A/N: Final chapter! And it's been a fun ride. ObsidianEmbrace - thank you. You've been beyond brilliant from the start. I doubt I would have got past chapter two if you hadn't kept encouraging me/massaging my ego/being a champion beta. And thanks to everyone who read this thing, and especially to those who left me comments. It means the world that you like this silly story. Now, go! Read. That's an order.
Friday morning saw Remus wake with a smile on his face and the sun full in his eyes.
The dormitory was deafeningly empty. A squint at his watch told Remus that he'd normally be well on his way to a melted cauldron by now. One thing was certain: his absence wouldn't cause Slughorn any undue distress. The benefits of lycanthropy being few and far between, Remus made the most of his school-approved sleep-ins on the days following a full moon.
Pushing his forehead into his pillow, Remus savoured his last moments of sleep – or would have done if something hadn't promptly collided with the back of his head.
Remus' eyes shot open. His hand leapt up instinctively and got swaddled midway in the bedclothes. Heart thudding in his chest, he heaved himself onto his back and fought to extricate his limbs, failing to avoid another two smacks to the skull in the process.
"Wha – "
The word died on his lips as his eyes boggled upwards. It was immediately obvious that 'what' was not the question to be asked here. 'Who' and 'how' were similarly useless. Battered into consciousness by a belligerent paper aeroplane, one might do better to ask why, though Remus doubted he'd appreciate the answer.
Trust Sirius Black to set a paper plane alarm clock. Sirius, the incorrigible prat, had obviously seen fit to put his Swooping Charms to use on a sleeping Remus. Flitwick would probably give him top marks for this one.
Swiping the head-seeking plane off course, Remus slumped back down and tried very hard to feel furious. He failed miserably. He attempted irritation, and then frustration, and eventually settled for amused indignation. It was just like Sirius, the inconsiderate git.
His mouth twitched upwards at the edges. The very thought of Sirius and his infamous charms was enough to send a thrill shooting through his body. Though Remus would have denied it to his grave, the fact remained that if Sirius had employed a different sort of charm this morning –
Feeling warm, Remus rubbed a palm into his eye socket and kicked off his sheets. It was a good thing there was nobody around; he probably looked completely mad, grinning to himself like a right nutter. But he couldn't help it, not when he was looking at the bed opposite and he could hear Sirius' words from last night. It was all rather hard to believe – but Sirius was hard to believe at the best of times.
In Remus' opinion, last night had certainly been up there with the very best of times.
But Pokey. He groaned at the memory of the interrupting elf. Even that had been Sirius' fault, the greedy prat. If he hadn't gone and charmed the pillowcase off Pokey...
Remus scowled at the aeroplane, which swooped cheekily out of reach even as he made a grab for it.
"All right, all right, I'm up," he muttered, hauling himself out of bed and ducking from the aeroplane's path. Again, he couldn't help but be glad that the dormitory was deserted; it didn't do much for one's dignity to take directions from a poorly folded piece of paper. Then again, he'd been taking directions from stupider things for years. A paper plane was probably a good step up from a Padfoot.
And the smile was back on Remus' face like it had never left. He couldn't even bring himself to frown at the paper plane, and he positively beamed when he managed to snag it right out of the air. A snitch was nothing to this.
Feeling smug, Remus smoothed out a crumpled wing. It was only then that he caught sight of the familiar handwriting scratched along the inner crease.
He glared at the scrawl. Only Sirius would think it a grand idea to go about assaulting sleeping persons for the sake of sending a message. Growling under his breath, he unfolded the plane and read the note within:
Meet me at the lake at lunch. Yours seriously, Lord B.V.D.G.
Typical Sirius, it was: short, stupid, and entirely unromantic – not that romance was to be expected, Remus told himself hastily. Sirius did not do romance, particularly not where his mates were concerned, even if he wanted to – to kiss them. Or maybe he did. It wasn't like Remus had ever had the chance to find out.
