The irony was being from such an aristocratic and ancient household, Sirius couldn't help but believe that love was such an old fashioned word.
Or maybe being from that type of family had helped condition that belief in to him. His mother and father clearly held no feelings other than cold respect - and the belief that it was their duty to front a respectable family together - towards each other, and if they felt it towards their children they certainly never showed it. Sirius had grown up watching his elder cousins and family members being matched to respectable suitors, he listened to them talk about whether or not a certain boy's 'blood status' was acceptable, and not talk of flushed-cheek romance or giddy desire.
Sirius believed that people got married because it was their duty. They did it to see the approving smiles of parents and older family members, for contented nods, and did not do it to warm their own hearts. You married someone respectful. You did not fall in love.
Sirius held all this as dogma for ten years, never to be questioned. Questioning whether or not these fundamentals and walls his family had installed in to him was like questioning why his father's wand made objects fly, was like questioning very magic itself. That was just the world, and the way things where.
But when Sirius Black was ten years old he learned what some people were willing to do for love.
His mother screamed, and her hysterics about traitors and dirty blood, family shame and filthy filthy muggles still echoed through his mind some nights when he lay in the dark. He also learned that day what would happen to him if ever dared to act on the grumbling rebellious thoughts that filled his chest. At ten years old Sirius was still very much under his parents spell. He had not yet experienced the perspective and friendship he would encounter at Hogwarts School Of Witchcraft And Wizardry, and when his parents would discuss in voices heavy with loathing how a formerly respected wizard had just married a 'mudblood' over dinner, Sirius would simply flush red and glower at his plate. He never spoke up.
But at night, in his brother's bed, he would dare to voice these thoughts in a hushed voice.
"It just annoys me so much, Reg. I mean, who says they're right? Mudbloods can't be that bad can they?"
His brother would shift uncomfortably at these words. "Sirius you can't talk like that! What if someone heard you? What if Mother heard you!" he would gush in half terror, half wonder.
Sirius scoffed. "What's she going to do? Blast me off the family tree?"
And that's exactly what his mother did to Sirius' favourite cousin the day she ran away with a muggle. (Though later of course, Sirius would learn that he wasn't a muggle at all, but a muggle-born wizard named Ted Tonks who had attended Hogwarts like every other wizard Sirius knew). Ten-year-old Sirius watched in horror as his mother shrieked and sent licking flames at a perfectly round spot on their drawing room wall. She stepped back and admired her work, a calm smile now on her face that was somehow far more terrifying than her previous shriek, and smiled as she permanently erased Andromeda Black from their family for good. Sirius stared at the flickering flames that engulfed his cousins beautiful face in horror, and wondered could love, could anything, really be worth this.
When Sirius Black was thirteen years old his best friend fell in love. Or so his friend said, in a quiet, uncertain voice at first, but this voice quickly grew into a confident, love-sick moan.
"I love her Sirius, I love her more than anything else in this world!" sighs James Potter, in his annoyingly endearing way of his.
Sirius rolls his eyes. "You don't love her more than anything else in the world."
James looks scandalized. "Yes I do!"
"More than magic?" sneers Sirius.
"More than sweets?"
"More than pranking Snivellus?"
Sirius gasps. "You don't love her more than Quidditch!"
"But I do!" sighs James, flopping back on to his bed. "I love her more than all the stars in the sky, all the water in the ocean, all the sweets in Honeydukes! I love her Sirius."
Sirius looks at him, curiously quiet. "How do you know you love her?"
James sits up and looks at Sirius. His face has gone soft. "It's like….I can never imagine myself with anyone else, you know? I can't imagine growing up and marrying anyone else butLily Evans."
Sirius knows. Sirius knows because he can't imagine being best friends with anyone else but James Potter. He can't imagine not having him by his side, to laugh at, and laugh with and make fun of his stupid hair. He can't imagine telling anyone else about his family, or having these quiet moments with. He can't imagine not having James Potter a part of his life until the day he died.
"But," Sirius hesitates, then continues, looking at his palms, "what does it feel like? What does it actually, physically, feellike?" Sirius Black is 13 years old, and he measures the world in physicality.
James looks thoughtful for a moment. He then says, "It's like a…a weight. A weight in your chest. A little niggling weight that's telling you 'Never let her go. Never let her go'. And you know it's right, because you couldn't imagine a day without her, and you know she's right for you, and it's going to happen. You know. Because the weight is there."
Sirius thinks about this for a moment. He tries to imagine this feeling, of a weight in his chest.
He often has a similar feeling when he is watching a losing Quidditch game, or when his and James' pranks get Remus in to trouble, or when he listened to his mother spout obscenities about Mudbloods. It represents excitement, anxiety, guilt. But he can never imagine it as a sign of love.
