Title: The Living
Warnings: Violence, homophobia, some finagling with the timeline, general angst.
Word count: ~4,400
Summary: "It's gonna hurt now. Anything dead coming back to life hurts." Remus/Sirius, Remus/Regulus
Notes: Originally written for rs_small_gifts 2013 for tinykettle. Thanks to laroseminuit for doing a great beta read for me.
Disclaimers: Harry Potter and any characters or concepts you recognize are the original creation of J.K. Rowling and are not owned by me. This is a work of fan fiction and no copyright infringement is intended. Summary is a quote from Beloved by Toni Morrison.
Sirius is dead when he turns up at Remus's doorstep. Or he might as well be dead. Remus answers the door wearing a suit and smoking a pipe and Sirius wonders when Remus became the type of person who wears suits and smokes pipes.
"Oh. Padfoot," Remus says, obviously put off guard.
Sirius's smile feels strange, his face no longer used to smiling. "Expecting someone else?"
"Come in," Remus says, distractedly.
Sirius follows Remus inside where he sits on Remus's worn leather sofa and stares. He hasn't been invited into someone's home in thirteen years. Remus shifts from one foot to the other and then goes into his kitchen, where he uses a muggle telephone to call someone. He speaks softly into the receiver. Sirius can only catch about one word in ten. He remembers Remus hugging him two months ago and how it was the first time someone had treated him with kindness since before Azkaban.
"You were expecting someone," Sirius says when Remus comes back into the sitting room.
Remus shrugs. "I had a date."
"Oh. Sorry." But Sirius isn't sorry.
"That's okay. You're more important."
"You have a girlfriend?" Sirius asks.
Sirius remembers the last time he saw Remus before Azkaban and how cruel he was to Remus then. And yet Remus still hugged him in the Shrieking Shack; still believed that Sirius wasn't the traitor before anyone else, with no more proof than Peter's name on the Map. Strange.
"Are you hungry, Padfoot?"
Sirius is always starving.
Remus goes into his kitchen and cooks dinner for Sirius. Sirius wonders when he learned to cook.
The first time Sirius catches Regulus in Remus's bed, Regulus is only fifteen years old. It is a Hogsmeade weekend, Remus supposedly too sick from the moon to participate. Sirius rushes back to their dormitory, eager to tell Remus about the fireworks he and James bought for their next prank. He pulls back the heavy curtains around Remus's bed and is treated to the sight of far more of Regulus's arse than he'd ever wanted to see. Sirius feels something tight clench around his heart. "What the hell?" he says.
The two quickly break apart. Remus's face turns bright red, but Regulus's face only gets paler and paler.
"Sirius -" Remus begins, using his most reasonable tone of voice.
But Sirius snaps. And even though Regulus is younger than Remus and even though Regulus is Sirius's little brother, the one whose honor Sirius should protect, it is Regulus and not Remus who Sirius attacks, his fist connecting with Regulus's nose with a sickening, satisfying crunch. Sirius pummels his brother furiously until Remus pulls him away.
Sirius refuses to speak to Remus for two months after that. James forgives Remus more easily. A few hours after it happens, while Sirius nurses his bruised hand, James looks at Remus and asks, almost gently: "Why?"
Remus shrugs. "I like him, I guess."
Sirius mutters the word "queer" under his breath. James shoots Sirius a hard look. Then Sirius sits up and says the only words he will utter to Remus for two months.
"He wouldn't like you if he knew what you are."
And Remus's face takes on a cold, distant look. "I don't need you to tell me that no one who knows I'm a werewolf could ever want to be with me. I already know it."
"Sirius," James said in a harsh tone of voice.
Sirius throws his head back and laughs. "Just the other day, Regulus was telling Mother that he thought the Ministry was too lenient on werewolves, James. That werewolves are animals. Isn't that funny?"
Remus's face assumes the placid mask that it always takes on when normal people would show emotion and so Sirius knows his words have found their target.