Perhaps he'd find out at the lake. The thought sent his stomach twisting with anticipation. He would meet with the prat as per orders, of course; after all, he didn't have much of a choice in the matter. The fact that Sirius was still exploiting the deal did not surprise Remus in the slightest.
He grinned and tossed the former plane over his shoulder.
A glance at his watch showed Remus that he was already in danger of spontaneously detonating, or whatever it was that breaking the deal would do. Good thing he'd unravelled that plane when he had – it was already after twelve! Remus flung himself into the nearest set of robes and was out the door without further delay.
Further delay caught up with him the moment he stepped off the staircase. The common room was bursting with students fresh from their morning classes, all of whom seemed intent on milling about and blocking Remus' path. He'd never seen such a congregation of Gryffindors away from the Great Hall at lunchtime. Normally everyone tossed their bags and legged it to the communal trough immediately.
Cursing the uncharacteristic dawdling going on around him, Remus edged and poked through the crowd, feeling quite ready to unpin his prefect's badge and jab his way out. It was with intense relief that he finally neared the portrait hole and joined the queue of students leaving for lunch.
Stuck between two giggling groups of fourth year girls, Remus strained his neck in a futile attempt to make out the cause of the sodding hold-up. All this waiting was giving his nerves ample opportunity to kick in and string out.
Trying very hard to keep calm – he was just meeting Sirius, after all – Remus cast a restless glance around the room and immediately wished he hadn't.
Barely three metres away, crouched behind his favourite sofa, two of his closest mates were well on the way to blowing Gryffindor Tower sky-high.
His hands were on his eyebrows in an instant. This infuriating mass of students was an audience, of course it was – an audience for the Marauders' latest prank, and oh, Merlin, this was the stupidest one yet. Forget all he'd said about that one time with the egg whisk and Mrs Norris' tail: this, this was the worst idea.
This was the apocalypse.
Hardly daring to breathe lest he puff them all to Hades, Remus stepped backwards and promptly collided with one smirking Lily Evans.
"Sleep well?" she asked lightly as if unaware that the world was about to end.
Wordlessly, Remus extended a single digit towards their impending doom.
Following his finger, Lily laughed. The sound set Remus' teeth on edge. "They're doing well, aren't they? Already up to a fourth floor, clever boys. Those first years won't know what hit them."
Remus spluttered, eyes fixed on the horrific spectacle before him. Even as he watched, James gave Peter the boost he needed to place a tray-sized King of Spades upon the topmost tier of their colossal house of cards. It was becoming terrifyingly clear that some suicidal maniac had magically enlarged a deck of exploding cards and placed them in the hands of idiots.
The Prefect in Remus was the only thing that kept him from legging it then and there. He turned to Lily and jerked his head at the idiots in question, a hint of hysteria in the motion.
"And this? You don't have a problem with it? Head Girl? Impending doom? Shouldn't you be stopping this sort of thing?"
Lily laughed again; Remus' teeth were positively grinding. "Why on earth would I do that? It was my idea."
"Oh," Remus managed, releasing his eyebrows in favour of his temples. "Well, in that case." With that said, he turned back to the show. He and Lily watched as Peter set an Ace of Hearts into place, causing the whole thing to shudder menacingly.
Remus wiped his palms on his robes, and the question flew out of his mouth before he could stop it. "What did they do to deserve this?"
A dark and dangerous look flashed onto Lily's face. "Wingardium leviosa-ed my skirt in the Entrance Hall. Fourth time this month."
"Thought if they liked the Levitation Charm so much, they'd appreciate me levitating the eyebrows right off their stupid faces."
"And you saw James and Peter playing a round of Exploding Snap just now?" Remus guessed, hardly believing what he was hearing from the Head Girl.
"Had a brainwave," Lily confirmed, placing a hand on Remus' shoulder and giving it a comforting squeeze. "And then James volunteered, and what was I supposed to do? I couldn't say no, could I? You'd understand."
