Hiya! This is my fic written for the BigBangBlackout over at LJ. It's a long one so settle in with a snack! I'd love to hear what you think of it. :) I really dislike the formatting here. Sorry if it looks squashed.

Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No copyright infringement is intended.

Warnings: Physical/emotional abuse of a minor (mild), male/male sexual situations, coarse language.

Author's Notes: Thank you to my Beta, dogsunderfoot, for not letting me get away with anything and for listening to me whine. Bold is excerpts from the letters, bulk Italics is current day, and normal text is the memory.


"Look not mournfully into the past, it comes not back again. Wisely improve the present, it is thine. Go forth to meet the shadowy future without fear and with a manly heart."

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

August 2009

My sleep-crusted eyes opened slowly, blinking a few times as I attempted to focus. For several seconds, I stared blankly at the light fixture above the bed as I gradually became aware of my surroundings. Stretching my sleep-soft muscles carefully, I turned my head to check on the waking status of the grey-haired man next to me, a little disappointed, but hardly surprised when I saw his eyes were still firmly closed.

I pushed myself up, yawning and scratching at my tangled hair before I swung my legs over the side of the bed and stood. The uncomfortably tight feeling in my abdomen alerted me to the rather urgent need for a bathroom visit before I stretched once again, arching my back and grimacing as my fifty-year-old bones and joints creaked and popped.

'I'm getting old.'

Shuffling unsteadily towards the doorway, I yawned again and pulled up the sagging striped pyjama pants which were threatening to fall off my hips. As I snatched up the new robe Harry had bought for me for my last birthday, I lost my balance and stumbled against the door frame. I caught myself before I could fall flat on my face, but stubbed my toe on the wooden chest that had been sitting beside the door for three days now.

'Fucking hell! '

Hopping on one foot, I grabbed at my injured toes and bit my lip, trying to halt the flood of cursing that would have turned the air blue and woken my companion, who, if unappreciative when woken by one of my rather brilliant blow jobs, would most certainly not respond well to being jerked awake by me swearing. I looked back through the grey, early morning light towards the bed. The blankets undulated for a moment then the movement ceased and I heard gentle snoring rising from the lump beneath the sheets.

Cursing under my breath, I limped to the bathroom, pushed down my slipping pants and relieved myself, sighing in satisfaction as the pressure in my bladder eased. Golden rays had begun to lighten the room as the sun slowly ascended and I took a moment to appreciate what promised to be a glorious summer day, pushing open the window above the cistern with one hand. Warm air rushed into the bathroom, carrying with it the fragrant scent of the blue, bell-shaped wild hyacinth that grew untamed in the gardens, and I inhaled deeply, enjoying the sweet perfume. I shifted my stance and a throb pulsing through my toe drew my attention. Wriggling the digit sent a sharp jolt of pain shooting along the top of my foot and I winced, but I was pretty certain it wasn't broken.

I finished my toilette and pulled my pants up, flushing before opening the cabinet over the sink and searching through it for a pain potion. I closed my hand around the last one and, making a mental note to myself to owl Harry to bring more, popped the cork with a thumb and quickly downed the foul-tasting concoction. The pain in my foot began to ease almost immediately and, with a sigh of relief, I leaned over the sink, washing my hands then splashing water on my face. The shock of the cold liquid on my sleep-warm skin woke me fully and I gasped at the contrasting sensations. Cool water dripped from my chin to trickle in rivulets over my chest and I grabbed a towel to mop them up. I tried moving my toe again as I scrubbed at my chest... no pain this time – the potion had worked. I smiled and haphazardly swiped at my face with the towel before throwing it over the clothes hamper, knowing I'd get a lecture later, but unbothered by the prospect. I tugged my robe into place and ran a hand through my hair in an attempt to neaten it a little before knotting the robe tie and leaving the bathroom.

'Bloody trunk,' I muttered, glaring at the offending item as I made my way back into the bedroom for my wand.

Why was it there anyway? I thought back a few days, vaguely recalling an instruction to clean it out before I'd provided a distraction with a strategically placed hand which had led to kisses and hot sweaty sex. With a smile playing about my lips, I reminisced about that night as I crept towards the bed to grab my wand from the bedside table. Libido warmed by the memory of that encounter, I checked to see if my sleeping beauty was awake, but alas, the snoring had strengthened and I resigned myself to a sex-free start to the day. Before I left the room, I shrunk the trunk then bent and scooped it up before continuing on to the kitchen, side-stepping the squeaky boards along the way.

With a flick of my wand, the water in the kettle was bubbling and I made myself a cup of tea, taking it and the shrunken trunk onto the porch. My usual seat overlooked the garden and I smiled as I took in the rambling, somewhat unkempt, but beautiful gardens with its riot of vivid blues and greens and yellows.

'Time to trim those branches,' I mumbled to myself, eyeing the downy birch as I sipped my English Breakfast tea.

Even after all these years, I still marvelled at the restorative, restful atmosphere of the property. This truly was a slice of heaven and I guarded it as such. Few people knew where to find me; only those I trusted with my life had access to this paradise and I enjoyed the near-solitude that once would have driven me mad. This place, and its owner, had changed me, saved me, and I loved them both with an intensity that scared me sometimes.

'People change,' I murmured to myself, knowing that I wouldn't have…couldn't have…loved like this before the gentle man who was still sleeping inside helped rescue me from myself.

I had reached the bottom of the cup and, with a sigh, pulled the small box from my pocket. I set it on the porch in front of me and resized it. It inflated quickly and I slid the catch across then opened the lid, groaning when I saw the dishevelment inside. This had been my 'junk trunk' where I'd thrown all the things that I thought I might want to keep but weren't important enough to sort through immediately. I'd moved it into the house then promptly forgotten about it.

It had been close to a decade since I looked inside. This was the past – a past that had its shining moments, but for the most part, one that I didn't want to dwell on.

But I didn't dare disobey the man who snored in our bed (I snorted to myself as I heard Harry's teasing voice..."Sirius Black, you are whipped") so I resigned myself to my fate and hoped my compliance would earn me brownie points as I reached into the cavernous depths and pulled out a fistful of parchment. The first was an old Transfiguration essay and I grinned as I read Professor McGonagall's remarks at the top.

"Why will you not apply yourself to your work as you do to your pranks, Black? You can do better."

Chuckling, I started a pile of the things I wanted to throw out, anchoring it with the empty mug. I worked my way through the trunk swiftly, sorting through old essays and assignments, scribbled lesson notes, and Quidditch training schedules… all going on the reject pile. I'd worked my way through half of the trunk before I found the bundle of letters.

I slumped back into my chair. Letters - from my parents, from James and Lily, from Remus… even some from Peter that managed to escape what Remus had called the 'Pettigrew Purge'. Slowly, carefully, I unfolded the aged parchments one by one and, smoothing them out, read the cramped, messy handwriting of my best friend and the rounded print of the girl who became his wife; the more elongated, elegant cursive of Remus and the scrawled words from Peter.

Time had dulled the pain somewhat, but the ache… the ache never disappeared, the hollowness their deaths had left inside me was never completely filled. With a sad smile, I put the letters aside, intending to save them to read later when I had strong arms around me offering comfort and soft lips on my cheek to kiss the inevitable tears away. But as I stacked them neatly, I hesitated. These letters were a chronology of my life – from my first train trip to Hogwarts until I moved here. There were letters full of laughter and love in that pile of parchment, saved for the joy they'd brought me, there were angry, bitter notes that for some reason, I could never bring myself to throw out, and there were letters written by me to my friends – found in the rubble of James and Lily's house all those years ago. James used to tease me for my pack rat ways and I could almost hear his voice now, asking me what the hell I'd intended by keeping all these notes. I couldn't have answered him; I wasn't sure myself why I'd saved letters I knew were only going to open old wounds, but the temptation to pour over the old memories now was great.

I saw a scrap of paper peeking out from the middle of the pile: a list of items needed for a prank in James' handwriting. I pulled it free, smiling as I recalled the result of this particular prank and the detention we'd received. After a moment of uncertainty, I began to shuffle through the letters, sorting them into some kind of timeline. It didn't take as long as I thought it might, and soon I was staring at almost thirty years of my life – all bundled into one disorderly stack. With a tremor in my hand, I reached out for the first one, swallowing hard as I saw the straightforward, neat script of my father and as I began to read, I remembered...

~8~

"Remember, son - Slytherin is a noble house that befits someone of the Black pedigree. You will find Mudbloods and Muggle-loving blood traitors throughout the other houses – stay away from their insidious influence. Salazar Slytherin was the only founder who had the best interests of the magical community in mind..."

-Orion Black, August 31st, 1970

'Sirius Black!'

Sirius raised himself to his full height and strode up to the front of the room like the proud pure-blood he was. Turning, he faced the entire school as he slid onto the stool and the stern-faced Professor McGonagall placed the musty smelling Sorting Hat on his head. The last thing he saw before the hat fell over his eyes was his cousin, Bellatrix's smug face…and it was the first thing he saw when the hat came off after announcing his sorting to Gryffindor. The self-satisfied, confident smirk had left her face, replaced with an expression of pure horror and disbelief; an expression mimicked on almost every Slytherin face.

Sirius himself, though stunned, tried to not let his lip wobble ('Blacks don't show emotion') as he walked with a little trepidation through the hushed hall towards the Gryffindor table. The faces there were just as shocked as the Slytherins', but there was also a glimmer of mistrust and Sirius tried not to bristle in anger as he sat.

They're jealous, is all. You're better than all of them, Sirius. You're a Black.

It took all of two hours for Sirius to work out that being a Black wasn't going to win him any favours amongst his house mates. In fact, his innocuous-sounding surname had landed him in his current position - being pushed into a wall and threatened with a clenched fist.

'Oi! Let him go!'

Sirius craned his neck to see past the laughing Third Years who were threatening to reshape his nose, to his rescuer – a skinny, bespectacled boy that he had seen staring unashamedly at him during dinner.

One of the older boys snorted in disgust as he looked at James and snapped, 'Bugger off, Potter. This hasn't got anything to do with you.'

'Only wimps pick on smaller kids,' James declared, standing his ground and leaving no doubt in anyone's mind as to why he'd been sorted into Gryffindor.

'You little...'

'What's going on here, boys?'

The hand holding Sirius against the cold stone fell away as Professor McGonagall loomed over the four of them.

'Nothing, Professor,' they all claimed as one and she narrowed her eyes in suspicion at the sudden accord.

'Hmm, yes. I thought as much,' she said, her lips tightening as her eyes alighted on Sirius' rumpled collar. She raised an eyebrow and stared at the older boys pointedly. 'I expect you'll all be off to bed now.'

It wasn't a question and they all murmured a good night as they slunk off to their own dorms. Sirius snuck a look at the boy – Potter - who had defended him and was startled to see him staring unashamedly back.

'Hi,' he said cheerily as he extended his hand. 'We haven't met properly yet. I'm James Potter. I'm in first year.'

Sirius paused in the stair well then took the offered palm, gripping it firmly. ('Blacks always exude power and strength.')

'Sirius Black,' he said, in his best 'dinner with the Minister' voice. 'I am also in my first year.'

James, to Sirius' surprise, burst into loud peals of laughter and shook his head, bemused, before continuing up the stairs.

'Come on then, Sirius Black,' he called over his shoulder. 'I'll introduce you to Remus and Peter.'

Taken aback by Potter's odd behaviour, Sirius ignored his distaste for being ordered around and followed him up the stairs. Potter introduced him to their room mates, his tone a little sarcastic as he drew Sirius' first name out sibilantly then put a strong emphasis on his surname. Peter Pettigrew, a short, blonde boy, paled when he saw Sirius and the intimidated expression on his face made the young scion feel a little better; Remus Lupin was a scrawny, brown-haired boy who meekly said hello then buried his nose back in his book.

Potter threw himself onto a bed and indicated the only vacant one in the room. 'That's yours. The house elves have bought up your luggage...'

Sirius thought he heard the words, '... my Lord...' whispered under Potter's breath, but he wasn't certain so he ignored the other boy in favour of hanging his crisp, new uniforms in his closet.

Potter and Pettigrew fell into an enthusiastic conversation about Quidditch and Sirius listened with half an ear. Lupin didn't look up from his book, lying on his bed with eyes downcast. Sirius finished putting his belongings away and, for the first time in his life, he was at a loss about what to do. He was discomforted around these strange boys and his experiences at Hogwarts so far had been a little surreal.

'It's late,' came a quiet voice from his left hand side and he turned to see Remus put his book down and smile tentatively at him.

The other boys paused in their conversation and looked over at Lupin as well. The boy smiled cautiously at his room mates then lay down.

'I think I might try and get a good night's sleep before classes start. Goodnight, everyone.'

His eyes flicked back to Sirius, who suddenly realised that Lupin had given him an excuse to hide behind his curtains.

He felt a shot of gratitude and nodded to the other boy as he said, 'Goodnight, Lupin.'

His words echoed by a duo of voices and then came the sound of movement as Potter and Pettigrew followed Lupin's lead.

Sirius grabbed his pyjamas and began to draw his curtains around his bed so he could change in private. Potter looked up from the bed on the other side of him and smiled.

'Night, Sirius!'

'Goodnight, Potter. Pettigrew.' He nodded at them both then frowned as Potter chuckled again. 'Why do you keep laughing at me?'

The other boy laughed harder, shaking his head. 'I don't reckon you're as bad as they say you are, Black,' Potter said with a grin as he crawled into his own bed. 'But I'd do something about that snotty accent, if I was you or I'll have to rescue you every day.'

"...write to the Minister about it. Dumbledore is simply being stubborn and using his position to embarrass our family. Do not allow those children you share a room with to become your confidantes, Sirius. You can still make the right connections in Slytherin..."

-Walburga Black, September 3rd, 1970

Much to Sirius' horror, James Potter had to reluctantly rescue him several times during their first week of school as he slowly discovered that his name was not the beacon of respect and admiration that he thought it would be; rather that it inspired suspicion and scorn as well as a 'get him before he gets us' sentiment amongst his fellow students. Sirius bore it all with near silent stoicism and shunned all of his room mates' attempts to befriend him, embarrassed that they always seemed to be witness to all of his most humiliating moments.

Sirius stomped into his dorm after dinner on his first Friday at Hogwarts after an altercation in the common room that had resulted in a torn robe. He sent a fervent thank you to Merlin that it was the weekend and he could spend the next two days in his room (reflecting, not hiding because 'Blacks don't hide'). As he stormed into the room, he saw it was already occupied by Remus Lupin, who looked up and smiled a small smile.

'Alright, Sirius?'

Sirius stared at Lupin - pathetic, weak, timid Lupin - and all the pent up rage and frustration of the last week spilled over… not in a show of fury, or a burst of spectacular magic which would befit someone of his breeding, but in great, heaving sobs that sent Sirius plummeting to the floor with their force.

He curled up into a ball, hiding his face as he made an unsuccessful attempt to quiet his weeping, but when he felt the hand on his shoulder, his cries gained strength. Lupin didn't say anything, didn't do anything but sit beside Sirius with a hand resting lightly on his shoulder, but that gentle touch bought Sirius more comfort than any stiff embrace or awkward pat on the back from his parents ever had.

As his tears tapered off, he tried to regain some of his aristocratic facade. He sat up and glared at Lupin.

'Don't you tell anyone... Don't... or I'll... I'll...'

'I'm your friend, Sirius,' Lupin said softly but with sincerity that Sirius had never heard before. 'I won't tell anyone.'

Sirius blinked and wiped his face. 'You... you're my friend?' he asked, his voice sounding tiny and vulnerable and he hated himself for his weakness - until Lupin smiled at him.

'I want to be,' he said, standing up and looking down at Sirius before offering his hand. 'We all want to be. You just have to let us.'

Sirius stared at the hand then looked up at Lupin's face and smiled his first real smile at what he suspected might be his first real friend. He took Lupin's hand and allowed the other boy to pull him to his feet.

'Thanks, Lu...Remus,' he said shyly and Remus shrugged a little self-consciously.

'No problem, mate.'

"I can't believe it worked!! You know, Remus might be right. You might not be so bad, Black Sirius."

James Potter, 4th December, 1970

Sirius couldn't help hearing the whispers as Peter and James argued over the quantity of dried nettles to add to a Hiccoughing Solution destined to end up in the Slytherins' goblets. Sirius could tell them, but was sulking because he hadn't been asked to help brew the potion – illegally, mind you – in their dorm bathroom.

He would have continued to sulk and let them work out the ingredients for themselves if Remus, indisputably the worst potion brewer Sirius had ever met, hadn't piped up to ask, 'Do I put this asphodel in now?'

Sirius threw his book onto his bed and bolted for the bathroom, catching Remus' arm before he tipped the powder into the cauldron.

'No!' he shouted, making James and Peter look up from their book. 'You don't put asphodel in this potion. Are you trying to kill us all? Asphodel mixed with nettle roots will put us into a sleep that we won't wake up from. Merlin, Remus! You are hopeless at potions!'

The other boy's reaction was strange – he smirked at Sirius before his face fell and he moaned loudly, 'Oh, I'm sorry!'

Sirius frowned in confusion then became aware of Remus staring over his shoulder. He turned and saw James and Peter standing behind him.

'You should get Sirius to help you instead of me,' Remus said, shoving the stirring rod at Sirius before he could object. 'He's brilliant at Potions.'

Peter nodded agreement and, after a second, James also acquiesced. 'If he wants to help,' the bespectacled boy added, still looking a little warily at Sirius. 'His family is in Slytherin...'

'But I'm in Gryffindor,' Sirius stated, a challenge in his voice, and James' lips twitched.

'Fine,' he said, waving a hand at the cauldron. 'Let's see where your loyalties lie.'

Sirius looked over his shoulder at Remus who was watching with a satisfied expression on his face. He smiled at the other boy and got an answering grin.

It was on the first night of their week of detentions that James and Sirius finally became friends.

~8~

I picked up the next letter and bit my lip as I realised who it was from. A wave of sorrow swept through me as my finger traced the childish scrawl of my now-deceased brother. Regulus and I had been close as young children; ridiculous House rivalry as well as our parent's expectations, driving us apart.

'One of my many regrets,' I muttered to myself as I smoothed my hand over the wrinkled parchment and read the words of a brother who still loved and admired me.

~8~

"...sounds so exciting! I can't wait, Sirius! Don't tell Mother and Father, but I hope I can be in Gryffindor with you. Then at least we can be outcasts together..."

-Regulus Black, July 1st, 1971

'Slytherin!'

Sirius' heart sank as he watched Professor McGonagall lift the hat from his brother's dark head. Regulus remained upon the stool for a moment, grey eyes seeking their twins, gazes locking in disappointment and fear, before he stood and, with head held high (as would befit a Black), Regulus made his way across the hall to the Slytherin table.

'Bad luck, mate,' James whispered into Sirius' ear and Sirius nodded.

James knew how badly Sirius had hoped Regulus would be joining him in Gryffindor and Sirius appreciated the whispered support. The rest of the Sorting and Welcome Feast was a bit of a cacophonous blur then everyone was standing around him, Sirius rising mechanically as well. He peered through the shifting crowd, trying to catch a glimpse of Regulus.

'Come on, Sirius,' Peter called, waving impatiently from the doorway of the Great Hall and, just past him, Sirius caught sight of black hair and grey eyes that stared beseechingly at him before a taller boy took him by the arm, turning him.

Sirius watched as his brother followed the green, silver and black robed figure, and although he knew that there was nothing he could've done to change the outcome, he still felt as though he'd let his little brother down.

"...and what's with Remus? How many relatives does he have? And what's wrong with them that makes them keep dropping dead? He must be making it up, James – no family can be that unlucky..."

Sirius Black, December 29th, 1971

'You have to have noticed,' Sirius said impatiently, looking from a disinterested Peter to a yawning James.

'Look, Sirius,' Peter said wearily, tired of listening to the other boy's theories. 'If Remus says his mother is ill, then we should respect that...'

'He comes back from visiting her looking like someone's performed a Cruciatus on him,' Sirius snapped in frustration. He paced back and forth between James and Peter's beds, gesticulating wildly as he spoke. 'He's gone regularly... it has to be about once a month. He gets tired and weak before he goes and he comes back looking like he's gone ten rounds with the Whomping Willow...'

He stopped abruptly and put his hands on his hips as he glared at the others. 'Either his parents are beating him or he's lying to us.'

Peter and James exchanged glances then James pushed himself off his bed with a loud, put upon sigh. 'Alright, Sirius,' he said, staring resignedly at the brunette. 'You've got our undivided attention. What do you think is wrong with him?'

Sirius frowned, his shoulders slumping. 'I... I don't know,' he admitted reluctantly. Then he raised his chin defiantly. 'But I'm going to find out.'

"...see the way Evans hexed Avery? I'm going to ask her to sit with me at lunch, Sirius."

James Potter, February 14th, 1972

Sirius burst into guffaws as James tried to pick apple pie crust out of his spiky hair. 'That went well,' he laughed, looking over at Remus and Peter to share his mirth.

Peter had his head on his arms on the table, shoulders shaking as he howled with laughter, and Remus, who never seemed to find their pranks or jokes funny, was trying desperately to hide his grin, covering his mouth with his hand as he offered a platitude.

'I'm sure she'll come around, James,' he said in a shaking voice that cracked dangerously when a large clump of pie slid from James' hair and landed on his glasses.

Sirius cackled even louder, not because James was now swearing as he tried to wipe apple off his glasses, but because Remus had let out a little snort of amusement and pressed his hand harder against his mouth. He was surprised by how much he wanted to see Remus lose some of that famed control and just let himself go and he watched eagerly, waiting for the other boy's laughter to break free.

James stood up, storming off in a huff (leaving a trail of pastry and chunky apple behind him), then he ran into the doors of the Great Hall which he'd failed to see with his compromised vision. A chuckle finally escaped Remus' lips then, when James disappeared, Remus let out a peal of laughter that left Sirius amazed. Even Peter looked up in surprise as Remus let loose with unrestrained giggles for the first time since they'd known him.

Sirius' grin broadened and he started to laugh as well, dinner ending when McGonagall approached them with a half-hearted admonishment for their noisy jollity.

"Meet me in the dorm after dinner. I've figured it out."

Sirius Black, April 28th, 1972

'He's a bloody werewolf!'

James and Peter's reaction to Sirius' announcement was anti-climactic to say the least. Peter pulled a sceptical face and buried his head back in his Potions text while James snorted derisively.

'Yeah, that's it,' the bespectacled boy said acerbically. 'He's a slathering, bone-crunching beast, our Remus. Don't know how it took us so long to work it out.'

