Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter.
AN: I know what all of you are saying. "FINALLY!" or perhaps even "I thought this would be a dead ficlet!" but now that Xenophobia is over and the requests are also dwindling down, I have every intention to finish this story, as I had planned originally. So sit back, relax, enjoy, and perhaps even reread some of the last chapters to remember what happened. :D
"Remus," Sirius greeted as the tawny-haired man entered the dark estate of the Blacks, "I was unaware of the fact that you had left."
Remus readjusted his coat and slipped off his gloves. "There is a terrible blizzard storming up out there – I want to make sure to that there is some food here – I am not doing picking any berries in that weather." He gave Sirius a contemplative look before enveloping him in a hug.
"The fireplace needs wood," Sirius said immediately. "The estate is going to be an ice brick in a few hours."
Remus shook his head. "If you want a warm house, Sirius, go out there and collect some wood. I have spent enough time out there."
Sirius sighed. "Must I?" he asked half-heartedly, and pecked Remus on the cheek as he stood up.
"Have I not cleared this issue up yet? We can have a cold estate this winter if that is what you fancy living through."
"I… I do not fancy living through a cold estate," Sirius finally admitted. "I will go collect the wood."
"I know what you are thinking," Remus said with a sigh. "The last time you were in this house you had maids to do this sort of thing and no one bothered you about it."
"That is not… I…" Sirius walked towards the door to collect the wood without any more discussion, but something outside of the window caught his eye.
Brushing by the curtain and coughing slightly at the dust billowing around them, Sirius smirked out of the window.
"Ah. Snape," he muttered. "When I met him the other day I did not realize that his hair was such an unsanitary thing."
"You met him?" Remus piped up from the corner, eyebrows raised curiously. He flawlessly opened his buttons of his jacket before meticulously hanging his coat on the door hooks. "When?"
Sirius turned away from the window. "He was… sitting on the steps of the Evans Estate," he waved his hand idly, "like he was waiting for someone."
"Was he?" Remus inquired curiously.
"Of course," said Sirius, "Miss Evans. I told him that I had known her and that my friend had run away with her… he knew, of course. And then he told me that most people ignore him because he was abnormal. I told him I related to him, and that I was homosexual–"
"What?!" Remus interrupted, and promptly dropped the scarf he had been removing from his neck.
"What is it?" asked Sirius concernedly.
"You told Severus Snape that you were homosexual?"
"Yes. He didn't seem too fazed–"
Remus' fingers flew up over his mouth. "Tell me you are playing with me, Sirius," he ordered, and Sirius shook his head, "Not only does Snape abhor me, but homosexuality is frowned upon beyond belief, Sirius! How could you have simply forgotten? We could be arrested – killed, for that matter!" Remus ejaculated furiously.
Sirius shook his head. "Snape would not have told anyone."
"Yes, he would have, Sirius," Remus corrected, his nostrils flaring lividly. "In our era and in our places, homosexuality is a disease, a psychological deviancy, not a choice!"
Sirius let his paled hands brush away the strands of black hair that had fallen lifelessly into his face. Limply, his mouth fell open into a gape. "They could not kill us. It would be injustice."
"That doesn't matter, Sirius," Remus brushed off unimportantly, "don't you understand? Between 1800 and 1834 over eighty men were hung here, in Great Britain!"
Sirius rushed over, putting his hand on Remus' shoulder consolingly.
"But – your mother and father understood, Remus. Why should everyone else not?"
Remus shook his head sternly, his jaw set, "My – my mother never accepted me," he confessed, "I could tell when I told her about us. She never approved of me being homosexual. The only person who ever didn't care was my father, and that was because he loved me."
Sirius squeezed the other man's hand. "That is not true," he said firmly, "I love you. Miss Evans cared for you very deeply as a friend."
Remus stared at the floor. "Please, Sirius," he said grimly, "I cannot even look at you right now. How could you have so foolishly told a stranger about this?"
Sirius shook his head. "I did not know."
The tawny-haired man jerked his body from Sirius' grasp, "Then maybe you should look into that," he advised coldly, "but now I do not want to deal with you. You need to grow up, Sirius, and learn what is wrong and right."
"Remus," the black-haired man began slowly, not comprehending the seriousness of the conversation, "I have thoughtlessly made a mistake. It was irrational. But all I can do now is ask for forgiveness. Sometimes forgiveness can be the most complete type of revenge."
The other man refused to connect eyes with Sirius, "You have acquired yourself many mistakes lately. You cannot do whatever you want whenever you want, Sirius. Maybe when you have learned that you can see me."
