A Puff of Breath – A/N

Summary: Sirius and Remus are left alone at school over the holidays. On the night after Christmas, they explore the new dynamic between them a bit further.

Timeline: MWPP Era – Christmas in seventh year.

Spoilers: None, I think. This is sort of . . . between canon, although it does have some continuity with my first fic for this fandom - "Sirius Laughed".
Rating: PG for slash and sexual content. No vulgar language or explicit description, however.

Disclaimer: I don't own any of these characters, events or plotlines. No profit is being made.

Notes: I'm doing some further experimentation w/ first person; and I'm also wondering if I can pull off some stronger sexuality w/o venturing into the absurd or silly.

Warnings: Slash. Character delineation through sexual interaction. One instance of a four letter word

Feedback: I delight in feedback, especially since this is a new genre to me. – I'll be pathetically grateful, actually.

A Puff of Breath

Nyx Fixx


I hate Boxing Day.

I do enjoy Christmas very much, at least, I have since I determined that discretion was the better part of valor and learned to send excuses home for the holidays in lieu of myself. I don't have to bother with all that anymore, of course, but I seriously doubt anyone back at the ancestral snakepit ever minded the substitution all that much in the past. Perhaps it was my habit of revising favorite carols for the edification and enjoyment of the entire household that used to make me a bit unpopular back home at Christmastime? No matter.

Christmas is a wonderful thing. But the day after Christmas is horrible and depressing and boring. Even here at Hogwarts, where the holidays are as close to perfect as even the pickiest of perfectionists might ask. After all the festivity and busy preparation and suspense and the marvelous, elaborate intrigue of proper gift-giving has come to its fruition on Christmas Day, the day after really cannot be anything but a dreary, soggy sort of let-down.

If there just happens to be a night full of howling wind and cutting sleet outside on that dreaded day after, so much the worse. If one just happens to be left alone with a single companion in an emptied Gryffindor tower - rattling around like a pair of pebbles in a tin can since all our mates went home for the holidays – depression can start to border on anguish.

And if that sole companion happens to be the aforementioned picky perfectionist who hasn't lifted his nose out of his stupid book for the last twenty minutes and who is a born master of suspense and who will surely make one pay dearly if one should burn the toast – well – anguish quickly escalates into suicidal thoughts.

I could suddenly leap through one of the windows in a sudden spray of burst glass and blood-curdling screaming all the way down. That might get his attention...it's possible...but then again, it does appear to be a very engrossing book. Besides, the toast would almost certainly be ruined, and then where would we be? I can't risk it.

It's odd. Last Christmas, I would have just up and made a run toward that cushy spot on the sofa under the lamp that's his favorite perch for reading – and I then would have deviled him in various ways until he'd stopped reading and I'd made a satisfactory dint in all that formidable self-possession. I'd have asked inane questions about the book and told him outlandish and completely untrue tidbits of gossip, I'd have called him various annoying pet names and told him truly vile rude jokes and applied judicious tickling techniques and poked his elbows and put my head in his lap and pulled faces and generally pestered him outrageously until he would have become so irritated he'd have had to take some sort of punitive action. Which, of course, would have been my intention all along.

One time, he got so angry he actually smacked me with a rolled up newspaper. Hard. I couldn't stop laughing about it for at least an hour.

Now, though…now I actually have managed to make some real inroads into the vast variety of tricky anti-personnel wards he's got all around his heart. I don't know how it's even possible – but almost two months ago – near Halloween, in fact – we spent an evening together on the outskirts of the forest that changed everything.

Or, perhaps, defined everything. Yes, I rather think it's more like that.

It took James all of a week and a half to notice that a change had occurred, I recall. I'd been unhappy, for various reasons that I'd discussed only with him, and then suddenly, come Halloween, I wasn't unhappy. James was bound to notice. When he asked me if my recent change of attitude had anything to do with Remus – I'd just muttered something about wild notions and scurrilous rumor and how did normally halfway intelligent people ever get such absurd rubbish into their heads and so on. He'd argued that I'd been obsessed with Moony since I was twelve and even if he did wear glasses that did not mean he was blind.

And I've adored you since I was nine, I countered brilliantly, but I'm not shagging you, am I?

Remus thinks I'm indiscreet. He says whenever I open my mouth; my guts are apt to fall out. I haven't the slightest idea what he means by that. Truly.

