Title: Sonnets of Love
Artwork Disclaimer: "Harry Potter - Remus and Sirius" by Emily De Búrca
Warnings: Blatant misuse of old Shakespeare quotes. AU RLSB, muggle around 1900's.
'I had a feeling I would find you here.'
"Yes, you have seen Cassio and she together."
'Regulus has been going mad with worry. Must you spite your mother so, Sirius?'
James sighed when Sirius did not so much as turn around, pale grey eyes fixed on the stage as his chin rested thoughtfully in his fist. Sirius Black, he thought, settling down beside his friend in resignation. One would not look at him today and see the aristocrat he truly was; such was the garb the young Black was wearing. A commoner's shirt, filthy looking trousers, and a preposterous hat to hide his well-trimmed locks. Sirius's mother, Walburga Black, would have had a cow at the state of her first, born; if she were to recognise him first. Yet, it came as no surprise to James Potter. As Sirius's long term companion, James knew that Sirius found the puritan rules and beliefs of old English families suffocating. He had neither the greed for money, nor the righteous mentality that was ingrained deep into Black blood. Sirius Black was a rogue and a man who wore his heart on his sleeve; he travelled the streets barefoot, drank and sang merrily in village pubs, and wreaked mischief with women on the streets. Sirius's most favourite rebellion, however, was watching plays.
'She is beautiful,' Sirius said, breaking his concentration only momentarily.
James looked at the person Sirius was pointing at thoughtfully – a figure on stage. 'She would be, were she to truly be a woman,' he commented back, a single eyebrow raised. Portia, James must admit was one of the more convincing actors that he had seen in his lifetime of watching such plays. While her voice was forcibly high pitched and she was predictably flat chested and thin in the hips, her face was unmistakably pleasant to look at. It was a lovely heart shape, framed by whimsical light brown hair, a straight nose, full lips, and light brown eyes that were lit with passion for the stage. 'My lovely Lily is of course far more remarkable,' James said proudly, remembering the baker's daughter who he was completely besotted with.
'That is a matter of opinion, old friend.' Sirius grinned when James smacked him playfully upon the head. 'I won't be coming to the party, if you must know. I know you have been sent here because Mother thinks you are the only person I will ever listen to. She is not wrong; however,' Sirius paused, allowing James to groan in frustration, 'I shall have to decline your generous offer. I cannot bear to sit through another one of Mother's feeble attempts at asserting herself as true royalty.'
'Sirius, it is your birthday party,' James tried once again, despite knowing it to be a failed cause. 'You cannot miss your own birthday party; it is ludicrous!'
'I can, old friend, and I will,' Sirius replied firmly. 'One does not spend his twenty first birthday dallying about in stuffy social circles. No, sir, one makes full use of his age and the limitless possibilities that arise with it.' His eyes landed, once again, on Portia and he had the look of a predator that did not bode well with James.
'Sirius,' James's voice was low in warning, knowing full well the meaning behind Sirius's gaze. 'Sirius, I have told you before-'
'Then it is best not to say so again.'
'I believed you were past this!' James protested in an angry whisper, his eyes darting consciously. 'It is punishable by law, you know this, so-mph!' His words were muffled by Sirius's hand clamping down on his mouth.
'It is love, Jamie-boy. I have never seen it as anything else.'
'Laud to the actors, one extraordinary in particular.'
'I do hope you were referring to me, Mr. Black,' Edward called out, as he sauntered into the green room with an air of pride that was borne from having played the lead for the fourteenth time in a succession.
Despite his disapproval of Edward's pompous behaviour, Remus stayed quiet as he pulled the strings off his corset loose. He released a heavy sigh as his lungs were allowed to breathe their full capacity again. Remus's naturally slender disposition made him ideal for female roles; and the recognition of his talent and passion for the stage seemed limited to that very stature. It was frustrating to Remus; yet, he never complained because to him, the stage was his outlet. It was the only platform he felt he could express the truth behind his personality; the fire in his eyes and the loud timbre of his voice. Off stage, he was nothing.
'It was not Edward that I found brilliant.' Remus was startled out of his thoughts by the strange man, Mr. Black, clapping an amicable hand on his shoulder. 'I found your delivery compelling. I have watched renditions of this play many times, but none have had a Portia as enchanting as yours. You portrayed the power behind a woman as such flawlessly.'
'Thank you, sir,' Remus replied quietly, not sure of what else to say. Despite the attire, it was clear through his speech that Mr. Black was of good upbringing. People of Mr. Black's class sect did not make it a habit of visiting such theatres nor did they lower themselves to converse with the lower echelon. Yet, this strange man in front of Remus seemed different from the others of his kind. His smile came easily to everyone around him and the core of his stunning appearance was in his wayward obsidian hair, laughing grey eyes, and the smattering of freckles across his pale cheeks. He was a man that held the power to enchant many.
'I am no sir, I am afraid,' Mr. Black chuckled. His hand had not left Remus's shoulder and it felt oddly warm on Remus's skin. 'Please call me Sirius. It is a much more pleasing name to hear. Especially from lips as beautiful as yours,' Black lowered his voice as he said this, leaning close to Remus's ears while tightening his grip on Remus's shoulder to keep him from escaping. 'Forgive me if I have made a mistake, but a man cannot help but try, especially when faced with someone as captivating as you. '
Remus felt his blood run cold, as panic started to set in. Perhaps he had been mistaken about his opinion on Mr. Black after all. 'If you are attempting to be humourous, sir, I find myself not at all amused,' he replied, struggling to keep a straight face. No one knew of Remus's affliction, he was sure of this. Perhaps Black was simply patronising him because of his role in today's play. Remus had heard of men like this, who seduced many who suffered like Remus. They preyed on their weaknesses and their need for affection, and then betrayed them to the authorities. Remus was no fool. He had hidden his true self long enough for him to pass as ordinary.
'You will find, my dear, that I am being quite serious.' Black smiled slyly. 'Much like my name.' He leaned closer to whisper into Remus's ears, his eyes darting cautiously to their surroundings. 'We are living in dark time and I am not one to proposition other men so easily. I am taking a chance with you, my love, because I believe that even if you were to reject me, which I sincerely pray you do not, you would not persecute me. The kindness in your eyes cannot be a lie.' Black straightened, his hand slipping from Remus's shoulder. His smile was no longer mischievous, but guarded and apprehensive. He walked a few steps backwards, widening the distance between them when he felt curious eyes upon him. 'Allow me to prove my sincerity to you,' he insisted, his grey eyes boring into Remus's. 'I shall walk you home tonight and if you are not enthralled with my conversation and wit, I shall leave you with no trouble. However, I cannot promise that I will forgo my love for you. Nor can I promise that I shall not come again to admire your beauty from a distance.'
Remus knew his silence was painful. He could tell from Black's stiff and awkward movements, but he did not yield until he had thought carefully. Remus had always been known for being pragmatic and while he rarely followed anything beyond the logic his mind summed for him, he felt that this was one such occasion where it was more pragmatic to follow the gentle rhythm of his heart. 'Remus Lupin,' he said finally, extending his hand for a shake. A small smile graced his lips as Black held his hand for a second too long to be considered platonic.
'Finally, a name to my love.'
'No wonder Mother has never let me ride on one of these. It is a monstrosity!' Sirius screamed, holding the back of Remus's shirt tightly. 'It is also highly uncomfortable; can the seats not be made wider? My nads have not felt so much pain since Ms. Evans mistook me for my friend, James, and punished me with a knee in the groin.' He bit his lip to keep from screaming as Remus swerved once again. Sirius had seen many people ride bicycles on the streets but none so terribly as Remus Lupin. The man was simply unable to ride in a straight line; swerving left and right, and scraping through corners that nearly threatened to peel their skins off. Sirius had also never seen a man ride his bicycle without having his hands firmly on the handle bars or his arse on the seat. 'Remus!' Sirius's nails dug into Remus's shoulders as the other man laughed.
'Has the rich posh boy been defeated so easily?' Remus laughed, looking back at Sirius and definitely not looking where he was going. 'Whatever happened to all your gallant proclamations of love? Last night, you were begging for a chance, were you not?' His brown hair whipped around his face, curling even further and making his sweet face look roguish. 'Remus, you said in your suave voice as you walked me to my door, we have a connection, do you not agree?' He angled his bicycle downwards, purposefully detouring down a steep cliff rather than take the safe paved roads that was only a few pedals away.
