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Through The Heartache

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. ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚.

In the tiny Muggle flat they shared directly after Hogwarts Sirius always greeted Remus at the door. No matter what he was doing at the time, as soon as he heard Remus' keys jingle in the lock he rushed to the front door, bouncing impatiently on the balls of his fee, and greeted Remus with kisses and an 'I missed you' (even if Remus had only gone down to the corner store for milk and had barely been gone ten minutes).

Remus knew when he wasn't immediately greeted at the door that Sirius was either having a bad day or was out. During their first year of sharing a flat those instances were few and far between, both of them high on the feeling of finally living together, being alone together when they wanted and waking up together every morning in their bed and Sirius living off of his uncle's inheritance, preferring to be a, as he called it, househusband, nevermind that he was both bad at cooking and any other kind of typical housework.

During their last year living together, if it could still be called that, considering they were on missions more often than not, Sirius still came to the door to greet him when he was home. Less enthusiastically, more desperately. Making sure they were both still alive. Making sure the war had not yet stolen one of them away from the other.

After Halloween '81 Remus had to suppress his immediate thoughts of 'oh Sirius isn't feeling well' or 'is he on a mission again?' when he came home to the flat and nobody greeted him at the door. Sometimes it took him a second to remember the tragedy his life was. Less than half a year later he couldn't bear it anymore and moved out of their flat back into his parents' abandoned cottage.

Hope Lupin had died in the summer of 1980 and thankfully never had to know anything about the betrayal of her son's partner. She had loved Sirius and Sirius had returned the feeling wholeheartedly, always playfully, but also earnestly, calling her Mama Hope. Lyall hadn't been as fond of Sirius but Remus was never bothered by that, considering that he was sure Lyall wasn't even particularly fond of his own son. They had had a complicated relationship since he was five and Fenrir Greyback took offense to being insulted by the anti-werewolf ministry worker his father had been back then. The only thing he apparently had in common with his father was not being able to live in the home they had shared with their partner anymore. Lyall had moved out of the cottage in late 1980, a year and a half before Remus moved back in, and Remus wasn't even sure exactly where to. They exchanged meaningless owls once a year on Christmas and that was it.

When Remus moved out of the flat he cried non-stop while packing up all of the shared life that went down the drain. But after, he never thought about the fact that he took all of Sirius' stuff with him into his new old home. He brought all of it up into the attic when he moved in and then never looked at any of it again. The only thing he couldn't bear to lock away was the record collection because it wasn't just Sirius', it was theirs.

When Remus came home from his work at the cinema that day, a perfectly normal February evening in 1987, three days before the full moon, he had a feeling he couldn't explain. Some kind of anticipation, like his life was once again gonna change fundamentally. He was understandably wary, walking up the overgrown path to his cottage's front door. Fundamental changes to his life had rarely ever brought him happiness. Rattling the key in the old lock he carefully opened the door, not quite sure what he expected to see, except the hallway leading to the rest of the house, in which he had been living alone for quite a few years now.

A shaggy unkempt and massive black wolfdog was sitting directly behind the door, only far enough away to not be hit by it. Wagging his tail wildly, his whole body moving with it and with a big canine grin on his face. Letting out a bark as if to say I missed you. Or maybe Remus was projecting.

The flash of happiness was overwhelming but it passed quickly and Remus found himself almost stumbling backwards off the front porch as everything he dared to forget for a second in the face of such a familiar sight came rushing back. 'Not my Sirius. Not anymore.' he had to remind himself, fumbling his wand out of its holster and pointing it with a trembling hand at the mass murderer sitting in his childhood home. 'Not my Sirius. If he ever was at that.'

Padfoot, and oh how it hurt to even think that name again, wasn't wagging his tail anymore. Against Remus' expectations his eyes weren't trained on his wand though, they were trained on his face. Watching for what exactly Remus wasn't sure but apparently he found something because the dog slowly lowered his upper body to the floor as well. He laid down and then shuffled backwards awkwardly. Remus had the weird urge to laugh. Or to cry. Or maybe even both. Oh, maybe he should move into his house as well before actually confronting the convicted, not so imprisoned, prisoner in front of him.