Once James finished laughing at me and my mortally loose lips, he reminded me that if I had been shagging him and not …well…someone else, Lily would have stomped me into a paste, and, anyway, I had as much chance of keeping something as big as that a secret from my best friend as I had of successfully casting a permanent sticking charm on every broomstick in the world, and that he hoped we were both very happy, since he was sick of watching me mope. When he asked me, just out of curiosity, if I could tell him anything about what lay beyond Fortress Moony's dizzying array of defenses without being an ungentlemanly blabbermouth, I told him that I DID NOT MOPE, EVER, and that mostly what lay beyond was more defenses.

More defenses. How true that is. I might have guessed. But that's the beauty of it, of course. I could spend the rest of my life mapping the labyrinthine route through them all. And now that I've succeeded in breaching the outer layers at last, I find that I can't approach Remus with the same flagrant disregard for his immediate wishes as I used to. Perhaps his slight shyness, as winsome and provocative as it is, has turned out to be contagious.

He's reading, it's Boxing Day, and I'm stuck with a toasting fork. It won't do. It won't do at all.

Once the proverbial fireworks were complete on that mysterious and bewitching fall night not so long ago, I was very, very content. I daresay I've never been quite so completely at peace with the world and my place in it as I was on that night, with my Moony wrapped up like a gift in my own cloak and sleeping in my arms. It's just unconscionable, really; I can't believe he fell asleep on me! I ought to have been thoroughly insulted, of course, but I wasn't. Moony is so often exhausted; it's good for him to sleep.

However, as I watched him sleeping and marveled at how much younger he looked without that steady, ever-present watchful expression in his face, I began to wonder how he would look when he awakened and remembered all that had happened between us. All I had done; all he had done. I was afraid he might look more stricken than satisfied.

And what would he do then? If he did regret? I had absolutely no idea and no basis on which to predict. I couldn't even get a feel for how it might be. He's always been a mystery to me. The strange thing is, I was worried sick he'd be horribly uncomfortable with the new degree of intimacy; but it never occurred to me at all, at first, that same-sex alliances are sometimes considered socially unacceptable in our snug little Hogwarts microcosm. I'm so pathetically entranced with Moony, in his unique and strange entirety, that his gender, like his small, neat feet or his right-handedness, has always seemed purely incidental to me.

But then all that grey, dismal conventional wisdom did occur to me, with a kind of mental thud. And it wasn't just Hogwarts; we're all scheduled to leave school in a few short months. Here, it would just be some catcalls in the corridors and insults in the dining hall; and not too much of even that. Both Remus and I can cast a hex quicker than most of our schoolmates can blink, and everyone knows it. But outside these sheltered school grounds, such alliances are not just fodder for nasty name-calling and rude jokes. There's a vicious mania for bloodlines and dynastic ambition abroad in the world out there, among other unpleasant things. Hogwarts is a very far cry from the real world; I can consult a certain hideous old tapestry at home anytime I need a reminder.

So, by the time he'd awakened, of course I'd managed to work myself into a complete frenzy over it. The moment I saw he was awake I just babbled on and on about how sorry I was for putting him in such an untenable position, and that I'd never even think of touching him again for the next two or three thousand years, and that I could be discreet, he'd see, I would just go right on doing my usual ridiculous "Delirious Black" act and no one would ever suspect me of harboring a single coherent thought, much less a significant secret. I never waited to hear what he might have to say on the matter; I didn't even wait to catch a breath.

He shut me up with a kiss. He only did it because he had to, I think, my mouth had run riot. Desperate times, and all that.

"I think you may be overestimating your ability to make everyone believe you're stupid, Sirius," he commented thoughtfully, once he'd snogged me silent. Using that cool, reasonable tone of his that – I confess – invariably sends me straight out of my mind. Several kisses more followed. I could have wept with relief. "Your test scores are against it, for one thing."

"But I have at least half of 'em convinced I'm barking mad, you know," I assured him. "We could start with that."

"I'm really not sure we're in quite so much trouble here as you seem to think, either," he argued. "And, even if we are, we'll deal with it. I'll deal with it. So will you. We're both good at that. Now stop whining – you know how I hate it."

"But I'm not whiiiiiinnniiinng," I objected promptly. I cannot allow Remus to deliver ultimatums without answering them at once, no matter how pleased with him I might be. He'd get completely out of control.

