It's sixth year before Sirius decides that he needs to get over Remus, and it's only then that he realizes there's a Remus to get over.
But there's no time to wonder about that, because he's already decided—Sirius doesn't make rash decisions, per se; he just doesn't waste his time pondering options when he knows what he wants—and now all that's left is to do the actual getting over. That's simple enough, too; he doesn't know why everyone says it's so hard when it's a simple matter of making a decision and sticking by it.
So by summer's end, he's well over Remus, and it's a bit of a relief when he reaches their compartment on the Hogwarts Express and sees Remus there, stowing his things, and he doesn't feel the butterflies he's always managed to ignore. I'm over him, he dares to think. It really was that easy.
But then Remus turns and smiles, and Sirius feels the butterflies whoosh back into the pit of his stomach—tenfold, because they've somehow managed to multiply over the summer—and maybe it's not simply mind over matter, after all. "All right, Moony?" he manages to say, hoping it doesn't sound as odd to Remus as it does in his own ears. "Have a good summer?"
Remus shrugs. "Nothing as exciting as yours, I'm sure." And no, that can't possibly be true, because Remus visited his grandparents in Belgium, and even becoming a werewolf in Belgium is more exciting than staying shut up in a dreary old house in London. But Sirius doesn't remark on that, because he's too busy watching Remus smile at something over his shoulder, and oh God, how could he have ever thought he was over Remus? "I almost thought you lot would miss the train, but I see you've made it safely."
Sirius blinks, and then it sinks in and he whirls around, and yes, there are James and Peter, waiting for him to stop blocking the doorway. He moves aside to let them in, and Remus slips out for the prefects' meeting, and Sirius can't help but lean just slightly out of the compartment to watch him walk away. It's nothing special, by normal standards—Remus wears his clothes a size too big, and he's always tugging uncomfortably at them—but underneath that is a subtle grace, a fluid pull of muscle and sinew that Sirius wants to believe is visible to no one but him, because no one else should be allowed to see Remus this way.
Then James nudges him in the ribs, and Sirius tears his eyes away from Remus to find his best friend grinning at him. "I saw that, mate," James whispers, and then laughs, like this sort of thing happens every day.
And maybe, Sirius thinks, it actually does.
Sirius has nightmares.
They're not as bad as they once were, but he still can't sleep in a bed by himself. He hasn't even tried to sleep in a bed by himself since first year, when James finally got tired of hearing Sirius's nightly screaming and offered his own bed to the boy.
It seemed like a perfect solution, except for the fact that James was a violent sleeper, and Sirius more often than not woke up peppered with bruises. Sometimes he woke up on the floor, but even then, sleeping on the floor was better than not sleeping at all.
"This is ridiculous," Remus said midway through second year, when he found Sirius on the floor for the fifth morning in a row. "Why don't you just sleep with someone else?"
"Peter snores," Sirius grumbled, pulling on his robes. "And you…"
"I don't snore, and I don't kick, and I don't have nightmares." He smiled wryly. "And I don't bite, Sirius. You know that."It's been almost four years, and still Sirius sleeps in Remus's bed, clinging to him when the nightmares threaten, and crying on his shoulder when they do more than just threaten. Sometimes he wonders if everyone else knows—and surely someone must, because the house elves never bother to turn down his bed anymore—but each time he considers it, he finds he doesn't care. Because he sleeps better with Remus, and if the world wants to make something of it, that's not his problem.
"Isn't it strange, sharing a bed when you're in love with him?" James asks, and Sirius isn't surprised, because he's been expecting that question since September. "Are you ever going to tell him?"
In Sirius's mind, there isn't much reason to tell Remus anything, when he's busy shagging half the bloody school. "I don't think it's half the school, Padfoot," James says. "Just Robert Cauldwell, right now."
And that's fine, really, because Sirius doesn't care who Remus shags, so long as he comes to bed every night. And he does, some nights later than others, but nearly always damp-haired and smelling of soap. Sirius pretends it's because Remus is in the habit of bathing at night, and not because Remus would smell of sex, otherwise.
