Remus's bedroom window faces west and so the setting sun bursts through and nearly blinds them, turning the air into showers of dust motes and turning everything into one of his mother's old Muggle photographs, all orange and brown and dirty gold. Sirius on his stomach on the bed, paging through Remus's runes textbook, kicks his bare feet together, the bottoms absolutely filthy because he hasn't worn shoes since he arrived that morning. And they have been out, outside exploring the Lupin farm, running bare-footed and four-footed through every clutch of sprawling tree and every pebbled path and the meadow of tall grass where the sheep graze and the river where Remus's father pulls fish for the family supper.
The farm is all the Lupins have, it was left to them and it is all that they are worth so they live from it, off of it. The house was once a barn and it sags in the August heat, leaning to one day and fro the next, and at first Remus is ashamed to bring Sirius to it. He didn't tell him about the hole in the roof that has to be patched with magic through every rain, or the toilet that only flushes every second time, or the spiders bivouacking under the porch. Remus's house is falling apart, a patchwork house of wood and glue and hope, and hardly the sort of place a boy of proper breeding should be expected to spend a summer.
Sirius's first words when he arrived, crashed through their hearth and stood up and knocked the soot out of his ears were, "It's bloody brilliant, Moony."
And if his parents ever wondered about the nickname Remus doesn't care, because in his bedroom now with the horizon on fire outside and inside, it's still hot from the day and Sirius's is skin flecked with dirt and freckles and shadows of sunset, and they are fifteen and growing no older, not this summer, because Remus's house i is /i brilliant and the month lays ahead of them, long and lazy like the yawning stretch of a dog.
On the second day, Sirius sets Remus's hair on fire.
Not intentionally of course because really, Remus oughtn't have been standing so close and didn't he know that there is a bomb involved in a dungbomb, and Sirius had forgot that it was even in his bag. Which left Remus smelling bad and nearly bald, though unhurt except for his pride, and his mother made him soak in the tub for an hour to get the smell out. Then she cut off the rest of his hair, with scissors, which horrified Sirius to the point where he banishes himself to the yard to wait.
'Honestly,' she says as his hair falls down around their ankles, red-gold and grey like the sun-scorched grass in the garden. Remus ducks his head, her hand smoothing over the soft fuzz of it, brushing away the last stray hairs. 'At least, it will be cooler.'
It is cooler when he goes outside, finding Padfoot looking indifferent in the shrubbery near the big tree. When Remus was five his father hung a swing from the big tree and Remus spent hours on it, airborne and laughing and thinking if he could just swing a bit higher, he would fly. He swung in the mornings before the sun was too high, and he swung in the afternoons when the tree gave him shade, and he swung in the evenings by the light of the full moon.
There are still bloodstains in the wood.
Remus sits on the swing, his feet firmly planted on the ground now and his head bent. He can hear Padfoot's sniffs and grunts, the rustle of paws in dry grass. There are bees in the big tree and the air is heavy with their buzzing, the breeze brings on it horses and dirt and cooking fish. A normal day, the second day of August, except that Remus hasn't got any hair anymore.
Something wet swipes across Remus's bare leg and he looks down, looks at Padfoot who now has hair on his tongue, and Remus laughs and throws his arms around the dog's neck. He gets drool on his shoe, but it is all right.
In the morning his hair has grown back, and Sirius cleans out his bag. Just in case.
The third day is actually the twenty-seventh day that the county hasn't seen any rain. Everything is covered in a thick layer of dust and apathy, and the garden wilts despite Mrs Lupin's attempts to keep the vegetables alive. In the morning Mr Lupin discovers that one of the cows has died, and from Remus's bedroom Sirius can hear a strange sound coming from the barn, like the constant bray of a fearsome animal.
"It's a chainsaw," explains Remus, when Sirius asks. "Mum doesn't like how meat tastes when it's cut by magic, so she makes Dad use it whenever he has to cut something up." Remus calmly turns the page of his magazine, casually, as if he weren't describing gruesome butchery. "Mum's people come from Mullingar, so. She knows something about cows."
Sirius makes a face and rolls onto his back. They haven't gone out today. The air is thick and sticks in their throats, the heat leaving shadows in waves along the ground. He might entertain the idea of a swim but even the short distance to the creek seems too much trouble. So they stay in Remus's room watching the day pass along the walls.
