Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter. The Harry Potter universe was created by JK Rowling and consequently belongs to her and her various publishers. I do not own anything remotely related to Dylan Thomas' poem Sometimes the sky's too bright either. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Note: This story is strongly inspired by Dylan Thomas' poem Sometimes the sky's too bright, which is why all chapters and their titles will more or less directly allude to the poem. Yes, there will be more chapters. Many thanks to my beta readers.
Sometimes the sky's too bright
chapter one: his telling burns
the sky's too bright,
Or has too many clouds or birds,
And far away's too sharp a sun
To nourish thinking of him.
Why is my hand too blunt
To cut in front of me
My horrid images for me,
Of over-fruitful smiles,
The weightless touching of the lip
I wish to know
I cannot lift, but can,
The creature with the angel's face
Who tells me hurt,
And sees my body go
Down into misery?
No stopping. Put the smile
Where tears have come to dry.
The angel's hurt is left;
His telling burns.
"Won't she get suspicious?"
"Of course she will, Peter," answers Sirius rather impatiently.
"She's known us for over six years," adds James, folding the map carefully.
"Well, how do we do it then?" Peter looks puzzled. He is always a little slow on the uptake. Not that he is stupid, he most certainly isn't. But he hangs around the smartest boys of his year, who are also gleefully aware of that, and Remus feels sorry for him.
"Prongs, will you explain the plan to Wormtail? Again. I'm tired of saying everything twice," Sirius says in his most patronising voice. His right hand cuts the air rapidly and precisely, underlining his indignation before he slumps back against the headboard. Planning a prank means gathering around and on James' bed. Remus is sitting at the foot, his lanky legs folded rather uncomfortably. James has the Map and is enthroned in the middle while Peter is sitting on the floor, arms folded on the bed, chin resting on his arms.
"OK, it's really quite simple. On Halloween, McGonagall will expect us to do something, so we'll give her…something."
"The pudding," Remus provides helpfully when Peter doesn't react to James' expectantly raised eyebrow and knowing smile.
"Oh, the pudding!" Peter finally understands. Good for him. Sirius, who is sprawled in the shadows of the curtains, can apparently hardly suppress a sneer.
"Speaking of pudding, I'm starving," moans James melodramatically.
"We just had dinner," remarks Remus because someone has to.
Before James can put on his usual show, gesturing wildly on the bed, so that everyone will see why James Potter needs extra food whenever he feels like it, Sirius snickers, "Prongs exhausted himself by smiling at his one true love. Honestly, one day your face will freeze and you'll look like a moron for the rest of your life."
He has a point. James spends an awful lot of time grinning and smiling at Lily, ever since they became Head Boy and Girl. While Remus can't hide a grin, James slaps Sirius' knee and is probably secretly pleased to have another opportunity to talk about Lily.
"She smiled back, I swear she did!"
"She did," agrees Peter.
"Yeah, I found you highly amusing, too," teases Sirius. It earns him a kick against his shin. He immediately starts cackling and James kicks him once more. Sirius looks at him briefly, grey eyes filled with mad laughter, and Remus can't help but notice the weight his friend has lost over the last couple of months. The harder contours suit him, he looks older and has gained a haggard beauty that makes the girls go nuts. It shouldn't be that way.
"She is just so beautiful," James' voice cuts into his train of thoughts. He sighs.
"Yeah, we know," Sirius sighs in the exact same way.
"You're only jealous."
"So, who's up to a kitchen raid?" Peter's chubby face is flushed with anticipation.
"You tosser really have to ask?" James is already moving and rolls off the bed with surprising elegance. Peter jumps and looks expectantly from Remus to Sirius.
"Nah, you go ahead," says Sirius and stretches slowly, reminding Remus of a cat, something he wouldn't tell him…ever. One of his socks has a hole at the heel.
"Oh, come on, Padfoot, éclairs!" exclaims James and Remus sees the tiny frown between his eyebrows only because he knows it's there. He also knows that James worries about his best friend and his lack of appetite, though it's more of a symptom than the illness itself. Remus knows that James knows that it has to do with him. Yes, James is very knowledgeable. That's why he adds, "Moony is coming too, eh Moony?"
