Sirius stared out of the bank of windows in the Gryffindor common room, absorbed in the sound of the rising wind outside of the tower. The late fall night was clear, the room uncommonly quiet as most of the students studied for exams. The boy at the window had long since grown bored of the scenery outside and in. Giving one last look at the faint outline of the trees against the sky, he turned to survey the room.
Students were crouched over books and stacks of parchment spread over every table and chair. Most of them wore a look of strain that could only be put there by the ominous ramblings of Hogwarts professors. As usual, they were intent on making their students revise for exams that probably wouldn't be half as taxing as promised. Sirius had gotten wise to the games a long while before. He knew which subjects to study like he'd never seen the text and which he could get through on memory. It was too bad none of his classmates had taken his well-meaning advice on proper study habits. It would save them all a lot of unnecessary worry.
Spotting James sitting on a chair near the fireplace, Sirius walked past Lily Evans as she tutored a group of younger girls in Cheering Charms. He sneered at her and she rolled her eyes before turning back to the student who'd been trying to get her attention. She spends entirely too much time showing off, Sirius thought. It's a wonder she ever has time to get her own studying done.
All thoughts of the redhead were pushed to the back of his mind as he drew closer to his friend. He spotted Peter sitting near James's feet, smiling adoringly as James told him what he'd missed while serving detention during the first Quidditch match of the school year.
"I was fifty meters in the air, diving straight at the pitch to avoid a Bludger, when—"
"When the Snitch recognized who was near it, instantly fell in love and launched itself at his hand," Sirius said, interrupting. He leaned onto the arm of James's chair, smiling in response to his friend's instant smirk. "Of course, James didn't want to take all the glory, so he let the Seeker catch it instead. Still, you should've seen it, Wormy. It was a beautiful sight."
"And Sirius is still not the least bit jealous," James said, running a hand over his hair absently. The dark locks instantly fell into a state of disarray on his head. Sirius pretended not to notice James looking around to see if he'd caught anyone's attention. He didn't blame James for being a bit self-centered about his hair; that move had gotten him more than his share of hot and heavy "study sessions" with the friendlier Quidditch fans.
Sirius reached out a hand to ruffle James's hair, disheveling it further. "No, not in the least," he said. "You like flouncing around in a high wind with an enchanted stick between your legs, slinging a ball around. I prefer to have my feet firmly on the ground, enjoying physical pursuits that don't result in regular visits to the Hospital Wing."
"Funny," James said. "I seem to remember you coming out of the bathroom one morning with your hand stuck on your—"
"Where's Moony?" Sirius asked. James chuckled and Wormtail looked back and forth between the two of them, laughing at James's comment and trying to answer the question. After a few seconds, he finally calmed down enough to respond to Sirius.
"He's studying," Peter said.
"Him too?" Sirius asked. He motioned to the other students in the room. "I thought he was like Evans—studying is optional."
"Believe it or not, she works hard to stay at the top of our year," James said. Sirius frowned at the defensive note in his voice. "He's gone up to the top of the Astronomy Tower to look over his star charts again."
"Why?" Sirius asked. "The exam's not for two weeks."
"Sinistra is letting him take it early. He won't be around when we're taking the exam," James answered. "It's right in the middle of that time of the month."
"At least he'll be able to tell us what's on the exam," Sirius said.
"Not if he wants to keep his advantage," James responded.
Sirius moaned. "I don't see the point of being able to take the exams early if he can't help his friends study," he said. "It's not like he'll give us all of the answers. They're essay questions." James rolled his eyes. He knew what was coming.
"They should go easy on Remus. He's working with a disability he can't control." He smiled as he finished his usual spiel on the virtues of being friends with someone their professors favored. James would never see it the way he did, but Sirius knew his friend found his side of the argument amusing anyway.
James shook his head. "It doesn't matter how you phrase it," he countered. "McGonagall was clear with him. No extra help to anyone or he'll have to take the exams after we have. She knows he'd never listen if we tried to tell him about the tests."
"So she thinks," Sirius said. He turned and glanced at the window on the far side of the room again. "I think I'm going to go up to help him. Maybe he'll get done faster."
