Author's Notes: Welcome to "Cages". This is new ground for me, as this story is my first foray into "slash" fan-fiction. Anyone know why they call it "slash"? I had thought, when I first started reading fan-fiction, it was called "slash" because the stories were insulting and offensive to the characters...but the wee bit of slash fiction I have actually read (and I have not read much) has treated the characters fairly kindly. So, anybody know the origin of the word "slash" to describe this stuff?

Also, breaking new ground for me, this story is my first jaunt away from writing Ron/Hermione stories. This is a Remus Lupin/Sirius Black fan-fiction. I wrote this for a friend. Her birthday occurs sometime this month (October), although she has yet to tell me the actual date (we're rather new friends, so it's not as odd as it sounds), and she's a big fan of the Remus/Sirius 'ship. And so, since I can't get her that can of baking powder she wants, I wrote her this story. Hopefully she likes it.

Now, while I say this is a "slash" piece, in truth the slashiness is more or less implied. However, if you're a fan of the RL/SB 'ship or at the very least believe it to be a possibility (it would certainly explain them "arguing like an old married couple" when Snape found them in the Shrieking Shack during Prisoner of Azkaban), you'll certainly be able to see the implied relationship.

This could be considered Alternate Universe material, although it could easily fit within the framework of the original books...perhaps Lupin was so heartbroken over losing Sirius that he sought comfort in the arms of a woman, which is how he wound up with Tonks.

Slash fiction is not my usual cup of tea (or, coffee, if you prefer...as I do), and if it's not yours, feel free to not read this story. I won't hold a grudge.

Disclaimer: JK Rowling owns these characters even if she didn't mean for them to get together this way.


"Cages"

Cages. Oh, how he hated them. A cage could be something as obvious as a cell in Azkaban Prison, or as subtle as a home filled with a lifetime of memories of a family that despised you for your beliefs and a mother who disowned you at the ripe old age of sixteen.

Even worse, a cage could sometimes be the home of someone you love, when you're not allowed to leave; especially when your heart is torn with the desire to be by your loved one's side while at the same time yearning to run free – to feel the wind in your hair and the grass under your feet…to smell the cool, crisp air of freedom after a dozen years spent rotting away in Azkaban inhaling the fetid stench of fear, misery, and death.

Sirius Black gazed out the dingy kitchen window into the darkness of the small, overgrown garden behind the cottage, illuminated solely by the light of the waning moon. It was a better view and nicer accommodations that Azkaban Prison, but a cage is still a cage no matter its location.

"I know why the caged dog howls," Sirius sighed mournfully to himself, sipping from a glass of Old Ogden's Best Firewhiskey.

It had been nearly a month since Albus Dumbledore had asked…no, ordered…Sirius to lay low at the home of his dear old friend and schoolmate, Remus Lupin; his best friend…his best living friend. Sirius was still wanted by the authorities for escaping from Azkaban two years ago, as well as for helping a large group of Death Eaters escape the prison several months ago.

He was innocent, of course. Oh, he'd broken himself out of prison, but he'd been wrongly accused in the first place, and sentenced and imprisoned without the benefit of a trial. Had he not blamed himself for the deaths of James and Lily Potter due to the betrayal of a man he'd convinced them to trust – a man long thought dead – he'd have broken out long before spending twelve years of the prime of his life in that virtual Hell on Earth.

His innocence, of course, wasn't widely known. To the wizarding world at large, Sirius Black was some kind of Bogey Man, an insane mass-murderer hiding in every shadow waiting for a chance to strike, seeking revenge for his dark master, Lord Voldemort.

That was all a load of rubbish of course, promulgated by the Ministry for Magic and disseminated by the Daily Prophet. And since the Ministry was intent on keeping its collective head in the sand concerning Voldemort's return, and the Prophet had never let the truth get in the way of a good story, Sirius Black was made the scapegoat for any number of dark deeds occurring throughout wizarding Britain.

Sirius sighed again; it had been far too long since he had been outside in the fresh air, feeling the warm sun on his skin, and there was no telling when he'd get the chance again. After all, they wanted him to lay low…to stay "safe".

"As if being safe was worth giving up one's freedom," he groaned, tilting back his glass and finishing off his Firewhiskey.

"And here I thought you were enjoying your extended visit, Sirius," Remus Lupin said as he entered the kitchen and gave his old friend a tired sort of smile, "I am sorry if my humble home isn't quite up to your usual standards."

"Ah, but you see, my dear Moony," Sirius replied, a rueful smile on his roguish face, "A gilded cage is still just a cage."

Lupin moved over and dropped heavily into one of the beat-up old chairs tucked in under the small kitchen table. The full moon had only passed a few days ago, and the former Hogwarts professor was looking wrung-out as usual. His tired smile faded completely into a frown.

"Dumbledore has his reasons for wanting to keep you under lock-and-key," Lupin said, absentmindedly running a finger over a long scratch on the tabletop, "If you're not concerned for your own safety, then at least think about Harry's."

"I am thinking of Harry," Sirius replied, moving over and taking the seat opposite Lupin, "He's been through too much already to have to spend one more minute with those bloody Muggles!"

"You and I both know Harry is far safer while living with his aunt and uncle," the reluctant werewolf reminded him.

"Safer than he would be with the two of us?!" the animagus snorted, unable to hide his irritation, "We should take Harry away from the Dursleys; he'd be much happier."

"And what sort of life would that be for a teenage boy?" Lupin asked, his voice rising slightly, tired of having the same argument over and over again, "Being forced to live in hiding with a werewolf and an escaped criminal!"

"What sort of life does he have now?!" Sirius snapped, slamming his fist down onto the table and jumping to his feet, "Locked in a room, unloved and underfed; he might as well be…"

"In a cage?"

Lupin stood up and moved to stand by his old friend, placing his hands on Sirius' shoulders in a familiar, comforting gesture. A look passed between the two of them; it was a tender look of caring and mutual understanding. The two Marauders stood there, silently looking at each other for several minutes.

"It isn't fair, Moony," Sirius said sadly, keeping his dark eyes locked on his best friend, "Harry's had to live through so much pain and sadness…"

"You both have," Lupin said softly.

"We all have," Sirius amended, bobbing his head a bit.

"One day, this will all be over," Remus said, squeezing Sirius' shoulders, "And you can take Harry wherever you want, live wherever you want, do whatever you want."

Sirius wanted to believe his old friends words with all his heart, but it was difficult. There was something inside him that made Sirius Black feel as if this were all going to end badly.

"I hope you're right, Remus," Sirius said finally, looking away from his friend and casting another sad, longing look out the kitchen window, "Harry deserves a bright future free of all this rubbish."

"He'll get it," Lupin said with confidence, "We'll make sure of it."

"No matter the cost?" Sirius asked ominously.

Lupin nodded, and an unspoken agreement was forged that night. They would do whatever it took to ensure Harry's future, even if it meant laying down their lives for him. As if there was ever any doubt.

"I think I'm off to bed," Lupin finally said after another few minutes of silence passed between them again. Remus normally had a weak, disheveled appearance about him, but at the moment, it was even more pronounced.

"I think I'll join you," Sirius responded as he, too, looked tired. He'd come a long way towards regaining his robust health since escaping from Azkaban, but his forced seclusion was taking its toll on him. His spirit longed to be free, even while his heart yearned to be here with his dear, dear friend. "A cage is still a cage, no matter how velvet its lining."

-- The End --

Author's End Notes: I took a few hours off of working on the next chapter of "Aftemath" to write this story. As is often the case with me, the end result and the original idea are completely different. Hopefully, the story was enjoyable nonetheless. Feel free to review it if you like.

-BH-