Remus Lupin had wondered what it would be like to return to London after having been away these past few years. He'd left as the First War was drawing to a close, when the intensity became too much for him to handle. And while that had happened three years ago with barely any dark activity since, he couldn't help but walk with his hand lingering close to the wand in his pocket, just as he had when he patrolled these very streets back then.
He watched as couples passed him by, hands woven together and smiles decorating their faces. It was a pleasant change from before, when Muggles and Wizards alike had to live in fear of someone looming in the shadows waiting to attack. Perhaps if he had known what had become of London, he would have returned much sooner.
As Remus rounded the corner, a sign for the Leaky Cauldron came into view. What a sight for sore eyes. He couldn't help but pick up his pace a little. However when he came to the door, he hesitated for a moment, wondering who he might run into and what their opinion of him might be. He had disappeared abruptly, which was bound to start some rumors. His tired eyes and empty stomach won in the end, and he pushed through the door.
The Leaky hadn't changed a bit, though the cliental was more jovial than they were during his last visit. He received some curious looks from the patrons near the door, but if they recognized him, they made no mention of it. It eased Remus' nerves a bit.
At the bar was Tom as he had always been for as long as Remus could remember. Remus smiled to himself as a person often does when returning home for the first time in a long while.
Remus approached the bar and sat his traveling bag on the counter. Tom looked him over for a moment, as if his brain was failing him, before recognition dawned on his face.
"Remus Lupin? Well I'll be damned."
"Good to see you, Tom. You wouldn't happen to have a room available, would you?"
Sirius Black entered the Leaky Cauldron with a curse on his lips and a heaviness in his step. The door shut too hard behind him, unintended and unexpected judging from the wince on his face. He took off his leather jacket and slipped behind the bar just in time to greet Tom.
"Sorry about the time, Tom. Harry was being absolutely impossible this morning."
Tom guffawed. "I think I can spare five minutes for the savior of the Wizarding world. It's not a problem at all."
"But your holiday—"
"Spain will still be there." Tom took a rag from under the bar and began to polish the counter as was habit. "Are you sure you can handle this?"
"It's only a few more hours than I'm already working until you get back. Enjoy yourself, and for Merlin's sake, don't worry about this place."
"Oh, I'll do my best. I know she's in capable hands."
Sirius hunched down to assess the liquor situation and see if anything needed to be brought up from the stores. A moment later, he realized that Tom was still lingering. If he was concerned, he really shouldn't have been. Sirius knew the Leaky like he knew the back of his hand.
"Have you heard from Lupin at all lately?"
He frowned. Remus was a sensitive subject to say the least. When he'd left before the war's end, he broke several of the cardinal rules of Marauding, something that never particularly set well with Sirius. But then there was that part of Sirius that couldn't blame him and even envied him a bit for having the bollocks to up and walk out. There had been so many things left unspoken between them and loose ends that needed tying. They never had an opportunity to clear any of that up since they hadn't had any contact in years.
"Can't say that I have."
"I thought that he might have written, letting you know that he's in town and all."
Sirius turned his head sharply. "In town?"
"Just got in last night. Rented out a room," Tom said, motioning with his head towards the upstairs.
Remus sat bent over his desk, nose practically touching his parchment. He wrote furiously with ink stained fingers, feeling as if the words were writing themselves and he only had to keep up. Returning to this place had provided him with all the inspiration he thought it might, plus so much more.
Polishing off his sentence with a flourish, Remus stretched and shuffled the leaves of parchment into an acceptably tidy pile. He closed his worn, leather bound journal but kept it on his desk with the intention of coming back to it later.
Remus pulled back the curtains to find the sun shining brightly on the streets of Diagon Alley, customers bustling to and fro between the shops. He would have to join the crowd later for a quick trip to Scribbulus Everchanging Inks for some more parchment. That would have to come after his meeting with his editor though, which, he realized in a panic after looking at the clock, was a lot sooner than he thought. Gathering up his toiletries, Remus headed for the bath in hopes of making it in time for his meeting in the pub below.
Sirius worried his lower lip, glancing every so often at the staircase that led to the rooms for rent. Somewhere up there was Remus, or at the very least, Remus' things. When asked, Tom had told him that Remus said he would probably be in need of a place to stay for about a fortnight, that he was in town on business. Sirius couldn't imagine what kind of business it was, probably something freelance as Remus always had difficultly holding down a job because of his condition.
