A/N and Disclaimer: New style for me, I'm a bit too used to attempting JKR's wondrous ways of writing, so I decided to let another part of my inner author have a go at this one. I rather like it, but as always, reviews are welcome, though not needed. I'll keep writing no matter what, although your constructive critiques are quite appreciated, of course. AND BY THE WAY, I'd really like a beta, never had one before, but I think I'm supposed to, so please email me at if you like the story well enough. It's a cliché'd concept, but I just HAD to post it. Apologies to all the authors I've plagiarized.

His was the sort of home where- although the furniture was faded, the quilts patched, the floors dusty- fresh linen was always kept in large quantities in the cupboards. There was a constant supply of peppermint tea and chocolate shortbread, despite frequent shortages of unnecessary things like new clothes or proper food. A sort of sun-dried smell clung to the yellowing curtains, and large stacks of parchment and heavy tomes of classic literature, modern poetry, and magical textbooks hid under armchairs and enveloped the scrubbed pine table. Outside, the small bit of earth surrounding the flat was wild, untamed; ivy grew in clumps and lavender and mint threatened to overtake the stairs leading to the once- polished front door.
Sirius remembered this place. He'd been here only once before, despite frequent invitations; the Potters had been his second home, a third was...superfluous, at the time. Of course, when Remus' parents had been alive, the door had been painted every year, the garden tended to, and the shelves perhaps dusted more often. But he anticipated visiting it anyways, with an eagerness not felt in a very long time.
A black paw reached up and scratched at the red brick side, then at the small, neat window. Creaks and several odd sounds that seemed suspiciously like a throwing aside of books, maybe, or a stubbed toe, floated out the half-open window to the dog's sensitive ears. The door squeaked open, and there stood Lupin, the start of worry already etched on his lined face. Resting his arms on one another, leaning into the doorframe, he murmured "Come in" to the large black creature that was already wagging his tail in urgency.
Lupin closed the door behind them and locked it, then took out his wand and muttered something to the rest of the house. Immediately, all the windows were closed as well, and the house darkened. As he turned to the living room, he saw a very-much-human Sirius gazing at him from behind a shorter mass of blackened hair than the last time they'd seen one another. "What's happened?" His voice was brisk but quiet.
The Animagus sighed heavily. "What Dumbledore's feared this whole year, Remus, Voldemort-he's-it seems as though-"a short intake of breath- "as though Harry witnessed him coming back. Something to do with Wormtail..." He knew the details of the past evening in all their gore, but now it seemed out of place to regale the former professor with unneeded information when there was plenty else to discuss.
Remus had other ideas. "Wormtail," he muttered, a harsh tone to his usually calm voice.
"We should have killed the bastard when we had the chance!" Sirius' voice was louder than usual.
Instinctively, Lupin strode over to the other man and hesitantly touched his arm. "No, Harry had the right to decide, to show him mercy. If anyone deserved to decide, Harry did, you know that. No," he added, a steely tone in his voice, "If I'd just remembered to take my potion, if I hadn't been so-"
"It's not your fault, Remus, don't-don't do this..." Sirius grasped his hand. "Please. 'It doesn't do to dwell on the past', Dumbledore told me that once."
"He said that to me once, too, after you left, and they were dead. Speaking of which, Dumbledore wrote to tell me he'd stop by soon, but not without advance notice."
Sirius grinned. "Maybe he remembers the last time he did that..."
Lupin chuckled. "Perhaps."
"I've contacted the rest of the old Order, apparently Dumbledore thinks there'll be a few healthy additions soon, too...Wonder who he means."
"Well, probably the Weasleys, you know, Molly, Arthur, their eldest boys. And Nymphadora Tonks just became an Auror last year, she's the first in a while, now."

"Tonks?" Sirius looked shocked. "My cousin's daughter?"
"That's the one."
"She's that old?"
"Nearly twenty-four, I believe." Lupin looked Sirius over slowly. His chest was so thin, and there were dark circles under his eyes. "How long have you been traveling?"
"Reckon it's been about two or three weeks. I stayed with Mundungus Fletcher a little while, he was really quite good about the whole thing...Then again, I bet he's used to consorting with convicts..."
A wry smile appeared on the werewolf's tired face. "Most likely." There was a tense moment that passed between them- at least, as tense a moment as ever one became when the two of them were involved. Considering the fervent looks darting in his direction, Lupin asserted that Sirius' stay would be, if anything, very different from the last time they'd... been together. Suddenly, smoke billowed out of the fireplace. Sirius threw him a questioning look.
Gazing curiously at the mantle, Lupin watched as Dumbledore climbed gracefully out of the floo. The Professor looked cheerfully about as he dusted off his billowing purple robes. "Not interrupting anything, am I?"
Sirius looked scandalized. "Er-"
"Ah, no, Headmaster, Sirius and I were just discussing who, ehm, might be up for being in the Order this time around." Lupin stared fixedly at Sirius for a moment, as though willing him to forget about why Dumbledore might not want to burst in, unannounced. Then the werewolf started abruptly, remembering himself. "Oh! Here, let me take your cloak."
