Sirius Black does not feel eleven years old.
His collared shirt is itchy, but his nanny had made him wear it for the dinner party. "It wouldn't be proper if you weren't presentable," old Mrs. Higgins had said, combing his hair and straightening his tie. "You know your parents want you to look your best for the family."
And that was how Sirius had come to spend his eleventh birthday squirming discreetly in his chair, the welt on his wrist reminding him which fork to use during which course, and the pain on his backside making sure he will Remain Silent, Or Else.
After finally escaping the dinner table to the relative safety of his room, Sirius tugs off his uncomfortable shirt and tie. He then sees the wrapped packages on his bed, and eyes them warily. He thinks they must all be clothes, since nearly all the boxes are thin and rectangular.
Unfortunately, he's right.
Sirius unwraps package after package only to find new clothes for the uniformed school he will be attending in the fall. Navy blue blazers, khaki pants, red ties….
Dutifully, Sirius gathers up his new school clothes and places them in the bottom of his closet (Mrs. Higgins would take care of the rest later) and turns to the last package on his bed.
It is large and square, and almost certainly does not contain more white oxford shirts. Sirius begins to unwrap it quickly, tearing off the bright paper in large strips, excited at the prospect of a real birthday gift.
When the last of the paper is torn off the mystery package reveals itself to be an ornate marble chess set, the pieces smooth, cold, and unbreakable. Sirius can hardly believe it.
It is the same chess set he received from his parents last Christmas.
Laying flat on his bed, Sirius gazes at his ceiling and wonders when his parents' guests will leave, and where his parents will go to on their next vacation.
After a while he turns on his side so that he can face the window, reminding himself that Blacks Don't Cry, Or Else.
His eyes remain dry as he wonders how he'll ever uphold the family honor enough to save himself from the reprimands he is sure to receive tomorrow from Mother. He wonders if he even wants to, anymore.
Sirius Black does not feel eleven years old.
It is a dark and stormy bus ride.
Remus looks out his rain-streaked window, shivering at the knowledge that the waning moon lurks behind the black clouds. Flashes of lightning illuminate the wet forest, individual leaves shimmering in the glow. Trees appear in glistening silver flashes, the sound of thunder quick to follow each bolt of lightning.
It is Remus' first day of school, and he is frightened. It's the day just after the full moon, his bandages and bruises hidden beneath a neatly pressed oxford shirt and khaki pants. He is alone on the bus, for now, his stop being the first in the morning and the last in the afternoon. He is the only student living in the rural area—the only student attending wholly on scholarship—and feels self-conscious of it, and wary. Remus does not know who the other boys are, if they will care, and thinks to himself, it's just another thing to hide.
The bus rambles on down the road; from Remus' seat near the back of the bus (he calculated it so he would sit half-way between the last seat and middle seat) he watches the long windshield wipers whip the pouring rain from the glass.
The bus driver is humming some half-forgotten song, his dark silhouette illuminated only when veins of light stretch across the sky. The loud clash of thunder that follows fails to stem the driver's vague tune, the wavering notes almost but not quite lost in the howling wind. Omens, Remus thinks to himself, and shivers again.
The bus continues winding down the road, the slicked tires gliding over the black pavement, the rumbling in the engines muted by the storm.
After some time the forest thins and finally stops, yielding to fences and the shadows of townhouses in the distance. The bus shudders to a stop a few minutes later, and someone climbs onto the bus.
Remus' first instinct is to crouch down and make it so whoever it is can't see him, but too late; he is making his way down the narrow bus aisle towards him.
Gathering his confidence, Remus sits up straighter and tries to turn the corners of his mouth into something resembling a casual grin. He isn't sure what a casual grin is, exactly—his smiles are much like his nature, either there or not—but he feels his cheeks bunch up a bit and supposes it will have to do.
The boy pauses in the aisle next to him; the bus lurches into motion once again, and wavering slightly the boy plops down into the seat across from Remus. Remus opens his mouth, thinking that saying hello wouldn't be too much of a risk, but the other boy finishes before Remus can start.
"Hullo. What's your name? Mine's Black."
He sticks out his hand towards Remus and leans forward. His entire face is suddenly thrown into stark relief, and Remus can make out his pale skin and rain-slicked black hair, his motion as sweeping and demanding as the raging wind. Remus is startled that his grey eyes seem familiar somehow, when consciously he knows he's never seen eyes that color before.
Encouraged, Remus reaches out to shake his hand and says, "Hullo. Mine's Remus Lupin."
"So," the boy called Black says, shrugging off his wet blazer, "I suppose you'll want to know about my family." He runs his hands through his thick black hair, shaking off as much water as he can. "We're properly wealthy—my dad owns several vineyards throughout France and Italy, and he's in government here. We can trace my family back through 13 generations. Our name carries a lot of weight, you know, so I suppose being my friend will be all right with your folks. Lupin…." Black pauses, looking thoughtful, not noticing Remus' stunned gaze. "That doesn't sound familiar. Are you an exchange student? I know about Nott and Avery, and Malfoy as well—all very respectable families, according to my mom—" the boy broke off, and sighed. "Well, no escaping it, then. So, what's the Lupin Legacy?"
Remus feels his cheeks burn and his eyes go wide. He has no idea what to say—he's astonished; he hadn't counted on being asked about his 'circumstances' so early.
The boy is looking at him expectantly, as if resigned to something. Suddenly Remus doesn't care what he thinks, or what anyone else does—he decides he will be the Lupin Legacy, if he has to. He licks his lips and draws a silent breath.
"Actually, my family owns a farm, just beyond the forest. I can't trace my family back farther than my father's parents, and I have no idea about my mother's side, because she died when I was young. There's no legacy, at least as far as I know. I'm—I'm going here on scholarship, actually." Remus' voice doesn't waver, but his cheeks are hot.
