Written for the Quidditch League Fanfiction Competition.
Harpies Chaser 3: an angsty story using the prompt 'love letter' (object)
Prompts: 2. Fetch, 9. Telephone, 12. Poetry Book
Word count: 2, 994
a/n: This is a muggle!au set in university. I also chose to interpret love letter as a love poem because the sentiment is all the same and it still is a confession of sorts.
Translation of title: Don't Touch Me
Noli Me Tangere
Because I liked you better,
Than suits a man to say,
It irked you, and I promised
To throw the thought away
Because I Liked You - A.E Housman
Remus often compares himself to a tree. An oak tree with a sturdy trunk and a resolve that doesn't waver; never moving from its place because it knows exactly where it belongs and what it needs to live.
When he was a boy, his mother told him, "There are things you can't have," and he nodded. He had understood then and he understood now.
Back then, the things he couldn't have consisted of new toys and new clothes, but now, it consisted of wanting more.
Of wanting Sirius.
Of wanting what is forbidden and out of reach.
The things he can have are more than he'd ever hoped to obtain. (Those crooked smiles sent his way by Sirius filled with love—the platonic kind but love nonetheless. The unbreakable bond between himself and James that had the latter man moving mountains just to make him happy. Peter's trust and admiration, and Lily's support and friendship are always there for him whenever he needs them.) For the most part, it is enough.
And even though Remus isn't one to ask for more, he can't help what wants. Remus has already accepted the fact that his love will never be returned, but that doesn't stop himself from feeling. It's only human nature to want what you can't have—to want something that isn't yours. So he denies human nature itself and keeps his mouth shut, lest a mouthful of moremoremore escape his lips—escape the locked box he's put his heart in.
Sirius, of course, is the exception.
The exception to his very own character. Remus could have chosen to fall in love with James instead; that would've been far easier to deal with because everyone loves James. Even Lily for all the complaining she does is probably a little in love with James too.
But, no, Remus had to fall in love with Sirius—the one person people know to steer away from because Sirius screams of trouble and danger. Because it's so very, very easy for Sirius to slip through your fingers until he's gone and all that's left is the imprint of warmth on your palm.
It hurts more than words can say when he watches James lean forward from his spot on the couch to whisper into Sirius' ears and watch how Sirius throws his head back, laughing with his entire body. And when the two stand, sharing conspiratorial smiles, tripping over themselves to leave the common room, murmuring out hurried goodbyes, all he does is watch.
Because Remus is a tree and Sirius is a river.
Sirius is a clear running stream like the ones described in the poetry books he loves so dearly—sharp water guzzling as it tumbles on the rocks. It doesn't matter if Remus' roots stretch and stretch because they will never reach the river, unlike James. James, in Remus' grand metaphor of life, is probably a deer. A deer that is free to lap at the satisfying water Sirius provides and drink as much as he wants.
Three hours pass before Remus manages to stop himself from glancing at the end of the hallway every five minutes; the two never return.
What Remus likes in Sirius (he can try and squelch his feelings, but it's been a long time since 'liking' has turned into 'loving') is everything he isn't. It's the recklessness and boldness. It's the loud laughter and the never-ending jokes. It's the way Sirius never trusts but has fallen in love with James like jumping off a plane—flailing and limbs askew but with full confidence that he'll land safely because it's James and Sirius has never been more certain of any other person in his life.
James has chosen to fall off that plane too, and Sirius and James are holding hands as their parachutes open and they drift through the sky. They will fall and fall—the harsh wind will try and sway them, try and break the two apart—but they will land together despite it all. Remus is also falling, but his parachute has failed to work and the landing will most certainly kill him.
"Stop thinking so hard or you'll have brain damage," Sirius teases from across the library table, his foot nudging Remus' own. Remus gives him a sheepish smile, unaware that he's been staring at a spot in the ceiling for 15 minutes now. The pair have chosen to hole themselves up in the library to study for their individual midterm exams. James and Lily are currently in their shared anatomy class, and Peter declined their offer to study and chose to play FIFA instead.
In truth, Remus wonders if he imagined the pitiful glance Peter sent his way when he saw Sirius in tow and quickly said no. Peter observes more than Remus gives him credit for; he's got to be careful.
After another wave of silence and page-turning, Sirius sighs dramatically and lays his upper body on the table, hands spreading out dangerously close to Remus' own. If Remus moves his hand two centimeters up, their fingers would be touching. "I give up. Who needs to learn about all the exceptions and cases to the Exclusionary Rule? I've been staring at this page for over half an hour, not that you've noticed with your daydreaming," Sirius complains, a little too loud for the library, pushing his bottom lip out in a sullen expression.
Remus wants to kiss his pout away.
"Sorry," he says instead, gingerly lifting his hand and patting Sirius' head. He'll allow himself to card his fingers through Sirius' long, wavy hair because that's about all he can do. If his heart swells because Sirius leans into his touch and preens then that's nobody else's business. "Wanna take a break?"