"Yes," she said firmly, adding another squeeze for emphasis. "Sometimes you just have to go along with it, don't you? Sometimes you just have to say – yes."
Remus' eyes snapped away from the tottering card tower and onto Lily's knowing smirk. Her hint had thwacked him full in the face. James Potter had spilled the beans on the deal, and if the prat wasn't exploded in the next few minutes, Remus would do the job himself.
"Saying yes isn't such a bad thing, Remus," said Lily, a slightly more serious note working its way into her voice. "You didn't need a deal to work that one out. But I'll tell you what's even better."
"Making your own decisions. Going for it without being asked. Don't wait for an invitation, just do it, and do it for yourself. And do something for me, will you?"
Lily grinned. "Say hi to Black for me. And tell him if he does anything stupid, I'll explode a card tower on his unsuspecting head."
And with that, she took a deep breath, strode up to the house of cards and tapped James firmly on the shoulder. Before Remus could do more than collapse about the jaw, Lily had pulled James down by the neck and attached her mouth to his. She was – she was – kissing – ?
Peter blinked, a straight flush smoking in his arms. He looked about as dumbstruck as Remus felt. Taking this as his cue to escape, Remus edged his way out through the gawking students. Even as he pushed the Fat Lady back to her rightful place, a tremendous boom rocked the corridor.
It seemed a poetic conclusion to the whole affair.
Shaking his head at the sheer insanity of his life, Remus fled the wall of smoke coalescing in the corridor. At least Prongs had died a happy man; that was all anyone could hope for, in the end.
Having been woken by a swooping aeroplane and exploded from his common room, Remus truly appreciated the peace and quiet of the grounds as he found them. It was hard to stay shell-shocked in the sunshine.
Shielding his eyes, Remus peered in the direction of the Great Lake. And there he was: Sirius Black, cool as could be, back against a beech tree and head in a book.
The ordinariness of the whole thing did much towards unjangling Remus' nerves, though it didn't stop his heart from picking up the slack. He put his head down and jogged to the shore. Lunchtime wasn't over yet.
"The world just ended," he called in greeting as he ducked into the shade. "All our friends are dead. Are those sandwiches?"
Resting the book against his stomach, Sirius gave Remus a measuring sort of look that swept from his head to his toes.
"It ends when I say it ends," he replied, and tossed a sandwich Remus' way.
Remus barely caught it; every sinew in his body was busy rejangling. He sat down before his knees could give out. Those eyes shouldn't be allowed. Sirius shouldn't be allowed. He often wasn't, when it came to that, but Merlin. It really wasn't fair: Sirius didn't look the least bit flustered, not even slightly affected by nerves. He'd gone right back to his book, the nonchalant berk.
Stomach too busy twisting for sandwiches, Remus sat on his hands and waited. Page turn number three proved too much for his patience.
"Aren't you the least bit curious about the recently deceased and the manner in which they became such?" he burst out, unable to take more of this waiting. He was supposed to be leaving Sirius in suspense, not the other way around. "I'm not making it up, you know. Lily's gone and cremated them all. She was very neat about it."
When Sirius failed to do anything more than raise an eyebrow, Remus lost his temper and kicked that bloody book of his into the lake. They both watched as it floated away from the shore.
"That was yours," Sirius commented as a giant grey tentacle broke the surface of the water and prodded at the steadily bloating book. "I pinched it from your trunk."
Remus strained his eyes. "Advanced Potion-Making?"
"Yeah. Slughorn was right, you know. That was lurid stuff if ever I've seen lurid stuff. And I've seen – "
"Shut up, Sirius."
Remus watched the tentacle hook around his hated Potions textbook and felt very little in the way of anguish and loss. The Giant Squid would probably get a lot more out of it than he ever did, and melt fewer cauldrons as well. He wished it luck.
"I say, Moony, you seem a little unsettled this afternoon."