Black is silent, and Remus thinks ruefully at least I caught him as unawares as he caught me. The sky is turning light grey around them as the storm loses its earlier ferocity, and the bus is slowing down again, ready to emit new passengers.
At the front of the bus two girls get on, complaining loudly and closing their umbrellas, then taking seats behind the bus driver. The bus doors close with a squelch, and the engine rumbles again, louder than it sounded before.
"I'm sorry—I didn't know there would be anyone attending All Hallows who wasn't, you know—a rich bastard." Black says finally, ending the awkward silence. "Sorry for being one just now. A rich bastard, I mean." He offers Remus a sheepish grin, and sticks out his hand once again. "Hello. My name's Sirius. What's yours?"
"Remus," he replies, his tension dissipating as he shakes Sirius' hand. A real, full smile spreads across his face, erasing all traces of the half-hearted grin he'd tried to construct earlier.
Omens, Remus thinks as Sirius releases his hand and begins talking again. The last drop of rain makes its way down Remus' window, leaving a wet trail the wind soon carries away.
"Mrs. Higgins!" Sirius shouts, discarding his school bag and leaping up the first, second, and third flights of stairs. "Mrs. Higgins! I'm home!"
Sirius finds Mrs. Higgins dusting the family portrait on the third floor, chuckling to herself. "So, I'm guessing school wasn't as terrible as you expected it to be?"
Sirius grins back at her. "Nope," he says, rocking back on the balls of his feet, all his excitement he'd barely contained throughout the day threatening to spill over now. "The school is brilliant," he gushes, "all stone hallways and old tapestries and this gigantic cafeteria—it was incredible! Almost as good as a castle, and I'll bet it even has secret passages!"
"Oh, no," Mrs. Higgins frowns, her wrinkled skin pulling taught around her thin lips. "I hope you aren't planning on causing trouble already, Sirius."
Sirius groans; he should have kept the bit about secret passages to himself. Quickly he changes the topic. "I met this boy today, he's dead clever and really funny, actually worth talking to. His name's Remus Lupin, and he lives on a farm, just past the forest."
Old Mrs. Higgins arches her eyebrows, dusting her withered hands off on her apron. "And he attends All Hallows?" she asks, silently posing the question, but how can he afford it?
"Oh, he's on scholarship," Sirius grins. "Was I relieved when I heard that! I thought there would only be snotty rich bastards—"
"Sirius!" Mrs. Higgins scolds, sounding scandalized. "If this is the kind of language you come home using after only the first day—"
"Sorry," Sirius apologizes quickly, not sounding sorry at all, grinning impishly up at his nanny.
She smiles, shaking her head at him. "Well, you'd better come along, then," she says finally.
"Come along where?" Sirius asks curiously. "It's not Wednesday, no fencing or anything."
"Follow me," Mrs. Higgins says cryptically, turning around and heading down the stairs. Curiosity piqued, Sirius follows her, mystified when he finds himself standing outside his door.
"Go on in," Mrs. Higgins says, patting him gently on the shoulder. Perplexed, Sirius enters his room, and gasps.
In the middle of the floor is a sleek black telescope, its lens glinting in the afternoon sunlight.
"Where—where'd you get this?" Sirius whispers, hardly daring to believe it.
"Oh, I have my ways," says Mrs. Higgins mysteriously, obviously pleased with Sirius' reaction.
Sirius walks up to the telescope and slides his hand gently across it, fingering the adjustments reverently. It is what he's wanted for as long as he can remember, and what he hadn't dared ask for.
"It's a late birthday present," Mrs. Higgins says, interrupting Sirius' thoughts. "I wanted to wait until the first day of school, a little something to cheer you up."
"Thank you," Sirius breathes, and turns to hug Mrs. Higgins, something he hasn't done since he was a very small child. He can't help marveling at how unexpectedly wonderful it is to be eleven years old.
Remus and his father are sitting across the table from each other, and Remus is excitedly telling his father about his first day of school. Mr. Lupin can't remember the last time he's heard Remus talk this much in one sitting, and already finds that he quite likes this Sirius Black fellow.
"Remus," Mr. Lupin says when Remus is finished with his description of his and Sirius's theory that the school's tapestries are hiding secret passageways, "I finished cutting the wood for the new shed today. It should be ready in time."
Remus stops chewing his chicken for a fraction of a second, but by the time he's swallowed he has a nonchalant, "Okay, then," on his lips.
That night, Remus dreams of spending full moons in a shed—or a house, he can't really tell—instead of his usual cellar. Oddly there seems to be a stag, a rat, and a large dog with him, but Remus's father wakes him up before the dream tells him anything more. By the time he finishes breakfast, he has forgotten the dream completely.
"I can't believe I'm doing this." Sirius mutters, stumbling in the brambles hidden by the undergrowth. "How could I let you convince me this was a good idea?"
"It is a good idea. I've been doing this since I was born. Everyone should camp, even the sheltered, pampered aristocrats," Remus laughs, hiking through the forest with practiced ease. "How are you doing back there?"
Sirius spares a glance from a nearby cluster of suspicious looking plants to scowl at the bundle in his arms. "This telescope is really heavy."
"At least you're not carrying the rucksack," Remus replies.
They continue in silence for a while longer. Sirius is too busy looking down at where he's placing his feet to notice when Remus stops. Sirius walks squarely into his back, an experience that is amazingly similar to running headfirst into a brick wall. The air rushes out of Sirius's lungs as he overbalances, topples over, and only just manages to save his telescope from being crushed.
"Bollocks! Watch it, Remus, I almost dropped it!" Sirius says, carefully pushing himself back to his feet.
"This is it," Remus says, setting down the rucksack and shaking out his arms.
Sirius gently rests his telescope against the rucksack, and finally looks up to assess his surroundings. They are standing on the edge of a small clearing, long blades of grass poking up between last autumn's layer of fallen leaves. The trees surrounding the clearing are still budding leaves, the sunshine of late spring turning them a pleasant shade of light green. It isn't warm enough yet for too many flowers to have bloomed, but Sirius can see a few daisies on the far edge of the small meadow.
