Early the next morning, it was Sirius who dragged Remus out of bed. To the stairwell. To the kitchen. To lay under the enchanted roof and make love as the sky filled with the oranges and pinks of sunrise. He'd clean forgotten about James and the rest of the world until Sirius gave him a hard slap on his bare rump and ordered him to get showered and dressed.
"Why?" Remus asked. "I'm just going to take my clothes off again." He paused. A smile curved his lips. "Unless you'll do it for me," he whispered.
Sirius smiled and let his eyes trace over his boyfriend's body. Remus knew he was thinking about changing whatever plans he'd come up with when he licked his lips. He cleared his throat and raised his eyes to Remus's face. "Later. We're meeting our friends for lunch in Diagon Alley. James will bring along Lily and I suspect Peter will bring Cara." Sirius had said this casually, but there was the slightest bit of tension in his voice.
Remus pushed himself into a sitting position. It was happening, and without any further prodding on his part. A pleasant surprise. Even after they'd slept together, Remus was still half-convinced he'd have to slip a little truth serum into Sirius's firewhiskey to get him to open up to James. It didn't matter that everyone else knew. It was James knowing that was significant to both of them. After this, they could finally act like a normal couple; the weight of the secret could be lifted from both their shoulders.
"This lunch...all six of us, you say?" Remus smiled. "This sounds like—"
"I know what it sounds like," Sirius said. A couple's outing. One of the many things he'd been trying to avoid for weeks. And now he'd planned one. "We're going to have lunch and, after I've gotten some much needed nourishment, I'll tell James." Sirius mirrored Remus's grin. "Maybe if we're in a restaurant, James won't accuse you of putting me under some type of spell."
Remus rose to his feet and crossed the few feet separating them. "I can't say the thought didn't cross my mind a few times when we were in school." He slid a hand up Sirius's arm and down his chest to rest low on his stomach. A small thrill shot through Remus as the other man's breath caught. "Of course, the past few weeks you were practically begging me to make a move. It was too easy to have my way with you."
"I beg to differ." Sirius bent his head for a kiss. Remus ran a hand through his hair. Reluctantly, he let Sirius pull away. "You pulled off some sort of miracle where I'm concerned," the other man said. "I have half a mind to check the refrigerator for potions you might have slipped into my drinks."
Remus thought of the potions he had in his trunk, including the one he'd used on Sirius to get him to talk. He'd thought one day he might tell Sirius about Lily's "help" and they'd both get a good laugh out of it, but now he felt he'd be better off keeping that information to himself...and Vanishing both vials the minute he was alone in his bedroom. No sense feeding his boyfriend's paranoia when they'd finally gotten somewhere.
His eyes dropped. "Do we have to leave right away?"
"Why?" Sirius asked. "What'd you have in mind?"
Remus smiled and began pulling him towards the stairs. "A shower that's more about getting dirty than clean. You'll get my back, won't you?" he asked, just before jogging down the stairs. Laughing, Sirius followed him to the bathroom.
When they met James outside the restaurant, he was checking his watch and tapping his foot impatiently. His frown turned into a glare when his friends walked up, both grinning. "What took so long?" He jabbed a finger through the air at Sirius. "You sent me a note this morning that was practically an order to show up here and you're twenty minutes late?"
Remus shrugged. There was no way he was going to answer this question honestly. It was difficult enough keeping a straight face when he glanced at Sirius briefly. "Sorry. He didn't think it would take so long to get his hair just right, but I assured him that you were probably doing the same." Remus smiled and reached up to ruffle James's deliberately untamed hair. James ducked back.
"Stop that, you know how I feel about—"
"Not being the prettiest man in the room," Lily finished for him. She smiled at the couple. "It was nice of you to join us for your lunch." She motioned towards the front door of the restaurant. "Peter and Cara are waiting." When Remus and Sirius moved to go past her into the restaurant, Lily grabbed Remus's arm and held him back. He waved Sirius ahead and attempted to keep a neutral expression as the redhead eyed him from head to toe.
Remus smiled. He knew where this was going. "So."
"What happened?" Lily asked. "Tell me."
Remus shrugged. "There's nothing to tell." He looked at the door behind her. "I wonder if this place sells dragon steaks. I'm in the mood for meat today."
Lily rolled her eyes. "You're always in the mood for meat. The question is, did you get some from Sirius?"
