Disclaimer: Anything you recognise is the property of JK Rowling.
A/N: Written for the Sirius fic drive at Red and The Wolf on LJ, using the prompts: bad dog, and I've done a lot of foolish things/ That I really didn't mean, didn't I? - Signed, Sealed Delivered, by Stevie Wonder. Rated for language and scenes of a sexual nature (nothing too graphic on the latter count), and it's Sirius/Lily for the most part, with me being a bit mean to James (and even more mean to Sirius).
Fingertip brushes fingertip, and hip to hip they sit, on the carpet in his lounge.
They're drinking whiskey and ginger ale, and talking, again, about what to do with James. There's rain at the window, and God-awful wizarding prog-rock on the WWN, and for a second she wonders who on earth thought that a bagpipe player deserved a solo.
"I mean," Sirius says, and he shifts a little, reaching for his glass, cradling it in his elegant fingers. "Maybe he'll just snap out of it – maybe he just needs to be an arse for a bit, make people feel as shitty as he feels. I mean he loved his dad – "
Lily concurs quietly, takes a mouthful of her drink, and notes that this one is stronger than the last. She winces a little, thinks that she'll put more ginger ale in the next, makes another note that apparently she's decided there'll be a next one.
They've been doing a lot of this lately, her and Sirius, sitting like this, hip to hip, just the two of them.
"I thought after the funeral…" she says, and drifts off into a sigh.
They've said so much about James, she's not sure what else there is to articulate. They know it's just grief – as if there's anything just about that – that he's pushing them away because of it, because his insides feel eaten out and life doesn't seem to have a purpose, that he doesn't care if he hurts them because he hurts more. They both know it, but not quite what to do about it.
That's how all this started, this sitting and talking, and –
There'd been an argument in the pub one night, angry words about her not understanding when she'd tried so desperately to. James had stormed off, and rather than following him like he normally did, Sirius had caught her elbow and asked if she was all right. And she hadn't been, of course, but his fingers on her elbow, that he'd thought to ask –
She'd cried all over his jacket, in the end.
"Me too," he says, and she smiles, because however often she says the same thing, he always answers.
She's not sure why they've kept it a secret, this. They're friends, aren't they? Would it really be such a scandal if people found out that after meetings, missions, sometimes they came back here, listened to bad music, got a bit tipsy, and talked about James?
Sometimes she wants to tell people in order to clear her conscience, to prove to herself she's not doing anything wrong; she doesn't though, because she loves that it's a secret, that it's something she alone has, like a barricade between her and James.
Sirius brushes the back of her hand with his fingers in what she tells herself is a gesture of reassurance, but the look in his eyes when she meets them says it's anything but.
They're just friends, just concerned about James, she thinks. However they might feel in the odd moment when their eyes meet and gazes linger, she knows they won't do anything about it.
She takes a sip of her drink, and realises that the thumping of her heart when his eyes don't waver means she doesn't know that at all.
"He still loves you," Sirius says, looking away, staring at the knees of his jeans as he sloshes his drink from side to side in his glass.
"I'm not so sure," she murmurs. "He barely even speaks to me."
"Then you're getting off lightly," Sirius says, taking a sip. "You should have heard some of the things he called Peter yesterday."
She laughs, and he smiles a little, pleased with his efforts, and goes back to his drink.
She crosses her legs, brushes his thigh with her knee, pretending it's an accident. Really, she just likes the reassurance of having him there demonstrably, so close she can literally feel him.
At school, she always knew what the other girls saw in him. His features were so nicely arranged – still are – and he had this look, when he was really thinking, far away and so impossibly alive at the same time, like he was taking the whole world in and seeing it for exactly what it was.
Even then, it was impossible not to like it when he looked at her like that, impossible not to feel a flutter in her stomach at the thought that she had Sirius Black's full attention, even if she only had it because she was telling him off for something she secretly envied him the guts to do.
But up close now, his appeal is rather more intangible.
It's not about the way he looks, or even the way he's been kind to her, thoughtful by degrees she never expected. It's almost as if to put it into words, to distil it into something so small, would do it a disservice, could never capture quite what it is about him that puts her on edge in the most wonderful way imaginable, and sets her at ease, makes her feel still like nothing else, at almost the same time.
Sirius turns a little, indicates the bottle of whiskey with a graceful flourish of a wave, and she nods, lifting her glass to her lips and knocking back what she has left of her drink.
He pours whiskey into her glass, and she reaches for the ginger ale, remembers to add another splash to hers, fills Sirius' up too. She settles against the sofa, lets her head fall back a little, wishing she could get drunk, but knowing that she won't because when she wants to she never can.
