Disclaimer: All usual disclaimers apply--not mine, not making any money, please don't sue, I only own my cats and books, yadda, yadda, yadda.
Also, this is slash. If you don't know what that is, then you probably shouldn't read it. If it's your cuppa, go right ahead! Remus/Sirius, PG-13-ish. One shot.
Set during Order of the Phoenix, but no real spoilers. Ends before The Spoiler, since Rowling might be able to break Remus' heart, but I can't bring myself to do it.
Archive: Sure, just let me know where to pop by.
Feedback: Appreciated, as always.
Remus knew that the situation had gotten entirely out of hand on the morning he woke up with Quidditch. England vs. Bulgaria. July, 1974 stuck to his forehead. He had sighed, taken the sticky note into his hand, and shrugged into his bathrobe. He wrenched open the door to his bedroom and padded barefoot none too softly down the hall, stopping in front of the open bathroom door. He took a step in, leaned over the sink, and, one-handed, pushed the note onto the mirror with just a little too much force. The cabinet opened slightly out of protest.
Sirius Black's clean shaven face grinned at him from around his toothbrush, and he said something that sounded remarkably like, "Good morning," though it was hard to tell around the brush and the toothpaste foam. Sirius always was too chipper in the morning, Remus thought, waiting for the man in front of him to rinse and spit. Once Sirius had done so with a great show of wiping his face on a red hand towel, Remus began, "Look, Sirius . . ."
"That was a good game, Remus. My dad had gotten box seats, and I got to take James along. England lost, but it was still a brilliant match," Sirius said. "You would have enjoyed it, too," he added, smiling.
Between the smile and the fact that Sirius sounded so . . . confident . . . about the whole thing, Remus capitulated before he'd even had a chance to get started. So he changed This habit of yours has got to stop to, "I need to use the shower."
"Well, no need to ask twice." Sirius moved so that he and Remus could trade places, a little two step waltz that left Sirius almost out of the bathroom and Remus standing before the sink. "I'll go make the coffee then." Remus just stood there, waiting until he could no longer hear Sirius' feet on the stairs.
He turned around to find the post-it note still sticking to the mirror. Remus shut the door, again with just a little too much force, and irritably thought that the steam from his shower should at least make the note fall off the mirror. And promptly into the sink, where Remus would inevitably have to fish it out, damp and sticky, before he shaved. He sighed and turned on the shower.
Just because he had given in, didn't mean he had to like it.
Some time over the summer, Sirius had taken to leaving sticky notes all over the house.
They were usually the plain yellow kind, with words scribbled in Sirius' scratchy handwriting. The messages were often short, words and numbers together in a heap: Fell off broom. 6 years old; or Did read Catcher in the Rye! 15.
There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to the notes, or to where Sirius left them, except that he left them absolutely everywhere, usually on the exact spot where the memory had occurred to him. After 12 years in Azkaban, Sirius had found he could recall every gruesome experience he had had in his life in excruciating detail, having been forced to relive them over and over and over in the cold and the darkness. He could, for example, remember exactly where Peter had stood on the street where he killed the Muggles, or that the smell of their charred flesh was surprisingly similar to that of freshly fried bacon. After being told that, Remus had been unable to eat the stuff; Sirius, he noted, would leave the room if bacon was served at breakfast, and only return later, when all the plates had been cleaned and the scraps thrown out, in order to drink strong coffee, black, down in two gulps. When it was just the two of them at breakfast, Remus always fried tomatoes instead.
Every other memory he had, it seemed, had fallen into the cracks of Sirius' mind. He could recall some things, but not others; he knew that Remus took two sugars in his tea, but could not recall the slightest detail of the flat he'd taken after Hogwarts. Sometimes when given a prompt, a "Remember the time when . . ." Sirius would be able to laugh along and half-tell a story, but more often than not, Remus grew to have the distinct feeling that Sirius was just faking it. Sirius would never admit to this, of course, but Remus, more used to paying attention to what Sirius did not say than to what he did, knew better.