'Is this a test, sir?' Sirius asked, trying to appear brave with his eyes closed tight and his face firmly hidden in the many folds of Remus's coat. 'Because even a humiliating death such as one on a bicycle, I would welcome for a man as wondrous as you.' Remus stopped the cycle suddenly, causing Sirius to finally lose balance and topple backwards, landing painfully on his arse.
'Such sweet words may charm other lads, Mr. Black, but you'll find they do not work on me,' Remus smirked behind his shoulder, completely apathetic of Sirius's pain. He got off his bicycle, parking it against a nearby tree. 'Come now, no need to wallow in self-pity for this long,' Remus urged, offering a helping hand to Sirius to help him stand. 'I would not have let any real harm come to you.'
Sirius brushed himself off, feeling disgruntled. 'My backside would beg to differ.' For the first time in an hour, his heart had calmed enough to permit him to look around. Remus had brought them behind a small hill, well away from the bustle of the city. So far, in fact, that the silence was almost deafening. Nothing permeated the air but the sweet sounds of birds singing, leaves rustling, and the water rippling in the nearby lake. Even the air he breathed felt cleaner. Sirius had never been to the country side, but he imagined it to be very similar to where they were now. 'It's beautiful,' he remarked, settling down near the stream beside Remus.
'It's where I come to read or practice my roles.' Curiously, Remus started to take off his shoes and socks and neatly arranged them in a folded pile. 'Not many know of this place and even fewer venture here, so I do not have to embarrass myself when I recite my lines.' He dipped his feet into the water tentatively, his toes skimming across the surface to test the temperature. 'Though an old lady once came upon me just as I declared how there never was a queen so mightily betrayed!'
Sirius laughed, copying Remus as he too dipped his bare feet into the lake. It was blissfully cool against the warm summer day and he wriggled his toes, feeling delirious just from the feeling off water rushing between them. 'Then this is our secret haven,' Sirius stated, bumping his feet with Remus's. His delirium increased two fold when he found that Remus did not shy away from his touch. 'I disagree with you, you know.' He waited for Remus to hum in question, before elaborating, 'I have never used such words, sweet or otherwise, with anybody else. You are the first.' Sirius was always known to be bold and reckless in speech. 'I will not lie, I have looked at many men before; but I have seen only you. Now, I see only you. When I close my eyes; in my dreams; even when I am awake – thoughts of you float in my mind.'
A flush of colour crept up Remus's cheeks and the back of his neck, and he seemed to be avoiding Sirius's eyes. 'Must you say such things?' He asked, though through his voice one could tell he was secretly pleased. His feet moved back and forth awkwardly, splashing the rolled bottoms of their trousers with water. 'All this romance is flattering, but I would rather we speak as friends.'
Though Sirius had an endless repository of romantic speech, he chose forgo them for casual friendship. He had not been wrong when he told Remus that he felt they had a connection. Words came easily to him when they sat side by side, brushing shoulders. He did not think twice as he spoke of his puritan family, the things he liked and disliked, his childhood and affinity for pranks, even how he felt about universities and the education system; there was very little he left spare. It was not only him talking away; he listened to Remus just as attentively, drinking in every word he uttered like it was the sweetest wine. When he found himself distracted, it was only by Remus's fair skin and glowing amber eyes. It was this distraction that had him caught entirely unawares as Remus pushed him into the lake headfirst. He spluttered indignantly as he swallowed a mouthful of water.
'Are you finally awake?' Remus laughed, as Sirius struggled to swim to the surface. 'I find it highly offensive when a man drifts off while I'm talking.'
'I was admiring your beauty!' Sirius protested. He looked up through his wet eyelashes waiting for Remus to be sufficiently distracted before curling his fingers around the man's ankles. Sirius was not one to be out-witted.
'What a sorry excuse o-aaah!'
Remus screamed as Sirius pulled him into the lake and dunked his head into the water. He gasped as his face broke the surface and turned to Sirius in mock outrage. 'Well, I never!' he yelled, before bursting into boyish laughter and starting a play fight with Sirius. If Sirius were to be honest, he had never felt so young and carefree as he did at that very moment with Remus. They wrestled, fighting for dominance as they pushed and pulled at each other. Water splashed everywhere, soaking their clothes all the way into their vests and underpants. Their bare feet slipped over algae covered rocks as they climbed out of the lake, still laughing and holding on to each mother for support.
'If I catch a cold tomorrow, Sirius, I will have you to blame,' Remus chuckled as he wringed out the bottom of wet shirt.
It was when Remus's nimble fingers started unbuttoning his shirt that Sirius found his breath catch. The water had already made Remus's white shirt near transparent, outlining the pink of his nipples and the hollow of his navel. Sirius wondered if Remus was his Mr. Darcy, but doubted if Elizabeth had stared this long at another man's exposed chest. Remus's skin was as pale and snow, unblemished and smooth. Blossoms of pink erupted just at the curve of his shoulders, his elbows, and underneath his collar bone. Remus's trousers dipped low from the weight of the water, allowing Sirius only a peek of the wiry golden brown curls that led to places Sirius could only fantasize of. Sirius swallowed heavily.
'I-I'm sorry,' he apologised hurriedly, when he realised Remus had caught him looking. 'That was inappropriate of me.' He turned his back towards Remus, blushing furiously and hoping that Remus did not think of him as a pervert. 'My heart clouded my propriety.'
'I doubt it was your heart that was clouding your propriety,' Remus remarked, amusement lacing his voice. 'Will you be spending the entire evening faced away from me, Sirius? My clothes will take a long time to dry.' Sirius could see from the corner of his eyes that Remus had settled back into his initial sitting position near the lake. 'It might not be the culture you are used to as the heir to the family throne, but I was hoping we could continue our previous conversation in our underwear. There is nothing more freeing than the feeling the wind against your skin, don't you agree, Sirius?'
Sirius did not agree at all. At the moment, he was willing, with every ounce of self-control he possessed, for his lustful mind to stay calm. Grudgingly, he did as he was told, stripping down to nothing but his underwear. When he sat, he kept a reasonable distance between himself and Remus, worried about his pants tenting if anything but the wind should brush against his skin. Unfortunately, Remus did not intend to make things any easier as he sidled closer to Sirius, so that their bare shoulders, thighs, and feet were touching. 'You shouldn't sit so close,' Sirius warned, his voice coming out more high pitched than he would like. He could feel blood rushing to his head as he placed his hand over Remus's, twining their fingers together. Their hands fit so beautifully that Sirius wondered if this truly was destiny. 'You shouldn't sit so close,' Sirius repeated, turning his head sideways to meet Remus's gaze, 'else I might be tempted to kiss you.'
Remus leaned in, so close that Sirius could count the freckles on his cheeks with perfect precision. So close that Sirius's light grey eyes were reflected in Remus's to make them appear white gold. So close that Sirius could feel Remus's warm breath fanning against his cheek and hear the sound of blood pumping rhythmically in Remus's veins. 'I don't seem to be objecting,' Remus whispered huskily.
It was all the permission Sirius needed to bridge the gap between them in a sweet kiss. Sirius would forever remember the day when he had truly and absolutely fallen in love with Remus Lupin. He would recall with perfect clarity the feeling as the fragments of his soul finally fit together. He would remember the jolts of electricity that passed between their bodies, as their arms enveloped each other in an embrace that begged to be closer, tighter. He would remember Remus's tongue against his, hesitant at first and then passionately warring against Sirius's. He would remember the sheen on Remus's lips as they parted and the way Remus had let Sirius hold him against his chest until the sun had set and it was time to leave. That day in the lake, would be the first time Sirius had ever felt that he belonged…
'A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,' Sirius said softly, using the deep red rose in his hand to caress the side of Remus's cheek. They lay side by side in comfort that seemed extraordinary for people who had only met two months ago. In the safe cocoon of Remus's home, he did not hesitate to entwine their fingers together or brush shoulders and bump knees. 'I believe, Remus,' Sirius continued, 'that whoever you may be, I would have found true love in you. It is not your sex nor your appearance that draws me to you, but the staccato beats of my heart every time I hear mention of your name. It is in the way my eyes seek yours and in the way my skin lights on fire under your touch. It is in the way I crave for your very being when you are not with me.'
