Summary: Lily/Remus, Sirius, Lily POV. Sixth-year Lily doesn't know what to do with her libido, which seems to be turning her into a monster. Scientific method. Chaos theory. Primitive urges mixed with firewhiskey. And choices disguised as fate.

Author's Note: Written for the first challenge (Tales of Sin and Virtue) of the LiveJournal community Red and the Wolf. My prompts were the Björk song, first instinct, and greed. To me, the song seems an ode to the body, to the irrepressible sexual instinct, and that inspired this fic. "I'm a path of cinders/Burning under your feet/You're the one who walks me/I'm your one-way street."


I'm a beast. There's something wrong with me. I feel a little deranged. Can a girl be a slut without ever having sex?

Because I think about it all the time.

If there's something wrong with me, perhaps I'd better see Madam Pomfrey. But how on earth could I tell her what's wrong? My naughty little thoughts, my desperate and dark dreams that wake me up in a sweat, every single damned night? The way I've fantasized about just about every boy I know? But I never flirt, never try to get any particular one to pay attention to me. James Potter's attention is quite enough, thank you very much. And, up until now, I didn't have time for that sort of nonsense.

But that's all changed. I want their attention. I want all of them to pay attention. Really, I do. And it's bizarre, feeling this way. I find myself smelling them when they walk past, trying to catch a whiff of that unfamiliar, irresistible boy smell. And after Quidditch, the boys smell just … just … it's ridiculous. Even James. Like grass and sweat and leather and air.

I can barely stand up when I smell it.

So I lurk on the sofa in the Common Room with some book on my lap, feeling like I'm burning alive, or that the sofa will catch fire if I exhale too sharply. And I wait for that scent to waft over me, to extinguish the flames as they come bustling in, loud and annoying and damp, and here I go again, I think, while the flames only burn higher. And then it's off to the girls' bed tower for some alone time, bed curtains closed, muffling charm in place, with an entire imaginary Quidditch team at my fiery feet. Or crotch, to be exact. Ha.

I'd laugh if it weren't so disturbing.

Merlin, I can't get it, them, all of them, any of them out of my mind, and I have no idea if this is normal or if I'm completely mental. I could be the subject of a case study in lasciviousness. I can see the academic healing journals now: First Documented Case of Spontaneous Combustion in Normal Girl Thinking About Sex 24 Hours a Day for Seven Months Straight. Right.

There was the afternoon I stared at Anthony Parker's neck during History of Magic. It was so long and smooth and the way his hair fell onto it just so was … Well, anyway. Never mind.

And the fixation on that Slytherin prefect Nicolas Gradenko's lips all through the meeting a few weeks ago. Merlin.

And the way I somehow made Peter Pettigrew blush when I leaned over to help him with some Potions homework in study hall. Crikey, I'm not even attracted to him, and I didn't mean to do it; but knowing that I had the power to do that to him, to make him stammer and fidget, was a heady sensation, really. I liked it. I really did. Is that wrong?

What am I turning into?

I can't do this. I don't know how to flirt. I've only got a year before finishing Hogwarts, and I've got to be Sirius. I mean serious. Oh, bloody hell.

How does he do it? It's all so simple for him. He's dated more girls than I probably even know of, and he still gets good marks. Couldn't a girl do that?

Oh, stop it, Lily. I can't believe I'm even thinking such a thing.

And now I'm thinking about Sirius Black's jawline, and that damned gorgeous black hair. Urgh, I don't even like him. I need some air.

So now I'm walking to Hogsmeade and thinking of broom cupboards, and the few I've been in, and with whom. Groping and panting and pressing and kissing. Feeling someone else's heat rivaling mine is a relief, really; but they're all as afraid of it as I am. So there are a few weeks of mad snogging and then we hit a wall and one of us runs scurrying. Which is … okay, I suppose. After all, isn't love supposed to be part of it? So why does my body not seem to care?

I don't have time for this.

It's their fault. The male sex in general. If they didn't smell so – so interesting. If they didn't have to go and develop muscles and get all tall like that. If they didn't have that way of looking at me.