Soon enough, though, it is because Remus is in the habit of bathing at night. Sirius doesn't ask what happened with Robert, and that's less because he doesn't care than because he doesn't want to believe there ever was a Robert. Because Remus never fell asleep with Robert; he falls asleep with Sirius and wakes up pressed against him, legs tangled and arms around each other. Remus in sleep belongs to Sirius and Sirius alone, and that's not nearly enough, but it's enough for now.
"You're still sleeping here…with me," Remus says, one night in October. "Why is that, Sirius?"
Sirius doesn't have a good answer for that—or rather, he doesn't have an answer that he can actually tell Remus—so he just shrugs. "It's comfortable. And I reckon I've come to like it."
Remus nods and smiles; Sirius can almost see it in the darkness. "And so have I. I'd rather you slept in my bed than anywhere else."
"Because of the nightmares, you mean," Sirius mumbles sleepily.
Remus laughs. "That, too."
Sirius, already half-asleep, pretends Remus's words mean exactly what he wants them to mean. And when Remus shifts a bit, and his lips brush lightly over Sirius's in the darkness, he pretends that means exactly what he wants it to mean, too.
But Remus is Remus, so he doesn't stay unattached for very long.
Next on the list is Gabriel Wallace, a Hufflepuff prefect, and Sirius pretends not to notice when Remus comes to bed smelling like the scented bubbles in the prefects' bathroom—not that he's ever been in the prefects' bathroom to smell the bubbles, of course.
"If you don't want him with someone else, then do something about it," James says, but Sirius doesn't trust someone whose six years of wooing have yielded no more than dirty looks and a few lectures. "You can't expect him to just know you're in love with him."
Sirius doesn't think it's got as far as love, and he's just about to tell James so when Peter gasps. "Padfoot's in love with Moony?"
"That's not your business, Wormtail," Sirius snaps. "And if you mention a word of this to him…" But Peter's going to tell, they all know, because Peter can't keep a secret from Remus. So now there's nothing to do but wait.
And it comes, soon enough. "So Peter says you're in love with me," Remus says conversationally, over dinner one night. "I don't know why it's taken him so long to find out."
Sirius almost chokes, and only when Remus grins at him does he realize that it's a joke. He tries to smile and hopes he's not failing miserably. "Maybe he's just now noticed that we share a bed."
"I wouldn't put it past him." He's still smiling, but there's a hint of sadness in his eyes that Sirius knows he's not imagining. "Full moon's on Friday. I suppose I should break it off with Gabriel before he starts to suspect."
"I suppose so," Sirius mutters, and deep down he wants to tell Remus that he'd be better off with someone who knows, so he doesn't have to play this game. "Who's next?"
"I don't have a list, Padfoot." He smiles bemusedly and pushes his hair off his forehead. "Why, would you want to add yourself to it?"
Sirius doesn't respond.
Hours later, Snape accosts him in the courtyard, probably because he's alone and seemingly defenseless. "Where's your boyfriend, Black?"
"What's it to you, Snivellus?" He keeps walking; James will probably kill him for missing a perfect hex opportunity, but he's just not in the mood. "And he's not my boyfriend. Keep your greasy nose out of our affairs, unless you're looking to get hexed."
Snape smirks. "You wouldn't do a thing without your friends to back you up, Black. Pity you're not more like Lupin—he does plenty without you."
Sirius spins around, wand already drawn—but then Snape's words actually sink in, and he freezes. "What would you know about that?"
"I know he shags anyone who'll even look at him. I know he disappears once a month—what, Black, to visit another lover? Someone else who's not you?"
"Is that what you honestly think?" Sirius laughs, a sharp bark that doesn't sound nearly as forced as it is, thankfully. "You're thicker than I took you for, Snivellus."
Snape sneers at him. "You haven't given me any reason to think otherwise."
And then Sirius feels himself crack. If Snape wants a reason to think otherwise, then Sirius will give him reason to think otherwise. He only has to follow Remus, and prod the knot on the Whomping Willow, and take the passageway—and yes, that should scare the suspicion straight out of him, and it's nothing more than he deserves, the nosy git. And then maybe Sirius can walk through the bloody courtyard without Snape sneering at him like he knows something.
And then maybe he'll be able to go a day without hating himself.
