It started with a knock at the door.
The knock came in the early hours, and interrupted the still of the living room where Remus sat.
Perhaps living room was too kind an expression to encapsulate the room that Remus was in, but it was the room that Remus spent the most time in his house, and if nothing else, Remus spent most of his time in the room, well, living.
He had been nestled in blankets on his battered sofa, buried in some editing he had taken up from some Wizarding scholars.
Albus had been generous enough to put him in contact with some Masters and PhD students after the fall out from his Hogwarts stint, and though Remus still had his own private reservations about the man and his motives, he wasn’t in the position to be anything but grateful for the extra cash he was able to bring in between jobs.
Joining him on the sofa was a mug of cold tea, that had already been twice heated with a mumbled warming charm, and a bowl that had once contained soup. In fact, Remus had been living off soup for three days at that point, as the corner shop had a deal on. He used to be fussy over eating anything that came from a can, but had long since lost the luxury of being selective about what fuelled him when his odd jobs kept him up at unusual hours.
With red pen in his hand, he made his way over to the door, mind still hazy from the various essays he had been reading.
It was so hazy that he almost tripped right over the upside-down milk crate that had been serving him as a coffee table for the last two years.
(The milk crate was one of the items that passed as furniture in his home that he used to be embarrassed about. However, two years without anyone but himself drinking tea in his living room had led to him forgetting that he had ever acted as anything but a coffee table.)
It wasn’t until he had made his way over to the hall, and had his hand hovering over the doorknob that he realised he should probably be wary about visitors at this hour, and briefly rest his hand over his back pocket where his wand lay.
If some Death Eater was knocking on his door, Remus mused, he was going to be very pissed off. He had just started reading a thesis on the exploitation of fire crabs that was about twenty percent more interesting than ninety nine percent of the work he’d been editing that evening. Actually, it was very possible that Albus was annoyed at him and was only getting his message through by sending owls carrying only the driest academia Remus’ way.
With that thought in mind, Remus turned the handle and opened the door.
Nobody was there.
That’s odd, Remus thought, it was very late for a game of ding dong dash. Also, he was almost certain that none of his neighbours had kids. Although, to be fair, Mrs Shelly had sent invitations for her 80th to the whole street last weekend, so it was quite possible that she had grandchildren visiting.
Remus had told himself he wasn’t disappointed when the party had fallen on a full moon.
Just as he was about to close the door, there was a very distinctive woof that came from about knee height.
Remus looked down at the shaggy black dog, and imploring puppy dog eyes met tired brown ones.
“Oh,” Remus said out loud.
The dog wagged his tail and Remus stepped aside.
“You better come in then,” Remus turned to close the door and locked it with a wave of his wand and a pointed enchantment mumbled under his breath, before following the dog into his living room.
“You know, it would have been nice to hear ahead of time if I’m going to have guests,” he said, reaching down to gather the papers into one pile and settling them onto the milk crate coffee table. He also absently sent both his bowl and mug to the kitchen with a levitation charm. The dog almost looked impressed, noted a rather offended Remus -- he had been equally skilled at making spells look easy when they were at Hogwarts.
Remus sat down heavily on the sofa and patted the empty spot beside him. He felt tired all of a sudden, as if the realities of staying up until 3am staring only at chicken scratch quilled handwriting had abruptly caught up with him.
“Well?” he asked, expectantly. “Are we going to have a chat or what?”
The dog just stared at him and woofed again.
“We are going to have to have a chat in the morning though, okay?”
Remus was met by a wag of a tail, which he took as a response. He stood from the sofa with an eye roll.
“Okay, whatever. You can take the bed,” he said, moving towards his bedroom. “I can’t be arsed to change the sheets for you, but to be honest you’ve pissed me off a bit already and you haven’t even spoken a word to me yet, so I think you deserve it --” When he realised that there were no soft taps from a dog’s footsteps, he turned back to look at the living room.
The dog was laying, quite comfortably it seemed, on the sofa and was close to drifting off if he hadn’t already.
Remus felt something akin to an urge to smile creeping up on him but ignored it. Instead, he turned back into the living room and grabbed a blanket.
After laying it gently over the dog, he turned the lights off with a flick of his wand.
“You’re still my guest, you tosser,” he muttered softly, before glancing at his watch for the first time in several hours. “ Fuck.”
He looked back at the dog.
