Warnings: sex, canon-compliant character deaths, AU ending, language
Author's Notes: Written for rsbigbang on livejournal. A huge thank-you to my beta, L, for going over this fic multiple times and for talking me off the metaphorical ledge during the writing process.


Grey eyes jump from clock, to door, to Harry sucking his thumb on James' lap. His leg bouncing up and down in anticipation, Sirius imagines being out in the warm evening air on his bike, away from this group, from bad news, from burdens placed on a people too young to bear them. Three years into this war, and Sirius realizes that he was out of his mind to be excited by the prospect of joining the Order. Too many have died since; too many have watched their lives decay into ruin. The collapse of his own life is no exception.

The itch for a fag borders on unbearable, and if it weren't for the fact that it'd cost him his bollocks if he lit up with Harry or Neville in the room, he might just do it. It's strange how life, even among the Order, has changed with the addition of the sprogs. He no longer smokes indoors, Moody minds his language, and late night get togethers—once filled with booze, boisterous discussions, and the occasional hook up in the loo—have tamed considerably. Sometimes Sirius wonders if the babies don't belong to the lot of them now; he knows he'd easily give his life if it meant protecting Harry or Neville. And judging by the fact that everyone is still here, still fighting, Sirius thinks that he's not alone in the sentiment.

Neville begins to fuss in Alice's arms, and she shushes him sweetly, kissing the top of his head. Harry, apparently sensing a rebellion against this painfully long meeting, fidgets on James' lap, making those little snuffling noises that always preface a full on wail. Sirius can't blame either of them; he's reached his breaking point as well.

"It seems the hour is getting late," Dumbledore says gently from the head of the table, looking on fondly at the babies. "Perhaps we should break for today."

Lily and Alice apologize profusely for Harry and Neville's fussiness, but Dumbledore assures them that the boys are the two most well behaved babies he has ever met and that only so much can be expected of children so little. Sirius almost scoffs at that—both Harry and Neville have quite the destiny to live up to already now that the prophecy is known. He resists the urge, though, because he's already been scolded twice this meeting for commentary—verbal or otherwise—by Minerva's disapproving gaze.

Dumbledore clears his throat as everyone begins to shift around and gather up their things. "A final note: we are in need of a reconnaissance team to go west for a few days in light of recent information concerning Death Eater attacks near Caernarfon. Remus, Sirius, I was hoping that I might employ your services for this assignment."

At the sound of his name following Remus', Sirius pauses—jacket half on—and feels his stomach churn at the prospect. It's strange how something so natural for so many years—his name coupled with Remus'—can now elicit such a reaction from him. His body tenses, eyes widen and lips thin into an irritated line. He steals a glance at Remus, who looks equally as disturbed by the idea, before forcing his eyes to Dumbledore.

"Together?"

Dumbledore nods, "You've always worked quite well together, and with Remus' quick thinking and your skill for noticing details, I can think of no two better people for the job. It's imperative that we have this information before we continue forward with our plans."

Sirius shares a look with James, one so easily read as I can't believe he's doing this. While he and Remus didn't exactly advertise their relationship, the past three years—and subsequent mid-snog walk-ins by various Order members—have seen that it was fairly well known. As was the break-up of last September and the fact that they haven't been alone together since. Why, then, Dumbledore would ask them to do this is entirely beyond him.

"I can go," James says quickly. "With Remus or Sirius."

"I'm afraid not, James. It's too dangerous right now, and I would be negligent in my duties if I even entertained the idea."

"But—"

"Let it go, Potter," Moody grumbles. "A little time together might do them good. They'll either make nice or kill each other. The problem's solved either way."

"We're still here, you know," Remus says, seething, his cheeks scarlet.

For once in the past several months, Sirius finds himself agreeing with Remus. Fuck Moody for carrying on about them in their presence; the least he could do is have the common decency to wait until they left. And, for the record, they don'tneed any time together. They've done together, and together doesn't work for them, obviously. The last thing Sirius wants is to have to try to get along with Remus. He's not quite sure if he's capable of such a thing anymore.

How quickly things change.

Once, they were mad for each other. It seems like a lifetime ago now, as he catches sight of Remus across the table. A million years and more since they whispered tender exchanges, woke up in one another's arms, kissed and felt their stomachs drop from the thrill. But they were just boys then, didn't knowany better. And now…well, now they're left with love turned to ash.

Not that Sirius would ever want what they had back. He doesn't; he can't bring himself to want it. What's past has passed. He's doing fine without Remus. His needs are met, his itches scratched. In fact, he may even be happierunattached. And it's not as if they wouldn't have broken up sooner or later anyway. They're just too different.

But none of that makes any of thiseasier to deal with—the mission, the interaction. There are reasons, of course, for why they've been staying the hell away from each other—reasons that don't involve warm fuzzy feelings of any sort. The relationship soured, along with their kindness towards each other. And up until this point, they've done a bang up job of never being alone together. If one counts that as luck, then their luck has apparently run out.

"Fine," Sirius grumbles. "Whatever you like, Albus."

"But Sirius—"

He turns to James before continuing loudly, "No, James. You and I both know that when he gets his mind set on something, he won't change it. Let's say we make it easier on everyone and just agree to it, alright?"

Sirius abruptly stands then, unable to tolerate the stares from his fellow Order members any longer, and slips out the back door without a word.

The night is muggier than he anticipated, further dampening his already bitter mood. Leaning up against one of the porch's pillars, Sirius rummages through the pockets of his leather jacket for a pack of fags. He lights one up, takes a long drag, and relishes the moment when the nicotine reaches his frayed nerves.

"Fuck, yes," he nearly moans, taking in another deep breath of smoke.

He's nearing the end of the cigarette when he hears the shuffling of chairs and jumbled voices. The meeting must be officially over now. Sirius is half tempted to Apparate just then, lacking all desire to say any goodbyes to his comrades in arms. He lingers, though—because in reality this could be the very last time he sees any one of them—and slips another fag from the package. Tonight strikes him as a chain-smoking kind of night.

Staring up at the clear, black sky—an act he has always found incredibly calming—Sirius begins to name constellations. It once was a challenge for him, but hasn't been since the age of eight. He misses the mystery of the stars, longs to not know names or mythology or various Divination meanings associated with them. What he wouldn't give to just see shining dots; life was much simpler then.

