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his son's hair. Remus smiles back, swatting his father's hand away and giggling.

"You'll be okay?" His father asks again for the fourth time in the last five minutes. He doesn't want to leave, but the Minister has sent an owl demanding to speak with him as soon as possible and John is in no position to refuse. He wants Rhea to be there, but she is off in Italy with her parents, and he doesn't know what to do with the number she had left him.

The small boy nods, picking at the design stitched into the overstuffed chair he was curled up in. He hums some tune his mother often sings for him under his breath and is not at all worried. 

"I'll just be an hour," John repeats. "It won't be long," he promises. "Just have to go over some of the new werewolf legislation." He isn't sure why he was telling his son such a thing. Remus looks up at him, head crooked to the side. He is still smiling and humming and not at all bothered by his father's nervous babble. 

"They don't like the new tracking tattoos," He explains. "The werewolves. The ministry thinks it's brilliant, of course. A wonderful bit of magic." Rhea says he frightens Remus with all his talk of werewolves and giants and other such monsters, but Remus likes to play Vampire with him, and John thinks it more likely that his wife is scared than his son.

"Mrs. Logan will be over in a minute," John says. He looks out the window for a sign of their Muggle neighbor. It was pouring down rain so thick he couldn't even make out the light from the full moon. "I have to go now."

"Okay," Remus says, jumping off the chair to give his father a quick hug. "When you come back we should go swimming! I wanna swim in the rain."

"We'll see," John says, knowing that Rhea would kill him. He leans down to ruffle Remus's hair again. "Be good, okay Remy?"

Remus screws up his nose and sticks out his tongue. He hates that nickname. He hates it because his mom hates it. "It sounds French," She says, as though it's an insult to her Italian heritage. Remus looks a lot like his father, but when he wrinkles his noise John thinks of Rhea and chuckles. 

In what sounds like a clasp of thunder he's gone, leaving Remus alone to stare out the window at the dark, hunched figures prowling about in the rain.

*

It's raining the first time they go to the Hogwarts Express.

Remus is scared and excited and overjoyed and terrified. On the car ride to King's Cross he makes his dad pull over so that he can throw up on the side of the road.

His mother is simply terrified. She spends the last two days before the trip hugging Remus, telling him how proud she is, and crying in her room. When he gets sick she wants John turn the car around. For the rest of the ride she sits in the back with her son, trying not to cry.

His dad is unreadable. "Rhea calm down," He says when she makes a grab for the clutch to swing the car in reverse. "It's going to be all right, Dumbledore said...."

Remus had heard more of Dumbledore opinions over the last few weeks than he has of his father's.

"You're wet," His mom is fussing over his hair as his dad tries to get his trunk into the train. Remus doesn't mind that he is the only one who needed help into the train or that his mother is nearly hysterical or that he is soaked through the bones. He is too amazed to be embarrassed or put off by any of this.

Remus had never seen so many people. There seem to be at least ten thousand, all running around trying to get aboard the train as quickly as possible without getting wet and each as interesting to stare at as the last. There is a girl whose black dreadlocks were each charmed a different color and another one in Muggle clothes with the trousers' legs so huge they seem to swallow her whole. Two boys dart past them, one waving a shaken looking kneazle above his head as the other screams and chases him down. Another boy is standing not far from Remus, his cheeks a bright red as his mother shoves a basket of sweets into his hands and smothers down his thin blond hair.

"I love you, Remus," He mom says, kissing him on the forehead.

John runs a hand through what little hair is left. It's completely gray now. No one says it, but it's Remus's fault. "Take care." Remus would give anything to be called 'Remy' at this moment, or ever again. Instead he gets a pat on the shoulder. "Listen to whatever Dumbledore says and be careful."

"Write us if you feel ill," His mother says. In the background a whistle blows. "I'll miss you so much."

Remus is a little embarrassed by the hug. It looks like all the other kids are already aboard the train. Still, he hugs his mom back. "I'll miss you, too," He says as quickly as he can while still meaning it.

When he's finally on the train, waving goodbye to his parents through the window, he realizes just how wet he is, and he wonders if he should try changing into his school robes right then.

Before he can do anything, though, his compartment door is being swung opened and a face is popping in. The face is attached to a body, which is wearing a pair of emerald robes that don't look wet at all. "Hi," The boy says. The boy looks his age, but mostly dry and his clothes don't haves patch marks in the like Remus's do. His hair is black and short but still manages to look wild, like he had never combed it down in his life.

"You're a first year." Remus nods. "Anyone else in here?" Remus shakes his head. "Kay, then." The young boy turns around. "Come on, this one's almost empty!"

Before Remus can say anything there are people flooding in. Two girls and two boys pile in the compartment, chatting the whole time without much thought to Remus.

"I need to change," Remus tries to say over the talking. He suddenly feels very small and shy, like a downed mouse.

The first boy, the one with messy black hair, smiles. "Not a problem," He says, and before Remus can protest he's waving his wand and muttering something.

An odd feeling sweeps through Remus's stomach. He shivers and the feeling is gone, but the water dripping from his bangs isn't. One of the girls starts laughing. The others follow very quickly.

The young man blushes. "Ah...." He said, sticking his hand back in his pocket. "It worked for my dad, at least..."

Remus has a very bad feeling. He sees one of the girls pointing and reaches up to touch his face. Nothing feels different. His noise, eyes, mouth, and ears are still attached which he takes as a good sign, but the other students are still laughing at him and Remus can feel his face start to burn.

"I need to go," He mutters, looking at the ground as one of the girls squeals with delicious delight at something the other boy says.

The young black haired boy stands between Remus and the door, but he's looking behind Remus at the two girls. "You two look a little wet," He says. The boy draws out his wand, waving it in their general direction. "I could always try and give it another a whirl."

Before he has the chance both girls are up and running from the compartment, covering their faces as they make their exit. The boy who had said something about Remus earlier got up to follow, keeping his eyes on the black hair boy.

"No sense of humor," He mutters as he walks by. The first boy rolls his eyes, stepping on the back of the other's robes. He waits until the other boy has fallen face first into a group of screaming third year girls to slam the door. 

"My names James Potter," The boy says.

"I'm Remus Lupin." He has an odd feeling in the pit of his stomach, a lot like what had happened when the boy had tried that spell out on him. He can't tell if it is a good or bad thing.

"Sorry about the... Err... coloring," James says. He bites his lips and tries not to smile. "I'm sure someone at the school can fix it. Hey, my mom packed me some chocolate frogs. You want a few?"

James and Remus became fast friends.

*

It's raining during the first quidditch match.

It's Slytherin verse Gryffindor. Remus hates flying. It makes his stomach twist in weird ways. He only does it when he has to, and he couldn't imagine doing it for sport, especially not in the rain.

James makes him go, anyway. 

"What's happening!" Remus shouts over the cheers and screams from the stands. He didn't really understand quidditch, and even if he did he can't see a single thing in the air.

"Slytherin scored!" James shouts back. "We're still in lead, but Philips might still get the snitch!"

In the row in front of James and Remus and Peter (a small, mouse of a boy in their dorm who admire James like an older brother, hero, and father all rolled into one great package) is Sirius Black. James doesn't talk to Sirius because he says his family is of the worst sort of blood. He warns Remus not to let it slip that his mom is a Muggle in front of him. "If his father had his way, there wouldn't be in Muggle borns or Half Bloods at Hogwarts," James says. So Remus makes sure to avoid this Black fellow.

The boy turns around, and through the rain Remus can see his eyes all a glow. "Watch this!" He shouts above the gale before straightening in his seat.

James and Remus exchange a look. Peter fidgets until he's almost hidden behind James and safe from Sirius's eyes. The three boys watch as Sirius draws his wand. It's impossible to hear what he's saying over the storm, but his eyes are fastened on the Slytherin section of the stands.

A gasp goes through the crowd. Remus tries to follow everyone else's pointing, but the rain in hitting his eyes and he can't make out anything more than vague shapes. He wipes his bangs out his eyes, shielding his vision from the storm enough that he can almost see two blurred figures diving downward. Down, down, down they go right over the Slytherin seats and - BOOM!

Most of the crowd screams. Remus doesn't, but he does nearly topple over and behind him Peter does both. The Slytherin side of the stadium has exploded in a mess of red and gold. Fireworks are whizzing around the quidditch field, and the entire Slytherin student body looks as though someone has drowned them in thick, gooey paint

Seconds later, Lauren Keller holds the golden snitch above her head. The paint covering the Slytherins are already starting to leak onto the field, staining the grass in Gryffindor colors.

Sirius looks behind his shoulder at Remus. "What did you think? Rather clever, huh?" He asks, and Remus doesn't think he sounds like someone who would hunts werewolves for fun.

James is doing a little dance in the stands. Most of the students are laughing. Teachers are hurrying over to the Slytherins to make sure everyone is okay. Gryffindors are hurrying down the stands to congratulate the team on their win. It's still raining, but no one seems to care.

*

Sometimes Remus wonders if it waits for the full moon to start to pour. 

Madam Pomfrey has him wrapped up in enough blankets that he can't feel a single rain drop. "I want you to put them up high," She says. "In case it's raining on the way back." Remus agrees, but he knows that if they smell even ever so slightly of human it won't matter how high up they are.

She props open the trap door at the foot of the willow tree. "I have to hurry," She says. Remus nods again. It's the last night of this full moon and he just wants it over and done with.

"I'll be okay," He says, taking the trap door from her. She doesn't look convinced. Remus slips down the trap door as quickly as possible.

He takes a few steps before he hears the door shut behind him, followed by a light thud. He expects the Whomping Willow has woken back up and doesn't think to turn around until he hears his name being called. "Remus."

He knows that voice.

Remus swings around, dropping the blankets to the dirt. For a few seconds there is nothing there, then the sounds of fabric being brushed aside.

James is in the front, of course, eyes wide and glasses somewhat askew. He looks terrified, his mouth half open like he's trying to find words that aren't there. Sirius is right beside him, his handsome face twisted with something Remus just knows is disgust and it makes him want to pick up the blankets and hide himself away forever. Peter is behind the other two, too short to see very clearly in the dark passage way but Remus can almost smell the fear, and that makes him even more upset because he hates the idea of his friend being afraid of him even more than he hates the fact that they're all going to hate him.

"Remus," It's James again, taking a small step forward. His mouth opens and closes a few more times. He can't find the words because there are none.

"Why didn't you-" Sirius sounds angry, and Remus can't help but let his mind flash back to what James had said about his family. He feels guilty the moment the thought crosses his mind. Sirius was not his family.

But just because he wasn't his family didn't mean he likes werewolves. No one likes werewolves. Remus knows that much.

"Get out," He cuts his friends off before they could say anything. He doesn't want to hear them and he doesn't want to explain. He wants to curl up in a ball and never move again. He wants to burry himself in blankets so the world can't see him. He wants to kill something, to rip out its throat and lick at its hot, warm blood, the soft body still moaning and trying to fight back beneath him.

"Remus... You..." James still seems to think he can say something to fix what has happened. Remus watched his mother try this tactic a hundred times before. He already knows how it will end. 

"Get out!" Remus repeats himself, more frantically. This time something seems to get through. Peter yelps, his fists wrapping into James's sleeve.

"I think he's changing!" Peter squeaks and Remus wants to scream. Wants to jump at him and bite and rip and tear and it would feel so good right then, to have that boy's throat in his mouth.

"Right." James finally snaps out of it. He grabs Peter's hands, backing the two away slowly as if afraid that Remus will attack.

Remus is afraid of the same thing.

"We need to go." James pushes open the trap door and water pours in. Remus wants to feel the moonlight on his skin. He wants to taste something warm and still alive. He wants and needs, and with the last of his self control he runs, takes off for the shrieking shack as fast as he can, trying not to think about blood and meat and Sirius, standing just where he had left him with that look in his eyes.

