It is far too hot, and Sirius is on edge.
Maybe it’s because it’s so hot, or because it’s nearly the end of term and he can think of many things he’d rather do than spend all summer in a dark, dusty house where the very furniture seems to resent him. Both of those explanations make perfect sense, and so he tells himself that that’s what it is, and gets even more annoyed as he tries to squash the niggling knowledge that, really, it’s neither. Because he doesn’t know what it is. And he’s too irritable to try and figure it out.
He’s sitting on the edge of his bed, suitcase open at his feet, trunk open beside it. There are three loose socks and a pair of underpants looking limp and pathetic at him from the bottom of his suitcase. Getting up to move from trunk to suitcase and back again is out of the question, since that would force him to admit that he’s actually packing. Instead, about once every two minutes he reaches awkwardly over to his trunk, grabs something at random, and drops it half-heartedly into the suitcase. In between items, he sulks. It’s basically a terrible plan.
Remus, damn him, is actually folding his clothes and laying them in his case. Watching him makes Sirius even more hot and irritated, and as if his clothes are too small, so he watches him as intently as possible just to spite himself. Remus turns, and his eyebrows twitch when he sees Sirius’s case.
Sirius feels the back of his neck prickle in shame. He feels childish. Remus is watching him warily, as if trying not to bait him. It only makes him feel worse.
‘We’ll see each other, I promise’, says Remus. His hair has stuck to his forehead. ‘You can stay at my house, my parents won’t mind. Or we could all go to James’s again.’ Then, when Sirius says nothing: ‘Do you want me to do it for you?’
Real guilt drops into Sirius’s stomach, drowning out his childish irritability. ‘No!’ he says, far too quickly. Remus looks stricken and turns back to his own case. ‘Sorry’, Sirius mutters, but Remus doesn’t hear and it’s inadequate and petulant and Sirius wishes he could understand what’s going on. He watches Remus’s hands as they fold and smooth and his tendons shift beneath his skin and wonders what the hell is so interesting about his hands that he can’t stop watching them anyway. It’s better than packing. That must be it. Remus crouches to smooth something down in his case and his shirt tightens over his shoulders, dark and transparent with sweat. Sirius never noticed how broad Moony’s shoulders are before. He shifts on the bed. It is at this point that he notices that he’s hard as fuck. Fuck. He takes the only sane option left to him and bolts.
Sirius slams the bathroom door behind him and locks it, sliding down it to bury his face in his hands. The tiles are cool, and his hard-on is suddenly so much more obvious, and how, how did he not notice until now? How long has that been there? Why, oh why is it there? Yes, he thinks about sex a lot, he’s a fifteen-year-old boy, it’s not really front-page news, but he doesn’t have a folding fetish as far as he knows. As much as he tries to resist, the image of Remus’ hands floats into his mind, bitten nails and hard, raised scars, surprisingly strong. His dick twitches. He feels ill.
‘Sirius?’ Remus is outside the door. Sirius can almost hear him chewing his hangnail. ‘Sirius, what did I-’
‘Nothing!’ he yelps. It comes out much higher than anticipated. He thinks of Remus tugging away at his skin, leaving little red flaps that make him wince when they catch on his clothes. Before he can think, he blurts out: ‘Stop chewing yourself, Moony, please, it’s fucking unbearable.’
Remus sounds equal parts baffled and amused, but the worry is still there. ‘How could you possibly know if I’m-’
‘Moony, for fuck’s sake, I’m not stupid, I know you self-cannibalise when you get in a tizz.’ He has no idea what he’s saying. He’s still hard (oh, the wonders of teenage biology, will they never cease), still nauseated with panic, and this whole conversation feels like one of those dreams where you know you’re dreaming so you say whatever you want because you know you can get away with it. ‘It’s bad enough when you’re fucking tearing yourself up, OK, just stop please-’
‘Sirius.’ Remus’s voice is genuinely worried and he doesn’t fucking blame him. He knows he sounds insane. There’s a good chance he is insane. ‘I’ve stopped, OK? I promise. Now will you open the door? Or at least tell me what’s wrong. And don’t say there’s nothing wrong, please, because you are hysterical and you have locked yourself in the bathroom, and those are never good signs.’
‘Fucking hell, Moony’, he yelps, ‘I am not having Feelings, OK? This is not what this is. I cannot be having with having Feelings. I don’t fucking know what’s going on, alright, but I can’t- I don’t-’
There is a long pause. Then Remus’s voice comes, calming, soothing: ‘Sirius, open the door?’ And then, when he doesn’t move: ‘Please?’
Sirius takes several deep breaths. His erection has mostly subsided, but it threatens to return with each jolt of his heart. Remus is closer than he anticipated as he opens the door, which for some reason makes his stomach lurch. He feels like he did when he was seven and caught dragon pox, lost and small in the middle of a bed that seemed to go on forever, everything swooping in and out of view, and if he could just hold still for a moment he could understand, but he can’t think. ‘I think I’m panicking’, he says. His voice sounds very small. ‘Moony? Why am I panicking?’
Remus pulls him into a hug without a word. Sirius buries his face in his shoulder and breathes in the smell of sweat and starch. ‘It’s not just going home, is it?’ says Remus. ‘I’m sorry; I’m being so unhelpful. I think everyone’s going a bit insane. It’s too hot. I don’t even want to contemplate what James and Peter might be off doing.’ His voice is still unnervingly soothing. It isn’t even that he’s trying to be soothing, Sirius realises; his voice is just… calming. Sirius knows that less than a minute ago this realisation would have made him panic still more, but it’s as if that hysterical energy has been drained away. ‘Look’, says Remus, ‘I’m going to pack your damn case. It’s much less painful for all of us. I won’t have to torture myself watching you neglecting to ball your socks, and the rest of the world won’t have to suffer you sulking, which is truly a force to behold.’