"Are you sure you won't slow him down instead?" Peter asked. "You do have that affect on people when they're trying to study."
"Only you," Sirius said. Gracing his friends with a quick smile, he rose from the arm of the chair and crossed the room in quick strides, eager to distract Remus from wasting another full night studying.
When he reached the top of the Astronomy Tower, he quickly spotted Remus sitting in a far corner, surrounded by stacks of parchment and two large books. His telescope was on the stand behind him. As Sirius stepped closer, a loud buzzing sound filled his ears—the result of a spell in the area. He knew there was no point in yelling out to get his friend's attention. Pulling out his wand, he aimed red sparks at Remus, only to have them bounce off an invisible barrier several feet away. The other boy looked up and smiled. Picking up his wand, he waved it in the air twice and then motioned for Sirius to join him on the cold stone.
"Sorry about that," Remus said as Sirius sat next to him. "I was trying to guard against the wind." To further emphasize his point, the wind picked up and he had to scramble to keep his notes from blowing away. With another quick flick of his wand, he renewed the barrier around himself and Sirius. "What are you doing up here?"
"According to Wormtail, I'm here to distract you," Sirius said. He grinned and leaned back on his hands. "I can't say he was wrong. I was bored and I'm pretty sure you could use the distraction."
"Or so you told yourself," Remus said. He motioned to the parchment, telescope and books. "I do need to study." He picked up one of his star charts.
"No, you don't," Sirius responded. He snatched the parchment from Remus's hand and put it inside one of the books. "You know this stuff, like you always do. Why do you put yourself through this every term when you don't have to?" he asked. "I've never understood why you push yourself so hard."
"I've never understood why you don't push yourself harder," Remus responded. "You could easily be at the top of our class along with me and James and—"
"Evans," Sirius supplied. He rolled his eyes.
"But you do just enough to get by," Remus continued.
"I don't see the point in doing anything more than that."
"One day you might see the point," the other boy said. "Actually, I really hope you do. Find something you care enough about to really work at it. Everything can't be fun and games forever."
"What's wrong with fun?" Sirius smiled. "If it weren't for me, you wouldn't have half as much. Judging from this," he said, motioning to the items on the ground, "you need me around."
"You think I only need you around to entertain me?" Remus asked.
Sirius grinned and leaned closer. "I think it's fair to say you'd rarely do anything fun or spontaneous if we didn't push you." He shrugged. "Why do you think McGonagall made you Prefect? Even she knows you'll never do anything too far out of line or unexpected."
"Is that really what you think? That I'm predictable and boring?"
At the sudden strange note to his voice, Sirius looked over at his friend. His small smile had vanished and he was watching Sirius with the look he usually reserved for students he caught sneaking down to the Hogwarts kitchens. Sirius wondered when this had become a serious conversation.
"No," Sirius said. "I wouldn't be friends with you if that was the case." He shrugged. "It's just that sometimes you—"
"Need to shake things up?"
Sirius nodded. There was something about Remus's expression that made him sit up a little straighter and turn to face him directly. His eyes narrowed. "What—"
"Shut up, Black," Remus said. Then he leaned forward and kissed Sirius.
For the first few seconds, Sirius was frozen in place. The feel of his friend's lips on his felt…well, he didn't want to call it strange, but that word was floating around in the back of his mind. It was certainly unexpected. Remus's mouth was soft, warm and pushing against his in a way that made his breath catch. This was all wrong. They were friends. They had to stop. They could never be together like this. They—with a sigh, Sirius opened his mouth and kissed him back.
It was slow at first and Sirius began to wonder if he'd done something wrong in responding. Then Remus grabbed a handful of his hair and he lost the last of any apprehension he felt. He threw everything he had into the kiss—lips, tongue, roaming and grasping hands—and was rewarded with an equally passionate response. Just as abruptly as it had begun, Remus pulled back and looked at him with a startled expression.
