Part I: France
Remus had begun work at the beautiful and intimidating Black estate only a few months ago. Since arriving, he has been given the task to be the valet for the oldest brother of the family. Someone his own age, but someone Remus feels he has little in common with. Not that Sirius is a cruel man, no; rather the opposite. He is almost too nice to him at times. The other members of the House of Black have a terrible reputation of being cruel and unkind to the people who work in their home. They pay very well and if one could get through your time with them, many other good families would hear of it.. Remus eagerly accepted the job because of this fact.
So far, his job seems to be easier than he thought it would be. He is doing everything he had been trained to do (taking care of Sirius’ clothes, running baths, shaving the man, and laying out his daily things), and everything else that goes along with it. The young Master Black is beautiful, to say the very least. He has high cheekbones and pouty lips. Sirius’ blue eyes are striking against his pale skin and tend to carry mischief within them. He could be incredibly flirtatious at times, especially when he came home drunk. Remus nearly died when Sirius first spoke to him alone. The man is kind and sweet and full of compliments for Remus’ own appearance. It wasn’t anything of the sort he expected from someone like Sirius.
On top of all this, Remus is about to leave for France. Sirius and James Potter have plans to leave for their Grand Tour of the Continent for the next year. He feels as if this Tour may be a large chore for someone so new and just the same age as the two men that he was going with. They are to leave for Paris to spend the summer there. Then they will be traveling down to Lyon before going off to Italy where they are to spend the winter traveling to different locations in the country. Following that, they are off to Berlin. Before fall, they are to see James Potter off to his law school in Paris.
Remus is meant to take care of money and certain arrangements while there, which is stressful to think about too much. He hopes that he does okay with all these pieces. If things go awry, he is worried Lord and Lady Black would blame him for it. At least he will have Potter’s valet there as well to help, Peter Pettigrew. The main issue is, Sirius can be a bit of a wild child. He tends to go out at all hours and return home drunk. There have been times Remus has caught him with other men in his bed when he went to wake him in the mornings.
“Where is he?” Remus asks the maid, Emmeline, as he walks through the sitting room where she is dusting the ornate mantle gilded in gold.
“In his father’s study,” She says in a low voice. The Blacks do not like the staff to converse when they’re working.
“We’re to be leaving now. We have to make sure we get to the boat on time.” He frowns.
Remus had seen James Potter, with his messy hair make his way to the front of the house with his parents just moments ago. The Potters were a lovely family and related to the Black’s somehow. Remus wondered how one family could be so sweet and the other could be vicious (outside of Sirius). Anyway, the Potter’s’ exit fromof the house meant that they were ready to leave. Sirius should be ready as well.
“I’m sure he’ll be along soon.”
Remus decides to head towards the Lord Black’s study. As he approaches, he hears the raised voice of the head of the house. “There is to be no drinking, gambling, smoking or fornicating on this trip. You’re not to go to any dens of iniquity, Sirius. If I hear that you are with any boy, you will be disinherited.”
“Sirius, I do not care what the attitudes of the people of France are, you are to follow the rules of this house.”
“I’ll just have no fun then.” The younger Black’s voice is full of mirth.
Remus flinches when he hears the sharp sound of an open hand against skin.
“If you do not return to this estate in the summer more mature and ready to take your proper place in helping me manage the estate and peerage, I don’t wish for you to return at all. You may live in France as a beggar for all I care.”
A silence follows for a half a minute. Remus hopes that Sirius is okay in the room. It doesn’t sound as if there were anymore slaps thrown. Lord Black is a harsh man, traditional to the bitter end. He carries himself with a brute force that makes the servants of the house stand up straighter and avoid eye contact. Lady Black is no better. She is just as severe as her husband, if not more so. It is no wonder Sirius throws himself into partying and having fun when he has to live in this misery.
“I understand, father.” Sirius says finally.
“I have high expectations of you, Sirius, and it’s time for you to live up to them. I’m no longer interested in turning my back to your boyhood ways.”
Remus doubts that Lord Black ever turned his back at Sirius’ behavior. Remus had seen the elder Black beat Sirius physically and verbally for stepping out of line by just a toe. Remus hates to think what he would do if he had caught Sirius in bed with any of those boys Remus had found.
“Now go, your coach is here.”
Remus quickly walks away from the study and heads for the front door. He does not want either man to know that he overheard the conversation. It is not where he was meant to be, so he needs to make himself scarce quickly and quietly.
Out front, Remus finds Peter assisting the footman with the luggage. The Potters are chatting with their son in the warm June air. It’s a pleasant day, as the heavy heat of summer has not yet come to bear down on them just yet. Remus regards the simple coach and the strong horses pulling it. He hopes it will be an easy journey to Dover. The ride is to take a few hours and he has never been one for transportation of any sort. Walking is his favorite way to get from Point A to Point B. He is going to have to endure the coach, then a boat, then another coach to Paris.
“Sorry to keep you all waiting,” Sirius’ voice rings out and disturbs the quiet murmurings of the Potters.
Remus turns to see him coming down towards the Potter with a smile on his face and his left cheek red and mottling from the slap that he had received from his father. He is grinning from ear to ear in a way Remus thinks is put upon. He has seen Sirius smile genuinely many times, but this is not a genuine look.
Lady Potter seems to know this too because her hand goes to his cheek as soon as he is in reach of her. Remus decides to move closer to Peter and the footman because he does not want to steal this private moment away.
“Are you ready, Remus?”
“Yes, how about yourself?” He nods at the blonder, shorter, and plumper valet. Peter seems pleasant enough. It is going to be nice to have someone to commiserate with when James and Sirius get to be too much. Remus can only imagine what Sirius and James are going to get up to in the coming year with so much freedom.
“As ready as one can be for this type of adventure. Have you been to the continent before?”
“No, I am looking forward to it because I’ve read about what it can be like.”
“You can read?”
“My mother taught me,” Remus explains as the footman opens the door to the coach.
People of his station do not necessarily read but his mother thought it would be important. The Blacks did like that he had the skill upon his hiring. Sirius asked him to read him things a few times already so it has come in handy.
Once Sirius and James are in the coach, Remus and Peter climb in and they are off. Remus tries his best not to stare at Sirius sitting directly across from him. The man is so beautiful that Remus thinks it rather unfair for someone to not only be rich and well read but also so handsome. Sirius’ long black hair always flows freely, as it does in this moment. He refused wigs and queues. Remus is glad for that because it was one less thing to care for. Sirius is also dressed well — as he is every day. Today, he wears a purple jacket with a damask print over a white shirt with matching breeches. His whole wardrobe is not only high end, but also fashionable and colorful.
“You’re going to leave me to my lonesome the whole time,” Sirius says to James as they begin their journey. It sounds as if they are continuing an earlier conversation.
“I’m sorry, but I finally am able to see Lily for an extended period of time. I’ll have two and a half months with her. Are you not happy for your oldest friend?” James furrows his brow. Remus has heard about Lily Evan in many of Sirius’ laments. A pretty, smart girl who stole James’ heart on one trip to France to see family.
“This trip was supposed to be about enjoying ourselves for the last time. We were supposed to be doing all the things Father does not want me to do.”
“I know and we’ll do those things, after Paris. We have a year, old friend.”
“Who am I supposed to associate with in Paris?”
“We have plenty of acquaintances in Paris.”
Sirius makes a noise in his throat that sounds like agreement and disagreement all at the same time.
“Lupin,” James saying Remus’ last name catches him off guard. He wasn’t expecting to be brought into the conversation. “You’re going to have to keep him entertained. Clearly, our friend here is unable to do that himself.”
“Ah, yes, my lord.” Remus nods.
“Can you call me James? You know, I’ve always hated the formality of it all. I say, we make our own rules. What do you say, Sirius?”
“Lupin and Pettigrew, they can call us by our Christian names. If they please, that is, and us theirs.”
