Warnings: sexual situations, angst, potential AU-ness, general Black family insanity

Author's Notes: Written for LJ's mwpp_mischief 2011 fest, based on the prompt "a meeting with Orion and Walburga". One of the most interesting things for me about the Black Family Tree is seeing when all of Sirius' relatives died. I was rather surprised to learn that Orion died in '79 when the First War was really coming to a head. While I doubt that canon!Sirius cared about his father's death, I thought I might play around with the idea of "what if". What if he went back to his family? How would things have changed in canon? And essentially, that's how this fic came to be. At this point, I owe my beta, L, my first born for as many times as she has looked over this fic. Much love to you, my dear.


.

At ten after nine, Remus slips the key into the door of the music shop and locks it, effectively ending his shift and beginning his weekend. Tonight marks the start of a long anticipated and much needed few days of alone time with Sirius. From what Remus was told in their last correspondence, he's to Apparate over to Sirius' flat straight away, strip immediately, and plan on not getting out of bed for the next fifty hours or so—a plan that couldn't delight him more.

Pocketing his keys, he begins the short trip down the walk to the outskirts of town where he can safely Apparate without being seen. All the while, he thinks about what sort of dinner—almost surely take-away—Sirius has planned for them. He hopes that he can convince Sirius to briefly postpone the stripping until after dinner as he hasn't—

Out of nowhere, Remus feels a strong grip on his arm, tugging him violently into a darkened alleyway. He tenses immediately—expecting the worst—his back flush against a decidedly-male someone's front. But the scent of Sirius' cologne fills his senses not a moment later. Relaxing, Remus presses back against Sirius, feeling a rush of pleasure with the thought that his boyfriend couldn't wait another ten minutes to have him.

"Are you really going to shag me here in the alley?" he asks, bringing Sirius' hand to his mouth and peppering kisses along his knuckles. "Not that I couldn't be persuaded…"

He waits for Sirius' response, but finds only a pregnant pause lingering between them. Bare moments pass before Remus notices the distinct lack of the tobacco smell that always laces Sirius' scent. As if he's been hit with a ton of bricks, he realizes that this isn't Sirius. But the second he tries to look over his shoulder into the face of his captor, he finds a wand tip shoved violently against his jugular.

"No sudden moves, Lupin."

The voice is a whisper in his ear, soft like a lover's caress. Remus recognizes it immediately as Regulus', recognizes it and wonders what is going to become of him now. His pounding heart quickens, his eyes close briefly as he tries to assess the situation with what little sense he can muster. Regulus has always been surprisingly kind to him, perhaps even friendly during their prefect rounds, but with a wand at his throat, Remus won't permit himself that one, small comfort.

Slowly, he turns his head and stares into Regulus' eyes—Sirius' eyes. They look so much alike—Sirius and Regulus—that at a quick glance one could be mistaken for the other. And Remus, for all that he tries in his panic, can't get his mind to separate Regulus' face from his lover's.

"I don't know what you have planned," Remus begins hesitantly, "but if something happens to me, Sirius will never forgive you, Regulus. So please be sensible—"

"Oh honestly," he grumbles.

Regulus shoves Remus into the wall opposite, Remus' shoulder colliding violently with the stone. He winces from the pain and tries to reach for his wand in his trouser pocket when he notices Regulus sheathing his own. Thoroughly confused, Remus stares at him for a long moment, watching as Regulus crosses his arms over his chest impatiently.

"This isn't a business call. I have no intention of harming you and would appreciate if you kept quiet about my holding you at wand point. Precautionary measures only, I assure you."

"What do you want then?" Remus asks, half-annoyed, half-incredulous.

Even in the shadows, Remus can make out the shift in expression on Regulus' face. He doesn't look like the obscenely confident young man anymore but a nervous little boy. And while he knows Sirius would be angry with him for it, he pities Regulus in that moment.

"I need to get a message to Sirius."

"He won't see you. At least not without it ending disastrously."

"No, I know that," he says, and Remus can hear the sadness in his tone. "I've written him a letter explaining the situation. I would be indebted to you if you see that he gets it, Remus."

As Regulus pulls a sealed envelope from his robes, Remus hesitates. This could easily be a trap. The paper could contain any number of things—a curse, dark magic, something much, much worse. Yet Remus finds himself reaching for it—anything to cease the desperation in those oh-so-familiar grey eyes.

"Know that I wouldn't ask this of you if it weren't of the utmost importance and urgency. Even if Sirius doesn't want to act on it, he should be privy to this information. It will affect him whether he likes it or not."

"What's going on?"

Regulus shakes his head. "I need to be going."

With that, Regulus Apparates on spot, and Remus can't help but think he wanted to avoid any further conversation. What could be so bad that he doesn't want to talk about it? What could be terrible enough to frighten Regulus into contacting his brother after all this time? Remus thinks the worst, thinks of Death Eater attacks and murders. Has Sirius become a target?

As if expecting the answer to appear on the parchment, Remus glances down at the letter. What if this is all a trap? He wants to think better of Regulus, wants to believe he wouldn't do anything to put Sirius in harm's way. But what if it's just like Sirius said? Maybe Regulus really does feel no connection to him anymore. And this letter could contain any number of ways of exacting revenge on Sirius.

It looks harmless, though, and after a quick series of spells, Remus discovers that it is harmless as far as magic is concerned. However, he knows there is more than one way to hurt someone—a thought that pressures him into considering if he really wants to go through with delivering the letter.

.


.

Barely a minute after entering the flat and moments after setting eyes on Sirius, Remus already feels his coiled insides unfurling with his boyfriend's touch. He tries to move his hands, but Sirius' own hold his wrists firmly in place above his head and against the door.

Sirius' lips glide lightly along the column of his neck, pressing hot kisses against the warm flesh. Blunt teeth bear down just enough for Remus to feel his insides jump pleasantly. But it's the suck at his pulse point—and the literal magic that flows from Sirius' lips—that draws the first moan from him.

"Missed you so fucking much, Moony," Sirius whispers against his jaw.

Remus manages to wrestle a Missed you, too from his throat, though it's incredibly difficult with Sirius now flush against him. With a pause, Remus allows himself to take in the feel of Sirius' weight—a weight that he has missed for the past six weeks. And as Sirius runs his free hand beneath Remus' shirt and up his chest, Remus wants to beg him never to leave again.

Sirius' hand glides down Remus' back, resting against his bony hip. His lips travel from jaw, across cheek, to Remus' waiting, wanting lips. They meet for one long, slow, tender kiss, and Remus tries to convey just how much he's missed Sirius with his lips rather than in words. Sirius, for all Remus can tell, seems to be doing the same, as Remus can feel it burning through him. Love you. Want you. Shouldn't be apart.

"Why are we still dressed?" Sirius asks softly, finally releasing Remus' wrists and twinning their fingers together.

Remus sighs contently. "I don't know."

He can feel Sirius' gaze heavy on him, see the thoughtfulness in those grey eyes. A passive look turns into a pleased smile, air escaping Sirius' nose in an almost-laugh.

"You're the most brilliant thing I've seen in six weeks."

"How was Romania?"

"Don't want to talk about it now." Another quick peck to the lips. "Later. After gratuitous amounts of sex."

"And dinner?" Remus asks, the emptiness of his stomach painfully apparent despite how he wants to ignore it.

"How can you even think about food at a time like this?" Sirius scolds, rolling his hips against Remus. "The only thing I want in my mouth right now is your cock."

Remus—hanging on Sirius' words—couldn't agree more. He thinks to tell Sirius as much, but Sirius is causing such a distraction just now—his hands making quick work of Remus' belt—that the thought leaves Remus' mind as quickly as it came.

Sirius sinks to his knees, pulling Remus' corduroys and pants down with him. Head tilting back, he closes his eyes, anticipating Sirius' warm, wet mouth around him. His nerves are on edge in anticipation, and he grows ever harder as the moments drag on for what feels like forever. Then Sirius' mouth is immediately on him, taking him in deeper and deeper still until Remus can only feel and no longer think.

Tongue swirls, teeth press, mouth sucks maddeningly tight. For all that Remus tries to resist bucking urgently into Sirius' mouth, it's a futile gesture. It's been so long since he's been touched by anyone other than himself. And it's certainly not helping that Sirius' hands are molded around his hips, that Sirius' fingers are pressed into his arse.

He runs his fingers through Sirius' hair, one hand winding tightly into a fistful of black locks in a way that gets to Sirius like few other things do. Sirius moans appreciatively, the vibration of his voice sending a rush of heady sensation through Remus, making his toes curl.

With what little coherency he has left—orgasm steadily climbing, climbing—Remus fumbles for one of Sirius' hands, lifting it from his hip and to his mouth. He kisses the bony ridges of Sirius' knuckles just before he jumps at a recent memory.

Sirius withdraws. "Alright, love?"

Remus wants to shake his head, but finds himself incapable. He's momentarily back in the alley with Regulus, bodies pressed tightly together, Regulus' knuckles at his lips. And then there's a letter in his hand, the very letter tucked into the deep pocket of his corduroys now. He hasn't had time to figure out what to do with it, whether he wants to give it to Sirius or not.

Sirius must see the conflicted expression on his face because he takes to his feet. Pressing a kiss to Remus' forehead, he lifts Remus' chin, a playful, sexy smile gracing those beautifully full lips.

"I love you, Moony," he whispers into Remus' ear, before biting gently on the lobe. "Wanked to the thought of our little goodbye every fucking night I was gone."

Remus whimpers at the thought of both their goodbye shag and Sirius' wanking. Despite how it arouses him—along with Sirius' fingers now tugging on his cock—Remus can't suppress the conflicted feelings bubbling up inside of him. Should he, or shouldn't he? Will he, or won't he? And more than anything, how would Sirius react if he did?

Determined, Remus tries to force himself to forget, to concentrate on the steady strokes of Sirius' hand. He finds himself slipping into the rhythm, but each time he's eventually pulled out of it by guilt. He and Sirius promised to not keep things from each other. But this is different. This is for Sirius' own good. He doesn't need to be wrapped up in Regulus' mess, and Remus' conscience is just going to have to deal with it.

Taking Sirius by the cheeks, Remus crashes their mouths together, thinking that perhaps drowning himself in Sirius will make things better. Sirius is seemingly caught off-guard by his sudden enthusiasm, his fingers fumbling against Remus' cock, his mouth not quite working in time the way it should. Remus doesn't care though and doesn't give Sirius the chance to make adjustments. His tongue darts out, slipping across the part of Sirius' lips and demanding entrance. Sirius opens for him readily enough, but after tongues tangle—Remus' eager to overpower—Sirius pulls back.