Some of them are better at The Look than others. I'm talking about the look that makes my stomach turn to pudding and my loins get – well, never mind. I've actually rated them, those looks, in my head. For example, take James and his friends. On a scale of zero to ten, with zero being no sex appeal and ten meaning new knickers required, Peter is about a negative one, James is a five – maybe a six, Sirius is a nine, and Remus … well, I said zero to ten, right? Remus would be an eleven.

I mean, who knew?

It's those damned eyes. And Remus Lupin, I'll bet, could keep a secret, my dark little secret. And now I'm thinking about his eyes, and his hands, and the torso I saw when he stretched once in the Common Room, and the trail of hair at the edge of his trousers leading to –

Stop it, Lily. You're going crazy. You're a crazy beast. The sexologists, with all their textbook and clinical knowledge, will run screaming from you in horror. You're incomprehensible. I feel like an animal that just needs to go out into a field under the moonlight and – and rut with some other animal. I disgust myself.

But, Merlin, it feels good, too.

So I spend too long fixing my hair in the mornings now. I wear lip gloss. I don't mind if my blouse is a little snug. Because I want to do to them, those boys, what they do to me. Which is drive me to distraction. Damn them.

And here I am, headed for the Hog's Head on a Saturday evening because my friend Johanna, in all her wisdom, said we needed to meet some older men. Because the ones in our year are too daft to actually ask us out – excluding James, of course, but he doesn't count. I mean, I could ask someone out. But what if that someone said no?

James is right out. He's too … too … I don't know. Mean? Sometimes. Arrogant? Definitely. Immature? Maybe. I mean, he smells nice. And he's got that smile and those forearms, and I do like glasses on a man. But I already know everything about him, because Merlin knows he's made sure I know. Ah, well.

That Slytherin, Nicolas, wouldn't touch me with a ten-foot pole, I don't think. Because I'm a Mudblood. Or maybe he would. At any rate, I don't want to find out. Humiliation at this point would not be good for my self-esteem.

Severus Snape has a certain … I don't know. With his hair hanging all dank and heavy in his brooding eyes like George Bloody Harrison. His skill, the way his hands move. And there's something appealing about making love to a real loner, isn't there? I mean, everyone wants to have sex with the devil, right? And he'd be under my thumb, for sure. But no, I couldn't do that to him. And I think he'd drive me nuts, stick to me like glue. No, thanks. Besides, then there's the nose like Ringo Bloody Starr, which would make snogging a real problem.

If I'm honest, the most likely candidate would have to be Remus. Remus Lupin, the lone intellectual amidst a troop of baboons. Remus the impenetrable, Remus the mysterious, Remus the quietly sexy, Remus the – shit, he's sitting right there with his damned eyes in a booth across from Sirius Sodding Black and his damned jawline, and I'd better turn right around and leave, whether Johanna is here or not.

"Evans!" It's Sirius, and I can't pretend not to have heard him, because I'm standing right here in the open doorway staring at his friend. Remus' smile slides up one side of his face more than the other, and I love that. For crying out loud, Lily, get a grip on yourself.

"'Lo," I say as I saunter over to them, all casual-like. If they only knew what a monster I'm turning into. And there's Sirius with his gaze like red-hot pokers and I can't meet it for more than three seconds at a time. I've counted. So I have to be cranky with him. "What mischief are you two up to tonight?" I ask with a hint of judgment. It helps to keep the monster under wraps. I hope.

But what if they can tell?

I put on a severe face as I stand over them, hands on hips. That should do it.

But Remus glances down at my hands and the hips under them and I feel a blush starting from somewhere in my knickers and traveling all the way up to my face. Oh, blimey.

"Boys' night out," replies Sirius with a wink. There's two-thirds of a bottle on the dirty table between them. How does he manage to get firewhiskey as a student? I'm not sure I want to know.

I mean to turn around and leave, but instead I say, "What, you mean Sirius Black doesn't have a date tonight?"

"Who says I haven't?" Sirius says, tossing back a swig of the fiery stuff and grinning libidinously as that gorgeous hair tumbles back down over one almond-shaped eye. Look away, look away.