*

It rained all of the next week, too.

Remus tries to avoid them, and at first he does a fairly decent job. He sticks to the library and study groups. He avoids anything that might be considered fun at all cost.

Of course, they eventually catch up with him.

Remus plans to go to the library, but he catches James standing around the exit just in time to turn around to make a hasty retreat. He knows he couldn't head back to the Gryffindor Tower, Sirius is most likely up there, and Peter is sure to be at the Great Hall. So he just takes off.

He marches out to the grounds without knowing where he's going. Without Madam Pomfrey's blankets or an umbrella over his head he is soaked through almost immediately. The water feels good against his skin, cooling the heat that had been bubbling up inside him. It's nice to be alone and not have to worry about James or Sirius or Peter coming to look for him. It's nice not to be anger at your best friends for finding out your secret. 

This sanctuary lasts all of three minutes.

There's this myth that werewolves have better reaction times than 'normal' people. It's believed that they have super normal sense, the small blessing of a terrible curse.

Remus finds out that this isn't true when, without warning, he's being tackled to the ground.

He's not entirely sure what's happening. He lands on the ground with a soft thud, protected by the wet mud and grass. His hair is in his eyes along with the rain and wind and someone else hair and he has no idea what he's doing. For a moment he wonders if it's Snape, a Slytherin in their year that James is determined to pick a fight with at least once a day, but then there are fists in his side and he doesn't care who it is he is ready to fight back. He tries to get in a good hit, flailing and kicking and struggling under the weight that was crushing his chest.

He might die, he decides. He might die and Sirius and James and Peter wouldn't care.

"You're a fucking wanker, you know that?" The fists that are pounding against his skin let up. Remus is sputtering. He reaches up to brush his wet bangs away from his eyes. In the night with rain still pouring onto his face it's hard to make out much more that Sirius's scowl.

"Hell," Remus says, pushing against Sirius's chest to move him. "What did you do that for?"

"Because you're a giant fucking wanker," Sirius says it as though Remus should know this already. "And you needed some sense beaten into you."

As irrational as it is, that offends Remus. He had always thought of himself as the sensible one in the group, when there had been a group. He wasn't the one who was stalking after his friends in the dark and pouncing on them without warning.

"You're an idiot." Remus pushes against Sirius's chest again, squirming out from under the other boy as he does. Sirius stands up, letting Remus go free. Almost.

"You've been avoiding us," He says. Remus is walking back towards the castle and Sirius is right on his heels. "You've been treating us like we're Slytherins or something."

Remus isn't sure what to say. 'I'm sorry, you've found out my deepest, darkest secret and are probably afraid of me and hate me now, so I thought it best to just ignore you.' He wants to say it, but he's so angry and ashamed that he's jaw has clenched up and the words won't come out. He's not even sure why he's anger, only suddenly the rain is really annoying him and why was Sirius following him about like a lost puppy?

"Go away, Black." Sirius scowls and makes a grab for Remus's shoulder. Remus jerks away and ends up being boxed in the chest.

"Make me," Sirius dares him. They're facing each other now, Remus glaring and Sirius with a dangerous look on his face. "If you want me to leave you alone so bad than do something about it."

Remus struggles to find something to say.

Sirius takes his silences as a sign that everything is better. He punches Remus on the shoulder, but this time it isn't meant to hurt. "There we go," He says. "See. It's all much easier if you just give me my way."

Remus raises an eyebrow. "What? Were you planning on stalking me if I kept ignoring you."

"Imprison you, is more like it. I was going to turn your pumpkin juice into Slytherin jizz," Sirius says. "So that you'd get sick and rush to the bathroom. I figured I could get you cornered in there."

Remus smiles. "You are an utter arse, Sirius Black."

"Least I'm not a giant wanker," Sirius retorts.

They walk back to the commons together, and everything seems better.

*

It was raining the first time Remus got kissed.

It's a moth before end of term exams and everyone should have been outside enjoying their last free days before they have to start cramming. They should be, but they're not. The weather made sure of that. So all of Hogwarts is stuck inside the castle.

Not all of them. James and Sirius were at quidditch practice. James had made team in third year, and Sirius became a beater this year. Both of them mutter and complain about the whole ordeal, but were all too happy to spend their weekend flying around in a storm.

Peter is in the stand watching, even after Remus insists that he come study in the library with him.

"What's the worry," James says. "You'll just be meeting up with Connor for defense help, right, and that's the only thing Peter's good at anyway." Remus gives James a look that means Peter's education is more important than James having someone at practice to cheer him on. James doesn't get it.

"And divinations," Peter pips up.

James rolls his eyes. "But anyone can do go at divinations, Peter. All you have to do is pretend is talk about death and changing and stuff."

"I predict that Lallin will die of a panic attack if we don't get to the field soon," Sirius had said, twirling his brand new Comet around so that Remus and Peter constantly have to move a little to avoid being smacked.

"I predict that one day you'll change your underwear," Remus says before pinching his nose in disgust. "Obviously that day has yet to come."

James, Sirius, and Peter hurry off to quidditch practice and Remus has to gather his books and meet Adair Connor at the library.

"I think at least half the school is here." Connor was a Ravenclaw in their year. He asked Remus for help with defense against the dark arts after receiving a seven on his last paper. Remus, always one for any excuse to read up on his favorite subject, had readily agreed.

"Professor Lupin," Sirius jokes. "Always ready to help those more unfortunate then yourself."

"Seems like it, doesn't it," Remus replies, looking up from the textbook to glance around the library. Madam Pince is buzzing around a number of tables trying to quiet some of the groups of chatting students. So far she has done fairly well, but from the exhausted look on the librarian's face she isn't up for much more of these rainy days.

"I can't concentrate at all!" Connor sighs, flicking his wand and muttering something. The pages of the book flip to the next chapter. "I don't suppose you want to go somewhere more quiet?"

Remus shrugs. "Sure." He sends a quick glance at the window. The rain hasn't let up yet, and he wonders if James and Sirius have been let off practice early. He thinks that even if they did, they wouldn't want to come find him in the library anyway as that would mean actually studying instead if simply relying on their natural brilliance. "Where did you have in mind?"

That's how Remus ends up in the back corner of the library, pressed up against Adair Connor at a one-person table far away from the rest of the students.

"This is my favorite chapter," Remus says, pointing to the title 'The Mislabeling of Certain Beast as Dark Creatures'. "Groban is a genius, you know. Talks about how you can't really divide animals into good or... is something wrong?"

Connor had this glazed look in his eyes. He was staring into space with that same vacant expression Remus had caught more than once on James' face. "I'm fine," He says, coughing and wiggling in his seat a little. "Yeah... Um... That chapter's really fascinating."

"It is," Remus isn't convinced that Connor had been paying any attention, but he doesn't press the matter. "If you have somewhere to be-"

Connor shakes his head. He is still wiggling in his seat. "No. Look, Remus... Don't take this the wrong way but has anyone ever told you that you look like a girl?"

Remus wonders how one could take that the right way. "No."

"Yeah, well... You know Sandra Jabian?"

"The fifth year?"

"Yeah. That's her." Connor pauses again. "You have her hair."

Remus has to stop himself from touching his hair. He has brown, goldish locks that had once been cut properly short before he'd meant Sirius and James and haircutting had become something of the past. Now it tickled the back of his neck and he was constantly tugging at it to move the bristle ends out from under his robe collar. Sandra had golden hair that was long enough to get stuck in her pants and looked like it might be made out of strands of braided silk.

"What do you mean?" Remus says as slowly as he can. "That I look like a girl?"

"Not a pretty girl!" Connor interjects. "I mean. Sandra's pretty, and if you were a girl I guess you would be but... Well, you're skinny like a girl. And you're all quiet and you like to read."

Remus is being told he liked to read by a Ravenclaw.

mean. Sandra's pretty, and if you were a girl I guess you would be but... Well, you're skinny like a girl. And you're all quiet and you like to read."

Remus was being told he liked to read by a Ravenclaw.

"I mean, I don't think girls would get half as many detentions as you," Connor adds. "And I don't think they'd try and charm Mcgonagall's desk to take points away from Slytherin like you did. So you're not really a girl."

"I'm glad we can agree on that." Remus looks back down at the book hoping that Connor would get the hint and drop the subject.

"You do kind of look like Sandra, though."

Remus temporally thinks about charming Connor silent, but then Madam Pince might make him do the whole library and he doesn't have the time. 

Instead he just gives a loud, irritated sigh. "Connor?" He hopes he sounded as thoroughly annoyed as he feels. "What are you going on about?"

Connor's lips were hot and wet and sort of crushed against his like he is trying to eat Remus's mouth or something equal as gruesome. It's so unexpected and disgusting that it took a moment for it to register as a kiss.

"What the hell are you doing!" Remus didn't know he could hit someone that hard. Connor goes reeling back, and if there hadn't been a wall there he would have gone tumbling from his seat.

"Fuck!" He yells, rubbing the back of his head where it connected with the hard stone. Remus is already out of his chair, gathering all his things as quickly as possible. He doesn't look back when Connor starts yelling something at his back. He just keeps wlaking, resolved not to stop until he gets to his dorm. 

Sirius, James, and Peter are standing around the transfiguration section of the library, flipping through a couple books. The moment Remus came into view Peter starts pulling on James' sleeve, helping him to stuff the books back into the shelves.

"Remus!" Sirius jumps out in front his friend. It was that point when Remus notices them.

"Sirius," He tries to sound like another boy hadn't almost stuck his tongue down Remus's throat. "Is practice over all ready?"

"Yeah, got out early," He says, running a hand through his still wet black hair. Behind him Peter and James are trying not to get noticed. "We came looking for you. Done with Connor?" Sirius sends a few not so subtle glances over his shoulder to the other two Gryffindor boys as a couple of the books they'd been reading toppled out of the shelves.

"Yes!" Remus wonders if he had said that too quickly. "Yes," He repeats, a lot slower this time. "I think I should be going to bed. James? Peter? I didn't see you two there."

James smiles. "We were just picking up some reading to help Peter with his... um... transfiguration exams."

"Right," Peter nods vigorously. "We all know how horrid I am in transfigurations. All the help I can get. In fact, I might have to come down to the library every day to- OWE!" James's heel comes down hard on Peter's foot.

In his daze, Remus doesn't notice.

*

It was raining the first time they told him.

"You look like a wet dog." 

Remus doesn't think there was anything funny about this, but James, Sirius, and Peter can't breath they're laughing so hard.

Remus sits on the edge of his bed, book propped open his lap. He waits patiently for his friends to get their wits about them, which could take years.


It is three days until the full moon and he feels worse for the wear. So while the other boys were running around enjoying their Saturday, Remus stays in bed. From the looks of their wet clothes and huge smiles that can only mean trouble, this might have been a good thing.

"Funny you should say that." Sirius spreads himself across the sheets like Remus had not gone through all the trouble of making sure they were clean and well made. "I am kinda dog like, huh?"

"A total dog," Remus agrees. He has no idea what they are talking about, but has found that it makes life much more easier if one simply agrees with Sirius on every matter when he was smiling like he was now.

"But Moony," Sirius uses the nickname James had given the werewolf side of him. 'How was Moony tonight?' He asks after Pomfrey would allow them to visit him in the infirmary. James had taken to asking the oddest questions. 'Was he bad? Did it hurt? Did you kill any rats? Do you ever kill rats?"

Sirius smiles and, without warning, grabs hold of Remus's face and licks him across the cheek. A huge, slobber lick that elicits a chorus of moans and 'gross!' from the other three boys. Remus pulls back, swatting at Sirius as he uses the sleeve of his robe to wipe away his friend's spit. "What the bloody hell?"