He had the impression that for Sirius, trying to remember his life before Azkaban was like trying to tune a radio: some things came in clearly; others were pure static, never to be sorted out again; and that occasionally, there would be a station that seemed like it was close, but just out of range to get good reception. Those were the hard ones, with the whispering of voices, shapes, and shadows behind them, and it seemed that if Sirius could only twist the dial of his mind just right, he could make real what was no longer living, turn the voices into flesh, and turn the mysterious shapes into tangible memories, to be stored away like gems or bartered for affection, like galleons at an estate sale.
Hence, the sticky notes. Whenever a stray memory would enter his head, Sirius would make a note of it, whether for future reference or because the mechanics of writing it down helped him remember, Remus had yet to tell. Sometimes he could vividly recall the event to which the note referred; other times, when confronted with the evidence later, Sirius would look at the string of words and not be able to make any larger meaning out of them, like a child who can read the words on a page, but not be able to answer even the most simple question about what they had just decoded.
When Remus had asked why Sirius just didn't use parchment, or a notebook, for the same purpose, Sirius had just waved his hand in the air impatiently, as if to say, You just don't understand. He probably didn't understand, Remus had thought, but he had wanted to, and the thought that he couldn't made his chest ache.
So Sirius had taken to carrying those yellow notes and a black ball-point pen in his pocket. (He had sworn, quite viciously, when he discovered that unattended quills leaked often onto fabric, the stains of which could not be erased, even with magic. He lost two good pairs of pants before he switched to the Muggle pens.) He would compulsively write down pieces of his past, only to stick them on some object he was around at the time, but that he would completely forget about later. It seemed to Remus like a type of mental litter, and a disturbing type at that, and it was aggravating to him and just, oh, so Sirius, that Sirius could mix together so indelibly what was a long-term goal with short-term convenience.
Remus didn't know who had given Sirius the idea, but he strongly suspected that it was one Hermione Granger, partly because as a Muggle born she was familiar the post-it notes, and partly because sticky notes just seemed like they could be a symptom of her own compulsion for fact finding. This theory was finally borne out in early October when Remus intercepted a package from her to Sirius that contained sticky notes in every color known to man—and a few that Remus could have sworn were not. He didn't know whether to thank the girl for her kindness toward Sirius or strangle her for being an insufferable, obsessive compulsive know-it-all. When he closed his eyes in mortal horror against the riot of color in the plain brown box, he realized that Sirius would love the stickies, and would shortly be torturing Remus and, in fact, all of 12 Grimmauld Place, with that awful excuse for orange.
Remus had ended up sending Hermione three boxes of her favorite biscuits, just because.
Molly Weasley had taken to the sudden influx of paper with glue on the back as well as could be expected: that is, badly, even though Arthur had been ceaselessly fascinated by the bloody things. She had resented the sudden flowering of paper, which was understandable considering how hard she had worked to bring Grimmauld Place into some kind of order in the first place. However, even she could not stand up to Sirius' obstinacy, and once the children went back to school, she returned to spending most of her time at the Burrow, and less time picking paper out of the sugar bowl.
Besides which, they were all, Molly included, extremely grateful that Sirius had finally found a way to keep his mother's portrait quiet, no matter how unorthodox it was. After almost eight hours of total silence from that quarter, even with Tonks and Moody coming and going delivering items for the Order, Remus had pulled back the curtain to find a sticky note that read Christmas Eve, 1976 attached to Mrs. Black's lips, with a piece of tape holding down the other end under her chin. Remus could not imagine what had occurred that Christmas that made the old woman either too embarrassed or too angry ever to shriek again (and Sirius had wryly chosen to keep that particular memory to himself), but he and the rest of the Order were not too proud to say they were relieved.
So it was with great reservations that Remus had allowed Sirius' post-it note frenzy to continue, but he did, even if he was smart enough to realize that the main reason he did so is because it made Sirius happy these days, and that so very precious little else was able to accomplish bringing about that bright happiness which had once been an amazingly simple feat.
Remus found Sirius in what had once been his father's study, quite literally watching the carpet as it attempted to scurry away from him. The escape was thwarted, however, by Sirius' right foot holding down the corner nearest to him.
"Dust bunnies?" Remus inquired lightly.
"Snighter groundlings, more likely," Sirius answered. "Bloody stupid things. I actually used to like this rug."