"I don't want to hear your excuses, Sirius," Remus says, after the full moon. "It doesn't matter why you did it. What matters is that you did it."
Sirius wipes roughly at his eyes. He's crying, but Remus isn't; Remus just stares at him with a bizarre mix of disappointment and hatred and love that makes Sirius believe that Remus could end this, if he'd just try. And if he needs convincing, Sirius is only too willing to try. "Moony, I—"
"Don't apologize. We both know you don't mean it." And then the final blow, the one Sirius has been expecting all along. "I think it would be best if you slept in your own bed from now on."
There's really no other choice—James and Peter won't speak to him, not now—so Sirius creeps into his own bed, onto the cold, empty mattress he hasn't used in years. It's unfamiliar, stiff and musty and entirely too big, and he wipes his nose on the stale sheets and buries his face in the dusty pillows, waiting for his tears to subside.
Sleep doesn't come immediately, and he's not sure if it will come at all, because where the dreams should be are only memories—James standing in the dormitory, white-faced and trembling; Remus lying pale and still in the hospital wing; Peter shaking his head, a mixture of fear and revulsion in his eyes; Remus turning his back with a broken sigh.
He doesn't wake up screaming, but that's only by luck. He's already crying too hard to scream.
Christmas comes, and Sirius doesn't go home.
Remus, James, and Peter do, and it's just as well, he tells himself; he doesn't want to spend the extra time with them, anyway.
Sometimes, he almost believes that.
The castle is empty, or at least nearly so, and Sirius avoids human contact entirely for a few days, until he collides with Gabriel Wallace outside the library. "Sorry, Black," the prefect mutters, and Sirius reaches out, almost without thinking, and pulls Gabriel to him.
There's a mashing of lips and teeth and tongues, and Sirius has never kissed a boy before, except the one time Remus almost-but-not-really kissed him, but this doesn't feel entirely alien. Maybe that's because Remus has already been here, molding these lips to fit his, and Sirius thinks that if he concentrates hard enough, he can almost taste Remus there.
And hours later, when it's become skin on skin, Sirius closes his eyes and pretends he can feel Remus's imprint, and he traces Remus's touch all the way up this boy's body, and it's almost like Remus is there with him. It's an odd sort of sharing, but right now it's all he has.
And really, sharing is better than not having at all.
"You really need to get a handle on these nightmares," James says after the holidays, as if they never stopped speaking in the first place. "I don't know how much more of this I can take."
Sirius doesn't mention that the nightmares subside when he shares a bed with someone, because of course it's not James's bed he wants. "You can sleep with me," Peter offers, and Sirius almost thanks him for the gesture—until James rebuffs it on his behalf.
"How thick are you, Wormtail? Padfoot doesn't want our beds."
"All the same, I'd rather have one night without his screaming," he mutters, and Sirius honestly wants to apologize, but Peter's not the one waking up in a cold sweat every night.
It happens only twice more, and on the third night, Sirius wakes up with a hand over his mouth, blocking the scream he's too shocked to utter. "Come with me," Remus whispers—growls, really, but that's beside the point. "James and Peter might be able to tolerate it, but I can't."
When Sirius doesn't move immediately, Remus grabs his wrist and pulls him forcefully out of bed. "Where're we going?" he mumbles groggily.
"To Moony's bed, if you know what's good for you!" James screams from behind his curtains.
"And thank bloody God," Peter chimes in, from his own bed.
Remus doesn't hold him, doesn't even try to touch him, and Sirius knows it won't be the way it was once, those mornings they woke up wrapped in each others' limbs, tangled in the sheets. But he can feel Remus inches away, and that's a victory of sorts, a baby step but a step nonetheless.
And maybe it's tiny, but this victory is better than nothing.
"I don't expect you to know anything about Muggle writers," Remus says, "but it might be nice if you'd stop assuming they must be wizards, only because they've produced something of value."
"And it would be nice if you'd stop assuming we actually care, Moony," James says with a laugh, and Peter giggles obediently. Sirius thinks he'd rather like to strangle them both. "If you want a rapt audience, save it for Padfoot. He'll hang on your every word, I promise."
