Falling leaves, like a blanket at my feet
There's a canopy of stars and I just miss you like crazy
Suddenly the worlds to big and the hours move too slow
And I just wish that you were holding me near
Permanent Monday - Jordin Sparks
Remus laughed as he watched Sirius - as a dog - frolicking in the leaves on the edge of the Forbidden Forest. It was a sight that never failed to cheer him up; there was something completely innocent about watching Padfoot snapping at fluttering orange blurs and chasing the lengthening shadows.
It always made him feel content. Well, perhaps not content, but he felt like he was being bathed in a rosy warmth, no matter how cool the wind blew. Perhaps it was to do with the season - autumn really was a perfect season, what with the warm-but-not-too-hot days, the feeling of having finally settled into the new school year but not yet having to worry about the exams, and the picturesque orange-and-brown colouring that enveloped the Hogwarts grounds.
Deep down, he knew there was another reason he liked autumn. Autumn was the season when he got to spend the most time with Sirius. Quidditch practice for James was at its most time consuming (Sirius had gotten kicked off the team permanently back in third year for 'violent playing' against the Slytherin team), and Peter was in the Gobstones Club, which meant that there were many convenient times where he just couldn't hang out with them. Sirius tired of watching James practice very quickly, and Remus would never say no to an opportunity to spend time with the dog animagus.
By winter it would be too cold, and then after that there would be exams and too much homework to even contemplate free time. Then the Quidditch season would end, so James would join them more often than not. But for now, everything was perfect.
"Padfoot!" Remus called. "Someone's coming! Change back!" It went against all his instincts to let Sirius transform for such an insignificant and pointless purpose and take such a risk of getting caught, but even now, in seventh year, it was still unbelievable that he could become a dog at all. Remus was amazingly grateful for what Sirius and the other two had done for him, so he hadn't argued too strongly at all, despite the risk.
Padfoot disappeared into the tree-line, and emerged moments later as a human. The lanky-but-handsome boy (and one who was well aware of his good-looks) offered Remus a casual smile. "Chill, Moony," he advised. "Even if they did see me, it's not like they'd think anything of it."
"Oh yeah?" Remus challenged, grinning. "And how many whopping great dogs do you see wandering the school?" Arguing was pointless, but he liked the friendly banter.
Sirius sat down besides the werewolf, folding up his long legs in a way that Remus envied - his own sitting position usually resembled the statue of the one-eyed-witch more than anything else. "So who'd you see coming?"
"Some girls," Remus said dismissively. Sirius craned his head around the tree they were sitting behind.
"Huh. Which ones?"
"Um… Smith and Bell, I think."
"Smith in our year? Maria Smith?"
"Yeah, her. Why?"
"No reason." Sirius tried to sound nonchalant, but as he was still peering around the bole of the tree, the effect was somewhat spoiled. Finally he sat back down and added, "She's a fit bird, don't you think?"
"Bird?" Remus asked mockingly. "You're picking up bad habits from James. She looks very human to me."
Sirius rolled his eyes. James had been the one to start calling girls "birds" back in fifth year, when he'd finally realised that they didn't have girl-cooties. "You know what I mean," he said.
"Yes, I have heard that she's considered quite pretty," Remus said carefully.
"You've heard?" Sirius asked. "What do you think?"
"I guess she is," Remus said reluctantly.
"You guess?" Sirius laughed.
"Yes. I guess."
Sirius looked at Remus, his face unreadable for a moment. Then he smiled once more. "If that's your final answer," he said, "then let's head back to the castle. James should almost be finished with practice by now."
He pushed himself to his feet and held his hand out to help Remus up. The werewolf blinked up at him, surprised by the gesture. "Well come on, then," Sirius said when he made no move to accept. Remus tentatively reached up to grasp it.
When he was on his feet, they both made their way back to the castle - Sirius wishing he was still a dog so that he could chase the falling leaves, and Remus trying to ignore the way his stomach had lurched.
"Remus…," James said, attempting to get the werewolf's attention. It didn't work.
"Remus?" he tried again, and was met with about as much success as the last time. He waited for a minute before trying once more.
"Remus, if your glare becomes any more intense, you're going to set the Forbidden Forest alight."
Remus didn't even turn to look at James when he replied. "No, I won't."
"It is possible."
"No it isn't."
"Are you in love with Sirius?"
"What?" That had got Remus' attention. He whipped his head around, transferring his glare to James, who barely resisted the urge to cower away. "Why would you say that?" he demanded.
"Well," James reasoned, "you've been glaring at his new girlfriend for the past half an hour."
