Saturday, December 25th, 1976 5:00 P.M.

The grandest gravestone in the cemetery belongs to Mary Constance Lupin, beloved mother, wife, and daughter. Mr. Lupin chose a wonderful angel tombstone, beautifully etched down to each ripple in her gown and each star ornament in her crown. The face is one that his mother would have appreciated-serene and inviting, like the face of someone you'd want to have a conversation with if you saw her on the Underground.

Remus kneels and sweeps the snow off of the block of stone near the angel's sandaled feet so that he can trace his mother's name. This is a habit of his that he scarcely considers now. He developed it when he was very young because he was so worried that he would forget her, and though he hasn't, he remains loyal to the task.

"We were visiting my Aunt Ernestine in Romania," he says quietly to Sirius, who is sitting on top of a nearby tombstone examining his nails. "I was raised in a conventional Muggle household. Werewolves, vampires-the legends were as good as that, folklore invented by the locals to boost tourism. I knew that I could fly on a broom, which made things interesting, but I was six. How could I understand the vastness of our world at that age if I was brought up to believe it was all farce?"

He traces his mother's name in the snow. He is not too naïve and realizes that she will never come back, but little things such as these make him feel as if he's at the kitchen table, drunk on her smell.

"The night we arrived in Romania Mum took me to the park that she saw on the drive up. It was about two blocks away from the house we were staying in. Mum challenged me to a contest to see who could swing over the top of the swing set first. Well, neither of us won that, so she and I challenged one another to see which of us could go down the slide the most number of times. My mother loved to slide with me. I would sit in front of her, and she would hold me around the waist and we'd do that all day long sometimes. It sounds so small, but I remember these things. I can still smell her perfume."

Remus laughs bitterly and looks up. Sirius climbs down from his perch atop the gravestone. He kneels on the grave next to Mrs. Lupin's and stares at Remus, quietly mesmerized. The snow wets his jeans in large, wet circles around his knees, but he hardly feels the cold. Remus is all that exists right now.

"The thing came out of nowhere. My mother saw it before I did, but there was really no time to react. I was closer-it got a good chunk out of my shoulder before my mum could distract it. She ran through the thicket behind the park to lure it away from me. I heard her screaming, but I wasn't sure if it was because she was trying to get its attention or because she was frightened. I chased after her, but it was too late by then. The creature had gone, but not before leaving its mark on my life. I heard a howl, and he must have heard it too because he didn't come back after me."

"My mother was so beautiful down the very last breath she took. It wasn't one of those romantic scenes that they play in the movies. She didn't get to whisperI I love you/I and she didn't get to smile serenely before she passed. The snow around her was red. Her hair was damp with blood, and her stomach… The thing had no mercy. It ripped her apart even before she had the time to pull her wand."

Sirius suddenly feels the cold and shudders. He does not like imagining Remus as a six-year-old lying in the warmth of his dying mother's blood. He refuses to accept it as a viable excuse for Remus' drab personality, but he can understand why Remus felt obligated to grow up so quickly that his body is here, awkward and clumsy, trying to catch up with the rest of him.

"When you're six, you don't understand things like that, Sirius. At that age, you only know that you have enough blood in your body to soil a bandage. Mother and Father are invincible. They have all the answers to the problems of the world, all the cures to disease. Death is a quiet little visitor that sneaks up on your parents in the middle of night and sees you with your head upon your mother's breast and decides that it isn't time. Even when it is time, Death is sensitive and he lets them say that they love you once more before taking their souls off to a magnificent paradise. What a crock of shit, huh?"

Sirius wants to say something deeply profound. He wants to say something comforting to the one person who he feels that he should protect above all else. In lieu of empty words and dialogue cluttered with clichés about death he looks down and nods slowly.