Remus was about to point out that once the groundlings were taken care of, the rug was still perfectly serviceable, but then he noticed the threadbare, ashen look of the fringe, and the small holes throughout the fabric where the groundlings had chewed through. Just another example of something beautiful the Most Noble and Ancient House of Black had managed to chew up and spit out. Remus sighed softly.
"Well, nothing for it, then," Remus tried to say reasonably, taking out his wand and pointing it at the rug. "Shall we?"
Sirius moved his foot slightly, and the now audible scrabbling that was occurring near the floorboards increased, as the groundlings undoubtedly, though wrongly, thought they had had an opportunity to escape. He didn't take out his wand. "Sorry, mate, you're on your own with this one."
Remus' eyes tightened in confusion for a moment, and he was about to make a joke about Sirius' infamous laziness striking again, and couldn't he help a bloke out, when he caught the quick contraction of Sirius' mouth, the one that caused the line on the left side, right there, and he caught himself just in time, because he understood. Even spells were sometimes the victims of Azkaban. If only Avada Kadavra was so easy to get rid of.
"Fine," Remus said instead. "Just hold it there, will you?"
"Absolutely," Sirius said, digging his heel into the floor.
Remus made quick work of waving his wand and muttering the incantation, suddenly wanting to be out of this room as soon as possible. With a bright flash of light and a few sparks, the rug stopped struggling, the small, drugged bodies of furry groundlings floating up from under the edge of the carpet and into the air. Remus quickly gathered up the five of them and put them in a small box that was sitting on the desk. He'd have to take them out back and let them loose before they woke up. When he turned around from the desk, Sirius was already rolling up the carpet. Sirius finished the job and heaved the rug over his shoulder.
"I'll just take this out to the rubbish. Be back in a second," Sirius said, already on his way out of the room.
Remus' protest that they should keep the rug, that it could be mended, died somewhere in the back of his throat, and he let Sirius walk away.
Remus was making a cake. Or, at the very least, trying to make a cake, the Muggle way, and from scratch. He had no earthly idea why he was doing so, except for possible boredom. Not that he had much to be bored with, exactly. True, he was between missions for the Order, but there was still plenty to be done: cleaning the house, research, keeping up with his own work. He had tried to read, a book of short stories, of all things, even, but found he couldn't focus on the pages long enough to figure out exactly why the man was so terrified about the imagined beating of a heart. It wasn't as if the bloody thing was actually doing any such thing, anyway.
So here he was, in the huge, empty kitchen, cracking eggs into a large mixing bowl. Remus had watched his mother bake when he was a child; after the incident with the wolf, he had disliked playing outside alone. They would spend hours and hours together, especially when the weather was bad, while she concocted everything from pound cake to brownies to peanut butter cookies. She would talk softly, sometimes explaining what she was doing, sometimes telling stories about her father, his grandfather. She always let him lick the spoons, or the electric mixer, and of course he had first crack at the goodies themselves, still warm and tasty from the oven. He had come to understand baking as a subtle art, that it was an area where a light touch would make the difference between light and fluffy or hard and heavy, between edibility and disaster. He also understood that baking had a tangible quality to it, that the mixing of seemingly disparate ingredients could create an entirely different product that he could smell, touch, and taste. If done right, there was always a sense of accomplishment that went along with baking, and neither Remus nor his mother had been immune to that. He vaguely wondered if this was the way Snape felt about potions.
As he attempted to stir the mixture manually with a heavy wooden spoon, Remus considered if brownies might have been a sight easier than a three layer chocolate cake. As was often the case in his life, Remus reflected that what was done was done, and there was no use in wondering what might have been. The frosting alone was going to be a bitch, though.