"What's gotten into you tonight?" he asks, slightly amused.

"Sorry, I…"

Remus leans back against the door, miserable, before pulling up his trousers. He runs his hands over his face, an exasperated sigh escaping him. There is no way he can keep this from Sirius. If he starts withholding information now, especially in such troubled times, who is to say that it'll stop with this? His conscience can't quite bear it. Utterly defeated, Remus is forced to accept the fact that shagging isn't going to happen until he confesses about the letter.

Sirius looks suddenly concerned. "Moony?"

"I ran into your brother tonight," he explains, each syllable as painful to say as the Cruciatus is to bear. "Or rather, he came looking for me."

Sirius recoils as if he's been slapped, concern giving way to anger. Remus really isn't sure he wants to bring up the letter now, seeing how just a mention of Regulus has ruined Sirius' good mood. He regrets it, but there isn't any going back.

"What did he want? Fuck, are you alright, Remus? I can't believe that stupid little sod…"

Nervously, Sirius runs his fingers through his hair, and Remus can almost see his mind working to wrap itself around the news. Breaking from him, Sirius paces back and forth in front of Remus for a moment before burying his face in his palms and growling a miserable,

"Fuck!"

"I'm fine. Really, Pads." Remus reaches out to place a comforting hand on Sirius shoulder. "He didn't try anything."

Sirius grabs Remus' hand, tugging him forward into a tight embrace. Sirius' arms wrapped around him, Remus buries his face against Sirius' neck, the smell of Sirius' cologne filling his senses. It's their first proper hug in over a month, and Remus can't help but to hold onto Sirius as if his life depended on it.

"He could have killed you."

"Give me some credit," Remus chides, warmly, "You know I would have gone down valiantly at the very least."

"Remus."

It's a half-scold, half-prayer to Remus' ears. He kisses Sirius' neck lightly, reassuringly. There is no doubt in his mind that Sirius is blaming himself for the encounter, however ridiculous such a claim may be. Though if Sirius finds himself wanting to stay because of what happened rather than leave for his next assignment, Remus doesn't think he could find it in himself to argue.

"Did he say anything to you?" Sirius asks, breaking their embrace so he can look into Remus' eyes.

Remus slips a hand into his pocket, taking the sealed parchment out and presenting it to Sirius. Grey eyes fall heavy on the letter. With a hard swallow, Sirius takes it from Remus and returns to his pacing before breaking the seal quickly.

Remus watches him carefully, looking for any clues as to what might be in the letter. Sirius face is unchanged—mouth pulled into an irritated line, eyes narrowed suspiciously, body rigid as if to prepare himself for a blow. The expression is short lived, however, as Remus notices the gradual widening of his eyes, the slump of his shoulders, the confused furrow of his brow. In silence, Sirius folds the parchment along its original creases with great care. He doesn't bother to meet Remus' concerned gaze, but slowly walks to the nearest chair and sits as if his legs are going to give out on him at any moment.

"Sirius?"

He doesn't respond, only stares unseeingly in front of him. Remus is struck with a panic, knowing that whatever the contents of that letter are, they have devastated Sirius. His mind jumps first to the idea that it's Death Eater related. But then again, Regulus had said this isn't about "business". But what then?

It hits him as soon as he sees Sirius cover his mouth as if he's going to be sick. Not business, but urgent. Something that will affect Sirius no matter what.

The Blacks.

Remus approaches Sirius, placing a hand on the nape of his neck and rubbing soothing circles into tense muscle. Sirius, seemingly wakened from his stupor yet not altogether recovered, lifts the parchment for Remus to take. Remus does so hesitantly and unfolds the letter.

Brother,

I apologize for having to contact you, especially given that I am likely the last person in the world you would want to hear from. I do greatly appreciate you taking the time to read this letter though, and do forgive me for involving Lupin in this family matter. You must believe me when I say I meant him no harm. I am writing to you against Mother's wishes, but it is of great importance that you hear this from someone within the family rather than in the Prophet.

Father is dying, Sirius. If you saw him now, you would barely recognize him. There is no chance of recovery, and the family Healer has given him only a few more days. I cannot be certain how you will respond to this news, but I implore to you remember those good times, however few, we had with him.

He has been asking for you for over a week now. Mother refuses him, but I cannot be unmoved by our father's begging. If I did not feel it was important, I would not task you with this, brother. I beseech you to consider coming home to see him. Some good will surely come of it.

Yours Faithfully,

Regulus Arcturus Black

Remus folds the letter slowly, allowing him a few spare moments to gather his thoughts. Orion Black lay dying, his once prized son sits within reach of Remus, and Remus has no idea what to do. Sirius' face is a mask, and all he can tell from it is that Sirius is shocked by the news, as is Remus, as would anyone be.

"I'm sorry," he offers, sitting on the arm of the chair and slipping his arm around Sirius' shoulder. "I can't even begin to imagine…"

Sirius turns to him, grey eyes filled to the brim with a pain that pierces Remus' heart. The pain, however, doesn't quite match the anger formed on that handsome face—an anger that Remus can't help but think of as way of dealing with all these feelings that Sirius likely thought were buried years ago.

"It doesn't matter," Sirius says, his voice thick. "Why should I care? Good riddance as far as I'm concerned."

"You don't mean that."

"Don't tell me what I mean!" he snaps.

Remus stands, fighting back the urge to shout at Sirius. The last thing either of them needs is an argument. Sirius is just acting out because he can't properly process things when he feels helpless. Eight years of knowing Sirius has taught Remus that much, and pushing him will only make matters worse.

Calmly, he walks to the kitchen and lifts the take-away from the bag that Sirius had picked up earlier. Plating it, Remus casts a quick warming charm to heat up the now-cool food and tries to avoid thinking about how the weekend isn't likely to turn out as expected.

It's a hard thing to avoid though. He can't deal with Sirius when he's like this; it'd be easier to try to guess the direction of an oncoming spell while blindfolded than to guess Sirius' next emotion. He's not sure what is affecting Sirius more, contact with his family after all this time or the fact that his father is dying. The obvious choice is the dying, but that doesn't always mean anything when it comes to Sirius. Sometimes it's the completely unexpected thing that eats away at him.

"I'm sorry for yelling," Sirius says, leaning against the door jamb a few minutes later.

Putting down his fork, Remus takes a deep breath. The apology is written all over Sirius' face, feeding off his very words. He knows the look, knows it because he's had to stare into that face so many times before in the history of their relationship. It begs him to please, don't leave me for this, and Remus wishes Sirius could understand how committed he is to them.

Remus offers a smile, hoping it will ease Sirius' mind. "Your family tends to set you on edge. I know that."

"I still shouldn't have taken it out on you."

Closing the distance between them, Sirius wraps his arms around Remus' waist and rests his forehead against Remus' own.

"You're my family. Not them, not anymore. And don't you ever forget it, Moony."

"He's still your father, Sirius. You can't… you should go see him. He's asking for you."

"I don't care. He was a sorry excuse for a father anyway."

Remus smoothes his thumb over Sirius' arm. "Then don't do it for him. Do it for yourself. So you won't regret it later in life. So you know where the two of you stand."

"No," Sirius replies, shaking his head. "I already know what he thinks of me."

"That was years ago, Pads. Death… it changes things."

"How would you know?" he scolds softly.

Remus grabs Sirius' hand, guiding it beneath his shirt and up his side. He presses Sirius' fingers against mangled flesh, as if that alone should provide the answer to Sirius' remark. Judging from softening of his expression, Sirius seems to understand.

"I was mad at my mum that day," Remus begins, applying pressure once more to Sirius' fingers to make it known which day he was referring to. "She was yelling with Dad for taking me somewhere without telling her. Even before my accident she was over protective. She wanted me to go to evening Mass after dinner, and I refused. We argued, and I told her that I hated her. But after I was bitten and laid there bleeding to death, I wanted her comfort so badly, Sirius."

With the memory of that night—the night that he was murdered, or at least his humanity was—Remus' insides twist painfully, his throat constricting. He doesn't ever want to remember what it felt like to think that he was moments from death, that he was never going to be discovered and that his mum would think he died hating her. His lycanthropy he can deal with in stride, but that night is altogether different.

"You never told me that before," Sirius whispers, his hand now flush against the cursed flesh. "I never … I didn't…"

Sirius presses his lips to Remus'—tender and loving. His breath is warm, as is his flesh, and Remus wonders if Sirius' defenses are about to crumble. He begins to pepper a trail of kisses on Remus' mouth and cheeks, on his nose and eyelids.

This has always been a serious issue for them—Remus' lycanthropy. Remus doesn't like to divulge the details, especially of those early years when he was still such a young child. Whenever it does come up, Sirius doesn't handle those more unpleasant details well, his frustration and sensitivity always getting the best of him. That's why Remus never told him about that night; he didn't think Sirius could handle learning that he was bare minutes away from bleeding out before his parents found him.

"So please think about visiting your father. I'm not asking you to forgive him, just see him. For me."

"Don't do that. It's not fair," he says softly, voice thick. "You can't just lay something like that on me and then use it as leverage. I can't…"

"Hush, it's alright."

It's Remus' turn to do the kissing, mouth eagerly seeking out Sirius' own. Lips part and tongues tangle. Sirius kisses him back as if he's going to disappear at any moment, which is ironic because Remus has never felt his existence more acutely than when he's snogging Sirius.

"To bed?" Remus asks between kisses.

"Maybe."

Pulling back just a bit, Remus sees something off in Sirius expression. A hesitance, perhaps, or guilt. Smiling softly, he runs his fingers through Sirius' hair comfortingly.

"What's wrong?"

"Can we skip the shagging tonight?" he asks uncomfortably.

Half of Remus wants to shout no and the other half hasn't quite recovered from the shock. Sirius not wanting sex? But Sirius always wants sex. Then again, he's likely drained from all he found out tonight, despite the fact that he claims he's unaffected. No one can be unaffected by such news, and Remus realizes that he can't blame Sirius for not wanting to shag under the circumstances. Remus is just sorry that he had to discover said circumstances on the night that he got back into town.

"Of course, I'll just get my things," Remus replies, squeezing his hand.

"No, I mean, would you still stay? I don't…" He smiles weakly. "I missed you."

