A/N: The song "Brothers on a Hotel Bed" by Death Cab For Cutie inspired me.
Standard disclaimers apply.
You may tire of me
As our December sun is setting
Because I'm not who I used to be
No longer easy on the eyes
But these wrinkles masterfully disguise
The youthful boy below
– Death Cab For Cutie
Sirius is supposed to be on the run, the Ministry still hot on his heels. He shouldn't be standing outside Remus' flat, scratching on the door in his Animagus form.
He hears rushed footsteps from the other side of the door before Remus throws it open, surprise and anger on his face.
"Padfoot!" Remus exclaims automatically in a whisper. Sirius feels a rush of happiness hearing his old nickname again. "You idiot! What're you doing here?" he hisses, but steps aside and allows Sirius to come in.
Remus makes sure the door is shut and locked before Sirius transforms.
"You know they've been doing rounds around here," Remus says, traces of anger and worry in his voice.
"I know. I waited until they cleared out."
Remus sighs and shakes his head. "Agh. Sirius…" He brings a hand to his face.
"Is it so wrong that I want to spend some time with one of my best friends," Sirius says so softly, that Remus lowers his hand from his face to stare at Sirius in disbelief. Sirius' unsaid words hang in the silence: my only friend who's alive.
"Where's Buckbeak?" Remus inquires, dropping his hand, looking defeated.
"Hidden somewhere south of here. I knocked him out for the night so I could see you," Sirius answers.
A strained silence envelops the space between them, Remus still very disapproving. To break it, Sirius asks, "So, mind if I use your shower?" grinning in way that would've been charming, but he hasn't used his facial muscles in too long. And his face needs some cleaning.
"I was going to shove you in myself," Remus says, pointing to his left where the bathroom is. "Stay in for an hour, at least."
"Will do, mate."
It seems like nothing has changed, but Sirius knows that as soon as he gets all the dirt off his skin and they actually sit down and face each other, the past twelve years will be painfully obvious.
It takes Sirius almost two hours in the shower to clean every inch of him. He also cuts his hair short, to the length it was before he was sent to Azkaban. It's not quite even, but it'll do. Besides, Remus could always fix it; he was always a closet perfectionist. Grimacing at the dirtiness of the bathroom, he makes sure to clean it with a sweep of the wand he stole a few days ago. He wipes the fog from the mirror and looks at his face.
He's still gaunt, unhealthily so, and his hair, while smooth and short again, doesn't have that healthy shine it did when he was twenty. He sighs, his breath fogging the mirror again, hiding his appearance. Much better.
He steps out of the bathroom with a towel wrapped around his hips, not wanting to touch his prison clothing again.
Remus is walking toward the bathroom with a pile of clothing, and when he bumps into Sirius, his eyes widen and his mouth twists in sympathy.
"You're a skeleton," Remus says sadly. "I may be bigger than you now."
Sirius grins. "That'll be a first."
Remus gives an exasperated sigh, showing that he's fully aware of the foul-minded thoughts Sirius has. "Here," Remus hands Sirius clothes. "I don't know how my clothes will fit on you…but they're better than the rags you were wearing before. Not that my clothes are much better than rags…but at least they're clean."
Sirius can't possibly counter him when a few threads are keeping the sleeve of Remus' current robe attached. "Thanks, Moony."
Remus smiles as Sirius shuts the bathroom door.
Remus was right; he is bigger than Sirius now. Not by much, but it's enough to shock him. He remembers when he used to have muscles, used to be able to charm girls into broom cupboards. Now he looks like a man that's barely even here.
He doesn't feel like he's all here, either.
Remus knocks on the bathroom door. "Checking yourself out in there?" he teases.
If Sirius closes his eyes, he can pretend he's still in Hogwarts, taking forever in the bathroom again as James, Remus, and Peter bang on the door, yelling at him to get his bloody arse out of there.
But the knocks are soft, hesitant, sounding broken in his ears.
Sirius opens the door and Remus faintly smiles. "I can get you a belt."
Sirius takes a seat in the very small kitchen, trying to smile. "I know you're internally jumping for joy that for once, you look manlier than I do, but that'll change after a few good meals."
Remus comes back holding a brown leather belt, a sad look on his face. "Actually, I'm sad to see that you've almost withered away."
Sirius looks down at his now-clean hands on the counter.
"So, uh, what do you want to eat? This is your first proper meal in a long time…any requests?" Remus quickly asks, trying to clear the air again.
Always wanting to avoid conflict and discomfort, Sirius thinks to himself.
Suddenly, Sirius' stomach growls so loudly that Remus chuckles. "Haven't heard that noise in a while."