He then looks up from his palms to James. James' face is stony and thoughtful.
Sirius has a sudden feeling that this is much too serious of a conversation for a couple of 13 year olds to be having.
When Sirius was 15, he felt it.
And boy, had James Potter got it all wrong.
Sirius Black couldn't take it any more. This secret, this harbouring love, these feelings, were building and building and soon they would grow too mature to sit happily in his stomach and would come tumbling out of his mouth. And if this was going to happen, Sirius wanted it be on his own terms.
Sirius was under pressure, from his own mind of all things, to counter balance these feeling with actions. And he knew if he didn't do anything about it soon he would have no choice, and his mouth would do it for him. Whether he liked it or not, he was going to have to do something about falling in love with Remus Lupin, and his mind said the more drastic, the better. The pressure was building and he was about to give in.
Sirius first felt it, the feeling of pressure on his heart and chest, the feeling he would later articulate in his mind as crushing love, when he was in his 5th year.
It was the Christmas holidays and full moon that December had fallen on the 23rd. Normally with the Marauders it was an all or nothing deal, they either all went home to their designated families and spent a traditional warm Christmas with parents. (This meant expensive presents for James, board games for Remus, family dinners for Sirius, and bristly kisses from elderly aunts for Peter.) Or they all stayed at Hogwarts, treasuring free reign of the common room and the empty grounds. These Christmas's usually involved a lot of late nights, a lot of snow fights, a lot of planning and a lot of butterbeer. These were Sirius' favourite Christmas's, which he remembered fondly as a haze of late night, butterbeer-heavy conversations, laughing until his sides hurt, and the warm air of the fire. They were definitely far better than his cold, family affairs.
But this year James and Peter's families wanted them home, having allowed them to spend the previous holidays at Hogwarts. Sirius had assumed they were all going home for the holidays and had even managed to messily pack his case in preparation. He was even looking forward to maybe getting to see his Uncle Alphard (he had long given up hope of seeing his cousin Andromeda at such family occasions), when he noticed Remus hadn't packed. Now, this was most unusual behaviour, as Remus was always the first to have these sorts of things done, especially such repetitive, mind-numbingly boring things such as packing. He organised what shirt he was going to wear each day for Christ sake, thought Sirius. But Remus simply sits on his bed, that quiet expression on his face, the expression Sirius knows means something is wrong.
Remus looks up.
"Have you seen my blue t-shirt?" Sirius stops rummaging through his trunk.
"Why aren't you packing?"
"I'm not going home."
Sirius sits on his bed, frowning. "Yes we are. We're all going home. It's the deal, remember?"
Remus merely looks at his hands.
"Moony? Why aren't you going home?"
"Because it's the full moon on the 23rd"
"So? Why does that mean…?" Then Sirius understands. "Oh."
Remus spent full moons in the Shack, warded, safe and secluded. There was no where else for him to go, Sirius knew that. Remus' parents had no place to contain the wolf in their quiet, modest home. The concrete shed they had used to contain the pre-pubescent 10 year old Remus wouldn't stand a chance against the almost fully grown wolf, now that it had been exposed to so much magic.
Sitting on the side of his bed, an empty trunk at his feet, and his legs swinging forlornly, Remus certainly looks miserable. Sirius smiles. For once there is an easy way to cure Remus' melancholy.
"Then I'm staying."
Sirius grin. "'I'm staying. I don't want to spend Christmas with my horrible family."
"Sirius, you don't - "
"I know, but I reallydon't want to see them."
"But - "
"I'd much rather spend it with you"
"I don't think Dumbledo - "
Sirius grins, if possible, even wider. "So it's agreed, then. I'm staying with you!"
Remus sighs. But when he lifts his head he is smiling. "You're mad, you know that?"
Sirius stand up and ruffles Remus' hair. "Only as mad as you my Moony Moonshine! We'll have a blast! Just me and you, no snoring Peter, no whiny James!"
Remus tries not to grin, really he does. But it's hard when Sirius Black is ruffling your hair and smiling at you.
They decide to walk in to Hogsmeade that Christmas afternoon.
The sky and road is awash in a palette of white and blue, the stark-black skeletal trees are heavy with snow, and the road is frosted with a clear glassy surface. All the shops are closed, and they guess the sorts of people who spent their lonely Christmas days in a tavern were not the sorts of people they want to be around, so they decide to take a walk.
There's was no one on the high street as they walk. The normally bright shop windows are muted from their usual colour, and everything seems coated in white. Sirius can't tell where the sky and road end and this gave the world an overwhelming sense of size. Everything is muted white. The world seems a much bigger place that afternoon.