On the second night that Sirius stays at Remus's house, Remus wrinkles his nose and says: "No offense, Padfoot, but you could really use a bath."
Sirius can't remember the last time he had a proper bath. He's bathed in streams, in sinks in the men's room at bus stations, but not in bathtubs. So he fills Remus's tub with warm frothy water and scrubs his skin until it is pink, until the water in the tub turns black. And as he washes himself with Remus's sandalwood scented soap, he thinks about the way Remus's nose wrinkles and how it used to wrinkle in exactly the same way when they were both young.
Sirius soon begins taking long, luxurious baths in Remus's bathtub two or three times a day. After a few weeks of this Remus jokes that Sirius has used all his best soaps and shampoos and he can hardly afford more. Sometimes, Remus knocks softly on the door when Sirius has spent too long in the bathtub. "Sirius? Do you need anything?" he'll ask, coming into the bathroom.
Sirius will shake his head or he will ask for soap or toothpaste. After several days of this, Sirius starts to suspect that Remus does this because he is afraid that Sirius will harm himself. Sirius doesn't want to harm himself. He doesn't want to do much of anything. He used to want to kill Peter with a singular, consuming desire. But now that Remus knows he wasn't the traitor, now that Harry knows, it seems like Sirius should want different things. He just isn't sure what those things might be.
After Hogwarts, Sirius gets a little flat with Remus in a neighborhood in London that Sirius's mother would hate. Sirius had always pictured himself living with James after Hogwarts, but James is joined to the hip with Lily Evans and Peter wants to live with his mother for a few years longer. Remus is the only Marauder who Sirius can persuade to split the rent with him and Sirius feels strangely grateful to Remus for it – Sirius can't fathom living alone, coming home to an empty place. Sirius doesn't like himself when he's alone.
On the day they move in, they order a pizza which Remus devours quickly while Sirius idly peels flakes of yellow paint off the wall. Remus perpetually looks skinny and sickly, but at certain times of the month he can eat more than any of them.
"Sorry about that," Remus says, gesturing to the wall. "I know you could have afforded a way better place on your own."
Sirius hates it when Remus apologizes for being poor. "Don't be stupid, Moony," he says. "We are young men of the world. We can see shit here. Experience the world and all that. Besides, we can always paint it."
Remus smiles, looking a bit pained. "Thanks, Padfoot," he says.
"No problem," Sirius says. "Besides, pretty soon you and I are going be bringing so many women back to this place that we'll forget all about the paint and the neighborhood."
Some strong emotion briefly passes over Remus face, before he settles back into his customary impassivity.
"Or – you know – you could bring men over if you wanted," Sirius says, watching Remus carefully. "I wouldn't have a problem with it." Sirius knows that he didn't exactly react ideally to Remus being with his brother, but he really has nothing against homosexuals. Not that Remus has any reason to know it.
"I like women too," Remus says, quickly.
"Er … okay," Sirius says. "Do you ever see Regulus nowadays?"
Remus shrugs. "Not really. He's been hanging around some bad sorts lately, I hear."
"I heard that as well," Sirius says, picking some cheese off his slice of pizza and eating it. It's greasy and cold. Suddenly, he stands up. "Hey.
Let's pop down to Diagon Alley and pick up some Firewhiskey," he says. "I could use a drink."
Remus looks reluctant. "I don't know -" he begins.
"Moony," Sirius says, his voice whining. "Don't make me drink alone. Besides, maybe we'll both meet some birds. Or you could meet a bloke. Whatever."
Remus rolls his eyes. "At the liquor store? Do you ever think of anything but sex?"
"You know I don't," Sirius says in a perfectly dignified voice.
Remus smiles. "Okay, Padfoot," he says. "Diagon Alley then."
"Sirius? Do you need anything Sirius?" Remus stands in the bathroom, looking down at Sirius in the bathtub.