“You better be human by tomorrow morning,” and then, before he could think better of it, he patted the dog gently on the head and turned to get ready for bed.
Once he was finally alone in the dark living room, the dog twitched his mouth into what was the closest an animal could get to a smile.
Remus woke fairly early the next morning to light streaming into his window. For a few minutes, he just lay in his bed with an arm thrown over his eyes, groaning as he realised he had forgotten to close the curtains.
A moment went past as he enjoyed the quiet morning and the chirping of the birds outside his window. He had found it important, these last couple of years, to treasure the pockets of calm that were becoming more and more scarce as the promise of war seemed to close in further every day.
Eventually though, he knew that he would have to confront the fugitive sleeping on his sofa in his living room. His house was a fairly small bungalow, built with walls so thin that he was surprised that he didn’t hear his guest snoring through the night. He reckoned that they were only actually around a few metres apart, so if that habit had managed to stick from Hogwarts, Remus would have heard him.
Then again, he supposed, perhaps it was rather difficult for him to sleep soundly these days -- all things considered.
With that pressing thought in mind, he was able to drag himself out of bed, pulling on some slippers and grabbing his dressing gown off the hook on the back of his door in the process.
He rubbed his eyes with the back of his hand as he opened his door, and noted that the dog that had been sleeping on his sofa was now a man sleeping on his sofa.
Though his clothes did look a bit ragged and worse for wear, he seemed clean enough, and had certainly had a haircut since Remus last saw him. That isn’t to say his hair was short by any means -- just a lot less stowaway and a lot more glam rock, or one of those New Age types that were calling themselves hipsters.
Remus stood in the doorway and just watched him sleeping for a second. When he was asleep, Sirius looked so much younger, as if the weight of what had happened to them all was taken of his shoulders in dreams, and he was allowed to be the age he truly was, and not simply the age that war and prison had forced him to be. Remus contemplated walking over and waking him with a hand on the shoulder, but decided against it.
It was likely that Sirius hadn’t been woken up by anyone who didn’t mean him harm in a long time.
Instead, he busied himself in the kitchen, searching for a carton of eggs while the kettle boiled. He let Sirius’ tea to brew for longer than his, hoping that he still liked his tea black and strong in the mornings, and surprised himself when he remembered without question how the man liked his eggs.
Once he had made breakfast, he took two plates and levitated two mugs over to the living room and placed them all down on the milk crate (not before moving the firecrab thesis).
It was Remus flopping onto the sofa beside him and the motion of him reaching to grab his plate that eventually woke the sleeping Sirius.
He cracked an eye open and groaned, much like Remus had done himself earlier that morning.
Remus observed him carefully out of the corner of his eye as he ate, watching as he appeared confused as to where exactly he was, looking around himself in bewilderment.
“I think you turned back in the night,” he found himself clarifying. Sirius turned to him when he spoke, and Remus gestured to the spread on the milk crate before them for a lack of a better thing to do.
“Breakfast,” he explained.
“Right,” Sirius’ voice was hoarse from disuse, and he was clearly more than a little disorientated. “Ta,” he reached over and grabbed the mug first, and drank for so long that Remus found himself suddenly embarrassed that he hadn’t even had the common sense to offer Sirius water when he had rocked up the previous night.
“You turned up on my doorstep,” Remus spoke around his eggs. He had the distinct sense that he should be eating more politely in front of guests, but Sirius was a presence both so familiar and so unfamiliar that he wasn’t sure exactly what the etiquette was or where they stood with each other. “I didn’t know you were coming?”
“Albus,” Sirius said shortly. “He had me doing the rounds,” Sirius’ glare into his mug told Remus all he needed to know about what Sirius thought about being used as an owl by Dumbledore. “He wanted me to come stay with you for a while, lay low. Said it’d be safer for me,” he paused, looking up at Remus, looking slightly uncertain all of a sudden. “You know, if that’s alright with you, of course.”
“Of course that’s alright with me, you prat,” Remus smiled, and then stopped eating for a moment to regard Sirius. “How do you feel about living with me?”
Sirius’ face fell immediately at the question, as if he had accidentally insulted him and was extremely embarrassed about it.
“Well obviously I want to live with you,” Sirius did a very unsubtle glance over the bungalow, “just didn’t want to put you out, or anything.”
Remus chuckled and looked pointedly at the tattered and sorry excuse for clothes that Sirius was wearing.