Ursa Major, he recites to himself, the Great Bear, primary stars include Dubhe, Alkaid, Mizar, Alcor—

The sound of footsteps on the creaking wooden boards of the porch halts his thoughts. He waits for a voice to follow, but it doesn't. Instead, he watches Remus slip past him, without so much as a glance, towards the edge of the yard. Sirius feels rage spark and crackle in his chest at the obvious slight, pushing him to say the words that follow.

"Didn't know you'd become such a fucking prat, Lupin."

Remus turns immediately, eyes narrowed. In the silence, tension mounts. Sirius wonders why he just did that, why—after all these months of mutually agreed upon silence—he had to go ruin it all with his big mouth.

"Do you have anything worthwhile to say, Sirius, or are you just spouting off shite like you always do?"

Sirius shrugs. "Just commenting on your holier-than-thou-art attitude is all."

"I know you're an attention whore, but I thought you weren't interested in having mine anymore. I think you made that perfectly clear some months ago. So unless there's something you'd like to discuss…"

"Got somewhere to be?" Sirius asks, snuffing out his fag and walking down the steps.

"Home."

"Have what's-his-face waiting on you, do you?"

The sudden shift of Remus' expression makes Sirius regret bringing up what's-his-face. Gone is the irritation, and in its place comes hurt. Too many years of trying to rid Remus of those pained eyes have Sirius' insides twisting in remorse. There's screwing around with Remus, and there's crossing a line. Sirius feels as if he's committed the latter.

"What's-his-faceand I aren't seeing each other any longer. Not that it's any of your damn business."

Remus pivots on his heel, effectively ending their conversation before Sirius can even get an apology out. Not that he wants to, of course, but if he did, well, it's obvious that Remus wouldn't be interested in hearing it. The crack of Apparition that follows makes that much clear.

If he's honest with himself, Sirius has hated what's-his-face from the beginning for reasons that he can't quite explain. He only ever saw the bastard once, when James needed to stop over at Remus' place for something. He was perfectly average looking—nothing special there. Sirius supposes that the part that bothered him the most about the whole thing was how happy Remus was. After spending so long being the person that made Remus smile, watching someone else elicit that reaction from him was a hard pill to swallow.

But those feelings—feelings of wanting to be the reason for Remus' laughter and smiles—have long since left him. He's not interested in them anymore, not interested in Remusanymore. Why then he feels this small sense of victory in Remus' single status, he's not sure. Perhaps it's due to the fact that seeing an ex miserable is in some way rewarding. Yes, that's likely it.

.

.

"Dumbledore's a nutter."

Sirius looks up from changing Harry's nappy on the living room floor to James, who leans against the door jamb connecting to the kitchen. He doesn't like that look on James' face, one that so distinctly hints at the interrogation to come. Bless James, but sometimes he can be more trouble than he's worth.

"You're telling me this why?" Sirius asks, busying himself with switching out nappies while Harry wiggles about on the blanket.

"He knows about you and Moony. It's not right that he's forcing you two to go on this mission together."

"Leave it, Prongs."

"It's going to end disastrously and—"

"James."

That shuts him up quickly, and Sirius is grateful for the sudden silence. Without a word, James walks back into the kitchen—presumably to finish off lunch—leaving Sirius and Harry alone.

He directs his eyes back to Harry, who has rolled over and begun to crawl away from him—bare bum exposed to all—giggling. His reflexes still impressive from all those years as Chaser, Sirius quickly stops Harry in his tracks and slides the baby back to him. Harry looks quick to pout, eyes growing large and lip sticking out in a way that breaks Sirius' heart. If his godson ever learns that that jutting lip will get him whatever he wants, it'll be too soon, Sirius thinks.

"I know, mate. I'd much rather run around starkers myself. Feels good to get some air on the bits, now doesn't it?"

"Pafoo."

"Right you are," Sirius agrees, nodding while fastening Harry's nappy. "But your mummy's mental, see. And if she finds out that Daddy and Uncle Sirius let you run around here without your nappy, it'll be ourbits."

"No," Harry says, picking at the hard eyes of his Moony stuffed animal with small fingers.

That word again. Sirius rolls his eyes; ever since Harry learned how to say it, that's all he's been saying at nearly every opportunity—that, and "bad".

He pulls up Harry's trousers before releasing him back into the wilderness of strewn toys, discarded bottles, and what looks to be a spilled bowl of dry cereal. It's terribly obvious from the mess that James has been in charge of his care for the afternoon. Lily—who is visiting an ill Alice—would have never let things get so out of control. And if it weren't for the fact that Sirius steps on or trips over every bloody thingin the room, he'd think the mess makes it a bit more homey.

"Off you go, sprog."

And Harry does with stuffed Moony in hand, heading directly for the other plush Marauders. Sirius watches on momentarily as Harry has Prongs and Padfoot get into a fight—cue growling noises and what Sirius can only assume is Harry's rendition of what a stag sounds like, though it comes off a bit like a sheep. Midway through the battle, Harry drops it all, hugs Padfoot tightly to his chest and strokes his fur.

"You ought to have one of your own," James says from the doorway to the kitchen again, looking on at Harry and Sirius.

Sirius snorts at that.

"I'm serious. You're brilliant with him."

"Not interested," he says, flippantly.

"Liar. I see the way you look at Harry."

Sirius throws up a rude gesture, scowling. But despite how wrongJames is, he supposes that just a bit of what he's saying is right. One look from Harry's chubby little face, one gurgle or coo or laugh, makes Sirius' heart swell up with both pride and longing. If he were somebody else living at another time, then hell yeah he'd like a sprog or two. But as it stands, he's fighting in a war, which is no place to bring a child into. Not to mention that he's a Black; he'll be damned before he's responsible for carrying on the family line.

"Look, Prongs, I—"

Mid-sentence, his eyes drift to where Harry is sitting, Padfoot and Moony in hand. Green eyes stare down at the two plush toys, and Harry brings the wolf's and dog's snouts together, making little kissing sounds.

"Oi, Harry! Have a little respect, " Sirius half-shouts, half-groans, plucking the Moony toy from his tiny hands and tossing it to James.