Sirius pulls away. ‘I need a shower’, he says. ‘I feel like I’ve crawled out of the bog of all things unholy and sweaty.’ He pauses on his way back into the bathroom. ‘Moony- I know I’m an idiot to you, OK? But you’re not-’ A sidekick. The token bookish one. ‘You’re important. Alright?’ He shuts the door behind him before Remus has a chance to respond.
Sorry this is such a short chapter. Next one will be much longer. (P.S. This chapter marks the first appearance of my obsession with Mary Macdonald. Apologies.)
There’s a Muggle market not far from Grimmauld Place. It sells records, old books, odds and ends of Muggle clothing. Sirius likes it there. It’s where he found his favourite leather jacket, crushed beneath a pile of stained bell-bottoms and moth-eaten jumpers. He sneaks off to Diagon Alley every so often to change a few Galleons for Muggle money, which he forced himself to master because he knew how much it would annoy his mother. Not that she’ll ever know. The goblins give him odd looks, but they never say no.
He hardly every buys anything, anyway. Mostly he wanders around, fiddling with the costume jewellery, or flicking through the records and trying to remember which ones Moony likes. Sometimes he watches the people. Muggle fashions are brilliant, especially compared to wizards', whose idea of cutting-edge elegance is to maybe add a slightly curlier fastening. Once, he sees a girl dressed in what looks for all the world like a nightgown his mother might own over a pair of black combat boots. Another time, a man walks past in a spherical fur hat bigger than his head. With his dog collar and battered leather jacket, Sirius blends in perfectly.
A pair of girls go by, arm-in-arm, and giggle and duck their heads as they catch his eye. One of them looks back over her shoulder at him and smiles. She looks sort of like Remus, with crinkly hazel eyes and curly hair. He winks outrageously at her, making her turn bright red, and goes back to looking through a pile of dog-eared posters. There are various bands, one of the Osmonds with random shiny white teeth coloured in and creative moustaches drawn on in pen. His eye is caught by a huge, glossily black motorbike, crouched in an empty road like a predator. He has three similar ones already, stuck up with his best Permanent Sticking Charm, but he buys it anyway and continues rifling.
Someone seems to have donated an entire collection of girls in bikinis, some spread out over car bonnets, some bending over, pressing their breasts together as they grin fixedly into the camera. Most of them have that bloody stupid hair like Mary MacDonald has, with the ends flicking out around their faces and big, puffy, sweeping fringes. Their bodies look swollen, glistening, strangely unappealing. For some reason, he thinks of Remus, his dry, rough hands squeezing his shoulder, his shirt pulled tight over the muscles of his back. Sirius feels a wave of something like nausea. He shoves the whole collection at the girl behind the stall, who raises an eyebrow but says nothing. The posters cost nearly all of his precious Muggle money, and are unwieldy to carry home, sticking out of their plastic bags. After the first six or seven people stare at him as he goes by, he realises that he probably should have asked for the posters to be rolled inside-out, but it’s started to rain, and sitting down in the middle of the wet pavement to wrestle with extremely unwieldy pornography is not very high on his To Do List. Sirius pulls one of the posters out and holds it blank side up over his head to keep off the rain, no longer caring whether or not people stare.
He fumbles for his wand, nearly dropping everything, and taps the doorknob, muttering ‘Toujours Pur’ through gritted teeth. The lock clicks loudly and disapprovingly. He tries to ease open the door as quietly as possible, but it creaks all the way like a banshee and he swears under his breath. He gets about halfway to the stairs before Regulus appears in the drawing room doorway, pale and breathless with excitement at having caught him in something so obviously incriminating. His gaze flicks to the bag in Sirius’ hand.
‘What are those?’
‘Get lost, Regulus.’ Sirius strides towards the stairs, but Regulus darts out from his doorframe and snatches one of the posters. Sirius whirls around to grab it back, but Regulus has already unrolled it. His pale eyes widen as he takes it in, the spread of the girl’s legs as she sprawls over the car bonnet, the perfect O of her shiny pink mouth. Not like he’d have any interest in that sort of thing anyway, the little poof, Sirius thinks sourly. He tries to pull the poster out of Regulus’s hands, but he hangs on with typical limpet-like grip. ‘These are Muggle,’ he whispers. ‘You’ve been going to that dirty place again.’
It strikes Sirius as more than a little funny that Regulus is horrified first and foremost not by the pornographic nature of the posters, but by the fact that they don’t move. If it were dearest Bella squirming all over that car, Mummy would be breaking out the elf-made wine.
‘Fuck off, you little freak’, he snaps, and sprints up the stairs, ripping the poster out of Regulus’ spidery hands as he goes. The floorboards moan and complain under his feet, and at least three of his ancestors stir in their paintings to mutter obscure curses at him before he reaches his room. He knows perfectly well that Regulus will tell his mother about the posters as soon as he gets the opportunity, so he locks the door behind him and puts up the posters as fast as he can, covering every bit of wall space he has left.