Steeling himself, Remus took a quick look behind him before he stepped into the house properly and closed the door behind him. He briefly entertained the thought of finally having lost his remaining mental faculties but then decided to act as though everything in front of him was real and definitely not a hallucination. There was nothing special about today or even the last weeks that would explain a possible breakdown so better to assume it wasn't.

His wand still trained on what was obviously Sirius in animagus form, he cleared his throat, wishing he could clear his head at the same time.

"Transform."

Instantly heeding his words, the familiar form of Padfoot melted away to reveal the equally familiar kneeling form of Sirius, grey eyes still fixed on his face. And fuck Remus didn't know why he thought he couldn't hurt more than in the last five years, than on that morning after it, but seeing Sirius' ragged form, his gaunt face framed by his long absolutely filthy hair, oh his hair, sitting in a torn Azkaban uniform, looking up at him like a dog left by his owner, broke his heart all over again. It broke him because looking at Sirius now it seemed so obvious that, no matter what his own mind tried to tell him just seconds ago, he was still his Sirius.

The thought alone felt sacrilegious. But it also felt right. Something aligning in his very soul that had been out of place for more than five years. He was still his Sirius. And if he was still his Sirius then he also had to be innocent somehow. Or not innocent but definitely not guilty. And if Sirius was still his that meant that he was also still his -

"Moony."

With a voice like sandpaper Sirius muttered the nickname Remus hadn't heard in years. Remus felt like the strings holding him up until now were cut, wand clattering to the floor as he followed it down, only slower. He didn't know what exactly his face was doing but Sirius let out a whine like he was still the dog and when Remus looked up at him again, he had a wounded look on his face.

"Moony."

"Padfoot."

Was that his own voice?

"Moony Moony Moony. My lovely Moony."

With every 'Moony' his voice gained strength and apparently so did Remus. He moved forward on his hands and knees and framed that scruffy still so beautiful face with his hands. His cheeks looked even more gaunt between his big palms.

"Sirius."

And the dam broke.

"It wasn't me. I swear it wasn't me. Moony, please, it wasn't me." escaped Sirius between heartbreaking sobs.

Remus could do nothing but believe. And then they were sitting on the cold floor in the hallway of his childhood home and embracing or more like crushing each other and sobbing and Merlin, they really should talk, but this came first.

. ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚.

Some time later, Remus didn't know how long exactly - the crying had been extensive and exhausting and when one of them stopped, seeing the other cry pulled them right into the crying spiral again - they were both sitting on the sofa in his living room, puffy-eyed and with mugs of tea in their hands. Remus was, as most of his fellow Welsh, of the opinion that maybe tea didn't quite fix everything but it sure as hell made things easier. He made a note to scrounge up some food and maybe some chocolate for Sirius later as well.

Stirring two sugars into his tea Remus couldn't tear his eyes away from Sirius and Sirius seemed to have the same problem, staring at him without blinking and almost missing his own mouth while trying to sip at the still too hot tea. Then Sirius blinked and almost violently wrenched the mug away from his face again.

"Ah shit." he said with a slight lisp. "Burned my fucking tongue."

Remus chuckled but then sighed. Putting his mug down on the table in front of the sofa he dragged his now free right hand over his face. It was time for the hard part. They had to talk. And they had never been good at that or maybe that wasn't fair, he didn't quite know, but not communicating seemed to be what had landed both of them in their current situation.

His brain had been going high speed in the background since he had first seen the animagus form in his hallway and had come up with the most likely scenario of how Sirius wasn't guilty and the only thing that made sense, if anything still did, was that they switched secret keeper and didn't fucking tell him. Why didn't they just fucking tell him?

"Why didn't you fucking tell me?!"

Oh, okay, not how he actually wanted this conversation to begin but it was as good a start as any so he pressed on.

