"So, what do you think of it?" Teddy asked, angling his head so that his father, looking down from his library, could get a closer look at the latest addition to his outfit. The small, silver, crescent moon earring dangled from his ear.
"Very cool," Sirius commented. "I'll have to get me one of those."
"Just make sure the teachers doesn't see you wearing it," Remus warned. "Most of them aren't particularly fond of earrings on young men."
"I won't," Teddy promised, covering up his ear with slightly long and shaggy hair.
"Your final Christmas at Hogwart's," Remus said with a sad smile. "It won't be the same without you here next year."
Sirius nodded his agreement. "But, onto less depressing subjects, what prank have you decided on for your final Christmas here?"
"Ice-rink in the Great Hall," Teddy declared.
"A true classic," Sirius mused. "Done many times, and always worth a few laughs."
"Do you think that's a good idea?" Remus asked. "You are a little…you know…"
"What your father is trying to say, is that you're a clumsy git," James called from across the room. He and Lily were on their way out to visit their second portraits, located in Harry's living room. They were both looking forward to seeing their three grandchildren again, even though James had only returned home for the holidays a few days before. Teddy had been invited of course, but had chosen to spend the holidays at school with his father.
"Definitely your mother's son," Sirius added to Teddy. "You don't want to spend your last Christmas here in the Hospital Wing."
"It's fine." Teddy waved their concerns away with a wave of his hand. "I've been practising transfiguring my shoes into skates. Watch this."
Teddy sat down on one of the beanbags and pulled out his wand. "Don't want to fall over," he said. Two swishes and a tap later and the shoes were transformed into ice skates.
"You'd better be careful of those blades," Remus warned. "They look sharp."
Unfortunately, the warning came too late. Teddy lowered his skates onto the opposite beanbag, neatly slicing through the fabric and spilling beans onto the floor.
"Too late," Sirius said with a laugh.
"We'll leave you to it," James called as he waved goodbye and stepped towards the frame leading to Harry's.
"Merry Christmas," Lily added as she too turned to leave.
"Are you sure there's nothing you can do to help from in there?" asked Teddy as he began pointing his wand at the spill of beans, all of which seemed determined to avoid his aim.
"Sorry," Sirius said, not sounding so in the least. "You should turn your shoes back though, you don't want to rip another one open."
Teddy was still trying to clean up the mess when the door to the Room of Requirement opened to reveal Fred Weasley.
"What have you been doing?" he asked as soon as he saw the mess. He kicked a few of the beans out of his way with a laugh.
"You could try and help," Teddy suggested.
Fred laughed again, but at least got his wand out to assist.
Fred Weasley had made history by being the first Weasley in living memory to be sorted into a house other than Gryffindor. The Sorting Hat had broken tradition to place him in Ravenclaw, much to the astonishment of the rest of the family. As if that wasn't enough to turn his father's hair grey, at the start of the previous term he'd been made a prefect.
Fred would normally have returned home for the holidays to join the rest of his family. However, he had persuaded his father to let him stay at school to 'study for his O.W.L.s' – which translated as getting up to mischief and keeping Teddy company.
"Have you finished your Defence essay already?" Remus asked Fred.
"Not even started it," Fred replied with a grin.
"Give the lad a break, Moony," Sirius told him. "It's the holidays."
"I'll get it done on time, Professor," Fred teased. It was a running joke amongst all the students in Hogwart's that Professor Moony was a far better teacher than any of the three Defence Against the Dark Arts teachers who had taken up the post since the Battle of Hogwart's. "Still don't see why you can't teach us properly," he added. "You can't be any worse than Binns."
"Thanks," Remus drawled. "Unfortunately, as a portrait, I can't do the full job of teaching."
"Sure you can!"
"No, I can't. I can't collect in and mark homework."
"Well, who cares about homework?" Teddy declared. "A teacher that can't set any would be brilliant."
"I heard Rathbone is leaving at the end of the year," Fred commented.
"I'm sure there will be numerous applicants for the post, especially now the curse has been lifted," Remus replied.
"I was in Dumbledore's office again last week," Teddy said, without looking up from his task.
"I know," Remus muttered. "Severus told me he'd seen you called in there again. What was it this time?"
"It wasn't my fault," Teddy insisted.
"It never is."
