A/N: Written in 1st person, from Sirius' point of view. Just a one-shot. Please review!

Fleeting

I loved the way he looked in the sunlight.

Whether it was dusty morning rays or the lingering haze of sunset, he would stretch out directly in the light's path, letting the warmth stroke as much of his exposed skin as possible. He'd lie there, unmoving, as one deeply dreaming. Until I'd whisper his name like a spell, and his eyes would flicker open and find me.

Those were the last few days at Hogwarts before we left—our final, seventh year—N.E.W.T.s done with, bags to pack, good-byes to say, plans to make. It was the dark days of the rise of You-Know-Who and everyone was worried about themselves and their families and the safety of the whole wizarding world. There was a lot to worry about. But that last week at school, Remus and I spent not a moment thinking about it.

Late June heat spread through the region, and made everything slow down. As I look back on it, those days seem like a blur, but each defining moment was clear and unhurried in itself, at the time. We were left to ourselves, Remus and I. James and Lily drew comfort from each other and discussed the future, and Peter flitted here and there on his own, securing ways to protect himself once we all left Hogwarts. Our time was idled away; I don't think I've ever done nothing as much as I did that week, and yet at the same time, done so much.

We didn't waste precious hours worrying about what would happen in a month or a year, what the Death Eaters were up to, or even what was in store for us once our time of peace ended. Instead we were blissfully lazy, spending all our time together and not caring what people would say. Watching each other, talking nonsense, making love on the dusty dormitory floor in the afternoon. Hands sliding over backs slick with sweat, tongues tasting freedom and languid passion. We wanted to remember that time, the days that slipped through our fingers like dust. The calm before the storm. The whole time we clung desperately to the present, to being together. We knew once it was over, our futures would never be the same.

So we didn't speak of the war, or our lives after Hogwarts, or waste any words. Instead I would watch him bask in the sun's warmth. His eyes were shut, yet I could imagine the sheer pleasure in those amber orbs. Pale brown hair mingled with lighter streaks from the sunshine, falling into his face. His shirt was unbuttoned and flung open, and sunlight slid deliciously along the curve of his back; his defined, taut abdomen; fragile ribcage expanding and releasing with every breath of air. This was the man I had loved: through mischievous childhood, awkward teen years, the changes and insecurity of puberty, into adulthood. Yes, we were grown now, no longer waiting to grow into our bodies, no longer clumsy with large hands and feet, no longer timid, shy boys keeping a secret. We fit into each other's arms now with such perfect ease, and that week especially we had no time to hide anything, no time for tense silences. If we spoke, it was light-hearted conversation. If we chose silence, it was comfortable and mutual.

I stared at his boyish features, his still frame; wished I could draw this beautiful boy, but it wouldn't do him justice. So I committed to my memory every part of that body, each trait of expression, the slight, ironic quirk of his smile that invited you to laugh at the joke, even though he often didn't.

Through shifting frames I watched him in the sunlight. He stirred, twitched eyelids open and yawned. Gave a catlike stretch of those capable arms, then he focused rich amber eyes on me, regarding me questioningly. "You look lost in thought. Remembering?"

"No," I answered. "Making sure I'll be able to." In one smooth motion I dropped to the floor beside him, and felt the sunlight caress my skin, Remus' solid warmth next to me. I steadied myself above him and let him unbutton my shirt. I shrugged out of it and bent over to twine my arms around him… Around my Remus, he let me run my thumb over long-healed scars and newer scratches, kiss the curve of his clavicle… The sunlight poured between us as he arched up against me; I deftly massaged the gentle dip of his back…

In my life there have been many times I said those words, "I love you," to a girl and never meant it. And so Remus and I never said it; the words had become meaningless, empty, superfluous. In the way we touched one another, held one another, watched one another, we found more effective ways of expressing it.

And now, eighteen years later, I find myself wondering if I should have said it. I wonder if it had been selfish, too rash not to say it. If I had, would it have saved us? It is far, far too late now: Remus is no longer mine, no longer my Remus. His hair is greyer, those expressive amber eyes more tired and guarded, and he is older, bitter, lonely. We have spent too many years apart and forgotten lazy June afternoons, sweat pooling on the floorboards beneath us, the infinite closeness of those several days. If he has forgotten my tricks, my quiet laughter after I came, the way I rested my cheek on his chest when it was over to feel his heart pound beneath a fragile protection of skin and bone and tissue, then I have forgotten his inviting amber eyes—watchful like a tiger's—his pale hands sliding hesitantly to hold me closer, the frailness of his delicate body underneath me as I struggled to hold myself up above him, for if I fell, he might shatter.

We have both forgotten, me since the dark shroud of Azkaban and him since I was taken away, all of his dearest friends gone. He learned to rely on himself then, and since that time has not been able to count on others again completely. Gone is the naïve, trusting boy I once held so closely so the world would not break him. In his place is Remus J. Lupin, member of the Order of the Phoenix, ex-professor, an embittered, broken man. When we were both still young I tried to hold him tightly so this would not happen. But so much has changed since I was taken away, memories buried in dust and cobwebs, things we cannot relearn.

I will never have again that pure-hearted boy who gave me everything. Instead I have a hardened, self-sufficient man who speaks to me as a colleague, a guest, an old friend he has lost touch with. I wonder if he can look at my grizzled figure, my haunted and sunken eyes, my gaunt features, and remember the once-youthful, handsome, strong boy who held him in the early June heat. Azkaban broke me, and I think while I was there it broke him too.

I wonder if I repulse him now, if he suffered very much during that time, as I suffered. I wonder if he ever wonders what it was like for me. If he relives those careless days in June like I do, the one memory Azkaban's dementors could not take from me. Occasionally I will touch his hand, try to catch his eye, but he will draw back, this man who was once my Remus, as if he is afraid that if he lets himself love so freely again, I will be taken away from him again, and it will break him more.

I am dying a slow death, wilting away in this prison they call headquarters, my "refuge". Sometimes I think it was better in Azkaban, where at least I had a bright flame of hope burning that the dementors could not extinguish, a beacon to guide me. it was my determination, my will to persevere that got me through the worst suffering and helped me escape. Now I am locked up once more but "for my own good," useless, helpless, without a job to do or a purpose to serve. A ship without a rudder. And miserably, constantly lonely.

He is here from time to time, of course; he is as well a stranger but I think of the comfort, the solace it would provide if we could speak of these things again. "Remember how we used to joke that Peter had James, James had Lily, and we only had each other?" "Do you still remember the last week of our seventh year, before the war or Peter's betrayal or James and Lily's death or my imprisonment, that week when we were each other's mainstay, and I held you closer than anyone would ever get?" But I do not ask this, ever.

Instead, when he comes, I greet him at arm's length and brew him some tea and offer him use of my study. Then I'll follow him in there, pretending to clean, and watch as the sunlight streams in through the window, illuminating a halo around his angelic face, throwing his features into sharp clarity. I do not cry, or smile, or speak, or leave, I simply remember. I remember how

I loved the way he looked in the sunlight.

-fin-