She stares at the ceiling, tracing patterns across the plaster. Maybe this thing isn't intangible at all, she thinks. Maybe she just wants to think it is, to justify being here. Maybe she's just angry at James, flattered by the attention –
Maybe she's imagining that there's anything more going on than ginger ale and whiskey, bad music and loneliness. Maybe they're only here at all because James doesn't want to be around either of them at the moment and they need to fill the gap in their lives.
So many maybes.
She meets his eye askance, and he smiles, genuine warmth radiating from him as if he really is the brightest star in the sky, and though she knows it probably isn't the case, she likes to think that she's the only person he ever smiles at like that. "So," he says, quietly, "shall we pick the twatty things he said at the meeting apart again, or do you want me to change the subject?"
"Change the subject," she says.
He pauses for a moment, gets that look.
"This music's bloody awful," he says, and she laughs again, wondering why she never really noticed before how funny he could be in his total, unbridled honesty.
He reaches for his wand and points it at the wireless, searching for something else. What he finds isn't much better, but at least there aren't any bagpipes in it. He raises an eyebrow at her to see if she approves, and she says, "It'll do."
"It'll do?" he says, and there's a flirtatious mocking tone to his voice he uses sometimes with her, but only when there's no-one else around to hear it.
"Yes," she says, offering him a flirtatious, challenging smile in return.
She honestly doesn't know what they're doing, if they're both just enjoying the dance or if it's something else. She knows that sometimes, in bed at night, she lies awake, thinking about him, hoping that sleep won't come just yet….
She thinks about the scuff of his lips on hers, sees him pulling her close, imagines every unsteady glimmer of sensation –
Half of her thinks she just wants to know what it's like to have a man like that – to have Sirius Black – pinned beneath her and entirely at her mercy, to feel his fingers on her skin and wonder at the power in them. Half of her thinks she just wants to know what that exquisite face looks like contorted in ecstasy, or how it feels to make Sirius Black squirm.
The other half is scared to death it might be more than that, that the thing she'd been so certain of with James wasn't nearly as real as it once felt.
His fingers brush hers, and shivers traverse her, from where they're touching right through.
She sets her glass down on the carpet, turns towards him, a question about what on earth they're doing half-formed on her lips. She doesn't get a word out, because he turns too, and he's closer than he was, so close she can see all the different shades of grey in his eyes, yearning scorched in every fleck. Suddenly there's no breath in her body, and then she can't help it; her fingers are on his face. Fleetingly she thinks about all the times she's pictured the scuff of his lips on hers, wondering how accurate her imaginings were, and though he's close enough that she can feel his breath quicken on her skin, his gaze flickers downwards and the kiss she wants so desperately doesn't come.
"I'm a bad boy, Lily," he says, smiling ruefully as if he knows it's the truth, and wishes that it wasn't. "And – " He swallows, and she wonders what he'd do if she didn't let him finish, just leant forward and covered his mouth with hers; at the same time, she's desperate to hear what he has to say, and so she doesn't move. His eyes trace the contours of her lips for a moment, and he edges closer, raising his fingers to her face and touching her cheek. He takes a small, quick breath, and when he meets her eye she nearly starts because they're so – " – there's nothing I would like more than this," he says, "but it would break his heart."
Lily swallows. She knows he's right, and all of a sudden, she wants to scramble to her feet, run from the room and throw herself into the rain so he won't see her cry.
She closes her eyes and her lip trembles, and she's embarrassed and feels stupid and –
"Hey," he says, and his voice is soothing, kind, in a way she wasn't sure she ever thought it could be. He catches her chin and lifts it up, and she opens her eyes and looks at him, amazed that he's only partially obscured by tears. "It'll be all right." She nods, even though she's not sure at all that it will be. "I'll talk to him," he says.
He finds James in The Boar's Head in Knockturn Alley, and he rolls his eyes when he sees him slumped over the bar, his wand clutched in one hand, a glass of something that looks a bit like gin in the other.
"What the hell are you doing?" Sirius says, by way of a greeting, even though he knows the answer. It's something James has taken to, hanging out where he hopes he might find a Dark wizard to duel with, drinking if he doesn't. Sirius knows he should feel sorry for him, but these days he just finds it irritating.
James looks up briefly, indicates his glass, and lets out a mirthless laugh. "What's it look like?"
"This is pathetic," Sirius says. "You can't go on like this."
Sirius pauses, wondering if he really has the nerve to say it – more than that, if he can say it without giving away what he feels. "What about Lily?" he says, and his voice softens a little at her name, as he thought it might, but not enough, he hopes, that James in his current state will notice.
"What about her?"
"She loves you," Sirius says, and if the words stick in his throat, the thought that she really does nearly strangles him.
"I didn't ask her to," James says.
Sirius runs a hand roughly through his hair and his nerves twitch – he knows James is only trying to wind him up, that he's only doing it because there's no-one here who cares to pick a fight with him, hates that he's letting him succeed –
"Payback," James says, "if you think about it, for all the years she kept me dangling."