Remus chuckles and shakes his head. His hair in the torchlight is dark golden honey and I want to drink it. Okay, time to get out of here, Lily, turn around.

"I'm meeting someone later," says Sirius. "Johanna something."

"Johanna Jacobs?" I say.

"Yeah, that sounds right."

When did this happen? I'm sitting down next to Sirius without even realizing what I'm doing. Everyone's got a date but me. And why didn't Johanna tell me? She was supposed to meet me here. But she knows – thinks – I don't care for Sirius Black. And she's right. But he's so –

"What about you?" I say to Remus. Oh, shut up, Lily, shut up, shut up, shut up …

"What about me?" he responds, looking up at me over the rim of his glass.

Bloody hell, those blue, blue eyes. Why didn't I leave when I had the chance? Keep the words clipped and curt. "Date?"

"Nope." And he grins. At me. Knees turn to jelly. I smile back and we share a moment. A moment? Bad idea. I stop smiling immediately.

"Me, neither." Did I just say that? I'm turning into the beast right here and now, right before their very eyes. A sex beast. Female specimen displays her availability and fertility before the males of the group. Ugh. Merlin, get me away from all men.

Sirius is watching us with those hawk eyes of his. He's handed me a glass and I sip from it, feeling the scorch as the lining of my esophagus shrieks and goes numb. I shudder. Wait, where did that glass come from, and why did I take it from him? I sip again and it goes down more smoothly. That's better. "Why not?" he asks.

"Why not what?" I say.

"Why don't you have a date?"

I blush. I don't want to talk about me, so I gesture across the table. "Why doesn't Remus have a date?" Because I really do want to know.

Sirius shoots him a knowing glance full of something, and I wonder what the something is. I look at Remus, and his smile isn't quite a real smile. And I wonder some more. He circles the rim of his glass with a finger. A long finger. I look down at my glass again, which I'm squeezing. Relax, Lily. Another sip.

"Beats me why he doesn't have a date," Sirius says in a mocking tone. "Ask me, it's his own damn fault." Remus throws back his firewhiskey and pours himself another, saying nothing. "But you, Evans," Sirius intones. "There's no sense in a girl like you not having a date every Saturday night."

"Oh, really," I say haughtily. But inside my stomach is quivering that someone like him would think that. I hope he's thinking it for the right reasons. He doesn't think of me as – or does he? Gods, those steely grey eyes. One-one thousand, two-one thousand, three-one thousand, look away. Sip.

"Really," says Sirius, pouring himself another firewhiskey and topping up mine. I let him. He's still staring at me, and that's all he needs to do. Why is it so easy for him? Why am I satisfied that his gaze, in and of itself, is a compliment? He doesn't have to actually say any words, and I'm a puddle.

I look at Remus. From the frying pan into the fire. His head is cocked to one side and he's raising his drink with a squint, one finger pointing at me around the glass as if he's about to make an observation. About me, no less. Oh, dear.

But then he stops. And smiles.

"What?" I say. Suddenly I'm desperate to know what Remus Lupin might think of me.

"Nothing," he replies, grinning over his glass. His lips find the rim and he takes a sip. Lips. Full. Voluptuous. On me.

"What?" I say again, more to distract myself than anything.

He assumes the same position, elbow on the table and pointing at me with one finger while the others curl around his glass. His face is relaxed, off-guard, and I really like that. He's been drinking for a while, and his eyes are a little glassy, and I like that, too.

"Men are afraid of you," he says sagely. He slugs back the firewhiskey and sets the glass down with a thunk as if he's just made a grand, irrefutable proclamation. In the corner of my vision, I see Sirius fill the glass again. Remus eyes me and drums his fingers on the table, waiting for me to respond.

Afraid of me? Men? When I'm so … so off-balance around them? "That's ridiculous," I say in a flat voice. I take a swig and wipe my mouth with the back of my hand. My eyes want to challenge Remus Lupin, and I let them. Where the courage comes from, I have no idea.