"I've been waiting for you to say that ages ago," Sirius cheers, sitting up and shoving his books into his bag. He laughs off the Madame Pince's warning and blows her a kiss.
With a small smile, Remus begins putting his books away. They can go to that new frozen yogurt place he's seen near campus. He thinks Sirius would enjoy that place a lot. Maybe he'll even give Remus that wonderful crinkly-eyed smile.
"Lads!" Remus' hands falter at the booming voice of James Potter and he almost drops his textbook. He glances up and sees Lily and James enter the library. James earns himself one of Madame Pince's famous scoldings, but the old librarian has, too, been taken in by James for her voice to even be considered harsh. "Hurry up!"
He watches as Sirius' entire expression changes and how he rushes to the entrance to throw himself into James' waiting arms. He's like an eager little puppy; if James tells him to fetch, Sirius'll probably do it. When Remus reaches the trio, he greets them and makes a dry remark about how they weren't even studying that long for Sirius to be rattling off complaints in James' ear.
It's all he can do to have Sirius focus on him for at least one second before his attention is taken away by James again.
(And he's really not bitter if James suggests they go to that frozen yogurt shop and Sirius cries, "You know exactly what I needed. Thanks, love," and presses a quick kiss to James' cheek.)
Sirius is close.
Of course, close is never too close for Remus, but he fears that Sirius will hear how fast his heart is beating. That Sirius will hear the way Remus' entire body thrums with want.
"Do you love me?"
Sirius' lips are curled into a small smirk and his eyes are shining with mischief. His entire side is pressed up against Remus' and he's radiating heat. Remus can feel the agonizing pain where Sirius' arm is casually thrown around his shoulders; he enjoys the scorching burn.
"I do," Remus replies followed with a heavy sigh. If he pretends to be exasperated, maybe it won't feel so raw—so true—he tells himself.
"Love me more," Sirius whines, in the nonsensical way he is. It's just a joke, just an offhand comment meant to sway Remus' stance on going out on a Wednesday night, but it hits him straight in between his lungs. Sirius has always had that way of knocking the air out of him.
But I can't love you more, Remus thinks wildly when Sirius removes his arm to ask Frank the same question.
He's already carved out his heart from his chest and wrapped it in a bow to give to Sirius.
A present that remains unopened to this day.
"Then it's settled," Sirius says with conviction. He pulls Remus to his feet and Remus blindly gets up. "Since all of you love me so very much, we're going to the pub and getting smashed. There's only so much about the law one can study."
"The RA is gonna have our asses if we make noise at 3 in the morning again," Peter complains, even as he ties his shoelaces. "It was so embarrassing to be told off in front of Mary!"
Sirius shushes him. "Then we just won't make noise, easy."
Remus snorts. Sirius is incapable of being quiet—the river's current is strong and loud and drags off any person who happens to fall into it, or any one of Remus' leaves that fall on top of the water and drift off in the endless stream.
"Tosser." Sirius shoves him and goes off to collect more unfortunate victims for their pub trip.
Perhaps it's the Literature major in Remus that has him placing a hand over his heart—the spot Sirius just touched—and imagining a world where he can just stay and burn in this heat all day.
Sometimes Remus wishes he didn't remember how he met Sirius.
He thinks about the life before Sirius because his life can be summed up in two parts: before Sirius and after Sirius. Before Sirius had waltzed into his life, Remus was content with spending the nights alone in his room, reading and studying in the library, and hanging out with Lily and his few other friends sometimes at the cheap pub nearby. He's never had the best health and he was in and out the hospital until recently so he'd never known anything other than the small few, loyal friends he made when he reached university.
Until Sirius came into his life on an uneventful Tuesday afternoon.
Remus had been in the library, grueling over Love by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and shaking his head at the absurdity of it. In fact, this entire poetry book his class was assigned to was all about romantic love and whatnot. He had trouble connecting to the text. Love poems were always so dramatic. He had crushes here and there, but nothing everlasting and timeless like these feelings the poems seemed to be raving about.
What he hadn't expected was for a man to drop his things noisily and messily and sit in the empty seat at his table. He glanced at the rather handsome man who smirked back at him. He sent Remus a wink and leaned forward on his elbows, tossing his black long hair.
"Look, you have something I need," the man began, motioning to the small pile of books Remus had selected and set aside. Remus frowned and opened his mouth to explain that he was very sorry, but Remus needed it for his essay when the man put up a hand. "I'm willing to trade for it."
Remus raised a brow. "Excuse me?"
The man laughed, head thrown back, and pointed at the Shakespeare sonnet book sitting on top of his pile. "If you give me that book, I'll give an adventure."
"I don't understand," Remus replied, brows furrowing. "An adventure?"
A twinkle in Sirius' grey orbs and a flash of teeth was all it took for Remus to pack his things up, hand over the poetry book, and follow Sirius blindly (like always, like now) out of the library and into the unknown.
He had been a fool back then, and he's a fool now.