Slowly, but without thinking much about it, Sirius takes Remus's hand and puts it on his cock. Remus's mouth falls open.
"Please," Sirius says. He's wanted this for so long. In Azkaban, he used to dream of Remus touching his hot, fevered skin, of Remus warming
the chill in his bones. It's been so long since anyone touched Sirius. He hasn't even masturbated in years.
Remus looks at Sirius, his eyes bright, and then slowly, deliberately, he begins stroking Sirius's cock.
Sirius comes home the flat he shares with Remus to find Remus and Regulus standing in the sitting room, still as statutes. Regulus's sleeve is rolled up and they are both staring at his forearm. Sirius makes a noise of dismay and Regulus quickly pulls down his sleeve, covering his arm. But he's not quick enough. Sirius has seen the Dark Mark and nothing can take back that knowledge.
"Get out," Sirius says, roughly.
"Sirius," Remus's voice is soft, pleading. "Let's just – let's just hear him out."
"There's nothing to hear. He's a fucking Death Eater!" Sirius hates that his own voice sounds as if he is about to cry. He takes out a cigarette and lights it.
"I had to do it," Regulus says and he is crying. Sirius hates that he's crying because Death Eaters aren't supposed to sound like blubbering little brothers. Regulus is still in Hogwarts, just a boy, and he has sold his soul to the devil. "They threatened me. You don't know, Sirius. You don't know."
"Then you should have been brave!" Sirius says. "For once in your damned life, you should have shown some backbone." It feels like they have had this conversation many times before. When Regulus was very small he'd come into Sirius room after one of their parents' tempers and slip into bed beside Sirius to cry against Sirius's chest. And Sirius would tell him to be brave, to be strong, to not care about what Mother and Father said. And he loved his little brother – but part of him hated Regulus during these times as well. Regulus was everything Sirius didn't want to be – weak, meek, and compliant.
"Please Sirius, I don't want -"
"Get out," Sirius says.
"I'm your brother!"
Sirius laughs though he's not sure why it seems funny. "Which is the only reason I'm not turning you over to the Order. Get. Out."
Remus is angry after Regulus leaves and for once, he shows it. "He came to see you, not me, you know," he snaps. "He needs your help."
Sirius sits in their window seat, looks out at the view of the dirty back alley. Their apartment is in a shitty neighborhood. Sirius takes a long drag off his cigarette. "There's no help for him," he says. "Not now. There's no leaving the Death Eaters."
"He didn't want to join," Remus says, but Sirius knows that this isn't true. Regulus has admired Voldemort for ages.
Sirius shrugs, takes another drag off his cigarette. "He's a coward. You're not to see him again."
Remus's face hardens. "You don't own me, Sirius. We just live together."
"He is a Death Eater! What don't you understand about that? I don't care how many times he sucked your dick when we were at Hogwarts. He kills muggles for fun now. You'll have to find someone else to be a faggot with."
Remus looks at Sirius, very calmly. "Fuck you, Sirius," he says.
Remus gives Sirius hand jobs all the time, but whenever Sirius leans in for a kiss or attempts to touch Remus, Remus quickly pulls away. One day, Remus is making Sirius breakfast and humming to himself. He sounds happy and it has been so long since Sirius has been around happy people that he impulsively grabs Remus around the waist and kisses him on the lips. It's a quick, sweet, early-morning type of kiss, but Remus stiffens anyway and then pulls away, going back to frying Sirius's omelet.
"Moony," Sirius says. "What the hell?"
Remus doesn't look at Sirius. "You're not gay," he says, carefully flipping the omelet. "I know that it's probably been over a decade since you had sex and you have needs and all that. I get it. And I'm willing to satisfy you. You don't have to kiss me or do anything for me, Sirius."
Sirius stands in the middle of Remus's kitchen in the midst of the familiar peeling paint and second-hand furniture that seems to be a perpetual part of Remus's life. He can't remember the last time he was rejected in such a spectacularly humiliating fashion. "So you think I'm just using you to get off?" he asks.