Dinner that night is, not surprisingly, steak. Sirius catches on quickly that this is a luxury not often afforded the Lupins, and that this is their making the best of a bad situation. He may be Pureblood but Sirius understands what the loss of a cow means to a farm. There's lemonade instead of milk, and no butter on the bread so that there might be some for tomorrow's breakfast. Conversation is stilted, though Mrs Lupin does mention that Remus's father will be going into town Tuesday next to inquire as to the next cattle auctions.
"This is good, Mrs Lupin," says Sirius through a mouthful of beef and potato. She smiles at him indulgently, which is really all Sirius will ever ask of her.
Later, much later, in the middle of the night, when Remus is sprawled asleep and Sirius is curled up in his nest on the floor, the heat splits the sky open and the rain finally comes. The thunder purrs distantly, then rattles the windowpanes. It takes a mighty crack to jerk Remus awake and in a quick flash of lightning Sirius can see him sitting up and looking frantically round the room.
"Moony," he says, standing and finding one of Remus's hands, tugging. "Come on. Come on."
They take the stairs two by two, their footsteps lost in the chaos of the storm. Outside it is gloriously wet, the rain falling hard and fast in fat drops, and they aren't in the garden for more than a moment before their pyjamas are soaked through. It's loud and bright and frightening, and Sirius loses some of his nerve now that he's out in it.
Remus, however, is laughing. His arms are out and he's spinning, spinning and making Sirius dizzy. His hair flies out in all directions, stuck to his face when he stops and he looks at Sirius and smiles, in the wide, giddy way that shows his crooked canines, the uneven curve of his mouth.
"It's brilliant!" he shouts over the noise. "Isn't it? Padfoot?"
Remus laughs again, and somehow it overcomes the thunder.
Sirius grins back.
"Yeah," he says, watching Remus throw back his head with his mouth open, drinking the rain. Water snakes across his throat in rivers. "It's brilliant."
They are grounded on the fourth day, for going out in the rain and getting mud all on the floors.
The day after, Remus's father suggests they go fishing. Sirius has never been, which is not surprising of a boy of proper breeding raised in London. He watches as Remus pulls fishing poles out of the cupboard in the hall.
"What're those for?" he asks.
Remus grunts, intently untangling a knot of fishing line. "For catching the fish."
Sirius frowns. "Why not just summon them? Your dad's a wizard, yeah?"
"It doesn't work that way, Sirius," says Remus, handing him a pole. "Come here, we've got to get bait."
Which, it turns out, is Padfoot's area of expertise. In Remus's mother's garden he digs a hole, spraying Remus with fresh dirt. Remus laughs, shaking his head, his bucket full of fat nightcrawlers he's sorted from the soil. Padfoot is filthy, which naturally makes Sirius filthy, but it does not stop Remus's mother from giving them both ice-lollies before they start off toward the stream. The rain from the night before has left the ground beneath their feet soft and the trees stretch cheerfully over their heads, and the stream is running more heavily than it has in weeks.
Sirius makes terrible smacking sounds around his lolly, ice-cream dribbling down his chin. "Muggles," he says, licking his lips. "They're a bit ridiculous, yeah?"
"Sometimes," says Remus. They come to the bridge, and Remus decides that they will fish from it. "Not always though. You're just not used to it."
"And you are."
Remus shrugs. "Well, my mum is a Muggle." He leans against the side of the bridge, finishing his lolly. "She has to do things the way she knows. And my dad loves her so, he does things the way she knows."
Sirius doesn't say anything to that. He nods at the bucket of worms. "What now?"
"Come here," says Remus. "I'll show you."
Spearing a worm on a hook, it turns out, is one of the few things to make Sirius Black squeamish. He wriggles like the worm pinched in his sticky fingers, frowning and making noises until Remus takes the worm away, and does it for him. "Poor worm," he says, watching the wretched thing writhe, hook protruding from its body. "Sorry," he tells it, and looks at Remus expectantly.
"Now, you cast it out into the water." Remus does, a graceful arc of his arm and flick of his wrist, and the line is in the water and Remus nods at Sirius. Sirius's first attempt fails, and his second attempt results in the hook catching the branch of the tree behind them. Eventually he does get his worm in, and he clutches the pole as if he expects it to be wrenched from his hands at any moment.
"Now what?" he asks.
"Now," says Remus, "we wait."
Sirius nodded and was quiet, and managed to wait nearly five minutes before nudging Remus in the side. "When do we catch a fish?" he asked, whispering because the place and the moment seemed to need him to.