"There aren't many paintings of Heads in there," Teddy continued.
"Been moving them about?" Sirius asked.
"No. Just not many at all really. Not enough for all the Heads that have been here since the school began. It's been here for over a thousand years, after all."
"Not all Heads have portraits," Remus explained. "Only those who die in the post get one. Some Heads moved on to other jobs before they passed over. Occasionally an exception is made, like with Severus, and a portrait is added later – but, for the most part, only those who die on the job are here. Something to do with true devotion to the school."
"Did you hear the story about the Headmaster who died when he fell from the steps to the Owlry back in the eighteenth century?" Teddy asked, with a grin that Remus privately thought was wholly inappropriate for the subject matter. "It was the day before his wedding too."
"What a delightful subject for the Christmas holidays," Sirius commented sarcastically. "Can't think where you get this morbid fascination…"
Teddy laughed as he continued his story. "Apparently he tried to petition the Ministry to let them marry anyway. He wanted the bride to inherit his money – he was really rich. He was the one who provided all the gems for the House hourglasses."
"Obviously got more money than sense," Remus interrupted. "He would have been better off investing in some permanent heating charms."
Teddy shrugged as he gathered the last of the beans up and sat back on his beanbag once more. Fred flopped down beside him. "So, did they let them get married?"
Teddy gave him a scornful look. "Of course not, this is the Ministry we're talking about."
"Well, that's nice and depressing," Sirius said. "Any more miserable stories anyone wants to tell?"
"I hadn't finished," Teddy replied.
"Oh, do tell. Did the poor witch throw herself in front of a moving carriage or something?"
Teddy shook his head. "Did you know he doesn't have a portrait here?"
"Perhaps the school took pity on her," Remus suggested. "Handed his portrait into her care. It wouldn't help her move on or anything, but they might have done that."
Teddy shook his head again. "Nope, guess again."
Remus gave him a stern look. "You know you're dying to tell us, so come on, stop dragging it out."
"According to the witch with the runny nose down near the kitchens, he was painted out."
Three confused faces looked at him, wondering what exactly he meant.
"He was painted out of his original portrait," Teddy said again.
"I don't get it," Sirius said with a shrug of confusion.
Teddy rolled his eyes and stood up to pace as he explained. "Magical portraits are…well…magical."
"Really?" Sirius asked. "I didn't know that! Did you know that, Moony? That magical portraits are magical…gosh, you learn something new every day."
Teddy shot him a dirty look. "You know, you might like to listen to what your nephew has to say, since it concerns you."
Sirius's confusion only increased with that comment, but he settled back on the library sofa to listen.
"According to Marissa – the witch with the runny nose – if a wizard is painted out of his portrait, he'll be alive again, properly alive."
Remus smiled down at Teddy as he shook his head. "I'm sure she was just telling you some myth; I'll speak with her later about putting ideas into youngsters' heads."
"She was a student at the school when it happened," Teddy insisted. "She heard about it at the time. She said he got married after he came back. She said it was possible."
Remus approached at close to the edge of the painting as he could. "I know why you want this so badly," he said. "Believe me, I know. But, simply wanting it to be true doesn't make it so. If it were possible to cheat death as easily as all that, everyone would do it."
"It's not easy," Teddy amended. "You need an artist who can paint on a moving canvas, and who can paint a background that he can't see, as accurately as if he could. It's supposed to be really painful for the person in the painting too."
Remus continued to shake his head, but Sirius had got up from his seat and was searching through the shelves at the back of them. He returned to the front of the painting with a large book, his face ashen. "You said you wanted a library with everything in," he whispered. "Everything is right!"
Remus took the book from him and looked at the page Sirius had opened it at. As he read the page he felt his knees begin to buckle, and only Sirius's strong arm around his waist stopped him from falling to the ground.
"Only three wizards have ever survived it," Remus read aloud. "And one of those died within a few days of returning to the real world."
"But, it's possible," Teddy insisted.
"More dangerous than fifteen year olds attempting animagus transformations?" Teddy countered. "Anyway, we have an advantage now. Modern technology means that we can take photos of the empty room, so that the artist doesn't have to guess the background he's filling in."
"You still need an artist," Sirius reminded him.
"And it's still very risky," Remus added as he continued to read. "If it goes wrong the magical properties of the painting are lost too soon and the occupant…"
"Dies." Sirius concluded.
