This story is for all those who read A Dog's Life, Sirius in the Moonlight, A Moment Like This, Spring Fever and wanted another Sirius and Cami story to go along with Moonlight and Shadow, the current Tonks and Remus fic. (that I'd love everyone to read!)
Off the Leash
The 'grim old place' wore on Sirius like water on rock. Day after day, dark memories corroded his spirit.
He tried to keep his personal demons at bay for Cami, for Tonks and Remus—for Harry. Their worry showed plainly in sidelong glances and 'casual' enquiries as to how he was holding up. He tried to reassure them, but hearty cheer was impossible to maintain for long. He drank too much and slept too little as his hope of making a difference in the war slowly eroded.
Drip, drip, drip…confinement felt like water torture. At first, being stuck in a place he had thought never to step foot in again didn't seem so bad. Anywhere was better than Azkaban.
He bet victims who felt the first drops of water hit their forehead thought the same thing. Water doesn't hurt, compared to having your fingernails ripped out. It's easy to handle, until the unending cycle of drops becomes psychological torment.
Drip, drip, drip, drip, drip—there was no respite from those maddening drops of water. Only the agony of knowing another one would fall. The tension had to be excruciating. Anticipating the drop, hoping it wouldn't fall, waiting tensely in expectation, and then shamefully relieved to feel that tiny splash of water before the cycle began again.
Sirius empathised with torture victims. His experience was similar in many ways. Every time Dumbledore visited, he thought, Will he say 'no' again? When I ask to go out, will he look at me with pity in his eyes and reiterate all the ways leaving Grimmauld would endanger others and me as well? I'd be careful. I'd be good. Surely he won't deny me this time. Each visit, he waited in dreadful expectation.
Unlike those poor souls tied against their will, he submitted voluntarily, and felt no relief to hear the denial he anticipated. He craved freedom like sunlight and fresh air. The times he slipped out of his prison went to his head like fine wine. When he visited Cami, took walks with Remus and Tonks, or escorted Harry, he gambolled like a puppy, drunk with joy.
His occasional rides with Buckbeak weren't the same. He enjoyed being out in the night air, Disillusionment Charms concealing their presence, but he needed to be with people to feel that rush of liberty.
Sirius had begun to sink into bitterness and self-pity when Tonks offered him the chance to take Cami out for the night. He grasped it like a lifeline.
His cousin had bartered Polyjuice Maximus from a colleague at work. She said charmed chameleon skin made the potion last for four hours. He swayed at the thought of four hours of freedom—and he was stone cold sober. After squeezing Tonks in a hug and practically shaking Remus' arm off, Sirius bounded down the stairs to find stationery.
After all the months they had been together, he was doing something most blokes took for granted. He was asking Cami out on their first date.
It was amazing, how exited he was. Before Azkaban, he had asked girls out all the time, and not cared one way or the other if they said yes. There were always other birds interested if an odd duck refused the honour.
Now, he paced around the kitchen like a nervous schoolboy—something he had never been. He didn't expect her to decline the opportunity to go out, and yet he waited on tenterhooks until he held her reply in his hands.
Grinning like a fool, he shouted to the world, "She said yes!"
Tonks and Remus acted like concerned parents, hovering behind him as he prepared to leave.
"Remember, it's four hours from when you took the potion," Tonks said for the second time.
Sirius rolled his eyes. "Yes, Mum."
"Eeuwww, don't call me that when you look like Remus," she said with a grimace.
He smirked. "I make the professor look good, don't I?" He clapped his friend on the shoulder. "Don't worry. I won't do anything you wouldn't do."
"That does not reassure me."
Sirius laughed. "C'mon, mate. Give me credit. I'll behave in public." The look on Remus' face made him wonder. "Or did you mean…." He shook his head. "On second thought, I don't want to know what you've been up to." He waggled his eyebrows. "Might corrupt my innocence."
Tonks snorted. "A Time-Turner would be required to do that, cousin. When were you ever innocent? Age eleven?"
