Note: I don't own Harry Potter, it belongs to J.K.Rowling, nothing is mine. Also, some credit goes to The Shoebox Project ) for getting me hooked on the idea of MWPP as Beatles fans. Title thanks to my dear friend Rouge.
Once upon a time, Remus Lupin thought it would be a good idea to introduce his friends to the Beatles.
He wanted to give them something in return for their becoming Animagi. If it were up to him, he would have given them something every day for the rest of their lives, each day an opportunity to shower them with gifts, each gift unique and of value to its recipient. As he was limited by lack of time and money, he settled for giving them two things: something they could remember, and something they could keep.
The first was taken care of by spring of fifth year, through a rapid exchange of letters between Remus and his mother. He wanted to bring them to his home, for the four of them to have a few days to enjoy each other's company without the distractions of other students or the stresses of school; he also wanted to play host so that, as guests, they would have no choice but to let him trip over himself doing little things for them, his desperate gratitude masked as good manners. Yes, he knew the house was small, but they could sprawl out on the floor of the den in their sleeping bags or even in his room, and they would be no trouble and if they were, Remus would take care of it, and they'd eat anything put in front of them, especially--well, especially all of them, teenage boys that they were, so his mother needn't worry about finicky eaters, and it would only be a few days, and please, please, please.
He could not write to her what his friends had given him, why this was the less than the least he could do; however, he thought--hoped--prayed--that she would sense in his unusually unitdy writing, which took a pleading tone he had never before used on his parents, what he had found in these three boys. Perhaps she did, and perhaps she was curious to meet these boys who shared her son's secret, and perhaps she realized her son had never before been happier. Whatever the reason, she agreed, and though he could read the apprehension in the familiarly flourishing cursive, ink blotted where her quill had hesitated, for once he was smiling too broadly to care. His friends met the news with relief that his secret letters had not been anything embarrassing, mild disappointment that they weren't anything illegal, and the excitement only knowledge of future mirth can foster.
Remus planned the affair meticulously, as he did everything from eating his breakfast in small, neat bites, to brushing his teeth for two minutes exactly each morning and night at as close to the same times every day as possible. The knowledge that he had gone over every rule of conduct with his friends so many times that their eyes were nearly stuck in rolled position, if it were possible for eyes to stick, which Remus knew it was not, did little to ease the nervous bubbling in his stomach. Even less effective were the rolls upon rolls of parchment he had sent to his parents detailing which stories of his childhood were expressly forbidden, and which could be told only with modifications and selective omissions. By the time the students were dragging their trunks out of the dormitories, Remus had worked himself into such a state that his nails were bitten to near nonexistence and Sirius hit him with a Cheering Charm. Sirius had always done well in Charms, a class that depended as much on natural ability as on diligent studying, and as a result Remus spent the journey on the Hogwarts Express contentedly munching Chocolate Frogs and giggling every few minutes at something stupid or nothing at all.
When they stepped off the train and Remus saw his parents, smiling and waving, and he turned back and saw his friends, grinning and running to meet them, the Cheering Charm vanished and, as best he could tell, so did his stomach, dropping out through his feet and hurtling at astonishing speed toward the center of the earth. But Sirius bowed gallantly to kiss Mrs. Lupin's hand and spouted nonsense about how young she looked, and James rolled his eyes and gave his best charming schoolboy grin, resisting the urge to punch Sirius that was probably obvious only to Remus, and no one was ever afraid of Peter, who beamed politely. Mrs. Lupin laughed girlishly, feigning embarrassment, and Mr. Lupin gave an approving nod at James's firm handshake, and as soon as Mr. Lupin turned to Sirius, James cradled his right hand in his left, face twisted in an expression of pain so exaggerated Remus stifled a laugh, and then he began to relax. This would be something to remember, in all the best ways.
The second something he wished to give was trickier. If he could have, he would have given to Sirius a family that suited him, and to James the heart of Lily Evans, and to Peter a talent of his own to distinguish him among his peers. But a wizard is not a magician, so he tried to think of something feasible. He wanted to give them something Muggle, to help them better understand the world to which he still half-belonged. His problem was solved when, over Easter Holidays, James and Sirius discovered rock and roll, and Peter followed suit as he always did. Remus had been listening to rock music since before he could walk--a legacy from his father, whom his mother had always described with an affectionate head-shake as being too young for his age--and he had forgotten, as he tended to do, that the wizarding world could be a little slow on the uptake, culturally speaking. Suddenly he had so much to offer them, especially since wizarding rock, at least that which he had heard, while fun and danceable (if Remus could dance, which he couldn't) and occasionally very good, did not compare to Muggle rock, and when he told his friends this at lunch James and Sirius cried sacrilege and Peter looked confused and Lily overheard and said, "Oh, absolutely, I've always thought that, I didn't know you were a fan!" She and Remus spent the next several minutes chatting amiably about their favorite bands and what a pity it was that electronics wouldn't work in Hogwarts, while James glared daggers at Remus's throat and Sirius gave a wicked laugh.