When Tom had bid him farewell, Sirius considered going directly upstairs and knocking on Room 114's door, but, he soon realized, he had no idea what to say to Remus when he saw him. What exactly did one say in this sort of situation? Haven't seen you since you abandoned us before war's end. How've you been? It lacked tact for starters, and he didn't want to come off too…critical. He understood Remus' reasons; it was simply that he would have chosen differently if it had been him. Then again, I'm still in love with you even after all these years. Care for a snog? wouldn't work either. Talk about being forward and completely disregarding everything that had happened. Sirius groaned. He was never going to figure this out.
Thankfully, the afternoon rush of customers was just hitting its peak, so Sirius had something to preoccupy his mind. He set to work mixing drinks and sending lunch orders back to the kitchens for Letta, the Leaky's lone and lovely waitress. He chatted a bit with Florean Fortesque about a new batch of particularly fine owls that had only just arrived at Eeylops that very morning and Florean insisted that he bring Harry by soon.
Not long after, he began pouring Madam Primpernelle glasses of Firewhisky while he listened to her laments. A young man, nearly twenty years her junior and who she insisted was her prince charming, had turned his back on her for a much younger woman. Sirius couldn't blame him; all those years of brewing and taking beautifying potions had finally caught up to her. Her face looked rather puffy and distorted, but he never told her this. Instead, he nodded sympathetically and laid the charm on just thick enough to improve the witch's spirits but not enough to bring her advances upon himself.
When Sirius returned from helping Letta to the kitchens with some mugs and empty bottles, he realized that he would no longer have to worry about what he was going to say to Remus or when he was going to say it. There, waiting at the bar, was Remus talking animatedly with another young man, who, much to Sirius' displeasure, was rather fetching.
"What can I get you?" he asked, trying his hardest to sound professional and not like a jealous lover.
Remus' date began rattling off some drinks, but Sirius heard none of it. Remus' eyes had found his and expressed his surprise with ease. Whatever else Remus might have felt in that moment was lost to Sirius, which bothered him to great lengths. How was he supposed to know how to act when he couldn't tell what was going on in Remus' head?
"S-Sirius?" he sputtered.
"Long time no see, eh, Moony?"
There, that was neutral, wasn't it?
"I…what are you doing here?"
Apparently Tom hadn't bothered to fill Remus in on his employment, and Sirius couldn't help but feel thankful for it. Remus' mind seemed like it was still trying to catch up, and Sirius hoped that Remus' boyfriend could sense that there was a history between them.
"I work here. Just part time."
"I thought you had more gold in Gringotts than you could ever hope to spend."
"Tom's wife took ill with Dragon Pox a couple months back, and he needed someone to look after the place while he was caring for her. Dragon Pox at her age; lucky it didn't kill her. Kept me around after she recovered. I think he liked the company."
His beautiful, articulate Moony reduced to single syllables. Their meeting must be really throwing him for a spin. Sirius could sense the strain between them, feel the years of dust that clotted the ease that once was. And he couldn't be sure exactly what he was emotions were. He'd never got over Remus, but it could very well be too late for salvaging anything, especially with this new bloke in the picture, which, he reminded himself, he really didn't care for in the least.
"Going to introduce me to your friend?" Sirius asked.
"Yes, of course, I'm sorry. This is Colin."
"It's a pleasure…"
"Sirius," he offered.
"Nice to meet you, Sirius."
Sirius consciously chose not to express same sentiments. Instead, he took two glasses from under the counter and looked at the pair.
"So what will it be again?"
When Remus finally managed to make it back upstairs to his room later that afternoon, he breathed a sigh of relief. He hadn't returned unscathed, that was for certain. Seeing Sirius again, well…he hadn't been nearly as prepared as he would have liked to think. He knew running into him had been a possibility of course, but he never imagined he would have been so caught off guard.
Strolling over to the bed, Remus laid down, utterly exhausted from staying up all night and getting only a few hours sleep earlier that morning. He slung his arm over his eyes to block out the sunlight, hoping that he'd be to sleep in no time.
However, his mind was still reeling from his encounter. He half expected Sirius to be as he had left him, a worn and tired young man. It seemed, though, that he had managed to recover much of what he was before the war. He looked far more like he had back in school, and Remus wondered if it would be his undoing.
He had figured that Sirius would have been cold towards him, especially after all the secrets and accusations that had been made. But as Remus was sneaking glimpses at Sirius behind the bar during his meeting, he'd caught Sirius doing the same. He tried to think of the stolen glances as mere curiosity and not as they had been at Hogwarts—filled with meaning and affection.