"Here, I'll show you how to pitch the tent."
Sirius eyes the stakes Remus has pulled out of the rucksack dubiously. "Are you sure this will work?"
Remus, who is bent over the rucksack and rummaging for the rolled up two-man canvas tent, glances over his shoulder at his companion. Sirius is standing very still and very straight, his black hair pushed away from his sweaty face. Remus grins at Sirius, who looks every bit the aristocrat he appears to be in school, only much more disheveled.
"Of course I'm sure. My dad and I go camping every summer, and this tent has never failed us. Well," Remus amends, looking thoughtfully up at the sky, "one year we got a bit wet when it rained…."
"It won't rain," Sirius says, carefully sitting down next to Remus and examining one of the stakes.
"No, it wouldn't dare rain on a Black."
"The weatherman said it would be a clear night," Sirius says, and pokes Remus in the ribs with the dull end of the stake. "Twat."
"Well, then," Remus says, triumphantly pulling out the canvas tent, "you have nothing to worry about."
It is twilight when Remus and Sirius finish pitching the tent and setting out their sleeping bags. They eat the sandwiches Remus' dad prepared for them, and share the now luke-warm cocoa from the lid of a plaid thermos. Sirius's telescope is already set up, so all they have left to do is wait for night to fall.
"We should do this all summer," Sirius says suddenly, breaking the comfortable silence they had fallen into after their sandwiches had been devoured.
Remus looks at him, his features schooled into an expression of mock-disbelief. "All summer? Are you sure you could last a week without a five course meal?"
Remus is expecting Sirius to cuff him, or at least give a playful retort, but instead Sirius says, quietly, "I think I could rough it. I mean, that would be the best part… no parents, no stupid family dinners. Just... get away from it. What do you say, Remus?"
Remus, who had only suspicions about Sirius' unhappiness with his family until now, gives a silent nod of assent. They don't talk about their feelings often—ever, actually—and Remus can only appreciate vaguely that Sirius is opening up to him about his family for the first time. He doesn't understand what that might mean, except that Sirius and he are best friends, and he'll try to do whatever he can to help him.
"I'll show you the swimming hole this summer," Remus says finally. "And there's a place we can fish, too. We won't be able to cook them till my dad trusts us enough to start a campfire, but they're fun just to catch."
This time it is Sirius who silently nods his agreement, and the two fall back into a comfortable silence. Around them the trees rustle in the light breeze, and the sky slowly fades to black. Sirius stands and pulls Remus up with him, and together they go to examine the stars.
That night, Remus dreams of a tall tower, and the rustle of parchment as he charts the constellations overhead during a new moon. There are blurred outlines of friends with him, standing beside him as they work quietly. When he wakes, he only remembers the feeling of belonging, and his temporary triumph over the night sky.
"Bonjour mes étudiants! Comment-allez vous?" begins Madame Maté. "Welcome to French class. Please sit where you like. I would like you to feel comfortable making mistakes, and for that you need to be comfortable with the people around you."
"Come on!" Sirius says and tugs on Remus' sleeve until they find two chairs together in the back of the room.
"Magnifique! Now when I call your name and I would like you to stand up." Madame Maté claps.
Sirius half listens as she calls out Avery, a name he's heard far too often around the dinner table. His father is making him take French this year, since so much of the Black family fortune is invested in French property and business. At least Remus was willing to take it with me, Sirius thinks. I'd hate to be alone with anyone my father deems worthy company. Sirius thinks longingly of the past summer, wishing that his parents hadn't come home in time for his second year of school.
"Sirius Black," Madame Maté calls, bringing Sirius out of his reverie. He stands and tries to pay attention to what she's saying.
"Oui Madame, Sirius, like the star." He cringes inwardly at the reference. He's always liked his name, but it annoys him when girls fawn over it and giggle. Usually he enjoys attention, but those giggling girls make him feel uncomfortable.
"And do you know any French already?" Madame Maté asks.
"Oui Madame, un peu. Ma bonne m'a enseigné à la vigne de ma famille en France." He explains slowly, stumbling over the words. He only knows a few phrases, but he hopes he's done his nanny some justice with his attempt.
"Well then, perhaps you will be able to lend your friends a hand. Thank you, Sirius."
Sirius sits and promptly stops listening as she continues, but glances up when Remus stands. He is confused until he realizes that "Ray-moo Lyu-pan" is Remus' name in French.
"Class, Remus' last name is very interesting. Does anyone know why? Sirius?" Sirius shakes his head. "The word 'loup' in French means 'wolf.' Do you know where your name comes from, Remus?" Sirius notices Remus has gone white, although he is shaking his head politely. "Well, it is interesting, non? We have an étoile, 'star'—" Madame Maté nods towards Sirius, "and a loup, 'wolf.'"
Sirius decides he does not like Madame Maté, who seems to take a perverse pleasure in torturing young boys with their unfortunate names. The entire class is staring at both of them now. Sirius catches Avery's eye and winks at him, and watches as Avery frowns and turns away. Sirius smirks, satisfied.
"And do you know any French already?"
"Mes parents sont Français, ma mère m'a enseigné quand j'ètais jeune."
Sirius, who was still smugly looking at Avery, whips around so quickly he's sure his neck has cracked. Rubbing it with one hand, he looks up at his friend, absolutely shocked. He had no idea Remus speaks French!
"Ah, oui? Je voudrais rencontrer vous mere."
"Ma mere est morte. Elle est morte quand j'ai six ans."
"Je suis désolée. Bienvenue Remus."
They spoke so rapidly that Sirius didn't have the chance to translate what they said, though he thinks he heard the word "mother." Madame Maté smiles at Remus and continues down her list. Remus sits slowly, focusing on his desk intently.
After class Sirius walks with Remus, who is still rather pale.