"You switched, didn't you? You must have. It's the only thing that... I mean you're not…" he stammered his way through expressing his thoughts. "And that means... I mean it's Peter, right? So, why didn't you...? Pads?"

Sirius put his mug down as well and copied Remus' movement of dragging his hand down his face. Then he opened his cracked lips, his voice still sounding like he gargled gravel.

"You're right, we switched, we didn't tell you and it's the worst mistake I have ever made in my life."

"Padfoot..." Remus trailed off. He didn't even know what he wanted to say, he just couldn't stand the pain in Sirius' voice.

"No, wait, Moony, let me talk. Let me get through the whole thing and then you can tell me properly how much of an idiot I've been."

Remus nodded and folded his twitching hands in his lap to prevent himself from reaching out.

Sirius pulled both of his legs onto the sofa and folded his arms over his knees, then he started talking again.

"I don't know when it started but in hindsight it's pretty obvious. When the order began to suspect that there was a spy nobody knew how to act anymore. I didn't know how to act anymore."

Here he cleared his throat and looked ashamed.

"And after a while I didn't know how to act around you anymore. You were on missions all the time and weren't allowed to tell me anything about them. And sometimes you didn't want to meet up with us as a group anymore even when you weren't on missions and then Peter" he spat out his name. "Peter made these comments."

Remus inadvertently let out a small noise but nodded for Sirius to continue talking.

"In hindsight it was obviously planned to divert the attention from himself. He used the wartime confusion and the general air of suspicion very well. Just a few small comments here and there, who'd suspect sweet little Peter. Of course he was just concerned for his friends. Didn't he also find it odd that Remus didn't tell him anything about his missions even though everyone knew that Marlene told Dorcas everything about hers and was Remus feeling well, he hadn't seen him in a while and he hadn't answered his last few owls and... "

Tears were silently flowing down his face now.

"I didn't trust myself anymore."

Remus, who had definitely not expected that to come out of his mouth, interrupted.

"You didn't trust yourself anymore? What is that even supposed to mean?"

Sirius shifted a bit, leaning into the backrest with his shoulder.

"I didn't trust my trust in you anymore. I loved you, love you so much, Remus. I didn't know how to not trust you. So if you were the spy, if you had been the spy, how would I have known?" he almost pleaded. "I thought, maybe I just can't see it. Maybe I'm ignoring other signs without realising. I started to see signs where there obviously weren't any. You being a bit more withdrawn and that one time you didn't return my 'I love you'."

Here his voice broke.

"I don't know how to better explain it. Remus."

He put so much feeling into his name. He always did. And even though his then partner, his everything was basically talking about what led to both of them being alone for five years and their friends dead and Harry, poor little joyful Harry, without his parents, Remus kinda understood where he was coming from. He understood but he was also incredibly angry. He had been withdrawing from his friends during the war. In hindsight Wormtail had also whispered in his ear. Had invited himself over and talked about his suspicions that James and Sirius thought Remus was the spy but that obviously he didn't think that at all. By god, if they had only communicated better. If Sirius had talked to him or if Remus' immediate reaction to emotional hurt wasn't to remove himself from the situation. Maybe this time they could get it right.

"All these years, when I was convinced, when I had almost successfully convinced myself that you had done it, I still couldn't stop loving you. I hated you but I loved you more and hated myself even more. I don't think I remember how to stop loving you."

"Merlin's balls, Remus, you can't just say something like that." Sirius mumbled. A blush was spreading high on his cheeks. Shameless, never embarrassed Sirius was blushing. Nevertheless Remus had to get the next part out.

"But I am also incredibly angry. I thought about those last months, what kind of signs I must have missed. Your absences, your excuses. I turned over every word you had ever said. Analysed every action of yours. Beat myself up because how could I have missed something that big about a person I shared my bed and my life with."

Silent tears were dripping from Sirius' eyes now and he sniffled a bit.

"Merlin, Rem, I'm so sorry you had to go through that. I'm sorry I left you alone when I promised I never would. And I am so sorry I didn't trust you enough."