“Oh, sure, of course.” Sirius agrees with his friend and looks out the window as if he’s suddenly distracted by the passing scenery.
Remus looks to Peter. This was completely out of the ordinary. He was told to never call the people he served by anything by their titles.
“Ah, my lord, is that appropriate?” asks Peter.
“As long as we’re allowed to do the same,” replies James.
“I believe, as it is our Grand Tour and year to do as we please, I think it’s up to us to set the rules.” Sirius leans forward a little, ignoring the outside world again. “Believe us, if it were up to me, it would just be James and myself. No offense to you two lads. I have nothing against you and I think you’re both fantastic. My father has had some horrible valets and footmen. We’re very lucky. It’s only that it was to be a trip for James and myself, but my parents believed we needed help. So if you’re here then I think we can do this how we want.”
Remus knows this concept is going to be difficult for him to get used to. Sirius and James wanted to do things their way, and he is to do has the men pleased. So, he needs to be comfortable with calling Sirius ‘Sirius’ out loud. Remus wonders what else is going to be coming his way. He’s sure that it this development will end up being a droplet in the ocean.
“Gin?” Sirius grins, leaning on the rail of the packet ship that is carrying time from Dover to Calais. James is off getting ill somewhere else on the ship and Peter is trying his best not join him. Remus is unaffected by the waves, he actually finds it soothing.
Before Sirius found him, Remus was watching the bow of the ship, waiting to see the land coming up on the horizon. He figures it’s going to be something new to see and he may never get the chance again after this trip to see something like it. As much as he was nervous about all their traveling, he is doing well. Much better than James and Peter. He likes the open water and the gentle rocking of the ship.
“No thank you, my— Sirius.”
“I do like my Sirius, even if you misspoke.” There is the flirting that Remus had grown somewhat accustomed to since becoming employed by the Blacks. Not that he could be fully accustomed to such a beautiful, important man flirting with him.
Remus looks up to the masts of the ship. The sailors are working, but not at a hurried speed. He wonders what it’s like to work at sea like this. It has to be more freeing than sitting in a house all day. “It must be a hard job.”
“Being a sailor, oh yes, I’m sure. I don’t think any job is harder than your own.”
Sirius’ shoulder goes up, “You have to deal with my family.”
“I have no problem serving your family.”
“My father — he’s… he’s not a nice man. My mother is wretched. Regulus is a snob. I’m, well, I’m me and difficult in many ways.” Sirius leans on the rail, the bottle of gin dangling precariously between his thumb and forefinger. Remus is sure he’s going to drop it into the water if they hit one mid-sized wave. “No matter what happens, I’ll be sure the Potters get you a good job after this.”
Remus raises an eyebrow, feeling panicked, “I’m sorry, what?”
“Well, I may not be able to return. We’ll see but James’ parents will be sure you have a job on your return to England, no matter what.”
“I’m sure you’ll return.”
“Hmm, it all depends on how this Tour goes, I’d say.”
Remus doesn’t want to say much because he’d hate for Sirius to think he was eavesdropping. Okay, so he was, but that didn’t mean he wants Sirius to know. “I feel it’s not my place to ask but, what do you mean?”
“It means that if I’ve fulfilled all my flights of fancy here on the continent and I return civilized and matured then I will go home to the estate. If not, then I’ll become a beggar or maybe a rent boy. I am very attractive and I’m sure I’d make some money.” Sirius speaks in his usual candid way with Remus but he’s sure there’s far more pain there than he is letting on. “I hope that you enjoy your time too Remus. Think of this as one long holiday and have as much fun as possible. James and I are able to care for ourselves.”
“I’ll do my best, my lo— uh, Sirius.”
“And don’t wear your wig any longer. I like your hair, it reminds me of caramels.” Sirius points to his head with his free hand.
“Sure.” Remus licks his lips as he watches Sirius take a sip from the bottle.
All the flirting that Sirius does with him does not make the stirring feelings he has for the other man any easier to let go of. Yes, he fancies Sirius but there could not have been many people who could resist his looks and charms. Remus hopes that his feelings will eventually subside. Spending a year for him in this way will not make it easy, though.
Three weeks into their Paris trip, Remus has mostly stayed in the flat talking with the other servants. James was always off with the lovely Lily Evans, and Sirius has spent most of his time… well, Remus wasn’t exactly sure where he was but he was always drunk. Always. Even when he was able to rouse himself for breakfast or when he was getting ready to go out for some various event the drunken haze was still very clear in his eyes.
Today, Sirius is actually awake early and comes to find Remus in the sitting room. The rules being as lax as they are, unsettled Remus at first but now he does he best to relax when his supposed employer joins him. “What is it that you are reading?”
Remus feels the flush rising on his cheeks. It is scandalous book of poems translated from Latin. Well, not all of the work is scandalous but there were a lot of sexual themes. He found it tucked into the top shelf in the far corner of the library. “Um, it’s a book of poems by Catullus.”
Sirius grins then begins to recite, “I hate and I love. Why do I do this, perhaps you ask?/I do not know, but I feel it happening and I am tortured.”
“You know these well?”
“Yes, intimately.” He sits next to Remus. Sirius’ knee knocks against his. The other man has no idea what it means to give personal space. “Are you enjoying yourself, Remus?”
“Of course,” He says. This has been the only time in his life he got to laze about reading all day.
“Come out with me.”
“I’m sorry, what?”
“Come out with me. Come to the opera with me tonight.”
“I’m — I couldn’t.”
“Of course you could. I’ve a private box and no one I want to go with. My uncle was supposed to join but he’s fallen ill. My cousin Andromeda and her daughter are seeing some lecture tonight. James and Lily have some party to go to. Not that you’re my last choice because you’re not.” Sirius has a glint in his eyes that makes a certain type of warmth blossom in Remus’ stomach.
“I don’t believe I have anything proper to wear, sir— Sirius.” Remus knew that his valet attire would garner some looks.
“Don’t fuss yourself with that. I had some things made for you.”
Remus furrows his brow in complete confusion, “Excuse me?”
Sirius laughs and leans in close to Remus. “I had your measurements with me since we left England because I asked our family tailor back home who made your valet things. I want you to have a proper good time too. Remus, come join me tonight.”
Since Sirius is technically the man employing him Remus knows that he could hardly say no, but Sirius seems to be giving him the genuine option. He also seems to actually want Remus there with him. “All right, yes.”
“Brilliant, you’re abso-bloody-lutely going to love the opera. Tomorrow we’ll go view the art at Louvre Palace.” Sirius informs him as he stands up with a hop.
Remus feels as if his brain is stumbling to keep up suddenly. “Louvre?” He asks as if he doesn’t know what it is. The royal family left art there when they fled Paris.
“Yes,” Sirius looks as if he doesn’t understand the fuss.
“Sir, I think you’re—”
“I know what you’re going to say because you’ve just called me sir and didn’t correct yourself as you have been. I know you’re under my family’s employ and you probably think I’m taking some type of pity on you but I’m not. It’s very likely that in less than a years time you’ll be working for the estate because I’ll be off elsewhere.” Sirius says with a dark look in his eye. “If you decide to continue working as a valet for well-to-do families then I’ll write you the greatest letter of reference. Until then, you should just enjoy your time.”
“If I decide to continue working as a valet?” Remus repeats feeling baffled.
“Zounds, Remus, you’re — you’re very smart. You didn’t even attend a proper school but you’re more well-read than most of the people I attended school with. You deserve to do more than to serve rich bastards such as myself the rest of your life.”
Remus looks at Sirius with raised eyebrows. He always wanted to be out exploring the world, reading books and enjoying music, but he came from a servant family. Therefore, he was also meant to serve. There is no way around it because that is how the world works. He does not expect Sirius to understand this because Sirius never needed to worry about where he was going. Even now with him saying he may not return home, Remus knew this was doubtful. His father would make sure of his return so he can take his rightful place at the estate.