Music is something you can keep forever, something you can grow old with. Remus knew when he put on his father's Rubber Soul record, ignoring Sirius's comments about how weird-looking it was, and the first guitar notes danced out of the record player with a spirit no wizard musician had yet achieved, that his fears that they would not like it after all were ill-founded. James went very still, and Peter's mouth fell open, and Sirius laughed and cried out, "That's brilliant, Moony, that's really brilliant! No wonder you don't like the wizard stuff."
That summer Sirius and Remus were to discover that they had much to give each other. They learned how to kiss in Remus's bedroom, and Remus found that for Sirius, at least, he had something which he could give every day till death do them part. In between worrying about James finding out, and James slowly piecing together what was going on so that when they finally told him in the fall, the biggest surprise to them all was that James was not so clueless as he played himself, and whispering shy, embarrassing confessions until they were comfortable enough that they could laugh at their old awkwardness, and kissing some more, they listened to the Beatles, going through the records until they knew each one by heart, talking of nothing memorable or worth the lengthy discussion they gave it.
"Look, Padfoot, you know I love you like a brother, but I'm afraid I have to inform you that you're being a bit of a stupid git," James said, shaking his head. "And by 'a bit of,' I mean 'complete and utter.'"
"Me? You're the one who refuses to see that, clearly, if you draw all the parallels--"
"What parallels? What bloody parallels are you talking about?"
"--if you draw all the parallels--the parallels are there, obvious to anyone who can see three inches in front of his face--"
"Draw me these parallels!"
"--if you draw the parallels--then I, and not you, am John."
Remus and Peter exchanged a glance both amused and worried. The debate had been raging for the better part of two days and was the closest any of them could remember James and Sirius ever coming to a real argument.
"Listen, what are these parallels? Because, Sirius, I really think I am John."
"Well they're not so much parallels as--one big parallel, but it's a really big parallel."
"What is it, then?"
"Well. John, he's--he was--the leader of sorts, the main one, and--"
"Are you insinuating that you are--"
"--that you are the leader? Because I don't see it."
"Well that wasn't exactly what I--wait, what do you mean?"
"I mean I'm the leader. Not you."
"Prongs--you can't be serious."
"Well, obviously I can't be, because that's--"
"Don't you dare, we outlawed that joke in third year, remember?"
"You remember, with that contract written in red ink... I knew we should have used blood, or hexed it so that right now you'd have lots of horrid things growing out of your face."
"Oh right. That."
"See, how can someone who forgets something like that be the leader? John would never forget a contract he'd signed in red ink."
"Honestly, I forget one thing and you go trivializing all my achievments."
"Well, for starters, who was it that put the Dungbombs in that suit of armor outside the Slytherin common room?"
"Who--that was only because you had the Invisibility Cloak!"
"Well, exactly. I do all the risky stuff."
"Because you won't let me use your bloody cloak! Besides, I'm the brains of the operation."
James snorted. "Right. Exactly. You keep telling yourself that, Sirius."
"I will, thanks, and what are you saying? Are you calling me brainless?"
"Did I say you were brainless?" James turned to Remus, who had opened his battered copy of Hamlet and was flipping through to his favorite parts, and Peter, who seemed to feel the verbal tennis match was all the entertainment he needed. "Did I say he was brainless?"
Remus shook his head, and Peter said, "No, you didn't."
Sirius made an impatient sound. "It was implied. It was in the implication. And if I'm not the brains, then who is, eh? You?" He doubled over laughing at the very idea. Peter failed to stifle a giggle, and even Remus cracked a smile.
James tried to maintain his dignity. "Well," he said, in a very composed voice, "there is certainly a great deal of--er--facts--no, that's not it--" The other three burst into a new round of laughter--"evidence, there we go... there's a great deal of evidence suggesting that I am."
Sirius wiped tears of mirth from his eyes. "Yeah?" he managed, struggling for breath. "Like what?"
"Like--like, who was it who thought up our Halloween prank this year? With the vines, and the quicksand--and figured out how to do it without getting caught?"
"Who was it that thought up our Halloween prank for the last three bloody years?"
"Who was it that thought up our first ever Halloween prank?"
"You mean the one where we got caught and wound up in detention for a month?"
"Only because Peter turned out to be allergic to certain kinds of molds!"
Peter coughed. "Sorry!"
"It's alright, mate," James reassured him. "We don't hold it against you."
"Speak for yourself," Sirius grumbled. "My mother sent me a Howler... only joking, Wormtail, only joking."
