Hogwarts had only just let out for the summer, and June was falling into July when Peter, James, Sirius, and Remus arrived with the Potters via Floo at the cabin in the Lake Country. It was the first summer that they were all on holiday together at last. They had stayed at each others' houses in previous summers, but meeting at a cabin was somehow different and far more exciting. They had a myriad of plans to explore the surrounding areas. They would have two whole weeks here, with nothing to fret about.
Or so they thought. Sirius discovered something to fret about on his very first evening there. It turned out that the Potters' cabin had two bedrooms. James' parents took one, and the four Marauders were allocated the other. The Marauders' room had two beds. Ordinary boys might not have worried, but Sirius Black had known for almost two years that he was not an ordinary boy. Ordinary boys didn't wank to thoughts of other boys, to the pastiche of long hard cocks. But oh, Sirius Black did. He wiped his sweaty hands on his Muggle denims and tried not to think of sharing a bed with Moony. Moony was the only roommate he thought of that way, and though Sirius had tried for the better part of a year not to harbour such thoughts for their mild-mannered friend, in the end he'd thought, "fuck it" and by now he wanked to the thought of those ink-stained fingertips most every day.
They might not be sharing a bed, Sirius reminded himself. Perhaps Remus would simply be in the same room. That would be a relief. He slept across the room from Remus normally. This would be no different. Except there was the problem of there being only two beds...
"This bed's mine!" James threw himself and his overnight bag onto one of the full-size beds. "It always has been."
The three remaining boys gaped at the one remaining bed for exactly one second before all three were wrestling each other, pushing and prodding. Wormtail, the smallest, landed on the floor with an unceremonious thump. Sirius realized he was sitting nearly on top of Remus and popped up, cheeks flushed.
"You can take the bed," Sirius heard himself say to Remus. "Wormtail and I can share the floor."
"There's room for two," Remus answered quietly. Sirius could have sworn he saw a swell of pink rush into those cheeks. Maybe it was just the sunset through the window.
"There's room for two," Wormtail echoed, sitting on James' bed.
"Not on mine, there's not." James kicked Wormtail.
Sirius wiped sweaty hands once again on his denims and silently thought that sharing a bed with Moony was the worst idea ever. He knew he should say no. "Yeah," he heard himself whisper shakily.
By the time bedtime came, Sirius was desperate for a plan to stop any subconscious or unconscious actions on his own part towards Remus. He had only one idea, so, long after the other three boys appeared to be asleep, Sirius slipped into bed with a broom in hand. In Sirius's mind, if he slept with a broom between himself and Remus, nothing could possibly happen. It would be a physical barrier that would keep Remus forever out of reach.
Remus, though, was not asleep. This became evident when he asked in a whisper, "Sirius, why do you have a broom?"
Sirius felt his heart pound against his rib cage. "Dunno," he lied. His throat felt tight.
"I know you like Quidditch and all, but it's still a bit odd to sleep with your broomstick. I didn't know you fancied Quidditch that much," Remus snickered.
"Shut it," Sirius growled.
"Oooh, Quidditch, how I've missed you. Oooh, broom, I must hold you," Remus teased. He was a shadow in the dark room, but his nose was close enough for Sirius to make out.
"I don't fancy my broom, alright!" Sirius's voice was rising to a stage whisper.
"Your delicious bristles-"
"I fancy you, you arsehole." Sirius shoved at the shadow beside him, but Remus had gone very still. Sirius realized what he had said, and thought he might be sick. He was thinking of making a silent and hasty escape, of stumbling blindly out of bed and sleeping on the couch. He had nearly worked up the nerve (or cowardice?) to do it when a soft voice answered him:
"I fancy you too."
The broom turned out to not be much of a physical barrier at all. First they joined hands. Then their forearms intertwined slowly, a sensual thing. When their noses were close, it was Sirius who whispered, "Can I kiss you?"
"Sure," Remus's smile was conveyed in his voice.
Sirius did more than kiss; his lips covered Remus's, his tongue joining Remus's in the other boy's mouth and dancing there, arching. Both boys quivered with the contact.
They slept with their arms intertwined. The broom never did leave the bed.