They talk and laugh together about the Christmas dinner they have just attended, about Peter's fussy mother and the mollycoddling he was surely enduring, and about James's probable mountain of presents, amongst other things. Sirius' thick boots crunch the ground as he walks, but he can't feel the ice through his thick layers. This gives him an odd sense of detachment.
They finally leave the high street and walk through a clearing of trees, a strict a hundred-and-eighty degrees in the opposite direction of the Shrieking Shack. They continue walking and laughing, gloved palms resting on tree trunks as they regain balance from ice or laughter. They walk close, either subconsciously trying to share body warmth, or simply finding it easier to talk when near each other, than have their voices lost on the wind.
"It's just like that time Prongs gave Lily that singing card!"
"Oh Padfoot, don't, I can't breathe!" breathes Remus between laughter.
"It was awful! Do you remember it?" says Sirius, and launches into theatrical song, "Your eyes as green as sparkling emeralds! Your voice as commanding as a Sergeant Generals! Uh…Your skin as soft as a baby's bum! You're so beautiful you make me want to - "
"It wasn't bum, Padfoot! It was rays from the sun! Oh god, is that what you thought it said?" Remus erupts into laughter again, and Sirius can't help but join in
"Sergeant Generals? What was he thinking!"
"He couldn't find anything else to rhyme with emeralds, that's what" and Remus slopes to the ground to the soft snow with laughter, making his sides ache, his face soften, and his guard fall down.
Sirius leans back against a tree letting the laughter convulse through his body like a familiar, but messy, house-guest, and cools his hot face with his snow covered gloves.
After a minute, the laughter has passed and Remus still lies on the ground, face relaxed and soft as snow. He is smiling a small smile to himself which makes Sirius think he is still remembering the joke, but he seems to have regained some of his usual austerity and reserve.
Sirius finds himself looking at him. Remus' skin is as flawless as un-crossed snow, and Sirius can't decide which looks softer, Remus' slightly flicking hair or his expression. He lies there, completely content and happy with just having this moment, of having friends and laughter, having Sirius and snow. His delicate gloved fingers are crossed slightly over his chest as he watches the snow flakes land gently on his face. Always so gently. The snow looks blue in his hue.
Suddenly, Sirius feels as if he has awoken from a dream.
And with horrible clarity, with a tangible, gut-wrenching sensation, a feeling settles on his chest.
He is in love with Remus Lupin.
He turns to look at him as Sirius walks in.
Sirius shuts the creaking door behind him, the wood seemingly sighing with the movement.
"How did you know where I was?"
Sirius joins Remus on the floor of the balcony and smiles.
"The map of course"
"I thought James lost it?" Remus says, moving over to give Sirius room. Losing the map they had so painstakingly constructed was a regular occurrence for the four friends. It was hard to find anything in a tiny room filled with four beds and four teenage boys possessions, and a blank piece of parchment was easy to misplace.
"It was at the bottom of his trunk, I had to wade through dirty underwear to get it, so you better had appreciate the effort!"
Remus smiles. "Well. I'm flattered."
Sirius smiles too. "You should be. It was not pretty."
They sit in silence for a moment looking out through the balcony rails. The night is warm and clear, and they both sit with their knees pulled towards them.
"Is it because of…" Sirius looks out through the balcony towards the almost-full moon. It hangs full and heavy in the sky, omnipresent against the velvet black palette.
Remus' silence seems to turn quieter. He rubs the back of his arm self-consciously. "Yes."
Sirius didn't really need to ask, because it was always like this the days leading up to the full-moon. This wasn't the first time he had found Remus in an empty classroom gazing out the tall windows, sitting on one of the tower's balconies, or walking the empty grounds. It seemed he needed to be outside on these days. Remus had once described it like a tugging at his bones.
There had once been a time when Sirius wouldn't have taken these transformations seriously, realised the gravity of his friends actions, or really understood his Remus' pain. Sirius shudders. There had even once been a time when he would have looked forward to the full moons. But now he understands his friend's agony. Or as least as close as he ever can.
Sirius says the most comforting thing he can think of.
"We'll be there."
Remus turns to him in the dark and smiles. "I know."
Sirius has an over-whelming urge to grab Remus' hand and squeeze it. Hell, if sitting on a midnight balcony on a quiet night wasn't the time and place, he didn't know what was. So he grabs Remus' hand and squeezes it.
"We'll always be there."
Remus looks down at his hand. "I know. Sirius - "
Remus looks up. His eyes don't look amber in the moon light but Sirius knows they are round, full and beautiful. Sirius knows every inch of Remus' face, and every time he analyzes each little centimetre he seems to love him a little more. But sitting in the moonlight with his hand on top of Remus' soft skin, Sirius doesn't think he could ever could love this boy any more.
But then of course Remus smiles and leans in and kisses him and he can't help but love him just that little bit more.