Remus shrugs in a way that clearly means yes.
"I'm not," Sirius says. "I – I thought of you sometimes in Azkaban. Of that one time we were together. I want to kiss you and touch you and do everything." He feels himself blush which makes him even more embarrassed – Sirius does not think of himself as the sort of person who blushes when talking about sex. "I realize that you're more experienced with – you know – men than I am."
Remus finally steps away from the stove to look at Sirius. "You're not gay, Padfoot," he says again, sounding weary. "I know you're not."
"I do like women," Sirius says. "So I suppose you're right – I'm not exactly gay. But you like women too, don't you? You know how it is."
"Sirius," Remus says, in the tone of someone who is trying very hard to be patient. "I've known that I was attracted to both men and women since I was thirteen. Did you have a similar adolescent revelation?"
Sirius opens his mouth to reply, but Remus interrupts him. "No. You didn't," he says. "Because you're not gay or bisexual. As soon as you meet a nice girl you're going to remember that."
Sirius shakes his head. "I won't," he says, quietly. "I'll admit that maybe I didn't figure things out as soon as you did, but I've had a long time to think about what I am and what I want. I'm attracted to you, Remus. And you're not the only man I've ever been attracted to either."
Remus seems to think about this for a minute before a tiny smile steals over his face. "You're attracted to me, are you Padfoot?"
"I think you're dreamy," Sirius says in a high, falsetto voice. They both laugh, but then Sirius takes Remus's hand. "I'm not going to run off with some bird at the first opportunity."
"You have to admit – it would be like you to do something like that."
"It would," Sirius agrees.
He kisses Remus deeply and this time Remus doesn't pull away.
The last time Sirius catches Regulus in Remus's bed, he just smirks as Regulus and Remus attempt to cover themselves with Remus's duvet. "I knew you were seeing him again," Sirius says to Remus.
"Sirius," Regulus says. "I -"
"I thought I told you to stay the fuck out of my apartment," Sirius says, barely glancing at his brother as he pulls on his robes.
"I invited him," Remus says. Remus barely speaks to Sirius these days, barely spends the night in the apartment, but apparently he has plenty of time for Regulus.
"You hanging out with Death Eaters a lot these days, Remus?" Sirius asks, with a laugh.
Remus flinches, but Regulus, now dressed, walks toward Sirius. "I'm going to get out," he says. His voice sounds fevered, nervous. "I'm going to leave the Death Eaters."
"No one leaves the Death Eaters," Sirius says, automatically. "They'd kill you if you tried."
Regulus paces back and forth. "I'll get out," he repeats. "I'll tell the Dark Lord to go fuck himself. You'll see." He looks at Remus rather than Sirius as he says this.
"You need to calm down," Remus says. "Everyone needs to just calm down."
"You don't believe me," Regulus says, his lower lip jutting out in a sulk just like it did when he was a kid. "Neither one of you do. But I'll do it. He's an evil fuck and he's done nothing but hurt me and threaten Mother and Father. I'm going to do it, Sirius."
"I'm going to go make us all some tea," Remus says. "Then we can all just calm down and talk about it." He looks at Regulus and something private seems to pass between them. It hurts Sirius to see the little looks and glances that they share.
Remus leaves the room. Regulus runs his fingers through his hair, looking more agitated than Sirius has ever seen him. "I know he's a werewolf," he says, softly.
Sirius raises his eyebrows, surprised. "Did he tell you that?"
"No," Regulus says. "But I know. It doesn't matter to me."
Sirius wants to cry, but he laughs instead. "What would Mother and Father say? Their perfect little prince is fucking a werewolf."
"Why do you always assume that I'm like them?" Regulus asks, tilting his head to the side like an inquisitive bird.
