Fourth year, and yesterday's children look into their mirrors and see their becoming. Lily Evans sees a new darkness to her hair and sharper cheekbones. Peter Pettigrew watches the baby-fat slowly leave his face, James Potter notices that he's finally grown into his nose some, and Sirius Black's childish dimples have abandoned his crooked grin.
Remus Lupin, however, does not look into mirrors. His face remains the same, a snapshot of himself at eleven, twelve, thirteen. While everyone around him careens into adulthood he is suspended, stuck wide-eyed and soft-voiced, all youthful grace and energy. It's not long before he has to tilt his head up slightly to be able to look someone in the eye.
It's the werewolf in him, he thinks. He's forever frozen as an echo of the small boy who was bitten. He avoids mirrors and any reflective surfaces where he might catch sight of himself, such as windows or tabletops, or his friends' eyes. By the middle of fourth year, he is never anything more than movement half-seen, half-imagined. Tells everyone he has too much homework, that he's too tired or ill to mess around. He disappears into himself.
Meanwhile, Sirius misses him.
One day, Sirius goes looking for Remus. It is Thursday and they're serving lamb - Remus's favorite – for dinner. Or it is Saturday and James wants to know if Remus will be coming into Hogsmeade with them this time round. And then perhaps it is just another Tuesday Tuesday and there's no special reason for Sirius to look for Remus other than the possibility of finding him, so Sirius goes to the library. It's the most likely spot.
Not surprisingly, this is where Remus is found. He is sitting at one of the long tables in the back, next to the Potions section. There are books heaped all around him, like a fortress, and his head is bent over parchment, quill twitching in his hand. He's scratching at his temple as Sirius approaches, and when there is a noise or a shift in the air Remus looks up.
His eyes are bright and offset by the terminally-gray circles beneath them. There is no colour to his skin save for pink splotches along one cheek where his hand has been pressed for too long. His mouth is drawn up into a weary, uneven line. Brown-red hair has turned gray in places. Youth falls away from his face like snow.
Remus looks up, and Sirius looks into his eyes and sees their becoming.
In the thick silence of the library Sirius pulls up a chair and sits beside Remus, scooting toward him slowly, resting his hands against the table and Remus's knee. He studies the new face, looking for the boy that had been there just the day before, last Monday, and the past four years. Sirius finally finds him in the flecks of blue in Remus' irises and in the faint, confused smile teasing at the corners of his lips. He reaches up to touch Remus's jaw, strokes a finger lightly from lobe to chin, feeling just the slightest resistence of stubble there.
It makes Remus shiver.
They slowly drift together, and Remus thinks of Sirius as a thick black cloud moving across a dangerous sky. He wonders what might happen if they were to collide, whether he might dissipate like fog into the atmosphere, or if there might be another kind of reaction. Something violent. Like the little bit of lightning already stinging beneath his skin.
Remus closes his eyes and waits for thunder.
When Sirius's mouth touches his, Remus parts his lips against it. At the same time they breathe, warm moist air passing between them, followed by curious tongues darting together in a wet slide of flesh and muscle.
Sirius swallows the remnants of Remus's youth and it tastes like ink (because Remus likes to nibble the ends of his quills). He Remus's mouth inscribing an indelible signature upon his own.
When they part, Sirius touches Remus' lips, reading them like Braille: