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The Best By Far Is You

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“I’m in love. I mean, like…I’m pretty sure I’m absolutely in love.” Sirius threw himself back on his bed, arm stretched out toward his open laptop screen. “This beautiful little cinnamon bun.”

The messy-haired twenty year old with dark skin and glasses that currently sat askew on his nose, rolled his eyes at his best friend. “You need to stop with Tumblr. I don’t understand half the words that come out of your mouth anymore.”

Sirius rolled his eyes before flopping back onto his stomach. “Peasant.”

“That one’s old,” James commented. “I thought you were hunting for a job.”

“I am. I was. I mean…I sort of found one and was plucking up the courage to respond.”

James’ eyes widened. “Really? What sort of job? God Sirius, this isn’t creepy advert from some eighty-year-old pervert who wants to take photos of your feet, is it?”

Sirius pulled a face. “That happened one time. And I left, if you recall.” Sirius switched browser tabs to the website set up by their Uni for students who were either looking for part time work, or students who knew of work, or even some who needed help. A lot of it was editing or tutoring, and most of them could barely afford to pay out twenty quid a week, but it was something.

“You know, why don’t you just let mum send you…”

“Unlike you, I refuse to be the spoilt son,” Sirius said. Though they both knew the truth. Though the Potters had taken Sirius in like a son, and he was happy to call them mum and dad, being disinherited and chucked out on his arse at fifteen gave Sirius a host of issues. Coupled with the ones he’d got from his family’s abuse before, he was a mess. Really. And his pride dictated that at twenty he wasn’t going to take a weekly allowance from his adopted family. Even if they had millions and millions of pounds.

“Fine, whatever. What’s the post.”

“Someone’s asking for a reader two days a week. Good days too, Wednesdays and Fridays. I have afternoons to spare.”

“What do you mean a reader?”

“Well, the ad says they’ll explain it in detail during the interview. They want to vet the person first a bit, which makes sense, right?”

“I…suppose,” James said slowly.

“I guess they’d like me to do a bit of reading for them.” Sirius rolled onto his back again. “It pays alright. Fifty quid a week which’ll add up.”

“How many hours per day?”

“Two.”

“So four per week. That’s not a lot, Sirius.”

Sirius shrugged. “Liveable though, innit? For four hours a week. Might get a good shag out of it.”

“Is it always sex with you?” James rose off his bed. “Don’t you have an essay to write? Instead of being on Tumblr?”

“Just ten more minutes mum,” Sirius grumbled. “I want to bask in the glory that is moontothetide.”

“What kind of shite name is that, anyway?”

“The kind that only someone outside of Tumblr wouldn’t appreciate. Look at his fucking ridiculous aesthetic.”

“You know it’s a he?” James pointed out.

Sirius gave him a withering glower before turning the screen away. He’d been obsessing about moontothetide for months now. It was a combination fandom and hipster blog, which should have been shit but instead was glorious. He was following, secretly, never even brave enough to send an ask through anon, and he didn’t have any selfies but his text posts were wonderful.

‘Today I was at the shops and a little girl tripped over her dad’s shoelace. She turned to him and said, ‘You forgot to tie your shoes dad. Sorry it took my near-death experience to remind you.’ Parenting goals- passive aggressive little shits.’

‘Yesterday I gave my name at the café as Prof X. I’m making all the lads call me Charlie from now on. I may not have friends after today.’

Sirius had an image of him in mind. Bit punk, bit hipster. Probably a wool beanie and leather coat. Gorgeous. He had to be gorgeous. Maybe eye-liner, bit like Sirius, though was that absolute narcissism, picturing the invisible person you’re in love with to look like you?

Not that Sirius cared.

He refreshed his dash and saw a new text post. ‘Went to make a withdrawal today. Lady at the counter attempted to fill out the form for me. As though I haven’t been coming in daily. Then heard her talk about how someone should sort me out because honestly was being gay just a trend these days? I might have grabbed poor Frank and snogged him whilst she got my money. Alice is going to kill me but it was worth it. Tell my mother I love her.’

I love you, Sirius thought. And for the first time he hit that little button.

‘I think this is something we should all start. When people start talking rubbish. Grab the nearest person and snog their faces off until those heteronormative shit-weasels shut up about it. Forever.’

The button was blinking him in the face. Send as Anonymous. He didn’t.

He hit send, then regretted it.

Except five minutes later when a reply appeared. ‘Shall we then? Shall we start a Tumblr revolution of making all the straights feel uncomfortable until they’re so used to it they don’t anymore? Good blog by the way. I like that all your photos and videos have descriptions.’

‘Inclusive is punk rock, innit. I’ve been worshiping your blog for ages. Also I think we should make all the straights uncomfortable until they realise there’s no such thing as binary. I don’t believe in straight people.’

‘I’m in the library and just laughed so loud, snicksnackfrickfrack. Also your name is a delight to say. Cannae say I’ve heard one so interesting before.’

‘Oh god, you’re Scottish. I was in love until now. My English blue blood dictates we must be mortal enemies.’

‘Unless we Romeo and Juliet this bitch.’

Sirius was bright red and his fingers were flying. His dash was going to be covered in this conversation and he gave zero fucks. ‘I’m not thirteen though—ogod did I just out myself as Juliet. I’m prettier, at the very least. More dick than she’s got—at least I think, though considering the original plays…point of it is, I don’t fancy dying in my teens. Got any better ones?’

‘All the best stories are tragedies. We could write our own.’

‘Is that a proposition?’

There was no reply and Sirius thought that was it. He’d fucked it all up with his stupid mouth. Or well, fingers, anyway which were in direct line of his mouth because he probably would have said all that aloud.

He very nearly typed out an apology. But then he got the notification.

Moontothetide is now following you.

He swooned. Then forced himself to switch browser tabs and apply for that job.

Hi, I’m replying to your ad. I’d like to inquire more. The schedule is good for mine, and I’m a literary major so reading is no issue. Please contact asap.

He left his number, didn’t sign it. Not the most professional but whatever.

He got a text a few minutes later. ‘Hi, this is Remus Lupin, from the posted job ad. If you have time tomorrow, we could meet at the café.’

Sirius’ fingers fumbled with the buttons. ‘That would be great. I’m free after noon.’

‘Half that, then?’

‘Perfect.’

Three hours later, Sirius had just got back from the pub. James and Peter were watching the match, and Sirius was sat at his laptop again. The little number one was floating above his message box.

‘Guess who.’- Anonymous

Sirius felt his entire face flush. ‘Very cute moontothetide.’

Ten minutes passed before he got a reply. ‘Très bien, bravo.’

‘French now? Are you French? God help me.’

Another ten minutes passed. ‘Puede ser que.’

‘Spanish?’ Sirius groaned and flopped his head down on the keyboard which sent a load of gibberish in an ask.

‘?’

‘Shit. Uh…cat.’ He was the worst liar.

‘You let a cat near a computer? Unwise.’

Sirius gulped, and again not thinking, repeated the same mistake. ‘Sorry.’

‘Bien fait pour toi.’

‘U got kik or facetime?’ He held his breath and waited. Then an IM name came through.

‘Moony.’

“Shit. Shit. Okay I can do this. I mean, I’ve only been obsessing over this blog but I can totally do this right? Like…I’m…it’s not weird.”

“What the fuck are you going on about?” James poked his head round the corner to look at Sirius’ red face.

“Only the blog love of my life asking me to chat.”

“In person?”

“Online, James. Jesus.. He could be a serial killer. Need to vet him first.” Sirius was already typing the name in to search for him. He deflated when there was no profile picture. Or real profile to speak of. But he sent the request and a moment later, a chat window dinged open.

‘Buongiorno.’

‘You may kill me with this. This other languages thing. Are you English?’

‘I feel like I probably shouldn’t give you intimate details. Also what the fuck is a padfoot?’

Sirius groaned and buried his face in the pillow beside him. “Fuck you so much, James,” he muttered. ‘It’s an old school nickname my tit of a flatmate gave me ages ago. I can’t escape it.’

‘Can’t escape it? Don’t you choose your own screenname?’

‘Oy, don’t try and come here with your logic and reasoning. Let me blame Prongs in peace.’

Moony is typing…

‘Prongs. Right. Boyfriend?’

Sirius almost choked on his own tongue. ‘Er. No. He’s…I…don’t think he goes for people like me.’