"Something like that." When I thought the Marauders would be best mates forever. Sirius shrugged off the past and opened the front door. "Don't wait up, folks. I'm going to spend the night at Cami's and trot back in the morning."
"Enjoy your night out," Remus said.
Tonks narrowed her eyes. "But not too much. Remember we're breaking the chain of, erm, family affection."
Sirius winked. "No worries. I'll treat Cami like a cousin. Like somebody else's cousin," he added hastily.
With a jaunty salute, he strolled out into the night, whistling.
His partner Camillia answered the door with a loving smile that took him aback for a moment. At first glance, she looked just like Tonks. A closer inspection revealed the true woman behind the Polyjuice 'mask.'
She was wearing a strapless silk dress he remembered from the night he had first loved her with all he had, body and soul. The full skirt ended a few millimetres higher than it had before—Tonks was taller—and the bodice wasn't as filled, but the demure-yet-sexy look said 'Cami' as much as the expression on her face.
He clasped her hands and lifted each one to his lips. "When you're back to your beautiful self, I'm going to make up for every kiss I want to give you, but can't."
Her mouth curved in a mischievous way that was uncannily similar to his cousin. "I'll do the same, because handsome as Remus is dressed in black, he's not you, my love." She reached up to caress his cheek. "No one compares to you."
He couldn't prevent a smug little smile. "True."
She laughed. The soft, happy sound belonged to the woman he loved.
He tucked her hand into the crook of his arm. "Shall we paint the town red, love?"
Cami giggled. "Would Remus paint the town red?"
Sirius barked in amusement. "Point taken. We'll paint it pink."
They Flooed to Diagon Alley and strolled down the pavement like a normal couple out for the evening. It was a thrill, just to be out in public, holding hands with his partner. The October evening was clear and mild.
In a role reversal, he was the one who dragged Cami from one shop to another, gazing into the windows to see what had changed since the last time he visited the alley, going inside to look everything over. Most of the shops carried the same goods they always had. In the Quidditch Supply shop, he darted from one broom to the next, exclaiming over the improvements.
"I know what to get you for Christmas," Cami said smilingly.
He bent to whisper in her ear, "No, thanks. I've got a Hippogriff who'd get jealous."
She was still giggling when they left the shop.
"Are you hungry?" he asked.
Sirius steered her toward the Floo station. "I know the perfect place to eat."
Cami was hesitant about entering the establishment he had picked out. "Why here?" she asked.
He grinned wolfishly. "This is where the Heads of all the offices in the Ministry like to unwind. I want eat dinner surrounded by bastards who would have a heart attack if they realised who I really was, thumbing my nose at them while enjoying my meal."
Sirius opened the door to the swanky pub, strutting inside as if he owned the place. They found a cosy table near the long, narrow bar.
"Very masculine, isn't it?" Cami said, gazing around at the red walls and dark wood. She glanced toward the bar and then quickly returned her gaze to her partner. "Don't look, but Rufus Scrimgeour is sitting at the bar, and I think he smiled at me."
"Ignore him," murmured Sirius, scooting his chair closer to Cami. He enjoyed the surprise on the server's face when he ordered butterbeer—German, if they had it—and asked what he recommended for dinner.
"Our special tonight is Tandoori breast of guinea fowl with crushed new potatoes and tomato."
"I'll have that," said Sirius. He took Cami's hand in his and kissed it. "What about you?"
"I like Tandoori-anything. I'll have that too." When the server backed away, she whispered, "Why are you being so affectionate in public?"
He leaned close and traced her ear with a fingertip as he said, "What do you mean?"
She shivered. "You know exactly what I mean, and if you kiss her earlobe, I'll be jealous."
Sirius blew teasingly. "I'd be pretending it was yours, and she wouldn't feel it. You would."
"I'd still be jealous."
He kissed her cheek. "Scrimgeour has been eyeing us, so I figured I'd give him something to look at."
Cami froze. "Do you think he suspects something?"
"No, I think he doesn't like seeing his employee with her partner."
"He's prejudiced against werewolves?"
An indignant expression crossed her face.
