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A Different Sort of Stillness

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When Sirius was eight, he’d noticed the way his father’s hand wandered up his Aunt Druella’s thigh under the dining room table. He’d told Regulus, who had told Narcissa, who had told Bellatrix, who had pushed Sirius down a flight of stairs. 

“You think you’re funny?” she’d snarled. Sirius remembers the glint of malice in her eyes, even then. Sirius--who hadn’t yet learned not to be afraid of her--had stammered that he hadn’t made any jokes about the situation. 

“I just noticed, that’s all!”

“Well then, stop noticing!” 

Easier said than done. Sirius has only gotten better at noticing, as the years have gone on. It comes in handy sometimes, gets him trouble often, and has always been his most potent defense against boredom. 

In recent months, even the noticing has grown dull. Grimmauld Place is as dreary and stifling as he remembers it...and now there aren’t even family scandals to break up the oppressive gloom that permeates the whole house. 

Still, with Harry here for Christmas, with half the Weasley clan bumping elbows on the narrow staircases, Sirius can almost forget where he is. With all the distractions and excitement and decorations, with weeks ahead to spend with Harry, there are plenty of new things to notice. 

He notices how Harry’s smile grows wider when Remus joins them in decorating the mantle, how Remus’s presence introduces an ease into Harry’s speech. Of course, Sirius has always known--has always loved--how Remus can appear quite at home talking to anyone. From the very start, Remus’s even tone and soft smiles enthralled Sirius, who came to Hogwarts knowing only how to stick his nose in the air and his heels in the ground. 

But it’s something else, to see Harry’s features lighten around Remus, to see peace enter his eyes, which have been flashing far too much anxiety as of late. Something else, to see Remus’s shoulders relax, his laugh grow louder, when Harry is around. 

And perhaps Harry doesn’t notice those moments when Remus catches himself and pulls back sharply. Perhaps only Sirius knows enough about Remus to read anything into the way he’ll wander off to the other side of the room on the pretense of helping Molly dust the top shelf of a bookcase. No one can hide quite like Remus, a fact that had always driven James mad. He’d never understood why Remus found love a difficult thing to accept. 

Sirius understands: love is often an unquiet thing, and sometimes it’s simpler to burrow, to fold yourself back in so only the things you can control remain in reach. But there’s pain in the burrowing, too. Stillness is all well and good, but the stillest things in the world are dead. Stillness will find its own time; there’s no need to give it more. 

Especially at Christmas. 

Sirius sits cross-legged on their bed, picking up a long, blue ream of wrapping paper. 

“Is this the only kind you bought?” he asks Remus, who is leaning against the headboard, poring over a book on the red cap outbreaks of the 1940s.

Remus looks up from the morbid text, his expression mild. 

“What’s wrong with it?”

“Nothing,” Sirius says with a shrug, handling the paper in the light. It doesn’t even shimmer…

 “It’s just...well, it’s blue.”

“What’s wrong with blue?” 

Sirius blinks. “It’s for a Christmas present.”

“Blue is a Christmas--”

“--please don’t look me in the eye and say what you’re about to say.” 

Remus’s eyebrows raise in amusement. He sets his book down on the bedside table, before scooting down to the end of the bed. He rifles through the bags he’d brought back from Diagon Alley, finally procuring a package of thin, silver fabric ribbons. 

“Blue--” 

“--don’t!--”

“--and silver are seasonal colors,” Remus finishes, ignoring Sirius’s look of dismay.
“But I can pick up something else while I’m out, if you’d rather.”

Sirius holds the ribbons up to the paper. They’d made an attractive present, to be sure. A wintery one, even. But a Christmas present...

“This will be fine,” Sirius concedes, only half meaning it. “But you’re writing in the card that the paper was your idea. The card’s well done, by the way.”

“Thank you,” Remus says, standing up to put the emptied paper bags in the closet, folding them back down along the creases. 

Sirius picks the card up, tracing his hands across the shimmering bulbs of the Christmas tree on the front of it. 

“You know why it’s a good card, Remus?” he says with a smirk, looking back at Remus and waiting for him to turn around. Remus sighs, though his lips are twitching as he nods. 