‘Pronouns?’

Sirius frowned, then his eyebrows flew up. ‘Oh er. He/him. Cis dude. Very gay. Punk rock.’

‘He/him. Cis dude. Pan. Not punk rock. 80s glamrock.’

‘We can’t be friends. Fuck off forever, Moony.’ Sirius stared at the screen. ‘Please don’t fuck off forever.’

‘Hadn’t planned it. But you can’t tell me that Bowie’s epic Jareth the Goblin King bulge isn’t something to worship.’

‘Fine. You get that one. Only.’ Sirius stared at the screen again. “What the fuck am I doing?”

“Making another mistake, like usual. I’m going to tell mum.”

“Fuck off, James.” Sirius was so glad there was no way for Moony to hear him. He glanced at his clock and realised it was too late to be getting into anything deep. ‘80s boi, can we pick this up tomorrow? I’ve something early in the morning and I need to be responsible and shit.’

‘Go on then. Night Padfoot. Sweet dreams.’

Sirius felt a tiny squeak welling up in his throat. ‘Cheesy. You can do better next time.’ He signed off before he could get any more ridiculous.

***

“Oy, what’s that smile for?”

Remus just shut down his laptop, setting it to the side. “Nothing.”

“You’ve always been a terrible liar. You want tea?”

“Herbal would be great. I’ve got class early, then meeting my new reader. Possible new reader.”

Lily Evans flicked on the electric kettle and rummaged round until she came out with a couple of bags of chamomile. Plunking them into the bottom of their well-worn, well-loved mugs, she leant against the counter and stared at her tawny-haired best friend. “Hopefully he’s not shit.”

Remus laughed. “I think I’ve learnt my lesson.” He leant back and rubbed his hand down his face. “It’s only two days a week besides. I just can’t afford the fucking audiobooks this term for that class. I mean for fuck’s sake, Lils, what professor orders nine books for a term?”

“Sadists. You could appeal, you know. Disability services and all that.”

Remus’ eyes narrowed, though the effect was somewhat lost as he was glowering at the edge of the coffee table and not his flatmate. “Because that’s worked so well in the past. All I ever hear is that, if I can’t keep up, maybe I shouldn’t be taking the classes.”

“Wankers,” Lily agreed. She fixed the tea, then set Remus’ down in his usual spot.

Reaching out, his fingers brushed the mug, found the handle, then he took a long drink and sighed. “Either way, I think this one will work out. Keeping it strict to the library. No funny business.”

“Sounds wise. Unless you like him. Or her.”

“Him I think. Odd name. Sirius Black, was it?”

Lily almost choked on her tea. “Sirius Black? Like…Sirius Black Sirius Black?”

“Saying his name twice in a row isn’t helpful,” Remus complained.

“Only just…surely you heard. The news and everything. You know the Blacks, right?”

“Should I?”

“They’re royalty, Remus,” Lily chastises. “Few years ago there was this big controversy with that one, I think it was. He was flouting his whole lifestyle all over the tabloids. Then things got quiet and a few years after, his brother committed suicide.”

“Shit.” Remus breathed into his cup. “You think it’s the same one?”

“How many people in this ruddy country are called Sirius Black?”

“I don’t know. You English people are weird.” Remus was frowning though. “So why would some posh-boy aristocrat want to be a reader for fifty quid a week?”

“Maybe he’s bored,” Lily ventured. “Could be we’ve got the wrong one. I could look up a photo if you like.”

“Won’t be much help to me, will it,” Remus pointed out. “I guess I could just ask him.”

“Oh that should go over dead bloody fantastic. Oy, were you the bloke gaying it up all over the press before your brother went and did himself in?”

“Fucking aye, it’s not like I have any tact,” Remus pointed out. Which of course he did have tact and had no intention of being so horrible. But he might have to ask. Because if this was Sirius Black, the rich posh poof who liked to piss of his parents, well Remus was not interested in being a token of rebellion. He had classes to pass after all.

***

Sirius had got one text saying the man he was supposed to be interviewing with was sat in the café already, and to look for someone in a brown cardigan. Sirius thought it was a joke. Who wore brown cardigans that were his age?

Well, Remus Lupin, apparently. He was indeed sat at a table near the window with an obscenely large cappuccino mug in between his hands. Sirius contemplating grabbing himself a coffee, but he really didn’t like coffee at all, and the truth of it was, he was already stuffed full of sugar and caffeine and could hardly be still.

So he walked over and grabbed the chair, pulling it out with a loud squeak. Remus jumped, and Sirius went red. “Bugger. Sorry. I…hi. I’m Sirius. Er. Black. Sirius Black.”

For a second, Remus looked annoyed. Then vaguely amused. “Have a seat.”

“I have done,” Sirius said with a frown. “Er. Not late, am I?”

“I don’t believe so.”

Sirius’ eyes went wide. “You’re Scottish.”

“Problem?” Lupin’s tone was challenging.

“No I was just having a joke with someone who…” He stopped and looked down, feeling disturbingly under dressed in his ripped jeans and Ramones t-shirt. Sitting across from this bloke who had to be at least his age, maybe even younger though Sirius couldn’t decide. But he was wearing the cardigan and trousers and honest-to-god penny loafers. “Never mind. So.” He clasped his hands on the table.

“So indeed. Do you have any questions for me?”

Sirius licked his lips. “Ah. I mean…not specifically. What er…what books am I to read?”

“I’m taking a theology course and the teacher’s required me to read nine books this term. Not in full, but there are passages.”

“So actual reading?”

Remus’ eyebrows went up, but Sirius noticed he was avoiding contact which was a bit annoying. “Did you think it was pretend reading?”

“Thought it might be code for something. I dunno, not really a normal request, is it?”

“For me it is.” Remus let out a long-suffering sigh which made Sirius blush. He realised he wasn’t taking this entirely serious and that was a problem.

“I’m sorry. We’re getting off on the wrong foot. I can absolutely do theology. I actually have a great reading voice so it won’t be a problem. Shall I be reading to you, or would you prefer a recording?”

Remus’ eyebrows shot up again. “Recording. I hadn’t thought. Something to keep in mind. For now we’ll have our sessions at the library. You’re a student?”

“I am. But I’m free on the evenings.”

“That sounds perfect.” Remus set his mug down on the table and leant his chin into his hand. “Now might I ask you a question?”

Sirius’ chest tightened a little as he studied this man. He was taller than Sirius, broader in the shoulders. And though he should look ridiculous in the cardigan, instead he looked dashing. His hair was tousled, eyes a sort of amber colour and a bit distant. His fingers were long, slim, and he had faint scarring across his cheeks and neck. Sirius would have asked, but he knew that would be rude. He had his own scars and didn’t like talking about them ever.

“Sirius?”

He coughed. “Right, sorry. Er, of course, ask me anything.”

“Are you Sirius black who was in the tabloids a few years ago?”

Sirius went flush and looked away. “Er. That’s um…”

“Can I ask you a second question?”

Sirius bristled. “Will it be as personal?”

Remus flinched. “Probably. I’d like to know why a lad as rich and aristocratic as you would be interested in taking this job. This is important to me. I need a reader to pass this class and I’m not interested in hiring someone who’s going to bugger off two weeks in because it’s boring. Because it will be. Dreadfully boring.”

Sirius worried his bottom lip. It was obvious this Lupin didn’t know everything. “I don’t like talking about my family. Suffice it to say I’m not looking for a job to amuse myself. Also I don’t find theology boring.”

Remus blinked rapidly, then smiled. “That was a good answer.”

Unable to help himself, Sirius beamed. “I pass the test?”

“Wasn’t a test. An honest inquiry. I’ve had…trouble in the past.”

“I guess I can understand that. We rely on people when we need them, and as humans are wont to do, they let us down.”

Remus smiled, which widened, then he laughed. “You…god you are so posh. It’s almost unreal. I feel like I’m having tea with the Queen.”

“Oh trust me, I’m far less boring.” Sirius felt a little more confident now. “So do I have the job?”

Remus’ expression shuttered for a second. “How about we try it out. Two weeks, to see if you’re comfortable and if I am. And if so, then yes. We’ll call it permanent for the rest of term.”

It was only fair. “Alright. I’m in.” Sirius put out his hand, but when Remus didn’t take it, he pulled back and flushed. “Can I ask a question now? Might be a bit rude?”

