Notes: This was written, amazingly enough, to a background of Van Halen. But don't bother looking for it, because it doesn't show. It wasn't meant to show. It would be the height of bad form if it did show. But there you go: it was what I was listening to when writing this. Particularly "Runnin' With The Devil" and "Eruption".

. . .

I'll remain in your hold,
Body, mind, heart and soul,
As long as I breathe...


. . .

He sits on the steps, staring blankly down the garden, a blade of pampas grass between his fingers. He runs a finger along the edge of the grass, barely wincing when the sharp blade draws blood. Perhaps he intended for it to do so. It's hard to tell what he intends any more.

It is mid-winter. He didn't notice the festive season pass him by, and he isn't sure what month it is. He is home now, safely home, and it doesn't matter. The real world is no longer there, no longer bothers him.

As a boy he sat here often, watching rabbits in the dusk haze. They weren't bothered by him, which never ceases to surprise him. He could even pluck a dandelion leaf and offer it out, and the younger, more naïve kits would take it from his hand. The dark shadow in his brain always lay suspiciously still when he was amongst rabbits; wolves were not as people expected, and have the utmost respect for other creatures. The rabbits sensed the wolf's reverence for them, and the gentle nature of the boy, and they offered him something resembling trust.

Now, though, there are no rabbits. It is winter, and they are safely underground to avoid the frost, so instead his gaze falls on the tangle of trees and brambles at the foot of the long garden. On summer days it is green and pleasant, but on winter evenings like this it is grey and bare. His memories present to him an evening such as this, sat upon the step as a small child, when a pair of shining orbs became visible low to the ground, under a knotted hedge. He had toddled down the garden to investigate, and woken up the next morning with horrific wounds to his face and shoulders. Now, the moon is new, and the night is dark. There are no eyes in the bushes; this time he is the monster, pale, ghost-like in the dusk, misunderstood and alone.

He knows coming here was not the best idea he ever had. It was an act of backtracking, pretending that the years between his attack and this moment had never happened, but it was also a break away from the torment of being stuck in that rut of existence which had been his life for six years and was now an empty trench after the war had been won and lost but where the shadows and last breaths of the dead still lingered. He has tried to carry on, tried to forget, tried to forgive, but eventually, unavoidably, has come crawling like a child back to his mother's arms with a grazed knee and a broken heart. This house is home, whether he wants it to be or not, and here he will stay until the ghosts have gone away.

Eventually, he knows, they will miss him indoors, so he rises from the step, his limbs shaking slightly less than before. On the way through the hall, he catches a glimpse of himself in the mirror; tall, gaunt, oddly handsome but with a haunted expression on his face, one he can never be fully rid of and which makes new acquaintances vaguely nervous of him. His hair is long, fair, tied back with a blue ribbon, just as Sirius' used to be long, dark, and bound in red. Before he goes into the lounge, he picks up the telephone (long time since he's used one of these) and flicks through the Yellow Pages until he finds the number of the barber. He doesn't need long hair, he never did, but it used to be symbolic. Now he thinks about it, it still is symbolic, just of nothing he wants to be reminded of. The mirror catches his eye again as he tries to move away, and the two long scars on his face suddenly leap out at him. He scowls, and as he does so, his mirrored eyes flare, and his mirrored mouth bares its mirrored teeth. He yelps, leaps backwards and tumbles over the foot of the staircase. His knee collides with something sharp and he swears loudly, less at the pain and more at the sudden tears that threaten behind his squeezed-shut eyelids. He had promised to stop crying, there is no need for it here, but the anger that rises up in himself, directed at himself, his own failure, causes them to break free and trickle down his cheeks. And then, suddenly, his mother is there, demanding to know what he's doing, and he wonders why she doesn't hold out her arms to him and offer to kiss it better. It takes him too long to realise that it's because he is twenty four years old and twice as big as she is. He wipes frantically at his eyes, and she sighs and tuts.

"Remus, come into the dining room please," she commands. "Betty and Albert are here, they haven't seen you for years. I'm sure you'd like to come and see them."

His "aunt and uncle", not really related to him but close friends of his parents. His father and elder brother are also in the dining room, both of whom he has been avoiding since he arrived. He knows they will eventually question him, demand of him things he can not do. Maybe it is better to face them now than to put it off further, so he meets his own gaze in the mirror, lifts his chin, dries his eyes. They will never understand what he is feeling now, so perhaps it is better to appear to be feeling nothing.

