NOTES:  With *many* huge thanks to Rochefort for the amazing beta.  You're the best.

~*~*~

Part 3.

'Deviations from the Norm'.  Right.  With a heavy sigh, Sirius opened up the yellow book.  His bed curtains were shut tightly around him, leaving him in a safe cocoon of his own fears and misery.  It was past midnight, and everybody else was already sleeping.  He struggled to keep a good hold on the book propped up on his knees, while he twisted himself around and groped for his wand.

'Lumos!'  The faint blue light made the book appear luminescent; it glowed in his lap.  Swallowing, Sirius flipped to the right page - Chapter Six, it was - and began reading.  After two paragraphs, he felt sick and almost shoved the book away, but something held him.  He couldn't put it down.  It was almost masochistic.  He knew that he was hurting, he felt like he was being stabbed over and over, yet he couldn't make himself stop reading.  He couldn't stop looking at the picture, either.  It was magnetic.  The two boys were kissing, lying on top of each other.  They moved every once in a while - either their heads tilted into different angles, or a hand would move over naked skin.  Sirius sighed and dragged his eyes away to look at the text once more.

/'This sort of deviation has always existed, and it has always been persecuted.  No proper person would stoop so low as to start looking for sexual pleasure among his own gender.  Only those of no morals would allow themselves to do so... 

...It is a criminal act, condemned in the ancient and sacred texts of wizards and Muggles alike.  So low that only a few decades back very few would be able to bring themselves to call it by its name.  It was The Unspeakable.' /

Sirius sucked in a sharp breath.  The Unspeakable.  Was he really so...so...immoral?  Was he really that much of a freak, such a useless person?  He bit his lip and read on.

/'The sexual act of homosexuality is considered to be filthy.  No human body should ever be defiled in such a way.  What a woman does not provide to them they substitute in an unclean and sordid way.  Anal penetration is both painful and foul.  Truly, such an act is an unworthy mockery of the act of love that occurs between man and wife.'/

Good God.  Sirius's face grew hot.  He looked at the picture again, and noted that the two boys involved in it looked quite content.  Something told him that if the pictures could make sounds, he would hear them, well, moaning.  As he watched, the movements in the picture began to speed up - legs shifted, and Sirius noticed that they were...rubbing...against one another, where their groins met.  Their movements became more and more jerky, and the two boys began tossing their heads, their eyes screwed shut.  Sirius tried stifling his own arousal, but he kept looking at the picture.  He couldn't look away.  Suddenly, the two bodies began to convulse, and Sirius saw the lighter-haired boy throw back his head and open his mouth in a silent scream.  The other one's face was buried in the crook of the neck of the one who had just screamed soundlessly.  Sirius's hand instinctively moved to his groin and the book fell away as he turned to his side and hid his face in the pillow, his face and neck burning, his hand moving faster and faster, until he climaxed.  He shuddered and his mouth dropped open.  He felt completely humiliated when a dry sob escaped his throat.  This was wrong.  This was so wrong, and he was doing it.  He shouldn't have been looking at the book.  It was wrong, it was disgusting, and now he knew, for sure, he knew that he was...immoral.  What he had done was unspeakable.  It was unnatural, disgusting, wrong, wrong, wrong... 

The book lay underneath his pillow, the hard cover digging into his skull through the softness, but he dared not move it elsewhere.  No one would see him with this book, and he would take no chances. 

It was a long time before he fell into exhausted sleep.   

~*~

The end of the school year came faster than Sirius could have predicted.  Through the gloom of more and more Voldemort-induced attacks, as well as owls delivering letters with black bordering on them every once in a while, the students were, for the most part, relieved to go home.  James and Sirius were racking their brains trying to finish the Animagus transformation as soon as possible, but kept getting stumped.  As the end of June rolled around, they decided to stop their attempts until they could once again get together come September.  With fierce promises to keep to books until then, they all got ready to part at the Hogwarts Express.

Throughout the train ride, Sirius tried being his usual, rowdy self.  Something heavy was preventing him from enjoying it, though.  Every once in a while he would look up at Remus, sitting in the corner of the compartment, an open book on his lap, and his stomach would flip-flop.  It did that a lot now, whenever he'd notice Remus looking back at him.  /Especially/ when Remus was looking back at him.  Right now, however, Remus was looking out of the window, past where James was sitting playing Exploding Snap.  He hadn't joined in with their game, and Sirius couldn't blame him.  Without them to help him through the full moons - even if they couldn't yet do it during the night - Remus would feel even worse than usual.  He'd never say it, but it was clear enough.  This summer wouldn't be any fun for either one of them.

'All right?' he asked, as Remus looked back down at the book situated on his lap.

'Fine, why?' Remus looked up at him. 

Sirius shrugged and went back to Exploding Snap. 

'Just asking.' He kicked himself mentally.  Why had he asked?  It was clear they were all not quite "all right", but they never really asked, did they?  They just knew and didn't acknowledge.  He felt better, however, when Remus gave him a small smile and went back to reading.  Sirius thought it must have been his imagination, but did Remus's ears and cheeks go suddenly pink?  Must be the stuffy train, he decided.  'Anyway, as I was saying - James, what was that you'd read about the transformation potion?  Does it come before or after the spell is cast?'

James piled the last of his cards on top of the pile, his tongue sticking out in concentration.  After he breathed a sigh of relief that no explosion followed the maneuver, he answered:

'Before.  It's supposed to ease the pain in some way, after all your limbs and stuff are changed and twisted, and the effects last throughout the wizard's life, so you only take it once.' Right as he said it, James immediately looked guilty, and glanced at Remus: 'Wish they'd come up with something like that for those who really need it, though, but, um, you know...'

'It's all right.' Remus put a thumb between the pages before closing his book.  'What causes werewolves to transform is stronger than the Animagus transformation, anyway.  I read somewhere that because it's involuntary, the pain can't really be eased.  The unwilling body, and all that.' He gave a smirk. 

James smiled back - that was really all they could do.  But it gave Sirius even more incentive to press on the Animagus transformation.  He could feel it in himself, the change coming on gradually, and they had only a few more hurdles to jump over.  And was it just him, or had James's hair been messier lately?  Maybe he'd turn into a bear, or something.  Sirius snorted at the idea, and James looked at him with suspicion:

'What's got you laughing, Black?'

'Oh, nothing, just imagining you with huge paws and a slobbering mouth, that's all.  You might become a bear, you know.  Just imagine - one swipe, and the Quaffle's in the hoop!'  He heard Remus snickering to himself, while Peter, who'd been rather silent, covered his mouth with his hand, huffing.

'Oh, very funny Black.  Something tells me you'll be the one huge oaf among us.  You're taller than me, remember.  And less, shall we say, agile?' James raised an eyebrow - a gestured that would have looked more suave had his glasses not slid down his nose sideways.

'Don't knock the Beaters,' Sirius warned him. 'You know what they do.' 

When the train finally pulled to a stop at King's Cross, all four of them fumbled for their trunks and heaved them onto the platform, four pairs of eyes scanning for four sets of parents.  Sirius noticed his first, and his stomach jumped.  He'd have to say goodbye for a whole two months. 

'Well, Black, you have yourself a good summer, all right?' James pushed his glasses back up his nose, and peered at Sirius.  He wouldn't say it, but Sirius knew what he'd meant: stay safe and better come back next term, or else.  He nodded and looked at Remus.  Something about the way Remus was chewing on his lower lip and almost...studying him made Sirius's insides squirm.  Before he knew what he was doing, he had pulled Remus into a hug. 

Immediately, he felt his face grow hot.  What the hell did he think he was doing, hugging another bloke?  Sure, it was Remus, but...it was Remus!  Horrified, he stepped back and before he could think further, did the same to James and then Peter, who looked completely flabbergasted.  There.  That was better.  If he was being a total sop, he might as well go all out and not...not look like anything worse.  He chanced a quick look at Remus and saw the other boy's face had turned a glowing red.  He coughed and patted James on the back one last time.  James threw him an unreadable look.

'Well, see you lot.  Don't get into too much trouble - and remember what we talked about!' He saw his parents approach, huge smiles on their faces.  He heaved his trunk up and began walking away. 'Keep to your books!' he yelled as he waved his last goodbye.  Only once he had fallen out of the floo and onto the familiar floor did he allow himself to remember how good it had felt holding Remus, and how nicely his arms folded around the slim frame.  He didn't allow it for more than a second, but the second seemed to imprint itself on his mind for a very long time.

Perhaps it was better not to see them for a while, after all, he decided.  At least not Remus.

~*~

A week into the summer holidays, Sirius left home to visit his cousins near Manchester.  He'd been looking forward to it for a few months now, ever since his mother had informed him that he'd been invited to stay for a month.  He grew even more excited when he realized that he would get to spend his birthday there. 