Peter is beside him now, and Remus can't remember seeing him this full of energy. "Can we tell him now?" He asks. He keeps bouncing on the balls of his feet in a way that is starting to make Remus a bit dizzy.

"It's a surprise!" James claims. He has his chin up in the air, which means he's done something of which he is usually proud of himself for. Remus's stomach jumps a few times. The last time he saw that look the Snape was left in the hospital wing for a full two days.

"Fuck surprises," Sirius says. He is still on Remus's bed, though his arms have fallen away from Remus's face and around his shoulders. Remus can feel the rainwater seeping in through his robes.

"How do you suggest we tell him then," James asks. "We can't just come out with it, can we? The poor boy will have a heart attack."

"Tell me what?" Remus asks. He fidgets around a bit, trying to hide his excitement. James is all smiles and hand motions, and Remus wants to be in on the joke.

"I'll have a heart attack if we don't let it out soon," Sirius replies. He's still hugging Remus, and now he's leaned in close enough that he's nearly snuggling against his neck. Remus tries scooting closer to Peter, who is still acting like a bundle of nerves.

"What are you two going on about?" Remus asks.

Sirius laughs and hugs Remus around the shoulders, really hugs him so that Remus is leaning into him and no blood is getting into his arms. "We've gotten you a gift," he says.

"What sort of gift would give me a heart attack?" Remus is surprised he can speak with Sirius trying to squeeze the air out of him.

"Why would we give you a heart attack?" Peter asks.

"Yeah," Sirius nods. "We like our Moony. We don't want him dead."

Remus doesn't know how much longer he can stand the cryptic talk and strangling hugs when James comes to his rescue. "I think Remus is going to have a heart attack if you keep molesting him, Sirius," He says, wrapping a hand around Sirius's collar. "Bad dog!"

All three boys laugh again. Remus rubs his shoulders, bruised from Sirius's tight squeeze. "Are you drunk?" He asks James.

"No... Not really. Not in a good old sense, anyway." James was back to making as little sense as the rest of them. "I think its just Sirius. It was the first time he'd managed it almost all the way, all though it only lasted a few seconds. I can do it for a whole minute, though Peter says my coat shouldn't be made of black, mangy hair."

"Mine should!" Sirius pips. He's lying back of Remus's bed, the comforter growing darker under him as the water from his clothes spread out. "Mangy, black dog!"

Remus closes his eyes and takes a deep breath. "This gift?" He asks. "Did you get me a dog, by chance?"

All three of them begin laughing again.

*
It was raining after their first night together.

"That was...."

The boys lay completely still in the middle of the clearing. Remus thinks they need to be heading back to the shrieking shack before Madam Pomfrey finds him missing, but he can't make himself move. The rain, it's more of a light sprinkle really and it feels so good on his skin. Almost as good as it feels to be lying on the muddy, wet grass in the middle of the Forbidden Forest after the full moon.

"That was wonderful!" James supplies the word Remus was missing. Remus nods, but really he doesn't think wonderful covers everything.

"Did you see that jump?" James asks. "Peter," He turns to his right, nudging Peter in the side. Peter grunts, still out of breath and covered in a thin layer of sweat and rain. "Did you see that jump? Did you SEE me? It was like flying! Just like flying!"


"We get it, James," Sirius says. He's got his eyes closed. Remus squints his eyes and through the veil of drizzle bouncing off Sirius's skin it almost looks as though he's friend is surrounded by a halo. "You like to jump."

"At least I didn't try and sniff Moony's ass," James retorts.

Remus snorts as Sirius flails his arms about, trying to hit James without actually moving. "You tried to sniff my ass?"

"Only once," Sirius replies. He looks over at Remus with a smile that would have scared Remus in his first year. "What can I say, you have a cute ass. Very round and firm and-"

"Furry," James says. "You have a very furry ass."

"At least," Remus says. "My furry ass is only when I'm a wolf." He twists his head to smile at James and feels something heavy slip away from him. It's the first time he's really consciously referred to himself as a wolf.

"What's your excuse, James?" Sirius asks. James picks up a rock and tosses it at Sirius. It lands on Remus's belly, and suddenly Remus is reminded that despite being surrounded by all his friends it doesn't stop the moon from making him feel as though he has been properly cursed this way and back.

"I'm going to be sick," He announces, clutching his bruising stomach and launching himself onto his knees just in time.

"That's gross," Sirius says, and Remus feels a nice warm robe wrap around his shoulders.

"We should probably get back before Pomfrey," Peter says. He's standing close enough that Remus can use his shoulder to help pull himself off the ground.

James was standing by the edge of the clearing looking around. "Does anyone know how we got here?" He asks.

All four boys fall silent for a while.

Peter breaks it with, "Bullocks."

James looks over at Sirius. "I'm not guessing you've been trained as a tracking dog."

Sirius snaps. "I know I should have taken 'Survival Skills for Illegal Animagi'. I mean, who needs charms?"

"Guys?" Peter asks. He looked over his shoulders past the dark crowd of trees that seemed to be boxing the boys into the clearing. "We should try and get back now."

"We ARE trying!" James sounds stressed. He scratches the back of his head and tries not to make eye contact with anyone. "We just need to remember where we came from, that's all."

"Maybe you could smell the wolf," Remus suggests to Sirius. He is shaking, even with his friend's robes wrapped around him.

Sirius shrugs. "I guess it's worth a try," He says, but he doesn't look up to it. Remus remembers James mentioning that it was still exhausting for the other two, transforming back and fourth. He thinks of it like he thinks about his transformations and how they leave him unable to walk straight and sick to the stomach. He doesn't want to ask any of them to try that again.

Sirius looks down at his feet and Remus is about to tell him that, no, they'd find another way when his face lights up. "Hey, what about these?" He asks, pointing at the floor. "Can't we follow these... Pronged things?"

James and Peter hurry over to where the other two boys are standing.

"They're hoof marks," Remus explains. "From James."

"Pronged things," James scoffs. Now that they're not as lost he seems much more cheerful.

"You know what I meant," Sirius says, smiling as he steps around the stag's footprints. "Come on, then. We're following the pronged things."

"Hoof prints," James corrects.

"Following the pronged thing," Sirius repeats. "Pronged-prongy prong!" He uses a singsong voice and James is scowling at his back, stalking after Sirius.

Remus shakes his head and starts after the two. He makes it about four steps before tripping. "Are you all right?" Peter asks. In the background Sirius is calling James a mule and James is yelling about fleas.

"I'm fine," Remus says without even thinking. He picks himself off the ground and brushes off his bruises knee, ignoring the sting in his bleeding palms. Peter gives him a skeptical look.

"All right," He answers, walking off to catch up with the other two.

A few seconds later James is by his side. Remus is shaking so badly he can't even be mad at Peter for telling on him.

"I think I might transfigure," He says. "Just to show Sirius what a real stag looks like."

"All right," Remus says. He's having a hard time working his voice and his feet at the same time. James doesn't point out how unsteady he is.

"Want to help me get back at that arrogant prick?" James asks. Remus gives a weak nod. "Climb on, okay?"

Moments later, Peter and Sirius were passed by a boy on back of a stag. 

*

rain should have been illegal for, but that didn't matter to the rain.

"I can't go to Hogsmeade this weekend," Alastair says. 

Remus looks up from his book called 'Wizarding Wars Around The World'. "Why not?" 

"I promised Slughorn that I'd help with something," He replied. Remus nods. Professor Slughorn was constantly asking people for certain things. James says it was just so he could burry his claws deeper into their skin and suck out all their talent and life. Sirius says James was just mad because Lily Evans took some Hufflepuff boy to one of his parties last month.

Alastair is one year above Remus and his friends. He is one of the few Gryffindors that appreciates spending quiet time in the library, which was how he and Remus had meant in the first place. He had asked Remus out about two months ago, and they had been dating ever since.

Dating was a strong term for it. More like snogging in the dark corners of the library and studying together without their louder friends around to distract them.


"Well," says Remus, shutting his book. "I guess I'll see you around."

"Right," Alastair seems relieved to see Remus taking it so well. "I'll see you Monday, all right?"

"All right." Remus slips his books into his bags and starts walking towards the dorms.

He tells himself he isn't disappointed.

Boys don't like Valentine's Day, he reminds himself. It was over romantic, and it was cheesy, and the whole thing was about giggling girls and perfumed air and hairy little men in togas, none of which were appealing to Remus. Even if Alastair hadn't been busy, it wouldn't have been a date-date and so there was no reason for Remus to feel upset. 

Still, he remembers his father taking him to the werewolf registry and the look of horror in people's eyes as he passed them by. He remembers lying up at night thinking about how disgusting Adair Connor was and how he couldn't stop jerking off to the thought of another boy's lips on his own. He remembers thinking that he was always going to be alone, because no one can love a monster. He remembers thinking that he'll make himself die alone because no one should have to love a pervert.

Still, Valentine's Day is for girls and Remus tells himself he isn't disappointed.

"Why are you here?" Sirius is sprawled out on his own bed. He is wearing a pair of black robes that aren't his school robes and seem to fit him better. Remus resists the urge to reach out and touch the fabric; already knowing it would be much to soft under his fingers. "Aren't you out celebrating Valentine's Day?"

Sirius snorts. "Valentine's Day is for girls," he says. Remus nods in agreement. It is for girls. Not for boys, not matter how excited they were about it.

"I though you had a date," He says. He remembers Pricilla Dresdun talking about how she and Sirius were going to Hogsmeade for Valentine's Day this weekend. She sat in front of him for Arithmancy and spent every day talking to him about how wonderful Sirius is and how much he liked her. Sirius, for his part, treated her the same as he did before they were dating. Only every now and then he would snog with her in a corridor. Remus didn't really notice much of a change.

"I don't want to," Sirius says. "She's annoying. She never shuts up. All she does is talk talk talk."

"I thought you liked that," Remus says. "You broke up with Clementine because she was too shy and never spoke up."

"Exactly," Sirius says. "I thought she never talked because she had better things to do with her mouth. She didn't."

Remus doesn't say anything. He liked Clementine. She was a sweet Hufflepuff in their year, very nice and well read. Her only fault was that she had a huge crush on Sirius.

"Anyway," He says, determined to change the subject to protect what was left of Clementine's honor intact between the two boys. "So you called off your date with Pricilla?"

"I told her I believed deeply in divinations," Sirius says with a completely straight face that Remus find eerie. "And that anyone who kisses on a rainy Valentine's Day is doomed to forever be trapped in a series of heart breaking relationship and that I didn't want to put either of us in danger."

Remus takes a moment to digest all of this. "You're an arse, you know that?"

"But at least I'm not an arse who is on a date with Pricilla Dresdun." Sirius bites his lower lip and starts chewing it over, a sign that he's feeling down. Remus recognizes it easily, because it seems to always happen when they're talking about girls. No matter how sweet the girl Sirius always seemed weary of her attention and usually ended up being too nervous to have more than four or five dates. He has a feeling that it has something to do with Sirius's mom.

"What are you planning on doing today then," Remus asks. "If you're not kissing anyone?"

"I don't know," Sirius admits. "I guess we could go down to Hogsmeade anyway." As an after thought he adds, "Unless you've a date."

Remus shakes his head. "I have nothing better to do then follow you around."

"It's a date, then," Sirius says and hops out of bed.

Half an hour later Sirius is balancing a bottle of butterbeer on his nose. At least he's trying to, and making a bit of a fool out of himself.

"You're making a bit of a fool out of yourself," Remus says, twirling his own mug of coco around, creating little circles of light and dark chocolate on the surface.

"Am not," Sirius says, but he takes the bottle of his face anyway. "Where do you suppose everyone else is?"