“Like you have room to talk,” he said.
Some men may have been offended by Remus Lupin shooting dry insults at them left, right and centre after radio silence for over a decade, but Sirius Black was not Some Men.
Remus was pleased when he saw the uneasy grin slowly make its way onto Sirius’ face, and he eased himself up off of the sofa once it had fully settled into something half-familiar from their Hogwarts days. He charmed their crockery clean and sent it flying into the kitchen before nipping back into the bedroom to grab some clothes that Sirius could borrow.
“You know,” Sirius’ voice chimed out from the living room, “it’s very unhygienic to just charm everything clean! You should do it the muggle way, magic only gets rid of the dirt that you can see. You can get Sally Mon Ella, I was reading about it from a pamphlet at a bus stop the other day -”
“You mean Salmonella,” Remus corrected, as he walked back in with some clothes bundled under his arms. “And I haven’t died yet, so I think we should be alright,” he looked down at Sirius, who had turned around on the sofa so that he was facing Remus, with his elbows propped up on the back of it. The unimpressed look on his face made it very clear that he did not think that they would be alright.
“Right, these are some clothes that Mrs Shelley -- she lives over the road -- shrunk when she did my laundry last month. Don’t ask, she thinks I’m lonely and constantly tries to make excuses to help me around the house. Anyway, they should fit you I reckon. If not we can spell them, but -”
“- magicked clothes make my skin crawl, yeah. Thank you,” Sirius took the soft jumper and joggers, looking touched but fairly shocked about it. “I’ll er, get changed then shall I?”
“Yeah,” Remus gestured over to the left, “you can have a shower too, while you’re at it. Bathroom’s down the hall, I put fresh towels in yesterday.”
“Right, cheers.” Sirius got up backwards from the sofa and headed towards the bathroom.
Once he heard the water running, Remus sighed and looked around his little bungalow. It wasn’t a sigh of exasperation but rather of disbelief. Of course Sirius had come to live with him at Albus’ request, and of course he was easily as charming as he had been at Hogwarts.
Despite his own habits, while Sirius was in the shower he made his way over to the kitchen sink and began washing up the plates and mugs they had eaten off.
As he scrubbed, he went through the errands he needed to run that day. He had to finish the edits on the manuscript he had started last night, and he had noted when he made tea that he was running rather low on milk. Also, he thought, as he looked out across his small but rather enthusiastically overgrown garden, the weeds were getting a little too comfortable where they had settled amongst his begonias.
When he had first moved into the neighbourhood, the Mr and Mrs Burton next door had been more than happy to give him some flowers as a housewarming gift, and he had briefly taken up gardening for a summer despite himself. He wasn’t very good at it at all, but maybe Sirius would like to feel the sun on his back, even if he was under no circumstances allowed to wander off by himself.
It was a miracle that Sirius had been permitted to travel to Remus’, even as Padfoot. Remus wouldn’t have been surprised if he’d arrived with a chaperone.
He knew that the second war was inevitable, but they weren’t the teenagers they were the first time around. Remus had always privately thought that Dumbledore would rather like to keep the entire wizarding population of Britain at Hogwarts so that he could keep them under his scrutiny.
When Sirius came out of the bathroom, Remus was dressed and had picked up the thesis again, scribbling in the margins with red pen.
“What’s this then?” Sirius asked, grabbing the paper right out from under Remus’ nose. Remus rolled his eyes and pushed at his reading glasses so that they rested on top of his hair as he tilted his head to meet Sirius’ eyes.
“Work,” Remus replied flatly.
“Thought you weren’t a teacher anymore, Moony.” The use of the nickname was comforting, if not a little jarring after so many years.
“I’m not,” he explained. “I just help out some grad students sometimes, editing and stuff.”
Sirius raised a brow.
“Albus put me in contact,” he conceded. “It’s good money.”
Sirius raised both brows.
“Well, it’s good enough. Pays the bills, keeps me afloat.”
“Well, I think it’s good either way, putting your massive brain to work,” he paused, reading over the paper in his hand. “Even if this one’s a little bit shit. They’ve literally used the wrong their in the third paragraph -- I thought you said they were grad students?”
“They are,” Remus insisted, reaching up to grab the manuscript back, “I never claimed they were very good though. I have no idea what the entry requirements are, but honestly I have no idea if any of the wizarding education systems have any thought put into them or if they’ve all been the same since the thirteenth century.”
