" What's done is done, Pads," Remus said, fidgeting. " I don't want to talk about that, okay?" Sirius frowned and nodded.
" So, are you going with me to the lost and found chamber, or am I going to sit here with you and listen to James snore?" Sirius asked hopefully. Remus shrugged.
" I guess I could do," he said, slipping off the window seat, Sirius glancing at the slight show of skin between his pajama top and pants as he did so, swallowing hard.
It didn't take long to reach the room they sought on the third floor. Sirius tucked away the map, and Remus folded the invisibility cloak neatly, as they stepped inside. Sirius lit the torches along the walls with a wave of his wand. It rather looked like an enormous attic, crammed haphazardly with dusty and long forgotten things, spilling out of trunks and stacked upon shelves.
" I thought you said Slughorn sent you here to straighten the place," Remus said, taking in the chaotic mess in awe. Sirius shrugged.
" I didn't say I did a good job, now did I?" he said, strolling along shelf that held mainly remembrals that had all turned red, smiling at the irony. A strange, low whistle sounded from somewhere between them. Remus dug the source of it out, inspecting it under the torchlight.
" It's a sneakascope," Remus said with a frown. " Someone's charmed it to go off when there are dark creatures around." Sirius grabbed it from him, looking at it disdainfully.
" What, like members of the Black family?" he said with a half smile, chucking the object against the wall and silencing it. Remus smiled enigmatically, and turned to look at the other side of the room.
" An awful lot of muggle stuff in here," Sirius said with interest, picking up a clock radio and wondering what it it was.
" Muggleborn students probably brought stuff, not realizing it wouldn't work here without electricity," Remus said, lovingly caressing the spines of a large collection of leatherbound books he'd found.
" Your phonograph works," Sirius said.
" Yes, because it has a crank," Remus said patiently, having explained this numerous times before.
" There are some records over here, speaking of your phonograph," Sirius said.
" Really?" Remus asked with interest, joining Sirius beside a stack of LPs and flipping through them.
" There's some great stuff here, really old and quite rare. I'll have to ask Dumbledore about them sometime," Remus said, inspecting the condition of one of the discs. Sirius shrugged.
" Just take them, Remus. No one's coming back for them, and what good would they do the school?" Sirius asked.
" I'm not taking things that aren't mine, Padfoot," Remus said, putting the records back carefully.
" Suit yourself," Sirius said, turning and opening a random trunk beneath a cracked mirror.
" Hey, Moony, look at these," Sirius said, grabbing a beret off a stack of what turned out to be an enormous collection of disguarded hats and cramming it on his head at a jaunty angle. Remus laughed, walking over and fishing out a faded black bowler hat. They tried on various silly headgear for a while, a carefree air of silliness and fun dispelling the tension between them for the first time since the fateful event that had nearly destroyed their friendship.
Sirius crept up behind Remus as he faced the mirror, shoving a lacy cap over his head. Remus struggled, convulsing with mirth, as Sirius' hands slipped about his shoulders to tie it at his chin. Remus shoved a little too hard, sending Sirius flying to the ground with a pained cry.
" Oh my God, Sirius, I'm so sorry," Remus said, pulling off the hat and crouching beside him. Sirius looked up breathlessly and began to laugh.
" I'll be telling my grandchildren about the time," Sirius gasped, clutching his sides,
" that I was assaulted by the werewolf in a frilly bonnet." Remus collapsed beside him in a fit of giggles, wiping tears from his eyes.
" At least I wasn't pretending to be your grandmother," Remus said, renewing the laughter, sending them rolling on the floor. They finally were still, sprawled and panting on the dusty floorboards, side by side. Remus grew almost deathly quiet.
" That's not how you'll remember me is it? As the werewolf?" Remus asked in a soft voice. Sirius felt a cold chill, like someone had submerged him in icy water, as much at how meekly the question was asked as by the question itself. He turned on his side, looking at his friend, who suddenly looked quite fragile for a boy who had effortlessly knocked him off his feet just moments before.
" God, no, Moony," he said, running a hand over the boy's light brown hair, pushing it from his eyes. They stared at each other in silence for a moment.
" I meant it," Sirius said, breathing in sharply, " when I said that I loved you, Remus.
If this were it, if you never forgive me and we drift apart, I'd still remember you as someone I loved." Remus shook his head and sat up.
" I have forgiven you, Sirius," Remus said. Sirius sat up next to him.
" Then why aren't things like they were? We used to be so close, Moony," Sirius said.
" We were too close. I realize that now," Remus said, seemingly as much to himself as to the boy beside him.
" You hurt me, Sirius, but I could hurt you a lot worse," Remus said, gazing at his own hands. " If anything, that incident showed me that I'm not someone anyone should get too close to." Sirius sighed.
" There's a storm brewing out there, Moony. Voldemort is getting more powerful everyday. There's going to be a war, and we're going to be in it together. I don't think this is the time to be shutting me out. I have Padfoot, Remus, and I know what you become and what it means. I screwed up, I realize, but believe me, I know. Let me be your friend again, Moony. I need you," Sirius said. Remus looked up to see Sirius' eyes gleaming brightly with tears he was willing not to fall.
" I need you, too," Remus whispered. " Damn me for being so selfish, but I do."
The boys embraced tightly, relief and tenderness overwhelming them both. Sirius was smiling brightly, in way that Remus hadn't seen him do in some time, when they pulled apart.
" Oh, thank God, Moony," he said. " There's just been so much I've been going through lately, and so much I've wanted to talk to you about that James wouldn't understand or would make fun me about. You have no idea how much I've missed you." Remus smiled.
" I've missed you, too, Pads," Remus said.
A week later, after the full moon, Sirius laid beside Remus on a ragged matress in the Shrieking Shack, the light of dawn peering through the cracks between the wooden boards of the wall. They'd been up for an hour. Remus' wounds were shallow, but he couldn't sleep, and Sirius dutifully kept him company after the others had left. Sirius had made him laugh for a while, until their conversation took a more thoughtful turn.
" I think I might be gay, Moony," Sirius whispered, looking at the exposed roofbeams above.
" I thought as much," Remus said. Sirius turned on his side in surprise.
" What? Did I do something? Does everyone know? Does James?" he asked, his panic rising. Remus shook his head.
" No, nothing like that, Padfoot," Remus said.
" Then why did you think it?" Sirius asked, looking as though he wished the earth would swallow him.
" Because you're always staring at me when you think I'm not looking. And the way you're always touching me," Remus said, coloring slightly. Sirius sat up quickly.
" I -- I'm sorry, Remus. I --" Sirius stammered, burying his face in his hands. Remus placed a hand on his shoulder.
" I never said that I didn't like it," Remus said softly, smiling sheepishly as Sirius turned to look at him.
" Then you don't mind? It doesn't, well, disgust you?" Sirius asked. Remus shook his head.
" I was afraid I was just imagining things. But when you said you loved me --" Remus said, sitting up beside Sirius, the thin sheet falling to his waist. Sirius cautiously touched him, caressing his face, his hand traveling slowly down to rest on the back of Remus' neck, their eyes never leaving each others'.