"They found me curled up next to her the following morning. I was pretty close to dying myself. I had lost a lot of blood, not to mention I was lying in the snow all night. By then the werewolf side of me was already claiming the boy side of me, and it's so ironic to think, even now, that my curse was all that could have saved me. After that Dad lost the fire in him, and I failed to develop any fire of my own. I know my own father thinks I'm soulless. He sees you and what boys should be like, and then he sees his son-an empty shell of a boy. He would never tell me this to my face, of course, but it's there in his eyes nonetheless."

Remus pushes his arm across his face to wipe the tears out of his eyes. His nose is beginning to run and he could care less. Remus leans his head up and presses his forehead into the curve of the angel's outstretched palm. This is another habit of his that fails to die. He feels connected to his mother if only for a moment, and this keeps him going for another year.

Sirius crabwalks over to Remus and nuzzles his ear gently with the tip of his nose. "Thank you for telling me," is all he can think to say, and even that sounds inappropriate after such a lengthy retelling of the most intimate secret Remus has ever kept.

"I remember her apart from what I see in photographs. She had these tiny little freckles on her neck that looked like a vampire bite. I used to poke them as she fed me. Her eyes were nothing like I'd ever seen before. They were so blue. You could see the universe in them."

"How'd she ever fall for a guy like your father?" Sirius questions quietly after a long pause.

"My father might surprise you, Padfoot. He used to be very charismatic. He was a door opening, swing dancing, sweet-talking boy that fell for a woman who was totally against what his religion taught him. He was raised Catholic, and they never told me how he settled on the idea of her being a witch. Knowing my mum, she turned his teacup into a telephone as he idly mentioned that he needed to phone his mum. She wasn't very subtle."

Sirius nods and eases his hand underneath Remus' jumper, resting it against the small of his back. Remus appreciates the gesture more than he could possibly vocalize. Remus takes in a sharp breath and exhales almost immediately. His entire stomach breaks into goose bumps, and he turns to face Sirius.

"Let's get out of here," Sirius says. Remus does not object.

---

Remus sits on the counter, kicking his bare feet against the cupboard while Sirius completely butchers his mother's recipe for marinara sauce. The bottle of wine that Sirius pours in makes the sauce too thin, and the half wedge of Parmesan cheese that Sirius grates into the pot as a result of the wine gives the sauce the consistency of sludge. It's all very endearing, really, but Remus refuses to eat the sauce. Instead he shoves bits of French bread into his mouth so that he can politely decline dinner due to an overload of carbohydrates.

Remus goes into the living room to lay in the makeshift fort he and Sirius created the day before. Every duvet, sleeping bag, and pillow in the house has been tucked sloppily underneath two levitating sheets, and the Christmas tree lights cast shadows on the sides of the fort. Sirius follows after him-having given up on the pasta-with a bottle of spiced rum and the other loaf of French bread.

"The sauce isn't so bad, really. It just isn't good."

"You weren't raised to cook."

"I was raised to hate half-breeds. I rebelled against that, why not try to cook?"

"Do you want me to be logical and lateral, or would you prefer I just say that I haven't the faintest and ask you for a bit of bread?"

"The latter sounds more appealing, but the former would give us something to talk about."

"I haven't the faintest. Please, pass me the bread, will you?" Sirius passes him the bottle of rum instead.

"You know, I actually like how easy this option is. You should consider it in the future."

Remus grabs the bottle by the neck and brings it to his lips without hesitation. He knocks back maybe four mouthfuls before lowering the bottle onto his knee. Sirius lies back on Remus' pillow and looks up at the ceiling. Remus looks at the contents of the bottle and assesses the situation: does he want to get pissed or does he want to spend Christmas wallowing in his own self-pity?

Ten minutes later, the bottle is three-quarters empty, and Sirius declares that Remus is finished for the night. Remus takes two more urgent gulps of alcohol before handing the bottle back to Sirius.

"Are we drunk?" Sirius says with an amused smile.

"Just a little warm." Remus smiles and lies down on his side. He is a quiet drunk, more likely to read poetry aloud than smash a chair over someone's head.

