Disclaimer: Harry Potter and all related items of importance don't belong to me. They belong to JK Rowling et cetera et cetera.
A/N: I am a huge fan of Death Cab for Cutie. HUGE fan. And one of my favorite songs of theirs is Tiny Vessels. And I found some parallels between the song and Remus and Sirius's relationship (or at least, the fandom one) and so I wrote this. It could be a companion to Secrets, which I wrote some time ago, but it can also stand on its own. I'm rather fond of this ficlet; hope you like it too!
Any and all feedback is absolutely brilliant. Thanks for reading!
They have kissed and they have touched, and then they have done more than that, behind the curtains, breathing shallowly in the oh-so-Gryffindor dark. Remus's bed smells like Sirius now (all sweaty boy and teenage musk), but he pretends not to notice, even as spells and charms fail to remove the tell-tale scent. And so Sirius pretends not to notice, either, pretends that they don't spend half the night together in the same bed.
Even though he lies awake in his own bed, sometimes, and thinks of ink-stained hands tentatively touching his skin, of soft sun-streaked hair sliding between his shy fingers. Even though it's hard for him to get to sleep at night, sometimes, because his bed is too small and too cold without Remus (and he doesn't have the nerve to walk back).
Sirius has always been good at denial. He thinks of their actions as only reasonable—needs to be fulfilled—and Remus, studiously avoiding the subject, doesn't provide any other explanation. It's not perfect, no, not at all, but it will do.
The only outward sign they show of their peculiar sleeping habits is perhaps flushed cheeks when their eyes meet in the Great Hall, the mornings after, and no more. Sirius is usually late to breakfast, anyway, and then Remus is his normal calm self by the time the other boy shows up. No one has any idea of their strange strained closeness, but that's the way they want it to be. Secret.
And yet—it can't go on like this, Sirius thinks, in a haze of confusion as he stumbles back to his own bed in the lonely blue-black of night. He doesn't bother to define their actions, he wouldn't be able to. And so he denies that these nights with Remus (the whispers, the words, the kisses and curses) are anything more than lust.
Sirius doesn't know what Remus thinks, because they never talk of these stolen caresses, these furtive movements made in pitch-black, in silence (two spells worth of it, because they might be foolish, but they are not stupid). Yet when he does stay in the other boy's bed, Remus holds him close (out of want or need or obligation, Sirius doesn't know) and Sirius, feeling his friend's heartbeat thudding above his own, feels utterly lost.
At the end of the year Sirius breaks up with his girlfriend, as he always does, and he makes plans to visit James and Remus and Peter over the summer, as he always does. And Remus smiles and agrees and writes up said plans on a neat sheet of paper, as he always does, and they all sit in the same compartment on the ride back home on the Hogwarts Express, as they always do.
But this time Sirius watches the light play over the planes and curves of Remus's face as they speed towards London, as he's never done before. He'll never admit it, but he thinks the other boy looks a bit like summer itself: eyes and hair sun-streaked, threaded with gold and possibilities.
Remus reads a book, as he always does, and briefly falls asleep, head on Sirius's shoulder. Sirius tries not to shiver because it's just Moony being his usual drowsy self, just Moony dozing off, as he always does. Sirius closes his eyes and falls asleep, too, careful not to let their skin touch or their fingers brush, as he's never done before.
They won't get a chance to reconvene until July at the earliest and so there is a flurry at the platform of farewells and see you laters and manly claps on the back. Remus gives Sirius a hug, though, a real one, and as they part there's something different about his expression, a question, maybe, but Sirius, always so painfully good at denial, doesn't see it. And even if he did, he wouldn't know how to answer.
Sirius gets a girlfriend, of course, midway through June. Though he normally dates flashy birds with curves and bubbly laughs, this girlfriend is different. She is only a little shorter than him, and not as loud as the other girls, she's sharp and smart and knows what she's doing. Her hair is soft, with light brown streaks, and her body is more boyish than coquettish. She's beautiful, of course; all of Sirius's girlfriends have been beautiful (though that's not the reason why Sirius sought her out).
They too kiss and touch, though Sirius closes his eyes and tries to avoid touching her chest and he's so utterly disgusted at himself for it. So he instead tells her he loves her as often as he remembers, and he also tells her that he thinks she is beautiful, because he also thinks words might be enough.