After all my fears and worrying, it really was very simple, at least the way he laid it all out for me. We needn't explain anything to anyone. We hardly knew what it all meant ourselves, did we? And surely we didn't have to waste the next fifty years trying to sort it all out, did we? And it was hardly the sort of thing one must announce from the rooftops, was it? Nothing had to change – at least outwardly – and probably privately too, since we were still good friends, just as we always had been. Weren't we?

Does adding sex to the mix – and mind-boggling, heart-exploding, gut-twisting, toe-curling, almost-makes-you-pass-out sex at that – does it somehow negate friendship? In my admittedly limited experience, I've found that sex can vary between wild extremes of the utterly grotesque and the utterly divine, with, no doubt, various more reasonable degrees in between, at least for normal people. But it does nothing at all toward altering pre-existing friendships in the end, I think; it's like gauging the effect of apples on oranges.

So I told him that we were still friends, and that it would most likely kill me dead if ever we weren't, and then I…

Oh, and then I…

Ah. Well. A thought that must remain incomplete, in view of the precarious, almost perfectly done condition of the sodding toast. Just a few moments more, and then, when Remus isn't looking, I'll transfigure this blasted toasting fork into a backscratcher and have done with it. I'll never roast toast again.

"Sirius, isn't that toast done yet?" he asks suddenly, startling me so greatly I nearly drop the damned toast into the fire. I understand that, from this moment on, I'll have a raging toast-phobia for the rest of my days. Thank you, Moony. Thank you so very much.

I get up from my place before the fire stiffly, throw the stupid toast onto a plate, stomp over to his couch and thrust the whole mess of disgusting stuff into his hands.

"Here!" I snap at him. "Here's your bugger-it-all TOAST!"

He looks up at me for several moments, seeing, no doubt, right past hair (that very likely could do with a haircut), scalp, and hard shell of cranium; directly into the seething mess beneath.

"Aren't you having any?" he asks mildly.

"I hate toast," I say dispiritedly and flop down into the couch beside him. "It's sickening."

"Really? You didn't seem to think so this morning. Two pieces disappeared from my plate whilst I was chatting with Professor McGonagall over breakfast, and I regret to inform you that I suspect the primary agent in the robbery was you."

I look suitably wounded by this accusation while I contemplate the lobe of his left ear. If I could just get that small morsel of flesh into my teeth and bite down just the least little bit – ever so gently – it would please him beyond measure. I know this for a fact. I found out.

I never know, anymore, when it's all right to touch him. One would think it would be the other way around now, but it is not, alas. It's been almost two months since the first time, and I've only been with him twice more in all the weeks since. And once it was only because I'd finally slipped round the twist from wanting and waiting too long and pulled him into the cloakroom off the Herbology shed and put hasty wards on the door. An impromptu kidnapping. He'd informed me that he had no intention whatsoever of being reduced to snogging in a by-God cloakroom and that I had better get my grubby paws off him at once - and then some Hufflepuff girl with a truly unfortunate voice started tugging at the door outside - and I could neither stop laughing, my face buried in the nape of his neck to muffle the sounds, nor could I stop touching, touching, touching him every place I could reach.

That Hufflepuff creature never did get in. I suppose she must have had to park her cloak elsewhere that day. When I began to cool enough to see that we were in imminent danger of full exposure and made to remove my grubby paws from Remus' pristine flesh, he growled at me under his breath that if I valued my life I was Not. To. Stop. Now.

So I didn't. I can follow directions as well as the next bloke. Well, in truth…almost as well normally, and occasionally much better – in certain particularly specific situations. I've discovered, recently, that I have a previously unknown talent for improvisation.

That left ear lobe is looking better and better to me. I am mesmerized. Just one little nip is all it would take, really…and then, perhaps that small, square angle where his jaw meets his neck, and then after that, the small hollow at the base of his throat, I think. Oh, I see it all. I can do it all. My strategy is complete.

But is it all right? I don't know. I never know. He may want to finish that ridiculous book; he might want to eat his revolting toast. My hands are starting to shake and I can feel my heart starting to skitter about in my chest. I wouldn't be at all surprised if smoke suddenly started to rise off my skin.

I can't stand it. Fortune favors the brave. Toast be damned. I pounce.