Sirius really wants to make a joke about it, something along the lines of, "Don't lie, you missed it," but he knows that Remus did miss it, missed him. Again, he finds himself unable to say anything.
"I don't care. I'll eat anything," Sirius admits.
"It won't be like Hogwarts food, but it'll go down easy," Remus says, reaching for a cooking book, opening to a page before whipping out his wand.
Remus was the chef of the Marauders, probably because of his mother's illness and his father's debilitating depression; he had to run the household. Sirius sighs sadly, watching his old friend prepare a meal without strenuous thought; poor Remus has never had an easy life, always caring about others, but at the same time pushing people away.
And losing those he manages to let in.
"If you want more, just let me know," Remus says, placing a bowl of steaming stew in front of him.
Sirius tries not to be a pig, but he can't help himself; he devours the entire thing in less than a minute, but Remus fills the bowl again before Sirius can even lift his head.
Sirius' stomach is about to burst, and he hasn't been happier.
Remus sits across from him and slides over a bar of Honeyduke's finest chocolate. "I know you like these."
Although Sirius is beyond full, he begins to unwrap the chocolate. "I remember you and I used to gorge on these. Your one weakness. That and smelly, old books."
Remus grins. "James and…well…they used to get sick watching us. Prongs never cared much for milk chocolate, did he?"
"No, he liked dark and white chocolate. Blegh," Sirius' face is full of disgust as he expresses his revulsion.
"White chocolate is rather disgusting."
Remus looks down at his hands, the remnants of his grin still on his face. No words can express how good it was during their time in Hogwarts.
Sirius breaks off a piece and hands it to Remus, who takes it without much thought. As Remus chews on his piece of chocolate, he says, "This is so dangerous."
Sirius sighs, reaching over the table to mess up Remus' hair. "Relax. I'll be gone in the morning."
Remus fixes his hair and tries to smile, but he still looks worried.
"You're going grey early," Sirius states.
Remus grimaces. "Yeah, well, stress can do that. Being a werewolf certainly doesn't help. I can't believe you don't have one strand of grey hair, you lucky bastard."
Sirius laughs. "Not true. I found one just now, but I plucked it out. Gave me a fright."
"I'm surprised you didn't scream bloody murder."
"That's because I was shocked into speechlessness."
"That's a first; normally I had to curse you to shut up."
Sirius and Remus laugh a bit.
Sirius yawns, checks the clock behind Remus' head and grimaced. "I used to be able to stay up for days and never get tired. It's eleven at night." He shakes his head in shame.
Remus smiles. "It's called 'getting old.' You can sleep in my bed, I'll take the couch."
"I couldn't –"
"You haven't slept in a bed in twelve years. Take it for tonight," Remus interrupts him.
"Yes, Mum." They stand up and head toward Remus' bedroom. "Speaking of the bitch, I heard she died in the '80s?"
"Yes, it was the obituary of the Prophet in '85," Remus confirms.
Sirius grins. "Brilliant."
"That's horrible," Remus points out, lighting the room.
"That means Twelve Grimmauld Place is mine," Sirius states, ignoring Remus' comment.
"Your old home? Why would you be pleased about that?"
"Orion and Walburga must be rolling around in their graves," Sirius continues, a dreamy expression on his face. "Not to mention Regulus – he was so pleased with himself that he was going to inherit it. Too bad he died before that could happen."
Remus sighs. "I give up."
"As you should – I'll never respect my family."
"You could maybe feel sorry for, even pity, your brother."
Sirius scoffs. "Whatever."
They sit beside each other on Remus' bed, a single with a worn comforter, the colors faded. Sirius can't help but find the resemblance between the blanket and Remus to be uncanny.
The prolonged silence should be awkward. In fact, Sirius feels unsettled, but really they're just so used to each other, and being without company for so long, and suddenly being with someone who knew you too well is discomforting.
"What have you been doing these past twelve years?" Sirius inquires, but suddenly feels stupid.
Remus laughs, but there's no mirth in his eyes and the grin doesn't quite reach them. "Not much," he admits, looking up at his cracking ceiling.
Sirius feels like crying. What happened to them? They destroyed each other in one night, and they can still feel tremors from that abnormally warm Halloween now.
"I'm sorry," Remus says, his voice cracking a bit. "For years I hated you. What you've done. What James and Lily thought I was capable of doing. You all thought it was me."
Sirius looks down at the space between them in absolute guilt. "I'm sorry," he whispers. He leans back against the wall. "In the end, we were all idiots."
Remus hums in agreement. "I thought about it once, you know. Peter being the one."