Sirius smirked at his own expense, knowing that he was, in fact, the youngest Marauder.  James had already turned fifteen in November, and both Remus and Peter were Spring babies, Remus's birthday being in March, and Peter's in April.  That left Sirius to lag behind, celebrating his on July the 27th.  Well, he didn't mind so much this year.  It was a shame he wouldn't get to spend the day with his friends; they were rarely allowed to visit one another easily nowadays, since Voldemort's power began to take serious hold - but he had grown used to that.  He knew he'd be safe with his cousins.  He also knew that he hadn't been simply invited - his parents had most likely arranged it.  They were worried about attacks on their home, since his dad was so closely in contact with the Order, and they wanted to spare him.  Sirius tried not to think about one day getting /that owl/, the one other students get, the one that made them run from the Great Hall in tears.  No, he would spend his summer peacefully, he decided.  After all, his going up to Manchester was simply a precaution, nothing more.

'Don't do anything too wild, all right, love?' his mum had said as she pulled him into a hug.  His trunk had already been sent off by floo, and he was listening to last-minute instructions from both his parents. 

'All right, not too wild,' he grunted as she let him go.  'Anything else?'

'Fly low to the ground.'

'But, Mum -'

'Sirius.'  The warning tone.  He lowered his eyes and sighed. 

'All right, low to the ground.  You always have to take the fun out of life?'  His mum laughed, and leaned up to kiss him on the forehead.  She smelled of all things familiar, morning tea, clean linens, and that particular smell that made him think of his childhood.  He got a sudden jolt as he realized that he was no longer shorter than her.  In fact, he was a good few inches taller.  When did that happen, he wondered?  And how come he hadn't noticed before? 

'Sirius, there are always more ways of making life fun.  Trust me.'

'Mum!  What are you suggesting, exactly?'  He tried looking scandalized.  She laughed in return.

'Don't worry about it, love, just go - go and have a lovely time.  We'll see you on your birthday.'  She gave him a final squeeze on the shoulders, and promptly turned him around, chuckling at his suspicious glare.  Sirius felt his father giving his hand a last squeeze, and heard a mumbled, 'take care of yourself'.  Before stepping into the floo, he turned around and waved.  They smiled and waved back, and Sirius barely noticed the wrinkles around their eyes and the greying hair around their temples.

~*~

'Sirius!'

'Sirius is here!'

'Mum, look, he's finally come!  Hiya, Sirius!'

He was attacked from all sides.  His younger cousins latched onto his arms and legs, while the older ones patted him on the back, showing that they were much too mature for such juvenile tricks as hugs.  The shrieking didn't stop for a full minute, not until his aunt marched into the room, apron tied around her ample figure, egg beater in her left hand and her wand in the other, both hands placed firmly on her hips.

'Good lord!  Let him breathe, let go!  Annabelle, let go, let him at least get the soot off!' 

Sirius laughed, randomly pulling faces at the kids, while trying to squirm out of their insistent grasps. He'd missed all this - the laughter, the excitement.  This was definitely going to make up for the lack of Hogwarts for two months.  When he finally extricated himself from all his relatives, he ran a hand through his hair and tried to get rid of all the soot, like his aunt had suggested.  When it didn't work, he surprised himself - and everyone around him - by shaking his head from side to side, throwing soot onto the giggling children and the wooden floor.  He grinned as he looked up, but tried to look abashed at the slightly accusing stare of his aunt.  He wasn't sure what had possessed him to do that, but it certainly had been fun.

'Sorry, Aunt Emma!  I'll clean it up, don't worry!' 

She looked at him for another second without moving, then smiled and rushed towards him:

'Oh, silly boy, I'll take care of it, come here - give your aunt a hug!'  She enveloped him in a tight embrace and he could have sworn he'd heard her sniff.  He smiled and mockingly rolled his eyes at one of his cousins.  It was Jack - at 21, the oldest of the family, and Sirius's hero since Sirius was old enough to know what the word 'hero' meant.  Jack lifted his head in greeting, grinned, and strode out towards the kitchen.  Sirius followed him out with his eyes and breathed out when his aunt finally let go.

'Well, then!  Welcome, dear, and now let's take your things upstairs.'  Aunt Emma moved towards the trunk that had arrived a few minutes before Sirius.  With a spell, she levitated it and it followed her up the staircase, towards what Sirius assumed would be his room for a month.  The house was rather roomy, and there was always a spare bedroom magically added to its foundation for such occasions.  It always had a different theme, from what Sirius remembered, and he wondered with barely suppressed excitement what the personalized theme would be for him.  He wasn't surprised to see a Quaffle and Bludger motif on the wallpaper, as well as tiny zooming snitches moving from one picture frame to the next.  The brightly colored quilt on the bed made him wonder if he'd get any sleep at all this summer.  Not that he minded.

In less than an hour, he was engaged in a wrestling match with Stephen, his second to oldest cousin, now sixteen.  The rest of the kids cheered the pair on while Sirius tried to work in all the new techniques he had acquired in a year's worth of fighting James and Remus.  Those two had been very different to match strengths with, and Sirius was now accustomed to various forms of fighting, which gave him a rather nice advantage over Stephen.  Soon, the sixteen-year-old was breathing harshly, trying to escape the headlock that Sirius had secured him in and crying out defeat a minute later.  Sirius grinned and gulped down the lemonade that his aunt had left on the nearby table.  

'That's my three to your, well, none.  Victory!'  He raised his arms and an appropriate gesture, gasping, and immediately fell to the floor, exhaustion getting the better of him.  Stephen winced as he assessed all the bruises that had been inflicted on him, and spared a moment to glare at Sirius.

'Don't you worry, titch, I'll get you by the end of the summer, you just watch.'

'Yeah, yeah, keep talking - and I am almost a foot taller than you, so I wouldn't - oof!'  Little Helen giggled as she attacked Sirius, her chubby hands going straight for his stomach.  'Ack!  You win!  I lose!  I hurt!  Ahhhhhh!...'  He writhed on the floor, trying desperately to get his breath back.

And thus his holidays had officially begun. 

~*~*~

During the days, Sirius barely had time to blink - his cousins seemed to be inexhaustible fountains of energy, pulling him into their games, feeding off his own enthusiasm for a prank or two, running him ragged.  He could almost believe he was back at Hogwarts, chasing adventures with three companions by his side.  Except his three companions never quite squealed so loudly.  And his cousins never made his stomach churn just by looking at him. 

Sitting on his bed at night, Sirius sighed.  The memory of the hug he had given Remus was still very much fresh on his mind.  He could almost feel the other presence in this room, where he knew he was alone.  But he wasn't; not really.  His new-found strong sense of smell apparently included a connection to a better memory.  He couldn't get Remus out of his mind.  But it was silly, really.  It was just...just a phase.  Just a silly phase, maybe even connected to the changes that the Animagus transformation was making him undergo.  Perhaps he was becoming a wolf, and Remus's inner wolf was attracting Sirius's potential one.  That must have been it, because anything else...

But Sirius knew that was a lie.  He might have been becoming a wolf, but had he been transfiguring into a mouse, he would still remember the feel of Remus's chest against his, the hitch of his breath on his neck when he had hugged him perhaps a little too tightly.  He wished he could have remembered the look on Remus's face, but he had been too scared to see it.  Sirius was abnormal - but that didn't mean that Remus was, too.  In fact, what were the odds?  Sirius was sure that this sort of...deviation...was very rare.  Otherwise, why would it cause such harsh reactions?  He had to be so abnormal that he would never be able to tell - anyone, ever.  He would always have to hide it, because he would never be accepted otherwise.  Everyone would turn away from him, his family, his friends, his...Remus.  Remus would turn away from him. 

Sirius felt his insides grow cold.  In the darkness, the shadows were moving in on him.  It was suffocating.  He jumped off the bed and quickly strode towards the door.  He put his hand on the handle, and then stopped.  What would he find on the other side?  More darkness, more shadows.  No answers.  No help, no change.  Instead, he would know that the rest of the house was fast asleep, and he would feel even more alone.  Squeezing his eyes shut, Sirius turned around. 

The window.  He would open the window and let in some fresh air.  It had grown much too hot in his room, anyway.  The window shuddered open, and he leaned out, head and shoulders.  The fresh July air assaulted his senses and for one wonderful moment he felt dizzy.  He clutched the windowsill and doubled over, letting his head hang down, letting the blood rush into it.  Dizzy.  Dizzy was better than desperate.  Dizzy was better than...queer.  Maybe if he stayed this way forever, he wouldn't have to ever think about it again, and he would never ever have to face Remus and James and Peter again.  And he would stay like this forever, dizzy and unthinking. 