He ran a hand over his face and exhaled shakily.

"We probably need to talk about how it all went wrong, about how we went so wrong some more, don't we?"

Remus nodded. "Yeah." Then went on in a soft voice, "But we also don't need to do that right now. I don't think that'd be particularly helpful to either of us."

Sirius nodded as well. "Right, yes. Then I'll finish my fucked up tale so we can hopefully curl up in bed and cry some more."

Remus shifted closer to Sirius, moving Sirius' feet over his lap and clasping one of his hands in his own. "Okay. Go on then."

Sirius shot him a quick smile and continued.

"When Prongs asked me to be their secret keeper I accepted at first but then as I started to trust my own judgement less and less. Everyone would expect me to be the secret keeper. Merlin knows I'd have rather died than tell anyone the secret and they wouldn't have been able to torture it out of me. But what if they used you? If they tortured you? I think I would have told them whatever they'd want to know. And if you had been the spy, you could have used that so easily. At the same time Peter, that manipulative little shit, was also ramping up the comments, not that I realised that at the time, and so about a week before we were supposed to perform the Fidelius I asked Peter to do it instead of me. I convinced James and Lily that it'd be safer if I was just a decoy and I never told you. I don't think they, except for Peter, realised that I wasn't planning to just not tell you about the switch."

He was talking faster now as if to get it over with.

"On Halloween I was checking up on Peter in his supposed safehouse because he didn't show up for a meeting the day before but he wasn't there. Nothing else was amiss, he just wasn't there. And then when I was just about to leave, I must have thought about Prongs or Harry or maybe Lily and I realised I knew the exact location of their house in Godric's Hollow, which meant that... "

"The Fidelius was broken."

"Yes."

"You went to Godric's Hollow. You had your bike. And you had Harry in your arms when Hagrid came."

Remus knew those facts, had Hagrid recite everything he remembered about that night several times. Remus could piece together what stupid, impulsive Sirius Black had done then but he asked anyway.

"And then you...?"

"And then I made the second biggest mistake of my life. Instead of refusing to hand over my godson to Hagrid of all people, Prongslet was so small and he started to cry again when I handed him over, I went after the rat. Took me all night. I sniffed him out in a muggle neighbourhood. He was waiting for me in the middle of the street. Set me up. It all went so fast. He screamed something about Lily and James and then just blew up the whole street and escaped down into the sewers."

Sirius looked like he wasn't seeing anything in front of him anymore and his hand twitched in Remus'. Remus squeezed his hand tighter. He felt so foolish for not putting this together sooner. Wormtail was a literal rat for fuck's sake.

"I'm sorry." he now said and would say a hundred more times at least. "You know the only thing they found of him was a finger. Didn't know he had it in him. He must have cut it off himself."

Sirius barked out a laugh. "Good ol' little Pete. Should've learned sooner to not underestimate him."

Remus hummed in reply.

"So he's still alive, hiding somewhere."

Sirius shrugged. "Seems like it. Or maybe some of the karma we're definitely owed has applied and he's accidentally eaten rat poison or been eaten by a cat."

There was a cruel glint in his eyes and Remus couldn't deny that those thoughts brought him a certain satisfaction as well, but if Wormtail was indeed dead, Sirius' situation would be worse than it already was.

"You, no, we need him to prove your innocence, Sirius. You are a convicted mass murderer who escaped from Azkaban, they're not gonna ask questions if they find you."

Remus looked intently at Sirius' face, still squeezing his hand. Sirius sighed, resigned in the face of logic.

"See, this is why I came to you first. I didn't even have a plan about that, I would've bungled it all up, probably. Like always."

Smiling, Remus chose not to comment on that at the moment, all of their collective guilt had to wait for later, and decided it was time for a break, "You want to eat something?"

. ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚.

Turned out Sirius did in fact want to eat something. So while Remus heated up some soup and rummaged around for some still-edible bread, he tried to not think about Sirius' being in his bathroom right now. So familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. Did he have new scars? How many of those strange soot-black rune tattoos did he have? What did they mean? Remus rather failed at not thinking about Sirius.