“Yes. Cannae promise I’ll answer though.”

“Why er…why do you need a reader? I mean, what’s the point?”

Remus’ eyes widened. “Well I’ve looked into the cost of audiobooks for the ones assigned and they’re over a hundred quid a piece. Fucking rare books, go figure.”

That didn’t entirely answer his question but… “Won’t paying me fifty a week end up costing more than that?”

“Might do, yeah,” Remus said. “However my flatmate’s covering half the cost for me, and there’s benefits to having a reader. Especially since I only need passages and trying to scroll through audiobooks for specific paragraphs is a huge pain.”

“Right.” Sirius frowned. “But why?”

“Why’s it a pain or…?”

“Why would you… I mean surely the books…I mean you can read, right?”

Remus sputtered on the sip of cappuccino he’d just taken. “I’m blind.” The words blurted out and seemed to ring across the café, though it didn’t seem like anyone else was listening.

Sirius was stunned. “You…I…” He stopped. “Oh.”

“Sorry, I thought you realised.”

“You don’t look…I mean well not that blind people look a certain way. But you’ve no dog. No cane or…”

Remus reached down to his left, then set a folded up white cane on the table. “Better?”

“Jesus. You really are blind.”

Remus’ face went hard. “Is that a problem?”

“No!” Sirius felt like a complete tit. “No I…I’m fucking this all up. I’m sorry. It just didn’t occur to me and I’ve never met a blind person so now I’m showing you how truly pathetic and uncouth I am.”

“Not very aristocratic,” Remus mused, a hint of a smile playing at his lips.

Sirius stopped, then laughed. “I’m taking that as a compliment, just so you know. A big one.”

“Do as you like.” But Remus was smiling now. Properly. “So now that we’ve got awkward and tit-like behaviour out of the way, shall we compare schedules?”

It took them the better part of an hour to sort out the exact times and days in spite of Remus having posted his requirements on the original ad. But he was being reasonable, asking if Sirius needed to adjust anything.

Sirius’ head went back to the joke he made to James about getting a good shag out of it. And he realised near the end, he wouldn’t mind so much. Remus was biting and witty and gave as good as he got. He was also not easily offended and seemed to understand Sirius’ strange humour rather than be put off by it.

At the end, Remus reached into his pack and pulled out a book. He slid it across the table and crossed his arms. “Alright, Shakespeare. Let’s hear it.”

“A reading? Now?”

“Am I putting you on the spot?” He lifted a brow, and Sirius blushed.

“Er. Course not. I’m like a trained circus animal. Perform on command. Provided you use torture and abuse.”

Remus pulled a face. “That’s dreadful.”

“So are circuses,” Sirius said, and there was not a hint of joking in his voice.

There was a pause, then Remus laughed. “You’d get on with my flatmate. She’s…bit of a world-saver.”

“Just the animals,” Sirius said. “Sod the people.” He flipped the cover of the book open and cleared his throat. “Shall I go Queen’s English,” affecting his best posh, the sort his mum insisted he use in important company. “Or something more casual?”

Remus smirked. “Can you do Welsh?”

Sirius barked a laugh. “Not sure I’d be any good at it. Remember I had tutors. Could do in French if you’re keen.”

Remus paused, cocking his head to the side. “French?”

“The most Ancient and Noble House of Black hails from there, just so’s you know. French and English nobility. We managed to escape most of the beheadings, luckily.”

“Luckily,” Remus said dryly. “Standard English is fine. Though good to know you can do accents. And French.”

Sirius decided not to ask why that was good to know and instead got to reading in a book called The Origin of Satan. Sounded like a dreadful and dreary subject, but the writing was decent and half-way down the page he actually got a little bit into the book.

“Alright,” Remus said after a while. “That’ll do for now.”

“You sure?”

“Aye.” Remus reached his hand out, and Sirius slid the book to his fingers. “Good news, I can stand your voice.”

Sirius gave him a wolfish smile, forgetting those charms would be useless in this situation. “That is good.”

“So I suppose I’ll see you Wednesday?”

Sirius got the distinct feeling he was being dismissed. “Right. Yes. Half six? You sure that’s not too late?”

“I’m a bit of a night owl,” Remus said, waving his hand in a dismissive gesture.

“Right.” Sirius started to get up, but hesitated. “So I’m not sure if this question is rude so er I was…”

“Oh get on with it. You’ve not been fussed about rude all day,” Remus chastised.

Sirius blushed. “Do you need help getting home or…the tube or bus or something?”

Remus frowned, then laughed a little. “You do know I got here on my own, right?”

“Well I didn’t want to assume.” Sirius’ tone took a defensive tone to it, and Remus stiffened. “Sorry. I live with my foot in my mouth.”

Remus let out a breath, then his shoulders relaxed. “It’s fine. It was good to meet you.” He stuck out his hand and Sirius took it. Their palms were warm together, and held on just a little longer than Sirius thought was normal. Eventually Remus pulled away and picked his stick up off the table, setting it straight with three clicks.

“If anything comes up,” Sirius said as he took a step back, “just text me.”

“Right-o.”

Sirius had a feeling Remus wanted to wait to get up until Sirius was gone, so he made a somewhat noisy show of leaving the café and when he got a ways down the street, he paused. He’d been joking about the sex. Now he was feeling fucked—but in all the wrong ways.

***

Oy oy, moonshine.
(seen)

An hour went by before Sirius got a response, and he nearly tripped over himself to get to his mobile.

Moonshine. That’s a new one.

I’m not very clever with nicknames. Have a good day?

Fair to middling. Met someone.

Break my heart, why don’t you! Was he good looking?

I’m a shit judge of good looks. He was…I’m not sure what I think of him yet. I’ll decide later. How was your day? Home now? Being a good boy, are you? Having dinner? Get your homework done? Wash behind your ears?

Between you and Prongs I certainly don’t need a mum. And yes, I’ve eaten. Cold pizza, if you must know, and beer. Putting off homework in favour of tumbling. And I’ll shower later. You?

Just suffering over my ships. Had soup. My wonderful flatmate is taking a cooking course so she’s experimenting on me. Luckily for me she’s good at everything she does. It was Albondigas.

Bless you.

It’s a Mexican meatball soup. You wish you were with me.

Only always. What’s ur OTP?

Too many to list. I don’t have ships. I have an armada. Currently I’m on my fandom blog. Right now I’m on Stucky.

BLASPHEMY. STONY 5eva.

I knew you were shit. I knew a limey little shit like you was going to have shit ships.

I WILL GO DOWN WITH THIS SHIIIIIP.

What have I got myself into?

You get used to me. So Stucky. What else?

Obviously moontothesun/snicksnackfrickfrack. But only in a coffee shop AU.

Oh my god I thought you were original and awesome. Not a predictable fanboi.

You know anything can be done well if it’s done by someone with talent. Did you IM me just to antagonise me? Because I’ve got my flatmate for that.

Sirius blushed. No. Sorry, I just had a weird day. You know I worship at the font of your amazing and awesome well of cinnamon bunness.

Worst. But I should go. My flatmate is begging for my attention and I’m sure you should actually get to work on your assignments. Talk later, Pads?

He very nearly swooned at the shortened nickname. Jesus. He had it bad. Yeah. Laterz x

He shut his laptop only to avoid getting back on and ignoring James who really wanted to watch the match with him since Peter was out. Sirius would pretend, and instead his head would be torn in two. His favourite blogger who was becoming his most favourite IM chat, and the gorgeous new employer he’d be spending two hours a week reading to.

***

Sirius got to the library five minutes early, only to see Remus already sat at a table set up. He was wearing earbuds, and typing on a laptop. Sirius paused and pulled out his mobile to send an IM.

Bout to sit across from one of the most gorgeous men in the world. But I think he’s immune to my charms. Send help.

He put his mobile on silent and slipped it into his pocket. Strolling over, he stopped when Remus’ face bloomed into a smile and he typed a little faster. Sirius’ eyes widened when he realised the laptop screen was black, then he noticed the little black box beneath the keyboard which was popping up with little grey bumps, and Remus was running his fingers over it.

Braille, he guessed.

“Er. Remus?”

Remus’ face turned up. “Hullo, Sirius. Right on time.”

Sirius took the chair as Remus removed one earbud. “Have a good day?”

