Remus Lupin was not a girl.
Sirius tried to remind himself of that fact as he flicked ash onto the snow covered roof. He shivered and pulled his cloak more tightly around him. It was mid-January and he was out on the slightly pitched roof of the Charms hallway. He climbed out of the window and continued along until he was out of view of anyone in the school. This was Sirius Black's private spot.
It would surprise a good percentage of the Hogwarts population that Sirius thought of more than just sex, cigarettes, and ways to humiliate Slytherins. The idea that Sirius occasionally had psychological dilemmas and debates that required silence, deep thought, and solitude was bizarre and unimaginable.
James was the only person who knew about Sirius's hideout: and he would never mention it to a living soul. At that exact moment if someone were to ask James where his best friend was he would respond with a shrug saying, "What am I, his keeper?" It was quite probable that those people who believed that Sirius thought of nothing more than the Marauders' next prank were sure this was indeed the case. Sirius was eternally thankful for James's dishonesty in terms of this issue.
Sirius stared at the smoldering tip of his unfiltered cigarette, watching as it slowly disintegrated into soft gray ashes. He sighed before replacing it between his lips. He released a smoky wolf from his mouth the way most people blew smoke rings (a spell he'd invented himself that allowed him to create all kinds of shapes with the formless gray smoke). He watched it streak gently through the air before sitting down and throwing its head back in a long, noiseless howl. This howl seemed a final act, a silent scream as it dissipated into the crisp winter air.
Remus Lupin was not a girl.
So why did he keep thinking of him like one? Well, no, not exactly. He never envisioned Remus with breasts or full hips. The problem was that he thought of Remus as strictly male.
He wanted Remus the way he used to want girls. He wanted to kiss Remus. He wanted to pull him close. He wanted to hold him. He wanted to have him. He wanted to touch him, to know every inch of him, trace every scar. He wanted to feel his skin under his fingers, under his mouth. He wanted to taste him. Sirius felt warm desire rising in the pit of his stomach. He swallowed hard as if that would extinguish the feeling.
He cursed and kicked a thick snow patch over the edge of the roof. He watched as the snow, quickly tumbling downward, separated in the air. He was satisfied when in hit the ground in a tiny, wet mushroom cloud.
For months he'd been trying to deny his growing desires for one of his best friends. He couldn't want him. It wasn't right. A bloke didn't like blokes. Not that way. He was suffering from some form of delusion. Maybe he had a fever. After all, he liked girls. He'd had a relationship with (i.e. slept with or dated for the span of possibly a week) almost every girl in his year. With the exception of those he was related to, of course. He may have been a Black, but he wasn't incestuous like the rest of them. No, he thought bitterly, you're just a poof. He kicked more snow down the roof from beneath his feet. This time he didn't watch it.
How could he be a Nancy? Maybe it was contagious. Maybe that Ravenclaw sixth year, Thalia Maguire, who everyone was so sure was a dyke, gave it to him. (She was one of the few girls he had not been able to bed, despite his best efforts.)
He heard the window to his right open and the sound of a tapestry (which depicted St. George slaying a huge green dragon with a well placed spell) moving back. He looked over to see James struggling up onto the roof.
"Class is about to start," James said. "You coming?"
"I dunno," Sirius said honestly.
"What's wrong?" asked James. "You've been acting really oddly lately."
"Have I?" Sirius asked, as if he didn't already know.
"You've been quiet lately and it's really unnerving. You've been downright" - James sniggered a little - "serious."
Sirius didn't meet James's eyes nor did he offer his usual response to that imfamous pun. ("That got old the day I was born.") The smile disappeared from James's face as he sat down next to his friend, trying to get a good grip against the snow.
"Clean the spot off. Be careful standing," was all Sirius said.
"In other words, 'don't die,'" James said, digging in the snow to find the roof below.
Sirius didn't even smile.
"What's wrong?" James asked again, using his wand to melt a clean patch for him to sit on.