He did always wonder what it would be like to live wild, free, and without a care in the world. For nearly a year he could have it, but wouldn’t it be too much of a tease? Were there not sayings that warned against too much of a good thing? “I understand what you’re saying, but it’s doubtful I’d ever be able to do that as you suggest.”
“But, I’ll do as you say and enjoy myself for the rest of this trip.” In all honesty, it’s hard to say no and disagree with Sirius Black. His icy blue eyes turn soft when he looks at Remus and he smiles like they have a secret between them.
The Opéra turns out to be the most grand thing that Remus has ever experienced. The walls are painted with fine murals that make Remus feel as if they are in a cathedral. Above them is an ornate crystal chandelier that catches the flickering of the candles around the room just so. Remus is overwhelmed by the amount of people below them as they take a seat in their box.
“Is it everything you expected?” Sirius touches a delicate hand to Remus’ forearm. It’s at that moment he remembers he’s wearing one of the many beautiful ensembles that he was gifted by Sirius.
Back at the flat before he went to ready himself for a night out, Sirius showed him the fine clothes that he had acquired for him: four different coats, four different breeches, four different shirts, a black cloak, two cravats, and four waist coats. Remus did not know how to take the gesture. Sirius insisted he wanted to do something nice for Remus. Plus, Sirius had added, if Remus was going to properly enjoy himself he must look like someone of high society. That stirred a bit of anger in Remus but he held his tongue.
“Good, that’s good. I’m glad you think so. You’ll love the show,” Sirius insists before sitting back in his chair.
It’s not long before the production begins. Remus finds himself drawn into the story, even though he knows no Italian at all. The orchestration in Handel’s Giulio Cesare is enthralling and breathtaking. The costumes and the singers’ voices are striking. Remus hangs onto every single note, every single movement. He doesn’t want it to end but when it does, he feels satisfied and excited.
When the curtain falls he glances over to see Sirius looking at him in amusement, “You’ve enjoyed it, then?”
“Yes,” Remus says.
“Good, tomorrow, we’ll go to the ballet.”
Remus tries not to think about how this could all be some act of charity from the future Lord. He wants to take every single cultural activity that Sirius offers him and drink it in, just as he did the opera. He wants to see paintings, hear poetry readings, go to scientific lectures, see endless operas, listen to the best orchestras, and visit all the best restaurants. He decides he’s going to take every advantage of it.
Waking up in an unfamiliar feeling bed with an arm slung around his middle is startling. He takes stock of himself for a long moment. His underwear, breeches, and shirt are all still in place so he had not slept with this person. Remus cracks an eye open to find himself face to face with Sirius. Oh. His breath catches in his throat as he observes the peaceful form of the man next to him.
Remus frowns, trying to think about what led up to this situation. Since the opera a few weeks back, Remus and Sirius had taken Paris by storm. At first it was all the cultural things Remus had wanted. His mind was thoroughly entertained every single day and night. He met some interesting people, who surely will be making themselves known in the near future. It was all so invigorating.
On top of all these cultural escapades, they had taken to going out for drinks after. Or they would gamble with Sirius’ father’s money. Or they would end up at some raucous party that Remus surely didn’t belong at but seemed to fit right into. They would always end up gloriously bashed and somehow managed to make it home in one piece.
“Morning, Moony,” Sirius’ voice is rough in the mornings. Remus wishes he didn’t love the sound of it on more than one occasion when it was his duty to wake him before. His duties have gone out the window, so he hasn’t done that in some time. There is no way they could return to that type of relationship following The Tour, especially after Sirius declared that Remus needed his own nickname just as James and he had. It also didn’t help one bit that Remus is longing to kiss the other man.
“Ah, morning. Sorry, I don’t mean to be in your bed,” Remus sits up and promptly regrets it as his world spins. He did have far too much to drink last night. “I don’t even know why I’m here.”
“I think I asked you to stay. You tried to put me into bed then you fell in.”
“Right,” Remus rubs his face.
“We’ve only a few days left in Paris,” Sirius’ hand finds his knee and gives a squeeze. Remus does not want to think about how little time they have left in the city. Even though the place was dirty and ugly, he was going to be sad to leave it. Once they did, James was going to be able to give his full attentions to Sirius and Remus was most likely going to fall back.
“Uncle Alphard has invited us for dinner the night before we leave. Myself, James, Peter, Lily, Andromeda, Nymphie, and Ted. All of us! You’ll come, say you’ll come.”
“Myself and Peter?”
“They all believe that we’re just mates.” Sirius says as if it’s no big deal. It is a big deal because Remus is not someone of high society, even if he was doing very good at faking it amongst the Parisians. Certainly, a few Blacks would catch on quickly. “They have no idea you’re actually supposed to be working. I wouldn’t worry about it, if you are, that is.”
Remus isn’t sure what to say to the invitation, so he just agrees to go. Sirius tends to get his way anyhow, so Remus isn’t going to put up much of a fight on a dinner. At least it isn’t going to be so formal as the party Sirius was going off to tonight with James and Miss Evans — a party at Versailles.
Sirius leaves looking even more dapper than usual in a blush-colored suit. He begs Remus to come with him but the idea of going to a party where an actual king could be present makes Remus a bit ill. So, he and Peter were going to spend the night playing card games in the sitting room of the flat.
“They’re a bit mad, aren’t they?” Peter asks as they sit on the floor staring at their cards. “Sirius a bit more than James.”
“Yes, I guess.” Remus likes the way Sirius and James are. They don’t care much for the rules of Polite Society but are gentlemen nonetheless. He thinks more people should act that way.
“Sirius is always drinking. Is there a time he doesn’t have a drink in his hand? You see him more than I do.”
“Yes, he does drink. I don’t judge, though.” Remus shakes his head. He’s been having plenty of his own fun lately involving in a lot of imbibing.
“He’s a tomcat too. I heard Miss Evans and James talking about it the other night when they were hosting friends and you two were at that concert.” Peter fiddles with the edge of his cards.
Remus knows this as well but again doesn’t speak to it. Sirius has been rather tame in terms of bedding other men since arriving in Paris, at least from what Remus sees of him. Sirius could be sleeping with numerous people and Remus just hasn’t noticed. Remus decides not to think too much about that because it sets his heart a flutter in a strange way.
Their games go on deep into the night, but eventually Peter retires. Remus decides at that point to stay up and read some more. He’s sitting on the floor in front of the settee leaning close to his book with a few candles around him.
When he is far into an interesting scientific study on leeching, the front door opens. “You’re practically a different person these days.” James says in a low voice.
“I don’t know what you mean,” Sirius replies curtly. He obviously knows what James means.
“Does he know you’re absolutely mad for him? I think he has the right to know.”
Remus tries not to be disappointed at this comment. It’s not as if he ever had a chance with Sirius. No matter how well he was treating him on Tour, it does not equate to any sort of romantic feelings. Remus is a servant and of a much lower social class than Sirius, a future Lord. Any trace of a thought they may end up falling for one another is absolutely insane.
“James! Keep your voice down,” Sirius voice grows closer and more agitated as their footfalls approach the sitting room.
“They’re probably — oh, hello there, Remus.” James says in surprise and pushes his spectacles up his nose.
Sirius looks as if he’s wearing rouge with how deep the blush on his cheeks is. Whoever Sirius has fallen for has escaped Remus’ notice. Maybe he’s been drinking too much and the person where there at the parties they attended. “You’re still awake?”
“Yes, I fell into a book.”
“You’re always falling into books,” Sirius’ voice is fond. “Did you have a nice night?”
“Yes, it was very relaxing. How was Versailles?” Remus asks in interest.