"Why didn't you tell me you speak French?" Sirius demands, feeling a bit put out.
"My parents are French, you knew that."
"Your mom was, too?" Sirius asks, surprised.
"Yes, she helped teach me."
"Oh," Sirius says, not knowing what to say. Remus is still looking uncomfortable, so he decides to change the subject.
"Madame Maté is an odd bird, eh?" Sirius says, trying to cheer Remus up. "At least your name is manly sounding—loup," and here Sirius flashes Remus a view of his canines. Remus doesn't seem amused, though. "Huh, never would have picked up on that. My name, though," and here Sirius rolls his eyes for emphasis, "she makes me sound like a ponce. At least you've nothing to be embarrassed about. Girls don't giggle at your name."
"I don't think girls giggle at you because of your name," Remus says dryly, but Sirius can tell from the quirk in his lips that he's feeling better.
"C'est dingue, non? Where are you going now?" Sirius nudges Remus with his shoulder.
"Me too." Sirius gives Remus a bright smile. "Come on then, Wolfie."
Remus swats at him, but Sirius can tell his glare is mostly for show.
Remus is on a train, sitting across from a girl with red hair. He thinks she is saying something to him, but he's distracted when a boy with black hair and grey eyes opens the door to their compartment.
Then, the dream shifts, and he's suddenly in the middle of a large field, standing next to the boy from the train.
"Potter knows what he's doing," Sirius admits grudgingly, scowling up at the boy on the broomstick overhead. "Show-off."
Remus says nothing, knowing that this has something to do with the tension between the House of Black and the equally pureblooded Potters, which was making their first week at Hogwarts somewhat miserable. He wonders why Sirius talks to him—a half-blood nobody—but he guesses Sirius believes him to be the lesser of two evils. Remus wants to laugh—if only Sirius knew!—though the thought really isn't funny at all.
The dream shifts again, and suddenly he and Sirius are in the air, but not on broomsticks. They're on a sleek, black motorcycle, flying in the chilly night air. Remus feels his arms wrapped tightly around Sirius, grinning madly as the air rushes past his face…
Remus wakes up freezing, and realizes that he's left his window open. He gets out of bed and closes it, idly wondering how late it is. He stands at the window, gazing up at the quarter moon sky, trying to recapture the wonderful sensations from his dream. He's started having more of them since the end of his second year at school. And they always seem to feature the same people, though Sirius is the only one he recognizes.
He once read that it's impossible to dream about things you haven't thought of or seen before, which is odd because Remus is sure he's never been to any real castles or thought about soccer on flying broomsticks (Sirius and the boy with glasses calls it Kwitchit, or something). They're wonderful dreams, though they scare him sometimes.
How is it possible, Remus wonders, to feel more alive in your dreams than when you're awake?
Sirius has knocked a hundred times in the past few minutes, but to no avail. He is standing on the Lupins' doorstep, looking to see if Remus wants to go camping tonight—it's no good for stargazing since the moon's full and is already up, though it's not quite dinner time yet—but Sirius' parents are traveling and Mrs. Higgins gave him permission as it's the last week before their fourth year at All Hallows. Sirius has even remembered matches for the campfire.
"Bugger," Sirius says. He is about to turn around and head back home when he realizes that the kitchen light is on. Hesitating for only a moment, Sirius finds the key he knows is hidden underneath the smallest flowerpot and cautiously lets himself into the Lupin home.
A feeling of foreboding settles upon him as he makes his way through the small entryway and into the illuminated kitchen. "Remus?" Sirius calls out, wondering where he could be. The only reply is the creaking of his footfalls on the oak floors.
Sirius has been in Remus' house countless times—it's been three summers now that he and Remus have spent out here on the Lupin Farm—but something feels off, and Sirius doesn't know what to do with the eerie feeling he can't quite shake.
Sirius alternates calling "Remus!" and "Mr. Lupin!" as he investigates the house, but he finds neither. Sirius's heart is racing, which he thinks is stupid, but something in the air doesn't feel right—
"This is stupid," Sirius mutters to himself, wondering why he's getting all worked up over an empty house. Obviously they just went to town for something. Sirius walks back outside and checks the driveway, and finds that Mr. Lupin's car is missing. So, that mystery is solved, then….
Sirius decides to wait for Remus and Mr. Lupin to come home. He walks around their property, idly thinking how beautiful the moon looks tonight. He's about to head back to their porch to wait some more when their shed catches his eye. He isn't sure, but he thinks he hears something coming from it… what is that noise? Not the car door slamming, but that—is that howling?
The hairs on the back of Sirius's neck stand up as he begins walking toward the shed. He's transfixed, as if something is possessing him, causing him to place one foot in front of the other. He walks slowly toward the shed, the edges of his world blurring until all he can see is the wooden structure 100 yards… 50 yards… 25 yards in front of him….
It is only a few hours after his dad told him that Sirius nearly found out, and Remus is tossing and turning restlessly in his bed. He is mostly healed from this full moon; he's only uncomfortable because his arm itches under its bandage, but as long as he doesn't think about it, it's pretty easy to ignore.
If only he could ignore his other problems….
He'd have to face Sirius when his friend woke up. When his dad had caught Sirius so close to the shed, he didn't have a choice but to stop him. And then, of course, Mr. Lupin had promised Sirius answers to what was in the shed, and did you have to knock me bloody unconscious? and where the bloody hell is Remus? But before Mr. Lupin would answer any of Sirius's questions, he insisted that Sirius put a bandage on that cut and drink some tea. Remus knows that Sirius is downstairs now, sleeping the sleep of the drugged.
Mr. Lupin hadn't wanted to tell Sirius Remus's secret—he said it's Remus's choice to confide in him or not. But how can he possibly make that decision? Even if he did tell Sirius, would he even believe him? Most people don't believe werewolves exist, after all.
The other alternative is even worse—if Sirius does believe Remus, and despises him because of it….