His brows go up briefly and he shrugs with eyes closed, as if to say, "Have it your way." But when he looks at me again, everything in his face says I'm wrong and he's right.

"That's it!" says Sirius, gesturing to him with both hands. "Men … boys, really … are afraid of her. They're afraid of you." He leans toward me in the booth, sliding an arm across the table so that he's crowding my space, his hand lying on the grimy wood right in front of me. I cower a little, because his body is so close. Oh, Merlin. I reach for my glass to have something to do, to somehow keep the appearance of cool when inside I'm screaming for that hand to touch me. It wouldn't take much, and he'd probably do it, too. But my friend is meeting him later and she probably has plans for that hand, and for the other one, as well.

"And why, exactly, are they afraid of me, Mister Smarty-Pants?" I shoot him an icy look, and it works. He backs up, leaning against the wall now, and I can breathe again.

"Because of that," he says, pointing a finger at me before he grabs his glass and raises it to his lips.

"Because of what?" I ask. He says nothing, sipping from his drink and glancing at Remus. "What?" I turn to Remus.

Remus shakes his head and smiles.

"What?" I demand.

He looks at me with that little grin and I melt. "Because you don't need us. You're … self-sufficient."

"What do you mean?"

Remus shrugs. "It's not a bad thing. You don't need to change it."

"Of course I don't need to change it!" I finish my drink and set it down. "What don't I need to change?"

Sirius refills my glass. "Not a thing, love." That rakish grin. Merlin, Merlin, Merlin get me out of here. I want them both now. Now. Remus and Sirius. I'm a mad beast and I need to be stopped. Where's the dart gun?

Sip. Ladylike. Keep it together.

How could they think I don't need them?

"Of course," Sirius goes on, "James is the only one with the stones to try to get past it, but he's – "

He trails off provocatively. Remus settles back in his seat, sipping thoughtfully, watching as Sirius lures me in. Because that's what he's doing, after all. Right?

"He's what?" I ask, unable to resist.

"I wasn't supposed to tell you." Sirius' eyes are twinkling and I know he'll tell me anyway.

"Tell me what?"

Remus is watching me carefully now.

"Tell me what?" I say to Remus.

"James has got a date tonight." Sirius' low voice in my ear and Remus' eyes on me soften the blow. I blink. Wait a minute. Blow? What blow? There wasn't supposed to be a blow but there is.

I thought James was mine.

No matter that I didn't want him. He was there. For the taking. And I could have dragged him into any broom cupboard in the country and he'd – he'd –

"Well, good for him," I say coldly. Smile. Sip. Who is she? I think, but I don't ask it. Better not to know. I don't care anyway. There are loads of blokes to pull into broom cupboards.

There's silence all around the table, as if something has changed for good. I feel strangely emotional and I cover it with a neutral face and a little more firewhiskey. We all sip quietly. This is weird. Weird. But it can't be weird, so I ask a stupid question, possibly the stupidest one I'll ever ask in my life.

"If I wanted to get the attention of a boy," I say to Sirius, carefully avoiding Remus' eyes, "what would I have to do?" No going back now.

Sirius shrugs. "You've already got his attention. That girl means nothing to James – "

"Well, we don't know that for certain – " Remus begins, his eyes on the table.

"But we know James," asserts Sirius, giving Remus a look that says Don't bollocks this up. But I appreciate what Remus is trying to do for me, if he's trying to release me from whatever imaginary bond that ties me to that arrogant prat. His eyes flit to me once before they fix on the table once more. And maybe there's something more behind his words? Something a little bit greedy and selfish? I, of all people, certainly can't blame him for that.

"Not James," I clarify, feeling my cheeks color. "Someone else." Let James have his girl, whoever she is, and more's the pity for her if the prat does still want me. I couldn't care less. I see how much I matter to him now, anyway. And besides, Remus Lupin is sitting right in front of me, and the torchlight is reflecting off his pale skin in a way that makes him look a little bit … imaginary. His cheekbones and chin and lips are chiseled like the statue of some saint, and I can see myself kneeling down to worship this one. I flush from the ground up again. "So what do I need to do?"