The hammering on the door starts just as he’s putting the Permanent Sticking Charm on the last poster, the one above his bed. The charm on his door holds out all of ten seconds before there is a bang and the door crashes open, smoke trickling from the lock. He lies back with his hands behind his head and watches in silence as his mother storms around the room, firing every curse she can think of at the posters and shrieking all the while about filth and dirty Muggle whores and how any son of mine. Sirius’ only contribution, when she seems to be running out of steam, is to ask whether he really is a son of hers, because he honestly can’t see how. His mother slaps him hard and backhanded across the face and sweeps out, leaving the posters untouched and a bruise from her heavy emerald ring blossoming on his cheekbone.
His dusty blankets are heavy, weighing down on him as he wriggles out of his pyjama bottoms. He strokes his cock half-heartedly and tries to focus on one of the girls. It doesn’t matter which. They’re all more or less interchangeable anyway, same bouncy hair, same bouncy breasts, same wet pink mouths. But like before, they seem exaggerated, cartoonish, almost ugly. He tries to picture them touching him, stroking his cock, but instead, unbidden, comes the ghostly feeling of rough, strong fingers and the press of a strong, scarred chest against his. He comes suddenly, before he fully realises what he’s thinking about, and lies awake for hours before he drifts off to sleep.
Every night that week, he starts jerking off thinking of the girls and finishes thinking of Remus. By the last night, he’s given up on the girls altogether.
Postcard from Peter Pettigrew to Sirius Black, dated 8th July 1976. Found and read by Sirius only when, a week later, Sirius raids Kreacher’s den after Kreacher steals his signed photograph of the Wimbourne Wasps, probably because the frame it is in is solid silver and is said to have been cursed by Cygnus Black II so that apart from himself, the inhabitants of any photograph displayed within it will one by one contract spattergroit and die. Sirius later discovers this to be true, to his eternal grief. He will never quite recover, even after Remus helps him bury the photograph and recites poetry over the grave.
Mallorca is boiling hot, it’s brilliant. Yesterday we went to a restaurant, and they had these brilliant pudding things called churros which are kind of like doughnuts, only long and straight and you dip them in hot chocolate. I couldn’t decide who I thought would like them more, Remus because you know how he gets about chocolate, or you because you like doughnuts and things that look like- Shit, my mum is trying to read this over my shoulder. I’ve spent practically the whole time by the pool and I have sunburn all down my nose, but this Muggle girl called Kirstie still let me feel her up behind the sauna huts. She has a bikini with palm trees all over it. Did I mention yet that Mallorca is brilliant? Mallorca is BRILLIANT.
Letter from Remus Lupin to Sirius Black, 12th July 1976.
I won’t ask how your summer is going, even though it physically pains me to begin a letter any other way, because from what I’ve heard of your house it doesn’t sound like the most fun place to be with the weather in the late twenties. Although from what I’ve heard of your house, it’s an ancient castle hewn from pure calcified evil and inhabited by the love children of a torrid affair between a banshee and a vampire bat. Forgive me, therefore, if I take anything you tell me about it with more than a few grains of salt. Anyway, I suppose I’ll have to settle for asking: how awful is it? The things I go through for you, Sirius Black.
Sorry it’s taken me so long to write. My father, seized, I think, by a combination of heatstroke and total lunacy, has decided that the weather is ‘too nice’ for us to sit around indoors all day reading, and is making me take a lot of Invigorating Walks. This ignoring, of course, the fact that every preceding generation of Lupin men has done exactly this, come Arcadia or apocalypse, and it has made us the stalwart, gleaming-teethed (toothed?) Adonii we are today. In the afterlife somewhere are fields of golden sunlight and light-hearted naiads frolicking in scandalously small amounts of translucent drapery, and generations of Lupin men sitting around indoors with dog-eared copies of Pride and Prejudice, occasionally peeping round the curtains and tutting. Anyway, he wakes me up every morning at some ungodly hour, we trudge across enough fields to satisfy his pride (oddly, this number seems to be shrinking), making muttered remarks about ‘keeping in shape’ and ‘lovely weather’, avoiding one another’s eye and getting sunburn all down our noses, and then we get home and are catatonic for the rest of the day. Apparently this is all part of being a Growing Boy. I suppose I should appreciate the effort, at least.
Seriously though, I have to ask: what are you doing with yourself all day? Not to sound like a mother hen, but I can’t help but worry. Even Invigorating Walks have to be an improvement over the Fortress of Doom. And yes, I worry about you. I can’t help it after- well. I know it’s not very Boy’s Club of me, but then, when have I ever been very Boy’s Club? That’s your and James’s department, while I’m there for, I don’t know, giving sensible advice or something just as distressingly boring. You seemed very sure that I was important that time before the summer, but I can’t for the life of me think why. I’m being self-deprecating, I’m sorry. I’ll stop. And who else do you know but me who would apologise for being self-deprecating? I sense the beginning of a vicious cycle.
This is a letter of very little content, isn’t it. The problem is that I’m not doing anything much and I don’t know what you’re doing, so I can’t comment on that, and it’s far too hot for me to think of anything interesting to say about anything. It’ll be better when we’re all at James’s, things always are.
I got a postcard from Peter the other day; he seems to be having a whale of a time. I expect you got one, too, since our Pete has never been known to pass up an opportunity to tell the known universe whenever he succeeds in winning the favours of a Fair Lady. Or, in this case, feeling up a Muggle girl called Kirstie behind the sauna huts. But really, what’s the difference? At least one of us seems to have some luck in their romantic endeavours. I look forward tremendously to watching James write letter after letter to Lily and having every one sent back with a curse put on it. Or actually no, I don’t, since despite the very obvious fact that I have the least game of any of us and have ne’er known the Touch of a Woman, I seem to have been assigned the enviable position of resident Marauder agony aunt. I feel I should at least be paid for this, perhaps in chocolate, but alas, it is not to be. Why can’t you do it, I’d like to know? Except that a) you don’t even pretend to think that James has even the faintest chance come hell, high water or intervention by giant squid and b) I’ve never seen you in a relationship that’s lasted longer than a sausage roll. When are you going to settle down, young man? I worry.