Sirius rolls his head over to look at him. "Why didn't you say something?"
Remus shrugs. "The same reason you didn't even consider it: I didn't think he was capable."
Sirius clenches his hands into fists. "I wish we killed him. We shouldn't have listened to Harry."
Remus surprisingly smiles, a big one at that, and Sirius wonders if his werewolf friend is beginning to crack. "Oh, Merlin," he says before laughing.
Now Sirius is genuinely concerned. "What?"
"It…it just took me twelve years to figure out what took Harry a mere few hours. Not even."
Sirius waits for Remus to explain.
"We never suspected Peter because we didn't think of other reasons why people joined Voldemort. There were those who joined him because they believe in destruction and pureblood supremacy, ex cetera. Why we thought you had betrayed the Potters. But there were others who joined out of fear. Peter was just scared. He feared for his life. There wasn't really…any malicious intent on his part. Sure, I think what gave him the push was secretly harbored feelings of inadequacy he always had when he was with us, but…" Remus shrugs. "We thought he would never be clever enough to betray them, when actually he wasn't brave enough to resist Voldemort."
"That doesn't excuse him for what he did," Sirius hisses.
"Hey, I was willing to kill him, too. Remember?" Remus reminds Sirius.
Sirius exhales loudly.
"James wouldn't want us to kill Peter, because he would've pitied him. He was never as strong as you and James," Remus continues.
"And you. Don't belittle yourself; I see that hasn't changed about you," Sirius adds in a quiet voice before shaking his head. "You're one of the strongest people I know. I doubted it before, when all that was happening, but I realized it in Azkaban – you had everything to gain from Voldemort. He promised werewolves freedom and equal rights…"
Remus hums. "Yes, but who's to say he would've provided us what he promised, in the end?"
"Still, he was very tempting." Sirius smiles genuinely at Remus. "And you fought with us. You fought alongside the people who treated you like dirt. Who still treat you like dirt. You really were meant for Gryffindor."
Remus exhales shakily. "Thank you," he says quietly, trying to keep his emotions at bay.
"I'll never figure out why Pettigrew was put in Gryffindor," Sirius scoffs.
"Maybe he'll surprise us one day," Remus suggests.
"I'd like to be there when it happens. If it happens."
"So would I, Padfoot, so would I."
They sit for a while, contemplating and reminiscing. They never thought they would be those kinds of adults, wishing so badly for the past.
"Did you ever find her?" Sirius inquires softly.
Remus shakes his head slowly, his face strangely blank. "I tried. After, you know, and…" he shrugs. "She's gone. Dumbledore tried to help me for a while…and he's sure."
Sirius wants to hug Remus in comfort, but he's pretty sure his hugs aren't as good as they used to be; he's not used to physical contact.
Suddenly, Remus' face is so full of anguish that Sirius sheds a tear (he wipes it away before Remus can see). But another tear falls after because he suddenly realizes the source of Remus' pain. "No," Sirius whispers.
"Fenrir seems to enjoy making the Lupins suffer. Or it was just an unfortunate coincidence."
Now Sirius hugs Remus tightly. Words can't express how sorry he really is, so he just holds him even tighter, hoping it would be enough. And for a few moments, Remus holds him back until he begins to pat Sirius on the back, comforting him.
"I'm alright, Sirius. I've had years to cope."
Sirius pulls away, somewhat embarrassed. "Sorry," he says gruffly.
Remus claps him on the shoulder. "You couldn't do anything more about it than I could."
"That's the worst feeling in the world, isn't it?"
"Realizing that you can't do it all."
"A lesson we learned the hard way."
Sirius nods in agreement. "But I don't think it's really sunk in yet."
But Sirius doesn't really want it to – it feels like he's giving up if he thinks that way. One of them has to be optimistic, right?
"So…you worked with Snivy," Sirius says to break the silence and change the subject.
Remus bursts out laughing. Sirius thinks Remus looks seventeen.
"Yes…but I'm over the petty, school-boy hatred."
"That wanker got you fired," Sirius points out.
Remus frowns. "Technically, I resigned. But, you're right. He's still a wanker."
This time Sirius laughs so hard that tears are streaming down his face, he's about to roll off the bed as he clutches his barely-there stomach. He hasn't laughed like that in so long.
"Poor kids. They haven't had a decent teacher for Defense in years. It's wrong," Remus continues. "I'm glad I was able to prepare the Fifth Years for their O.W.L.'s. And the Third Years – they haven't had a capable professor in the subject at all! I had to cram in so much for them."
Sirius smiles at Remus' babbling.
"That was your calling. Being a professor."