This startled half a laugh out of Sirius, almost a chuckle, and Remus felt what was probably overly proud over prompting such a small noise.
“Well anyway, ” Remus spoke clearly, pointedly redirecting their conversation, “the clothes fit alright then?”
“Yeah,” Sirius replied, pulling them close around him. “Snug as a bug in a rug,” he smiled before pointing at where Remus’ glasses where perched on his head. “I like these as well, they look -” he paused, and wet his lips for a brief second. “Well, they look good.”
Remus decided to take pity; the deer in the headlights look didn’t suit him.
“Thanks,” he smiled, “I thought they’d help me blend in with the neighbourhood as well as helping me see.”
“Yeah, about that,” Sirius fiddled with the hem of his jumper, “have you moved into a retirement neighbourhood or what? Why are all your neighbours already one foot in the grave?”
“Well it’s cheap for one thing,” Remus said, putting the thesis back on the milk crate. “And they’re all so sweet, giving me free shit; they feel sorry for me because I’m a lonely bachelor. Also, I’m pretty sure that Mr Dryden is a squib, so it’s quite possible that Albus orchestrated it all to keep an eye on me.”
“I feel like it’s blasphemous to say this,” he said, “but Dumbledore has started to really fuck me off recently.”
“Oh, same,” Remus replied empathetically. “But he does seem to be quite good at war strategy, unfortunately, so I’ve been doing what he advises on the off chance that it does all go tits up in the end.”
Sirius hummed non committedly.
“Well,” Remus started, “I’ve got to go down to the shop -- we’re low on milk, won’t be two ticks. But I was going to suggest that we sort out the garden today if you’re up to it? Might be nice for you to get outside.” Remus met Sirius’ eyes suddenly, and had the uncertain feeling that he may have accidentally overstepped. “Not to say that --”
“No, it’s fine,” Sirius smiled reassuringly. “It’s nice actually, to have someone concerned about what’s going on up there,” he knocked the side of his head. “Merlin knows Albus hasn’t been.”
Remus grimaced sympathetically before nodding to the back door.
“Great,” he said. “Well, if you’re up for it there are some trowels and shears and the like on the shelf by the back door. Go wild, I don’t really give much of a shit about it so the world’s your oyster. I’ll just grab the milk -- is there anything you need from the shop?”
“Hmmm,” Sirius paused in thought. “Actually,” he said, lighting up, “if they have some really chocolatey cereal that’d be brilliant. Haven’t had cereal for thirteen odd years.”
“Alright, I’ll see what I can do,” he grabbed his wallet from the side and headed out the door, calling “won’t be long!” over his shoulder.
With its pansies, overgrown grass and wisteria, Remus’ garden was definitely the product of someone that had caught the gardening bug for a month, but then got busy. It had variety, with a range of flowers bought from a spontaneous trip to a nursery, but also harboured the same wild look of a home overgrown and abandoned in a low-budget apocalypse movie. Remus liked to tell his more prying neighbours that it had charm, thank you very much.
It was also the resting spot of one Sirius Black, who had set out to pull weeds but was overtaken by the need to nap in the shrubbery.
Remus decided that he’d better make as much noise as possible coming out the back door in order to wake him -- he wasn’t sure whether he felt able to shake him awake yet. Skin on skin contact, or even skin on clothes, felt like too much too soon for Remus.
Luckily, Remus’ well-known penchant for clumsiness would be explanation enough for why practically fell out of the back door, landing in a clatter of limbs and corduroy.
Sirius opened half an eye at the sound and shook his head at the heap where Remus was collapsed on the grass.
“Somehow, I thought that you may have finally grown into your height in the twelve years we’ve been apart. Can’t imagine why. Clumsy bugger.”
“Oh ha-bloody-ha,” Remus deadpanned, secretly pleased at the way Sirius was falling with back into their banter with careful ease. He got up and half-heartedly kicked at where Sirius was sprawled on the lawn. “What is flattening the garden with your massive arse going to do about the weeds?”
“What’s it to you? You said you don’t give a shit about it,” he whacked at Remus’ legs where he stood at his head.
Sirius stood with a leisurely stretch and put his hands on his hips.
“You’re supposed to say nice things about plants to help them grow,” he said. “No wonder your garden’s such a tip -- your flowers have self-esteem issues.”