Something inside snaps.
"Don't you know what you've got?" Sirius says, his voice steadily rising, though he tries not to let it. "Don't you know how rare and precious and fucking wonderful she is?"
"Lily," he says, stepping forward and shoving James roughly on the chest. He knows – or suspects – that what he feels, though he's fought it and avoided it and tried not to give in to it – is written all over his face, but he can't stand this, watching her cry over someone who'd choose this over her. He fists James' jumper in his hands, draws him closer and looks him right in the eye. "She done nothing but try and understand," he hisses, "but everything she does, you just throw it back in her face like it doesn't matter. It's like you're going out of you way to hurt her, to see how much she'll take, how much she'll put up with, like you need her to prove something – and it's so fucking pathetic I'm ashamed of you – "
He stalls, shoves James back in his seat, and looks around the bar, aware that all eyes are on him. The hag in the corner watches him with a twisted smile as if she can read his heart as well as his mind, the barman who was probably coming over to ask what he wanted stops in his tracks.
Suddenly, Sirius doesn't know why he's here, why he's bothering, why he didn't go back to Lily and lie, say he couldn't find James, tell her she'd be better off without him and see what happened. He doesn't know why they both aren't just leaving James to wallow in his stupid bloody grief until it chokes him.
He balls his fist to try and dispel his anger, forces himself to look at James, to meet his eye. His expression is set in defiance, but –
One last try. For her.
"I mean – what you have, mate," Sirius says. "I know you're upset but you'd be a moron to throw it away. Love doesn't come along that often – you're lucky to have it at all."
"What do you know about love?" James says, and then he sneers, and anger boils inside Sirius and he can't contain it.
James never sees the punch coming.
He stands on the doorstep in the pouring rain, soaked to the skin because he Apparated straight here and then stood outside her door, wondering what the hell he was doing. He still doesn't know when she answers his tentative knock, and so he mouths a hello that doesn't quite form as a word, and then glances up at the sky, raindrops bombarding him.
He wants to say something. He's sure that he just came here to tell her what happened, maybe apologise, but when her eyes fix on his, he's not sure of anything, least of all that. In truth he feels utterly bereft, and afraid of something he's not even sure is real. He wanted James to make it easy, make this decision for him, take it out of his hands by being here instead, being with Lily instead, and now he hasn't he doesn't quite know what to do, is almost scared of what his response might be. And yet –
Well, he's always been a bad boy, hasn't he, partly by design and partly not, and although he'd like to think himself a better man, he's exactly the sort who'd sleep with his best mate's girlfriend, give in and kiss her in the rain like he wants to.
His stomach lurches at the thought that yes he is, but he hasn't slept with Lily, even kissed her –
He has fallen in love with her though, and as he stands on her doorstep with rain in his collar and his T shirt sticking to his chest, he's no idea which is worse.
"Sirius?" Lily says, stepping forward, joining him in the rain.
He swallows, meets her eye, thinking of all the nights they've sat together, drinking whiskey and ginger ale, listening to crap music and talking and falling – everything that's lead to this, and then he can't help it. It's real. What he feels, what he's fought, what he's kidded himself is nothing of the sort, is real. He can feel it in the pound of his heart and see it in the glimmer of uncertainty in her eyes. They're so close –
His lips find hers before he's even finished the thought, and hers press wonderfully insistently back. Her hair is damp underneath his fingers and her skin is chilled from the cold night air, but still the world seems to light up and burn. Her kisses are somewhere between relief and revelation, the former because sometimes he imagined this, late at night when he had nothing for company but whiskey and darkness, and the latter because, as she explores his mouth, she makes him think all sorts of things he never believed he would, words about magic and rightness and –
Her fingers tightening on his arm startle him a little, but only for a second, and then he realises that she's pulling him inside, with her. The door closes behind them, but she barely breaks away to kick it shut, keeps her body close to his, and he meets her gaze so he can take her in, see what she looks like this close. There's rain on her face and in her hair – he can make out individual drops, sparkling a little in the low light of the hall, and her eyes are dancing with tentative suggestion and something that looks an awful lot like longing. He still doesn't know what the hell he's doing.
He knows what he wants, though.
He covers her mouth with his, presses her back against the wall, and his fingers slip beneath her shirt. She gasps a little, and he traces patterns on her sides with his fingertips, tastes her lips, revelling in the way she responds, the clutch of her fingers on his hip, the way she shifts in approval against him. He's wanted this for –
Too long. Too long to take for granted that it's really happening. He swallows, meets her eye for just a second to see if the pull in his stomach is something real or if he's lost in a dream, and all he sees in her gaze is an echo of the same ache he feels. She urges him closer, fingers grasping in his hair, and captures his lips.