You look exactly how I feel, Sirius thought. He took a deep breath. His breathing had slowed almost immediately but his heart was still pounding like they'd spent the last few minutes running under the moonlight together. This was an altogether different type of exhilaration. A smile touched his lips. A surprise, yes, but definitely the good kind. His smile dropped as Remus raised his wand. A short burst of light came from the tip.
Sirius's eyes narrowed on the wand pointed at his chest. "What are you doing?"
"I was just…well, you can't blame me, can you?" Remus asked. "I remember that stupid Polyjuice prank on Wormtail last spring. It was really funny until he got a little hands-on."
The color drained from Sirius's face as he remembered the enthusiastic response from Peter when he'd thought Dorcas Meadowes had been flirting with him. That was something he and James hadn't seen coming. "I'm really me and I'm not pranking you," Sirius said. "I had no idea that you would—"
"You kissed me back," Remus stated, cutting him off. "Don't try to deny it."
Sirius stared at him for several seconds, his expression sober. "I wouldn't do that," he said quietly. "I don't have a reason to deny it. Do I?"
"I don't know, you—" Remus frowned. "I don't know what to think."
"We're on the same page there," Sirius responded. "One minute we're fine and the next I think you're about to attack me." A corner of his mouth quirked up. "That's not the typical reaction I get when I kiss someone."
"This isn't the typical situation, is it?"
Sirius had to agree with him there. There was nothing routine about what had just happened. If he hadn't just experienced it for himself, he'd have never known that Remus could be so passionate about anything.
"You've managed to accomplish two things tonight," Sirius began. "I will never hint that you're boring again." Remus laughed. At the sound, Sirius let his shoulders relax. "I don't think we can go back to the way things were again." He stared at Remus for a few seconds as the full meaning of those words sunk in. "Or can we?"
"Why would we?" Remus asked. "I mean, unless you didn't like—"
"Of course I did," Sirius blurted. He'd had to cut him off. He didn't think he could handle getting into a serious discussion with Remus about feelings, of all things. Or maybe they were just talking about the physical part. From the way that first kiss had gone, Sirius knew that part would definitely work itself out. Everything else? He wasn't exactly the type to go for the bad poetry and flowers bit and he was pretty sure Remus would spare him from holding hands on the way to class. At least, he hoped so. How did things get so complicated so fast?
"So…" Remus let his voice trail off. A faint blush tinted his cheeks. "When do you want to tell our friends? I'm sure James at least will be relieved I've finally found someone." His eyes dropped. "That is, if—"
"I…I'm not really sure," Sirius said. "You know him, he's not really comfortable discussing this kind of…you know, relationship stuff."
"What's there to discuss?" Remus asked, his mouth suddenly turning down into a frown. "If this is what we both want, then what's to stop us from telling our friends? Your best friend? You tell him everything else. Things you don't tell me or Wormtail until months later, like an afterthought."
Sirius leaned over so Remus could hear his whisper. "It's not that simple. It never is with us, is it?"
Remus stared at him for a long moment, his expression flat. Sirius knew the events of the previous spring were running through his mind, as fresh as when he'd first found out Snape had nearly followed him into the Shrieking Shack. Remus didn't speak to him for nearly a month after that weekend and it had taken a lot for Sirius to convince him that continuing to be friends wasn't going to risk anyone else's life. The humor had worn off that prank quickly when he understood trying to scare Snape wasn't worth losing one of the few people he was close to. He wasn't willing to do something that might open that possibility again.
"I forgave you for that ages ago, you know that," Remus said. "It was stupid, but I believe you wouldn't have really let me hurt someone."
Sirius nodded. "Yes, I was stupid and you were a saint to forgive it. But, I'm not sure I would've gotten my head together in time to keep the worst from happening." He shrugged. "I don't want to make that kind of mistake again."
"So being with me would be a mistake?" Remus leaned back and crossed his arms. "I'd wager you weren't thinking that when you had your hands all over me a few minutes ago."
"No, that's not what I meant." Sirius put a hand on Remus's shoulder and pulled him close again. "There are some things that can't be taken back. We don't really know where this is going to go yet and some people aren't…comfortable with the idea of…" He stopped, knowing the other boy would fill in the rest of the sentence in his mind. "I know he's our friend, but I have no idea how James would feel about it. Of course he'd support us eventually, but wouldn't it be better if we find out if there's an us to support before putting that to the test?"