"That new love café," Remus says without even thinking about it. They both know that nearly every couple in Hogwarts bypassed The Three Broomsticks and headed over to Madam Puddifoot's, a small romantic getaway in the middle of Hogsmeade. Or so the girls claimed. Remus hadn't gotten close enough to see, but to him it looks liked a giant sore thumb sticking out of the town with a pretty pink ribbon tied around it.

"Right," Sirius says. Remus can tell he's starting to get bored, and a bored Sirius is never a rule-following, not-get-the-newly-elected-Prefect-Remus-a-detention Sirius. "This is boring." Remus winces, and wonders if he must be right about this sort of thing all the time. 

"Where's James?" Remus asks, trying to distract his friend from doing something Remus would regret later.

"He convinced Jillian Urson to take him to Slughorn's Valentine Party," Sirius says with a snort. Sirius hates Slughorn with a passion, even though their potion's teacher is rather fond of Sirius. Rather, he is fond of the amount of talent Sirius has shown. "Apparently Evans is going and refused to take him."

"Not surprising," Remus says. "James must hate whoever Lily went with."

"Yeah. I thought he was going to kill Malstrom."

Something in Remus's stomach turns. He sets down his coco and tells himself it's probably heartburn from the biscuits him and Sirius had shared. They had tasted a little off. "Malestrom?" He repeats. "You mean Alastair Malestrom in sixth year?"

"How many Malestroms do you know?" Sirius roles his eyes, and that sick feeling Remus has starts again double fold. "Of course, it's a bit of a shock. Didn't mention it until today," Sirius says. "Probably knew James would kill him. Shame. Always thought Malestrom was a good guy."

"He's always seemed like a bit of a bastard to me." Remus hopes his voice doesn't shake.

"Funny," Sirius says, cocking his head to the side as if trying to study Remus. Remus tips back his mug of coco to hide himself from Sirius. "He reminded me a bit of you. Always figured you two got along. Don't you both spend a load of time in the library together."

"Yeah," Remus answers as deadpan as he could manage. Unfortunately this required lowering his cup and now Sirius was staring at him again. "You think Jillian will drag James down to that new café afterwards?" He asks, hoping the subject change wasn't too blatant. 

Sirius snorts. His dislike of all things romantic was stronger than his urge to quiz Remus. "Puddifoot? What kind of name is that, anyway?"

"I think it's a last name." Remus says, but Sirius isn't listening.

"It sounds so stupid. Puddifoot. Like Puddle-Foot it Patty-Foot or Pud-Foot."

"That makes no sense," Remus says.

"Or Puw-Foot or Paw-foot. Like a dog. Who names a romantic restaurant after a dog?"

Remus shrugs. "I don't know. I think dogs are lovable enough."

Both boys fall quite.

Remus bites his tongue, something he wishes he could have done earlier now. Sirius is just sitting there was a very unreadable look on his face which is only making Remus even more nervous. "We should probably head back now," He suggests.

Sirius shakes his head. "Look outside," He says. Remus turns around and sees that outside the pub the storm has only gotten worse since he and Sirius had arrived. "We'll just wait until it calms down a little."

"We could use an umbrella spell," Remus says. "Besides, how do you know it's going to calm down? We could be here all night."

Sirius shrugs, downing the last of his butterbeer. "Then we shall be here all night!" He declares, standing up and slamming down his empty bottle to add some conviction in his words. Remus winces as half the pub turns to stare at the two boys. 

Sirius doesn't notice the attention or doesn't feel up to basking in it at the moment. "I'm going to go play a round of chess," Sirius said, motioning over to the two tables was the broken bits of old wizarding chess pieces sat. "Coming?"

Remus shrugged. "Sure," He replies, standing up and brushing off his robe. He uses the time not to think about what he had said or about Alastair and Lily or about the weird looks Sirius has been giving him. "You know I'm going to win, though."

"I know," Sirius says, managing to look cheerful about the prospects of loosing.

"Let the record show that you have accepted your inevitable defeat," Remus teases. "And hereby surrender all rights to whining and/or rematches in the face of lose."

Sirius smiles, leaning over the table until the two boys were inches apart. He is wearing a dangerous smile. One Remus has come to associate with the screams of girls running from bathrooms and teacher's yelling from down the hall. "For the record," He says. "whatever it is. I think wolves are rather lovable as well."

For the first time in years Sirius beats Remus at chess.

Chapter Text

 It's raining when Remus wakes up in the infirmary.

His first thought is to wonder what Prongs, Padfoot, Wormtail, and Moony had been up to last night. Memories of the full moon are always a little blurred. Today he wakes up not remembering a thing, but he hurts all over as though every inch of him had been torn apart and haphazardly thrown back together. He lies completely still, afraid if he moves he might rip open his skin and waits for Madam Pomfrey to come and find him.

"Remus."

He knows that voice.

"James?" Remus's throat feels just as raw as the rest of him. He tries to swallow and it burns the whole way down. Eventually he just gives up, letting the spit collect on his tongue.

"Remus?" It takes Remus a few tries to open his eyes. Once the light stops burning Remus sees James hovering over him. His face is covered in bruises and his hair in mud.

Remus takes in a deep breath that is filled with the smell of sterilized glass and the strong tinge of healing potions. The rain is slamming against the roof and windows. Remus finally realizes that he's in the infirmary.

A flash of lightening makes James look pale and old.

"I..." Remus trails off. His mind is reeling much to fast for him to keep up with every thought that flies by. He tries coming to terms with his surroundings, with the pain, with the way James looks as though he just barely escaped a fight with his life.


"Are you okay?" James asks. He doesn't add that Remus looks like utter shit, but Remus knows that without even looking because he feels like utter shit. The fact that James doesn't tease about it at all only makes Remus more worried.

"Are you?" He croaks, and ends up chocking on a lump of saliva he'd been refusing to swallow.

"Yeah," James says. He looks out the window. He looks at the other empty beds. He looks at the candles lighting the room. He looks everywhere but at Remus. "Do you need me to get Pomfrey? She told me to get her when you woke up I just..."

There's another flash of lightening, and the thunder follows so quickly that it's barely a warning. Both boys jump.

"Where's Peter?" Remus asks. James shrugs. He runs a hand through his hair and for once it has nothing to do with Lily.

"I don't know," He says. "In the commons I guess. I haven't really... Haven't... you know."

Remus doesn't know. He has no idea at all what James is saying.

Remus decides to ignore the feeling in the pit of his stomach that is half due to nerves and half to do with the pain stinging his abdomen. "We must have had some adventure last night," He says, trying his best to smile. "What happen, exactly? I never can remember much..."

There's another flash of lightening, and this time James's face is unfamiliar. It's as if someone has taken away every drop of childhood and laughter and marauding and replaces it with something Remus refuses to recognize, only because he recognizes it all to well having seen it on his father and his mother and himself.

The pain is forgotten, replaced by panic. "Did I..." Remus can't make the words leave his throat, aching from the night and dry from lack of spit. "Did I bite... someone?"

He doesn't say what he's really thinking. Did I bite you? Did I hurt you? Someone makes it sound a little less personal so that, if only for a few more seconds, Remus doesn't have to think about the truth.

"No, no," James shakes his head. His whole body is shaking. "No, you didn't-"

Remus is too panicked to listen. "Sirius!" James jumps at the name, and Remus knows he's right. He's done something to hurt Sirius. "James, where is Sirius?"

James looks like he's about to be ill which is exactly how Remus's feels. With the pain and the guilt and the lack of air he was going to choke on his own vomit. "He's with Dumbledore," James is saying and it's hard for Remus to stop panicking long enough to hear his friend. "In Dumbledore's office. Perfectly safe," He adds quickly.

Remus tries to nod. He can't get his head to move that way, and something tells him that if he tries he will regret it.

James takes in a deep breath. The thunder, lightening, and rain have become nothing but background static. Remus is concentrating so hard on James he's surprised his body can remember to breath for him. "James?"

"Remus..." Remus thinks of his father standing over his bed at Saint Mungo's. He thinks of the look in his dad's eyes when Remus finally wakes up from that night. The actual pain isn't so much a memory as how much pain the boy in the mirror looked like he was in. The actual words weren't so much a memory as the way his father had looked when he'd told Remus how he'd never be normal or loved or accepted or a kid ever again.

Right now James looks a lot like his father. "Sirius... Sirius is an idiot." Remus isn't sure if he was supposed to agree or not. He isn't sure he can speak at all, so he doesn't try to. "He does these things... These really stupid things and I don't know why."

"James..." Remus has to interrupt. His heart is beating ten times to fast for his chest to hold back, and this rambling build up isn't helping. "Did I hurt Sirius?"

"No," James promises. "You didn't hurt anyone. You couldn't hurt anyway, Remus. That's why you're Remus. You wouldn't even let us put those snapping socks in the first year's drawers for fear of them getting their toes bit off, remember?"

Remus nods, but James has neither of them convinced.

"Everything that happened," James says. "It's all Sirius's fault. There was nothing you could have done, and we... I don't blame you. For any of it."

"What happened?" The conversation is being carried in hushed voices like they're speaking of the dead. Remus isn't sure he wants James to say anything more.

"Snape's an git, too, of course," James says, apparently ignoring Remus's question. "The world would be better off without him but... I couldn't..."

James takes a deep breath.

Madam Pomfrey appears in the doorway.

"What are you doing out of bed?" She asks, running over to James's side. She glares at Remus as though it is his fault James is up, but the look softens to one of pity before Remus can even feel guilty. She turns her attention back to James, showing him back to his bed.

"After a beating like that you should rest a while," She says. "Dumbledore says I'm to let you go in the morning. Says it will be too much talk with you, Mr. Lupin, and Mr. Snape were all to stay the weekend. Still I think it-"

"What does Snape have to-" Remus tries asking but he's silenced quickly.

"You should be asleep," Madam Pomfrey says. "Professor Dumbledore will want to talk to you as well. See if you remember anything, I suppose, or ask how Mr. Snape knew about the willow in the first place." She gives Remus another look that quickly fades into more pity and Remus's stomach feels like it's been tied into a million knots.

"Snape?" Remus clutches his stomach and wonders if it's possible to throw up and pass out at the same time. "Found the willow."

"Lucky Mr. Potter was here to save him." She speaks about James as though he's a hero and James is blushing a deep red.

Remus is still trying to fit everything together in his head. Snape finding the passage under the Whomping Willow. Sirius in trouble with Dumbledore. James saving Snape's life.

"Both of you need sleep," Madam Pomfrey is saying as she tucks the blankets under James's arms. "Tomorrow is going to be a long day." She blows out the candle and leaves the room.

The thunder prevents either boy from having to say anything.

*

"We better get on board, quickly," James says, leaning over to stare out the window of horseless carriage. "It's raining pretty hard."

Remus is lying against the door so that he can hear each raindrop against the stagecoach's roof. With his eyes closed it sounds like someone is knocking against the black wood of the small carriage, trying to get in. It's lulling him to sleep.

Everything makes Remus tired lately. The usual things, of course, like the smell of food or a nice warm fire, but also things like lessons and good books and cold wind slapping him across the face. Everything makes him feel drowsy and no matter how long he sleeps he feels like an insomniac, walking around only half awake.

"It's the potion," Madam Pomfrey says as she forces another vial of the foul tasting brew down his throat. Remus chokes and gags and smells of rotten eggs from thirty minutes afterwards.

"It's Sirius," James says late at night when no one else can hear him but Remus and the few portraits they are passing on the way to Gryffindor Tower. "You feel bad about yelling at him, you know. And he.... He feels bad, too. About this whole thing."

Remus considers this possibility. He's horrible at holding grudges and knows, reasonably, that the anger he feels for Sirius will sooner or later ebb away. He knows this, yet he still wants to be angry at Sirius. He wants to hate his friend, to feel betrayed and used because his secret was thrown away like a dung bomb for nothing more than some a schoolboy prank.

