"I think I've just grown weary of bullies, Sirius," Remus explained as Sirius pursued his retreating figure across the Hogwarts grounds. Sirius stopped dead in his tracks momentarily, but sped to catch up when he saw Remus had no intention of turning back to regard his wounded expression.
"I'm going back to the dorm. I've got an essay for runes," he called softly over his shoulder, before disappearing into the castle. Sirius fought the urge to follow, and slowly made his way back down to the lake, where moments before he and James had gotten into a particularly nasty exchange of words with Severus Snape, only spared the obligatory exchange of hexes by an intervening Lily Evans.
"Oi, what's Moony's problem, then?" James asked, reclining beneath the tree where they regularly sat. Sirius sank onto the ground with a sullen expression, blowing a stray strand of black hair from his face.
"He reckons we're naught but a bunch of great bullies, that's what," he said. James rolled his eyes.
"Why's he got his knickers in a twist about that again? It's not like Snivellus doesn't dish out much as he takes, sticking his enormous sodding nose into everything," James said. Peter shrugged.
"Hasn't tried to kill us though, has he?" Peter said, avoiding Sirius' eyes. James gave a low whistle.
"Damn, Pete, that was low," James said with a warning look. "You've been right cocky since you started pulling Evangeline." He gave Sirius a concerned look, and started to say more, when his gaze was captured by Lily, who gave him a timid wave from where she sat with her friends.
"Sorry, mate," Peter said to Sirius. "Hits too close to home for Moony, I reckon. Bullying and what all." Sirius turned his brooding gaze to him.
"What are you talking about?" he asked. Peter looked around quickly, as if expecting to see Remus returning any moment.
"Well, Moony isn't going to say anything about it, right? That's just Moony, doesn't want to complain or make a fuss. But Evangeline has that runes class with him and the Slytherins. Says they've been giving him hell without us in there to back him up," Peter said. Sirius sat up straight, his eyes burning with fury.
"Just tell me who," he said darkly. " Tell me who, Wormtail, so I can fucking kill them." James shook his head, laying a hand on Sirius' arm.
"What have they been doing?" James asked thoughtfully.
"Been calling him a poof, that's what," Peter said. "Snape couldn't tell anyone about the real secret he set out to find, right, so he made up some stuff. Everyone knew that something big had happened, what with him being in the infirmary and all, and he'd mentioned to his buddies that he thought he'd found out something really scandalous about Remus before he set out that night," Peter said, starting to look a bit uncomfortable, despite having drawn attention to himself.
"What stuff?" Sirius asked. Peter colored slightly, not meeting his eyes.
"He told them he saw Remus, and, well, you," Peter said, fighting back a nervous giggle that would get him punched for sure.
"Saw Remus and I what?" Sirius said, arching an eyebrow.
"Saw you buggering Remus, that's what," Peter blurted out with the breath he'd been holding. All the blood drained from Sirius' face as he slumped from his formerly rigid position.
"Why the bloody hell did he drag my name into it?" Sirius sputtered indignantly.
"Well, the act takes two," James said, fighting back laughter. "And I guess it's two birds with one stone that he got in a jab at you as well. After all, you're the one he really hates."
"Makes sense, though, using you," Peter said smugly.
"James and I obviously got birds we're interested in. Every one of them you've been out with ends up dumping you because you ignore them." Sirius gave him a murderous glare.
"He's got a point, Padfoot," James said, with a laugh.
"Like I give a damn what a bunch of stupid Slytherins think about me, anyway," Sirius muttered. " We can't let them torment Moony, though."
"Too right, we can't," James said. The sun had began to edge behind the mountains. The three friends sat in silence in the waning light for a moment.
"Late night brainstorm, then? We've got the firewhiskey we smuggled back from Hogsmeade," Sirius suggested. Peter shook his head.
"Can't," he said, dragging himself onto his feet. " I've got a date with Evangeline. Should probably be heading to meet her now, in fact."
"Prongs?" Sirius asked. James gave him a sheepish grin.
"I've kind of got plans with Evans," he said. Peter and Sirius looked at him with surprise.
"You're kidding me" Sirius asked. James shrugged.
"It's just studying, but it's a start, right?" he asked hopefully.
"What do you want to bet she hexes his lips off before eight?" Sirius asked Peter.
"Aw, come on, Padfoot, I've got faith in the old boy," Peter replied, to which James smiled broadly.