“You could have seen it for yourself. We could have got you in.” Sirius takes a seat on the settee. “It was beautiful but full of small minded people.”
“Lily nearly punched some woman for making a rude comment about someone serving the drinks. He had dark skin and the woman said she refused to take a drink from him.”
Remus laughs. He has met Miss Evans a few times and that really did sound like something she would do. She is also a well known abolitionist in the city, running groups and all. “I’m sure that it would have been well-deserved if she did that.”
“It would have. Bloody love her.” James sighs. “I’ll leave you — I’ll leave you so I can sleep.” He says while fixing Sirius with a look that Remus sure communicates something he isn’t meant to understand.
Remus startles when he feels Sirius’ hand on his neck, one of his fingers straying just below his collar. “I should go to sleep too.”
“I probably should as well.” He says, not moving to either close the book or to look at Sirius.
They sit there for a moment, with Sirius’ hand on his neck and Remus trying hard not to hold his breath. Remus thinks he should say something to the other man about something — anything. He thinks of detailing the process of leeching. He thinks of asking more about the woman Miss Evans nearly hit. What Remus really wants, and he comes to this conclusion quickly, is to turn around and kiss Sirius Black with all that he has. If he did that, he is scared that he would not be able to stop.
“I’ll see you in the morning. I got us in to do a private viewing of a collection I believe you’ll like.” Sirius’ hand brushes down his back then he stands.
Remus nods as he keeps his eyes down on the book. He afraid of what he’ll do if he does meet the other man’s eyes. Or worse, what he’ll give away.
The night before they are to leave for Lyon, Remus is getting ready for dinner at Alphard Black’s. He has been to plenty of dinners. All the ones he had been able to eat at were relaxed and fun. All the proper ones, he worked and was meant to be attentive to the needs of the people he was serving. Tonight, he is going to a formal dinner that he would be able to sit and enjoy. Well, enjoy may be a strong word. As much as he was able to slip into Parisian society, he has doubts about being able to make it through such a nice dinner pretending to be someone he isn’t.
Alphard’s flat is not far from Sirius’, so the four men walk the distance. The flat itself is very similar to the one they are staying in. There are fine paintings and tapestries hanging, filling the home with rich colors. The wainscoting shows off gilded details. The furniture appears as beautiful as the art on the walls, making Remus nervous to sit in it. He looks around, not quite believing that he is here.
The company is lovely, so that puts him at ease. Alphard, who has been ill off and on since they arrived in the city, is doing well tonight. He’s as charming as Sirius but has more warmth to him, maybe it comes with age. Andromeda, Sirius’ cousin, is older than he is. She seems like she could be stern if she wanted but she makes lovely conversation. Her daughter, all of twelve, Nymphadora, informs Remus proudly that she wants to be a doctor when she grows older. Her father, Edward, takes Remus by surprise because he’s a African. It’s only a surprise because the Blacks were notoriously purist traditionalists. Bigots to the highest degree. Edward is brilliant and runs a printing business.
They all seem to believe that Remus and Peter are old friends of James and Sirius. Of course Miss Evans knows the truth, but she never speaks a word of it or even hints. She tells Remus to call her Lily a million times and by the end of the night he does. The dinner is filled with laughter and decent conversation. Remus almost doesn’t want the night to end. He doesn’t want to leave Paris for Lyon because he wants more dinners with this group of people.
“You had fun?” Sirius asks as find Remus sitting in the library of their flat with a book later that night.
“Yes, I did. Thank you for inviting me.”
“They all loved you. Andi said you were very smart and asked what university you were going to.”
Remus frowns. It’s nice to get caught up in pretending to be someone else then he remembers frequently he was going nowhere special after this all. He knows Sirius has no idea of this because he couldn’t comprehend life without access and privilege. Sirius tends to talk as if he was going to be free from his parents but Remus has very little doubt the other man would return home mainly out of fear of the unknown.
“Would you? Go to uni?”
“You know that’s not in the cards,” Remus holds tight to the book in his hands.
“If I don’t run away from home, maybe I’ll send you to school.”
“You couldn’t,” Remus snorts a laugh. “Your parents —”
“Ruin everything,” Sirius sighs. “Enjoy your reading, Remus.”
Their time in Lyon passes in a blink. Suddenly it’s Remus’ last day and the group is going to be off on their long journey to Venice. The city of Lyon is smaller and less congested than Paris, which Remus enjoys. It’s a bit less cultural but that does not mean it is lacking in interesting things to do. Being a publishing capital there are bookstores everywhere and Sirius had insisted on buying whatever Remus found interest in. Remus was also gifted a beautiful silk scarf from James, but he wondered if it really was from Sirius.
Remus had assumed Sirius would stop asking him to do things since James was not with Lily, but he was incorrect about that. Not only were Remus and Peter included in their activities, Sirius invited him out to do things alone a lot. They would go see plays at the theater and visit poetry readings. They watched painters set up on the river, capturing the daylight with their brushes.
On their last night, Sirius and Remus are sitting on the pitched roof just outside the window of their flat. They share Sirius’ pipe of fine tobacco as they stare up at the night sky. They’re both just tipsy enough to be somewhat giggly.
“You have a constellation here on you skin,” Sirius’ hand brushes his against Remus’ shoulder, over his shirt.
“What does it look like?” Remus questions Sirius, pretending that his heart is not beating loudly in his ears.
“I’m not sure, I never get a good look at it.” His fingers are grasping at his shirt. They could so easily slip under the loose collar. “I hope it looks like Lupus. Werewolf Werewolf with a werewolf shaped constellation on his skin.”
“You can look if you want,” Remus gives him a lazy smile then looks up to the sky because he can’t watch Sirius if he does.
Sirius slips his fingers under his collar and pulls it down his shoulder gently. Remus feels himself holding his breath as Sirius ghosts his fingers over is collarbone. Where the digits trail, Remus feels as if his skin is ablaze. Sirius tends to linger with his touches, which was off putting at first but then he realized that it is just what Sirius did. Most people who touched Remus in the past were quick and proficient about it. They were both means to each other’s ends. Sirius touches as if that’s all he’s meant to do with his life.
“It’s not one I notice,” Sirius’ voice is low and close to his ear. “So, it’s the Moony constellation.”
“Fantastic,” Remus says and Sirius’ fingers are still brushing against his collarbone. He so very much wants to believe that Sirius is about to kiss him. That thought terrifies him. He doesn’t want to think too much on it because he knows that he’ll get his heart broken. “I should get to bed. We have a long road ahead of us.”
“Yes, a long road.” Sirius’ sits back, finally taking his hands off of Remus.
Remus looks up to the sky, wishing on every single star that his life was different. Wishing that he wasn’t a servant and wasn’t going to go back to it all after this year on Tour. Wishing that Sirius could actually fancy him and not have his eyes on someone else like James was saying the night they returned from Versailles. He knows he is being daft for thinking these things and hanging it all on the night sky, but sometimes one just has to put it out there.
Though, sometimes stars are listening. At least one certain star.
Part II: Italy
Remus wakes to the sound of water lapping against wood. It’s almost as calming as the hot breath on the back of his neck and the possessive arm pulling him against the strong body behind him. He opens his eyes to see the canal just outside the open window. Remus loves the water and wishes that he could live somewhere where he could see it and hear it every day. That is a daydream he could lose himself in all the time.
The group has been in Venice for just two days and they have spent the time relaxing from their long journey. The place they are staying in feels like a palace. There are marble floors, chandeliers, and tapestries everywhere. The men all received their own room with large beds and fine bedding. The city itself is like a painting. Narrow streets run along canals of deep blue water. There is an unbelievable lightness to the place that Remus desperately wants to bottle.
As he has these thoughts, the body behind him stirs. Remus knows that it’s Sirius. He can smell him all over the sheets. They had fallen in bed together after another drunken night. This is the fifth time something like this had happened since Paris.