"Missed you too."

Taking him by the hand, Remus leads Sirius into the master bedroom, his eyes never leaving Sirius' grey. They embrace; they kiss; they strip. The sexual charge is absent though—or as absent as it can be between them—as they crawl into Sirius' bed.

Flesh against flesh, front against back, they hold each other beneath the cool sheets. Remus wonders what Sirius is thinking, wonders if they'll suffer this empty togetherness until Sirius is due to leave in just a few days. There is no blame on Remus' part, of course. But certainly disappointment. Disappointment and sympathy.

He thinks about whether his story of that July night helped Sirius, whether it was worth baring his soul to his lover. As his eyes grow heavy, he feels Sirius' fingers gliding along his cursed wound and thinks that perhaps it was worth it, that maybe he could, in some small way, provide some comfort to Sirius.

.


.

It's with the closing of the wardrobe door that Remus stirs, bleary eyed and altogether incoherent. Deeming the sound unworthy of his attention, he begins to drift back into sleep, feeling as if he's melting into the bed he's so comfortable. There is a distinct weight, however, that hits the edge of the bed followed by the sound of a zipper—something that Remus suddenly finds attention-worthy.

He reaches behind him groggily, feeling for Sirius' warmth and finding it lacking. With what little energy Remus can muster up—Christ, he hates mornings—he lifts his head, seeking out his boyfriend. Their eyes meet, and Sirius is quick move to Remus' side from the end of the bed.

"Go back to sleep, love."

Sirius' long fingers carding through his hair feel heaven sent, his eyes growing steadily heavier with each stroke. However, he suddenly recalls the sound of the zipper. Lifting his head once more, Remus looks to the bed's end and spots with his morning-blurred vision what appears to be a rucksack. The idea that Sirius is packing startles him into action, and he stumbles out of bed in a desperate search for his clothes.

"Where are you going?" he asks, voice thick with sleep.

"Moony, back into bed."

Remus struggles to get his shirt over his head but finally manages to pull it down. "I'm going with you. Where ever it is."

A smile slips onto Sirius' lips, a sight that makes Remus' heart speed up. He draws Remus to him, their bodies colliding roughly in Remus' sleep-drugged state, and runs a finger down the length of Remus' chest.

"Your shirt's on backwards. Not to mention the fact that you're otherwise starkers."

Remus looks down at himself and pouts, wishing that he had a functioning brain in the mornings. "Dress me?"

"You can't go where I'm going, love," he explains, shoving Remus back onto the bed and throwing the duvet over him.

"You're going to Grimmauld Place?"

With a sigh, Sirius lets himself fall next to Remus. He doesn't say anything, but even Remus can tell that Sirius is conflicted about the whole thing. What brought about this change of heart, Remus can't be sure. And, he's almost afraid to ask Sirius for fear of pushing him to go back on his decision.

Sirius needs this, needs to go back to Grimmauld Place and finally make peace with himself over leaving the family. Sirius may deny otherwise, but Remus knows that a part of him still feels that filial connection to Orion and Walburga, to Regulus and the Black legacy. A part of him will always be the heir to the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black.

Remus reaches for his hand and holds it in his own loosely. Sirius does not meet his eyes, but squeezes the hand, perhaps more to reassure himself than to reassure Remus. Remus, however, cannot take his eyes off Sirius' face.

"I love you."

Sirius nods. "That doesn't make this any easier, Remus, as much as I want it to."

"I know."

And he does, because his love for Sirius never made Sirius' arguments with his parents any easier, nor did it quell the panic in him when he said goodbye to Number 12. Remus' love couldn't help him make peace with himself over seeing his baby brother on the battlefield, or soften the blow that came with the news of being burned off the family tree. The only thing that Remus' love for him can do is be a safe harbor against the Black tempest. And Remus made peace with that long ago.

Sirius shakes his head, reflectively. "I want to hate him so badly it hurts, just like he hates me. But I…"

Can't. It lies unspoken, but Remus knows. Sirius was always able to hate his mother, in part due to all the unspeakable things she did to him and Regulus when they were only boys—making them face their fears head on, hexing them for disobedience, forcing them into awful situations. But Remus has always sensed that Sirius' father is somehow different, that there is a respect there that Sirius could never properly wash away for all that he tried.

"I'll come with you."

"No, Remus."

Remus shoots him a disapproving look. "It wasn't an offer. It was a statement. I'm coming with you."

"You're not going to get involved in this. They're my problem."

"You just told me last night that I'm your family, Sirius," he says, giving him a hard shove so he rolls onto his back. "Which makes them my family as well."

"I just—"

"I'm tired of you giving in this relationship and not taking! You've done so much for me, so let me do this one little thing for you, you stupid stubborn arse."

Remus folds his arms over his chest, eyes begging Sirius to try to defy him just as he's watched his mum do so often before. And, surely, he is Cathleen Lupin all over again because Sirius groans in defeat like his own father does under his mum's stern gaze.

.


.

"Promise me," Sirius begins, taking hold of Remus' arm as they arrive in front of Grimmauld Place, "that if things start getting too intense in there, you'll leave."

While Remus may have won the battle to come, he understands that he probably shouldn't push his luck much further. In public, he can't kiss Sirius to reassure him that everything will be fine, that he'll be obliging to Sirius' wants within reason. Instead, Remus forces a smile to his lips, ruffles Sirius' immaculate hair, and lets his hand briefly linger on the leather of Sirius' jacket.

"I promise."

Apparently satisfied, Sirius turns to look at his former home, nervousness so easily read in those pale grey eyes. It's not a second after his hard swallow that he fumbles around in the pockets of his torn denims—the ones that play up his bad boy, devil-may-care persona (and that hug his arse beautifully)—and pulls out a cigarette and a lighter. Remus says nothing when he lights up, fingers jittery, nor does he speak when Sirius leans against the nearest tree. Sirius stares at Number 12 before diverting his eyes briefly only for them to return seconds later.

Sirius takes long drags on the fag, as if the nicotine were a desperately needed lifeline, and the cigarette is gone before Remus knows it. Sirius says nothing as he pushes off the tree towards the house, his hand clenching and unclenching as if to ward off his nerves. Remus follows at his side, up the stairs to Number 12.

Knocking twice, Sirius waits for someone to answer the door, like this is no longer his childhood home. And it isn't, Remus supposes. Sirius lost his right to walk freely in this house when he was burned off the family tree.

It's Regulus who opens the door, and Remus can't help but breathe a sigh of relief for that. Despite the fact that they sent an owl ahead of them, the younger Black still looks surprised to see them. Surprise quickly fades though, Regulus stepping aside to let them in before leading them to what must be a drawing room of sorts.

Having never been in Grimmauld Place before, Remus is taken back by the formality that embodies this room. The lighting is dim, the furniture turn-of-the-century. Everything feels rigid, uncomfortable, un-lived in. It lacks all sense of hominess entirely—a stark contrast to his own childhood home.

He walks deeper into the parlor, as if transfixed by the ancient looking objects held behind glass cupboards and on dark wood shelves. Remus can't even begin to guess their purpose, though it's surely dark. Turning, he runs his fingers over the rich, green brocade of the high back chair, its pattern momentarily dizzying, before his eyes find their way back to Sirius and his brother.

"—but did you have to dress like a Muggle? You know how it infuriates Mother."

Regulus stands before the sofa, dressed to the nines in pure-blood finery. His arms are crossed over his chest, eye brow arched in a Sirius-like fashion. It's striking how Regulus seems to feel at home here—striking how anyone can feel at home here—his confidence somehow flowing off him in waves. He seems like a different Regulus entirely in this environment; while he did not often criticize Sirius at school, Remus now sees the irritation so readily in Regulus' face.

"These are my clothes, alright?" Sirius growls. "So you better learn to fucking deal with them because I'm not changing. Not for you, not for Mother."

"And you brought Lupin," Regulus adds, altogether ignoring Sirius' remarks.

Remus stands up a little straighter at his name, surprised.

"Yeah, you taking issue with that too?" Sirius asks.

Regulus shakes his head. "I like him well enough, brother. Most of the time more than I like you. Unfortunately, I cannot say that the rest of our family shares similar sentiments, especially given that he's the reason you broke off your engagement and left us. Mother thinks so very little of him that—"

"Sirius?"

Remus' eyes snap to the woman in the doorway, a woman that he knows to be Mrs. Black but has only seen from a distance. She's enchanting in her high-neck, bustled gown, long hair swept back on her head. She might have even been beautiful if Remus hadn't known how she'd made Sirius' life a living hell. That is an ugliness that no amount of silk or powder can ever cover up.

It only takes a glance to see how Walburga's presence has affected Sirius—his back now ramrod straight, chin tilted slight upwards, the rise and fall of his chest heavy. She is scrutinizing him, and Sirius is seemingly not disappointing her. Even in Muggle attire, Sirius has the essence of a Black heir.

"Mother," Sirius says, inclining his head in acknowledgement. "You've been well, I trust?"

The confidence in his voice, the cadence and received-pronunciation of his words comes as a surprise to Remus. He's watching his lover transform before his very eyes, and Remus is stuck between being transfixed on this Sirius he has never seen and wanting to beg Sirius to go home with him right now for fear of what he might become under this roof.

"What are you doing here?" she asks, but Remus can't be sure if she's sincerely curious or leaning towards volatile.

"Regulus told me that Father is dying, that he's asking for me."

"Forgive me for going above your head, Mother," Regulus begs softly, directing his eyes to the floor.

It's an incredible sight to witness—the sudden shift of deference. Confident Regulus reduced to staring at his shoes, spiteful Sirius inquiring after his mother's health, hot-tempered Walburga scrutinizing in cold silence. As if they all know just how big their personalities are, they try to reign in the most unstable elements to keep the room from crashing around them.

A pregnant silence hangs heavy between them, everyone seemingly uncertain as to how Walburga is going to react to Sirius next. Remus half-expected hexes to be flying already, having heard tales of Walburga's infamous temper and insanity. He doesn't think Sirius was lying about her all these years, but something is distinctly off—unexpected, even—about her acceptance of her eldest back in the House of Black.

"Very well. I do not presume I need to explain to you the danger the family is in now that your father is to be taken from us so soon. I trust that you shall act accordingly until I may speak with you and Regulus privately at a later time."

"Danger?" Sirius raises one delicately arched eyebrow. "I don't understand. Is this another mad delusion of yours, Mother? Paranoia setting in, perhaps?"