"One wrong dab of the paintbrush and it's over. I'm not sure it's worth the risk," Remus said as he closed the book and turned to place it on the coffee table.
"I thought you'd like the idea," Teddy replied, his eyes downcast. "I thought maybe you'd think I was worth the risk."
With that the seventeen year old spun on his heel and rushed from the room. Fred followed at his heels.
"Damn," Remus muttered, rushing out of his painting to try to follow him through the corridors. Unfortunately, Teddy had learned long ago that if he wanted to avoid his father, all he had to do was get the Room of Requirement to turn into a room with no paintings and he was just stepping through the door when Remus called out to him.
Remus returned to his painting, where Sirius was waiting. He wasn't surprised to see that he had re-opened the book.
"I can see why the idea appeals to him," Sirius said as he studied the pages.
"So can I, but is it worth the risk?"
"I miss eating," Sirius replied. "Properly eating, I mean."
"Watching the world go by is all well and good, but sometimes I just want to be a part of it again. Don't you feel like that?"
Remus sat down beside Sirius and curled up against him. "Don't you know yet? You're my world…"
"You could hug your son," Sirius whispered.
"Or I could die completely, and lose the chance to even speak with him."
"You can't say you're not tempted, even a little bit."
"No, I can't say that. Of course it's tempting."
"You could apply for the Defence post," Sirius suggested. "You won't have your furry little problem any more."
"I wouldn't say that," Remus muttered, poking Sirius with a finger. "You've been shedding on the bed again."
Sirius chuckled before turning serious once more. "I know you were disappointed when the Headmaster said you couldn't teach from a painting."
"I wasn't that keen on the idea anyway."
"Way too much paperwork and no way of getting paid."
"You love it, and you could get paid again if you were alive."
"The money is rubbish."
"I have more than enough money."
"You left it all to Harry."
"He's frugal, he'd loan me some of it back."
"It would be rude to ask."
"We wouldn't have anywhere to live."
"We'd live here, in the Defence teacher's quarters."
"Teachers don't usually have their spouses living with them here. Even if we were allowed to legally marry…which, since we're two blokes, we can't."
"Civil unions between same sex couples are legal in England now," Sirius told him. "If we did it the muggle way. Wizards are still a bit behind on that one."
"How do you know about that?"
Remus snorted. "If you spend as much time gossiping as you do. Still don't think they'd let you live at the school though."
"Hagrid has a dog. Professor Lupin, and his faithful dog, Padfoot. No one would object to that."
"It's still risky," Remus whispered. "I could lose you all over again."
"But, if it works, look at what we get in return…another chance."
Teddy quickly realised that the way to talk his father around was to firstly convince Sirius of the merits of the idea. He knew that between the two of them, Remus didn't have a chance.
"I wouldn't risk it," Lily said after they had talked things through with the others. "We've had our time."
Severus nodded. "My duty is to the school; I have nothing worth returning to the real world for anyway."
James, on the other hand, had been interested in the idea, but obviously had no intention of leaving Lily on her own. They were happy to watch over Harry and his family from their paintings, and if on occasion they reached out a hand, only to find a barrier, they tried not to let it bother them.
Peter, who Remus had thought would be reluctant to risk his existence, was actually quite enthusiastic about the concept. Only the popularity of his bar and his new relationship with a shy young witch from the Astronomy Tower stopped him from going ahead with the idea.
In the end, it was only Remus and Sirius who were seriously considering the prospect.
"We could taste each other properly, like we used to," Sirius whispered as he licked at Remus's neck.
"I can taste you just fine," replied Remus, pulling Sirius back up for another kiss.
"We could have a proper house, not just a bedchamber and a library."
Remus flipped Sirius onto his back. "You're the one who wanted to spend eternity in bed," he reminded him.
Sirius shook his head. "I wanted to spend eternity with you."
Remus sighed and they kissed again. "We are spending eternity together," he pointed out.
Sirius was picking at the cover when he spoke again. "When we were at school I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life," he said quietly. "At least until the day we got together. Then I knew."
"I wanted to grow old with you," Sirius replied. He ran his hand along Remus's cheek, tracing his jaw, and running a thumb over his lower lip.
"It all went wrong so quickly, didn't it? We lost so much time."