It was when Remus stepped away from Sirius and reached for his coat that Sirius realized that he was leaving the house. As he stepped noisily on the floorboards that creaked Sirius couldn't help but resemble it to the creaking of his heart and the panic that was beginning to rise up in his chest. His best friend had abandoned the town. Without Remus, what would he have left? He knew that Sirius should not have let all of his faith rest in a thing like his ineffably forbidden relationship with Remus – a homosexual, out of boundaries, gentlemen don't do that relationship, but it was the first time he had ever experienced something besides lust for a person. If the man before him would leave his house never to return again, what would be left in Sirius' life? It would be dull, washed away and forgotten, because no lady of any amount of petite-ness, politeness, or prettiness could replace someone like Remus.
Sirius stood up, grabbing Remus' arm.
"You are the only thing in my life that matters to me, Remus. James is gone."
A wry, exasperated expression replaced Remus' one of fuming rage concealed beneath the skin. "Oh," he said quietly, "I am a replacement of Potter. And not a very efficient one either, apparently, seeing as you felt the need to rattle this all of to Snape, of all people."
"I did not know, Remus!" Sirius pleaded desperately. Weeks ago, what was Sirius? He was still a gentleman. He bowed his hat for ladies and knew all of the ballroom dances by heart just to impress women. He had self-control and an immovable sense of confidence. The air that floated around him purely read that he was going to capture the world in his fingers in two seconds and that he knew just how to do it. Sirius was not a man helplessly in love with another gentleman – one that did not return his love. He was a larrikin, a joker, a hopeless prankster that found amusement in everything in life.
Sirius had changed.
Sirius was now a man that did not find interest in winking suggestively at handsome ladies or attending banquets and wearing his fanciest suit simply because it made him look dashing. He no longer carried an airy sense of loftiness and buoyancy bordering on the line of arrogance, now he was a man who didn't know how to please his partner. He didn't know his way around the maze anymore. He didn't know how to get what he wanted from his relationships anymore. He was now a man who had to suffer the deplorableness of unrequited love and who didn't know if what he said was a mistake or a compliment. He was still a joker, but James was no longer his partner in pranking. He was no longer the suave, chauvinistic Casanova of the village. He had crossed the lines of boundaries of young men. He was a homosexual.
He was no longer a gentleman.
Remus impatiently yanked his arm from Sirius' grasp, "Do you not remember a few weeks ago when we standing on top of Miss Evan's patio, arguing about who won over the lady? Or when my family's maid caught us in the kitchen. Do you not remember what I repeated to you many times these past few weeks?"
Sirius stared at the floor. His impeccably shiny shoes were a bright contrast from the floor's musty appearance. Shuffling his soles around, dust scuffed up on the bottom of his shoe.
"Gentleman don't do that." Sirius replied silently.
"That is right, Sirius," Remus said bitterly, his own words suppressing the watery tears that threatened to spill, "and now you've betrayed my trust. Gentlemen don't do that either."
"I am not a gentleman anymore, Remus. I do not have the right to call myself that."
"I suppose you aren't." the other man managed to choke out miserably before thrusting his jacket onto his arms and rushing out of the door before his brave face crumbled.
Sirius stared impassively at the door that swung shut in front of him. The blast of cold air that blew into the house was nothing compared to the chilliness that Sirius was feeling inside his core.
How many times would he have to win over Remus Lupin?
Maybe you can't, a tiny voice mentioned in Sirius' head, maybe you do not deserve someone like Remus.
Sirius stared at the abandoned house; the peeling and terribly old-fashioned wallpaper, the faded wooden floors that creaked in every step, the dusty couches that Sirius had never bothered to use simply because they were tainted with his parent's scent, and the dark, barely-lit hallway with flickering candles that had almost reached their end.
He remembered James sitting at the table with him, chatting about days before Miss Evans had come to the village. Sirius was a hopeless lady's man and James was a terribly unpopular candidate for a spouse. Sirius was at the height of his age, and James was at the bottom of his.
Sirius disconsolately sighed, thinking of how different things would be if Miss Evans and James were still in town. Would Remus have forced to marry Miss Evans despite his protests? Would Sirius have been able to maintain his relationship with the man with the occasional advice from James or perhaps even Miss Evans?
All of these what ifs were nothing to compared to the thought of what if I had not told Snape about Remus and I?
He was in love with Mr. Lupin, and just as he had done before, he would win him back.
It would be his challenge.
At first, Remus had simply walked out of a door into a storming blizzard. Then he realized that he had walked into a high chance of hypothermia while walking out of Sirius' life.
He never should have expected for the two of them to make it far. They were two gentlemen, and gentlemen don't do that sort of thing. It was amazing that Remus had let it go as far as he did.