"Have you ever," Sirius asked, staring straight ahead, "ever had a thing… for… for another… you know… another bloke?"
"WHAT?!" James slid down the roof before realizing a few more feet meant death. "What? Why? No! Who said that? Is Snivlley spreading rumors?"
"No, it's me. I'm the Nancy," Sirius said, regretting he ever brought it up.
"You? You like a bloke? It's not me, right?" He inched away from Sirius as if he'd already heard the answer.
"No, it's not you. And good job listening to my problem, git," Sirius said, pitching his spent cigarette butt of the roof. He reached into the pocket of his robe and regarded the nearly empty pack before pulling out another cigarette and lighting it with the tip of his wand. "It's not you. It's…er…it's… I don't… I can't say."
"Yeah? Can I guess?" James asked.
"Can you tell me what House they're in?" asked James.
"I… James… look, I…."
"Alright, alright, what about their year?" James asked. "Or their hair color? Can you tell me anything?"
"Brunette," Sirius said shortly, through a veil of smoke.
"That really limits it," snorted James. "I was hoping for redhead at least. Green would have been a big help too."
"I need advice James!" Sirius snapped. "I need to know how to fix this!"
"Tell me who it is and maybe that'll help. I need to know exactly what's going on," James answered calmly.
Sirius turned away again. He bit his lip before answering, "It's Remus, happy?"
"REMUS?!" James said, so loudly they heard it echo off the tower across the courtyard from them.
"Shut up!" hissed Sirius. "You think I want this getting out!?"
"Sorry, mate, sorry! It's just…. You like REMUS? You want REMUS? He's your friend!"
"You act like I don't know that!" said Sirius angrily. "I can't get away from it, even when I try. He's everywhere, bleeding everywhere! I can't get away! I think about him all the bloody time!" He ran his hands through his hair before grabbing it at the roots.
"Don't go mad," James said, "how long has this been going on?"
"Months," Sirius said shortly.
"Merlin, that why you stopped with the girls?" James asked. "I thought maybe you got something… embarrassing."
"I did. I got poofy," Sirius said, eyes hooked on his wet, sneakered feet. James laughed a little. "Oh, shut up!"
"It's not that, it's not that! It's just that, think about it. Remus is the poofiest bloke I can think of. I mean, I don't want to set you two up because… well, you know…"
"Yeah, I know," Sirius tried to smile.
"But maybe he's as Nancy-ish as you are," James finished.
"Doubt it," Sirius said.
"Pessimist," said James.
"Realist," Sirius corrected him.
"Give me one good reason. He's never shown any interest in girls, he's so girly. I mean, I don't see a reason why he isn't one," James explained.
"Nancys are rare, aren't they," countered Sirius. "Two in one dorm seems like a long shot."
James shrugged, then asked, "Are you going to talk to him about it?"
Sirius laughed darkly, "and say what? 'Hello Remus, I am a poof and have a crush on you, would you allow me to suck your cock?'"
James made a face, "graphic, that."
Sirius shrugged again.
"Maybe you should start with a snog," James sniggered.
"This is serious!" Sirius shouted, realizing too late what he'd said. James laughed loudly for a few minutes. He had always been a sucker for puns. "Shut up!" Sirius snapped. "I'm not telling him because… it would be weird. Can you imagine if Peter came up to you and told you he liked you that way?"
"I'd probably ask him what he'd been drinking. Sorry, I know I'm not being helpful, it's just… weird. No offense," James said.
"None taken. I know exactly what you mean," Sirius sighed.
"How long has this been like this? Give me a month," James said.
"September. First day of term," said Sirius. "1 September 1975, worst day of my life."
"How did it happen? Was it just like all of a sudden? Were you looking at him and then suddenly you were like, 'Merlin, I'd love to touch him in inappropriate ways'?" James asked.