Remus laughed, playfully swatting away the rose that now traced his bare neck. 'Such flowery poetry does not work on men, Sirius Black.'
'Your mockery of my love wounds me, Remus Lupin!' Sirius replied back with humour. 'After having bared my soul to you, I would expect a reciprocation and loud declarations of undying love on your part. A kiss at the least.'
'A kiss,' Remus whispered more to himself than Sirius. Remus had only ever kissed once before Sirius, in the prime of his youth. It had been another young boy from his neighbourhood, and Remus had frankly been too overcome with fear to feel much else. Now, however, with no one but the two of them, Remus felt a sense of enthrallment at the very thought of kissing Sirius Black. Sirius Black: the man, who had managed to gain his trust and charm his wits through speech and smile alone. 'A kiss I can give,' Remus replied at last, leaning forward to press his lips gently to Sirius's. He felt the curve of full lips against his as Sirius returned his passion. Remus could not describe the feeling that coursed through him. If he were given no choice, he would say that it felt like a million different emotions were all converging together like a bright beam of light in the very centre of his heart. It would seem, that Remus was slowly becoming utterly besotted.
'Thus, with a kiss, I die,' Sirius breathed, falling back into the bed with his hand on his heart. Sirius Black, Remus had realised early on, had quite the penchant for melodrama.
'I do not agree with you,' Remus started, also laying back down on the bed and turning on his side so he and Sirius were face to face. 'Or perhaps I disagree with Shakespeare. A rose by any other name: you would never notice nor pick from the bushes. Your eyes would skim past the vibrant red of its petals and see only its thorns. That is what I believe.' His hand reached up to brush Sirius's dark hair behind his ear; a gesture that suddenly felt much more intimate than their shared kiss. 'Were I to be a woman, you would have never propositioned me.'
'No,' Sirius admitted, holding Remus's hand to his cheek and kissing the upturned palm softly. 'I will not try to convince you otherwise. I fear, women hold no appeal for me, though not from the lack of trying. I have fought my urges long and hard, and I had convinced myself that I had succeeded. But I had only to gaze upon you that night to know the truth.'
Remus nodded in understanding. 'I have watched good men get taken away. Silently, I am ashamed to say.' His hand traced down the hard planes of Sirius's shoulder, his chest, moving to encircle around his waist. 'I do not know what punishment befalls them, but I know that they never return. Not that they would have much to return to. Society shuns them, families and friends all abandon them; they cannot find homes or work. The fear of isolation alone is enough to drive a man towards his death.'
'Do you have a family you are afraid to lose, Remus?'
'I did once,' Remus smiled sadly. 'But no more. A sickness got better of them, I'm afraid.' He felt comforted when Sirius's hands also rested across his waist. 'But I do not imagine they would be very thrilled with what I have become.'
'My best friend, James, he knows,' Sirius admitted.
'And he does not think it unnatural?'
'He does,' Sirius admitted. 'Lord knows he has tried to help me many times, but has conceded to failure. He loves me like a brother, he tells me, and despite my inclinations, he cannot find it in his heart to abandon me. It is more than my true brother will ever say should he ever find out. I do not think I have to explain the beliefs and ideals of conservative families like the Ancient and Noble House of Black.' The laughter that followed was without humour and Remus's body urged him to comfort Sirius.
He leaned in to kiss Sirius gently, hoping it was enough. It must have been, for Sirius drew him into a tight embrace. Their bodies touched in ways Remus knew was sinful but felt so very warm and right that he could not bring himself to care. He rested his head on Sirius's shoulder and breathed in his heavy scent. 'Your friend, James, he sounds like a good man. I would like to meet him someday.'
'Sirius, I am in trouble. Oh-'
Sirius invited himself inside the house as only an old friend would. 'Don't be shy, Remus,' he urged the other man to join him, his fingers itching to take hold of Remus's hand and guiding him in but his mind reminding him of place and propriety. 'Remus, this is my good friend, James Potter.'
'It is a pleasure to meet you,' Remus greeted James's, who was still rather gob smacked. 'Sirius has told me much about you. I did not think he would agree to let us meet.' He smiled shyly as he looked up at Sirius through his lashes.
Remus, Sirius had discovered long ago, was inherently shy. When faced with new people and situations, he spoke quietly and minimally. His eyes hid behind his soft brown curls and his face remained muted, save for the persistent flush in his cheeks. He fidgeted as if uncomfortable in his own skin. Remus had once admitted to Sirius that he felt himself only on stage and recently, with Sirius. It was an accomplishment for a friendship only a month old and made Sirius feel rather special. It also made Sirius savour each of Remus's kisses as though they were given preciously.
'James, you've already met Remus.'
'Have I?' James asked curiously as he shook Remus's hand. 'Apologies, it must have slipped my mind. I've been a bit preoccupied, you see, with Lily and-'
'James,' Sirius interrupted, 'Remus is Portia.' He waited, grin in place, as his friend spluttered and mouthed wordlessly, and Remus turned a delightful shade of red. These were simple pleasures that Sirius took; teasing the people he loved, causing mischief. Men never grow up, James's mother would say; they are children forever. 'Now tell me why you have phoned me so urgently. I hope this is not going to be yet another dire conversation you must have about the nuances of Lily Evans' hair.'
'Mother knows,' James replied shortly, once he had recovered. He had moved to sit on the lounge opposite Sirius's and urged Remus to do the same. Sirius was glad that Remus had the sense to sit with good distance between them. James may tolerate Sirius's affinities, but it did not mean he would tolerate Sirius's open affections. 'Mother knows about Lily.'
Sirius nodded understandingly. 'She is not pleased, I gather.' It was not a question. 'James, surely you would have anticipated such a day would come.'
'I do not understand,' Remus spoke up softly. 'Is there something wrong with your parents knowing of your relationship with this woman?'
James blinked. 'It is not that simple.'
Sirius could tell that Remus was very confused. 'The Potters are an old family, Remus, much like the Blacks. Though many consider the Potters to be radicalists, there are still traditions that are ingrained too deep within such families to overcome.' Sirius sighed, rubbing his temples as he wondered how he could possible help his friend when his own love seemed impossible. 'Lily Evans is from a lower echelon; the daughter of a baker. Her pedigree, if it could be called that, is hardly acceptable.'
'But are you not in love with her?' Remus argued, still clearly unable to understand the severity of the situation. 'Potter…James, when you decided to become involved with her, did you not plan to also marry her. From what I have heard of your character from Sirius, you do not sound like the type of man that would use a woman for a passing flight of fancy.'
'I would never use Lily like that!' James answered vehemently, only proving Remus's point.
'Then what did you intend to do when the time came, James?' Remus pushed.
'I do not know!' James cried desperately and Sirius had to put a comforting hand on his shoulder to calm him. 'I do not know. I hadn't thought so far. I loved her. I wanted to be with her. I did not think of the consequences.'
'Then why think of them now?' Remus answered so simply that both James and Sirius could do nothing but gape at him in shock. He's right, thought Sirius, as he gazed upon Remus's face, so scrunched up on determination. As unorthodox as Remus's reasoning sounded to both Sirius and James, Remus was right. 'James, love is something that knows no bounds. If you truly love her, then you will not worry about what she is, but who she is. And if your parents truly love you, then they will not worry about who you marry, but whether you are happy. It might take a little bit of courage to take the first step, but I don't think Sirius will reject any offers to stand by you.'
Sirius smiled, giving in to the overwhelming fondness he suddenly felt, and reaching across the sofa to hold Remus's hand. He did not miss James's eyes darting towards their shared affection or the awkward cough that followed in an effort to break the silence. 'Sirius,' James coughed again, 'I could use a drink. Perhaps you would care to join me?' It was James's polite way of saying that he direly needed to talk to Sirius alone. Possibly about Remus. 'Remus, can I bring you anything?'
Remus shook his head and though he tried hard to hide it, Sirius could see the disappointment blossoming in Remus's eyes. The man was too perceptive for his own good and Sirius felt guilty for having brought him here. He should have predicted that James would not take too kindly to their relationship. James felt obligated towards Sirius because of their past friendship, but he held no such feelings for Remus. He tried to pass on some form of reassurance to his lover as he followed James into the study, but Remus refused to look at him. His soft amber eyes were instead trained on the passing world outside.
