A Truth to Lose

"I was also playing with that intolerance when I created Professor Lupin, who has a condition which is contagious, of course, and so people are very frightened of him; and I really like Professor Lupin as a character because he's someone that also has a failing, because although he is a wonderful teacher (one I myself would have liked to have had as a teacher) and a wonderful man, he does like to be liked and that's where he slips up. He's been disliked so often that he's always so pleased to have friends, so he cuts them an awful lot of slack."

--JKR

Part One: Collision

The sky was pouring out on everyone's heads in raindrops, leaking out from sweeping grey clouds above them. The downpour had lasted for the last three days, hardly ceasing, pumping the air with moisture and creating a layer of dampness that settled on everything in the vicinity. Students took shelter under a covered veranda, or they hurried across the courtyard with their cloaks held up over their heads to keep off the water, and there was even a few foolish first-or-second-years playing in it, letting the water drip over their faces and drench their cloaks. Remus Lupin watched it all from where he leaned against a wall on the promenade, his hair and robes slightly damp from all the rain, arms crossed over his chest.

It was the first week back from winter holidays, which he'd spent at Hogwarts due to his family's decision to spend Christmas at some godforsaken desert island in the middle of nowhere. His mother, her background from some warmer climate, was forever complaining about the perpetual dampness and poor weather of where they lived, and every so often the rest of the family would give in to her wishes and spend a while at some tropical climate. This time, Remus declined; he didn't mind rain and cold, he liked it actually, and things would be easier if he stayed at Hogwarts. He had a lot on his mind lately, and spending a few weeks in the dry, dusty heat with his fond but admittedly nosy family would do no help.

The only downside was the lack of company. Remus sighed; his friends had all gone their separate ways, mostly. James always spent the holidays with his family and Sirius, as he had the last few Christmases, had gone with him. They'd invited him along this time but he'd politely declined; he had no wish to impose on the Potters' hospitality, however tempting the invitation was. Although the thought of James and Sirius in that situation sent flutters of a bad feeling through Remus' body, he was grateful for the time he had without them constantly by his side, to think everything over. He did, of course, still have Peter around, who was becoming steadily more of a nuisance than a friend. He really had no idea why James and Sirius let Peter tag along everywhere, but Remus suspected James just enjoyed the constant, adoring attention he received from Peter, and Sirius just thought the whole thing hilarious. That was just like Sirius, easily amused, with his cynical sense of humour. That thought now occupying his mind, Remus frowned slightly and concentrated. Sirius…

"Don't you love rain?" The cheerful, girlish voice dragging his concentration elsewhere, Remus met the wide blue eyes of the small girl standing beside him.

"Hello Ophelia," he said with a smile. Remus was rather fond of Ophelia.

"Lovely day to you. This is just the perfect weather to welcome us back to Hogwarts, don't you think?"

"Undoubtedly. How was your holiday?"

She shrugged. "Nothing out of the ordinary. Got a rather exciting tea kettle that keeps your tea hot all the time, though. What will they think of next, you know? But how was yours?"

"Uneventful. Been really quiet this time, a lot more students went to stay with their families than usually do."

"Yeah, seemed that way." Ophelia brushed back the dark hair that framed her face and bit her lip, betraying her nervousness. "You haven't seen Sirius around lately, have you? Has he gotten back yet?"

"I don't think so," Remus replied with a shake of his head. He'd suspected this was the reason she'd struck up conversation. "He's supposed to get back today though, any time now."

"Oh. Well, thanks for your time. I'll see you around, Remus."

He watched her go, girlishly small figure moving off with long dark hair swinging behind her. Ophelia was one of many girls hopelessly infatuated with Sirius but doubtlessly she stood out from the rest. She was quick-minded and clever, and could often match Sirius in a battle of wits, with enough sharp retorts and sarcastic remarks to keep the banter going. It was always good entertainment to watch the two of them go back and forth: it never got old and it was a game they never tired of. Though there were countless jokes made about them (the Maurauders especially liked to tease Sirius about her), it was difficult to tell whether it was going anywhere. There was an explanation for Sirius' obvious flirtations when he was around her—he'd always find some excuse to grab her hand, or touch her hair or face, or stand so near to her it was impossible not to make contact—or the way he'd watch her lingeringly when she walked off, decisiveness in his eyes as they studied how her lovely hair caught the light in motion. But then the next minute he'd be denying every playful remark about the two of them that was directed at him, and going off to flirt with some other beauty. That was what Remus had come to hate in the past few months. He understood Sirius' reluctance to tie himself down to one girl, but it was so infuriating sometimes. Remus rarely showed how annoyed he was with his friend's quality, though, Sirius was his best friend, someone he didn't want to lose, especially over a petty annoyance. But Remus would be perfectly tolerant if Sirius ever wanted to settle on someone, of course…

He was mulling over everything on his mind when all of a sudden a slim, lithe figure leaned against the wall beside him, the smooth movements and flicking of long black hair all too familiar. "What are you watching so intently? Has a foxy wolverine finally caught Moony's eye?"

Remus let a smile spread to his face. "Very funny. You know I wouldn't dare do anything without you around to give me advice and stop me from doing something stupid."