"Kind of. It was when we met up with him on the platform. He came out of a group of people with that quiet little smile of his and I just couldn't stop looking at him. It was like I was seeing him for the first time. I started noticing things about him that I'd never noticed before. The streaks of brown in his eyes, stuff like that. And before I knew it I was thinking about him constantly and now… here I am," smoke jetted out of Sirius's nose.
"Talk to him," James said. "What have you got to lose?"
"What have I got to lose? Let's see, my dignity, my popularity, my friend, oh, and my life as soon as my parents find out!" Sirius said angrily, ticking off his possible losses on his fingers.
"Alright, alright, it was a dumb question," James said, holding up his hands in surrender to Sirius's logic. "But if it's driving you mad, you have to do something."
"I know, believe me," he responded darkly.
There was a long pause. "I don't know what to tell you," James sighed, "I really want to help, I just… I don't know how."
"Yeah, thanks," Sirius said, still not meeting James's eyes.
"You're going to freeze," James pointed out, "come in."
"Maybe I should," Sirius muttered.
"What? Freeze?" James asked.
"Yeah, or throw myself off the roof or something," Sirius said, leaning forward. He was envisioning himself falling, head first, in the same path as the earlier snow. He saw himself falling. Wind whistled in his ears. He saw the ground getting closer and closer and closer until…
"Stop," James grabbed his shoulder and brought him back to the real world where he was still seated on the roof, cigarette between his nicotine stained fingers. "You're coming in with me now." James pulled him into the window and Sirius complied, limp as a rag doll. Sirius dropped his cigarette onto the tiled and put it out with his foot.
They walked down to the dungeons in silence. James occasionally cast a sideways glance at his friend as if checking to make sure he was still there. They were in the Potions corridor, the door handle in James's hand when Sirius said, "he's in there."
"Yeah," James said, "like he always is. Just try to stomach it."
"It's not my stomach I'm worried about," Sirius muttered.
"Hold out a little longer," said James, "I know you can."
"Yeah, I've been doing it since September," Sirius gave a weak smile.
James patted him on the shoulder and gave him a reassuring smile. "My mum always says, 'things happen for a reason and everything works out for the best.'"
"Your mum's full of shit," Sirius said.
"Nice," said James, pulling opened the classroom door.
Professor Slughorn was seated at his desk. The students had already started on their assignment. The teacher's eyes flicked to the clock above the door, then to his own watch as if he didn't believe what the clock was telling him.
"Sorry we're late," said James truly apologetically, as if being late for Potions was a fate far worse than death. "We had a minor emergency." The best way to lie, both James and Sirius knew, was not to overdue it. Don't give your reason for being late unless asked. If asked never say something like "I overslept." Make it good, "my owl was really sick," "my extra credit Herbology project attacked me," (don't ham up this performance or the teacher would ask Madam Pomfrey if the student in question was alright, to which she would have no answer) or "Peeves held me up." Those were all good ones. But it was important to have a large repertoire as telling the same lie twice could land you in detention.
"Not a problem Mr. Potter, Mr. Black," said Professor Slughorn warmly. They never needed to say anything to Slughorn. Thank God for the Slug Club. "Pettigrew and Lupin will be able to fill you in, I'm sure. They haven't been doing well without you two." He said this last part with a wink. Although he was a huge fan of Peter's wealthy and highly successful mother it was obvious that his relationship to her was not worth his apparent incompetence in Slughorn's eyes, and Remus was a poor mangy half-blood with no connections in either the Muggle or Wizarding world and no talent in Potions. Sirius snarled, but Slughorn seemed not to notice.
It was bizarre. The room seemed to smell like Remus. Remus smelled like dust, chocolate, and a dark something. Something hidden and animal, something wild. There was no other way to describe it; it was this old inhuman scent, like an old-growth forest. He could smell Remus, motor oil and cigarettes. It was practically overpowering, it filled him completely and he closed his eyes, praying the feeling growing in the pit of his stomach would subside and not turn into a hard-on. He looked over at James, hoping that would snap him out of it. James had a dumb smile on his face, his eyes far off and glazed. Sirius wondered if he smelled Remus too and why he seemed so happy about it.
