Two in the afternoon is too early on a Monday, Remus thought. Especially the first Monday after school's ended. He sighed. Especially if one wants to see Sirius Black. Remus glanced at his watch again and then rang the doorbell for the third time. He squinted through the window next to the dark oak door, shading his eyes against the glare. After a few seconds of silence, Remus moved back to stand before the door and banged on it with his first. He shifted in place and felt his school trunk and luggage shift in his right trouser pocket.
Some morning he was having. One in the morning, he'd been roused from his bed by his father, screaming that he be packed and out of the house by week's end—in other words, before the next full moon. Remus couldn't blame his father for being a bit scared. After all, he hadn't been around his son at that time since he'd gone to Hogwarts. Dumbledore had been nice enough to stay with the young werewolf at school every summer and his friends had been allowed to join him for other holidays. But after he'd written to his parents and told them he was getting out of school, Remus thought they might have let him know he was unwelcome in a timely manner. Or, at least, not in the middle of the night in a drunken rage. Arabella had attempted to soften it, but she hadn't exactly refuted John Lupin's order. Not that her son had expected her to.
Rather than argue with the man himself, he'd immediately sent an urgent message through the Floo to Sirius, begging for a place to crash until he could find his own. Sirius had responded with a hastily scrawled message giving his permission. Remus liked to think it was genuine permission and not just the easy acquiescence of a friend still deep in his cups from the celebration that had begun Friday afternoon.
But here, on a sunlit stoop in the surprisingly quiet Muggle neighborhood Sirius now called home, Remus began to wonder if his friend remembered anything of their early morning exchange. And, if he did, if Sirius had come to regret it.
The door opened and a voice called from inside, "How long you been out there?"
Remus smiled into the darkness. Sirius sounded like he'd been gargling glass. "I rang your bell for at least ten minutes. I was hoping you'd outgrow sleeping like the dead one day."
The door opened wider and a long-fingered hand beckoned Remus into the gloom. "I unplugged the stupid bell after the cops rang it one time too many Saturday night." As Remus let his eyes adjust, he saw his friend was smiling.
The rest of Sirius appeared to match the state of his voice. He was wearing a fitted white t-shirt that was torn in several places and loose-fitting tan trousers that stood out against his pale skin. His spiky dark hair stood all over his head in messy clumps. Bags underlined both of his half-open and slightly bloodshot gray eyes.
Sirius closed the door. "Forget to set the bloody charms around the house. People from all over were complaining about the noise."
"Sounds like I missed something special," Remus said.
Sirius shrugged. He would be nonchalant about having a three day party. "Nothing you won't be around for yourself. If you decide to stay."
"I appreciate the offer," Remus began, "but I think it's best if this is temporary."
"If you're going to go into a spiel about how you hate being in my debt and whatever other rubbish you thought of on the way over, you can save it," Sirius said. "You're my friend, the house is paid for, and I'll welcome you as long as you want to stay." He glanced around himself. "And as long as you don't make too much of a mess."
Remus followed his friend's gaze. Between the whiskey bottles, a smell Remus didn't even attempt to identify and what looked like a small pile of animal bones in one corner, among other discarded trash, the foyer and parlor looked like a pack of teenagers had run wild in it over the course of a month, rather than a few days. Of course, Remus had no idea how Sirius had previously kept the house he'd bought himself for Christmas. If it was anything like the corner of the dorm his roommates had forced him to keep an odor-proof barrier around for seven years, Remus was sure he'd have no shortage of work cut out for himself if he decided to take on the task of keeping the place tidy. Even if he could use magic to scour the place clean.
"So, which part of this den of sin do I get to squat in?"
"It's not that bad," Sirius said. He turned away from Remus and began walking up the stairs. Remus caught up to him on the landing, where he'd paused to peel a used condom from his bare foot. He glanced at Remus out of the corner of his eye. "Not a word."
"I wasn't going to say anything."
"You're thinking it. Loudly." Sirius continued to his left down the hall, pausing every few steps to dodge the debris left by his weekend fun. "Here we are." He gestured to the second to last door. Tentatively, Remus reached for the doorknob, turned it and pushed the door in.
"Let me guess, you've never used this room."
"Lily said she'd refuse to let James come back if I didn't give him someplace sanitary to sleep when we set up the house over Easter," Sirius confirmed. "I guess I'll have to find another room for when he visits."