"What I got..." He stopped and laughed. Lily was practically bouncing on her toes in her curiosity, but Remus just couldn't put what happened into words. Not couldn't. He didn't want to. It was too special. Besides that, she'd been involved enough. She didn't have to know everything. "We had a nice time."
"Nice?" Lily slapped his shoulder. Her brows drew close and her bright eyes flared. "I've been pushing this for weeks and all you're giving me is nice?"
Remus laughed again. He crossed his arms and took a step back. "I don't know what to tell you. We've been together for a little while now and we're still together. That's all you need to know."
She frowned and turned towards the restaurant. "You're going to tell me, one of these days," she said over her shoulder. Lily pulled the door open and walked into the restaurant.
"Lily, wait." She stopped and turned to him, her expression expectant as he followed her through the door. "We're good now, that's all you need to know," Remus said. "He and I agreed not to give any more information out than is necessary, especially since he plans on telling James today."
He saw her eyes open wide before Lily turned to where their friends sat near the back of the restaurant. "You must've been very...persuasive to get him to make that promise." Lily stopped walking abruptly and turned back to Remus. "I saw the note he sent James. It was practically a threat." She smiled. "How good are the two of you?"
Remus sighed. She wasn't going to give up until she knew what the sex was like. "Think of the best experience you've ever had with James." He paused and let her consider. "Ten times better," he whispered.
Lily's grin said everything. She was never going to keep this to herself. Luckily, Sirius was already planning to spill everything; Remus wouldn't have to rely on her thin powers of retraint. He would, however, have to rely on her sense of self-preservation. If Sirius found out she'd provided a potion for use on him, he'd be a lot more likely to take it out on Lily than his boyfriend. Speaking in a low voice, Remus said as much.
"Potion?" Wide green eyes blinked rapidly at him. "I don't know what you're talking about." She feigned a pout for a few seconds. "Unless you mean that clear vial I gave you ages ago. Did you bother performing a Revealing spell on it? You might've found that the ingredients were closer to...water than any type of truth serum. Still, the effects would be the same." Lily grinned as Remus began to frown. "You'd have to ask your lover a direct question to receive a response, whether or not you thought he'd be compelled by a potion to answer. That bravery thing we were talking about a while back would have to come into play, one way or the other."
"You're lying," he said. "There's no way that was just water."
Lily shrugged. "Knowing you, you got rid of it so you can't know either way. And you did talk to him, so it's the same difference."
Remus's eyes narrowed. "I ought to spank you."
"I prefer it come from James." Winking, she turned and joined the others at the table.
Remus followed slowly. It was a struggle to keep a sober expression, but seeing the nervousness on Sirius's face, he was forced to keep his own emotions in check. This was a big deal for him, for both of them. James would be understanding because he didn't have a choice. His two friends would live their lives, regardless of how he felt about it, but Remus knew how much it would mean to Sirius if his best friend was fully supportive. He had no doubt how it would turn out even if Sirius felt like he needed a little warning first. It was that thought that inspired the sudden tense knot in his stomach.
It wasn't that he was nervous, exactly. Remus was just worried that this might be the first time the fearless Sirius Black would lose touch with his Gryffindor courage. If he couldn't talk to James after everything that had happened between them, would he lose the courage to continue the relationship at all? As Remus sat next to him at the table, he hoped he'd never have to find out the answer to that question.
"Stop it," Sirius whispered. He put a hand on Remus's thigh under the table. His firm grip was comforting.
"Those worrisome little thoughts running through your head. I can see it in your eyes." Sirius smiled. "I'm going to—"
"Care to let us all in on the secret?"
Sirius looked up to find James staring at the two of them from across the table. He moved his hand back to his own lap. Lily smirked behind her glass of water.
"It's...we'll get to it," Sirius responded. He looked around. "I'm going to find the waitress." Before James could ask anything else, Sirius had disappeared across the restaurant.
Seconds later, James turned on Remus. "Out with it. What is happening with Sirius? I know you know."
"He just...wants to tell you something," Remus said. "He'll get to it."
"Get to what?" James asked. He glanced around the table. "Does anyone else know what's going on?"
"Just what the note said," Peter responded. "He wants to talk to us about something important."