And at the very least, the latter statement is true. Sirius does think she is beautiful, but he does not think she is as beautiful as others he's known. Sirius stops himself before he can connect a name to a face, and he squeezes his eyes shut and runs his shy hands through her soft brown hair again, all motion, once more (and no emotion, once more).
Remus writes Sirius letters, of course; Remus always writes letters (even to Lily, which Sirius finds very ridiculous). Remus's letters are wonderful things, full of daft anecdotes and interesting bits of gory fairytales and truly awful botanical sketches. He's been hiking a lot lately, Remus writes. He likes to get away from things so he can sit in solitude and have a good think.
Remus never mentions exactly what he thinks about.
So Sirius writes letters back to Remus, lots and lots of letters (as is his wont) but some turn out all wrong and awkward, and Sirius hides those under his bed and writes new ones, generic summer holiday letters that barely mention his new girlfriend or how much he's missing Remus, and as Sirius watches his owl fly off with the parchment strapped to her leg he feels a little guilty about leaving out so many details (but not guilty enough).
He continues to meet with his girlfriend, and sleep with her, and sometimes kiss her with his eyes closed, his hands a gentle grip on her bony boyish hips. But he doesn't meet with her often enough and soon she feels a little bit ignored and unloved, and being the reasonable type of girl she is, mentions it to Sirius.
Sirius is not heartless and he doesn't want her to feel unimportant, and so even though the prospect of being with a girl for forty-eight consecutive hours scares him a little, he invites her to his house after his family leaves for France (Sirius, ever the defiant Gryffindor, is staying behind). They sleep together in his defiantly Gryffindor room and there is sex, of course, a fair amount of it, and some conversation, and Sirius's blind kisses leave a trail of tiny bruises on her skin.
But she doesn't mind the bruises, and so they pass a late June weekend in this fashion, talking and touching. Sirius thinks that if he squints he can almost see not curves pressed against his skin, but angles; and then he blinks and the mirage is gone and it is undoubtedly a girl before him, a girl with soft brown hair and delicate hands and a sharp mind and she really ought to be good enough, maybe even perfect (and he can't for the life of him understand why she isn't).
Though they are teenagers and therefore invincible, they still get tired, dozing off at the oddest hours of the day. So while his girlfriend sleeps, sprawled out on Sirius's bed like a bird-boned goddess, Sirius puts pen to paper and writes more letters to Remus.
They still don't turn out the way Sirius wants them to. He wants them to be normal best mate lazy-summer-day letters, and yet they insist on donning layers and layers of truth and confessions and all the things Sirius would like to do with Remus (again) because it doesn't feel right for him to do them with his girlfriend.
So Sirius glares at his traitorous letters and the hand that wrote them, but instead of crumpling the paper into balls and burning them in one of the numerous fireplaces in the drafty rooms of Grimmauld Place, he folds the letters up and hides them under his bed.
The girlfriend sleeps on, oblivious, and Sirius writes more and more letters to Remus until his hands are stained with ink and his hair is a mess from running said hands through it and he cannot take it any longer, he cannot take this jumbled heap of emotions and ideas and weird feelings any longer.
So within seconds Sirius has become Padfoot, and the big black dog races up and down the streets of London, snuffling and barking under the bright, bright stars, forgetting about confusing issues of love and lust (because though Sirius might think about such things, Padfoot does not).
Another week passes, Padfoot taking to the streets most every night, and Remus sends Sirius yet another letter, reminding him of their upcoming reunion. They will go down to London and rent a few rooms in a hotel of dubious quality and they will make mischief all about town (though it will be just Remus and Sirius for the present, James and Peter not arriving until early August). Sirius is elated to receive this letter and he lets loose a joyful boyish whoop and dashes off a mercifully right response (for once), smiling widely all the while.
It is the happiest Sirius has been all summer, and his girlfriend takes notice when they meet up again. She asks him why he is so joyously, boyishly happy, and Sirius explains why, eyes shining. His friend Moony—Remus, he means—will be visiting tomorrow and it will be bloody brilliant, and he sings the praises of Remus J Lupin and smiles like the sun's been lit just for him and the girlfriend sees something Sirius doesn't.