Remus almost laughed. “You don’t need to make small talk with me, Sirius.” He reached into his pack and pulled out a book, pushing it across the table.

What if I want to, he thought, but he didn’t say it out loud. “Right so, shall I just dive right in?”

Remus shook his head, fishing round his pack for something else, then pulled out a sheet of paper. “You’ll have to tell me if this is the chapter list. The prof in this class is a pure dobber.”

Sirius laughed. “Got a few myself.” He picked up the paper and glanced at it. “Looks like.” He rattled off a few of the lines, stopping when Remus nodded. “Shall I er…just dive right in? D’you want to take notes or anything?”

“Start whenever you’re ready,” was all Remus said.

Sirius felt a bubble of frustration in his gut. He was a friendly person, personable and everyone liked him. They wanted to be his friend. And yes, it was a bit arrogant and yes not everyone always would, but he wanted this stupid Scottish boy with his stupid accent and cute smile to just like him.

But he wasn’t here for that. He wasn’t being paid to have a friend. So he located the first passage to read, sat back in the chair, and began.

***

“Well?”

Remus’ fingers closed a little tighter on Lily’s arm as they made their way home. Her voice cut into his thoughts, and he gave an annoyed huff, letting his cane poke the ground a bit hard. “Well what?”

“Well, are you going to keep him?”

Remus laughed. “Dunno yet, do I? Seems okay so far. But he could be like the last. Buggering off without warning leaving me begging you for help. With your shit reading and busy social life.”

“It’s called a job, Re. Not a social life.” Lily scoffed, but gave his arm an affectionate pat. “He’s cute though.”

“As though it matters to me,” Remus said.

“Doesn’t it? Always has before. Fussy about everything. Bit on the emo side for my taste. Had eyeliner on tonight, and some ridiculous ripped jeans. But you’d like him.”

“He’s not a prostitute. I’m paying him to read, Lils.” But Remus was already wondering how cute was cute. How much of his type Sirius was. But no. He wasn’t about to get involved with someone in his employ. “He’s a snob, besides. You should hear his accent.”

“I did,” she said with a laugh. “I bet he had tutors. Like fussy ones with high collars and rulers to smack his knuckles when he wouldn’t behave.”

“I’ve no doubt,” Remus said with a nod. He went quiet as she unlocked the door and they went in, heading straight upstairs to their flat. “Point of it is, if we get on well enough for the next few sessions, I’ll keep him on. But for reading only.”

“Whatever you say.”

He heard her flounce back to her room, and he took that as a sign that he could hog the sofa all to himself whilst he tumbled a bit and maybe chatted with Padfoot. Who he actually would like to know, though the thought terrified him. Remus had never expected his stupid blog to get attention. It started with the text posts, and the fuzzy photos he posted—or so Lily told him.

Remus’ condition was complicated. He was born with severe myopia, and round eight developed RP. At nine he was in a car crash—one that killed his mum and left him with an undiagnosed detached retina in his right eye and by the time they sorted that out, it was too late for surgery. The RP left him with tunnel vision in his left eye by the time he was sixteen, which meant he had a pinprick of vision directly in the centre, and if he sat very close to something, nearly touching it with his nose, he could get about a two centimetre by two centimetre idea of what something looked like.

It was shit, really. But he’d lived with it long enough.

Tumblr was a difficult site though for people with low vision. Half the people didn’t caption their photos or use any descriptions on their videos. Which was why he was delighted after reading the message from Padfoot. He also particularly enjoyed the way his reader said the word snicksnackfrickfrack, making him giggle each time it read aloud through his earbud.

Of course Padfoot’s tumblr wasn’t half as popular. But it should be. It was worthy.

Sorry I was caught up. I hope your meeting didn’t go too shit.

He left it for now, not expecting an answer.

He got one, however, twenty minutes later. Moony, do you think I’m shit?

At what? Ships—maybe. Life? Don’t know you well enough, do I?

Rude. My ships are glorious. I usually am the best at life. I’m very cute, and fun, and adorable. But the bloke I saw tonight doesn’t think so. Why Moony? Why is the universe so cruel?

Seems a shame. I rather like you. But perhaps you’re tragic beauty is only meant to be understood and appreciated after your death.

Jesus, Moony. That’s morbid……… I rather like it. I’m getting the death glare from Prongs though. Just got in and he seems to think there’s the glaring possibility you’re either a twelve year old girl or an eighty year old paedophile trying to get into my knickers. I disagreed with him, but he won’t listen. Especially since you have no selfie tag.

Tragic indeed. I have no selfies to give. But go on, fawn over your boyfriend. I’m going to study and pine.

I just told him some day this is going to make a great toast at our wedding and he smacked me round the head. Fucking berk. Enjoy your studying. Dream of me xx.

Remus switched off the IM notifications to do some actual work. He could hear Sirius’ voice echoing in his head, and he was rather fond of the posh accent. It wasn’t the obnoxious sort, it was soft and round at the edges like he’d attempted to be rid of it but failed.

He hated a little bit that he did like Sirius. He liked that Sirius didn’t give up trying to be friendly. And his questions were honest, the way children asked them. He was spoilt, obviously rich and probably very taken, but unrequited fancy was the stuff good books were made of, and Remus always wanted a love like that. Unrealistic and heavy, all encompassing and there to make him forget about everything shit in his life.

Yes, that’s what Sirius was.

And this funny thing with Padfoot was just that. A funny thing.

***

The rest of the sessions went about as well as the first. Sirius would attempt small talk, just a bit of a chat-up, nothing heavy or deep. Remus would tell him to just get on with the reading. Sometimes he’d have Sirius stop so he could make a note or two on his laptop.

Sirius expected Remus wouldn’t even listen, but he was surprised when every time, Remus would shut his eyes, lean back in the chair and nod along to the rhythm of Sirius’ words. Every so often he’d ask for a passage to be repeated. Or he’d mutter something under his breath like he was figuring something out.

Sirius had no idea what Remus was studying, and as Remus always shut him down, he never got the chance to ask.

On their last session before Remus was to decide whether or not he wanted to keep Sirius on permanently, a woman interrupted their session. Two women, actually. The first was tall, with fiery hair and a wide grin. She was accompanied by a shorter woman with lovely curves and wide blue eyes.

“Re, darling,” the redhead cooed, and dropped her hand onto Remus’ shoulder.

Remus, who’d had his eyes shut, sat forward and grasped the top of the woman’s hand. “Lils. I’m not going to be ready for at least another half hour.”

“I’ve got Marleen with me,” the woman—Lils—said.

Remus brightened and stood, holding his hand out so the second woman could lean in and press a kiss to Remus’ cheek. “You look great, Rem.”

Remus flushed a little. “Thanks. How are you?” He stopped then and made a little O with his mouth. “Sorry! Sirius, this is Lily and Marleen. Girls, my new reader, Sirius.”

“Sirius Black, we’ve heard a great deal,” Lily said with a wink and Sirius immediately liked her.

“Can’t say the same, but Remus here is just dead silent about his life outside of you know…me.”

Remus huffed. “Yes, my world revolves round the posh would-be prince.”

“Well it’s a pleasure, ladies.” Sirius winked and appreciated when they both flushed just a little bit. “How do we all know each other.”

Lily giggled. “Did you just use the Royal We?” She shook her head when Sirius gave a casual shrug. “Well Re and I are flatmates. Best of friends as well.”

“Remus and I used to date. Dunno how I let this one get away.” She stroked her hand down Remus’ cheek as he blushed heavy and red.

Sirius felt his stomach sink into his knees. So that confirmed it. Straight most likely. And if not definitely not Remus’ type it seemed. “Right-o. Well how about we take five. Could do with a fag and you can sort out flatmate, ex-girlfriend stuff.” The tension was obvious in his voice, so he hurried out before anyone could ask him about it.

Leaning against the building, he lit up a smoke, took a long drag, and let the white puffs ease out between his lips. He was so fucked. Mad for this stupid idiot at the table who clearly wasn’t interested in giving him the time of day. Just the fifty quid a week to read out of theology books.

How dreadful.

Sirius was near done with the smoke when the back door to the library opened, and his eyes widened when he saw Remus poke his head round. “Sirius?”

“Er. Yeah, here,” he said, standing up straight. When Remus put out his hand, Sirius took it on instinct, feeling heat rushing into his gut as Remus used his arm as a guide to step out. “Everything okay?”