Remus turned back to find Sirius staring at him, a note of concern on his face.
"Noticed, have you? You'd be unsettled too, if you'd had the morning I've just had. 'Unsettling' is a very apt description. It started out with a paper aeroplane assault, not that you'd know anything about that, Lord Barkley van de Grimm."
Sirius leaned back with an appreciative sigh. "Now that's what I like to hear, Moony! None of that 'darling' or 'baby' business – our pet names will be properly deferential."
"Oh yes. Can't let you kiss me if we don't have pet names. Wouldn't be proper."
Stomach flipping wildly, Remus kicked him in the ribs.
Sirius sat up and set his eyes glaring on Remus. He had the audacity to look wounded in that puppyish way of his. "Won't let you kiss me if you keep belting me around, either. Where'd all this wilful violence come from, then?"
Sitting back on his heels and inadvertently squishing his sandwiches, Remus pretended to give this some thought. "You know, I'm not entirely sure. Here, I'll give you another kick and think further on it."
"No need for that," said Sirius, nudging at Remus with the bony part of his knee. "Come on, sit down properly. And tell me how our nearest and dearest came to cark it."
Remus was perfectly happy to comply on both counts, and spent a good fifteen minutes describing the assorted tragedies of his short morning.
"And then she just grabbed him, right around the neck, you know, and – "
"Went for it," Sirius finished, shaking his head disbelievingly. "And just when you think you've got these red-heads figured out. She's off her trolley, she is. Mental. Prongs is a lucky bloke, may he rest in peace. And he will, you know. That's the way he would have chosen to go, snogging Evanses and making mischief. Makes a Marauder proud, it does."
Chuckling, Remus nodded. Sirius was right on the money where Lily was concerned. All the same, he couldn't help but think she'd had the right idea, just going for it like she had. He wondered how it would feel, just reaching out and grabbing what he wanted.
Freeing, probably. And brilliant. And mental.
He blinked and glanced away as Sirius' lips curled into a smirk.
"I can't help but congratulate myself on the success of a cunning plan," he said with obvious amusement. "This deal worked out just as I wanted it to."
"With the deaths of your best mates?"
Sirius waved this aside with a hand that somehow ended up wrapped around Remus' fingers. "No, idiot." The fingers were squeezed. "The deal was to make you try new things, loosen up a little… acknowledge your latent desire to snog Siriuses of all shapes and sizes."
Eyes fixed on the lake, Remus gave a choking sort of cough and hoped that his cheeks weren't as red as they felt. Once again, the word 'why' was feeling particularly pertinent, but he forced himself to keep up the flippant tone of the conversation.
"I think 'slog' is the word you were looking for.'"
Sirius snorted rudely. "Yes, well, who knew you'd turn out to be none other than Moony the Merciless? It was fisticuffs one day, whiskey-filching the next. And all that from a prefect. I ask you."
There was no stopping the bubble of laughter that made its undignified passage through Remus' nose.
"Are these your 'golden words of gold' you were telling me about in detention?"
"And there are plenty more where those came from."
Giving in to temptation, Remus pulled their clasped hands onto his lap and started toying idly with indiscriminate fingers. It was hard to tell which belonged to Sirius and which belonged to him when they were all mixed up like that. He gave one finger an experimental stroke, and felt oddly bereft when Sirius snatched his hand back with a hiss.
Staring at his bare, empty fingers, Remus resisted the urge to snatch back, and waited for Sirius to speak. It took ages. It took so long that Remus had time to get nervous again. His eyes travelled across the lake, across the grounds, across the grass, and stopped with a halt at the sight of fidgeting hands.
Sirius was fidgeting?
Sirius cleared his throat uncomfortably, forcing Remus' eyes upwards. "There's something I have to tell you, Moony. And you mightn't like it, I'm warning you now. It's about the deal."
Remus had to work to hold his gaze, an odd, tight feeling taking up in his insides. What was Sirius on about now? And why the warning? He wished he'd get on with it; he'd had enough with waiting for one day.