He snorted again for good measure – just in case Sirius missed the full extent of his disbelief the first time – and went back trying to turn Remus' favourite shirt pink.

'I'm telling you, it all adds up!' Sirius insisted, stomping across the room and throwing himself down onto Peter's bed, dislodging the Potions text book and making Peter bounce off the bed completely with a startled squeal.

'Sorry, Pete,' he muttered distractedly as he opened a thick tome he had pilfered from the library to a marked page. 'Listen...' His finger ran down the page until he found the passage he wanted.

"Werewolf wounds, although fast-healing, scar badly..." Sirius looked at Peter who was frowning in a puzzled way at him. 'Remus has scars – I've seen them on his wrists, on his collarbone -- and he never lets us see him undressed.'

'They could have come from anywhere,' James broke in irritably. 'Werewolf wounds aren't the only wounds that scar. Is that your only proof, Sirius? That Remus won't let you perve at him while he's dressing?'

'No,' Sirius snapped, shooting James a withering glare before he looked back down at the book. 'There's this... "In the days before the full moon, the werewolf will feel the pull and will become lethargic, more physically sensitive to pain and short-tempered as their bodies prepare for the transformation." '

Sirius looked up. 'Remus is always tired and cranky before he goes to visit his 'sick relatives'. Haven't you noticed it over the last few days?'

James still looked defiant, but Peter's frown had deepened as he considered Sirius' words. 'Do... do you know the last time he went away?' he asked and James made a disgruntled noise.

'You cannot truly believe that the skinny, quiet boy who looks terrified every time a girl looks at him is a werewolf,' he said to Peter, who shifted uncomfortably.

'There's an easy way to find out,' Peter said, looking back at Sirius. 'Was it the full moon last time Remus was gone?'

Sirius raised his chin and said, 'Yes. And...' he continued when James opened his mouth to argue, '... it was also the full moon the last three 'visits home' before that.' He gestured to the window. 'And he's gone tonight. Look outside at the sky, James. It's a full moon.'

He crossed his arms over his chest and looked self-righteously at James. 'He comes back from these visits looking like he's gone ten rounds with a pissed off Hippogriff... I saw the scars.'

Sirius looked from one to the other, noting Peter's pale face and James' stunned mullet stare and knew that they believed him.

'Now that we know,' he said, leaning forward. 'We have to figure out what we're going to do about it.'

Two days later

Sirius threw himself onto Remus' bed, jostling the brown-haired boy who looked up, startled. 'Um, hello?' he said tentatively and Sirius grinned.

'Hiya, Remus,' he chirped, seeing out of the corner of his eye that James and Peter had looked up and were watching him. 'I'm having trouble with something for Defence and I was wondering if you could help.'

Remus looked surprised, but put his book aside and nodded. 'Sure, what's the problem?'

Sirius put on a studious expression and tapped his finger on his chin in what he hoped was a thoughtful manner.

'Well, I did some reading, but everything is so contradictory. See...' He hauled a book out from behind his back and pointed out a phrase. 'This book says that werewolves mate for life, but this one...' He pulled out another, not game to look at Remus' face yet. '... says that's not true.'

The atmosphere in the room had become tense and stifling in the space of that one sentence and Sirius finally looked up, right into Remus' terrified blue eyes.

'So which is it, Remus?' he asked softly, trying to keep his voice gentle. 'Do you really only get to shag one bird all your life?'

Those haunted eyes widened and tears filled them. Sirius felt a pang of guilt in his chest and shut the books with a snap.

'You know,' Remus whispered tremulously and Sirius nodded.

Remus looked over at Peter and James, Sirius turning his head in time to see them both nod as well. Remus' bottom lip shook and he drew in a shuddering breath.

'Please don't tell anyone,' he begged, the words rushing out as fat tears slid over his cheeks. 'Please, I'll leave... Just don't tell anyone...'

Sirius heard James hiss, but he didn't need the prod to lean forward and do what Remus had done for him just over one year ago. He put his arms around the other boy and accepted him – fur and all.

"...vendetta against the Slytherin students must stop. The four of you will be serving detentions separately: Mr Potter and Mr Lupin will be assisting Hagrid while Mr Pettigrew and Mr Black will be working in the hospital wing. I'm very disappointed in all of you."

Minerva McGonagall, June 1st, 1972

Sirius scowled as he and Peter dumped their armful of bedpans into the large sink. 'This is just cruel,' he muttered, turning the taps on full blast then hastily adjusting them as arcs of water bounced off the pans and all over him and Peter.

'This is so uncool,' Peter agreed, wrinkling his nose as he poked unenthusiastically at the pans. 'What's the point in being a wizard if you are made to do this kind of stuff by hand?'

'The point, Mr Pettigrew,' came Madame Pomfrey's stern voice from behind them, 'is to help you boys understand that there is a consequence for every action. Now, I expect to be able to see my face in those pans when you're finished. Get to it.'

Sirius looked over his shoulder and poked his tongue out at her back. 'I saw that, Mr Black,' she called and Sirius quickly turned back to the sink.

'What we need,' Peter said, glaring at the pans. 'Is a bloody map or something to tell when a teacher is nearby? That way, we won't get caught hexing Snivellus.'

Sirius grunted an agreement then they rolled up their sleeves and, muttering under their breath, began their punishment.

It wasn't until the next day that Sirius realised the wisdom of Peter's remark. He mentioned the idea to Remus and James and, after much contemplation, all three boys decided that Peter was a genius.

~8~

I could feel the tension gathering in my neck and shoulders and I put the next letter down as I circled my head, trying to work the stiffness out. Even now, thinking about Peter created the kind of tension that tied me up in knots.

'How could we have not seen...?' I muttered then bit my lip, having played this 'what if' game before and lost.

No good came from wondering what could have been and I'd worked too hard to get where I now was to go back to that head space. I picked up the next letter, the corner of my mouth curling up when I saw my own writing – words scrawled hastily in my excitement.

~8~

"I've figured it out, James!! I know how we can help Remus with his...problem. I'll tell you tonight. This is going to be so cool..."

Sirius Black, September 27th 1972

'It's illegal, Sirius!'

Sirius glared at Peter and the mousy boy shrank back into the chair. 'I'm just saying...'

'Well, don't,' Sirius snapped then he yelped as James smacked him across the head.

'Don't be a git, Sirius,' he ordered, frowning at his friend. 'Pete has a point. We're talking more than expulsion if we get caught. Unregistered Animagi get a mandatory year in Azkaban.'

Sirius crossed his arms across his chest and tilted his chair back on two legs. 'Only if they get caught,' he said defiantly, his tone holding a dare which he knew James would find hard to resist.

He saw James' resolve wavering and leaned forward, throwing down his trump card. 'Remus needs us, James. You've seen him after the full moon. He...'

Sirius cleared his suddenly tight throat as an image of his friend torn to pieces flashed across his mind. He could see Peter and James recalling the memory as well; James paling and Peter looking ill.

Sirius swallowed hard and said softly, 'He needs us. He's our friend and he needs us.'

James blinked and glanced over at Peter, whose face hardened with resolve as he nodded. James looked back at Sirius and set his shoulders.

'Right. Let's do it then.'

"...is it just me, Sirius, or have the girls at school suddenly gotten hotter? I mean, did you see the knockers on Anthea Morgan..."

James Potter, November 5th, 1972

'You alright, Sirius?' Peter asked as a dazed-looking Sirius staggered into the dorm.

'Ack,' squeaked Sirius and Remus and James looked up.

'Sirius?' said Remus with a frown while James leapt off the bed.

'Did Snivellus do something to you?' he demanded. 'I'll hex his fucking bollocks off...'

'An...Anthea...' Sirius stammered and all three boys looked confused.

'Anthea?' James said. 'Anthea... Morgan? The Fourth Year?'

Sirius nodded then smiled a wide, Cheshire-cat smile. 'She... kissed me.'

Worried expressions changed to grins and James let out a loud guffaw. 'Merlin, Sirius...' Then he grabbed the other boy by the arm and dragged him to the closest bed – Peter's.

'So? What was it like?'

Sirius looked around, seeing James' eager face, Peter's curious one and Remus'...

'Remus?' he called, seeing the werewolf still on his bed. 'Don't you want to hear about me becoming a man?'

Remus snorted, looking decidedly uninterested. 'I think there may be more to becoming a man than snogging some bird...'

'Not just some bird, Remus,' Peter piped up. 'A Fourth year! A woman!'

'Anthea is not even a year older than Sirius,' Remus retorted, shaking his head at them. 'I'd hardly call her an experienced woman.'

'Don't be a ponce, Moony,' James snapped, bouncing on the bed in excitement. 'Sirius is the first one of us to get a snog. Now get over here and get excited.'

Remus closed his book and swung his legs over the side of the bed with a put-upon sigh. 'Okay,' he grumbled, looking at a pink-faced Sirius. 'Tell me all about it.'

"...and how do you think we feel? Getting these kinds of reports from your teachers? Another one of those ridiculous pranks may just see you sent to Durmstrang, Sirius Black. Remember who you are..."

Walburga Black, April 19th, 1973

'Another detention, Black,' McGonagall sighed, gazing resignedly over her half-moon glasses at Sirius. 'This time for...' She looked down at Professor Slughorn's angry scrawl. '...turning the Slytherins' hair crimson...' She glanced up at him again and he shrugged.

'I have a lot of pride in my house, Professor,' he said mildly then wanted to cringe when he saw her eyes narrow dangerously.

'Sorry, Professor,' he muttered contritely.

Her face softened and she sighed. 'Mr Black... Sirius,' she said gently, taking off her glasses and laying them carefully on the desk in front of her. 'Is everything alright? Your grades have been slipping a little this term and you've had seven detentions for various infractions in the weeks since you returned from Easter break.'

Sirius bit the inside of his cheek, resisting the urge to blurt it all out to a sympathetic ear. His parents' constant refrain of what a disappointment he was; their continual comparisons of him and his brother, Regulus, with Sirius coming in a distant second-best each time; their reminders of what it meant to be a Black and the expectation that Sirius blindly follow their every instruction. He wanted to tell her how angry he got, how he felt this roiling, bubbling fury inside him that threatened to overwhelm him, and that all of his hijinks... the pranks, the flirting and chasing of any available girl, the joking and clowning... these were the only times he didn't feel as though the fierce anger would take him over.

But he didn't. Instead he smiled his most charming smile and flipped his long, dark hair off his face. 'I must have let the holiday cheer linger a little too long, Professor,' he said, striking a casual pose in his chair. 'Never fear. I'll pull my socks up, get my act together, straighten up and fly right...'

'Yes, yes, fine, Mr Black,' she interrupted, waving her hand dismissively. 'Just be sure you do. Don't let me catch you pulling any more pranks.'

'Of course not, Professor,' he said as he stood, adding under his breath as he turned towards the door. 'I won't let you catch me.'

"...and Moony reckons he's worked out the charm for the tracking spells. He wants to meet in the Room of Requirement after lunch – bring your Runes book. It's almost done!"

Peter Pettigrew, October 1st, 1973

'No! James, that's the wrong rune,' Sirius cried, grabbing James' wand and erasing the lines the boy had started. 'Merlin, just let me do it.'

James glared at Sirius as he made the correct markings to the parchment then sat back with a smile. 'I think that's it,' he declared, grinning around at the others. 'We've got all the layers... We've worked out that kink with the moving dots...'

'It just needs activating,' Peter said, twirling his wand between his fingers. 'Should we do it together?'

All three other boys nodded and held out their wands, points all touching the parchment as they said in one voice, 'I solemnly swear I am up to no good.'

"...yet another letter from the Headmaster in regards to your behaviour. I am growing weary of being constantly embarrassed by my heir and, as his influence is obviously corrosive, you will not be visiting James Potter during the holidays..."

Orion Black, December 18th, 1973

The high-pitched screech made the hair on the back of Sirius' neck stand on end and he cringed as his mother paced the floor in front of him, gesticulating angrily.

'Why do you insist in this... rebellion, Sirius?' she snapped, stopping her pacing and glaring at him. 'Your father and I have tried to be patient – after all, you are living amongst blood traitors like the Potter boy and those other... half-bloods...'

'They are my friends, Mother,' Sirius cut in, gritting his teeth in an attempt to rein in his anger.

She snarled at him. 'Friends?' she scoffed. 'What need do you have for friends? Can your friends help you secure a position in the Ministry suitable for the scion of the Black family? Can your friends create a niche for you in European society? Can your friends find you an appropriate wife – one who will continue the Black name?'

'I don't want...'

'It doesn't matter what you want, Sirius!' she insisted, her face contorting as her voice rose. 'It is about what is expected of you, of the Black heir, and you will cooperate.'

'Or...' Sirius asked softly, staring at his mother with wide eyes.

Walburga Black went very still and, after a moment of hesitation, took two steps forward and leaned down until her lips were next to her son's ear. 'Or you will be disowned and disinherited,' she murmured quietly, but her tone was as hard as dragon scales. 'You will be nothing, Sirius. You are nothing without your name, without us.'

She straightened and stared at him with emotionless grey eyes – the exact shade of his own – before she turned on her heel and left the room.

'I'm just not sure if I can do it, even with you and James helping. I'm no good at Transfiguration..."

Peter Pettigrew, March 1974

'Concentrate, Pete.'

'I am!'

'You're not trying hard enough...'

'Sirius, leave him alone. This is bloody hard.'

'Guys, I'm holding you back. Do it without me.'

'No! We all want to help Remus. We're all in this together. Sirius, you're pushing too hard...'

'There has to be another way, Sirius...'

'There is no other way, Peter. Are you both chickening out?'

'Of course we aren't, Sirius. Just... stop snapping at us all the time.'

'We've been working on this for months and we've not made any progress because you two keep whining about it all being too hard. If you two want to keep seeing Remus ripped up every month, fine, but I can't keep seeing him like that, so either bugger off or fucking concentrate.'

"...write to you at school without your parents or Bella and Cissy finding out. Dora is a year old now and she seems to prefer the pink hair. Although, she's still too young to choose so perhaps that's her default colour..."

Andromeda Tonks, May 1974

'I won't.'

'I beg your pardon?' Orion Black said coldly, putting down his copy of the Daily Prophet to stare glacially at his oldest son.

Sirius swallowed then repeated, 'I won't go and suck up to Malfoy. I will be friends with whomever I choose...'

His father raised an eyebrow. 'And you choose pure-blood traitors, half-bloods?'

'I do.'

Orion stood and narrowed his eyes. 'You'll go the same way as your cousin. Living in a filthy Muggle squat with a no-good husband and filthy, half-blooded brat...'

'Andi is happier than she's ever been before,' Sirius retorted, pushing himself to his feet. 'Isn't that the most important thing? That she is happy with Ted and Dora?'

He knew it was a mistake the moment the words slipped from his mouth and, as he watched his father pale, for the first time, he was frightened of the other man.

'You've been in contact with her?' Orion asked softly. 'You've spoken with your cousin despite your mother and I instructing you that you were to never contact her again?'

Sirius lifted his chin defiantly. 'Yes,' he said mutinously. 'I told you, I'll choose my ow...'

His father's spell hit with bone-crunching accuracy, sending Sirius flying backwards to crash into the wall. He dropped to the floor and curled in on himself, the tearing pain in his stomach making the world go hazy around the edges. He didn't hear his father approach until the man was crouched beside him.

'You will do what you are told,' his father hissed angrily. 'Unless you want to meet the same fate as your traitorous cousin.'

Orion stood and, after collecting his paper, left the room. Only then did Sirius let the tears of pain and anger escape.

"Sirius, Meet me and Pete in the Room of Requirement after class. Bloody hell! He's done it!"

James Potter, November 20th, 1974

Peter squeezed his eyes closed tight, an expression of intense concentration on his face. Sirius snorted.

'He looks as though he's trying to take a...'

'Shhh!' James hissed, jabbing Sirius in the ribs as they both stared at Peter.

For a moment, it seemed nothing was going to happen then, before their eyes, his head started to shrink and his hands retracted up under his jumper.

'What...?' Sirius began as Peter disappeared, leaving only a pile of clothes where he had stood.

He turned to James, who looked just as confused until a small furry rodent struggled out of the neck of Peter's shirt.

James laughed and Sirius grinned. 'You're a rat?' he exclaimed then collapsed into a fit of laughter until Peter the rat streaked across the room and bit him hard on the hand.

"I really like you, Sirius. I've never done that before with anyone else..."

Susan Clifton, December 27th, 1974

'I can't believe it! You... shagged her?'

James stared at Sirius with bulging hazel eyes and Peter's mouth gaped open. Remus had gone to the Shrieking Shack for his transformation. Sirius had waited until Remus left to break the news that his virginity was now lost... The werewolf was a bit odd about sex and girls.

'Yep,' he said smugly, laying back on his bed and crossing his arms under his head. 'I am now a man.'

James recovered enough to scoff at him, but Peter remained appropriately impressed by Sirius' announcement.

'Susie Clifton?' he murmured, obviously picturing their busty fellow Fifth Year in his mind. 'How'd you get her to do that?'

Sirius chuckled. 'She was begging for it,' he declared, lying through his teeth about exactly how long it had taken to talk Susie into letting him go all the way. 'I'm just that good, Pete.'

After retelling the tale of his first and only conquest several times, the dorm fell quiet. James and Peter were breathing regular, deep breaths behind their curtains, but Sirius lay awake, staring out the window at the swollen moon. He wondered how Remus was doing and felt a nervous churning in his stomach at the thought of telling Remus about shagging Susie. He wasn't sure what it was about Remus, but he hated it when the werewolf looked at him with that disapproving expression Sirius just knew would be fixed to his face once he told him the news. Also, Remus would ask questions that went a little deeper into Sirius' psyche than James and Pete's 'How big are her boobs?' or 'Is it really that wet?' Remus would ask how he felt and what he intended to do with Susie now...and Sirius had no idea how he was going to tell Remus that he had no intention of seeing Susie again without having to see that expression of disappointment on the other boy's face.

'Maybe I should lead with 'It wasn't really that good anyway',' Sirius mumbled under his breath, frowning and wondering if everyone's first time was as much of a let down as his was.

It was nice and all, but Sirius had been expecting an experience more along the lines of incredible than nice. Susie was so soft and squishy and, truth be told, her boobs kept getting in the way and things were just... confusing... down there. And somehow, just by looking at him, Remus was going to make all this confusion just spill out like word vomit and he'd know that Sirius was...weird because he hadn't really liked having sex with Susie.

But Sirius knew that he would understand. Because Remus always understood.

"...happy to arrange a tutor for you, if you can't find someone to assist. These Defence marks need to improve, Mr Black, or you will fail your OWLs."

Minerva McGonagall, Head of Gryffindor House, March 4th 1975

'You want me to tutor you?' Remus said in surprise and Sirius nodded.

'Please, Remus,' he muttered, looking around to ensure James and Peter were still stalking Lily Evans and Alice Jones and couldn't hear what they were talking about. 'My marks have fallen in Defence and if McGonagall has her way, some boring Ravenclaw bloke will be tutoring me every Saturday night.'

He stared at Remus with wide eyes. 'Moony, think of my social life. I'll never be able to date again if McGonagall has her way. Come on, be a friend? Tutor me during the week so I can continue in my quest to shag all the girls in our year on the weekends?'

Remus chuckled. 'This really isn't my problem, Sirius,' he said nonchalantly, flipping over a page of his novel carelessly. 'Perhaps your dick could do with the imposed break... It must be just about ready to snap off from all the activity.'

'Shhh!' Sirius hissed, frowning and covering his crotch with both hands. 'It'll hear you.'

Laughing out loud now, Remus put down the book. 'So, what do I get out of this arrangement?' he asked, leaning back against the couch and sliding his arm along the head rest behind Sirius' head.

'Huh?' Sirius asked, a little distracted by the sensation of the hair on Remus' arm tickling his neck.

The werewolf grinned and tousled Sirius' hair. 'If you expect me to give up my evenings to try and help you get your marks up, I want some kind of incentive or reward.'

Sirius smiled hopefully. 'My everlasting gratitude,' he suggested, but Remus just snorted and shook his head.

'I already have that,' he said, crossing his arms across his chest. 'Remember? When I took the blame for slipping that hair loss potion into Avery's drink last year because McGonagall would have called your parents?'

'Oh yeah,' Sirius mumbled, frowning. 'Er, well...' He worried his lip for several seconds then grinned. 'How about I help you lose that pesky virginity?'

Remus' eyes widened and mouth fell open. 'Wh... I... What?'

Sirius smirked; pleased to see he'd ruffled the normally serene werewolf's feathers. 'I will help you get a date with any luscious bird in this castle so you can finally become a man,' he offered, surprised when the hopeful gleam in Remus' eye faded, along with his wide smile.

'Oh,' Remus said then looked away, picking up his book once more. 'I was just kidding, Sirius. I don't need any repayment. Of course I'll tutor you.'

Sirius blinked, startled by the rapid change in the other boy's mood, but pleased that he'd acquiesced and agreed to tutor him. 'Well, er, thanks,' he said slowly, waiting for a moment to see if Remus had anything to add, but he just nodded once and continued to read so Sirius got up and left the room, casting one last puzzled glance over his shoulder as he went.

"James, Pete, We do it tonight. He can't survive another moon like last month...."

Sirius Black, May 23rd, 1975

'Sirius, we should have told him first,' James whispered, his mouth so close to Sirius' under the Invisibility Cloak that he felt the heat of the bespectacled boy's breath tickle his cheek. 'What if Moony completely freaks out?'

Sirius heard Peter squeak in agreement as the boy/rat dug his claws into Sirius' shoulder. 'You're hurting me, Peter,' he hissed then twisted his head awkwardly to look back at James, wishing the Cloak expanded as they aged. It was almost impossible now for more than two of the fifteen-year-olds to hide under it now.

'If we told Remus, he wouldn't have let us come,' Sirius said, for the third time that evening. 'You know what he's like, James. He'd never agree to this.'

There was a moment of silence as they approached the Whomping Willow and watched its branches flail viciously.

'Okay, Wormtail,' said James, a slight quaver in his voice as he reached up to grab the rat. 'Show time.'

~*~

Remus was shaking, Padfoot able to see his painfully tight muscles twitching and trembling from exertion. The big, black dog whimpered, its feelings and emotions muted in this canine form, but his sense of empathy just as acute. This boy meant something to the human part of him and he was hurting badly. Lying on his belly, Padfoot slowly crawled towards the bed, whining softly when he smelt the sharp, metallic tang of blood emanating from the prone boy.