Remus opens his mouth but, how stupid of him, his gaze flickers over to Sirius. Grey eyes are piercing into his and Sirius' whole face is commanding him to stay right where he is.
"Sorry, I'm knackered," he answers, tearing his eyes away and looking apologetically at James. This time, everyone can see the frown.
"Fine," is James' indignant reply. He doesn't approve at all but he snatches the Map and heads to the door all the same. Remus doesn't approve either and he has absolutely no idea why he does this to both of them. All of them. "We won't bring you anything," threatens James half-heartedly from the door. Remus shrugs.
"Merlin, I could eat a pig," rings Peter's voice from the staircase before the door closes behind them with a deafening click.
"If he doesn't watch out, he'll look like one, too," scoffs Sirius nastily. Remus bites back any remarks of his own and the expected gloomy silence falls over the room, all too familiar though it still hurts every bloody time.
"As I said, I'm tired. 'm going to the bathroom," mumbles Remus, eager to get away.
"Would you stop this already? Fuck!" Sirius sits up and candlelight falls on his face. It's jaded and wan and his eyes are shining all too bright.
"Stop what?" asks Remus, voice insultingly indifferent. His bare feet meet the wooden floor and it feels real and good to have a ground to stand on.
Sirius doesn't have a fit of temper, he just stares at Remus as if he is too exhausted to do anything else. "You know what," he whispers meekly.
"I accepted your apology."
"You haven't forgiven me."
Remus is tired of this game, equally tired of these silences and wearisome talks. Sometimes he is tired of Sirius. He eyes the boy, who he still and despite everything considers his friend, wearily and tries to see him for what he really is. Casually cruel Sirius with his sensuous mouth and wicked smile, looking vulnerable and honest and tired, oh so tired, too.
"I forgave you," Remus says weakly.
Sirius snorts. "Then what's this shit?" he asks and makes an encompassing gesture with his arms. His wrists are thinner than Remus remembers, but then, he hasn't paid attention for a long time.
Remus feels his anger rising and that's familiar, too. He tries to swallow it down but he hardly ever succeeds these days. It feels like he's been angry for months and suddenly he realises that he really has been and that it's been five months since Sirius went madder than usual and sent Snape to the Shack. Five months.
But his betrayal, well, he has forgiven Sirius for that. Thinking ahead has never been his strength and has got him into trouble more than once. It's also the knowledge that Sirius doesn't fear him, not even during the full moon, and that this is the reason he never thought of him as a weapon, that made Remus lenient almost immediately. Sirius apologised for weeks and though very practised from years of apologising in front of various teachers, Remus knows that he meant it. He knows Sirius, knows his fears and quirks, his dreams and desires. Desires. Seeing Sirius' lips pressed into a thin line reminds him of things he wants to forget, things that were not supposed to happen, ever.
"Padfoot, would you stop doing that already?" Remus asked. Sirius looked up and grinned, not stopping to crack his knuckles.
"Does it bother you?" Sirius cocked his head and pursed his lips with mock concern. "I'll stop if it does. Anything for our Moonykins."
They were alone in the dorm, both sprawling on Remus' bed. He always felt supine and feeble before the moon was full and spent the afternoon in bed. Dreading the transformation more than anything, he was paralysed with fear and so Sirius wasn't a wholly unwelcome distraction. Despite the knuckles. Sirius rolled over, resting his head on Remus' thigh, looking up at him and batting his eyelashes.
Remus couldn't help but smile at Sirius' antics. "Sirius, you don't have to be here. Go and wreak havoc with Prongs if you're bored. McGonagall seems worried because you didn't get a single detention this week."
"Nonsense," said Sirius, flittering his hand. His nails were bit down since he had left home, which often was the only indicator that something wasn't right, that he was upset and hurt. A Black didn't talk about family business or so Remus presumed, knowing only one. He eyed his friend carefully. Sirius looked nervous or as close as humanly possible for a boy who didn't know the meaning of uncertainty. Too reckless and too beautiful for his own good.
"Moony," Sirius suddenly said in a strange voice and wet his lips. Remus' heart flattered in his chest and his palms got sweaty. He knew the meaning of nervousness.
"Yeah," Remus answered, not knowing but feeling what this was about, dreading the truth almost more than the disappointment if he didn't...