He had shown him to the bathroom first, before feeding him, because after the initial excitement had passed, Remus had realised how absolutely filthy Sirius was from head to toe. He didn't know if it was leftover from Azkaban or if it had accumulated on the way here, which Remus assumed Sirius had mostly spent as Padfoot, either way it, and its unpleasant smell, needed to go.

Remus buttered two slices of bread with his wand, which he had retrieved from the hallway after an embarrassing time of just standing in his kitchen wondering where it had gone to before remembering his collapse in the hallway. Just as Remus had taken the small pot of soup from the stove, Sirius appeared in the doorway with a sheepish smile.

"I think I used up your soap."

Remus couldn't help but laugh.

"That's okay, at least I can see your actual skin colour again."

It was true. Remus had given Sirius some socks, a pair of pyjama pants and a T-shirt before showing him to the bathroom and Sirius's arms, including some old familiar tattoos and some of those strange new symbols, were on display. Sirius definitely looked less grey than before his bath.

"Here, come sit and eat."

Remus set down the bowl with soup and the bread on the table, sat down at the kitchen table and gestured to the only other chair.

After Sirius had nibbled on the slices of bread and slurped down the hot bowl of watery soup, almost burning his tongue again, declaring it 'the best fucking meal I've ever had, honestly, Moony, you wouldn't believe what they tried to pass off as food in that hellhole.' they relocated to the small bedroom without really having to talk about it.

Remus changed into the same kind of attire he had lent Sirius and tried to ignore Sirius' eyes on his own scar-riddled form. He knew there were a lot more scars on his body than the last time Sirius had seen him naked.

"Come on, love."

Without exchanging any more words they both slid under the covers of Remus' double bed, Remus from the right and Sirius from the left, meeting in the middle as if it was still 1980 and nothing had been destroyed yet. Remus, lying on his back, opened his arms and, as he always used to do, Sirius shifted into them without hesitation, using Remus' taller build to his advantage, curling up with his head in the crook of his neck and tangling their legs together, poking the top of Remus' feet with his icy toes.

Trying to card his fingers through Sirius' hair in a hopefully soothing motion, Remus hit a snag and then another one and - Remus paused.

"We need to do something about your hair."

Sirius hummed.

"Mmmh. I'm too comfy now, I'll let you at it tomorrow. You can even cut it if you want."

"Cut your, what was it, luscious perfectly silky hair?" It went like this everytime Sirius let him cut his hair. Because Sirius did in fact let him cut his hair, had done since fifth year, since it was long enough to regularly need a trim and James had fucked up his first haircut spectacularly.

"I don't think it's quite that anymore, they did not employ hairdressers in Azkaban, but yes you can work your magic on it."

Trying not to get lost in the nostalgia of it all, Remus stroked over said hair with his palm now, careful not to get his fingers tangled this time and picked up the paused conversation from earlier again.

"How did you escape from Azkaban?"

Sirius snorted. "Padfoot."

"What?"

"Padfoot."

"Words still don't make more sense if you repeat them in a slightly different tone, Sirius." Remus scolded fondly. It was a familiar argument.

Everything about this was so familiar. Remus felt like he was having a constant case of déjà-vu.

Sirius laughed, this one more joyful and a little softer than his previous dog-like bark in the living room.

"Padfoot fit through the bars of my cell."

"Oh." Remus honestly didn't know what kind of explanation he expected but this one wasn't it. It seemed so simple.

"The dementors can't detect me very well when I'm in dog form, don't affect me as much, so that part was easy. And then I swam until I reached the shore. And then ran until I arrived here. Slept for almost a whole day on your back porch."

Sirius' tone was very matter of fact as if he wasn't talking about fleeing from an inescapable prison littered with soul-sucking dark creatures, swimming across the north sea and then walking across the width of the country.

"You must've walked more than 300 miles. How'd you know I'd be here?"

"I didn't."

