at Straws - Chapter
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Remus' eyes blinked open, and immediately snapped shut again as he found himself amidst the blinding morning sun. Groaning, he stiffly turned his back on the light and found that the small shift in position had released crashing waves of numb pain at his temples.
Remembering it was only Saturday, the werewolf boy simply refused to drag himself out of bed, and lay serenely for another few minutes in this ethereal bliss. His mind absently wandered to random pieces of homework he'd have to complete before Monday and that revision session he promised to Peter. Grinning inwardly, he felt somewhat sorry for Sirius - abandoned by friends for upcoming NEWT exams. Knowing the raven-haired boy, he'd evade any attempt at being drawn into studying, and instead spend his time complaining about how bored he was. But that was his nature - to cause mischief, roam the mysterious hallways of the ancient Hogwarts School and simply do as he pleased. The gravity of exams never quite seemed to inspire him to work hard at revision, Lupin mused wryly, and yet he had always managed to pass fairly well.
Thoughts of the ever-enigmatic Sirius Black drove out sudden memories from the back of Remus' mind, jolting him from his half-woken daze. Sitting up in a snap, the boy stared at his tangled bed sheets clenched between his trembling fists. The events of the night before all came back to him at once- how he had coaxed Sirius to sneak out to Hogsmeade, how they had sat at the bar, drunk and tipsy, and how they had--
Horrified at the memory, Remus slapped his forehead with a groan, and promptly collapsed back onto his pillow.
We kissed, he thought incredulously. His cheeks flamed up at the thought, and the thumping of his heart drummed louder and louder in his ears, until he feared it might wake the others. We kissed...
His fingers traveled up to his lips, tracing the soft skin where Sirius' mouth had met his. Try as he might, he could not recall how his friend had tasted, yet his distinctive scent was left on his skin and hair.
Did that really happen? Remus thought numbly, staring at the familiar red canopy above him. He shuddered pleasantly at the memory.
Yet what did this mean? What did this mean for their friendship?
No no no! He chided himself. He was drunk! He didn't know what he was doing.
Yet a small part of the blond boy clung to a hope that this wasn't true. Part of him wound and rewound the memory of the kiss over and over in his head, reminiscing any detail that recurred to him.
No no NO! He thought angrily at himself, smacking his own head several times. Stop thinking like that! He was DRUNK! It was just a mistake! It was nothing. Forget about it!
However, he couldn't suppress that delicious chill of excitement that went up his spine.
Remus was more confused than ever. If only he hadn't taken him to that cursed bar! And yet... he found himself not regretting his actions, after all - leaving him even more confused.
Before his train of thought could spiral out of hand, a waking groan from bed the next to his - James' - snapped him out of it. Before long, Peter had also reached consciousness, and the three of them had reluctantly but purposefully slumped out of bed, and eventually, down to breakfast.
At the Gryffindor table, James, Peter and Remus absently munched on their respective pieces of toast and cereal, while the former two animatedly chatted about the upcoming Quidditch World Cup. Remus followed their conversation attentively with his eyes, but his mind was somewhere else completely. Eventually the subject of conversation turned, and it took several moments for the werewolf to realize James just asked him a question.
"I asked you what you were planning on doing today," he repeated, amused.
"Oh... uh," Lupin shrugged. "I think Pete and I were just going to hit the books - y'know, start on revision for the NEWTs."
"Oh," James looked genuinely disappointed. "Well, if you're busy..."
"Weren't you going to go out with Lily today, anyway?"
"Well, yes... I haven't spent a lot of time with you guys lately though, and I thought we could do something together for a change," he admitted, then gave a wry smile. "I would've asked Sirius, but you know how he eats anyone alive who wakes him on a weekend morning."
Remus and Peter nodded knowingly, exchanging grins.
"And I'm meeting Lils in ten minutes," James added, glancing at his watch.
"Go on then, Romeo," Peter's grin widened. "Don't get held up on our account!"