That night she stays with Sirius, because his family's still in France. She's tired of her lazy summer and wants some excitement and hopes he'll bring it, and Sirius figures another twelve or so hours of company won't hurt, and they are so young. Yet for all his childish intensity Sirius is tired, and with no more wretched letters left to write he sleeps deeply on his bed in his defiantly Gryffindor room. And the girlfriend can't sleep, kept up by a quiet uncertainty, and she pokes around Sirius's room looking for a record she can listen to while he dreams.
So much for excitement, she might think, until she stumbles upon a pile of neatly folded sheets of paper, and it is the letters. (Sirius has always been good at denial, but terrible at hiding important things.)
She does not read all of them, because there are too many for that, and she is a decent person and she stops as soon as she's read enough to know what's going on. She stops as soon as her suspicions are confirmed, as she learns through Sirius's scrawls what he and Remus insist on denying. And she cries into a shirt that has been left on the floor (it's actually one of Peter's that somehow found its way into Sirius's trunk), and after she is through with that she crawls back into Sirius's bed and resolves to talk about the letters tomorrow, because she is all cried out and Sirius is not heartless, he does not deserve to be woken for this.
(It's not his fault, she thinks, and it's not her fault, she thinks, because they are young and not in love and so very, very foolish.)
Sirius is slow to awaken but eventually he rises, yawning and stretching and rubbing his sleep-dusted eyes. He runs a hand through his messy black Black hair and smiles and begins to say what might have been a good morning, but the girl just looks at him with red-rimmed eyes and asks him why? without saying a thing. And she holds up one of the letters in a bird-boned hand and then, just to make matters worse, the doorbell rings before Sirius has a chance to reply.
He bounds down the stairs and pulls the doors open with both hands, and of course it's Remus standing there, a travel bag in one ink-stained hand, a smile stretching over his sun flushed face.
"Moony," Sirius begins, but he's too panicked to remember what comes next.
"Hullo, Pads," Remus replies, grin growing wider, and then he blushes, because the girlfriend has appeared behind Sirius, and the two are in varying states of undress. "Am I interrupting something?" Remus asks hesitantly. He covers his eyes and then uncovers them again, and moves to leave (his smile drifting downwards, sliding off his long face).
"This is him, isn't it?" the girlfriend asks. "Remus." Sirius nods; it's the only rational response he can manage, and then he stops trying to come up with excuses and alibis and simply tries to keep his world intact, though his carefully organized life is falling to pieces before him. The girlfriend holds out a folded sheet of paper, and Remus takes it uncertainly. "You should read this," she says. "It was written to you."
Remus looks completely confused, and turns to Sirius for explanation. But he doesn't say anything, neither of them says anything, and a vague sort of horror etches itself onto Sirius's face.
"I can see why you love him," the girl says, turning to face Sirius again. Her expression is at once hateful and hurting and confused and somehow, somehow, understanding. "Goodbye, Sirius," she says sadly, and darts upstairs.
She returns a few minutes later, carrying her bag and fully dressed, her hair neat and tidy because she is smart and she is sharp and she knows what she's doing (and what she needs to do). She does not make eye contact with Sirius or Remus, and Sirius can only manage a quiet "goodbye" before she is gone and out of sight.
Remus holds the letter loosely in his ink-stained hands, the weight of Sirius's words caught between delicate thumb and forefinger.
"You didn't care a thing for her," he says quietly. And perhaps he's wrong, or perhaps he's right, but Sirius can't bring himself to argue. His eyes are still shining, but not from joy.
Remus unfolds the letter and reads it through (carefully, as is his wont). He bites his lip as he nears the end, cheeks flushing an even darker pink.
"I care for you," Sirius says brokenly.
In the distance, and far above the two of them, dark gray clouds chase across the sky, blotting out the summer sun. The air grows colder, and Sirius shivers.
Remus does not say anything; he can't even think of anything to do but open his arms to his friend. So he does, and Sirius leans into him, and Remus feels the hot tears against his neck as he holds Sirius so very close.
There will be a time for apologies and explanations (and very, very difficult conversations), but now is not the time.
They stand together, silhouetted in the half-open doorway of Grimmauld Place under a darkening, graying sky, and Remus smoothes Sirius's dark hair with a bird-boned, ink-stained hand, and thinks things can't go on like this, either.
Thank you for reading! Hope you enjoyed the fic; care to leave a review?