"Give him until nine, then?" Sirius asked.
"I was thinking eight - thirty, actually, but sure," Peter said, receiving two fingers from James.
"Well, thanks for the pep talk, mates. I'm off then," James said, brushing the grass from his robe and stalking off towards the castle.
"We'll figure something out later," Peter said apologetically, before following.
Sirius didn't wait long before making his way back to the castle himself, brooding over their conversation, and realizing he still had a peeved werewolf upstairs to placate. Remus was predictably hunched over his studies at a small desk by the window, his quill scratching madly, eyes intent, and tongue slightly protruding from chewed and chapped lips.
"Whatcha working on, Moony?" Sirius asked, hovering over him in a way he knew irritated Remus to no end.
"Runes," Remus murmured distractedly, quill never slowing.
"It's Saturday. You've got all day tomorrow to work on that. What say you that we break into our lovely haul from Hogsmeade?" Sirius asked, leaning his head far across the thin boy's shoulder, and causing him to lose his grip on the pen, smudging the parchment with ink.
"Damn it, Pads," he muttered, reaching for his wand and casting away the large ink smear. "Look, I need this essay to be particularly good, because I'm not doing particularly well in runes right now, okay? Leave me be."
"Listen, Moony. Peter and James have dates. I have no date, and therefore am stuck bugging you incessantly to provide me with amusement until you inevitably give in, because I know you want to. So shall we just do this the quick and painless way and just let me help you with the essay, which I promise will be the sole focus of my entire being, tomorrow?" Sirius asked, plucking the quill from Remus' hand and holding it over his head. Remus sighed deeply, placing his head on the desk in frustration.
"Incessant bugging?" he asked, his voice muffled from being buried in his arms.
"Merciless, persistent, unbearable badgering," Sirius said. Remus raised his head slightly, revealing one bloodshot eye.
"Well, I guess there's nothing for it than to give in," Remus said. Sirius nodded in approval.
"See, I knew you'd agree once I put it so sensibly," he said.
The two boys proceeded to their preferred drinking spot atop the Gryffindor tower, settling on a worn blanket they'd thrown over the stone floor. They passed the bottle in silence, watching the smoke curl from Sirius' cigarette into the cool night air.
"Can I have one of those?" Remus asked. Sirius passed him the one he'd just lit, and pulled out another for himself.
"Ta. Needed that," he said.
"Um, sorry about earlier, I guess. Don't see how we're just bullies, though. You know Snivellus asks for it," Sirius said at last. Remus shrugged.
"Don't worry about it, Pads," he said.
"I mean, I actually hate bullies, really. My whole family's a right lot of them, you know?" Sirius said, scuffing a stone with the tip off his boot.
"I said it's okay, Sirius. Let's just drop it," Remus said.
"So, why are you having problems in runes, then? Seems like something you'd be rather good at," Sirius asked, curious to see if Remus would confide in him and doubting he would.
"I've -- I've just found it difficult to concentrate in there," he said, forcing his face and tone to be as casual as he could manage. Sirius decided to continue playing dim.
"What, got a bird in there you fancy?" he asked.
"It's a Slytherin class mainly, so no. The only girl from Gryffindor in there is Evangeline," Remus said.
"She's pretty fit, though. I don't know how Peter managed her attention," Sirius said. Remus shrugged.
"He's nice to her and buys her things. I don't know what he sees in her, actually," Remus said, taking a gulp from the bottle he held. Sirius stiffened, wondering if she had joined in with the jeering from the other classmates at all.
"What is it then? Is it because none of us are in there?" Sirius asked. Remus snorted.
"That'd normally be a blessing, wouldn't it? It's a wonder I get any studying done at all in my other classes with you lot there," Remus said.
"Normally?" Sirius said, focusing on the word he found most suitable to his line of prying. Remus gave an uncomfortable squirm, drawing his long legs up to his chest and resting his arms on them.
"Can we talk about something else? I'm just not good at runes, okay? It's not a big deal," Remus said, flicking his cigarette off the parapet. They sat in silence for a while, passing the bottle and lost in their own thoughts.
"Look, I've got no reason to trust you, right, but promise if I tell you something, you won't go off on some ridiculous hexing spree and make this whole thing worse than it already is?" Remus blurted out at last, making Sirius wince.