“Seems as though Lils got her shifts at work switched round and can’t get me home after our sessions.”

Sirius bowed his head. “Ah. Well, we could swap days if you like. Or…”

“Was hoping you might…you could walk me? Unless you’ve got…”

“No I…” Sirius stopped, trying not to sound over-eager. “Yeah no, I could do that. Sure. You live far?”

“Not much. I usually walk, though we could do bus if you’d rather.”

“I like walking.”

When Remus smiled, Sirius could swear he drew light from the sun itself. “Well let me just finish up here and we can get back to it.”

Remus hesitated. “You got a spare? Haven’t smoked in ages but feeling like one.”

“Oh. Yeah. They’re hand-rolled though. Filters but…”

“Great.” Remus held out his hand, and Sirius gave over one of the fags and his small, silver lighter. He watched as Remus touched the end of the smoke with his finger before bringing the lighter to it, then taking in a long drag. “Not bad, Black.”

“I’m a terrible influence,” Sirius said by way of reply. “Your flatmate’s going to kill me. I can tell she’s the mother-hen type.”

Remus rolled his eyes before leaning back against the wall. “Always has been. Could never stop her. Love her for it, though.” He handed the lighter back out, and when Sirius took it, their fingers brushed for longer than was necessary.

Before he could pull away, Remus surprised him by grabbing his hand tight, then running the pads of his fingers up and down Sirius’ index finger. “You play an instrument?”

Sirius blushed hard and furious. “Er. Guitar, ukulele. When I was a kid I had to play cello and piano for hours and hours a week. Mum and dad wanted me refined and proper.” He spat the last sentence with as much venom as he had left.

“Ukulele. Interesting choice. Might like to hear that some day.” Remus smiled and Sirius felt himself loathing their entire situation because fuck. Falling in love with a straight boy was so not in the cards.

“So Marleen. She’s a cute one. Sorry it didn’t work out.”

“It’s okay. Just a bit of fun really, at least by the end. She’s sweet, hangs round enough to where we had to form a friendship just so things wouldn’t get awkward. I’ve had a few who just thought by being totally silent with me in the room would make it less horrible.”

“That’s…” Sirius frowned. “What the fuck?”

“I know.” Remus laughed, then turned toward Sirius. “Thanks for not being an ableist twat.”

Sirius flushed. “I try. Though just so’s you know, I only know that word because of Tumblr. Ableist.”

Remus’ eyebrow quirked. “You’re tumblr trash, are you?”

“Only on my bad days.” Sirius watched as Remus crushed out the smoke and stood up straight.

“I’m shot of this work for tonight. Unless you want to keep reading.”

Sirius hesitated. “Well, no that’s fine but…are you…I mean have I done alright?”

“Insecure in your wide array of talents, Black?” When Sirius didn’t answer, Remus’ face went from amused to concerned. “You’re great. I’d like to keep you, if you’re happy.”

Sirius let out a breath he didn’t realise he was holding. “Yeah no. Great. That’s great. And this walking you home bit? Shall I…every night?”

“Lily offered to up your fee to sixty a week if that’s…”

“No!” Sirius said, then realised he was coming on too strong. “I mean, no need. I walk home anyway. Or sometimes bring my bike but most people aren’t keen on that so…”

“Motorbike?”

Sirius hesitated. “Er. Yes?”

“I’d be very keen. Do you have it tonight?”

“Let it to James, but I can bring it next week.” Sirius felt suddenly very pleased and almost too excited. “Anyway let’s get packed up, yeah?”

So they did, and Sirius tried not to feel the pressing warmth of Remus’ hand as he gripped Sirius’ arm just above the elbow.

“Okay I’m terrified I’m going to fuck this whole thing up,” Sirius admitted as they got outside. “What er…should I be like…doing something?”

“My stick does most of the work,” Remus said with a small laugh, poking at the ground a bit. “Just maybe keep me from jabbing people on the arse. Unless they deserve it.”

Sirius flushed again and reminded himself this was nothing more than any other friend would do and meant nothing because Remus was straight and mostly not interested at all in anything about Sirius’ life. Fuck. He was even rambling in his head.

So instead he concentrated at doing the best at this and following Remus’ directions to his flat which actually wasn’t far at all.

“This is me,” Remus said, touching the door with the hand that had been round Sirius’ arm. “Good night. Thanks for the lift.” Then he honest-to-god winked at Sirius and the fallen aristocrat had a near-death experience right there on the pavement.

***

I’m in hell. Literal hell. Rename me Dante because I am in hell, at least like the third, possibly fourth circle. Send Help. Ogod.

(read)

Sirius threw his mobile down and went into James’ room. “Swotting,” Sirius moaned at his best friend and collapsed face first on all of James’ meticulous notes.

“Get the fuck off you fucking tosser! Do you know how long it took me to organise that?”

“Don’t care. I’m dying Prongs. I have only a short time to live. Tell mum I love her. You can have the bike.”

“I don’t want your fucking bike. Give it to Peter.” James kicked at Sirius until he rolled over and he gathered up all of his pages, stacking them neatly on his bed. “So what is it this time?”

“Just my heart shattering into a million pieces because the most beautiful boy on the planet is straight.”

“Christ. That blind lad?”

“Fuck off,” Sirius said. “His name is Remus. And if you must know… … … Yes. It’s him.”

“I told you not to do this. A job is not a dating opportunity.”

“I tried my best!” Sirius wailed. “I did. I was professional and I told myself I was not allowed to fancy him, but I couldn’t help it. He’s glorious. He’s amazing. He’s my moon and stars.”

“You’re fucking mental.”

“He’s got a flatmate. Girl. Straight.” Sirius sat up and looked James dead in the eyes. “Ginger.”

“Fuck.” James sat down on his chair. “Pretty?”

“Gorgeous. I’m like the gayest gay to ever gay and I’d probably shag her if given the chance.”

James rubbed a hand down his face. “Invite them over. I’ll have mum send food.”

“Fucking ponce. You’re not having mum send food. And he doesn’t want to be my friend, okay?” Sirius fell back and put his hands over his face. “He does want to have a go on my bike though.”

“Is that some sort of euphemism? Some sort of gay word for shagging that I don’t know about?”

“No. His flatmate usually walks him home but she works at night now so he’s asked me to. And I told him I had a bike if he was keen. And he was.”

“That still sounds like a fucking euphemism. Sirius, it’s your sworn duty as a fallen member of the Black Household to do everything in your power to bring shame and defeat to the racist shitbags you call family. And one of those things happens to be hooking up your gorgeous Indian flatmate with your blind obsession’s gorgeous flatmate. As a way to say, you colonise my people, and we take your beautiful women.”

“That’s misogynistic as fuck, Prongs,” Sirius chastises. “Besides, she’s really great. Witty and everything.”

James had the decency to blush. “Fair enough. D’you really think I’d like her though?”

“Yes. But I doubt she’ll like you back.” Sirius sat up and stretched. “Anyway I’ve got a long weekend ahead of doing nothing and being a general drain on society, so I should turn in early.”

“By that you mean wasting away your night on tumblr.”

“Of course.” Sirius winked, then let himself out.

Literal hell sounds harsh. What’s the third circle of hell again?

It’s the circle for all the adorable gay boys who fall in love with ridiculously good looking straight ones.

Oh dear. Best to avoid that. Except lucky for me I’m not gay. And don’t make it a habit of falling in love with straights.

I can’t help it, Moony. The heart wants what the heart wants. Were I a worse type of man I might try to corrupt him. But alas, I am too good.

How many people would call you a dirty rotten liar if I showed them that last message?

I don’t have to answer that, moonpie. Don’t have something else to be doing than chatting me up right now? Like eating Haggis or singing Spanish Caravan or something?

How well you know me. But I have an essay due so yes. In fact. Much work to be done, and yet here I am… I should sign off.

Fucking swots, the lot of you! First Prongs, now you, Moony. Fine, leave me alone to die.

If you’re still round later, let me know. Gros bis.

Fucking froggie bassa. Marry me tho. Save me from this straight boy hell.

Don’t believe in marriage, but if I ever change my mind, I know where to find you. Good night, Pads.

Sirius was pretty sure there were two circles of hell and he was split between them. An anonymous tumblr pan god, and straight boy bastards. It was so unfair. He didn’t deserve this.