“Good morning, Moony.”
“Good morning,” Remus wants to pull away from Sirius and run to his own room. He wants to turn over and kiss him. He wants to hate himself for thinking he could have any type of chance with Sirius Black, heir to the Ancient and Noble House of Black. “I’ll go to my room.” He tries to move but Sirius’ arm tightens.
“Why don’t you stay? It’s not as if we had sex.” Sirius says. “Even the blokes who take me to bed and think what we do is wrong stick around longer. Is it because I’m a sodomite, Remus?”
“It’s not — it’s nothing like that, Sirius.” Remus feels his cheeks turning red. He finally extracts himself from Sirius’ arm and sits on the edge of the bed.
“What is it?”
“I know you’re very happy pretending that what we are getting up to is just fun but when it’s all over we’ll be returning home. I’ll either need a new job or we’ll both struggle with going back to our roles.”
“Is that why you won’t k — stay in my bed for a few moments? Remus, I think we’re far past that. I told you, we’ll get you a better job. My letter of reference will be amazing. If anything, I’m sure the Potters would hire you in a heartbeat. If not, the Longbottoms are also fantastic. Frank’s probably in need of a valet himself.”
No matter how Remus feels about the rest of the Blacks, he couldn’t see himself being happy working for anyone other than Sirius. It’s not as if he has the luxury of being able to spend his life studying or writing or anything of the sort. He could only watch as others did these things as he drew their baths and laid out their clothes. It is his preselected fate. His predestination.
“Or, you could run away with me,” Sirius says with a small laugh.
“That’s the most unrealistic thing you’ve ever said.”
“I don’t understand what the issue is, Remus.” Sirius said, coming to sit next Remus. He puts his hand on Remus’ lower back. Remus’ skin heats under his touch as if Sirius’ fingers posses some type of magical powers.
Remus takes a deep breath then stands up. His warm feet feel nice against the cold floor. It is almost grounding in a way. “I’ll see you a breakfast.”
“Remus, what’s going on?”
“Nothing,” Remus finally turns to smile at Sirius. He knows that it doesn’t reach his eyes. The other man is sitting there in his breeches with his raven hair a complete mess. Sirus looks achingly beautiful.
“I’ll see you later.”
The only reason he leaves so quickly is because he’s sure that if he stays, he’ll say something he’ll regret. He has so many months left on Tour with Sirius, he needs to control himself. All he wants to do is stay and tell Sirius that he’s the most beautiful person on the face of the planet, but that’s just not feasible.
The walk back from the private club they had attended for a poetry reading in is quiet. Sirius hasn’t spoken much to Remus today. They last few days were full to the brim as usual but there was this strange unsteadiness between them. Remus wants to ask Sirius what he needs to do to fix it, but he’s rather nervous about the answer he’ll receive.
Sirius and James attended some fancy do the night after Remus woke up in the other man’s bed. Remus and Peter spent that night on the town at a music hall gambling with money Sirius told them to spend from the Blacks. The next day was spent viewing private collections. Remus was starting to get a bit sick of seeing Jesus Christ in various stages of death but every so often they would come across a non-religious painting that made his heart soar. Following the viewing they had attended another opera, an Italian one that Remus had never heard of but it was all so beautiful. The next night was a night to see the orchestra.
All of those excursions were done with James and Peter, which let Remus and Sirius avoid one another. Tonight though, Remus felt as if they were plotted against from the start. Peter suddenly took ill before they went out for a walk around the city in the morning. Then just as they were leaving for supper, James had a headache. Remus was tempted to back out in the moment but he wanted to go to the poetry reading. It was mostly done in Italian but he loves the language. So, Remus went.
Supper had been a painful experience. Remus had a difficult time enjoying the meal. Sirius tried to make very stilted conversation. Remus knew the conversation days previous was strange, he never thought it was damaging to their friendship. Thankfully they were able to sit silently during the poetry reading without having to try so hard.
Now though, the silence is not very comfortable.
“I hid my love in field and town/Till e'en the breeze would knock me down/The bees seemed singing ballads l'er/The fly's buss turned a Lion's roar/And even silence found a tongue/To haunt me all the summer long/The riddle nature could not prove/Was nothing else but secret love,” Sirius smiles as they walk along a bridge. It’s the first time he spoke since before they arrived at the reading.
“I don’t know that one.”
“Secret Love by John Clare. It wasn’t read tonight but I was thinking of poems I like.”
“Oh, it’s nice.”
“It ah, it makes me think of you for some reason.”
Remus’ heart does something rather funny. He’s sure that it’s going to give way and soon he’ll be dead on the ground. He comes to a complete stop and leans against the rail of the bridge. “What?”
“Well, this has become all very now or never, hasn’t it? I can’t stand how it’s been the last few days. I figure you’re either going to manage to leave and find a new place of work early, or you’re going to suffer rest of the trip, as am I. Then after you’ll leave and I’ll be completely miserable. Either way, I’ll be completely miserable. So, maybe if I stay it I can stop this all or just get to the miserableness earlier.”
“I like you, Remus.”
“No, no, that’s not even right. That is an understatement. Maybe love is too strong. I’m not sure. I’ve never been in love but this is certainly a different feeling from all the feelings I’ve ever had before.”
“How could you—”
“I recite you love poems at the drop of a hat. Remus, I’m always trying to tell you through other people’s words. ‘Take all my loves, my love, yea, take them all.’ That one is Shakespeare. I could go on but there’s so much more to say.
“I steal looks of you. I ache to touch you so much that sometimes I do it. I just reach over and brush my fingers over your arm or neck. I say daft things. I do all this stuff to impress you. I want to give you the world. I’ve been wild and roving since 10 and 4 but I meet you and it all falls to the side. I want—”
“Sirius, stop,” Remus says firmly because he’s sure if he does not stop Sirius’ long ramble the man will go on for ages.
Sirius bites his lip, as if he physically has to do something to stop himself from speaking.
“You can’t possibly have any romantic interest in me.”
“I’m me and you’re — you’re you. We’re from completely different worlds.”
“What happens when we go back?”
“What happens if I don’t return?” Sirius says with a certain sadness in his voice and eyes. “I’m only allowed to return if I’m able to forget all my flights of fancy — including the fancying of men. I’m never going to change that. I’d be willing to stop getting foxed every night and I’d stop gambling and I certainly wouldn’t go to any sort of dens of iniquity as long as I had the person that I wanted. That person, Remus, is you.”
“How could you possibly know that?” Remus asks as a couple walks by them over the bridge. They are kind enough to cast their eyes to the other side.
“I know this because you make me laugh and think. You’ve challenged me without much thought when we have academic discussions or otherwise. You’re so smart and witty. You can have fun. You’re kind. You’re also so bloody handsome it makes me want to swoon at times. James tells me he’s going to get me a special couch that we’re able to carry around so I can do so.”
Remus raises an eyebrow, “James knows?”
“Of course. He knows everything about me. I thought you realized that. Did you think I was too ashamed to tell someone that I had these feelings for you?”
“I — I guess, I’m not really sure. I’m not sure about a lot of things at the moment.” Remus has no idea what to think or say. This is a situation that he thought would never happen.
“So, I probably shouldn’t ask how you feel about me?”
Remus laughs and shakes his head. “I think you’re a very smooth talker who gets his way all the time.”
“That’s not what I’m doing here. I do not get my way all the time either. I’ve had plenty of bruises and I even have a few scars to prove that.” Sirius is referring to how his parents treat him, Remus is sure.
“I also think you’re well-read and I enjoy that you enjoy music and theater. I like when you recite love poems to me, even when I didn’t realize you were directing them to me.”
Sirius beams, leaning closer to Remus. “I know we have a lot of differences, Moony. It might be difficult at times but I think we can overcome those difficulties.”
Remus looks out over the canal, “I’m not sure, Sirius.”