Pushing his collar up his neck to the hem of his hair, Remus bowed his hair away from the pushing wind and flying snow while cradling his hands around his mouth, profusely blowing in warm puffs of air. Stomping through the snow, Remus headed for the first place that he knew he could return to –
Lupin Cottage, and his previous home.
He realized that his mother was prejudiced of him and his recent affairs, but she was still his parent and that meant not being able to resist to her son being stuck out in a snowstorm with a scarlet nose and flushed cheeks. Bigotry against homosexuality was common, but Remus hoped that he could convince her that what he had been previously involved in was part of his past and that it was pushed behind him. Hormones, experimenting, blackmails and bribing were all quick excuses that flashed into Remus' brain.
Remus rushed through the snow, realizing how with every footstep the air around him seemed to be getting chillier. He was just about ready to pass out unceremoniously in the snow out of hypothermia when Remus could faintly see the outlines of his house in through the sleet of snow.
He darted up the steps and rapped profusely and meaningfully on the door, attempting to shout through the flurries. He hoped that his mother did not choose this hour to leave the house. More desperately, he knocked on the door.
The door opened carefully and Remus found himself face to face with his maid, who creaked the door open farther when she saw the man on the threshold.
"Come in, Mr. Lupin." she greeted dustily, closing the door hastily as snow threw itself into the snugly warm house.
"Is my mother here?"
"Upstairs, sir." The maid said curtly before hurrying back to the dishes in the sink.
Remus' mother had been most unpleased by Remus' unexpected and sudden plea of housing from the Lupin Cottage, for it was a favor unsuspected and seemingly fruitless seeing as Remus made the decision to leave his parent's house when he started a homosexual relationship.
"The house has been very empty since your father died."
Remus stared at his feet, avoiding his mother's piercing gaze.
"Look your mother in the eye, child," she snapped coldly.
The tawny-haired man tentatively met gazes with his mother, "I apologize that I missed the funeral."
Pursing her lips, his mother lit another candle to bring light to the steadily darkening room, "I realize that you have no where to go, Remus. But if I let you stay here, you must promise me that you will not go fleeing off again the moment you change your mind. I know that you are an adult who needs to experiment with his life, but it was irresponsible what you did. Quite foolish."
"Yes, mother. I am sorry."
"But everyone deserves a second chance, so I am willing to let you stay here again." His mother announced curtly. A faint smile played on Remus' lips.
"Yes. Second chances are always acceptable." He did not realize that he was going against the words he had spoken to Sirius merely a few hours ago.
"However," his mother began sharply, "you must promise me something. You will marry a fine young lady with a steady income and a reputable family."
Remus snapped up his head, "A lady?"
"Why, yes." she said, slightly aggrieved, acting as though there would be no other choice except for her son to marry a wealthy woman.
"Mother," Remus began hesitantly, "I do not think you understood me when I visited you here a while ago. I was not just experimenting with my youth. I am not a man who was meant to marry a lady."
"Remus, this is absolutely preposterous. Stop playing games with your mother this instance. It is not humorous." Oblivious and stubborn to see the truth, Remus' mother gave her son a stern look.
"Mother, this isn't a game. I am in love with–"
Sharply, Remus stopped himself and drew in the breath he had saved for the last of his sentence.
But his mother had heard the stumble. She inhaled a heavy breath before crossing her arms and stonily eyeing her child as though he was a misbehaving child, "I do not care if you are in love with Mr. Black, Remus. Perhaps your father was all right with his only child being homosexual, but I for one am not. You have an obligation as a gentleman. You are to be the husband to a lady and meet all of her needs. Not experiment with your sexuality and convince yourself that you have fallen in love with the nastiest man in our village."
"I'm sorry, mother."
"Remus, I have spent almost my entire life raising you the best I could manage. And among your growth I have taught you rules and manners. And you have defied most of my rules among the past month. You have sought out a relationship with a man. And gentleman don't do that."
"I know." Remus replied in a small, beaten voice. Defeated, he slumped his shoulders and sighed.
"Now let me ask you this. If you are in love with Mr. Black, then why are you pleading with me to live here?"
Sirius, quite frankly, did not know how exactly he was supposed to make up his mistake to Remus. Chewing his lower lip, he stared obsessively out the window and pressed his forehead against the cool glass. A small pile of snow had gathered itself up on the sill of the window. The blizzard was still blowing frantically through the town, and Sirius, who had never been very fond of the snow, felt as though the sky was raining down exactly what he was feeling right now. Despair, distress, frantic urgency, coldness.
He knew that this coldness wouldn't go away until he got Remus back.