"Bad!" Harry yells at him. "No!"

"You don't want the rubbish toy anyway, Prongslet. Stinky, old wolves. They're mean, you know? They bite—"

"Enough, Sirius!" James interjects, walking over to where Sirius sits and hauling him onto his feet and into the kitchen.

Sirius doesn't dare look at James as they step into the kitchen. He knows he crossed a line with that one— which, like always, he realizes two seconds too late. That…he shouldn't have… Sirius sighs, preparing himself for the tongue lashing to follow.

"The fuck was that, Padfoot?" James whispers harshly. "He's a baby. He doesn't understand what he's doing. And for you to get all sensitive and take your issues out on my son—"

"I'm sorry."

James doesn't look placated at all by his apology. "You have balls, Black, if you think that I'd stand for something like this. You may have turned bigoted arsehole in the past year, may have really earned your name, but I won't have you exposing Harry to that thinking. Remus is his uncle, too, and we do not perpetuate stereotypes about his condition in this house."

"I said I was sorry, James."

"That was low even for you," James says, shaking his head.

"Look, I know I'm an idiot, alright?"

He feels properly ashamed. Not once had Sirius really bought into the werewolf stereotypes. And while werewolves do bite and aremean, he hadn't intended his words to serve as any sort of lesson for Harry. Instead, he was projecting his anger towards Remus onto the situation, which wasn't right. No one needs this sort of childish shite, especially not now in the middle of this war.

James crosses his arms over his chest. "You need to work things out with Moony."

"Prongs—"

"No, Padfoot. This is getting out of hand. Lily and I have been in the middle of your break-up for the past year. And now you're dragging Harry into it?"

"James, I didn't mean what I said to Harry."

"Fix it," James says firmly. "Fix it, or you're not allowed over anymore."

"That's not fair!"

"I'm not asking you to snog him. Just talk things out."

"We can't get along. It'll just end in arguing."

"You got along fine for nine years. I'm not buying your excuse."

For a long while Sirius stares at James, wonders when he became to voice of reason and maturity. Maybe it came with fatherhood. Maybe it came with the war. Maybe it was due to Lily's influence. All Sirius knows is that he's not the same James anymore. A part of Sirius feels proud of how far James has come from the boy on the train and wishes he, himself, could have grown so much. Another part of him longs for the easy smiles and unkind prankster of their boyhood. ThatJames would have backed down from him eventually where this James won't.

Sirius sighs, "It's a bit different now, isn't it? Do you expect us to just go back to being mates after we've had our cocks up each other's arses? That's not something you come back from, James."

The expression on James' face is one of disappointment, of defeat. And Sirius feels it, too. Things are spiraling out of control; things they thought untouchable have been broken—true love, the Marauders, the whole bloody world. And there doesn't seem to be a simple solution for any of their problems anymore.

"Why'd you do it, Padfoot?" James asks softly, evenly.

Sirius' own tone echoes his. "Do what?"

"Go and fuck things up like this. You walk around so hurt that anyone would think that he'd burned you somehow or ended things. That's not how it happened, though. So I want to know what was so bloody special about McKinnon that you went and ruined what you had with Remus."

"He told you about that?"

"Lily forced it out of him."

"Look, it's not an easy thing to understand," he explains, tone one of shame.

"Apparently so because even Remus didn't understand what went wrong between the two of you. According to him, everything was fine. You must be brilliant at covering your tracks because Remus didn't even suspect you had anyone on the side."

Staring his black motorbike boots, Sirius closes his eyes tightly. He hadn't anticipated Remus divulging all the details of their messy split, nor had he anticipated that having his lies thrown back at him would feel like being drawn and quartered. Because the fact of the matter is he never had "anyone on the side," that his reasons had come from within the relationship itself. And, quite frankly, Remus had been right not to suspect anything, mostly because Sirius hadn't opened up about what was happening inside him.

No, if he had stopped fancying Remus, that would have been bearable. Preferable even. If it had been his only issue…well, Sirius could live with that.

"He was using," Sirius whispers hoarsely, and the words are painful to voice.

"Using what? Drugs?"

"No, the Dark Arts. I…can't be with someone who uses them. James, my whole family…it's in my blood…I…They're addictive. I don't know what it is about them, but they make you feel good. Like a rush, you know? You can't…stop."

"Are you talking about that spell in the Ludlow ambush? Sirius, we all would have died if he hadn't cast it."

"Everyone was saying that he was the spy. And then he fires off that spell? That's ancient magic, Prongs. Dangerous, and old, and Idon't even know where the bloody hell he learned it. Dear old mum probably couldn't tell you either. I could have been sleeping with the enemy, could have been giving him information."

"He's not the spy. I've told you this a thousand times over. Dodge and Moody have no idea what they're talking about. Things just don't add up."

"It's really suspicious, though, isn't it? He disappeared for days at a time—"

"—On Dumbledore's orders—"

"—So he says—"

"—Dumbledore confirmed it."

"James…"

"So that's why you were fucking around on him? Because you thought he was the spy and he was into the Dark Arts?"

Sirius' heart struggles feebly before sinking in his chest. If that were the sole reason, it would be easy to put aside his issues with Remus, as well. He could properly hate Remus then. Hate and forget and bury their history in the cold, dead ground. Life would be so much easier if that's how it'd happened.

But that's not how it happened. The prospect of telling James that he wasn't cheating, however, would only complicate things further, especially now when trust and truth mean everything. And honestly, Sirius would rather be thought of as a coward and unfaithful than a coward and a liar, perhaps because he'd had the playboy image thrust upon him years ago. Unfounded and untrue, of course, but advantageous all the same now.

"No. Not entirely."

"Well, then?"

It takes a lot of courage to meet James' eyes, a lot of courage not to walk out the door like he desperately wants to do. But he's a Gryffindor for a reason, and while it may kill him, grey eyes do find hazel. He only hopes that James can understand.

"I was falling in love with him."

James stares at Sirius, shakes his head as if he's trying to work off a Confundus Charm, and stares at him once more. Once the initial shock wears off, James briefly peeks into the living room to check on Harry, before turning his attention back to him.

"What?" he asks.

"Don't make me say it again," Sirius pleads.

