you two perverts in the guest room, then.

Prongs

---

Prongs,

All right, first of all, would you not write things like that in letters my mother might read?

Second of all, God, James, what happened? Is he really all right? Did he tell you anything about it? Well, I already talked to my parents and I'll be there as soon as I can, don't bother owling me, but I figured I'd get you ready for all the questions I'm going to be asking. And tell him I'm worried about him too.

And call me a pervert again, Mr. Potter, and I'm telling Lily Evans about the thing with the frogs' eggs in first year.

Moony

---

"Sirius!" Remus rushed into the living room ahead of James, dropping

his bag as he saw the other boy. "Sirius, are you all -- "

But then he didn't say anything else, because Sirius was busy full-body tackling him back onto the sofa, and was holding on to him so hard he couldn't really get much air.

"Told you," James said from the doorway, grinning.

"Hi!" Sirius said brightly, grinning down into Remus's face. Remus tried to return the greeting, but he did have a Sirius on top of him in the way. "Hey, James, look what I caught!"

"I noticed." James snorted, leaning on the doorway. "Bad dog. What are you going to do with it now that you've caught it, I ask you?"

"I," Sirius announced, "am going to eat it." James's expression went through an amazing somersault of emotions, and settled on amused just before he did an about-face and marched back into the kitchen.

"Right, I'll just leave you two alone then..."

Remus was certain he was an amazing shade of pink, but he couldn't help laughing along with Sirius at the same time. "I'm probably all gamey, you know," he said when they'd quieted down a bit. "Oof, could you move off me, please? I can't breathe." Sirius huffed a little, but sat up, and pulled Remus up to his chest again as he did. Remus took the opportunity to rest a hand on Sirius's cheek and stare into his eyes with enormous conern. "What happened, Sirius? Are you all right?"

"I'm fantastic!" Sirius exclaimed. He was throwing around an awful lot of exclamation points, Remus thought. Was this what James had meant by 'a bit odd'? Sirius seemed more than odd; he was positively giddy. "My mum threw me out of the house, and now I never have to go back again! Want to make out?"

"Not in James's living room, Sirius." He brushed at his hair, trying to straighten himself out. "What are you going to do?"

"I haven't the slightest idea!" Sirius started to laugh again, and Remus realized that it hadn't just been his imagination; there was a bit of a desperate edge on the giddiness, although he didn't even know if Sirius was aware of it. "Well, James's mum and dad have said it's all right if I stay here for the summer at least, they're fantastic, they are... I guess I'll have to get a job or something, so I can afford my things for the fall. Are you staying long?"

"A while, but not too long. My parents will miss me." He bit his lip, and tried to catch Sirius in a more -- well, serious look. "Sirius, I'm so sorry. It's all my -- "

"It is not," Sirius said, in a firm and entirely too calm voice, "your fault. It is my mother's fault, and my fault, for putting you in a spot like that in the first place, and I'm the one who should be sorry. And my mother should, too, but I can't imagine how many times over the end of the world would have to come before that would happen." He hugged Remus to his chest a little, putting an end to the subject without even saying anything. "I missed you a lot, you know. Are you sure you can't stay longer? We could kidnap you. I think there's some rope around."

"Sirius -- " But Remus couldn't stop himself laughing; he couldn't remember the last time he'd seen Sirius in such high spirits, and that was honestly saying something. He craned up and kissed Sirius once, just briefly, and pulled back to smile at him. "I'll stay as long as I can. And James has promised to put us up in the guest bedroom."

Sirius grinned, and gave Remus a little squeeze. "Mm, he'd better." Remus tucked himself up to Sirius's chest, the old familiar position they'd been spending a great deal of time in ever since they were twelve, and smiled into Sirius's shoulder. Sirius propped his chin on the top of Remus's head, and they sat in a long, long moment's silence.

Finally, Sirius stirred. "Hey -- Moony?"

Remus glanced up at Sirius. "Hm?"

And Sirius was looking down at him, smiling just a little, with a strange, warm look in his eyes that felt like it would melt him all the way down inside.

"Best year ever?" Sirius asked.

And Remus thought about that for a long, long time. Thought about it from every possible angle, inside and outside and upside down, until he was sure he had seen every possibility, and remembered every moment. And finally, he had an answer.

"Yes," he said, at last. "I think it really was."

And the hell of it was, he meant it.


<= / main