Remus rolled his eyes.
“You’re so full of shit. They obviously have no issues with growing ,” he indicated the unruly grass with a sweeping arm. “I’ve just been too lazy or busy with work to, you know, keep it tame.”
Remus pushed a pair of thick gloves and a gardening fork into Sirius’ hands.
“Let’s see if you’re any better at gardening than me then, hmm?”
It’s a day later, when the afternoon sun is sinking low and orange in the sky, that Sirius starts to speak up properly.
Their lunch had consisted of bread that Remus had picked up with the milk the previous morning and cheese that he had found at the back of the fridge. Sirius had whistled at the beer to food ratio found in Remus’ kitchen, proclaiming him a real bachelor, ears stubbornly ignorant to Remus’ insistence that it was only so off-balanced because Remus lived alone and took longer to make his way through a six-pack these days.
The day before had been spent lazing in the overgrown grass, occasionally pruning the bushes half-heartedly, and, by the time five o’clock rolled around, drinking some of the beer Sirius had mocked Remus for. After a day of indulgence, they had decided the next morning that they would really put some effort into making a visible difference in the garden.
They hadn’t quite anticipated how warm working outside would be, or that the way Remus’ garden fell between his house and his neighbours’ meant that it was a suntrap. July heat was always welcome, but it was unusually hot for an English summer in a way neither man had saw coming. As the sun reached its peak, the sweltering humidity had forced Sirius to swap his borrowed jumper for one of Remus’ thin sleepshirts, and the sight of him had Remus glad that he was already red from the heat.
They had settled on their knees and side by side before a flowerbed, working at the weeds with hands clothed in thick gloves that were soon covered by mud. The back of Remus’ neck was close to sunburn, he suspected, and the hair at the nape of it was becoming sweaty and matted in the heat.
“I know what you’re doing, you know.” Sirius said carefully, voice tender against the background of the crickets, breaking the hush of the afternoon.
“What do you mean?” Remus said, not yet turning his focus away from the gardening fork in this hand. He was only half-paying attention; he had been working at tugging at a particularly bastardly weed for about two minutes and almost had it.
“You’re waiting for me to talk,” Sirius said.
Remus’ hands stilled, and this time he did turn to look at Sirius. It hadn’t quite been a criticism; more a statement of fact, but Remus still felt like he should be apologising.
“I’m sorry,” he said.
“It’s okay,” Sirius grinned, a wry thing. “Obviously you’re going to want answers. I don’t blame you.” He began work on a particularly stubborn weed. “I appreciate it, though.”
“That you didn’t hound me as soon as I got in.”
“I did though,” Remus’ frown deepened, and his stomach turned a little uncomfortably as he remembered the night Sirius had arrived. “I asked to have a chat before I even gave you clothes or anything”
“Wanting to chat is not the same as hounding me. You should have seen Dumbledore the minute we were behind closed doors. If the Ministry ever want to invest in a functional justice system, he should hang up the professor’s robes and become an interrogator.”
“There aren’t specific professor’s robes,” Remus couldn’t help replying. “I would know. And I don’t think any system that employs-” He put the gardening fork in his lap so that he could make air quotes. “- interrogators could be classed as functional.”
Sirius stretched, leaning back on his elbows and sighed, quirking his mouth in a way that reminded Remus that he had picked up smoking sometime in sixth year. They had all tried it, but it was Sirius that especially took to tobacco like a duck out of water, and Remus was struck by another thought that he was being a bad host by not offering him a pack.
“God,” he breathed, grinning up at the sky before flicking his eyes to Remus. “I am so mad I missed you as a professor.”
“Not much to miss,” Remus said, picking up the gardening fork. “Just a lot of me struggling to control classes and trying to work out what constitutes as business casual.”
“God, I am so mad I missed you wearing business casual. Worst part of Azkaban was not being able to see you in your stupid blazers for twelve years, I’m not even joking. ”
Remus rolled his eyes, but he couldn’t help the flustered smile that crept onto his face. They certainly hadn’t yet spoken about the thing that had been tangible between them since fifth year, which finally manifested itself as a relationship by the middle of sixth year -- a whole 365 days before Lily and James got together, -- but they still moved with each other in the style they always had.
They were still in sync; stepping back for each other’s step forward, giving when the other took.