Remus' first kiss with Sirius is in a dark and sweaty club.
There's too many people that it almost feels suffocating. Lily is off with Marlene in the restroom, Peter is nervously trying to chat up Mary, and James is half-hidden in the dark, his hands splayed on a black-haired woman's hips. Only the two of them are left in the table, Remus nursing his drink in his hands, and Sirius downing the rest of everyone's abandoned drinks.
"I think I like you," Sirius says, cheeks flushed and eyes dark. He's sitting right next to Remus; their thighs are touching.
His heart catches in his throat and he has to swallow before he can respond. "Really?" he murmurs, turning his head towards Sirius. His heart's practically soaring when Sirius does the same.
"Yes," Sirius replies before crashing their lips together.
There's a fire burning inside of Remus like the flames of a thousand suns and all those other love comparisons he's never related to. But, now, Remus thinks as his lips have had a taste of Sirius, he understands those fancy and grand words about timeless and overwhelming love.
He's riding a high all the way until Sirius leans back and sighs.
"No," Sirius whispers, shaking his head and gently placing a hand on Remus' cheek. He has a dopey smile on his face. "We're not meant for that kind of love. Love is fireworks and sparks, but that's not us."
What are you talking about? Remus wants to scream. I felt it. Felt the sparks. Felt like I was dying.
Sirius lets his head rest on Remus' shoulder. "We're still friends, aren't we?"
"How could we ever not be," Remus croaks out, bile threatening to rise from his throat.
He's not even finished his first drink.
There are times when it gets to be too much to handle.
Times where he needs a moment to collect himself, to stop being so darn sensible, to be delusional, to believe that if he wanted he still could.
(Of course, he can't. It's James and Sirius, Sirius and James and they've always been together. Remus can't even begin to imagine a world where the two would be apart.)
Remus wants to shake himself silly and force himself to fall out of love. Remus is angry, frustrated at himself and Sirius. He's frustrated at Sirius for letting him fall in love—for trapping him in maybes and what ifs when there's only ever been one possible endgame for him and that's James.
And that's the truth of the matter: it's always been James.
James was there from the beginning and he's not leaving. Ever.
It's only James who knows about Sirius' dark days and the reason Sirius decided to pursue law. It's only James who manages to give Sirius those sweet kisses that have Sirius' entire body limp complacently. Only James who ignites those fireworks by a simple look when Remus has so desperately tried with entire boxes of matches.
Remus is frustrated at his own cowardliness; his own feelings.
"Don't judge it too harshly," Remus warns, trying to keep his voice even and not sound like it's on the verge of breaking as he hands Sirius the love poem. "I've worked hard on it."
It's an assignment; it's a love poem. It's an ode to Sirius. It's a love letter meant to spell out his every frustration and hit Sirius straight in the face, so he finally realizes.
But Remus would never do that to Sirius. He cares too much for Sirius' happiness, so he says it's a love poem, just a poem; he says it's not a love letter, not words baring out his very soul, just a poem.
Because if he didn't, Sirius would never get to read how Remus truly feels about him, and Remus wants Sirius to know, even if it's indirectly.
Sirius nods and takes the poem from Remus' fingers easily, eyes taking in the words on the page.
There are tears peeking from behind the flesh,
A lake overwhelmed by the monsoon,
A flood overtaking the shores,
A river too strong to be contained,
An oak tree uprooted and left to die,
A deer surviving in the chaos,
It's a red night bleeding into the day,
One too many beers in their blood,
It is the stuff of fairytales and nightmares,
It's destinies that are dreamed of,
Destinies that are frowned upon,
The elusive true love that burns too high not to hurt,
It's the dips and nooks I'll never learn,
It is a dance and I am not a dancer,
But I am in love,
In love with you
"That's … that's beautiful, Remus," Sirius eventually says, eyes shining with tears. He clutches the paper to his chest and sighs. "I just, you'll get a perfect score. I'm sure of it."
Remus wants to cry.
Of course, Sirius doesn't understand. He doesn't understand the love that's even too overwhelming for Remus to handle, the love that he wishes every day would go away.
"Can I—" Sirius cuts himself off, expression nervous and hesitant in a way that's rare to see in Sirius' face. "No, no, I can't."
"Can you what?" Remus asks, inhaling sharply. Does he know? Does he understand?
"Can I read it to James? I know it seems weird, but I think it describes me and him, y'know? Just everything we've been through together but how we're still going strong. I understand if you don't want to," Sirius rambles, cheeks pink.
Remus inhales sharply but nods. Sirius hugs him tightly, pressing a kiss to his cheek, and runs to use the dorm public telephone because he's Sirius and he broke his phone trying to climb over a wall.
He watches as Sirius rattles off on the phone, twisting the chord in between his fingers, with a smile.
Remus is an oak tree and there are things he can't have.
Whoso List to Hunt - Sir Thomas Wyatt
There is written, her fair neck round about:
"Noli me tangere, for Caesar's I am,
And wild for to hold, though I seem tame."