Thoughts of wrestling with homemade frosting aside, Remus had to admit the simple matter of baking had already been harder than he cared to admit. This was partly due to Sirius and his post-it note habit. Nowhere in his imagination had Remus thought that Sirius had spent that much time in the kitchen, a severe underestimation of the man, as it turned out. So far Remus had found no less than fourteen of Sirius' sticky notes: three in the flour, two in the utensil drawer, four in the sugar, one stuck to the milk carton in the refrigerator, 2 in the cabinet with the dishes, one on the oven door and one above the fireplace. He had dug them all out and lined them up in a neat row on the kitchen table. Sirius was upstairs feeding Buckbeak, which was a good thing, as every time Remus found one of the notes in an unexpected place he had entertained the notion of shoving one, just one, that was all it would take, right down Sirius' throat, and making him eat it. It was an uncharitable thought, to be sure, but Remus had found it quite amusing, nonetheless, especially as he knew that there had to be even more stickies lurking around than he had discovered. Damned deranged scavenger hunt. Thirteen of them made no godly sense to him, but one did, and it had taken everything Remus had to place it on the table and not throw it into the fire.
It was just as likely that Sirius had again forgotten the meaning of that particular note, anyway.
He was pouring dark brown batter into the previously greased cake pans when he heard Sirius enter the kitchen behind him. "How's Buckbeak?" Remus asked, scraping the bowl with a spatula.
"He's okay," Sirius replied, walking over to the table. "Could probably use a good bit of exercise, room to spread his wings, but then again, who couldn't?" Sirius' voice didn't have any particular ire in it, but Remus didn't need to hear the reedy anger in the words to understand that it was lurking there all the same. Remus merely nodded his head in response.
"Hey, what are these?" Remus looked over his shoulder to see that Sirius had walked over to the table.
"I would think you'd recognize your own handiwork," he replied, putting the pans in the oven and setting the oven timer.
"That seemed clear enough," Sirius said, looking over the notes one by one. "I didn't leave them on the table, though."
"No, you left them in the sugar, the flour, in the refrigerator . . ." Remus let himself trail off as he poured himself a cup of tea and sat on the other side of the table. The frosting could wait for now; the cake would have to cool before he could ice it, anyway.
"Is that annoyance I sense, Moony?"
"Not at all. But I'm not going to let you have any of the cake when it's done."
"You wound me, Remus, what with your withholding of baked goods." Sirius picked up one of the post-it notes and held it lightly between his fingers. He read aloud, "September, 1980. Apple picking with Remus."
Remus said nothing, holding his cup carefully even though it was still flat against the table.
"Do you remember that afternoon, Remus?" Sirius asked, tone completely normal, fingers tracing the handwriting on that note.
He remembered. He remembered cool air and cold hands on his back, underneath his grey sweater and white t-shirt. Remus remembered the apples, crisp and sweet-smelling, and how Sirius, when they kissed, had tasted of apple cider and the cinnamon sticks they had used as stirrers; he remembered the sharp tang of Sirius' tongue, the way their hands became warm only when entwined, the way the crook of Sirius' mouth had gone up when they'd bought a bushel of apples for James and Lily and a stuffed pumpkin for Harry. He remembered.
But in answer to Sirius, he only said, "Yes."
Sirius hummed slightly in response, and put the note back into line on the table. "It's a bit fuzzy to me, still."
"It'll get better," came the rote reply.
Sirius looked up from the last sticky note. "We loved each other."
"Once," Remus agreed softly, keeping his cup firmly on the table, and out of his hands.
The timer on the oven went off with an insistent buzzing.
Finally, Remus came to the decision that if you can't beat 'im, join 'im. With that in mind he spent a long afternoon in a Muggle office supply store and then burst unannounced into Sirius' room with his hard won booty.
"I come bearing gifts," Remus said, dumping three big bags on the floor. He looked up to see Sirius, in jeans and a black t-shirt, reading a book propped up against the headboard. Sirius looked up from his book, but didn't get up from the bed.
"I can see that, Remus. And it's not even Christmas! It's not every day that Professor Lupin brings me presents. Should I be scared about this?" He closed the book and put it aside on the bed, but still didn't get up.
"Of course not, you prat," Remus replied, sitting down in the middle of the bags and pulling items out. Notebooks, stickers, tape, pens, sticky notes, paper clips, staples . . . and a shoe box.
By this time Sirius had gotten up and crossed the room to where Remus was sitting on the floor. He sat across from him, legs folded, and looked over warily. "Is there going to be color-coding going on here in the near future? Because if so, I'd like to register my protest now and get it over with."