"Wouldn't surprise me if he had something of a personal nature to tell you," Lily commented. Remus's instant blush brought a smile to her face. "Didn't he mention he might be seeing someone?"
Sirius came back in time to catch the last part of Lily's statement. Just as she turned to him, a knowing grin on her face, he frowned. "Merlin's sake, woman! You've got to be the nosiest bint this side of Essex. Can nothing be private around you?"
"Sirius!" He sighed at the angry shout from James. "Don't talk to her like that," he said as Sirius sat. "I'm not going to tell you again, if the two of you can't get along—"
"Calm down, James," Lily interrupted. "I'm perfectly capable of taking care of myself in an argument, as you well know. I thought you would've realized by now, we like talking to each other this way. Besides," she said as she reached for her water, "I'm not bothered by anything Sirius can come up with. I'm just amazed he's got enough blood flowing to his head these days to form a coherent sentence. I'd congratulate him, but it seems he's already been celebrating his good fortune." She tilted her head to the side and gestured with one hand, drawing James's attention to the bright red marks just visible beneath his friend's collarbone.
James grinned and clapped Sirius on the shoulder. "You haven't told me about this one. Why didn't you invite her here? Is she someone I know?"
Peter laughed from the far side of the table. "You wouldn't believe it if he told you."
Fearing he would be questioned again, a blushing Remus reached for his own water glass and began gulping from it.
"But he won't, not yet," Lily said. "Because he's too much of a coward to be honest with you."
"What is that supposed to mean?" James asked.
"It means your girlfriend better check her cup for poisons if I let her into my house again," Sirius stated. "I'll tell you everything later," he said, turning to James. "For now, trust that she's earning every bit of violence that'll be coming her way."
"Right," Lily said. "I guess the rumors are true. You really are all talk. Unless you're pushed." From behind, she mouthed when James wasn't looking. She yelped when Sirius hit her on the hand with a Stinging Hex.
The rest of the lunch passed with relative calm, in spite of the fact that Remus was almost too nervous to eat. More than once, he felt Sirius's eyes on him. When their eyes met, he relaxed and had to force himself not to lean over and plant a kiss on his lips in front of their friends. It was a relief when the waitress bought over their coffee and tea.
James made a show of looking at his watch. "Ready yet, Sirius?"
A grin split the other man's face. "Patience has never been your strong suit. Suppose that's why you tried to get under Lily's robes on your second date."
"Tried?" Peter asked. "The way I heard it he—"
"Respected her privacy and told us nothing," Remus put in. "And even if he did, we wouldn't repeat it."
"Thank you." Lily smiled at him.
"Wouldn't need to repeat it, would we?" Sirius remarked. "He's still got those pictures somewhere." He grinned and took a sip of his tea. "Evans, I had no idea you could bend your legs that way."
Rather than give her usual sharp retort, Lily turned a shade of red to rival her hair. She turned to her boyfriend slowly, her eyes narrowed. "James, I may have to throttle you."
Chuckling, James reached for his coffee. "I don't know what they're talking about and they'll never prove otherwise."
Remus turned to Cara. "On behalf of all of us, I am sorry you have to be exposed to this. They're usually—" He smiled as he thought it over. "Honestly, they're usually worse." Cara laughed; Remus put a hand on her wrist.
"Oh! Don't do that." Cara pulled her left arm back quickly. At the surprised stares she received, she said, "I got a new tattoo the other day. Hasn't healed yet and it still hurts."
"Nice," Sirius said. "You'll have to show it to us."
"One day soon," she responded. Smiling, she pulled the sleeve of her robes down low on her left arm, tucking the ends around her wrist so it wouldn't move again.
"All right," James began, "Since Sirius hasn't seen fit to tell us the reason for this little gathering, I have to be off." He stood from the table. Lily and Remus immediately protested. James shook his head. "I'd love to stay, but Dad's coming down with something and I promised Mum I'd get him to St. Mungo's today, by wandpoint if necessary. Knowing him, it just might come to that." He glanced at Sirius. "Unless you have a reason for me to stay."
Remus turned to his boyfriend. "Any time you're ready."
James looked back and forth between them, his expression a cross between curious and quiet amusement as he watched the interplay between his friends.
"Don't rush me," Sirius said.