"And how right you are." Sirius assumed his usual haughty stance, head tilted slightly, leaning beside Remus. Their shoulders were barely touching. "You look a bit peaky."

"Full moon's coming up, isn't it?"

"Excellent." Sirius grinned, that familiar twinkling. "I was wondering when we'd get some more excitement."

"You just spent the holidays with James!"

"Oh yes, and there's just loads of mischief to get into when you're surrounded by doting grandparents and great-aunts and great-uncles and screaming children." Sirius shook his head to get his hair out of his face just as two girls walked by, who darted glances at him, then quickly looked straight ahead again to pretend they hadn't seen him notice them. "Thought I did find out James has a second cousin who's beyond lovely and most fascinating to listen to."

Of course you were listening. Remus didn't even want to ask. "And where's James?"

Sirius rolled his eyes. "Hanging around Evans, as usual. He's tried to make friends with her best friend Camille in hopes she'll notice him a bit more. If anything hanging around Evans' best friend is a really dim-witted thing to do, he's just making everything worse. But he never listens to me."

That wasn't true, Remus thought, James listened to every word out of Sirius' mouth and did whatever Sirius wanted, but then again, Sirius was probably getting increasingly jealous of the attention James lavished on Lily Evans.

Sirius switched tactics suddenly. "Seen my blue-eyed beauty anywhere?"

"She was just looking for you," Remus replied. "Waiting eagerly for you to get back to spend every waking moment flirting with her."

Sirius chuckled, showing the dimple that always appeared when he smiled. Remus had heard girls fawn over that dimple, he rather liked it himself. "Come now, I can't do that. I have to divide my attention equally. It would be very wrong for me to spend more time with Ophelia than Jenna or Eleanor." Suddenly straightening up, he turned to Remus. "Come on, Moony, let's take a walk. You know I hate standing still."

Compliantly, Remus followed Sirius as they threaded their way through the crowd of students who had returned from their holiday and were all gathered under the walkway to get out of the rain. Sirius let the way, pushing past everyone and sending smiles and shouting greetings to people he knew. Remus followed closely, his eyes on the back of Sirius' head.

Once they were past the throng of students, Sirius and Remus had gotten a far way off, walking the nearly empty corridors of Hogwarts. Classes didn't resume till the next day, so the students were all gathered in the courtyard to greet each other or in their common rooms, settling back in and catching up. The two of them strode through the corridor alongside the long windows that stretched the length of the hallway, letting in the bleak light as raindrops pattered on the glass panes.

"Same as always," Sirius sighed, pausing a moment to stare out the window. Remus allowed himself a moment to study Sirius' distant gaze, those indifferent grey eyes half-obscured by flops of hair that fell into Sirius' face in an effortless manner he was sure many envied.

But it was not the same, Remus thought to himself. Times were changing. James was getting closer than ever to attaining Lily Evans, a goal he'd worked at for years, and he had sparing time for other things. Sirius, in an attempt to get back at him, was spending more time with his female admirers. The rift between the two friends was steadily gaping wider and wider, and Remus hadn't the slightest idea what to do about it. In a way, he enjoyed having Sirius to himself more, but it wasn't the same, Sirius was getting more moody and detached…

"So how were the holidays, really?" Remus asked. When he got Sirius on his own, they were more open about things. "And James?"

It took a moment for Sirius to snap out of his reverie, and he released another sigh and resumed walking, with Remus beside him. "He's not as much fun anymore. Evans is taming him somehow; his only thought, waking or sleeping, is about her."

"I don't suppose he can help that much," Remus mused carefully, watching Sirius' stormy grey eyes with his own.

Sirius made a frustrated noise. "Maybe not, but he doesn't realise how annoying he's being. We used to do everything together, now it's all about impressing Evans, or seeing what Evans is up to, and the things he says about her…"

Remus hadn't realised things had gotten this bad between the two of them. James and Sirius were inseparable—if Peter was the anxious, weak one in their group of friends, and Remus was more careful, more wary, James and Sirius were like twins. Both friendly and funny, with a touch of sarcasm and cynical humour and the slightest, tolerable signs of arrogance. Self-confident, admired by everyone for their talent for mischief. And Remus had always thought another similarity was their interest in girls—James with Lily Evans, and Sirius with any pretty lady who caught his eye for long enough. Apparently it wasn't quite like that.

"We've always put up with his Evans-fixation before," Remus pointed out.

"I know, I know, but it's different now." Sirius had still not met Remus' eyes. "I just want him back to normal. I don't want her to like him, really. We'd see even less of him."

"That's not true," Remus said softly. "You're his best friend in the world, Sirius. No girl, even not Lily Evans, would get between you, even if you think that's what's happening, James just needs to snap out of it, and he will. Give it some time."

"I don't want to give him time," Sirius snapped. "He's an obsessive git and no amount of time will fix that."

"What about killing Evans?" Remus asked with a quirk of his lips.

Sirius smiled at Remus' attempts at light-heartedness. "Nah, he'd hate us to death."