***

“James wants me to invite you round sometime,” Sirius said as he took Remus to his bike the evening after their work. “You and Lily, if she’d ever like to come. I’ve told him all about you.”

“And James is your…?”

“Flatmate.” Sirius felt a stab of hurt that Remus hadn’t bothered to listen to the small amount of information Sirius had been able to share. “Here, this is the bike.”

Remus held out his hand, carefully running his fingers alongside it. “Nice. Not been on one before. I’m a little nervous.”

“I’ll keep you safe, don’t worry. Been riding years.”

“Are you old enough to have been riding years?” Remus challenged.

“I was always a rebel, I’m afraid.” Sirius pressed one of the helmets into Remus’ hands. “Like I said, I’ll keep you safe.” He preened at Remus’ approving grin before easing him on. He climbed up front and did his best not to think of how tight Remus was holding on to his middle, or how nicely Remus’ chin fit atop his shoulder. “Let me know if it gets to be too much.”

“I will.” A quake in Remus’ voice betrayed his air of confidence, and it was that alone which kept Sirius taking the turns easy, and the rumble of the engine as quiet as he could manage. By the time they got to Remus’ flat, both of them were laughing a bit.

“Well?” Sirius asked as he helped Remus from the seat.

“My arse is tingling. Tell me that’s normal.”

Sirius barked a laugh. “Totally. Takes some getting used to, though on longer rides it’s murder.”

“Longer rides, hmm?”

“You asking?”

“You offering?” Remus lifted his chin. “Tell James maybe we could have a drink somewheres. Lily works at one. Work it out sometime soon?”

Sirius grinned. “Oh I think he’ll like that very much.”

***

They met at Lily’s pub a few weeks later. Remus was already there when Sirius, James, and Peter arrived. He was sitting at the bar chatting happily to a tallish blonde woman who was leaning over to talk into his ear over the music.

Sirius gave a great moan and threw his head against James’ shoulder. “Kill me now.”

“Cheer up, mate. Maybe you’ll find something else you like tonight. Now mate, which one is Lily?”

Sirius looked round. “Cute redhead behind the bar.”

“Excellent. Time for the ole Potter chat-up.”

“That never works,” Sirius called out, but James wasn’t listening. With another groan, he threw his arm round Peter. “Just you and me tonight, it seems. Coupl’a old sods with no hope and no prospects.”

“Speak for yourself, mate.” Peter was eyeing another tender behind the bar, and Sirius felt alone and hopeless.

Send help. Mates dragged me to a pub. Object of my affection is here. The straight one. Why do I do this to myself?

Sirius sucked in his breath, squared his shoulders, then sauntered to the bar. “Remus, old friend. Good of you to invite us to your fine establishment.”

Remus’ face perked up and he laughed. “Dorcas, this is Sirius. D’you see what I mean? How posh is he? Tell me he looks like he belongs in the Throne Room.”

“Oh aye,” she said, nodding her head as she sized Sirius up. “I can see where you’d be trouble. Drink?”

“Gin. Double.” Sirius leant into Remus. “Come here often?”

“Not enough. Usually find me sat on my bed studying.”

“What a pair you’d make with Jamie then. Who is now trying to chat-up Lily.” Sirius quirked an eyebrow. “Doesn’t look like it’s going well.”

“She making that pinched, I would hit you if I wasn’t at work, face?”

“That’s the one. He’s probably telling her about his expensive car.”

Remus snorted. “She’s not fussed about cars or money. That’s…not going to end well.”

Sirius checked his mobile a few times as he nursed his drink. Then checked it again when Dorcas leant over the bar and planted a long, wet kiss on Remus’ mouth and when she pulled back, Remus was blushing.

“Oy, there are children present,” James admonished, sitting near Sirius now that Lily had banished him from her end of the bar.

“Oh I’ve no doubt.” Dorcas winked and wandered off.

“That can’t feel good,” James hissed in Sirius’ ear.

“Fuck off, mate.” Sirius turned to Remus. “That your girlfriend?”

Remus laughed. “No. Just very friendly. You’ll like her though.”

James smiled. “Already do. It’s good to meet you, though Remus. Heard loads. Tell me, can you get me the in with Lily over there?”

Remus snorted into his pint. “Ah she doesn’t have an in, as it is. Mostly you just shouldn’t be an arrogant twat.”

James spluttered, but Sirius howled with laughter, and eventually music drowned them out and they got a bit pissed and James had to drag Sirius out before he said anything stupid.

“You’ll thank me later,” James said.

He was right.

Sirius woke the next morning to a single message.

Would that I could, I’d sweep you off your feet, Pads. You deserve better than these straight boys.

Sirius considered asking Moony to meet up with him, but until he got over his crush on Remus, it would hardly be fair.

I’ll hold you to that. Some day.

After which he shut his mobile off and was determined to be friendly, polite, and nothing more than that. Professional.

If only Sirius wasn’t such shit at being just those things.

***

Remus was waiting outside for Sirius. He’d just been booted from the library by Pince, the fussy Librarian who’d got complaints from people trying to study. Apparently Sirius’ voice was distracting. Which it was. Remus could hardly focus some nights as hard as he was trying to do this the sodding right way.

But Sirius was all sunshine and jokes and ridiculous accents. It made Remus’ heart flutter every time, and he used the most ridiculous excuses to touch him. Now he was about to invite Sirius back to his because they had to study somewhere and his was the closest. He thought.

He heard the rumble of the motorbike approaching and he felt a zing up his spine. Nothing was greater than being allowed to wrap his arms round Sirius’ fit middle. He could only imagine what those naked abs would be like under his fingers.

“Remus?”

“Hi so…bit of a problem,” Remus said. “We’ve got ourselves kicked out. Apparently your posh accent is bringing everyone down.”

“Er…really?”

Remus’ heart clenched at how ridiculously adorable Sirius’ insecurity was. “No, you tosser. But we have got kicked out because of the reading. It’s distracting. So if…that’s to say, would it be alright with you if we did it at mine? Lily’s at work so we won’t be a bother.”

There was a long pause, and Remus gripped the top of his cane, hating that there was no way to read facial expressions. Sirius realised his mistake after a second and quickly said, “Sorry. I was nodding. Of course it’s fine. Okay to ride tonight?”

Remus held his hand out for the helmet, then climbed on, letting his arms slide round Sirius’ waist. Under the leather jacket, Remus could feel an elevated print on the t-shirt Sirius wore. Lily said they were always some ridiculous punk band logo, and Remus thought how much they must contradict each other. Sirius in his leather, Remus in his tweed.

If circumstances were different, he’d love to see where it would go.

He buried his head in the back of Sirius’ neck as they took off, and he inhaled that scent. Indian spices, and a sort of fruity shampoo. Remus casually mentioned the spices smell a week ago and Sirius said offhandedly that James’ mother was constantly bombarding them with food so they didn’t starve.

Remus profoundly missed having a mum then. But he didn’t bring it up.

Coming to a stop, Sirius grabbed Remus’ hand and eased him off. As he removed Remus’ helmet, Remus let his hands touch Sirius’ shirt again. “What’s it say?”

“Oh.” Sirius had a hint of surprise, and a little tension in his voice. But he took Remus’ wrist and guided his hand round a shape Remus couldn’t begin to recognise. “It’s the Rolling Stones most popular logo. The lips with the tongue out. When Remus traced it again, he understood.

“Ah yes. You and your weird music.”

“Don’t even want to know what you get up to, Remus.” Sirius’ tone was playful, but there was still that hint of tension and Remus wondered if he was being too forward. Sirius had never mentioned a girlfriend, but he pointed out Remus’ women friends a lot, so he could only assume Sirius was straight.

Which was just dreadful.

Leading the way upstairs, Remus let them into the flat. “Very basic rules. Try not to move anything. If you do, just say so. Keep shoes, coats, packs, anything like that off the floor. I don’t fancy a busted face all week.”

Sirius sucked in his breath. “That happens?”

“Let’s just say I don’t let people round here often. And Lily’s friends are all drunken lunatics so we keep them at the bar.”

Sirius laughed. “Right. Noted. So shall we set up er…lounge or…?”

“Better do it in my room.” Remus trailed his hand along the wall until he reached his door, unlocked it, and let Sirius in. He switched on a few lights and then found his desk chair. “Just get comfortable. Bed’s probably best.”