After a moment, she shoves his jacket off his shoulders and he shakes himself free of it, hears it fall onto the carpet with a soft thud, and then her hands are on his stomach, working his damp T shirt higher and higher until that's at his feet too. His breath catches at the feel of her body underneath his skin, seems to cease entirely as he frees her of her shirt, covering each tantalising new bit he exposes with frantic kisses. She murmurs something against his shoulder, her breath ragged and hot, and he makes his way back to her mouth, wanting everything at once. His body thrums and he focuses entirely on the catch of her teeth on his lips, the way she feels as he shifts against her, because that's all that really seems to exist.
He can't believe it's happening, and yet he knows it is, and as they stumble down the hall towards the bedroom, he thinks James and his stupid bloody grief be damned.
Fingertip brushes fingertip, and hip to hip they lie, crumpled sheets beneath them on her bed.
She can't stop looking at him, or he at her, it seems.
His expression is odd, she thinks. If she had to put words to it, she'd say tentatively awed, although maybe that's just an effect of the light peeping through the curtains, and he's actually just working out how long he has to stay to be polite.
She hadn't thought about this bit. In her head, there'd been lips and hands and unsteady, glimmering sensation, and now they're here, this place she never imagined, where she knows everything she wondered about and sensations aren't glimmered so much as realised, she's not sure what to say. His fingers play with hers, ghosting over them, leaving whispered tingles that are an echo of so much else, so much more, in their wake. It makes her shiver, but she doesn't want him to stop.
Rain batters the window. It's been raining all night, alternating a soft pitter-patter and a howling gale, and something about it feels fitting, although she's not sure why. She traces his collarbone with her gaze, committing every bit to memory, letting her eyes drift closed for a second and seeing if she can still picture him in perfect detail, because if she can remember this, she'll be able to remember everything.
She knows they should talk, that there are things that need saying about loneliness and if this is more than that, what they'll do in either case, but she's too lost in her own thoughts to let any words form in her mouth. She thinks about James, about what Sirius said earlier, the words bad boy rattling through every other thought she has.
The thought she can't escape is that James wasn't supposed to act like this. He was supposed to be a safe pair of hands for her heart, and yet it wasn't him whose fingers on her elbow made her feel better, safer, than she had done in weeks, it wasn't his jacket she cried into, or him who whispered soothing nonsense, told her it would be all right and made her believe him. It wasn't him who listened as she puzzled over what to do –
It wasn't him she spent the night with, making noises that rivalled the rattle of the wind, then echoed the soft murmur of the rain.
She has no idea what it all means.
"I should go," he whispers, and she nods, although just the thought of being left here with nothing but her thoughts for company makes her want to dash out and hide her tears in the storm.
Sirius lingers over picking up his jacket, wondering.
Honestly he has no idea how he feels, what he should do, if this is what she wants, or if –
There's a knock at the door. His stomach and his heart swap places, and he knows there's only one person it could be, this early in the morning. He wants to stay, see what'll happen, wait for Lily to get dressed and come out, see what she wants, decide together. Or, he thinks, he wants to fling the door open, shout at James' shocked face that he had his chance and look what he chose to do with it, that he should have known she wouldn't put up for him forever.
But he doesn't do either, because it's not his decision. Never was, now he comes to think about it.
Quietly, he slips through the kitchen and out the back, down the side of the house. The rain stings his skin as he stands pressed against the stone, and he can just make out that James is on the doorstep, a huge bunch of flowers in his hands and the beginnings of a black eye shining.
After a moment, Lily answers the door – he can just see the sleeve of her dressing gown – and apologies tumble from James' lips, words about foolishness and how he couldn't stand to lose her too. More desperately, he talks about love. He tells her she's precious and rare and wonderful, says that he's been a total bastard and he's sorry, that he didn't mean it, any of it –
Sirius closes his eyes as the paper wrapped around the flowers in James' arms crinkles. He imagines them hugging, crying together in the rain, and all of a sudden, he can't bear to listen.
He knows what'll happen. He's always known what would happen, and half of him thinks that's why he let them dance so long.
His own words echo in his head: I'm a bad boy Lily, and there's nothing I'd like more than this, but it would break his heart.
He'd always known that she loved James, that nothing he did, nothing he felt, would ever change that. He tries to swallow the thought down, but it lodges in his throat and sticks, threatens to strangle him, like he knew it would.
The rain beats down, and he hears the door close, knows that Lily hasn't sent James away, doesn't want to picture what's happening inside. James' heart is going to be fine – hers too.
He pulls his collar up around his ears and walks off into the rain, thinking that bad boy or not, it was his own heart he should have been concerned about all along.
A/N: Thanks for reading. Feedback is very much appreciated, and will be rewarded with a rain-soaked Maruader of your choice ;).