'Sirius, have you gone completely mad?' James turned on him, once the door had closed. 'You have taken it too far this time! Having feelings for another man is one thing, but to act upon it! I do not have the words to describe how appalled I am right now! Have you thought of the impact this would have on your family?'
Sirius's hand shook from anger as he poured himself a glass of red wine. 'I do not care for them. Can't you see, James, I am in love with him.'
'Don't be preposterous,' James scoffed.
'Why?' Sirius yelled, slamming his glass down on the bar. 'Why must you oppose to how I feel when I am not so different from you? How is my affections for that man outside any different from how you feel about Ms. Evans?'
'Because being with Lily will not get me killed!' James screamed back, throwing his hands up in the air from exasperation. 'Sirius,' he sighed, 'I will not deny that Lupin in a good man. He has helped me greatly today and for that, I owe him a debt. But I do not intend to repay that debt with your life.' He leaned against the wall, running a hand through his black hair. 'I care for you tremendously, Sirius, and it would sadden me to see you in any sort of pain.'
Sirius understood James's sentiment, appreciated it even, but he could not find it in himself to accept it. 'I would rather,' Sirius swallowed in an effort to quell the tremor in his voice. 'I would rather spend the last few seconds of my life being loved, than spend the rest of eternity safe and alone. If you cannot understand this, then I pity Ms. Evans greatly.'
Sirius was having a rather marvelous dream about Remus when the first pebble hit his window. He was not naturally a light sleeper, but given that he had been doing nothing but for the past week, it was understandable. Sirius did not take to being interrupted kindly, especially not when he was about to kiss Remus's soft, pliant lips. He had missed the other man terribly and sometimes whispered Remus's name again and again in the dead of the night, as if it would summon him in to Sirius's bedroom. Hoping to resume his dream, Sirius turned to lay on his back and closed his eyes again.
That was when the second pebble hit, broke his glass, and landed quite unceremoniously on top of Sirius's legs. Sirius shot out of his bed, both in surprise and anger. He was in no mood to be burgled tonight, so he reached for his cricket bat, practicing his swing twice before marching to the window. He had nearly struck when Remus's head appeared, an uncharacteristically mischievous grin plastered across his face. 'Bloody hell,' Sirius cursed, falling back and thanking the Gods for his poor reflexes. 'Remus, what are you doing?'
'Climbing through your window,' Remus replied casually. 'I don't suppose you could give me a hand. I'm not quite sure how long these pipes will bear my weight. One of them is already starting to creak quite perilously.' It was amazing how much trust Remus put into Sirius, as he let go of his hold and relied on Sirius's arms and strength alone to hoist himself up and into the bedroom. He did not seem to have any fear of slipping or falling, as if inherently knowing Sirius would not bring him any harm. 'I received your letter,' Remus breathed, pulling Sirius into an embrace and tucking his head, as he always did, in the crook of Sirius's neck. 'Has your mother really restrained you to this room?'
Sirius nodded towards his bedroom door. 'Locked, as you can see. A punishment for aiding James Potter into marrying a commoner and therefore, diminishing ancient blood lines.' He pulled his curtains closed for chance there was of peeping neighbours. Sirius did not fancy trouble at the moment. 'It was well worth it, I should say. Mr. Potter has grudgingly agreed to James's wishes, after much persuasion. The wedding is to take place next month.'
'So quick?' Remus asked, surprised, disentangling from Sirius to sit down on the bed. It almost seemed as if Sirius's most fervent prayers were being answered as Remus lay back against the pillows casually as if he had been here many times before. Remus, Sirius whispered in his head, just to make sure that this dream did not diminish.
'James had neglected to mention something of importance to us that day,' Sirius grinned and lay down beside Remus, childishly pillowing his head on the other man's lap. 'Ms. Evans is with child. His child, if you were looking into details.' The hand that had been carelessly stroking Sirius's hair stilled and Sirius found himself whining pathetically at the loss of affection. 'Did you assume that the persuasion I was talking of came from me? If even a rumour were to get out, Mr. and Mrs. Potter are hardly going to take advice from a rouge blood traitor like me. Though they do hold me in much higher regard than my family, I suppose,' he sighed as he looked towards his locked door.
'They haven't been starving you, have they?' Remus asked, his brows pulled together in concern.
'No, no, of course not, you silly boy.' Sirius waved off. 'This is punishment, not torture. No, torture is reserved for much more heinous crimes.'
Remus snorted. 'What could be more heinous than convincing another man to mix blood?'
'Mixing blood yourself, I suppose.' Sirius shrugged. 'My uncle, Alphard Black, he had perhaps committed the most heinous crime of all.' He smiled bitterly. 'It was not murder nor marrying a lowly woman, if that is what you're assuming. It was much worse. He had lain with another man.'
Remus breathed sharply. 'What happened to him?'
'Nobody knows,' Sirius replied, his hand seeking purchase of Remus's. A sudden fear gripped his heart as he remembered his uncle. 'Well, everyone pretends to not know, I suppose. I was too young to understand but I remember how Father would always complain of his oddness. Uncle Alphard spoke of mad things, Father would say, of worlds where there were no divides and wars did not matter. It was enough to ostracize him from socials. I don't quite know how they found out of his disposition, but I remember they had all gathered in our house. Mother had cried hysterically, asking them to forgive him. One cannot help but love their brother.' Sirius looked up at Remus, his pale grey eyes wanting reassurance from Remus's warm amber. 'That was the last I saw of my uncle. No one speaks of him; he has been removed from the tapestry; his house is nothing but dust and embers. I like to think he lived to escape; so to give myself hope.' Sirius smiled weakly.
'Are you afraid?' Remus asked softly.
Sirius sat up, so they were nose to nose. 'Aren't you? I don't want to die, Remus, despite what I valiantly told James.' He held Remus's face in both his hands. 'But I also cannot deny that I am my most fulfilled when I am with you. In you, I find true happiness and in you, I find…'
'Shh…' Remus hushed, pressing his fingers to Sirius's lips. 'Speak low if you speak love.'
Sirius laughed and kissed Remus lightly. 'Remus,' he started, nervous as he prepared himself to voice the one desire he had felt since he set his eyes on the man before him. 'Will you stay the night?'
Remus raised an eyebrow. 'Are you seducing me, Mr. Black?'
'I am asking permission to make love to you.'
Sirius's eyes tracked the gentle movement of Remus's Adam's apple as the man swallowed thickly. Perhaps he had asked too soon? In all honesty, Sirius had wanted to make love to Remus since that day in the lake when he chanced upon the contours of Remus's slender body through his drenched clothes. Thus far, they had done little but kiss and while Sirius was happy to be doing so, his insides burned with desire to touch the man he loved. However, the stretching silence indicated to Sirius that perhaps Remus did not feel the same. He was just about to apologise when he felt himself suddenly bowled over backwards into the bed by another body. His surprised scream was swallowed by an insistent pair of lips and warm hands settling on either side of his waist.
'Yes,' Remus whispered as they broke apart. He laughed softly at Sirius's surprised expression, before leaning down to kiss him again. 'Yes,' he repeated, boldly taking Sirius's hand in his own and guiding it down his chest and to the front of his trousers. He hissed, head falling forwards when Sirius's hand tightened and rubbed slow circles over the bulge that was quickly becoming prominent. 'Sirius,' he gasped, pushing his hips encouragingly against Sirius's hand.
The sight of Remus coming undone was all it took to break Sirius's control. His mind gave up on his entirely, as he tore through their clothing frantically till there was nothing separating them but skin. Even then, Sirius felt he could not get close enough and tried to compensate by touching his lips and tongue to every exposed part of Remus's body. Encouraged by Remus's breathy moans and fingers fisting into his hair, Sirius worked a diligent trail of kisses down Remus's neck, his chest, navel, and then lower and lower in places were forbidden and sinful, yet smelled and tasted so addictive.