James dragged him to their table where Peter was cutting blowfish hearts into tiny pieces with a thin silver scalpel. Remus was seated at the edge of the table, his amber eyes staring unblinkingly at the instrument. He looked a bit like a cornered animal, those strange eyes taking in everything his enemy did. He was ready to fight tooth and claw for survival. You can't really blame him, that thing cuts him and not even Madam Pomfrey would be able to help him, thought Sirius. He suddenly felt the urge to take the knife from Wormtail and throw it, possibly into the closest Slytherin's forehead. He just wanted to get rid of it. He didn't want Remus to be so scared. It was stupid, the scalpel was an inanimate object and Remus had been dealing with this… allergy… since he was seven-years-old. But he physically had to stop himself from doing it.
Sirius had a silver knife. It was a family heirloom that belonged to his father until Sirius took it off his dresser when he was eleven. It was a magical skeleton key, really. It was how the Marauders managed to get everywhere in the school. Sirius formally used it frequently and for basically everything. But recently he pulled it out less and less until he wouldn't even touch it unless James asked for the knife specifically.
"So were you two utterly lost without my genius?" asked James as they sat down.
Remus rolled his eyes. "Of course, James," he said sarcastically. Sirius didn't say a word. He didn't trust his mouth. This happened to him whenever he walked into a room Remus also occupied. It wasn't quite tongue-tied since that implied he didn't know what to say. It was that he didn't want to say what his brain was telling him to. "Kiss me," was out, as were "I want you," and "I love you."
Sirius had lied to James before. He didn't like Remus, he loved him.
"I love you," was never something Sirius Black thought he'd say. It was a stupid phrase, used mostly by those less attractive or charming than Sirius who needed to lie to get others into bed. "I love you," just words. Cheap lies. Utterly worthless.
No one ever told Sirius they loved him. To his parents he was just a commodity. He was their bargaining chip, their way to get ahead in the world, their heir. He was a way to keep the Black line going. Regulus was a spare, in case Sirius should fail.
It wasn't as if his parents loved each other, either. They were arranged to be married when they were in their teens. They were paired off like show crups. Whose heirs would be the smartest? Whose heirs would be the prettiest? Whose heirs would get farther ahead? Cassiopeia's or Walburga's? All the members of his family were married like this, their parents acting like breeders.
There was never any proof that love existed in Sirius's life, so he didn't believe in it. It was one of the three great lies: God, pure bloodlines, and love. James was positive he and Lily Evans were madly in love (despite the fact that Lily Evans made it quite clear she hated everything about James.) Sirius assured his friend he'd grow out of it. Love was really quite simple; all animals suffered from it, sexual desire. Humans weren't any different from any other mammal; they just had a fancy name for their most base instinct. They just wanted to get laid.
In August of 1975 there were three great lies. In December there were two and a half. Now, at the dawn of 1976 there were two.
He tried to convince himself there was no way he could be in love. He was far more enlightened than that. He tried to snap himself out of it. He was not in love, especially not with a bloke. It wasn't possible. It wasn't real. It wasn't even natural.
He realized too late he had been staring at Remus for god-knew-how-long. Sirius looked away apologetically, though his eyes soon darted back to Remus's face.
Was it his imagination or was Remus watching him too? Was he really biting his lip out of anxiety due to Sirius's proximity or was it just coincidence that his pale cheeks were flushed? Were Sirius's eyes playing tricks on him or did Remus's Adam's apple bob in a visible gulp? Was it wishful thinking or was Remus trying to busy himself too quickly, trying not to meet Sirius's gaze?
Remus sent a black ink bottle crashing to the floor and looked embarrassed. Slughorn looked up, "careful Lupin."
