Note: There has been a title change. This piece is now titled "Bittersweet"

December 24, 1994

Remus Lupin

This year, Remus feels lighter than he has in a long time, but it's not because it's Christmas Eve. No, he's felt lighter for seven months now. Ever since he found out that his heart (his brilliant, brilliant heart) was right to never let go. Ever since he found out that Sirius was innocent.

And somehow, in light of that fact, Remus hardly minds packing up and leaving the best job he's ever known, because that fact just doesn't seem to matter.

Sirius is innocent.

The fact crosses his mind every day, and every day it's like a new revelation. Remus feels positively buoyant.

It scares him, a little bit, how much it matters to him that Sirius is out there somewhere. He's not even here, but he's out there, and that means an exceptional amount to Remus.

He inhales the rich scent of the mug of hot chocolate he clutches in his hands, soaking in the blissful warmth. He can see, clear as day, Sirius sitting next to him at the little table, laughing that barking laugh of his and teasing Remus for his chocolate addiction. For the first time in a long time, the image doesn't make him feel guilty.

He smiles softly, serenely. He feels remarkably… peaceful. Honestly, the only thing that could make this moment better would be Sirius on his doorstop.

A knock sounds at the door.

~*RLSB*~

December 24, 1994

Sirius Black

He's cold. Great Merlin, he forgot how much colder Britain is than the tropics. He wades up the street, wishing he'd remembered to ask exactly where the place is located. He knows the vague area, and he knows what the outside looks like from a memory he saw in a low quality Pensieve, but he wasn't really sure where to Apparate to, so now he's wandering up the street, looking at all the houses.

His eyes light up as he finds it.

Still, it's with some apprehension that he climbs the steps.

He knocks. Moments later, Remus answers the door. Sirius can't keep the broad grin off of his face. "Hey, Moony."

Remus blinks, shocked. "Padfoot?"

"The one, the only!" He pauses for a moment, but Remus appears frozen. "Rem? Could I, y'know, come in? Only, it's a bit cold."

"Oh, of course, of course!" Remus steps back, letting Sirius in. "Have a seat." He waves absently at the dining room table. "Hot chocolate or tea? I've coffee, but it's late."

Sirius shrugs. "Has that ever stopped me before?"

Remus laughs lightly. "I suppose not. Coffee, then?"

Sirius nods, and Remus puts the pot on for coffee. He sits at the table as they wait for it to brew. It's feels like there's a monolithic something between them, and that something is stopping the words that want so desperately to come rushing out. Sirius drums his fingers absently.

The coffee finishes brewing, and Remus leaps up and pours a cup. "Black, I assume?" he says. It's always been a point of amusement between them.

Sirius nods, grinning. Remus sets the cup in front of him, muttering, "Some things never change."

Sirius wraps his long fingers around the warm cup. "But some things do," he says, his voice laced with faint sadness.

"Some things do," Remus agrees.

Hoarsely, Sirius murmurs, "I don't want this to change, Remus. I don't want us to change."

"I know. But there are some things that cannot be forgotten."

Sirius closes his eyes, sighing. "I know that. Trust me, I know. There are things… There are things I will always regret. There are always going to be things I wish I could undo. But I can't undo switching with him. I can't undo suspecting you. Just like you can't undo suspecting…" But Sirius won't finish the sentence. "I don't want to presume that I know what you went through, what you thought."

Remus smiles lightly. "Well that's different from how you used to be." Sirius smiles in agreement. But Remus hesitates in responding. "I'm not going to pretend that I didn't suspect you. I'm not going to pretend that the thought never crossed my mind. But I think some part of me could never believe… Could never believe that you would ever hurt James. Some part of me found that too hard to believe. And that same part of me… It couldn't let you go. I never – not once – stopped loving you. I fully intended to hate you. I wanted to hate you. But I couldn't. I love you too much."

A warmth starts in the middle of Sirius's chest in some undefinable place. It spreads to the tips of his extremities, and it has nothing to do with the coffee.

"I never stopped loving you, either," he says roughly. "Even on the days when the Dementors were too close and I couldn't remember you, I never stopped feeling like some part of me was missing."

And the monolithic thing is gone, and Sirius can't really understand how Remus ended up in his arms, only that he did, and Sirius never wants to let him go. He feels whole again, for the first time in thirteen years. He feels right.

"Never again, Moony," he murmurs. "I don't ever want to leave you ever again."

"Don't you dare," Remus murmurs in return. "Don't you dare go anywhere without me again."

And maybe the memories all taste bittersweet, but now, from this moment on, they can make new memories, memories that don't have to taste bitter, just sweet.