"You know, we're often accused of having one mind, and most of the time, I would agree. But this? I have no idea where in the hell you're coming from."

"It was just supposed to be fucking, James. We'd decided that from the very beginning, back in sixth year. But then things got all…monogamousin seventh year. And before I knew it, I was asking him to move in with me after graduation. We started acting like…"

"…like a couple," James provides.

"Like you and Lily." Sirius runs his hands over his face in frustration. "I never planned on falling for him. Shagging is one thing, but love… that's complicated. You have to give yourself to someone, and there's not much I can give of myself."

After all, he's a Black; that alone is enough reason not to get close to anyone. And damaged—a boy abused by a mad mother, ignored by a disinterested father. Never knowing love or affection or anything that's supposed to be human.

It would have been fine if Remus had only wanted him for a fuck or for his gold or for the power of his name. All those impersonal things are so easily given. But to be wanted for himself? That, Sirius hadn't been able to deal with.

So he shut down, closed himself off from the one person who threatened to expose him in ways he's never been exposed before. It scared the shite out of him—stepping over this new threshold, being faced with the prospect of being genuinely happy for once in his life. Sirius doesn't know how to be happy in love; he's never seen it in his own family, after all. And he couldn't risk opening himself up and being crushed under someone's heel someday in the years to come, especially by someone who was thought to be a spy for Voldemort.

"When did you…?"

"We were snogging one morning after he came back from one of those long assignments for Dumbledore. I missed him like hell, Prongs. And I pulled back, looked at him…" Sirius nearly whimpers. "And I was telling him I loved him before I knew it, only I didn't get it all out before I realized what I was saying."

"So you made up the lie about McKinnon because you couldn't man up."

Sirius recalls the look on Remus' face after he'd confessed to a false affair. He'd looked like someone had just driven a knife through his heart, only worse maybe. Sirius imagines that's what it likely felt like.

"It's no wonder he hates you," James scoffs, in the wake of Sirius' silence.

"I deserve it."

"Yeah, you do."

Sirius shrugs weakly, "I tried to make myself hate him after that. It wasn't easy, but you can tell yourself something—even if it's a lie—and after a while you start to believe it. That's how he and I got to where we are now."

They say nothing to one another after that, their silence punctuated with Harry's animal sounds coming from the other room. Sirius supposes he should feel as if a weight has been lifted—finally getting all of that off his chest. But if anything, it only burdens him more.

"Fix it," James repeats after some time.

"When? How? You act like it's so simple."

"You leave together for assignment tomorrow. What else are you two going to do for the two days you're gone? It's all reconnaissance. Not like you're going to see much action. Talk to him about it."

"You're missing the bit where I'm over it."

"One, you're not over it. You wouldn't still be fighting like this if you were. And two, you'll fix it because I'm holding your godson ransom until you do."

Sirius scowls. "That's low, Potter."

It is unfortunate for Sirius, however, that it's also the best motivation out there.

.

.

"Are you going to say more than two words to me the whole time we're on assignment? Or are you content with just sitting there in the dark corner and stabbing that poor bit of roast?"

Remus glances over at him—brow set in a scowl—and rolls his eyes. His attention then turns back to the remnants of their dinner, and nothing more really needs to be said between them.

"Fine. Do whatever the bloody hell you'd like."

Sirius pushes his own dinner around on his plate, staring out the grimy window of this grimy inn on this thus far shitty evening. The roast is dry—drier than his bloody conversation with Remus—the mash is criminally lumpy, and the beer tastes like piss. And that's not even mentioning the fact that the bloke who delivered their dinner looked like he'd spent twenty hard years in Azkaban. Which is to say that he isn't the type of bloke you want handling your food. Though, Sirius supposes that "food" is too kind a word for the masses on his plate. But still.

To make matters worse, he's feeling particularly restless, being cooped up with Remus in this room. For a second he considers telling Remus to shove off to his own room—now connected to Sirius' through a spelled door on the far wall—but knows that Remus won't abandon the window that overlooks the pub's entrance. That, and Sirius isn't entirely sure that being alone would improve his discomfort at all.

And it's stupid—wanting conversation instead of the once-longed-for silence. Stupid and rubbish and it's all Dumbledore's fault for forcing them into this situation. Sirius fears what he might feel if he looks at Remus for any length of time—admiration, longing, the damnable word that he refuses to believe has ever applied to him. But fear aside, Sirius knows that being alone with Remus is bringing up old emotions and routines that he'd much rather forget but can't quite seem to.

"Do you think Dumbledore even knew what he was talking about? It's been four sodding hours and nothing has happened," Sirius grumbles, deciding that not talking to Remus over dinner is too strange to contemplate.

"Death Eaters tend not to meet in shady looking pubs with those of questionable allegiances in broad daylight, in case you hadn't realized."

Remus' tone—course and bitter—lights up something in Sirius. This sparring, he knows how to deal with. And more importantly, it doesn't bring about any unwanted feelings.

"Oh, so sorry. Please forgive my ignorance. I guess you wouldknow more about these dealings than I, now wouldn't you?"

"What exactly are you implying, Sirius?" Remus asks, the anger of his words hidden beneath a layer of coldness.

"Don't play dumb. You know damn well what I'm implying."

At that, Remus stands, eyes burning holes into Sirius. And Sirius, in response, takes to his feet and approaches his once-lover. It's strange, this sensation bubbling up inside him, like a reunion with a long forgotten friend. Fighting with Remus had always turned him on in the heat of the moment, but not quite like this. Now, he feels so bloody alive.

"Are we really going to have this discussion?"

Sirius shrugs. "You can just admit your guilt and get it over with."

For a moment, Sirius thinks Remus is going to shout at him or punch him, he's coiled so tightly. But the venom in those brown eyes disperses, and Sirius doesn't know what to expect exactly. It's only when he sees Remus' hurt expression that he is unarmed, is forced to somehow acknowledge, again, what he has been fighting with all night.

"If I were a Death Eater like Moody and Dodge claim, you would know, Sirius. I couldn't keep something like that from you."

Sirius tries to reclaim some of his anger. "You're a brilliant liar. All those years hiding your lycanthropy."