The more he thinks about how much he wants to hate Sirius, the less realistic the hate seems. It becomes more abstract so that Remus feels less like he hates Sirius and more like he hates that particular night. It's exhausting, trying to separate the Sirius he loves and the Sirius from that night. It's even more tiring trying to make those two boys into one so that he can keep his righteous anger.

Remus thinks James is probably right, and it's probably best to just get this over and done with.

They get back to the commons and Sirius is surrounded by a group of girls. Girls he usually pays no attention to even when they're following him about school giggling at him and blushing whenever he passes them by. Now he is sitting in the center of them, telling them some wild tale and letting them fawn over him to their hearts delight. He turns and calls James over, whispering something in Fayette's ear that gets her to giggle.

Remus tells James that it isn't always about Sirius, that he could care less what the other boy did and he certainly didn't feel a bit sorry for finally forcing some sense on him. He storms away to the dormitory and doesn't see the looks James and Sirius exchange behind his back.

Then everything gets worse.

Remus is more tired, Sirius is more of a flirt, and James and Peter are trying their hardest not to pick sides. The two boys seem to come up with a plan of sorts. James watches over Sirius, makes sure he doesn't get himself expelled, telling off the girls that he is encouraging along, getting him back to school when he's drunk, and all the things one expects a best friend to do. Peter plays eager nurse to Remus, asking him if he needs food or something to drink or wants him to pick up a book from the library for him.

Lily Evans decides that since Remus is no longer talking with Sirius he's now in the market for a new best friend.

"I know what that Black boy did," she tells him when they're partnered together in charms. What she means is that she heard one of the one hundred versions of what happened going around school. Remus, having no idea of which version she'd managed to get a hold of, simply nods and goes back to trying to create a small rain cloud. For some reason he keeps getting the rain but no cloud, and the water is a dark, black color. "I think it is absolutely horrible," Lily says, her cloud is almost perfect, bobbing up and down a few inches from their desk with a small puddle gathering underneath it.

Remus looks over at the textbook to see if he's left something out. "Yes," He says. "Horrible."

He hopes the conversation is over. Across the way James keeps looking up from his work to stare at Lily and Remus knows he's going to have to go over his entire conversation with him later. "I don't see how you can be friends with them," Lily says. "They're so..."

"James isn't that bad," Remus says it automatically, because whenever Lily brings up the subject of Remus's friends he is required to defend James. Then he remembers that James actually has grown up, and all the steps he's taken to not act quite like a wild second grader with a load of dung bombs in his pockets and he feels guilty for sounding so casual. "I mean he's really-"

"You need to add more of a swish," she says. "Like this." She does a swish and a little spark of electricity clashes from her cloud.

"He's gotten a lot less.... Arrogant," Remus says, adding more swish to his spell. A small cloud starts to gather around his wand tip.

"I'd rather not talk about Potter," she says, and they promptly spend the rest of the class period asking questions that in no way have to do with James Potter.

Remus isn't sure how he should feel about Lily's sudden openness, but James loves it. Loves it so much that he opted out of riding to the train with Sirius (and his fans) so that he could spend more quality time with Remus.

Never mind the fact that Lily was riding in the same carriage.

"Afraid of getting wet, James?" Lily asks. James bounces out of his seat. Last time Lily used his first name he fell down a flight of stairs. The hitting of his head on ceiling is an improvement. "You're not going to melt, are you?"

"Melt?" James asks, tilting his head to the side in a way Lily told Remus she found endearing and that James now does much to often. "Why would I melt?"

Remus sighs, rubbing the sleep away from his eyes. "Are we there?" He asks, stifling a yawn. Peter presses his face against the window.

"All I can see is rain," he says. "And more carriages and oh - lights!"

The stagecoach comes to a stop. Peter gathers his robes over his head, "Last one to the train is a rotten dung bomb," he says before running out into the rain. Remus doesn't bother covering his head. He thinks that maybe the rain slapping his face will help him wake up.

Behind him, Lily and James are sharing an umbrella. They duck into a compartment and Peter tries to follow, but Remus stops him. "Come on," He says, pulling Peter along after him. "Let's sit some where else."

Peter and him walk a little further down the aisle. "There's Sirius," Peter says, pointing to a gaggle of girls. "Maybe we should sit with him."

Remus considers cutting his toes off and wonders if that would be less painful then sitting through a whole train ride with Sirius and his groupies. Before he can vocalize the thought Peter is dragging him towards Sirius's compartment and Remus isn't left with much a choice but to face his demon.

Before they get into the compartment Celcie Hawthorn places a hand on Peter's chest and gives a push. "No room," She says. Behind her Sirius is too busy keeping Jillian Trey on his lap to notice his friends. "Sorry."

Remus should be relieved. The emotion he actually feels seems a lot closer to indignation than anything else. "Is that so?" He asks, crossing his arms over his chest.

Peter takes a step back, tugging at Remus's sleeve. "All right then," He mutters. "We'll just go."

"We certainly won't!" Remus says, and now he has Sirius's attention. He has everyone's attention, a whole compartment full of girls staring at him like his face has been turned purple with color changing polka dots again plus one boy who is looking him up and down. Remus wonders if his hair looks like a drowned rat and then remembers that he doesn't care if his hair looks like a drowned rat or not because he's here to get anger at Sirius, not to impress him. "We'll be sitting in this compartment with our friend, so all of you can just clear out of here and make room!"

Celcie opens her mouth to say something but not before Sirius speaks up. "You heard him," He says, removing Jill from his lap. "Clear out, then."

"But Siry," On girl whines, drawing out Sirius's name in a way that makes Peter cover his mouth and choke on a laughter. "You said we could-"

"He said clear out," Sirius stands up, shooing the girls from the room. Remus and Peter stand back as the girls are ushered into the hallway, and Remus has to stop himself from sticking his tongue out at the group as they whine and dragged their feet by him.

Soon it is just the three of them.

Peter looks between Sirius and Remus, ringing his wet robes so that a puddle starts to gather at his feet. "I... Um... I promised Holly I would sit with her," He says and rushes of to find his almost-girlfriend.

Then it is just the two of them.

"Black," Remus says, sweeping past him and into the compartment. Sirius holds the door open as he passes, letting it fall shut with a loud, final sounding thud which gives Remus the frightening feeling of being trapped.

"Remus." Sirius sits down directly across from Remus. Remus refuses the urge to scout to the other end of his bench to make sure there is as much room as possible between the two.

There's a ten-minute silence where Remus lays his head against the window and listens to the rain hitting the glass. Sirius is watching his hands while Remus is watching the water droplets fall from the side of the train. The silence isn't one of those comfortable ones that friends can usually sit in, and neither boy is trying to trick himself into thinking otherwise.

"Are you still mad at me?" Sirius winces the second it's out but it's far to late to take it back. Remus's hands curl up into fists. This is one of the only things stopping him from jumping up and strangling Sirius.

"Mad at you?" Remus says. He's on the verge of yelling and his knuckles are white against the blackness of his robes. "Where ever would you get that idea from Sirius? All you did was use me for little game 'Let's try and get Snape killed', betrayed me without a single thought of... well, anything really which isn't that strange for you I guess, and then ignored me for two whole weeks while acting like a total prat!"

Sirius pouts and leans back in his seat, arms crossed over his chest. "Well, if you're going to get so anger at me just because-"

"Sirius!" And now Remus is yelling. "Are you even listening to yourself? Do you ever stop to think about these things before you say them? Do you ever think at all?"

"No," Sirius says, just as forcefully. "That's the entire point, Remus, I wasn't thinking. I don't think. You make me not think."

Remus sighs in frustration and raises his fists to his hair, wondering if the throbbing in his head would go away if he put a hole in his skull. He remembers Professor Binns mentioning something about healers in Egypt doing that sometime before healing potions became the norm. Then he thinks about putting a hole through Sirius's skull. That might make his headache go away considering that Sirius is the cause of the pain in the first place.

"So, we've establish that you never think," Remus says, keeping his hands twisted in his hair and his eyes closed.

"Around you," Sirius adds, and he's finally starting to sound a little desperate. "I never think around you."

"That makes no sense," Remus massages his scalp, praying that Sirius doesn't say anything else that will making the pounding in his head any worse. "You don't make any sense."

"Well, neither do you. Getting all upset over something that happened and is done with. You're acting like a girl!" Sirius accused.

Remus growls, his fingers pressing into his skin a little more forcefully. "Please just shut up, Sirius."

"You're the one who came in here and kick all the girls out," Sirius barks back. "You're the one who has been avoiding me around every corner for the last two weeks. This isn't all my fault!"

"Yes it is!" Remus snaps. He tears his hands out of his hair, ripping some from his scalp when he does so. The pain doesn't do anything to stop him. "This is all, one hundred percent your fault! You're the one who told Snape, you're the one who surrounded yourself with pretty, shallow girls so that I couldn't get close to you unless I wanted to choke on a cloud of berry scented perfume. You're the fucking arsehole this time, Sirius, not me!"

"You weren't there," Sirius whines. "You didn't hear what Snape said. You don't-"

"I don't care," Remus cuts him off. "I don't care if he called James's an idiot or Peter a pansy or me a shirtlifter or whatever the hell he did to you. It's not about Snape, it's about you and what you did to me and to James and to us."

Sirius crosses his arms over his chest and looks out the window. "Yeah, well... You know I don't always think these things through."

Remus sighs, letting his head fall back against the cool glass. Outside the rain has started to clear up enough that Remus can almost make out the sky and passing landscape. The light hammering of the rain against the window keeps beat with the pounding in his head. He lets his eyes fall closed and sighs again.

There's the sound of fabric shifting and seats creaking. "Tell your girlfriends hi for me," Remus says, sounding just as angry and bitter as he fells.

There are more sounds of movement and a pair of hands tangles in Remus's thick hair. He almost jerks backwards when the warm pads of someone else's fingers press against his temple, rubbing at the pain.

"Headache?" Sirius asks. His massages are a little to light, not hard enough that Remus can really feel the tension in his brain leaking away, so he presses closer to Sirius's hands until there's enough pressure that he starts to feel better.

"How'd you guess," Remus mutters. It's meant to sound sarcastic, but the fact that he sighs contently half way through his words ruins the effect.

"It's all that anger," Sirius says. "It's not healthy." His hands keep working through Remus's hair, his elbows resting on Remus's slumped shoulders. Between the massage, the glass cooling his hot skin, and the pitter pat of rain outside his window Remus can't gather enough strength to point out his right to be angry at Sirius no matter how unhealthy it is for him.

An hour later Peter follows the snack cart into Sirius and Remus's compartment to find Sirius with a blackened face and a game of exploding snaps set up between the two.

Remus smiles up at Peter, who reports that James and Lily still haven't left their own compartment and no one had heard screams so chances are they were both still alive. Sirius makes a quip about hearing a different kind of scream if this keeps up, and Remus laughs even as he tries to tell Sirius he's a pervert.

Sirius and Remus smile across the way at each other and everything is back to being okay.

*

"It's raining."

"Thank you for that brilliant assessment, Sirius. What next? Are you going to tackle the daunting question of is water wet? What color is the sky? Who James has a crush on?"

Sirius rolls his eyes. "No need to get sarcastic, Moony," He says. Sirius has his arms wrapped around his chest, moving his hands up in down in hopes of creating some nice, warm friction. Remus is standing right next to him and wonders how Sirius can be cold since he can feel the heat rolling off Sirius. He has his hands tucked inside his robe so that he can keep his book - Hairy Snout, Human Heart - dry.

They had just gotten kicked out of The Three Broomsticks as Sirius had thought creating a small draft able to blow girl's robes up might be a nice idea. Now that him and Remus were standing in the alleyway between the pub and the owl post that plan didn't seem so brilliant.

"Well, we best head back to the castle then," Sirius says, stuffing his hands into his pockets. Neither boy moves out from under the awning they're hiding beneath.

