When the day is done
And the sun goes down
And the moonlight’s shining through
Then like a sinner before the gates of heaven
I’ll come crawling home back to you.
He was going to tell James. Just as soon as he knew what to say.
Fucking hell, how had it been so easy for Moony? It had to be one of life’s great ironies that mysterious, undefinable, incomprehensible Moony had been able to bear his soul so simply, and so effortlessly. But that was Remus all over. That was the draw. Just as soon as you thought you understood enough to see him clearly, another part revealed itself, and the whole picture transformed before your eyes. Layer upon layer, until you realised you had never truly known Remus at all. It was fascinating, and frustrating.
James was the opposite; what you saw was what you got, and Sirius loved him fiercely for that. Because you knew where you were. He never wrong-footed you, or left any room for misunderstandings. They had never fought, not in seven years of friendship, and as far as Sirius Black was concerned, that was nothing short of miraculous.
They’d ‘had words’, of course. He was no stranger to James’s scolding tone, or even – much worse – his disappointment. Fifth year came to mind – though Sirius always tried to forget that as soon as he remembered it. The point was, James Potter and Sirius Black were almost always in perfect harmony, and it had been that way since they met on the Hogwarts Express. James was his other half. His better half, come to that. The fact that there was anything happening in Sirius’s life which James was not aware of would have been unthinkable two years ago.
But that’s what Moony did. He just breezed in and turned everything upside down and then vanished before you’d caught your breath. Sirius sometimes felt like he’d spent the past two years trying to work out which way was up. Not that Sirius was complaining, not that it wasn’t bloody amazing, but he would be the first to admit that he was no good at this sort of thing. It wasn’t as if he’d ever been given an example.
Remus could put a date on it. It had been so clear to him; he knew the moment everything had changed. But Sirius had not realised. Obviously there must have been a moment, a second in which he had suddenly become aware. But nothing stood out. Hadn’t he always thought Moony was a bit special? Hadn’t he always wanted to get a bit closer?
Sirius groaned and buried his head in the pillow beside him. Yes, he definitely had to tell James.
Being with Moony was easy. Telling other people was not.
He got up, off his bed. A decisive move. He’d thought about this enough for one day. It was getting too complicated, better to find something else to think about. Sirius knew from experience that if he spent too long alone his mind started talking over him. Told him things he didn’t like to hear, about himself. About what other people thought of him. Better to interrupt it, to let someone else distract him.
Where was Prongs? Quidditch. Which meant that Peter would be watching. Sirius couldn’t bear to sit next to Wormtail in the stands, watching Prongs having all the fun and pretending they weren’t both wild with jealousy.
Anyway, if practice was over, that meant Evans would be there to meet James. And Sirius wasn’t so pathetic yet, that he’d follow those two around hoping for a scrap of attention. Well, that really left him no choice, Sirius decided with a smirk to himself. Moony. He went over to Remus’s bedside table and pulled out the marauder’s map.
Yep, there was Prongs, zooming back and forth across the oval pitch. Peter in the stands, Marlene looping the perimeter – probably bored, poor girl, James’s drills could be dull. Evans and MacDonald looked like they were together, just coming onto the grounds now. He watched their little flags, the steady progress. The tagging had been Remus’s idea, but the delicate little scrolls of text had been Sirius’s. It was all very well, producing a spectacular feat of magic – but presentation was everything. That was the difference between him and Remus – their magic, anyway. Raw power vs. spontaneous finesse.
Regulus was in the dungeons. Sirius couldn’t help checking. It was just good to know that he was where he was supposed to be. Maybe if he was surrounded by Slytherins he wasn’t tormenting anyone else, for once. Sirius knew it was none of his business – that he had to cut ties with his brother, who was just another death eater, now, just another enemy. But it was harder than he could manage. Sometimes, if he had nothing else to do, he spied on Regulus. Like that day in Hogsmeade – and it had come in handy then, hadn’t it? He’d saved Moony and that annoying swotty sixth year kid, completely by accident.
Now, where was Moony…? Sirius scanned the map, all of the usual places – the Charms classroom (Sirius could never remember when the study sessions were scheduled for), the library, the kitchens… but no, he wasn’t in any of these places. Sirius tried not to get too nervous as he searched quickly for his friend – not in any of his usual hiding places – and why should Remus be hiding? Was there something wrong, which Sirius didn’t know about? That was always a possibility. Had he left school again, like that time he went to face the werewolf? Oh merlin, what on earth had the stupid prat decided to square off against now?!