"When they want to be caught," says Remus quietly. "Shush."
Another five minutes goes by. "Remus-"
"It takes a while, Sirius." Remus shifts, stretches a little. "One time my dad and I were out here from just after breakfast to nearly supper." Remus often measures time by meals. "We didn't catch anything until we were just about to go back, but I think it was just confused."
"Remus," Sirius whinges. "You didn't say it was going to take so long." He fidgets where he stands. Remus looks at him.
"Patience," he says. "You have to have patience. It's not so bad. It's nice out here."
It is nicer, and Sirius knows it, knows that it's better than being stuck in the house again but he has no patience, James Potter took it from him five years ago and he thinks it might have got stuck at the bottom of his school trunk. Sirius sighs and wiggles, shifts from one foot to the other, sighs again, whistles and then stops when Remus glares at him.
Finally, finally, Remus catches a fish.
"Here!" he says, shoving his pole into Sirius's hands. "You do it. So you can't complain you didn't do anything interesting today." When it becomes apparent that Sirius hasn't a clue as to what to do, Remus sighs and moves behind him and demonstrates how to pull, and reel, and land the fish. It's not a big fish, but from the way Sirius gapes at it as it squirms and gasps in Remus's hands, it is the biggest fish in the world.
"A fish!" Sirius crows, watching Remus get the hook out of its mouth. "I caught a fish, Moony!" When Remus smiles at him, it is the same crooked, indulgent smile of his mother, and Sirius beams.
After that, there's no more complaining and by the time they leave the bridge and the stream they have caught enough fish for supper. Sirius insists on carrying them on their string, chattering away about how they're going to go fishing again tomorrow, and the next day and the day after that. Remus carries the fishing poles, and listens, and keeps smiling.
And Sirius still has ice cream on his chin.
Remus has practice in the morning, piano practice. Sirius wakes to the steady thud of do re mi from somewhere downstairs, and he finds Remus in the sitting room. The Lupin family piano is old and Sirius suspects it is held together as the house is, by sheer will and not a little bit of magic. There's an hour-glass on the back of it, white sand trickling down, counting off what's left of Remus's lesson.
Sirius leans against it with an apple in his hand, watching Remus's fingers fly across the keys. He is playing something Sirius doesn't know, or that he just doesn't recognise. Remus doesn't look up.
"I didn't know you played," says Sirius, crunching into his apple. "You never said."
Remus frowns, squints at the notes in front of him. "You never asked."
He switches to something faster, more complicated. His fingers slip and the wrong notes seem louder than the right ones, punctuated by words Remus mutters under his breath lest his mother - who, Sirius thinks, has a bat's hearing - catch them. "Fuck," he says, and it's only the second time Sirius had ever heard Remus swear.
"I can play the violin," Sirius blurts out, and immediately he regrets it because it wasn't anything anyone was ever supposed to know, violins aren't cool and he's never even told Jamesabout that. "Er."
Remus's hands go still and he twists, looks at Sirius. "You can?"
"Um." Sirius frowns at his apple core. "Yeah. Don't go telling people that. I don't even know why I said anything."
"I won't. Tell anyone." Remus nods gravely. "Why did you tell me?"
"I don't know!" Sirius says. "It just came out! It's not like I was after learning it or anything, my mother made me learn it. I hate it." He doesn't, not really, but he has a reputation to maintain. "It's stupid, what am I ever going to do with a sodding violin?"
Remus shrugs. "Same thing I'll do with a piano, I reckon." He looks at his hands on the keys. "I don't mind it so much though."
Sirius grunts, waves his hand at Remus. "Go on, then," he says. "Go back to playing." He nods at the hourglass. "Time's almost up and we're going fishing again when you're done, so you'd better get cracking."
He does, and the music fills the house again and this time, there are fewer mistakes. Sirius watches Remus's hands until they make him dizzy and he looks at the hour-glass instead.
The sand's been run out for a few minutes before he tells Remus that his time's up.
Remus's mother says in the morning that it's "a soft day," which means that the air outside isn't nearly so heavy as it has been; it's cool and damp, not raining really, only just. Breakfast is earlier than it has been all week, and much larger - sausage and bacon and eggs, a bit of tomato, toast corners and black-and-white pudding that Sirius isn't too certain about. Remus watches him push it around on his plate for a bit before leaning in and telling him it's okay to leave it; he doesn't much like it either. Sirius nods, looking relieved, and polishes off his egg.
