A/N: Originally written as a two part story. Now being reposted as a slightly longer one and part of a series type thing I'm working on. :)
Disclaimer: Remus and Sirius (and any other recognizable characters) do not belong to me.
Pairings: Remus and Sirius, James and Lily (implied)
Plot: AU. Set in England in the nineteenth century but the wizarding world still exists. Remus and Sirius meet at an annual Christmas gathering in the countryside.
Gentlemen, Part 1
England - December, 1820
The feminine hand resting on his forearm seemed impossibly heavy for such a small appendage.
Clenching his jaw, the black-haired gentleman glanced at his female companion with apprehension. This was not the first time a bright-eyed witch's feminine charms weighed heavily on him. Long eyelashes fluttered against her soft, porcelain skin as she smiled up at him.
She was beautiful. No man – or woman – would deny it.
If he had to be at this damn social gathering, he could not imagine a more attractive woman being by his side.
Nevertheless, as he turned to search the entrance hall for familiar faces, he could not help but try to dislodge the prettily gloved hand from his arm.
He cringed openly as his eyes scanned the dozens of finely dressed witches and wizards waiting to enter the grand ballroom. Every last one of them was involved in some trivial conversation – no doubt gossiping about the latest scandals or doing their very best to incite a new one.
Every year dozens of members of the country's wealthiest families were invited to stay at the Pettigrews' country estate for the month of December.
It was always the same type of people who congregated at these annual gatherings. The only compensation – and it could hardly be called that anymore – was the arrival of new pretty witches who had just been released into society the previous season.
Pretty witches, the dark-haired man thought, like the one currently clinging to his left arm.
With a sigh, he stepped through the doorway into the entrance Hall.
The witch on his arm smiled up at him sweetly and he could sense her eagerness – her incontrovertible pleasure – at being escorted by the eldest Black brother.
He was not so easily thrilled.
It was the first year he would have to attend this particular function without his closest friend and he could not recall a more tedious beginning to the Pettigrews' Christmas party.
Under normal circumstances, he would be battling James Potter for the attentions of the pretty witches. They would spend an entire month charming and chasing – shamelessly placing wagers on who could garner the most attention from the lovely ladies of the season.
Games, James' fiancé had called them, nothing but boyish games.
Not surprisingly, the games had stopped after his friend had been introduced to the green-eyed beauty on their last trip to London. James did not want to join in on the roguish ventures anymore.
Without him, though, the eldest Black was left with little to no competition for the attention of the attractive witches. He had found, almost instantly, that courting a witch was not nearly as enjoyable when there was no one challenging his advances.
Without James, he was completely alone with England's wealthiest and most shallow citizens.
He could not remember why he even bothered to come to this one at all.
Shaking his head at his thoughts, he led his companion into the ballroom where she, like every other female in the room, gasped at the sight of the large Christmas tree in the center of the room. Lavishly decorated with expensive ornaments, it nearly reached the high ceiling of the grand hall.
A quartet sat on one side of the room – holding tightly to their instruments as they waited patiently for the cue to begin playing.
It was nearly time to dance.
Scanning the crowd once more, the gray eyes slid over the many faces of England's elite upper class.
It did not take long for him to notice that many of the room's occupants had turned their attention to one figure in particular.
The dark-haired man was somewhat disgruntled to find that that figure was not him.
He glanced down at the blonde witch by his side and saw that she too was staring across the room.
He reluctantly followed her gaze.
A handsome man stood beneath the mistletoe at the entrance to the ballroom.
Sirius felt an unexpected jolt of pleasure shoot through him at the sight.
A new rival?
He studied his opposition for a quick moment. They were of a similar age – he was sure of it – but despite this (and their similar height and build), he knew they looked nothing alike.
Even with his inappropriately tousled hair, the man was undeniably handsome. He had brilliant golden-brown eyes and strong, intelligent features. If features could even be described as appearing intelligent…
Sirius did not blame the women for gawking and, had it not been for the kind smile on the man's face (and the way he bowed politely at every new person he met), Sirius might have felt challenged, threatened even, by the mysterious guest.
Sirius shook his head to clear it.
No. Without James Potter, these kinds of functions would never be the same.
With an impatient sigh, Sirius reclaimed the blonde's attention and prepared himself for the first dance of the evening.
No matter how late the hour, women never grew tired of dancing.
Sirius suppressed a groan at the tinkling laugh coming from the blonde. It had been hours since they had first arrived at the Pettigrews' for dinner and he was still not used to the weight of the witch's hand on his arm.
He knew that, as the eldest son of one of the wealthiest families in England, every opinion he had would always be correct, every remark he uttered would always be interesting and every witticism he made would be worthy of that damn tinkling laugh.
Sweet Merlin, he needed a large glass of firewhiskey.
That and several villages to put between him and all these fawning women.
They may appreciate his good looks, but it was his money they were after and for that fact alone he had decided years ago that he would never marry.
With a roguish smile that belied his spiteful thoughts, he deposited the simpering witch by a group of other pretty girls and hastily excused himself from their company.
He knew where to find the Pettigrews' study – and, more importantly, where to find the firewhiskey that lay within it. With one more subtle glance towards the mysterious man (who was now politely sipping his drink while a pretty brunette whispered in his ear) Sirius slipped quietly from the room.
Though empty, the hallways were well-lit. Sirius ascended the grand staircase and passed several doors before he finally reached the study.