"Has your time spent with blood traitors rendered you incapable of hearing or basic English comprehension, Sirius? I saw to it that you were educated in four languages. Shall I try another?" she screeches, mad glint in her eye. "We will speak of this later."

Sirius says nothing, having been properly scolded into silence. It takes no small force to make him speechless, and unsurprisingly Walburga Black is such a force. Remus sympathizes with Sirius, but that only lasts a minute until Walburga's eyes—Sirius' eyes, the Black eyes—fall heavily, murderously upon him.

Tension surges through the air, and Remus wonders for a moment if it isn't the collective Black magic. Both Regulus and Sirius know he's drawn her attention, Regulus looking momentarily panicked and Sirius considerably on edge. Remus thinks he could die from her gaze alone.

"What is that and why is it in my home?"

Sirius immediately moves to shield Remus from his mother, stepping almost entirely in front of him.

"This, as you so delicately put it, is my boyfriend."

"The one you left your bride for?"

"The very same, Mother."

Walburga sneers in disgust, her relatively handsome face shifting into ugliness that stems from bigotry and prejudice. Remus knows the look, knows it because so many wizards and witches have thrown him the same expression before. He wonders if she realizes he is unmoved by it—numb to it—after all these years.

"I would like to see Father," Sirius says carefully, seemingly aware that his mother is eyeing her prey.

"And you would like to bring that thing along with you, I presume?"

"Mother," Regulus mutters harshly, finally finding his voice in an attempt at peace-keeping.

"I will protect you from relatives who would rather see you dead than in the House of Black again, Sirius. I will not, however, extend the same to your whore."

It's surprising that Walburga would protect Sirius from anything after what had happened between him and his family. Remus doesn't know this woman, but is smart enough to realize that there has to be something working beyond the surface here. She raged at him when he left, raged and cursed and wished he'd never been born. Time fixes things, but Remus always had the impression that time could not fix them. No, something has happened and she suddenly needs Sirius. Of that, Remus is certain.

Sirius' lip curls into a growl. "Call him that again and I'll leave."

"Turn your back on this family again, and I shall see to it that the fury of hell is at your heels until I draw my dying breath." Her gaze shifts to Remus. "Your whore is not worth such a cost, I assure you."

Quick as lightening, Sirius draws his wand, mouth pulled into a grimace. He points it at her, all confidence save for his shaking hand. Regulus jumps to attention, rushing to his brother's side and trying to restrain Sirius' wand arm. Remus is too surprised to do a thing, and it's a tribute to the insanity of this household that Regulus was able to move at all.

Walburga, for her part, smiles serenely at her son, completely unfazed by being held at wand point. She stands up slightly straighter and smoothes the black satin of her dress.

"Go on," she encourages, voice strangely maternal. "I know you have it in you, Sirius."

Sirius doesn't though. His wand arm lowers moments later, and with it, Walburga's smile fades. There is disappointment in that grey. Remus doesn't know what it means when a mother is hopeful that her son will attack her, wonders how far a family has descended into madness at that point. But it's not surprising that Sirius has the issues that he has having lived in this house.

"I taught you better than that," she hisses at Sirius before turning on her heel and leaving the parlor as she came.

Regulus' grip loosens, and he draws back from Sirius, apparently confident that Sirius isn't going anywhere. And it seems that way because Sirius stands frozen with the exception of his hand tightening and loosening its hold on his wand. Remus steps up, places a comforting touch to Sirius' shoulder.

"Was she always so fucking crazy?" Sirius asks in an exasperated half-sob.

Remus forgot for a moment what this house does to Sirius, how it slowly steals away the essence of him—his charm, his wit, his humor—until he's just a shade of himself. Not ten minutes in its doors and he's already teetering on the edge of panic. Remus doesn't know how to fix it, doesn't know if he can even help Sirius through today if he's spiraling out of control this far, this fast. They shouldn't be here.

Pushing Sirius' hair behind his ears, Remus says, "Let's go home."

"You can't." Regulus shoots Sirius a bitter glare. "Father has been asking for you. If you leave now, Mother will make good on her promise and I won't even attempt to come to your defense. You owe it to us to do this."

"I don't owe you anything, Reg," Sirius spits. "Not a damn thing."

Regulus' face scrunches up both in disgust and hurt. "You're a selfish bastard, Sirius."

He turns to exit just as his mother did, in defeat and disappointment. Sirius' eyes follow Regulus out of the room, mouth drawn in a line that Remus knows to be regret. For a moment before Regulus turns the corner, Remus thinks that Sirius is going to call him back, to apologize two seconds too late as he always does. But something stops him, and nothing stops Regulus.

"Sirius, you don't have to—"

"Yeah, I do," he replies softly. "I need to see my father, but sure as hell not for them or for him. You were right, Moony. I need to do this for myself. I'm going to tell him what a pathetic excuse for a father he was, and then I'm walking out that door for the last time."

.


.

When Sirius explained that most of his family was Death Eaters, Remus initially thought that he was exaggerating as Sirius is wont to do. As it turns out, he was telling the truth.

As they walk into the small antechamber that leads to the master bedroom, they find half the Death Eaters they have ever fought waiting in silence. Remus notices that some appear to be in mourning over the approaching death of one of their own—a man both ruthless and powerful, both pure and noble. He does not miss the looks on the others' faces, though—most particularly those of the Malfoys; they look as if Christmas has come early, especially Narcissa who preens in the seat next to her mother.

Remus draws himself closer to Sirius as Sirius comes to a halt before his aunts, uncles, and cousins. His right hand hovers just above his pocketed wand, nerves tense with the expectation of a battle breaking out at any moment. Yet the room remains frighteningly still; the only weapons drawn are sneers and cold glares.

"And so the prodigal returns," says Druella Black.

"Looking like the blood traitor he is," Bellatrix adds, eyes wicked. "Daring to show his face."

Having never laid eyes on Bellatrix out of her Death Eater robes, her distinct lack of prettiness surprises him. She looks out of her mind—features twisting, mouth curling, heavy-lidded eyes held wide beyond naturalness. And her voice Remus will never forget. A perpetual hiss, as if her master has rubbed off on her, with unnatural sharpness and deepness. It's quite enough to give him nightmares.

Walburga, however, is unfazed by her mad niece, apparently too used to her insanity–or so insane herself—that it goes unnoticed. The air nearly cracks around her with magic as Walburga turns to Bellatrix and her mother. Her look is one of disgust, of being perpetually bothered by imps not worthy of standing in her presence. It's no wonder Sirius has a larger than life personality; that's a basic survival skill in this house, it seems.

"You will do well to remember your place, Druella, Bellatrix. Prodigal he may be, but he is also your better. A son of the House of Black, where you are not."

Druella looks properly scolded into silence—perhaps she does know her place as merely a woman and one who married into the family. Bellatrix, however, is thoroughly insulted, judging from the shock so clearly written on her face. Remus thinks that if she were just a bit more mad, she might even draw her wand, but even Bellatrix seems to know the consequences of such an action. Not for the first time, Remus begins to see the power Sirius' mother holds over this family.

"Go on then, cousin," Bellatrix snarls as Walburga passes through the doorway to the bedroom, "Hide behind your mummy's skirts as you've always done."

"Bellatrix," her father scolds, though mindful to keep his voice down, "Silence yourself. You are not yet in a position to taunt."

Remus has no idea what that's supposed to mean, no idea what sort of shifts in power Orion's death will bring. However, Regulus, who had just entered the room, does seem to understand on some level—eyes widened, mouth thinned. He lacks the courage to say anything—perhaps he can't say anything—and instead takes what appears to be the seat of honor nearest to the roaring fire. Whatever happens next, Remus doesn't know, as Sirius is pulling him into the master bedroom.

Walburga shows them into the room before closing the door behind her as she leaves. After setting sight on his father, Sirius takes several dazed steps towards the bed. And Remus does not need words to know what is on his lover's mind; no, the shock, the confusion in Sirius' expression is enough.

Sirius doesn't recognize the man that lies in that bed, aged thirty years from sickness since last they saw one another. Gone is the smooth-yet-lined skin, the thick head of hair, the lean muscles, the proud tilt of the chin. Here lies a gaunt and graying old man, a shadow of his former glory—proof that not even Black men are immune to Death's call, for all that they are led to believe otherwise in youth.

He looks back to Remus, horrified, as if to say: This is not my father. He senses what Sirius is begging him to say—that, no, this isn't him. Remus can only look at him apologetically, though. Horror starts to bleed into something else—something that Remus isn't even sure he can describe. Sorrow, maybe. Or pain. Or heartache. It's too hard to say because Sirius has always forced himself to hate his father. But it's certainly not the anger that Sirius intended it to be; that much is certain.

A thick swallow, and then Sirius approaches Orion's bedside. "Father?"

Orion's eyebrows rise to acknowledge the voice, but that is all Sirius gets as a response.

"I came like you asked."

It's a boy's voice, not a man's—one that is seeking a father's praise and approval. Remus' heart breaks for Sirius, for the first time bearing witness to the complexity of Sirius' emotions for his family. Where Remus only saw rage and hatred before, he can see the need for acceptance now that must have stemmed from that first misstep—Sirius' sorting into Gryffindor—the need for acceptance that has been denied for eight years.

"Father, it's Sirius," he tries once more. "I'm sorry for not coming sooner. I'm…so, so sorry."

Orion wheezes a breath, wet with mucus that he immediately begins to cough up in a terrible fit. Sirius' mouth drops open in a panic before he grabs a handkerchief from the bedside table, holding it to his father's mouth as he cradles Orion's head. It seems like it's never going to end, but eventually the coughing subsides. And as Sirius draws back the handkerchief, Remus sees large patches of coughed up blood.

It can't be long now.

Sirius presses his father for some form of acknowledgment over and over again, but only receives a small, weak pat on the forearm from Orion's horribly shaking hand. It's not enough, though, because Sirius urges him for more, demands shifting into tiny, desperate pleas.

Remus does not hear the door open or close, his thoughts too consumed on how best to comfort Sirius as there is no doubt he is going to need it. It's with a surprise then that Remus sees Walburga move through the room to Sirius' side, placing one hand on his shoulder—the only motherly gesture he has ever seen Walburga give Sirius.

"A Black does not beg, Sirius," she says, and while it sounds like a scolding, there is no heat to her words. "He cannot answer you now."

"Why didn't you send for me sooner?" Sirius bites out.