"So you see," continued James, "I was the one who started our whole--er--tradition. I was the one who--"
"And I," said Sirius, "was the one who gave it life. I'm the one who--"
"So you be Paul," James offered. "What have you got against Paul, anyway?"
"What have I--well, nothing, it's just I am not a Paul person. I am a John person."
"Can I be George?" Remus interrupted, feeling his involvement in the debate was inevitable and he may as well get it over with.
"Sure," said James.
Sirius glanced him over. "Yeah, that works. You're a bit of a George--you're the quiet one."
"Thank you, that's very kind," Remus murmured, rolling his eyes behind Hamlet.
"Who am I, then?" Peter asked, half-eager and half-apprehensive.
"Ringo," Sirius said without missing a beat.
"Ringo," James agreed. Peter looked slightly put out.
Remus laughed softly. "Yes, Peter, you are a Ringo. That's alright then, they wouldn't be any sort of rock band at all without a drummer."
"No, I suppose they wouldn't," Peter agreed.
At that point Mrs. Lupin came in and offered them snacks. She enjoyed offering them snacks because she had discovered soon after their arrival that they never turned her down. Sirius and James shared a look that said We'll decide this later, and though the debate raged on, they never did come to a conclusion. In spring of seventh year, once James had won Lily over, he thought to ask her who her favorite Beatle was, and after she replied "George," Sirius doubled over laughing and James glared at Remus for a week.
"What are you thinking about, Moony?"
Sirius has come into the room at Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place to find Remus lying on the bed, staring at the cracked ceiling, his hands folded under his head. Somewhere downstairs, a wizarding radio is tuned to a modern rock station. Remus wonders if Tonks, who brought the radio in, likes the Beatles. He wonders if Ron, who expresses amazement at the simplest of Muggle inventions, or Harry, who spent eleven years with relatives unlikely to allow loud music of any sort in the house, or Hermione, who somehow has never struck him as a rock and roll fan, has even heard of the Beatles, and if the Beatles are too old and distant, the stuff of myth rather than of music, to catch their attention. He wonders if Sirius remembers the Beatles, if the happy memories stolen in Azkaban ever returned or ever will.
"Moony?" Sirius sounds quiet, and sober. Remus has learned to be grateful for the little things.
"What makes you think I'm thinking about anything?"
"You've got that face you always get, when you're thinking." Sirius crosses the room to lie on his side, next to Remus. His breath is warm, and for the first time in a few days it does not smell of alcohol. "Or used to get, at least. When you sort of almost frown. Besides, you're always thinking. You never stop. I don't think you're capable of it."
Remus remembers a time, fourteen years ago, when he spent many months without thinking at all; or more accurately, he remembers waking up one day with words suddenly no longer something to shy away from, and with a stretch of blankness behind him with little more than dream-like whisps of images attached to it in his brain. He is afraid to say anything that might break whatever spell has been cast on Sirius to make him, for the moment, not actively unhappy. "I was thinking," he says, his voice small in this room haunted by darkness if not by ghosts, "about once upon a time."
"I can't hear you." Sirius leans closer. Years ago, they spent much of their time like this: leaning close to each other. "What did you say?"
Remus is silent for a moment, and when he speaks, it isn't to answer the question. "There are moments," he says, the words trickling out of him slow, "these moments, where you... where it's like it was. Almost. Like--" He does not say, Like James and Lily never died. Like Peter never betrayed us. Like Azkaban never happened. To speak of those things would remind Sirius that they did happen, and Remus senses Sirius is trying to pretend, if not forget, just for a moment. "Like you and I are the same people we were back at Hogwarts, and right after."
"Well, we are, aren't we?" Remus says nothing. "Aren't we?" Sirius insists, and Remus cannot believe this is the same Sirius who a few days ago was shouting, between gulps of Firewhiskey, that nothing was the same as it was, and never would be, and that everything had been stolen never to be returned, and he was so useless, doing nothing in this house that hated him, maybe he should just give everything up, right here, right now.
Remus had stood in the doorway, then, reminded of his own uselessness; he could do no more than carry Sirius up to bed once Sirius had fallen asleep on the floor. It does not seem possible that that Sirius and this Sirius can coexist in one house, much less one body, but Remus recognizes that Sirius is trying to teach himself how to be by reminding himself how he was; it is this Sirius that he wants Harry to know and everyone to remember. "Yes," Remus says. "I suppose we are."
Sirius grins, and somehow his smile is unchanged. Everyone has always fallen in love with Sirius's smile; the difference for Remus was that he continued falling in love once the smile was no longer new to him. "So what were you thinking about?"
Remus relaxes. He shouldn't have worried that night; he should have known that Sirius is incapable of giving up. A man who escaped from Azkaban is a man who keeps going. "I was thinking about music. Our music. Old music. The Beatles."