Sirius is caught off guard. "You've never given me any reason to think otherwise, my Death Eater brother," he says, at last.
"I know that I've always been a disappointment to you," Regulus says, looking at the ground. "I love him." He gestures toward the kitchen where Sirius can hear Remus fiddling with the tea kettle. The words hang heavy between them.
"Let me stay with you and Remus for a few days," he pleads. "Remus won't let me stay if you don't agree."
"You mean your love won't let you stay?" Sirius asks, sarcastically.
Regulus eyes are bright. "Everything's always been so easy for you, hasn't it Sirius? You could always have anything you wanted just by reaching out your hand and taking it. Things aren't like that for me."
Sirius doesn't know what Regulus means – it feels as if nothing has ever come easy for him, especially his relationship with his family. "You have to leave," he says. "I have no common ground with Death Eaters. You've killed people, haven't you? Innocent people?"
"I didn't want to," Regulus cries. "The Dark Lord made me." He is now sobbing in earnest, big tears rolling down his cheeks.
"Get out," Sirius whispers.
Regulus turns and runs. Presently, Sirius hears him in the kitchen talking to Remus. After a long while, Sirius hears the front door slam. He sinks down onto Remus's bed and tries not to care that his baby brother is probably going to get himself killed. He's not Regulus anymore – he's just some Death Eater.
After some time passes, Remus comes into the room and just looks at Sirius sitting on his bed.
"You didn't go with him," Sirius says.
"No," Remus whispers.
"He says he's in love with you." Sirius stands up and begins pacing the floor.
"I know," Remus says, sighing. "What a mess."
"Aren't you in love with him?"
Remus gives Sirius a sharp look. "If you ever bothered to pay attention then you'd know who I was in love with," he says.
Sirius is silent. Has he mistaken the meaning of Remus's words? He wants to scream Are you a Death Eater? Are you? But he doesn't say anything. Instead he quickly closes the distance between himself and Remus and plants a kiss against Remus's lips. Remus pulls back and looks into Sirius's eyes.
"I can't," Remus says, raggedly. "Regulus -"
Sirius grabs him and kisses him again, pressing him against the bed. Remus doesn't resist, he just puts his hand behind Sirius neck and kisses him deeply. Sirius has never kissed a boy before, never thought of himself as gay, but it doesn't feel wrong with Remus. It doesn't feel wrong at all. Sirius's hands move to Remus's clothes.
Sirius expects the sex to be rough and angry, but it isn't like that at all. It's slow and sweet and painfully gentle. Sirius falls asleep in Remus's bed, with his arm wrapped around Remus's body. When he wakes up the next morning, Remus is lying beside him, smiling in his sleep. And Sirius looks down at him and thinks that he could have had this all along – he could have been with Remus for years and they could have been happy together. He could have stopped Remus from going over to the other side just like he could have prevented Regulus from becoming a Death Eater if he had tried hard enough. He always messes up everything.
Sirius leans over and kisses Remus on the cheek. Then he goes to his room and with a few muttered spells, quickly packs his belongings. Remus doesn't wake up, but then he's always been a heavy sleeper. Sirius stands in the bedroom door looking at Remus for a long time. Then he Apparates to his new house – the one Remus doesn't know about.
"Where will you go?" Remus asks, his breath hot against Sirius's neck. Even though they'd never had a real relationship before, being with Remus feels like coming home.
"Hm." Sirius says. He never wants to leave Remus's bed, but the house isn't secure and he can't stay here and continue to place Remus in danger for harboring a criminal. "Somewhere warm, Moony. Somewhere far, far away. Morocco, maybe? Egypt?"
"Mexico?" Remus suggests. "Brazil?"
Sirius laughs. "Even better."
Remus traces a finger across Sirius's bare chest. Once, Sirius's chest was a thing of beauty – now it is bony and sunken and Sirius doesn't understand how Remus can find it attractive. "I don't want you to go," Remus says.