Remus' eyes opened and he looked right at Padfoot, staring blankly at first then with a hint of both curiosity and fear in his face. Padfoot was next to the bed now and could almost taste the agony of cracked bones and torn tendons and he couldn't stand it any longer, couldn't stand seeing Remus' pain and being unable to comfort him. He morphed back into his human form and saw the surprise in Remus' eyes.

They stared at each other for a long moment, Sirius crouched on his knees by the bed, and then Remus let out a quiet moan and whispered, 'You're here.'

Sirius nodded, his hand searching and finding Remus', gripping it as hard as he dared. The corner of Remus' mouth quirked and his face was more peaceful than Sirius had ever seen it in waking hours. Sirius lay his head down on the mattress next to Remus' and nodded.

'Yes,' he said softly, promising himself Remus would never wake up alone in this place again. 'Yes, I'm here.'

"... I'm sorry, okay? We're all sorry! Just... come on, it's just Snivelly. Maybe we went a bit too far, but he's an evil prick. Look what he said to Evans – even she's not talking to him now. Please, Moony. Forgive me?"

Sirius Black, 13th July 1975

James looked up with a wince as a sulky Sirius slammed the bedroom door. 'Did the owl bite you again?' he asked.

'Yes,' Sirius snarled, crossing his arms as he threw himself onto James' bed. 'If Moony would just stop being such a bloody girl about this, I wouldn't keep getting bitten by that feather duster. I can't believe he won't just get over this – he'd rather spend the holidays moping about at his house than come and be with us just because some people saw Snivellus' knickers.'

Peter snorted from his camp bed next to James' desk and Sirius glared daggers at him as James spoke around the quill he was chewing on. 'I keep telling you to just leave him alone. You know Moony; he'll be all moral and...' He raised his voice to a falsetto. '"I should have stopped you" for a while then he'll realise Snape's a git and deserved it and get over his snit. Honestly, Sirius, I don't see why you can't just leave him be to work through his guilt.'

'He's our friend and he's angry with us,' Sirius said defensively. 'I'm apologising because if I don't, he won't come over at all these holidays.'

'You're running after him like he's some bird you're trying to get on her back,' James snapped back, screwing up the parchment he'd been writing on and tossing it onto the floor. 'You two poofs or something? You want into Moony's drawers?'

'Fuck off, Potter,' Sirius scoffed, startled that his face had begun to heat up. He stood and, trying to find a diversion, he scooped up the discarded parchment and smoothed it out.

'Don't look at that!' James yelped, but Sirius had already seen what James had written to Lily Evans and for the next five minutes, he and Peter took turns in reading the lines aloud as James chased them through the house.

The next day Remus turned up at the Potter's and, with a punch to Sirius' arm, things returned to normal, except that Sirius found himself looking over at Remus and remembering James' words...

"...to stay at Pete's for the rest of the holidays to give the Potters a break? You've been so damn moody, Moony! For the love of Merlin, will you just tell me if I've fucked something up so we can get over it?"

Sirius Black, August 22nd, 1975

Sirius rolled over onto his side and was startled to see Remus staring at him through the early morning gloom of Peter's bedroom.

'You awake, Moony?' he whispered and Remus nodded.

Sirius threw back the bedclothes and crawled across the floor. 'Budge over then,' he mumbled, shoving at Remus until he moved over on the conjured mattress.

Sirius slid in next to him and, shivering, curled up alongside the other boy. 'Fuck, it's cold.'

'Mmm.'

Sirius stared at Remus, a crease appearing between his eyes. 'Why are you up so early?'

'I'm gay.'

Sirius stared at Remus, mouth hanging open. 'I... you... huh?'

Remus looked irritated and glared at Sirius. 'You wanted to know,' he snapped, pulling the bedclothes tighter around himself. 'You kept writing to me asking and you did nothing but bother me all day yesterday...' He shrugged, obviously trying to look as though he didn't care. 'So now you know. Happy?'

Sirius frowned. 'No,' he said, with rising anger, but keeping his voice low so as not to wake the others. 'No, I'm not bloody well happy.'

He sat up and glared furiously down at Remus. 'Why the hell has it taken you this long to tell me? Have you... gone out with blokes?' He sucked in a sharp breath and his eyes widened as an odd pain streaked through him. 'Have you done it with a bloke?'

Remus flushed and stared down at the bedclothes. 'I don't tell you guys everything, you know, just like you don't tell me everything.'

He shot a look at Sirius who fidgeted a little guiltily as he recalled the Animagi secret.

'I've... gone on a few dates...' Remus admitted, biting his lip. 'Not done much... just kissing and... a bit of... you know... groping.'

Sirius felt his chest tighten and ache and was surprised by how much it hurt to know that Remus had excluded him from a part of his life, that Remus had gone outside their circle and learnt things that he hadn't shared with them.

'Why didn't you tell me? Us?' Sirius asked, unable to hide the resentful tone. 'We would never have rejected you or anything. You're our friend, Remus. We wouldn't have cared that you preferred to snog blokes.'

'I know. I suppose I just...' Remus sighed heavily. 'I'm already a freak,' he said softly. 'This is just one more thing that makes me different.'

Sirius' anger dissolved and he reached out, clasping Remus' hand in his own. The werewolf looked up in surprise and Sirius didn't stop to think, to rationalise this, he just... did it...

Remus gasped as Sirius' lips pressed against his and it was all Sirius could do to stop his own little cry of shock and pleasure. A spark, an arc of electricity crackled between them and they pulled back, almost frightened by the heat that had flared momentarily.

Sirius cleared his throat and tried to smile through his confusion. 'Now I've kissed a boy as well,' he said quietly, his voice failing to remain steady as he tried to reassure Remus. 'So you're not so different anymore, Moony. You're not alone anymore.'

It was impossible to miss seeing the light fade from Remus' eyes before he smiled a little grimly and slipped his hand from Sirius' grasp. 'Thanks, Padfoot,' he murmured. 'Thanks for trying to make me feel better. It's not necessary, though. I'll be fine.'

He rolled over – an obvious dismissal – and Sirius frowned, running a hand over his glossy black hair in confusion.

'Okay then,' he said, not sure what had just happened but feeling a strange sense of loss anyway.

"Wormy...please? Just say it was you? I've got a date with Helen Sheffield and cannot do a detention....HELEN SHEFFIELD, Wormy!!!! Guaranteed blow job!! Come on, be a mate..."

Sirius Black, November 21st, 1975

'You are such a slut.'

Sirius chuckled as he threw himself down on the bed next to James. 'Jealous of my success with the ladies, Virgin Potter?' he asked snidely, smirking as James coloured lightly.

'Fuck off,' he muttered, jabbing Sirius sharply in the ribs with his elbow.

Sirius winced and pushed back and the two quickly got involved in a wrestling match, rolling off the bed and onto the floor. As they hit the hard stone, both boys yelped and quickly untangled themselves, rubbing at various body parts which had come into painful contact with the floor.

'We are getting too old for that shite,' James said, rubbing his nearly sixteen-year-old arse.

Sirius mumbled an agreement, standing and stretching his bruised leg tentatively, wincing as his knee objected to the movement.

'Serves you both right,' Remus said from the depths of his curtained bed. 'Idiots.'

Sirius hobbled across to Remus' bed and yanked the curtains open, glaring down at the reclining werewolf, who didn't even open his eyes.

'You're jealous too,' he stated and Remus' eyebrow twitched.

'Really?'

'Yeah,' Sirius said, throwing himself down on the bed and shoving at Remus until the other boy had skidded further across the bed, leaving space for Sirius to lie down next to him. 'I got a blow job tonight whilst you got to spend the evening with Prongs.'

Remus snorted. 'If my choices for the night were one of Helen's sloppy knob jobs or listening to James rhapsodise about Lily Evans, I'd choose Mr Obsession every time.'

Sirius made a doubtful noise then rolled onto his side, propping his head up on an elbow and staring down at Remus' still-peaceful face and closed eyes.

With a quick glance to see where James was, Sirius said softly, 'Any action on the horizon for you, Moony?'

A little crease appeared between the other boy's eyebrows. 'Even if I knew which blokes shared my...predilections, 'scrawny and average' doesn't seem to have much of a market.'

Sirius frowned. 'You're not scrawny and average, Moony,' he insisted only to get another snort from Remus.

Sirius stared at Remus, trying to look at him objectively. It was true that, upon first glance, Remus didn't seem anything but a decent-looking, but ordinary, if not a little thin, bloke. But when one looked deeper... Remus' eyes were so expressive – one look could cut you down, or make you feel so high that not even the birds could touch you. He had several smiles that only a small, select group of people, including Sirius, were privileged enough to see, and Sirius had to admit that he was a bit jealous of Remus' skin. When it wasn't that horrible grey colour that made Sirius' stomach twist with anxiety after each full moon, it was a clear ivory that didn't seem to blemish at all, despite all the sugary confections the werewolf consumed.

Even the scars didn't detract from that perfect complexion; rather, they made Remus look... dangerous and interesting and Sirius knew of several girls who would be more than happy to attempt to convince Remus to switch teams.

And maybe some blokes who'd do their best to convince him to stay on their side.

Sirius' eyes followed the meandering path of a long scar: the journey beginning at Remus' temple, travelling down over his cheekbone to end at the werewolf's jaw line. Sirius' fingers twitched and he clenched his hand into a fist to stop himself from tracing the raised flesh with a fingertip. He licked his suddenly dry lips and grimaced as the too-sweet taste of Helen's lip gloss coated his taste buds. His gaze shifted to map the progress of a scar along the side of Remus' neck and he licked his lips again.

How would Remus taste?

Sirius blinked, a frown creasing his brow as, alarmed, he realised where his mind had just wandered. 'What the hell?' he mumbled under his breath and Remus opened his eyes.

'What?'

Sirius' eyes met his friend's curious blue orbs and he swallowed hard then shook his head. 'Nothing,' he said, laying his head down next to Remus' on the bed.

'So it was a good date?' Remus asked, his voice mild, and Sirius shrugged, closing his eyes. Suddenly, he felt very tired.

'S'pose,' he said, the word distorted as he yawned around the syllables. 'You're comfy, Moony.'

He nestled closer to Remus, feeling the werewolf stiffen.

'You smell like perfume,' Remus said, jostling Sirius away from him. 'I can't sleep with that stink next to me.'

'Mooonnyyy...' Sirius whined, but Remus gave him an unnecessarily hard shove and, for the second time that night, Sirius found himself on the floor.

'Go and shower, Padfoot,' Remus snapped, sitting up and reaching for his curtain. 'Not all of us enjoy the eau de sex of your latest bird. And don't forget to thank Peter for taking the blame for your prank so you could get that all important blow job from the house tart.'

He shot Sirius a look that was a strange combination of anger, disgust, disappointment, and hurt before he jerked the curtains shut.

"I don't know what to do, Prongs. I'm worried Regulus is going to get caught up in this group that Bellatrix is involved with and do something stupid.'

Sirius Black, December 25th, 1975

Sirius kicked the door of his bedroom and yelled, 'You can't keep me here forever!'

There was no answer from the lower floors and he let out a frustrated growl. Unable to sit still, he paced the room like a caged animal, cursing and occasionally kicking a of piece of furniture.

A creaking sound outside his door made him stop abruptly. 'If that's you, Kreacher, I'm going to cut your fucking head off and burn it so you never get to hang with your ancestors...'

'Charming,' came his brother's voice, muffled through the solid wood door. 'With a mouth like that, it's no wonder you were kicked out of Christmas dinner.'

Sirius harrumphed and stomped over to the door. 'I was provoked,' he snapped, glaring at the timber door as if it had offended him. 'Fucking Bellatrix and all that shit she was spouting...'

'Sirius, it's our heritage, our history she and Rodolphus are trying to help save...'

'That's bullshit, Reg, and you know it.' Sirius snorted then frowned when Regulus offered no response. 'Reg, you aren't letting all that pure-blooded rubbish seep in, are you? You don't actually believe that tripe Mother and Father vomit...'

'Our blood, our ancestry will mean nothing if we allow Mudbloods to keep breeding with us,' Regulus said earnestly. 'We owe it to ourselves and our forefathers to honour our traditions and try to keep our blood pure.'

Sirius, mouth open, stared at the door that separated him and his brother; the door that was only inches thick, but now felt as though it were miles wide.

'You don't really believe that, Reg,' he said softly, leaning his head against the door. 'Reg, Remus is a half-blood, Lily Evans is a Muggleborn... You can't really believe what Bella said – that my friends should be cast from our world or... killed for trying to steal magic...?'

There was a long silence then, in a whisper Sirius had to strain to hear, Regulus said, 'We must do what we have to do to save ourselves, Sirius.'

"We should talk about it, Padfoot."

Remus Lupin, 11th March 1976

Sirius groaned as he slowly became aware of the pain racking every inch of his body. As if it wasn't bad enough that he had a hangover that would bring a giant to his knees, he felt as if someone had stretched him on a rack as well. His thigh muscle cramped from its oddly twisted position and Sirius slid his hand over the bare skin of his hip to massage it.

Hang on. Bare skin?

He cracked open his eyes and saw the familiar crimson hangings, smelled the unmistakable scent of Remus' dirty socks and James' Quidditch gear and heard the dulcet tones of Peter's snores. He was in his own dorm and he sighed in relief. He didn't do anything too stupid then.

A moan from beside him made him freeze then his head snapped to the side. The moment he saw Remus, the memory of the night before came flooding back.

'Happy Birthday, Moony!'

'I don't want any more Firewhiskey, Sirius...'

'Come on, Moony! Just one more...'

'Oh, shit!'

Sirius met Remus' stunned blue eyes and for a moment they just stared at each other in horror.

'Did we...? What did we do?' whispered Remus, but Sirius shook his head, unable to think about this now, not while he was naked and in bed with another – he assumed – naked bloke.

He leapt out of bed ('Remus' bed,' he realised with growing hysteria) and pulled on his pants, grimacing when what was unmistakably dried come tugged sharply at his pubic hair.

'Sirius...'

'You're beautiful, P'foot'

'You're drunk, Moony.'

'Y'still beautiful.'

'So're you.'

Later, he wasn't proud of what he did, but, damn it, he was scared. So he ran away, ran to the Shrieking Shack and stayed there all day, considering what had happened and wondering what the hell it all meant for his assumed heterosexuality. Remus, as omniscient as usual, knew exactly where he was, but stayed away; instead sending an owl with the short missive..."We should talk about it". It was alright for Remus – he was already gay, but what if Sirius was gay, too, now? He didn't want to be gay – he liked shagging girls.

Didn't he?

'We shouldn't... Pads...'

'Let me, Moony. I want to do it.'

'Merlin, that feels good.'

'Yeah... oh, Gods, that's it... Shit, I'm close.'

Sirius frowned, gnawing at his already raw lip. He'd been getting regularly laid for a year or so now and, while it was all quite nice, it was never the 'fireworks going off and eyes rolling back in your head' experience the other non-virgins reported in the Quidditch locker room. In fact, the more he thought about it, the more worried he became as he realised he instinctively chased girls who were a little... masculine in their attitudes rather than giggly and silly... and, fuck, he hated going down on them and only did it to get a blow job in return and breasts had never done a damn thing for him...

He'd been able to brush off the tiny kiss he and Remus had shared at Peter's house as an experiment, even stretching the imagination to call it a form of comfort in a time of stress, but this...

'Like that?'

'Yeah... faster...'

'Oh, yeah. Gods, I'm going to...'

'Kiss me, Moony...'

What happened between he and Remus had crossed the line between experimenting and desire. This wasn't just curiosity anymore and that sudden realisation was enough to scare the absolute shit out of Sirius.

"Moony, please. I'm sorry...fuck, I'm sorry! Please just give me a chance to explain. Sirius."

"I'm not interested, Sirius. Don't speak to me again."

Sirius to Remus/Remus to Sirius, April 15th, 1976

'Moony? Come on, mate...'

Remus shouldered past Sirius without a glance at the brunette's pained face and climbed the stairs to their shared dorm. Sirius made a move to follow him, but Peter clasped his arm to halt him.

'No,' he said firmly. 'Give him some space, Sirius.'

Sirius shook his head, wincing when the movement pained his bruised jaw. 'I just want to explain,' he told Peter – who, to everyone's shock, had given Sirius the injury. 'If he'd let me tell him...'

'Do you really believe he's going to listen to anything you're going to say? That any of us are interested in your excuses?' Peter asked bluntly, shooting him a disgusted look before he turned to leave. 'For Merlin's sake, Sirius. Stop thinking about what you need to do for once and do what he needs you to do. Leave him alone.'

Sirius sank down on the stone stairs as Peter left, his shoulders slumping disconsolately as he buried his face in his hands and tried to force the stinging tears back.

Oh, Gods. I've really fucked up this time.

"Prongs, I've left for good. I'll be at yours soon."

Sirius Black, 20th July, 1976

'What did you say to me?' Walburga Black hissed, staring through furious grey eyes at her eldest son.

Sirius clenched his fists in an effort to hide his tremors and raised his chin. 'I said that I'm going to James' and I don't...'

CRASH!

Sirius ducked as a vase shattered behind him, sending needle-sharp shards of porcelain spraying all over him. He winced as a large piece sliced his cheek open, gritting his teeth so he couldn't cry out in pain. He refused to show any weakness in front of his mother.

He raised his head, staring directly at the incensed woman. 'I'm of age,' he said, his voice level and controlled. 'I can go where I please with whomever I please.'

'You should be here, learning your place in this family,' she snapped back, eyes flashing in anger, paying no heed to the blood spilling onto her son's once-pristine white shirt. 'Yes, you are of age and that means it is time to put aside childish rebellions and foolish game playing and accept your responsibilities to this family.'

She made an impatient noise and spun around to gesture expansively. 'You are a member of the most prestigious of wizardly families; we are a dying breed. You and your brother need to continue the line, to keep our blood pure. You, in particular, need to prove your loyalty. It was humiliating enough that you were sorted into Gryffindor, home of Mudbloods and traitors like the Potters...'

Walburga wrinkled her aristocratic nose, spitting out James' family name as if it were poisonous and tainted. '...but now it is time to remember who you are. Now is the time to learn the family ways, to think about marriage to an appropriate woman, to take your rightful place in this family.'

Sirius narrowed his eyes, feeling years of resentment and frustration reaching boiling point inside him. 'I don't want to be part of this family!' he shouted, seeing Walburga blink in surprise. 'A real family wouldn't criticise and browbeat me for a Sorting that I couldn't control, a real family would have supported me anyway and not treated me like a pariah. A real family would care about my wishes, my happiness, and encourage me to make my own choices about my future. A real family would love me unconditionally.'

His nostrils flared as he exhaled heavily, recalling the expression on Remus' face – the disbelief and crushing hurt – when Sirius betrayed him. His own heart still ached as it bore the weight of his guilt and sorrow over the loss of their friendship and he knew now how much he'd carelessly tossed aside. This woman - his mother - might have the same blood as him, but Remus and James and Peter... they were his real family and he'd thrown that loyalty and acceptance back in Remus' face.

'My friends – those Mudbloods and blood traitors you are so fond of putting down at every available opportunity – have taught me more about family than you or Father ever did,' he snapped, his anger and frustration at himself and his actions fuelling his rage.

Walburga observed him, her face hard, her grey eyes as cold as ice. 'A real family?' she whispered, fury seeping from her very pores. 'We are a real family, Sirius; it is you who is the abomination, the abnormality. Your brother knows what is expected, knows how to behave in a manner that befits his station, but you... you have set out to embarrass and humiliate your father and I at every step. We have tried to bring you back to the family, to set you on the right and true path, and we have been slapped in the face at each turn.'

She drew herself up to her full height, a trick she previously used to intimidate Sirius; but now, he was taller than her, stronger than her, and he suddenly realised that he no longer feared her, no longer wanted any part of her approval or her plans.

He smiled at the revelation and Walburga's eyes narrowed. 'You think this is funny?' she screeched, her control finally snapping entirely. 'Do you think that this is a game; one of your little pranks?'

Before Sirius could even open his mouth, she'd raised her wand and pointed it his way, a jet of red light striking the wall just behind him. He turned his head to see the damage and blanched.

'Be careful what you wish for, Sirius,' his mother said, her voice quiet and in control once more. 'Sometimes you get it.'

She strode out of the room, leaving Sirius staring at the Black Family Tree that hung on the wall – a smoking, black scorch mark where his name used to be.

"Padfoot has gone to see Moony, Pete. I tried to stop him but he made me promise to give him one day before I went to check on them. Moony's going to kill him, isn't he?"

James Potter, August 1st, 1976

'What do you want?' Remus snapped, the little smile of welcome fading when he saw Sirius on his doorstep.

'James told me that your mum and dad had gone away for a few days,' Sirius said, talking fast because Remus looked as though he might shut the door on him. 'And I thought we could...talk.'

Remus' jaw tensed and for a moment, Sirius was sure he was about to feel the hard wood slamming into his nose, but then Remus seemed to collapse in on himself before he turned and walked back down the hall. Sirius took the open door as an invitation and slipped inside, shutting the door behind him and following Remus into the living room.

Sirius sat cautiously next to Remus on the couch. The other boy turned so his back was to Sirius and, although he'd anticipated Remus' rejection, it hurt all the same.

'Remus... I...'

'Don't,' Remus said harshly, curling up into a ball in the corner of the couch. 'Don't say anything until I ask you to.'

Sirius blinked, but nodded, settling back on the couch, grateful Remus was allowing him to stay.

It felt like hours that they just sat; Remus curled up and staring out the window, Sirius sitting silently next to him, barely game to breathe. It went against every urge he had to just be still, but he knew instinctively that if he broke, he would lose any tiny fragment of a chance he had of salvaging the torn threads of their friendship. He never gave Peter much credit for introspection, but it was the other boy's angry words... "Stop thinking about what you need to do for once and do what he needs you to do" ... that Sirius kept chanting inside his head.

It began to rain, the grey, menacing clouds that had hung overhead when Sirius arrived finally bursting. Drops streaked over the pane of glass like tears and Sirius tracked their path with his eyes until they fell to the garden below the window.

'Why?'

Sirius didn't flinch at the sudden break in quiet, didn't bother to pretend he didn't know what Remus was asking; the other boy's cracking voice grated agonisingly on Sirius' soul. He repressed the urge to reach out, to touch and comfort, instead stammering, 'I... I'm not sure.'

Remus shifted, uncurling as he slowly twisted in the seat to look at Sirius. The darkened, dull eyes bore into Sirius' and he was startled by the flat expression. He'd seen Remus put on these masks before, hiding how he felt from the world that would call him a monster, but never with Sirius. He'd never had to hide with Sirius before and the fact he was now made Sirius' heart ache.