It would be absurd of him to think that Sirius still had feelings for him. Surely he would have moved on. It didn't matter that Remus hadn't. And while he took every opportunity to rationalize his lack of romantic involvement as a simple lack of time and interest, he knew it had far more to do with the fact that he couldn't imagine anyone making him feel as Sirius had. As sure as James was meant for Lily, he was meant for Sirius.
But they wouldn't get their happy ending, just as James and Lily never got theirs. And that above all else was the source of his inspiration. When he first picked up the quill, he meant to write a eulogy for the Potters. After several failed attempts, he realized that he would never be able to come to terms with how their story ended. So he wrote them a new one. It was his first bestselling novel.
Sirius sat on the floor of his bedroom, the room aglow in candlelight. All was silent save for Harry's soft snores coming from atop Sirius' bed. Spread on the floor around Sirius were several small boxes filled with items that he had long since packed away—mementos from his marauding days.
He took a sip from the glass of scotch beside him; he needed all the courage he could get in order to do what he needed to be done. With a shaky hand, he lifted the lid of the first box and stared at the smiling faces of himself and his friends along with several letters, one of his old Gryffindor ties, and a chocolate frog wrapper.
He tried to ignore the faces of Lily and James. That would no doubt throw him in a fit of tears. Instead, he took a carefully folded piece of parchment into hand, and then paused to wonder whether or not he really wanted to continue on. His hands seemed to move of their own accord, however, and the paper was unfolded. Words began to bleed onto the paper.
To My Most Beloved Monsieur Padfoot,
In regards to the request in your recent letter, I most certainly will not. I'm not even sure that Mum would understand your referencing, but I can assure you that your protestations of love would be falling on deaf ears. She's madly in love with my father, as you know, and a devout Catholic woman besides. I'm convinced she has never had an impure thought about another man (romance novels aside—we all have our vices), so you have no choice but to give her up. Now, if you should like to practice the position on page 51 with me, you would find me most obliging.
As for my summer, it's been nothing short of dreadful. I've read Advanced Potion-Making twice already (yes, I am really that bored), but I don't think that it's going to make much difference in improving my marks. Remind me again why I let you convince me to take NEWT Potions? I certainly hope it was more than "in the interest of marauding." Guess I'll just have to ask Severus to tutor me again this year. Oh, stop making that face, honestly. I'm only joking. Everyone knows that I have absolutely no job prospects, so my marks won't matter anyway.
I do very much miss you, you know. Would it kill you to write a little more often? I know, I know. You're having a brilliant time with James and are so terribly short on time as it is. I hope these little "holidays" consist of more than visiting the blonde twins next door for some sightseeing. (Yes, I know about the existence of said twins. And that's all I want to know about them, mind you.)
Do let me know about our plans for this summer. I know we mentioned getting together at my place, and I assure you my parents are eager to play host and hostess again to a group of rowdy boys for some reason beyond my understanding; however my poor heart can only take so much of you and James hitting on my mother and I'm quite certain I reached my fill of that last summer. I think I would rather spend two weeks at Grimmauld Place than suffer through it again. Ask your mum about it, yeah?
Until then I remain most faithfully yours,
June 21st 1977
Sirius slowly folded the parchment up and let the words and memories flood him. He remembered that summer vividly. He and Remus spent the better part of their annual Marauder holiday running off together and snogging each other senseless. Those were the days when they were all immortal, young men without fear of consequence still untouched by the horrors of war. It would be only one year after Remus' letter that they would begin to see the world as some unrecognizable place. But that was the irony of it all, wasn't it? The first things to go were the things that they thought would remain unchanged forever. His relationship with Remus was no exception.
He brought the letter to his nose in hopes of catching any lingering scent of Remus. How could he have been so stupid back then? He should have cherished what they had together. If only he had a timeturner. If only he could do it over again and make things right this time.
He would convince James to move away from England and stay out of harm's way. Maybe he could even talk him into keeping it in his trousers for just a few months longer so that the birth of his son would not bring his death sentence with it. And Peter, he could save him. He could try to right whatever wrongs transpired between the four of them so that Peter would never have to resort to…that. He could tell Remus he loved him, truly loved him, so that that question never loomed over their relationship. Maybe Remus would have never left if he had known.