It is a large house, middle-class. If Remus had not been their son, he could not have afforded to breathe the air in here, and maybe this is why he no longer feels like he belongs. He had been living the past six years in a flat bought by someone else, eating food bought by someone else, and wearing clothes, again, bought by someone else. Someone who must have cared for him at some level, at some time, maybe. . .

The dining room has always been a child-free area. His elder brother's children are presumably in the garden or sitting room, but they are of the seen-and-not-heard variety, just as their father and uncle had been; they may as well not exist. The walls are a subtle shade of blue, and the shelves are covered in photos and ornaments. Remus feels awkward here, like a child who suddenly finds itself amongst adults and knows he is too clumsy and will eventually knock something over. He offers the people seated at the table or in the round chairs a smile, then takes his own seat beside his sister-in-law. She is a prim girl, neat and tidy, and she doesn't spare him a glance. Betty and Albert grin at him as if they really are related, and he exchanges pleasantries with them, his mind elsewhere.

"This is nice," his mother beams, "all together again." Remus does not add that the last time they were all together, he had been sixteen years old, and he certainly does not add that he missed none of them. He does miss something though; the feeling of belonging. Maybe if he sits here quietly, he'll fit in again.

But it is not to be.

Albert has a newspaper, and Remus should have read this sign as soon as he entered the room. As the conversation ebbs away, he unfolds the paper – the Daily Prophet no less – and makes a small sound of contempt.

"You'd think that Sirius Black would be out of the papers by now," he says. The air takes on a fresh chill. Betty and Albert do not know Remus has been living with Sirius for six years. They remember him being around the house as a child, but they have no idea how deep and intense his relationship with their "nephew" became.

"Yes," says Remus' brother – Connor - and makes a valiant effort at changing the subject. "Fantastic tea, mother-"

"Ugly brute, isn't he?" Albert flattens out the paper and points at Sirius' snarling face on the cover. Remus twitches slightly, but turns it into a cough. Ugly, Sirius is not. Brute, never. Sometimes Remus thinks of Sirius as a wicked prince from a fairy tale; devilishly handsome and charming, but ultimately – brilliantly, in fact – corrupt and perverse.

"You met him, didn't you, Remus?" says Betty, nudging his arm. "Went to school with him or something, didn't you?"

The sister-in-law (what is her name? Remus thinks desperately) acknowledges him for the first time with a wide-eyed look of contempt, as if simply going to school with Sirius was an Azkaban-punishable offence.

"Did you really go to school with him?" she asks, her voice filled with distain.

"Yes," says Remus, as if it's the least interesting thing in the world. But he knows his voice trembled slightly, and they know, and he knows they know.

"Knew him, did you?" the anonymous mother of his nephews asks, looking at Remus down her nose as if it is a microscope and he is something with too many legs that might be interesting for a moment or two.

"Yes."

His mother, father and brother are watching him. They are all silently willing him to leave it at that, which is why he doesn't.

"I knew him very well."

"Were you friends with him?"

"I was good friends with the people he betrayed, and one of the men he killed." He is amazed how he can say this, let these people in on his life away from the family house.

"And Black?"

"Well we were friends until we were seventeen."

"Oh." She is genuinely curious but trying to pretend she isn't. "What happened?"

"We became lovers."

The silence is a frozen mist, seeping in everywhere. They are all staring at him, his parents furiously, his brother with disbelief, the others with stunned surprise.

"Really?" asks the girl, her voice slightly higher. Remus thinks her name is Samantha or Sophie or Sandra, but he isn't sure which.

"It's true, Sarah," says Connor. Ah yes. The last girlfriend before he married was Sandra. Sophie and Samantha are probably figments of Remus' imagination.

"That's. . .terrible!" she says.

"Yes," says Remus. "It is. Are there any biscuits?"

A transfixed Betty pushes the tin towards him, and he helps himself to a chocolate digestive. He nibbles it for a while, fully aware all eyes are on him.

"No one told us," says Albert reproachfully.

"We don't talk about it," says Remus' mother slowly, glaring at her youngest son. "Especially not now."

"He was always good to me," says Remus, unable to help himself. "Such a devoted, thoughtful lover." His voice almost brakes as he says the words, because they are true and he doesn't understand. Sirius was always so committed to him. Maybe, he tells himself, that's why I'm alive today.

"He was a scallywag even as a boy," snaps his mother. "As a teenager he was a troublemaker, and as an adult he's a criminal.

Remus can't argue with this, so he tales another biscuit, a ginger nut this time. Sarah looks as peeved as Albert.