"Rush you?" The incredulity in Remus's voice made both Peter and Lily laugh. "This lunch has been like watching paint dry. I'll be lucky if you get to it before James and Lily's third child is born." The bitterness in his tone didn't match the mocking grin he gave Sirius as everyone at the table waited for him to tell James their news.
"You're making too big a deal of this."
"And you're still stalling," Remus countered.
James joined his friends in laughing as he sat down and leaned back in his chair. "Only a few months of living together and you two are acting like an old married couple."
"You don't know the half of it," Sirius remarked.
"Or any of it since you still—" An explosion sounded outside; reverberations rocked the restaurant. Remus stopped speaking abruptly and looked around.
"What—?" Before Lily could complete the thought, a series of explosions sounded in quick succession, each louder than the one before. The windows of the restaurant imploded within the building, spraying the closest diners and drawing screams around the room. Remus drew his wand and stood from his chair. His friends did the same.
"Death Eaters," James said. He grabbed Lily's hand. "Take Cara and go to
Hogwarts. If you hurry, you can get Dumbledore and some of the professors here."
"What?" Lily snatched her hand back and began heading towards the door. "I'm not leaving you. We can fight together."
"James, don't argue with her. We don't have time for it," Sirius said. He looked around the restaurant. The lights around the room had gone out, plunging the dining area into semi-darkness. Scared diners were running around the room, half pushing for the exits onto Diagon Alley, the other half running towards the kitchens. Faint popping sounds could be heard as they Apparated outside. "I think we should head for the street. That's where the explosions started." He glanced around. "Where's Cara?"
"Hopefully, someplace safe," James responded. He grabbed Lily's hand. "Let's go."
When they stepped outside, the scene in front of the restaurant was quite different from earlier in the day. The windows of a number of shops had been broken; sparkling glass littered the street. Several injured witches and witches lay amongst the glass, in doorways, windows and on the street. A few were crying out for help, several were rendered immobile from their injuries; Remus assumed they were dead.
"Where should we—?" His question was answered with a shout from several doors down. Sirius lifted his wand to chest level as he took the lead. The sound of glass crunching beneath their feet was loud in the sudden quiet of the street. The cry sounded again and Sirius took off in a run in that direction, followed quickly by Peter.
A stench began to fill the air; Remus recognized the smell of blood. There was a small crunch in the distance. He motioned to James and Lily. "I think there's someone there," he whispered, pointing to the narrow space between two buildings. "Two people," he added as he picked up on the sound of the other person's heart pounding.
"We should—" James's words were cut off as Sirius screamed for help. Remus took off in the direction of his voice; a bright stream of light from someone's wand just missed him as he ran. He heard James yell out a stunning spell behind him before the pounding in his ears blocked out all sounds.
It took a moment but he finally placed Sirius's scent among the mingling smells along Diagon Alley. All before him had gone quiet again. He heard faint sounds of panting behind him as James and Lily silently fought off the attackers who had been hiding. Remus slowed, letting his nose and ears guide him to the entrance of Knockturn Alley. The street was quiet, dark; the only sound reaching his ears was a muffled moan. He smelled Sirius's blood before he saw him. Something in the shadows moved and Remus sprang forward, lunging for the hooded figure that had just become visible. The person sidestepped his attack easily and aimed at him, his spell just missing as Remus rolled to his right. He jumped to his feet again quickly. "Where is Sirius?" Remus demanded. The figure motioned behind him. Another person stepped from the shadows; Sirius was limp in his arms.
"Trust you to pick up his scent among all the others," the hooded figure said. He laughed. Remus's blood ran cold as he recognized the voice. Regulus pushed the hood back and Vanished the mask from his face; he raised his wand again. "Don't worry, I haven't killed him," he said. "He's far too useful for that. So are you."
"I'm going to kill you," Remus said.
"I don't doubt you'll try," came the response. Sirius began coughing behind him. The smell of his blood was stronger. He spat onto the ground.
"What do you want from us?" His eyes remained on Sirius; he was barely conscious.
"The choice is simple," Regulus began. "Join us or watch everyone you care about die." He smiled. "Beginning with your lover. As much as it would pain Voldemort to lose such a powerful wizard, it would be worth it to persuade you."
"You'd kill your own brother?"
"I would do anything, even die for what I believe in," he responded. "The question is, do you feel the same?"