The headache got him after a few minutes, and he pulled up, gasping, filling his mouth with the night air.  No, he couldn't escape it.  But he could not think about it.  He would simply not think about it, and would allow his cousins to pull him into more of their pranks, allow his aunt to dote on him, allow his mind to shut down and let the summer pass by as quickly as possible.  And he would not think of Remus, unless he was working on the Animagus transformation.  He would think about Remus the werewolf.  Remus the boy, though...  Sirius would put him out of his mind.  For a very long time. 

Sirius moved away from the window and shivered.  Climbing inside the covers, he feared to close his eyes.  He stared at the moving bludgers on the walls until the sky began greying.  When he slept, he remembered nothing.

~*~*~

'What are you up to, Sirius?'

Jack was standing in the doorway, leaning against the wall.  He was giving Sirius a look that made him feel transparent.  Sirius hurried to make his face look neutral.

'Not much, just, you know, sitting here.'

'Why aren't you out there, with everyone?' 

'Out there' had meant the picnic.  Stephen's girlfriend had come to visit for a few days, and in her honor the family had decided to have a fancy picnic outside, complete with strawberries and even champagne for those who were of age - or at least close to. 

'I dunno,' Sirius shrugged.  'Just didn't feel like it, I suppose.'  Lately, he hadn't really felt like watching anybody with their girlfriend, though he wasn't sure why.  Kate was nice, and she even seemed nice enough - for a girl - but Sirius shrugged and looked down at his hands again.  He couldn't explain it, and so he wouldn't even try. 

'Hm.'  The non-committal sound came from Jack.  He was still looking at Sirius, as if considering him.  After a moment, he spoke. 'Want to go for a walk?  Just you and me, out in the woods there.' 

Sirius was startled.  Moments alone with Jack, the ones where he could really have Jack all to himself for those few precious minutes, were rare.  Everybody wanted to be alone with Jack, and Sirius rarely got the chance.  This was to be taken advantage of. 

'Sure!'  He sprang from the bed, but frowned. 'Why?'

'I want to speak to you,' Jack answered.  Again, Sirius felt that admiration peculiar only to his cousin.  He was always blunt, and Sirius had never known him to lie.  This, more than anything, made Sirius trust him above every other adult in his life, even Dumbledore, who might have never lied, but definitely had a special talent for evading any question, be it simple or difficult.  That Jack was like a brother to him, and always had been, only made it better.

They went out the back way so no one would see them.  For almost a mile, up the path, down the spirally way through the wood, they didn't speak.  Jack was half-whistling, half-humming some tune Sirius hadn't heard, but it sounded like that Muggle rock Jack was so fond of.  Sirius kept glancing over at him, trying to discern whether or not it was time to speak yet.  In the meantime, he contented himself with watching the birds hop from branch to green branch overhead, seeing the sun piercing golden threads through the trees, smelling the grass and the faintly wet whiff of moss, as familiar as the feet he kept seeing as he took step after step forward, looking down.  One after the other they walked, and something made him think of Remus again.  Once, in their first year, they had to climb a long way up to the castle from where they had lazied around by the farthest part of the lake.  Remus was ahead, and Sirius, huffing from exertion, could only go on by the grounding force of those booted feet, stepping one after another before him.  One foot up, then the other, first again, and the castle materialized in front of him, a welcome sight.  Remus had turned around and grinned then. 

They came to a clearing.  If the sun had been a muted crackling of a badly tuned radio in the woods, now it blared a symphony at them, sudden and raging.  July, he thought.  He loved July.  Sweat was stinging at his back and under his arms, and he wiped his forehead.  Jack appeared to be quite cool, his pace unchanging, walking confidently towards some unidentified goal.  Sirius shook his head and tore off his t-shirt.  He felt good and free.  Stuffing a corner of the t-shirt into his back pocket, he walked on.

Jack pointed to a log that lay a few paces ahead of them.  'There, why don't we rest a bit, all right?' 

Sirius nodded and they were soon sitting down, Jack on the log, Sirius on the grass at his feet.  He plucked out a thin, green blade and stuck it in his mouth, fancying that perhaps it was a cigarette.  He grew slightly jealous when Jack produced from his shirt pocket a real cigarette and a box of matches.  In fascination, he watched as the cigarette flashed once in Jack's mouth and began burning steadily.  Jack appeared to have noticed his gaze.

