In the course of a friendship with James Potter, it was only a matter of time before you wound up unconscious in the hospital wing. Somehow, though, Sirius had the feeling as he gradually woke up that this was slightly more serious than a simple prank gone wrong.
For a start, there was the throbbing pain of his arm- and yet, when he winced his way into a position where he could examine it, it looked perfectly fine.
Then the effort became too much and he collapsed back into the motherly comfort of his pillow, promising oblivion. He closed his eyes gratefully-
And saw a wolf leaping, eyes intent-
"Remus!" Sirius yelled, sitting up sharply.
"Mr Black, calm yourself!" the matron scolded sharply, hurrying towards the disturbance immediately. "And for heaven's sake- sit down!" she added, stopping Sirius in his clumsy attempts to extract himself from the swathes of cloth. "Mr Lupin is safe."
"And I'm fine," Sirius insisted weakly. "Please- I need to see Remus-"
"He'll be along shortly," came a voice behind them, "so really there is no need to strain yourself."
"Dumbledore!" fluttered Madame Pomfrey.
"Thank you for doing such an admirable job," beamed the Headmaster.
"Well, I- it was no problem, of course," she continued to stammer.
"I wonder if I might request a private conversation with young Mr Black here?" Dumbledore asked politely. Madame Pomfrey agreed hastily and hurried off, snapping at someone at the door with a nosebleed and ushering them out.
"Ah," Dumbledore sighed, "poor Eloise Abbott must suffer with her nose for slightly longer, for our sake."
Sirius, nervously, hadn't once met his eyes. "Professor…" he began.
"Yes." Dumbledore said gravely.
"Remus- he attacked me…"
"Yes," Dumbledore agreed. "You knew what he was, before, I have no doubt."
"I- yeah, we all know…"
"I would have been surprised if such intelligent boys as yourselves had not worked it out."
"You," Dumbledore cut him off, "are fine." He paused. "He left no mark. He did not contaminate, as it were, your blood. You are not a werewolf. And yet, undoubtedly, he leapt. He did not harm you. Why is that?"
Sirius shifted uncomfortably, struggling to remember. He must have transformed… and, at that moment, Remus must have…
"I don't know, Professor."
Dumbledore frowned. "It is most strange," he mused, his eyes scanning the boy lightly. Sirius turned his mind away from thoughts of Animagi and fully towards his friend, unwilling to even think his thoughts in the presence of those eyes.
"Well," Dumbledore said, "I shall think on it. Now for a more pressing matter- what on earth did you think you were doing?"
"It was, frankly, irresponsible, dangerous, and stupid!" Dumbledore told him softly. Hearing the evident disappointment in his voice, Sirius squirmed guiltily.
"I know, Professor."
"You could have been killed," Dumbledore continued. "You are extremely lucky and so I think it is only fair that your right to visit Hogsmeade is removed for the time being."
Sirius nodded his affirmation, still looking down. "Is Remus…" he asked, his voice tiny.
"He's fine," Dumbledore said. "When he had transformed back, he came to the castle in a state of extreme distress and directed us to you." There was a pause. "He seemed most worried."
Sirius almost lost it and sobbed, the water springing easily to his eyes. Waiting until he was sure he had a grip on his emotions, he said, "he's been ill. The moon… it's been worse. He transformed earlier than he should have. All this month… he's been sick."
Dumbledore nodded. "He should have told us."
"He didn't even tell us," Sirius said angrily, "he didn't even tell me-"
"Professor Slughorn knows of a potion that will help him," Dumbledore said. "You don't need to worry. Just… be there for him, Sirius. Keep him human."
"He tried to run away. He tried to cast us off, like we meant nothing." Sirius told him bitterly, the words spilling out like they would help his frustration and sorrow.
"He came back," Dumbledore pointed out. "Anyway, take it out with him." He walked towards the door and opened it, just as Remus lifted a hand to knock.
"I've finished," Dumbledore said pleasantly, "and Mr Black is expecting you."
"I- thank you," Remus stuttered, embarrassed. He continued into the room in the direction indicated, and sat next to Sirius' bed.
"Hey," he said, weakly.
"Hi." Sirius said uncertainly. They looked at each other.
"I'm sorry," Remus burst out. "I- fuck, Sirius, I'm sorry. I hate myself- you can't know how I hate myself-"
"No, I do. I'm a monster, Sirius, me, I attacked you- oh god, Sirius, oh shit, I could have killed you. How long until I do, Sirius, how long until I kill? I should be put down, it's what they wanted, but I was too selfish, my parents were too selfish and-"
"Remus Lupin," Sirius told him sternly, "shut the fuck up."
"I'm a monster," Remus repeated quietly.
"You're as human as I am. You think I don't know what it's like to be branded by something out of our control? You're a werewolf; I'm a Black. But that's not me, Remus, I know that now." Now I love you. "You didn't kill me."
"I protected you," Remus said softly.
"You're not a monster, Remus. You're not wrong in any way."
Remus blinked through the tears he hadn't even realised he was crying. "Then neither are you," he breathed.
Sirius froze. He knows?
"I... Can you forgive me?" he said simply.
"I could have killed you," Remus said, "and you're asking me to forgive you?" He began to laugh weakly. "Oh Sirius, of course I can." He paused, remembering the night before, and told Sirius, "Incidentally, James and Lily have got together."
"What?" Sirius said, grateful for a change in subject.
"Yeah- he was so distraught when you came in, he kept saying it was his fault, and Lily sort of got this look in her eye and when he rushed off to try and see you, she grabbed his hand and said she was going too, and kissed him."
"Wow," Sirius smiled weakly. "That's great."
"They're made for each other," Remus agreed. "Do you want to know what the wolf said about you?"
"I'll have to whisper," Remus said, getting off his chair and lying- lying?- on the bed with his friend. Sirius tried to control his physical reaction to such close proximity to the beautiful boy, with little success.
"Remus," he muttered, his face red, "I can't-" can't do this.
"You came and found me," Remus said, "why?"
"You know why."
"I wanted to escape."
"No you didn't."
Their words were short and hurried as the adrenaline kicked in for Sirius and his breathing became more frequent.
"Why did you come?"
"What did the wolf say?" Sirius countered the question smoothly with one of his own.
"You're a dog," Remus said, "why?"
"Because you're a wolf," Sirius answered truthfully.
"Pack," Remus said, and he kissed Sirius. Sirius froze.
"Don't do this unless you mean it..." He asked, beseechingly. Remus sighed, and kissed him again, slowly. Sirius whimpered.
"I mean it, Sirius. I'll always mean it. Even the fucking wolf meant it."
"Good," Sirius breathed softly, and finally allowed himself to kiss Remus back. They could worry about the consequences together.
You're not wrong. Thinking the same thing, their eyes met briefly. Sirius smiled tentatively, and chose to think about more pleasurable things, just for a while.
From the window of the room adjacent to theirs, Dumbledore caught sight of the intertwined boys, stroking each others hair and kissing as if they had no time left. Pausing, he turned away, smiling sadly.
"There's always hope," he said to the empty room. "Hope against people assuming that because of your name, you are a certain person. Hope that people won't discriminate. Hope that there's someone who can save you… that you can save. Hope in love."
Outside, Sirius kissed Remus. Somewhere, Lily kissed James.
Alone, Dumbledore paused, and for a moment it seemed as if he would cry. "There was always hope, Gellert."
The world moved on.
I've really enjoyed writing this, and although I've decided to leave it there, keep a look out for some fluffy RLSB oneshots in the future. And, please, whatever you thought of it- reviews are greatly appreciated.