Sirius love for Remus reached its peak, when Remus spread his legs wide and opened himself up to him, vulnerable and beautiful. Sirius had never loved him so strongly as he did sheathed inside the other man, joint together as one, and moving in a rhythm that was only matched by their beating hearts. 'I love you,' he whispered again and again, in an attempt to convey his feelings and finding his words too sparse for the enormity of his emotions. 'Remus, I love you.'
Remus had always been a light sleeper. As a child, he would wait till his mother and father were asleep to be granted perfect silence. Even the slightest disturbance would have him incurable of sleep, and he would lay on his back for hours willing for silence once again to befall him. Some nights, when sleep proved difficult, he would recite sonnets in his head and act the protagonist in his favourite plays. His favourite was always Shakespeare, for he believed that no one knew love like Shakespeare did. Love is a spirit all compact of fire; as he lay across Sirius's chest lulled by the man's breaths, Remus could not agree more.
It was the ominous turn of the doorknob that he had heard first. In his mind, he knew that nothing good would come of it, but his body was sluggish from sleep. He could not move in time; only watch with heavy eyes as the maid entered the bedroom and then dropped the tray in her hands as her eyes fell on their entwined bodies. Her scream of horror was what had awoken Sirius from his slumber.
'You must go,' Sirius had cried urgently, his hands pushing at Remus's shoulders insistently. 'You must go now before she returns with father and mother.' There had been fear in Sirius's eyes, but bravery in his stance. He had looked much like an animal, caged and rearing for a fight. 'Please, Remus, you must leave quickly. There isn't much time!'
Remus had known that very moment that they had been too cocky to assume they were invincible. I like to think he lived to escape; so to give myself hope. 'I can't,' he had whispered, reaching for the cricket bat Sirius had discarded last night. 'I'm sorry.' Sirius had not gotten a word edgewise, as Remus hit him over the head, only as hard as necessary to have him fall unconscious. He was not as gentle as he dragged Sirius back into the bed; the more wounds Sirius had to show, the safer he would be. Remus had then used the last of his time to rip any and all of Sirius's scattered clothing, praying that the maid had not paid attention to her surroundings in her shock.
After that, he waited, his eyes trained on Sirius to give him courage.
Remus did not resist when they found him, but he wished he had kissed Sirius one last time.
Such is my love, to thee I so belong, that for thy right myself will bear all wrong.
Remus was not surprised when a black shroud fell over his head and tightened almost painfully around his neck. He had expected a fair trial at the least, but supposed that men like him were too deplorable to be granted anything but death. He flinched when a strong hand wrapped around his arm. He had been flogged for the fourth time in two days and there was little left of his body that remained unharmed. He had been spat on, thrown verbal abuse at, pushed and shoved, but had remained infuriatingly quiet and unresisting through it all. Remus was nothing if not a good actor.
An abrupt blast of cold air hit them as they stepped outside, and the hand holding him had now tightened further to keep him from running. Remus did not understand. Were they going to have him executed publicly in this day and age? Surely, people would not stand for it, no matter how extreme his crime. Remus wondered if Sirius would be there. A selfish part of him wished he would, just so Remus could see his face one last time before he fell to his death. Another part of him argued that Remus would never be content if the last face he saw was Sirius's, crumpled in anguish. He did not want to be the cause of Sirius's sadness. So, instead, he closed his eyes and imagined the Sirius he had seen the night they had joined together. He tried embedding every detail of Sirius's face, the sweat that had been collecting at his brow, and the sweet tilt of his lips as he gazed down at Remus in adoration.
Suddenly, Remus found himself being pushed roughly inside a car. He only recognised it for a car because his feet tripped clumsily and hit the wheels as his assaulter urged him to climb inside. The door shut behind him violently and Remus's shroud was suddenly pulled off his head. 'James?'
'I apologise if you were treated harshly on the way here.'
Remus blinked, unsure if he was hallucinating. There was very little light inside the car as it was the dead of night, and the curtains that James had pulled closed let very little light slip through the windows. But the voice and stature was unmistakable. Even though he had met James only once, it had left a lasting impression on Remus. 'I don't think I understand,' Remus stuttered, checking his arms and legs for restraints. He was free? Despite his shock, Remus did not deny himself the tall glass of water that James offered him; gulping it down as if he intended to drown in it. He had not been allowed water in his small prison and his mouth had felt like sandpaper to this very moment.
'The day after your arrest, Sirius came begging to me. He told me what you had done.' There was a softness to James's voice that suggested that he knew the true story, rather than the figment Remus had purposefully created. He poured Remus another glass. 'You are an extraordinary man, Remus Lupin; you truly are. But you are also extraordinarily foolish. Did you think that Sirius would not attempt to tell everyone the truth? That the whole affair had been consensual and you had only feigned force so he would not get into trouble with his family?'
Remus's eyes widened in horror. 'He didn't?'
'He did,' James confirmed. 'But his family did not believe him. The doctor has convinced them that he is hysterical, appropriately so after such a trauma. They have put him under further house arrest and medication until he calms down, which is why he has phoned for my help. Though I was surprised he had not done so sooner.' James sighed heavily and leaned back against the seat. 'My Father is the Minister of Criminal Justice, Lupin, and while it is far from difficult, I have enough hand and position to have you smuggled out of prison. It is not without cost; there is another man in your pen right now, waiting to be punished for your crimes.'
Remus gasped. 'Is he-'
'He is not innocent,' James interrupted with a wave of his hand. 'He was awaiting a fate far worse than yours and only begged to be given a painless death. We have kindly granted his wish.'
Remus felt sick.
'I've bought you your belongings in that suitcase,' James pointed to his right and sure enough, a large suitcase stood there with its locks secured in place. 'You will also find a bag inside it with some money and a ticket to Cardiff. I've also included an address and a phone number. He's an old friend of mine. His theatre is not as big as the one here in London, but it is well loved. You will not have much room for complaint.'
Remus knew what James was attempting to do, but his thoughts and emotions were so overwhelmed that he had a hard time comprehending the true meaning of James's words. Instead, he looked from the suitcase carrying his provisions to James, who was still calmly explaining the arrangements that had been made for him. 'Sirius,' he croaked out finally, his voice coming thick with tears. He did not understand the significance of his freedom if James had not accounted for Sirius in his elaborate master plan. 'Please, just once, if I could see him…to say good bye. I wasn't able to say good bye the last time. If I could-'
'Remus,' James scolded, a heavy hand falling to his shoulder. 'There are limits to my power, do you understand that? I have great respect for you, and I also owe you an unrepayable debt: that of Sirius's life and my union with Lily.' He squeezed Remus's shoulder gently. 'I do not doubt that you love Sirius. You have sacrificed your life and your dignity as a man for him. I also never disapproved of the nature of your relationship, contrary to what Sirius may have you believe. I simply disapproved of the risk that came with it. Perhaps one day when I am in my father's position, I can change that. But today, this is as far as my limits can take me.' James took hold of both of Remus's hands in his. 'If you truly care for Sirius, then forget him. Forget what transpired between you so that neither of you can come in harm's way again.'
Remus did not think he could ever forget Sirius. His heart ached just from the thought of it.
'Leave and let him live, Remus.'
Sirius's knees buckled underneath him and had James not been prepared to catch him, he would have fallen to the floor. 'No,' he whispered, clutching James's shirt like a drowning man. 'No, you're lying. James, please, tell me you're lying.'
James would never tell Sirius that, no matter how true it was. Instead, he shook his head and spoke his rehearsed explanation. 'I am sorry, Sirius. It was beyond my control. He has been accused of raping the first born and heir of the House of Black. Your father let him no room for mercy – he was neither given trial nor the privilege of being treated like a human being.' This was not a lie. James himself had been witness to Remus's abuse and subsequent denial to food and water. 'I arrived too late to do anything.'
Sirius shook his head desperately. 'I don't believe you. I don't believe you. He can't die. Not him. He did nothing wrong!' His pale grey eyes, hollowed from days of insomnia, looked at James pleadingly. 'Take me to him. Let me see the body. There could be a mistake. Surely, that falls under your jurisdiction.'
'Sirius, there is no mistake.'
'Take me to him either way. I want to see him. He did not have a family of his own. Let me at least honour him in death and give him the burial he deserves.'
