It started with the classified, the first bit of proof that everything that happened was really Moony’s fault. There was always a classified ad in the kitchen, even when Moony was working, part of his optimistic opinion that any job could and would end. The classified ads were always marked in pen, and one could tell just how Remus thought his prospects fared based on how he’d marked a job. Some were viciously scratched out (potions expert and anything with ‘night shift’ in the description) some were circled multiple times (he usually came away dejected from those interviews, things he actually wanted but rarely got) some had question marks and some had a single bold circle. It was the single circle ones that were the best prospects.
On this particular Tuesday morning while Sirius drank his tea and dripped jelly on a story about Minister Fudge’s election, the only ad that was circled was one looking for a book editor. It was commission work, the sort of things Moony did from home sometimes. It suited him, both because he was such a stickler for commas and spelling and because the flexibility meant that moons didn’t present a problem. The only downside was that it was sporadic work, a book at a time, and didn’t bring in enough income to make Moony feel like he was Contributing to Household Things. Sirius always rolled his eyes. Moony was the most stubborn person he knew.
It was then that he had his Most Brilliant Idea. What Remus needed was a constant stream of editing. Someone who would keep him employed on a regular basis with things a lot more interesting than editing a technical manual on the care and keeping of flobberworms.
“Lily I need to borrow some books.” When someone had a Brilliant Idea they had to start right away, so his first action was to floo to the Potter home. He was distracted for half an hour by Harry who insisted on a hippogriff ride and a sword fight, and he wouldn’t be a proper godfather if he said no to either, but after that it was strictly business.
“The only books we have here that you don’t have are meant for a three year old. You and Remus had quite the library between you,” Lily replied after telling both him and Harry they could only have two biscuits. Sirius took a third, but split it in half so it didn’t count. After all, two and a half was practically the same as two.
“Not true. Moony and I don’t have any of those girly books,” he said with his half a biscuit in his mouth.
“You want to borrow my romance novels?” Lily asked, puzzled. “I don’t know who you’re trying to date, Sirius Black, but romance novels aren’t actually meant to be used that way.”
“Like I need help,” Sirius said with an eye roll. Sure, it had been a while since he dated but that was totally his choice. He had a lot on his plate right now with a godson that needed his attention and Moony needing looking after and his three days a week working for Quality Quidditch Supplies. “They’re for Moony.”
“Somehow I doubt he knows that.” Lily rolled her eyes right back at him. “Take as many as you like, and don’t worry about when you get them back. It’s not like I have much time for reading when I have three boys to look after.”
“Something you want to tell me, Lils?” He looked at her stomach pointedly and wondered if they were really ready for another Prongslet.
“Yeah. You and James are more work than Harry and he has the excuse of being three.” But she gave him a bag for the books and sent him home with a plate of biscuits, warning him that she would tell Remus that she’d sent them so not to eat them all in one go. It was like she didn’t trust him or something.
Once he had the books stage one of The Plan could begin. He’d read a few of the romance novels when he was bored and they seemed like the easiest book to write. Certainly they weren’t anything Moony read so he could borrow a bit from others and no one important would be any the wiser. Over the next few days he spent most of the time Moony wasn’t around reading, stashing the books in the closet so they wouldn’t be seen in case Remus came in his room for late night chats or early morning bed sharing. It was a habit that they’d never quite left behind in school, especially when either of them had a nightmare. With the war almost two years gone the nightmares weren’t as frequent but they were always a good excuse if he needed company.
Stage Two of The Plan had a few false starts, as writing a book proved to be a little trickier than he figured, considering how many books he’d read. Finally though after twenty-six days he had a story written. The pining of Sigmund G Toadsnatch for Anastasia Flower ended in a passionate snog and a happily ever after. It was time for Stage Three.
“I need your help.” The moment Moony was gone for the day he popped around to the Potter home again, this time with manuscript in hand.
“Harry managed to get jam in his hair at breakfast and I have to give him a bath. Can it wait?” Her arms were full of a squirming toddler, anxious to greet his ‘Padfoo.’
“I’ll give him a bath,” he offered.
“The last time that happened you flooded the bathroom and transfigured the soap into a boat.” She carried Harry up the stairs. Sirius followed.
“He came out clean, though. Mostly.” He might have missed a few spots, but no one was perfect and there had been an important battle with a giant squid that looked a lot like Harry’s toes to wage. “I need to know if you have any friends that have girly writing and want to earn a few quid.” He plopped himself on the edge of the tub after stowing his manuscript on higher ground.
“You need what?” it was really quite impressive how she managed to run the bath, undress Harry, and listen to him.
“Alright, so this is the part where I have to swear you to absolute secrecy. Unbreakable vow kind of stuff. You can’t tell anyone what I am about to tell you, not even James.”
“You know James and I don’t keep secrets.”
“It’s not a big secret, just a little baby one. The more people who know the more likely it is that Remus will know that people are keeping something from him and then the whole thing will be ruined.” Besides Prongs would never let him hear the end of it if he knew what Sirius was doing.
“I will consider not telling him, once I know. That’s the best I can promise.”