Remus nodded and walked inside. Sunlight shone in at an angle from a bay of windows along the wall across from the door. There was a large fireplace along another wall, doors leading to a closet and bathroom and a large four-poster bed dominating the center of the space. "I'm surprised she let him in the front door, from the looks of downstairs. And don't give me that rubbish about the party," he said, turning to face Sirius. "I doubt it's much cleaner on a normal day."
"And you're going to see that changes, I bet."
"Consider it my rent."
"I'll make sure you have plenty of chances to work it off," Sirius said.
Remus reached into his pocket and tossed his shrunken trunk and luggage onto the bed.
"Careful Moony, you might crinkle one of your shirts," Sirius remarked. "Come on, you can fuss about unpacking later. Let me show you the rest of the place."
In spite of the unholy mess and stench, the house was nice. It had taken Remus forty minutes—and a powerful scouring charm he'd once seen Professor Slughorn use on a failed Potions experiment—to get the house to reasonably decent living conditions. There were seven bedrooms, all with their own fireplaces, four bathrooms, high ceilings and hardwood floors, a large kitchen and parlor inside what looked like a normal two story house from the outside. Remus wasn't sure how it all worked, but somehow Sirius and James had managed to build an indoor pool and hot tub in the invisible third floor. The ceiling and walls were enchanted like the Great Hall ceiling at Hogwarts. Remus had been treated to a glorious mid-afternoon view of the full neighborhood below the hill. It gave him the feeling of being able to step off the edge and fall straight to the valley below.
"You should see the way girls react to this view," Sirius said. "When the stars are out, being up here makes you feel like you could reach up and touch the sky."
"If I didn't know your reason for building this, that might almost sound romantic," Remus responded.
"You don't think I could be romantic?"
"I've known you almost half our lives," Remus said. "I don't think you have a romantic bone in your body."
Sirius laughed shortly. "Maybe you're right. My bone isn't exactly built for one skirt at a time."
But definitely built to get under the robes of nearly every attractive girl at school, Remus thought. The ones James didn't get to first. It was just as well that Remus wasn't really into girls. He'd have hardly had the chance spending time with those two. To this day, he was surprised Peter had managed three girlfriends over the years, especially given that one of them had nursed a persistent crush on James. Remus, on the other hand, had happily stayed single the years they'd been at Hogwarts. There were a few snogs here and there, and a couple of colorful nights that disappeared from memory after he and the other boy had put their robes on again, but Remus had always maintained an ongoing fantasy about someone he couldn't have. The dark-haired young man next to him.
He knew the fantasies were ridiculous, but they felt utterly delicious. Remus had gone from imagining their first kiss in third year to joining Sirius in the shower, to showing him a few things with his mouth and hands the girls at Hogwarts couldn't imagine in their wildest fantasies. He wondered how drunk Sirius would have to be in order to—
"Moony?" Sirius waved a hand in front of his face and snapped his fingers. Remus turned to him.
"Where were you just now? Don't tell me you're as hypnotized by the view as the ladies?"
Remus shook his head. "Just thinking about the debauchery I might get up to while I'm here."
Sirius clapped him on the back. "I knew I was a good influence on you all these years. Let's get you downstairs so you can get a password to the Floo. Can't have you waking me up to get into the house anymore."
Remus nodded and waited for his friend to turn before following him down the stairs. His eyes remained resolutely on Sirius's arse in the loose-fitting trousers. Moving in was probably a bad idea, but he'd managed to control himself around Sirius for years. What could possibly happen in a few weeks?
Lily stood in the center of the parlor, moving in a circle. Remus could see her eyes skipping over every surface as she turned to his direction, looking for some flaw in the sparsely furnished room. Finally, she stopped and faced Sirius. A smile tilted her lips at the corners.
Sirius raised one eyebrow. "You approve, then?"
"Of having Remus as your housekeeper? Yes," she answered.
James laughed as Sirius immediately frowned.
"Don't get upset. You didn't expect me to believe you'd kept it this sterile on your own." Lily glanced at Remus over her shoulder. "Scourgify wasn't strong enough, was it?"
Remus shook his head. "Had to have three different spells to take care of the smell too."
"However it was done, the house meets with your approval, yes? So I can expect you to give James permission to go off his leash every once in a while?" Sirius asked.
"Thanks, Padfoot. I haven't been in the house a day and you already can't stand to be alone with me," Remus said. He punctuated the comment with a smile.
"Sorry, Moony," James said. "It's not my fault Sirius is in love with me. He can't stand to be away from me for more than a couple of days."