The worst part of all of this, Remus thinks guiltily, is that he doesn't always hate being a werewolf. The nights before and after the full moon are filled with the most wonderful dreams—dreams so vivid they are somehow more real than most of his waking moments. In them he runs under the full moon, with a dog, stag, and rat by his side. They are in a huge forest, sometimes in the winter, and sometimes in summer—but always together, and always free.
Remus must have dropped off without realizing it, because next thing he knows he's being shaken awake by his father.
"Remus," his father says, "Sirius will wake soon."
Remus tries to focus, but the last vestiges of his dream are dancing in his mind, clearer than the image of his father in front of him. In his dream Sirius, and two other boys he thinks he recognizes, are telling him it's okay that he's a werewolf, they think it's brilliant, and why didn't Remus tell them sooner? And Dream Remus is so happy and sad that he feels like running and jumping and crying all at once, but he only stands there, until Sirius and another boy clap him on the shoulder and then he is crying, but smiling, too…
"Remus?" Mr. Lupin says again, staring at his son's blank expression. "Are you all right?"
"Huh?" Remus says, lifting his head and trying to focus on his father's face. His dream is fading, but strangely enough it feels like he is falling asleep, which doesn't make any sense because he's just woken up…
"Sirius will wake soon," his father repeats, and reaches down to put a comforting hand on Remus's shoulder.
Strange, Remus thinks, that Sirius' hand in my dream should feel so much more real than my father's does, now…
And that's when Remus decides that he will tell Sirius the truth.
Remus looks up in time to see the black and white football soaring towards his head. He drops his book and catches it easily, enjoying the satisfying smack of the ball as it hits his hand.
Sirius and his teammate jog over to the bleachers, where Remus has been reading while waiting for Sirius' football practice to end.
"Sorry," Sirius says, and Remus tosses the ball back to him. "That was all his fault."
"Oi!" the other boy says indignantly, but Remus can tell he isn't really upset. "If your aim was better, Sirius…"
"My aim is spectacular," Sirius says haughtily, and demonstrates by bouncing the ball on his head, his knee, his other knee, his head again…
"Show-off," Remus says, and the other boy laughs as Sirius continues dribbling the ball in a spectacular fashion.
"That was an amazing catch, by the way. How come you don't play for the team?"
"Er…" Remus pauses, trying to think of a plausible explanation. Of course, the real reason he doesn't try out for the team is because he would have to shower in front of everyone, leading to awkward questions about his scars. And it was inevitable that a fair amount of games and practices would fall on the days of the full moon, when Remus would be unable to play. He can't tell him this, though, and is about to say he doesn't much like the sport when Sirius comes bouncing to his rescue.
"Oh, Remus plays all right," Sirius says, "just on a different field, if you get my meaning." Sirius wiggles his eyebrows and leers at Remus. "He's a real wolf with the ladies. Always off with some bird. He doesn't have the energy for anything so frivolous as football, after certain activities that leave the girls howling for—"
"Don't you dare finish that sentence, Sirius," Remus says, grinning despite himself. He rolls his eyes at Sirius' teammate, hoping that he is sufficiently distracted so he won't ask him for a real reason. "As you can see, Black here is delusional."
"Barking mad," the boy agrees, laughing. He pulls Sirius back towards their practice. "See you later, Lupin," he calls over his shoulder, stealing the ball away from Sirius.
"Don't have too wild a time without me!" Sirius winks, and turns around and chases after him.
Remus sits back down on the bleachers and picks up his book, but leaves it unopened on his lap. Instead, he watches Sirius practice, a warm feeling accompanying the grin on his face.
Remus wakes up drenched in sweat and achingly hard beneath his pajama bottoms.
He is shaking, half-heartedly trying to will his erection away. He doesn't try for long, though. The dream is too real, and he is too close to orgasm, and he wants to come so badly he forgets that he is being a terrible friend to Sirius. He slips a hand past his waistband and touches his cock, already slick with pre-come and throbbing in his hand.
He begins to stroke himself, mentally replaying every second of his dream. He and Sirius are on a four-poster bed, surrounded by heavy folds of dark red curtains. Sirius is lying on his back and Remus is lying on his stomach beside Sirius, cupping his face with one hand as they kiss gently, lovingly, enjoying the warmth between them. Soon Remus' hands are in his hair, and Sirius is gasping into his mouth.
"Moony," Sirius whispers, licking Remus' bottom lip before pulling away. "Do you…?"
"Hmm?" Remus asks, moving to lick and kiss Sirius' neck, something he has only just recently dared to do.
"Can… Can I touch you?"
Remus stills, his mouth pressed against Sirius' neck. His heartbeat quickens, and he pulls away to see Sirius' face.
Sirius is looking at him intently, his grey eyes reflecting the lust Remus is sure are in his own. He looks down at the rest of Sirius' body, noticing Sirius' erection tenting his pajama bottoms. He feels his face turn red, knowing that he must look much the same.
"I… I don't want to take off…" Remus isn't sure how to finish the sentence. He is a virgin, a fact that feels very important when lying in bed with his best friend. He trusts Sirius, and knows he isn't playing games with him—but everything between them is still so deliciously new that he can't help but fear he'll mess it up somehow, that he'll fail to make Sirius feel the way he does…
Sirius must have seen the worry in his eyes, because he reaches out a hand and touches it to Remus' cheek. "No, we don't have to take anything off," he agrees, and rubs a thumb softly against Remus' lower lip. "I just… I want to make you come, Moony. I want to feel you…"
Sirius gently pulls Remus above him, positioning Remus so that his hands are on either side of Sirius' shoulders and their bodies only inches apart. Sirius looks into Remus' eyes, then arches his back and presses his hips against Remus's.
Remus shuts his eyes and moans at the contact. He feels Sirius hard against him, and the sensation is so good he can't help but rock against Sirius, pushing him down into the bed.