“I guess that will have to do.” He was certain she’d see reason, or more importantly his side of things. “Now about your friends.”
“Do I even want to know what girly writing means?”
“You know what I mean. When you pick up something and you know a girl wrote it because there’s little hearts above the I’s and the ink changes color.” Not that Lily had ever done things like that. Her writing was perfectly sensible, not that it mattered. Moony would recognize her handwriting.
“Your handwriting is pretty fancy, with all those loops and the illustrations in the margins.” Lily made a few loops of her own, sending bubbled cascading into the tub to entertain Harry.
“One of the many skills a pureblood snob is required to learn, according to my dear old mum. Trust me I’ve tried mimicking James but it’s useless.” James wrote in a barely legible scrawl that only those with practice could read. Sirius envied him, though it had led to an accident or two over the years especially in potions and what time they were supposed to meet. “But it doesn’t matter, Moony knows my handwriting and that’s the whole point. I need someone to copy over my writing so he doesn’t know it’s me.”
“I think I need more focus and perhaps something to drink. Hold on a minute, will you?” Lily finished up Harry’s bath, keeping him long enough to dry his hair but giving up when he decided to squirm out of her hold and run away without his togs on. She shrugged. “Won’t hurt him to air dry.”
“James said the same thing once. It works better in a warm house and when you’re three, rather than when you’re thirteen and it’s snowing out.” He’d won the dare, though, and claimed it was worth it.
“Yeah, I remember that. Thought he was mental then. Now I know he is.” Lily headed for the kitchen and started a pot of tea brewing. “Now please tell me you’re not trying to get me to help you prank Remus. You know my rules.”
“It’s not a prank. It’s a Brilliant Idea to help Moony. You’re going to love it.” He couldn't hold it in anymore. “I’vewrittenabook.”
“A book. I’ve written one and I’m going to send it to Moony to edit it, and then I’m going to pay him. But he’s not going to know it’s me so he’s going to accept the money without being his stubborn prideful self. When he’s done I’ll have another story ready and then he’ll be gainfully employed and happy and he won’t have to worry about what happens to his job when there’s a moon. Brilliant, right?”
“I’m still on the bit where you wrote a book.” Lily poured the tea and set a slice of quiche on a plate for Sirius. The spinach was in small enough bits that it didn’t actually look like a vegetable and he might not notice that under all the cheese he’d actually eaten something green.
“It’s not hard. I read the books you had and I wrote something like it. Boy meets girl. One of them annoys the other. There’s secret longing and someone trying to keep them apart and then they snog and everyone’s happy except the evil bloke who ends up in a cellar or something.” He shrugged and ate the food Lily had given him without much thought. He’d been so excited about the next stage that he hadn’t bothered with breakfast. “The book’s not really the important part, though, and there have to be bits to fix or else Moony won’t have anything to do. What’s important is that Moony doesn’t know it’s me. I have to rent an owl once it’s ready and send him a letter about a job. I have a name picked out already. Marmaduke Gaylord from Gaylord’s Romantic Press.”
“I don’t know why anything you come up with should surprise me anymore, Sirius Black. It’s completely bonkers and there’s probably fifteen different ways it could go wrong.” Lily reached across the table and covered one of his hands with her own. “It’s also unfailingly kind and possibly crazy enough to work.”
“Of course it will work.” Any doubts he’d had he’d buried down deep enough that he wouldn’t have to worry about them for a while at least. Probably not until the whole thing exploded in a very Sirius-like fashion.
As it turned out Lily did have a friend that could use a little spending money and had hand writing that, while not containing any hearts, was feminine enough to satisfy Sirius and more importantly wouldn’t be recognized by Remus. She rewrote the manuscript in her own handwriting. Sirius borrowed a typewriter from Arthur Weasley to make an official looking offer from the Gaylord Romance Publishers.
Stage Four was well timed, as Moony’s job in a muggle bookstore ended that week after the third time he’d had to miss work the morning after a full moon with no explanation. Sirius had made sure he was tucked into bed with a water bottle and a cup of tea with a warming charm that would last at least an hour, then nipped over to Diagon Alley to rent an owl for a single trip. The offer letter and manuscript were bound together. For an added bit of cleverness he’d asked the clerk to delay the delivery until afternoon so that Sirius could be home when the owl arrived.
“What could be so important about a romance novel that they’d be willing to pay this much?” By afternoon Moony was feeling well enough to be on the sofa instead of in bed. Sirius glanced at the letter Remus handed him and shrugged.
“Dunno, mate. Guess there’s enough people reading them to make it worth their while. The girls at school all read them. Tripped over them all the time in the common room.”
“They’d be better off reading Austen,” Remus groused but he was also quick enough to send off an acceptance letter with the owl. Sirius had a plan for that as well, and a newly rented owl post box.
“I’ll give you some quiet to work.” Sirius locked himself in his room, using the time to start his second novel, the story of five sisters all sorted into the same house and the rich pureblood transfer student who seemed rude but was secretly shy. The prat’s best friend was cheerful and had a crush on the main character’s sister.