"He already does," Peter chimes in helpfully, and Sirius can't decide whether to draw his wand or just tackle the other boy. In the end he does neither, but that's mostly because Remus is looking at him—and more than looking, examining him, like he's working out a riddle.
Sirius wonders if it's possible to die of embarrassment.
It's not possible, he discovers, when Remus takes him aside several hours later. "Why didn't you tell me?" he asks, and Sirius can't answer that in any way Remus would possibly accept. "You know I don't bite—most of the time."
Sirius almost laughs at that, but now isn't the time for laughter. Remus has him pressed against a wall—it's amazing that Remus can put him in such a submissive position, and even more amazing that he can do it without even a hint of aggression—and yes, it's endearing that Remus can joke about his lycanthropy, but that's not the bloody point, is it?
And Remus is still waiting for an answer that Sirius isn't sure he even has. "Well, I—and you—and do you have any idea how hard it is to say, 'Thanks for sharing your bed—oh, and by the way, I think I'm in love with you'?"
That surprises Sirius more than it does Remus; his mouth falls open in shock, but Remus just smiles. "You think?"
"Would it make you happier if I—"
But he doesn't have to do anything, it turns out, because Remus's lips are on his, soft and gentle and surprisingly hesitant for someone with so much experience, and maybe that's because he's as nervous about kissing Sirius as Sirius is about kissing him. But that's ludicrous, because Remus is so careful and deliberate in everything he does, unlike Sirius, who's rash and impulsive, and—and God, what if this is yet another in his long history of stupid mistakes?
If it is, it's a mistake he can't afford to make, and before he really knows what he's doing, he pushes Remus away. "I can't do this," he mutters, and Remus steps aside as he stumbles forward, already half blinded by the tears in his eyes.
He retreats to his own bed, certain Remus won't want him after this, and it's cold and dusty and everything he hates in a bed, but at least it's his. But hours later the mattress shifts behind him, and Remus slips his arms around Sirius, kisses his shoulder, and whispers, "When you're ready, just tell me."
Sirius doesn't move, doesn't stop the even meter of his breathing, doesn't even open his eyes. He doesn't want to wake up from this dream, if it even is a dream, and if it isn't he especially doesn't want to wake up.
He'll wake up when he's ready, and when he does, Remus will be there.
Remus is hardly the type to wait around forever, even for Sirius, so it's no surprise when he finds someone new the week after the full moon.
Sirius doesn't like the look of this new boy—at least Robert Cauldwell and Gabriel Wallace were mildly attractive, but this one is even more appalling than Snivellus—and he's even less fond of the way the boy tags along after Remus like an obedient puppy.
"What did you expect?" James asks, as Sirius sulks over lunch one afternoon. "He can't put his life on hold for your sake. It's not his fault you're afraid of commitment."
Sirius thinks James is absolutely mad, and he's just about to say so when Remus laughs from the other end of the table, and that boy laughs with him. And now James's sanity, questionable though it is, isn't the point. "He said he'd wait for me. Do you call that waiting?"
"I call that passing the time. Look at all the blokes Evans has gone out with, while she's waiting for me." That's enough to make Sirius snort into his pumpkin juice, and James grins sheepishly and runs his hands through his already messy hair. "Point is, no one said he doesn't want you. He's only passing the time with this…what's his name?"
Sirius doesn't actually know his name; he's made a conscious effort not to learn, because giving the problem a name means acknowledging that it exists, and he's not ready for that. Not now, when the world has turned upside down, and he's hardly sure of anything anymore.
Remus is still sure of everything, and everything is still so stable that he can run off with that boy every night and still come back to the dormitory and fall asleep with Sirius. Maybe that's because he has nothing to get over, only a conversation and a brief kiss, while Sirius has years of unrequited love to lay to rest. And maybe promises made in sleep aren't worth holding onto, after all.
That doesn't make it hurt less, but it's a start.
"You haven't been sleeping," Remus murmurs one morning, tracing the circles under Sirius's eyes. "Is it the nightmares again?"
Sirius wishes Remus wouldn't touch him so intimately. "I'm not not sleeping."
"Don't lie. I share a bed with you, remember?"