'Sorry, lad, you're still too young.  And these?  These will kill you, anyway.'  He put the packet back into his shirt pocket.

Sirius snorted. 'So, why do you do it?'

'Ever hear of addiction?'

Jack squinted slightly at the sun and took the cigarette out of his mouth. 'So.'

'Yeah?' Sirius lay back on the grass, enjoying the rough surface against his bare back.  It tickled only lightly, and was nicely cool. 

'What's been bothering you, Sirius?' 

'Huh?'  That was certainly not the line of conversation Sirius had anticipated.  And, as far as he knew, no one knew that anything was bothering him.  He barely allowed himself to think that anything was wrong.

'C'mon, I've been watching you.  What girl has got you so down that you won't even finish your second helping of trifle?' 

Sirius knew that nothing about Jack could ever astonish him, or at least take him by surprise.  Despite being close, Jack was a complete mystery to him.  Whatever he chose to show, at whatever moment, Sirius would know that he should have expected it all along, and was simply waiting for the opportunity when Jack would strip yet another layer long enough for Sirius to glimpse at the inside.  But he never, in a million years, expected Jack to notice his eating habits.  He willfully ignored the first part of Jack's question. 

'I'm just not that hungry,' he shrugged and looked out across the field.  The red that was now staining his cheeks was only partly due to the sun's generosity. 

'You're fifteen, Sirius.  Well, almost.' He heard a smile on Jack's lips. 'You're always hungry.'  Sirius supposed that he should probably say something at this point, but he really didn't know what.  Jack was right, so he kept his mouth shut for the pause that followed. 'Look, I can tell you now what's wrong with you, or you can choose to tell me.  But we came here to accomplish something, and accomplish it we will.'  Jack flicked the ash of his cigarette with one sharp movement.

Sirius let a moment pass before finally spitting out the sweet blade of grass that he had been sucking on, and answering:

'There's nothing wrong, Jack, I don't...I don't understand where you're getting this from.'

'I know that mum hasn't noticed it - she's too busy, and you have also been very good at hiding it.  But now we're here, and you're with me, and I've been watching you.' Sirius kept silent, either out of astonishment, or the lack thereof. 'Sirius...' The voice grew slightly unsteadier.  That was all the warning he got. 'Who is he?'

The song of the bird above seemed to silence itself.  A small cloud chose to shift slightly then and the bright rays were momentarily diminished; a shadow passed over Sirius's still face.  He didn't move.  Perhaps, had he even tried, he wouldn't have been able to - his hands were heavy upon his stomach, pressing him into the earth and rendering him immobile.  Just his hands - and so heavy. 

He could still hear, however, even through the dull beating of his heart - it hadn't stopped? - and the rustle of the grass told him Jack had shifted.  He had moved down to Sirius's level, crouching at his side. 

'Hey... hey, look at me.'  Jack's voice was much quieter now, and it only now hit Sirius that his silence had given away the answer he had so desperately tried to not make known.  He shuddered and shifted, turning fully away from Jack, away from shame, away from his mind.  'Sirius.'

No.

'Sirius...' A cool hand landed on his shoulder and tried pressing him back down to the grass.  He didn't want to admit to the sting in his eyes.  'Sirius, it's all right.' Jack's voice was intent on being heard yet not hurting.  Quiet and steady.  Sirius felt another shudder coming on and turned his face away until his nose was pressing into the all-encompassing grass, the smell anchoring him and blanketing.  The first tear escaped and slid down his nose, soaking into the green of the grass.

'Sirius...d'you hear me?  It's okay.'  Silently, he was turned back, facing Jack, facing the intense blue eyes.  It was the first time he took notice, without really realizing, that they both had the same eyes.  Light blue rimmed with black.  He felt hands pulling him up from the grass and wrapping around him.  He convulsed and the wail that made it past his throat was absorbed into Jack's shirt, strong hands wrapping around his shoulder blades.

The rocking sensation brought him back to himself.  The fabric pressed to his nose was soaked with salty wet; the pressure of Jack's hands on his back grounded.  Jack was silent.  When Sirius finally looked up, untucking his head from underneath the stubbly chin, he saw that the jaw was tense.  The eyes were closed, and a new wrinkle formed between the black eyebrows.  Jack felt his movement and opened his eyes.  For a moment, their gazes met.  Sirius felt as if he were revealed, all of it, and that Jack was revealed to him, all of him, and they saw one another, saw and accepted, accepted and stayed.  It's okay, Jack kept saying, only his mouth didn't open, and his voice wasn't heard.  Jack closed his eyes and leaned down.  Sirius felt a slightly wet press to his forehead and gave a last, quiet sniff.  Jack's hands slowly released his back and cradled his face.  He smiled, and the wrinkle left his forehead. 