"My book," Remus says after a while. "I don't want it getting wet."

Sirius nods. "You and books," He says. "You'd think you were protecting your own child, the way you care for that thing." He pokes at the book through Remus's robes, causing the other boy to squirm.

"Shut it, Padfoot," Remus says, jerking away from Sirius. "It's your fault for getting us kicked out, anyway."

Sirius sighs. "How come it's always my fault?" He asks.

"Because it always is," Remus replies matter-of-factly.

"Oh," Sirius says, biting his lower lip and titling his head to the side as if trying to remember something. "Well, that makes sense."

"Some things do that," Remus explains. "They make sense. It's very nice."

"Sounds horribly boring," Sirius says. "And predictable. Well, I guess it goes without saying that something that is boring is also predictable."

"Some people find predicable stuff exciting," Remus says. "Some people like waking up and the morning and knowing there isn't a chance that their best friends have cursed their quills to randomly places curses in their homework or that when they turn on the shower there is no chance that instead of water, strange smelling pus that turns their hair blue is going to leak through the pipes. You see, sometimes predictability can be fun."

"No," Sirius disagrees. "You just think it could be fun because you're use to have unpredictable friends around to keep you not bored. You always want what you can't have."

"True," Remus says. "But I still think it might be fun, not having to check the mirror every morning to make sure my hair is still it's normal, dull brown."

Sirius laughs and reaches over to flip the back of Remus's hair up. Remus sighs and shakes his head. "Utterly immature," He mutters.

"That's what makes us so fun," Sirius says. "The immature part."

"I know many a girl who woke up this morning with swarms of mice in their beds that might disagree," Remus says.

Sirius shrugs. "That's what they get for being sorted into Ravenclaw," He says. "They're much to smart for their own good, anyway."

"You use to say that about me, you know," Remus reminds him. Sirius and James use to always tell Remus he was much to smart for his own good, regardless of the fact that both of them pulled off much better grades then he ever could without studying. Since Remus's endless supply of book knowledge had come in handy when creating the Marauder's Map the teasing had come to a rather abrupt end. "Should I worry about waking up with a bunch of mice in my bed?"

"Absolutely not," Sirius says. "The only thing you have to worry about popping up in your bed is a dog."

Remus's heart pauses while his mind tries to shut itself off before he can think about that.

"Or a rat," Sirius adds. "Or... Well, not a stag I guess. I mean, we might be able to fit prongs on your bed but..."

"I get your point, Padfoot," Remus says, cutting Sirius off before he goes to deep in his own logic.

"I'm just warning you," Sirius says. "One day you could wake up to some sort of animalistic orgy taking place on your covers."

Remus wrinkles his nose. "Thank you, Mr. Black. I think you might have just ensured that I never sleep again."

Sirius laughs, nudging Remus with his elbow and causing the other boy to wobble. "Come on, you can't tell me you never thought of it." He winks in what Remus is sure is meant to be a silly way. Amazing how Sirius makes a silly gesture seem attractive.

Remus tries to screw up his face to make himself look ready to vomit. "You know, maybe if you stopped sharing these weird sexual fantasies with your girlfriends you could actually keep one."

Sirius smile looks positively evil. "Why Remus, I didn't know we were dating!" He exclaims, his hand over his heart to fake shock. The look doesn't go off well at all considering the devilish grin he is sporting. "If only you'd have told me sooner! I would have brought you flowers for our date tonight."

Remus rolls his eyes. "Haha," He says, trying to sound annoyed. Then, "We better get back up to the castle, don't you think?" Without waiting for a reply Remus tightens his arms around his book and heads out into the rain.

The water feels nice and cool against his cheeks, which were starting to turn a horrible blotchy shade of red. It's Sirius fault for joking with him like that. Not that Remus minds Sirius joking around, as it is so much easier than fighting with Sirius. His body, though, doesn't care that the teasing doesn't bother Remus. All it cares about is the fact that he had just been talking about sex with Sirius that led to a discussion of them as a couple even if they were only kidding. His body could be horrible stupid and over react at the simplest things like that.

"Wait," Sirius calls. Remus doesn't wait, but Sirius reaches out and grabs him and pulls him back under the awning and right into him. There a small scuffle in which both boys attempt not to embarrass themselves by falling over.

"Wait," Sirius repeats once both are steady on their feet. Remus thinks that even with the almost falling there is no reason for Sirius to have his arms around his shoulders like that. "Let's just wait until it stops raining so hard," Sirius suggests.

"You said that last time," Remus reminds him. "And we were late returning. We got ten points taken away from Gryffindor each, remember?"

Sirius shrugs. "What's a couple of points in the long run?" He asks. "We always get the back with quidditch, anyway."

Remus frowns but he's not sure how else to protest. The worst part is that he doesn't actually want to protest, which leads to his stomach twisting up in a lot more knots than entirely necessary.

Sirius still has his arms on Remus's shoulders well after the two are in no danger of tripping over one another, and the rain water that was so cool on his skin is no longer working to keep his temperature down.

"You're wet," Sirius points out.

Remus rolls his eyes. "Another genius observation. Are you sure you didn't belong in Ravenclaw."

"Na," Sirius answers. "What fun does a Ravenclaw have? No pranks, no rule breaking, no Moony. I don't see how they've all managed to make it so long. I think I'd die of boredom."

Remus reminds himself that when Sirius says Moony he's referring to their nights of frolicking around The Forbidden Forest in animal skins and it has nothing to do with Remus himself. "Right. Where's the fun in getting to sit undisturbed for hours to read one of your favorite books? Or in having ample quite time in which to study for exams? It all sounds dreadfully tedious."

Sirius nods. "Exactly," He says and he still hasn't backed away. Remus can feel Sirius's breath against his hair.

"You're an idiot," He says, but as much as he hates to admit it the whole idea does seem frightfully dull. It scares him a little that he can no longer imagine a world that isn't pure torture unless James, Sirius, and Peter are by his side. The whole idea of being so dependent on three people scares him a lot, but not as much as the idea of losing those three people.

"Besides," Sirius says, swaying slightly which is causing Remus, in turn, to sway as well. The sensation is rather calming; especially while he's watching the rainfall just inches away. Remus could have closed his eyes and listened to the beat of the rain on the rooftops and felt Sirius's hands against his shoulders and could pretend that everything in that moment was perfect. "Ravenclaw girls are no fun. All they want to do is talk about their feelings. Utterly repulsive."

It was a horrible way to break the mood. "Yes, heaven forbid a girl should have feelings and want to voice them." Remus ends up sighing when he says this, and shakes his head to add to the disapproval.

Sirius is quiet for a while, but he continues to sway. "I was only joking, you know that Moony," Sirius says, leaning against Remus so that he could prop his chin on top of Remus's head. Sirius has personal space issues that are more of a problem for Remus then they are for Sirius.

"I know," Remus answers. They fall into a nearly comfortable silence, save the fact that Remus's skin is burning up and all he really wants to do is jump out in the rain to cool himself down. With his hands inside his robes, hugging his book to his chest, he can't even swat Sirius away. So he stays where he is and allows Sirius to sway him back and fourth.

After a while Remus feels that he was either going to scream or start fidgeting uncontrollable. "The Ravenclaw boys, though," He says. "They'll put out for anyone."

Sirius chuckles, which Remus doesn't think he should be allowed to do since the sound starts in Sirius's throat and ends in Remus's stomach. "Is that so?" He asks. "I always wondered what you and Connor got up to. Study sessions my ass. No one can study for that long."

Remus struggles to fight back the panic bells that sound in his brain, forcefully reminding himself that they are only joking around. "That long?" Remus asks, tipping back his head so that Sirius can see his raised eyebrow. "You mean that horrible, infinitely long hour we spent in the library?"

"Well, you know, it's proven that time passes differently in libraries," Sirius says. "Which is why you act like your forty-"

"And why you act like you're four," Remus finishes. Sirius scoffs, raising his chin in the air.

"Ridiculous," He says. "No four year old could come up with half the genius plans I've come up with."

"The other half, though," Remus says. "Like sticking dung bombs on Snape's chair..."

"Sometimes you have to be low brow," Sirius explains. "For the masses."

"The masses, of course."

In the background these is a clasp of thunder, and the lightening illuminates their little awning. Remus is surprised how dark it has gotten. Sirius and him must have been out for some time and the rain had yet to let up. Remus thinks he should suggests they head back to the castle, but he's afraid that if he says it out loud then Sirius will pull away of them and they'll have to go out in the rain, and Remus was just stating to get use to the feeling of fire boiling over his skin.

"Then, of course," Sirius is saying. "There is my plan to seduce you."

Remus wonders if it's possible to choke on your surprise, then remembers that surprising isn't a real thing so it's much more likely he's chocking on air.

The swaying comes to a halt. Remus is sure if he moves he's going to fall over and flat on his face, giving Sirius to perfect chance to laugh at him - if he wasn't already laughing at him.

"Your plan to seduce me?" Remus repeats, as though saying the words will force them to make sense. This doesn't work. "And how is that plan working out for you?"

"Well," Sirius is still touching him and Remus isn't sure if he should take comfort in this or not. "It's very complicated," Sirius explains. "It's not something a four year old could pull off."

"Ah," Remus says, because his vocal cords, like his stomach, have decided that the best way of dealing with this situation is by tying themselves up.

"You'll be surprised to learn that I'm well on my way to step five and that the plan has, thus far, been a success," Sirius says. Remus wishes that Sirius wasn't holding him so that he could see the boy's face. For what its worth, and it's worth almost nothing to Remus's nerves, he sounds like he's being completely honest.

"Well, that's good." Remus manages to get the words out, but he isn't entirely sure how and he is rather certain he couldn't, if Sirius asked, repeat what he just said. "I mean, good that you haven't made a total mess of it yet. You tend to make a total mess of plans that involve, well, planning."

Sirius nods. "Too true," He admits. "But this time I've taken extra care to make sure everything goes exactly my way."

"And it has?" Remus asks. "Gone exactly your way?"

"Oh, it has." Sirius sounds all too cheerful. "I mean I do wish it would progress more quickly but Lily says, and before you ask I did indeed enroll the help of Ms. Evans for this particular venture. I did mention how utterly delicate and important the entire matter was, didn't I? And I couldn't afford making some of the... mistakes that have plagued my past works."

"Mistakes," Remus snorts. "To say the least."

"Ye of little faith," Sirius says. "Not that it matters, anyway. Slow by steady was the advice of Ms. Evans, and fortunately for her that has proven most true." Sirius's arms fall around Remus's waist. He wraps them loosely around the other boy's small frame. Remus thinks he should say something to make sure that Sirius isn't just joking around, because it isn't at all funny, but Sirius feels warm in comparison to the cool breeze accompany the thunder storm, and Remus thinks it might be worth it even if Sirius is just kidding around.

"Has it?" Remus asks. "So you are well on your way to seducing me, then?"

"Let me assure you," Sirius says, his voice dropping to a whisper so that Remus wouldn't have been able to hear it if it hadn't been said right against his neck. Even with the heat rising to the surface of Remus's skin he manages to shiver. "That pretty soon you will not be able to resist me charm, Mr. Lupin, which is exactly what I want."

"Well, then," Remus says, fighting not to let his eyelids fall closed. It feels so comfortable in Sirius's arms that Remus knows he could fall sleep right here, leaning back against his friend's chest. "I better be on my guard. I wouldn't want to make it to terribly easy for you."

"Mm..." It isn't so much a word as a vibration that passed through both boys' bodies. Sirius's chin was resting on his shoulders, his arms around Remus, and Remus was letting him get as close as he wants.

This is bad. Remus shouldn't be this happy. There is something wrong.

Still, he doesn't mind and he doesn't try and fight it.