He did. All of a sudden, Sirius was close, too close not to glimpse the mad glimmer in his eyes, and seeing his stubble in close-up, trivial as it was, startled Remus. "Moony," Sirius repeated, his voice urgent and thick with need. Remus didn't remember how it happened and he tried not to think about it but somehow, and inexplicably so, Sirius' lips were pressed against his and he felt hot breath against his skin. His lips were dry and trembled slightly and Remus wondered for a blissfully irrational moment whether Sirius knew about being nervous after all. A tongue, hot and persistent and in his mouth reminded him of what was happening.
Sirius was kissing him and, though certain parts of his body screamed hallelujah, his brain considered this the opportune moment to let out a protesting hmphing sound and draw back. His ears were ringing as he stared at Sirius and Sirius stared right back. He looked very kissable with his moist lips and shining eyes, and Remus couldn't find his bloody voice to bloody say something intelligent or anything at all. Why on earth did this happen when he was feeling like an old, threadbare towel?
Sirius was still silent, which was always a dangerous sign, and all Remus could do was avoid his gaze. Yes, the canopy looked very interesting indeed.
"Are you going to say something?" Sirius' voice was tense as it finally broke the silence and it burned its way into Remus' insides. He tried, he really tried but nothing came out when he opened his mouth. Remus' eyes flickered over to where his friend was sitting, only inches away, and he saw so many conflicting emotions that it made him dizzy.
"Fine." Sirius looked hurt, sounded hurt, moved as if he was, too.
When the door closed behind him, Remus whispered, "I'm sorry," into the empty room. And he was, he was. For the rest of the day, his lips burned and he felt stupid and weak and cowardly and most of all sorry for Sirius, the missed chance and himself. He was even more sorry when he woke up the next morning and learned what Sirius had done.
"I forgave you what you apologised for," says Remus quietly and looks away. The memory hurts, even after all these months but he is determined to conquer this.
"What's that supposed to mean?" asks Sirius edgily. The wood in the stove bursts under the heat and the familiar noise reverberates in the tense silence. Remus snaps.
He turns to Sirius and hisses, "It means that I forgave you your fucking thoughtlessness, alright! The other thing – I can't. I just can't."
Sirius pales visibly. "No, Remus, it had nothing to do with that."
"Oh really? So it's just coincidence that it happened on the same day?"
"For fuck's sake, yes!"
Remus looks at him for a long moment. "I don't believe you."
"Then don't! I'm not a liar, never was, but if you prefer thinking of it as some kind of twisted revenge for…," Sirius takes a deep, hollow breath, "I can't convince you anyway, can I?"
"Perhaps it wasn't revenge. Because it didn't mean anything." The moment the words are out Remus knows that he is trying to provoke Sirius, trying to make him explain. He is pathetic but he has to know, it's been on his mind for too long.
"Not anything? You're bonkers, Lupin, if you think that." Sirius cuts the words out like he would slice some particularly nasty roots in Potions.
Remus rubs his forehead. "Does it matter? I--" His voice trails off at the sound of footsteps in the staircase. James and Peter are back. "I'm in the bathroom," he says quickly and slips away. When the heavy wooden door closes behind him, a sob of relief and frustration escapes him. He presses his lips together until they hurt. In the mirror, they are a white line. He shakes his head and mechanically brushes his teeth and has a quick wash. When he returns a quarter of an hour later, Sirius and James are sitting on the broad windowsill next to Sirius' bed, whispering conspiratorially. Peter is sprawled on is bed and stuffs his face with éclairs.
"Want one?" munches Peter. His bed is covered in crumbs.
"No, thanks. I just brushed my teeth." Remus smiles at him because he knows what it's like to be left out. James and Sirius have always been James and Sirius despite the fact that they're all the Marauders. Remus climbs into his bed and draws the curtains shut. No matter from what angle he looks at it, his life is fucked up. For the first time in months he asks himself whether that's at least partly his own fault.
"Wake up, you wankers!" James' voice penetrates his morning cosiness like a sledgehammer. Remus turns and hides under his pillow. Five more minutes won't kill him.
"Moony, we've important business to attend. Get out or I'll get you!" says James too cheerfully by far.