"What if Evans started going out with Snivellus?" Remus suggested. Sirius burst out in laughter and Remus, encouraged, added, "Better yet, we could get James to like boys instead."

"Ha! James Potter, like boys? I think not."

The discussion of possibilities to get James over Evans lasted them for a long time, then Sirius spotted a door that led to an outside parapet. He and Remus wandered out there, to get some fresh air, but by the time they'd gotten sufficiently damp from the rainfall and wanted to go back inside, the door had jammed.

Sirius swore under his breath and shook the door. "It won't open. Oh, hell, is this the door that locks behind you everytime you close it?"

"Probably. We'll be stuck out here for a while, till someone else comes along."

"And they're all in the common room or outside. Bloody hell." Sirius cast a baleful look up at the pouring sky. Rain had plastered his dark hair against his skin, and dripped from his clothes. "Well, as long as we're out here…"

"Sirius," Remus said suddenly, as a thought occurred to him. "What about Ophelia?"

Sirius looked at him suspiciously. "What about her?"

"Well…" Remus couldn't find the exact words he wanted. "You are…fond of her, aren't you?"

Sirius let out a short bark of laughter. " 'Course I am. Think I might've made her friend Alis a bit angry with me by paying more attention to Ophelia, but she's a good friend."

"Friend…" Remus repeated. "Well…"

Now fully suspicious, Sirius glanced over at him. "What are you getting at Remus? Get to the point."

Knowing full well that Sirius knew what he was "getting at", Remus went on. "She likes you a lot, you know."

"Yeah, I know."

Remus waited a bit then said, "And?"

Sirius shrugged and said nothing.

Unsatisfied but unwilling to press his friend any further, Remus turned away and leaned his elbows against the stone enclosure. He looked out moodily over the rain steadily falling over the gloomy landscape. He let the tense silence drag on as it would, until he heard and felt Sirius step closer to him. "Remus…" Not facing his friend, Remus recognized the use of his name, not "Moony" or "Lupin" as Sirius usually called him.

Not daring to face the emotion in those grey eyes, Remus refused to look at him. Sirius sighed and leaned on the rampart next to his friend, tilting his head to look into Remus' eyes. "Please? Remus?"

He hated it when Sirius called him that. Only because he loved it. Too much.

"Remus, what's wrong?" Sirius was not comfortable with showing too much emotion or concern with his friends. It wasn't really something he did. Remus knew he must be really concerned to be risking his nonchalant, self-assured exterior, even with his closest friend.

What's wrong? What iswrong with you, Remus Lupin?

He was afraid even to open his mouth, because if he did, he would say too much, words that needed to remain silent. If he kept them in long enough, maybe they would wither away and die and he would not need to worry over them any longer. There were so many words, only a few of which could ruin him and Sirius forever.

If he'd wanted to say something, he should have said it the first day, in his first year at Hogwarts, he'd noticed the small boy with dark hair and glimmerings of mischief in his light grey eyes, who'd been his protection from then on, whose quick wit and confidence had so many times balanced with Remus' shyness, his vulnerablility. He'd been so grateful to Sirius and James for befriending him at first he would have done anything for them.

If he'd wanted to say something, he should have said it the first time he began to notice all the small things—brushing hands on "accident," all the times they'd gotten in trouble together, midnight conversations, girl troubles, the times he'd been staring and hoped he would never get caught. There was always a tiny voice in his heart telling him "yes" that could never outweight the voices clamouring "No" in his head…

If he'd wanted to say something, now was not the time, too many emotions and boundaries had been built and established so firmly, there was no going back…

If either Sirius or Remus had been afraid that after this moment, things would change indefinitely, that things would never be normal again, that once the line was crossed they could never pretend it hadn't been, it was inconsequential.

It seemed like a foolish thing but he wasn't sure who moved first, him or Sirius, but the next moment they were crushed together, tongues parting lips, hands moving hesitantly to touch and stroke, fingers tangled in each other's rain-soaked hair…

The rain beat down on the two figures so closely locked together, their lips tasting of damp air and rainwater and guilt.

It seemed like they were flying miles together, heartbeats pounding faster than fear or anger could effect, before the pounding against the other side of the door shook them from the sky.

"Sirius? Remus?" Peter's thin, nervous voice called anxiously from inside.

They sprang apart as if an electric current had lurched through them both. The door swung open revealing Peter, who was nervously twisting his hands together. If he noticed any signs of heavy breathing or shock on their faces, he was too preoccupied to think about it.

"I've been looking for you for ages…It's awful, you've got to come quickly, something's happened to James…"

Without a further word or glance at each other, the three of them set off sprinting down the corridor to the Gryffindor Common Room.

:III:

Author's Note: Well, I am quite proud of this fic, if I do say so myself. It –probably- won't go on too much longer, but expect the second chapter sometime this weekend, or the week after (I've got off school). And, well, not much to say about this. don't like, don't read, don't flame unless you've got something to criticise about the style or likewise. Then do let me know (kindly, if you please). I'm sort of looking for an editor/beta, since I've got two reading over it already but they're my friends and they might not catch everything…so let me know if you're interested and I'll see. Till then, drop a review:)