'I don't know why I did it,' Sirius said quietly, staring at the rain as it pelted against the glass. 'I... I let Snape rile me up...'

'Don't lead with bullshit or you can leave right now,' Remus said, his voice utterly devoid of the emotion his words should have held. It was dull and hollow, and hearing Remus' normally smooth, nuanced voice sounding so dead terrified Sirius more than any kind of screaming or yelling would have. 'You know why you did it.'

Sirius' throat went dry and he cursed himself for his attempted subterfuge. 'It's not untrue,' he murmured, standing and walking across to the window. 'I didn't understand at the time why I did it. It's only in the last week or so that I've realised why...'

He swallowed, trying to lubricate his throat as each word tore at the delicate lining. His stomach churned and he closed his eyes as hot tears pressed against his eyelids. He leaned his head against the cool glass, trying to control his fast respiration as he whispered tremulously, 'I did it because I was scared.'

A long silence then... 'Of?'

'You,' Sirius choked out through shaking lips.

He could feel all his confusion, his grief, his frustration bubbling up and he tried to push it down, to hide it away because Remus... all-fucking-knowing Remus... would sense his hesitancy and push him mercilessly until Sirius spilled everything that was in his soul and Sirius couldn't allow anyone to see that.

'What exactly about me scared you so much that you would send Severus Snape for me to devour?'

'Remus...' Sirius pleaded, knowing he'd receive no reprieve now, no matter how much he begged. Remus had seen the chink in his armour and would just poke away at it until he cracked open.

'No, I really want to know,' Remus said, a flare of anger in his voice now. 'I want to know what I did, what Severus did, to deserve this.'

'Us,' Sirius said weakly. 'It was us... I couldn't... I didn't know...' He inhaled a long, shuddering breath. 'I liked it – what we did. I liked it and I was scared because I liked it and I blamed you for...'

He tightened his lips, but Remus finished the sentence for him. '... trying to turn you into a poof...'

Sirius felt a sob building in his chest and fought it hard. 'I didn't know,' he whispered. 'I didn't know that was why and I didn't mean... I didn't think...'

'"I didn't mean; I didn't think",' Remus echoed mockingly, and Sirius heard a rustle as the other boy stood. 'You used knowledge only you had on me against me twice,' he spat, his words now laced with barely-suppressed fury. 'I don't know which betrayal hurts more – the fact you would have used my lycanthropy to have me commit murder or the fact that you took a situation that was private, that was...a stupid drunken mistake that we could have talked about or laughed about, and used it as an excuse to get at Snape.'

'R... Remus...' Sirius stuttered, grief making his whole body feel as though it were caving in and his shaking knees threatening to give way under him. 'Please... I... I'm sorry. I'm so sorry... Oh, gods! I'm... just like them, aren't I? My mother and father and Bellatrix... I'm just as twisted and evil as they are...'

'This isn't about your family, Sirius!' Remus yelled, anger finally breaking through. 'This is about you and your choices and your fears. This is about you, Sirius! At least be man enough to take responsibility for your own decision.'

He stormed over to the door then paused for a moment before throwing a caustic, 'And if you can't do that, then we have nothing more to say to each other,' over his shoulder before he left the room.

Sirius transformed into Padfoot as soon as Remus was out of sight, needing the relief that the canine's simpler thought processes brought. Everything was dulled as he settled into Padfoot's skin; the pain of rejection and the weight of guilt released its hold on him, the chaotic whirlpool of emotions slowed and eventually became gentle waves. Everything seemed simpler when he was Padfoot and Sirius needed the time and space to sort his feelings out – and to work out exactly what to tell Remus.

It was a couple of hours later that Padfoot's enhanced hearing picked up movement and, a minute later, Remus appeared in the doorway, staring at the black dog with an annoyed expression. Sirius quickly morphed back into his human form and for a long moment, the almost-men stared at each other. Sirius could see the question appear once more in Remus' eyes and he squared his shoulders in readiness for his confession.

'You were right,' Sirius said clearly, not quite looking at Remus. 'It was fear that made me do it. Not fear of you - fear of me, fear of what the fact I like you kissing me meant, fear of us doing... what we did together, and fear that I wanted to do it again. I didn't want to face it and it was just easier to blame you.'

He turned to look at Remus and this time, his voice trembled noticeably. 'It was easier to betray you.'

Remus blinked and Sirius saw the cold expression melt around the edges just a little. 'I am sorry, Remus,' he whispered. 'Sorrier than I ever imagined I could be. And I'm more scared now than I was then because I think I've lost you and I can't stand it.'

His lip shook and he frowned, blinking fast against the sting of tears that forced their way past the tightly clenching eyelids to stream down his cheeks. 'Please, Remus,' he murmured, shakily. 'Give me a chance to make it up to you. Please? Give me a chance to fix it.'

'Sirius...' Remus said, his voice breaking as he, too, gave in to his grief at the loss of trust, of innocence, and mourned the darkness and suspicion which had found its way into their relationship. 'I don't know... I don't know if I can, Sirius. I don't know if you can fix it this time.'

It took the rest of the day and well into the night, but they talked; slowly, piece by piece, Sirius revealed a part of himself that he was still scared to acknowledge. He was attracted to Remus – even drunk, he would never have been able to do... that... with James or Peter. The fact that he cared about Remus, that somehow, the physical and emotional want had become tangled, was something he was careful to hide though.

Neither he nor Remus were ready to deal with that quagmire.

'You should go up to bed,' Remus said eventually, looking at Sirius who was curled up in an armchair watching the first weak rays of light peek over the horizon.

'We haven't finished talking yet,' Sirius objected, frowning slightly at the other boy, who shook his head and stood.

'I think I'm all talked out,' he replied, walking to the door then hesitating. He looked back. 'Forgiveness is going to be a long time coming, Sirius, but... I can't hate you. I wish I could, but I can't. I can't reconcile the person who hugged the werewolf in second year without any fear, or the one who risks prison for me once a month, with this person who could have been my death sentence.'

Sirius winced and Remus looked away. 'I just don't know if I can trust what you've told me. I don't know if I know the real you, Sirius.'

'You do,' Sirius insisted, pushing himself to his feet and walking towards the other boy. 'You know things about me that even James doesn't know. I just want a chance to try and make this up to you. Just give me a chance, Remus.'

The other boy gazed at Sirius through eyes that had seen far too much hurt then nodded. 'One chance, Sirius,' he said softly. 'I'll give you... us... our friendship... another chance.'

~8~

A strong breeze made the wind chimes near the door clash noisily into each other, startling me from my memories. I looked up and saw that morning had begun to settle in, the sun-warmed earth heating up now and I could hear nature getting on with their day all around me. I turned my head, listening, but the house behind me was still quiet. I smiled to myself – he was really making the most of his lie in – then turned back to the letters. I saw Remus' signature on the bottom of the one I held in my hand and I frowned. That one drunken night started something which had been the cause of so very much pleasure, but which had also brought pain I'd never imagined someone could inflict upon another person without so much as raising a wand.

I knew that the further I went on, the more painful the memories would become, but nevertheless, I pressed on, knowing that now I'd started sorting through my past, I couldn't stop.

~8~

"Potter, I hear you made Head Boy. Congratulations. I'm Head Girl. Don't fuck this up for me."

Lily Evans, 31st August, 1976

'Head Boy?!' Sirius exclaimed in disbelief, staring at Mrs Potter and wondering if he should fetch someone to see to her obvious brain damage.

'Yes,' she squealed and Sirius winced at the high pitch, thankful he wasn't in canine form right now. 'I'm ever so proud of him. We thought all that prank-pulling you two got up to would hurt his chances...'

Sirius looked over at Mr Potter who was staring in disbelief at the Hogwarts letter and muttering, 'Albus must be going mad...'

'...but he's always been a leader,' enthused Mrs Potter, oblivious to all the incredulity in the air.

'Mad,' Mr Potter reiterated emphatically, glancing up at Sirius and shrugging.

'Lily Evans made Head Girl!' James yelled, running into the kitchen and skidding to a halt next to Sirius, shoving a piece of parchment at him before throwing himself into a vacant chair.

'Head Boy?' he repeated, joining Mr Potter in his musing about Dumbledore's seemingly loosened grip on sanity.

James grinned at him smugly. 'This is going to be brilliant,' he promised and Sirius shook his head in disbelief that the most powerful wizard of their time could be so completely and utterly thick as to give James Potter a badge and responsibility.

"Don't worry about it, Sirius. I'll be fine tonight. Don't skip detention – you'll only get into more trouble. James and Pete'll be there."

Remus Lupin, September 8th, 1976

Sirius pushed through the infirmary doors and crept across the room to Remus' usual bed. He slipped between the curtains and saw Remus curled up on his side on the white sheets. His breath caught as he saw the grey pallor of the sleeping boy's skin, the rawness of the fresh scars the littered the wiry, but strong bare chest and arms. Sitting heavily in the chair next to the bed, Sirius reached for Remus' hand then hesitated when he saw the stark white bandages covering the delicate wrists, broad palms and long fingers.

'Oh, Remus,' he whispered sadly, fingers touching the bandages tentatively.

'S'not that bad,' came a hoarse whisper and Sirius snatched his hand back, eyes darting to the prone boy's face.

'Yes it is,' he muttered, trying not to look as frustrated as he felt. 'Stupid bloody Slughorn. I begged him to let me do it another night...'

'Sirius Black begged?' Remus croaked, a ghost of a smile on his weary face. 'I don't believe it.'

'Believe it,' Sirius mumbled, flushing as he looked down at the sheets, fingernail scraping along a hem. 'I'm so sorry, Remus. I promised you I wouldn't let you down again and the first chance I got...'

'Sirius, it's okay,' Remus whispered, laying a bandaged hand on the dark-haired boy's arm. 'I've been worse.'

'Not for ages,' Sirius argued then shivered as the tip of one of Remus' fingers brushed over the skin on the inside of his wrist.

'Cold?' Remus asked, then shuffled over. 'Get in with me.'

Sirius hesitated, mouth opening to refuse before he shut it again. He and Remus had been walking on glass around each other still since "The Stupidest Thing Sirius Ever Did" happened and this was the first time Remus had initiated contact. He quickly slid onto the mattress, settling on his side then pulling the sheets up.

'Thanks,' he whispered, not sure why he felt the need to be so quiet but he whispered anyway, sure that an increased volume would break the fragile connection between him and Remus.

Remus' face was only inches away and for a moment, they just stared at each other, trying to adjust to their sudden intimacy.

'Are you really alright?' Sirius asked and Remus nodded.

'It's worse than when you're all there,' he admitted. 'But I have to get used to it again.'

Sirius frowned. 'What do you mean?' he said, confused. 'Why do you have to get used to it?'

Remus inhaled, long and deep. 'Padfoot, one day Prongs will catch Lily and they'll have lots of little baby deer...'

'Fawns,' Sirius interrupted and the corner of Remus' mouth twitched.

'Fine. They'll have lots of fawns... and Peter will find someone who can afford to feed him and you...' Remus blinked and made an odd noise in his throat. 'You'll find someone - someone wonderful who you'll just... adore and it'll be harder and harder to find time for my werewolf antics.'

Sirius' mouth opened to object, but Remus continued quickly. 'It's alright, Pads,' he murmured, patting the other boy's arm with a padded hand. 'That's the way it should be – I always knew that this couldn't go on forever...'

'Remus,' Sirius cut in impatiently. 'That is complete and utter shit. We would never abandon you...'

'It's not abandonment,' Remus said. 'It's life.' He hesitated then said, 'You should stop coming with me. I have to start getting used to doing it alone again.'

'No,' Sirius said immediately.

'Padfoot...' Remus began, but this time it was Sirius who spoke over him.

'The morning after I came to the Shack for the first time, I...' He bit his lip, colour infusing his cheeks. 'I made a promise to myself that I'd never again let you wake up alone after a transformation. And I won't go back on my word.'

'Sirius...'

'Remus. Shut. Up.'

Without a thought about what he was doing or the consequences of doing it, Sirius leaned in and did the one thing guaranteed to quieten the werewolf – he kissed him.

Remus pulled away as if he'd received a shock. 'What the hell...?' he whispered angrily, but Sirius put a hand over his mouth.

They had always been able to communicate without words – a raise of the eyebrow, a quirk of the lips, a tilt of a head – and now, as Sirius stared into Remus' eyes, he knew that Remus understood that this wasn't a game, that this wasn't a joke. He wasn't sure what this was, but Sirius knew that they both wanted to find out, to explore that spark between them and give it a chance to grow into something substantial. He removed his hand, sliding it along Remus' jaw then he slowly leaned in again and pressed his lips to Remus'.

The kiss was tentative at first as their dry lips brushed as light as butterfly wings over each other. Their eyes were open – gazes connected as their mouths parted for a heartbeat then joined once more. Eyelids fluttered shut now as the kiss slowly, carefully, deepened. Sirius' already frantically beating heart sped up as his inquisitive tongue was met by Remus' own probing muscle and he moaned softly, sliding his hand around to the back of the other boy's neck.

He might not have known what exactly this was yet, but as Remus' tongue stroked firmly over his own, he knew that he didn't want it to stop.

'Promise me, Sirius. Promise me you won't get involved with this group Bella is mixed up with. Promise you won't let Regulus get involved with it – he's always been more impressionable than you..."

Andromeda Tonks, November 11th, 1976

Sirius frowned as he read the letter from his cousin over dinner and, as they left the Great Hall, he pulled James aside.

'Can you distract Snivellus and the other snakes for a while?' he asked urgently. 'I need to talk to Reg alone.'

James glanced curiously at him, but didn't ask the obvious question; instead, he nodded. 'Of course,' he said. 'I don't need a reason to torment the greasy git.'

Sirius wasn't sure how James managed it, but when he cornered Regulus in the library, he was alone.

'What are you doing?' he murmured, sliding into the chair next to his brother.

Regulus looked up in surprise then scowled. 'What do you want, Sirius?'

'Can't I express an interest in my brother's life...?'

'No,' said Regulus bluntly, crossing his arms over his chest and glaring at Sirius. 'Why break the habit of a lifetime? I repeat, what do you want?'

He curled his lip and Sirius had a sudden, almost irrepressible urge to smack him; he looked just like their father when he did that – aloof and cold.

'Reg, this group you hang out with...you know their families are all involved in the Dark Arts? That they are all rumoured to be...' he lowered his voice, 'Death Eaters...'

Regulus snorted and turned back to his homework. 'Gods, you aren't going to tell me how bad they are and that you are here, Gryffindor colours blazing, to save my mortal soul?'

'Reg, they are bad news and I don't think you know what you are getting into...'

There was a loud, echoing bang as Regulus slammed the thick tome in front of him shut. 'Who the hell do you think you are?' he hissed, standing and glaring down at Sirius. ' You never appreciated our ways, the proper ways; you had to fight our parents every step of the way. You left, Sirius. You chose your path – and I'm choosing mine.'

He swept his parchment off the desk and spun to leave, jerking to a halt when Sirius grabbed his arm. 'You've made your choice...?' he said with a frown. 'What...?'

Fear crept along his spine and he seized Regulus' left arm, pushing up the robe before his brother could stop him.

'Oh, shit...' he whispered, seeing the skull and snake branded into the pale skin. 'Reg...'

Regulus tore his arm away and sneered. 'Like I said, I've made my choice.'

Sirius watched in anguish as his brother walked away then, with a shout of anger, spun around and slammed his fist into the closest wall.

"...sole heir to your deceased uncle's estate. Please sign the enclosed paperwork and return it so that the money can be transferred to your nominated Gringott's vault. Again, we are very sorry for your loss."

Augustus Moneymaker, January 20th, 1977

Sirius stared unseeingly at the parchment, the sounds of dinner chatter fading away as the roar of his blood rushing through his veins filled his ears. He was dead? Uncle Alphard – one of Sirius' last remaining allies – was dead?

'Padfoot!

The shout jolted Sirius and suddenly, the cacophony of voices and clattering table wear slammed into him. He looked up, seeing Remus and Peter gazing at him from across the table, their faces puzzled.

'You alright?' he heard a voice say beside him and, eyes on Remus' concerned face, he passed the letter to James, who perused it quickly.

'Shit,' he muttered, looking at Sirius before his eyes moved to Remus, who was still caught in the intensity of Sirius' gaze, and Peter. 'I'm sorry, mate.'

Sirius looked at him then, eyes dark and lost. 'Yeah,' he mumbled then he stood up.

James and Remus made to stand as well, but Sirius shook his head. 'No,' he said firmly. 'I want to be alone.'

Two hours later, James found him sitting in the dark by the lake, tossing stones at the Giant Squid. He sat down next to him, both staring out over the water for several minutes before James held out his hand. Sirius passed him some rocks and for the next half an hour, they skipped stones across the glassy surface of the lake, Sirius taking comfort in the fact that they knew each other so well, they didn't need words of comfort or support. It was simply felt.

Sirius finally broke the silence. 'This is shit,' he said vehemently and, out of the corner of his eye, he saw James nod.

'Yeah,' the tousle-headed boy agreed. 'Yeah, it's shit.'

They walked back to the dorm in silence then, once Sirius heard the rumbling of James' snoring, he crept over to Remus' bed, unsurprised when he saw the werewolf was awake.

'Okay?' Remus asked and, when Sirius shook his head, he moved over and pushed back the covers, silently inviting Sirius in.

Sirius grabbed the invitation with both hands, sliding in next to Remus. He looked at the other boy, opening his mouth then closing it when no words would come. Remus cocked his head in encouragement, but no words of explanation would come, no expression of the grief and sorrow that was twisting his gut would pass Sirius' lips. Sirius frowned at his inarticulacy, but when the corner of Remus' mouth turned up slightly and his hand lifted to brush back a lock of Sirius' hair, he knew that he didn't have to say a word. Remus already knew.

He swallowed hard then dipped his head, kissing Remus softly on the lips, letting their mouths linger sweetly over each other before he pulled back, attempted a smile then changed into Padfoot. Remus' brow furrowed for a moment then he nodded his understanding, putting his arms around the large black dog. Padfoot heaved a great sigh then nuzzled his head into Remus' chest and, as the other boy ran his hands through coarse black hair, he closed his eyes.

"Sirius, what do you think the old man wants..."

James Potter, May 6th. 1977

The four boys sat on James' bed in silence, all lost in their own thoughts. They'd been speechless for the last ten minutes – even the irrepressible Sirius suitably thoughtful after their talk with Albus Dumbledore. They had all known about the attacks on half-bloods and Muggleborns outside Hogwarts. Sirius felt a hot rush of shame burn through him every time he saw a new article in the Daily Prophet, wondering if a member of his family was responsible for the latest bloodshed. He longed for a chance to fight back, to prove that he wasn't like the rest of his family, and it seemed that today, Dumbledore had provided that opportunity

'We're doing it, right?' James finally said, looking around at his triumvirate of friends. 'We're joining the Order of the Phoenix?'

His eyes fell on them one by one. Peter nodded uncertainly; Remus, more firmly, but still with a worried frown.

Last of all, hazel eyes met grey and Sirius said without hesitation, 'Absolutely.'

'...found several suitable flats to show you. Please confirm the appointment date by return owl."

Gertrude Cashspender, June 24th, 1977

'What do you think?'

Remus looked around the kitchen of the two bedroom flat and nodded. 'It's nice, Pads,' he said with a wide smile. 'It's small but not too small and close to Diagon Alley.'

He walked down the hall again, stopping between the two doors that led to the bedrooms. 'Do you really need to spend the extra money on a second bedroom when you don't need it, though?' He looked over at Sirius. 'James isn't moving in with you, is he?'

'No,' Sirius said, looking into the currently bare guest bedroom and gathering his Gryffindor courage to confess that he hoped Remus would make use of that second room. 'I thought that you guys would be over a bit though..?'

Remus made a noise of agreement and leaned back against the wall. 'It's a lot of extra Galleons though,' the ever-practical man said. 'We can just as easily kip on the floor or on the couch.'

Sirius shrugged and absently reached out and hooked a finger into a loop on the waist band of Remus' jeans. 'It's not that much more and...' He bit his lip, frustrated when the words he'd been trying to get out for weeks dried up on his tongue once again. '... and maybe James'll need somewhere to stay when Lily kicks him out.'

Remus laughed that infectious laugh of his that made warmth radiate from Sirius' chest to every part of his body. Sirius smiled then quickly pressed his lips to the other boy's.

Remus jolted, obviously surprised that Sirius had made a move outside of their closed curtains. He seemed to recover quickly, though, canting his head so their mouths fit together better then, when he slid his tongue over the seam of Sirius' lips, the brunette groaned and shifted closer.

For the first time since that first drunken night, they were ready for more. Hands reached for bare skin, sliding under shirts, tugging at zippers and buttons until they each clasped hard, needy flesh in their fists. The kiss broke, but they remained close, breathing hot, shuddering breaths into each others' mouths as their wrists snapped out a fast and frantic rhythm. Sirius was first to break, letting out a cry that he bit off halfway through as he spilled viscous fluid over Remus' fingers. His own pattern faltered then, once the rush of orgasm faded, he caught Remus' mouth in a hard, hungry kiss which seemed to be the last straw for Remus who arched off the wall as sticky warmth spread over Sirius' hand. The kiss softened then petered out, the two young men propping each other up, soiled hands still closed around softening cocks.

'Merlin,' Remus whispered and Sirius let out a barking laugh.

'No,' he teased, pulling back to stand on trembling legs. 'Sirius, although I can see how you'd be confused...'

Remus chuckled and then made a face as he removed his hand from Sirius' now-soft appendage. Sirius did the same, wincing at the feeling of the drying ejaculate. He pulled out his wand and cast a Scourify over the two of them. There was an awkwardness as they both zipped up and straightened their clothes. Sirius peeked through his lashes at Remus, his face colouring when the other boy caught him.

Remus smiled and looked around the hall. 'I think you should buy this one,' he said, a note of laughter in his voice. 'We've... er... befouled it now so I suppose it would be the... polite thing to do.'

He looked over at Sirius who was staring at him then they both burst into loud laughter, breaking the uneasy tension between them.

"....meet you and the others at the Leaky after the first Order meeting, yeah? I think we'll need a drink..."

Peter Pettigrew, October, 1977

Sirius fidgeted under the weight of the distrusting gazes slanted at him. Remus, sitting on his left, nudged him with his elbow.

'Stop wriggling,' he hissed, eyes fixed on Albus Dumbledore, who was giving out assignments. 'Everyone thinks you've been hit with an Itching Hex.'

'Everyone thinks Dumbledore's going mad inviting a Black here,' he retorted under his breath, returning the glare of a vaguely familiar redheaded man across the table.