Sirius caps the bottle and rolls it across a pink pillow and out of the tent. He hears it smash and vows that he'll clean it up later when Remus is not looking quite so pleasant.

"A little?" he asks.

"A smidge, even," Remus replies and indicates with his thumb and index finger just how big a smidge is—three inches, by the looks of it.

"Drunk enough to shag a whore or drunk enough to shag your best mate?"

"Is the whore a female?"

"Naturally, yes."

"What about my best mate?"

"He is a boy."

"Most 'hes' are boys, Padfoot."

"Oh, do shut up, Moony."

"Yes, master." Remus rolls heavily over onto Sirius, face pressed against Sirius' neck. Sirius feels the outline of Remus' smile on his neck and grins. The smell of alcohol is overpowering, but it's a smell that Sirius has always found pleasant. Remus' eyelashes ghost against the small expanse of flesh behind his ear.

"Only you would be selfish enough to get drunk in the first ten minutes and leave your guests to fend for themselves while you pass out."

Remus pulls away, trying to prove how not drunk he is, but he fails admirably at the task. His words are subtly garbled, and he talks very slowly. "Oh, don't tell me this wasn't part of your plan? You get me boozed up, snog me shamelessly until I pass out, perhaps press your knee into my raging hard-on and get me to gasp all nicely for you, then you sneak upstairs and wade through my history to find out more about your mysterious Moony."

Sirius strokes the shadow on Remus' cheek gently and whispers right into his ear, "Is that what you want?"

"Something tells me that I have absolutely no say in the matter, Sirius."

"You're right. I am going to take advantage of my drunken best mate, and he has no say in the matter because he is drunk."

"Will he be kissed?"

"Oh, thoroughly."

"And made to gasp?"

"Most definitely."

"Will his shirt be removed?"

"Undoubtedly."

"What if he's afraid?"

"What has he got to be afraid of?"

"This is the first time he and his friend have confronted this…thing between them. He is afraid that things will change for the worse. He doesn't want his friend to avoid him and make excuses not to be alone in a room with him. He doesn't want to sleep alone the nights after the full moon. He doesn't want the proverbial wedge to be driven between them."

"What if that was a sacrifice he'd have to be willing to make? What if he could not have one without losing the other?"

Sirius' hand is becoming daring. He walks two fingers down Remus' side and stops at his stomach, wiggling his fingers between the holes in Remus' hand-knit sweater.

"He would choose friendship over all, I think. He could settle for fantasies of long kisses and secret touches underneath the breakfast table as long as it meant that his friends were there always."

In protest of Remus' doubt Sirius slides his hand up the inside of Remus' thigh and kisses his ear gently. "What if they don't have to sacrifice anything? What if they've been this way all along and it's merely a natural progression?"

"If he was positive…"

"Ah, fuck it all, Remus."

There is only one negative result of this situation-losing Sirius forever-but he has a feeling that he'll lose Sirius no matter what happens next. If he allows himself to be seduced Sirius will become sparse. Remus has seen it before. Sirius is never with the same girl twice unless she is particularly pleasing in one way or another. If he quits the actions mounting up to this moment will hover between them, acting as both a barrier and a reminder of what could have been but never was. Remus wants to shout at the cosmic humor of it all. The one person he is destined to love, whether because of circumstance or genuine adoration, is the one person he is destined to lose.

"Do you want a blowjob?" Remus asks in a quiet voice.

"Not from you, no," Sirius replies in the same subdued tone.

"Shall I give you a good jerk?"

"No."

"Then what do you want from me, Sirius?"

"Nothing, Remus. Absolutely nothing."

Remus turns around and looks at him. An idea is beginning to form in his head despite the alcohol. It curls like smoke around the part of his brain where logic lives, and he thinks he begins to understand the wonderful conundrum that is Sirius Black. It only took alcohol to get it.