Remus felt something light up inside him at the thought that Sirius was still interested in that, still interested in pursuing something. It had been clear to Remus that there was still something connecting them, be it red strings of fate or destiny or whatever, but it was reassuring to know that Sirius still felt it too.
“Shut up,” he tried to say sternly, but struggled miserably as his blush gave him away. “That’s not funny.”
“I’m not trying to be funny, Moony. I’m expressing genuine anguish, you should try on some of your professor outfits for me later to make up for it,” he said, wiggling his eyebrows.
“Sirius Orion Black, you are a menace. ”
Sirius shook his head then, grinning and turned back to the flowerbed before them.
“I did miss you though,” his smile shrank and became a little crestfallen as his voice grew small. “I really did.”
As Remus watched him, he felt his heart sink. It was strange, he thought, how Sirius was still so clearly the man he fell in love with, yet simultaneously one that had been robbed and emptied and deprived of so much. It was so easy, too easy, to regard this war in the abstract, just had they all had done when they were students with the walls of Hogwarts to act as a barrier between school life and the true horrors that took place on the frontline. But seeing Sirius, still very much a victim, in the active and current and real sense, of a war whose survivors had mostly got up and moved on, reminded Remus of what they were truly facing.
Yes, Remus had also been a victim of the war. Yes, he had mourned his best friends and felt anger and betrayal so raw towards the man in front of him that he now felt ashamed of it, but he had had to pick up and move on. He had found work so boring he could weep and sex so devoid of love he could sob, but he had found a sense of normality.
But Sirius… Sirius had had none of that. He had re-lived the most painful moments of that war every day for twelve years.
Remus may have been a victim of the war, but Sirius had been a casualty.
He reached between them and took Sirius’ hand, clasping it between his, and gave a comforting squeeze.
Sirius took a deep and shaking breath.
“I will talk,” he said imploringly, “I will. I just need some time.”
“Okay,” Remus said softly, squeezing his hand once more before dropping it. “That’s okay, Sirius.”
A few more days went by, and Remus and Sirius settled into a semblance of a routine. They gardened when it was cool enough to be outside, and Remus subtly categorised the hours when the sunlight makes Sirius’ grin almost too much to bear. When it was too hot to do anything close to work, they found themselves reading. Sirius had spent a while deciding what to read, and Remus had watched him move in front of the bookshelf, noting how he swayed away from Orwell and Huxley, but towards Atwood and Winterson.
He didn’t know why he was storing away this new information about Sirius, or what for, only that he knew reflexively that it was important to remember. It wasn’t like he was falling in love with a new person exactly, but they had both grown and changed in their time apart. Remus wanted to relearn Sirius, and found himself almost giddy every time he caught something about him that he didn’t know before.
The evenings were especially something that Remus had begun to treasure, even if only because he had gotten so used to working himself silly late at night that he hadn’t realised how lonely he had become. Just the quiet presence of Sirius in his living room to keep him company was a blessing, and miles better than the situation he had been in before Padfoot had turned up on his doorstep.
One evening, Remus was sitting on the sofa, leaning down towards the milk crate at an awkward angle. The milk crate was yet again proving its versatility by acting as a table for the paper that Remus was marking. The paper itself was acting as a coaster for an empty mug that had once contained tea.
Next to him, Sirius had been sitting with his back against the armrest, scrunched up in an odd position that Remus was certain was uncomfortable. He was reading Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit , an old edition that Remus had picked up on a job in Wales. When he had selected it from the shelf, turning it over carefully to read the blurb, Remus had winced a little, knowing himself that it may hit a little close to home for Sirius. But maybe that was why he had chosen it.
Remus had been owled another thesis that morning, and he was rather glad of something fresh to read and work his mind over. For all he complained about the boring nature of his work, he did enjoy the small satisfaction of watching a paper become full of his red biro corrections and suggestions.
Besides, he could hardly complain when he had Sirius, softly breathing and turning pages next to him. Even though Remus often got so absorbed in his work that he didn’t take notice of the world turning around him, it was still nice to feel that he wasn’t alone.
Sirius had actually got up from the sofa a minute ago, but Remus had assumed that he had gone to the bathroom. He had been sitting in the same position for most of two hours, which was a feat almost unheard of, fidgety man that he was.