"Goway!" mumbles Remus defiantly from under his pillow and tries to worm himself deeper into the snug warmth.
"Padfoot, you awake yet? Peter?"
"Potter, shut your mouth or I'll do it for you," Sirius' voice cuts through the room. "Being like that in the morning – it's not normal!"
"Yeah, you know all about normal, right," teases James and the low thump tells Remus that he just flopped on Sirius' bed.
"You had better run. I'll put as Silencing charm on you as soon as I find my wand."
"Yeah, whatever. I'll write notes to you in class anyway," grins James. Another thumping sound announces that Sirius' pillow just met James Potter's face.
"At least I get some action," smirks Sirius. Remus feels the blood rush into very inappropriate places at the mere thought of – no, he won't think about it! With an indignant sniff, he throws back the blanket and dives through the curtain.
"Ah, Moony's up!" exclaims James, who is still sitting on Sirius' bed and has no clue that his words have a painful and embarrassing double meaning. His black hair is unruly as usual and his glasses are askew from the pillow attack. Sirius looks knackered, as if he hasn't slept well.
Remus shakes his head, "Not a word, Prongs, before I've taken a shower." And with that he shuffles into the bathroom.
Breakfast is a farce. James and Peter stuff themselves with porridge, toast and bacon as usual, while Sirius and Remus are both playing with their toast. Considering their argument last night, Remus slept surprisingly well. They had been close to something but now it's over and Remus is trying to be content but fails miserably. He hates being vengeful. It's time for a change.
"Moony, you still with us? I asked you whether you have your Runes essay ready," says James. A drop of porridge is clinging to his lower lip and he looks so droll that Remus has to grin.
"Yeah, sure. Sorry, I was thinking…about the plan," he lies. After nearly seven years with the Marauders, Remus can cook up the most plausible stories off the cuff.
James grins back but says, "Eat some toast first, mate."
"You're not his mother," states Sirius and drinks his Pumpkin juice in one go.
"Remus, mind if I had a look at your Astronomy chart?" Peter asks before James can retort.
"No, not at all."
A bright laugh from further down the table catches James' attention. Lily. Remus has to admit that she is very pretty, almost beautiful. Her friend Alice must have told her something funny because Lily is still laughing and James, well, James is still staring. Remus knows that it's not hopeless business, not anymore. James is persistent and Lily can't help but notice him, his easy smile, his casual charm and hard-to-ignore humour and brilliance. James Potter is a lucky bloke.
"Could you give me the chart after breakfast? And what about the plan?" asks Peter eagerly.
"Relax, Wormtail! Ten days left," replies Sirius with annoyance. Remus looks from Peter to Sirius and back to James, whose eyes are still focussed on the redhead. Lily has noticed him and flashes him a short smile. Sometimes Remus envies James for his ability to ignore all odds. He will finally win his fair lady's hand and they will live happily ever after. All his dreams are about survival and employment and Remus feels unglamorous and boring.
"For Merlin's sake, Potter, can you stop ogling Evans for a minute?" enquires Sirius in that edgy voice he always gets when it comes to Lily Evans and Head Boy duties, things he cannot share with James. Remus notices a tiny smile in the corner of Peter's mouth but shrugs it off. They have all been cruel on occasion.
"Have you noticed that Kennicot has been looking over for at least ten minutes? What is he playing at?" Remus can't help being grateful for Peter's repeated attempts to keep James and Sirius from going ballistic. He doesn't fully understand why they are so angry at each other but then, Sirius seems to be on edge all the time and James may be tired of it.
Hooting and loud flapping announces the arrival of the post. A school owl delivers a small parcel from his parents. Remus unwraps it and finds a letter and two quills.
"I told you, I'd replace them," says Sirius, looking sullenly at the quills. He broke three of Remus' new ones on the Hogwarts Express.
"Don't be silly. There is no Hogsmeade weekend before the end of November," replies Remus.
"You could have skipped a few assignments and blamed it on me," Sirius tries with a weak smile.
"I could've but where would that leave you? I know you're fond of McGonagall but I really thought that didn't include her classroom," grins Remus and suddenly realises that he doesn't pretend anymore. Sirius gives him a curious look and when Remus doesn't stop smiling, his whole face lightens up.
