Remus drank tea like it was a cure for lycanthropy. Even in the height of August when it was hot enough to make Sirius give up on wearing a shirt for days at a time.
Sirius watched the other boy from a few feet away, both taking solace in the shade given by an ancient oak tree on the edge of the Potter property. Remus’ bony hands curled around a thermos of tea that Dorea Potter made especially for him, as he read a thoroughly battered copy of Pride and Prejudicethat Remus had probably had since he’d started at Hogwarts. There wasn’t a summer that Sirius could remember since starting school that didn’t somehow include Remus and that book.
“Sirius, aren’t you going to come for a swim?” Marlene called from the swimming pond they’ve all gathered around. She was here for James’ birthday, which he seemed to be eagerly enjoying. He splashed Peter and then got tackled underwater by Frank Longbottom.
The only person that didn’t accept the invitation to the Potters’ for James’ 16th birthday was Lily, saying the reason she couldn’t come was a prescheduled family vacation to the Swiss Alps with her sister’s fiancé, or so she told Remus.
“Why are you picking on me?” Sirius whined and flopped over on the grass with an air of dramatics.
Marlene rolled her eyes but pushed herself onto the small dock that jutted out over the water, “Because I know trying to get Remus into the water is a futile mission. Can you even swim, Remus?”
Remus removed his nose from his book long enough to shoot an unimpressed look in Marlene’s direction, “Of course I can swim, I just choose not to.”
Marlene looked equally unimpressed at Remus’ answer but didn’t press the issue further.
“But really,” Marlene said to Sirius, “Are you coming in for a swim or not?”
“Nah,” Sirius answered, “I think I’ll stay here and keep Moony company for a little longer. I already celebrated with James. I’m sure he’s tired of me by now.”
She shrugged but turned around and cannonballed back into the pond, narrowly missing Alice who shrieked in response.
Bored of watching the pond and the people in it, Sirius dragged himself over to where Remus was. He interrupted his reading by putting his head on the werewolf’s thigh. “Can I help you?” Remus asked.
Sirius shifted onto his back to look up at Remus. There was a light sheen on sweat on the boy’s forehead but that was understandable, seeing as Remus was dressed in a long sleeved shirt and bloody corduroy trousers. Glamor charms would work just as well for concealing some of Remus’ more noticeable scars, but Remus would hear none of it.
“Why d’you always read that book if you know what happens in the end?”
Remus leaned back against the tree, closing his eyes. “I don’t know. I just like it.”
“I’ve never read it.” Sirius said. “Is it any good?”
Remus’ eyes shot open. He looked down at Sirius with a perplexed expression on his face, “You once told me that your mother made you read Goethe and Nietzsche, but she never made you read Pride and Prejudice?” He sounded almost insulted that Sirius wanted to laugh, but he didn’t.
In fact, Sirius felt sort of squirmy and embarrassed for having a lacking literature education, at least in Remus’ eyes. He wanted to please Remus.
“How about you read it to me? If you want to, of course. We could even start from wherever you left off.” Sirius said.
“Oh no,” Remus said, shaking his head, but picking his book back up. “If we are going to do this, we are going to do this right.”
Sirius, at the prospect of being read to, wanted to curl up against Remus as Padfoot so he would be more comfortable. With so many other people around though, people other than the Marauders, he couldn’t, so he had to be content in other ways.
He sat up, leaned against Remus’ shoulder, and took a swig of tea from Remus’ thermos.
“Alright. Commence, please.”
Remus cleared his throat and began to read, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife…”
James snored like he was trying to wake the dead. It made it hard for Sirius to sleep.
With the house full of guests, Sirius bunked with James. He was quickly regretting that decision as James, who slept spread eagle on the bed anyways, made a hiccup-y snore. It made Sirius want to punch him.
Usually, when in the predicament of sharing a room (and incidentally, a bed) with James, he’d just smack the other on the back and hope for the best. But it was hot, and even with the window open, stuffy in the bedroom. Sirius tossed and turned and stared at the ceiling for a while, but it was all for naught.
Finally making a decision, Sirius threw back his share of covers and got out of bed. He pulled on a t-shirt that was probably James’ and adjusted his pajama bottoms. Making sure his wand was in the safety of the area beneath his pillow, he grabbed his sandals in one hand and crept out of the room.
He almost shrieked when he saw Remus in the hall. It seemed like they had had similar ideas. Remus was stuck rooming with Pete, who had a tendency to have loud conversations when he dreamt.
“Can’t sleep?” Sirius whispered in the dark hall.
Remus padded over to him in bare feet, “Looks like I’m not the only one.”
“Fancy a walk then?” Sirius asked. Remus seemed to consider this for a second before cocking his head to the side. Finally, he said, “Alright. Let me fetch my trainers. And my wand—there should at least be one among the two of us.”
He was right, of course. But Sirius puffed out his chest and lent against the wall to wait for Remus to return.
In the next few minutes, they snuck out of the kitchen door after leaving a note (Remus’ idea) that they had gone out in case anyone woke up and realized they were missing. The last time Sirius had run away without a note, he’d ended up being disowned so it was a good precaution.
They were drawn to the path that took them down to the pond they had been at earlier, without a discussion between them. Sirius felt the heat of Remus, radiating off of him, as they walked shoulder to shoulder. He wanted to reach out and touch Remus, but it wasn’t his place to do so.
“How are your nightmares?” Remus asked. He seemed so casual about it, like asking for the time of day, that it startled Sirius.
It was just one of those Remus things—those straight to the point things.