'Just ignore them,' Remus whispered then he sat up studiously as Dumbledore turned to address them.

~*~

'Stop sulking, Sirius,' Lily said irritably an hour later as she sipped her mead at the Leaky Cauldron. 'No one seemed any more sceptical of you than they were of the rest of us.'

'That's right,' Remus said, giving Sirius an encouraging smile. 'If anything, I was getting the frightened looks – Dumbledore had to tell them about my... monthlies and I think they expected me to start growling and sprouting hair there and then.'

'They were looking at me,' Sirius groused stubbornly, turning his glass on the table and making wet circles on the table. 'That Auror...'

'Alastor Moody,' Lily supplied and Sirius shot her a dirty look for interrupting his complaining.

'...wasn't happy I was there,' he sulked. 'He's probably arrested half my bloody family and thinks I'm just like them...'

'Padfoot, you were there for the same reason as the rest of us,' James interrupted in a no-nonsense tone. 'Because Dumbledore invited you. Now, Moody and the others might not trust you yet...'

Sirius opened his mouth, but James continued loudly. '... but they don't trust us either. We all still have to prove ourselves – just like the rest of them did.'

He grinned at Sirius, shoving another Firewhiskey across the table to him. 'And we will.'

"...just so stupid that you spend all your time here, but won't move in. Come on, Moony. I need you...want you like having you around."

Sirius Black, January 12th, 1978

'You just want a live-in housekeeper,' Lily teased, as she moved towards the Floo and Sirius glared at her.

'I'll have you know that unnatural tidiness is only one of the qualities I admire in a flatmate,' Sirius said snidely as he pushed her determinedly towards the Floo soon after the last of Remus' boxes had been unpacked. 'Remus has many other admirable assets...'

'Mmm,' Lily murmured, raising an eyebrow as she grabbed a handful of Floo powder. 'Have you noticed Remus' assets, Sirius?'

A wave of dizzying panic struck him and he blinked several times, staring at a smug-looking Lily. 'I don't...what?' he said faintly, trying to sound nonchalant, but fearing that he'd failed.

Lily had just smiled in a way she obviously thought was mysterious and said her goodnights before dragging James into the fireplace.

The green flames disappeared as they spun out of sight and Sirius stared at the empty fireplace for a moment before he raised his wand and closed off the connection. He didn't move though, unsure of what happened now. Until this second, Remus moving in with him seemed like a brilliant idea; now, he wasn't so sure.

Remus had been talking earlier about telling James and Peter that he was gay, turning Sirius' blood cold every time the subject was raised. Remus might be comfortable coming out of the closet, but Sirius wasn't ready to take that step, wasn't ready to label himself or put a name to the...thing... between he and Remus. They had been fooling around with each other for a year now, both careful to not let it get too serious, to go too far. Sirius still struggled with the fact that not only did he find another man attractive, but that said man made his breathing hitch and heart beat faster when he smiled – reactions that Sirius couldn't completely write off as lust or desire. There was an emotional aspect to their relationship; one that Sirius wasn't willing to delve into.

Although they'd never talked about it specifically, he knew Remus was just as hesitant about their status; the other man never initiated any physical contact, no doubt worried that he'd push Sirius into an unwelcome sexual encounter. He also knew that Remus had forgiven but not forgotten Sirius' betrayal of him and sometimes he could still feel it, like a spectre between them.

He sighed heavily. 'We're a fine fucking pair,' he muttered then spun around when Remus said, 'Are you talking to me?'

'Er... no,' Sirius said, flushing and running a hand through his hair. 'Just... myself.'

Remus gazed sceptically at him, but shrugged. 'I suppose I should be used to your idiosyncrasies by now,' he said with a little awkward smile.

Sirius smiled back then there was an uncomfortable moment before Remus yawned widely. 'I'm pretty beat,' he said, louder than strictly necessary. 'I think I'll head off to bed.'

Sirius almost laughed in relief, thankful that, once again, Remus' intuitiveness had helped him avoid an awkward conversation about the boundaries they were yet to set.

'Me too,' he said. 'I'll lock up; you go to bed.'

Remus smiled his thanks then turned, waving over his shoulder. 'Night, Pads.'

'Night Moony.'

"Dumbledore has sent me on my first assignment. Not sure when I'll be back – he thought a few days at the most."

Remus Lupin, March 5th, 1978

The creak of his bedroom door woke Sirius and he fumbled for his wand. 'Lumos,' he mumbled in a raspy voice, light piercing through the darkness of his room and catching on a pale face near the door.

'Remus,' Sirius gasped, bolting to his feet and moving swiftly to his friend. The other man had been gone over a week and relief rushed through Sirius, making him feel a little weak with its force. 'Are you...?'

Remus' lips crashed down on his and, despite his astonishment, the fire that always seem to be smouldering beneath the surface when he was with Remus flared into life and Sirius dropped his wand as his arms hurriedly wrapped around Remus' shoulders. They hadn't shared more than a handful of slightly uncertain kisses since they'd moved in together and this intensity, this heat and passion, made Sirius' head spin. Remus was moving, and Sirius stumbled as the back of his knees hit the bed. They fell onto the mattress, Remus breaking the lip lock to bite down on Sirius' neck as his hands pushed down the man's pyjama pants.

'Remus...fuck...' Sirius choked out, wondering for a second what had gotten into the other man before his own hands hurried to divest Remus of his pants.

A silvery moonbeam speared through the darkness, illuminating the two men as they writhed together, shoving frantically at the barrier of clothing between them. As soon as Remus' cock sprang free, the werewolf aligned their bodies so the turgid flesh dragged hotly together.

'Oh...' Sirius breathed as his body arched off the bed.

The slide of their naked flesh, eased by sticky precome, felt more incredible than any shag he'd had with any girl and Sirius thrust desperately, clutching at Remus' buttocks to keep him close. Remus' hips rocked into his again and again, Sirius rising off the mattress to meet him. Their mouths met in a wet, sloppy kiss then, as pleasure rushed through him, Sirius' toes curled and a kaleidoscope of colour exploded behind tightly closed eyelids. The slickness between them had increased with Sirius' release and with one last thrust and a strangled noise, Remus added to the mess on Sirius' stomach.

They lay, tangled and panting, for long minutes before Remus pushed himself up and sat on the edge of the bed, head in his hands. Sirius frowned, sitting up and putting a hand on Remus' shoulder.

'I'm not complaining by any means,' he said in a hoarse voice. 'But what brought that on?'

Remus turned his head and Sirius was surprised to see a sheen covering those blue eyes. 'Dumbledore sent me to the werewolf packs,' he said in a low, quivering voice. 'I saw what might have been.'

He shook his head, squeezing his eyes shut tight. 'I have parents who love me, an education, great friends...you...' He cleared his throat. 'What I saw...that could have been my life. I...I realised how lucky I am; how much I take my life for granted.'

Sirius slid his hand down Remus' arm to grasp his hand tightly, ignoring the strange sensation in his belly that began when Remus singled him out as special amongst his friends. 'Well, you can wake me whenever you like to let me know how much you appreciate me,' he murmured, hoping Remus understood the sentiment buried in the joking words.

A reciprocal squeeze of his hand let him know Remus had understood then the brown-haired man stood up.

'I'm going to shower,' he muttered, pulling up his pants. 'I...I'll see you in the morning. Night, Sirius.'

When Remus climbed into bed, he didn't seem all that surprised to see the black dog curled up under the sheets with his head on the spare pillow.

He just smiled and tangled a hand in the dark curls and murmured, 'Thank you, Padfoot.'

"It's not too late, Sirius. Please, come and take your place in our family. A war is coming – choose the right side."

Regulus Black, July, 1978

'Black! A word.'

Sirius looked over his shoulder and saw Alastor Moody hobbling towards him. Remus had stopped as well, but Moody glared at him.

'I only need Black, Lupin,' he growled. 'He won't need a bodyguard.'

Remus frowned, but, after a quick glance at Sirius, left the room.

Moody didn't mince words. 'Before you... left your family, were you aware that your brother had taken the Mark? That he is a Death Eater?' he asked bluntly and, startled, Sirius nodded.

'Half your damn family is on the other side,' Moody muttered. 'We're about to send you lot out into the field and I need to know you're not going to fall apart if you come up against your brother in battle.'

Sirius raised his chin defiantly, scowling at the gnarled older man. 'I turned my back on my family two years ago,' he snapped, refusing to allow this man to see the pain he was feeling at the thought of fighting Regulus, of hurting Regulus.

He heard himself repeat the last words his brother had said to him before they became completely estranged.

'I've chosen my path.'

Moody stared at him appraisingly for a long moment then nodded. 'I'm going to be watching you, Black,' he promised then turned on his heel and left the room.

~*~

A chunk of brick hit Sirius on the cheek and he hissed in pain, spinning around to try and avoid another piece of shrapnel from the decimated wall hitting him.

'Padfoot! Behind you!' he heard James call urgently and, still a little disorientated, Sirius flung a Stunner over his shoulder, hearing a muffled curse as it hit.

'Nice job,' James puffed as he ran up to Sirius, grinning quickly before he grabbed his wrist. 'Come on, Moony and Wormy are still fighting...'

They ran up the alley, leaping over upturned garbage bins and dodging stray hexes from the battle taking place in the Hogsmeade streets. Bursting out onto the cobblestones, Sirius immediately pulled James down as a violet jet of light streamed over their heads.

'Fuck, that was close,' he muttered, eyes searching the twenty or so battling figures until he saw the familiar lanky frame of Remus.

The other man was duelling with a silver-masked figure and as Sirius made his way to him, he saw the werewolf dodge a hex that came too close for comfort.

'Stupefy!' Sirius called, aiming at the Death Eater who spun out of the way of the red light and sent his own Stunner right back at Sirius before casting a body bind curse at Remus.

The brown-haired man parried it with a Shield charm then sent a leg-locker hex back.

A second masked figure joined the fight, shooting a fast series of curses at Remus who managed to skilfully dodge all but the last one, crying out loudly in pain as the yellow light hit his leg. A chill crawled through Sirius as he watched Remus fall then, with a yell of fury, he leapt forward, tackling the robed Death Eater who'd cast the spell, tackling him to the ground and punching him in the jaw. He was vaguely aware of movement behind him, someone bending over Remus, but he was too intent on revenge.

One more blow and the mask came loose. Sirius had a moment to glimpse the face beneath before a Stunner blasted him off the other man's body.

It was Regulus.

~*~

Sirius slammed the front door shut behind him and went straight to the cooler, pulling out a Muggle beer. He popped the top and slammed the bitter ale down his throat fast then threw the empty bottle into the sink before grabbing a fresh one. He stalked out to the living room then up and down the hall. It was too quiet. He needed...noise, he needed someone to take this chaos away....Remus was spending the night in St Mungo's for his injury and Sirius couldn't stand this quiet.

He stopped his pacing of the hall abruptly, flinging back his head and screaming his frustration. The bottle of beer cracked loudly and pain shot up his arm. Sirius gasped and dropped the dripping shards of glass, lifting his hand. Crimson blood oozed from the long cut on his palm, falling in fat droplets to the floor. Sirius fell back against the wall and slid to the ground, all the while watching blood ooze down his arm.

It felt strangely calming, watching fresh bright red blood seep from the wound. It was blood that was tearing him in half, it was blood that connected him to Regulus and perhaps if he lost enough of it, the guilt, the hurt inside him at seeing what Regulus had become would leave him as well.

"...and don't you dare let him get so drunk he can't stand at the altar tomorrow or I will hex your dick green..."

Lily Evans, October 6th, 1978

'She looks beautiful, doesn't she?' James whispered as Lily glided down the aisle of the small Muggle church.

Sirius grinned and nodded in agreement. 'She's looking pretty fit,' he agreed. 'I'm starting to regret not throwing her a bone before you got your hands on her.'

A sharp elbow to the ribs made him gasp out a laugh then James was lost as Lily reached his side and beamed up at him from behind white lacy netting. Sirius glanced over at the woman standing behind Lily – Angela, a pretty blonde. She smiled flirtatiously at him and he grinned back, raising an eyebrow suggestively and chuckling softly when she blushed.

Several hours later, Sirius paused just outside the front door of his flat, biting his lip indecisively. He pressed his ear to the solid wood, listening for the sound of habitation, not sure if he wanted Remus to be awake in there, not sure he was ready to have the conversation they were going to have to have.

We never said anything about being together, let alone being exclusive. I've done nothing wrong.

Then why did he feel so guilty that Remus had walked in on him in the cloakroom of the reception hall while Angela was on her knees in front of him, his dick half-buried in her mouth? Why did he feel so damn sick when he recalled how Remus' face had shuttered as he took in the scene before he mumbled an apology and walked right back out again?

'Fuck,' he muttered to himself, closing his eyes.

He and Remus should have never started this – there was too much to lose if it went pear-shaped. He should never allowed himself those kisses, should never have begun this experiment that had gotten out of control, should never have asked Remus to move in, and should never have allowed himself to feel anything other than friendship for the other man.

Sirius' eyes snapped open wide as he finally faced up to the elephant that had been hiding in the corner of his mind for so long. He cared about Remus – more than he ever had anyone else – and he was almost certain Remus felt similarly about him. Sirius bit his lip, trying to imagine walking in on Remus getting head from some random bird and his chest ached.

He opened the door, wincing as it creaked, then stopped when he saw Remus, still in his suit, sitting on the window sill in the living room, staring out at the night sky. The other man didn't turn around and Sirius hesitantly moved across the room, sitting on the edge of the couch. Remus didn't move, but after seven years of sharing the same room with the other man, he knew that Remus was aware of his presence and that he was as tense as hell.

'I'm sorry,' Sirius said softly. 'I... didn't think...' He stopped and sighed. 'I promise it'll never happen again. I don't...' His voice cracked and he cleared his throat quietly. 'I don't want to mess this up, Moony.'

Remus' throat undulated as he swallowed, Sirius watching the movement before raising his eyes to Remus' face.

'There is nothing to mess up,' Remus replied, his voice hoarse. 'We've never defined it, we've never promised fidelity. Why should you apologise for getting it wherever you can?'

'I hurt you,' Sirius said softly then frowned when Remus shrugged.

'That's my problem, isn't it?' he retorted, his voice cool. 'My feelings are not your responsibility.'

Sirius worried his bottom lip then said quietly, 'I... It hurt me to see you hurt, to know I hurt you. Again.'

Remus was silent for almost a minute before he turned to look at Sirius. 'Was she good?'

Sirius blinked in surprise. 'Huh?' he grunted in surprise.

'Was she good?' Remus repeated, his body turning towards Sirius' now. 'Was she a good cocksucker?'

Sirius felt his mouth go dry and his cock hardened. It shouldn't turn him on to hear that hard edge in Remus' voice, but those eyes – those fucking eyes – were burning into him with the intensity of a thousand suns and hearing the mild man spitting out filthy, dirty words was enough to not only make Sirius harder than he'd been in a long time, but it was all he could do not to come on the spot.

'Er... I... No,' he stammered, the words grating out of his desert-dry throat then his eyes widened as Remus smirked.

'Didn't look like she knew what she was doing,' he said snarkily, standing up and moving to stand in front of Sirius. 'Did you even get off in the end?'

Sirius stared at the front of Remus' pants which was directly in his eye line. Remus was unmistakeably aroused and Sirius fought the urge to close the distance between them and mouth that long, thick bulge. Remus shifted, lowering himself to his knees in front of Sirius. The brunette's breathing sped up as scarred hands slid slowly along his thighs, pausing at the crease where his thigh met his body.

'Well?'

Sirius shook his head. 'No,' he gasped. 'I... you... I stopped her after you...'

'I interrupted you?' Remus asked and Sirius nodded. The other man smiled slyly and those hands moved to cover Sirius' fly. 'Well, I suppose I should find a way to make that up to you.'

Sirius stopped breathing as deft fingers slid down his fly and removed his now ready-to-burst cock from his pants. Then he fell back onto the cushions as Remus proved what a very good cocksucker he himself was.

"Padfoot, Moony and Wormtail, You are all cordially invited to spend New Year's Eve at the Potters'. Bring your own booze as we're broke and the new Mrs Potter says you are not to bring any of your slappers as she's got decent birds for all of you."

James Potter, 27th December, 1978

'More booze, Lils?'

The redhead shook her head, covering her glass. 'I'm already pissed, Sirius,' she giggled, slurring her words slightly. 'James won't be getting any tonight if I drink much more.'

'Don't let her have another drop, Pads!' James called out and Sirius chuckled, turning to Remus.

'Moony?' he offered, tilting the bottle of champagne and Remus nodded, holding out his glass.

Sirius filled it, spilling a little as a tipsy Frank Longbottom jostled him then he sank down next to the werewolf after Lily vacated her seat to talk to an oddly withdrawn Peter.

'You want to watch how much you drink as well, Moony,' he murmured quietly, leaning in closer to the other man. 'Or you won't be in any state for shagging either.'

Remus made a choking noise and spat his mouthful of alcohol all down the front of his shirt. Sirius smirked, leaning back and taking a sip of his own drink as James teased Remus about not being able to hold his liquor.

Remus turned to look incredulously at Sirius when James was distracted by a pissed guest. 'What did you say?' he asked and Sirius shrugged nonchalantly.

'Just worried that you won't be able to get it up later should you need to,' he said casually then waved his glass to encapsulate the gathering of friends. 'Lots of talent here tonight.'

Remus cocked his head, staring at Sirius quizzically. 'Hmm, yes,' he agreed, a corner of his mouth turning up. 'For you, anyway. There's that bird Lily invited for you, or the one she brought for me... not much use to me; she's missing something fairly vital...'

Sirius snorted and Remus chuckled, both of them staring at the sweet-looking woman who turned out to be the biggest bore either of them had ever met. 'I swear Lily's trying to kill me,' Sirius muttered, glaring at the redhead. 'What is she thinking setting me up with someone like Catherine? She must know bookish isn't my type.'

Remus raised an eyebrow and Sirius flushed. 'Er, bookish and... bland, I mean,' he corrected hastily.

He leaned over, his mouth brushing over the shell of Remus' ear. 'I like bookish with wild, untameable depths very much,' he whispered, letting his tongue slide over the velvet skin behind Remus' ear. 'And if you don't drink too much, I'd be happy to show you how much later on.'

He both heard and felt Remus' breathy moan and, smirking, pulled back, calmly sipping his champagne as Mary McDonald, Remus' 'date' for the evening, staggered over to them and threw herself down on Sirius' lap.

~*~

The midnight countdown was harder to sit through than Sirius had anticipated. He hadn't expected the wave of jealousy that crashed over him when he saw Catherine corner Remus and, having obviously decided the werewolf was more her type than Sirius, attempt to snog him stupid at the stroke of midnight. Pushing away an amorous Mary, he glared at the couple, fuming that Remus seemed to be taking his sweet time disentangling himself from the blonde. When the other man finally escaped the woman's grasp and disappeared out of the room, Sirius quickly followed.

He found Remus in the bathroom, splashing water on his face. Casting a silencing spell at the door, Sirius grabbed a startled Remus by the arm and spun him around.

'Pads? What...?' Remus began, water dripping down his face, but Sirius cut him off, crushing their lips together as he set about erasing every trace of Catherine from that mouth.

Remus made a muffled noise and pulled back. 'They'll hear us,' Remus hissed, glancing nervously at the door. 'They're drunk, but they aren't so far gone they won't notice we're snogging if they walk in.'

'More than snogging,' Sirius murmured, biting down on Remus' earlobe as his hand cupped the bulge in the other man's pants.

'Gods... Pads...'

Sirius moved his mouth back to Remus', kissing him hard and fast. The werewolf capitulated with a groan and they snogged desperately, each fighting for control of the lip lock. Remus, not quite as drunk, managed to pin Sirius to the wall then, with a rather descriptive and accurate curse, sank to his knees. He made short work of Sirius' fly then shoved his briefs down far enough so that he could take Sirius' cock into his mouth – his lips sliding right down to the base. Had he been more sober, Sirius would have been embarrassed about how very little time passed before Remus stood up again, wiping his chin and glaring at Sirius for the lack of warning.

Determined to make up for his haste, Sirius grinned and reversed their positions. He crouched on the floor as he and Remus both scrambled with the werewolf's zipper, between them managing to pull his cock free. Sirius paused for a moment then, with drunken bravado fully intact, nipped at the shaft of Remus' cock before taking the head into his mouth and sucking hard. This was his first time doing this in return, but, bolstered by the booze, he went at it eagerly, copying what Remus had done to him previously and doing a damn good job of it if he said so himself. It certainly wasn't long before Remus let out a sharp cry and pushed Sirius' head away roughly, his cock springing free of Sirius' mouth with a moist pop. Sirius watched hungrily as Remus gave himself two quick tugs then spilled all over his own hand. He ran his tongue over his swollen lips, startled by how much he wanted to lean forward and lick that mess off Remus' hands.

Clearing his throat, Sirius stood as Remus closed his eyes and attempted to slow his breathing. He pulled out his wand, casting a Cleansing spell over the other man, who looked up and smiled gratefully.

'Thanks,' he gasped hoarsely and Sirius smiled, leaning into Remus and pressing little kisses along the curve of his neck.

'That's alright,' he mumbled against the other man's skin. 'Next time though, you should just... you know... finish.'

Remus turned his head sharply. 'You want me to come in your mouth?' he said in surprise and Sirius flushed deeply.

'You let me do it,' he mumbled, embarrassed. 'Can't have you being better at it than me.'

Remus chuckled then gripped Sirius' chin. 'You made a very good showing for yourself,' he said gently, dipping his head to kiss Sirius deeply, the brunette tasting himself in the werewolf's mouth.

His cock twitched with renewed interest and he pressed into Remus. 'Can we go home?' he murmured into Remus' mouth. 'I don't want that bitch in there shoving her tongue down your throat again.'

Remus nodded and they staggered down the hall, laughing at each other's shaking knees and wonky gait.

'Having fun, boys?' Lily asked as they burst into the kitchen. 'Where did you two disappear to?'

Sirius' throat seemed to close up, but Remus just smiled. 'We were off giving each other blow jobs in the loo, of course,' he said nonchalantly. 'And now we're going home to do it again – Sirius needs practice.'

Sirius stared at Remus in horror. Had he really heard him say...? He turned to look at Lily, who had narrowed her eyes and was glancing from Remus to him. There was a moment where Sirius was sure the game was up then Lily burst into loud giggles.

'Well, next time invite me along to watch,' she chortled, pouring herself another drink, having obviously decided Remus was pulling her leg. 'I would love to see Sirius Black on his knees... blow jobs...'