"Sorry sir!" Remus said in an unnaturally high voice. He magicked the bottle back together and, as if he didn't trust himself to perform the slightly more complex spell, grabbed the towels next to Peter and got down on his hands and knees to scrub up the ink.
"Here," said Sirius, "I'll help."
"That's okay," Remus told him, "help Peter and James."
Sirius worried that Remus had figured him out and was so disgusted that he could stand to be near him. But that little hopeful place in his jaded mind was telling him that that wasn't the case at all.
"Yeah, help us, Padfoot. We're working on Amortentia," said James.
"Love potion?" Sirius asked, sitting upright. That explained it. Motor oil, cigarettes and Remus, that was what he wanted. That was what he desired: motor oil for the bike hidden under a protection spell in the Forbidden Forest, cigarettes to feed his addiction and Remus. James must have been smelling Evans or something. He found himself wondering what Remus was smelling.
James mimed clapping his hands. His cheeks were slightly red and he kept looking over Sirius's shoulder at Lily Evans.
At the end of James's gaze Evans was working hard across the table from Severus Snape. The pair had been Potions partners since their first year. It seemed only natural, they were the best potions students in their year, or perhaps, as Slughorn frequently told them, the best potions students ever to be educated at Hogwarts.
They would spend hours in the ill smelling dungeons, creating everything from Shrinking Solution to Polyjuice Potion. Because of this their clothes and hands frequently retained the smell and color of their latest project, and more than once Lily spent hours trying to scrub the residue of a cauldron explosion from her burns, but still came out looking like she'd spent the past few days in a coal mine. They had created countless potions of their own, each unique and likely impossible to duplicate. They took to writing their latest creations in a tattered book Snape almost always carried around with him. One day, Sirius promised himself a long time ago, he would steal it and find out exactly what it was.
"What are you lot smelling?" asked Peter, as James added the newly powdered pixie wings. Peter looked flustered, breathing so heavily he was practically huffing. This seemed to be common all around the room. Lily was looking down at her shaking hands as she added various ingredients. Her cheeks were slightly rosy. Neither she nor Snape seemed to be able to look at one another. Snape's eyes were focused on the cauldron but periodically shot up to Lily's flushed face. He kept licking his thin lips. Various girls looked over at Sirius, wide eyed and blushing. Narcissa, Sirius's cousin, tried to remain prim and proper. She clutched her cloak and pulled it tighter around her as if trying to disappear into the fabric.
In other words, Horace Slughorn had destroyed whatever weak hold the teenagers had on their raging hormones.
"Why do you care?" asked James.
"Just wondering," Peter said quietly.
"I smell Lily," James sighed (the way girls do, thought Sirius.) "Lily Evans, quaffles and flow—er—I mean and quaffles. Sirius sniggered. "What about you, Peter?" asked James, punching Sirius hard in the arm. Sirius knew James was asking Peter so Peter wouldn't ask him. You couldn't ask for a better friend than James Potter.
Peter swallowed, "Cinnamon and ginger and applause."
"You smell applause?" James asked. "That doesn't make sense, Wormtail."
"It's like… er… it smells like the sound only it's what would be there without any sound," Peter tried to explain.
"Oh, I completely understand now," James laughed.
Sirius heard the conversation as if from a great distance. He felt like he watching them from the other end of a mile long tunnel. He could reach out and touch James but as far as his brain was concerned James was light years away. Peter and James's voices were dull, muted.
Sirius's thoughts were so loud he could have sworn the entire room could hear them. They were all on Remus and the smell and the feeling that the pit of his stomach had sent through his body like an electric current. It was like a drug. The smell of Remus was everywhere. He was suffocating. Everything had gone silent around him, he felt as if he was going to scream. He closed his eyes and saw Remus engraved on his eye lid like a tattoo. His eyes shot opened.
"You alright?" asked James. The other three were staring at him. Sirius realized he must have been making some kind of a scene.