"Remus." Sirius breath tickles and Remus ends up shifting uncomfortably in his friend's arms. Still he doesn't move away, and Remus wonders if there is something wrong with him. Maybe some sort of lethargic charm or something of the sort, because nothing Sirius does could possibly make him move away.

"Yes?" Remus asks. His voice sounds just as drowsy and out of it as his body feels.

"Wanna snog?"

Sirius's ability to ruin moments was really amazing.

Remus twists around in Sirius's arms, struggling to take a step back and a managing to knock his shoulder into Sirius's chin as he did.

"Owe," Sirius mutters, unlinking his hands to rub at the bruise. "Not exactly what I was going for."

"Did you ask me for a snog?" Remus asks, ignoring the pain in his shoulder and the fact that whatever moment he had been living in a moment ago it was now gone.

Sirius looks at Remus for a few seconds before nodding. "Yeah," He says. "So... Do you want to?"

Remus tries to think about this reasonably. Snogging with your best mate might sound good while you lay awake in bed at night but in real life it was an entirely different matter. One doesn't just go around making out with their friends, especially not when they don't have many friends in the first place and are deathly afraid of losing the ones they do have. Remus knows that no matter how much he imagines he wants Sirius their friendship is much more valuable to him than groping.

"Sure," Remus says. "Umm... Should we head back to the castle, then?"

Something inside of him screams at him for being so bloody hormone driven. Said hormones quickly quiet this part of him.

"Right here is fine," Sirius says. He takes a step forward and Remus, unconsciously, moves back and into the rain. Right under the awning all the water falling from the roof is splashing on top of him and in seconds his hair is soaked and water is dribbling into his mouth.

"It's a very good thing you said yes." Sirius gently grabs onto Remus's shoulder. Remus expects to be pulled back into the cover of the overhang. He's more than surprised when Sirius pushes him further out into the rain until both boys are standing outside, letting the water soak into their robes and drip down their skin.

"You see," Sirius explains, taking another step closer and wrapping his free hand around Remus's waist. "This really was the riskiest part of my plan."

"Is that so," Remus asks, spitting out a mouth full of water in the process. He images the rain and spit dribbling down his chin can't be overly attractive, but his hands are still locked inside his robes and he's shaking to hard to do anything about it.

"It is," Sirius says. "See, a lot of the plan from this point depends on you really liking me."

"And me saying yes to the snogging, that means I really like you, right?" Remus asks, even if he already knows the answer. Of course he already likes Sirius. He would have to be blind, deaf, and straight not to like Sirius.

"Sort of," Sirius answers with a bit of a shrug. "I figured if you said yes I could seduce you with my acclaimed kissing skills and at that point you'd have no choice but to fall deeply and madly in love with me."

"Quite the plan you have there," Remus says, trying not to pass out or drown in the rain.

"Let's hope it works," Sirius replies. Remus thinks that he's never seen Sirius look as handsome as he does when he has raindrops sticking to his eyelashes and bouncing off his lips and suddenly he doesn't want to wait for Sirius to explain his plan to him. He wants to kiss Sirius.

So he does.

Sirius is wet and hot, and the feeling that had started in Remus's stomach shots down to his toes and makes them curl. Sirius's tongue is dancing across his lips, licking at the rainwater and Remus's skin. Remus hears a dull, wet sounding thud and doesn't care to dwell on it, but instead reaches up to tug Sirius closer until their knees bump together. Remus is kissing Sirius, drawing his tongue against the roof of Sirius's mouth and running his hands through the soft, black hair and Sirius is kissing him back, moaning into Remus's mouth and hands kneading Remus's waist.

It's amazing how everything in the world can disappear expect for two boys and the rain.

*

It was raining at Sirius's flat in London.

"'Twas the night before Christmas, the hollies up on the shelves-"

"It's actually two nights before Christmas," Remus says. "And I believe the line is 'It's the night before Christmas and all through the house."

Sirius snorts. "That's not right," He says. "'House' doesn't rhyme with 'Elves' at all."

Remus sighs and shakes his head, the bells on the garland Sirius had places on top of his hair ringing as he did so. Sirius laughs at the disapproving gesture and drags Remus on top of him. The boys are sprawled out over the old coach Sirius's uncle Alphrad had left him, along with more gold than Sirius would ever really need. Remus picks at the flora pattern of the fabric while Sirius manages to entangle their limbs as much as possible without the use of magic to physically knot them together.

"What time is it?" Remus asks. He stops tearing threads out of Sirius's couch so that he can tear at the loose threads in Sirius's robe.

"Nearly twelve," Sirius says, drawing circles on Remus's knee. At some point Remus's robes had gotten shoved up until they pooled in his lap, leaving his legs bare, a fact Sirius is taking full advantage of at the moment. Every time he strokes the skin just right Remus will sigh and burry himself back into Sirius's chest.

James, Lily, and Peter had all left around ten. Sirius and Remus had been enjoying the gentle, warm intimacy for somewhere around two hours. From the way Sirius's hand kept going higher up Remus's leg he was sure the slow, easy touches weren't going to last too much longer.

"I should probably go home," Remus says. He makes no move to leave. Sirius's other hand is curling into the fabric of Remus's robe right above his belly. Remus's own hand, the one not picking at his sleeve, is curled into Sirius's short black hair, petting behind Sirius's ear and tracing patterns around his boyfriend's face. Sirius's moans and places a soft kiss right behind Remus's ear.

"You're parents aren't going to miss you if you stay a little longer," Sirius says. Sirius's fingers are placing light, teasing touches against Remus's inner thigh. Remus fidgets and Sirius's moans again. Remus has to bite down on his own lip to keep from doing the same, and it takes a great amount of will power to keep his eyes open.

"It's almost twelve," Remus says. "My parents expect me home for Christmas' Eve, you know."

Sirius's breath is much to warm against Remus's neck, a nice contrast to the cold air of the flat. "I'm sure they'd understand that you had to stick around and comfort a poor, family-less friend on this most giving of holidays."

Remus rolls his eyes. "You're not family-less," He says. He can feel Sirius's chuckle behind him and knows it has something to do with how breathless Remus sounds. "You're spending the holidays with the Potters. I wouldn't exactly call that family-less."

"But are the Potters here now?" Sirius asks.

Remus shakes his head. "And that's probably a good thing," He says. "You wouldn't want Mrs. Potter to see you molest poor, innocent me."

"Molesting isn't the word I'd use," Sirius replies. "And neither is innocent."

Remus wonders if he can bite down hard enough of his lower lip to make it bleed. The idea doesn't sound appealing, but Sirius's hasn't stopped touching him yet and Remus's is only human (and a teenage boy) and he's not sure how much longer the rational part of his mind will still be functioning.

"I have to go." Remus reaches down to grab hold if Sirius's wrist and untangles himself from his boyfriend. Sirius groans, reaching up to drag Remus back down.

"You can't go," Sirius whines, nuzzling the back of Remus's neck, which is completely unfair. "It's raining. You should at least wait until it stops raining."

Remus curls his fist up in Sirius's robes, then lets go, then grabs for them again. "Sirius," He wonders if sounding desperate is the best course of action in such a situation. If anything it only makes Sirius worse. His teeth are out, nibbling at the sensitive skin behind Remus's ear and his hands are dragging his robe up around his waist.

"I can apparate," Remus points out. He's leaning back against Sirius, his head falling onto Sirius's shoulder as the boy licks the skin along Remus's jaw. "I... It doesn't matter if it's raining."

"Yes it does," Sirius argues. His fingers are dancing around Remus's stomach, teasing with a few downward dips as he works the cords on the front of his robes. "You'll get all wet if you go out in this storm. Best you stay with me."

"Mm..." Remus thinks it might be a protest, but then he's arching back into Sirius, fists curled up into the dark fabric of his robes and chocking on Sirius's name and he really doubts it.

By the time Remus apparates home it's well past two in the morning.

He pops right into his bedroom, looking disheveled and not at all like a nice, normal boy who just went over to spend some nice, normal time with his friends should look. Cursing Sirius the entire time Remus grabs a pair of pajamas and stumbles his way through the dark to the bathroom.

He takes a quick shower, feeling somewhat reluctant about washing the smell of Sirius off him, but the idea of his parents asking him why he reeked of sex is enough to convince him. He puts on the clean night pants and long shirt and runs a hand through his hair to rid it of any major tangles. He hopes the shower didn't wake his parents and he hurries back to his bedroom.

Somewhere outside a dog howls. Remus stops halfway down the hall and looks out the window. It's raining, or possibly snowing, or maybe some horrible mushy mixture of both. The streets are empty at this time of night and with this sort of weather. No kids are up to play in the yard and no carolers are out and about. It's dead silent, and Remus is glad to be awake to see the place looking so peaceful.

He waits for a few moments before he hears the howl again. "Damn," He whispers, and turns around to head down the stairs. His parents must have fallen asleep assuming Remus would have come home earlier and would have let Sullivan in. The poor dog could have been outside in this weather for hours.

Remus makes his way to the back door, coming up with a few more creative curses at Sirius and himself for being so easily seduced. He opens the back door, grabbing the excess cloth of his shirt and pulling it closer to his body to guard against the cold wind and the rain/snow mix beating against his wet skin. "Sully!" He yells, searching the thick storm for signs of a sandy haired dog. "Sully, come here boy."

He hears the howl again.

"Sully!" He cries, cupping his free hand around his mouth. "Sullivan!"

With a sigh he steps outsides.

A jolt passes through him as he walks onto the frozen ground. He should have thought to bring shoes. Of course, he hadn't known he'd be searching for his dog out in a storm. "Sullivan!" He yells, whistling as best he could when his teeth refused to stop chattering. He squints against the storm, using his hand to shield his vision. "Sullivan, come on. It's cold!"

Out of the corner of his eyes he notices the raindrops look as though they've turned green. "Sully," He yells again, only halfhearted as he turns to look for the source of the green glow.

Sullivan pads up beside his master, hair sticky with something red and warm. He mulls at Remus's heels, nudging him to follow but Remus can't move. He keeps staring at the snake and the skull hovering above his house and Remus can't move.

*
Rain doesn't stop the celebration.

All through the wizarding community people are celebrating their victory. You-Know-Who is gone, gone, gone and once again its safe to let your children outside and tell people your last name without fearing for your life.

Remus celebrates by drowning a fire whiskey. One after the other.

Spread in front of him is this morning paper. The headline reads 'VOLDEMORT DEFEATED AT LAST Thanks to the Boy Who Lived'. The Boy Who Lived. That's what they were calling him.

Remus throws back another glass of whiskey. He wonders if this stuff can burn through his throat. He fills his glass up again.

The boy who lived. Remus had held him in his arms and flicked his nose while humming some nonsensical tune he barely remembered from his own childhood. He let the baby pull at his hair and spit up on his clothes. He'd taken photographs at his parents' weddings and listen to James talk non-stop about Lily being pregnant for nine months. The boy who lived, luckiest boy there ever was, famous before he was old enough to crawl. Remus remembers the looks in his father's eyes every time he was mentioned and the way Lily would smile at the baby in her arms and wonders if the child is really all that lucky to never be able to see that.

He thinks of finding his parents bodies dragged out into the forest. How his father's face torn and mutilated and his mother's figure twisted from a curse. He doesn't think he would call Harry lucky.

The next page has details on Lily and James's murder.

'BETRAYED BY BLACK An old family friend murders the Potters and thirteen Muggle Bystanders'

Remus finishes off the last of the bottle.

He throws the paper in the fire and tries to stand. After a few failed attempts he manages to get to his feet.

He thinks of James and Sirius with their arms around each other planning some thing they swear will get them into 'Hogwarts, A History'. He thinks of Sirius dancing with Lily at the wedding, teasingly flirtatious as James just stood back and laughed. He thinks of last Christmas, of walking in on the Potter's Christmas to find Sirius holding Harry up as he stuck the star on top of the tree.