Remus looked up and smiled. "There will only be color coding if you want to, Sirius, though I do suggest that as a very, very good approach to this organization project."
"What organization project?"
In answer, Remus reached over and opened the shoe box after putting it on his lap. It was full to the brim with Sirius' post-it notes. "And there are two more boxes still in my room," Remus added. "And that's just the ones we've found . . ."
"I failed Divination, if you don't remember. I, surprisingly enough, do. Once I quit writing essays about my own grisly death, the best I could get was 'Abysmal.'"
"So . . . so I still don't see what you're trying to accomplish by buying those poor Muggles out of paper clips. Surely they need their paper clips, Remus. What will they do if they can't . . . clip . . . their paper together? They'll clearly go mad from the stress!"
Remus held Sirius' gaze. "Are you quite finished?"
Sirius knit his brows together. "For now."
"All of this is to help you get organized with this memory habit you've come up with."
"And I should get organized how?"
"I don't know, old man. By developing some kind of system. You can't just keep going around randomly leaving pieces of paper all over the house."
Remus paused. Why not? Why not? He could come up with at least six reasons right off the top of his head. "Because you can't. Because I picked up a note from each step of the stairs this morning. All four flights of them! I even fished one out of the toilet yesterday, for Merlin's sake."
"No one's asking you to pick up after me, Remus," Sirius replied, and Remus knew Sirius too well not to catch the glint that crossed the blue eyes across from him.
Remus took a breath before speaking. "I know no one told me to do it." I just always do, that's all. "I just think that if you were to find a way to organize your thoughts, then you might find the whole . . . exercise . . . more rewarding."
Sirius didn't say anything, just continued to gaze at Remus with that look, so Remus went on, almost babbling. "That's why I bought the notebooks. I thought you could still write on the post-its, but later on you can tape, or staple, or clip the notes into the notebooks. Like a scrapbook, or an album. You could organize them using any system: chronologically, by topic, by person, by era, whatever you want. I suggest color coding the system by putting those colored tabs on the note itself, and then the corresponding color on the outside of the notebook, so you know what notebook the note goes in." Remus smiled, a little more nervously than he would have liked, though considering the look that was still on Sirius' face, he couldn't come up with much better.
"I like things the way they are," Sirius said.
Remus mentally rolled his eyes. How old was the man, five? "You'll like this, too, Sirius."
"But this way . . . it's my way. It feels right to me. More like . . . being in my own head."
Remus put his hand over to touch the jeans on Sirius' knee lightly, briefly. "Not that your mind isn't an extraordinary place, Sirius, but jumbling things up won't help you."
"They're not jumbled up," Sirius protested. "I . . . they're my memories . . . my . . . thoughts. You can't just come in and decide to color-code my mind, Remus. It doesn't work that way. I won't let you work that way."
"But if you keep track in some way . . ." Remus started.
Sirius interrupted him. "You can't. It's my past, Remus. It's not here for you to file away in manila folders and store in a filing cabinet! Those memories are my life!"
"I know that!" This was not what Remus had imagined happening.
"Besides, what does it matter to you, anyway? What do you care?"
That brought Remus up short for a moment. "Because . . . because. Because if you're really serious about getting your memories back, it'll do you no good to just write things down and leave them. You need to keep track of them, or it'll do you no good whatsoever."
Sirius gave Remus another look that was shrewder than Remus liked. "You just don't like having to clean up after me."
Were they back to that again? "No, that's . . ."
"Don't say it's not true, Remus. You know it is."
"Well, maybe." Remus was willing to concede slightly if it would get that edge out of Sirius' voice. "But even you have to admit how . . . untidy . . . it is to leave that paper all over the house. Molly's going to have a stroke one of these days about it."
"Leave Molly out of this. This is about you and me."
Now Remus was starting to get flummoxed. If not more than a little irritated. He was doing a nice thing here, damnit. He moved the box of used sticky notes off of his lap. "What is that supposed to mean?"
"It means, Remus, that you're getting tired of picking up the pieces. Literally. And if that's true, then you might as well leave."