"I don't want to go," Sirius reassures him.
"All those years when I thought you'd done it," Remus says. "It was like an open wound that would never heal. But it doesn't feel like that any longer."
Sirius smiles. The expression no longer feels unnatural. "For me too," he says. "Remus?"
"Tell me about you and Regulus."
Sirius feels Remus go stiff in his arms. "What do you want to know?" he asks in a guarded voice.
"I don't know," Sirius says. The business with Remus and Regulus feels important somehow, like it meant something in Sirius's life, although
Sirius can't say why. Regulus is long dead anyway. "How did you first get together?"
Remus smiles faintly. "He gave me a hand job in the Prefect's Bathroom."
Sirius laughs, although it is still a little painful to hear about Remus being with Regulus. "No. Really?"
"Really. Sirius … why are we talking about this? You never wanted to talk about Regulus with me when he was alive."
"Did you love him?" Sirius asks suddenly and this seems like the most important thing of all.
Remus sucks in a breath and looks away. "I cared for him," he says, at last, oh so careful with his words. "But not the way I care for you."
Sirius crosses his arms over his body, suddenly cold. "I was hoping you'd say that you did love him," he says. "I don't know that anyone ever loved him his whole life." Sirius had thought of Regulus often when he was in Azkaban. "I mean – my parents weren't really capable of loving anyone."
"Sirius," Remus says, gently. "Someone did love him."
"Who?" Sirius asks.
Sirius blinks. "I guess I did, didn't I?"
"Yes," Remus says. "Regulus loved you as well, you know. Every time I ever said your name, his eyes would light up like it was Christmas. Sometimes I think that he started going out with me to get your attention."
It was so like Remus to say something like that – so like Remus to believe that he was incapable of making someone really want him. "He loved you," Sirius says. "He told me so on that last day. He knew you were a werewolf."
Remus gives Sirius a sharp glance. "I never knew that," he says, after a long pause. His eyes are wet with unshed tears and Sirius can feel the tears rising to his own eyes. It hadn't been long afterwards that Regulus had died.
"On that last day – did you cry when you realized I had left you?" Sirius isn't sure why he wants to know this particular piece of information. Even at the time, even believing that Remus might be a Death Eater, Sirius had known that it was cruel to leave him alone after sleeping with him.
Remus wipes his eyes. "Of course I fucking cried," he says.
Sirius reaches out to touch Remus's face. "I cried too," he says. When he was younger, he had sometimes thought Remus incapable of normal human emotions – but Remus wasn't like that at all. Yes, he kept himself more contained than other people, but all that love and hate and guilt bubbled under the surface just as strongly as anyone else's emotions.
"I went to James' place," Remus says. "I think I knew even before I arrived that he and Lily and Harry had gone as well. That you all didn't trust me anymore."
"They were dark times," Sirius says. "But I should have known it was Peter. I hate myself for it every day."
"I've already forgiven you," Remus says, shortly. But he doesn't look at Sirius.
"I haven't," Sirius says. "I don't know if I ever will."
"I loved Regulus."
Sirius squeezes Remus's hand tightly. Perhaps it should feel like he's betraying his brother by being with Remus, but it doesn't. It feels right somehow to be here remembering Regulus with perhaps the only other person in the world who ever loved his brother. They don't say anything to one another for a long time. Finally, Sirius rolls over and looks at Remus.
"I'm leaving," he says. "But I won't ever leave you like I did before."
"You'll write?" Remus asks.
"As often as I can," Sirius says. Then he hesitates before saying: "Remus?"
"You make me feel …" It is still hard for Sirius to talk about it, to express his feelings toward Remus. He wants to say I love you, but he's not sure if the words will be welcome.
"How do I make you feel, Padfoot?" Remus' voice is light, almost teasing.
Sirius breathes in the scent of Remus' skin. "Alive," he says, at last. "You make me feel alive."
Remus smiles and kisses him.