It really is too hot to write any more. I’m going to go lie on my bed in the dark with a wet flannel and a novel, like a Victorian invalid. I miss all of you, though. You especially. Don’t tell the others. Not that they’d care.
P.S. I think you put your pair of cufflinks in my suitcase by accident. I say this because they appear to be solid silver and thus burned my fingers when I found them, have the Black family crest engraved in them and keep calling me a blood traitor. Of course, they could always be Peter’s.
Letter from Sirius Black to Remus Lupin, 14th July 1976
MOONY MOONY MOONY,
I don’t bloody care how boring your letter is. It can’t be more boring than sitting through my beloved mother’s rants about the unwashed masses. Ever since some poor woman with a cold sneezed as she walked past her in the street she’s been convinced the Muggles are waging some kind of germ warfare. I’m not sure she knows what germ warfare is but any excuse for her to panic and throw centuries-old cutlery at the house elf. Even Regulus thinks she’s lost her marbles, though he’d never admit it. Watching him try to nod along while she wheezes about ‘chicken pox’ (whatever that is- I’m convinced she’s made it up just to give herself something to blow her top about) and gets more and more purple about the face is one of the few rays of sunshine left in my miserable existence. Father is hardly around these days, ‘Ministry business’ (read- having anyone who disagrees with him assassinated) and I would be pleased only she’s usually slightly more subdued when he’s about. Truly their marital bliss is an example to us all.
So to answer your question (which you might has well have just asked instead of dropping hints like anvils all over the place) my summer is going exactly as badly as I knew it would. If you still don’t believe that my mother is at least part banshee I invite you to hide under the Black family breakfast table one of these mornings. I expect any time in any part of the house would do just as well but I have taken the I think you will agree very sensible route of never being in the house unless I can help it. As long as I turn up for Der Fuhrer’s (have I spelt that right?) speeches at breakfast and dinner no-one really notices, Mother’s too busy looking up obscure curses to protect the house from the onslaught of Muggles with runny noses and Regulus is busy with whatever perverted and probably illegal things he gets up to shut up in his room all day. Not that he isn’t thrilled when he catches me sneaking in or out but mostly he’s too scared of Mother to rat on me unless it’s something really juicy, for e.g. sneaking Muggle porn into the house. Thank Merlin you helped me with my Permanent Sticking Charms, those posters are never coming down. They will I’m sure delight generations of randy adolescents to come, and you know me, I’m all about providing for future generations.
Moony you saucy minx, don’t make me think of you all sweaty and draped limply and attractively over furniture with clothing in disarray, I’m getting all hot under the collar. Besides, sunburn always did suit you. If you’re not careful, I shall have to fly over there at once and ravish you to within an inch of your life, and then what would your poor parents say? They’d say ‘That’s my boy! I always knew he was pretty enough to snag a member of the aristocracy, and so handsome and well-dressed (not that I will be dressed har har) he is too!’ And then they will throw a very large party in your honour and I know how you hate it when people pay attention to you so really I am only giving you fair warning.
As you probably already gathered, seeing as you are so very, very wise, I am trying to spend as little of my time as possible chez Castle Lunacy as humanly possible, so here is what I am doing with my copious free time: wandering about like a vagrant. So you probably ought to worry. I’ve found this brilliant Muggle market, they have records and all sorts. I wanted to buy you one but I couldn’t see any that I knew you liked; it was mostly those twats with the tartan trousers that Macdonald listens to. I swear, Moony, I’ve said it before and I will say it again- Muggles are off their nuts. You should see some of the stuff they wear, it’s brilliant. Like those shoes all the girls wear (and by ‘all the girls’ I mean Macdonald again; she really is our resident token Muggle, isn’t she. Maybe if she wasn’t quite such a fashion victim. Look at me coming over all catty, I get less heterosexual by the second). You know the ones, they’ve got heels like bloody great doorstops and make them look like they have hooves.
I did get a postcard from Pete and I would go so far as to say it is most probably the exact same postcard copied out twice (three times- James must have got it too). That’s the Marauder spirit- why do three lots of writing when you can do one and shirk off early to go cavort with Muggle girls in garish swimwear? We’ve taught him well.
AHA YOU ADMIT IT. It doesn’t count as not having game if you’ve never made the least bit of effort to play said game in the first place. Peter, now there is a man with little to no game. But he seems happy, bless his cotton socks. Or, actually, James, since anyone who spends five years pursuing one solitary bird without getting so much as a measly snog behind the greenhouses-
I have come to the conclusion that I am in fact the only one of us to have any game at all. I think deep down we all knew this already. Don’t tell James I said that, though, or he will hit me in the nadgers, which would be very sad since my nadgers are the only nadgers of the group likely to get any nadger action in the foreseeable future. The more I write ‘nadgers’ the more they start to sound like some sort of woodland creature. AND NOW, CHILDREN, WE SEE A CRESTED NADGER IN ITS NATURAL HABITAT. OBSERVE THE BEAUTIFUL PLUMAGE. Nadger nadger nadger nadger nadger.
P.S. You are going to be pedantic and tell me that this is only because it sounds like ‘badger’. Why would you do that, Moony? Why?