"Guess I deserve that," he said quietly. "But yeah, what is it?" Remus rubbed his face in agitation, his shaggy fringe falling across his eyes.
"The Slytherins in my runes class, they've been saying -- well, things about me. About us, actually," Remus said, looking anywhere but at his friend.
"Like what?" Sirius asked.
"Snape's been telling them he saw us doing things that night last year, and that you hexed him, and that it's the reason why he was in the infirmary," Remus rambled, his face coloring slightly.
"Doing things?" Sirius asked, fighting back a laugh, and wondering how much longer he could draw out his friend's awkward misery. Remus gave a sigh of frustration, and threw up his hands.
"He told them you were fucking me! There! Happy, now?" Remus cried, burying his face in his hands.
"Why didn't you tell us?" Sirius asked, placing a hand on Remus' knee. Remus looked up at him.
"I figured you and James would go into this whole show of bravado and get yourselves expelled, and ..." he trailed off with a shrug.
"And what?" Sirius asked. Remus fixed him with a golden eyed stare.
"And I thought it might make things awkward. You know, with us. Like you'd be afraid to be seen talking to me or whatever, so no one would think it were true," Remus said, and looked uncomfortably at his feet. Sirius gave a dismissive gesture.
"I've got bigger things to worry about than whether a bunch of stupid Slytherins think I'm getting laid," he said.
"Even if they think it's with another bloke?" Remus asked incredulously. Sirius stretched out on his back, looking up at the stars without answering.
"Wonder if Regulus believes it," he mused. Remus sank down beside him.
"Yeah, I think so," Remus said. Sirius sighed.
"Peter reckons they mentioned me because I never have a girlfriend, and he and James are getting on so well with girls," Sirius said. Remus snorted.
"What? You've had loads of girlfriends. More than the lot of us put together," Remus said. Sirius shook his head.
"Not dates, Moony, girlfriends. I've never seen the same girl more than twice, and you know it. I always screw it up before it goes anywhere," Sirius said. Remus propped himself on one elbow to look at his friend.
"Really? Because I always just sort of assumed --" he said and shrugged. Sirius glanced at him.
"Assumed what?" he asked.
"Oh, well, I always assumed you'd had it off with them, you know, once, and then went on to the next conquest, or whatever," Remus said. Sirius gave a bitter laugh.
"My lovelife is much more interesting in the imaginations of everyone else, apparently. No, I'm not having it off with anyone," Sirius said.
"Really?" Remus asked. Sirius shook his head.
"Scarcely even a heavy snog to my name. Reckon I'm the only one of us," he said.
"Um, I haven't," Remus said, lying back down.
"What about that Ravenclaw girl you used to study with? She liked you," Sirius said. Remus shook his head.
"She did. I didn't like her so much, actually," Remus said.
"Oh yeah?" Sirius asked.
"Yeah," Remus said. They stared silently at the sky for a while, the bottle nearly gone before either spoke.
"Frustrating, isn't it?" Sirius muttered, sitting up and holding his spinning head.
"Sorry?" Remus asked, rising more slowly.
"We're decent looking blokes, surrounded by plenty of options, and yet you'd rather be here, hadn't you?" Sirius asked.
"What do you mean?" Remus asked in a guarded manner.
"I don't mean just you, sorry," Sirius said shaking his head as if to straighten his thoughts. "I mean, I'd rather hang out with you guys than some boring bird I hardly know, and yet --"
"Yes?" Remus asked.
"I do wonder what all this fuss is about snogging and the like," he said with a shrug.
"Didn't you like snogging the girls you did?" Remus asked. Sirius shifted uncomfortably.
"Would you think I was a total -- I don't know -- would you think it were really weird if I said not really?" Sirius asked.
"No," Remus said quietly. "Maybe you're just a real romantic or something. You said you hardly knew the girls. Maybe it only works for you when it means something," Remus suggested. Sirius laughed.
"See, Moony? This is why I can talk to you about stuff like this. Stuff I wouldn't even mention to James, " Sirius said, clapping Remus on the shoulder. "James would just says I was a poof, and then give me a noogie or something. You try at least try to make suggestions that might possibly make me feel better."
"You don't think he'd be freaked out if he thought you were a poof?" Remus asked. Sirius ran a thumb along his jaw thoughtfully.
"Well, yeah, a little I guess, having seen him naked and sharing a dorm and all that. But I don't think he'd stop being my friend," Sirius said, doubt causing his voice to tremble slightly. Remus took a deep breath.