Sirius wasn't fool enough to actually break into the Ministry and see his wish through. Meddling with time...it never ended well. There were too many rules that, if broken, could be disastrous. What was it that Remus used to say? Something about the road to Hell and good intentions. Yeah, that's what it was.
He couldn't mend things with James or Peter, but Remus, he realized, was alive, even though Sirius had spent the last few years acting as if he'd been dead. Things between them…they could be fixed. Never perfectly, of course. Too much had happened for that. But they could talk. Talking was something.
Sirius' heart contracted violently, but he didn't have the strength to get into that conversation again, especially not at such a late hour. He simply closed his eyes for a moment and prayed that James would forgive him.
"Nightmare," he squeaked, only half awake.
Sirius stood and picked up Harry, who held onto him for dear life. Stroking his hair, Sirius whispered to him that nothing would happen to him, that it was just a scary dream.
What he never said to Harry was that this was a scary dream. No James, no Lily, no Peter, and no Remus…he was completely alone. He was a single father, which was both spectacular and frightening all at the same time. He wasn't even sure he was doing a good job at it, but he managed. And while Harry was his entire world, he needed some else, someone who understood him and wouldn't ask painful questions. He needed to talk to Remus.
After dropping Harry off to play at the Weasley's house for a couple hours while he worked, Sirius Appareted to the Leaky early the next morning, nervousness coursing through him. Today would be the day that he finally broke the three year silence between them. What if their conversation didn't go well? What if Remus hated him? There was so much riding on one simple exchange—his sanity for starters.
Sirius' head turned sharply towards a table at the edge of the room to see Remus smiling at him. He looked a bit unkempt, as if he had been up for hours, but he was still a sight, the sunlight pouring in from the window, bathing him.
"I hope you don't mind my being down here. The bar doesn't open until ten, right? I just had some work to do and needed a bit of a change of scenery."
"You're welcome to stay," Sirius said, grabbing a butterbeer from behind the bar and trying to make himself look busy.
He slipped down to the stores to refresh a few bottles of liquor, his heart thumping wildly in his chest. He wanted to say something—anything, really—but he couldn't get the words to form in his mouth. After collecting the bottles, he returned to the bar and wondered why some Dark Wizard couldn't just break in and put him out of his misery.
"How have you been?" Remus asked, eyes never leaving the parchment he was writing on.
"Not too bad. Yourself?"
Remus looked up from his writing and smiled a smile that made Sirius' heart leap. "Busy."
"I bet. Colin strikes me as the active type."
"Colin? We don't do much together actually," Remus explained, a touch of confusion on his voice.
"On the outs then, are you?" Sirius couldn't help but sound hopeful.
Remus laughed. "You think we're dating? Colin and I? And you're jealous."
"I am not," he said, moodily.
"Sirius." It felt like a caress. "I'm not seeing Colin."
Sirius said nothing in reply and took to polishing some glasses by hand to try to ease his mind. However, he couldn't help but think about Remus being single—or, if not single, at least not seeing Colin—which brought about blissful feelings.
"Are you dating anyone?"
"No, not at the moment," he said while he continued to write. "Though there is this devilishly handsome bloke who tends bar at the inn I'm staying at. I was thinking of asking him out for a round of Firewhisky later on tonight."
Sirius' mood improved. "Yeah?"
"You don't think I'm being too forward do you? We used to know each other, you see. But then the War happened, and things got all sullied up between us." Remus looked into his eyes. "I really miss him."
Putting the glass down, Sirius went to Remus' table and sat across from him. "I bet he misses you too."
"I hope you're right because I just realized as I was looking at him yesterday that, despite everything that's come between us, I still love him. I don't think I could quite bear the heartbreak of hearing that the sentiments aren't returned."
Sirius couldn't hold back his grin. He reached forward allowing the tips of his fingers to brush against Remus'. A hopeful expression formed on Remus' face at the small gesture.
"Well a lot has gone on between you two, yeah? But I think that, you know, after you talk about it, things ought to be fine, right? This bloke is a reasonable sort, isn't he?"
"I wouldn't call him reasonable, per se," he said, catching Sirius' hurt look. "But he loved me once, I think. And love can make up for a lot."
"I did love you, Remus. I do love you. Still. And I know that I did a horrible job at showing it back then."
"Then thank God for second chances."
"Is that what this is? Our second chance?" Sirius asked.
"I think it could be, if we want it badly enough. We'll talk, okay? Let's meet up later tonight."