"Fine. Yeah. I just… I need some air," Sirius excused himself. He felt Remus's eyes on him (as well as the rest of the class's) as he went to the door. But no one else's eyes mattered. Just the amber animal ones that belonged to Remus Lupin. Slughorn didn't say anything when Sirius left the room nor did Sirius expect him to.
He set off in the direction of the Charms hallway to return to his roof. He needed a cigarette. His hands were shaking. He laughed to himself. That was Sirius's most common reaction, laugh before you cry or scream. He reached into his robes and lit a cigarette, hoping no teachers were nearby. He sighed and ran his hands through his hair, trying to steady them.
Remus must hate him, if not because Sirius was falling for him, then because his friend hadn't spoken to him in weeks. Three weeks, four days, six hours. Sirius had taken to avoiding him. He went to all measures to make sure there was no way he and Remus could end up alone. In other words he was doing exactly the opposite of what he would have done if he wanted to be successful in getting Remus into bed. Sirius regretted having to do all of this. He was constantly at war with his own brain, one half telling him to give up and snog Remus silly, the other told him to jump off a cliff before he did something stupid.
He wandered through the hallways without really seeing them. His body was on automatic pilot guiding him to his rooftop hideaway. His brain was still reeling. Sirius was exhausted although he couldn't have told you why. It felt like he'd been running for hours. He had to put as much ground between Remus and himself as was possible. He had to escape the smell. He had to escape those eyes. He breathed deeply, calming himself down. He laughed again, filling the empty corridor with the eerie and lonely sound. Laugh before you scream. Laugh before you cry. Just fucking laugh.
After what felt like hours he pushed back the tapestry which caused the dragon to roar its disapproval. He clamored up onto the roof where the snow was now even thicker, tumbling downward in huge clusters of flakes. He staggered across the roof to his spot, teeth chattering violently. He fastened his cloak and pulled up the hood. His shaking hands found his cigerette package and he lit one, sheilding his wand tip from the fierce wind with raw pink hands.
The sky was pure white, blinding and cold. How could white feel so dark? He shivered, not with cold but with something else, something without a name. The sky reminded him of a book--no a play--that Remus had been reading. And there, again, was Remus! Even when he thought he was alone and finally rid of him he appeared.
Sirius was on his feet screaming as loudly as he could, practically roaring when he was suddenly inerupted. "Sirius?" It was him. Sirius was cornered. He opened his mouth but couldn't find his voice. "Sirius I--we need to talk."
"How'd you find me?" Sirus asked.
"James told me where you were," Remus answered. James's betrayal hit Sirius hard in the chest. Remus crossed to him, perfectly balanced on the slick roof. There was a long pause in which the entire world became completely silent. The wind stopped blowing as if waiting for Sirius's response. There wasn't one. "You've been avoiding me lately," Remus said.
"Fuck," Sirius muttered. "Remus look--"
"I can ignore it! I've been ignoring it! It's just so hard!" Remus said.
"How long have you known?" Sirius asked.
"Known?" Remus asked looking up into Sirius's face. Just that look sent shock waves through his veins to his groin.
"That I like you, what else?" Sirius asked.
"What!?" Remus said in alarm.
"You didn't know?" Sirius
asked, "then what were you--?"
"You like me? In what sense? How?" Remus asked, very quickly.
"You know, like-like you," Sirius answered, feeling his cheeks redden. This was probably the first time Sirius had ever blushed in his life.
"In a romantic sense, you mean. More than platonic," Remus was wide-eyed, searching Sirius's face as if he could find the answer written there.
"Yeah. Look, I'm sorry mate, I've been tryng to get over it since September and I--"
"I thought you were avoiding me because you knew that's how I felt about you!" Remus said. Without another word Sirius pulled him close by the cloak and kissed him deeply as if he would never let him go.
Remus Lupin was not a girl, but Sirius Black no longer cared.