It took Remus two hours to find Sirius, and even then he had the help of every kind of locator charm that he knew. Remus dropped off his broom to the ground in the back alley of some Muggle street in London. Sirius was slumped on his side against a fence, shattered broom at his feet.
"Where's your motorbike?" Remus asked without preamble.
"Hagrid," Sirius answered, trying to straighten himself a little.
"Are you hurt?"
"Broke something," Sirius answered. "I would have kept flying, but-" He gestured to his broom.
"No, these Comet 1000's were never meant for the kind of flying you do. They're carved too tightly," Remus frowned, picking up the pieces. "If you'd taken your broom instead of my broom-"
"Grabbed the first broom I saw," Sirius answered.
"What are you doing out in the middle of the night, anyway?" Remus asked.
Sirius turned then to look at Remus, and Remus saw the cascades of tears streaming from Sirius's eyes. "They're dead."
"Who?" Remus thought he knew the answer, though, and he didn't want to hear it.
"James and Lily."
"But you were their-"
"Remus." Sirius reached out with his good arm, the other clearly broken and held at an odd angle. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I wasn't."
"You weren't their Secret Keeper?"
"Peter and I switched. I didn't know-"
"You thought I was the spy." Remus's voice fell flat.
Remus sank down next to Sirius against the fence. "Brilliant. Bloody brilliant, Sirius. You suspected me of being the spy and now our best friends are dead. Is this what you're telling me?"
Sirius shifted and howled in pain, possibly due to his arm, though Remus wondered if there wasn't an emotional component.
"I ought to hate you. I ought to never speak to you again so long as we live."
"I wouldn't blame you," Sirius whispered. "It's my fault they're dead. All my fault."
"God, why is everything about you?" Remus yelled into the night. "Don't you think it just might be Peter's fault? If he was, as you say, the spy?"
"I was going to kill him. I was going to find him and murder the bastard," Sirius groaned.
"Well now you're going to St. Mungo's, I'm afraid," Remus sighed.
"I can't. Everyone thought I was the Secret Keeper. I'll be a wanted man."
"I'll vouch for you," Remus answered.
"W-Why would you do that? You should hate me."
"Because I don't hate you, I love you, even if I think your an idiot." Remus looked down and noticed his hands were shaking. The idea that James, Lily, and Harry had died had not set in yet, but he knew it would soon. Best to get Sirius to the hospital before he himself went into shock. Remus had arrived on Sirius's broom. Built for speed as it was, it wouldn't hold two people. "I can't believe-" Remus started, then stopped as his throat grew tight.
"Harry," Sirius sighed into the night.
"Merlin, he was just a baby."
"Yeah. No, what? Remus, Harry's alive! I gave Hagrid my motorbike so that he could bring Harry to Dumbledore."
Remus stared unblinkingly at Sirius for a long moment before tears began to fall from his own eyes. Sirius, too, was crying again. Remus wasn't sure whether his tears were of joy or of grief, or simply of physical shock and exhaustion, but he knew now he simply had to keep Sirius safe- Sirius had a godson to raise.
Dear Sirs and Madam, Remus started the letter, trying not to chew on the end of his quill. It was an old nervous habit he'd had since boyhood.
"Whatcha doing Remus?" Harry interrupted, coming into the kitchen and digging through the drawers.
"That depends, what are you looking for?" Remus watched Harry slyly.
"Nothing," Harry answered, just prior to pulling out a sucker from the silverware drawer.
"First of all, I'd like to know what that was doing in that drawer. Second of all, no candy before supper. You know that."
Harry pouted, dropped the sucker back in the drawer, and came to read over Remus's shoulder. "Dear Sirs and Madam," Harry read aloud.
"Why don't you go outside and help your godfather plant the vegetables?"
"It's boring," Harry answered.
"Let me rephrase that. Harry, please be a good lad and go outside to help your godfather plant the vegetables."
Harry groaned but obliged, slinking out the back door. Remus could hear him outside calling to Sirius, "Hey Sirius, Remus said I have to help you out!" Remus laughed to himself and turned his attention back to his letter.