"And you never mentioned your brother is such a freak," she snaps at Connor.

"We don't talk about that either," says Mrs Lupin senior, darkly.

It isn't mentioned again. Remus sits and listens to the forced conversation as they purposefully avoid the world's main conversation topic. Someone utters the words "it wasn't like this before You-Know-Who fell," and is awarded a cold hard glare by everyone except Remus. His thoughts are elsewhere now. He is furious at his parents' behaviour; they haven't asked how he is feeling, haven't tried to console him or offer him any advice. All they have done since he has been here is to state how horrific the whole affair is. As if Remus doesn't know! It makes him livid when they talk about how dreadful Sirius was. It is for them to accept him as their son's lover; it is for Remus to hate him with every bit of his soul. They have all failed, because a corner of his being still loves Sirius. The same feeling rises up in him when he hears others talking about him. They mutter darkly about how wicked and twisted he is over coffee, before changing the subject to gardening or the Quidditch World Cup. As if they know Sirius! They have never seen him try to grin at them in the mirror while brushing his teeth, never heard his hearty laugh or admired his sparkling eyes. They have never shut their eyes and held their breath while he touched them, kissed them, made love to them. All Sirius is to them is a cackling madman on the front page of the prophet, and they have no right to hate him like Remus does. Every time someone makes a passing comment to a friend about how sick and twisted Sirius is, they are intruding on Remus' personal turf. He is Remus' alone to hate, because of everyone left, only Remus knows him.

He waits for a decent period before leaving the room. He takes the two flights of stairs to the top storey where his bedroom is; his childhood room, long ago abandoned and recently returned to. He goes inside, and lies flat out on the bed. The room is predictably the same but different; old Quidditch posters on one wall, pictures of his friends from school on another. The walls are light blue, and the curtains white. It is just like any other boy's room until you notice the windows and doors; there are massive locks on both windows, and the door has several locks on both the inside and the outside. Inside, it the paint has been given an extra coat since Remus left, but the claw-marks are still visible under the emulsion. There is a drawing in a frame done by Lily for his eighteenth birthday, of himself and Sirius, very professionally done in ink – biro, he always though, and yet it looks so realistic. Beside it lies a small, static snitch, probably one of James', and a stack of muggle music magazines intermingled with Quidditch Weekly. A lone sock lies on a chair. Yes, this far more than the rest of the house is home.

Remus stares up at the ceiling and closes his eyes. The room smells the same, if a little dusty now. But it also smells of magazine paper, chocolate, musty clothes and – yes – it still smells of Sirius. . .

. . .

They never did like him, even when they were still at school, but when Remus invited him over one summer their stiff English graciousness meant they allowed him to stay. Remus' wizard father recognised the ominous name of Black, and his muggle mother could smell a trouble-maker a mile off. They spent most of the summer in the garden, the village and the woods, doing things any seventeen-year-old boys do. And then they spent the last week in Remus' room. Neither were sure how the transition from playing to kissing took place, but it quite definitely did, and as hormonal teenagers kissing very swiftly moved onto other things, and Sirius found himself sharing Remus' bed for the last night before the return to Hogwarts.

That night remained firmly in Remus' mind for ever after. He sat at the foot of the bed watching Sirius undress. He always was a poser and he took his time removing his shirt and jeans. His nervously trembling fingers, Remus knew, meant he could not undo buttons deftly, but it was disguised by a slow, half-hearted striptease which made Remus laugh. Sirius was not so amused, and paused, raising an eyebrow.

"Something funny?"

Remus shook his head, still grinning, and got to his feet. Sirius' jeans were already around his ankles, but he was fumbling pathetically with his shirt. Remus put his hands on Sirius' chest and leaned in to kiss him. The smaller boy responded impatiently, grabbing Remus' hair and t-shirt in his hands. As they kissed, Remus easily undid Sirius' shirt buttons and slid the dark material from his shoulders. Sirius broke away from his, suddenly surprised by the tenderness of his touch.

"You still want to do this?" he whispered, making a conscious effort to keep his voice low. Remus answered by sinking his teeth into Sirius' shoulder, sucking at the warm flesh, and sliding his hands under the elastic of Sirius' boxers. "Me too," says Sirius, with his eyes shut.

They kissed standing there, wrapped in each other, for longer than any of them cared to measure. Sirius' boxers were discarded, and Remus took a step back to take him in. He really was beautiful, Remus thought. The contours and lines of Sirius' body remained burned into his retinas to this day. Someone this beautiful, he thought, can only be perfect.