'It'll be okay, Sirius,' he whispered.  Sirius felt heavy, as if all that had been building up inside of him was crushing him now, with the materialized  weight of its realizations.  He buried his head against Jack's chest once more, gripped the shirt in his fists.  Jack let him, holding his sides lightly.

~*~

'When did you...you know...know?'

He was lying sideways by the log, arm curled underneath his side, left hand crushing the grass underneath its palm.  Jack sat with his leg stretched out, new cigarette slowly burning between his fingers, smoke escaping with breath.

'At about your age.  He was...a year older.  Had this beautiful head of hair, chestnut colored.  I refused to admit that he had the most sensual mouth I'd ever seen.  Didn't come to accept it for a while after, though.'  He took a drag on the cigarette and blew out a ring of smoke.  Sirius watched its progress through the air, the white whiff enlarging and finally dissipating to mix in with the rays of sun, still beating down. 

'Have you... accepted it now?'  A clump of grass lifted easily within his hand.

'I have.'

Sirius fell silent again.  Here, with Jack, it didn't seem as harsh, as heavy as it had the night that he had stayed up reading from the yellow book.  He concentrated on remembering exactly what it was that had made him so scared. 

'Isn't it...isn't it wrong?' he asked finally, turning onto his back and looking at Jack.

'Does it feel wrong?'

'Well...no.' It was a realization. 'Not when I...'

'Not when you just think of you and him and nothing else matters?' The blue eyes were watching him patiently.  Sirius looked back, astonished.

'Yes...  It just feels...good.  Really good.'

'It isn't wrong Sirius.  People have called it wrong, they have called it disgusting.  But it isn't.'

'Why, though?  What's the use of them saying that, why -'

'Why would they want to make you feel like shit just for being yourself?'

Sirius nodded, looking at Jack almost in desperation.  Jack jerked his shoulders in a shrug, and looked away.  Sirius followed the movements with his eyes, waiting.

'People tend to be...afraid of things that are different.  They tend to criticize whatever doesn't fit in with their idea of "the norm".  They're used to their idea of what love and desire are, and it doesn't involve two men.  Or two women, for that matter.'

Sirius nodded again and looked at the grass in front of him.  So it was just people being scared - and that caused the hatred?  Well, he was scared, too.  But that didn't stop him feeling this way.  It didn't stop him wanting to hold Remus, not in the sort of hug he'd give James, but really hold him, keep him close, really touch him.  He supposed that it was a different sort of scared.  The sort of scared where Remus would never look at him in the way that he looked at Remus.  Would never touch him.  Like that.

Jack stamped his foot on the ground lightly, putting out his cigarette. 'Sirius, I know what you're going through.' Sirius's head jerked up - had he been thinking aloud?  But no, he knew he hadn't.  This was simply Jack.  'I am now giving you open access to whatever it is you want to know - ask me anything, anytime.  This is what I can give you.  I can't give you freedom in expressing yourself, or accepting it - only you can do that, and it will probably be a while.  But I can give you an untainted view on homosexuality.  That's something you need.' 

He'd said the word, Sirius thought.  Except, when Jack said it sounded...normal.  It didn't sound disgusting, or perverted - it was just another word, with a whole new meaning.  Sirius turned away and looked at the trees in the distance.  Not wrong.  Not disgusting.  He breathed in the summer air.  It felt like this was paradise, and that it would end as soon as they made their way back home.  Except not really, because now he had Jack - and he felt inexplicable smugness at knowing more about Jack than any of his cousins.  They didn't know, he realized.  But he did. 

'The thing you mustn't be afraid of, Sirius, is discovering yourself.' 

He turned back to Jack.  The sun had made his pale face slightly pink, and no shadow lay on the smooth planes of his face - the straight nose, the prominent cheekbones.  The only shadow that he could see was right above the eyes, when Jack would lower his face against the sunlight, and the blue of his eyes looked almost luminous.

Sirius smiled.

'I know.'

They sat in silence for a while, enjoying the warmth of the sun and the grass that surrounded them.  His eyelids drooping, Sirius saw another face stand out in his mind.  He smiled at the image right before dropping off to a light sleep.       

End part 3.