Remus stared at him for a few seconds longer. "It's scary how mature and rational you can be when you really want to get your way." He smiled in spite of the serious tone to his words. "So you're not sure about us. Why?"
"You're sure?" Sirius waited a split second for his friend's nod before his lips twitched into a grin. "If you ever tell anyone this, I swear I'll start reading your journal in the middle of the Great Hall during breakfast."
"Empty threat," Remus replied. "You don't know where I keep the real one." He paused. "Tell anyone what?"
Sirius mumbled something quickly, then repeated his statement slower, embarrassment over his own nervousness making his voice softer than normal. "I'm scared about what could happen," he said. "I could easily screw this up. You blokes have been my friends longer than I've ever been close to anyone in my life. We're like brothers." He smiled and looked down at his hands.
"If the two of us trying to have a relationship ruins that, I don't know how I'd deal with it. Or you, for that matter." Sirius grinned wider and looked up again. "If we were to break up and James had to pick the much cooler friend to keep, you wouldn't stand a chance."
"Oh, shut up," Remus said, laughing. He grabbed Sirius by the back of the neck and pulled him closer until their lips met.
This time was much better than the first, as it lacked the kind of nervous fumbling that accompanied an unexpected snog. Again, Sirius was relieved to find he wasn't the only one who wanted to encourage whatever was building between them. Remus was doing a little more than encouraging, if the placement of his hands was any indication. For someone who hadn't appeared to be involved with anyone before, he certainly knew the best way to fast-track a snogging session on the first go. Sirius had begun debating the logistics of getting naked on a rooftop when at least two people knew where they were and might come looking when Remus separated their mouths again. He moved a foot away for good measure.
"You are dangerous, you know that?"
Sirius laughed. "Coming from you, especially after what you were doing—"
"It's not my fault," Remus said. "My hand slipped and you started making that noise in the back of your throat and—" He paused to lick his lips. He sucked his bottom lip into his mouth slowly before releasing it. His eyes narrowed. "Did you bite me?"
"I…maybe." Sirius laughed again. He ran a shaking hand over his hair. He had lost control. He had a feeling it wouldn't be the last time. Not even the last time that night. "I think we should slow down."
"Funny. I was going to suggest we find a way to make it to the Shrieking Shack and back before curfew."
At the small smile that accompanied this suggestion, Sirius thought sure his heart had skipped a beat. For someone he'd always thought rather shy, Remus was nothing like the boring bookworm he'd been for five and a half years. Maybe this relationship had stronger possibilities than he'd thought.
"You really shouldn't tempt me like that," Sirius said. "Here I was thinking I'd be the one corrupting you."
"That could be arranged."
Sirius leaned back onto his hands, his full-bodied laugh carrying out over the Astronomy Tower roof. "Again, I was very wrong to ever suggest you're boring. I don't know what I was thinking." He smiled at Remus and batted his hand away when the other boy reached out to touch his leg. He needed to cool off, not the other way around.
"So. You kissed me first. Does that mean you knew I'd respond?" His face suddenly felt warm. "Or that you knew I might respond?"
"I knew," Remus said with a nod. "Not that it's obvious," he added at Sirius's surprised expression. "It was just that sometimes you'd give James this look." Remus smiled and Sirius swore his heart gave a hard thump. He wasn't sure if it was from the realization that he'd been found out early on or the smile Remus gave him as he said it. "I thought if you were ever honest about that part of yourself, I'd never have a chance. Of course, girls started tripping all over themselves to get to him when he joined the house team. From the way he responded, it was clear you never had a chance with him."
"How long have you known?"
"Since third year." Had he really been that obvious in his pining for James? That stupid crush of his had lasted two years solid and Sirius had thought he'd kept the desire a secret the entire time. He didn't want to know how many other people had read it as easily as Remus.
"About yourself," Sirius said. "What helped you know you were different?"