“Right. Er. Good.” There was that tension again. Then he asked, “What’s this poster? Above your bed?”

“Oh. Phases of the moon. Lily found it for me. It’s in print, but it’s also tactile. You can touch it.”

Remus could hear the scrapes of fingers, and see the blurry motion that was Sirius as he knelt on the bed and touched it. “Wicked. That’s really cool.”

Remus smiled gently as he sat back down. “When I was a kid, about twelve, there was a full lunar eclipse. My vision was already pretty shit, but Lily had this idea. She set up a telescope in the garden and adjusted the magnification so I could see it even with my tunnel vision. It was the first and only time I could see the entire thing. I…it was…”

“She sounds really great.” Sirius voice was soft, and Remus realised he was sat on the bed now, his back to the wall. “You know, I know James seems like a great ponce. And he is. A great big fucking ponce. But you know, he’s great too. Selfless and charitable. Sort of cares for no reason, even when people are just so undeserving. His whole family…” Sirius’ voice broke a little, and he cleared his throat. “God listen to me. Sorry.”

Remus shook his head. “It’s fine, Sirius.”

“We should get started.”

Remus felt his heart sink a little, but he nodded and carefully handed over the reading for the night. He settled himself on the other side of Sirius to listen, and wished that there was a way this could be different. It wasn’t. Wouldn’t be, but it wouldn’t stop him.

***

Sirius was a half hour late, which was strange. Remus was feeling anxious, but he was calm. Then his phone buzzed and he put his headphones in to listen.

‘Sorry. Shit. Sorry. James is on his way. Shit. I’m the worst. Fuck Remus. Sorry.’

With a frown, Remus listened to the message again. It made no sense, so he rang up Sirius who answered after a second.

“Remus. Jesus.” He was slurring. “I’m the worst and I jus’ can’t believe I did this. I fucked up. Such a fuck up. Fuck.”

Remus felt his temper growing. “What did you do?”

“M’so drunk. Fuck. Jameses on his way to pick you up n’drive you home. Fucking fuck I fuck…I have to go.”

The line went dead and Remus fought the urge to chuck his mobile across the street. But a second later a car pulled up and he heard the familiar voice of James.

“Did he ring you?”

Remus felt his jaw go tense and wished desperately Lily wasn’t at work so he wouldn’t have to rely on Sirius’ flatmate to give him a lift home. “Yes.”

“Door’s right in front of you. Bit to your left. Come on, I can drive you.”

Remus considered telling him to fuck off, but he found himself climbing in and was surprised at how nice the seats were. “What am I sitting in right now?”

“Er.” James sounded half embarrassed. “It’s a Benz. My dad gave it to me when I turned eighteen.”

“Jesus, Sirius wasn’t joking.”

“About how rich and spoilt I am.” James laughed. “No, he wasn’t. But I try to use my super powers for good.” He didn’t pull forward, and Remus frowned. “Listen, he should have warned you about tonight. It’s…this is…a rough time for Sirius and he doesn’t want to lose this job. He likes you.”

Remus huffed. “Yeah well getting pissed on a Wednesday is hardly…”

“It’s more than that. Sirius is normally very responsible, but he forgets. Then something dreadful happens to remind him of this day and…” James stopped. “Today’s the day he was disinherited by his family. The day they…” James stopped. “A year later his brother committed suicide. Same day. It’s…it’s just never been a good time for him.”

Remus let out a puff of air, his anger vanishing like it had never been. “God. I didn’t realise.” And he didn’t realise. He imagined Sirius to be a poncy, rich git who was doing this for kicks. “Disinherited?”

“He didn’t tell you? He loves the story about the fallen aristocrat.” There was a frown in James’ voice. “He grew up rough. His parents…were less than kind.”

“Abusive,” Remus said, reading between the lines.

“That’s putting it mildly. They caught Sirius at something. Not my story to tell. Either way he turned up on my doorstep looking worse for the wear and a bit desperate. Mum and dad took him in, of course. Always would. He’s like family. I’d do anything for him. So please don’t be too angry, Remus.”

“I’m…” Remus trailed off with a sigh. “I’m not angry, James. He’s not going to lose this job. Or me.” He then gave James directions to his flat, and James—whilst being a little patronising—made sure Remus got in safe. Even after Remus insisted Lily wasn’t home.

“That would be a bonus. But I’d be a terrible friend if I didn’t see you all the way up.” He clapped Remus on the shoulder.

Remus was irritated until he remembered how much James mother-henned Sirius. Then he realised that when James said friend, he was referring to him, not Sirius. “We’re friends?”

“’Course we are.” James laughed and leant on the door. “Maybe ring him tomorrow. He’ll feel better then.”

Remus nodded. “Take care of him, will you?”

“Always will. Forever.”

Remus got in and shut the door. After a bit he went to his messenger but there was nothing from Padfoot. Hadn’t been in a few days. But instead of worrying, he sent Sirius a message.

Your job is safe. You didn’t fuck up. Be safe tonight, okay? And if you need anything, you know where to find me.

He got no reply, and expected none.

***

Morning came, and with it a violent hang over, and a massive mountain of regret. Sirius saw the notification light on his mobile blinking, and he was terrified. He’d surely drunk dialled everyone he knew, and probably Remus. God…did he? Fuck. He’d missed their session. Oh he was the worst.

He had to face the music though. So he opened it and almost cried when he saw the text.

I’m so sorry. I will make it up to you, I swear.

He didn’t expect a reply, but one pinged through just minutes later.

Lily’s inviting us out again tonight. Maybe just fizzy water for you though. She’s asking James round. Don’t tell him I said that, though.

Sirius didn’t know what to make of the message, but sent off his reply. C U there m8.

Try all you like, I know your roots, Sirius Black. Can’t wait to see you. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

Sirius groaned into his pillow, then drew up his messenger. Quick. Remedy for being madly in love?

If you find it, let me know.

Loads of help you are, Moony. What good are you? Why do I keep you round?

My fantastic aesthetics. Heading off to class though. Talk later?

Yeah. Laterz, nerd.

Ciao.

Sirius, of course, did not keep his promise to Remus, and immediately told James who skived off class to spend the entire day plotting how to get Lily to agree to a date.

“Maybe try, Hey Lily, I think you look nice tonight. Would you like to have a coffee? She doesn’t give a shit about your money or your stupid car. Just…be a fucking human being.”

“Take a fucking paracetamol and talk to me when you’re not being an arse.” James shoved the pain killer at him. “Also you think that would work? Have a coffee with me?”

“She’s a bar tender, she’d probably appreciate the holiday from drinks,” Sirius muttered as he dry-swallowed the medication. It took forty five minutes, but eventually he felt well enough to eat and shower. It would be a long day of waiting, plotting out his grovelling so Remus would take him back.

Eventually night came round and he and James rode up in the Benz to the bar. Lily wasn’t working, in fact she was sat at a table with Remus and a few other people. She waved James and Sirius over, and they all budged up, James sitting one space away from Lily, and Remus letting Sirius nearly tuck into his side.

“Alright, Sirius?” Remus asked in a low voice, leaning in to his ear.

Sirius blushed. “I’m sorry I was such a drunken twat. I promise it almost never happens.”

“James told me.”

“That fucking sell out.” Sirius blushed. “Look it’s…my family it’s…”

“Got any smokes?”

Sirius gave a wobbly laugh. “None rolled. But got everything in my pocket if you fancy braving the freezing air.”

“I could do with a break. Stuffy in here.” Remus took Sirius’ arm, leaving his stick behind, and Sirius felt a profound something—he wasn’t sure what—settling in his gut that Remus trusted him this much.

They found a couple of old wooden delivery pallets in the back, and settled up against the wall whilst Sirius removed everything from his pocket. “You know how to roll?”

Remus laughed. “I barely smoke as it is. Show me?”

So Sirius did. Though he thought it might be complicated, it turned out rather easy. He just guided Remus through with carefully timed words and a few times correcting his hands. But he was decent at it, and before long they were sat back against the wall with cigarettes clenched between their teeth, shoulders pressed to shoulders.

“Why’d your family disinherit you?”

Sirius blinked, and considered evading the question, but Remus deserved the truth. “Came out.”

“What?”