"Fine," Remus begins, defeated. "I'm a Death Eater. And a liar. And why not a Mudblood for good measure. Because that's obviously what you want me to be."

He tries to walk away, throwing Sirius his much desired victory in this argument, but Sirius stops him. He nearly recoils from the first contact he's had with Remus in months, the feel of familiar skin beneath the pads of his fingers. Remus appears similarly taken aback, lips parted and eyes questioning.

"Don't ever call yourself…that word," he says softly.

"And the others?" Remus asks.

Sirius isn't sure what to say to that. Maybe James is right; maybe Remus isn't a Death Eater. But if Sirius admitted to that possibility, the carefully built justification he had for the break-up would crumble. He would be left with the role of betrayer rather than the betrayed, and the idea of that is too much to swallow.

"I'm sorry," he says, but for what, Sirius doesn't know.

"Good night, Sirius."

.

.

Only, it's not a good night. It's a dreadful one, restlessness consuming him and making it impossible for him to relax. Not that this ruddy bed even gives the impression of comfort, he thinks as he tosses and turns once more.

Maybe he could sleep if it weren't for the fact that Remus is awake and keeping watch just one room over, that he hates himself for his accusations. Remus was right—the more he considers it, the more he realizes that he would have known if Remus had joined the Death Eaters. Years of friendship followed by intimacy taught him everything he needed to know to understand Remus—the twitch of his lips, the tapping of his fingers, the way he cocked his head. And while it's an easy thing to believe—and oh-so-tempting—it truly doesn'tadd up. If for no other reason, Remus would never fight for a wizard who employs Fenrir Greyback.

And the fact that he touched Remus? Well, that's not helping the situation either. He remembers what it felt like. He remembers how the desire to run his hands along every bare inch of his friend consumed him incessantly, like he'd come down with a crazed fever.

He feels that fever now, scorching him thoroughly. In the grey darkness of his room, he stares at his hand—fists it and flexes it—and hates himself for reaching out to stop Remus in the first place. All these months he'd done so well staying away from him. And now that he has initiated something—even an accidental something—Sirius wishes he could take it back. He doesn't want to bear the burden of this wanting and not wanting.

With the sound of a small shuffling from the other room, Sirius redirects his attention from his hand—and Remus—to the noise. The door that adjoins his with Remus' creaks open. At that, Sirius sits up, hand slipping beneath his pillow to his wand, more out of habit than because he feels threatened. But after he sees Remus entering his room—clad in his boxers and white tee—he releases his wand.

"Did you hear that?" Remus whispers.

"What?"

"The crack."

"No, I thought it was lightening. The wireless said we were supposed to get a storm. Is it—"

Remus shakes his head. "Apparition."

"You're sure?"

"Yes, I'm sure!" he scolds, creeping towards the window that overlooks the courtyard.

Securing the bed linen around his waist—sleeping starkers having always been one of his habits—Sirius joins Remus at the window.

The inn they're staying at is old, semi-circular, and has a pub in the left wing of the building. Located in the seedy part of town, it's a great place for dark wizards to meet up and discuss the progress of the war. Fortunately, a room overlooking the courtyard had been available, giving them access to view the pub's door. If any of their old friendsdecide to show up, they ought to be able to see them coming.

"Don't stand in full view of the window!" Remus hisses, shoving him over so that he's mostly hid by the drapes. "We don't want them to know anyone is watching."

"Don't tell me what to do!" Sirius whispers loudly, shoving Remus back.

"Stop acting like an overindulged child who doesn't like to be—"

"—Is that Dolohov?"

Sirius points to a cloaked figure looming by the pub door. Remus moves the drapes back to get a better look before shaking his head.

"I can't tell. What makes you think it's him?"

"The fucker is built like a mountain troll."

"I don't know, Sirius. It could be anyone. I think we ought to err on the side of caution for now."

"What about 'constant vigilance?'"

"I'd like to take an opportunity to point out that Moody is missing an eye, a leg, and is scarred worse than I am. There's a fine line between vigilance and paranoid recklessness."

"I'm telling him you said that."

Before Sirius even has an opportunity to redirect his gaze to the figure, he feels Remus' hand on his arm, grip almost painfully tight. The sudden contact startles him—both because it's Remus and because he wasn't expecting it. When he forces his eyes to where Remus' own are trained on the pub door below, his heart skips a beat, and not in any pleasant sort of way.

"That's…"

"Bella," Sirius confirms, looking at the second figure. "I'm sure of it."

"Oh God, Padfoot."

They both look at one another as soon as the nickname slips from Remus' lips, attention drawn away from Death Eaters and focused entirely on each other. Remus' mouth hangs open, and Sirius' own parts. They've not used their nicknames for ages, not since before they broke things off. And Sirius hadn't realized just how much he'd missed hearing it from Remus' lips. Gorgeous, full, kissable lips.

"What did you just say?" Sirius asks, breathlessly.

"Sorry, sorry, I…" Remus shrugs. "Habit."

"Don't…apologize."

Sirius could wince, knowing all too well where his hormones are driving him. This isn't okay. Remus is off limits; Remus will cut off his bollocks at the first sign of his trying to initiate anything remotely cordial. And they're supposed to be on a bloody mission for Merlin's sake, not a two day romantic getaway. And they don't even likeone another anymore, which is perfectly fine as far as Sirius is concerned and—

"What do you think she's giving him?" Remus asks, pointing out the window and tearing Sirius from his panicked thoughts.

"Don't know. Instructions probably. Whatever she's handing over isn't very big at all."

"Maybe we should Floo Dumbledore."

"Not yet," Sirius explains. "We should try to find out more information. If Lord Noseless has Bella delivering messages, you can bet they're important and that the details won't come all at once. It'd be too risky to chance interception."

"They'll be back tomorrow, then?"

"It's hard to say. If it were me, I wouldn't choose the same location twice in a row."

"But Voldemort is getting cocky."

"Exactly."

The figures walk towards the shadows of the building separately before Apparating away with two consecutive cracks. Sirius wonders what exactly is happening. Dumbledore had been vague on the details, saying only that the Death Eaters had been too quiet for too long and he had suspicions that they were planning something big. A nameless informant gave Dumbledore the name of this small town along with a series of dates. It's certainly not much to go on, which only serves to intensify Sirius' nerves.

