Once the Ministry was involved, proving Pettigrew's guilt was not difficult. However, they showed no interest in releasing a werewolf, claiming that Pettigrew's guilt alone did not prove Remus' innocence. Sirius was furious, and it was only when Dumbledore reminded him that fury alone would not help Remus case that the answer came to him.
Remus had never received a trial. Between the name of Albus Dumbledore and the wealth of Sirius Black they held the power to insist upon one, once they brought this fact into light. The trial was lengthier than it should have been, and Remus was not allowed to be released during it, but finally the Ministry could not deny the lack of evidence against the werewolf.
When a few Wizarding guards, along with two dementors, brought Remus to him, Sirius nearly did not recognise his friend. He was completely emaciated, covered in scars in various degrees of healing as well as many that were clearly permanent, and so pale he might have been mistaken for a ghost. His eyes, which were once warm and bright despite his reserved nature, were now empty and guarded. His fawn coloured hair was speckled with silver in spite of his young age and it hung, dirty and tangled, down to his waste. The plain prisoner's robes, which were hanging off his withered frame, were torn and blood stained.
When the wan werewolf was finally standing before him, face downcast and eyes fearful, the Animagus could not help but wrap his arms around the frail body and cry... partially out of relief, partially out of sorrow, and partially out of regret. He cried even harder when he felt the gaunt face press into his chest as long, thin fingers clutched onto his shirt.
In the months that followed, Sirius was glad that Harry was away at school for the first time since he helped him board the Hogwarts express. Not only did he not want Harry to have to see Remus in his current condition, but he also knew that he could not have pulled his attention away from Remus no matter how hard he tried.
The lycanthrope hardly ate, slept, or spoke; he was painfully sensitive to light; he suffered from terrible nightmares; he never smiled; and his monthly transformations were unbearable. The wolf seemed determined to tear itself apart. In fact, the first time that Sirius heard Remus speak a complete sentence was three weeks after they returned home, when the werewolf told the Animagus not to join him for the full moon.
However, Remus also seemed to find great comfort in Sirius' presence, and Sirius enjoyed having Remus' company again, even in his current state.
During his first week of freedom, Remus was far too weak to leave the house, so Sirius brought him some clothes that fit, as well as a new wand, and cut his hair for him.
Four weeks after he brought Remus home, Sirius began to sleep in the bed with him. The comfort of his presence allowed Remus to relax enough to sleep.
Six weeks after his return, Remus began to eat. His appetite was still rather weak, but it was enough that Sirius no longer feared that he would starve.
Three months after their reunion, Remus began to truly talk to Sirius. He did not wish to speak of what he had endured in Azkaban, and Sirius was surprised at how much the werewolf still could offer a conversation after being alone for so long.
Five weeks after he started speaking, Remus clung to Sirius after the Animagus had awoken him from another nightmare. Sirius soothed his lingering fears easily, and soon after the nightmares began to affect him much less.
Seven weeks after that night, Remus allowed Sirius to join him during the full moon. He made the Animagus promise to leave him if the wolf directed any violence at him, but it proved an unnecessary precaution, as the wolf appeared pleased to have one of its pack mates back.
A couple days after the following full moon, found Sirius lying in bed with his hands folded under his head, staring at the ceiling and listening to Remus' steady breathing. The werewolf was curled up against him, with his head nestled onto Sirius' shoulder and one thin, scarred arm holding him as though he were a pillow. When he felt Remus began to tremble, Sirius slid one hand out from under his head and bent his arm to stroke the other young man's soft fawn locks. This action was not enough to wake the lycanthrope, as Sirius knew, but it was enough to ease him for the time being.
During moments like these, Sirius allowed his mind to consider how much Remus meant to him. The scarred man's presence and absence affected Sirius more than any other's. He had just allowed himself to question whether his affection for the other young man was strictly platonic (a thought which had been trying to creep up on him as of late) when he was startled out of his revere by Remus' soft yet hoarse voice. "…Padfoot?"
"I'm sorry," said the Animagus as he shifted and looked down at the lycanthrope. "What did you say?"
Remus shifted as well, and raised his head so that his eyes met Sirius'…it was the first time he had maintained eye contact while speaking since his return. "I asked how long you've been awake."
Sirius just stared at the other's scarred face for several minutes before smiling, "Your eyes aren't empty anymore…they've even got some of their old warmth back."
Remus just watched Sirius' face curiously while the grey-eyed man rubbed his back absentmindedly. After a moment he spoke while still watching his friend's face, "I'm sorry that I worried you…I never meant to be a-"
"You have never been a burden, Moony," interrupted Sirius firmly. "And you never will be. I was miserable without you…having Harry was the only thing that kept me sane all these years. You may never know what it means to me to have you back."