P.P.S. If I take the sodding things off your hands you have to be very very nice to me. And give me footrubs.
P.P.S. I miss you, too. And how many times do I have to tell you that you are important until you believe me? I’m rubbish at this. Bollocks to it all.
James’s family has always quietly baffled Sirius.
In so many ways, they should be the kind of family Sirius is supposed to associate with. His parents had even been grudgingly pleased to find out that he was ‘associating with the Potter boy’. They’re pure-bloods, for one thing, and not just in the sense that all four of James’s grandparents are wizarding- in the sense of knowing how many trolls their ancestors had killed in the Battle of Basingstoke in 1402. No, what’s bizarre is- they don’t care. Some of their plates may be centuries old, but in the summer after third year James bewitched them to act as incredibly long-distance and potentially deadly Frisbees, and when one of them hit a wall and flattened itself edge-first into a twisted metal concertina, James’s dad barely glanced up from his newspaper. James only knows about the troll thing because his mum used to list the names, weights and gruesome deaths of all the trolls to get him to sleep when he was little. Sirius is still occasionally woken in the night by James muttering them in his sleep from across the dormitory.
All of this comes to mind when Sirius Floo’s into the front room of the Potter’s house. It’s sort of ridiculously homey, and it would be almost impossible to believe a teenage boy lived there if it weren’t for the sheer amount of mud tracked into the hand-crocheted rug, or the broken Muggle bicycle in the corner that still shudders every so often, as if horribly traumatised. He doesn’t have much time to think about it, however, before James’s mum barrels into him and knocks all the wind out of him, grabbing him around the middle and almost lifts him off his feet. For someone so tiny, she’s shockingly strong.
‘Sirius!’ she yelps. ‘How are you, dear? Goodness, you get taller every year.’
‘That’s the general idea, Mrs Potter’, Sirius wheezes. Mr Potter raises his head from his armchair in the corner of the room where he had been almost perfectly camouflaged and gives Sirius a nod. It’s a very brief nod before he goes back to his newspaper, but somehow it feels warmer than any hug he’s ever gotten from any one of his family members. James’s parents, thinks Sirius, are more or less the default for what people think of when they hear the word ‘parents’. His dad even has a pipe, for Merlin’s sake. His mother wears hairnets and makes pies. It’s sort of brilliant.
‘They’re all in James’s bedroom’, she adds, bustling towards the door. ‘Goodness knows what they’re up to; what the eyes don’t see, you know. Do you remember where it is?’
Sirius assures her that he does, neglecting to mention that he’s been coming here every summer since he was twelve, and makes his way upstairs. He jumps over the creaky fifth step out of sheer force of habit. He can already hear them from the top of the stairs. Remus’s voice jumps out above the others’, calm and steady as ever. He stops for a moment and closes his eyes. He hadn’t realised until now how on edge he’d been; the constant need to keep moving versus the fact that he had nowhere to go. He shakes himself and crosses the landing to James’s door. The players in his Chudley Cannons poster (the source of much contention over the years) pause mid-air to make obscene gestures at him.
Sirius pushes open the door. James is spread-eagled on the bed, spidery limbs dangling over the edge, Remus is cross-legged on the floor, and Peter is slumped in the ancient armchair, mopping desperately at his forehead with the world’s limpest, sorriest-looking handkerchief. The window is as far open as it will go, which sadly hasn’t been more than three inches or so since an incident involving a lot of jam and a Permanent Sticking Charm the summer after second year. James leaps about a foot in the air in his excitement, a pretty impressive feat considering he started in a horizontal position, and falls over Remus into Sirius’s arms, yelling ‘Padfoot!’ as he goes.
‘Steady on, there’, says Sirius, propping him upright once more. ‘You’ll always be my best girl, Prongsie, but it doesn’t do to get too clingy. Anyway, you’re not even the first Potter to grope me inside of five minutes. It must be this new cologne.’
Peter makes an abortive effort to rise from his chair, then sinks back into it with a noise like a deflating balloon. On the floor, Remus tilts back his head to peer up at Sirius and says ‘Hello, Pads.’ He smiles, a genuine, rare Remus smile. Sirius’s mouth feels suddenly dry.
‘Don’t I get a hug?’ he asks, loudly. The room seems much hotter than it did before. Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Peter shift half-heartedly in his chair. ‘Not you, Wormtail. We wouldn’t want you to herniate yourself, not when there are Muggle girls called Kirstie still in the world.’ Peter manages to raise a feeble middle finger in Sirius’s direction. Remus climbs to his feet with characteristic dignity and wraps his arms around Sirius, who feels his heart thud unpleasantly. Over Remus’s shoulder, he sees James and Peter exchange what they probably think is a subtle glance. He chooses to ignore it, plumping himself down onto the floor and pulling Remus down with him. Remus ends up half in his lap, leg overlapping with Sirius’s knee, shoulders pressed together. He can feel Remus’s pulse even through his jeans. It should be unpleasant, but it isn’t.
‘Oi’, says James, raising an eyebrow, ‘what’s all this? I thought I was your best girl.’
‘I am a fickle beast, Potter, I can be tied to no man.’ He can feel Remus chuckle through the thin material of his t-shirt. In the heat, everything seems oddly heightened. He suppresses a shiver.
‘I don’t know about you lot, but I could use a fag.’
‘I’ve been thinking’, says Peter. His grip on the bottle of Firewhiskey is looking somewhat worryingly loose. He takes a swig and almost manages not to cough.