“Comma,” was the comment he heard the most from the other room. ‘Why’ and ‘bloody hell’ and ‘you can’t do that to the English language’ were also common exclamations.
“Sounds like it’s going well,” Sirius said when his stomach was too loud to ignore.
“It’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever read and the romance is dreadful but there are some bits that are hilarious, actually. Don’t know their goal but as a satire it’s not bad.” The stack of papers in front of him was all marked up in red ink worse than the first essay he’d ever written for McGonagall.
“I thought romances were supposed to be all sappy.” His main character had declared his love seventeen times. That was what girls wanted, wasn’t it?
“Fortunately I’m only supposed to edit the grammar and not the sap. I’m over my head on that sort of thing. Imelda Carson seventh year said I was the most unromantic boy she’d even snogged.”
“Imelda Carson is an idiot who is now breeding pink pygmy puffs and is completely single because no bloke was romantic enough for her. Besides you don’t like girls, remember?”
“I like girls just fine. I just don’t want to snog any of them or…”
“Smash your bits together?” Sirius offered.
“Yeah, exactly what I was going to say,” Remus said dryly. “I’m starved and close to going cross eyed from this editing. Whose turn for dinner?”
“I’ll start some steaks.” Sirius danced towards the kitchen. The Plan was going perfectly.
It seemed silly, really, to have a wonderfully written and perfectly edited novel and not do anything with it. The original plan didn’t take into account anything outside of making sure that Remus was employed, but when Sirius collected the edited manuscript from the owl post it seemed a waste to just throw it away or lock it up somewhere.
“I need a name.” It was just before lunch when he flooed to Godric Hollow, finding Harry just up from his nap and more than excited to use uncle Padfoot as a climbing toy.
“You know some people do give a little notice instead of barging in all the time. There’s a lovely front door on this house I don’t think you’ve seen in two years.” Lily winced when Harry’s foot found a foothold on Sirius’s crotch, but really the man deserved it.
“Other people aren’t nearly as entertaining as me.” Sirius winced as well and moved Harry’s foot a little higher, regretting it when the lad’s next handhold was his ear. “Now about that nom de plume.”
“I thought you were only writing so Remus could have an editing job?”
“Yes, but that’s no reason not to share my genius with the world.” He waved his manuscript over his head.
“How many times did Remus threaten to throw up while reading this drivel?”
“Only once but he edited that bit out. Not even I can be perfect my first time out.” Lily, of course, rolled her eyes for approximately the 42,596th time since she’d first met Sirius.
“If you’re serious about this we should do it properly. No more ridiculous names.”
“I’m always Sirius.” He couldn’t resist. After all the joke never got old, no matter how many times Lily groaned. “Too bad I can’t use my name. Imagine how dear old mum would roll over in her grave if she knew the sacred Black name was attached to a romance novel.”
“You’re right, Lils. If she got too excited she might reanimate and the world is not ready for zombie Walburga.” He shuddered dramatically at the thought, making Harry, now perched on his shoulders, laugh and say ‘again.’ Of course he obliged.
“Leave it with me and I’ll sort it out. I’ll have Molly redo a clean copy and send it off to Mary who’s a junior editor and a publisher. We’ll see what happens, alright?”
“This is why I love you, Red.” Sirius gave her a kiss on the cheek and handed her the manuscript so he could get down to what was really important; teaching his godson how to make bubbles in his milk.
Three months later Phaedra White was a published author. Sure, there wasn’t an enormous amount of money in a single book, but it was more than what he’d spent to pay Molly and Remus so it seemed profitable enough, and he was more excited than he’d expected to see it on the shelves of the bookstore.
In the next year ‘Phaedra’ wrote nine more books. More importantly with actual connections in the publishing world he was able to recommend Moony’s services to other authors, to the point that he began to worry that if Remus had too much work he might turn down the requests from Marmaduke Gaylord to edit Phaedra’s books.
“Get the bucket, Pads, I’m going to be ill. This is the worst thing I've ever read. Not only do I want to vomit but I think my eyes are bleeding.”
“It can’t be that bad.” His own book had arrived that morning but Sirius hadn’t known that Remus had started on it already.
“I don’t know how Gilderoy Lockheart got my name but I’m never editing a book for him again. Not only is it nonsense that clearly didn’t actually happen, but it’s badly written as well.” It was hard to tell from Moony’s tone what offended him more, but it was probably the bad writing.
“Wasn’t there a Lockheart a few years behind us in school? A gormless little thing that spent more time on his hair than anything else?” They didn’t usually pay much attention to Ravenclaws, but if he remembered correctly the boy had annoyed them enough that they’d pranked his hair blue once.
“That’s the one. What he knows about defense against the Dark Arts would fit in my little finger.” Remus pushed the manuscript away. “I can’t even look at this again until I have some chocolate.”
“I picked up a new stock from Honeydukes when I was at Diagon.” Rule number one for the care and keeping of your Moony was to always have a supply of chocolate on hand. “Why don’t you grab a bar and we’ll go out for a walk. It’s beautiful outside.”