Dear Sirs and Madam I'm writing in regard to the Nimbus 89 broom that your company recently unveiled. I think there has been a grievous mistake in its design, and I wanted to bring it to your attention prior to the beginning of the '89 Quidditch season, as I think it could potentially be a serious design error. If you look at the backshaft, the grain of the wood is anti-clockwise (as seen from the fore-broom). This adds an unstable element to the broom that could cause it to flip upside down at any time. I know wood graining is a controversial field of broom design, but I know from my own designs that purely clockwise or anti-clockwise graining has this effect. I hope you clear the matter up swiftly. Yours sincerely,
Remus J Lupin
I'm writing in regard to the Nimbus 89 broom that your company recently unveiled. I think there has been a grievous mistake in its design, and I wanted to bring it to your attention prior to the beginning of the '89 Quidditch season, as I think it could potentially be a serious design error. If you look at the backshaft, the grain of the wood is anti-clockwise (as seen from the fore-broom). This adds an unstable element to the broom that could cause it to flip upside down at any time. I know wood graining is a controversial field of broom design, but I know from my own designs that purely clockwise or anti-clockwise graining has this effect. I hope you clear the matter up swiftly.
Remus re-read the letter and nodded. It was to-the-point. He was satisfied. He dropped it in the mail the next day.
When he had not received a response after a full month, Remus began to lose hope that he would ever receive one. Not only did he not receive a reply, but the Nimbus 89, complete with the faulty backshaft, remained on the market. It was the new broom of the season for professional players, and Remus didn't like to think about what might happen if the Nimbus company failed to take responsibility.
The Quidditch opener that year featured the Falmouth Falcons at the Montrose Magpies, and Sirius was scheduled to announce. He had been working his way up the ranks of the Wizarding Wireless Quidditch Announcer hierarchy for three years, and this opener was a major boon to his career. Sirius's excitement was tangible, and it spilled easily over to Harry, who was exuberant to the maximum. Remus held Harry tightly to himself as they Floo'd to Montrose, afraid that the hyper child wouldn't come through the Floo in one piece on his own. Sirius came behind, looking professional (and delectable) in a silk striped suit.
"The announcer box is this way," Sirius pointed left down the concourse.
"We can sit in general if you'd prefer," Remus offered.
"That's nonsense. I've got you passes."
"Yes, but. Well, I wouldn't want to jeopardize your career."
Sirius stared at him blankly, clearly not comprehending. He added only, "Announcer box. It's a done deal."
Remus nodded and led Harry by the hand, following behind Sirius.
The announcer box towered over the pitch. It was beautifully clean, and appointed with refreshments. Sirius was announcing today with a corpulent white-haired wizard named Harris Beugleman. Beugleman had, in turn, brought his wife, daughter, son-in-law, and their three young children. The eldest of Beugleman's grandchildren was a boy nearly Harry's age named Terrence, and the two got on perfectly. Perhaps owing to this commonality, the extended Beugleman family didn't seem to pay any mind to the unusual nature of the Black-Lupins. They ate and drank merrily together until game time neared.
The first game of the season was always thrilling, no matter who played or how predictable the outcome was expected to be, but this game was going to be particularly good as everyone expected the Falcons and the Magpies to be well-matched this year. Many fans were out to see the Magpies' famous captain, but the Falcons' section of the stadium was far from empty. The crowd was loud and rowdy, excited to get underway, as the players took to the sky.
The first hour of the match seemed to go quite well. The goals alternated between the Falcons and the Magpies. It was clear that the winner was going to come down to the snitch. About an hour in, the Magpies' Seeker caught his first glance of the snitch and sailed after it. He soon lost sight of it, however, and returned to hover over the pitch. Not long thereafter, the Falcons' Seeker did the same, also losing sight of the snitch.