At first he is too startled to think to pull out of my grip, and shortly after he lacks the desire to do so. My theories on the ear lobe and the gentle biting are fully vindicated. I can hear him gasp softly at the touch of my teeth and then I can feel a subtle shudder work its way through him, I can feel it under my hands. Toast and book fall by the wayside. I could growl for pleasure. Now that square angle of jawbone, just as I've planned, now the hollow of the throat, and now some greedy, starving spirit is awakening and twisting in the pit of my stomach and I will never be able to touch him enough. His head drifts back against the sofa and his mouth softens and falls open for me and although his eyes have gone heavy-lidded and are half obscured by his lashes I can see how his pupils are dilating. It's a clear invitation to a kiss, and I would be a fool not to take one. Or a thousand.

I'm not a fool. Not always, anyway.

A thousand kisses. I'll start now. I'm certain I can do it if I hurry it up a bit. Not that I could slow down at this stage, even if I wanted to. Not that I want to. There's a current in Moony's skin, or in the very fibers of his body, or perhaps in the color of his eyes. I think it's moonlight made manifest; I think it's the tidal arrangement of his identity. He is Remus and Remus is the Wolf. The two are one. And yet, they are divided. It's an ancient enigma that I will never ever solve, nor will I ever cease in the attempt. I'm enchanted by it. I'm entangled in all directions in magic both light and dark, as fatal to me as silver is to him. Because that's who I am.

A spell this compelling doesn't come along every day. A wizard could live a very long life indeed and never experience anything like it. I'd be mad to want to throw it off, even if I could. Moony is my rara avis; he is the central mystery of my life to date.

And still my friend.

"You touch me as if I were made out of spun glass," he whispers to me as I dip my hands past whatever gaps I can find in his clothing. I need to feel bare skin under my palms and I need it now. "You always do that. Why?"

I love it when he questions me like this. He asks the best questions; always has.

"You are made out of spun glass. Special witch-glass; composed of equal parts moonlight and forest air and blood and earth and library paste. It's a very volatile combination, Moony, you really must hold still."

I find the fastenings of his robes, and some of the fraying threads there tickle the pads of my fingers as I touch them.

"Do you really think I'm so fragile, then?" he asks. No challenge in it at all, just curious.

"Yes," I answer into his ear. "Yes, I do – fragile as shadow and strong as the bones of the earth. Endurance personified, sweet as a fleeting taste. Remus unbound. May I undo these fastenings? Please?"

He smiles in that slow, oddly feline way he sometimes has and nods, watching every move I make with a kind of preternatural intentness. I might be scared of Moony if I wasn't so irretrievably besotted with him. But he's given his permission, and I am eager to comply, I want all this wretched clothing off of him, he's far too superb to wear such tired and ragged fabrics; he should always and ever be wrapped in saffron silk. But my hands are now shaking so badly that I can barely work the fastenings. I find this incompetence a rather pathetic circumstance and at once I'm laughing at myself hard enough to further compromise what little hand-eye coordination I've managed to retain.

"Would you like some help with that, Sirius?" he asks politely. I can hear the dry little smile in his voice as he says it; I don't need to see.

I bite his knees in retaliation, just hard enough to tickle, and when he laughs at that I shiver slightly. "Thank you, I can manage, you patronizing sod. There, that's got it…lean back now…more, more, more…more I tell you, all the way back…I simply cannot tolerate this uncooperative spirit, Moony, I won't have it…"

Now I have him. A few more adjustments, one or two more items of discarded clothing, and I have him laid out on the sofa beneath me, clothes either gone or opened here and there, naked enough for my purposes at any rate, the usual evidences of arousal fully evident and with his eyes still watching me sleepily and his breath hitching fitfully in his bared chest. Just like this, this is exquisite; this is how I want it, this is exactly how I want it.

He's mentioned to me, already, that he does notice that I have been, at least so far, a bit over-generous as a…a partner. Just in case I'd been supposing he hadn't caught on yet, that was, he said. According to him, I neglect my own needs in favor of his, and he sometimes feels like a selfish pig because he allows me to do this. He's mad, of course.

Clearly, I have him completely bamboozled. His needs are my needs. The more pleased he is, the more pleasure I can wring out of him, the quieter he gets. Quieter and quieter and quieter until the moment comes when I've pleased him the most, and then he comes home to me with his head thrown back in a perfect explosion of absolute silence. When I can see something like that; when I can hear it, when I can cause something like that – well, it's actually crystal clear to me which one of us is the selfish pig.

So, for now, I'll have it my way, until he puts a stop to it. Which he will, in time, I'm certain of it, unfortunately. Remus is utterly invested in the idea of fair play, and the Byzantine byways of sex are still a touch too new for him to understand that what's fair isn't always what's wanted in this arena. I'm not all that seasoned an explorer here myself, to be quite honest, but I think I must have arrived with some innate understanding of the locality already in place.