“What would I do without you, Pads? Why don’t we pick up some curry while we’re out, my treat?” It was a plan, and they left the house shoulder to shoulder. Later that evening after he’d eaten Remus returned to his work. Sirius found him laughing, his shoulders relaxed, and not a single bucket around.
“Back at the Lockheart?” he asked.
“No, I’ve given myself a respite and picked up the latest White novel. You know this bloke is improving. It’s really kind of nice to see the balance of romance and friendship in here. Less sap and more affectionate teasing.”
“I thought that romance writer you edit for was a woman?” Sirius held his breath for a moment. Did Moony Know? He couldn’t possibly.
“I’m sure that’s what they want people to think, probably because most romance novels are written by women and I’d imagine they sell better. But I’m practically certain this is a bloke writing this. If the book centered around a flying motorcycle didn’t tip me off, the fact that the details about female anatomy are more vague than the male anatomy seems quite a clue.” Remus shrugged. “I don’t suppose it really matters, though.”
“No, I don’t suppose it does,” Sirius agreed.
“I need help.” The next morning Sirius showed up at the Potter house in the middle of breakfast, not knowing what time it was. James was still home, which was not the most favorable thing that could have happened.
“Help with what?” Prongs asked as he broke a banana into pieces for Harry.
“Nothing at all,” Sirius lied. “Just a question for Lils about a girl thing.”
“Dating someone you haven’t mentioned to us yet?” James cocked his head to the side. “It’s been a while since you’ve mentioned anyone.”
“Yeah, well it gets to be all the same after a while, doesn’t it?” Truth was he hadn’t had a date in ages. His free time was taken up with writing, and the rest of the time he was with Remus, or Prongs and his family or both. Lily had them over to dinner once a week at least, somehow thinking they couldn't take care of themselves properly. His social life worked out pretty well, except for the lack of shagging. He did miss that sometimes, but not enough to bother with finding a date.
“Not when you marry the love of your life and the most perfect person in the world.” James, of course, couldn’t help looking at his wife. Sirius was torn between wanting to gag and feeling a tight ball in the pit of his stomach that he’d never felt before.
“It’s been six years since you married her, Prongs. You are going to be a little less sappy at some point, aren’t you?” Of course considering how close they’d come to losing each other it was understandable. And Sirius was happy for them, but as a sibling it was his job to raz James as much as possible.
“If you don’t like it you do know where the fireplace is, Sirius.” Lily was careful when she stood up, her belly now heavily swollen. Potter number four was due in less than a month. “Come on, you can wash up dishes for me while you tell me what you need.”
Dutifully he followed her, ignoring Prongs’ questioning look. When the water was running he looked around to make sure they weren’t followed. “I need to know more about girls.”
“Moony’s figured out that Phaedra White is a bloke. Says there’s not much detail about women’s bits and things in there and that it sounds more like a bloke or something. I don’t know. My first thought was that I could use some polyjuice and spend an hour as a woman but that’s a month of work just to make the potion plus it tastes disgusting.”
“I’m not going to ask why you know what polyjuice tastes like. I don’t want to know who you were or when or if my husband was involved.” Lily rubbed her stomach absently. “Your books are selling surprisingly well, I wouldn’t change things now. Besides you should know at least the basics about women.”
“I know that their breasts are nice and soft, most of them like to snog, and redheads have very good aim.” Or maybe it was just one specific redhead, who proved his point by throwing a spoon at the back of his head.
“Obviously rumors at school had to be taken with quite a few grains of salt and I know some girls exaggerated because it was good for their reputations for it to be known that they snogged the ‘great’ Sirius Black” Lily’s voice was dripping with sarcasm and she stuck out her tongue for good measure. “But you did date a fair bit, and I myself witnessed at least some snogging. Are you saying you never…”
“Did the no pants dance? Nah, girls are nice for kissing and easier for dating but for the whole naked tango I prefer a blokes ‘bits.’”
“Huh. I was dead certain about you and that Hufflepuff in sixth year.” Lily shook her head, bemused. It wasn’t like Sirius had ever hidden the fact that he liked boys as well as girls. “But if you’re here to ask me about my ‘bits’ that’s where I draw the line. We’re close, Sirius, but not that close.”
“You are the best sister a bloke could ever hope for, Lil my love, and as such that is a completely disgusting idea that I would never suggest. I was thinking you might have a friend.”
“I am not pimping out my friends to you, brother dear.”
“You try to set up Remus sometimes.” And somehow each time Remus came down sick and couldn’t come to dinner.
“I worry about Remus being alone. Do you know when he last went on a date?”
“Sometimes in the seventies, probably, and he’s not alone, he has me. What could be less lonely then having me as a roommate?” Other than a bit of time during the war he and Remus had lived together since leaving Hogwarts. It worked well for them both, and honestly the idea of Remus dating made his left shoulder blade go all tense. They took turns making dinner and washing up, cleaned the flat together on Mondays and read out bits of their books to each other as they shared a sofa in the evening. If Remus was spending his time with someone else there would be less of the enigmatic little half smile that made his day better. And at some point Moony would have to share his furry little secret and what if they took it badly and hurt him? Or worse, spread it about? Sirius would have to kill them and then he’d go to Azkaban and then Remus really would be alone. It would be a disaster.