She shook her head at them then, still laughing, disappeared into the living room.

'Fuck, Moony!' Sirius breathed, slumping against the other man.

Remus laughed, nuzzling Sirius' neck for a moment then straightening. 'Sometimes honesty is the best policy,' he said softly before tugging Sirius towards the fireplace. 'Now, let's not make a liar out of me; we'd better go home and try it again.'

"Moody wants us all tonight. It's going to be bad, Pads."

James Potter, April, 1979

Sirius fidgeted, his back spasming painfully as he tried to find a more comfortable position. He and James were crammed into a recess in the brick wall of a filthy, stinking alley, waiting for the spray of sparks that would signal their advance on the Death Eaters. Moody had managed to intercept a message which revealed a meeting tonight between some of Lord Voldemort's most trusted servants. Almost every member of the Order were scattered in strategic positions around the block, waiting on tenterhooks.

'Pads,' James whispered, so close that his mouth ruffled Sirius' hair. 'You scared?'

Sirius swallowed hard, trying to lubricate his dry throat, and his fingers tightened around his wand. 'Nah,' he murmured back. 'You've got my back, yeah?'

'Yeah,' James mumbled. 'I'm not either... scared, you know.'

Sirius grunted then both fell silent as they heard yelling echoing down the alley. Sirius sucked in a shuddering breath, trying to still his shaking hands.

The upcoming fight felt different than the other battles they'd taken part in and they all felt it - the feeling of doom hanging over them; even the seasoned Alastor Moody had seemed antsy as he gave them their orders.

A series of Apparition pops broke the silence and a spray of white sparks filling the sky signalled that the fight had begun.

'James?'

'Yeah?'

'I'm scared.'

'Me too.'

Three hours later, Sirius sat staring unseeingly into a tumbler of Firewhiskey, Molly Weasley's screams still ringing in his ears. He closed his eyes tightly, trying to erase the images of Molly's brothers' bloodied and broken bodies from his mind. They had been right there... right there... and Sirius hadn't been able to help them, hadn't been able to stop the curses as they hit the brothers over and over until their agonised screams of pain faded away.

'We were outnumbered,' James murmured hoarsely, looking at Sirius. 'Moody says it was almost like they knew we'd be waiting...'

'How could they know?' Lily whispered, green eyes blinking in her pale, pained face.

James wrapped an arm around her, pulling her close as Peter said what they were all thinking. 'Someone must have told them. One of us... one of the Order... must have told them.'

Sirius opened his eyes and stared hard at Peter. 'Not one of us,' he said harshly, watching Peter flinch as the words grated over him. 'Not one of us.'

Peter muttered an agreement, quickly sliding back into the shadows at the far end of the kitchen. Sirius' gaze shifted to the doorway, where Remus had slumped to the floor, holding his head in his hands. As he watched, Remus turned his head slowly and their eyes caught.

'Not us,' Sirius whispered again, holding Remus' eyes with his own and the other man shook his head.

'Never,' he whispered back then he broke contact, bowing his head once more.

"...to inform you that your brother, Regulus, was identified as one of the dead. I'm so sorry, my dear boy. This, on top of your father's passing..."

Albus Dumbledore, 22nd June, 1979

'Where the fuck have you been?'

Sirius heard James' shout from his bedroom and knew that Remus was back from his latest assignment. The relief and happiness he felt knowing the werewolf was safe momentarily cut through the maelstrom of emotion already churning in his gut. He closed his eyes against the sheer force of the conflicting feelings before guilt and grief crashed over him, obliterating every other emotion in its path.

My father is dead. My brother is dead.

He pressed his hot cheek against the cool window pane, closing his eyes as pain lanced through him once more. He had turned his back on his family, had rejected them and their ways; should this hurt so much? His lip trembled as he recalled the Regulus who used to crawl into his bed when there was a storm, and the days he'd spent in his father's office at the Ministry, watching with pride as the elder Black spoke to important Ministry officials from all around the world.

His head argued that the father and brother he'd known had been swallowed by the Dark, that they were no longer worth mourning, but his head told him that they were his blood, they were his family and that somewhere, deep down under all the vitriol, they were still the same people he had loved so ardently as a child.

'Sirius?'

Remus' soft voice washed over him, calming his trembling limbs. Sirius didn't look up, didn't want Remus to see the mess inside him.

'James is gone. He told me... Are you alright?'

A harsh sounding, humourless laugh escaped his lips, closely followed by a sob he couldn't repress. 'I turned my back on them,' he muttered, startled by how flat and emotionless his voice was when he felt so chaotic inside. 'I said I didn't want anything to do with them.'

'That doesn't mean it hurts any less to lose them.'

Everything inside him seemed to combust then, leaving only the anger, the desire to strike out, to strike back. And Remus was here...

'And where the fuck have you been?' he snapped furiously, turning to face Remus now it was safe, now he was firmly in the grasp of an all-too-familiar emotion. 'You said you'd be gone a week; it's been almost two...'

Remus didn't flinch. 'I'm sorry,' he said calmly. 'It took longer than I expected...'

'And I suppose Dumbledore told you not to tell me what you were doing?' Sirius sneered caustically, flinging Remus' previous explanations back in his face.

'That's right,' Remus agreed and Sirius made a sceptical noise, standing as, for the first time since the owl arrived yesterday, adrenaline charged every single fibre of his body.

'That's bullshit!' he said sharply. 'You could tell me if you wanted to...' He narrowed his eyes as a pulse of rage throbbed through him.

'You're shagging someone, aren't you?' he said, his voice hoarse. 'That's why you won't tell me. You're fucking someone...'

Remus finally showed some emotion, frowning. 'No, I'm not shagging anyone, Sirius,' he began and Sirius laughed again, the slightly hysterical sound too loud in the room.

'No, you're not,' he snarled, glaring at the werewolf. 'Gods, Remus! Sometimes I wonder if you have any fucking sex drive at all. I mean, you're not screwing me - you haven't even tried to fuck me - and you say you aren't getting it anywhere else.'

He could see Remus getting mad and decided to push a little further. He wanted someone else to feel this, to be overwhelmed with this impotent fury.

'If I hadn't seen your dick myself, I'd be positive you were really some kind of fucking eunuch,' he smirked meanly, lip curling. 'Or am I not good enough? Am I, a dark and dirty Black, too tainted for the sainted Remus Lupin's cock?'

'Fuck off, Sirius,' Remus spat, hands curled into fists. 'If you want me to leave, just tell me instead of...'

'I want you to grow a bloody dick and fuck me!' Sirius yelled then his back slammed hard into a wall, Remus' lips fiercely claiming his.

It was everything Sirius wanted – rough and hard with biting, painful kisses, hands scratching and pushing and the sound of tearing fabric mingling with rasping breathy moans. This was exactly what Sirius needed – Remus could make him feel something other than hurt, Remus could take some of this gnawing pain away. Sirius put a hand on either side of Remus' face, kissing him hard.

When they pulled back, they were panting, and Sirius looked Remus in the eye as he begged tremulously, 'Fuck me.'

It hurt, even though Remus was as careful as an eager virgin could be. It hurt more than Sirius had imagined it would, but the physical discomfort took his mind off the agony in his heart so he welcomed the burn, embraced it and encouraged it. Pleasure eventually dulled every spike of pain and, as Remus was teetering on the edge, he kissed Sirius so deeply that the brunette ached with want and fell right over the precipice with his lover.

Afterwards, it was awkward. They lay side by side, barely touching, as they stared up at the ceiling. They were used to getting off together, but this...this was sex, this was a foray into a completely different type of relationship, and Sirius didn't have a clue what he was supposed to do now. This wasn't some random bird he could shuffle out the door, or that he could make his excuses to and head back to his dorm; this was Remus, and he wasn't going anywhere.

Eventually, Remus sat up on the edge of the bed and ran a hand through his hair. 'This is where you either tell me you had a nice time and you'll call me, or you ask me to stay, yeah?'

Sirius licked his dry lips and murmured, 'How would you know how the aftermath works, Virgin Remus?'

'Virgin no longer,' Remus retorted mildly, reaching for his briefs. 'And I don't believe I was the only inexperienced one here tonight unless you've been keeping secrets.'

He stood, tugging his underwear up his legs. 'I've seen you in action too many times with too many girls to not know how this works, Sirius...'

Panic started to grip Sirius when he realised that Remus thought this was just another shag for him, that Remus wasn't any different to those birds he couldn't stand the sight of after he'd finished. He sat up, biting his lip as he watched the werewolf search for his pants. They'd never spent the night together before – not after sharing such intimacy. It had gone unspoken that actually sleeping together was too much like something they hadn't discussed, wouldn't discuss.

Remus straightened up, all his clothes in a bundle in his arms. 'I can't find my belt,' he complained. 'If you see it...' He met Sirius' eye and faltered, staring at the other man as if he'd never seen him before.

'R... Remus... I...'

Remus looked indecisive for a moment then edged forward. 'Ask me to stay,' he said softly, eyes burning with a quiet ferocity as he stared at Sirius.

It would be an admission of need, an admission that he couldn't cope by himself and Sirius' pride fought his heart hard, but he couldn't let Remus walk away tonight.

He needed him tonight.

'Stay?' he asked, so quietly that he wasn't sure Remus would have heard him, but then the bundle of clothes were on the floor and Remus was crawling back beneath the covers and Sirius was safe, comforted, and it would be alright, because he was with Remus.

"...contact Peter so he can be here when Dumbledore arrives. For once in your life, Pads, don't be late."

James Potter, 29th November, 1979

They all stared at Dumbledore in disbelief, unable, unwilling, to believe what he'd just told them. Sirius glanced at Lily, whose bottom lip was trembling, then to James.

'But...' he said, looking back at a grave Dumbledore. '... this prophecy is about a kid that James and Lily might have, right? So if they are just... careful...'

A sob stopped him then Lily's chair clattered to the ground as she ran from the room. Sirius frowned as Remus whispered, 'Oh Merlin...' in a horrified tone.

'Lily's pregnant, Pads,' James said, looking younger and more terrified than Sirius had ever seen him. 'This prophecy...it's about us. I can feel it.'

He bit his lip as his eyes filled with tears. With a noise of frustration, he stood. Sirius followed him from the room, grabbing his arm.

'James,' he said desperately then, words failing him, he pulled his friend into a tight embrace. James gripped him back, a shuddering breath escaping.

'I can't let him hurt them, Pads,' he whispered and Sirius nodded.

'We won't,' he whispered fiercely.

"...a bit worried about it all, to be honest. I mean, why wouldn't Moony tell us he's meeting with Snape...?"

Peter Pettigrew, May, 1980

'Snape?' Sirius snapped, staring in disbelief at Remus who calmly continued to butter his toast. 'Why the hell were you meeting him?'

'I wasn't meeting with him,' Remus said, dipping his knife into the jam. 'I saw him in Knockturn Alley and followed him in case the rumours are true that he is a Death Eater. I am obviously complete pants at surveillance because he caught me straight away. We exchanged a few insults – mainly about you and James, I might add - then I left.'

Sirius was still frowning, drumming his fingers distractedly on the kitchen table. 'Why didn't you tell us you'd seen him?' he asked, watching Remus take a bite of his toast and wanting to slap it from his hands. 'Pete saw you and thought...'

He bit his lip as Remus' eyes met his own. 'You thought I was...passing information along?' Remus said slowly, putting the toast down on his plate. 'Sirius? You thought I was...Fuck!'

He stood up abruptly, his chair scraping loudly along the ground. Sirius winced, both at the noise in the quiet flat and the expression on Remus' face.

Sirius had betrayed him. Again.

'You really believed that?' Remus whispered in disbelief, staring at Sirius as though he'd never seen him before. 'You...'

'No,' Sirius said quickly, standing and reaching for Remus' hand, which was pulled sharply away. Damn Peter for making him even consider that Remus could be the spy. 'No, Moony. I didn't... I was just... you didn't tell me.'

Remus blinked, hurt still shining brightly in his blue eyes. 'Because I had nothing to tell,' he retorted angrily. 'Unless you really wanted to know that Snape still considers you the biggest prick that ever walked the earth... an opinion I'm not going to spend a lot of time arguing with right now...'

'Remus... I'm sorry,' Sirius said, stepping forward and grasping the other man's face. 'I didn't mean to imply... and neither did Peter. He was surprised and worried...'

As usual, words were not his friend, failing him when he needed them the most, so instead, he kissed Remus, hoping that his body could explain what his mind couldn't.

"Sweet Merlin! Lily's in labour! I'm going to be a dad!"

James Potter, July 30th, 1980

'Gods! I've never heard anyone use those words in that particular combination before...' Sirius said with a grin, looking over at Remus who chuckled.

'I never realised Lily even knew those words,' he agreed, sipping his Butterbeer.

They were sitting in the Potters' yard getting some fresh air after spending the day in the antiseptic scented hospital. Lily Potter had given birth to a clone of her husband today and Sirius and Remus were wetting the baby's head. James, exhausted from catering to Lily's many and varied demands all day, was snoring in his bed with Peter curled up next to him. Sirius was happy for the quiet time alone with Remus. Things had been tense between them lately as Remus' absences became more and more prolonged, and Sirius became frustrated with the secrecy that surrounded the missions. It was nice to spend some time together just relaxing like they used to before the world became so damn complicated and twisted.

'James is so thrilled, isn't he?' Remus murmured and Sirius snorted.

'Yeah, he's pathetically grown up now,' he said, a little resentfully and Remus glanced at him.

'It had to happen sometime,' he said softly. 'It'll happen to you one day as well.'

'Never!' Sirius declared vehemently, shaking his head.

Remus cocked his head. 'You've no desire to breed?' he asked with a crooked little smile. 'Do your bit for the continuation of the species?'

Sirius shook his head again. 'No,' he said firmly. 'My blood... it isn't something that should be passed on. Best end the in-breeding and madness with me.'

He glanced over at Remus. 'Anyway, I quite like a cock up my arse,' he teased lightly. 'Maybe I'll toss birds over all together.'

Remus laughed, but didn't look at Sirius, staring up at the sky instead. 'I don't think you'll do that,' he said casually. 'Cuts your chances of getting laid in half, doesn't it?'

Sirius stared at Remus for a moment, not sure if he was amused or a little hurt by his words. Did Remus see this thing between them as something with an expiry date? As a long-term experiment? That Sirius would one day soon go back to shagging girls like they'd never had anything? Sirius frowned. He hadn't spent a lot of time thinking about what they were doing, but there hadn't been anyone else for the longest time, and he was startled that he didn't miss having a variety of partners.

He was happy with Remus, with what they had. But was Remus?

'You'd be a great father, Remus,' he said quietly, a little tightening in his belly alarming him slightly. 'Do you think...?'

'Never,' Remus said, just as firmly as Sirius, but with a tinge of regret. 'I could pass on the lycanthropy and even if I don't, I'm not going to saddle a kid with having a werewolf for a father.'

He smiled tightly at Sirius then looked away. 'Lucky there is no chance of any little accidents with my inclinations, isn't it?'

Sirius opened his mouth to say something – he wasn't sure what – but Remus pointed up to the black velvet sky. 'It's so clear here,' he murmured then his eyes searched. 'Where are you?'

Sirius grinned and pointed at a twinkling star. 'There,' he said then smirked. 'Can't miss me, Moony. Brightest star in the sky and all that.'

Remus snorted. 'What?' asked Sirius, curiously and Remus smiled a wry little smile.

'A star isn't enough for you,' he murmured, staring up at the sky. 'You're too... fierce. You're more like the sun... and we all revolve around you.'

There was a moment of silence then Sirius saw Remus' jaw tighten. 'That sounds so stupid...'

'No,' Sirius said hurriedly, his hand quickly scurrying to find Remus' between them. 'It doesn't... I...' He couldn't pry the words from his lips so, instead, he fell back into familiar territory.

'So, what you're essentially saying,' he said teasingly, rising to his knees and straddling a surprised Remus' lap. 'Is that I am, indeed, the centre of the universe?'

He saw the fear drain out of Remus' face before he leaned down to kiss the werewolf. Remus kissed him back just as passionately, both startled by the intensity of the lip lock. When they parted, panting and flushed, the corner of Remus' mouth tipped up.

'Well, it's not like you don't already think it yourself...'

"..serious breach of the Order. Only we knew the plans for the counter attack. Someone is working both sides..."

Alastor Moody, 6thNovember, 1980

Sirius stalked from corner to corner, his skin itching and prickly. He could feel Remus' eyes on him with every step, but he didn't acknowledge the other man's presence. He didn't want the words he could feel forming in his mind to slip out if he saw that face...

'Is it you, Moony?'

He'd seen the photographs with his own eyes; seen Remus caught on film in dark alleys talking with suspected Death Eaters, or those sympathetic to the cause. He'd heard the rumour that Remus had been meeting with the werewolf, Fenrir Greyback. He'd seen Remus coming and going at odd hours, seen the cards that he held so close to his chest.

He thought about all the secrets Remus kept. His lycanthropy, his homosexuality... was it possible that 'traitor' was just another addition to the list? Sirius clenched his eyes shut, his fingers closing tightly around the edge of the kitchen counter.

'Are you alright?' Remus asked, putting his hand on the small of Sirius' back and rubbing in a concentric motion.

The muscle in Sirius' jaw jumped. For a moment, he wavered.

What if I just ask him? What if I just tell him what everyone's thinking, the evidence piling up against him? What if, for once, we just face it and deal with it?

He swallowed hard then opened his eyes and turned to face Remus.

'I'm fine.'

"....came by, but Moony was out. He's never home these days, is he? What does he do? He's not working and Dumbledore didn't know where he was..."

Peter Pettigrew, March, 1981

'I'm just saying...!' Peter said, holding up his hands defensively in the face of Lily's anger.

'Well, don't,' she snapped, pushing her chair out and standing up.

Sirius watched her tighten her lips until they were pinched and white as she extricated Harry from his high chair. He knew how she felt – Peter's mild accusation about Remus' loyalty had rankled - but unfortunately, didn't share her veracity about Remus' innocence.

Not anymore.

'Peter has a point,' he said reluctantly to James an hour later after Lily had gone upstairs and Peter had bid them an awkward farewell. 'Remus has been very secretive and those photos...'

James sighed, carding a hand through his unkempt hair. Sirius had noticed how quiet James had been at dinner while Peter and Lily faced off and wondered what his friend was thinking.

'If it had been just one or two incidents...' he began then bit his lip. 'Gods, Sirius! This is Remus we're talking about! Remus! He would never... He couldn't do...'

To Sirius' surprise, James' eyes filled with tears and he pulled his glasses off, rubbing his eyes roughly. 'But you're right,' he whispered hoarsely. 'There are just too many absences he won't explain, too many photos and Peter saw him talking with Rosier...'

To his horror, Sirius felt his own eyes stinging and he quickly turned his head. Deep down, he hadn't expected James to agree, for James to doubt Remus, but now that the words were out, it was real.

Terrifyingly real.

'Padfoot... do you really think it could be him?' James asked and Sirius closed his eyes against the sudden burst of tears that threatened to spill over.

His mouth opened, but for a moment, the words wouldn't come, he couldn't bring himself to betray his friend, his lover; then his mind overruled his heart and he heard himself say in an unrecognisable voice, 'Yes. It could be him.'

"It's time, Padfoot."

James Potter, 25th October, 1981

Sirius watched as Lily paced in front of the Floo. 'Are you sure about this, Sirius?' she asked, coming to an abrupt halt and staring at Sirius. 'What about Remus...?'

'Remus is better off not knowing what we're doing,' James said quickly, moving from the couch to embrace Lily. 'He won't be a target this way.'

He glared at Sirius over Lily's shoulder, as if he blamed him for having to lie to his wife. Sirius looked away, rubbing his hands together nervously. He'd left Remus tonight without a word; had fucked him into the bed then walked away, knowing that he wouldn't be back for who knew how long. And it had hurt. It had just about ripped a fucking hole in his chest it hurt so much, but he had to keep James and Lily and Harry safe.

He let out a shuddering breath, burying his face in his hands as he sent a silent apology to Remus and finally admitted to himself what he probably should have realised a long time ago.

He loved Remus.

A whooshing sound then a thump broke into his regrets and he looked up to see James helping a blushing Peter to his feet. The blonde brushed soot from his clothes and looked around at the others in the room.

'Are we ready?' he asked tremulously and James and Lily nodded.

'Padfoot?' James asked, turning to look at Sirius who saw the question in his eyes.

Sirius cleared his throat then stood, startled by how unsteady his legs were. 'I'm ready,' he whispered before biting his lip to stop it shaking.

He saw James eyeing him then the bespectacled man shook his head. 'Actually, I want a drink first. Wormy, help Lil with Harry's stuff, yeah? Pads, come help me get us all a drink.'

A confused Sirius followed James into the bare kitchen, almost running into James as the other man halted and spun around quickly.

'Are you sure?' he hissed urgently, grasping Sirius' arms. 'Padfoot, you and Remus are so close. Do you really think...?'

His voice trailed off when he saw the tear Sirius couldn't stop streaking down his cheek. He frowned for a second then exhaled sharply, dropping his hands.

'You and Moony...' he said slowly and Sirius could almost see the pieces falling into place inside his friend's head. 'Gods, you... and Moony are...'

'Don't!' Sirius said sharply, turning away and wiping his face roughly. 'Just don't say it.'

There was a moment of silence then James asked softly, 'Does he know how you feel?'

Sirius bit his lip so hard he tasted the metallic flavour of blood on his tongue. 'No,' he whispered. 'I don't think so.' He looked over his shoulder. 'I don't want him to know. It just makes all this...' he waved his hand to encapsulate the situation. '... even worse.'

James nodded, staring at Sirius with obvious concern. 'You know if we are wrong, he'll never truly forgive us for this?' he said quietly. 'Are you sure you want to do it this way? It's not too late...'

Sirius hesitated for a moment, recalling the pliant Remus underneath him just an hour earlier, a Remus who hid nothing and who Sirius could read like an open book.

'I...' He stopped as his mind flicked to an image of Remus with Evan Rosier, of Remus shaking his head when Sirius asked where he'd been, of shuttered blue eyes and evasive answers.

'I'm sure,' he said firmly, grasping James' arm tightly. 'Let's do it.'

*8*

The letter from James tore under the pressure of my grip. Parts of that period of my life were blurred – the memory was there, I just couldn't touch it... Remus used to say that it was my mind's way of protecting me from the things I didn't need to remember, the things that would only hurt me to remember. Many of my memories of the twelve years spent in Azkaban were fuzzy.

Others were as sharp as tacks.