"Probably since…you." He laughed softly. "I know it sounds like a bad chat up line, but it's sort of true." Remus shrugged. "I always felt different, for obvious reasons. I'd let myself believe it was just this horrible disease that made it so hard for me to relate to other kids. The idea of getting close to anyone, especially a girl, was about the scariest thing I could think of. Then I started here and I'd hear James or one of the older boys go on about a girl." He grinned. "I had no idea what they saw in any of them.
"You probably don't even remember this, but one day you were in the dorm talking about something strange that had happened with your wand in Charms. The dirtiest thought I'd ever had popped into my head at that moment. I knew I could never say it out loud, because I didn't know how you'd react. That was when I knew for sure. If I was like the other boys, you'd laugh off the comment. But from me, you'd know it was something else. My meaning wouldn't be the same as if James or Peter had said it. My voice or something else would give me away. I thought that's what would cost me your friendship, since my other problem didn't."
"Being gay is not a problem," Sirius said. There, he'd finally said the word. And neither of them had run back down the stairs in denial. Not that there'd be much point to that.
"No, it's how other people think that's a problem," Remus said. "It's enough that people would be afraid of me if they knew my secret, but I thought life would be that much worse if they were disgusted by me too."
"How could you think that I or James or Peter would ever be disgusted by you?" Sirius asked. "You're our friend."
"You said yourself you aren't sure how James will react," Remus pointed out.
"React to us dating after we've been friends all this time," Sirius said. "I think he'd be a little weird about it at first, but that's it. I'm sorry if it sounded like something else. He'd probably tease us forever about snogging in broom closets and things like that. He would never be disgusted with either of us. Not for this."
"I can't be sure about anyone like you can," Remus said. "Besides, after what Dumbledore said—"
"He knows? You told him?"
Remus shrugged. "He just knew like he knows everything else. He told me how difficult it was for him when he was our age dealing with people who just don't understand. After a while, he knew he couldn't tell any but his closest friends and he doesn't have many of those. He thought I'd be the same way."
"Dumbledore too?" Sirius asked. "I guess I shouldn't be surprised. Every time he sees me getting tense about something, he keeps asking if there's anything I want to talk about."
"You've never said yes?"
Sirius shrugged. "I always thought it would be some rubbish about my family's connection to Voldemort or whether I might be tempted to join that group he's formed when I'm of age."
"You should," Remus said. "James and I have already agreed that we're going to be in the Order of the Phoenix."
"Why? You don't have to join a group like that to prove to people that you're against him."
"It's not about that," Remus said. "You don't have to join one side of a war or another, but staying in the middle gets you nowhere. I'd rather make a clear choice to join a side that wants to protect everyone from the kind of hatred that Voldemort wants to use to control our world. He would have people like Lily Evans live beneath us, like they're not even worthy of shining his boots." His eyes cast down briefly and Sirius had to restrain the urge to reach out to him.
"He would have my kind terminated," Remus whispered. "If we don't agree to join his side, that is. The Order is going to be there to stop that kind of discrimination from becoming widespread. And we'll be able to help and protect people who need it. The Ministry can't do everything. You never know, you might be one of the people we help. You've already left home for the very reasons some people have become victims of Death Eaters – because your principals are more important than following some archaic way of thinking of Muggles, Muggle-borns and half-bloods. And in a group, we can show them we're not afraid to fight."
Sirius nodded. He hadn't needed Remus to lecture him, he'd just thought drawing more attention to a group of fighters would do nothing more than antagonize the other side. He'd never considered it a form of cowardice before. He'd thought he was done with the fighting when he'd gotten into a shoving match with Regulus that last time. His mother had given him the ultimatum that had resulted in his moving in with the Potters. He didn't think he had any fight left after that. Since this was so important to his friends—and the rest of the Wizarding world—wasn't that enough incentive to consider joining?
"I'll think about it," Sirius said after a few seconds. "Maybe if I finally commit, James will stop bugging me about it."