"That explains why you've left fleas at my house," Lily commented.
"Look, that was just the once—and why did you tell her that story anyway?" Sirius asked. He crossed his arms. "Some things are sacred."
"You running around Hogsmeade starkers because you were too drunk to remember how to change into your Animagus form is sacred?" James laughed. "You're lucky we found you asleep behind the Hog's Head or McGonagall would've given you enough detentions that your kids would've had to polish everything in the trophy room twice over."
"Merlin's sake! First insult my housekeeping, then jinx me with offspring?" Sirius scowled. "I ought to kick the both of you out now."
"You wouldn't dare." Lily turned to face Sirius fully, her arms crossed over her chest.
"Oh, I wouldn't, would I?" Sirius pulled his wand from behind his back and aimed it at Lily. "I could try something a little more fun with that pretty face of yours if leaving doesn't suit you."
"Drop your wand or I'll do something that'll give you flashbacks for the rest of your life. I ought to do it anyway just for the threat."
The arguing twosome both turned in surprise as Remus pulled out his wand and trained it on Sirius.
"I was just joking, mate. You know that." Sirius looked at him through narrowed eyes as he lowered his wand. "Though I am curious what you could do to me that would have that affect."
"I think you should do whatever it is anyway," James said. "It sounds like something we might've gotten expelled for."
"As if you weren't in danger of that every other week anyway," Lily said. She smiled at Remus. "Care to let us in on how you intend to punish Sirius? I'm sure you'll have to at some point."
Punish him? I don't know if I'd call it punishment, but there are things I'd do to him that would make him blush just remembering. Remus held back a smile.
"I'm going to tie him up. That's all, I swear. You know he hates being restrained." That wasn't all, but he was hardly going to let James and Lily know that. Though, from the expression on Lily's face, she probably suspected more. Smart girl, that one. Lily smiled as if they shared a secret and then turned back to Sirius and James.
"Well, as much as I've enjoyed threats of violence and stories of your misdeeds, it's time for James and I to go. We promised Peter we'd visit him at his new job and I think Quality Quidditch Supplies closes in about twenty minutes."
"I'd say I'm going to miss your company, but you'd hate for me to lie," Sirius remarked.
James turned to him. "Padfoot, we talked about this."
"I know, I know. We will all learn to get along like one big dysfunctional family." He smiled. "First step towards that, you're invited over for dinner tomorrow night, along with Wormtail. Remus is cooking."
"Sounds doable," Lily said. She glanced at her watch. "We really should be going."
"That settles it then," James said. He walked over and clapped a hand to Remus's shoulder. "You can have him all to yourself again," he said as Lily walked to stand before the fireplace. "Just make sure you set the charms around the house before he starts screaming." He smiled at Sirius. "You kids play safe now."
Sirius nodded but said nothing until after James and his girlfriend had left. Then he turned to Remus, a frown marring his handsome features.
"You threatened me. Over Lily."
Remus rolled his eyes. "It's not that big a deal. You claim you were kidding. And if you remember, the last time you got into it with her, James didn't talk to you for three days. I can't live with you if you're going to be cranky like you were then."
"Maybe you're right," he conceded after a few moments. "But you will admit she was giving as good as she got?"
"James says she always does."
After a few seconds of silence, they both erupted into laughter.
"There's an image I don't really need," Sirius remarked. "Lily Evans in heat. I prefer not to imagine whatever sordid things she's done to make James smile these past few months." Sirius crossed his arms and eyed his new roommate. "Though I'm starting to wonder if you wouldn't give her a run for her money in the sordid department. Just what were you planning to do once you had me tied up?"
Remus felt his face warm as several scenarios presented themselves in his thoughts. "It's probably best if I don't tell you. You could adapt yourself to it and then we'd have nothing to help control that temper of yours." Remus began to walk towards the foyer. "Then again," he said over his shoulder, "there's also the danger that you'd like whatever I do to you. I imagine you've been wondering about it for a few years now. That thought should keep you in line."
Remus walked quickly through the doorway and sprinted up the stairs, wondering at his uncharacteristic audacity. He'd pretty much told Sirius he wanted to have his way with him, but hadn't the nerve to stick around and see his friend's reaction. He hadn't even been brave enough to see the expression on his face. Maybe Sirius would chalk it up to more of the trash talk of the night—something he would forget about the moment Remus left the room. The trouble was, Remus wasn't sure he wanted him to forget it. Especially since he knew he'd be up all night, thinking about the possibilities.