Remus answered the only way he could at that moment, he raised his wand and attacked Regulus. Before he could discern what was happening, he was surrounded by hooded figures. Spells were being fired from all directions. The air was filled with taunting jeers; screams joined them as he fought back. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the figure carrying Sirius raise his wand to the other man's neck.
"No!" Remus shouted. Then he lost all conscious thought as the change began. His robes fell from his body in tatters and his body almost doubled in size. His human scream turned into a growl of rage as he stalked forward, chasing the person holding Sirius. The others stood in his way, wands raised. He growled again and lunged for the closest person. She cried out as he caught her arm in his mouth. He tore the limb from her body before batting her to the side. He shook off two others before taking off down Knockturn Alley, his every instinct trained on finding Sirius.
He corned the wizard holding Sirius at the end of a dark street. Remus growled. Blood and saliva dripped from his jaws. His tongue ran across his protruding teeth. He dropped to his paws, slowly stalking forward.
The other wizard raised his wand. His hand was shaking. "Stay back or I'll kill him. I'll kill you."
Remus stepped closer, head lowered. His growl was continuous now, a low threatening murmur that grew in intensity as he watched the Death Eater pull Sirius in front of him as a shield. He raised his paw and swiped at the wizard, his growl growing louder as the wizard attempted to step back. His back pressed to the closed door of a shop.
He raised his wand and shouted. A feeble green light emitted from it. A poor attempt at the Homorphus Charm and his last vestige of defense. Remus lunged for him, knocking Sirius to the side as he went for the Death Eater's throat. His jaws closed around it, sinking in until he felt blood flood his mouth; a trickle went down his throat as he lifted the body. Remus swung the wizard around by the throat, not stopping until he no longer heard the heart beating. He dropped the body and knocked it to one side with his paw. Jaws dripping with blood, he turned back to Sirius.
In the space of two heartbeats, he became human again. He rushed to Sirius's side; he cradled the other man's head in his lap. "No...you have to wake up." Remus ran his hand over his face and neck, checking for signs of life. Sirius moaned and then fell quiet. Remus screamed. He scarcely heard the footsteps behind him before he felt Lily's hand on his shoulder, pulling him away. James kneeled down next to Sirius.
"They grabbed him," Remus said, turning to Lily. "I didn't mean to kill him, I—"
He wiped blood from his mouth from the back of his hand. Lily enveloped him in a hug. She was shaking. He heard Lily whisper and felt cool robes cover his body.
"You didn't kill him," James said after the brief examination. "He's lost some blood, but I think he'll be fine. I've done a rudimentary healing spell. That should hold him until we can get him to a Healer."
"We have to get him out of here now," Remus said. "If he's got a head injury or...if I made his injuries worse—"
"I'm fine." They all turned as Sirius whispered. He coughed and turned to spit. There was a faint thread of blood trailing from his mouth. "All right, maybe not fine. But I'm doing a far sight better than that one." He motioned a few feet away, to the mangled body Remus had tossed to the side.
"I'm sorry," Remus said. "I didn't mean to kill anyone."
"You had no choice," James said firmly. There was no censure in his friend's eyes. Remus relaxed slightly. James turned back to Sirius. "Did you see where they took Peter?"
Sirius shook his head. "They attacked us from all directions. I think I heard someone Apparate. There's no telling where they've dragged him."
James frowned. "Aurors have arrested everyone they could find, but there's been no sign of him. He might still be nearby." He stood. "I'm going to look for him and then we'll get you both to St. Mungo's."
"I'm going with you," Lily said. She pulled a pair of wands of her pocket. She handed them both to Remus. He immediately cleaned the blood from his mouth and hands. "We should be back soon, but if anything should happen..." She glanced down at Sirius. She didn't need to finish the sentence. She knew Remus would fight with his last breath to protect him again; he felt the same for all of his friends. She turned and followed James.
Remus turned back to Sirius. He sank to his knees next to him. It hadn't hit him fully before, but as he looked over his lover on the ground, a sense of what he could've lost surrounded him. Warm tears clouded his vision. Sirius let him cry for a moment before taking his hand.
"You did not have to go after them. Even if they said they were going to kill me. I can't believe you did that," Sirius said. "Now they'll know they can get to you through me."