“Do you think — do you think that we could try? We still have nine months to do as we please.”
“I don’t want to get my heart broken,” Remus answers honestly. It is unbelievable enough that Sirius loves him, the idea they can have a real go at it is unfathomable. “I don’t know.”
“Okay,” Sirius says. His shoulders are slouched but he’s trying his best to not look completely defeated. “Let’s go back to the apartments, shall we?”
“I’m sorry, Sirius.” Remus apologizes as they begin to walk again.
“No worries, Remus. Please don’t run off, though. I couldn’t stand this trip without you. Don’t tell James, he will be jealous.”
Remus laughs, “Okay. I hope this isn’t awkward any longer. The last few days were hard enough.”
“No, I think it will be better. At least it’s all out there.”
The rest of the trip back to where they are staying is quick enough that they do not need to make much conversation. Remus immediately goes to his room and dresses for bed. The whole while, he thinks about their conversation and Sirius’ confession. Remus has always thought his life was set from the beginning. He is meant to serve the old houses, just as his family before him. It isn’t ideal but he is fed and given a roof over his head. He can read their books when everyone is sleeping. He can see his future and it is feels secure enough.
Sirius offers Remus everything he’s ever dreamed of. Sirius is smart and cultural, so he knew all the best places to go. He is full of beauty, not just outside but inside as well. Sirius wants to give Remus the world. That thought is overwhelming; Remus never thought he would find love and unadulterated happiness. Love and happiness that is being given by a man of nobility to a person of no consequence.
Taking a deep breath, Remus stands from his bed. He took the leap to let Sirius show him how to live like a gentleman on tour, now he needs to take a new leap. Doing something he never thought possible is horrifying. It is also thrilling because it might possibly going to change his life — hopefully in an amazing way.
Soon he is standing in front of Sirius’ door with his heart pounding in his ears. He knocks lightly, and a moment later Sirius answers the door. He’s still in his breeches and shirt. His mouth forms a little ‘o’ of surprise. “I thought you were going to be James.”
“No — I,” Remus isn’t sure what to say, so he decides that action is a better route to take. He grabs Sirius by the front of the shirt and pulls him forward. Their lips meet in a searing kiss, to which Sirius gives a low whimper.
Without breaking contact, Sirius backs Remus into the room. He nips at Sirius’ lower lip before sliding his tongue into the other man’s mouth. He feels dizzy as he practically carries Sirius over to his bed.
“You changed your mind?” Sirius says as Remus moves his mouth down to the juncture of his neck and shoulder, placing kisses the whole way.
Remus pulls back and nods. “I would be completely daft not to give it a try, wouldn’t I?”
“You’re sure that you want this? You want to be with me?” Sirius sits on the bed.
“I do but I needed some time to mull it over. I’m still not positive at what’s going to happen but no one is, are they about anything?”
“No, I think not,” Sirius stretches his leg out and his bare foot gently rests against Remus’ knee. The foot slides up, just under Remus’ night shirt and banyan. “Can you show me your love, Remus?” Remus grins as Sirius’ foot travels up his thigh even further. He wraps his fingers around Sirius’ ankle then drops to his knees.
Remus has been with two men in the past. Each of their meetings were quick and dirty. They fell into passionate embraces then it was quickly over. It’s not as if Remus did not enjoy those times, he rather liked them a lot, but they meant nothing aside a quick moment of lust.
What happens between Sirius and Remus is something completely different. They are doing many of the same things he had done with other men but it feels like something brand new. They take their time exploring one another with their mouths and hands. When they move it’s together and it feels like they are the only two people on the planet. Remus can only feel Sirius and taste Sirius. It is the best thing he has ever done in his life, or at least it feels that way as they make love.
When Remus comes, Sirius follows shortly after as if they are one person. They lay there in the bed dazed and happy. Remus can’t believe that his life has changed so suddenly. He can’t comprehend that Sirius Black fancies him.
The next morning, Remus awakes to Sirius trailing his fingers over his shoulder and down to his collarbone over the freckles there. Sirius’ dark hair is matted on one side from sleep. His blue eyes are tired but happy. Remus is sure there is no sweeter sight on the planet. “Morning,” Remus smiles up at him.
“Morning, my love,” Sirius leans forward and kisses him.
“I like that, being your love.” Remus sighs as Sirius rests his head on his shoulder. Everything is not perfect and there’s still so much to deal with but Remus is happy.
“Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?/Thou art more lovely and more temperate.”
“Am I to wake up to you reciting poems and sonnets and other quotes about love to me every morning?”
“If you wish for that.”
Remus feels as if the lightness of the city of Venice has consumed him somehow. He has never felt this way before and wonders if he will feel this way always with Sirius. He does not have much time to think about that, as the door to Sirius’ room flies open.
Sirius sits up quickly with an annoyed look across his beautiful features. “James Potter! Have you never heard of knocking?”
James looks at them both in bed with wide eyes and wild hair. For a moment Remus feels panicked but then the corners of James’ eyes crinkle under his glasses as he smiles and comes closer to the bed. “You did it! Finally!”
“Finally?” Remus furrows his brows and, much to his dismay, James Potter takes a seat on the end of the bed, facing Remus and Sirius.
“My god, man, have you not realized that not only was Sirius pining away, but you were pining away as well? It was obnoxious. Peter and I placed a bet the first week in Paris for how long it would take you both to get together. It looks as if I’ll win because I said it’d be before we left Venice.”
“I’m — James!” Sirius complains loudly, throwing his hands up. “That’s not very gentlemanly of you.”
“Remus, if you want to know what not gentlemanly sounds like, would you care to hear some of the things Sirius has said about you?”
Remus laughs and looks at Sirius, who was now a deep red. “Oh, he said some of those things last night, I’m sure.”
It’s now James’ turn to become red. “Ah, fair play.”
“He’s lovely, isn’t he?” Sirius takes a hold of James’ hands.
“Yes, very much. I’m happy for you both. But, I was coming to ask if you’d like to go on a tour of some of the canals and lagoons.”
“Sure,” Remus nods.
“I guess I have to get out of this bed.” Sirius complains. “But, Remus loves the water.”
Remus tries not to look too surprised. He never told Sirius how much he loves the water. That means the man was paying attention. He really is interested in him.
Weeks pass in Venice, and Remus and Sirius are swept up in a romantic haze. So much so that Peter and James jokingly refuse to spend time with them because they are so soppy. Sirius still wakes Remus with love poems. Remus still holds and kisses Sirius as if he’s going to slip through his fingers.
The group had explored the city, gone to parties, attended lectures, watched plays, and heard orchestras in their time in Venice. They only had a few more days left in the city now before going off to Florence. Remus was somewhat sad because Venice has been his favorite place so far.
The city is in the midsts of Carnival and the boys have been enjoying all the fun. Remus loves the masks and colorful costumes. Sirius and James are particularly fond of the comedies. Peter loves the food. They all love the casinos and playing games.
Tonight, they are going to the Piazza to enjoy the Grand Hullabaloo. Both Sirius and Remus wear their Colombina masks, which cover only half their faces. Sirius’ is gold and black with silver stars on the black half. Remus’ is silver with crystals, Sirius made him buy that one because he said it reminded him of the moon. They both wear their most colorful clothes, Remus in blue and Sirius in a rich purple. They blend right into the rest of the merrymakers.
The Piazza is filled with boisterous music of flutes, harps, violas, lutes, and violins. Remus watches the other revelers in their masks and fine attire, dancing or buying things from the merchants under the trestles. Men are dressed as women and women as men. Everyone is free to do as they please, making Remus wish it was always like this everywhere.
As the orchestra begins playing a lively tune, Sirius pulls Remus close to him with a grin. They begin dancing among the masses, completely unaware of all the other people. All Remus cares for is the person spinning around him in his arms. Their laughs fill the air and at one point Sirus stops dead and pulls him into a kiss. This is bold but there are plenty of couples, straight and gay, who are also sharing kisses or embracing.