"Would you stop being his if he were one?" Remus asked. Sirius laughed.
"No, but I'd have a few questions about why he's chasing Evans around," Sirius said. " But back to what I was saying. Don't you sometimes wonder what we're missing? Like when Peter gives us the blow by blow and all that? He sure seems to be enjoying himself."
"Yes, I do wonder," Remus said. Sirius leaned close to him suddenly, looking at his downcast eyes until Remus turned them up to meet his.
"Are you a poof, Moony? Is that the real reason you wouldn't tell us what the Slytherins have been saying to you?" he asked in a low voice. Remus turned his head and looked away, nodding.
"It's all right, Moony," Sirius said placing a hand on his shoulder. Remus turned his head back to face Sirius, whose gray eyes were studying him intently. He leaned forward, capturing Sirius' lips in an impulsive kiss. Sirius backed away.
"What was that about?" he asked, startled. Remus' eyes widened, as he scrambled onto unsteady feet and fled to the dorm below, leaving a bewildered Sirius looking after him.
Sirius was unable to confront Remus when he returned to the dorm, as James and Peter had both returned, amicably chatting about their evening. Sirius listened distractedly, looking over at Remus, who avoided his eyes. The other two boys were too caught up in their recountings to notice the tension between them.
The next morning, Sirius awoke, determined to sort things out, but found that Remus' bed was empty. Cursing, he threw on his robes and headed for the most likely hiding spot of his friend.
"Thought I was supposed to be helping you," he said, settling onto the seat beside Remus at a table in the back of the Hogwarts library. Remus didn't look up.
"I'd rather do it alone, thanks," he whispered.
"C'mon, Moony. Let me help like I promised," he said. Remus gave him an irritated glance, then looked past him at another table nearby. There were four Slytherins staring in their direction, stifling laughter and making faces.
"You know why this has been affecting me, Sirius?" Remus hissed quietly between clinched teeth. "Because those idiots over there are right about me. Because their nasty comments and stupid little speculations about my private life made me question things, and find out the truth behind them. I try so hard just to fit in, to be normal, in spite of what I am, and when they were prevented from finding out that particular thing about me, they went and found some other way to make me feel like a freak." The Slytherin boys began to make kissy faces and mocking little cooing noises. Sirius shot out of his chair and strode over to their table.
"What the bloody hell is your problem, anyway?" he demanded, earning a disapproving look from Pince. The four boys grew silent, meeting the challenge in Sirius' glare.
"What, are we interrupting you two lovebirds?" one of them asked with a sneer.
"Don't look now, but your loverboy is escaping," another said, causing Sirius to turn just in time to see Remus disappearing around the corner. He threw a threatening glance over his shoulder before pursuing Remus, ignoring the laughter he'd left in his wake.
Remus managed to stay a few steps ahead all the way back to the dorm, where Sirius collapsed breathlessly across his bed, looking in the direction of where Remus had settled on his.
"You were only going to make things worse, Padfoot," Remus said quietly, laying his textbook aside with a sigh. Sirius climbed from his bed and sat next Remus.
"I'm sorry about last night. I don't know what I was thinking," Remus said, playing with the frayed sleeve of his robe. Sirius scooted closer, placing his hand on Remus'.
"I'm the one who should be sorry, Moony. You just surprised me, that's all," he said, placing a hand beneath Remus' chin and forcing him to look at him. He cautiously placed his lips to Remus', putting his arms around his thin frame, which shook and then relaxed. Sirius deepened the kiss with a moan, nibbling Remus' bottom lip slightly. They fell back on the bed, all tongues and teeth for a moment, before Sirius pulled back, gasping for breath.
"Can I hex your runes class?" Sirius asked, burying his face in Remus neck and planting small kisses along his throat.
"Even Peter's girlfriend?" Remus asked, short of breath.
"Especially her," Sirius growled. "She should've took up for you." Remus shook his head and lifted Sirius' face up by the chin to look at him.
"It's not her place to. And it's not yours. No hexing, please?" Remus asked, his eyes pleading. Sirius nodded.
"Only because you asked me not to, Moony. I don't want anyone making you feel like a freak, because you're not, okay?" Sirius demanded. Remus nodded weakly, giving him a small smile.
"And you were right," Sirius said with a grin, as he leaned in for another kiss. "It does work for me when it means something."