"They won't be back tonight," Remus says, walking over to the bed and sitting down.

"I doubt it."

"I have this horrible feeling that this has something to do with Harry and Neville."

Padding his way back to the bed, Sirius sits beside Remus, making sure to keep a respectable amount of space between them. He readjusts the blanket wrapped around his waist—fabric having ridden too low on his hips and part having revealed too much of his leg—and sighs.

"We can't think like that. If we do, we'll fuck up somewhere along the line."

"How can you not think about it? Harry's your godson."

Sirius looks at him. "Since when have you been such a worrier?"

"I don't know, Sirius, maybe since we've buried seventeen of our Order members in the past two years," he snaps. "I don't want to bury anymore, especially not the people I care most about."

"That's why you have all those grays."

It's a reflex still ingrained in him, spurred on by close proximity. Sirius raises his hand to thread his fingers through Remus' hair—shaggier now than he normally lets it get. His fingers never feel the silky smooth locks, though, because Remus slaps his hand away.

"What the fuck are you doing?"

"I…don't know," Sirius stammers.

"What, do you think just because I called you by your nickname you have free license just do whatever you will with me?" he shouts, standing.

"It's not like that."

Standing, Sirius grabs Remus' arm, halting the few steps of progress Remus has made towards his door. He could kick himself for touching Remus again, knowing all too well what it's doing to him. But, the alternative of having Remus hide behind his bedroom door, thinking the worst of him, doesn't feel like the better option.

Remus tries to free himself from Sirius' hard grip, jerking and pulling, but Sirius' grasp is firm. With a tug, Remus comes falling towards Sirius' chest, and Sirius holds him there.

The look in Remus' eyes is perfectly murderous, anger bordering on pre-moon rage. It's perverse how turned on he is by Remus' spiteful little looks. Maybe it shouldn't surprise him, though. Not after all those nights filled with angry sex over the course of their relationship.

But Remus doesn't seem like he's into the prospect of that tonight. It would be ridiculous if he were, really, after all that had happened. Just as Sirius thinks to let Remus go, to accept whatever it is that Remus is going to do to him for such a stupid move, however, he notices Remus' eyes focused on his lips.

Perhaps, like him, Remus is fighting this. Maybe he isn't alone in this struggle to keep his emotions in line with his thoughts. Maybe they would both let themselves have it if they could. And Sirius—breathing suddenly shallow—thinks that perhaps he should give this to the both of them.

His lips crush into Remus', and his hold is still firm on his former lover. Remus fights back, fists pounding weakly against Sirius' chest in a meager attempt to stop this. For a moment, Sirius wonders if he's made a mistake, if Remus really doesn't want him.

With just a bit more gentle coaxing from Sirius' mouth, however, Remus stops his feigned struggling and his lips begin to fall into time with Sirius'. Before Sirius realizes it, blunt teeth are baring down softly on his lips, tugging them into a swell. He moans his appreciation, and Remus returns it fully.

His brain begins to shut down when Remus' tongue flicks against the part of his lips, and Sirius opens for him eager, ready. Tongues meet and tangle, push and explore. Sirius submits like the dog that he is, allowing Remus to claim him in this kiss.

They get no further than that, though. Remus suddenly pulls away from Sirius and takes several steps back. Sirius watches as Remus brings the back of his hand to his lips, wiping away the remnants of their pent up frustration and perhaps even longing.

For once, Sirius has nothing to say. He moistens his kiss-swollen lips, tongue catching the faint taste of Remus still, and Sirius tries to relish it. Flesh over-warm, he hardly cares when he finds his blanket slackened and nearly exposing himself to Remus until he realizes that the situation probably calls for some modesty. He doesn't want to offend Remus anymore than he may already have.

"That…"

"…was very necessary? Brilliant? Out of this world?" Sirius offers weakly, yet hopeful.

Remus looks pained, eyes pressed tightly shut. "It can't happen again."

"Don't tell me you didn't feel something, Moony."

"Maybe I did, but…" He shrugs, defeated. "It can'thappen again."

And with that, Remus retreats into his room, the sound of the door locking echoing in the silence.

.

.

In retrospect, he should have seen this coming, should have known better than to assumethe next move of the Death Eaters. What had started out as a walk around town tonight with Remus—mostly because sitting in silence in their rooms was driving them both mental—has become a duel to the death.

He and Remus try to seek cover, try to steal away into the outskirts of town so there are no casualties, but the Death Eaters are right on their tails. With a quick flick of his wand, Remus sends a spell over his shoulder, barely aiming but managing to buy them a few desperately needed seconds. They manage to slip behind two trees fairly unnoticed as a result.

Chest heaving and lungs constricting from his full on sprint, Sirius struggles to stay on his feet. He manages a look at Remus, who appears to be in only slightly better shape than he is. With an inclination of his head and a nod, Remus effectively communicates their next plan of action.

The senior Avery speeds past the trees where they are hiding, and both Remus and Sirius fire off spells that hit the Death Eater soundly on the back—the glow of Sirius' spell a vibrant red and Remus' an unforgiving green. For a split second he looks over at Remus and finds no remorse in that face. He envies Remus' uncanny ability to take the lives of Death Eaters, knows that as long as he doesn't infect another human being, Remus has made his peace with Death Eater casualties.

His attention has been stolen too long, he realizes, when he meets Bellatrix's cruel, twisted smile. The first spell conjured from his wand is the Cruciatus—and maybe it's strange how easily this spell flows from hiswand—and it brings Bella to her knees in writhing agony. Sirius doesn't have time to relish her pain, however, because an orange light flashes just past him, and he spins around to turn his attention to Nott.

Sirius falls into the duel with a comfortable sort of familiarity. His feet step and legs bend with a swordsman's grace—a mark of his pure-blood upbringing—and his back remains straight in perfect dueling posture. Nott—and his sloppy style—are quickly overcome by him after a series of common but equally as dangerous spells. Before Sirius can finish him off—and this part gets no easier, no matter how many times he does it—Nott Disapparates.