James swallowed heavily, unable to tolerate the tremours that wracked Sirius's body. Even in his worst imaginations, he did not imagine a scenario where Sirius would react so badly, so desperately. It was unbearable and James was a hair breadths away from confessing the truth. 'Sirius, please…'
'Can you do nothing, James?' Sirius screamed, pushing James away and crumpling to the floor with his face buried in his hands. 'I am not asking you for any great favours; only to bring him to me, where he belongs!' A heavy sob punctuated the silence that followed. 'I can't forget his face, James. The last I saw him, his eyes were full of fright and I could do nothing to protect him!' Sirius's body curled in on itself tightly, like a wounded child. 'Please, James, I beg of you. Give me the chance to gaze upon him and tell him I love him one last time.'
'I can't.' James answered quickly, before he lost his nerve. He was supposed to have hardened his heart before entering into this conversation; then why did he feel so vulnerable under Sirius's pleas. 'I'm sorry, Sirius. There is no body. It was burned on your father's command.'
James would never be able to forget Sirius's despaired wail for the rest of his life; it would harrow into the deepest of his memories and seed itself with regret. In the months to come, he would hear Sirius's cries echo in his ears every night in his sleep, and a single thought would haunt him: had he destroyed his friend in an attempt to save his life?
Lily Potter's gaze lifted upwards to the stairs. 'Is that…?'
Regulus Black, second son of Walburga and Orion Black and younger brother of Sirius Black, nodded. 'Yes. It will pass, though you might have to wait for fifteen minutes to the least. You can come in, if you prefer. Mother and Father aren't home and I will request our maid, Kreacher, not to speak of it.'
He held the door open for her, taking her coat courteously and handing it over to the maid with a nod. She had never met with Regulus before, but James had been accurate in his description of him. He was much like Sirius in his looks, but lacked the warmth and charm of Sirius's personality. Yet, despite his cool demeanor, he had been nothing but a gentleman to her since she'd contacted him. It had been a shock for Lily Evans, given his upbringing and the hostility his parents had shown her during the wedding. She wondered if his amiability was borne out of his desperation; she had after all offered a possible solution to his brother's sickness. James would say so, but Lily doubted it. She had seen the way the boy treated the servants with kindness and respect, and took him as a man of true honour and character.
Lily shook her head, feeling too sick to drink anything. She did not understand how Regulus could sit so calmly and sip his tea. She did not understand how it could not affect him; and then she noticed his trembling hands as he struggled to hold his tea cup and realised that he was pulling a poor façade of indifference. 'James has told me about Sirius many times, but I did not expect it to sound so…'
Regulus laughed bitterly. 'Loud? Miserable? Mad?'
'Haunting…' Lily finished, shivering as another wail ripped through the room. 'Thank you, Regulus, for agreeing to my offer.'
'It does not stop; the crying. They call it melancholia. Father calls it madness.' Regulus swallowed and set down his cup. 'We have tried to lull him with medication, but he vomits it out. He shakes, and screams, and cries, and cries – it is simply unbearable to watch.' Regulus covered his eyes with his hand, ashamed of the tears that had sprung. 'He has tried to kill himself twice. The doctor has asked us to remove all sharp objects from his room; even things he may break. But if he continues this, we will have to restrain him to the bed. I ask you, Mrs. Potter, what kind of brother I would be if I let them chain him like an animal. I will be truthful, I do not trust you and I do not understand what you are attempting to do. But I am desperate and you are offering a solution that does not strip him of his humanity.'
'The answer is in Cardiff, I promise you,' Lily reassured. 'I cannot tell you more, I'm afraid. But I can tell you that my husband is the inadvertent cause of this. He has blamed himself for nearly a year, but does not have the capacity to right it. Men are foolish, after all.' She leaned in, laying a hand over Regulus' hand though she knew it was inappropriate. 'I have left my child with my parents, despite my heart aching to not let him go. This is not a lark. Let me take Sirius with me, Regulus, and I promise you he will be cured.'
Regulus pulled his hand away, a slight blush tinting his cheeks. 'Will he return?'
'No,' Lily replied bluntly. 'But he will be safe.'
Regulus nodded. 'I'll have his bags sent to your car. Sirius will be too weak to walk on his own so Kreacher will help you bring him down. Do not think I am trusting you, Mrs. Potter. I will expect letters or a phone call, updating me on Sirius's health. If I suspect foul play, so help me God, you will not be dealt with kindly.'
'Mrs. Potter, running away with another man without the knowledge of her husband. Whatever will people say?'
Lily sighed, closing the compartment door behind her. 'Nothing kind, I suppose, but few kind words have been directed towards me since my marriage to James.' Her gaze flickered to the untouched lunch she had left in front of him before excusing herself to the loo. She had been reluctant to leave him, even though she had been cautious enough to give him nothing sharper than a spoon.
He was fragile; more so than James had described to her every night after he returned from visiting the Black heir. Lily had last seen Sirius ten months ago at her wedding where he had been best man. It had been a month after Remus's supposed death and while he had been extremely distraught, Sirius had been of sound body and mind. He had been a perfect best man; he had made a charming speech, laughed and smiled, and even danced with Lily. James had been happy that day, she remembered. Not only because of their union but also because he had assumed that Sirius was finally able to look past his loss. They later realised that Sirius's sickness came only in sporadic bursts; seconds of despair within normality, where he found himself spiraling towards uncontrollable grief. It is not something Sirius can control, James had explained one night. Think of when you realised that you might have to rid of our child and the despair you felt afterwards. It weighs heavy in your heart. Your sadness left you when I asked you to marry me, but Sirius's sadness only grows like plague.
'Here,' Lily urged, spooning a few carrots. 'Eat up.' She pushed the spoon past his lips, feeling more like a mother than she ever had with her own child. She smiled encouragingly when Sirius reluctantly chewed his food. 'We will have something proper when we get to Cardiff,' she promised. She did not mention that she also intended to have a long chat with him about Remus and what her husband had done. She knew she being a fool; she had never seen Remus and only knew him through James's accounts of the past. She had no true plan; only that she would tell Sirius the truth and take him to where Remus worked in the theatre.
'There was a place we would go to sometimes,' Sirius spoke softly, 'far from the city and away from prying eyes. He never complained when I lay my head on his lap; only laughed and recited sonnets and verses from the play he was practicing for.' Lily felt her heart clench as tears pooled in Sirius's eyes. 'He was always given the female roles; and we joked about it. I was his prince, he would say, and push grapes into my mouth as a lark.' He laughed bitterly as he wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. 'You must find me strange; talking of another man this way. James cannot tolerate it.'
Lily pulled her handkerchief and wiped his eyes gently. 'There is nothing strange in speaking of the one you love, and you loved him immensely.'
'I did not love him enough!' Sirius spat, pushing her hand away. 'I am forgetting him, Lily,' he choked. 'Some days, I struggle to remember his face; the sound of his voice; the smell of his skin; the touch of his hands. Months I was with him; yet he has left me nothing to remember him by. Not a photograph, or a letter, or a single article of clothing. I fear, someday, he might leave my memory all together and be nothing but a dream in this world of nightmares.'
Lily did not know what to say. If she were to be honest, she was afraid Sirius would be going into another episode. She did not want to have to explain the situation to the train conductor; she doubted he would understand. A small part of her mind wondered if she should tell Sirius the truth right now; if that would relieve him of his misery. But she had no control of the situation in an environment such as this and feared what drastic action Sirius might take. He was so brittle, she was afraid he would break if she did not reveal the truth with utmost care. It is only a few more hours, she assured herself as she took Sirius into her arms and held him as he cried. Only a few more hours till they reach Cardiff and she would tell him everything.
Lily's plan had gone swimmingly as well, all the way up to Cardiff. Sirius had blessedly slept the rest of the way and Lily had taken the time to open her diary, where she stored all her phone numbers, to find Frank Longbottom's. Frank was an old classmate of James and Sirius's. James had mentioned that the Longbottoms were very eccentric and different from the other old families. They held no puritan values, loved song and dance, and made friends with commoners and the rich alike. Frank's mother, who was now approaching sixty, was known to always sport a silly vulture hat and a fox's pelt across her shoulders. When they had stopped in the small pub in North Road, Lily had only intended to borrow their phone to contact Frank. She had not known that Frank's theatre was only four blocks from that very pub. Nor had she known that it was often frequented by the very man they were looking for: Remus John Lupin.