Sirius sighed heavily and scratched at his neck. "Look, I had to do something, all right? You weren't being at all receptive to my natural charms. Couldn't take the smallest hint, you infuriating sod."
Caught off guard, Remus stared. "What hints? There were no hints. You just went and whacked me in the face with your deal, and that was that."
"What about the time I sat on your knees and told you I fancied the trousers off you?"
"You'd just done the same to Peter!"
"Yeah, but I was joking then." Sirius said this like it made perfect sense, like Remus must have been particularly thick to miss the obvious.
"Tosser," Remus muttered below his breath.
"Deferential pet names, thank you!"
"Oh, deferential yourself."
And then came more silence, and more waiting, and Remus still hadn't a clue what Sirius was working his way up to. Something about the deal, it seemed. Well, Sirius certainly seemed intent on taking things seriously – or as seriously as someone so decidedly unserious could take things. Remus just wished he'd hurry up and get to the point, or at the very least stop fidgeting. He was sorely tempted to grab the guilty hand and stop it himself.
"Right then," Sirius began with the look of one bucking himself up for the worst. This held little comfort for Remus. "Right. Just – just remember that you were never forced to say yes to anything truly awful, yeah?"
Remus shifted uncomfortably. "I would have refused if I'd really wanted to, Sirius. It's not like I'd fling myself into the lake and perform a Mermish mating dance if you asked. Some things are more important than a magically-binding deal."
The look of pure relief that answered these words was more than mildly disconcerting.
"Exactly!" Sirius cried, shuffling away from the tree and closer to Remus. "Exactly. You did the stuff for a laugh, no harm done, no lasting consequences, 'no' means 'no', all that sort of thing. Really, the deal was a bit of fun."
"Well, I don't know about that," growled Remus, thinking back to his twin sets of detention and the fact that half the teachers in Hogwarts now thought him some sort of perverted maniac. "I mean, it had its upsides, I suppose – " he glanced quickly at Sirius and gave a helpless smile – "but it's set me up for a life of ulcers and heart attacks. The stress, you know."
Sirius nodded silently; his look of relief had all but faded away. Feeling one of those premature heart attacks coming on, Remus gave in to temptation and grabbed that restless hand with his own. Sirius looked down to their hands, and then back up at Remus, and smiled a rather nervy sort of smile.
"I'll just say it, shall I? Before you break my fingers off. Only, please don't. I need those fingers for the begging, the begging I'll be doing right after I've explained. So here it is." And with that, Sirius garbled something out so fast that Remus couldn't understand a word.
He blinked. "Sorry, what?"
"The deal's not binding!"
"The – the deal's not binding?"
Feeling rather like he'd been wingardium leviosa-ed right off the ground, Remus took a moment to recover. And then another. And then he repeated the words to himself one more time, in case they started making sense.
"But I felt…" he quavered, clearly recalling the distinct sensation of magic travelling up his arm when they'd shaken hands on the deal.
Sirius laughed in an unsteady sort of way. "Yes! You felt. You felt my brand-new magical buzzer hidden in my hand, courtesy of those fine fellows over at Zonkos! Please don't kill me. You wouldn't kill your last remaining friend on this earth, would you? Especially not one who fancies the trousers off – "
"Magical buzzer," Remus all but growled, everything suddenly coming together with great, infuriating clarity. "You buzzed me with a Zonkos product." It wasn't a question. "You had me thinking I'd be summarily splinched if I so much as breathed the word 'no.'"
"Remember the heart attacks, mate. Easy does it."
"I called McGonagall 'baby' to her face!"
"She liked it! Certainly, she hid it well, but – "
"Sirius Black." Remus made sure to fill these two words with as much menace and outrage as he could summon on short notice.
The aforementioned visibly quailed.
"Moony Moo, I would never put you in serious danger for anything as stupid as a deal. You do know that, don't you?"