From the corner of his eye, he catches sight of Bella and Remus dueling. He is running to Remus' aid when he's engaged in a duel with Travers, who is by far one of the best fighters Voldemort has. As if to reassure Sirius of that, Travers casts a strange blue light that speeds towards Sirius faster than any spell he's seen before. Sirius jumps out of the way, but not before the spell catches the top of his left hand, splitting the flesh open to the bone.

He shrieks, falling to his knees and momentarily losing his wand. Remus turns to find out what's happened to him, and it's at that moment that Bella casts the Killing Curse.

"Remus!"

The world pauses for one unbearably long moment. He watches as Remus' brown eyes widen, as he turns back to Bella who is cackling wickedly. Remus falls to his knees, almost lifeless, as the Killing Curse narrowly misses him.

The world picks back up, double-time.

Remus flings a curse towards Bellatrix, which catches her arm and renders it useless. She fires one back with her good arm, but Sirius doesn't know the outcome of that because Travers has reengaged him.

What Sirius does know is that he can't last much longer, not with the wound on his hand and not against someone with skill and an obvious advantage over him. With his options quickly dwindling, Sirius finds himself relying on magic tightly bound to his blood. Thinking back to the spell books in his father's library, Sirius searches his mind for the right one.

Before he can properly settle, he's faced with another attack and rolls to dodge it. Sirius fires back a curse that he would have never thought he'd ever have to use and turns away just as he hears Travers' wail. If he chanced a look, he knows that there would be nothing in the man's eye sockets. The moment he feels remorse, Sirius thinks of the McKinnons and what Travers did to them; suddenly, having his eyes ripped from their sockets doesn't seem like a just punishment at all for the likes of him.

Sirius takes to his feet, rushing towards where Bella and Remus duel. He catches her with a severing hex, cutting her deeply across her back. She growls, and Remus hits her with a spell that makes the color drain from her face. She falls over, twitching on the ground.

Assuring themselves that no one will follow them, they run to each other, Remus' hand circling Sirius' wrist and Apparating them to the safety of Remus' flat.

.

.

On Remus' bed, Sirius sits in pain, right hand cradling his damaged left. He moves it, testing just how much function he's lost, and quickly regrets it as a searing stab races up his arm. Sirius doesn't know what sort of spell Travers used and can only hope that the injury isn't so severe that Remus can't fix it. A trip to St. Mungo's at this point might be risky given that the Death Eaters know he's been injured.

"Alright there?" Remus asks, coming into the bedroom with his kit of plasters and salves.

"Managing."

Remus offers him a weak smile before dropping to his knees in front of Sirius to inspect his hand. Judging from the wincing, Sirius can tell that Remus doesn't like what he sees. And if Remus—who has spent the last fifteen years fixing himself up post-moon—thinks it's bad, then it must be.

"You're not going to have to cut it off, are you?"

"No, you're safe from that, I think, unless I really fuck up my wandwork. You're going to have to go easy on it, though."

"But that's my wanking hand," Sirius says jokingly, hoping to lighten the mood.

Remus glances up at him. "I'm afraid you're going to have to find someone to scratch your itch for you, then. Or make do with your right."

With the way that Remus is looking at him, Sirius feels the strong urge to kiss him, to apologize for everything he's said and done for the past year. He thinks back to the Killing Curse that barely missed Remus, thinks how Remus might not have been with him right now if it hadn't been for quick reflexes. Suddenly all this fighting seems so incredibly stupid. If nothing else, Sirius thinks they ought to work on mending their friendship; life's too short and uncertain to hold grudges.

An agonizing pain spreads through his hand, stopping any thoughts of making peace with Remus in their tracks. He tries to jerk his hand back from the cloth that Remus is using to clean the wound, but Remus persists.

"Oww! Bloody hell, Remus," Sirius hisses.

"Sorry, but it's probably best to do this part the Muggle way. Any variant on a cleansing charm will be too harsh on a cut this severe, I think."

The cleaning alone seems to take forever, only furthered by the sharp pains, twinges, and deep aches caused by the cloth and antiseptic. Remus tries his best to be gentle, and if it were anyone else attending to him, Sirius would have shouted obscenities already. Because it's Remus, however, Sirius resists.

"There, now for the charms."

The first of them, Remus explains, is to regrow the muscle tissue. He didn't explain, however, that it would hurt like hell. Before Sirius even has the opportunity to complain about it, Remus casts another series of charms—one minty cool, one that tingles, one that momentarily changes his damaged flesh turquoise. Finally, in silence, Remus spreads a salve across the significantly improved wound and wraps a bandage around it.

"That's the best I can do, I'm afraid."

"Thanks, Moony. Feels loads better already."

Sirius expects Remus to move from his kneeling position, but Remus remains at his feet. His hands slip firmly onto Sirius' thigh, and Sirius' breath hitches in response to the unexpected and intimate contact. He wonders what Remus is thinking, knowing full well where his own thoughts are drifting.

"You should stay here tonight," Remus says. "I'll worry if you go home, especially with your hand like that. I mean, I know the bed isn't as big as yours…I'll sleep on the couch, of course…"

"Moony?" Sirius calls, taking Remus by the hand.

Remus stands. "Hmm?"

"Shut up."

Sirius leans back onto Remus' bed, pulling Remus on top of him. Between them, a year has suddenly faded into nonexistence, anger and concern and accusations slipping away like sand through fingers. Sirius remembers this, remembers him, his lips finding their way to Remus'—always slightly chapped from worrying at them—his right arm circling Remus' neck.

Remus presses into him, and Sirius gives an involuntary gasp at the feel of Moony's cock gradually making itself known. When his lips part, Remus slips his tongue between them, exploring Sirius' mouth and drinking him in. Sirius pushes back against him—both tongue and body—his nerves buzzing with a pleasing sensation. He feels his own cock harden against Remus' thigh, and unashamed, Sirius wonders how they ever managed to quit each other for an entire year.

"Want you," Sirius mumbles, as Remus drops kisses along his cheek.

"Budge up, then," he replies before his teeth find the shell of Sirius' ear.

Sirius, relishing the feel of Remus nipping at his ear, finds it difficult to move at all. He whimpers, hand seeking out the strain in Remus' corduroys, and feels his cock twitch at the thickness and heaviness of Remus' own. There, he rubs, and Remus' hips jerk to push against his hand, seeking friction.