He needs water.

Somehow, he manages to get his door open. He falls outside, doesn't try to stop himself from tumbling down onto the cold, wet ground. He hit the mud with a satisfying thump and he loves the pain that shots through him because it's physical, and at that moment anything that isn't his heart breaking is a nice alterative.

He sits in the rain and he tries not to think of Sirius with his arms around his waist. He tries not to think of how many times he told that fucking, worthless, excuse for a man that he loved him. He wishes he could take back all the kisses and touches and replace them all with his fist in Sirius's face, blood splatter and bones crunching beneath his knuckles.

The part that hurts most is how much he hates Sirius and loves Sirius. He wants to reach into his own chest and tear out his heart, because it all just hurts far too much. James and Peter and Lily are dead and Sirius killed them. He's the reason that Remus is all alone, his stomach on fire and his skin to cold to touch. He's the reason that half the Order is dead or worse. All this time Remus had these thoughts, this constant fear that the traitor might by Sirius, but he'd never been brave enough to share them. Because if he was right it would have meant losing Sirius and if he were wrong it would have meant losing Sirius.

Remus thinks about Peter. Poor Peter. Always beat down and treated like the tag along. He'd shown them all in the end though that he had what it took and more. Remus wishes he could have been brave like Peter. Wishes he could have gotten over himself and told Dumbledore his suspicious earlier even if it meant losing Sirius. Because losing Sirius was a horrible thing, but no more horrible than losing James and Lily and Peter and countless other lives.

Remus sits on his steps and waits for the rain to wash him away.

Chapter Text

"It's quite a storm out there," Dumbledore says.

"I don't mind." Remus doesn't look up at his old headmaster. Remus is so focused on the book in his hands that he couldn't read the word even if he had wanted to.

"No," Dumbledore says, taking the seat across from Remus without invitation. "I don't suppose you do."

They are in Kiev where Remus had just lost yet another job. It seems wherever he goes sticker werewolf registration follows, and so yet again Remus is unemployed and this time he doesn't even have enough money to make it out of town. He is staying in a small, cramped basement with two other wizards. One works as a hustler and the other doesn't work at all, as far as Remus can tell.

He lifts up a broken mug, gingerly sipping at his tea. He ran out of new teabags about a week ago, and so the tea he's drinking now is more like hot water than anything else.

Dumbledore is staring at him over his crescent moon shaped glasses. He still hasn't said anything. Remus knows that the old wizard is much more clever, patient, and tricky than he is and decides that breaking early might make this moment a little more easy on him. "Can I help you?"

Outside there is a distant crash. Inside the basement flat the lights flicker off for a few minutes and all Remus can hear is the rain beating at the walls of the building. Seconds later the lights reappear and Remus is slightly disappointed to find that Dumbledore didn't simply disappear.

"As I'm sure you've heard, Hogwarts seems to be in need of new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor," Dumbledore says, and if Remus hadn't been raised to respect the elderly he might have rolled his eyes.

"I hadn't heard," He says. "But I could have guessed as much."

Hogwarts always needs a new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. No matter how talented, wonderful, or caution the new one might be, by the end of term means it's time to start searching for a new professor. Preferably one who has never heard of Hogwarts.

Dumbledore sighs and lays his hands on the table. Remus's eyes dart away from the book to his old headmaster's hands and wonder when they became so frail looking. He looks up and notices for the first time that Dumbledore looks much older than Remus remembers him being.

The lights flicker on and off again while the rain continues to try and beat it's way in.

"I am not going to lie to you, Remus," Dumbledore says. "I wouldn't come to you unless I was desperate. Yet this is not a handout. You made the highest marks in Defense in your years at Hogwarts and are just as deserving of this position as anyone else."

Remus wonders how worthy of the position some of the other professors really where. He takes another sip of his now cool water with only the slight after taste of anything resembling tea.

Remus thinks about the Daily Prophet headlines. "Does this have anything to do with Black?" He asks, because he thinks he knows why Dumbledore would come to him after all these years.

"Only if you make it about Black," Dumbledore says.

"They're not going to like it," Remus says. "A werewolf and an old companion of Black. You'll have a hard time getting the rest of the staff to trust me."

"Trusting you is up to them," Dumbledore says. "The important thing is that the students trust you. Dark times are ahead for them, and they need someone they feel won't betray them."

Remus wonders if Dumbledore used guilt to make Snape renounce his old life and why didn't he ever try this with Sirius and James? Or maybe he did and they just didn't care.

"It's not about Black," Remus says and he knows as well as Dumbledore that he's saying that for his own benefit. He sighs, putting down his book and those all pretentious of making this go away. "School still starts September 17, correct?"

Either the lighting in the basement is really that bad or else Dumbledore's eyes actually twinkle.

*
"I know this is your fault, Lupin."

Remus looks up from his bookshelf. He places the book he's holding into the trunk at his feet and says, "Excuse me, Professor Snape?" He tries to act calm, and it takes a lot of strength not to sound to smug.

Snape is waving wildly at Remus, water flying off of him like a wet dog. "You! You somehow let him get away!"

"I assure you," Remus says. "I was quite unable to help Mr. Black escape this castle last night in my condition." It isn't a lie.

Snape scowled, his swallow skin turning bloodless white as his hands curled into fists. "Just you wait, Lupin," He sneers, showing off all his teeth like some sort of dog. "We've been searching all night,"

"Is that why you're so wet?" Remus asks, and this time there is nothing he can do but smirk. "And here I thought you'd actually discovered what a shower was." It is a horrible thing to say, but Remus likes the feeling that he was channeling Sirius in some way.

Sirius is innocent. Sirius is innocent. Sirius is innocent. His mind wasn't able to process anything but that thought since he'd woken up in the forest this morning. Sirius. His Sirius. His good, innocent Sirius.

"We're going to find that boyfriend of yours," Snape spat, blood rushing to his face. Remus bites down on his lip to keep from laughing. All he can think of is what James would say in this situation with Snape looking like a pimple about to burst. "And when we do you won't be the one kissing him."

With that said Snape turns and storms from Remus's office.

"Have a good day, Severus!" Remus calls to the man's back.

He smiles and stands up, grunting as his back snaps into place. He dusts some of the dirt of his robes and wonders over to the window. The sun is just starting to show through the forest, casting a pale light into the office. Remus leans against the glass, watching the sunlight filter through the early morning drizzle.

Somewhere out there Sirius is running for his life. Remus knows this, just as he knows that last night he could have killed Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Snape without a second thought. He knows that by tomorrow he'll be unemployed once again, and this time he didn't know where to run. He knows that hundreds of wizards and witches are afraid for their children's lives right now because the notorious Sirius Black is on the loose. He knows that Peter is running back to help Voldemort regain his strength and that part of that is his fault.

He cracks the window open and sticks out his hand, letting the rain gather in his palm. He knows all of this and yet he smiles.

*
"Who is insane enough to be out in this weather?"

Remus sighs and bookmarks the page he was one. He sets the book down on the nightstand, which wobbles uncertainly under its weight. He pushes himself up out of the beaten old chair and walks over to the door.

Remus squints to try and get a better look at his visitor through the window. The sky is almost pitch black even if the sun has yet to set and the rain makes it impossible to see anything past the abandoned spider web in the window's corner. The knocking continues.

"Who's there?" Remus asks, one hand on the doorknob and the other holding his wand at the ready.

Remus isn't sure what to expect, but he doesn't expect the answer to be, "A stray dog by the name of Sirius Black."

Remus tenses up while his body and mind struggle over what to do. Reasonably he can't be sure to believe the voice behind the door. It wasn't exactly a secret that him and Sirius were friends and it would be a fine way to get to him. Then again, who but Sirius would call himself a stray dog?

In the end the door ends up being swung open with barely any caution at all.

In the doorway is a dark, hunched figure with a face like the dead. "Sirius!"

Remus isn't sure who reacts first, but they're both hugging each other and Remus is being pulled out into the rain.

Sirius smells. Not in a good, charming, Sirius way either but he stinks of sewage and dead animals. His hair is so long that Remus's hands can wrap around his friend's waist and he can still feel the ends. His entire body is covered in filth and grime that not even the beating rainwater can wash away. Sirius is much too thin, like he'll break in Remus's arms, and his body is covered in bruises and scars.

Still, Remus hugs him as close as he can.

"Sirius," Remus whispers, pressing his face against Sirius's neck. From the way Remus's arms around wrapped around him it looks as though he's holding the taller man up, but honestly he's sure that it's Sirius holding him. "Sirius. Sirius. Sirius." He chants the name over and over to make sure he's not in any danger of waking up.

In his arms he can feel the dirty, dying man shaking. Remus thinks that they need to get out of the rain before one of them gets ill and tries to pull away, but Sirius won't let him.

"Remus," Sirius murmurs, and Remus can't see the tears but he can hear them in Sirius's voice and feel them against his skin, hotter than rainwater. "Remus. Oh God, Remus."

The two men continue holding onto one another until the storm drifts away.

*
"Are you okay?"

Remus smiles down at Tonks. She's lying in a bed at Saint Mungo's and looks worse for the wear. Her skin is so pale it's nearly translucent so that Remus feels as though he might cut it open it by staring to hard. Her hair has turned a mousy brown instead of it's usual cheerful pink. Her body is bruised and shaking hard enough to rattle the bed.

"I'm fine," He says. "I'll go get a healer to take a look at you."

Outside Tonk's room Kingsley grabs Remus by the shoulder to stop him. "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine," He repeats. "I'm fine. I'm fine." Everyone who asks has gotten the same reply accompanied by what Remus knows must be the worst smile in the history of lies.

Molly is standing the hallway shaking. Arthur has an arm wrapped around her telling her it would all be all right. When they see Remus they both stop.

"Remus, dear," Molly asks, her voice wobbly and her cheeks streak with water as though she'd been standing in the rain. "I'm so... I'm so sorry."

Remus gives another one of those smiles. "It's all right Molly. The children are all okay, and that's what matters."

Arthur bites at his lip. He doesn't meet Remus's eyes when he asks, "Are you... Will you be all right?"

"I'm fine," He says. "I have to go find a healer and tell them Tonks is awake."

"Oh, I'll worry about that," Molly says. She reaches forward to hug Remus, and Remus lets her but makes no move to hug back. His arms refuse to work like that. "You... You go and get some rest."

Remus isn't sure wither or not he thanks her, but the next thing he knows he is walking through the lobby of the hospital. He doesn't know where he's going, or what exactly he's meant to do. He's just walking, wanting to get as far away from everything as he can.

He knows that behind him he leaves a room full of whispers. "He's puts on a brave smile, but" and "Poor Remus, he's always been so strong, but..."

They have no idea, because Remus isn't acting brave or strong. It's just the opposite in fact. He's a coward and he's running away and he's trying not to think of it.

"I'm fine," He tells Mcgonagall as he steps outside of Saint Mungo's and back onto the Muggle street. She nods but doesn't believe him, just like the rest of them.

For now he is fine.

He's fine so long as he doesn't think about it, so long as he doesn't have to remember the look on Sirius's face or the way he simply fell back and was gone from Remus's life. He's fine so long as he can't feel Harry struggling in his arms, reaching out for his godfather. He's fine so long as he doesn't remember how much he wanted to let Harry go and run to the veil, towards Sirius.

If denial was healthy than Remus was fine.

The sun is glaring down on London. Remus looks up at the cloudless sky, standing completely still as the sun melts away the chill that clings to his skin. He stands in the middle of the sidewalk as tourist walk past pointing to signs and couples break their joined hands to move by him. The sun is bright and friendly and makes the whole street look like something from a dream.

A Remus stand there, warm and dry and surrounded by the sounds of a life going on without him, and prays for rain.