"We have that time back now," Remus said. "As much time as we want."
"But, we're not living," Sirius whispered. "Remus, I want us to be married, or joined or whatever they call it in the muggle world. I want to see you teaching a class. I want to stand by your side at your son's wedding. I want to see you hold your grandchildren. I want a real life, instead of just watching others live theirs. I still want to grow old with you, Remus."
Remus didn't reply with words. He knew that Sirius would know his answer in every kiss and every touch that they shared.
"You ready?" Teddy asked from where he was stood in the Room of Requirement.
Remus looked down at him. "If this goes wrong…"
"I know," Teddy interrupted. "I love you too, Dad."
Remus turned to Sirius, who was getting ready to leave their library for the final time.
Through unspoken agreement, Remus and Sirius had never actually kissed in front of Teddy. His son knew about their relationship, and had done ever since he was old enough to understand why Sirius called himself his Uncle, but they had refrained from doing any more than occasionally touching – which half the time they didn't realise they were doing anyway – in front of him.
"It'll work," Sirius assured him as he squeezed his hand. This time touch wasn't enough; Remus threw his arms around Sirius's neck and captured his lips with his own. There was a desperation to the kiss; both knew it might well be their last.
As they pulled apart Sirius rested his forehead on Remus's. "Sorry, Teddy," Remus said as soon as he'd got his breath back.
"It's okay," Teddy replied with a smile. "I didn't think the two of you never actually kissed or anything."
Sirius chuckled. "Just didn't think you'd be too thrilled about seeing your Dad snogging another bloke."
"No kid likes to see a parent snogging anyone," Teddy pointed out with a laugh. "Even if he were kissing my mum, I'd probably still be embarrassed, because, you know, old folks don't do that sort of stuff."
Remus laughed and pushed Sirius back towards his own painting.
"Aren't you going to say 'I love you' or anything?" Teddy asked.
Remus and Sirius shook their heads simultaneously; they both knew there was no need to say the words. Then they caught Teddy's look of apparent disapproval. He exchanged a glance with Sirius. It wasn't like they hadn't said the words before. When they had first got together, and immediately after their reunion as portraits, they had said them all the time, they just hadn't felt the need to state the obvious for quite some time.
Sirius spoke first. "I…er…you know…erm…"
"Yeah…me too…you know…"
Teddy looked thoroughly disappointed in the pair of them. "Those have got to be the most pathetic declarations of love I've ever heard," he muttered, before turning back to the two artists he had found.
"See you around, Prongs!" Sirius called. "We'll be back before you know it."
"Good luck!" Lily called.
They all knew it wasn't going to be forever. The spell that had made them portraits when they died was, as far as they knew, still active. It was highly likely that if they succeeded in their quest, at the end of their – hopefully very long – lives they would return to the portrait world once more.
"Don't miss us too much," Sirius said as he threw himself onto his bed and settled himself against the headboard.
"We'll keep your bed warm," James called. "We'll give it lots of action…for a change."
Sirius flipped him the bird.
After that, Teddy asked the other portrait occupants to leave the Room of Requirement. Sirius and Remus needed to be as still as possible whilst the artists were working, and that would be hard enough to do, even without the usual Marauder camaraderie.
It had been decided by everyone that it would be best if the portraits were worked on at the same time. They had secured the promise of both artists that if anything went wrong with one of the paintings, they would say nothing out loud to the remaining occupant and simply make the same error again. Whatever happened, they were going to go through it together.
Remus had long ago perfected sitting still, much to the relief of the artist working on his painting. Sirius's artist, on the other hand, had a far more difficult task, due to the constant boundless energy that was his nature. "Mr Black, you must remain as motionless as possible," he advised yet again. Remus was tempted to say something to Sirius himself, but he knew that would only hinder his own artist. Thankfully, Teddy was at hand to order everyone – including Sirius – around.
Remus wasn't sure when the pain started. At first it was just a tingling sensation in his limbs, rather like the start of pins and needles, but gradually it became more and more intense, as though every part of his body was being pulled in a different direction.
The pulling continued until Remus was sure he could not stand it for another minute. But he had to, there was no way to stop the process once it had been started. He knew now why so few wizards had attempted this, and why so many attempts had ended in failure.
Then again, none of those wizards had Sirius Black waiting for him when it was all over. Gritting his teeth he braced himself against the pain.