"So, if I want a commitment from you, I just have to be persistent?" Remus accompanied the question with a crooked grin Sirius had never seen from him. He leaned forward until he was close enough that Sirius could pick out the flecks of gray in his light blue eyes. "You are notoriously stubborn," he said. "So, I suppose I should be prepared to attempt persuading you for the long haul."
Sirius grinned. "I don't know. It could be a long while." He leaned back a few inches. "As a matter of fact, I think you'll have to be a bit pushy if you want me to change my mind about something permanent."
Remus smiled wider and leaned closer until their lips were a hairsbreadth apart. "I think I can handle that," he whispered before kissing him again. It didn't take long before they were pawing at each other again, their clothes seeming to fall away beneath the tips of quick fingers. Sirius wondered briefly if he'd unleashed this wilder side of Remus himself or if it had always been there lurking beneath the surface. When the other boy pinned his shoulders and emitted a low growl, he decided he didn't much care.
"Would you look at that?"
Sirius and Remus jumped away from each other. When he saw who was walking towards them, Sirius grabbed his wand and jumped to his feet, pointing the instrument in front of himself. "What are you doing up here?"
Snape shifted his books and telescope to one arm and waved the other towards the night sky. "I came up to study something other than anatomy," he drawled. He lowered his hand to gesture between the two boys. "Oh, but you don't have to stop on my account. It was a fascinating show."
Sirius's eyes narrowed at the comment. Glancing down at himself, he took a moment to button and zip his pants and pull the bottom of his shirt out to cover himself. He glanced at Remus. The other boy had straightened his clothes as well and was looking back and forth between Sirius and Snape, his expression fearful.
Sirius turned back to the Slytherin. "You're not going to tell anyone what you saw."
Snape laughed at the order. "Or what? You'll kill me?"
"Yes," Sirius said. He'd nearly done it once. If Snape crossed him on this, it might be worth it to try again.
"Sirius," Remus whispered. He put a hand on the other boy's arm.
"Aw, I don't think your girlfriend would like that," Snape said.
Sirius raised his wand level Snape's face with a shaking hand. "Don't talk about him like that." Snape chuckled again. The low sound made Sirius's blood run cold.
"Look, this doesn't have to turn into a fight," Remus said. He turned to Snape. "I'm sure we can come to a compromise. We just don't want you to tell anyone. What do you want for that?"
Snape had opened his mouth to respond and then paused as he considered the offer. "No more pranks on me. Ever."
"I'm not going to promise—"
"Done," Remus said, cutting Sirius off. He bent down to pick up his telescope, books and papers. "We're going to leave you up here to study now." Standing again, he nodded his head towards the door leading to the stairs.
After a few more seconds of glaring at Snape, Sirius turned and preceded Remus down the stairs. When they reached the bottom, Sirius began pacing back and forth, anger radiating out from his every movement. Remus put his belongings down and grabbed him, forcing him to hold still.
"He's going to tell someone the first chance he gets. I know he will."
"No, he won't," Remus assured him. "We made a deal and I think he might stick to it."
Sirius stared at him in disbelief. "He's a Slytherin. How long do you think a promise from him will last?"
"As long as you and James don't bother him," Remus answered. "Look, we don't have to worry about him telling anyone if we do it ourselves first."
"I thought we'd agreed that telling people wasn't the best idea for now," Sirius said. Remus slid his hands from Sirius's arms to his shoulders before locking them behind his neck. Looking into the other boy's eyes, Sirius could feel the tension slowly leaving his body. If this was what he could look forward to in a relationship, maybe it wouldn't be so bad.
"I've never taken you for a coward before and I don't want to start now," Remus said. He leaned up on his toes to give Sirius a brief kiss. "We can wait as long as you need to, but in this case, I think the reward is worth the risk."
As Remus kissed him again and touched him in a way that felt far more dangerous than a night under a full moon, Sirius came to a realization. If he was going to risk everything, he wanted it to be for the kind of thrill that paled in comparison to every cheap prank he could think of. He smiled as Remus broke the kiss long enough to whisper a suggestion and adjusted his hand to make his point. The kind of thrill that came from being at the complete mercy of a ravenous werewolf.