"Oh Sirius," Remus breathes, thrusting against Sirius again, the thin fabric of their pajama bottoms adding just the right amount of friction. "Oh god, Sirius, I'm—"
Sirius pulls Remus down for a searing kiss, their hips still rocking together, and it's too much for Remus because he's coming, he's coming harder than he's ever come in his entire life—
Remus breathes raggedly, his hand still wrapped around his cock, now sticky with his own come. He sits still, gasping from the intensity of his orgasm. For a few moments he relaxes, before his conscience catches up with him.
The first time this happened, he was so shocked and embarrassed that he was sure Sirius would be able to tell, that everyone would be able to tell, what he had dreamt.
That had been a year ago.
Now, this was such a normal occurrence that he only feels the familiar twinge of guilt as he acknowledges that Sirius wouldn't appreciate being thought of in this way. He hates himself for dreaming of Sirius, but he can't help it—the dreams are so real and vivid that he doesn't think he'd be able to stop them.
problem, Remus thinks angrily, is that he doesn't really want to
Sirius is worried.
Before Remus told him the truth about being a werewolf, Sirius used to worry about him being sick so often. But Remus never acted differently towards him then, so at the time he hadn't seen the danger.
Now, Remus is a bit of a nervous wreck, always jumping whenever Sirius comes close.
Remus is fine at school, when they are in classes and surrounded by their other friends. But whenever Sirius suggests they should go camping, or should hang out alone, Remus gets this edgy look in his eyes that makes Sirius' stomach twist.
Sirius fears that the only explanation for Remus' odd behavior is that he knows.
Right now, they are sitting on the roof of Remus' house, watching the sun set in the distance. Sirius is about to comment on how beautiful the sky looks, but immediately stops himself before he begins that line of conversation. How much more bloody obvious could I get? He mentally shakes himself.
"So," Sirius starts after a few more moments, trying to fill what he feels is a painfully awkward silence. Remus turns and looks at him questioningly, and Sirius gropes for something to say.
"Um," he continues intelligently, "I guess it'll be night soon."
"Hmm, yes," Remus agrees absently. "That's what usually happens after the sun sets, Sirius."
Sirius knows he's just joking, but the comment stings even still. He wants to say something sarcastic, something mean, but the second his mouth opens he snaps his jaw shut. If Remus knows that he fancies him, then he has every right to freeze Sirius out.
So Sirius says nothing and hopes if he looks hard enough at the last bit of sun on the horizon that maybe he'll go blind, stumble off the roof, and meet his timely demise.
"What do you dream about, Sirius?" Remus asks suddenly, startling Sirius out of his morbid reverie. Oh, shit, he knows.
"Um," Sirius says, quickly trying to think of a recent dream that would be innocuous enough to share with Remus. "I dream about food sometimes," he says, remembering the marshmallows he and Remus toasted around a fire last summer, before their sixth year. "And showing up at school naked. That's always a bad one." He laughs nervously. Oh, shit. Why did I bring up naked?
Remus turns to face Sirius. It's now dark enough that he can't make out his face, but Sirius worries that Remus will be able to sense the blush staining his cheeks. Great job, Black.
"Er, this is going to sound strange," Remus says, his voice getting quiet. "But… do you know anyone named James Potter, Peter Pettigrew, or Lily Evans?"
Sirius is so grateful that it isn't what he thought it might be that it takes a few moments to remember that Remus had asked him a question. Sirius wracks his mind, going over everyone at their school. "No, I don't think so," he says slowly. "Why? Do you?"
"No, that's the thing!" Remus says, sounding frustrated. "I've been having these very weird dreams about a school called Hogwarts. You're there too, and we're best friends with some blokes named James Potter and Peter Pettigrew."
"So what, is this like a recurring dream?"
"No, each one is different, but with the same people. These dreams… they're so real, it's like they've really happened. I feel like I know these people, like I should know them… but you're the only one I recognize."
Sirius thinks he hears a note of disappointment in Remus' voice, and the small hope he'd felt when Remus said he'd been dreaming about him instantly died.
"Well," Sirius says after a while, "how long have you been having them?"
"Since I was eleven."
Sirius is shocked. "And you remember them all?"
"Yes," says Remus. "I told you, it's like they've really happened. It's so real."
"I don't suppose this could have anything to do with you being a werewolf."
"I don't see how, though that is part of it."
"What do you mean?"
Sirius hears Remus sigh softly. "In these dreams there are animals who keep me company during the full moons, so I don't hurt myself. It sounds ridiculous, I know, but it's like they're my friends, protecting me…"
"I'm sorry," Sirius says quietly, a familiar ache of sadness welling up within him, "I wish there was something, anything I could do—"
"It's okay, Sirius," Remus says, putting an arm around Sirius for what feels like the first time in ages. "I know."
Remus has never punched anyone before, which is why it comes as a surprise to both of them when his fist connects solidly with Sirius' jaw.
Sirius reels from the blow and stumbles, flinging out his arms for balance as he tries to keep himself from falling. Stumbling and slack-jawed, Sirius' eyes widen with both shock and pain. Snarling, Remus advances towards Sirius again, his fury overtaking all reason, until he can smell Sirius' anger and fear and…
Sirius recovers and, with a strangled yell of pain, launches himself at Remus, arms connecting with Remus' shoulders and knocking Remus down to the ground. Sirius tries to pin Remus down, but Remus flips them both over until they are rolling, rolling down the pathway that leads from the school to the forest.
"You BASTARD!" Remus yells, high on instincts that tell him where and how to position his weight, until he has Sirius pinned down underneath him and is drawing back his fist, readying himself for another shot at Sirius' face.
"GET OFF ME, YOU LUNATIC!" Sirius yells back, throwing his upper body against Remus' and gaining enough leverage to flip Remus over before Remus' punch can reach its intended target.