"What's up with you?" Peter looks blankly at the beaming boy next to him.
"Nothing, absolutely nothing," answers Sirius cheerfully and steals James' toast.
Somehow, looking at Sirius devouring the toast in two bites, his eyes gleaming as though he had an early Christmas, makes Remus feel like himself again. Punishing his friends had long lost the grim pleasure he felt for weeks after the accident and now he realises how much he has been punishing himself.
"What did your parents write?" asks Peter, still looking rather bewildered.
"Oh. Oh, I don't know," admits Remus and opens the letter. His father's scrawly hand tells him about a new potion that is being developed and asks him to be careful at the full moon. Remus loses his smile. He loves his parents very much but these letters make him feel guilty, remind him that his father spends all his time looking for a cure.
"Another one of those, eh?" James has obviously stopped stalking Lily with his eyes. Remus shrugs and puts parcel and letter into his bag.
"Nooooooo," a girl on the Ravenclaw table wails. In her trembling hands there is a letter with the broken seal of the Ministry.
"Shit, not another attack," curses James and gets up. The girl looks very young, she cannot be more than a second year. Lily is already talking to one of the Ravenclaw Prefects when James arrives at the table.
"Well, Ancient Runes in ten minutes. We had better get going," says Sirius, apparently unmoved by the girl's misery. At Remus' and Peter's incredulous looks he only shrugs and adds, "For all I know it could have been my cousin, right? What am I supposed to do? Feel sorry for that girl? Apologise that I didn't drown Bella when she was fourteen and I had the chance?" His jaws are working angrily as he stands up, gathers his bag and stalks down the Great Hall.
"Breakfast went rather well, don't you think?" says Remus to no-one in particular.
"Moony, wait!" calls James' voice after him. His footsteps reverberate through the empty corridor Remus is patrolling. Remus stops in his tracks and waits for James to catch up with him.
"Forgot anything I'm supposed to steal from Slughorn's stash?"
James shakes his head. "Nah, this is…erm, rather personal."
"Oh dear, not Lily again? I told you I'd never write you a piece of poetry in my li--"
"Shut up, it's not about you scribbling anything," James cuts him off. The torches throw shadows against the walls and James, whose expression is unreadable for once.
"What is it about then?" asks Remus when James doesn't say anything else.
James runs a hand through his hair and shuffles his feet a little nervously. "You…and Sirius."
"Oh." Remus' stomach sinks.
"Look, I left you alone in this because…well, it was your business. And now you seem to have forgiven him, I mean really forgiven him. I'm glad you have, Moony, I am…just," James looks uncomfortable at this, "I just want to make sure that you mean it."
Remus is dumbfounded. Having this conversation in an empty corridor in the middle of the night, or at least after curfew, is downright bizarre. Especially because James has not tried to reconcile them before, has not interfered at all, only frowned a lot.
"No, I don't want you to get this the wrong way. Sirius fucked up big time, we all agree on that."
"You hit him," says Remus.
James eyes him carefully through his glasses. "I did and he deserved it. But…well, I've never seen him so downcast than over the last couple of months. Not even after he left Grimmauld Place. I just…are you sure it's all good now?"
"It will never be all good. It happened," says Remus quickly and he can't help feeling annoyed. So James is only worried about Sirius.
James nods slowly and sighs. "I know. But we're all friends and friends do forgive each other, right?" He strolls over to the wall and leans casually against it. "You said you did ages ago but I'm not stupid. You two stopped talking as soon as Pete and I weren't there." Remus opens his mouth to protest but James keeps talking. "I'm not saying that you were wrong. If this helped you to get over it…Padfoot isn't made of glass. But you know how he takes rejection from any of us. He never talked about you, you know, but he has missed you a lot. And he really regrets it. Fuck, Moony, you've seen him! He's only skin and bones. Look, all I'm trying to say is…mean it this time, yes?" James looks at him hopefully.
Skin and bones. Remus feels guilty and rightfully so. He won't tell James about the other betrayal but he should know that he isn't as petty as he appears to be.
