Title: Build A Castle

Summary: "Some nights, Remus thinks of hospital beds and his mother's sobs and his father's careful, arrogant indifference. He thinks of childhood and playing hide and seek with the moon." Remus Lupin, Sirius Black and building up castles. / One-shot for Budapest All Over Again.

Prompt: Advent Calendar challenge - RemusSirius, scarf and 'Some Nights'

Day: Nine ladies dancing, eight maids a-milking, seven swans a-swimming, six geese a-laying, five gold rings... four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree.

Recipient: Budapest All Over Again

Notes: Finally! It's Wolfstar (asdfghjkl), and I adore it. The story of how Remus and Sirius got together on Christmas day is a true story, believe it or not. My girlfriend and I are convinced someone's out to get us. Without further ado, merry 16 days 'til Christmas, and I sincerely hope you enjoy!

"This is it, boys, this is war - what are we waiting for? Why don't we break the rules already?" - Fun, Some Nights.

Christmas Day, 1978

For some reason, Remus sits and simply thinks of dying alone. Sirius wraps a scarf around his neck and pulls him closer.

It doesn't feel like Christmas, even though Sirius is wearing an annoying watch charmed to sing Let It Snow! whenever it detects the word snow.

Unfortunately for them, it is, in fact, snowing. And it's probable that they'll die of hypothermia before the night is out.

Four men - boys, really - stand shoulder to shoulder against the cold. They are proclaimed to be the absolutely best of friends; troublemakers, rebels, fighters, Marauders.

It is the first Christmas each of them have spent on the battlefield, without the confines of Hogwarts. They will return, of course, in January, but none of them are thinking of house elves and lessons.

After all, it is James' first Christmas without his father. It is Sirius' first Christmas without his brother. It is Peter's first Christmas without his home. It is the first Christmas Remus remembers since being turned - which is such a nice turn of phrase, really.

Every other one has been plagued with full moon nights and the recovery week after and the build up week before.

James has his mother's best Christmas cookies stuffed into his pockets and Sirius clutches the watch to his chest like it is a child. Peter huddles against himself, taking comfort in his friends and the people he wishes he could be.

Remus, instead, turns a golden pocket watch over and over in his shaking, frostbitten hands. It was not passed down - in fact, Remus suspects it was actually bought from the charity shop across the road when he was six - but he loves that pocket watch all the same, even when the hands stop turning and the colour fades.

It reminds Remus that time continues; maybe it means he has time.

Time is relative, they say. But not to Remus.

The sky is dark, though, and they are hidden under cover of moonlight and moonshadows. The wind laps at their faces, caresses their shoudlers and backs like whips of centuries passed. Most nights are like this now.

But some nights... Some nights, Remus thinks of hospital beds and his mother's sobs and his father's careful, arrogant indifference. He thinks of childhood and playing hide and seek with the moon. Other nights, he thinks of dormitory curtains and James and Peter and Sirius.

On nights like these, though, Remus thinks of their bed at home, of lazy mornings and frantic, tearful nights and Sirius, oh, god, Sirius.

(Some nights, Remus thinks they won't come back.)

Christmas Day, 1980

"I don't want to die," Remus sobs, and he clutches at Sirius' shirt, shaking him and pleading with him, dealing with the devil and bargaining with God.

Sirius stays silent.

"Please. Please, Padfoot, don't let me die. I don't want to. I don't want to see you die."

Because James and Lily and Harry and Peter and oh god, Sirius, I can't watch you die, not again, not now, please, Padfoot, let us live, we don't have to fight, we don't have to care, we can run and we can live and we'll be cowards and we won't be heroes but we'll be alive, can't you see that?

Run away with me, Padfoot, please.

"Moony," Sirius sighs, and he sounds so tired. Remus steps back, slowly at first. When he looks into Sirius' eyes, he half stumbles over the coffee table in an effort to get away. He crumbles to the floor. "Remus, stop it. You sound like a kid."

"Sorry, Padfoot." Remus closes his eyes. "I didn't realise that impassive bastards hated shows of emotions."

Say you didn't mean it, Padfoot, say it didn't mean anything, say that you didn't come home last night for a reason, say that you love me, say that you trust me, and hug me, Sirius, and hold me close like you used to do when we were twelve fifteen eighteen, not stuck at twenty-one, high and dry and stuck in a loveless, trust-less, meaningless relationship we're hanging onto because we want to remember better times.

Say you didn't mean it, Padfoot, please.

"'I don't want to die,' he says," Sirius mocks. "Grow up, Remus. It's a war. People die. We can't stop it. We'll never be able to stop it." He looks down pensively, shaking his head. Remus stands, and stalks over to his boyfriend.

He punches him - hard.

"Sorry. I really fucked it up this time, didn't I, my dear? What did you expect me to do? Watch our friends die and not hope, just a little, that we manage to make it out alive?"