The elderly wizard laughed good-naturedly. "I can manage. Although," he added seriously, "I wouldn't say no to some nice lemon tea." Smiling, Lupin nodded and headed off towards the kitchen.
A moment later he'd returned, a haphazard tray of biscuits and several chipped teacups balanced delicately on his arms. Sirius jumped up as though bitten to help him carry it safely to the worn pine table. Lupin gave him a gratified glance before setting the tray precariously on a pile of old parchment.
"Thank you, Remus. Oh, gingersnaps, I haven't had these since I was- well, in a very long time. I'm afraid it seems that the older I get, the less adventurous I am. It is a pity." He sighed dramatically and took a bite. "Now, gentleman, I'm afraid I've come to give you a deadline. I'll want the Order moved in to Grimmauld Place as soon as the Fidelius Charm is complete. In three days it will be, at which time Alastor Moody, Nymphadora Tonks, and several other members will be there to assist you with preparing it for our purposes. I'm rather confident when I say it might not be quite fit to live in just yet, based on records of the house's history, and it's been vacant for a decade or more, and so it will be a good project for the time being. I just thought I would inform you two of where we are at, and see how you've settled in together thus far."
Sirius coughed pointedly before he spoke. "Actually, Headmaster, I was late, I just arrived an hour or so ago. I-er- didn't tell Remus about- about Headquarters."
Albus Dumbledore looked somewhat affronted. "Oh, I apologize. In that case, I'll leave you two alone. Remember, I'll check in at the Place once you've gotten in." With a wink and a whispered "Thank you" to Lupin, he was gone.
"Grimmauld Place? Your parent's home?"
"That's the one."
"You hated that house."
"I hated it, yes. But Dumbledore needed a new headquarters, obviously, and it's not being put to much good nowadays. Anyway, what better use to put it to than something my mother would despise? We'll be fighting the good fight! Not to mention all the wonderful purebloods we'll be dueling with." He threw his old friend a mischievous grin. Lupin couldn't help smiling back.
With a nervous cough, the werewolf stole a glimpse at the antique clock sitting innocently on the mantle. Soot had covered it from Dumbledore's entrance, but Lupin could see that the time read nearly quarter to ten. Sirius had been there almost three hours and they'd barely spoken a word about- about anything other than Order business. In the months to come, Lupin knew, they'd have enough of it to last them a few more lifetimes. Why talk about something of little relevance to the immediate right now? Was this really the time? Could they even-?
"Remus? Sorry to trouble you, but I'm really in no state to be sitting on your furniture, you know." Lupin looked over at the area Sirius had been sitting on the sofa. Sure enough, there was a discolored patch of dirt and unidentifiable soil in the shape of a thin body. Sirius looked at it in dismay. "I wasn't thinking about-"
"Don't. It's perfectly alright. I'm not one to judge on appearances, you know." He surreptitiously took out his wand and murmured a quick cleaning spell. "That should do. In any case, feel free to use the lavatory. It's just down the hall, first on the left at the top of the stairs." Sirius nodded but didn't move. He wasn't quite meeting Lupin's eyes, but the expression on his face told that he wanted to. Turning to leave, his gray eyes, so canine, fell briefly to the former professor's, and Lupin took in a sharp breath at the unexpectedly restrained look burning in them.
This was a quiet affair for him. It had always been. Remus Lupin had never been one for bombastic gestures or overblown language. He was neat and articulate, and there was no reason why something like this, however unbelievably complicated it could get, shouldn't be kept calm and constrained. Of course Sirius knew that, of course he knew the way Lupin felt about their situation. That must be the reason, then, that he was holding back. Because Lupin had never known him to hold back, not when what he wanted so clearly mirrored the other man's own desires. Couldn't he tell? There were still so many unanswered questions, and it was frustrating, and more than a bit exhilarating. Lupin couldn't remember the last time he'd felt this way. It had been years, maybe, since anything had really, truly challenged him, required him to step inside of himself for just a moment to solve a problem.
Dinner was a silent matter. Without request or given reason, Lupin had brought out the only wine he had in the house. He filled two goblets and set one each beside a tarnished plate. It had been a very long time since there had been another setting at the table, and he was glad for it, more so than he'd care to admit. Sirius came down, thankfully dressed, although the werewolf tried to ignore the bit of disappointment in his stomach. "Oh, thank god, alcohol," Sirius joked, "Haven't had that since- well, since being at Dung's, actually."
"Well, I'm afraid there's not much to eat in the house. I wasn't quite prepared for you to arrive, but I'm terribly glad you're here, and-"
Sirius looked up. "You are?"
"Of course, don't be absurd. I'd much rather have company than not."
"But not just anyone's company." Lupin silently buttered a roll, not making eye contact. "I know you, Remus, you don't just like anyone to come in and use your bath and eat your food."