Sirius and Remus exchange a look. "Well, being alive is really all you need to do for a fellow – "

"Don't joke," I say, darting a hard look at Sirius. "What I mean is … what do you do?" There, it's out.

Sirius gazes at me for a moment and chuckles. Then he looks at Remus and laughs some more. Remus rolls his eyes. But I'm getting angry, and I know Sirius can see it because he puts up both hands to assuage me. "Sorry, love," he laughs. "I've just been waiting for Remus to ask me that question for as long as I've known him."

"As if I'd do what you do," Remus quips quietly.

"Well, it might help," Sirius retorts.

"And it would look as silly on me as a tutu on you."

"Don't knock bedroom role-playing," says Sirius gravely. Then he bursts into laughter, an infectious bark of a guffaw that makes me smile in spite of myself. Charming bastard.

"What do you do?" I ask again. It's not too late to be Sirius. I've got a year, haven't I? Before the end of life as I know it.

"Well," says Sirius, clearly happy for an audience and ready to share what's likely to be a wealth of knowledge, "it's science."

I'm dumbfounded. "Science?"

"Yes, it's all very scientific. And I've done more research than most – " Remus snorts and Sirius shushes him. " – so I know whereof I speak."

"What's your theory?" I ask.

He pauses dramatically, framing his next statement with his two hands. "It's anatomy and physiology," he says, eyebrows waggling. "The body never lies."

"Hmm," observes Remus. I can't tell if he agrees or if he's laughing at him.

"The body is more sincere than anything that could possibly come out of this lying mouth of mine, so I let it talk for me."

It makes sense. That's why girls flock to him. That's why he never has to make any promises. Why didn't I think of it?

"But it's more than how you look – " I begin.

"Oh, it's nothing to do with how you look," Sirius replies with an infectious grin. Easy for him to say. "Come on." And he's shoving me out of the booth with one hand on my shoulder and one on my hip. With his touch, I'm a puddle again; so I scowl at Remus, who is watching us intently. "To the wall."

And suddenly I'm against it, and Sirius Black is leaning on his elbow so that our bodies are very, very close. I want to cringe away from him, but there's nowhere to go with another booth on my left and Sirius' elbow on my right. So I stand here and try to look into his eyes.

And I become aware.

Aware of his scent, musky and strong and different. Aware of his eyes, grey and predatory and slightly mischievous and it's more than three seconds now, sweet Merlin, what am I doing? And his lips, with an irresistible curve I hadn't noticed before, and the sugary breath of too much firewhiskey, and they're so close to mine. And his body, the heat mingling with mine without even touching it, and every part of me wants him to press against me, press me into this wall, hands all over me, his mouth stopping my words, his groin ridding me of all shouldn'ts …

"See?" he whispers, and his breath tickles my mouth. I can smell his hair now. See the pulse in his neck.

I stare back at him and nod, my hands gripping the wall behind me. I'm trembling, but Sirius is as cool as a cucumber.

"It's science," he says, smiling. "You can do that. Can't you." It's not a question.

I nod again.

And he saunters back to the booth. My eyes follow him helplessly as I watch him fill up everyone's glass again, as if nothing out of the ordinary has just happened.

My knees want to buckle now, so I stroll with as much confidence as I can muster in my drunken and aroused stupor back to the table, next to Sirius. I'm blushing, I know, and I can't quite meet Remus' eyes. This is a dangerous power Sirius Black wields. And apparently I've had it all along, too. So has everyone. And you don't even have to do anything because it's just there. All you have to do is have the courage to let yourself get close enough … close enough so that your bodies can do the talking that your mouth is too afraid to do. I shudder and my eyes tentatively travel to Remus to try to gauge what power lies in that body. He's been watching me but he looks away as soon as I glance at him.

"Hi!" A breathy voice makes me look up. It's Johanna, wearing a new outfit, and suddenly I understand why she didn't take the time to let me know about her last-minute date plans. Shopping, of course. In her new summer dress, she looks lovely. Expectant. Hungry. I understand.

