He Won't Go
[four ways Remus and Sirius' relationship isn't what it used to be, and one way it hasn't changed]
[i] I can't bear this time; it drags on
Their relationship is heavy with things left unsaid. Dumbledore leaves the two of them alone together in that awful, horrible prison of a house with a curt nod and an audible swish of his floor-length robes. Remus can't help but think that it may be the last sound human sound he hears for a while.
September drags itself onwards, with every steady beat of the grandfather clock, and in each passing moment Remus can feel the unease strumming through his veins, stronger and stronger. Their conversations become merely functional; Remus' tongue ties itself in knots when he thinks of all the things he'd promised himself he would say if he ever saw Sirius again – instead all that comes out is: pass the butter please, and should we tackle the library today?
There are moments – although they are few and far between – when it all becomes too much, and Remus feels he has to say something, to let all those dirty thoughts that he's been suppressing for years to come tumbling out because they're slowly poisoning him inside. Why did you think it was me? is first and why didn't you tell me anything? comes close second, but most of all Remus wants to say I never got a chance to say goodbye, you know except every time he opens his mouth Sirius seems to be one step ahead. He uses that look that says, Moony, don't and Remus doesn't. He knows that Sirius never got a chance to say goodbye either.
[ii] as I lose my mind, reminded by things I find
Azkaban has broken Sirius in more ways than one; Remus can see the shadows of Dementors in the grey of Sirius' eyes when Sirius wakes up from nightmares that he won't explain, and in the way he curls in on himself when he thinks no-one's looking. Dumbledore had said that Sirius had probably permanently lost a good forty percent of his memories to Azkaban, and Remus hadn't really considered what a large proportion that was until Sirius sets his glass down a little too hard one dinner time during one of Remus' long, nostalgic talks about the past and says forcefully, no Moony, I don't remember. I can't, and hot guilt twists in Remus' stomach. The last day of Hogwarts. James and Lily's wedding day. Harry's first birthday. All gone. Remus can't comprehend.
"You don't remember us," Remus says that night, as they lay facing each other in bed. He tries to keep the accusatory edge out of his voice.
"Not all of it," Sirius admits, softly, then: "I remember we used to fight a lot,"
"But we had lots of good times too," Remus insists, and Sirius just smiles crookedly.
"I know. I just don't remember."
Remus rolls onto his back and sighs, closing his eyes. He tries not to listen to the sounds of Sirius beside him, and pretends he doesn't feel the brush of Sirius' lips mouthing the word sorry against his shoulder.
[iii] like notes and clothes you've left behind
He'd been keeping the pictures for a while now; he'd sealed them in a plain tan envelope, and hidden part of his heart away with them. Seeing Sirius spread them out on the kitchen table in Grimmauld Place makes his chest twist in a strange way; he wants to look, and he wants to put them away, and he wants to kiss Sirius all at once.
The four of them, lazing in the summer sun. James and Lily laughing on their wedding day. Sirius clad in tight leather trousers and straddling his motorbike.
I swear you love that bike more than you love me, Remus had teased what seemed a lifetime ago, and Sirius had whispered back, smirking, and hot and heavy, in his ear, but I can't do this to a bike, and –
Sirius picks up a photograph from the table; in it, Peter smiles and waves to the camera from his twenty-first birthday dinner, James stood with his arm around him on one side, and Sirius on the other. Sirius's grip on the picture is white knuckle, and Remus can see the fifteen year old paper start to wilt and crease in Sirius' hands, and he wants to say no don't because they are memories, and even if Peter was a traitor, memories are all a man like Remus has left.
Sirius throws the crumpled paper into the fire, and Remus doesn't say anything.
"No-one needs that anymore," Sirius says, and he leaves the kitchen, would probably leave the house if he could, and Remus silently gathers together his photographs, sealing the tan envelope once more with a tap of his wand.
[iv] wake me up when all is done
They don't fuck like they used to; it's gentler, more controlled. Sirius touches Remus like he is trying not to cut him on all the sharp edges he holds inside of him, and Remus holds Sirius like he's trying not to break him even more. It's not quite what Remus remembers, but then, after spending years romanticising the past, nothing ever is. All it seems to prove is that they can still get each other off; and Remus feels like a shadow of his former self, screwing a memory of the boy he fell in love with at sixteen. Remus feels like he needs another lifetime to relearn the body in front of him, and how it differs from the one which he has committed to memory; it is older, more haggard, more breakable. When Sirius sleeps, facing away from Remus and curled in a foetal position, Remus counts the bones of his spine - Sirius twitches in his sleep, restless; Remus holds him silently, but doesn't wake him.
[v] but I won't go.
After what could be days, or months, or even years of living together with the air stretched out too tight and too tense between them, Remus wakes up to an empty bed. The wooden floors are cold under Remus' feet when he slips out from under the sheets, but his steps are strangely soundless.
He finds Sirius in the topmost bedroom, the one he had occupied as a child; the windows are flung open, and Sirius leans out, smoking. It has been raining, and the cool night air smells earthy and damp. The moment seems so perfect that Remus is almost afraid it is a dream, afraid that if he makes a noise or breathes too hard the moment will be lost before he can commit every second of it to memory. He stands behind Sirius, his arms slipping around Sirius' waist, and presses a chaste kiss against Sirius' shoulder - he thinks he can still taste sunshine and cracked parchment and boyish charm on Sirius' skin. There is not a cloud in the sky, and Remus can pick easily out the constellations; his eyes go straight to Canis Major.
He doesn't say anything, and neither does Sirius. By now, neither of them have to.