I remember finding James and Lily in the smoking rubble of their decimated home. I remember the expression on Peter's face just before he took my life from me. I remember my first night in prison – the sucking Dementors, the bone-chilling cold, the realisation that no one was coming for me, that everyone I knew would believe this of me. I remember the day I saw the newspaper and recognised Wormtail on the front page. And I remember the leap as Padfoot into that freezing cold water as I began the journey to find my way back home.

I shivered in the warm morning air, for a moment feeling the creeping clamminess of a Dementor's breath on the back of my neck then I jumped as a bird chirped from its perch on the railing. With a self-effacing laugh, I turned back to the pile of parchment. There was a massive time leap now as I missed twelve years of communication with the outside world, then again after the first hope of redemption was torn from me in the Shrieking Shack that night. I closed my eyes. My childhood as a selfish brat had come back to bite me that night. If I hadn't treated Severus Snape so badly at school, he may have listened that night – if not to me, then to Remus. But instead freedom was very nearly snatched from me once more.

~8~

"I'm worried about you all alone out there, Remus. I think you need company...a pet, perhaps... This dog needs a good home."

Albus Dumbledore, June 24th, 1996

Sirius looked around the rundown hut, wrapping his arms around his chest. Everything ached from Padfoot's frantic run here to Remus' place, but his heart and mind were weary and numbed from the events of the night. He wanted a bath, food, and comfort and hoped fervently that Remus wouldn't be averse to providing them.

'Bath's run,' Remus said, walking through the door to the couch and Sirius' breath caught once again at the sight of him.

Remus looked so much older than his years, and guilt flooded Sirius' body. If he had been here, if things had been different, Remus wouldn't have that weary, worn out expression, he wouldn't be so damn thin, he wouldn't have those scars...

'Sirius?'

Sirius blinked and smiled. Remus returned the grin and Sirius' heart stuttered. 'There you are,' he murmured, moving to stand in front of Remus who no longer looked like a stranger. 'I wondered if there was anything of the old Remus left...'

'You've been gone a long time, Sirius,' Remus said softly, staring into Sirius' eyes. 'A lot of things have changed. I've changed.'

'No,' Sirius said, shaking his head and stepping forward. 'Not that much, Moony; not really.'

Remus' lips twitched up into a kind of ironic smile and he murmured, 'I haven't been Moony for many years, Sirius. Not the Moony you remember.'

'No one changes that much, Remus,' Sirius argued, crouching in front of Remus. He raised a hand to the werewolf's pale cheek and stroked his thumb along the curve of his cheekbone. 'You're still my Moony.'

They stared into each other's eyes, seeing raw emotion and need and Sirius leaned forward to capture Remus' mouth with his own. Remus shifted, turning his head so Sirius' lips grazed his jaw and the Animagus flushed, pulling back fast and pushing himself to his feet.

'Sorry,' he muttered, pain slicing through his chest at the rejection. 'I guess you have changed.'

Remus bit his lip, standing and reaching a hand out to Sirius. He dodged the touch, instead heading to the mantle to pour himself a glass of the Firewhiskey he'd seen there.

Remus frowned then heaved a heavy sigh. 'Sirius, it's been so long...'

'It's fine, Remus,' Sirius snapped, raising his full glass to his mouth and hoping the other man didn't notice the tremor in his hand. 'You're right. It's been a long time...'

'Yes, it has,' Remus agreed softly. 'And we can't just –- pick up where we left off. There is so much we need to talk about first.'

Sirius grunted and finished off his drink, slamming the glass back down onto the wooden mantle. 'I don't want to talk,' he mumbled. 'I just needed some... something... familiar... Don't worry about it. I'm going to have a bath.'

He made for the door then gasped when a warm, calloused hand closed around his own, sending heat roaring up his arm. 'I missed you, Sirius,' Remus whispered, his voice shaking. 'I missed you so fucking much... I can't let myself hope... not yet...'

He stopped talking when he saw the closed off expression on Sirius' face, squeezing Sirius' hand tight before letting go. 'Bathroom is the first on the left,' he murmured, sitting back down on the couch and staring into the fire as Sirius left the room.

Two days later

Remus looked from Dumbledore to Sirius, shocked. 'You offered your parents' house for Headquarters?'

'It's my house now,' mumbled Sirius, looking over at Dumbledore. 'And you all needed somewhere to meet... What use is the foul mausoleum to me?'

Remus looked at Dumbledore as well, who inclined his head in an 'it's up to him' gesture that Sirius caught and resented. What else did he have to offer? Albus had made it clear that he was going to be a prisoner once more – this time inside a house that held some of his most painful memories.

'Are you sure, Padfoot?' Remus asked and Sirius nodded, leaping to his feet abruptly.

'I am,' he said loudly, turning away from Remus and Dumbledore to look out over Remus' barren back yard. 'So you'll be rid of me, Remus. No more unwelcome visitor.'

He turned back to see the stricken expression on Remus' face, but steadfastly ignored it as he headed for the door. 'Looks like it's your lucky day.'

"...was hoping that Remus would be able to stay at Headquarters between missions. His home has become compromised..."

Albus Dumbledore, 30th August, 1996

A knock disturbed Sirius' restless doze and with a muttered, 'Coming,' he tugged on a shirt and, buttoning it hastily, pulled open his bedroom door, surprised when he saw Remus.

'I thought you were avoiding me,' he said, his words full of resentment.

Remus had been conspicuously absent in the two months that he'd been staying at Grimmauld Place between missions and Sirius didn't mind letting the werewolf know he was unhappy about it.

Remus had the decency to look abashed and nodded. 'I'm sorry,' he murmured. 'That was childish of me. I just...' He sighed and ran a hand through his hair before he glanced over his shoulder towards the stairs where Sirius could hear muffled voices. 'Can I come in? I don't fancy having Molly overhear this conversation.'

Sirius stood aside then closed the door behind Remus who wrinkled his nose. 'Some things never change,' he mumbled to himself, eyes taking in the unmade bed, the empty Firewhiskey bottles, and scattered clothing.

'And some things change so much that they are unrecognisable – even to those who knew them best,' Sirius retorted sharply, folding his arms over his chest and glaring at Remus.

'I'm not the only one who's changed, Sirius, ' he said softly. 'We aren't the same people we were back then. We can't behave in the same way as we might have then. There are a lot of things we haven't said... that we need to talk about before we ...'

He stopped and rubbed at the back of his neck, a sure sign of his agitation. 'But I need... we...'

Remus shook his head helplessly, but Sirius knew exactly what he was trying to say. Even after everything they'd been through, as they patched together their still-fragile friendship, there was one thing that remained the same - they still needed each other in a way that no length of time could alter or change. They still reacted to each other's touch as if they were once again experimenting school boys. And Sirius knew that, while the band-aid of sex wouldn't heal the fractures in their hearts, in their souls, it would help them feel something again.

And right now, that was good enough. For both of them apparently.

Sirius unfolded his arms, letting them fall to his side, letting Remus know that this time, it was up to him to make the first move. The werewolf stepped forward until their bodies were brushing and Sirius felt the heat of the other man's body infusing his own chilled bones.

'Sirius...' he whispered, as if asking permission and Sirius closed his eyes, giving himself over to the other man and he heard a little whimper of need as Remus recognised the sign of submission.

'Gods, Pads,' Remus murmured, before he lowered his head and pressed his lips to the Animagus' pounding pulse point, suckling lightly on the blue-tinted skin as the vein underneath throbbed out a staccato beat. 'How is it we can be so good at this and so completely rubbish at the rest of it?'

Sirius let out a shuddering breath as Remus' tongue swiped across the sensitive skin and he twisted his head, breaking the contact. For a moment, they stared at each other, trying to look past the pain, the betrayal, to find the boys they used to be. Then Remus crushed his mouth to Sirius' and the brunette's heart stuttered at the familiar taste.

The kiss was hungry, demanding and Sirius was swept up in the urgency, his hands fumbling with Remus' buttons as the werewolf struggled to remove Sirius' own shirt, finally jerking the sides apart with an impatient grunt and pushing it off Sirius' shoulders.

Clothes were shed hastily, piece by piece as they walked backwards towards the bed, lips never breaking their connection. Sirius fell back onto the mattress, grabbing Remus' arm as the other man automatically reached for the top drawer of the bedside table.

'No,' he said roughly, pulling Remus down on him. 'No lube. I want to feel you.' Remus frowned and opened his mouth, but Sirius covered his lips with his own and ground his erection into the werewolf's hip.

'Fuck me, Moony. Make me feel something again.'

And feel it he did – for days after, every time he moved – but it was a burn that put a smile on his usually dour face because it reminded him that, even if only for a few minutes, he had been able to feel something once more.

It allowed him to hope that one day, he would be numb no longer.

"She fancies you."

"Shut up, Padfoot."

"She does! Look at her."

"Sirius, will you please pay attention to Moody?"

Note passed in Order meeting, 7th February, 1997

Sirius watched as his young, pink-haired cousin cornered Remus after the meeting, a strange mix of amusement and jealousy bubbling in his chest. He'd seen the looks Tonks had been shooting Remus' way: the darkened eyes, the moistening of lips and smoothing of hair... hell, she was practically performing the Black wooing ritual that came in the DNA along with the cheekbones and dark hair... But seeing those chocolate brown eyes land on Remus over and over again had made Sirius' breath catch in his chest.

No matter how often he told himself that Remus wouldn't get tangled up with Tonks, that, although they'd never discussed fidelity, Remus was his, insecurity still managed to sink its claws into his heart. Tonks was cute – not classically beautiful like her mother, but pretty and bubbly, and Remus responded to the light and sunshine she emitted. Sirius had never spewed rainbows like Tonks did, and he'd become darker, even higher maintenance than he'd been before Azkaban. He knew that dealing with his moods wore an already exhausted Remus out and it was from that knowledge that his insecurity stemmed.

How long will he tolerate me? How long will he be willing to stay with someone who looks a little like a bloke he used to shag?

Remus had suffered so much in his life. Perhaps he deserved someone like Tonks, someone that could brighten his life instead of bringing even more darkness.

'She'd be good for you,' he murmured thirty minutes later after Remus slipped into his bedroom, stripped, then slid into bed next to him.

'What?' Remus asked, rolling onto his side to look at Sirius in the dim light.

'Tonks,' Sirius said, touching Remus' jaw lightly with a finger. 'She'd be good for you. She could make you happy.'

Remus frowned, tensing slightly. 'You make me happy,' he said in a deceptively mild voice. 'I rather like shagging men in case it escaped your notice.'

'You've slept with women,' Sirius argued and Remus' frown deepened.

'They were experiments... a desperate attempt to forget about you...,' he murmured, staring at Sirius as though he'd never seen him before. 'Sirius, what are you trying to do?'

Sirius shrugged. 'Just trying to get you to consider your options,' he said lightly then he jolted as Remus abruptly pushed himself up, swinging his legs over the side of the bed.

'If you're tired of me, Sirius,' he snapped, scooping up his clothing. 'I'd prefer you just came right out with it rather than trying to fix me up with your cousin...'

'Remus, I'm not...I just...' Sirius sighed, watching Remus pull his clothes on.

Sirius was silent as the other man stalked to the door then, as Remus' hand twisted the door knob, he said quietly, 'I just want you to be happy, Remus.'

The other man paused, bowing his head for a moment before turning slowly back towards the bed. 'Sirius,' Remus said wearily. 'We are in the middle of a war. People are dying every day around us, Harry is in danger... and you still have the ability to make me smile amidst all that.'

He walked over to the bed and sat down on the edge next to Sirius, his blue eyes searching grey. 'We never talked about it – we still don't – but you've always been exactly what I wanted, Sirius. Exactly what I needed.' He smiled sadly. 'We should have talked about this back then. Things might have been different.'

'I might not have betrayed you,' Sirius murmured grimly and Remus sighed.

'We were both a bit untrusting, weren't we?' he said. 'Both a bit too... damaged. Maybe that's why we came together all those years ago? We recognised ourselves in each other and wanted to try and... repair the damage.'

Hot tears filled Sirius' eyes and he drew in a shaky breath. 'I'm still broken, Remus,' he whispered hoarsely. 'Inside. I... I don't think even you can fix me.'

Remus smiled a closed-mouth smile and lifted his hand, tucking a strand of hair behind Sirius' ear. 'I haven't been whole in a long time, Padfoot.' He cupped Sirius' face with a rough hand. 'We'll fix each other,' he murmured. 'That's what we've always tried to do, isn't it?'

Sirius bit his lip then sat up, wrapping his arms tightly around Remus and feeling the other man's arms holding him just as close. There was a strange desperation to their embrace as, for the longest time, they clung to each other - neither wanting to believe that perhaps Sirius was right.

Perhaps this time, they wouldn't be able to fix that which had been broken.

~8~

I looked at the date of that note. Roughly three months before the Veil. I let the note fall to the ground as memories of the events of the night at the Ministry assailed me; my muscles clenching, my breath coming in sharp, short pants. Tremors shook my body and I closed my eyes tight, drawing on long put aside relaxation techniques and affirmations in order to control my sudden panic. I had worked through this... I had taken that journey through the Veil in the Department of Mysteries twice, reliving it for Mind Healers when the memories of my time there threatened to send me mad. I stretched out my fingers, instinctively reaching for a steadying hand, then closed them around the arm of the chair.

'It's over,' I mumbled. 'It's over. I'm safe and I'm loved.'

I repeated the mantra over and over until my breathing slowed and the oppressive darkness inside my head receded.

'Sirius? Are you alright?'

I turned and tried to smile at the man who stared quizzically at me from the doorway. 'I'm okay,' I murmured, holding up the letter. 'Just...memories, you know.'

He frowned in concern and stepped forward. 'Should you be doing that? Do you want me to stay with you?'

'No,' I said, shaking my head. 'I...I think I need to do this alone.'

He hesitated then nodded. 'I'll be in the kitchen if you need me,' he said, then the door closed behind him and I was alone with my memories once again.

~8~

'Remus, I'm not sure how to explain this to you. Please come to St. Mungo's immediately. Something extraordinary has happened.'

Kingsley Shacklebolt, 1st June, 1998

Sirius opened his eyes, pained for a moment by the colour that assaulted his eyes after what seemed like an eternity exposed to only dull greys. It was going to take some time to adjust to the sharpness of the yellows and blues and ... oh gods... that bright red hair...

'Sirius?'

'Harry.' He pushed himself up, trying to smile at the other two in the room...Ron and – er – Hermione...

'How are you feeling?' Harry asked, not attempting to hide his anxiety and Sirius dug deeper for that smile to reassure him.

'I'm fine,' he said, reaching for Harry's hand and patting it. 'Don't look so worried. The Healers are finished poking around in my brain...'

'They found one then?' Andromeda, unnoticed until now, muttered from the corner.

Sirius shot her a filthy look and continued. '...and the Ministry has changed my posthumous pardon to acknowledge the fact that I'm... er... not dead, so I'm going to be released today.'

Harry and his friends beamed and Sirius had no trouble dredging up a smile this time.

It was a miracle that he was here now – he knew that – and he was grateful to whatever ancient magic it was that Voldemort's death invoked because without it, he'd still be stuck in purgatory. A shiver shook him and he murmured something about a chill so Harry's face wouldn't fall into that worried, scared mask he'd been wearing since the night Sirius tumbled back through the Veil.

Sirius had told Harry and the Healers that he didn't remember anything after Bellatrix's Stunner hit him, that he believed no time had passed between his disappearance and his emergence. Harry would never know the truth – that every second behind that Veil had felt like years and that Sirius had often wished for death, had begged for his sanity to leave him so he could dive into the bliss that oblivion would bring. Anything that would mean he wouldn't have to watch the worst moments of his life being replayed over and over again.

There was only one person Sirius wanted to talk to about his experience, someone who would listen and not be frightened and who would hold Sirius and tell him that it was all going to be fine, that he would fix it. But that person was the only person Sirius had yet to see.

Andromeda glanced at her watch. 'Time to go,' she told them, smiling tolerantly when the trio grumbled. 'I promised Remus...'

She stopped abruptly, biting her lip and looked at Sirius uncertainly before continuing. '... I need to get back. Full moon tonight.'

Sirius frowned and, as the others mumbled a farewell and departed, he called out to Andromeda. 'Is Remus staying with you?' he asked, confused. Remus and Andromeda had never met before... well, before. 'Is he not well? Is that why he's not able to come and see me?'

Andromeda frowned, obviously torn about something then she sighed. 'Let me send these three home to Remus then you and I...' She took his hand and squeezed it. 'You were gone nearly two years, Sirius. There are a lot of things that changed and I think the time has come for you to hear about some of them.'

"Sirius. I think we should talk. Remus."

Remus Lupin, 4th July 1998

Sirius drummed his fingers against the table, staring insolently at the thin grey-and sandy-haired man across from him. 'Well?' he finally asked impatiently, raising an eyebrow. 'I'm guessing you didn't come here for my stimulating conversation, or to ask me to be godfather to your brat, so what do you want?'

Remus frowned and glanced over at the doorway of the kitchen as if he could see Teddy, who was currently being entertained by Harry in the living room. 'Don't.'

'Don't what?' Sirius spat, pushing himself to his feet. 'Don't be a little bit annoyed that this is the first time you've been bothered to see me in a month? Don't be slightly irritated that I come back from the dead to find that you are married with a sprog? Sorry, Remus. I am being so fucking unreasonable, aren't I?'

'Don't talk about Teddy like that,' Remus said softly, eyes on his folded hands on the table between them. 'He's just a baby. Your argument is with me, not him.'

Sirius scowled and leaned against the wall, crossing his arms and cocking his head. 'What do you want, Remus?' he repeated in an emotionless voice.

Remus looked up, regret and sorrow in his eyes. 'I want to know you're alright,' he said, voice shaking. 'I wanted to... see you... for myself.'

'I've been back a month,' Sirius sneered. 'And this is the first time you've been here. If you gave a damn, you would have been here the first day. If I meant anything at all to you, you would have been with Harry at St. Mungo's when they contacted you to let you know I was there...'

'I would have been there but Teddy needed me,' Remus interrupted, rising to his feet. 'He'd just lost his mother and...' He snapped his mouth shut, but it was too late.

'His mother,' Sirius snapped. 'That's right. The woman who you couldn't wait to fall into bed with. Tell me Remus, if it'd been the Killing Curse instead of the Veil, would my body even have been cold before your dick was in her? Did you make her change her face so you could fuck her?' He let out a cold, vicious laugh. 'Gods, Remus, did you make her grow a cock so she could fuck you in the arse?'

'Stop it!' Remus shouted, face red and furious. 'You have no right... she was your cousin... you told me she fancied me!'

'She was a little fucking tramp who, I'm willing to bet, didn't even wait a month to put a move on you,' Sirius retorted loudly, then he laughed bitterly when Remus' face revealed he was correct in his assumption. 'Gods, Remus. I know I said she'd make you happy, but couldn't you have mourned me for more than five minutes before you shoved your face in my cousin's crotch?'

'You're angry at me,' Remus told him, coming around the table. 'Don't say things you'll regret about Dora or Teddy...This is about you and me...'

'There is no you and me,' Sirius growled, turning to leave the kitchen. 'It was only ever sex... you were handy and I was horny...'

He pushed open the door but a sudden wave of magic tore it from his grasp and slammed it shut. The air crackled around him and he turned back to face a livid Remus.

'Don't you dare trivialise what we had,' he hissed angrily and Sirius finally completely lost control.

'Me!' he yelled, stalking across the room as he pulled out his wand. 'You, who stands here with a ring on his finger and a kid in the next room, are accusing me of trivialising what happened between us?'

'You were gone, Sirius!' Remus shouted back, gripping his own wand. 'You had to be a fucking hero and go to the Ministry even after I begged you to stay at home. You had to taunt bloody Bellatrix and make her come after you. Gods! I watched you die, Sirius! How do you think I felt seeing you fall through the Veil? I wanted to come after you. I wanted to throw myself in after you; I barely stopped Harry from actually doing it.'

'Yeah, well, you don't seem to have had any fucking trouble moving on,' Sirius yelled, pointing his wand at Remus, barely noticing the red sparks flying from the end.

'I never moved on!' Remus shouted back, fearlessly grabbing Sirius' wand and tearing it out of his hand. 'I could never give Dora what she wanted, could never pretend that she was what I wanted... It was always you! You were always between us – in our bed, in my head, in my heart. I never moved on, Sirius. You made damn sure of that.'

'What did I fucking do? I was gone, remember? I was in that hell hole being tortured by all the fucking things I did wrong in my life, by all the missteps I took, and all I wanted was to get back to you... and you were fucking my cousin before the curtain stopped moving, weren't you?'

'You got under my skin,' Remus shouted over him, eyes flashing in anger. 'You infused yourself into every bloody part of me and there was nothing she could do to make me forget, to make me stop seeing you in her. No one else will ever be able to live up to you. I will never be able to move on, Sirius. Everyone else is just a pale, inadequate imitation.'

'But you did move on,' Sirius said, his voice suddenly quiet and strangely dull after his volcanic eruptions. 'You have a child...'

'And I don't for one moment regret having him,' Remus said, and Sirius couldn't help the flash of pain that streaked across his face.

Remus saw it and closed his eyes, taking a deep breath. 'He wasn't planned and, if not for him, Dora and I would have only had one night of mistaken affection, one night where we were both grieving and vulnerable and fell into the arms of someone who understood. I never planned what happened and, yes, for the longest time, I couldn't accept it. But I came to care very much for Dora, and Teddy...Teddy is my world now. He is the centre of my universe.'

Sirius closed his eyes then, exhausted by the argument and by the memories that being here with Remus aroused, slumped into the nearest chair. Remus sat down next to him, placing Sirius' wand on the table between them. 'I have always picked you, Sirius,' he said softly. 'Over everyone else in my life, you've always come first; you were my sun. But it can't be like that anymore. Teddy needs me. I'm all he's got – for all a broken old werewolf is worth.'

Sirius glanced at Remus. 'You used to say that we could fix each other,' he whispered, anger gone now; only a weary sorrow remaining.

Remus nodded, a little hope flickering in his eyes. 'We... could still do that,' he murmured, hand reaching for Sirius'. 'We can try and get it back, we can try and repair this...'

Sirius shivered as the warmth of Remus' hand seeped into his cold skin then, with his last remaining ounce of pride, pulled away. 'I think we're both too broken, Remus,' he whispered, standing. 'We can't fix each other this time.'

And with that, he left the room, leaving Remus alone, his head sinking into his hands in an attempt to muffle the sound of his quiet grief.

"Sirius, I'm worried about you, Remus is worried about you. Please owl back or better still, come and visit for my birthday. Please, Sirius?"