"I'm not glaring at his girlfriend," Remus said quickly. "They're breaking school rules by kissing in public."
"No they aren't," James said. "I'm head boy, remember? I know these things."
"Well, if they were going any further they'd be breaking school rules," Remus argued. "It goes against the prefect part of me to watch them engage in such activities." His glare intensified once more as Sirius and his girlfriend rolled over so that she was practically sitting on him. He looked away as she leaned in for another kiss, avoiding James' eyes.
It was official; Remus hated autumn.
But not as much as he hated Maria Smith.
Now Sirius wasn't always the most observant person when it came to people. He seemed to know automatically when a girl liked him, but that's where his perception stopped. However, even he couldn't miss how distant Remus had become lately. He was spending even more time in the library than usual, and when he talked to his werewolf pal, said werewolf always seemed sort of… glum, and gave off an "I-Don't-Really-Want-To-Talk-To-You-Right-Now" sort of vibe. Except "right now" was quickly becoming "all the time".
And Sirius had to wonder… did Remus know his secret? At first he thought it might be paranoia - and that perhaps he was imagining things with Remus - but even Peter had asked the other day why Remus was being so quiet. And Sirius knew that it was only when he was around, because sometimes, before he entered the room, he'd hear Remus talking animatedly (well, as animatedly as Remus could get) to James.
He never did that when Sirius was there.
Had Maria told? She was the only one who knew, although how she had guessed, Sirius didn't know. He suspected she'd used magic to read his mind or something. And now she was his pretend-girlfriend, to keep people from getting suspicious, because his parents would kill him if it somehow got out that their eldest son was about as straight as a circle.
But Maria wouldn't have told anyone, would she? Especially not Remus, who had probably never said more than two words to her.
"Remus?" Sirius asked one Saturday morning, after James had left the breakfast table for Quidditch practice and Peter had stumbled off blearily to complete the pile of homework that he'd been doing when dawn so rudely interrupted.
"Mm?" Remus responded, not even looking up from the morning paper.
"Want to hang out today?"
"I was planning on studying."
"Please, Remus," Sirius begged. "We never hang out anymore." He gave the werewolf his best impression of adorable, irresistible puppy-dog eyes. It proved ineffective though - Remus still wasn't looking at him.
"Don't you want to be spending time with Maria?" he asked, and Sirius detected an unfamiliar tone - almost bitter - that sounded very strange coming from Remus.
"Not really," Sirius said. "I want to spend time with you."
Finally Remus' eyes rose to meet Sirius'. "Alright," he said, folding up his paper. "Where do you want to go?"
It was just like it had been a week ago ('Had it really only been a week?' Remus wondered) since they'd been sitting under the same tree. But this time, Remus wasn't laughing, and Sirius wasn't romping in the leaves.
To Remus' surprise, Sirius pulled out a packet of muggle cigarettes. The werewolf looked at him like he'd grown a second head. "Want one?" Sirius offered, holding the box out when he realised that Remus was looking at him.
He wrinkled his nose in disgust. "No thanks," he said. "Those things are terrible for you."
Sirius shrugged. "I thought it would annoy my parents," he said, pulling out a muggle lighter. Remus watched in fascination as he pushed some sort of button that caused a flame to spring up from the metal bit next to Sirius' fingers. The animagus held it up to the cigarette and took a deep puff once it was alight.
"Did it?" Remus asked distractedly, still looking at the lighter in what appeared to be avid fascination.
"Yep." Sirius gave a satisfied smirk.
They fell into a semi-comfortable silence, in which Remus realised just how gross the smell of cigarette smoke really was. Finally Sirius saw fit to say something. "Why have you been so distant recently?"
Remus shrugged. "I haven't," he said, but he didn't look at Sirius.
"You have," the other boy insisted. "Even now you won't talk to me like you usually do."
"I do talk to you."
"Not like you used to. You used to joke and laugh and stuff."
"And you used to actually spend time with the rest of us."
"Hardly ever. When was the last time you were with all three of us?"
"We were going to bed, Sirius; you couldn't really have not been there. And you barely said anything to me or Pete."
Sirius was beginning to see what Remus was saying now. Still, he continued to argue. "I'm not the only one, you know. James is spending more and more time with Lily and at Quidditch, and Pete's so far behind in class that he's spending more time in the library than you do."
"They still try!" Remus exclaimed. "When they can, they still talk to each other. They don't hide themselves away. You haven't said anything more to me than "pass the toast" since you started going out with Smith!"