"I thought you indifferent."

Sirius jumps from his position on the bed, towering over her. "He is my father!"

Walburga nods. "And you are his son in ways that you cannot begin to grasp. For all that you may try, you will never be able to wash away your fine breeding, never be able to be anything but a Black. You can stand before me in Mudblood clothing, but that does not strip you of the lessons we instilled in you. You carry yourself with the grace of the prince that you are."

Sirius stares at his father's barely conscious form for a long moment, appearing to seek some sort of confirmation of his mother's words. And with a temper that has always been quick to change, Sirius shrugs off his mother's hand and pushes away from her.

"It's not like that. I never amounted to anything more than a disappointment to him, a ruined son. So I wish you'd stop trying to convince me otherwise, especially when I know you feel the same way that he does."

"How very presumptuous of you," she replies coolly, though not bothering to deny Sirius' accusations.

"Admit it!"

The hurt that slipped over Sirius when he first laid eyes on his father is gone, its absence bringing a sort of blind rage. Remus has seen it before, with every letter from the Blacks, with every approaching holiday from school. And though he's compelled to calm Sirius down, he knows it's no use. This conflagration will burn out soon enough.

Moments tick by, silent and heavy. Remus' insides coil up tightly with tension, waiting for the inevitable explosion. Sirius' eyes are trained on his mother's, as if willing her to say something or drop dead, and her own return the look icily.

When Remus sees the tell-tale look of eruption from Sirius—the tension in his jaw, the deep breaths, the twitch of his nose—he braces himself for shouted profanities or thrown hexes. He does not, however, expect Sirius to storm out of the room without a word.

.


.

After following him down the corridor, Remus avoids Sirius' old bedroom for a few minutes. Sirius will likely need time to collect himself after all that, and if there is one thing he's learned about Sirius, it's that he hates anyone to see him coming unraveled.

If he could turn back time, Remus doesn't think he would have given Sirius the letter, not when he's seen how thoroughly shaken Sirius is now that he's back in Grimmauld Place. This is not at all what he expected. All he wanted for Sirius was closure, for him to be able to let go of his past demons. Remus never fully understood how big or terrifying those demons were until now, though. It's as if Sirius has become a stranger, a doppelganger that has stolen his lover's face. And Remus has no one to blame but himself.

When Remus finally does enter the room, he finds Sirius sitting on the edge of his bed, head hanging and back to the door. Any comment could be the wrong one—I'm sorry, Are you alright?, You're scaring the hell out of me – so to bide his time, Remus glances around, taking in first sight of Sirius' room.

In a lighter situation, Remus would be amused by the Muggle posters of half-naked women and motorbikes in the bedroom of a young man distinctly confused by disenchanted Muggle things. An act of rebellion, Remus thinks—a last effort to gain some sort of acknowledgment from parents who were far past responding to their wayward son. The red and gold banners and draperies just serve to accent an already evident point.

Treading carefully, Remus moves to sit next to Sirius on the bed. Sirius makes no attempt to acknowledge him, but Remus knows that Sirius isn't so lost in himself that he doesn't know he's there. They sit in heavy silence, the creaks and groans of the House of Black serving to make that silence all the louder.

"I imagined it to be bigger."

Slowly, Sirius raises his eyes to meet him. "What to be bigger?"

"Your bedroom." Remus shrugs. "It's still a good deal bigger than mine, but—"

"Don't," Sirius begs miserably, voice rough like gravel. "I…I know what you're trying to do, Moony. So just don't."

His thought process—the one telling him to avoid the big issue, the hippogriff in the room—dies a swift death with Sirius' words. Sobering, Remus lets his own head drop and swallows hard, his throat suddenly very dry.

"Do you want to talk about it?" Remus asks in an almost-whisper.

Sirius snorts, as if it's the stupidest question in the world. "No."

Remus wonders if the source of Sirius' distance is due to helplessness, or embarrassment, or something equally as difficult to qualify. And feeling utterly helpless himself, Remus stares blankly at the floor, imagining being in bed with Sirius right now at Sirius' flat—the taste of his smile, the brush of his kiss, the passion alight in his eyes.

"It's complicated, Moonshine," Sirius says eventually, after what feels like a lifetime.

"What is?"

He gives a derisive little laugh. "Everything. Sometimes… sometimes I think I really am mad, just like dear old mum."

"You're not," Remus comforts, placing his hand on Sirius' arm.

They hold each other's gaze for moments until Sirius shakes his head and slips off the bed to the window. Remus wishes he knew more Legilimency than he does—which is to say none. He can't even begin to guess what's going through Sirius' mind. Maybe if he tries to get Sirius to open up indirectly, he'll have success.

"What will happen after your father passes?" he asks, gently. "Your mother will be left everything, I assume. Or will it be Regulus since he's…"

Remus trails off upon the realization that he's nearly breeched a particularly sore subject—Sirius' disinheritance. He waits for Sirius' reaction, bracing himself for anger, and is therefore surprised when Sirius turns to him rather unaffected.

"It doesn't quite work like that. Everything will be left to the entirety of his recognized family, not just one person."

"Recognized family?"

Sirius nods. "My mother, Regulus, and myself, if I hadn't been disinherited. When they were married, a ceremony was performed so that the magic tied to Grimmauld Place will only acknowledge themselves and any children of their shared blood. My father's bastards won't receive so much as a Knut of the fortune or a piece of Goblin-made dinnerware."

"Bastards?" Remus asks, rather louder than he meant to in his surprise.

"He had two mistresses, my father. I never met them, only heard my mother screaming at him about them. Not that taking on a mistress is uncommon, mind. It's rather expected, but Father had a taste for a particular Muggle-born. Kept her for years from what I understand. Needless to say, Mother wasn't exactly pleased."

While that was all very informative, Remus' head is still spinning with the idea that Sirius has siblings other than Regulus. He's never mentioned them, though he obviously knew about them. Remus supposes that fact alone ought to say something about Sirius' upbringing, about how utterly fucked up it was.

"But your siblings," Remus prompts.

"A sister from his Muggle-born mistress. Named after a constellation, which was the final straw for my mother. A mistress and bastard she could tolerate, but my father was showing a bit too much favoritism. Anyway, I think she's seven years old or somewhere thereabout. And a younger brother by his other mistress, who no one speaks of."

Sirius may disregard the fact that he has other siblings, but Remus has the distinct impression that it affects him more than he might let on. Having spent years seeking out his father's affections and approval, it must have dealt Sirius quite the blow to learn about a favored sister, a sister that, as far as Remus can tell, received more support and acknowledgment than pure-blood proprieties deem acceptable.

Rising from the bed, Remus moves to stand in front of Sirius. What he's going to say, he isn't sure. And as he watches Sirius work through what he's just said—the confession of a father's unrequited interest and affection—he sees the thoughts manifesting themselves on Sirius' face through the pulling of his lips and narrowing of his eyes. Maybe, Remus thinks, silence might be best.

"He hated me, Remus," Sirius explains softly, as if coming upon a potential discovery. "He hated me because I chose you over my fiancée where he chose my mother over the woman he loved. And not only that, but I was living proof of that betrayal from the moment I was born."

"I don't think he hated you. Things aren't so cut and dry like that, Sirius."

"It is in this case. He hated me, and I still can't bring myself to hate him." He looks up, swallowing hard. "I wasn't good enough. I should have been a better son, a better heir."

Remus takes him by the arms and gives him a firm shake. "Shut up. I'm not going to stand here and let you beat yourself up over this. For Christ's sake, he's the one with the issue, not you. You're perfect."

A statement that he knows will go straight to Sirius' already swollen ego, Remus says it all the same. And Remus leans in to kiss Sirius—firmly and tenderly, filled to the brim with affection that Sirius was always starved for. As their bodies align and their lips meet, he feels his perfection.

He gets lost in the storm of Sirius' emotions, kissing roughly then softly then hesitantly then fully. And Remus can only try to stay afloat, to meet Sirius with twice what Sirius is giving him. His head spins, internal compass broken, but none of that really matters so long as Sirius is getting lost as well.

.


.

For the remainder of the day, Remus and Sirius stay locked up in the room, mostly in quiet companionship. Dinner arrives promptly at six via an old house-elf—one that Remus thinks is the infamous Kreacher he heard so much about at school—which is then followed by a summons at eight o'clock by Walburga.

Sirius says little when Remus follows him into a small, though luxurious, study on the third floor, something that surprises Remus, as he was expecting an argument. A fire burns in the fireplace, warming the slightly drafty room. It's not long before Remus is tugging at the collar of his jumper to free himself of excess heat.

Walburga arrives shortly after in a bustle of black satin, Regulus trailing directly behind her. Without so much as a glance at him or Sirius, she sits herself in a cushioned, high-back chair near the fireplace, countenance stern and straight to business.

"Must he go wherever you go, Sirius?" she asks bitterly, eyes trained on Remus. "He follows you around like an insipid little house-elf. It's perfectly unseemly."

Sirius rolls his eyes. "I love him. He stays."

"I do not have time to argue with you. We are at great risk of being discovered as it is. I'll permit his presence this once. Though it should be known that if he speaks of anything said tonight, your whore will find that restrictions placed upon him by the Ministry's Werewolf Registry will tighten considerably."

Remus' jaw tenses, and he takes several deep breathes. She would make good on the threat—would perhaps make good on it regardless of whether he talked or not—if it weren't for the fact that she wants Sirius for something. He needs to tread carefully around her because if Remus knows anything, it's that the Blacks have all the sway over the Ministry that they want.

Sirius opens his mouth—perhaps to come to Remus' defense once again—but Walburga silences him with a wave of her hand. She then straightens herself, her back nearly rigid, and smoothes the fabric of her fine dressrobes.

"When your father passes—and I cannot imagine it will be long—we will all find ourselves in a very serious predicament. I am not so much concerned about my own well-being. No, my fool of a sister-in-law and the Malfoy family know better than to cross me. I do, however, have great fear for the safety of my sons," she explains, inclining her head to acknowledge Sirius and Regulus.

"Mother, I'm afraid I still don't completely understand," Regulus says from the chair next to her.

"Your father's line is the line of primary inheritance. It is we who control the family properties, fortune, and positions of power in society. Yet, we are without an heir. Your brother," she looks at Sirius, "failed to marry his bride, failed to get a child on her. And now we are left in a very severe and dangerous position."