Something in the werewolf's gaze softened before he responded, "I might. Actually, I have been wondering if you realise how much it means to me to be here." His eyes lowered as he softly added, "…with you."
Sirius could tell by the way that last part was added, that Remus did not just mean that he was glad to be out of Azkaban. However, Remus had always been so pleased to have friends, and so amazed to be liked by anyone, that Sirius was not sure if his own recent thoughts were causing him to read more into the simple words. Of course, Sirius also knew that if Remus had been having similar thoughts and feelings as he was, then the lycanthrope would never voice them or act on them.
"Moony…" began Sirius, "Remus, I've never wanted to hurt you…but I'm especially concerned about that now."
"Why is that?" asked the werewolf as he continued to stare somewhere around Sirius' clavicle.
"I've been having some thoughts lately, -nothing bad- but I'm not sure how to… I don't want to… I'm afraid…" Sirius struggled for words a moment longer before bluntly stating, "I love you."
"I love you too, Padfoot," answered Remus, and Sirius could tell by his tone that, though the words were sincere, he had misapprehended. The lycanthrope seemed to think that Sirius meant it in a friendly way, to prepare Remus for whatever he had been trying to say before.
Despite the misunderstanding, Sirius was touched that those words could fall so easily and sincerely from Remus after all that he had suffered over Sirius. He stroked the silver-streaked hair away from Remus face before whispering, "Moony, Look at me."
Without fail, Remus tilted his head and raised his eyes to meet the grey ones that were watching him carefully.
Still holding Remus' head with his hand and his gaze with his eyes, Sirius repeated his earlier statement, infusing the words with as much affection as he could. "I love you."
Remus blinked a couple times. Then, he took on an expression that was a combination of bemusement, hurt, and disbelief.
Sirius could not help but grin, "I can practically see your thought process, you know."
"Then tell me what I'm thinking," Remus whispered hoarsely.
The grin faded as Sirius became concerned. "At first you paused to analyse my tone and expression. Then, you became puzzled because you think I could not possibly mean that in the way it seemed." Sirius moved his other arm to wrap around Remus' slight waist before continuing, "And then you felt hurt because you cannot believe that anyone could ever feel that way about you." He stroked the fawn-coloured locks again, "Am I right?"
"Mostly," answered Remus, who was still whispering as if afraid that raising his voice would break the moment. "I also felt hurt because I want you to mean it that way…just you."
"Just me?" repeated Sirius as his grin reappeared.
"You're right, I cannot believe that anyone could feel that way about me," explained Remus quietly. "But I don't mind that anyone doesn't…except for you."
"But I do," said Sirius, still looking into the eyes that were starting to warm up again. "I do mean it like that, Moony. I do love you."
"I love you too," this time Remus' tone and expression were of affection, awe, and a deep-rooted sorrow. "But you deserve so much more…"
"More than what?" questioned Sirius petulantly.
"More than me," answered Remus dejectedly.
"More than you? Moony, you are so much more than you realise…than anyone realises." His grey eyes scanned over what he could see of the pale, still-too-frail body that was covered in scars, before staring into Remus' eyes again. "More then I could ever deserve, but I'm selfish enough to take you anyway…if you'll let me."
Sirius continued to stare into the thawing eyes before him, which seemed to be searching his own eyes for something. The dark-haired man felt another wave of concern when he noticed the unshed tears threatening to fall. Before he could think of how he should react, (Remus always had been better at comforting), the werewolf blinked back the extra moisture and suddenly Sirius saw his old Moony staring at him. He was so shocked and thrilled that he could not stop starring into those familiar warm orbs until he noticed the first true smile to touch Remus' lips since before Azkaban, traitors, and lies took away his reasons to.
"Maybe we deserve each other, then," Remus whispered. "I love you, Padfoot."
"I think we do," Sirius smiled down at the lycanthrope. "I love you, Moony."
Sirius leaned down and brushed his lips against Remus pale ones. When he raised his head again, the werewolf seemed to be melting into his chest, which he held him against firmly.
"Now get some more sleep, love," he whispered to the frail figure that appeared truly comfortable and happy for the first time in over a decade, "You need it."
Remus nodded feebly, the emotional excursion having clearly worn him out, before drifting into sleep once again. Sirius continued to hold the slumbering lycanthrope and stoke his hair for some time afterwards.
Then the grey-eyed man drifted into sleep as well, with a reassuring grip on his lover and a smile on his face.