Remus had been slightly surprised when he began the editing that evening to find that the student was actually writing something he was interested in. It was certainly refreshing to read a student passionately campaigning for the reclassification of what should be considered ‘dark creatures’, rather than a listicle of a hundred ways to catch a centaur disguised as an essay.
It was when Remus was painstakingly correcting some unfortunate spelling that Sirius returned, this time with two mugs in hand. He placed one practically on top of the paper, eliciting an annoyed tutting sound out of Remus, who was still very much in his own little bubble.
He collapsed onto the sofa, leaning into Remus. Their legs were pressed right up to each others’, and Sirius had hooked his chin over Remus’ shoulder to read the paper he was working on.
“Good one this evening?” he asked.
Remus hummed in affirmation.
“Yeah, they seem to know what they’re talking about,” he replied. “Which is more than I can say for the majority.”
He felt Sirius grin into his shoulder, a contagious thing. Remus absentmindedly reached for the tea Sirius had brought him and took a sip. As soon as he swallowed, he was jolted back to reality and turned to look at Sirius in belated surprise.
“You brought me tea,” he said, eyes wide.
“I did,” Sirius replied, amusement and confusion both evident in his voice.
Remus’ eyes flicked from Sirius to the mug and back again.
“But it’s perfect,” he said, “This is exactly how I like it.”
“I know,” Sirius said, slowly. “I do have a memory, you know.”
“Sorry,” Remus said, faintly embarrassed.
“It’s okay,” he smiled. “My memory has seen better days. Some stuff I struggle with, but it’s mostly little things. Like, I can’t remember what tree was in the Potters’ front garden, or when the muggle bins are collected-”
“It was an oak,” Remus provided gently. “And that changes depending on the council. Mine gets taken on Wednesdays.”
“Right, thanks.” Sirius grinned. “I forgot most things when I was in Azkaban, but being with you helps. Sort of triggers things.”
“That’s good,” Remus said, pausing to take another sip from his tea. “If there’s anything I can do to help, let me know.”
Sirius leaned in further to Remus, and pressed a kiss to his shoulder. Remus grinned in response and leaned back.
They sat comfortably like that for a while, Remus continuing to scribble corrections in the margins of the paper and Sirius twisting slightly where he was tangled up in Remus so that he could read comfortably; mug in one hand, book in the other.
Remus finished the paper around half twelve, and stretched strenuously, clicking what seemed like every last bone in his body. He rubbed at his eyes, and turned to Sirius, speaking around a yawn.
“What do you think of this,” he said, prodding at the book he held in his hands. Sirius startled slightly from being disturbed from his haze, something Remus could relate to.
“It’s good,” he answered. “The mum is a little close to old Walburga, though.”
“Yeah,” Remus said. “I thought so too.”
He stood up and stretched again, before extending a hand down to Sirius to help him up. The man looked like he was about to turn to Padfoot and curl up on the sofa, just like he had been doing every night. But a part of Remus was selfish, in wanting to feel Sirius’ comforting presence in sleep as well.
“There’s room in my bed, you silly mutt.”
Sirius hesitated, sitting awkwardly on his hands, darting his gaze from Remus’ eyes to his outstretched palm.
“Are you sure?” he said, uncertain.
“Yeah, ‘course. I kept you up, the least I can do is offer you an actual bed.”
Sirius smiled, a fragile and mildly embarrassed thing. They both knew that Sirius would have slept if he wanted to, could have curled up as Padfoot and dozed with his head in Remus’ lap. They both knew that Sirius wanted to spend as much time as possible with Remus. Remus had silently noticed the way tension in Sirius’ back eased out whenever he came back into a room after leaving him alone. Remus was damned if he wasn’t going to make sure Sirius knew he was safe in every way possible.
The two of them wandered into Remus’ room and dressed for bed quietly and comfortably.
Remus let Sirius crawl into bed first before muttering a quick nox and joining him under the covers. Bone tired, Sirius tugged at his arm and Remus followed the unspoken request. He wrapped himself around Sirius in a way that was almost instinctive, automatically reverting to secret habits that had been buried for over twelve years. Once again, Remus marveled at their ability to fall so easily back into love.
Though nothing had been spoken between them, it was a sure thing that they were headed in that direction. It was just another certainty in the world; grass was green, the sky was blue and Remus Lupin and Sirius Black were in love.
“This okay?” he asked, just to double-check.
“Mmm,” came the reply, and Remus smiled into the dark.