"Hello," Sirius says, drawing the word out. I look at his face and it says everything that words don't need to. "Scoot," he whispers to me. And I realize what I matter to him, which is not much. Well, it's not as if I'd want to marry him, either.

I slide out of the booth and Sirius stands, kissing my friend on her cheek, a hand resting easily on her waist. She blushes. She never blushes. I can't blame her, though.

"Sorry, Lily." Johanna seems contrite, and a little bit ashamed. "I should have told you about the change in plans – "

"It's all right," I interrupt, waving a hand at her as I sit down again. "Go. Enjoy your date." I wonder if she'll tell me about it later. But then again, I'm not sure if I want to know what I'm missing. They sidle off to another part of the pub and locate an empty booth in the corner. Sirius doesn't even offer a backward glance.

"And then there were two," says Remus wryly as he tops up our drinks. Well, at least Sirius had the decency to leave us the firewhiskey, although there's not much left.

"Cheers," I say, and we clink glasses. Our eyes remain locked as we sip, and my heart is beating hard. I've still not recovered from that wall business, and whatever the hell happened to me when I heard about James' date, and now Remus' eyes on me are sending me somewhere dark and needy. I'd really better not have any more to drink, but I can't seem to stop myself.

Sip. Light banter. "So you've never tried the scientific method, then?" Oh, well done, Lily. Sex on the brain, as always.

But to my surprise, Remus blushes, a pink flush that colors his pallid cheeks for just a moment. And I realize that I love that, too. "No, not really." That's all he says. His eyes are on his drink, and I stare at him, willing him to look at me.

He seems to feel my will, because he looks up, head cocked. He squints, as if I'm somehow too bright for him to look at. I smile. Three seconds, and he looks away.

Huh.

That satisfies. But immediately I want more.

There's silence for a while as we drink. "You've probably got your own method, I suppose." You daft, daft girl, let it go. But I can't. This power of making him squirm is too seductive.

"I don't believe in a method," he says. And his eyes are on me again. Three seconds. This time I look away.

But I force myself to look back. If there's really a science to all this mumbo-jumbo, then I prefer to be the experimenter, not the subject. "But a non-method is still a choice," I prod. "You're into chaos theory, then?"

Remus chuckles. "You could say that." And he's silent again, drinking. His eyes go dark. He clears his throat.

"I'm sorry," I say, though I don't know why.

He stares at me, startled. "It's all right," he says carefully, and I don't know the why to that, either.

We share a moment, and I have no idea what it is. What this is. But it's here, and we're in it.

Remus clears his throat again and hesitates before speaking. His fingers trace designs on his glass while he considers. "Are you – are you okay? About James going out with someone else?"

"Of course," I answer, hopefully not too quickly. Because, as wounded as my ego might be, I'm desperately curious about why Remus is asking me this. "Why wouldn't I be?"

"I don't know," he says with a twist of a smile. "Force of habit, I guess."

I laugh, because that part of his reasoning is spot-on. I'm in the habit of having James Potter after me, that's true. I sigh, tired of pretending. "He shouldn't have to wait around for me forever, Remus."

And then Remus gives me The Look, the one that makes me glad I'm sitting down with a glass of firewhiskey in my hand. The one that tells me I'm the only thing he sees, that my image is burned into some deep recess of his mind, perhaps permanently. And I like that very, very much. But what he says next I like even more. "But Lily, you're the girl I'd – he'd – a bloke would want to wait around for."

And his cheeks turn bright scarlet, which I've never, ever seen before on him. And he can't look me in the eye. And he laughs into his drink and wipes a hand over his chin. And suddenly I adore him.

As I watch him, that flush doesn't fade, but he raises his gaze to meet mine head on, even though he knows what he's just said and I know he meant it. And his eyes are blazing and my heart is pounding.

This is the only warning he'll get, so I'm glad he's paying attention. "I'll burn you alive, Remus."

To my delight, he smiles. It's tentative and hopeful and little bit afraid, and my entire being leans tenderly inward to hear his next words. "I can think of no better way to die."