"Because we're only left with Regulus as heir," Sirius clarifies, arms folded across his chest as he leans against the grand desk in the center of the room.

Remus is surprised that he's going along with this, surprised at how intently he's listening to his mother. For a moment, he thinks that Sirius may be falling back into the life he left behind. But, no, he wouldn't. He hated that life. Surely this all comes down to getting information. Surely.

"Indeed. It would not even be enough if we reinstated you in the line of inheritance. We need the next generation to ensure our place of power."

"I don't see how any of this affects me anymore," Sirius counters.

"Who stands to gain everything?"

"Bellatrix. She would be next in line after me with Sirius disinherited," Regulus says.

"You are wrong! That stupid, stupid girl. My brother should have been more careful with her. She is above her head in the Dark Arts, and is now worthless as anyone's bride."

Remus isn't sure what this means, where any of this is going, only that he's concerned for Sirius. If Mrs. Black, mad and spiteful as she is, is worried that something might happen to Sirius, Remus knows there must be a threat to him. But Sirius, as his grey eyes widen, apparently has a better idea of what's happening.

"She's barren?" he asks.

Regulus looks shocked, his mouth dropping open and his eyes immediately drawn to his mother. "But she was pregnant last year!"

"Yes, and the child came early and dead. Tiny, scrap of a thing deformed beyond recognition. As was the child Lestrange got on her before they were wed. Dead and deformed, a mark of a girl who has been hit by too many curses and participated in far too many dark and unorthodox rituals. She's no good to her parents or the Lestranges now. No, Bellatrix is not our enemy."

Suddenly, Remus recalls the way Narcissa looked earlier, the words her father said. And before he can stop himself, he says, "Narcissa."

Everyone looks at him, first in surprise before Walburga's eyes narrow. It's as if by opening his mouth, he's personally offended her. And by acknowledging the fact that he's listening in on the conversation, she becomes suddenly more resentful of his presence in her home. For a moment, Remus thinks she's going to draw her wand, but Sirius clears his throat, reminding her of their unspoken truce, so Walburga continues.

"Narcissa," she confirms. "That dull, obedient girl who lacks the crazed danger-lust of her eldest sister and the rebellious nature of her middle. As far as I can tell, she is in perfect health. Coupled with the ambition of her mother and the Malfoys, we are in grave danger, indeed. Mark my words, she will be with child within the year. We can only hope it is a girl, but the Malfoys are known for producing boys."

"But that would still require something happening to me," Regulus interjects.

"Do you think that difficult to arrange, son? You've agreed, against mine and your father's wishes, to join the Dark Lord's cause, putting you in the middle of the war. If Dumbledore's fools do not strike you down soon, the Malfoys will arrange it. No one will think anything of it on the battlefield. I would rather your brother be brought back into the line of inheritance than let the house of my fathers fall into the hands of a new-money, less-pure family like the Malfoys."

"And I can be killed just as easily," Sirius says, eyes unfocused staring towards the floor.

Walburga nods. "And then we truly are finished."

Remus reaches out for Sirius' hand and squeezes when their fingers intertwine. As if the threat of the war itself wasn't bad enough, now they have to worry about the Death Eaters actively seeking to kill Sirius. The thought of life without him leaves Remus strikingly empty, and he vows to fight to protect Sirius, even if it means his own life. He would rather die than live without him, as cliché as such a sentiment sounds.

"I…I ought to be married," Regulus says hesitantly, breaking the heavy silence. "It is my duty, and I should like a companion very much, I think."

Sirius scoffs. "You're eighteen, Regulus. You don't even understand what you're saying."

"You were just seventeen when you were engaged."

"Yes, and I hated it."

"You hated it because you were already in love with someone else. I've never permitted myself to become so close to a young lady, so this isn't an issue for me."

"Enough!" Walburga shrieks, her patience seemingly wearing quite thin. "Regulus will be betrothed soon. Your father and I were in negotiations with several worthy, noble families before he fell ill. Once he is buried, I will continue them myself. It is no longer a question of if, but when. Still, heirs take time to produce. I will not rest easy until we have a son in the cradle and another in the womb, and neither of you are out of danger until then."

Tightening his hold on Remus' hand, Sirius looks at him, eyes apologetic as if to say he is sorry for dragging him into this mess. Remus shakes his head; there is no other place he'd rather be than supporting Sirius. This isn't easy—being with his family again. And while Sirius is taking it well at the moment, that is no doubt subject to change on a whim.

A pop! startles Remus, and he looks in the direction of the fireplace to see the house-elf that delivered dinner. The house-elf bows deeply before Walburga, but she looks on with complete disregard.

"Mistress was wanting to know if Abraxas Malfoy was snooping around Grimmauld Place. He is looking for Mistress and acting strangely."

"Very well." She dismisses the house-elf with a wave of her hand, and he leaves with another pop!. "Even though we are to be mourning your father, I do not expect that the three of us should be seen alone together. No doubt Abraxas will become more suspicious than he already is. You may go, and quickly."

With the dismissal, Sirius is the first to move, eager no doubt to be out from under his mother's eyes. However, it's Regulus who reaches the door first and exits. Before Sirius can even come in close proximity to it, Walburga has grabbed him by the upper arm, stopping his progress.

"You have failed at your duty as our heir and have forsaken us, Sirius. However, that disappointment will be nothing compared to the disappointment I would feel if you gave Malfoy the pleasure of killing you. For Merlin's sake, use your wits, son, and promise me you will protect your brother. Blood comes before all else. Remember that."

"I won't disappoint you this time, Mother," he says with great conviction. "No Malfoy is going to get the best of me, regardless of how you feel on the matter."

Such obvious defiance—Sirius telling her that her opinion means nothing to him—and yet Walburga looks at Sirius with maternal pride.

.


.

A long night follows that conversation with Walburga, Remus unable to sleep from worry. His mind races with thoughts of Death Eater attacks and the danger that Sirius is now in. Only a day ago he had been thinking how badly he didn't want to see Sirius leave in a matter of days. Now though, Remus thinks that perhaps Sirius leaving for the Greece job won't be such a bad thing after all; at least he's safer away from England. It pains Remus that he can't go along with him due to sanctions on werewolf travel. Sometimes he wonders if they'll ever get the opportunity to be happy.

For hours, he stares at Sirius, tracing his features in the pale moonlight to commit them to memory. Every time a stray piece of hair falls onto pale skin, Remus brushes it out of the way. Sirius moves with every touch of his fingers, curling himself closer and closer still against Remus' chest. Remus' heart aches, threatened by the thought of some permanent separation from Sirius.

He's not quite sure how Sirius can sleep so soundly, so peacefully amongst so much turmoil. His father is dying; his mother is being strangely warm in her own, cold way. Sirius' life is in danger two-fold now, yet Remus is certain that he wouldn't wake even if someone Reductoed the room around them. Perhaps he even loves him a little more for it, despite the fact he doesn't understand.

At dawn, Sirius stirs, greeting him with a lazy smile. They draw soft kisses from each other's lips and even softer moans. Sirius is hard against his thigh, and Remus aches to touch him, to have him. They've still not shagged—a fact that Remus considers entirely criminal.

"Want you," Remus murmurs against Sirius collarbone, placing a gentle bite there.

Sirius grins, sleepily. "I can feel that."

Remus rolls his hips against Sirius, bringing a whimpered oh from him. He watches as Sirius' eyes flutter shut, knowing that Sirius is living in the sensations he's providing. Hand finding its way between them, he nearly has Sirius in his grasp—and he really does love that fact that Sirius sleeps starkers—when Sirius rolls away from him, evading his touch.

"Sirius," he groans.

Sirius brings a finger to his lips. "Wait. I need to get up and show myself, visit Father and the like. You understand, right?"

It would be easier to pretend that he doesn't, to pretend that he's completely forgotten words and have his way with Sirius. But he does get it. Perhaps it's not so much out of obligation to his family even, but to show Malfoy that he's not going to hide from him.

Remus nods, though not without disappointment, "Yeah, I understand."

"You look exhausted," he says, carding his fingers through Remus' hair. "Did you get any sleep at all last night?"

"A bit, maybe," Remus replies, shrugging. "Should I go with you?"

"No, stay here. Sleep." He pushes Remus down on the bed. "I'll be back by lunch, and then…"

Grinning wickedly, Sirius draws his finger up Remus' hard length, making Remus shudder pleasantly and want to curse him all the same. He crawls out of bed, rummaging around for fresh clothes in his rucksack. Remus, all the while, stares up at the red canopy of Sirius' bed, contemplating whether or not he wants to waste what little energy he has wanking after Sirius leaves.

"Moony?"

Remus looks to a now-dressed Sirius. "Hmm?"

"I love you. Don't worry so much." He waves his hand about the air. "Sweet dreams, yeah?"

Remus' eyes, suddenly heavy, close. A sleeping charm, he thinks, before he falls into quick slumber, not even hearing Sirius leave.

.

What Remus does hear midst the haze of sleepiness is the not so subtle closing of the bedroom door. He stirs, thinking Sirius is back, but does not open his eyes or bother moving. No, Sirius will crawl into bed any moment now, and Remus will let him think he's asleep.

Except Sirius doesn't crawl into bed. There is a sharp, impatient, and distinctly feminine, clearing of the throat, and Remus is suddenly very awake. He blinks rapidly, forcing the sleep from his eyes and struggling to focus. When he does, he is confronted by the exceedingly perturbed Mrs. Black, looking immaculately put together. For a moment, Remus wonders if she has ever worn anything besides dressrobes, but that thought is cut short by a heavy pouch that's thrown onto the bed.

"What's this?" he asks, trying to cover himself up quickly after the realization that he's practically naked in front of Sirius' mother.

She lifts her brow. "Payment."

"I'm sorry. I'm afraid I don't understand."

He tries his best to be polite, despite the fact that he isn't following her. However, Remus thinks he knows enough to know whatever "payment" she's offering him isn't for anything good. Not moving to take the pouch, Remus waits expectantly for her answer.

"I want you to take the money and leave my son. I've provided you with more Galleons than you are likely to see in your entire lifetime, werewolf, so I suggest that you take my offer graciously."

"I'm sorry that you think so little of me. What I feel for Sirius can't be bought, Mrs. Black. Keep your gold. I'm not interested, and I won't ever be."

Her moderate good humor suddenly fades, face contorted in anger. "What do you think you can provide him with that no pure-blood woman can? Certainly not a child, no. Or a legitimate marriage. You keep him from his inheritance, his birthright. My son is destined for greatness, and you are doing nothing but holding him back, you filthy half-breed!"