In the process of the kiss, Remus accidentally knocks away Sirius’ mask. He doesn’t think much about this as they continue to kiss, Sirius’ tongue in his mouth and their hands being a bit too daring for public. It is all thrilling and Remus does not want to stop.
That feeling quickly changes.
“Sodomite, wait til your parents hear,” Remus hears and pulls away from Sirius.
He looks to see a woman in a black dress, plague mask, and dark, curly hair standing in front of them.
“Bellatrix,” Sirius sounds as if he’s gasping for air.
“You’re not going to get away with this, Sirius,” She says then dramatically swishes her petticoat as she leaves, disappearing into the crowd.
“Who was that?” Remus asks.
“My cousin,” Sirius looks forlorn as he bends down to pick up his mask. “Let’s go back to the flat. I’m no longer very interested in being here.”
Remus does not argue and follows Sirius back to their current place of residence. When they get in, Sirius undresses as if he needs to get the night off of him quickly. Remus quietly watches over him from Sirius’ bed. Sirius scrubs his face with water from the wash basin then wipes it before looking over at Remus.
“I should be happy.” Sirius says finally, breaking the silence.
“I won’t be a part of the family much longer. Bella will certainly send word back home. You know one of the conditions of this trip is that I’m not supposed to be with any men.” He stands up and walks over to the bed. Sirius standing in just his breeches.
“I know, I overheard the conversation with your father before we left. I was eavesdropping a bit.”
“Then you heard him slap me as well,” Sirius crawls on to Remus’ lap and rests his hand on his shoulder.
“I did,” Remus wraps his arms around him and rubs his back.
“He’s not a nice man, I’m sure you know that well. He used to think he could beat it out of me — my proclivity towards men. I was kicked out of Eton for being found with another boy, you know? It was before you came and father beat me to an inch of my life. I wanted to die after that, but I didn’t. He made sure I healed, then you were hired.”
Remus continues to rub circles to Sirius’ back because he’s unsure of what to say. He doesn’t want to think about a world without Sirius.
“My mother’s not much better. She watched, helped at some points.”
“I’m so sorry.”
“I know they said they’d disown me, disinherit me, but I think they’d drag me back once more. I’m supposed to be the heir and Reggie’s still too young to help with the estate. Plus, I’d be a disgrace to the family and they’d do anything to stop me.”
“I can’t believe I knocked your mask off.”
“It’s not your fault, Moony.” Sirius pauses. “I can’t go back but I know I’ll have to if they show up. I don’t have much of a chance, do I?”
“I— ah, I don’t know. You’re always saying that after this you’ll figure it out.”
“Now it’s too real and I have to think about it.”
“What about your uncle in Paris?” Remus offers because he thought Alphard was a nice man who loved Sirius.
“I — maybe…”
Knowing the issues are not going to be solved just yet Remus suggests, “Maybe we shouldn’t worry about it right now.”
Sirius nods, “It’s not as if we can do anything yet. It’ll be weeks or months before anything happens.”
“Right, and if it happens, we’ll come up with a plan by then.” Remus kisses the top of Sirius’ head.
They did their best to enjoy Florence after leaving Venice. Remus thinks it is beautiful and full of points of interest but he loves Venice more than anything. They spend only a few weeks wandering the city. Remus and Sirius are inseparable as they have been for months now but things seem a bit deeper. Remus is abso-bloody-lutely in love with Sirius Black and would do anything for him. He would probably punch one of the Blacks if it came down to it. Outside of that the two of them had not come up with any idea of what to do.
By the time they arrive in Rome, the thoughts of Bellatrix sending word back to the Blacks has been a source of worry for the men. Sirius is waiting for one or both of his parents to come pluck him up and deposit him back home. Another option was a a formal letter disinheriting them. After the incident, Remus had told Sirius to write Bella and ask her not to say anything but Sirius told him his cousin was not someone to be negotiated with.
“So, Berlin, how long will it take to get there?” Remus asks as they were curled up together in their bed in Rome. They only have a few more days in the city before they go off to Berlin.
Sirius sighs, “I think we should go back to Paris. See Al, like you said before. I don’t know what else we could do. He would probably help us get on our feet at least. I’m sure he has connections to get us work.”
“What will you do? Don’t say rent boy, because I refuse to share even if that means we’re not going to have money.”
“No, no, I don’t know what I’ll do,” Sirius laughs. “I’ve never thought about being anything before. I had my whole life planned out for me since birth, even before that. Having a future that is wide open is somewhat scary.”
“I understand what you mean. You were meant to run the estate but I was meant to work for you, you know?”
“I know.” Sirius sighs then kisses the corner of his mouth. “I want you to go study at a university. Anything that you want. Remus, you’re so smart, you deserve it.”
“Maybe one day it will happen,” Remus hopes it does. The idea of going to university wasn’t in his wildest dreams, but neither was enjoying a Grand Tour with the man he loves not too long ago.
“I love you, Remus Lupin.”
“I love you, Sirius Black.” Remus presses his lips to Sirius’ temple.
They both eventually drift off to sleep, not knowing what the new day would bring.
The next morning, Remus is awoken by a loud crash. He had just been in a pleasant dream and the noise breaks that pleasantness quickly. He scrambles up at the same time as Sirius and sees Orion Black standing just inside their room. He’s not much unlike his son. He’s tall but wears a white wig where Sirius leaves his hair down and free. He has lines across his once-handsome face. But instead of the kindness some older people give off, he’s raging as always.
“The valet, really?” He scoffs but doesn’t sound too surprised. “You’re coming home, Sirius. This is over. I’m no longer letting you traipse around the continent while having — relations with some servant and god knows what else.”
“I — what? How…” Sirius rubs his eyes and Remus feels as if he’s in some sort of nightmare.
“I know, Bellatrix saw us,” Sirius says.
“Then you shouldn’t be surprised I’m here. Get dressed Sirius, we’re leaving.”
“I thought you’d just disown me. I mean, I wondered if you’d come get me but I was so sure…” Sirius trails off.
“I assumed you would make a better choice if I told you’d be disinherited.”
“Maybe that’s what I wanted,” Sirius speaks coldly.
“That’s ridiculous. You’re nothing without this family.”
Remus looks to Sirius who is now sitting on the edge of the bed. He moves closer to the younger Black to be within arms reach.
“I’m plenty without you. Even if I was a beggar. I’d be better off.”
“Don’t say something so absurd. Let’s go, we’re leaving now.”
“I’m not leaving Remus.”
“You certainly will.”
“I certainly will not. You don’t have to pay for shite now. The Potters will fund the rest. They’ll be happy I’m not spending time with you.
“You’re going to leave and you’re leaving now. This is it, Sirius. You’re coming home and being a proper Black.” Orion strides to the bed and grabs him by his hair.
Remus lunges forward to stop him, “Let him go! Don’t touch him!” He screams then Orion balls his free hand into a fist. The punch lands across Remus’ temple and knocks him off balance. The last thing he remembers for some time is falling off the bed, landing with a crack on the marble floor and the sound of Sirius’ screams.
“Remus, come on, man, come on,” James’ voice sounds far away and there’s a throbbing pain in his head.
“He’s coming around,” A voice he doesn’t recognize speaks.
“God, I’m going to kill him,” James says as Remus opens his eyes. “Not you, I’m not killing you.” James says with a soft smile.
“Where’s Sirius?” Remus asks. He goes to sit up but a hand on his shoulder keeps him where he is. Remus realizes that he’s back on the bed but things are a little fuzzy around the edges. James is sitting next to him on one side and Peter on the other. There’s also a man with a long grey beard looking on.