"Just because I'm tired of picking up pieces of paper from Merlin knows where doesn't mean that . . . that." Remus stopped. "That I'm tired of you," Remus finished softly. Sirius hadn't stood up yet, but Remus could tell by the brief flexing of thigh muscles that he was considering it.
"Oh, of course not, Moony. I fall apart and then you come along to pick up the pieces, and then I get to be grateful to you. Of course you're not tired of that. After all, that's what we do."
Now it was Remus who stood up. When had the conversation taken this turn? They were supposed to be talking about paper clips, and colored tabs. "It's usually the other way around, isn't it, Padfoot? Aren't you supposed to be the one picking up after me? Poor, fragile Remus. Of course, that's only a couple of days out of the month . . . I've managed fine on my own for years. Didn't know it wasn't a full time job when you started on again, did you?"
The look in Sirius' eyes could have sharpened knives by now. "Ready for a full time job of your own when you came to Grimmauld, were you? Nice change of pace to be the leader of the pack, isn't it? Come take care of poor, broken Sirius and get a power trip all at the same time!"
"I'm not here to take care of you!" Remus shouted.
"Then why are you here?" Sirius' voice was still quiet, calm. Composed. It only made Remus' voice want to be even louder by comparison.
And it wasn't a question Remus had a good answer to, either.
After a moment of silence, Sirius added, "Then maybe you shouldn't be here."
"This is my house, and I'll do what I want to in it. If my habits irritate you, you don't have to be here to tolerate them. Now get out. I'd appreciate it if you shut the door behind you."
Remus backed out of the room, and did as he was told, though the door did slam behind him satisfyingly.
Remus came down to the kitchen the next morning to find Sirius with a cup of tea. God, can't the man even make some coffee? He lurched for the coffee maker. They were out of filters. Great. Remus was considering fishing yesterday's filter out of the trash when Sirius spoke.
"We are wizards, Remus. There's more than one way for us to make coffee."
The smell of coffee assaulted Remus' nose and he turned to the table, where Sirius had conjured a steaming mug of the stuff.
"I'm here because I want to be," Remus said.
Sirius handed Remus the mug of coffee. Remus took it, gratefully, and without comment.
"Are you sure about this?"
"I'm not sure this is a good idea."
"Remus, name one idea, ever, that you thought was a good idea."
Remus quirked an eyebrow.
"It's fine. I trust you. I want you to do it." Sirius sighed. "The scissors are stainless steel—see. Not silver. It says so in tiny letters right here . . ."
"I can read, you know."
"Good. So take the scissors and let's get this done."
Remus took the scissors out of Sirius' hand and looked at his long, wet hair. Sirius had come to Remus that morning asking him to cut his hair for him. Remus still wasn't convinced. He looked at Sirius' reflection in the bathroom mirror.
"There are professionals you can get to do this, you know."
"I know. I want you to do it."
Remus gave up. "Fine. Bend over." He saw Sirius smirk in the mirror.
"There are professionals I can get to do that, too, Moony. Unless you're offering . . . " Sirius bent over at the waist, so that his head was hanging over the sink. He held the edges of the sink with his long fingers.
"I certainly am not. Now hold still before I 'accidentally' cut off something that won't grow back."
For a while the bathroom was quiet, just the sound of the scissors snicking together and the soft fall of hair into the sink or onto the floor as Remus cut away at the thick, black hair.
"Harry's going to have to start those Occulmency lessons again," Sirius said, almost startling Remus.
"He will," Remus softly replied, not as willing as Sirius was to give up the quiet of the bathroom, the hair falling, and the soft clicking of the scissors. Sirius didn't reply, and his face was somewhat obscured by the hair around his face that Remus hadn't gotten to yet.
"I said I'd talk to Snape, and I will," Remus said, hoping to stem the tide of color he could see creeping up the back of Sirius' neck from underneath his white t-shirt.
"Yeah, but this is Snape we're talking about."
"Exactly. He'll do it, maybe not willingly, maybe not happily, but he knows how important it is. He'll do it."
"That's not the Snape I remember," Sirius said, his right hand compulsively tightening on the edge of the sink.
"Maybe he's not the Snape you remember," Remus ventured softly.