‘Steady on there’, says Sirius, ‘you don’t want to injure yourself.’ Peter ignores him. ‘I’ve been thinking’, he repeats, with only slightly pointed emphasis, ‘and I think I fancy Mary Macdonald. First day back, I’m asking her to Hogsmeade.’ He makes a decisive movement with the Firewhiskey bottle, splashing it on his jeans.
‘Good on you, Pete’, says James. The light from the campfire is glinting off his glasses, making him look slightly possessed. ‘She’s a top bird.’
‘Oh, my god’, moans Remus. ‘Are we really doing this? Are we really sitting around drinking and talking about girls? Is this what we have become? I am nowhere near masculine enough for this conversation. And if you use the phrase ‘top bird’ ever again, Prongs, I am skewering you with the marshmallow skewer and toasting you alive.’
Sirius looks up. ‘I didn’t know we had a marshmallow skewer.’
‘We don’t’, says Remus. ‘We have a stick. But ‘skewer’ sounded more threatening. All right, fine- James, I will skewer you with this slightly charred bit of twig. See how that’s less effective?’
There is a pause of a few seconds. Then Peter pipes up:
‘Do we still have marshmallows?’
Remus sighs a martyred sigh and lobs the bag of marshmallows and the stick over the flames at Peter. Sirius whimpers involuntarily, but Remus’s aim is surprisingly good and they land squarely in Peter’s lap. Remus runs his hands across his scalp. He does this a lot when he’s been drinking, so that you can always tell how drunk he is by the state of his hair. The shadows are deepening, picking out the hollows of his face. He looks slightly animal, hunched over the fire, his eyes appearing darker than usual. James nudges Sirius and leans over to whisper in his ear.
‘You’re staring, mate.’
Sirius jumps and casts a furtive glance around at the others. Remus is staring into the flames, hands steepled against his face, fingers pushing at his upper lip. He appears to be deep in thought. Peter is blissfully toasting marshmallow after marshmallow with the single-minded efficiency of a conveyor belt. James gives Sirius an odd look that he can’t quite interpret, the corner of his mouth twisting, and nods once, then averts his eyes. Sirius feels very much as if James knows something that he doesn’t, and he doesn’t like it. His gaze falls back to Remus, the kinks in his hair and his long, scarred fingers, and he feels oddly as if the air around him has been removed. He shakes himself and announces loudly:
‘We should go swimming.’
Remus startles like a wild animal, his whole body twitching away from Sirius. Peter drops the marshmallow he’s toasting into the fire and swears.
‘Sirius’, says Remus, in his best I Don’t Think You Are Being Very Sensible voice, ‘you are certifiably insane. I thought you valued your nadgers?’
‘Come on, you boring sods’, he says. ‘It’ll be fun.’ And without really knowing what he’s doing, he’s stripping off his clothes, kicking them away until he has nothing left on but his boxers. The evening air bites at his skin, making him come out in goosebumps. ‘The water’ll be warmer in the evening, anyway, it’s had all day to heat up or something.’
‘Yeah, and now it’s had several hours to cool down again’, says Peter. ‘You can bloody well go in first.’
‘Right, you bloody pansies’, he says, ‘observe and be educated. This is what a Real Man looks like.’ Sirius turns and lopes towards the river at the edge of the field. It looks much deeper than it did during the day, and a lot colder. He very gingerly takes a couple of steps into the water. Once the initial shock wears off, it’s actually not that bad. He takes a couple more strides in, wincing as the water splashes up his thighs. ‘Oi, you lot!’ he yells. ‘It’s lovely once you’re in!’
‘No, it isn’t’, says Remus from the riverbank. ‘When people say ‘It’s lovely once you’re in’, what they always mean is ‘stay in long enough and you won’t be able to feel any of your extremities from the hypothermia anyway’. This is a well-known truth.’
Sirius jumps. ‘Don’t bloody sneak up on me like that, Moony, you nearly gave me a heart attack. What are you doing?’
‘What, you think I’d leave you unsupervised in a freezing river of unknown depths after you’ve consumed a good half-bottle of Firewhiskey? Give me some credit.’ Remus squats on the bank, arms crossed over his knees.
‘So if I was drowning, you’d, what, rip off your clothes and heroically leap to my rescue?’ Sirius backs further in the water until it’s up to his armpits. ‘Come on, then.’ He takes an enormous breath and sinks beneath the surface. The cold almost knocks the air out of his lungs. He flails, hands bumping against roots in the opposite bank. Sirius surfaces, shaking his hair like a dog. His eyes are still squeezed tight shut. He takes huge, gasping breaths and lashes out at the surface of the water. His feet scrape the riverbed, dislodging pebbles and sending up silky clouds of silt. He hears a splash and suddenly his thrashing limbs are colliding with another body; someone’s hands are grasping him under the armpits; his legs are tangling with other, foreign legs. ‘Fuck’, gasps Remus, with feeling, ‘you utter fucking sod. Why the fuck do I do these things for you?’
‘Hello, Moony’, Sirius says, brightly. ‘Enjoying your dip? Isn’t it bracing?’
Remus lunges at him. Amid the churning water, he can feel Remus’s chest against his, his leg between his thighs. They stumble backward. Sirius’s back is pressed against the high bank behind him. Remus is a hard line, pressed all along his body.
Everything stands still. Remus’s breathing is harsh in the silence; his eyes dark under the hair plastered to his forehead. Then, without ever once breaking eye contact, he slowly rolls his hips against Sirius’s.