He could go back to pretending as though they had never even had a relationship and act suave and sexily sophisticating to capture the man back. He could plead and beg. He could run away like James did and try to find life somewhere else; forgetting about the growing burden on his shoulder that felt like the world but was actually Remus. He could let time take its course so Remus would start missing him.
Sirius sighed, his breath rattled in worry.
What the hell had Remus Lupin turned Sirius into?
His eyes drooping, Sirius felt a small, salty tear drip from his eyelashes into his lap. He was crying.
Chastising himself, Sirius hastily wiped the tears threatening to spill away from his eyes and drew a sturdy and strong breath to compose himself, "Gentlemen don't do that." he scolded, wiping yet again at his eyes.
"I wish you were, father."
Remus stood beside the cement grave dug in the yard, covered in soft flurries and surrounded in loose and unturned soil that was dug up only a few weeks ago.
Remus drew a shuddering breath, not sure if it was the cold and numbness that was spreading up his toes at a freakishly rapid rate or the deplorableness of the situation. Delicately, he laid down a slightly wilting pair of white roses on top of the grave, letting the tears fall down his cheeks without bother. Immediately the flowers were adorned with a pretty coat of snow, nice enough to be painted into a portrait. Remus stared fixedly at the stone grave, LUPIN etched carefully into its front.
Sinking down to his knees, Remus looked at the grave as though it held all the answers in the world.
"You always understood me more than mother did. You always knew what was best for me, and what I would want. You knew what I wanted and what I needed and best of all, you knew the difference. Before I never valued your presence that much. Now that I so desperately need your advice, you are no longer with me."
This time as Remus continued his ramble, he stared into the sky fixedly, ignoring the bitterly cold snowflakes that fell onto his face and into his eyes.
"I hope you are feeling all right up there, father. I miss you more than you can imagine."
The snowflakes pounded more furiously on Remus' paling face. "I never said it very much, father. But I must declare that I love you. You were more than just my parent, but you were my friend."
Remus paused to wipe away the torrent of tears that were washed down his cheeks. "I feel lost right now. I am in love with a man who thinks I hate him. I want to go back to him, but I fear that I will get killed for being involved with a man. Gentlemen don't do that. I broke the rules and no one supports me. I know you would have. You did."
The man ignored the fact that his fingers were turning a faint blue and that his teeth were beginning to chatter. Snow was soaking through his pants.
"You would have known what to do, father. And if you can hear me and see me pleading, please, give me a sign of what I should do."
A cold gust of wind blew over Remus' chin, but the sky remained silent still. No sign; no cryptic message in the clouds, no sudden realization breaking through Remus' thoughts and mind, only cold and hard wind.
Remus sighed, looking at the canvas covered ground, undisturbed and white as an eagle's feather.
It's not like he believed in miracles or booming voices from the sky. He just believed in his father.
"I'm sorry if I ever let you down, father."
Impatiently, Sirius stomped his foot on the ice-slicked patio and repeatedly slammed his elbow onto the door.
"Snape! Severus Snape! Mr. Snape!"
Finally, as the whirlwind of flurries blew around Sirius' head, a man cautiously opened the door and stared into Sirius' eyes. There, on the threshold, stood Snape, his dull and distrustful black eyes boring into Sirius'.
"Is there something I can help you with, Black?" he asked airily.
"Yes." Sirius said automatically, forcing his way into the warmth of the house. It didn't matter right now that Sirius didn't respect or honor Snape like the other men in the town, or that he was quite honestly disgusted by the mess in front of him. It didn't matter at all.
"In what manner of my speaking were you invited inside?" Severus pointed out, grimacing as snow crumbled off of Sirius' boots.
"That is all right," Sirius brushed off, "I need to know that you did not tell anyone about me being homosexual."
Wryly, Snape smiled. "You and Lupin. I remember vividly."
Sirius was impatient, "Did you share this information with anyone? Any town's people?"
Hand still on the doorknob, Snape smirked, smugger still, "Oh no," he drawled, "except for the sheriff."
As if someone had dumped ice water over his head, Sirius was ready to faint right there in Severus Snape's foyer. He couldn't have heard correctly. He can't have.
"Please tell me you are a teller of untruths."
Snape, pleased, shook his head, "Indeed not, Black."
Sirius didn't have time to lose. At this confirmation, he sprinted from the house, almost slipping on the icy steps.
He realized that Britain was harsh with homosexuals. He realized that they often resorted to death as punishment. He realized that he and Remus both didn't have a way out anymore. He realized that Remus had been right; Sirius had made a mistake bigger than what he could ever make up in return.
What he never, ever, wanted to happen was that the sheriff found Remus before he found Sirius.