Kismet, many would call it.
Lily would rather call it a disaster.
It started with Sirius's tremors and his whispered words, 'Lily, I can see him.' His hands clutched at his hair. 'I must truly be going mad. God, Lily, he looks so real. I can see him.' He clenched his eyes tightly shut in an effort to blind himself and thus, leaving Lily clueless as to exactly where Remus Lupin was. She had underestimated, unfortunately, the number of brown haired men in Cardiff. 'Help me, Lily, please,' Sirius cried, burying his face in his arms and sobbing. 'Make it stop. I cannot live like this…I cannot breathe…'
'Sirius, listen to me…' She placed her hands on his, shocked to see that he had dug his nails far enough to draw blood. Fear gripped her as she wondered how far Sirius would go when there was no Regulus or James to stop him. She had no choice. 'Sirius, James lied.' Lily lifted his face, holding it firmly in her hands. 'Listen to me, the Remus you see is not a hallucination. He is real. Listen!' Pale grey eyes finally focused, though still disbelieving. 'James lied. It is why I brought you to Cardiff without his consent. He did not mean any harm; he was only trying to protect you. Remus is-'
Lily never got to finish her explanation, as Sirius stood up abruptly and ran towards what Lily could only assume was Remus Lupin. It had completely slipped her mind, but James had once mentioned that Remus made for a very beautiful woman. She had not calculated in her plans that Remus would be a woman when they would finally meet. Lily had also imagined a much more grandeur reunion much like the novels she read, wherein true love would sweep them off their feet and end in a passionate embrace. She had not at all anticipated Sirius to yell, 'you bastard!' and deliver a strong fist into his Remus's face.
All in all, Lily was beginning to think there was a reason her husband always begged her not to meddle into the affairs of others.
Remus had never held anyone so tightly his entire life, but he feared that Sirius would disappear if he should loosen his hold the slightest. It had happened before many times in his dreams, though he did have a shining bruise on his face served to remind him that this was very much a reality. Remus wondered if Sirius would have hit him again if Remus had not wound his arms around him in a tight and desperate embrace. People had stared, but Remus had stopped caring many months ago after James had pushed him out of Sirius's life. It was Lily Potter who had brought them away from prying eyes and into Remus's small home, struggling to coax directions from the distraught man. Remus never even had the chance to thank her, so entranced he had been in having Sirius in his arms again.
'Why would you do something so cruel?'
'I did not know,' Remus explained for the sixth time. He could not bear Sirius's tears, but did not know how to make them stop when his own were flowing so freely. 'I promise you, I did not know. James had not told me your side of his design. I imagined that you wanted to do away with me as much as he did, after what had happened.'
'A year, Remus,' Sirius cried, 'a year, I thought you dead. You cannot even begin to comprehend the pain that settled in my heart. I blamed myself constantly, reliving that morning and wondering what I could have done differently. Every day, I found myself closer and closer to wondering if death would be better than to live in a world without you.' His fingers dug painfully into Remus's back. 'How could you harbour such thoughts when, without you, I suffered hell?'
'Could you not have written me a letter? Phoned me at the least? Did I not even cross your mind even once?'
'No!' Remus protested, burying his face into Sirius's hair. 'That's not it. James had requested me not to! There were conditions and if I-'
'I don't care about James!' Sirius screamed and he pushed against Remus's chest in an attempt to move away, but Remus held him steadfast. He would not be letting Sirius go again, even if it would have to come to force. Remus could not tolerate losing him a second time. 'I am asking about you! I am asking if you thought of me at all while you restarted your new life, with your new house and new friends. You must have been thrilled to be rid of me; a chance to be truly happy without having this wretched curse of sodomy hanging above your head!'
'I have not been happy a single day until today!' Remus screamed, shaking Sirius's shoulders roughly. 'You say I am being cruel, but your words cut far deeper than mine! Even if it was a mistake on my part, everything I did, I did to protect you! I left because if I had stayed, I knew your family would not spare you. I left because I would rather lead a life of suffering than to see you hurt. I left because I loved you!' And then, Remus did what he had been aching to do since he had first seen Sirius in the pub: he kissed him. What he could not explain through words, he tried with his body. The pull of his lips told Sirius that Remus wanted him closer; the sweep of his tongue told Sirius that he was Remus's alone; the hand that held explored under Sirius's shirt across his chest and back told Sirius that Remus had not forgotten.
And when they joined together once again as one, it was Remus's way of telling Sirius that they would never be apart again.
'I hope you don't mind. I used your telephone. I needed to make sure Harry, my son, was not causing too much of a kerfuffle.'
Remus closed the bedroom door behind me. 'Please, feel free. If anything, I should be thanking you.' He waited for Lily to sit down before joining her in the lounge. 'I cannot believe James allowed you to come with Sirius this far. Last we spoke, he was adamant that I forget everything that took place in London.' He smiled bitterly. 'I was considered too dangerous for Sirius; a threat to his life and happiness.'
'My husband does not know I am here.'
Remus's jaw dropped in shock. 'Dear God, woman!' he cried. 'If I was not on bad terms with James already, this will surely have him come for my blood!' He stood up, pacing twice in front of the warm fire before walking away.
'Where are you going?' Lily asked, following after him. 'What are you doing?'
'I am doing what any Englishman would do in a time of extreme crisis, Mrs. Potter: I am making myself a cup of tea!' Remus cried, setting the water on boil as soon as he reached the kitchen. 'I am having a frightful day. I have been cast as woman yet again in our latest play; been hit by the man I love who was also made to believe that I had died; and now I am about to be killed by a man who will surely think that I have kidnapped his wife! For heaven's sake, how long does it take for tea to boil?' He slammed his empty cup down on the table in frustration. 'Lily, while I am very grateful of your presence in Cardiff and all that you have done for me, I must ask you to leave this very moment.'
'And should I also take Sirius with me?' Lily asked calmly, effectively stopping Remus dead in his tracks. 'I did not think so,' she replied with a smug smile. 'Remus, I have not come here to pay you a visit. James is away for the week and I saw this as an opportunity to right his wrongs. My husband is not an unkind man; only foolish.' She gently moved him aside so that she could take over his tea making. 'I've come because Sirius is ill.'
Remus's heart clenched in fear. It had not escaped his notice that Sirius did not look as healthy as Remus had last saw him. He had pinned Sirius's thin and sallow appearance to the long journey and had not given it much thought afterwards. 'Ill?' He looked towards the bedroom door, behind which Sirius lay in deep sleep. 'What is wrong with him?'
Lily poured the tea into two cups, stirring in the sugar and milk. 'Grief, I think,' she replied. 'Though the doctors call it Melancholia. He is uncontrollable in his sadness. I came here with him as a last measure; he has tried to pull a Van Gogh, I'm afraid.' She touched Remus's hands gently when they started to shake. 'I promised his brother that he would be cured, but truthfully, I am not sure. I am sure, however, that he will be happier with you than tied to a bed like a madman.'
Remus found he could no longer control his shaking and put his tea cup away in fear of breaking it. The very thought of losing Sirius forever had bile burning his throat. 'What can I do?' he asked Lily, clutching her hands tightly within his. 'I will not have him return but I can't guarantee his happiness here. His family will surely look for him.'
'As much as it pains me to say this, they will be happy to be rid of him. The Blacks are being mocked and ostracized for having a mad heir. They hide him in his room in shame. If it were not for his brother, Sirius would have been sent away many months ago.'
Remus swallowed his anger over Sirius's mistreatment. Despite prior knowledge, the penchant for cruelty in the Black family never failed to boil his blood. 'He is used to the lifestyle of the rich. I cannot give him what he desires,' Remus argued again, shaking his head.
'He desires only love, you of all people should know that.'
'Love between men is not looked upon much differently here than in London. There will always be a fear of getting caught and a constant need to hide.'
'If you are so dictated by fear, then you are a lesser man that I thought, Remus Lupin,' Lily scolded harshly, her green eyes burning into his. 'If you will only make excuses, then I will take Sirius back with me. He has fought his battles long and hard; he does not deserve to be burdened by the fears of a coward. But if you truly love him, then fight.'