Ah. No. There he was. Remus Lupin, the flag read, and Sirius had to laugh at himself. He was only down in the bloody common room. Just a few meters away. Sirius put the map back, and straightened up. He glanced at himself in the mirror as he left the room, down the stairs.
They might get an hour or two alone, before dinner, as long as no one came up to the dorm room. A game of gobstones, or snap, or just listen to a record, maybe. How long had it been since they’d had any space to relax together? But of course, Remus seemed to want to do anything but relax these days; it was work, work, work.
Sirius reached the bottom of the stairs and cast around, looking for Remus. The common room was almost empty, only a small huddle of first years trading chocolate frog cards in one corner, a fifth year plugged into their headphones, head bobbing wildly by the window sill. And Remus, slumped over in his favourite armchair, head resting on a bent elbow, huge book in his lap. Fast asleep, snoring very softly.
Sirius stood apart from him, hands on hips, and smiled. Work, work, work. He must be knackered. Sirius relented. Maybe Moony didn’t need an hour of distracting Sirius from his own thoughts just now. Maybe he just needed a good long kip. He moved away, and sat in the sofa opposite. He picked up a copy of the Daily Prophet, and began doing the crossword, glancing up as often as he dared.
He looked so different, asleep. Without his sharp, watchful eyes open, Remus’s face softened, making him look younger; more fragile. Silvery scars caught the grey winter light, the only outward sign of how impossibly strong Remus was. How resilient. Tough. Sirius could remember wanting to be Remus, very early on. The rock stars Sirius adopted as heroes during those years had all seemed so much more like Moony, they had belonged to his world. Remus was fierce, and cool, slightly feral – he didn’t take shit from anyone, least of all adults. At Grimmauld Place, in the holidays, Sirius would think about his half-blood friend, wonder what he might say when Walpurga got in his face. He wouldn’t be frightened. He wouldn’t give in.
And so – no, Sirius could never be sure of a specific moment, or a sudden change. Because maybe it had just always seemed inevitable, to him. Because who else could Moony belong to? Who else but Sirius could want him as much?
The portrait hole slid open behind him, and a gust of cold air rushed in, disturbing the warm of their fireside. Sirius sighed, hearing James’s familiar footfall behind him, and Lily’s musical laugh. He prepared to force a grin, and stole one last glance at Remus, fast asleep, cheeks flushed pink.
“Wotcher!” James leapt over the back of the sofa, plonking his stupid gangly self down next to Sirius and whacking him in the arm. Sirius whacked him back,
“All right? Good practice?”
Remus stirred awake, stretching and yawning and grinning dopily up at Lily, who patted him on the head, leaning against his chair.
“Sorry love,” she said, softly, “Didn’t want to wake you.”
“Didn’t mean to fall asleep,” Remus replied, lifting the heavy book onto the other arm of the chair, then rubbing his thighs as if they were sore. He looked up at Sirius and gave him a quick, secretive smile. Sirius looked away, shyly.
Mary and Peter had come in with them, and stood around, a bit awkwardly. No Marlene. Sirius wondered if they were having a tiff again – Marlene had been really gloomy lately, and hardly around at all.
“I’m just dumping my kit,” James said, waving at his big quidditch duffle bag, in a pile on the floor. “Then going down for an early tea. You lot want to come?”
“D’you know what.” Peter said, suddenly, eyeing his chess set, on a high shelf in the far corner of the room. “Think I’ll stay here and see if anyone fancies a game.”
“I’ll walk down with you,” Mary said, “See if Roman’s about.”
“I thought you two had split up?” Lily raised an eyebrow. Mary shrugged, hand on her hip. Sirius knew that look, well enough. Mary wanted something, and she was going to get it.
“Moony? Padfoot?” James looked at his two friends. Remus yawned,
“Nah, sorry mate. Too much reading.”
Sirius held up his crossword,
“Really into this, actually.”
“Weirdos.” James snorted, before hoisting himself up, just as quickly as he’d made himself comfortable. “Alright, gimme five minutes, Evans.” And strode off towards the dorm with his bag, whistling merrily.
Five minutes passed, and everyone chattered around them, before heading off in their different directions, nodding goodbye and finally leaving the scene as peaceful as they had found it. Sirius and Remus had not moved, only pretended to look at their book and crossword, two friends, content in each other’s company.
Alone, they both looked up. Remus’s eyes burned so brightly, they were so full of every dark secret, every private moment. Sirius swallowed, dryly, thrilled and amazed. Remus grinned, and the force of it was enough to knock Sirius out cold.
“All right?” Remus asked, softly.
“Yeah.” Sirius whispered back.