Remus, now pinned beneath Sirius, draws in a breath and pushes against Sirius' arms that have him pinned to the ground, gravel digging into his back and ripping at his shirt.
Remus is surprised at how easily Sirius' arms give way, and apparently so is Sirius, who makes a choking sound as Remus flips him over and presses his back into the ground, hard.
"YOU FUCKING BASTARD!" Remus snarls, blinded by rage and overtaken with the hurt, anger, and betrayal that weighs on his chest like so many moonlit nights.
"REMUS, WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?" Sirius yells, struggling against the hold he's locked in.
For a moment Remus can no longer breathe, he can only stare down at the boy underneath him, and think how easy it would be to punch him into oblivion. Remus growls, then bares his teeth as Sirius writhes beneath him, futilely pushing all his weight against his captor's steely grip.
It is the red droplets trickling down Sirius' neck that finally break the spell. Remus sees the trail of blood snaking across Sirius' jugular and jerks backwards, as if stung, and scrapes his palms against the sharp gravel underneath them. Oh.
He looks up at Sirius, who is frozen, staring back at him in shock, breath coming in labored gasps.
"What… what in fucking hell was that about, Remus?" he asks after a long moment of silence, the sounds of heavy breaths punctuating each syllable. He prods his jaw hesitantly, then winces. His eyes shine with unshed tears, but he doesn't seem to notice as he stares at Remus, who is sprawled a few feet away from him.
Remus is horrified. For a moment, he actually thought he was going to tear his best friend's throat out. For a moment he'd smelled fear and anger and lusted for it, wanted to drown in it, and all because…
"Why?" Remus finally chokes out, gritting his teeth around the words that taste strangely of salt. He reaches up and touches his cheek, and feels wet tear tracks flowing into his mouth. Oh. Not so strange, then.
"Yes, Remus, WHY?" Sirius demands, scrambling to his feet, clutching at the cuts on the side of his neck and smearing his blood all over his white shirt sleeve.
Remus stands up too, and looks into Sirius' grey eyes, over-bright still, sparkling with pain and anger.
"Why…." Remus stumbles over the words, his mouth trying to catch up with what his mind is screaming, his chest constricting under, the pain that is cutting through him so evenly and easily—
"Heather Sanders," Remus finally says, spitting out the words like poison. Sirius goes slack jawed for the second time in so many minutes and stares at Remus, incredulous.
"Wh-what?" he finally stammers, clearly taken by surprise.
Something twists in Remus' chest, something hot and burning and painful.
"Of all the girls. All of them, why—just to humiliate me? Was that it?" Remus feels his breath hitch painfully in his throat, but he gulps and continues on anyway, biting the words out through the pain. "Were you so busy trying to live up to your name, trying to act the part, that you'd betray me over it? Is that what happened, Black?"
Sirius is at a loss for words. Speechless for once, Remus thinks, but does not laugh at the thought. In fact, he doesn't think he's ever seen anything less funny in his life.
"I," Sirius begins, then licks his lips and turns his head to the side, looking anywhere but into Remus' angry gaze. He fumbles for a few more seconds, and Remus takes a step back, no longer sure that he wants to listen to any explanations Sirius may have to offer.
If Sirius sees Remus step back he doesn't show it. He exhales loudly, then says, simply, "No."
"I wouldn't have minded letting you have her—I wasn't interested, really," Remus says, the anger dissipating and the hurt taking over him completely. His voice sounds numb and hollow. "You didn't have to do it behind my back. I would have told her I wasn't interested, if I'd known you were jealous."
"I wasn't—I wasn't jealous of you," Sirius says finally. Remus doesn't say anything, just stands there, unable to meet Sirius' eyes. His chest hurts so much—he is sure his heart is broken. How could Sirius want to do something so mean, so petty, for a girl who wasn't really his, for a girl Remus didn't even want? What a pointless, stupid thing Sirius betrayed him for…
"I wasn't jealous of you," Sirius repeats. "I was jealous of her."
Remus stands still until Sirius' words sink in. He jerks his head up in surprise, and sees that Sirius' lower lip is trembling, his shoulders heaving, and Remus realizes abruptly that Sirius Black is about to cry.
"I'm in love with you," Sirius whispers, and then his tears begin to fall, and Remus is the one whose jaw has gone slack.
That night, Remus dreams of another kind of betrayal.
"Unless—" Remus' eyes suddenly widen, "—unless he was the one… unless you switched… without telling me?"
Remus sees Sirius nod, and in this moment twelve years of regret, pain, and anger vanishes. Remus reaches out toward Sirius and they embrace, and nothing in the world has ever felt so good, because Sirius is innocent, he is here and he is innocent—
The dream shifts, and he and Sirius are in another house, one nearly as dark, but now they're on a bed and they're kissing, kissing hard and passionately and with none of the shyness they did when they were younger.
But when Remus murmurs, "Sirius, can I take this off?" Sirius freezes.
"I… I don't think I should take anything off," Sirius says finally, and Remus realizes that he is frightened, frightened of what Remus will think of him after so many years spent starving and alone.
"Oh, Sirius," Remus says, and sighs heavily, lowering his body on top of his. "Don't worry, Sirius. I love you, and I'm not going anywhere."
Remus wakes up, trembling.
Seventh year, Sirius thinks to himself, is the worst year of my life.
He and Remus are friends. Friends, he reminds himself every time he sees Remus and his heart leaps into his throat and his knees grow weak. Just friends.
He and Remus have not talked about The Incident. They sit next to each other on the bus, they sit next to each other in classes, they sit next to each other at lunch, and they Do Not Talk.
Sirius might say, "Good morning, Remus," as he feels his stomach fall through the grimy bus floor.
Remus might say, "Good morning, Sirius," in a calm, polite voice that Sirius has only heard him use as weapons against those Remus does not like.
All in all, Sirius concludes, the situation is not looking good.
Not at all.
At least, that is what he was thinking two seconds ago.
Two seconds before he realized that things can always get much, much worse.