"You've been hiding too!" Sirius responded. Both their voices were raised now. "You might try to spend time with Pete and James, but you'd rather bury yourself in books than talk to me! And don't you try to pin this on Maria! Just because you can't get a girlfriend-"
He knew as soon as he said it that he should have just kept his mouth shut. Remus' face darkened and he pushed himself up from where he was sitting. Sirius rose quickly, already beginning to apologise, but Remus had turned away, beginning to stride back towards the castle. He grabbed the werewolf's arm, causing Remus to spin around. For a second, he thought that there he was going to punch him, but instead he just wrenched his arm out of Sirius' grasp and continued to walk away.
"Rem," he said, putting himself in the werewolf's path, "I didn't mean that."
"Well you said it," Remus said through gritted teeth, shouldering past him. Sirius grabbed his arm once more, and this time Remus stopped and turned to him.
"I didn't mean it," Sirius repeated. "I just meant… well, you don't have a girlfriend, and you never try to get one… I don't mean you can't… but you never say you like anyone or anything… I'm sorry, okay?" he finished lamely. "I didn't think."
"I'm gay," Remus blurted out. He immediately lowered his eyes to the ground, as though afraid of how Sirius would react. Why had he said that? He could have kicked himself.
"You're…," Sirius said. His mind was spinning. Suddenly everything seemed to make sense. Remus hadn't been angry or disgusted, he'd been jealous. Jealous of Maria.
Because he liked Sirius.
"You…," he said, not quite managing to get out more than a single word. Remus, his face ashen, turned away and walked over to the tree line of the forest, where he kicked at the trunk of a large tree. Sirius reckoned it probably hurt his foot when he let out a small yelp.
"Remus?" Sirius asked, following him. "Were you jealous of Maria?"
Remus turned back to Sirius. "No," he said, but his eyes flickered to the side as he said it, and he bit his lip - an old habit that he used to do when he was lying to teachers about pranks the Marauder's had conducted. Sirius and James had quickly put a stop to it - it wouldn't do for teachers to realise there was a foolproof Remus-Lupin-Lie-Detector.
"Because if you got a girlfriend," Sirius said, stepping closer to Remus, "I'd be very," he took another step so that they were inches away from each other. He leaned in closer. "Jealous," he whispered finally.
They were so close that he could see Remus' eyelashes flutter. And before he could change his mind (well, he'd gotten this far, there really was no backing out unless he wanted Remus to never speak to him again), he leaned in and pressed their lips together.
Remus' mouth was slightly open, and Sirius felt the constant rhythm of his breathing falter as his breath hitched. Both of them closed their eyes.
But within moments, Remus had pulled away. "You have a girlfriend!" was the first thing he said, but his voice broke halfway through, and he coughed, blushing.
"I don't like her," Sirius said quickly. "Well, not like that, anyway. I'm only going out with her so that no one would I was gay and tell Regulus, who'd tell my parents."
"And she knows this, does she?" Remus asked, his eyebrow raised.
"'Course," Sirius said. "It was her idea."
"Right…," Remus said. "So are we… you know, going out?"
Sirius grinned. "I really hope so."
"And we can't tell anyone?" Remus asked. "Otherwise your parents will find out that your gay."
Sirius shrugged. "I do like to annoy them," he hinted. "It's a pity you're pureblood. Are you sure your grandfather wasn't a muggle or something? Now that would really get up their nose."
"Sorry, no," Remus said smiling. "I'm pretty sure my family are all wizards and witches." Then he added reluctantly, "We should get back to the castle."
"Yeah," Sirius agreed. "But can I have another kiss first?"
"What? Why not?"
"You're breath stinks, Padfoot. I'm not kissing you again until you've cleaned your teeth. And I'm destroying your cigarettes as soon as we get back to the castle."
"Not even a small peck?" Sirius asked, not bothered by Remus' threat.
"Alright then. One."
Sirius leaned in for another kiss, and Remus wrapped his arms around his neck. As they pressed their lips together, a large gust of wind blew, causing the autumn leaves to cascade down around them. Sirius pulled away, and Remus laughed at the sight of the orange leaves tangled in his hair. As he reached up to pull them out, he couldn't help thinking that perhaps autumn wasn't so bad after all.
A/N: I'd just like to say that I do not condone smoking in any way. It's NOT cool, it's not ATTRACTIVE, and it most certainly won't get Remus to go out with you! It's a terrible habit to take up! I'm totally with Moony on this one.
I never thought I'd put it in a fic, but I really need something to break the tension between the two of them….
Also, I am well aware that Remus is a half-blood. I took some liberty with his background.
Written as part of the Four Seasons Challenge.