The bed was too small, the covers too hot, the walls too thin for privacy, and the air too humid for comfort, but if either of them noticed, neither of them said anything. Neither of them really cared. The sensation of flesh against flesh was almost too much for Remus, but looking to Sirius for guidance was no use. The smaller boy simply stared back with a transfixed expression, eyes locked on Remus' face until he leaned down and kissed him. Sirius looked beautiful with his hair splayed back against the pillow and an expression of startled wonder on his face. Remus was sure this wasn't fair; neither of them knew what they were doing, and it was, suddenly, on his shoulders that the whole thing rested. Sirius seemed to be enjoying himself though, and his occasional yelp of pain was remedied by Remus removing his knee from his arm and apologising for a full minute.

Eventually, clumsily, breathless and mildly bemused, they lay still, Remus collapsed on top of Sirius with the smaller boy's arms around him. One leg was still clamped possessively between Sirius', and the other dangled off the narrow mattress. He was uncomfortable, but Sirius was unlikely to let him go and he still didn't really care. He was lost in a foggy dream world which contained nothing but Sirius. Sirius' smell and taste, the feel of his skin, the softness of his hair, and the colour of his eyes. This was no teenage crush any longer. The desire and devotion of the last two years had evolved into something much higher and a thousand times more splendid. Quite simply, he was in love.

"Moony?"

Remus' cheek was resting on Sirius' chest, and the sensation of movement when he spoke made him smile. "Padfoot," he responded, pressing his lips to smooth skin just beneath them.

"What do you think?"

"I try not to."

Sirius' arm moved, and a finger jabbed at the region of his kidney. "I'm trying to be serious. It doesn't happen often, you think you could try to appreciate it?"

"Sorry."

The jabbing finger turned into a hesitantly stroking one, and Remus felt himself blush. He had been amazed at his lack of nerves throughout the entire evening, especially since Sirius had initiated the first kiss and the courting, had wooed him and chased him all month, and Remus had been so afraid he held back. But when it came to making love to Sirius, he might not know what he was doing but he had no qualms about doing it. Now, in the aftermath, he had finally come back to his senses. He suddenly became aware how thin the walls were and how loudly Sirius had moaned at one point. He realised how cramped the bed was, and how tangled his feet here in the covers. Sirius' touch on his side made him shiver and blush out of the same embarrassment that had made him resist a second kiss for as long as his desperate lips would allow. He untangled himself from the bed and from Sirius, and wedged himself against the wall. Sirius moved to give him a little more room.

"Well I thought that was okay," said Sirius nonchalantly. "I mean, we probably need some practice. A lot of practice."

"Oh, thanks."

"I mean we should do it a lot more often."

Remus knew what he meant but couldn't fight the urge to sulk until he was comforted sufficiently. "I don't know, maybe you should find someone who's better at it," he said tartly, struggling to hold back a smile.

Sirius reacted just as hoped, grasping for Remus' hand and pulling him down so their noses almost touched.

"I don't want anyone else," he murmured. "You could be a eunuch and I'd still love you."

"You love me?" Remus whispered.

Sirius nodded. "I always will. I'm not just saying that. I promise."

The next morning, Remus pulled himself out from under the still-sleeping mass of Sirius. The other boy could sleep into the afternoon and frequently did, so Remus didn't worry about waking him. His muscles ached, partly from the strains of first-time lovemaking and partly from sleeping squashed up against a wall, and he stretched carefully, ironing out the creases in his spine and letting the blood flow back to his extremities. He wiggled his fingers until the pins and needles went, and then he walked into the bathroom.

First he put the plug in and ran the taps until the sink was full. Then he took his toothbrush, smeared some paste on it, and rested it on the side of the sink. He found the soap and a flannel, and put them next to the toothbrush. And then he looked himself in the eye.

The mirror was small and had some fingerprints on it. Until he was twelve, he'd had to stand on a stool to see into it, but now the top of his head was too high for him to see in the glass. He stared into his own blue eyes, trying to see what, if anything, had changed. It was certainly a monumental day; he was no longer a virgin, and not only was he in love but he was loved in return. He was no longer just Remus John Lupin because he belonged, body, mind, heart and soul, to Sirius Black. They were no longer friends, they were two parts of the same whole. He felt so different, so new, so rejuvenated. He felt grown up if he hadn't before, he felt rebellious and it was a good feeling.

Remus smiled and picked up the toothbrush again; looking back at him from the mirror a bleary-eyed, half awake seventeen-year old boy smiled back.