Just as Sirius was about to agree, he realized that he had responsibilities elsewhere, responsibilities that came before anything, even before salvaging his relationship with Remus. He frowned.
"Sounds great, Moony, but I can't."
Remus looked crestfallen. "Can't?"
"That is, I'd love to, but I have Harry to look after. I've been working sporadic hours as of late, and he doesn't see me nearly enough as he should."
"Oh, Harry," Remus said, relieved. "Of course, Sirius. Another night then?"
"Actually would you fancy coming over? You could see the Prongslet, and I could make us dinner."
"You make dinner now?"
Sirius smiled. "Believe it or not, it's frowned upon for a parent to bring up a child on take-away alone. Something about a lack of proper nutrition."
Remus laughed. "I'd love to, Pads. What time should I show up?"
"It's a date."
Sirius couldn't contain his excitement. A date. It was a date. He was really going to have dinner with an adult, an occurrence few and far between these past few years. He would have to talk to Harry, of course. Let him know who Remus was, point him out in the pictures. But this was really happening.
As Sirius stood, he paused for a moment. "Remus? About Harry."
"Thank you for what you did. If you hadn't shown up at my trial and brought Lily's letter, I would be in Azkaban right now, and Harry would be Merlin-knows-where." Sirius' voice thickened and wavered. "He's my world, Remus. He's all I have left of them. And I have you to thank for that."
"You are many things, Sirius Black, but a murderer is not one of them. I knew that, despite where the two of us were, and I wasn't about to let you take the fall for Peter when I had proof that the Secret Keeper had been changed. I think we both owe Lily our gratitude. If it weren't for her, we could be two completely different people right now."
Remus arrived just shortly before six o'clock and was greeted by a very excited Harry. The last Remus had seen him, Harry was toddling around, still in nappies, and had an intense fixation on the broom Sirius had bought him for his first birthday. But this Harry, he seemed like a different child. Remus assumed that three years would do that to anyone, but especially to someone so young. He looked more like James than Remus ever thought possible. The warmth and brightness in his stunning, green eyes, however, was all Lily.
"You must be Harry," he said, feigning ignorance.
"That's me!" Harry said proudly, pointing at himself.
Remus knelt down. "I don't suppose you remember me; you were awfully young at the time. I remember you though. In fact, I was there the day you were born, did you know that, Harry?"
Harry shook his head and then ran to the end table nearby to pick up a picture. He brought it back to Remus and pointed. "That's you. Daddy told me your name, but I don't 'member 'cause it's funny. He said that I could call you Moony instead. Okay?"
Remus nodded, but Harry was already running back to a generous pile of toys across the room. Apparently, his novelty had already worn off, or at least for the time being. He heard Sirius fumbling about the kitchen and grinned to himself. It was good to know that some things didn't change.
Strolling about the room, Remus came to realize that on nearly every available surface were pictures of the five of them—Sirius, James, Lily, Peter, and himself—though in photos that Remus distinctly remembered having Peter in them, there was no Peter. It seemed as if Sirius had built a small shrine to the past, and while Remus knew that Sirius would say that it was for Harry's sake, it was instead for Sirius himself.
"Remus, sorry," Sirius said, drying his hands on a dish towel. "Someone was supposed to mention when you'd arrived."
Sirius shot a look at Harry, but Harry paid him no mind. He was far more interested in his toy Quidditch players than what his godfather was saying.
"He told me his 'daddy' told him to call me Moony," Remus said quietly.
Sirius motioned for Remus to follow him into the kitchen, and he obliged. Heading back towards the stove to stir what looked to be pasta, Sirius gave a heavy sigh, which told Remus that he'd brought up a sensitive subject.
"He never used to do that, not really."
"Call you his father?"
"Yeah. When he was just a little thing we would look through photo albums. He'd point out his mum and dad no problem. But then he got a little bit older, started playing with other kids, and somehow I became 'daddy.'"
"So you put up all those pictures in hopes that if you made them more available to him he'd stop," Remus said.
Sirius turned to him, eyes moist. "I feel like I'm taking something away from James, you know? I tried to make Harry stop, but he just won't. And I don't know why he's doing it. And I…I keep thinking James is up there hating me for it. He was robbed of raising his son and now he's been robbed of his own title. I…I just don't know."
Remus was startled to see just how distraught Sirius was. He never let things get to him like this, and he rarely called James by his given name. It certainly clued him in on the severity of the situation. If he had known that Sirius was going to be driven to this, he would have helped him raise Harry instead of keeping out of touch.