Remus says it as though there's a chance he'd forget, and Sirius would laugh if Remus weren't sitting close enough to make him tremble. And Remus moves closer, and now it's not the trembling that's the problem, but the Remus. He inches away. "If I hadn't—if I'd stayed, back then we wouldn't be here now, would we?"
"Oh, we'd be here," Remus says matter of factly. "We just wouldn't be talking, would we?"
Sirius's heart skips a beat, and it's only by taking a very deep breath that he's able to maintain any semblance of calmness. He swallows thickly. "But we're here. Here," he repeats, as if that emphasizes something. And maybe it does. "And you've moved on—"
"I haven't moved on," Remus says quietly.
"Well, you're shagging someone else, aren't you?" And before Remus can say what Sirius knows he wants to—that this boy is only about the sex, that he doesn't have to be faithful to a relationship he doesn't have, that Sirius only has to say the word to end this—Sirius continues, rashly and impulsively, the only way he knows how. "So we're over before we ever really began, aren't we?"
Remus makes a small noise, almost as if he's going to protest, but then he sighs. "If that's the way you want it, Sirius."
That's not the way Sirius wants it, but there's really no other solution. Remus won't, can't, drop everything just for him, and Sirius doesn't expect him to. So Remus stares at him for just a second longer before he slides off the bed, and he's halfway to the door before Sirius can say anything, and even then it's only a whispered, "I'm sorry."
He hasn't been able to properly apologize in months, so it's not just for this. It's for what he did to Snape, and for what he almost did to Remus, and for the kiss he couldn't handle, and for the commitment he couldn't fathom. And Remus nods, and says, "I forgive you," and Sirius knows he understands.
And that's something, at least.
"He took me back," someone whispers in Sirius's ear, and he whirls around to find Gabriel grinning at him. "Remus. He took me back."
"That's wonderful," Sirius mutters, although it's really less wonderful than pathetic. Remus doesn't want Gabriel, not really; it's only because he'll give Remus what Sirius can't. And either Gabriel's too thick to notice, or he's too desperate to care.
"But I want you."
Sirius almost doesn't hear that, but his eyes widen when Gabriel's hand slides down his chest, down, his stomach, and—yes, he's made his point quite clearly. "But you—"
"I want both of you." He laughs softly, almost the way Remus does when he's tired, but this laugh is deliberately seductive, because Gabriel knows exactly what he's doing. "If you're not going to have each other, why don't you both have me?"
Gabriel isn't so thick, after all. He simply wants what Remus and Sirius won't allow each other, and while Sirius wants desperately to deny him, it hardly seems worth the energy, anymore—especially with Gabriel's hand traveling lower and lower, and— "All right, then. Shall we have a go?"
It's hardly romantic, but then, he's hardly romantic. Romance doesn't come easily to Sirius—sex, yes, but sex is hardly romance—so he tends to dispense with it altogether. Leave the romance to people who understand it, people like Remus.
Sirius meets Gabriel in the afternoon, sometimes in the evening. It's the latter he prefers, because meeting in the evening means Gabriel has seen Remus in the afternoon. And Sirius licks and bites and kisses every last hint of Remus left on Gabriel's skin, and when the boy moans just so, he knows it's the same moan Remus has elicited just hours before. And it's almost like Remus is there with him, only Sirius is sure that were Remus with him, neither of them would have much time to spare for Gabriel.
"I think we're awful people for doing this," Remus says as he climbs into bed one night, when Sirius is already half asleep. "Gabriel doesn't deserve it, does he?"
Sirius doesn't think Gabriel deserves much, actually, but there's no question that he wants this. He wants Sirius in the afternoon and Remus in the evening—or Remus in the afternoon and Sirius in the evening—and maybe he doesn't want them to share a bed each night, but that's not his concern. "He doesn't think we're toying with him, if that's what you're getting at."
But they are toying with him, and maybe neither of them wants to admit it, but that's the reality of the situation. And yes, Gabriel wants it, and yes, he asked for it, but that doesn't change the fact that Sirius thinks less about Gabriel than about Remus, when they're together. And it doesn't change the fact that he sleeps in Remus's bed each night, and that's the part of the day he anticipates most. And maybe they are awful people, but they're awful together, and somehow that makes it tolerable.