I have two extra wisdom teeth, too. Set right back behind the ones in front. It's just a birth quirk. Peter can bend his thumb all the way back to his wrist, and James can wiggle his ears. Remus can come without making a sound. I can fuck like a bunny, apparently. We all have our little gifts.

What shall I do with him right now? Everything, of course, I'll do everything, that's a given. After all, who knows when I'll have the opportunity again? But how to approach the problem – what course shall I take?

Long, and slow, and perhaps the smallest hint of gentle torture thrown in? I'm still a bit sulky about that toast, I find. Would that be the best way?

"What will you do?" Moony wonders aloud, so softly, almost as though he's not even speaking to me, and a low, insinuating purr informs his quiet voice. I always wonder if he can somehow read my thoughts when he says things like this. When he says aloud exactly what I've just been thinking. I wouldn't put it past him, either.

He looks up at me, searching my eyes. His lips are parted and there's a faint flush in his face and throat. The slow, dreamy satisfaction in his gaze reminds me, for a moment, of the Wolf hidden under his skin, who sometimes gazes at the moon in exactly that same unfathomable way. "Sirius. What will you do with me now?"

That does it. I'm certain of it. I'm convinced he knows exactly how deeply these questions, in these tones, will affect me. He knows precisely; he's doing it on purpose, that must be why he said my name that way. I'm shaken. I'm undone.

I'd like to tell him "never you mind" or "just you wait" or even "two thousand torturers armed with tiny brass nail-files could not persuade me to reveal" – but I cannot. My voice has somehow gotten stuck fast in my chest and I can only breathe. And even that is getting to be something of an effort; all the air in the room around us seems to have become sweet and thick and syrupy. I lay my head on Moony's chest so I can model my breathing after his, so I can angle my nose and mouth into his skin and breathe him in instead of the heavy air.

I can hear his heart in there, hammering away against his ribs. I can feel his small, capable hands moving on the back of my neck and in my hair and skimming my ears and I do try to breathe, I do, but all I can wrench out of my own throat are soft groans. Oh, yes – I quite clearly have Moony just where I want him. I'm in complete control. That much is plain to see.

I'm so ludicrous I start laughing at myself again, and this is very peculiar, really, considering that I still - can't - breathe. Perhaps I can steal a breath from his lips; maybe that's where he's hiding all the air. I raise my face to his to give it a try.

When I was a very small boy, probably no more then three or four, I remember that my mother used to cuff me smartly any time I'd try to kiss her or cuddle her. She believed that such displays of physical affection were unseemly, and although she did understand that small children are naturally prone to uncouth behavior, she felt that I must be taught early and well what was expected of me in the way of proper comportment. The demented old thing spent the next decade and more trying to drill this particular lesson into my thick skull, and never made much impression at all. I did manage to learn not to touch her fairly quickly, but that's as far as she ever got. Now I'm seventeen and I'll never go home again, so it's too late for further parental instruction, and I still love to kiss and pet and be petted more than most things in the world. To the everlasting despair of my mum, I never did grow out of it.

And I could kiss Remus for days on end, if only he'd let me. I've formed a habit already of glancing into his eyes just before that first delicious contact, and what I see there tonight is a compelling mixture of challenge and surrender. Challenge; because I will need all the skill and imagination and patience I can call on to ever get very close to him, as always. But there's surrender in his gaze too, because he believes I do have all those things to offer and because he wishes he were able to make it easy for me. He can't shed all his formidable control on his own, but he does believe in me. Remus is a purely self-contained unit – an essentially solitary being. He cannot come to me; I must go to him.

And so, I do. I am perfectly satisfied with the arrangement, even if he feels some regret; if it were easy, he wouldn't be Moony. I just kiss him lightly; just a gentle touch and no pressure, and then I tease his mouth open with the tip of my tongue. There is a breath inside there, I discover, just as I suspected. I draw it slowly into my own chest. I search for other breaths too and find them here and there at regular intervals: bottom lip, corners of the mouth, that odd little delicate indentation between the upper lip and the nose, and I steal each breath I find. If I were dying of hunger on some desert island somewhere, I think I could live on these sweet breaths alone.