"Sirius, James doesn't hate you. Trust me. You didn't take away his son. Voldemort did. And you're doing the best that you can with what you've been given. That's all anyone can do. James understands that.
"And as for Harry, he's only calling you that because he sees the children that he plays with calling their fathers that. He wants to be like them, and that's only natural. You're his father figure, his constant since he lost his parents. I don't honestly believe that he doesn't know Lily and Prongs are his parents; it's just that they don't exist in his world like you do. He'll grow out of it once he's old enough to understand."
"I hope you're right, Moony. I don't think I could deal with this for the rest of my life."
"You won't have to," he said, joining Sirius at the stove. "Now, what can I help you with?"
"You're a guest. Don't even think about lifting a finger."
Remus rolled his eyes. "I think that after you've shagged someone for three years, you've gone past the point of ever being a guest again."
"Point taken. Want to strain the noodles for me?"
Dinner was on the table ten minutes later, and, Remus noted, Sirius had perked up a bit since his near meltdown earlier. Remus was happier for it, as he would much rather spend the evening with a happy Sirius than one on the verge of a breakdown. He decided that it was his responsibility to make things smooth and comfortable for the rest of his visit in hopes of easing Sirius' mind.
Remus picked up the salad bowl. "Harry, would you like some salad?"
Harry looked positively mutinous. "It's green."
"Is there something about green things that I should know?" Remus asked, looking at Sirius.
"He doesn't eat anything green. It's a policy of his," he replied with a shrug before shoving a forkful of pasta in his mouth.
"I wonder where he picked that up."
Sirius smiled, proudly. "Haven't a clue."
"Where do you work? Is it with Daddy?"
"No, actually, Harry, I write books for a living."
Sirius looked at him curiously and mouthed "novelist?" Remus nodded, and Sirius seemed surprised. Remus turned his attention back to Harry.
"Are they books like Martin Miggs?"
"They're books for adults."
"Oh," Harry said, disappointed.
"What are they about? I haven't seen anything in Flourish and Blotts with your name on it," Sirius asked.
Remus took a bite of his dinner. "I'm not writing under my own name. Ministry restrictions and all. I use a pen name—J.L. Wilkins."
Sirius immediately began to choke on the food he'd just swallowed. He took a slip of water to help with his coughing fit. "You're J.? You write those bodice rippers that all the witches are raving about?"
"What's a bodice ripper?" Harry piped, a question that both men ignored.
"They're not bodice rippers, Sirius. They're not even meant to be romance novels."
"If the witches love it, that makes it witch lit. And all witch lit is about romance. That's all I'm saying."
Remus rolled his eyes. "You'd like my first novel, I'm sure. In fact, I sent you a copy when it was first publish—or rather, I sent Harry a copy."
"What would Harry want with—"
"You'd know if you'd read it," Remus said, taking his plate over to the sink.
Remus sat on the sofa silently, watching Sirius read Harry a story from The Tales of Beedle the Bard. It was a surprise to see the normally boisterous Sirius curled up with the little boy, reading softly from a children's book. He long ago knew that Sirius would have made a brilliant father, and it was the one regret Remus ever harbored about their relationship—he could never give Sirius a child of his own.
"…and none of them ever knew or suspected that the Fountain's waters carried no enchantment at all," he finished, closing the book.
Harry had already fallen asleep minutes before, and Sirius gently placed the book on the end table, careful to not move too much for fear of waking him. Remus smiled softly when Sirius turned towards him.
"Feels like old times," Sirius said.
"It does. Though I don't think he ever fell asleep that easily back then, and his fascination was with 'The Wizard and the Hopping Pot.'"
"Sweet Merlin, don't remind me. Do you remember that one night we babysat him? It was Prongs and Lily's anniversary, I think. I must have read that story twenty times before the night was through."
"And not ten minutes after we put him down, he got sick all over our bed."
"And Prongs had left his two-way mirror at home. They were in Muggle London, so there was no way we could send them word with a Patronus."
"You wouldn't have anyway. You knew how much a little time away from Harry meant to them."
Sirius laced his fingers with Remus'. "You're right. I wouldn't have interrupted them for anything, not even Voldemort himself."
Remus squeezed Sirius' hand and stared into the depths of his gray eyes. He was such a sight, Sirius, with his chiseled cheek bones and smooth, pale skin. Remus was quite certain that he could stay here forever with him like this. He had other obligations though, he remembered sadly.