Remus dreams of funerals.
He dreams of funeral services for people he does not know. Fabian and Gideon Prewett, Marlene McKinnon, Benjy Fenwick, Edgar Bones, James and Lily Potter, Peter Pettigrew…
The names mean nothing to him, but in his dreams they are all he can think about, a list of people he loved, worked with, respected… gone.
And in his dreams he is always angry.
When he wakes he doesn't feel angry, but shocked. Shocked and sad that Sirius' governess, Mrs. Higgins, has died.
Remus finishes combing his hair and checks his suit and jacket in the mirror. He and his father leave shortly after.
Remus is afraid that when he sees Sirius he will not know what to say. Even though he lost his mother when he was six, he still has his father. Mrs. Higgins was all Sirius had. But when Remus arrives at the service he realizes it does not matter, because Sirius is standing alone, looking lost and miserable and desperate. Remus gives his father a last reassuring glance before he walks up to Sirius and wordlessly embraces him.
It is simultaneously the worst and best feeling in the world when Sirius hugs him back, shaking with suppressed sobs.
"I'm so sorry, Sirius," Remus whispers, knowing that it is not the words that matter but that he is there, and saying them.
It is almost the end of seventh year when Sirius asks Remus to stargaze with him, like they used to do as children.
Remus agrees, and feels a hum of anticipation send shivers down his spine.
That night, he dreams of kisses, and waking up next to the man he loves.
Right, Sirius thinks to himself. The Plan. Do not forget The Plan.
The Plan, of course, is one of seduction. Specifically, it is a plan to seduce Remus Lupin.
He spent hours in the shower, scrubbing himself very clean, and then choosing what cologne to wear. He felt slightly ridiculous, but in the end he decided the effect was worth it, if he did say so himself (and he did, as his reflection beamed heartily back at him in his mirror).
Now he and Remus are camping once again in a two-man canvas tent in the woods. He is very excited about this, though he knows that he can't simply pounce on Remus after they snuggle into their sleeping bags (though he doesn't think that is a bad idea either, and has even entertained several elaborate fantasies as to how he could convince Remus that really, his sleeping bag is no where to be found, and will he pretty please share?)
They have just finished eating a late dinner out of a picnic basket Sirius packed. If Remus thought it odd that they ate chocolate-covered strawberries for desert, he didn't show it.
"I think it's dark enough now."
Sirius, who had just been thinking the same thing, nods before realizing that Remus won't be able to see him in the dark. "Yes, I think so too."
For the next hour they huddle around Sirius' telescope and bring different constellations into focus, just as they had when they were younger. God, it feels so good to be doing this again, Sirius thinks, and smiles into the night sky.
Remus had known he was in trouble before they ate the chocolate-covered strawberries.
But if he hadn't figured it out by then, it probably would have been a big clue.
They had been dancing around each other for months—years, really, Remus knows—and now, tonight, in the middle of the woods, under a midnight sky, he is nervously anticipating the climax.
Remus cringes at the blatant sexual innuendo. The fact that they somehow crept into his mind whenever he's around Sirius would probably have been a big clue as well.
This anticipation is so fundamentally different from the anxious dread he feels before the change that he does not know what to do with himself. He looks at the stars with Sirius, and smiles and makes idle comments about the constellations overhead, but his heart is hammering in his chest and his whole body feels like pudding.
In fact, Remus is concentrating so hard on how excited he feels that he does not notice when the moment is upon him.
Of course, the fact that Sirius is literally upon him should have been a big clue.
"Remus," Sirius says slowly, "I need to tell you something."
Remus swallows. "Yes?"
Sirius' eyes loom big and grey and are right in front of him, holding his gaze hostage.
"Ray-moo," Sirius begins, "Il ne faut pas que je te vois dans la lumière de la lune. Nous nous étendons sous la lumière des étoiles, et je te veux seulement, je t'ai toujours voulu."
There is complete and utter silence while the urge to laugh and the urge to kiss Sirius struggle for dominance.
It is a close thing, until Remus stops focusing on how silly his French sounds and on the words he has actually spoken.
"Embrasse-moi," Remus says softly, and Sirius readily obeys.
When they both pull away from the kiss, Remus is bombarded with so many visions and emotions that he almost faints.
"Oh, ha ha, steady there Remus," Sirius says, catching Remus before he falls. "You're swooning, completely understandable."
Remus looks up at Sirius, who is still cradling him in his arms, and suddenly everything falls into place.
"Sirius Black," Remus breathes, "Oh Merlin, I know who you are!"
"Oh, Remus Lupin," Sirius says huskily, "I know who you are, too. That's why I love you so much. Je t'adore, and say my name again." He bends down for another kiss.
"No, I mean—I remember!" Remus struggles against Sirius, trying to stand on his own two feet, trying to make Sirius understand. "I was falling through the veil, and you were there with Harry—"
Sirius looks at him blankly, and Remus begins to panic.
"Don't you remember, Padfoot?"
Sirius opens his mouth to reply, but in that instant the world around them disappears.
Part One (Again)
A few seconds before midnight, he understood, and began to laugh—
And stopped abruptly when Sirius Black and Remus Lupin came toppling out of the archway.
Sirius blinked up at him from where they had landed in a heap on the floor. "I thought… I told you not to wait up for me." Sighing deeply, Sirius closed his eyes and sank contentedly next to a sleeping Remus Lupin.
Croaker assessed the situation. All in all, he and Sirius had broken more laws than he could count, violated every statute of his contract with the Ministry, and made one of the most incredible magical discoveries of the century. He was alone in the heart of the Department of Mysteries with a wanted fugitive and a legally-dead werewolf.
Also, it was Christmas.
Pulling out Sirius' two-way mirror from his jacket pocket, Croaker decided it was never too early to wish Harry Potter Happy Holidays, and invite him over to Order Headquarters for a festive dinner with Remus and Padfoot.