He has some long, faint scars on his face; I rediscover them as I'm breathing in the air he's been hoarding. They're extremely dashing, they look like dueling scars. I love them, but I know Remus does not like them at all. I've noticed the way he avoids his own reflection in mirrors and keeps all his grooming routines quick and businesslike. I wish he could see them the way I do for once; if he could see all of his scars and marks the way I do. For me, he's covered in a network of mystic runes, some fabulously occult set of mysterious hieroglyphs. I believe now that I may well be spending many years of my life to come trying to decipher the cryptic message in them.

I start to read the longest one on his face with my lips, the one that angles across cheek and chin on a diagonal. It's just a faint delicate ridge; the flesh there is slightly cooler than the rest, slightly rougher. This one leads to another that starts just under his collarbone, and that one, in its turn, leads to more. Perhaps I'll read them all tonight, I think, and the thought sets my hands to shaking again, sets my heart to racing, sets my blood to pulsing in my throat.

Moony's hands in my hair suddenly still and his body under me stiffens. Oh, damn. I've inadvertently tripped another one of his alarms.

"Don't," he says sharply. "Don't kiss me like that."

His eyes have gone alert and watchful again and the faint flush of pleasure in his cheeks has deepened into something uncomfortable, embarrassed, and bordering on angry. I should back away from this – I really should – I don't want him to be cross with me, and I've so often tread past his boundaries in these past few weeks where so much is so new to us. I feel clumsy and stupid, and yet…I know I'm right. I'm right to touch these scars; it's good to celebrate them.

"It's not the way you object to," I tell him, as quietly as I can. I don't want to seem as though I'm arguing with him, even though I am. "What you really mean to say is 'don't kiss me there' isn't it? 'Don't touch my scars because I hate them and you should too'? But I don't hate them, Moony. I'm sorry but I don't."

I try kissing the tip of his nose as a peace offering – as a way of apologizing for having to disagree with him. I think it helps, at least a little.

"They're ugly," he argues, perhaps a bit mollified, but still stubborn.

"They are not. And you are absurd. There's not a pinch of flesh on you that's ugly. Not one."

"Extravagant praise and whispered flattery. Who's absurd? Why continue to seduce when I'm already in as compromising a position as I'm likely to get? In the sodding common room, for God's sake, where anyone could walk in at any minute. What more do you want? You and your idiotic romantic notions! Who's absurd? Next you'll be bringing me candy and violets!"

"Remus, darling! Your exquisite sarcasm just inflames my heart. I'm lost. You could give the Devil himself snide comment lessons. I'm about to have an orgasm. Please do go on."

He's snickering in spite of himself. When all else fails, I've discovered that I can sometimes fall back on his sense of humor.

"I'll bring you flowery perfumes and lacey underthings too, if you like," I add.

"I knew it. You think I'm a girl!" Now he really is laughing.

"No, I think you're a spiny hedgehog. I think you're a thicket of brambles. I think you're a ferocious snapping turtle. I think you're actually a bit thick, too, for all your bookish ways. I want all of you. Scars and all. All, all, all."

"So now I'm a dimwitted girl at that."

"You are being deliberately obtuse. Don't think I'm not onto you. Don't think there won't be repercussions later. It's really too bad of you, Moony, I can't let it pass."

I decide to take a perilous chance now – I think it's best. I'm nervous, because this could get serious, and the last time I really ticked Moony off, he put me in the hospital. This time I might not come off so lucky. He might just give me the boot altogether.

I kiss the scar that crosses over his nose deliberately. I lick it and follow it down to where it trails off toward his ear.

"This one is probably my favorite. But there are others I like almost as well," I tell him once I get close enough to the ear to whisper into it, and then I brush inside the cup of his ear with the tip of my tongue, because I know it will feel good and I hope it will offset some of his stiffness and discomfort. He's only angry because so much hurt went into making these scars.

He does sigh, it does feel good, but it's so hard for him to relinquish his distance. I know it's hard, I know it is.

He shifts under me, his voice has lost its sharpness, he sounds so lost. "Sirius, please. Please. Understand. They are ugly. Each one is an ugly memory."

He's too young to have so many ugly memories. Come to think of it, we both are.

"Oh, Moony, I know that. I do. I'd just like you to have some nice memories about them too. That's possible too, isn't it? Anything's possible, isn't it? Stop treating your shaving mirror like it's an unfriendly eye. See what I see. This one…"

I trace the one that starts under his collarbone with my index finger; it loops off across his breast toward his armpit. His skin shivers a bit under my touch, and perhaps that's a good sign.