"I should go," Remus said softly.
"Stay. I miss you."
"One, I don't think it would be appropriate for me to spend the night when Harry's just met me. Could you imagine the questions he would have in the morning? And two, my book isn't going to write itself."
"Write the book later, Moony," he whined.
"I need to get the manuscript to Colin—my editor—in three weeks time. I still have eight chapters to go," Remus explained, noticing the disapproval on Sirius' face at the mention of Colin.
Sirius looked disappointed. "When can I see you again?"
"I'm still in town for a little over a week. And you'll see me at the Leaky, of course. Don't worry, I'll make time in my schedule," he said, standing.
Sirius carefully shifted Harry to the pillow next to him; the boy stirred, mumbling something incoherent, and fell quickly back to sleep. Sirius stood in front of Remus, and they both, perhaps a little awkwardly, leaned towards one another, embracing.
It would have been a friendly embrace, if it hadn't been for the moments of lingering. Remus, stiff at first, relaxed as the familiarity that once was returned to him. He nuzzled the crook of Sirius' neck, and Sirius' hand rested against the small of Remus' back. Remus was half tempted to kiss Sirius' neck, but Sirius moved away before he had talked himself into it.
"Owl me then, yeah? Or leave a note down at the bar?"
"Sounds good," Remus said, taking his wand from his trousers.
"I had a nice time tonight, Moony. And I haven't had one of those for a long time. So thanks."
"It was my pleasure. And don't worry, there will be plenty more."
For the next week, Sirius and Remus met on and off, sometimes for breakfast and on the occasion Sirius would stop by Remus' room. However, it wasn't until two days before Remus was supposed to leave London that they managed to find the time to do something together with Harry.
It was Remus' idea that they go to Godric's Hollow, a place that Sirius had never visited after the tragedy on October 31st. They packed a picnic at Harry's insistence, but after Apparating to the small village, they found it was raining.
"Rain!" Harry squealed with delight.
"Harry! Under the umbrella," Sirius said, but Harry paid him no mind.
"It's fine, Padfoot. He's a little boy. Let him act like it for once."
Sirius sighed. "Yeah, alright."
"Here, if it makes you feel better," Remus said, picking up a stick nearby and, with a swish-flick, transfigured it into a child sized umbrella. "Harry, come get your umbrella, please."
Harry hopped to Remus and took the umbrella happily, excited that it was decorated with tiny snitches. Remus returned to Sirius' side and took his warm hand.
"I guess I sometimes don't realize that it's okay for a child to get dirty and run amuck. Mother never let me, so I don't have much experience."
"I seem to remember a certain amount of running amuck when you weren't under your mother's watchful eyes."
"Do you?" he asked, feigning ignorance. "I haven't the slightest idea what you're referring to, my dear Moony."
They began strolling towards the village, Harry running in front of them and jumping in every mud puddle he could find. Sirius had wondered what it would be like to come back to the Hollow and couldn't begin to express his relief that he wasn't coming here for the first time alone. Remus was with him, and Remus would ground him. He could do this.
"I read your book."
Remus looked at him surprised. "You did?"
"At your insistence, or did you forget?"
"No, I remember. Just…well, what did you think?"
Sirius wasn't sure where to begin. Though the characters were named differently, he recognized James and Lily immediately. It was such a spectacularly crafted tale, and while small incidences had been added or taken away and the story's James had got the girl sooner than in real life, it was just as magical as James and Lily's real life love story was.
"I thought it was brilliant."
Remus gave a sigh of relief. "You had me worried for a minute."
"I don't know how you managed to remember all those details."
"Do you remember that old, beat-up leather journal I had back in school?"
"You mean the one you never wrote in but guarded with your life?" Sirius asked, amused.
"Yes, well I did write in it, thank you very much. Except that after I realized first year that you three nosy gits didn't know how to mind your own business, I enchanted it so that it would look like it'd never been written in. You'd only have had to write the date in the journal to read it."
Sirius smiled at that. He wondered for a moment what other sorts of details he might have written down over the years and made a mental note to sneak a look at the journal later. There was one other thing, more than the details, that Sirius thought he ought to mention.
"I should thank you for making me James' brother in the book. It meant a lot."
"I was only telling the story as it happened. I didn't make that part up."
For some reason beyond his understanding, Remus' words pierced his heart. It really was like that, wasn't it? He and James. Never one without the other. At least until that night. Sirius' breath hitched and his eyes stung.