"I do, OK? I mean it. It's just…you don't know the whole story and…it was a little more complicated than what you think. But it's alright now or…well, it will be," he says truthfully. James bestows a hesitant but genuine smile on him and pushes himself off the wall.
"Good man," James says and puts an arm around Remus' shoulders. "You see, it's our last year. What's going to happen to us after school if we don't stick together now?"
Well, James is right, of course he is. Remus has only three friends and he would do anything for them, at least he always prided himself in thinking so. But he risked their friendship, this special bond they have and this is almost as unforgivable as Sirius' betrayal. His friends, however, showed the utmost patience, even Sirius did. Shuddering at the thought of what he would be without them, Remus clears his throat.
"I was a stubborn brat, I know that."
"Yeah," grins James, "but then, you learned from the master."
Remus smiles in embarrassment at his own immaturity. James has a way of letting people see their mistakes without pissing them off.
"Heh, at least you're not Snivelly. He's probably still busy swearing bloody vengeance in twenty years time." James is still grinning and pats him on the back. "You had better finish your round then."
"And steal the ingredients," adds Remus.
"Spoken like a true Marauder."
"Sometimes I worry."
"Too late, mate, too late. You're far gone," smirks James and turns to leave. "Oh, one last thing. What would Padfoot say if I stole his brush and replaced it with – say, Pete's singing comb?"
Remus chuckles at the thought of Sirius' face and the highly entertaining consequences. "I'd say you wouldn't find a quiet minute for the rest of the week but it's gonna be worth it."
"'course it is." James pulls out his wand. "Lumos! I almost tripped over Filch's damn cat on my way here. I'll make sure not to miss her on the way back." He cackles evilly, mock-salutes Remus and strides away.
Remus takes a deep breath and is surprised that it is easier now that guilt and anger are gone. James' plan is of course evil in itself since Sirius is the vainest boy at school. His hair is indeed gorgeous... "Not anything? You're bonkers, Lupin, if you think that." Sirius' words invade his mind like unwelcome guests at wedding receptions and, strolling down the dark corridor, Remus reflects on their discussion from the evening before. He doesn't come very far.
Remus turns around a corner when he hears hushed voices. Hogwarts has a lot of students, who are mostly rule-abiding and therefore huddled together in their common rooms, but the curfew only induces a secret and, alas, forbidden nightlife. Slowly, Remus sneaks closer. He cannot be strict on his friends but he tries to do what is expected of a Prefect in regard to the rest of the school.
"Come now…don't…question?" Remus hears a male voice and he edges closer to one of the many unused classrooms at Hogwarts. The castle is just too damn big. "It's not as though I asked you for your soul's deepest secrets, eh?"
"Why don't you employ your mouth a little more beneficial for my sanity," says a voice that makes Remus stop in his tracks immediately. The door is ajar and, pressing close to the cold stone wall, Remus sees two shadows moving in the moonlit darkness.
"Do any of your friends know about us?"
"Do any of yours? Don't be such a girl about it," snaps the boy that Remus could single out in every crowd.
"What the hell am I to you? A dirty secret?" asks the other boy angrily.
There is a tense silence before Sirius replies grimly, "Pain management."
"P-pain management? Oh, thank you very much, Black." There is a lot shuffling and one of the shadows moves to the door. Before he knows what he's doing, Remus backs off. Whatever he just overheard, he doesn't want to be caught by any of them and especially not by Sirius.
"Kennicot, wait!" he hears Sirius' voice. The shadow stops and so does Remus' breathing. So Peter had not made it up, Kennicot had been staring over to them this morning, or more precisely, staring at Sirius. Remus hears footsteps and a low thump as Sirius presses the other boy to the wall next to the door. A flash of panic sears Remus' guts and he almost tumbles. "I like you, I like what we're doing but I'm not boyfriend material."
"Not for me anyway."
"Let the fuck go of me, Black." They struggle in the darkness and Remus knows he has to go, wants to go, wants nothing more than to run, but he cannot move, can hardly breathe. After a few seconds that feel like hours, the fighting noises change, become something else entirely, and he hears the wet sounds of biting and kissing and everything goes black. He steadies himself against the wall and tries to breathe while he's listening to them, to Sirius snogging this boy he hardly ever noticed and it burns as much as his telling.
…to be continued
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