“Sirius have you ever considered…” Lily stopped, wincing a little and struggling to pull herself up. “This little one has great aim and likes to kick mummy’s bladder. You’ll have to excuse us, Sirius. And find your own dates.”
He did find his own dates. Three of them, in the next month, and twice with the girl from the local coffee shop. And though the snogging was nice he just couldn’t get interested enough in taking it farther, not even in the name of research. Sighing he decided he was just going to have to keep doing what he was doing. Besides, having Moony suspect that a romance novelist was a man was a far sight from having him suspect that it was the man he lived with so he was still safe enough. After all who in their right mind would think that Sirius Black was writing romance novels?
When he got home from his last date he found a note stuck to his door in Moony’s careful hand. The word ‘St Mungo’s’ might have worried him if not for the ‘Baby Potter on the way’ underneath. He took a minute to change into something more comfortable, remembering that Harry had taken hours to arrive, and apparated to the maternity ward.
“You brought work with you?” Remus was already there, sitting in the waiting room with a quill in one hand and a stack of pages on his lap.
“You know how long Harry took to make an appearance. Might as well pass the time in a useful manner.” Remus looked up at him, head cocked to the side. “How was the date?”
“Bit boring, to be honest. I think I’m out of practice.” Dating used to be more interesting, but halfway through he’d found himself wishing that he was on the sofa throwing popcorn at Remus and asking about his latest book. The editing of the Lockhart book and its ridiculous lies was keeping him well entertained. “Speaking of the sprog, where is my favorite godson?”
“Lily’s friend Molly has him. The one will all the redhead kids, you remember?”
“Yeah.” Molly happened to be the friend that rewrote everything he wrote. No reason for that to make him nervous, though. “She was Gid and Fab’s big sister.”
“Yeah, she was.” It was never easy to think of the casualties of the war so Sirius tried not to think of them, not even the ones with hair and hearts like fire who he’d shagged once. Gideon had been one of his first crushes in school, and a compatriot in war.
“What are we working on tonight?” Sirius tried to take a look at his papers. “Anything good?”
“Something very frustrating, at the moment. The latest Phaedra White.”
“I thought you said her books were getting better. Seemed to me you quite enjoyed the last one.” He took great pride in the fact that he’d made Moony laugh more than once, and that it came back with hardly any notes other than the usual missing commas and split infinitives. The ending, Moony had declared, was only as sappy as was necessary for that sort of story and not bad at all.
“It’s stupid. I’m just the editor, there’s no reason for the direction of the plot to bother me so much.” Sighing, Remus put the quill down.
“I’m sure the author is grateful for your notes. You said she’s listened to them before, hasn’t she?” Of course he knew the answer. He’d written three thank you notes for changes the Remus had suggested, and every time Remus had been right. Merlin’s pants, Phaedra White was actually making best seller lists and had been mentioned in Witches Weekly twice, and Sirius wasn’t too full of himself to know how big a part Moony played in that. His publisher was trying to make him do a book signing at Flourish and Blotts, and didn’t understand why he kept saying no to the publicity.
“This isn’t the same situation. It’s not a small change to a scene, it’s the whole romance that feels wrong.”
“You read me a bit the other night, between the bloke and his best mate that made you laugh.” He’d found the byplay between his main character and his friend to be the most fun part of the book to write.
“That’s the whole problem. Byron and George have this great relationship. The scene where George is trying to convince Byron to go on the date feels almost like…”
“Like what?” There were times that Sirius totally wished he could talk through scenes with Remus while he was writing. He’d had to bite his tongue more than once when he remembered that he hadn’t sent a story to Moony to edit yet.
“Like he was trying to cover his own feelings for his friend. The chemistry between the two blokes is more natural and interesting than the bits with Byron and Melody.” Remus picked up his quill again. “Now you see why I can’t write that suggestion. I’m not about to tell someone to trash half their story and turn it into a gay romance.”
“She’s here.” The door to the waiting room crashed open and Prongs came running out, tripping over his feet in his hurry. “I’m a dad.”
“You’ve been a dad for almost five years, Prongs,” Sirius couldn’t help but tease him.
“But never to a girl.” It was funny how big Prongs’ eyes could get. “Merlin’s elbow, I have a daughter.”
“Most of the bits are the same, mate. You’ll be alright.” Remus shoved his papers and quill into a bag and took out a flask. “I think this calls for a drink. Not too much, or Lily will kill us all, but just to celebrate.”
“You think of everything, Moons.” Sirius shouldn’t have been surprised, it was very like Remus, but there was something about drinking out of the flask immediately after Moony’s lips had touched it that felt different.
“You’re brilliant, both of you. In a minute we can all go in and you can meet my daughter.”
“Poor Lils, she’s got three kids on her hands now.” Sirius pointed to the dopey looking expression on Prongs’ face.
“I think you mean four kid, Pads. After all she has to deal with you as well.”
