Happy Christmas, Padfoot

A/N: Wow, this year has gone fast. It's time for another fluffy festive ficlet ^_^

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This is my December
These are my snow covered dreams
This is me pretending
This is all I need

And I
Just wish that
I didn't feel
Like there was
Something I missed

And I give it all away
Just to have
Someone to come home to.

The sun was already setting as Remus Lupin trudged home. It was mid-December, and a thin layer of grey sludge covered the pavement, creating a semi-safe walkway over the inch thick ice. Remus wouldn't have slipped anyway, werewolves had perfect balance, but he concentrated on putting his feet in the safest places, picking out the most reliable path back up the hill to his small terraced house. If he hadn't been concentrating on his feet, his mind might have wandered, and he couldn't allow that. It was dangerous. The subject his mind drifted to all of its own accord was one Remus had spent the past thirteen years trying not to think about: Sirius Black.

Sirius was innocent. At the start of summer, this fact had become clear to a small group of people, including Remus. He was pleased, of course he was. The man he had grown up with, spent the best times of his life with, was innocent of mass murder. Of course that was a good thing. It was an amazing, wonderful thing, and Remus smiled slightly as his mind left the pavement and settled like an exhausted butterfly on the face of Sirius Black. That beautiful face, worn down by years of unfair imprisonment yet still more handsome than any Remus had known, the face of a man who was not perfect, but instead was a kind, honest, funny man who. . .

NO! Remus shook his head viciously, almost causing himself to slip on a bare patch of ice underfoot. No, no, no. This was wrong. This was. . .bad, very bad. As grateful as he was that Sirius was innocent, this revelation meant one more thing, a very serious and deadly thing. It meant that Remus could no longer push these feelings down, could no longer hide them under hate and loathing. Those protective layers of negative emotion had been blown away, and now Remus had to face the cold, hard, icy truth. He still couldn't say the words to himself yet. Still couldn't bare realising this most basic of truths. But it was there, lurking beneath the surface, like a blue whale submerged in a swimming pool; there could be no hiding it for long. Anyone looking close enough could see it. But for now he could deny it. Couldn't he?

Something raw and animal presented an image to Remus inside his head. His wolf side had a habit of doing things like this, confronting him with what he desired, making him realise the true truth of it. Too often had he wanted something which would turn out to be bad for him, and every time the wolf had known it in advance. He didn't want to listen to it, but he had very little choice.

There was Sirius. The wolf presented him as Remus had known him, tall, slim, dark, handsome. And his arms were round Remus, hands pushing him firmly against the taller man's body. And what a body. Remus could feel Sirius' heartbeat under his thin robes, and smell the warm, familiar scent of Padfoot all round him. He was so close Remus could almost feel his breath. . .

He shook his head. It wasn't right, it wasn't going to happen; he didn't want it! He picked up his speed and stumbled up the hill until he was standing outside his front door, fumbling for the key in his pocket. A snatch of a song entered his head, one he had heard a couple of times yet not realised he'd been listening to.

This is my December
This is my time of the year
This is my December
This is all so clear
This is my December
This is my snow covered home

He pushed open the door and kicked off his slush-covered boots. Inside it was warm; he'd left the fire burning, with a few simple spells to make sure it wouldn't burn out or grow out of control. The interior of the house was simple; a kitchen and living-room downstairs, a bathroom and bedroom upstairs. There was little decoration, only a few pictures on the walls of people long forgotten by history but not by Remus Lupin. There were his parents, his brothers, long-lost friends and relatives he'd once known. And there was one picture of a black haired, bespectacled man with his arms round a smiling, flame-haired woman. There were no pictures of Sirius. At first he'd put them away because he'd hated Sirius. Now he left them away because seeing his face every day would just be too much. The house was just cosy enough to have a lived-in feel, but it was nothing special. This was where someone's body lived, while their mind dwelt elsewhere. Remus told himself he didn't need anything better.

And I
Just wish that
I didn't feel
Like there was
Something I missed

He had spent the day trying to keep his job, and failing. He had never put much effort into the minimum wage time consumer he'd turned up to every day for the past five months, and it was predictable that he wouldn't be kept on much longer. He'd never kept a job for more than six months, discounting his year at Hogwarts. He was even now finding it difficult to remember what his job had been. It hadn't mattered to him, except for the handful of cash every month, but it would be easy to go to the Ministry of Magic buildings tomorrow, report to the Lycanthrope Unemployment Office and claim whatever benefits they thought he deserved, being "Lunarly Disadvantaged", unmarried, and owning his own home. He had enough money to last him a while, but he didn't know what to do with himself. He stared around at his home. So. He'd do nothing. There was no one who needed him now Harry was out of danger. It wouldn't matter if he just stayed here, kept himself to himself.