She really was a remarkable woman, Remus thought. The passion in her eyes only mimicked by her fiery red hair and the adamant flush of her cheeks. If he were a different man, he would have fallen for her instantaneously. 'Please do not think of me as inappropriate,' Remus requested before pulling her into his arms and holding her tightly. He could not express his gratitude or his awe at her fearlessness any other way. He kissed her lightly on the cheek and was about to give her a final answer when another voice from behind them spoke up:
'I'm not leaving.' Sirius stood against the doorframe swathed in nothing but Remus's white bed sheets that slid off his right shoulder and was transparent enough to leave little to the imagination.
'Oh my,' Lily exclaimed, flushing and looking away.
'I do not care if I am an inconvenience to you, you cannot make me leave. I won't.'
'No.' Remus smiled at Sirius's petulance. 'You won't.'
'Is Remus not in?'
'Is that why you're here? And here I was thinking that you'd come such a long way to meet an old friend!' Frank Longbottom despaired, opening the doors wider to let both James and Lily in. 'Please, come in! Your wife is even lovelier in person,' he complimented as he pulled a chair for Lily. 'Though not fairer than mine.' Frank pulled another chair for his wife, Alice, next; bending to kiss his infant son on the forehead once they'd sat.
'You look lovely, Alice,' Lily commented, reaching out to play with the boy in Alice's arms. 'His name is Neville, isn't it? James reads Frank's letters aloud. Such a coincidence that both our babes were born on the same day.' She let out a delighted laugh when Neville gripped her finger tightly and gurgled. 'My, he's precious.'
'Do you happen to know where Remus is?' James asked Frank directly, letting the women busy themselves with baby talk.
Frank shrugged. 'He asked to be relieved of this week's play. He claimed to be tired of playing female roles and would like to spend a week in trousers instead of a skirt. Such a shame; the actor replacing him is terrible. Already he has ripped two of our finer dresses. He refuses to shave his beard as well; he is absolutely painful to watch.' Suddenly, his eyes widened in horror. 'You do not think he is going to leave, do you?' He grabbed James's shoulders and squeezed painfully. 'You are a good friend of his, are you not? You must know if he is planning to leave.'
'For God's sake, Frank,' Alice snapped. 'I told you, he isn't leaving.'
Frank paid her no heed. 'It is difficult to get a man this slight in Cardiff! Half the young lads in town come to see him alone!' He shook James vigorously in panic. 'My sales haven't been this high since I started! James, this is a dire situation, you must tell me!'
'Frank, I told you, it is a woman.'
If James had any sense of propriety and decency, he would not have laughed. Unfortunately, while he was a perfect gentleman most days, some habits were harder to be rid of. He laughed heartily until tears were streaming down his eyes, and only reluctantly slowed to a chuckle when his wife glared at him mutinously. 'I apologise, Alice,' he said in between snorts of laughter that was bubbling forth. 'I meant no offense.' Alice did not look like she had taken offense. She bore a condescending expression that stated that she was much more knowledgeable on such matters than either of them. 'I simply don't think your theory is probable.'
'You will find that it is, Mr. Potter,' she replied haughtily, crossing her arms across her chest. 'I've been observing him for the past few months-'
Frank made an indignant noise.
'Platonically, of course,' Alice assured her husband hurriedly, though the blush colouring her cheeks said otherwise. 'Frank, you've noticed, haven't you, how his character portrayals are much brighter now, like a man drunk on love.' She smiled proudly when Frank nodded in affirmation. 'He's been laughing much more these days, as well, and never refuses a good meal like he used to earlier. He loves my shepherd's pie. Always asks to take some home,' she confided in Lily, placing a hand on her arm. 'Only love can bring such happiness to a man, Mr. Potter; that is what I believe.'
'We can't argue with that, James,' Lily added, sharing a secret smile with him.
James said nothing. Alice was right of course, and so was Lily. It was the reason he had come to Cardiff; to apologise for his betrayal and lies. Lily had convinced him to come, after much trying 'Do you happen to know who this woman is then, Alice?' he asked, curiosity getting the better of him. He chose to ignore Lily's glare. He wanted to know if Remus was being as safe as he promised Lily he would be, and protecting Sirius. 'Provided that your theory is accurate, of course.'
Alice coloured. 'Remus would not tell me when I asked,' she admitted. 'And Frank has advised me not to pry into other's personal matters.
'Men do not keep secrets without reason,' Frank explained, justifying his request. 'If Remus is truly with a woman, there is a reason he is keeping the affair quiet. I would not want to be responsible for any unhappiness that he might suffer as a consequence of our curiosity.' Frank smiled, unaware of the escalated sense of respect James suddenly felt for his old classmate. 'Alice thinks I'm being unreasonable, but you understand, don't you, James. After all, you had kept Lily a secret for years and it allowed your love to blossom.'
James caught Lily's bright green eyes, feeling a smile tug at the corner of his lips. 'Of course,' he whispered, remembering the long months he had initially spent trying to woo her. Suddenly, the guilt he felt regarding his betrayal to Sirius magnified. Thus far, he had only felt liable for Sirius's illness as a result of his lies, despite all of Lily's reasoning. Now, however, he felt he had failed as a best friend to understand Sirius entirely. James had not made an effort to realise that Sirius's feelings might not have been very different from his own; nor had be understood the motivation behind Sirius's apparently unreasonable and foolish actions. James's gut wrenched painfully when he realised he had treated Sirius much like the Black family had. James had assumed what was best for his friend and forced him to follow his ideals. He had condemned when he should have supported.
James broke out of his reverie to see Lily standing above him with a concerned look on her face. 'We should leave. Let's try Remus's house again. We might find him there. If not, we'll return tomorrow.' She held his arm as he stood up silently. 'Thank you Frank, Alice. It was lovely meeting you.'
As Frank walked them to the door, he asked in a concerned voice. 'You will inform me if Remus truly is leaving, won't you?'
'I don't think Sirius would want to see me,' James finally voiced his fears when they had reached the front of Remus's small cottage. He stared at the front door, apprehension, fear, and dread mixing together and causing havoc in his innards. 'He must despise me.'
Lily's hand slipped into his. The smile she wore was kind and consoling. 'We have discussed this, James.'
James shook his head, pulling away from her. 'I can't do this. He will not want to talk to me or see me, and I simply cannot bear that. Please, Lily,' he begged, 'let's just leave.'
'James?' James felt his stomach drop as he turned around to see Remus and Sirius standing behind him. They must have gone for a picnic, judging by the small wicker basket in Sirius's left hand and the visible green grass stains of their trousers. Sirius's right hand was encased within Remus's left, and upon seeing James's gaze linger there, Remus's hold tightened imperceptibly. James wondered if Remus was afraid James would attempt to separate them again. 'What are you doing here?' Sirius asked, blinking in surprise.
He looked well, James realised. Sirius looked much like the person James had grown up with. He was no longer pale and gaunt as James had last seen him; and his grey eyes were alight with life once again. Happiness had suited him well, it seemed. 'I've come to visit an old friend,' James replied with a tentative smile, hoping against all hopes that Sirius would not turn him away.
Even whilst Sirius had been ill, he had always welcomed James with a weak smile and a pat on the back. Now, however, he simply stood there, his face an impassive mask. A small flicker of hope lit inside him when Sirius moved forward, dropping Remus's hand; but that, too, quickly died down as Remus stepped in front of Sirius as if protecting him. The expression on Remus's face was wary and challenging; like a wolf furiously protecting its kin.
James looked at his wife for help, but she only offered him an encouraging nudge in the shoulder. 'I've also come to apologise and…' his eyes levelled with Remus's defiant ones, '…and make new friends.'
He should have done this sooner, James realised, as Sirius suddenly barreled into him with great force and hugged him like a friend long lost. James should have listened to Lily's constant pestering about making amends and approached Sirius much earlier. Judging by Sirius's embrace, he had been missed greatly. Remus's warm smile told James that he had been forgiven. And watching the both of them stand together as one – as Remus and Sirius – told James that love really did conquer all.
Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind.
A/N: I'm not dead. I've just been caught up with life and sort of out of it really. I recently had an urge to read some Wolfstar and found so few stories on! So this is my way of making up for all the straight fics that suddenly seemed to have cropped up. R/S forever!
Hope everyone liked this little story, though it's ridiculously long. Don't forget to review! Cheers!