“Her name is Olivia Marlene.” Lily had that exhausted but happy glow of a new mother when they were let in to see her. The baby she held looked pretty much the same as Harry the first time they’d seen him, the dark hair on the top of her head and the splotchy looking face.
“It’s a good name. Strong.” Moony nodded solemnly. “Marlene would have been proud.”
“Marlene would have rolled her eyes and called me daff,” Lily said with only a hint of moisture in her own eyes. “But if my daughter is half as fierce she’ll be able to do anything.”
“Moony, ready to say hello?” James took his daughter from Lily and held her close to his chest.
“Let Sirius go first, I’ll hold her in a minute.” Sirius had been the first five years ago, when Harry had been born.
“Sirius will have his turn but it should be her godfather first, Remus.” When Lily spoke Sirius had the good fortune to be looking at Remus. The look on his face and the way his knees buckled was priceless.
“Alright there mate?” Sirius caught him around the waist and helped him to stand up again. “Welcome to the club, by the way.”
“So will you, Moony?” James looked at him expectantly.
“I think you’re mental to ask me.” But Remus carefully took the baby and held her, touching her cheek with a single finger. Sirius felt for a moment like he’s turned into liquid marshmallow, watching the two of them.
“Welcome to the world, Olivia Potter,” Remus said softly.
It was in that moment that Sirius Black, author of almost seventeen romance novels, realized that he was in love with his best friend.
“I’m afraid I’m going to have to leave the country.” Somehow Sirius made it through the next week. He wasn’t sure how but it seemed only fair to give Lily a bit of recovery time before bothering her. A week was as long as he could wait, though, and on the eighth day he flooed over.
“That’s a bit of a dramatic reaction to not being chosen as godfather for our Olivia.”
“What? No, of course you should have gone with Moony. Brilliant choice. Probably should have picked him for Harry, bit of an unfair advantage Olivia has.” Sirius flopped down on the armchair across from Lily. “Where are the sprogs, by the way?”
“Baby’s sleeping. Harry and James are at the park so Harry can run off some energy.”
“Prongs is probably the one that needs to run off the energy. He’s walking on clouds, that one. Reminds me of the week after you finally said yes to a date.” Sirius was pretty sure James hadn’t slept for two days straight. For a week he also hadn’t shut up, even when he did finally sleep. He’d been well stuck on Lily long before they’d dated. Sirius finally had an idea of what that was like.
“Probably. Now tell me what you’re running from.” Lily put on her best getting-ready-to-mock-you expression.
“Nothing really, only the most stupid thing I’ve probably ever done.”
“I’ve seen some of the stupidest things you’ve done, Sirius. Many of them. Unless you’re going to tell me you have to flee the country because aurors are after you I very much doubt it’s as bad as you think.”
“I’m going to need you to actually take a breath at some point, sweetie. You’re going to turn purple if you don’t and then I’m going to have to explain to James and Harry why you’ve passed out on the floor.” Lily patted the empty seat on the sofa next to her. “Now come over here, take a breath, and tell me again what you said.”
Sirius, erring on the side of caution, took three breaths, decided that wasn’t enough, and took three more. “I’ve fallen in love with Moony.”
“Now there, wasn’t that easier to say the second time?”
“You knew perfectly well what I said.” Sirius narrowed his eyes. “You tricked me.”
“Only for your own good.” She leaned in and wrapped her arms around him. “I know this bit is scary but you’re going to get through it and you’re going to do it without fleeing the country.”
“Didn’t you hear what I said?” Maybe having a baby did something odd to your ears.
“You’ve finally figured out that you’re in love with Remus.”
“Finally?” Sirius stared at her.
“Finally,” she confirmed. “Other than this month because of your crazy idea about your books, when was the last time you dated?”
“Dunno. That carpenter maybe?” Sirius had wanted to find out just what else he could do with his hands. The answer was quite a bit. Unfortunately not so much in the brain department and even less in the sense of humor department.
“That was three years ago. What is Remus’s favorite dinner?”
“Steak with mashed potatoes and lots of gravy, popovers, peas.” It was a meal he liked to make a day or two before a full moon when Moony was feeling a bit low.
“And for dessert?”
“Chocolate, of course. I found a chocolate fondant recipe the other day I thought I might try.” Moony was happy to have a chocolate bar but Sirius liked to find new desserts to try. Moony was always pleased when there was a new dessert.
“Who is the first person you see on Christmas morning and whose present do you spend the most time picking out?”
“Moony, of course. We live together.” Last year Moony had put a ridiculous ten galleon restriction on gifts, insisting he didn’t need anything extravagant. His silly Moony hadn’t thought to specify that it was only a single gift, though. Sirius had brought thirteen, but they were all under ten galleons each.
“And when you’ve had a really shitty day who is the first person you seek out?”
“And when something wonderful happens who is the first person you want to tell?”
“Are we seeing a pattern yet? And before you tell me it’s just being friends let me remind you that you have created a whole career for yourself solely because you wanted to make sure that Remus had work that he could take pride in. The entire existence of Phaedra White is basically one really long love letter, which is a bit over the top even for you.”