Around an hour and fifteen minutes into the game, everything began to go south. The Chasers were still scoring proficiently, though the Keepers were assuredly doing their best. The Beaters did seem to be off their games, on both teams. The Magpies' Seeker must have seen the snitch again at that point, because he dove to the ground and raced along the edge of the pitch, the Falcons' Seeker in hot pursuit. The sunlight hit the snitch as it made a swift right turn on the pitch, and the crowd gasped to see how close both Seekers were on the tail of the tiny ball. The Falcon Seeker reached out one hand and made the same sharp turn. At this point he was only a couple of feet from the ground. Suddenly, his broom immediately flipped upside down. The Seeker's head impacted the pitch, breaking neck and killing him instantly. The cheers from the crowd abruptly silenced, then turned to shouts of horror and screams.
Sirius, announcing, was overwhelmed. He was relaying the tragedy to the audience at home. He and Harris were speaking almost more quickly than Remus, ears ringing, could hear. Remus covered Harry's eyes, but he knew it was too late. Harry could not un-see the horrific accident. He felt Harry cling to his side.
Suddenly, Sirius's eyes fixed on his own, and he heard Sirius say into the microphone, "We may know the reason for this awful event. It might have been entirely preventable. Baxter was flying a Nimbus 89. Very few people know this, and certainly the company has tried to underplay the importance of this defect, but the Nimbus 89 has a problem with the graining on the backshaft."
"Hard to see how they can continue to underplay that defect after today, isn't it?" answered Harris. "I should hope they would fire whoever designed that broom."
Sirius added, "I know for a fact that they were warned about this problem."
"They ought to hire whoever warned them," Harris insisted, cheeks red. "Such a sad day for the Baxter family. Jordon Baxter was married with two children, ages five and three, isn't that right, Sirius?"
"Yes, and I suppose no settlement from Nimbus will ease their pain today."
Two days later, a woman in a prim suit and a tall witches' hat came knocking on their cottage door. Remus answered.
"Mr. Remus Lupin?"
"My name is Llewellen Gunter. I'm head of Human Resources for Nimbus. I'd personally like to ask you to come on board as our Assistant Broom Designer, to work directly under the Head Broom Designer. We were impressed with your letter to us."
Remus eyed her slyly. "This is a publicity stunt isn't it? You want to be able to tell people that you hired the person who warned you about the Nimbus 89."
Her smile was flat and tense. "Smart man. But the offer stands."
Remus nodded. He needed a job, and here was his dream job being handed to him. However- He cleared his throat. "There is one thing I must disclose to you by law, and it might affect your decision to hire me."
She sighed impatiently. "I don't care if you're a vampire or a troll or a great bloody werewolf, Mr. Lupin. We need you on our team."
"Oh. Well. Um... That's good." He held the door aside. "Can I get you a cup of tea?"
Once, as a small child, Harry had been a natural. Now, at ten, Harry refused to ride a broom. Sirius was determined that the boy would ride, and on this particular Sunday, Sirius had ordered Harry to take a broom and head outside. Remus watched Harry through the window. The child looked glum, depressed and nervous.
"Perhaps we shouldn't force him," Remus said to Sirius as they cleaned up from lunch. "Not everyone is meant to fly a broom."
The look Sirius gave Remus could have burnt flesh. Remus did understand Sirius's insistence. It wasn't just that Harry's guardians were a Quidditch announcer and a broom designer. It was more. Remus could hardly forget the vision of James on a broom, or the way he could maneuver even the thickest, laziest of brooms like it was custom-built for him. Riding a broom was, somehow, a legacy from James. Harry, as a toddler less than a year old, had already been flying a toy broom like an expert. Sirius looked as though his heart would break if James's boy didn't get on a broom.
"He did see Jordon Baxter die," Remus reminded Sirius quietly. "That must have been very frightening."
"That was years ago."
"That was only last year. And it's an impressionable age."
Sirius stared out the window. His expression said it all: he looked as though he was losing a best friend. Perhaps Sirius felt he could only interact with Harry via broomsports? That was nonsense.
"Sirius." Remus came up behind Sirius, rubbing gently at the curve of Sirius' back. He kissed one ear, and, for his efforts, was ignored. Leaning close to Sirius' ear again, Remus imparted his own wisdom: "Children have to grow up their own way. If you force them into your ideals, they'll just seek freedom. You sought freedom, didn't you? Don't push him away; let him be who he is and love him for that."
Sirius turned and smiled, blue eyes flashing, though there was still a touch of regret in those eyes. "I do love him," Sirius answered.