Like the entrance hall, the room was lit by candlelight and a warm fire. It almost seemed as if Peter – the Pettigrew's only son and a complete fool who fawned over Sirius almost as much as the women did – had anticipated Sirius' desire to escape to the study.
Loosening the collar of his shirt, Sirius poured himself a large glass of Ogden's finest.
He tossed it back quickly.
After two more glasses, he finally dropped down into the leather chair by the fire with a sigh.
Merlin, how he hated Christmas.
Sirius was not sure what surprised him more: the fact that he had fallen asleep (for what must have been well over an hour) sitting up straight in one of the Pettigrews' most uncomfortable chairs; or waking to the sight of the mysterious man from the ballroom sitting in a chair across the room – engrossed in a book and completely undisturbed by his presence.
If under pressure, Sirius might possibly have admitted that the latter surprised him slightly more.
He only had time to blink once before the golden eyes that had been focused so intently on the book in the man's hands rose to focus just as intently on him.
"I hope I did not startle you."
The man sounded genuinely apologetic at the prospect of having alarmed him.
Sirius shivered and turned to stare at the still glowing fire.
"You didn't," he replied tersely.
He saw the man nod his head out of the corner of his eye.
"I had not meant to fall asleep," Sirius admitted after a moment, his gaze still locked onto the fire. "I suppose it must have been the prospect of more dancing."
He heard a deep chuckle escape the man and he had the absurd urge to laugh along with him.
Of course, he did not.
With no small amount of reluctance, Sirius sat up straighter in his chair and opened his mouth to introduce himself to the other man.
"I know who you are, Mr. Black," the man said softly, amusement sparkling in his brown eyes. "And I am Remus. Remus Lupin."
The name was vaguely familiar to him but Sirius could not recall where he might have heard it.
He clenched his jaw in annoyance.
They sat silently for several minutes until Sirius believed the other man had gone back to reading his book.
"I loathe this place," Sirius remarked suddenly, unsure why he wanted the other man to know. "I loathe these people. Every last one of them."
He turned to look at the other man and found the golden gaze fixed on him, relaxed – as if Lupin had been staring at him for awhile now.
The corner of the man's mouth twitched slightly.
"They are perhaps a bit small-minded at times," he admitted. "But one cannot blame a person for something that was instilled within him or her since childhood."
"I can blame them," he replied. "I do blame them."
The other man paused.
"Surely they are not all so terrible...?"
"Yes," he said instantly. "They are."
"The witch you were dancing with," Lupin continued smoothly – as if Sirius had not spoken. "She must be a very lovely young lady. I know her father well."
"As do I," he murmured. "And she is nothing like her father."
The golden eyes studied his face for a long moment before the man released another soft laugh.
"And where do you fit into this world of loathsome aristocrats, Mr. Black?"
They stared across the room at one another.
"Can you not tell?" Sirius asked softly.
The other man raised an eyebrow in question.
"I am one of them."
Lupin studied him for a minute before closing his book and dropping it onto a nearby table. He stood and crossed the room to where Sirius sat in the stiff, leather chair by the fire.
The golden eyes were flashing brightly, even in the dim light.
He leaned down to look deeply into Sirius' gray eyes.
Sirius, for his part, struggled to remain impassive as a knowing smile spread across Lupin's handsome face.
When the man finally spoke, his voice was filled with an almost overwhelming amount of warmth.
"I don't believe you."
Sirius could think of nothing and no one else.
Not of James and certainly not of the pretty blonde witch he had spent the first evening with.
Lupin was nothing like the rest of the people staying at the Pettigrews' estate. Sirius could not imagine how he managed to be so kind and quiet and humble.
Nevertheless, it did not matter how many tidbits of gossip Sirius managed to collect over the following weeks about the other man.
He was still a mystery to him.
How could a gentleman – and Lupin, despite his disheveled hair, was a gentleman – manage to be anything other than materialistic...selfish...greedy?
Sirius had thought James Potter was the only exception and even he was known for being arrogant at times.
The eldest Black brother prided himself on being able to see through even the most intricate of facades and he knew, without a doubt, that Lupin was not playing a role.
He shook his head in frustration. He could not understand his own fascination with the other man.
They had not been alone in the same room since Lupin had left the study with his eyes still alight with mirth - as if he had known something that Sirius had not – but at every meal during the following fortnight, Sirius' gray eyes searched without fail for the golden ones.
He looked on in silence as Lupin listened politely to the frivolous tales of the ladies and the monotonous tones of the men as they discussed their dislike of the latest Minister of Magic.
Lupin's kind, patient temperament never wavered.
Sirius watched, even when Lupin did not return his gaze – just to see how the striking man interacted with the others. Yet, when one of the women would lean in to whisper to Lupin or innocently place one of their finely gloved hands on his arm, Sirius felt inexplicably protective.
With these people, no gesture was ever truly innocent. Every move was made for a reason.
That, Sirius figured, must be why he kept trying to steal the witches' attention away from Lupin. It was not the same as it was when James had been around. He did not want to prove his superiority.
He was trying to keep the man safe.
It was easy to imagine that these people – both male and female – might taint the man with their very presence.
Sirius knew that he had never felt this protective of James. That fact was irrelevant though. The truth was James could take care of himself and there had never been any need for Sirius to look after him.
Besides, as his gray eyes followed the line of the man's smooth lips as they parted in laughter once more, Sirius began to understand that friendship (even in its earliest stages) can come in many different forms.