“I’ve been in love with Moony this whole time?” It didn’t feel wrong when he said it. Maybe later he’d be able to look back and figure out when exactly it all started, but for now it seemed to be enough that it was true. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“You were always going to figure it out in your own time. I couldn’t make you go any faster and risk it not happening at all.” Lily kissed his cheek. “If I’d said yes to James in third or fourth year maybe we would still be where we are. Or maybe I would have written him off as a ponce and I wouldn’t have him or my babies. Things happen when they’re right, and you can’t rush them. Or run away from them.”
“What if he doesn’t feel the same?” Remus rarely dated and never said anything about marriage. “What if I ruin everything?”
“What if he does? I don’t have the answer. I think you have to trust Remus and yourself enough to give him a chance to hear how you feel.”
“And if I fuck it all up?”
“Your friendship has survived war and betrayals and pranks gone horribly wrong, as well as seven years of sharing a dorm and about as long sharing a flat. I don’t think it’s going to fall under the weight of loving him.”
“You better be right, Lily Potter. If you’re not I’m going to be crashing on this sofa after I flee the flat in embarrassment, and I shed.”
Talking to Moony, of course, was a far too direct and logical choice. It took an hour for Sirius to decide that no, that just wouldn’t do.
“You alright, Pads?” Remus asked when he spent the second hour after he returned home pacing.
“Just thinking about Christmas,” he answered distractedly.
“It’s May, I think you have some time before you need to worry.” Remus caught his hand as he walked past. “You look like you have one of your headaches. Why don’t you sit down and I’ll give you a massage? Or I could read something to you?”
“No books.” Books are what had gotten him into the whole mess in the first part. How could he tell Moony how he felt without also confessing the whole story of Phaedra White? Why had he never considered that at some point Moony would have to know about The Brilliant Idea? “I think I might just go to bed.”
“I’ll bring you some tea, it will help you sleep better.” True to his word Remus showed up ten minutes later with a cup of tea, cream in first and half a spoon of sugar, just the way he liked. He’d valiantly tried to fall asleep in those ten minutes, but had failed completely and sat up to accept the tea.
“You know you can tell me if something is bothering you, right?”
“There’s no one in the world I trust more than you,” Sirius said honestly. The tea was too hot still but he sipped it anyway, knowing he’d either burn the tip of his tongue or the roof of his mouth but not caring.
“It’s a bit odd, isn’t it, Prongs and Lily having two kids now? They’re well and truly settled, like proper adults. Might make someone think about it a bit, wonder if they’re wanting something different.” Remus settled on the edge of the bed, looking up at the ceiling as if he could see the stars overhead.
“Do you think about something different? Finding your someone and settling down with a couple of sprogs?”
“Merlin no. That sort of life’s never been for me, even if I could find someone who wasn’t put off by my special little problem. Besides I like things the way they are. You know how much I loved marking up papers with red ink in school and I get to add commas and edit dangling participles to my heart’s content now, with the added bonus of actually making a proper amount of money. And I couldn’t possibly ever be lonely or bored with you around. If I want to play with a kid I just have to pop over to see Prongs and Lily. Seems to me being a godfather is like the best bits of being a parent without all the rest.” Remus shrugged and looked sideways at Sirius. “I always figured you’d follow James’ example at some point.”
“I would have had to start developing a crush more than a decade ago, wouldn’t I, to really emulate Prongs?” It made him stop and wonder for a moment, tea slopping over his chin as he stopped halfway to his mouth. Just when had he started falling in love with Moony? Maybe he was more like Prongs then he thought, with less of the whinging. He couldn’t remember a time when making Moony smile hadn't been a priority, or when Moony touching him hadn’t been a comfort.
“Not like that, of course. I mean the whole home hearth and family sort of thing, and making me a godfather.”
“I like my family just the way it is.” It was a little too close to the truth, and Sirius faked a yawn. “Night Moony.”
“Night Padfoot. Sleep well.” Despite being the first to say goodnight, Sirius was a little dismayed that Moony actually left his room.
The next day Sirius stopped by to pick up his post, finding a rather sizable cheque, yet another request for a book signing, and the edited return of his most recent book. Remus must have mailed it when he’d been with Lily. Flipping through the pages he found the usual red marks adding commas and rearranging the occasional unclear sentence structure, but nothing about the plot of the novel. He hadn’t made any of the suggestions that he’d mentioned at the hospital.
Sirius took the book home and read through the story again. Remus was right. The supposed romance of the story felt flat and predictable when compared to the banter between the best friends, and George was clearly nurturing a crush on his friend. He only wanted Byron to be with Melody because he thought it was what his friend wanted. It was a mess. Sirius was a mess too, but at the moment it was a lot easier to fix things for Byron and George. All he had to do was cut half the book and rework the rest to make sure two best friends realized that they were actually in love.
When he was done he sent it off to Molly with a bonus payment and a warning that he might not be needing her help anymore. She sent it back three days later with a cheerful little note letting him know that her twins kept her quite busy and while it had been fun to read his stories first she was fine with the change in things. Also it was her favorite story yet.