Remus pretends like he isn't hearing his own insecurities—his own misgivings about his relationship with Sirius—thrown back at him. Because whether he wants to admit it or otherwise, he is responsible for Sirius' disinheritance. The marriage problem doesn't bother Remus, at least not now. And as of their last conversation on the subject, it doesn't matter to Sirius. But a child… Sirius has been strangely quiet on the subject, which shakes Remus to his very foundations. For all that he hates it, Mrs. Black's points are mostly valid, and Remus can only think to respond with a feeble attempt at justification.

"I love him," he whispers, though loud enough that she can hear.

"Any woman can warm his bed just as well as you. Do not be so stupid to think that makes you remarkable in any way."

"He loves me, too, you know. If he found out that you were trying to buy me, he'd never forgive you."

"Do you think he will ever forgive me for the countless number of other atrocities I've committed against him? I would rather be mother to a strong, brilliant son than to one who loves me. If you are trying to appeal to my maternal sensibilities, you may stop now. It will do you no good."

Once upon a time, Remus wondered how Sirius could fold so easily under his mother's harsh words. He remembers the questions and comments he'd put to his lover—Why do you put up with it? or So just tell her that, Sirius— in those days in Gryffindor Tower. But now, under that same stern gaze, that same infuriated voice, Remus knows. It serves as a striking example of just how determined Sirius is that he was able to tell this woman he was leaving. If it had been him, no doubt he would still be under her thumb.

"You see how futile this is, half-breed? You are only serving to hold him back, but Sirius will recognize it soon enough. He does not have a mind for anyone to chain him as you are doing. He will grow weary of you, mark my words, and will leave. Take your gold and spare yourself the misery."

In Remus' silence, she thinks she's won, her expression shifting back to her usual mask of indifference. In her victory, she turns to the door, and though she may be right, Remus won't give her the satisfaction.

"This relationship may be destined for ruin," he begins, and she pauses, "but I'm going to see it through. I hate to see him unhappy, so if he's going to return to this hell, madam, he'll do it of his own accord. I won't force that unhappiness upon him."

"You fool!"

The glass lamp on the bedside table shatters with a muttered Reducto, shards exploding onto the bed. He covers his eyes instinctually and wonders if the spell wasn't meant for him directly instead of the furnishings.

Apparently even she can recognize a lost cause when she sees it, though, and shuts the door loudly with her departure. Remus lies back after banishing the glass, staring at nothing in particular, mind lost in a faraway place. He thinks it strange how someone can be so out of line and yet so right.

His and Sirius' relationship is far from fairy tale. They've gotten together, broken up, and gotten back together again. They are so remarkably different that it's a wonder that they can get along at all. Perhaps the fates are against them. Perhaps he'll never have that ideal life with Sirius. All evidence suggests that he won't. His whole part in the relationship rides on the fact that none of that matters, that he's somehow enough for Sirius. That Sirius loves him.

And somehow if Sirius does love him like he claims, that is enough for Remus.

.


.

When Sirius does return, Remus is still laying in bed, on his stomach. He stares out the window, pretty sunlight somehow turned grimy as it passes through the glass. A prison, he thinks, and nothing more. It can hardly be a wonder, then, how everyone that lived in this house for their lifetime has gone mad. A cold fog looms in Grimmauld Place, like the icy chill of a Dementor, casting a spell of misery on its inhabitants.

And that very spell of misery has been cast on Sirius, perhaps truly for the first time since they arrived. As Remus moves to look over his shoulder when Sirius slips onto the bed, Sirius gently stops him. He hears Sirius sniff back tears and wetness, hears it and pretends that he hasn't. While Remus can't remember exactly when, he knows it's been quite some time since Sirius was moved to tears, perhaps as far back as sixth year. Suddenly, Remus is grateful that Sirius has denied him a glance.

"Sirius?"

A hot, wet kiss grazes Remus' neck, and then, "Don't, love."

Sirius moves, cat-like, against him, stretching over him and pinning him to the bed by his wrists. Sirius' grip is not hard, just firm enough that Remus won't try to move; Remus thinks Sirius should know by now that he would never deny him this.

This is something uniquely Sirius—a need to work through physically what he's struggling with mentally. It's nothing new to Remus, but it has been a while. Seventh year was a particularly difficult year for Sirius, considering his family drama ending in his disinheritance. Remus cannot count the number of nights Sirius sneaked into his bed, took him gently by the hands, and, without looking at him once, shagged him. Remus, for his part, just tries to meet Sirius' needs—needs that, in all honesty, he can only guess at.

He doesn't hear the lubrication charm, but he feels it immediately, his stomach muscles clenching. Sirius allows him a moment to adjust—always has, despite Remus being long past the point of needing the time to do so—planting trails of kisses down his spine. Remus shivers as Sirius' tongue traces imaginary patterns along a particularly nasty scar on his back. The area being always sensitive, he makes an involuntary whimper of approval.

And then Sirius is sliding back up his body, his cock brushing against Remus' entrance. It's not but a second later that Sirius is pushing past the tight muscle until he's buried deep within him. Sirius moves immediately, quick and hard and pointedly. In. Out. In. Out.

Remus raises his hips to meet the violent thrusts. Sirius pounds into him, and Remus feels utterly raw, as if this is what shagging is at its most fundamental level. It's good, and it's working, and Remus finds himself pushed towards the precipice. As much as he enjoys topping—and he does so frequently in this relationship—sometimes having Sirius filling him brings back the nostalgia of those first few times.

What ultimately breaks that nostalgia is Sirius burying his head in the crook of Remus' neck, letting out a sort of sob. But not the good kind of sob, not an orgasm induced sob. This sob breaks Remus, heart and soul. How he wishes he was not responsible for bringing Sirius to this place again.

A kiss follows in its wake. Then a sob. Then a kiss until they somehow blend into little kiss-sobs that don't make much sense to Remus, yet that's the only way he can describe them. His own erection flags, and it's a testament to Sirius' virility that he can even keep this up in his current condition.

Keep it up he does until he's shuddering and spilling himself inside Remus. Sirius wilts gracefully, first against Remus' back and then to his side. Remus does not stir, does not chance to roll over for fear that Sirius' cheeks are still wet.

Moments pass, Remus waiting for some sign that it's safe, before Sirius mutters, "I'm sorry."

"You don't have anything to be sorry for," he replies, rolling to face Sirius and planting a loving kiss on his nose.

"You didn't even come, Moony."

"Doesn't matter. Are you…?"

He hesitates to voice the full question—Are you alright?—because obviously Sirius isn't. And Remus doesn't expect it to prompt Sirius to speak, so Remus is especially surprised when he does.

"I'm really sorry," he repeats, wiping his face and claiming composure once again. "This house…you know what it does to me. And let's not get started on my family."

"Can you handle this? We could go if you'd like. I should be the one apologizing. I brought you here in the first place."

Sirius shakes his head. "No, I'm glad you did, glad I could see it again with my own eyes. They're all out of their sodding minds. Case in point: my baby brother is a fucking Death Eater and has been since sixteen."

"I'm not quite sure how seeing this again is a positive thing, Padfoot."

"Because I get it now—why my father was the way he was, why mother is the way she is. I guess…I don't have the resentment I had before to muddle my thoughts because I can walk away from it if I want to. My father hated my mother because she was the reason he couldn't be with the woman he loved. And my mother hated my father because he preferred a bastard daughter over two legitimate sons. And Reg and I are fucked up because of it."

"You're not fucked up," Remus whispers, smoothing back Sirius' hair.

"But I am, and I realized it too late. Reg too." Sirius looks into Remus' eyes. "Do you know what he told me?"

"Regulus?"

Sirius nods. "He told me this morning when we were visiting Father that he regrets it."

"Regrets what?"

"Being a Death Eater. He admits that it was a stupid decision made because he was impressed with Voldemort's power. He wants out, Remus, but he's too far involved now. I…I can't do anything for him."

"And that's what has you so upset."

"I'm supposed to be the older brother, supposed to protect him," he says, voice cracking and face a splotchy red. "But I failed at that like I failed at everything else. It's my fault that my family is in the position it's in."

Remus feels his heart pang and sink in his chest. No, it's not Sirius' fault. He was going to be the dutiful son, going to be the heir to the House of Black. He had promised himself to his bride, went through with the engagement. But Remus had forced his hand, had refused to be the other woman when in reality there were probably worse things in the world to be than Sirius Black's mistress.

"This is my fault, Sirius."

"No, don't," Sirius demands, before kissing him with such affection. "If there is one thing I love most about you, Moony, it's that you don't compromise yourself for me. I don't think you can quite understand how unique a trait that is, but trust me on this. Not just anyone would tell the heir to one of the most powerful families in the wizarding world exactly where he could shove it."

"But what if something happens to you? What if your mother is right about the Malfoys?"

"I've no doubt that she's right. Mother doesn't get so worked up over nothing."

"So the Death Eaters will start hunting you purposefully now."

"It's complicated, love."

Remus isn't sure what's so complicated about a question like that. What he knows for certain is that if something happens to Sirius, he will never stop blaming himself. Or even if something happens to Regulus for that matter. This is his fault.

"I don't understand."

"We wait. That's all we can do. If Narcissa can't produce Malfoy's heir, we've worried for nothing. Without a baby of Black blood in the cradle, they need Regulus or me alive to get what they want."

"What do they want?"

"Hush."

Sirius shushes him with a kiss, eyes begging him to drop the subject. Despite the fact that he doesn't want to, Remus opts to let it go for now. He doesn't understand pure-blood politics, which makes understanding any of this mess nearly impossible. He does get one thing though, and as horrible as it is, Remus prays to God as he lies in Sirius' arms that Narcissa Malfoy can't conceive a child.

.


.

Orion Black dies late that afternoon. The news is delivered by the family's Healer, followed by an expression of condolences. Remus is surprised that Orion's wife and sons remain dry eyed—no tears of sadness or relief. Nothing.

As silly as it is, Remus finds his own eyes wet, thinking of hearing those very words said by a Muggle doctor in reference to his father. He tries to force his face into stone, like everyone else in this room save Narcissa who sobs melodramatically in a puddle of green silks. However, he can't quite manage it, so he politely excuses himself and returns to Sirius' bedroom.