“Because it’s a Christ--”

“--because it’s a Christmas card,” Sirius teases. He waves the card at Remus. “You want to start on it?”

Now, an expression of real puzzlement enters Remus’s face. 

“On what?”

Sirius has worried about this, ever since he’d asked Remus to help him choose Harry’s present a few weeks before. Any reasonable person with sense would realize that spending two hours rifling through magazines--not to mention the time spent to pick up everything--would entitle someone to take credit for a gift. 

But Remus doesn’t always have sense--not that sort, anyway. 

“Our card,” Sirius says simply. It didn’t do any good to recognize the questions and doubts in Remus’s voice. Recognition gave them too much credit.  “You can do it while I wrap the present.”

“Oh.”

Sirius notices Remus lean back on his heels, even as he eyes the card with interest. It used to bother Sirius, that tension in Remus, that pull towards vacancy even in those moments that most demanded engagement. 

He’s learned, after all these years, to trust that nothing about Remus is vacant at all, and that his nature only needs a little prodding in the right direction to come back to life. Sure enough, when Remus’s glance catches his own, Sirius knows the question he needs to answer. 

“He’s going to be thrilled when he sees that you helped pick them out,” Sirius says, gesturing to the set of books that they’d both known in an instant would be perfect. “What does his godfather know about academic literature? But Professor Lupin...he’s all set, isn’t he?” 

Remus smiles, sitting back down on the bed and conjuring up a quill. He picks up the book from the bedside table and places it underneath the card for support, masking the rather gruesome war scene depicted on the cover. 

“Are you sure?” he murmurs,  though he hardly waits for Sirius’s nod before dipping the quill in ink. 

For a few minutes, there is only Remus’s gentle quill scratches, the crackle and swoosh of wrapping paper. And maybe sometimes, love creates a kind of stillness, too. Sirius has noticed that more and more since Remus has moved in. 

When he finishes tying off the silver bow, Sirius falls back onto his elbows, his shoulder brushing Remus’s right arm. He surveys his work and finds he doesn’t miss the red and green and gold that’s covered every other surface in the house. 

“The blue is nice,” he admits. “You were right.”

Remus smiles, setting the card on top of the present before shifting down so that he’s shoulder to shoulder with Sirius. Remus looks at him, head tilted just so, his body leaning ever so slightly to the right, and Sirius knows what to do next.

He feels that stillness flutter inside of him every time he kisses Remus, reminding him of his own contentment, here.

If nowhere else, here. And that warm, flickering, fierce stillness is more alive than anything else Sirius can remember feeling.

When they hear a knock on the door, Sirius waits for Remus’s jaw to tense under the hand Sirius has placed on it, but all he feels is an amused exhale, a dip of his head that is at once a concession and an invitation for Sirius to plant a kiss on his temple before saying: 

“Come in.” 

If Harry is surprised to see them so close, he doesn’t show it. Indeed, Sirius thinks he can see a flash of joyful recognition in Harry’s eyes, as if he’s happened upon something with sure footing at last. 

“Dung is here with the tree.” 

Sirius pops up on his hands and has his feet over the side of the bed in an instant. He’s been so worried about getting a tree… 

“He’s snatched one up already?!” Sirius stands, watching Remus clamber to his feet as well. “When he’s good for something, he’s good for it…”

When ,” Remus emphasizes with a grin. “I’d wait until I put eyes on it before celebrating, myself.”

“Christmas goodwill, Moony…” Sirius says before turning to Harry, whose eyes have wandered over to the present with the half-opened card on top. 

“Hey, pay no attention to that!” Sirius steps in front of the present, waving his hands. “It’s just something for someone.”

Harry’s eyes light up, and Merlin, Sirius wishes they’d had more Christmases. 

“Yeah?” 

“Yeah, a real nosy kid…” Sirius says, clapping Harry on the back before maneuvering him out the bedroom door. 

By now, his mother’s portrait is screaming, but there’s something hollow and ineffectual about the sound, with Harry next to him, Remus on their heels, and a Christmas tree waiting to be put up.


It’s not her house, Sirius thinks, holding tighter to that different sort of stillness. It’s ours.