“I need to borrow my godson.” The day after he sent the manuscript back to Remus for editing he left the house early in the morning. He couldn’t bear to be around when Moony saw it for the first time. Better to let him read it and get it all over and done with at once, no matter what way it came out.
“You’re not back on the fleeing the country plan, are you? Because you can’t take Harry to Spain.” Lily raised one eyebrow.
“Why would Sirius flee the country?” James held his daughter but stared at Sirius in confusion. “You didn’t actually break into your cousin’s vault at Gringotts, did you?”
“I decided anything Narcissa owned would probably have cooties. Not worth the risk.” Sirius shrugged. “I won’t even take him out of the county, Lils. I promise.”
“Pads? Lily?” James pushed, not having a clue what was happening but suspecting that his wife knew a fair bit more.
“Not now, Prongs. I’ll tell you tomorrow if the world doesn’t crash around my ears today.”
Lily, fortunately, said yes and Sirius was able to mostly distract himself with a trip to the zoo and far more ice cream than an almost five year old and a twenty-five year old should eat. He returned Harry in time for tea but warned Lily that he probably wasn’t very hungry.
“I’m proud of you,” Lily said before he left, kissing his cheek.
“I’d probably be proud of you too if I knew what the bloody hell was going on,” Prongs added, kissing his other cheek. Sirius said thank you to them both, decided against the floo, and apparated home. He sat on the front stoop for half an hour before daring to open the door. The flat was completely silent.
“Moony?” Maybe he wasn’t at home. Maybe he hadn’t gotten the package or had been too busy to read it today. Maybe he had read it and had run for the hills. Maybe he hated it and hated Sirius and was in his room packing for a trip to Zanzibar. For a minute he worried that Moony really was gone because the flat, even Moony’s room, were empty. The last place to check was what they grandly called the balcony, which was really just a fire escape with a upside down rusty cauldron as a seat and a single pot with a dittany plant they barely kept alive. Moony sat with his back to the wall, looking out at the view. They were lucky enough to be on the side of the building that looked out over a park rather than another building.
“Hey.” He settled on the sill of the open window, which was the only other place to sit but also meant that Remus couldn’t go anywhere without stepping over him, which could come in handy. “How was your day?”
“I read a book.” Moony didn’t look at him. Sirius couldn’t tell what he was thinking at all, other than that he looked like he should be smoking. They’d both given it up when Harry was born, though, and that went double now that Oliva had come along.
“Yeah?” He took a deep breath and waited.
“Yeah. I thought it was weird, at first. It’s the same Phaedra White book I just edited, and I thought it was a mistake until I got through the first couple of chapters and it’s been completely rewritten. I didn’t say anything about the story to anyone, other than you, but it was like they looked inside my head and saw how I wished the story had been written. George was so certain that Byron was going to propose to his girl but instead there’s this scene, this magical scene where Byron says that he couldn’t fall for Melody because he was already in love. That it had been George all along. Sometimes your best mate is also the love of your life.” Remus was still staring down at the park and Sirius wanted to shake him, or beg him to turn his head, or just kiss him and take his chances that Moony wouldn’t throw him over the side of the balcony.
“Do you think that’s true?” he asked. “Even when the best mate is a complete disaster who might be keeping a secret or two, but only because they want their best friend to be happy and not have to worry about anything?”
“Do I think that Byron and George are in love?” When he finally turned, Moony had a perfectly inscrutable expression on his face, the one he used in school that let him tell McGonagall that he didn’t know anything about a prank that had in fact been his brainchild. When he used it on anyone else it made Sirius smile. Facing it himself was agonizing.
“Do you believe that sometimes your best mate can also be the love of your life?” He’d channeled everything he felt and thought into Byron. Remus set a great store in books and the written word, and Sirius hoped that maybe works written in black and white would make his argument for him.
“I think the hardest thing to believe is that I could possibly be that extraordinarily lucky.” With the blink of his eye Sirius could see all the vulnerability Moony had been hiding. The hope and the fear, the trust and the love. The love he saw there knocked the breath out of him.
“Merlin, I think you just scared five years off my life, you were that hard to read.” He pulled himself through the window and squatted in front of Remus. “Do you really think you could love me?”
“You deserve to be scared, you bloody git. You had me secretly editing books you wrote and somehow you became an author for the lark of it.” Remus rubbed his forehead, like he did when something was puzzling him or the writing of something was particularly confusing. “I’ve been in love with you for ages, Pads, and I find there’s generally very little thinking involved. It’s a simple fact.”
“I don’t think there’s anything simple about it.” Sirius Black was the author of seventeen and a half books, and it seemed to him there was only one possible option for what came next. He kissed Moony, of course. Kissed him like Byron had kissed George, like Psych had once kissed Cupid and Darcy had kissed Elizabeth. The kiss had been brewing up inside him for some time and he did not stop until the air was gone from his lungs. And then he said the words that he planned on repeating every day for the rest of his life. “I love you Moony.”
“I love you too, Phaedra White.”
Sirius groaned, and laughed, and kissed his Moony all over again. It was Absolutely Brilliant.