By early afternoon, Remus had forced himself to dismiss the kiss he and Sirius had shared as a mad, drunken act, and buried himself in Potions theory with Peter. Yet, every so often the blond found his thoughts wandering, and found it hard to repress the excited thumping of his heart which accompanied them.
They were in the midst of reciting the ingredients for a particularly complicated concoction, when a just-woken Sirius Black descended the stairs from the boys' chambers to the Gryffindor Common room. He was dressed in a loose shirt and jeans, yet in a way that suggested that Sirius hadn't actually paid attention to what he was wearing. One of the shirt buttons had been pulled through the wrong hole, and his jeans had several grass stains flecked around the knees and shins. His hair stuck out in unruly directions, and wildly framed his dazed face. He also needed a shave.
"Morning," he mumbled, lifting his right hand in greeting.
Remus merely nodded mutely at him, not meeting his eyes. Making a show of being engrossed in a formula of some kind, he hoped the burning of his cheeks didn't give him away, and sank a little lower in his seat.
"It's 2 o'clock - it's barely morning anymore," Peter grinned wryly and watched the long-haired animagus run his fingers through his unkempt locks, wincing as he did so.
"Bad hangover," he moaned, and slumped into a chair next to Remus.
Peter chuckled appreciatively, "Where were you last night, anyway? James and I were waiting until about two in the morning for you guys to finally show up!"
Sirius rested a hand over his pained eyes and groaned, "I don't even remember how we got home!"
Remus grimaced, daring a look at Sirius, "You don't remember?!" An amused smile played on his lips, "You were singing like a mad-man, when I had to carry you out of that bar on my shoulders. At first you just outright refused leaving, then magically glued yourself to your chair! Once I got rid of that charm, you accidentally released a curse that made all glass within a two meter radius explode. Thankfully you fell asleep before we reached Hogwarts, otherwise you'd 've just caused more damage for me to clean up - not to mention a month's worth of detention!"
In response, Padfoot simply muttered something unintelligible, causing Remus to shake his head, grinning in spite of himself.
After a moment, Sirius slowly took his hand from his eyes, and blinked at his grinning friends, "I think I need a shower. If you'll excuse me..." With that, he dragged himself away again, leaving behind two very bemused boys.
However, Remus' smile fell away as soon as Sirius had his back turned, and was replaced by a subtle frown. Did he even remember what happened? If he did, he had given no implications.
The werewolf sighed inwardly, not knowing whether to be relieved or disappointed. Turning his attention back to the scrolls sprawled over his lap, he missed the quizzical look Peter shot him.
"Yes we know."
"Can't we do something more fun? I know! How 'bout we--"
"No, Sirius!" Peter cut in tersely, his patience thinning. "For the last time: If you don't want to study with us - fine. But either find something else to do, or shut up!"
Sirius wasn't taken aback in the slightest, and plastered on an infuriatingly wide grin, "I think you need a break, buddy ol' pal." He slung an arm round Wormtail's shoulders, and held up strands of mousy-blond hair up to the light, shaking his head mockingly, "Grey hairs already. Tsk tsk. That's what stress does to you--"
Peter abruptly snapped his book close with a force that made both Remus and Sirius jump, and shot up from his chair. "I'm going to the library," he managed gruffly, collected his books and scrolls with a swift movement of his wand, and stalked out of the common room.
Momentarily shocked at the other boy's sudden exit, Remus turned towards the equally stunned Sirius, "I think you went a little far this time."
Padfoot shrugged disinterestedly, and toyed with a strand of hair between his fingers.
The Gryffindor common room at this time of day was fairly empty. Beside Sirius and Remus, only three other students lounged in the comfortable seats by the fire place; two third years mumbling amongst each other and a lone fifth year reading a novel in the corner. The two Marauders sat at the other end of the room by an open window, scrolls, books and writing equipment sprawled at their feet and on their laps. All of it belonged solely to Lupin now that Peter had left.