Remus could hear Sirius whispering but he couldn't make out where the voice was coming from.
Somewhere close by.
"Am I dead?" Remus murmured. "If not, please kill me now."
"The pain will die down soon," Sirius promised. "You'll see."
"Never thought anything would be worse than the werewolf transformation," Remus said.
Then there was a warm body close beside his own, and although the pain was still there, suddenly it wasn't quite as bad as before.
When Remus finally opened his eyes, it was to a familiar sight, but one he had not seen from this perspective in many years. Madam Pomfrey wasn't instantly visible, but she was sure to be around somewhere. The Hospital Wing was her domain, and she was never far from her patients.
Turning his head to the side, he could see Sirius stretched out on the neighbouring bed.
Remus turned in the other direction and saw Teddy sitting in one of the chairs. "Teddy?"
"Is Sirius all right?" he asked.
Teddy nodded. "He appeared first, a few minutes before you. He was at your side almost immediately you returned, but the pain was too much for him, he lost consciousness again almost right away."
Remus breathed a sigh of relief.
"What about you?" Teddy asked. "How do you feel?"
"Okay, I think." Remus struggled to sit up and felt the blood rushing to his head. It was a sensation he had forgotten since becoming a portrait.
"Take it easy," Teddy advised, jumping up to catch Remus as he started to fall from the bed. It was a few minutes before Remus realised that his son was touching him, that he could feel him. As soon as he did he pulled him into a tight hug, tears streaming down his face as he held him for the first time since he had been a baby.
"Mr Lupin, shouldn't you be in detention?" Madam Pomfrey asked as she bustled into the room.
"Detention?" Remus asked as Teddy pulled back and ducked his head sheepishly. "What have you done now?"
"What has he done?" Madam Pomfrey echoed. "Tampering with the paintings of yourself and Mr Black and risking your existences. Inviting men of dubious reputation into the school without permission."
"What?" Remus asked.
"The artists," Teddy clarified. "Most artists won't touch magical paintings, I had to really search to find one, let alone two."
"You can just consider yourself lucky that nothing went wrong," Madam Pomfrey scolded.
"It wasn't his fault," Remus interrupted. "Sirius and I made the decision to go through with it. It was our choice."
"I thought you had more sense," Madam Pomfrey muttered. "I always said that Mr Black was a bad influence on you."
"Is my reputation being maligned again?" Sirius asked from his own bed. "Can't a bloke get any sleep around here without being insulted?"
Remus wanted to leap out of his bed and throw himself at Sirius, and one look at the other young man was enough to know that he wanted to do likewise. It was just a shame that neither of them had enough energy to go through with it. Remus thought it was ironic that eighteen was supposed to be a young man's sexual peak, yet neither of them could even make it to the other's bed.
"Detention," Madam Pomfrey reminded Teddy, shooing him out of the room. "As for you two, I advise you get some more sleep while you can. There will be someone from the Ministry of Magic here to speak with you in the morning."
"About what?" Sirius asked.
"About what happens when wizards decide to return from the dead. I understand they have a lot of paperwork for the two of you."
Sirius groaned while Remus tried to stifle a smile.
"Sleep," Madam Pomfrey repeated.
"Where are our wands?" Remus asked as Madam Pomfrey stepped back towards her office.
"On the bedside table," Madam Pomfrey told him, pointing to the table in question. "Though I would advise against doing any magic before you're fully recovered."
Remus nodded, waited until she had left the room, then reached for his wand.
"You were told not to do any spells," Sirius reminded him.
"Just one little spell," Remus said.
"Just don't try apparating yet."
"I don't need to apparate to get where I want," Remus replied. A swish and a flick later and the bedside table's legs took on a life of their own and the furniture began to trot out of the way. A swish and a flick more and Remus's bed was moving into the place it had vacated.
"That was two spells," Sirius commented as Remus snuggled up beside him.
"Who's counting?" Remus murmured back.
"I am," Sirius whispered back. "I'm counting every single minute we have together, and this time I'm not going to waste a single one."
A/N: I hope you have enjoyed this story, even if it wasn't filled with prank after prank from the Marauders. But come on, everyone does that... If you have enjoyed it, please considering checking out some of my other stories. And of course, reviews are always welcome. Louisa