Light streamed through the windows the next morning, waking Remus up. He was comforted by a familiar sense of warmth, and buried his face further into the neck that his nose was pressed to.
He lay there for a while, listening to the birds. It wasn’t long before he sensed the speed of Sirius’ pulse change, indicating that he had woken up.
“Morning Pads,” he said softly, voice rough from sleep.
“Morning.” Sirius turned in Remus’ arms to face him.
“Hi,” Remus grinned.
“Hi,” Sirius repeated, yawning. “Why do I feel like we’re in fifth year again?”
Remus laughed lightly. He knew what Sirius meant; they were sixteen when they had started sharing a bed for the first time. It had been novel then, exciting and new. Closing his eyes gently, he tightened his hold on Sirius. The birds sang.
“I thought I made you up,” Sirius said, after a while.
Remus opened his eyes to Sirius staring back at him.
“What do you mean?” he asked, mind still clouded from sleep.
“In Azkaban,” Sirius clarified, reaching up between them to brush at Remus’ hair with his hand. “There was a lot of time to think. And overthink.”
Remus was struck by how vulnerable Sirius was. His voice was shaking, but he powered through, seemingly determined to get it out.
“Sometimes I thought I’d always been there, that I’d made James and Lily and Reg and Frank and Alice and Marlene and Dorcas up, like a coping mechanism. I thought I made you up.”
Remus clasped his hand where it was combing his hair.
“That’s why my memory’s bad,” he said. “I can’t remember what’s real or what’s not. I might need a little time to be my old self again.”
“You don’t have to be your old self again,” Remus said, bringing Sirius’ hand to his mouth and pressing a kiss into his knuckles. “I’m not my old self either. We can be our new selves and still be together,” he paused, uncertain. “Or just live together, you know. Whatever you want.”
Sirius rolled his eyes fondly, tugged his hand from Remus’ hold and moved it to the short hairs at the back of Remus’ neck. Remus watched him, curious, as he stroked through them for a few seconds before pushing gently and guiding Remus’ lips to his own.
It was a shy kiss, close-mouthed and chaste, and it only lasted a moment. Sirius pulled away first, and smiled at Remus’ blush as he did so. He had always been able to startle one out of him, ever since they were young.
“Does that answer your question?” He asked, amused.
“Yes,” Remus leaned forward to kiss him again on the cheek, affectionate. “I love you.”
Sirius smiled wider.
“Love you, too.”
They lay there for a minute, grinning stupidly at each other, before Remus piped up thoughtfully.
“Don’t love your morning breath though.”
Sirius barked out an offended laugh and kicked at Remus’ shins under the covers.
And so the morning went.
July melted into early August, and grew into one of the best summers Remus had ever known. It was easy to forget, momentarily, the cruel reality that lay beyond their four walls. They spent time in the warmth gardening and reading, talking and loving, sleeping and fucking. It was a little oasis, a slice of what their days could have been if they had been allowed a normal life.
The war had closed in quicker than either of them had anticipated.
Dumbledore’s request that Sirius allow the Order to take up residence in his childhood home hadn’t been met with enthusiasm from anyone, but they grumbled their way into moving in.
The establishment of a headquarters, and the cohabitation that came along with it as the Weasleys, and soon Harry took up old rooms, sobered Remus and Sirius. It wasn’t pleasant, shifting back into the paranoia and unrest that the first war had brought, especially after the tranquil life they had been living.
All the same, Remus still treasured the evenings.
He and Sirius would sit together on the sofa, once all the Weasley kids and Harry had gone to bed. Maybe Remus would be reading, maybe Sirius would be -- or both, or neither. They would lean into each other, perhaps idly talking about what had been in The Prophet that day, or discussing what was happening at the Ministry with Arthur.
Remus would tug Sirius up when he looked close to falling asleep right there in the living room in front of the fireplace and guide him up to bed, past all the peeling wallpaper and scornful portraits.
Once they were under the covers, they would chat some more, or sleep, or try to breathe light into each other in the midst of the darkness outside.
The war was coming, and they didn’t talk about it much. The word ‘ future ’ was eliminated from their vocabularies. Making conversation about what could happen ‘when all this is over’ felt too much like tempting fate.
But they had each other, as they had done for twenty-four years.
And they were happy, or as much as they could be.
And really, in the end, they couldn’t have asked for more than that.