"It's a cruel world," Remus mutters, drawing the curtains around the bed.
Sirius grins in the darkness. "And I'm a lucky boy."
A week after the full moon, Sirius doesn't feel quite so lucky
Gabriel reads him poetry, and it's almost like when Remus would lecture them about Muggle literature, but Sirius finds that he doesn't like this at all. It's a clumsy attempt at romance, glaringly unnatural, and Sirius wonders whether Gabriel reads poetry because he likes it or because he expects Sirius to like it."I expect he reads it to you because I read it to him," Remus says, when Sirius mentions it casually. "He thinks it's romantic."
"It is romantic, when it's you." It's out before he can stop it, but he doesn't regret it, even when Remus drops his quill onto the essay he's been writing, his mouth half-open in shock. "Oh, really, Moony, you thought I wouldn't think so?"
Remus shrugs, now staring down at the expanding ink stain on his parchment. "I thought you wouldn't think of me romantically. Not after…"
"Oh, don't be daft. Of course I'm still in love with you."
"You're—" Remus's gaze snaps back up, and now he's smiling hesitantly. "You're still in love with me?"
Sirius nods, because there's nothing else he can possibly do, and Remus beams at him. And that's all he needs; Remus doesn't need to say anything, because he already knows.
But there's still Gabriel to consider, and Remus sees no reason to destroy the boy's life twice in one hour, even if Sirius won't kiss him until the matter is settled. And Sirius won't kiss him, because he'll share with Remus, but he won't share Remus. And maybe that's irrational and unfair and possessive, but Remus just smiles, and nods, and sends him off to Gabriel.
"Oh, that's all right," Gabriel says, as he tugs idly at Sirius's robes. "I don't mind sharing."
"But I do." And it's true, almost; he never minded sharing Gabriel with Remus, but sharing Remus with Gabriel is another story entirely. "Look, it's nothing personal. It's just—it's not supposed to be Remus and Sirius and Gabriel. It's Remus and Sirius, full stop."
Gabriel gazes at him for a moment, then shrugs, like he's been expecting this all along. "All right, then. So there's no hope at all?"
"Well, you can always ask Remus later, but I don't think he'll be too keen on sharing, either." He grins, and part of him knows it's awful of him to look so satisfied, but he just can't help it. "I am sorry, Gabriel."
"Don't be. I'm not." Gabriel smiles too, a shakier version of Sirius's smug grin. "Best month of my life, with you blokes. Shame it couldn't last the term."
Sirius has no reply for that, so he just leaves. Gabriel shouldn't be too shaken by that, really, since it's how he almost always parts ways with the boy.
Anyway, Remus will have eloquent parting words, and that's enough for both of them.
It's well past midnight when Remus finally returns to the dormitory.
Sirius hears him open the curtains, but when the mattress doesn't immediately shift behind him, he sits up and blinks in the dim light. Remus smiles hesitantly at him but doesn't move closer. "It's over," he whispers. "He took it well."
"I know," Sirius mumbles, his voice scratchy with sleep. "Where've you been?"
"Out shagging half the bloody school, of course," he says lightly, and Sirius would laugh if it didn't risk waking James and Peter. "Did you miss me?"
Sirius doesn't bother to answer that, because Remus still hasn't moved closer, and that just won't do. He simply takes Remus by the wrist and pulls him, still fully clothed, into bed. They'll have time to discard clothes later; right now he just wants Remus beside him, holding him, kissing him—and oh God, Remus kisses just like he remembers, soft and slow, and it's wonderful and dizzying and absolutely perfect.
Remus is asleep long before it comes to anything more than a kiss, but Sirius doesn't mind that at all. He's spent enough time waiting for exactly this—Remus curled against him possessively, holding Sirius like he'll never let go—and everything else can come when it will. There's no rush; they have all the time they need.
And Remus stirs and shifts closer to him, mumbling, "I love you," in his sleep, and Sirius smiles to himself and slips his other arm protectively around Remus.
This is what he's wanted all along, he thinks. This is forever.