"Then don't make him do something he doesn't want to do."
Sirius nodded and walked outside. Remus watched through the kitchen window as Sirius took Harry's broom from him and ruffled the boy's hair. Harry smiled shyly. Sirius hefted the broom and strode back to the house. Wordlessly, Sirius disappeared into the broom cupboard and exchanged the broom for a ball. Remus followed Sirius back outside. He watched Sirius and Harry play Muggle footy until it was too dark outside to see the rocks that Harry had set up as goal posts, and then they went in for supper. It was different to a day on brooms, but in no way inferior.
The gibbous moon cast its light on Sirius as he swooped and dipped. He landed softly on the dew-wet grass, holding the new broom aloft.
"She's a good one," Sirius bellowed in approval of Remus's most recent handiwork.
"It pulls to the right," Remus answered, hastily jotting notes on a scrap of parchment.
Sirius hadn't noticed any such thing, but he knew better than to argue about brooms with Remus. Sirius yawned and eyed their sleepy cottage house, thinking greedily of his bed.
"Ready to set the wards?" Sirius asked Remus. With both adults out and about in the night, the wards were down and they would have to be reconstructed before bedtime. It took a bit of magical energy, and Sirius thought he barely had enough energy left to muster it.
"Yeah," Remus sighed. "Let me just finish my notes." He leaned into the moonlight.
"I'll put the broom away," offered Sirius. He walked towards the small workhouse where Remus did much of his carving and design. Remus followed, muttering to himself. Remus sounded frustrated, though Sirius thought the broom had flown just fine.
Inside the shed, Sirius tapped an overhead lamp with his wand. It flickered to life, casting long yellow shadows over the wood and tools. Remus shuffled his scrap of parchment in with some others and rubbed his neck. "At least I won't have to start over."
"I thought it was brilliant." Sirius moved around the work table to rub Remus's neck for him, digging thumbs into the tense shoulder muscles.
"Yes, but you're not a professional Quidditch- Ow." Remus sighed and leaned back into Sirius's touch. "That feels lovely." He was answered with silence.
That silence, though, was broken quite suddenly. Sirius felt the explosion as a tremor through the ground as much as he heard it. His stomach dropped, and he and Remus scrambled, nearly pushing each other to the ground in their haste to breach the shed. When Sirius did finally escape the confines of the shed- a moment behind Remus- he gasped in horror. "No!" Sirius yelled, dashing towards the house, even as the twisting green cloud of the Dark Mark rose over their burning and ruined cottage.
Remus, one pace behind, managed to restrain Sirius before he ran full-tilt into the burning hulk. "You'll be killed," Remus yelled over the roar of the flames.
Sirius, though, cared nothing for his own life. His focus was wholly on Harry- Harry who had been asleep in his bed when the horror had struck. Harry his godson, defenseless, possibly dead-
"Harry!" Remus yelled. Sirius thought, at first, that Remus's yell was of anguish, matching his own thoughts. He found out a moment later how mistaken he was when a broom dropped from the sky and a shaken boy dismounted.
Sirius threw his arms around Harry, unable to speak through his relief. Remus reached around and squeezed Harry's shoulder. It was an eerie reunion under the green glow, but not even the snake-infested skull overhead could diminish its power.
"You flew," Remus laughed nervously.
Sirius released Harry just to hold him at arms length and check him over, make sure he was whole and in one piece.
"I flew," Harry laughed, giddy.
"You're really okay?" Sirius' voice was shaky.
"Perhaps we should get you to St. Mungo's," Remus offered.
Harry shook his head. "I'm fine."
"Well, unfortunately we can't stay here," Remus said, always the voice of reason.
"Hogwarts," Sirius supplied.
"We can't Apparate into Hogwarts," Remus noted.
"No, but we can Apparate into Hogsmeade and-"
"And fly to Hogwarts!" Harry boomed.
Sirius thought that he should be ecstatic that Harry wanted to fly. That Harry had flown. But all he could think of was that Harry was safe.
Sirius took one last look at the home where he and Remus had raised the lad. He shivered at the destruction. "Let's get out of here."