"Fucking martyr," Sirius growls, pushing Remus back. "Who said you had to do anything at all? We fight, that's what we do!"

Because Moony I'm sorry, Moony, I love you, and I can't see you hurting, I won't, because I'll hurt too, and I'm not indestructible, Remus, I'm not, and I don't want to fight, I'll run away with you, wherever you want to go I'll follow, Moony, just please say that you love me, one more time.

Moony, say you love me, please.

"I fight," Remus counters, grabbing Sirius' jaw and dragging him closer, his feet almost hovering above the ground. "You doubt."

"Don't give me a reason to doubt you, then, love," Sirius growls, snapping forward and biting Remus' neck. He swears and pushes him away.

"Fucking trust me, Sirius, that's all I'm asking. Believe me, for once."

Tell me why I should trust you, Moony, tell me you trust me too, tell me that you don't wait at home every night waiting for me to come back knowing I won't because I'm out fucking someone else and picturing your face, Remus, tell me that you don't torture and kill where I seduce and drop, and stroke my hair like you used to do back when we knew each other.

Moony, tell me you trust me, please.

"There's so much we're not saying," Remus whispers after Sirius does not reply, caught in a world where they didn't hate each other so much.

"THEN WHY?" Sirius screams, punching the wall behind him. The frail plaster sticks to his bloodied knuckles, but he just pants heavily, a wild look in his eyes and a shaking in his very core. "Then why the fuck are we not saying it, Remus?"

"Because I don't trust you!" He shouts, the noise being torn from his throat, caught between a whine and a howl and a pitiful human voice, scratching at the back of his head.

I trust you, Padfoot, I do.

"Maybe if you stopped running like a goddamned coward. Stop hiding, you fucking bastard! Stop running away from everything that scares you!"

I'll follow you, Moony, I will.

Remus looks up, at the boy he used to call his best friend (when they were young and carefree and whole) and at the teenager he called his brother (when they were reckless and careless and breaking) and the man he used to call his (when they were old and careful and broken).

"I don't understand how I can still love you," he sobs, looking down at Sirius with something like betrayal, and maybe even relief. "And yet I - I ha-"

I still love you, Padfoot, I still do.

Sirius pushes past Remus, spitting on the ground as he does so, disgust written all over his face. He grabs his scarf off of the coat rack and slams open the door. "I hate you."

I don't mean it, Moony, I don't.

Stupid boys; if only they had talked, and if only they had listened. Maybe they'd still be alive today.

(It is the last Christmas both of them will spend on the battlefield, however metaphorical, and the last Christmas they will spend together.)

Christmas Day, 1979

"Sirius! The turkey!"

"Shit bugger Christ fucking hell," Sirius pants, running into the near-imploding kitchen. He throws open the door to the oven, and coughs heavily. Thick, black, burnt smoke comes out. He slams the door shut again, and stumbles backwards, until his back hits the kitchen wall.

"Fuck a duck," he whispers.

"That's a new one," Remus comments, strolling in casually. With a flick of his wand, he opens the door from a distance. And vanishes the turkey.

Sirius briefly wonders where the hell it's disappeared to now, and hopes against hope that the burnt bird has just landed in the centre of Snape's living room. He chuckles under his breath at the thought.

"Chinese?" Remus asks absentmindedly, still lazily cleaning the kitchen, and bending over the counter tops to reach the corners, where the half-exploded turkey flew. Sirius sighs, looks down at his feet, and wonders if there are such things as soulmates.

"Of course."

They've been together for years now; since school. It was stupid, really. A twist of fate. A mistake, if there was ever one.

"I've killed people, Remus," Sirius says, once they have sat done on both ends of their tiny, creaky kitchen table in their run-down flat they love to pieces. They don't know whether it's because of the bookcases lining the walls or the paintings hanging off of various pieces of furniture, classic arts truly made for them, or maybe, just because it's theirs. Remus&Sirius. Together 'til the last man falls.

"I know," Remus replies, raising an eyebrow. "We're in a war, Sirius. People die. It only stops when one certain man kicks the bucket, not any of the soldiers. It's wrong, but it's true."

"They should be having Christmas day with their families, arguing over Brussels Sprouts and burning the turkey and ordering Chinese. Not us."

"I think it's only us ordering Chinese, love," he sighs, reaching over and covering Sirius' shaking hand with his own. He looks down at the weary, once-white tablecloth. "I think that poor delivery bloke is just thankful we're the only ones ordering on his shift."

Sirius doesn't say a word as Remus blinks rapidly, a wet laugh rumbling in his throat.

Lily and James are in love, married; a baby on the way. Peter's got a girlfriend now, or so he says, and his poor mother's on her deathbed, the old crone. Finally, it's just Remus and Sirius left now; they don't have anyone else.

If you had asked them, there and then, on that day, they would've said they didn't need anyone else. And maybe it is true.