Sirius was quiet for another minute until, "No one is the person I remember."
"No. Least of all myself."
Remus had the sudden urge to plant his face into the back of Sirius' neck, to draw in the smell of his shampoo, to kiss him, as if in benediction. Instead, he kept cutting, though perhaps not as steadily as before. After a pause, he said, "Not even Harry?"
He'd meant it as a joke, and Sirius chuckled softly, knowing that it was one. "Especially not Harry. Last time I'd seen him, he could barely walk. Then, all of the sudden, he's . . ."
"Almost grown," Remus supplied.
"Almost," Sirius agreed. "And so like James."
"Harry's not James, Sirius," Remus answered, a hint of a warning in his voice.
"So you and countless others have told me." Sirius sighed, a quick rise and lowering of his tense shoulders. "Besides, there's too much of Lily in him for me not to have noticed the difference."
Remus smiled, knowing that Sirius wasn't just talking about Harry's eyes. "It's remarkable, isn't it?"
"It is. It's . . . I love Harry beyond my own life, but . . . sometimes it's . . . difficult . . . to just look at him." Sirius whispered the last bit, almost as if in confession.
Remus took a moment before he answered. "I know. I. It's hard to look at all of them. At Harry . . . Ron . . . Neville."
"Frank Longbottom's boy?"
"Yes. Even Draco sometimes."
"Really. To look out at those faces, to know what came before them. To know what they don't know. Who they don't know. To see . . ." he broke off, suddenly not trusting his voice, or his hand that was holding the scissors. "Some days while I was at Hogwarts I thought I'd see those faces even in my sleep."
"And did you?"
"No," Remus admitted softly. "In those days, the only thing I saw in my sleep was you."
Sirius looked up quickly, his gaze in the mirror suddenly catching Remus'. He straightened up slowly, shaking his head in a fashion that could only remind Remus of when the big, black dog shook off water. Hair went flying, though the smaller strands were stuck in the collar of Sirius' shirt, looking for all the world like fur. Remus had cut quite a bit off, but kept a good length. No one who looked at Sirius' hair would say it was short. It was standing up, flying in every direction as Sirius carefully took the scissors out of Remus' hands.
And then Sirius did the thing that Remus least expected: Sirius kissed him.
Remus was so surprised that he backed up quickly, two steps, until he hit something hard. But he didn't pull away, not when he felt Sirius' tongue open his mouth, not when he smelled the soap that Sirius had used in the shower, not when he tasted the sharp tang of breakfast's cranberry juice on Sirius' tongue. Instead, he fisted his hands in Sirius' hair, that dark, thick, wavy mess that he had just spent the better part of an hour tangling through. He kissed Sirius back, kissed him hard, until . . .
"Ow. Ow!" Remus exclaimed softly against those warm lips. Sirius pulled back as if he'd been burned.
"No! No!" Remus said, his fingers scrambling down Sirius neck and coming to stop against his chest. "No! No . . . um. Yes!" Damnit! Where had his brain gone to? Actually, he had a pretty good idea where it'd gone. Sirius was looking down at him, slightly hurt, mostly confused.
"Er. Towel rack," Remus tried to explain, twisting his body out from under Sirius' as he edged closer to the door. The towel rack came slowly into view, having been previously obscured by Remus' back. "Towel rack."
As comprehension dawned, Sirius began to laugh, a big, booming bark that echoed along the bathroom tile. When he finally quieted he said, "Bathrooms have never been our strong suit. Remember the boy's lav, sixth year?"
Remus smiled, no, grinned, really, completely amused for what felt like the first time in years. "James couldn't look us in the eye for a week after that!"
"I remember," Sirius answered, his voice soft, though his previous mirth still reached his eyes. "I remember," he said again, bumping Remus' nose with his own.
"You do," Remus replied in kind. His breath hitched as Sirius put a finger through one of his belt loops, and pulled him closer. He could feel Sirius' breath on his cheek.
"You know what else I remember?"
"We loved each other," Sirius whispered, voice soft, breath hot. "I don't need a sticky note for that."
Remus swallowed. "Still," he said.
"Always," Sirius bent his mouth down, and closed the gap between them.