"I lost control," Remus said. "You can't blame me." He reached up to caress Sirius's cheek. "You have to know what it would do to me if something happened to you." He leaned close. "I can't lose you now," he whispered. "You know how I feel about you." A silence settled between them. Remus heard Sirius's heart pick up speed. He licked his lips. Their eyes met.
"You know I feel the same," Sirius said. The corner of his mouth pulled into a smile. At the softly spoken words, the world seemed to melt away around them. Remus blinked hard in surprise but recovered quickly. For the first he could be sure of, he saw what he'd been waiting for when he looked into Sirius's eyes. The confirmation of every instinct he'd had, the reciprocation of every emotion that had been growing between them for months. It was what he'd always wanted, what he'd longed for since the first possibility of something between them presented itself. He began moving closer for a kiss.
Sirius moved his face out of the way at the last second. "No," he said weakly, "You cannot kiss me in public. I draw the line there."
Remus smiled. "Mm, you remember that bet you lost to me a while back? I think I can make you do anything I want. You're lucky I'm limiting it to a kiss."
Sirius frowned. "You're so mean to me."
"You know that's one of the things you love about me," Remus said just before closing the distance between them. He kissed Sirius until he felt the other man relax in his arms and kiss him back. "There's more where that came from, after we get you to St. Mungo's," he said before rejoining their lips.
There was a low shuffling sound behind them. Their friends had returned; Peter was leaning on Lily for support as he limped from his injuries. Remus felt Sirius stiffen beneath him, but refused to release him. Sirius didn't resist; eventaully he relaxed and continued kissing Remus until he was satisfied. Remus finally let him go and turned to his friends.
James looked back and forth between them, his eyes wide with shock at what he'd just witnessed. "How long has this been going on?" he asked, approaching the pair on the ground. "Why didn't—?" He stopped speaking as Lily placed a hand on his arm.
"James, there's nothing to get upset about."
His eyes narrowed. "You knew too? That's why Remus was acting so strangely around you?" He turned back towards his friends. His mouth was drawn down in a deep frown. "Months? You've been…together for months and you never said anything to me?"
"Remus didn't think you'd understand. Personally, I thought you'd get jealous," Sirius whispered. He smiled at his joke. "And look, here you are throwing a fit. Never knew you cared so much."
"You're not funny," James responded. "I can't believe you didn't trust me enough to know that I'd never react like some people." He frowned. "Is that what this whole lunch business was about? You didn't have to put on some big production. You could've just told me. I'm your friend. Of all people, you should know I would've understood..." His voice faltered as he motioned between the two of them.
"Not being able to help who you fall for," Sirius finished for him. Remus took his hand and squeezed it.
"At least that's finally out," Peter stated. "I hate keeping a secret from you. I didn't know how much longer I could do it."
James glanced at Peter before shaking his head. "So I am the last to know. I really wish you two had trusted me."
"I'm sorry, truly," Sirius said. "It was my fault. I...couldn't talk about it."
"Still can't, if lunch was any indication," Remus stated. "Can you stand?"
Sirius shook his head. "Side-Along Apparation is going to hurt like hell, but I think it's the only way." Remus nodded and put his arm around him.
"But wait," James said. "All this time you've been friends and this..." He shook his head as he struggled to understand. "This just came out of nowhere. And those stories about you and all those girls at school...?"
Sirius nodded. "Completely true. Every single one."
Remus and James looked at each other for a long moment before both burst out laughing.
"Good to know the attack hasn't affected your sense of humor," Remus said. "Mary MacDonald didn't fancy you so much as she was waiting for Lily to come around."
"She was not!" Lily responded. A blush began high on her cheeks.
"She was," Peter confirmed. He leaned heavily on Lily's shoulder as they prepared to leave. "Why do you think James never wanted to leave you alone with your roommate?"
"If she was half as persuasive as Remus, that last school term would've been far more interestng," Sirius commented. "And that does explain a few things. Tell me, Evans. Still got those tight leather trousers you modeled for her after Christmas?" Laughing at the sudden flush on Lily's face, Remus turned and Apparated Sirius to the hospital.
Sirius's arms came around him as they appeared in front of St. Mungo's Hospital. For the time being, they were alone. The wind whipped high around them. Sirius pulled Remus close to his ear. "I meant it, what I said earlier. You mean so much to me. I..." His final words were lost in the high wind, but Remus caught the meaning of them as his lover pulled him into a kiss.