Remus had focused his eyes back onto a passage from a book he was reading, but found his concentration fracturing with the dawning realization that he and Sirius were finally alone. After five minutes of trying to take in the same sentence, he gave up and looked up at his unusually silent friend, whom he found was staring at him.
A little flustered, Remus braved to ask what was wrong. His friend's serious demeanor was slightly unsettling, and reminded him of that short, sobering moment from last night.
"Listen," Sirius started, his tone equally earnest, "I don't remember all that much about last night after we-- after we kissed." The blond looked away slightly, embarrassed rather than anything else. "Whatever happened - sorry. I didn't mean to get so out of hand yesterday. Just forget about it, 'kay?"
Remus forced himself to look Sirius in the eyes again. He ignored the twinge of black disappointment that gnawed at him, and smiled warmly, "Don't worry! I didn't think anything of it, anyway."
Liar liar liar.
With that same smile plastered awkwardly on his face, he watched a wave of relief wash over Sirius' features, and turned his attention back to his book. Staring at rather that reading the passages, he convinced himself that the raging regret he felt was simply nothing.
As the weeks rolled past, the incident between them was soon forgotten, as other troubles filled the Marauder's minds. With NEWTs drawing ever closer, all but Sirius had started proper revision. James' engrossment in studies and Lily ate up most of his time and it soon began to take its toll on his friendship with Sirius, who grew more and more irate as time went on. He tried to mask his irritation with bad jokes whenever Lily joined them at the dinner table or outside, but increasingly failed to do so. Instead he'd vent off his anger at James Potter, who had an equally flaring temper.
One of these evenings was a Wednesday three weeks later. The Marauders and Lily were sitting at the Gryffindor table eating supper when a friendly discussion about the types of Butterbeers turned into a tense argument between James and Sirius.
From time to time, Remus would try to intervene, but was inevitably shouted down until he simply gave up. Occasionally, he and Peter would exchange awkward glances before hurriedly returning their fascinated gazes to the tabletop. Lily, looking extremely embarrassed, played with her food and tried to fade into the background.
Eventually it ended with the long-haired boy furiously storming out of the hall and James glaring after him.
"What the fuck is up with that guy?" he fumed. "Lately, whenever I see him he just snaps at me or makes snide comments!" Peter shrugged and made no comment.
"He's probably just stressed with exams and all coming up..." Remus attempted weakly.
James snorted, pulling a sour expression, "Sirius cares less about exams and school than he does about Snape!"
Remus shrugged impassively and pushed his plate away. Looking shifty, he made a quick excuse of trying to find Sirius, and hurried out of the hall. Spending a half-hearted hour on his search, he gave up and retired to the common room with a leather bound muggle book.
Half-way through the second chapter, Sirius' long hair tickled the crook of his neck as he lent over Remus' shoulder to see what he was reading, their cheeks brushing as he peered at the page.
"Whatchya readin'?" Sirius' voice was light and casual
The blond boy shifted uncomfortably in the chair and mumbled something about a report for muggle studies. Sirius grimaced, "Muggle books? How boring! Don't tell me, it's all about drinking tea and the joys of pig farming, right?"
Remus carefully marked his place in the book and shut it, "Actually, no. It's a muggle fantasy book called 'Luck in the Shadows', although their concept of wizardry is rather weird." He shot Sirius a crooked grin and placed the book to one side. "At least I don't read Shakespeare."
Sirius scowled, "Hey, he's not that bad!"
Amused, Lupin shook his head and changed the subject, "Where were you the past hour? I was looking for you, and you weren't on the map."
"Oh," he shrugged
and sat down. "Just took a walk. Where's James?"
The blond noted the decidedly calm expression on his friend's face, "He's out with Lily somewhere."