Sirius lets out a hiss and grips the back of Remus’s neck. He can feel the hard bone of Remus’s knees pressing into his legs as he bucks his hips forward, clenching his thighs just ever so slightly around Remus’s. The gasp Remus lets out goes straight to his cock. They’re both breathing in shallow bursts, their eyes still locked, as if daring each other to go on. Remus pushes him back, grinding against him, and Sirius bites back a moan. Remus’s eyes shine as he grinds gradually harder, and Sirius’s whole body is tensing up-
And then there are footsteps, and bodies crashing over the pebbles, and James and Peter surge into the water with twin gargantuan splashes. Remus slides silently off him and turns in the water to face them. Sirius is still breathing harshly, and he isn’t sure what just happened really happened, and his whole body is alight with need.
‘FUCKITY CRAP SODDERATION AND BALLS’, bellows Peter as he lumbers in, causing a tidal wave that drenches them all. ‘What the fuck is the matter with you, Padfoot?’
Sirius really has no idea.
I've been looking forward to publishing this chapter more than anything else. It's my favourite by miles. Plus, my obsession with Mary Macdonald finally gains plot relevance (ish).
As soon as James and Peter thunder their way into the water, destroying the mood (not that there was a mood, because there wasn’t) as utterly and efficiently as a pair of wrecking balls, it feels as if it never happened, or somewhere a very long time ago. It’s impossible to remember the intimacy of Remus’ ragged breathing in the stillness, the sound seemingly magnified by the water, or the feeling of his fingers clasping Sirius’s wrist, when James has one wiry arm wrapped inextricably around his windpipe and is kicking him in the shins so he can push him underwater (the cheater), or when Peter appears from nowhere, face looming out of the darkness, to squirt water in his face.
That night, Sirius lies awake long after the others have all fallen asleep. He desperately wants to jerk off, but he’s jammed in next to James in his tiny single bed, with James drooling onto his neck and Peter snoring away like the percussion section of a very large orchestra crossing a gravel driveway. If he raises himself a little on his elbows, he can see Remus way over on the other side of the room, cut off by Peter, whose sleeping bag appears to vibrate with each fresh wave of snores. He (Remus, not Peter) has his back to Sirius, curled in on himself like a wild animal. Only the very top of his head is visible above his sleeping bag. Sirius flops back down onto the bed. James makes a little fnnnrhhh noise into his neck and tightens his grip on the front of Sirius’ t-shirt. Sirius tries to shift his pelvis as far away from James as he can. Embarrassing incidents have resulted in the past from James being the world’s clingiest sleeper, and Sirius is keen to avoid repeats.
He’s still not entirely convinced that it actually happened. So many mundane, Marauder-y things- ducking Peter, James making Peter choke on his own toothbrush by pulling faces around his so that he looked as if he had rabies and Remus had to thump him hard on the back, the undignified jostling as they got ready for bed, with everyone tripping over sleeping bags and elbowing each other in the face- stand between him and that surreal moment. But then the solidity of Remus’ body against his comes back to him, alive and warm in the numbing water. His dick twitches.
‘Fuck it’, he mutters, to no-one in particular.
Mmmmnnlily, says James into his collarbone.
Sirius takes the only sane option left to him and climbs out of bed to go and jerk off in the bathroom.
The River Incident, as Sirius has taken to calling it in his head, becomes not so much an elephant in the room as a vague, distracting and frequently inconvenient presence. They can be doing something perfectly innocuous, like Charming the vegetables to scream bloody murder when anyone tries to chop them, or even just hanging about the field smoking, when someone will brush against him and he won’t be able to think about anything but Remus hard against his thigh. About fifty percent of the time, this is so distracting he is forced to excuse himself so that he can find somewhere to jerk off for the umpteen billionth time. It’s pathetic, is what it is. He assumes this is puberty getting him back for his relative lack of problems up until this point- he’s never got many spots, or had especially greasy skin, unlike Snivellus, who he thanks Merlin he isn’t. If it is puberty, it’s really fucking annoying.
Like now, for instance, when, the summer having disappeared almost without him noticing, he finds himself staring out of the window of the Hogwarts Express. Remus is sitting next to him. Their knees are only an inch or so apart, a fact that is making it difficult for him to concentrate on what James is saying. This turns out to be disastrous, as he realises when James’s sentence tails off with the words ‘…coming right towards our carriage, oh god.’ And then, before Sirius can do anything to stop him, ‘OI! EVANS!’
Peter produces a half-melted chocolate bar seemingly from nowhere and gives it his full, loving attention. Remus becomes very interested in his History of Magic textbook. Traitors. Lily Evans appears in the door, looking peeved.
‘This had better be good’, she informs James. James, whose brilliant plan seems to have been limited to attracting her attention rather than having any sort of conversation planned out beyond the first word and a half, gapes soundlessly at her. She turns to Sirius. ‘Is there something wrong with him?’ she asks politely. James makes a noise like a cat being strangled and splutters ‘Fine! I’m fine, honestly.’
Lily raises an eyebrow. ‘That’s wonderful news, Potter. Now would you mind getting to the point so I can get back to my friends?’ Sirius cranes his neck and sees that yes, indeed, a gaggle of Lily’s friends are hovering in the corridor just beyond the carriage. From their giggling, it’s obvious they’ve been listening to the entire exchange. Sirius resists the urge to punch James, as this would be unlikely to improve his coherency.
‘HOW WAS YOUR SUMMER’, blurts James, completely failing to either use his indoor voice or give the words any of the intonation usually associated with a question, so that it sounds more like a firing squad than anything else. Lily looks startled, which is fair enough, really, but regains her composure admirably quickly. ‘All the better for not having you in it, Potter. See you at school, I suppose.’ And then she’s gone, leaving James slumped in his seat as though he’s just been hit by a bomb.