Remus realizes that it is not the actual reciprocation of pleasure that Sirius wants. Sirius could walk down the street and find someone to fuck him at the drop of a hat. He does not need the bickering that comes with trying to get into Remus' trousers. And the sexual tension is only a small fraction of the problem. Sirius creates sexual tension with every person he encounters. If one looks closely enough, sexual tension undoubtedly exists between Sirius and Dumbledore. Sirius is just a sexually driven being.

What is unique to their situation, his and Sirius', Remus thinks, is Remus himself. Sirius wants to be his first. Sirius wants to be the first to show Remus what a kiss is, the first to touch him, the first to show him what an orgasm is. He wants to be sure that Remus will never forget him because he will be permanently branded on Remus' memory. Every orgasm after the one that Sirius gives him will be compared to his first, and every kiss after Sirius' will be compared to his first, just like every friend that Remus gains is compared to Sirius and every bond forged is compared to the one that he and Sirius share. Remus understands this now as never before, if only because he's utterly shit-faced.

He removes his shirt angrily in a way that screams, "I'm yours, are you fucking happy?" Sirius nods slowly; he knows exactly what Remus means by the gesture. Remus is sitting on his heels, hands on his thighs, just waiting for Sirius to do something.

Sirius leans up quickly and kisses Remus so hard that they both fall backward. The kiss is all consuming, and Remus cannot help but bask in its warmth and comfort. He feels safe and hot. He pulls away to collect himself, to assure himself that this is all real. Opening his eyes he stares up at Sirius, who is open-mouthed and frenzied, still kissing air. Deep inside of him Remus feels a change. Things are always changing where Sirius is involved. Even now as Sirius finally realizes that he is no longer being kissed back.

Slightly annoyed, Sirius leans in once more, and the rest is history.

Thursday, December 30, 1976 9:00 A.M.

Remus muses that the last five days have been like a honeymoon. While nothing more than superficial explorations of each other's bodies have occurred-kissing, stroking, and a perfectly placed knee between Remus' thigh-it seemed that they could not stop touching each other, as if through kisses a gravitational pull was created between the two of them. Sirius would sit down next to Remus and stroke his thigh as they watched reruns on television. Remus would stick his hand inside of Sirius' coat pocket and hold his hand as they walked to the market. They would both steal kisses from each another whenever possible...like now.

Remus sits atop the counter, banging his bare feet against the cupboard, wearing only his boxers, while Sirius leans over and sucks on his neck. Remus wraps his legs around Sirius' waist and splays his hand across the back of Sirius' head.

"You're absolutely insatiable," Sirius whispers through a smile.

"You're the one who opened Pandora's box, you prat."

"I now see the error of my ways and vouch never to touch you again so that you may overcome your addiction."

"I'm sorry to tell you this, monsieur, but this monster you've created is your responsibility."

"And, you were the one who was afraid that we'd change for the worse?"

Remus nodded slowly, frowning. "I still am. I'm waiting for it to happen. I'm waiting for it to get weird and awkward. I'm waiting for you to make up some excuse to leave the room because you can't stand to be alone with me."

"Ever the glowing optimist, I see."

"Kiss me again, and we'll see what we can do about that."

Sirius pushes the pan of burnt French toast off of the range and turns off the stove, all with Remus' legs wrapped securely around his middle. Remus leans his head down slightly to meet Sirius' mouth, which fits over his as if it was meant to be there. A roaming hand inches up the inside of Remus' bare thigh, and gentle fingers ghost along invisible lines practically burned into Remus' skin by now. Remus relaxes against the cabinetry behind him when Sirius' mouth begins roaming gradually downward, stopping to pay a little attention to Remus' peaked nipples. Just two more parts of Remus that Sirius' mouth fits perfectly over. Sirius' mouth eventually finds its way back over Remus', and the kiss that ensues lasts just long enough to shatter a few of Remus' insecurities.

Such is the scene that confronts Mr. John Lupin as he enters the kitchen, luggage still in hand, after returning from a long visit to his dying sister's.