"If you don't stop that right now…" Remus threatens.

Sirius bites the flesh where neck meets shoulder, and Remus keens in response, making Sirius wonder if Remus hadn't wanted this all along. "What?"

"This will be a very…mmm…short lived—Sirius—ungh…liaison."

The prospect of all of this ending prematurely sends Sirius inching up the bed into a better position just as Remus had asked. Remus shifts on top of him, lips meeting in a fever and bodies aligning in a way that Sirius never quite appreciated before.

As Sirius takes Remus' lip between his teeth, Remus slides his hand between them, pushing up Sirius' shirt frantically as if to suggest that it's perfectly criminal that he's still wearing it. Sirius tries to take it off, but Remus' lips—relentless in claiming his own—make it quite impossible to get it past his chest.

They break—mouths kiss-swollen—long enough for Sirius to lift up to rid himself of the shirt and for Remus to do the same. And as soon as they take care of that business, their hands are on one another's zips, fighting their way through trousers.

It's Remus who achieves his goal first—and only because Sirius has a bad habit of foregoing pants—and he takes Sirius' hard length into hand. Sirius shudders at the touch, mouth dropping open as he takes in a sharp breath. As Remus strokes downward, Sirius releases the breath he hadn't even realized he was holding with a moan.

"God, don't do that," Remus begs with a tortured little laugh.

"Undoes you, does it?"

He nods where he sucks eagerly at Sirius' neck. "As does your saying stuff like that."

Remus' hips cant suddenly as Sirius draws out his length. He buries his head into Sirius neck, panting as silky smooth flesh meets silky smooth flesh. They rock against one another, whispering incoherent words at every grind of the hips. Remus whimpers Sirius' name, and Sirius returns it with equal passion.

Hands slipping down Remus' sides—muscles taut and bones ever protruding—Sirius pushes the corduroys and pants down over Remus' arse. Palms seek out Remus' cheeks, nails digging into firm muscle, and Remus shifts just slightly, encouraging Sirius further in his pursuits.

His finger seeks out Remus' entrance, brushing lightly against the tight pucker. Remus nearly jumps at the initial contact, but Sirius soothes him with his lips, with his tongue, with the friction of his cock. As Remus relaxes, Sirius teases him open.

It's not as if Sirius hasn't had men—or women—after his break-up with Remus, but those (often) one-night-stands had never measured up to this. Sirius' mind clings to an idea long since buried, that what makes this wholly different from anything else is the feelings he has for Remus. One feeling in particular, in fact—one that he still can't bring himself to come to terms with.

Love.

"What's wrong?" Remus manages through his panting under Sirius' ministrations. "You look…something. Off. Yeah. Oh fuck, yeah."

"Huh? Nothing. It's nothing."

He can't think about that—about that frightening word—now. This isn't love. This isn't anything. It's fucking, sure, but fucking doesn't have to mean something; he's done enough of it to know that much.

In wanting to bury these feelings surfacing inside him, Sirius withdraws from Remus—and Remus makes a disapproving noise at that. He moves them around, discarding Remus of the rest of his clothes and himself of his denims. Then, he lies back, legs spread open, inviting Remus to make him forget.

That's all the encouragement Remus needs, apparently, as he leans over Sirius to fetch a container of lube from his bedside drawer. He applies it liberally to both his fingers and his cock before grazing Sirius' opening with the slick digits.

Sirius squirms against him—waiting and wanting—eager to have Remus inside him after all this time. Two fingers press into him, and it burns. It's been some time since he's done this regularly. Sirius embraces the discomfort, though, embraces the foreignness invading him, welcomes this feeling back after all this time.

"Moony," he hisses, as Remus begins to pump and spread his fingers inside him.

As Remus hits his prostate, he nearly jumps, mouth momentarily hanging open as he lets the pleasure build around him. He forgets, now, that pesky word that's haunted him this past year, can only feel, not think.

What he feels is nothing short of heart-stopping.

"Give it to me, love," Sirius demands. "Hard."

"You're hardly prepared—"

"Remus."

That does it for Remus—the sound of his name, heavy and gravel-like across Sirius' lips. When he feels Remus pushing against him, his stomach tenses in anticipation before he remembers that tension doesn't quite work well for his. Remus must sense this tension, too, because he uses his free hand to rub Sirius' arm comfortingly.

Remus eases into him, Sirius holding his breath as he does. The feel of Remus buried inside him brings back so many memories, of stolen moments in abandoned corridors and late nights between the bed linens. In some ways, this feels like the first time—that sense of finallyhanging heavy over them, that sense of so this is what it is to be complete. In other ways, it feels like they're picking up right where they left off—unintentionally sloppy kisses and awkward rhythm no longer an issue after all these years.

"I…" Remus begins, softly.

"I know," Sirius says. "I'm there, too."

This poignant moment lasts only briefly, giving way to more primal needs—heat, friction, tightness. Remus moves in him, drawing back and pushing in once more. Sirius remembers the steps to this dance as if it had been ingrained in him—perhaps they've done this so many times it has—and moves his hips to meet Remus' thrusts.

Sensations build, almost peak as Remus hits his prostate over and over again. But it's not enough, not quite how Sirius wants it. Even in his euphoria, even as he tries to push all thoughts of what this means from his mind, Sirius can't shake the feeling that this isn't likely to happen again; it leaves him feeling empty.

"Make me feel it, love," he begs. "For a week."

Remus' thrusts become slams, and Sirius' own movements become more frantic, trying anything to make himself feel more. Not long after his request, it starts to ache—the brutality of it.

It has Sirius moaning like a slag.

He reaches down between them, taking himself into hand. But before he even has the opportunity to get much of a stroke in, he's already coating Remus' belly with his come, already twitching around Remus' thickness.

"Oh bloody hell, Sirius," Remus whimpers.

No more than three thrusts later, Remus is spilling himself inside Sirius, Sirius relishing the feel of it. For a moment, they pant in silence, trying to reclaim their breath. He thinks about kissing Remus in this afterglow, but realizes that the moments for post-shag kissing passed ages ago. They're not those people any longer.

Instead, Remus withdraws from him, and taking his wand, mutters a quick cleaning charm. Without a word, they both settle into bed, but neither finds easy sleep this night.