Sirius laughed. “My mum was arranging my marriage, and I told her it would be no good. I’d never get it up for anyone she had in mind because I was a flaming fucking homo. I was sixteen at the time. My parents were always shit. Dad’s lessons always came at the end of his fist. Or belt. Or whatever he happened to be standing next to. This one was bad though. I was out for a good hour, I think. Then I grabbed my jacket and ran for it. Had a few quid in my pocket, enough to get a train to James’. It was winter, so I was frozen by the time I got there but they took me in. Great lot, those Potters.”

Remus let out a breath. “That’s fucking horrible, Sirius.”

“Yeah well. Guess I’m not as interesting and posh as you thought.”

“You’re still a posh ponce,” Remus insisted. “But I think that’s okay too. And you’re not like them.”

“Except when I let you down.”

Remus reached out and took Sirius’ wrist, squeezing it. “I would have understood. If you’d just said. I know I pay you to hang round but I like to think that…we sort of…on some level you know. Got friendly.”

“Er. Course we are, Re. You’re one of us now. A proper marauder. James is already arse over tits for Lily and dunno if you noticed, but your friends like me too.”

Remus smiled and Sirius felt his heart clench hard in his chest. Fuck, he was so in love. “Yeah they rather do.” He crushed out his cigarette, rose, then held a hand out for Sirius. “Come on. Let’s go be social or whatever.”

“So overrated, being social.” But Sirius followed anyway because if this was all he could get, he’d take it.

***

“Come to mine,” James begged. “I swear it’s great. We have a ruddy huge sofa that pulls out into a bed and we can cuddle pile and watch Netflix. Come on. You know you want to.”

Eventually Lily and Remus agreed whilst the rest of the group ambled off to their own. But Peter—who showed up after his shift—was in. And James’ car fit everyone in the very tight squeeze. Remus was practically on Sirius’ lap and he did his best to keep it friendly only.

They got back to the flat and James made a great show of getting it all set up. Before long they were covered by mounds of blankets and pillows, and someone had picked out the Princess Bride and James had beers going round and they were all still a bit pissed.

Near the end, Sirius looked out the window and saw James and Lily on the terrace snogging. Remus, who was lying with his head on Sirius’ thigh, shifted. “What?”

“James and Lily are snogging.”

“Bout time. She’s been keen on him since he was a ponce at the pub,” Remus said, his voice sleepy. He groaned and pulled Sirius down. “I’m shattered. You?”

“Bit, yeah,” Sirius breathed. He wasn’t sure how he’d survive the night with Remus next to him like this, but he’d somehow make it work.

 

***

Morning came. Sirius rose to consciousness and realised that Remus was rolled near him, his eyes open wide. Sirius startled a bit, and flushed when Remus smiled.

“I can sort of see you this close. What colour are your eyes?”

“Er. Grey. Ish.”

Remus grinned. “That’s lovely.” His hand reached out, cupping Sirius’ cheek. Then his thumb traced the outline of his jaw. “Never slept in a cuddle pile before. James and Lily still here?”

“Yeah.” Sirius tilted his head over and saw them curled up together. Peter was missing, but that was typical. Probably buggered off to his own room. “James sleeps like the dead, probably won’t be up before noon.”

“Shut the fuck up, Padfoot,” James groused.

Remus went very stiff, his hand on Sirius’ cheek pulling away. “What’d he call you?”

Sirius groaned. “Padfoot. Old school nickname. Could never shake it.” He kicked at James’s legs. “Fuck off, Prongs. Why’d you even bother to stay here if you didn’t like pillow talk?”

But before Sirius could turn back, Remus was scrambling up. “Er. Lily, get up. We need to go. I’m…I’m er. Late. Get up!”

He sounded near hysterical, but no amount of questioning could get him to answer anything other than he was late. And he refused a ride home, so Lily shared a quick kiss with James and a promise to see him later. When they were gone, James turned to Sirius.

“Was that weird?”

“Bit.” Sirius looked at the door and realised he must have scared Remus off. He wasn’t gay and he had cuddled with him all night. Even when he tried, he just fucked it all up.

***

An hour later, Sirius’ mobile went off.

Tell me more about this bloke you fancy? The straight one. Why him?

Jealous, Moony? Sirius was hardly in the mood for jokes, but it took his mind off the situation. It doesn’t matter. I got handsy and he buggered off so fast I think I saw smoke trailing him.

Humour me.

Sirius frowned. Alright. Well. He’s my age, cute. Scottish so you two would obviously get on with your weird language thing. No he’s more than cute though. He’s beautiful. When he smiles my fucking heart stops. It’s…I’ve got it so bad and I am so fucked because I woke up to him this morning, Moons. And he was smiling and he touched my face and I could have died happy right then. But he…god I think he was disgusted.

Doubt that was the problem. Anyone not in love with you is a fool.

You always this fucking poetic in the morning?

Not always. So…it’s not just, you’re not just interested in a shag?

Well considering you don’t know anyone I do and therefore pose little threat, I’ll tell you. No. Fuck no. I fancy like…the whole stupid fucking life together with him shit. You know, it’s ridiculous because my family—you don’t know about my family. But they’re awful. And I always imagined that I’d either make sure my life had no one in it so I couldn’t get hurt, or I’d find some ridiculous bookish type love. So far the none thing was working out until this bastard strolled into my life with his stupid adorable hair and cardigans and shitty text book subjects and smile that could literally create like internet kitten memes or something. He’s the fucking Cas to my Dean, okay? The goddamn Rose to my Doctor. The Steve to my Bucky. The…the fucking…he’s the John to my Sherlock. I’m so fucked.

(seen)

Ten minutes passed.

I was too ridiculous even for you, wasn’t I, Moony? I suppose I shall go back to worshiping you from afar.

Sirius was a bit hurt though. Until he got the next message.

Meet me.

Wot?

Meet me. I’ll send you an address. Please.

Sirius licked his lips. Could he? Should he? It was hardly fair to Moony. But if he knew how in love Sirius was and he wasn’t fussed about it, maybe it was okay. And he could use a friend. Though crashing through the anonymous walls of Tumblr was a huge step.

Padfoot?

Yeah okay. But don’t skin me and turn me into a lamp. If you must skin me, at least do something cool with it. Promise you won’t turn my guts into a cello bow though. I couldn’t stand that.

I’d never do that to you. I’ll be wearing a black shirt with a full moon on it.

Of-bloody-course you will. I’ve got on a Zeppelin shirt. See you soon?

Next came the address and the time. It was the café he first met Remus in, which was a bit much for the day, but he’d already said yes.

He didn’t tell James. He just sort of…went. Hopped on his bike and just went.

He parked a little bit away, afraid to look just yet. Afraid of who it could be. But then he spotted tawny hair on a tall frame leaning against the wall holding a white cane and wearing a fucking t-shirt with a full moon on it.

He broke into a run without realising it, coming to a crashing halt in front of Remus. “How long?”

Remus gulped, running his hand through his hair. “This morning.”

Sirius frowned, then it dawned on him. “James.”

“He called you Padfoot.”

“Fuck.”

“I…”

Then they laughed, because what else was there to do. “I just fucking spilled my guts to you. I just fucking told you everything. You…oh god. I was talking to you the entire time!” Sirius half-wanted to vomit.

“Why Padfoot?”

Sirius laughed at the absurdity yet necessity of the question. “James always said I reminded him of a great big, blundering dog.”

Remus stopped, then laughed and reached out, taking Sirius by the shirt. His fingers roamed over the slightly raised logo. “Zeppelin?”

“Yeah,” he breathed.

Then they were kissing. Hard and desperate. Remus’ hand was up in Sirius’ hair, and Sirius was pulling Remus in hard and tight and oh it was so good. So right. God.

“You really love me?” Remus breathed when they finally broke apart.

“Can’t seem to help myself. I tried.”

Remus pressed his forehead against Sirius’. “I’m not straight.”

“God. I fucking hope not,” Sirius said, and kissed Remus again. “Tumblr trash. We are fucking tumblr trash.”

“Yeah. The greatest type of love story of all time,” Remus said, then ran his thumb along Sirius’ bottom lip. “Come on, take me home. Lily’s out for the afternoon and I think we need to get reacquainted.” He took Sirius’ arm. “You can be my guide dog, Padfoot.”

Sirius leant into Remus’ ear. “Woof.”