Remus thought about this. He thought about it long and hard, mind running through a montage of all the humiliating orders that he had been saying yes to for over a fortnight. The word 'lurid' rang especially sharp in his ears.
When Sirius murmured an apologetic protest, Remus eased the pressure clamped on his hand, but aside from that, he was as silent and unmoving as a rock. It was Sirius' turn to wait – Sirius, the stupid prick behind this whole stupid affair. Sirius may have joined him in detention, but Sirius wasn't a prefect, and the teachers had already known that he was of a particularly perverted breed.
But Remus was already having trouble connecting the boy at his side with his very righteous sense of ire. It didn't matter that Sirius deserved it. It took two to make a deal, and Sirius had upheld his end. And look where that had left them: kissing in a kitchen cupboard. Not the worst moment of the past fortnight, and possibly the best of Remus' life.
And all of a sudden, as unexpected as a stream of violet bubbles to the head, Lily's words from earlier flashed into focus in Remus' mind. 'Don't wait for an invitation, just do it, and do it for yourself.' If the past fortnight had taught him nothing else, it was that he had been taking the lead from others for far too long. Even this bloody unbinding deal was designed to nudge Remus towards taking a chance that he never would have taken himself.
The deal was a mistake. Remus had been saying yes for far too long. It was time to act, and Merlin help Sirius if he tried to say no.
Taking a deep breath, Remus scrounged up his courage and shoved back his ire, and prepared to behave like a Gryffindor for once in his life.
"Sirius, you unrelenting bastard," he began, his voice sharp as he climbed to his feet and pulled Sirius up behind him.
Sirius beamed winningly with panic in his eyes. His usual haughtiness and composure had all but disapparated away, leaving a rather twitchy boy attached to a rather fidgety hand, and, angry as he was, Remus had never wanted to kiss anyone so much in his life.
So he did.
He went for it as he had once before, only this time there was no Firewhiskey, no deal, no pressure or confusion or anything but the crush of Sirius' mouth and the hot breath on his cheek and the beech tree climbing up against his back. He could taste the desperation in Sirius' mouth, the uncertainty that was soon replaced by fervour. He let everything go but the thought that he should have been doing this for years, and if it took a stupid deal, and the whole Hogwarts staff to think him a pervert –
And it was precisely then that Sirius pulled away gasping something that sounded like "public place" and "you little exhibitionist, Moony, didn't know you had it in you."
Remus felt himself flushing all over and didn't care in the least. "Behind a tree," he croaked, hands still clamped on Sirius' forearms. A moment later, he closed his eyes and groaned. "Oh Merlin, we're in a public place."
"Yes, we are," Sirius confirmed, nodding fervently. He looked awed. He looked absolutely blown away. Without a word of warning, he shook his head and tugged Remus unceremoniously to the ground.
"Anyone would think you were trying to lose your precious prefect's badge," he scolded in a breathless voice, obviously trying not to laugh. His grey eyes were flashing with the triumphant look he'd often get after pulling off a particularly foolish prank. "Never thought I'd see the day when Loony Lupin started snogging me in public."
Remus grumbled and pushed the prat away, only to secure a lapful of Sirius two seconds later.
"Having given it some thought, I'd like to see it again. Proceed with the snogging, go on. That's an order."
"I don't take orders," said Remus, staring hard into Sirius' delighted eyes, "and I only say yes when I want to, and I demand occasional seriousness from my companions. Are we clear?"
Sirius' smile took up his entire face. "Clear."
"It's a deal, then," said Remus, leaning closer with a smirk, and when he kissed Sirius, he did it for himself. And when he pushed the smug bastard in the lake seconds later, he did that for himself as well.
No one had ever said he had to take things seriously.
A/N: And it's over! And it was fun. And I'm sure I'll be typing madly away at a new story very shortly, as I can't get enough of these characters. In the meantime, I'd love to hear what you thought of this story.
Until next time!