How far does one have to push their family so that they feel nothing upon that person's death? Remus barely knew him and yet he feels something. A sadness, he thinks, that one should feel at the loss of any human life. But Orion will have mourners, Remus is sure. A Muggle-born woman and a little girl named for the stars. Perhaps another and her son. Yet surely they will not be allowed to attend the funeral. For all that Sirius would disagree with him, that idea strikes him as very wrong. If anyone should bury Orion Black, it should be his loved ones.

For the next hour, Remus sets to cleaning up the bedroom the Muggle way, slipping his and Sirius' things into a rucksack and straightening up the sheets. It's easier to avoid the situation when his mind is somewhere else, and very briefly he is successful.

Sirius returns to him soon enough, softly closing the door and stopping just steps away from him. Miserably, Remus considers what this day would have meant for the Sirius of sixth year, the Sirius who was still heir. He would be the newly crowned head of a family with a frightening amount of power, influence, and wealth at his fingertips. Momentarily, Remus wonders if he regrets his choices, whether he feels the absence of his birthright. Sirius' eyes are unreadable.

"I'm sorry for your loss, Padfoot," he says, draping a button-up over his arm in mid-fold.

"Don't be. I'm not."

Remus nods, defeated. He has no idea how to interact with Sirius just now, sensing that Sirius is going to deflect everything he throws at him. Rather than waste his breath, Remus returns to his folding.

"I've almost finished packing. We can leave whenever you're comfortable."

Hearing Sirius' heavy sigh, he braces himself for what's to come. What that is, he can't even guess. But when he feels Sirius' arms winding around his middle, pulling him firmly against his back, and the kiss to his neck, Remus is suddenly eased.

"I have to ask a favor of you," Sirius whispers into his ear. "I need you to go home right now."

The easiness that came is gone in an instant, Remus turning in Sirius' arms. "Without you?"

"The funeral will be in the morning. I…should show my face. I may have been disinherited, but I'm not disowned. And if I go, it might show the Malfoys that I will still support Regulus, which could prevent them from attacking for a while. I don't think they were counting on my being here."

"I'll stay then and go with you to the funeral."

"I'm sorry, love, but you can't."

Remus senses the bitterness bubbling up inside him, can tell that he's probably going to say something he'll regret. He speaks the words all the same.

"I guess if your father's whores aren't allowed to go, your whore isn't either."

"Oh, come off it. That's not why."

The potential reasons why chip away at him. Is it because he's a werewolf? Has Mrs. Black vowed not to tolerate his presence any longer? Is Sirius having second thoughts about their relationship in light of the recent turn of events? Would he like to avoid having his face on the cover of the Prophet with his male lover?

"Stop it," Sirius demands gently, placing a kiss on his forehead. "You're too adorable when you sulk, Moony."

"Why can't I go?" he asks, directing his attention to the fullness of Sirius' lips since he is unable to meet those storm gray eyes.

"My family is flooing and Apparating in as we speak. Mother has been surprisingly cordial with you, or at least as cordial as that harpy can be. My grandparents, however, will not be. I won't endanger you any further than I already have, love."

"But—"

"You promised me. Please don't fight with me on this."

Remus pulls away and sits on the bed, defeated. He had promised, and he has Sirius' safety to consider as well. It still doesn't make him want to leave, but Remus knows that he has to.

"When will you be home?"

"Tomorrow night," Sirius answers, his relief apparent.

Pulling open his old wardrobe, Sirius begins to look through clothes that he likely outgrew two years ago. Remus watches with interest, unsure of what Sirius is looking for exactly. It's with some surprise that Remus realizes he's choosing dressrobes—clothing that looks rather poncy and outdated compared to Muggle clothing. To wizarding society though, the rich fabrics, intricately detailed and fine, are a mark of prestige.

"I'm sorry we haven't been able to spend much time together," Sirius says, discarding himself of a Muggle tee.

Remus shakes his head, watching Sirius put on an ivory shirt. "Things come up. When are you leaving for Greece again?"

Off come the faded blue denims, replaced with tailored black trousers. "Tuesday."

Two days. By the time Sirius returns from the funeral, they'll have less than twenty-four hours before he has to leave. Remus recalls that it's supposed to be a lengthy job, ancient Greek wards always proving to require a lot of time and great care when disarming.

Looking at Sirius as he puts on a vest of green and black brocade, Remus wonders if they'll ever work out. He's not sure how much more distance he can take, how much more pining away he can do before it transforms into something akin to resentment. He loves Sirius more than anything, and yet…

"Does my hair look alright, love?"

Remus glances up and smiles at the sight of Sirius primping in the mirror. "Flawless."

And he is. It comes as a shock—Sirius, dressed in his old clothing charmed to the right size. It's the first time that Remus has really got a good look at Sirius in these fine dressrobes— garments from his past. He looks inch for inch the heir to the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black—gorgeous and dreamy and powerful. With the donning of these clothes, Remus can't help but think that Sirius somehow took on the life and responsibilities he left behind.

.


.

The day Orion Black is buried, it's a media firestorm. Faces of the Blacks fill the front page for weeks on end. One would assume that Regulus, being the head of the house, would appear in those articles more frequently than anyone else. However, it is instead Sirius who claims that honor. Apparently, the return of the prodigal son of the House of Black is far more news worthy.

Remus saves the clippings from the various newspapers and tabloids while Sirius is away in Greece. Every Tuesday he Apparates to Sirius' flat to drop off a sizable pile, and by the time that Sirius is due home—two and a half months after his father's funeral—he will have enough reading material for a week.

.

When Sirius returns, it's raining. Nothing—not even the rubbish weather—can get Remus' spirits down, though. In front of the cemetery, he waits, searching frantically for any sight of his lover. There is a pop! behind him, startling his worn nerves, and Remus turns quickly.

He's greeted by the sight of grey eyes and pale flesh turned bronze in the Greek sun. Sirius, handsome as ever. Without a thought for decorum, Remus throws his arms around Sirius' neck—discarding his umbrella entirely—and hugs him fiercely. Sirius returns his affection with a one-armed embrace and his bark of a laugh.

"Merlin's bollocks, I've missed you, Moonshine."

"Missed you too. I don't know why in the world you wanted to meet here. You know what point in the cycle—"

"Yeah, four days until the moon and you're bloody insatiable right now. Relax, I won't be long, and then you can keep me in bed for as long as you like."

"So why are we here again?" Remus asks, eager to get this errand over with and Apparate back to Sirius' flat.

"I just want to check up on the grave. All sorts of dark magic can be performed with the right materials, and given that the Malfoys want to take over the House, I'm worried they might have disturbed the grave."

"For what?"

"Hair, skin—anything of my father's really."

Sirius motions for Remus to follow him through the warded gates of the wizarding cemetery where his father is buried. By the looks of things, they are the sole visitors, save for a middle-aged woman and a young, dark haired girl who they pass on the way to the grave.

This, Sirius explains, is the cemetery where many noble, pure-blood families are buried and has been the place of burial for the Black family for centuries. It's well-kept with beautiful grounds and great mausoleums built of fine stone. Unlike most Muggle cemeteries, there is no sense of age just from sight; stones and buildings marked two hundred years previous look like they were only filled yesterday.

Arriving at the mausoleum marking Orion's tomb, Sirius begins to undo the wards—only those acknowledged as belonging to Black blood can get past the spells. Remus notices a small bouquet of flowers left on the steps - the only sign that anyone has visited.

It takes only a few minutes for Sirius to check the tomb for dark magic. Meanwhile, Remus waits outside, as Sirius does not trust the family wards to let him pass. He's eager to get out of this rain, out of these clothes, and into bed. Not quite having mustered the courage to ask, Remus doesn't know when Sirius' next job is—how much time he has to savor this go around.

Sealing the tomb, Sirius joins Remus back out in the rain. He turns, pausing before the grand building, and thinks for several heavy moments.

"My mother sent me a letter in Greece."

"Why?"

"She found a letter my father had written to me before he became too ill. I've no idea why she thought to send it to me. Hell, she didn't even break the seal on it, which is surprising."

In the privacy of the cemetery, Remus takes Sirius' hand. "What did it say?"

"That, while I may have fallen short of following Black ideologies, I was the better man. That he was proud of me, for all that it seemed like I disappointed him. He wished that he would have chosen Elizabeth—his primary mistress—over my mother like I chose you over Vanossa."

Remus searches Sirius' face and sees a particular resolve there. He doesn't see past that, however, because he is too caught up in the details of Sirius' lips and cheeks and eyes. This time of the month always endlessly feeds his sex drive, making it hard to concentrate on anything else.

"He asked me to protect Regulus."

"And how do you feel about all this?" he asks, finally pulling himself from his admiration.

"I'm still as confused as I ever was."

Remus nods his reply, unable to offer any sort of advice or comfort. The Black family is an enigma that he's resigned never to understand.

"I've quit my job at Gringott's."

It's a struggle to process the words, and Remus finally sputters, "Wait, what?"

"I'm joining the Order."

His heart gives a little flutter in his chest, but Remus quashes the euphoria, for fear that he's not understanding fully. Sirius loved that job, loved the adventure and the thrill it brought. It would take something incredible for him to give it up.

"Why? I mean, not that I'm not happy, but Sirius…"

"I've disappointed them since I was eleven," Sirius explains, eyes trained on his father's name inscribed in the marble of the tomb. "I don't care about Mother…or even him, but I can't turn my back on Regulus. It's not too late to save us."

Maybe Remus should be surprised by this sort of renewed allegiance to Regulus; he certainly wants to be surprised. But the fact of the matter is, he's not. He saw Sirius and Regulus together in the newspaper, saw the way Sirius' hand was clapped on Regulus' shoulder, the way that he tried to shield his brother from the cameras and reporters.

Remus thinks for a moment that Walburga was right, that Sirius will never be able to shake the Black legacy. They've drilled a sense of familial obligation into him, and when push comes to shove, Sirius will never be able to completely give the Blacks up. Not his desire for his father's love, not his disgust in his mother's madness, not his sense of responsibility to Regulus.

He wants to warn Sirius about the changes shifting within him, wants to bring to light what going back to Grimmauld Place has done to him. But then Remus realizes that nothing has changed. The protectiveness that makes him want to quit his dream job for Regulus' sake is the same protectiveness that fueled his desire to become an Animagi. Love. Duty. Family—whether by blood or choice. Sirius knows nothing else, feels nothing more strongly than these. And Remus wouldn't change that for the world.

"Come on, Padfoot, let's go home."