"Mum's Irish," Remus explains later, after they're installed in the backseat of his father's old Cortina and heading toward the village. They're done up in Sunday best except for Sirius, whose only nice things are dress robes and so he's wearing trousers, a jacket and tie of Remus's. They do not fit him very well, and he tugs constantly at the sleeves. "She was brought up in County Westmeath. She met Dad when she came here for university."
Sirius, who Remus knows has never been inside a Muggle motorcar much less one actually moving, manages to stop messing about with the lock on the door long enough to listen. "Yeah? What's university?"
Remus's mother laughs. She is a bit like Sirius Remus thinks, in the way she reacts to new things. Remus's father isn't a Pureblood and so Sirius is a marvel to her. "It's school, dear. Where you'd go after you've finished Hogwarts, if it wasn't magic."
"More school!" Sirius snorts. "Not on your life!"
"Anyway," Remus continues, lowering his voice so that only Sirius can hear. "That's why Mum's a bit batty on Sundays. She's a Catholic and she does things the way she grew up with it, you see. Up early, and all the food. Then we go to church."
Sirius blinks. "Church." Remus sighs.
"You'll see," is all he says.
And poor Sirius does. The church looks just like the rest of them, stone walls and pointy bits stretching up toward the grey sky. Sirius is oddly subdued when they walk in, aware of all the Muggles and the strange people up at the front in what could be wizard's robes if they weren't white. He sits between Remus and Remus's father, and when he's handed a hymnal he pages through it, frowning.
Mass is, as per usual for Remus, quite boring.
"I never thought I'd find people as uptight as my parents, Remus," says Sirius afterward, once they've escaped the stuffy church and are back in normal clothes, walking along the stream. "But those folks your mum hangs round with... wow."
"She doesn't really," says Remus. He picks up a stone and hurls it into the water. "She goes out of habit, Dad says. I asked him once because it's the only time Mum ever acts like that. He knows she believes in God and all but he doesn't think she believes in all that."
Remus suddenly stops, and looks at Sirius who is knee-deep in the stream and trying to catch minnows with his hands. "Padfoot, you want to see something?"
He crooks a finger. "Come on."
The Lupin homestead isn't just the house, and the farm. There is land as well and it is a relief to Remus's parents because it is better than gold in Gringotts, that land. It is mostly flat, thick with trees and the stream runs right through it, keeping things green and lush and drawing in the animals. It is not unusual for Remus, during an Epic Exploration, to encounter foxes, rabbits and the odd badger. And sometimes, there are even better discoveries.
"Here," says Remus in a hushed voice, putting out a hand to still Sirius beside him. He pushes through the overgrown shrubbery, motioning for Sirius to do the same, to follow him. There is the remnants of a path beneath their feet, leading to a small clearing. Sirius gasps.
There isn't much left of it. Skeleton walls and an archway, trees growing in it, around it and through. The ceiling is long gone, replaced by branches and leaves, but it's still possible to find where the altar once was. One wall even has most of the window left in it, shards of old glass caught in the cracks between stones. Remus suspects a fire, likely brought on by candles or - more interestingly - a disgruntled soul.
"This is my church," he says softly. They are contained here in this space, shrouded by the trees and the dim light, holy ground. "It's not got anything fancy about it but I reckon it was once. I don't think anyone knows its here or else the Muggles would've made it into something for their holidays, yeah?"
Sirius pokes around the rubble eagerly. "It's loads better than that other one. Nobody else here for one."
Remus grins. "That's why I like it. It's just mine. So there's nobody here to tell me what to believe in or what."
There is a shaft of light that has managed to crack the canopy overhead, and Sirius stops where it falls. When he turns to look at Remus his eyes are impossible - too expressive to be blue, too lovely to be grey. Remus's breath hitches.
"What do you believe, then?" asks Sirius, and for a moment Remus has no answer. Sirius stands in the light of a fallen church and Remus can't hardly breath, let alone speak. He doesn't know why but like with anything he's ever thought about while inside a church, he doesn't think he wants to know. Not just yet.
Finally, when the clouds shift and the moment passes, he exhales slowly.
"This," he says. "I believe in this. It's still here and it still makes you feel like..." Words rarely fail him, but they do now. "It's just this. It makes me want to believe." He shrugs. "I think that's enough."
Sirius nods and says nothing. He doesn't have to.
Back at the house Mrs Lupin greets them with tea and biscuits as the seventh day ends.