Carefully, Remus reaches into his pocket. He pulls out a golden pocket watch, now attached to a thin, gold chain. He moves it in his hands for a while, threading the chain through his fingers, caressing the metal with his fingertips.

Then he leans over, and places it round Sirius' neck. Neither of them speak; neither of them have to. Sirius touches the watch, and smiles.

Sirius Black is a stubborn person, a twisted person. A not-so-good person.

Remus Lupin is a kind person, a pure person. A good person.

(But he's killed people, echoes around Sirius' head, and he just wonders if he can be redeemed too.)

Christmas Day, 1976

"Right, now, for the first time in Hogwarts' History-" James risks a look at Lily Evans, "-not Hogwarts: A History. No one checked. Anyway, I now present the beginning of, for those of us present in the holidays, Gryffindor Secret Santa!"

"I'm still confused as to who this Santa bloke is," Sirius mock-whispers to Remus, who chuckles under his breath. "If I had an overweight, bearded man creep into my house in odd clothes, I'd either kick him out or presume he was Dumbledore."

"Remember, all the gifts have been placed in the middle! We picked the names ages ago, so anyone who didn't hand theirs in is hereby banned from subsequent Quidditch games!"

There is an uproar. James turns to Lily. "That was the right use of subsequent, right?"

"Anyway," Sirius interjects. "Present time! Prongs and I shall read out random names, you can come up and get your present, squeal over it for a while, then return to your seat and attempt to figure out who had you. Then be told anyway. Shall we begin?"

He claps his hands, and Remus flicks his wand. Music starts to play from the ancient gramophone in the corner of the common room.

Remus wrings his hands in his lap.

Of all the names he could've chosen - of all the people staying in Gryffindor tower - he had to pick Sirius'. Sirius, his best friend. Sirius, the boy who... well.

Why Sirius?

"Remus Lupin!" James announces. Wiping his hands on his trousers, Remus stands, slowly, cautiously. He really hopes it's not too good a gift. He feels terrible when people spend too much money on him; granted, he doesn't have a lot, but he sure as hell doesn't need charity.

Remus picks up the gift - red wrapping paper, of course - and inside appears to be a miniscule gramophone, wrapped in a dark blue scarf, almost identical to the one playing at this very moment.

And next to it is a note.

So you can always hear the music.

It's cheesy and clich├ęd and - and God, it's just like Sirius.

"Sirius Black!" James calls, and Sirius walks up to the front. He takes the present. He doesn't move. He breathes deeply, and tears of the wrapping paper. Remus holds his breath.

It's a photograph; just a little one, with scribbled writing on the back, a collection of notes from lessons passed, about Snape's nose and McGonagall's hat, Hogsmeade visits and the new big prank. The photo is of the four of them (graciously taken by Lily Evans) and it's just started to snow.

James has his tongue out, Peter's hat is pulled down to cover his eyes, and Remus and Sirius wave in the middle, hand in hand and beaming.

Nobody breathes, for a moment, as they look at each other.

The world doesn't stop turning. Chatter reigns again. But Remus and Sirius don't look away.

"Of all the people," Sirius whispers, clutching the photograph tightly in his hand, so tightly Remus is scared he'll rip it. "Of all the people in all of Gryffindor, we got each other. Now, Moony, if you don't think fate's trying her hand at a practical joke, you've got to be barking."

And Sirius lurches forward and kisses him, right on the lips. They're both grinning and the kiss is clumsy, but Remus clutches at his shirt like a drowning man who's been handed a whole lifeboat.

(Then again, drowning men aren't the most level-headed of people.)

Christmas Day, 1981

The first thing Remus thinks of - absurdly - as Sirius is locked away forever (and doesn't come back oh God he's not coming back not ever it's not summer it's not July not this time he's dead he's dead to me Sirius is dead and dear God why can't he come back why why why) is that he has his pocket watch.

His pocket watch, the one his father gave him.

The one Remus clutched in his fingertips the first time they saw war. The one he gave Sirius three Christmases ago, when they had Chinese and spoke of murder.

And now it is his first Christmas alone; his first Christmas away from the battlefields of spies and betrayals and fighting Death Eaters and building up castles. Remus doesn't have anyone; not lovely Lily, who took a picture of four ridiculous boys once upon a time.

Not prankster James, who stuck his tongue out at fate and laughed at it.

Not friendly Peter, who hid from the world and everyone in it.

Not even Sirius, his stubborn, twisted Sirius, who waved mockingly at Remus from over No Man's Land. Not foolish Remus, who was so blinded by love he didn't realise he and Sirius were on different sides of the trenches.

Remus still wakes up, and sees the ghost of who Sirius used to be; the boy who gave him his scarf and a gramophone and the man who made him see stars.

Some nights, he wishes it would just end. Some nights, he is scared he'll forget.

(But most nights, he tries to build a castle, because who the fuck wants to die alone?)