"-And I'll go shopping tomorrow. You'll stay here, I am not going to be responsible for your getting captured again," he continued, ignoring the taller man. Noticing the way Sirius was regarding him, he sighed exasperatedly. "What do you want me to say, Sirius? That you're right and that I'm so glad to have you here I'd like nothing better than to..." Lupin flushed slightly, possibly for the first time in all the years Sirius had known him. The Animagus looked at him quizzically, an expectant, pleasant smile looking out of place on his thin features. Setting down the bread, Lupin cleared his throat. "By the way, you can have my bed. You look like you need sleep; I'll be perfectly fine elsewhere."
"Imagine that. We were sleeping together for seven years, not to mention doing a hell of a lot more, actually, and now here we are, after fourteen more, and you're sleeping on the couch." It was what he wanted to say, wanted it so badly he could hardly force the words back into his chest, manage a stiff nod, and stay silent. Lupin looked at him sadly, as though he knew what he was thinking. But then, he always could read his mind.
As the other man stood up and began clearing the table with an almost frantic nuance, Sirius stared not-so-subtly at the tawny hair, faded like the rest of his friend. It looked so worn, too old to be Remus'. At least, the Remus he knew.
But this wasn't the Remus he knew. To Sirius' recollection, Mister Moony would never have resigned because of a comment from old Snivellus. Moony would have let his friends defend him, and resumed teaching because it was what he loved to do. A thought struck him.
"Remus?"
He could hear the werewolf swallow painfully. "What is it?"
"What are you doing, you know, for work?"
Lupin turned to him, and there was something in his eyes Sirius didn't recognize. "Well, I can't really do much, can I, the Ministry's been exceedingly hard on 'half-breeds' lately and that includes werewolf legislation that makes it rather difficult for me to find paid work."
The dark-haired man arched an eyebrow. "Half-breeds?"
A sigh, then- "Yes. A woman named Delores Umbridge is behind the whole thing. Horrible old hag, I must admit. She actually was recently campaigning to round merpeople up and make them register. Tag them! It seems a bit extreme, don't you think?"
"A waste of energy, really." Despite his empathy for Lupin's situation, Sirius couldn't help smiling briefly. It was good to be talking like this again. "When should we be going?"
"It's probably best to head out tomorrow. Get a head start on the others. Is it large enough for everyone?"
The question lingered in the air for several awkward moments. Sirius understood the unspoken aspect; how to answer presented another problem entirely.
"Eight bedrooms, but I don't think any will really be fit for any human- Oh, I forgot to tell you." He took a sip of tea. "I tied Buckbeak up in the yard, he was looking hungrily at the bluebirds, but aside from that, I hope he won't be a problem. I- well, I like him, he's all right, and he's really the only good company I've kept in a while. Until now, of course."
Charming, even looking as emaciated and bony as he was. Lupin was amazed that it didn't surprise him, the feeling in his stomach, the butterflies, were still there when Sirius smiled. He couldn't understand it.
Sirius couldn't help it, he couldn't tear his eyes away from the vision before him. Lupin was at the stained ceramic sink, turned slightly to face him, staring at him with an expression that was almost dreamlike in its irrelevance and unexplainable beauty. How he could still look at him with those burnished golden eyes, filled with unbelievable emotion. It was unbelievable. Sirius couldn't bear the eloquent picture before him. Ducking his head, he managed to break away from the eyes that wouldn't let him go.
Long, slender fingers made their way to the Animagus' cheek. Pressing lightly, just enough to turn the weathered face towards him, Lupin leant in gently, almost nose-to-nose with Sirius but not quite. He could feel the cool breath feathering his skin, and tried so hard to stifle the tears that attempted to shame him. All the loneliness he'd felt for thirteen years reflected back at him in the eyes that were slowly closing as the other man kissed him tentatively. Is this alright? The kiss asked. Can I do this? Before Sirius could register the feeling, Lupin was pulling away, licking his lower lip as though something particularly delicious lingered on it still. An ink-stained thumb brushed the mouth, because as good as this was, as simple and honest as the action had been, it had been a foolish one, and Lupin understood that.
Painfully, Sirius brought himself to look up and into the prematurely lined face. Every mark on it was representative of another thing Lupin couldn't stand to look at in mirrors, in reflections cast off windows and shattered glass. But even the new scars, the raw creases, became resplendent when Sirius looked into that face. "It can't be the way it was before," he whispered gruffly to the werewolf, "I hated...sneaking around, like we were ashamed of ourselves...We can't---I won't-oh, that feels good-I won't go back there. If we're going to-" But Lupin only nodded distantly and began unclasping Sirius' ragged robes. He stopped abruptly.
"Are these mine?" His voice seemed bemused.
The other man had the grace to look embarrassed. "Well, my robes were horribly dirty, and I'd showered, so I didn't want to...Yes, they are." The adorable blush was not lost on the former professor.
"I see," Lupin said shortly, and continued to take off the garment. Sirius broke away from his timid ministrations to the werewolf's back and chest, letting him pull it off slowly.
"We're old, Remus."
"I know."