He traced her lips with the tips of his fingers. "Now, now, he'll think we're fighting."
"We can't have that," she said with a naughty little smile. "I think you'd better work some Black magic."
Sirius enjoyed subtly touching and seducing his lover over dinner even more than he enjoyed the food. From time to time, he glanced to where the Head of Aurors sat chatting with some other wizards in official robes. The man didn't show any reaction, but when 'Lupin' excused himself for a moment, Scrimgeour coincidentally visited the lavatory at the same time.
The mental image of pissing on the other man's shoes caused Sirius to fight back a smirk as he stood before the urinal.
While Sirius washed his hands, Scrimgeour cleared his throat. "What made you choose The White Hart?"
Sirius rinsed off the soap, thinking at least the man had the decency to wait until he'd finished his 'business.' "Are you taking a survey for management?"
"No. I'm curious."
"I liked the pub sign."
A strange look crossed the older man's face. "The pub sign."
It was an effort not to snicker. "I like deer."
"I suppose you would," Scrimgeour replied lightly. "Cooked rare." He inclined his head. "Good evening, Mr. Lupin. Give Nymphadora my regards."
Sirius didn't like the way the man said his cousin's name. He didn't like the bloke, period. Remus needed to watch his back. When he joined Cami at the table, he asked, "Did Scrimgeour say anything to you?"
"Good." He paid for the meal, grateful he had his friend withdraw a substantial amount of gold from Gringotts recently. It wasn't cheap.
Outside, his partner said, "Despite Tonks' boss, dinner was lovely." She sighed. "You really know how to melt a woman, love."
Sirius said, "The only woman I want is you." He smiled ruefully. "And I want you so much it hurts not to be able to do anything about it until the Polyjuice wears off."
She said, "If we were at my flat, with the lights out, and we couldn't see each other…."
"We could put on some music and dance," Sirius said with a grin.
Cami giggled. "I'd love to dance with you."
He tugged her hand until they were running toward the Floo station.
"Where's the fire?" someone shouted, laughing with friends.
In Camillia's flat, swaying in the dark to a love song, he said, "Thank you."
"For everything...going out with me...putting up with me...for loving me." Sirius tightened his arms around her, lowering his head to find her mouth in the darkness. Her lips parted eagerly...her lips. "The Polyjuice wore off," he said after a deep, sweet kiss.
Every candle in the lounge lit at once. "I know," she said, hazel eyes starry with reflected candlelight. Her dress fell to the floor.
While her fingers unbuttoned his shirt, Sirius admired Cami's lingerie and the curves that filled it so beautifully. With symbolism that made him grin, his clothing joined hers.
Later, in the darkness of her bedroom, he listened to the gentle sound of her breathing, felt her chest rise and fall against his, and wished his happiness could last. If he accepted the need to hide behind Unplottable walls while others fought the war in his stead, if he found a way to be satisfied with being alive, and loved, life would be easier—but when had his life ever been easy?
Sirius couldn't accept that he would be stuck behind those walls indefinitely, and he wasn't satisfied with anything except the love he shared with Cami.
She stirred. "Can't sleep? I have a remedy for that."
He smiled. Later, he slept.
A/N: For those of you who wondered about the strange look on Scrimgeour's face, in ch 6 of 'Moonlight and Shadow,' when Tonks as 'Lola' met him in the White Hart, and he asked what brought her there, she said she liked the pub sign. So now Scrimmy 'knows' Tonks tells Remus everything, and that the answer to the question he was really asking 'did you come to this pub to make a point about who is the man in Nymphadora's life' is yes. (even though, for Sirius, it's really no—then yes, lol)
Special Thanks to MollyCoddles who not only beta read, but inspired, when she told me the thought of Sirius and Scrimgeour in the men's room made her think of a dog's reaction. The comment made me think of a scene in the film 'Wolf' where Nicholson, standing at a urinal next to the man who stole his job and wife, turns and pisses on him. I had to have Sirius imagine doing it, even if he was more 'stay away from my cousin, you old bastard!' :D