He'd had ambitions once. As a boy, he'd wanted to be an Auror, but they didn't employ werewolves. An auror had to be on call any time of any day, he couldn't book full moons off. Then he'd wanted to work for Gringotts, but goblins were horrible, species-ist creatures who couldn't find anything nice to say about werewolves or their like. He'd told himself he'd find a career eventually. He'd spent his youth with his friends, deciding jobs didn't matter. And then his friends were all taken away from him, and suddenly nothing mattered any more. And now. . .? Now he was still alone, and even more useless than ever. Sirius was out there somewhere, but he didn't know where. Harry was out there somewhere, and Remus would keep away from him as long as he could. He'd already put the boy in danger once too often. He didn't need anything extra in his life. But there's a big difference between need and want.

This is my December
These are my snow covered dreams
This is me pretending
This is all I need

On the other hand, he'd written and received a few Christmas cards; Dumbledore, Moody, Tonks and Mundungus had kept in contact. But he'd told Sirius before they were once again separated never to contact him unless Dumbledore specifically said. It was too risky for both of them, or he'd thought so at the time. Now, he found himself half-wishing. . .

But it was still wrong. While denying it was lying to himself, but admitting to it would do him no good at all. His situation was not really bad and he was in no trouble; he could survive. It was, perhaps, nothing special, but he was alive.

And I'd give it all away
Just to have
Somewhere to go to
Give it all away
To have someone
To come home to

The days crept past, but Remus Lupin scarcely noticed them. He hardly even noticed when Christmas day dawned. When he switched on the radio beside his bed and they informed him it was December 25th, he decided to have a wash and a shave and maybe visit his neighbours to show willing. He'd managed the first two before a sound in the garden attracted his attention. He walked to the bathroom window, flung it open, and peered down into the back yard. There was something in the middle of the lawn. He couldn't see anything, but in a way he could feel it. It made its print on reality, and if he concentrated, Remus could recognise it as a Hippogriff under a concealment charm. His eyes widened, and he scanned the shrubbery at the edges of the garden – yes. There.

He took the stairs three at a time and fell headfirst into the kitchen, catching the corner of the fridge to stabilise himself, before snatching the back door open. Something large, damp, black and canine trotted into the kitchen and jumped up at him, licking his face all over.

Remus laughed out loud for the first time in weeks, then his face became stern. "Padfoot, you shouldn't be here," he scolded.

The huge dog put its head on one side, then glanced about the kitchen. Content that they weren't being watched, it transformed into Sirius Black. "It's lovely to see you too, Moony," he said, grinning. "Trust something sensible to be the first thing out of your mouth. How the devil are you?"

"Fine, I think. But Sirius, you're not safe here. . ."

"Nonsense. This house has been redesigned to contain a fully grown werewolf, I feel perfectly safe." And with that, he strode into the living room and made himself at home on the couch. Remus could do little but stare at him. He'd washed, shaved and had a haircut recently. It made a hell of a difference; enough to make Remus feel slightly uncomfortable. He found himself making a pot of tea as displacement activity.

"You haven't decorated," said Sirius. "No tree? No tinsel? Moony, do you even know it's Christmas?"

"Of course I do. I just didn't see much point. I wasn't expecting anyone, you see."

There was a moment's pause before Sirius spoke again. "I brought you a present."

"You shouldn't have," said Remus automatically, but Sirius took offence.

"I can get you a present if I want to," he snapped, rather more sharply than he meant to. "It doesn't matter that you haven't got me anything. It's not much anyway. I don't even know why I kept 'em. . ."

Remus stared curiously at Sirius as he rummaged in his pockets. His clothes were rags, and Remus decided he would give Sirius a present, in the form of some fresh clothing. After a while, Sirius found what he was looking for, and pulled it out of his pocket. He presented Remus with a tin of chocolate toffees.

"Nicked them from a shop in Edinburgh," he admitted. "Fancied some toffees, but when I ate one, it took my filling out. Was going to throw them away, but I thought you might like them."

Remus stared at the grubby, battered tin, then grinned at Sirius. "They're great. I love toffees."

"I know. I was thinking of you and I thought how you always liked toffees, and you made me fancy them. Is that tea ready yet?"

Remus went to fetch the tea, and Sirius vanished out into the garden again. Frowning in a puzzled way, Remus watched him from the doorway as he inspected the line of fir trees at the end of the plot.

"Got a spade?" Sirius called.

"Yes, thanks."

"Direct me to it. I'll dig up one of these trees while you're out."

Remus' brow wrinkled still further. "And where am I going?"

"To find some Christmas decorations. Anything will do, really. We're going to add a little Christmas cheer to this place."

The frown turned into a grin. Sirius was back! Remus left and was back within the hour with several carrier bags full of tinsel and baubles, paper chains and fairy lights. Sirius was impressed. He had dug up the smallest tree from the end of the line of firs, so he didn't leave an enormous gap in the row, and the tree was now sitting contentedly in a pot in the living room, waiting to be adorned with "sparkly, twinkley, glittery things", as Sirius phrased it.