"I remember the Beatles," Sirius says. "When I got out--when I escaped, and I was trying to get to Hogwarts, I was running through some streets, and someone was playing them. Some Muggle, on a radio. And I just stopped, there. I'd forgotten music. Twelve years, not knowing music so much as existed, and suddenly all of it came back to me, and it was the Beatles, it was the best music of my life, it was you, and I just stood there. Remembering."
"What song?" Remus asks.
Sirius is very still when he is trying to bring back a memory. "It was... one of the early ones. One of the stupid ones, we used to laugh about, but it sounded so good to me--'I Wanna Hold Your Hand.'" He gives a little laugh. "I swear if I hadn't been a dog, I would have started crying. Stupid, really."
"Not at all," Remus says, and takes Sirius's hand. The skin is rough, calloused, broken in places, but his fingers are still elegantly long, almost dainty. James used to tease him about it, how his hands were almost girlishly delicate.
"They were really good, weren't they," Sirius muses. "I wonder where they are now."
"Well, John is dead," Remus says without thinking, and wishes immediately he could take it back.
Sirius's face darkens, and for a moment he's a teenage boy again, capable of grieving over a Muggle singer he's never met, except this is the grief of someone who has seen too many people die. "What? When?"
"He died about a year before..." Remus doesn't need to finish the sentence. "Remember?"
Sirius nods slowly. "Yeah. I remember now... it was in all the Muggle papers. It even made it to the Daily Prophet. It was winter." Remus waits for the horrible, awful joke that one of them has to make. Sirius's shoulders are tensing, and his hand clasped in Remus's is curling into a fist. "I guess James was right after all." Sirius laughs, and it is a terrifying, hollow sound.
Remus feels Sirius slipping away from him, slipping into himself. His eyes are narrowing, his breath shallow. He is losing the bit of himself he was trying to save, and Remus knows that for both their sakes he cannot let that happen. Remus squeezes Sirius's hand the way he did when they first signed up for the Order long ago, when it first occured to them that they might die for the lives of others who could also die before the whole hideous war was over. Sirius had been brave, but he was scared, and Remus was scared, but he didn't show it: Remus was used to hiding his emotions, but Sirius had never had emotions he'd wanted to hide. So Remus had taken Sirius's hand, and squeezed it, and they had been young and foolish enough to believe that being determined and in love was enough. They need, Remus thinks, to be young and foolish again. It is easier for the young and foolish to fight wars.
Sirius grips Remus's hand like a lifeline. Downstairs, the radio is playing something loud and angry by someone young of whom Remus has never heard. Remus feels a rush of gratitude to it; without it, the silence of the house, and the past, and Sirius, might swallow them whole.
Sirius breaks the silence. "They were good, weren't they. The Beatles."
Remus exhales for the first time in what seems like longer than it probably was. "Yes. They were. This new stuff, on the other hand..."
"You don't like it? I think it's pretty good. Catchy, good vocals, lyrics okay when you can make them out..."
"It's too... loud." Remus makes a face, and when Sirius laughs in recognition, Remus knows the twelve years alone changed him less, or less irreparably, than he'd once assumed, if he can still make faces that Sirius remembers. "I'm too old for it."
"You can't be. That would mean I'm too old for it, and I'm not."
"Not necessarily; I'm four months your senior, if you'll recall."
Remus does not have to look to the side to know that Sirius is rolling his eyes. "Well, you still can't be too old for it, because that means in four months I'll be too old for it, and I'm sorry, I just won't allow that. That's right: you can't be too old for it because I won't let you be." Beneath the playfulness, there's an undercurrent of need.
"Alright, then," Remus agrees. "If Sirius Black says it to be so, I suppose it must be so."
"Exactly." Sirius seems pleased that Remus has grasped this.
Remus turns onto his side to face Sirius. "We won't be too old."
"Ever?" Sirius demands, once again asking logic to bend for him.
Logic has always obeyed his whims. "Ever," Remus promises, and leans in.
When their lips meet, Remus is glad, for a moment, that neither of them has forgotten how to kiss--only for a moment, before he remembers that kisses aren't supposed to include thinking. That is one of the things he has always liked about kissing, how it makes it so that it doesn't matter whether they are foolish and young or old and decaying, what has happened before and what is still to come, who is unjustly dead or unjustly alive; all that matters is the remembered scent of each other, and Sirius's calloused thumb rubbing small circles on the back of Remus's hand, and Remus's fingers playing with Sirius's still-soft hair, and the kisses.
They draw apart and look at each other, two men too old for their age and too young for their loss. "Ever," Sirius repeats as an affirmation, and kisses him again as Remus drifts back into once upon a time.