"Don't start talking like that. Not here."
Remus squeezed his hand. "Sorry."
They made it to the town square shortly thereafter, Remus and Sirius stopping in front of the war memorial and watching it transform before their eyes. Sirius quickly looked at Harry to see whether he recognized the people represented in stone. Harry, however, was too preoccupied with dropping pebbles into a large puddle to take notice.
Sirius turned his attention back to the statue and stared for a long while at James' face. This and Harry was all he had to remember him by. How foolish he was to think years ago that he and James had forever to enjoy each other's company, to play backyard Quidditch and teach James' progeny the way proper marauding was done.
"I think they did a respectable job, but I remember Lily's smile being far more beautiful," Remus said softly.
Sirius heard him but didn't bother to reply. He was far too transfixed on the statue and the road behind it. James would come walking down any minute, tell him that it was all some joke. It could have been a joke, couldn't it? Or maybe a trick? Yes, Dumbledore had stolen them away so that they would be safe. It was plausible, wasn't it? Maybe he had been Obliviated. James was alive somewhere; he just couldn't remember. That was it. It had to be. Because James couldn't die, at least not before him.
"They're gone, Padfoot."
Sirius felt tears slip down his cheeks. He remembered that night. James lying in the door way, looking so peaceful. But his eyes were open and blank. He wouldn't answer, no matter how loud Sirius shouted at him. Frustrated, he dropped James and tore up the stairs to Harry's nursery. Lily laid broken on the floor in front of Harry's cot, her beautiful red hair splayed all around her in a mess. He picked her up, kissed her forehead, and cried into her shoulder. And when he couldn't cry anymore, he slipped quietly into James and Lily's bedroom and laid her to rest on her bed, as if she'd just gone to sleep.
Sirius wiped his eyes and looked into James' stone eyes once more. "I'm glad he didn't live to see this, you know?" he began, voice quivering. "His head was big enough as it was. If he'd known they'd erected a bloody statue in his honor we would have never heard the end of it."
Remus chuckled softly. "James was a proud man. That's all I have to say."
"Vain wanker," he said with a watery smile.
"But he was our vain wanker."
"Yeah." Sirius exhaled deeply, as if to relieve himself of all the emotions he'd bundled for years.
"Are you going to be okay do you think?" Remus asked, rubbing Sirius' arm.
"I think so," Sirius said, brow furrowed in thought. "Yeah, I think this was what I needed."
"Good. We should stop by their graves. Say hello. I'm sure they get a lot of visitors, but it's been such a long while since they've heard from old friends."
"I didn't even think to bring flowers."
"It's fine. We'll transfigure some. Daisies. Lily loved daisies."
"Sounds like a fine plan, Moony." Sirius turned towards Harry, who was busy doing Merlin-knows-what on the other side of the statue. "Harry, come along now!"
"Sirius, one more thing," Remus said suddenly.
"I have a bit of a favor to ask of you, if you don't mind."
"Anything. Just name it."
"Well, you know I'm going away tomorrow. I was just wondering if you'd mind reading a copy of my manuscript while I'm out of town. I'm still working on the final chapter, but I'd really value your opinion."
"Of course, now that Tom's back I won't be working so many hours. I'll have loads of time."
"Thanks. It means a lot to me."
Harry trotted over after another call from Sirius and quickly took his hand. Sirius led them to the small cemetery of Godric's Hollow to pay their respects to Lily and James.
Remus waited at Platform 6 at King's Cross for his train north. He could have Apparated of course, but he found that the time on the train allowed for a better writing atmosphere, so he often traveled that way. He looked at his watch—nine fifty. Ten more minutes until he boarded the train.
He turned around quickly to find Sirius running towards him out of breath. Remus was surprised to see him and wondered if something had happened.
"Sirius? What's wrong?"
"I…finished your…manuscript," he said, between breaths.
"All in one night?"
"I couldn't stop reading," he said. "How does their story end, Roman and Stella's? I can't let you leave here without knowing."
Remus saw the passion in Sirius' eyes and knew that he knew. The hero and heroine of what was to be his third novel, labeled as outcasts, lovers of the forbidden sort—Sirius understood.
"They see each other across a crowded room three years later and Stella walks over and kisses him."
Sirius leaned down, his lips brushing softly against Remus'. Remus slid his arms around Sirius and returned the kiss with equal passion, savoring the warmth that he'd been denied for so long. Sirius pulled away only slightly.
"They live happily ever after."