Remus almost didn't understand him with how deep Sirius had buried his face in Remus' neck.

"You. Didn't." Remus stated more than asked. Because, well yeah, he couldn't think of any way that Sirius could have known. "But you said earlier you chose to come to me first?"

Sirius hummed into his neck in affirmation, the vibrations making Remus' spine tingle.

"Yes. That's what every iteration of my plan included and as soon as Padfoot had escaped that damned cell he wouldn't have let me go anywhere else anyway. He's missed his Moony just as much as I did."

Now it was Remus' turn to hide his face. Burying it in Sirius' hair. Not sure if it was to hide the tears in his eyes or the big sappy grin on his face.

Sirius continued before Remus could compose himself. "My human memories are kinda spotty in places but I could never forget that summer before sixth year, those perfect two weeks when you finally forgave me and we had our first awkward kiss in the shed outside while your parents were asleep. I hoped you felt the same about this place and would return sooner or later. A little hope is better than none."

"You used to say that to my mam."

At this rate Remus would never stop smiling.

Sirius was smiling as well. "Well she was better than a lot of things and she was a little Hope. She was barely five feet tall. I have no idea where you got your freakish height from."

"Yeah, well, back then you loved my height." Remus could feel the blood rushing to his cheeks at all the memories of Sirius demonstrating why he loved their size difference so much and cleared his throat awkwardly. Flirting with Sirius came back naturally, if with an uncharacteristic feeling of shyness.

Sirius chuckled. "Oh Moony, I definitely still do."

Remus could hear by the sly undertone in his voice that he was probably remembering the same instances of their bodies fitting together perfectly as he was.

"Stop that, you horndog." He scolded him playfully, not actually wanting him to stop anything. It felt good to have this back.

Sirius just hummed, as if he knew perfectly well what Remus was feeling and then pressed a featherlight kiss under Remus' jaw. "Merlin, I've missed this so much but I'm really exhausted."

Remus, whose heart had stopped for a moment and then resumed beating at double speed at that small sign of affection, replied breathlessly. "We should probably sleep and worry about everything else tomorrow."

Sirius finally removed his face from his hiding place in Remus' neck and yawned jaw-crackingly. "We really, sorry, we really should." He then looked up at Remus, who had turned his head to face him a little better, and bit his lip. "Can I be the little spoon?"

Remus didn't know if he had ever loved anyone or anything more than Sirius in right this moment, lingering anger and heartache and all included and at the way Sirius' face suddenly brightened, making him look years younger, something must've spilled over in his expression. So he just nodded wordlessly and settled down on his side, one arm under the pillow and the other one held aloft.

Wasting no time, Sirius turned around and moved under Remus' arm, scooting backwards right up to his front. When he was settled he clasped Remus' hand with his own and brought it down to his stomach, tightening Remus' arm around him in the process.

Remus buried his face in the back of Sirius' head, inhaling the smell of his own soap and the inherent smell of Sirius. Something he couldn't describe but would recognise everywhere. Something he still associated with the feeling home.

"Are you smelling me, you weirdo?"

Remus rolled his eyes. "Shut up and go to sleep."

Sirius sounded as if he was suppressing laughter. "Ok, Weirdo."

Remus just squeezed his hand and chose not to respond verbally.

"Moony?"

"Yes, Sirius?" He asked patiently.

"Were you smelling me?"

Remus sighed exasperated.

"Yes, Sirius."

"Okay."

It was silent for a while, only the sound of their breathing filling the room. And then -

"I love you anyway. Even if the whole smelling thing really -"

Remus interrupted him. "I love you too but please let me sleep now."

After that Sirius burrowed further into the pillow, sighing contentedly as if Remus' response had been all he'd been after.

Sirius' breathing slowed along with his own and the last thing Remus heard before drifting off was a soft "Goodnight, Moony".

. ・ 。゚☆: *.☽ .* :☆゚.

Somehow I made it through the heartache

Yes I did. I escaped.

I found my way out of the darkness

I kept my faith (I know you did), kept my faith