“Better,” Sirius said truthfully, “Better now that I’m not in that hellhole anymore.”
“Good.” Remus said in a matter-of-fact way.
They walked a few more paces, in step with one another.
“How are yours?” Sirius asked.
“No better, but not any worse.”
Sirius bit his lip, trying to keep his words to himself. He wanted to console Remus, to offer comfort, but even if they shared nightmares, they weren’t the same in nature.
He offered his hand to Remus. Remus took it without hesitating.
The pond looked luminescent in the light of the waxing moon. The calm water reflected the starlight that was brighter out here in the country than back in London.
“I’m going for a swim,” Sirius decided, “Are you going to join me?”
He was thinking about it, Sirius realized. And he was still wearing that damn long sleeved shirt.
“It’s just me,” Sirius said, “I’ve seen all of your scars and you’ve seen all of mine.”
“Alright,” Remus said, “I’ll join you.”
They both stripped down to their shorts, leaving their clothes in neat piles on the small dock. The cool water felt brilliant in the hot mugginess of August. Sirius brushed the wet hair out of his eyes, regretful he hadn’t thought to tie it up, but was content to float on his back. He could spot Cygnus and Sagittarius in the illuminated sky. It was peaceful.
Until, of course, Remus surfaced to spit a stream of water at him.
“Oh, bugger,” Sirius swore and flipped in the water to splash the other. Remus laughed and splashed him right back.
They chased each other in the water for a while. The swum laps and had a race. Remus was an excellent swimmer, just as he said, just as Sirius knew.
“I’m going to get out now,” Remus said.
“Alright,” Sirius said, “I’m going to swim another lap.”
Once his final lap was completed, he climbed out onto the dock. Remus had put their clothes higher up on the dock so they could stretch out and dry. It was warm enough out so they wouldn’t get cold.
Not being able to resist the urge, Sirius turned into Padfoot long enough to shake the water from him. All the while, Remus cursed at him for the spray of water and the smell of wet dog.
Within a few moments he turned back and joined Remus, lying down on the dock. Remus opened an arm, offering his side for Sirius to curl into like it was the most natural thing in the world. Sirius was more than happy to comply. Remus ran naturally warm, due to his lycanthropy, and was more than happy to share the warmth.
Sirius, admittedly, was also a tad touch starved.
Placing his hand over Remus’ heart, Sirius was content to feel the beat. His eyes drifted shut after a few minutes.
He was awoken by Remus placing the palm of his left hand over where Sirius’ hand still was and sighing through his nose.
“Is everything alright?” Sirius asked, feeling like he was still half asleep.
“Yes? No? Maybe. I’m not sure. I feel like I’m missing something.” Remus sounded frustrated. He often got frustrated at the prospect of the unknown, Sirius noticed. To comfort him, Sirius turned his hand palm-side-up and took Remus’ hand in his own.
“Sirius? Can I ask you to do something for me?” Remus sat up, taking Sirius with him. Their attached hands landed in Remus’ lap.
“Sure, Moons. Anything.” He meant it.
“Now, you don’t have to do it if you don’t want, I won’t be angry.”
“Bloody hell, Moony. Just spit it out. I promise I won’t judge you or anything. This is a judge free zone.” Sirius said. He waved his free arm in a presenting motion, trying to convey his message better. He had a habit of talking with his whole body, as Dorea Potter had called it. Sometimes it ended up with someone (usually James) getting wacked in the face.
“Could I…kiss you?” Remus said at last. His cheeks and ears were bright pink. Then, he blushed harder, as if getting embarrassed for being embarrassed.
Sirius couldn’t help it. He laughed. But it was in relief, that he hadn’t been misreading the lingering looks and the pull in his gut and their full moon romps when it was just him and Moony with the others trailing behind.
He let go of Remus’ hand to cup the werewolf’s face and say, “Of course. Yes. Please.”
So Remus kissed him, his lips as warm as the rest of him. Remus’ hand came to circle Sirius’ wrist. His fingers were long so his middle finger and thumb overlap when he held tight.
They finally pull away long enough to breathe, still breathing each other’s air, still touching. Sirius leaned his forehead against Remus’; pressed the tip of his nose to the small bump in the middle of Remus’.
“Something missing still?” Sirius asked. Remus laughed so that his shoulders jerked forward and all that came out was a little breath.
“No, I don’t think so, not anymore.”
Remus pulled back and pushed a piece of damp hair out of Sirius’ face. “Perhaps we should head back.”
“I don’t want to go back and listen to James’ snoring.”
The werewolf shook his head, “No, no I have another idea.”
He made to his feet, holding out his hand for Sirius to take. Sirius accepted, and together they strolled back to the manor, walking closer than they had on the way to the pond.
When Sirius woke up the next morning, someone was playing with his hair. Usually, he was very particular about who could touch his pride and glory. Yet, the smell of tea and chocolate, the soft grey shirt, gave Remus away, so Sirius allowed it.
Remus combed through tangles made by last night’s swim with his fingers, pulling and carding Sirius’ hair.
“Good morning,” Sirius rumbled low.
“Morning to you, Padfoot.”
Sirius stretched, but not in a way so Remus would stop his ministrations, “D’you know what time it is?”
Remus looked up to see what the time piece on the mantle in the Potters’ parlor said. “Half seven,” Remus said, “I expect James and the others won’t be up until at least nine.”
Sirius considered this. An hour and a half was a long stretch of time to go without breakfast. “What do you think of pancakes? James’ mum taught me the recipe.”
Remus smiled. “I think I would like that very much.”