Remus shrugs. "Well…can't be one anymore, can I? I really liked it though. It was interesting, being on the receiving end of some pranks. Or at least…they attempted to prank me, anyway."
Sirius faces Remus, his interest piqued. "Why? Who are our successors?"
"Weasley twins, Fred and George. Mischievous pair. I think they were impressed by my ability to catch them quite effortlessly."
Sirius grins. "Spoil sport," he says, but with affection.
"Well, a Marauder can never be bested in the fine art of pranking."
Sirius smiles fondly. "Prongs would say something like that. Speaking of pranking, where's the map?"
"Gave it to Harry."
"No doubt he'll find it useful. He sure likes to sneak out."
"He is his father's son."
"And his mother's. I was surprised that he wasn't more like James. Nowhere near as arrogant, even though he has a lot of reason to be."
"Damn straight – I've seen him fly. He's bloody brilliant."
Remus nods in agreement. "It was quite eerie watching him play, people cheering his name. Snape had an awful expression the entire time."
Sirius grins proudly. "The hatred has been passed on."
"No doubt it was Snape's fault. Honestly, he treats that boy horrifically. I'm surprised other students haven't questioned Harry about it."
"They were probably thanking Merlin that he doesn't hate them as much."
Remus sighs and nods. "It's a bit sad, really. But then again, we could blame James for leaving behind that legacy. If only Harry looked more like Lily…"
Sirius' brow furrows. "What do you mean, 'If only Harry looked more like Lily?'"
"He loved her, Sirius."
"Well…yeah. I would hope so. He did marry her, after all."
Remus groans. "No, not James. Snape."
Sirius grimaces. "Ugh. That slimeball? Love? Are you joking?"
"There was more to Snape's hatred for James besides his pranking."
"I mean I knew he was jealous of Prongs for his popularity and Quidditch skills…"
"…And for having Lily. They used to be best friends, remember?"
Sirius slams his head back against the wall. "Bloody fuck, of course. Frankly, I thought Snivellus fancied Prongsie-boy."
"I know you did. You used to badger him about it constantly."
"I still have a scar from that hex he gave me that one time."
Sirius nudges him. "Prat."
They sit in silence for a few minutes before Sirius says, "It's weird, isn't it?"
Remus knows what he means, and decides not to comment on it. Instead, he allows them to fall back into that strangely comfortable silence that seems to be so new, and yet so familiar.
Despite James Potter being the glue that held the Marauders together, Sirius and Remus still managed to have their own bond that can survive without James. And right now, it's the only thing they have.
Sometime in the early morning, Sirius and Remus fell asleep on the bed in uncomfortable positions. Remus wakes up a few hours later with a stiff neck – Sirius was right: getting old sucks.
Remus rubs his eyes and glances over to where Sirius should be but isn't. Instead, the clothes he allowed Sirius to change into the night before rest on the worn comforter, and a piece of parchment, which reads:
Sorry I'm leaving without saying goodbye; you look like you could use a few more hours of sleep, and I really do need to keep moving.
Thanks for the food. And the clothes – although I left them here and changed back into my Azkaban wear. I know you barely have enough to get you by.
It was really good talking to and being with you again. I've really missed you.
I'll contact you once I'm far away from England. Take care of yourself, mate.
Remus reads over the letter a few times before folding it carefully and hiding it in a drawer. Somehow, the flat seems emptier and lonelier than before.
As he begins fixing himself breakfast, he can't help but think that Sirius and he are only together out of necessity, that from now on there will remain a certain distance and awkwardness, which Remus never thought possible. Sirius used to have the remarkable ability to defuse uncomfortable situations.
But he supposes that he lost it over the years, just like Remus lost a few qualities along the way.
Remus never wanted for this to happen; he never wanted to grow apart from the Marauders, and he never wanted to be stuck in this rut that's his life. Back then he wanted to fight his and the world's problems, with his friends by his side.
But everything he did didn't make a difference, and it's hard to come to terms with that. And that's something the current Sirius can understand.
Feeling just a twinge better about recognizing his relationship with Sirius isn't completely stale, he goes to his stash of sweets for some chocolate, hoping the sugar will brighten him up.
But to his immense surprise, almost all the chocolate is gone. In its place is another note:
Sorry, mate, you're too predictable.
Remus laughs, imagining Sirius throwing all the chocolate into a burlap sack and sneaking out of the flat, snickering all the way, not at all unlike their Hogwarts days when Sirius would always steal Remus' chocolate.
They should be okay. Despite the feeling in Remus' gut that this is both a beginning and an end of something, he knows they will be okay.
A/N: I hope I did these two justice – they're in my top 5 favorite HP characters.