"Now there's a surprise," Sirius snorted. "All he ever does nowadays is cling to that girl of his. It's like we don't even exist! It's always 'Lily Lily Lily'! As if I haven't already-- But don't get me wrong," he interjected quickly. "I like the girl. It's just...just..." He was at a loss for words, and pointedly looked at the other boy, as if it could explain everything.
"I know what you mean," Remus sighed. "He hasn't spent a lot of time with us recently. But I don't blame him - juggling NEWTs, being head boy, having a girlfriend and all that..."
"I suppose you're right," he admitted admissibly. "It's just... It's our last year here, and we might never see each other again! You and James and Peter - you'll all go to uni - London or Cambridge or something. And didn't Pete say something about going to France for a year? James might even try to become an auror. If he does, he'll have even less time and be travelling all over the country. And me? I'm not cut out for that stuff. Not for any of it - not uni, not school, not NEWTs." He gave an exasperated sigh and ran frustrated fingers through his dark hair.
"For never revising or paying attention in class, you do pretty well," Remus chuckled. "If you were to actually put any effort into it, you'd easily get accepted anywhere."
"Yeah, but I don't want to go to uni," Sirius grumbled stubbornly. "I want to go out into the world and do something interesting for a change. I don't want to be told what to do all the time - even though I never do it anyway. I just want to... get away from all this stress and the responsibilities... and I wish you guys would come with me." He sighed, and slumped resignedly in his chair, "But that's unrealistic, and it'll never happen."
The blond pondered this for an instant, then spoke. "Padfoot, have you ever thought of becoming a free-lance journalist?"
Sirius stared at him bug-eyed for a moment, and slowly sat up again. "Free-lance journalist..." He spoke the words as if they were completely new and foreign to him. He quickly ran through the possibilities: He was fairly good at writing if the subject interested him, and he'd be able to travel - earn good money, too...
A small, hopeful smile played on his lips, "I'll look into it."
Remus felt relief wash over him, "And I promise you - we'll keep in touch. We could meet up from time to time, and contact each other through mail. And knowing us lot, we'll be reminiscing together about the good ol' days when we're old and grey, and complain about how things used to be in our day!"
Sirius grinned warmly at his friend, and for that moment, at least, he felt as if nothing they'd ever face could defeat the friendship the four of them shared.
The conversation between Sirius and Remus continued well into the night, ranging from muggle perception of wizards and witches, to holidays and the favorite color shirt they liked to wear. Even though it was a school night, neither had the heart to break the bubble of comfort and familiarity that had grown around them over the hours, and by the time the string of conversation had slowed, it was already close to midnight.
Sirius yawned contentedly beside Remus, and mumbled something about going to sleep. His chin had already dropped to his chest and a soft snoring sound emanated from the dark haired boy.
The blond smiled to himself and let his gaze wander over his friend's fine-featured face, wild and satiny hair, and the vague tone of muscles through his uniform. He resisted the urge to touch him - just to see what his cheek felt like and, realizing his own thoughts, forced himself to look away.
I'm just tired, he thought wearily. I should get to bed.
He was about to wake Sirius again, when his black haired friend mumbled something unintelligible, swayed to the side, and rested his head on Lupin's shoulder.
Remus stiffened. He could feel Padfoot's calm heartbeat next to him, and the faint, unmistakable scent that was Sirius drifted into his nostrils. The blond, hoping to calm the violent thumping of his heart and fight the sudden impulse to touch Sirius' face - even only for a lingering moment - released the breath he hadn't realized he was holding.
Looking at him, the werewolf found a peaceful smile on his friend's lips, and didn't have the heart to wake him from whatever pleasant dreams he was having. Instead, he gently lifted the other boy's head, awkwardly got up, and settled him down again against a pillow. He pulled out his wand and muttered a quick spell, watching as little green sparks covered Sirius, from shoulder to toe, and solidified into a warm blanket. Lingering for a moment, he watched the fire's light playing on Sirius' features, then swiftly turned away and up to his bed chamber.