Harry Potter, 29th July, 1998

'I can't believe you're doing this to Harry on his birthday,' hissed Remus, yanking Sirius into a dark corner of the Burrow as the birthday party went on loudly around them.

The brunette glared at him through bleary eyes. 'Doing what?' he scowled. 'Having fun? Celebrating?'

'Getting completely fucking rat-arsed and fondling that... bloke... you brought in front of everyone,' Remus retorted angrily and Sirius smirked.

'Jealous, Moony?' he leered, leaning heavily into Remus. 'You want some groping?' His hand snuck between Remus' legs and cupped him, but Remus pulled his arm away.

Sirius sneered drunkenly. 'Oh, my mistake,' he snapped, curling his lip. 'I'm the wrong gender, aren't I? You swapped preferences...'

'Sirius, I swear to Merlin, if you don't pull yourself together...'

'You'll what, Remus,' Sirius said sharply. 'Desert me? Forget all about me? Have nothing to do with me?' He laughed, the sound completely humourless. 'You've barely said two words to me since I came back, so how I behave and who I grope really do have fuck-all to do with you.'

An hour later

'Sirius... oh, Gods...'

Sirius gripped the hips of the man in front of him and thrust harder and faster, feeling his climax curling tightly in his groin. The man - whose name escaped Sirius - groaned under him, his hand working his own cock. Sirius heard a creak and looked up, seeing Remus staring at them from the doorway of Arthur Weasley's study. Sirius smirked at him and pounded into the other man mercilessly. Even in the dim light, Sirius saw Remus' eyes darken, saw the movement of his throat as he swallowed hard, and suddenly, he was coming, eyes fixed on Remus and mouthing the werewolf's name. The man under him came as well, shouting out and distracting Sirius.

When he looked back up a few seconds later, Remus was gone.

"Got it. Sirius, you sure you want this, mate? It's bloody strong stuff..."

Mundungus Fletcher, 26th November, 1998

Sirius breathed out slowly, watching the grey smoke curl as it passed between his lips and into the already tainted air. He closed his eyes as the blend of specially selected ingredients in the cigarette went to work. The tension faded from his muscles and his mind cleared of the poisonous, debilitating thoughts that plagued Sirius in his every waking minute.

Instead of his memories of the Veil, of the time he spent watching himself make mistake after mistake, costing those he loved their lives, he saw Harry laughing and happy, he saw James and Lily alive and playing with their son, he saw his brother – hugged him close - and he saw Remus... smiling at him, kissing him, loving him.

Sirius smiled and brought the roughly rolled joint to his mouth again, letting himself drown in what could have been.

"Don't you ever come here again. I don't want to see you, Sirius. Stay the hell away from me and my son."

Remus Lupin, 11th August, 1999

'Moony! Come out and play, Moony!'

Sirius swayed a little as he glared at the front door of the run down cottage. 'Reeemus,' he sang, burping loudly. 'Come out, come out wherever you are!'

The door remained steadfastly shut and Sirius decided a more aggressive plan of attack was required. He took a run up and threw himself at the front door, bouncing off the surprisingly sturdy wood and landing in an undignified heap on the porch.

'Fuck!' he yelled, feeling in his pants pocket for his flask and taking a long pull when he had satisfied himself that it was intact.

He kicked the door hard then yelled at the top of his lungs, 'Remus!'

The door was flung open and before he had a chance to say a word, he was being hauled to his feet.

'What the bloody hell do you think you are doing?' hissed a livid Remus, his blue eyes sparking with anger. 'You're drunk...'

'Moony,' Sirius mumbled, wrapping his arms around the other man's neck. 'Come have a drink with me. It'll be like old times...'

Remus grunted and tried to disentangle himself, which only made Sirius hold on tighter. 'You're beautiful, Moony,' he slurred, leaning in and rubbing his bearded jaw along Remus'. 'So gorgeous...'

'Sirius,' Remus muttered, sounding less determined than he had earlier. Sirius leapt upon the hesitancy and pulled Remus closer.

'Want you,' he whispered, rolling his hips against the other man's. 'Want your cock in my arse now.'

Sirius heard the breathy moan, felt the warm exhale on his skin and turned his head, pressing his lips to Remus'.

The kiss was sloppy and without any finesse, but Remus tasted like heaven and the feel of his hardening cock against his own made Sirius whimper with need. His tongue plunged into Remus' mouth, sweeping over teeth and lips and Remus made a growling noise in his throat before he spun them around and shoved Sirius up against the wall.

'You fucker,' he growled, biting down hard on the curve of Sirius' neck. 'You didn't want this. You didn't want me.'

'Always want you, Moony,' Sirius gasped. 'Want you to fuck me. Only you.'

There was a moment where Sirius thought he'd won then Remus pulled back, regret written all over his face.

'No,' he said, running a hand through his hair. 'Not like this. Not when you're drunk and probably fucking high... Dung told me about the special deliveries he's been making. If you want me, Sirius, you need to clean yourself up. Stop shagging everything that moves, stop drinking, stop smoking whatever the hell it is you're smoking, and then come and see me.'

'Moony,' Sirius objected, grabbing Remus' arm and trying to pull him back to him. 'Come on. You know you want this too.' He slid his hands down to Remus' arse, slamming their hips together. 'I'll bet she never got you this hard. Has anyone else ever gotten you this hard, Moony?'

'Stop it, Sirius!' Remus snapped, pulling out of his grasp and when Sirius followed him, he shoved him away. 'Don't! Godric, you haven't changed at all, have you? You can't talk about Dora like that. She is my son's mother...'

'I don't give a fuck about her,' Sirius scowled, 'I don't give a fuck about her kid either...'

Perhaps if he hadn't been so high on the quality Muggle weed Dung had supplied him, Sirius would have seen the punch coming. But he was addled, and the fist to his jaw caught him by surprise, knocking him to the ground.

'Da-da!'

Remus swore softly and Sirius watched hazily as he hurried to the door. He blinked as Remus picked up a small child, holding him close and kissing him gently on the head.

'It's alright, Ted,' Sirius heard him murmur into the bright turquoise hair. 'He's going now.'

He looked at Sirius who squirmed under the heavy disappointment and disgust in the gaze. 'And he won't be back,' he said, his voice cold before he turned his back on Sirius and closed the door behind him.

"Remus, I need you to come to the Ministry. It's urgent."

Kingsley Shacklebolt, 1st November, 1999

'I didn't want Harry to see him like this,' Kingsley murmured, his mouth close to Remus' ear, but Sirius could still hear him. 'I know you two had a falling out, but I didn't know who else to contact. The Aurors that Stunned him have been sworn to secrecy. I didn't want him to end up back in a cell – I think...'

'It'd kill him.'

Sirius thought he knew the dark-skinned man whose features kept blurring into a fuzzy swirl, but there was no doubt who the other apparition was: Remus. Of course, it couldn't be Remus – he was at home with his baby, Tonks' baby.

Sirius made a noise of despair and Remus turned to look at him. He seemed concerned and Sirius heard him ask, 'Why is he so filthy?'

Sirius looked down at his hands: they were caked in dirt, his fingernails full of earth and grass. He frowned in confusion; the night's events were hazy and he closed his eyes, shutting out the drone of voices as he tried to focus on how he got so dirty.

Grey skies, grey tombstones engraved with the names of his best friend and his wife...

Smoke...sweet smoke that filled his lungs and, as he exhaled, the pain drifted away...

Liquid fire in his lungs; the scent of damp earth filling him until he felt as though he were drowning then an explosion of pain before he tasted the hot, metallic flavour of blood as he bit down on his tongue then the grey evening faded into black oblivion...

'Padfoot...'

Musk and wool and parchment... just like he remembered from those nights fumbling in the dark - only the sharp tang of semen and the salt of sweat was missing.

'Moony,' Sirius croaked, lifting a shaking hand to touch Remus, to reassure himself that this wasn't another hallucination telling him to dig, dig, dig, because James wasn't really dead... he was just waiting for Sirius to come and get him...

'James...?'

The reassuringly solid Remus looked close to tears as he clutched Sirius' hand. 'He's dead, Sirius,' he whispered, his voice breaking. 'Oh gods, Sirius. What are you doing to yourself?'

Sirius reached up to touch a fat tear that streaked over Remus' cheekbone. He caught it, holding it on his finger then putting the digit into his mouth. As he sucked, he tasted salt and dirt, and the realisation that Remus was here, that Remus would help him, crashed into him.

'Help me, Moony,' Sirius whispered desperately, clutching at Remus' cloak in case he disappeared. 'Please... I think... I think I'm going mad.'

Remus nodded, sinking to the floor and cautiously cupping Sirius' face in warm, safe hands. 'It's alright. I'm here, Sirius,' he said softly. 'I'm here and I'm going to help you.'

"I'd like to see you, Harry. I have to want to apologise."

Sirius Black, January 3rd, 2000

'Time's up, Harry,' the Mind Healer said and the teenager huffed in irritation.

Sirius smiled and clasped his hand in between his own. 'There will be plenty of time to talk when I get out of here, Harry,' he said, pleased that Harry had been so forgiving of his behaviour.

'I suppose,' said Harry grudgingly, standing up but still holding onto Sirius' hand. 'When are you going to be allowed other visitors? Remus is frantic and told me to make sure I check you are eating properly and aren't drinking and I have to report back to him straight away when I leave.'

Sirius rose as well, smiling distractedly. Remus had been concerned about him here in the rehabilitation centre? That had to be good, right?

Harry cocked his head, his green eyes far too observant behind those thick lenses. 'He's worried about you,' he said quietly. 'He's barely cracked a smile these last few weeks and he's been owling your Healer almost daily – she sent a Howler to tell him that they'd contact him if they needed him.'

Sirius breathed deeply, nerves making his stomach churn. Apologising to Harry for his recent behaviour was one thing, apologising to Remus for a lifetime of mistakes and missed opportunities was a completely different prospect – a far more frightening one.

'Sirius,' Harry said tentatively, his tone making Sirius look up at him. 'You and Remus... I mean, I know you used to be close, but... I thought... wondered... he's been so upset...'

'Harry,' Sirius interrupted gently. 'Let's save that discussion for another day, yes? It's a long story.'

Harry looked a little relieved and nodded enthusiastically. 'Sure,' he said quickly. 'Sure. I'd better go – that Healer is giving me the hairy eyeball.'

Sirius chuckled and hugged his godson, thankful he'd been given another chance to be in James and Lily's son's life.

"Remus, would you come and visit me? And bring Teddy along? I'd like to see him, too."

Sirius Black, March 21st, 2000

'He's two now, isn't he?'

Remus blinked in surprise then nodded. 'Yes, he is,' he confirmed, turning back to watch his son swing an imaginary sword as he played his favourite game - pretending to be Harry Potter.

They watched the little boy in silence for several minutes, smiling when a Mind Healer bent to show him how to bring up a patient's vital signs with a wand. Sirius glanced at Remus, stomach twisting when he saw the proud expression on the other man's face. He didn't take his eyes off him as the Healer said something about getting Teddy a drink and Remus murmured an agreement. He only looked away when Remus met his gaze questioningly.

'What?' he asked and Sirius shrugged.

'He looks like you,' he mumbled and Remus smiled.

'So everyone says,' he responded, eyes still on Sirius. 'He has Dora's energy though.'

Sirius suddenly recalled letters from Andromeda complaining about Nymphodora's latest antics and smiled. 'Yeah, I remember Andi complaining about what a handful she was at that age.'

Remus blinked then a slow smile spread hesitantly across his face. 'Not just at that age,' he said quietly and Sirius nodded.

'You're a good dad, Remus,' he murmured, looking down at his pants and picking at a loose thread. 'I always thought you would be.'

Remus sighed and looked back at the empty space where Teddy had been playing. 'I didn't,' he confessed. 'I nearly left Dora, you know. When she was a couple of months along. I went to Harry and begged him to let me come along with him to find the Horcruxes. I would have deserted her and Teddy.'

He paused and Sirius waited.

'Dora and I...we were a mistake,' Remus whispered hoarsely, regret evident in his voice. 'We were upset and drunk after Albus was killed and...' He closed his eyes. 'She could be so very much like you at times...'

Sirius winced, sorry for Nymphadora that Remus couldn't love her the way she'd deserved to be loved, and sorry for Remus, who couldn't love Dora, but wanted her because she reminded him of a ghost.

'Harry accused me of trying to be like you,' Remus told him. 'He said that I was trying to emulate your recklessness, your bravery and he was right. I was trying to keep you alive, to keep you with me. He made me realise that you were gone, but Dora wasn't, the baby wasn't. I never loved her the way I should have, the way she wanted me to, but I can try and make it up to her now by making certain that Teddy is loved, that he knows her and knows how much she loved him.'

He looked at Sirius. 'And that he never knows she was a replacement for the one I couldn't have.'

Sirius blinked several times to stay the tears that rose far too easily these days, and looked away. 'I'm sorry for the way I spoke about her,' he said softly. 'I was jealous.'

Remus remained silent, waiting for Sirius to say everything he needed to say.

'I never hated her, or you for being with her,' Sirius explained. 'You thought I was gone and I never would have expected you to not move on...'

'But?'

Sirius sucked in a shaky breath and looked at Remus' face. 'I hated that she could give you something I couldn't,' he admitted. 'That she completed you in a way I couldn't.'

Sirius felt a hand cover his and he looked up at Remus' frowning face. 'Sirius, after school, we never knew where we stood with each other. We were both too scared, too uncertain to put a name to it,' Remus reminded him. 'And we fell apart quickly because we didn't trust each other enough to define what we had, let alone put our lives in each other's hands.'

Sirius winced at the reminder of their distrust of each other all those years ago.

'When you came back from Azkaban, you were so different, I was so different, but we just... fell back into each other again, although I do recall offering a token resistance.' Remus smiled faintly and the corner of Sirius' mouth quirked up. 'But I never felt like I needed anything else,' he said softly. 'You were always enough for me and my life isn't complete without you in it – however you choose to be in it. I have Teddy now, but I still need you, Sirius.'

Sirius bit his lip, attempting to stay the hot tears that threatened to spill over. 'I don't think I'm in any condition to fix anyone anymore, Remus,' he warned and Remus squeezed his hand.

'I don't need you to fix me,' he said softly. 'I had to learn how to do that myself. And so do you.'

Sirius nodded, feeling a sob rise in his throat when Remus whispered, 'I'll wait, Sirius - as long as it takes.'

"Ginny said if you get me drunk at the engagement party, she'll hex your 'nads off...She's a bit scary sometimes, isn't she?"

Harry Potter, October 2000

'He looks so much like James did when he and Lily got engaged, doesn't he?' murmured Remus, watching as Harry and Ginny embraced each other around the back of the Weasley chicken pen, obviously thinking no one could see them. 'They are about the same age as well.'

Sirius, who was staring up at the star-filled sky as they lounged on the porch at the Burrow, nodded. 'Yeah,' he murmured, taking a deep breath. It was still hard to allow himself to remember those days, to remember James and Lily... but it was getting easier, less painful, every day. 'It's funny he fell for a redhead as well.'

He could feel Remus' grin. 'Ginny is a lot like Lily,' he agreed, shifting on the bench seat. 'Her speciality is the Bat-Bogey Hex. Nasty.'

Sirius laughed then sucked in a sharp breath when Remus' fingers brushed over his. Physical contact between them had been limited as they slowly rebuilt their friendship, but Remus' touch still made butterflies take flight in his stomach.

'What did you think of my new place?' he babbled, trying to ignore the fact that Remus' fingers were still laying across his. 'It's small and a bit grungy but I think with a new paint job and some scrubbing it'll come up alright...'

'Mmmm,' Remus murmured, noncommittally, turning his head to gaze at Sirius with an odd look in his eye.

'It's only temporary while I sort myself out. I'll want something a bit bigger eventually,' Sirius continued, not sure why he felt so nervous. 'Teddy could come and stay when you need a break and he'd like a back yard to play in...'

His rambling was cut off abruptly by a pair of warm, slightly chapped lips covering his. Sirius moaned softly, leaning into the oh-so-familiar kiss for a long moment before he did the hardest thing he'd ever had to do: he pulled away.

Remus frowned, cheeks flushing. 'Sorry,' he muttered, turning away. 'I thought you wanted... Never mind.'

Sirius grasped the other man's hand as it lifted off his. 'Don't apologise,' he said firmly. 'I do want it. I do want you. I just...'

He twisted on the seat to face Remus. 'Last time, we just kind of...fell into it. I was curious and you were there and wanted me back. We never...talked about what was happening; I never had to do anything to earn you. I don't want there to be any confusion this time about what we're doing.'

Remus bit his lip, gazing at Sirius. 'You really are all fixed now, aren't you?' he said quietly, and Sirius smiled.

'You were right,' he told Remus. 'I had to do it myself this time.' He stroked a thumb over the inside of Remus' wrist, feeling his pulse pounding. 'I still need you, though, Moony. I just... want to make sure I deserve you this time.'

Remus smiled and nodded. 'Okay,' he murmured, lifting his free hand to Sirius' face, running his thumb along the rough textured jaw. 'We'll take this as slow as you like. I... I want you home, Padfoot.'

Sirius raised their clasped hands to his mouth, pressing his lips to the fragile skin of Remus' inner wrist. 'I want that, too,' he whispered.

"Dear Padfoot, I'm interpreting Teddy's letter for you as I'm not sure you're fluent in 'toddler'. The black blobby thing is you, the red crayon at the top is your name and, I believe, an invitation to dinner..."

Teddy and Remus Lupin, 12th December 2000

Sirius laughed as a freshly bathed and supposedly sleeping Teddy zoomed past them on the toy broom Sirius bought him then he and a disapproving Remus gasped in tandem as the child crashed into the kitchen wall. Remus was on his feet quickly, despite his lethargy from the just-passed full moon, and he helped the purple-haired child to his feet. Teddy babbled excitedly, obviously more excited than hurt. Sirius smiled as he waved his little arms, re-enacting the crash for his father, who tried to settle the rambunctious toddler with his low, soothing voice.

Sirius raised his wine glass to his mouth, taking a sip as he stood and wandered around the room. This was his first visit to Remus' new home, purchased with his and Tonks' decent-sized war veteran payouts, and the place was considerably nicer than his last with three bedrooms, a decent sized living area and kitchen and roaring fire for the colder months. It was everything Remus himself was: warm, welcoming and sturdy.

But it was the yard that had taken Sirius' breath away when he'd arrived earlier and it drew him back to the porch now to watch the shadows grow longer as the sun set. He leaned against the railings, his eyes taking in the sprawling gardens that had obviously taken up much of Remus' time, the old, thick-trunked trees with their spreading branches that were filled with a variety of birds and, in the distance, a small lake with floating fat ducks.

Sirius could hear Teddy's whine as Remus carried him to his room, the little boy getting a stern lecture on the need for strict bedtimes and a story about confiscated brooms. He chuckled to himself – recalling Remus' lectures with great clarity – and finished his drink.

This wasn't the first time he and Remus had spent time together since Harry and Ginny's engagement party, but it felt different somehow. Perhaps it was because this time, the setting wasn't neutral ground. This time, Remus... well, Teddy and Remus... had invited him into their home, into their lives, and anticipation pricked at Sirius' skin. He had asked Remus to take it slow and the other man had certainly embraced his wishes, a fast hug, a chaste kiss to the cheek, a quick caress, were all Remus offered now. But there was something in the air tonight; something that made Sirius want more.

A hand slid smoothly over his shoulder blades and Sirius smiled, turning to look at Remus. 'Second time lucky?' he asked and Remus laughed softly.

'He's asleep now,' he murmured, letting his hand drift down Sirius' arm to encircle his wrist. 'What are you doing out here? Are you ready to leave?'

Sirius bit his lip. 'No,' he said. 'Not unless you want...'

'No,' Remus whispered, shifting his hand to twine his fingers with Sirius' before he looked up. 'No, I don't want you to go. Not tonight.'

~*~

Sirius would have been embarrassed by the way his hands shook as he divested Remus of his clothes, if the other man wasn't trembling just as badly, his shaking visible as they stood together beside Remus' bed. The waning moon lit up the room and Sirius' eyes drank in all the old scars he knew by heart, and all the new ones he hoped he'd get the opportunity to catalogue. He sucked in a shuddering breath as Remus' fingers trailed over his chest, the light touch raising goose bumps and making Sirius' knees weak.

Lips touched – tentatively then with more assurance before the lip lock morphed into the hungry, needy kiss of two men who had waited far too long for this moment. Their breathing was loud and ragged in the still night air, punctuated by soft moans and groans of desire and encouragement. The bed creaked as they writhed together, relearning all the nuances of each other's bodies and discovering new tastes and textures.

Finally, with a plea from Remus - "need you in me... been so long... please..." – Sirius carefully slid inside the man he'd loved for over half his life. It was heaven, and he trembled hard as he moved, kissing Remus long and deep as all too quickly, it ended.

Breathing deep, wrapped up in each other's arms, Sirius nuzzled his nose into Remus' neck. 'I want to come home,' he murmured, lips brushing over sweat-slicked skin.

Remus turned his head and smiled the most beautiful smile as he whispered, 'It's about time.'

Two weeks later, on Christmas day, Remus and Teddy presented Sirius with a house key on a pewter key chain, an interlocked crescent moon and star stamped into it.

Engraved on the back was the word, 'Home.'

August 2009

I felt a hand on my shoulder and looked up into Remus' smiling face. 'Okay, love?' he asked softly and I frowned at my sudden realisation.

'You know that I loved you all along, don't you?' I asked, kicking myself that I'd never once, in all our years together, said those words. 'That I love you more than anything?'

Remus smiled. 'I do,' he assured me, running a thumb along my cheekbone. 'And I've loved you from the time I was old enough to know what love was.'

He kissed me on my lips softly, making something inside me liquefy. 'My heart always knew, Sirius. Even when my head doubted it, my heart knew the truth. You never needed to say it.'

Remus kissed me on the top of my head and ruffled my hair affectionately. 'Come on,' he said softly. 'You should put this stuff away. Harry will be bringing Teddy home soon and we promised we'd take him to Diagon Alley for his school supplies today.'

I nodded and kissed him quickly before pulling out my wand and Vanishing the old papers. I looked at the letters, biting my lip as I hesitated for a moment, then I carefully neatened the stack before conjuring a length of twine.

I now knew why I had kept the letters and knew why it was I carefully tied the twine around them before I put them back into the trunk. This was part of my life, this was my past and this was me – the good, the bad and the ugly. And I found myself smiling as I shrunk the trunk and headed for the attic to put the past back where it belonged so I could face the future without fear.

fin.