"The way it loops here - it almost looks as though it could be a lower case 'c', or possibly the Arithmancy symbol for 'contagion'. Possibly a 'c' for –"

"Cruel? A word to the wise, Sirius…"

"You don't scare me. Well…sometimes you do, actually, but that's as may be. I was going to say 'charm', or 'compelling' or -"

"Callous?" he asks, grinning. He's getting into the fun of the game.

"Perhaps 'contentious' is the word I'm looking for," I say, and raise his arm over his head so that I can follow the tail of the 'c' into the hollow beneath where it terminates.

"Perhaps 'codswallop' is more le mot juste in this instance, Padfoot. As in 'what ridiculous rubbish you talk', you great, galumphing git."

Ah, thank Heaven; we are past the crisis at last. I can feel it. I can hear it in his voice, dry and sardonic and amused and perhaps…secretly pleased. I can detect it from his use of a pet-name he never utters unless he's in an approving mood. I can feel it in the boneless, relaxed way he lets me move his arm. I can smell it in the woodsy, musky scent that's arising from the sensitive skin I've exposed.

Dear God, that scent…ohhh. Oh. Oh. It tells me everything he can't tell me aloud. It tells me everything. I want more, I want it now, I need it. I raise his other arm too, right over his head, I press down a touch on his crossed wrists to tell him I want him to leave his limbs where I've put them, I feel tendrils of the warm and satiny fragrance seeping into my head and inflaming my brain, I feel fingers of it wrapping slowly around all the nerves and muscles in my lower belly and points south and pulling, pulling, pulling. It's dizzying. It's hypnotic. It's twisting me into coils.

I'm through talking. I'm through playing. I'm through joking and coaxing and debating. I'm through waiting. No more.

I push my face into the place under his arm roughly and suck in every trace of scent, every molecule of it, all that I can get. I hear him groan distinctly, and it's such a quiet sound, really, it is, but to me it's deafening. I bite at the large tendon that winds under his arm and into his pectoral muscle, and this would tickle, under other circumstances. But it doesn't tickle now, it makes him writhe. Good, I want him writhing, I want him writhing under me, I want to feel that. I find another scar – one that starts high on his ribs on the left and zigzags up into his chest and I follow its path with teeth and tongue and lips, I follow it to where it fades out, dangerously close to the nipple, just over his heart. He might have lost all the sensation there if the cut had been any deeper. But it wasn't – it didn't cut deep enough - when I suck, hard, on that nipple, his hips buck strongly and one of his knees draws up, I feel it against my own hipbone.

I know something about how an aroused boy's body works. After all, I've been living in just such a body for seventeen years. At a certain point of excitement, at a certain fever pitch, it doesn't matter where you touch; all roads lead to Rome.

I know where he wants me to touch him now. I know, but I'm not going to do it. Not yet.

There's a scar that starts in his upper midsection, right in the middle. It descends, straight as a razor's edge, down his stomach in the long groove at the midpoint of his abdominal muscles, bisecting his navel as it plunges into his lower belly. There's a cruel hooked angle at its end; this one could have disemboweled him. I follow this ruinous path too, I end with my mouth on the hook, sucking, licking, kissing, only inches away from where he really wants me to go. His hips are still bucking and I grasp his hipbones with my hands to keep him still. Not yet. Not just yet.

The sounds he makes are starting to take on that slow slide into absolute silence that fascinates me so. He's starting to go quiet. It's pitiless of me to torture him like this; I know he can't ask me for what he wants.

I don't care. He won't have to ask in the end.

Now I direct my attentions to the long scar on the inside of his right thigh. I butt his legs further apart with my head; my hands are still firmly attached to the arches of his hipbones. I know how exposed he must feel like this, and I know how exciting that feeling of exposure, of complete vulnerability, can be. Right now, he feels as though every drop of blood in him is pooling and building in one aching, straining place. I could release that flood, he knows I could. But I won't. Not yet.

I'll probably pay for this, tomorrow, or the next day, or soon enough. And it will be worth it. Worth every moment of it.

He can't even moan now. I've temporarily robbed him of his voice, now he can only breathe. I can hear him breathing - small, soft, panting breaths – they'd likely be sobs of frustration if there was any volume left in them.

The small muscles of his lower belly are jumping. His chest is rising and falling in a quick, shallow rhythm, his breathing has gone quiet too now, but I can see how short of breath he is. His arms are still sprawled out over his head, I doubt he has enough strength or presence of mind left to move them; they look boneless, relaxed, arched gracefully above him with the wrists still crossed. But his hands are not relaxed, they are twisting and clenching and the neatly made, clever fingers are fluttering. Every line of his body is vulnerable, at my mercy, every muscle, every inch of skin, every bone in him.