“He’s gone with his father. Not willingly, believe us. They only just left, Sirius begged us to get you help. Screaming bloody murder, he was.” Peter speaks softly.
“We were so worried you weren’t going to wake up. This is Albus, he’s a physician from across the way.”
“How is your head feeling, Remus?”
“Um, it hurts.” Remus tells them but it’s an understatement. The pain in so strong he can barely keeps his eyes on them and he’s dizzy. Things seem all wrong
“Sirius said Orion punched you then you hit the floor. He thought you were dead.”
Remus closes his eyes again, not because he’s tried but it’s so bright in the room. “He — he left.” Remus isn’t sure what to do with that fact yet. Sirius seemed so set before about not going back.
“Orion dragged him out of here kicking and screaming, quite literally. Said if you weren’t dead then he’d come back and make sure you were if Sirius didn’t go with him.” Peter informs him and Remus figures this is the reason why Sirius left with him at all.
“He didn’t want to go, he was going to stay here… stay away from the Black’s.”
“I know, he told me the other day he probably wasn’t going to come home with me.” James squeezes Remus’ shoulder. “I’m sure he’ll come back, Remus. He has to come back.”
“What happens if Orion — what if he kills him? He’s hurt him before.”
“I know, I know, but he has this sick idea that Sirius is only around to serve the family and be his heir. They have Regulus, they don’t even need Sirius as an heir if that’s all they care about.” James complains.
“What are we going to do? We’re supposed to leave in a day for Berlin.” Remus opens his eyes but squints.
“Gentlemen, I recommend you staying in Rome until Mister Lupin is able to travel.” Albus suggests calmly. “It maybe a few weeks before he’s back to himself. The brain is a funny thing.”
Remus isn’t sure he likes the sound of that. With how he’s feeling at the moment, he’s not sure if he’s ever going to be okay again. That could possibly the fact his hurt his head, or it could be because Sirius was ripped away from him. Either way, it’s a terrible feeling.
The group waits weeks for Sirius to return. James is convinced that it’s going to happen with how everything occurred that day. They stay in Rome for an extra three weeks, partly because they are all waiting for Sirius and partly because Remus’ head is still an issue. He is dizzy, nauseous, and over all in terrible shape for most of the time.
“I think we should keep going with the trip.” Remus suggests. He’s feeling better now and is getting rather antsy. His mind turns over Sirius’ departure multiple times a day. “Maybe Sirius is in Berlin waiting for us.” He hopes his lover has freed himself from his horrendous father.
“He could be anywhere. Did he ever say what he’d do if he left the Blacks?” James asks as he and Peter sit on Remus’ bed. “He told me he wasn’t going back but never said what he wanted to do.”
“He said he thought Paris was the best option for him. Alphard would most likely help him.”
“That is true.”
“Do you think we should go to Paris, then?” James asks.
“I don’t know…” Remus shrugs.
“I feel like Paris is the best option, right?” Peter asks. “Think about it, if he didn’t go to Berlin and he’s not sure if we’re going there then I bet he’d go to Paris, especially if that’s what he told Remus.”
“I would bet that even if he is in Berlin looking for us, he’d go back to Paris at some point when we don’t show.” James suggests. “He would probably think along the same process we’re thinking.”
“Let’s go to Paris, then.”
“That sounds like a plan. I hope he’s there.” Remus rubs his eyes. All he’s been wanting for the last three weeks is Sirius to hold him. He wasn’t sure how he was going to feel if they got to Paris to find that Sirius is not there.
Part III: Back to France
The arrive at the Potters’ Paris flat but Sirius isn’t there. James writes to both Alphard and Lily right away even though it’s in the middle of the night when they arrive. It takes everything in Remus to not go to Alphard’s flat that night but he figures that it might be best to wait til the morning. He wouldn’t want to startle the man if Sirius was not there.
When they sit down for breakfast the next morning there’s a knock on their door. James asks Dobby, one of the people who work at the Paris flat, to get the door. Remus watches the entrance the entire time, hoping on everything that Sirius walks through the door to the dining room.
“Thank you so much, Dobby,” A woman’s voice says, which is unmistakably Lily Evans.
Remus feels completely let down but he wonders what news Miss Evans has for them. Sirius would tell her he is back in town if he is in Paris.
“Lily,” James says as they all stand to greet the woman. Her long red hair was pulled back out of her face in a pretty plait. She is wearing a blue dress and a big smile.
“I’m so happy you’re back. Sirius will be thrilled.” She says, looking at Remus with a twinkle in her eye. “He was so worried about you, Remus.”
“He’s here? Is he at Alphard’s?” Remus questions, ready to run off to Alphard’s home with her affirmative answer. He can already see himself running down the dirty, Parisian streets in no shoes.
“Yes, er well, not right now… Alphard passed away so he and the Tonks are burying him in Southern France, it was his wish. They should be back within the week.”
There is a collective sigh of relief in the room. Remus feels terrible because he liked Alphard, he was a good man who cared for Sirius. At the same time, Sirius is alive and in France and coming back to Paris soon enough. Remus just has to wait a little longer. Not that is going to be easy.
But wait Remus does. He sits by the window and waits days on end for Sirius. He reads as well, trying to pass the time. His whole being is consumed with waiting and longing, as it had been for weeks before but it is different now. Sirius is okay. He is going to be with the man he cares for. All that he needs to do now is wait.
Five days after Remus and the group arrived in Paris, Remus wakes up to a weight settling on his bed. “James, I’m tired, it’s still dark.” He complains. The man had a new tendency to come into his room as he did with Sirius in the past to chat.
“Not James, love,” Sirius deep, raspy voice says quietly. “I’m sorry, we just got in from our travels and I found your letter.”
Remus sits up so quickly that he world spins for a moment. When it stops he takes in Sirius sitting in his shirt and breeches. The rest of his clothes are on the floor by the bed. He looks tired but relieved. “You’re home. Thank god. I’m so happy you’re back. I’m so sorry about Alphard.”
“He was sickly before hand, it wasn’t completely unexpected. I was still upset. I wasn’t here for long before it happened.” Sirius speaks as Remus moves to wrap his arms around him. “God, Remus, I thought you died. My father insisted you were breathing but threatened to kill you if I didn’t go with him.” Sirius’ voice broke.
“I know, James told me. I understand why you left, don’t worry, Sirius. We thought you’d come back to Rome but then thought maybe you went to Berlin. We figured you’d come here because we were meant to be traveling. We were planning on passing back through Paris in the end, anyway.”
“I told my father I was never going to change and when I detailed a few nasty things I’ve done he threw me out of the coach — quite literally.” Sirius grimaces. “Threw me and my things on the road we were on and I managed to make my way here since we were already in France at that point. Really, I made sure we got to France before I tried to get out of it.”
“I’m so glad you did,” Remus takes Sirius by the chin and kisses him. He sighs as he pulls away. “What happened when you got here?”
“Well, I did think about going back to Rome or even Berlin but Al became ill again. Remus, you’re not going to believe this but… we’re… he left me his estate.”
Remus blinks a few times, “What?”
“He has no heirs to speak of, so everything he had on this earth, is mine. It’s enough to live happily and do as we please.”
Sirius shakes his head, “We can do whatever we want. You can go to university. We can sell the flat and travel the entire world. I could buy you a ship and we could sail the seas. I think you’d rather live in a place like Venice or somewhere by the water.”
“As long as you’re there, Sirius, I’ll be happy,” Remus insists then kisses Sirius all over his face. “I can’t believe this is real. Maybe I did die.”
“If you did then I did as well and we’re being treated very nicely in the afterlife. I wouldn’t worry about it too much,” Sirius pulls Remus tighter against him. “So, what should we do, Remus? What is the biggest thing we can do?”
“I don’t know about biggest, but I know that I just want to lay here with you and enjoy the fact that you’re okay and the fact the we have this whole future ahead of us.”