And no better response than that one. So before I can stop myself, I whisper to him, "Do you want to get out of here?"

"Yes," he says without hesitation, his voice barely audible over the din of the pub. And his eyes look at me in a different way. We're together now, they say. And I realize it's true in this moment, the way it wasn't true five seconds ago. The moment prolongs as we watch each other. We're creating something right now, and we both know it. He pours the last of the firewhiskey into our glasses and we take our time. It's the moment before chaos begins and I want to savor it.

"There are things that happen in our lives," Remus says. He pauses, takes a breath, and continues slowly, as if the words coming out of his mouth are causing the epiphany, rather than the other way around. "Initially, that first thing may seem random. That first thing is random. But then other things happen because of the first thing. The butterfly effect, if you will." I realize he's going on, and I stare at his face, his eyes, his mouth. I watch his hands move as he talks. His voice is soft and husky and I let the sound of it calm me, like rain sinking into parched earth. "And the reasons for those subsequent things happening may not be clear at first, until you trace them back to the initial thing. So it's really not chaos at all. It's deterministic, don't you see? I mean, that's a simplified way of looking at it, but – "

"No, I get it," I say. This is important, I think. He's opening a window. Letting me in. The blush in my knickers deepens.

"And we may make choices, you see, but the choices we make are all based on that one thing happening. So do we really have free will, after all? Or are we merely playing out chaos theory in our own lives?"

"And over time, even choices begin to seem like fate," I say. This is like a dream, I think. Let me not wake up, because things won't be as pretty in the morning.

"Exactly," says Remus softly, in a voice pitched just for me.

I smile, because I can't help it. "But they are choices."

"Are they?" He's nearly done with his firewhiskey, and I'm not sure I want him to be. Because then what? Then …

"They are."

"I suppose."

"And you could always make a different choice." I take a small sip from my glass. "There will always be someone – you, for example – who will say that even a totally spontaneous, out-of-character choice could be blamed on some butterfly effect. But you'd be wrong."

"Really?" He leans forward, elbows on the table, glass balanced precariously between his long fingers.

He needs to believe me so I reassure him, although even now I think I know what my own butterfly effect was, and what the chaos following it will be. "Really," I say with more confidence than I feel. And he accepts that; I see it in the way his face relaxes. I swallow the rest of my drink at once, ready to make my choice. The glass goes down on the table and I stand up. "Come on."

I wait for him. Remus tosses back the rest of his drink and joins me, all arms and legs and boy scents and I want to lean scientifically into him right here and now, making him quiver the way Sirius did me, setting him afire the way I've been for months now for no reason at all. But I turn my back on him and walk – rather steadily, surprisingly enough – to the door. I know he's right behind me.

I'm a beast and I don't care.

We're outside and I take his hand as we walk up the road that leads back to school. But that's not where I'm headed. It's warm tonight and there's a field, ripe for rutting in, if a fellow beast will follow me there.

Scientific method. Chaos theory. Primitive urges mixed with firewhiskey. And choices disguised as fate. The moon overhead, waning but bright, shining on us in this moment because the earth has turned its face in the other direction. The flowers and long grasses, ready to reach for the sun when it comes up again tomorrow after the earth moves a bit more.

The way he smells.

The way his hand feels around mine.

The warm, hard ground of the field we're walking into, reverently, as if it were a church, or fearfully, as if it were a lake of fire.

My choice. His.

Testing the theory as I lean into him at last, and he's trembling. I'm trembling. And yes, our bodies are sincere. They won't lie for us. There's power in his body, and it makes me quake. And there's power in mine, and it brings him to his knees.

Arms and legs and torsos. Mouths and necks and eyes. Flesh over muscle. Fistfuls of hair. Scents and sounds and movement and words, but language is irrelevant as we oblivious subjects willingly consent to the study. We are the study. He is mine. I am his. Over and over and over again, until the earth finishes turning round, until the embers of the nighttime fires are cold.


A/N: Reviewers get to explore chaos theory with Remus, or the scientific method with Sirius (or both, if you prefer!).