Remus Lupin's small, grey living room transformed in a matter of hours into a colourful, festive place filled with the laughter of two friends as they forgot their problems for the time being, and acted as if they hadn't a care between them. By the time it was dark, Sirius had decided the tree was perfect.

"Don't put another thing on it, Moony," he commanded. "Don't want to overdo it."

They both stood back to admire their handiwork. Sirius beamed. "You can't tell me this doesn't look better," he said briskly.

"It's . . ." Remus definitely had an adjective lined up to describe his room's transformation, but when he looked up at Sirius, whatever it was evaporated on his lips. Sirius' brow creased as Remus gazed at him.

"What's up, Moony?"

Remus looked away quickly. "Nothing."

"There's something wrong." Sirius put a hand firmly on the werewolf's shoulder. "Tell me." It wasn't a request, it was a softly-spoken demand.

Remus stared at the hand touching him. "I. . .can't."

"You can tell me anything. I don't mind. Anything at all."

This is my December
This is my time of the year
This is my December
This is all so clear

It was all or nothing, now or never. Something rose in Remus' mind that had to know whether Sirius felt the same as him or not, and didn't care if he was rejected as long as he knew. . .

As if in a waking dream, Remus saw himself reach up to Sirius' face, press his own soft lips against those rough, weather-worn ones, and draw back quickly to see Sirius' response. The dark man breathed in sharply, and something swept over Remus which made him lean up to kiss him again, this time winding his fingers into Sirius' hair and pressing himself as close as he could to the Animagus' body. He heard himself moan as Sirius deepened the kiss. He felt hands slide down his back, pushing him closer still, grasping him, touching him all over. He shivered with delight, and Sirius let go, a concerned look on his face.

"You okay?"

Remus smiled. "How couldn't I be?"

"You rather took me by surprise there, you know. I didn't know. . ." he trailed off.

"Of course not, no one knew."

Sirius stared mildly at Remus, until the werewolf came close to melting under his dark gaze. "What now?" the animagus asked.

Remus hadn't thought that far ahead. If you'd asked him five minutes ago, he'd have said that at this moment, he would be begging Sirius not to storm angrily away from him. This apparently wasn't happening, and he was thrown off-balance.

"I. . .don't know."

Sirius glanced away, then back at him. "I can't stay long. I have to keep moving or they'll find me. I'm going abroad again, but I'll be back."

Remus heard himself blurt out, "stay tonight at least?"

Sirius hesitated. "You really want me to?"

"Of course. I mean. . .If you want to, I. . ."

Sirius interrupted him by touching the side of his face. His fingers were rough but warm, and Remus leaned into the touch. "There's something I've wanted to tell you for a while. I say a while, but. . .well, since we left Hogwarts really." He looked nervous for the first time. "Remus. . ."

"I love you," the werewolf supplied. Sirius' grin was now one of relief.

"Yeah. I was going to say that."

Remus placed one more gentle kiss on Sirius' lips. "Happy Christmas, Padfoot," he whispered.

And before they knew it, it was morning. Sirius Black awoke with the dawn. The room was still dark, but his instincts told him it was time to go. He slid out of bed and dressed without putting the lights on, then walked round to the other side of the bed and stood watching the sleeping werewolf. Remus was so peaceful, lying on his side with one hand gripping the edge of the pillow. Slight twitches of his eyelids made Sirius wonder if he was dreaming, and whether his dozing lover dreamed of him. It was always hard to tell what Remus was thinking, but Sirius was glad Remus had expressed himself this time. And to think Sirius had wasted all this time he could have spent with Remus. Maybe if they had realised these mutual fantasies earlier, things would have turned out differently. Then again, maybe not.

Sirius bent down and kissed his werewolf lightly on the forehead. "I'll come back soon," he whispered. "I promise." Almost as an afterthought, he pulled loose the black ribbon which kept his hair tied back from his face, and wrapped it loosely round Remus' hand. The werewolf closed his fingers around it, and slept on.

He went outside to find Buckbeak, and fed the hippogriff the leftover dinner he had taken from the kitchen. If he was honest with himself, he didn't mind his life on the run from the law. He liked the opportunity to go wherever he wanted in the world with no ties to hold him down, and the necessity to keep moving, but for the first time in a long time he had glimpsed something he'd rather have.

And I give it all away
Just to have somewhere
To go to
Give it all away
To have someone
To come home to

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Disclaimer: Harry Potter and associated characters are (::Gasp!::) not mine. The lyrics in italics are from Linkin Park's "My December."

Happy Christmas to you, and, er, you know the drill. . .**Points at the review button** Have a happy new year!