But when I look up into his face, his eyes are like molten gold on fire, white-hot, blazing. He is Remus and Remus is the Wolf. The two are one. I've done enough toying. One step more and I'll have gone too far.

I love to skirt this edge. I love it. It's all I want to do. Sometimes I think it's all I've ever wanted to do.

I leave the scar on his thigh alone and move my face near to the place where he wants me to be – where he wants me right now and not an instant later and not a moment too soon. And still – still – I hesitate yet another fraction of a second, I push him one more time, I look up into his face once more, I want to fix the trembling of his limbs and the strained lines of his beautiful, weary face and the incandescent heat in his eyes in my memory forever, no matter how dangerous it is. I am who I am. I cannot resist going that one step further than I should.

I position my mouth and nose in the perfect, strategic spot and pool all the air in my lungs; I fill them to bursting with every breath I stole from him before. I wait for the length of one - more - heartbeat – and then I expel every breath at once in a single, never-ending rush of shared air. All our breath, together. All the life in us, all at once.

A single puff of breath. He explodes. He disintegrates. He goes super-nova. He makes no sound at all. His silence is silence, but to my ears, it might as well be shrieking, it's that loud.

And now I'm exploding myself, I can hear the astonished barking of laughter tearing its way out of my throat, I can feel that ravishing, twisting, familiar spiraling in my own loins, in my gut, in my blood, in my head. Ah, dear God – dear God – how can it be humanly possible to feel this good? Who put this inconceivable pleasure here on earth for all us mortals to enjoy?

How can all the Muggles say there's no such thing as magic? Are they mad? Moony and I are levitating again; I can see the impressions of our bodies still in the sofa beneath us when I glance down.

I can't help wondering how we'd look now, if someone were to come into the room, and the thought starts me laughing in earnest. I move and twist as well as I can after being so thoroughly emptied just now and alter our respective positions enough to kiss him, through all this laughter that I just can't seem to stop. He kisses back, puts his arms around me, holds tight. Apparently, I've been forgiven for all my merciless, fiendish teasing. At least for the time being.

So here we are, floating in mid-air, mouths interlocked, me laughing as though I've gone completely insane and shaking us both about like salamanders jumping on a hot surface. What a spectacle we make.

He's talking to me – his voice is so soft, so quiet - I have to swallow these demented cackles enough to hear –

"Sirius. Sirius. Padfoot. I do. Do you hear me? Are you listening? I do. I see what you see. Thank you."

Ah, I think my heart will crack open. Maybe I'll just die of ecstasy. My Moony.

We are starting to lose altitude. We'll be back on the solid sofa in another moment or two. I roll us around so that now I'm the one below. A minute or two goes by, and then I feel the first soft touch of shabby velvet upholstery under my back and then I sink into it. Moony sinks into me a moment later, a warm and precious weight. His body is all soft compliance and satisfied languor now. I fold him into my arms and stroke his head when we are fully back under the thrall of gravity.

I don't really mind when he falls asleep on me, actually. I may complain bitterly about it when I want to tease him, but I'm joking, my outraged complaints on the matter make him smile. The truth is, I like it when he does that.

The truth is, I like everything he does. The good and the bad, the sweet and the frightening, the maddeningly difficult and the heart-wrenchingly easy. Everything. Scars and all.

"Don't thank me, you gullible fool," I tell him, very softly, because now I want him to rest. He needs his rest so much. "It's all because you allow it. Only that. All because you can bend a little after all, just enough to allow it. You are a good bit more flexible than you think, I expect. Would you like to sleep now?"

"Yes," he answers, simply.

I'm satisfied with that. I hold him a little closer, stroke his tired, hopelessly over-burdened head some more.

"Sleep, then. Sleep, Moony…"

"All right."

And so, that easily, he does. Just like that. In just a few moments I can hear the soft, rhythmic breathing of his repose. How good he is, to trust me so completely. I've never done anything to earn such a rare privilege.

As I sink down into the initial stages of slumber myself, the last sounds I hear are the slow, soft, delicate sighs of his breath. I think they'll follow me into dream, these sounds. I think they'll follow me into dream forever.

I think, tonight, and for many, many nights, I will certainly dream of a puff of breath.