‘Nice work, mate’, says Sirius, after a moment of silence. ‘I really think you might have a chance there. Seriously, James, what the hell was that?’
‘I don’t know’, croaks James. ‘I just- I forgot how pretty she is, and then she was there, and her shampoo was all fruity- have you noticed that her shampoo is fruity?’ No-one responds. Peter regards him over his chocolate with the apprehension of someone looking at a slightly mad puppy that’s started frothing at the mouth. Remus is watching the countryside flash past the window with great interest. James slumps even further down in his seat so that his chin is resting on his chest and hides his head in his hands. ‘It was bad, wasn’t it.’
‘That depends’, says Remus. ‘If you were aiming for Austenesque sparkling wit, then yes. If you were going for more of the partially tranquilised gorilla approach, then I’d call it a triumph.’
James slides so far down in his seat that he slides off it into a quietly groaning heap on the floor. Sirius pats him consolingly on the head and then rests his feet on him for the rest of the journey.
They join the crowds streaming into the entrance hall, Sirius and Peter each supporting James by one elbow. Remus hovers, ready to swoop in if a) James spots Lily and attempts to prostrate himself at her feet and beg forgiveness, b) James spots Lily and attempts hara-kiri, or c) James spots Lily and faints dead away. Then Peter catches sight of Mary Macdonald in a nearby group of chattering girls and scurries away, leaving James to sag tragically all down one side. Remus rolls his eyes, but takes Peter’s place.
‘Cheer up, Prongs’, says Sirius. ‘At least you won’t be the only one to be shot down today.’
‘Technically, he wasn’t shot down’, says Remus fairly. ‘He would have had to successfully speak English to be shot down.’
James groans melodramatically for the thousandth time. Peter taps Mary on the shoulder. She turns around. Three Marauders hold their breath as he gesticulates, shuffling from foot to foot. Then she looks him slowly up and down- as if she doesn’t know what he looks like by now- and nods, giggling.
‘SHE SAID YES’, yelps Peter seconds later, barreling towards them. Mary watches him, a surprisingly genuine smile on her face. Her cheeks have gone pink. ‘SHE SAID YES, SHE SAID YES, I HAVE A DATE, I HAVE A- sorry, Prongs.’
‘No, no’, James sighs, ‘I am resolved to soldier on. I’m happy for you, Wormtail.’
‘Right’, says Remus, ‘well you can start by standing on your own two feet. I think I’ve done my back in, you’re surprisingly heavy for one so skinny.’
‘Wiry’, corrects James immediately. ‘I’m wiry. Solid muscle, this is.’ The crowd around them starts to filter into the Great Hall and they go with it, James miraculously walking unassisted once more.
Sirius comes up the stairs from the common room to hunt for a clean pair of socks- his original pair having been coated in pungent liquid during a particularly humiliating defeat by Peter at Gobstones, which he is unfairly good at- to find Remus sitting on his bed reading Hogwarts: A History. He looks up and smiles when Sirius comes in. Instinctively, Sirius crosses the room to sit beside him. He is hyper-aware of Remus’s shoulder pressing against his, the faint warmth of his skin through his jumper. They sit in comfortable silence for a moment.
‘Glad to be back?’ asks Remus quietly. It seems a much more loaded question than it should.
Sirius looks down at the book in Remus’s lap. ‘How many times have you read that thing, anyway?’ he asks.
Remus shifts on the bed beside him. ‘It was the first- back when I thought I’d never go to Hogwarts. It was how I got away, from. You know.’
There doesn’t seem to be much he can say to that. There is another, lengthier pause. Then Remus laughs. ‘Do you think Lily’ll ever just give in and date him?’
‘No’, says Sirius immediately. ‘Some things in the universe must remain constant, and one of them is that Lily Evans always turns down James Potter, foreverandeveramen.’
‘In fairness to James, he didn’t actually ask her out this time. Maybe that’s a step in the right direction. Playing hard to get and so on.’
Sirius snorts. ‘After the last five years, he’d have to transfer to Durmstrang to make her think he’d cooled off. No, I’m afraid our Jamesie is doomed to a life of spinsterhood. Much like the rest of us. Except, so it would seem, Peter. Merlin help us.’
‘It is a sad, sad day when Peter has a better chance of getting laid than you do’, agrees Remus solemnly. ‘Poor Pads.’ He pats Sirius’s knee. His fingers are strangely hot through Sirius’s trousers, and Sirius jumps.
‘What about you?’ Sirius asks, with slightly strained levity. ‘Got your eye on anyone? Dorcas Meadowes was ogling you at dinner.’
‘No, she wasn’t’, says Remus flatly. Sirius feels a twinge of annoyance at the way Remus can never seem to believe anyone might find him attractive. ‘Anyway, Dorcas- isn’t really my type.’
‘What is your type?’ Sirius demands, exasperated. ‘Have you got a type? Let’s start with the basics, shall we? Animal, vegetable, or mineral?’
Remus doesn’t say anything. Then he sniffs and wrinkles his nose. ‘You know, you should know better by now than to play Peter at Gobstones. Did you come up here to change your socks?’
‘But-’ says Sirius.
‘Go’, says Remus. ‘For God’s sake, get your vile feet away from hence. You smell like something unholy.’ Then he swings his legs back onto the bed, opens Hogwarts: A History and refuses to say another word.
Apparently I lack the maturity to refrain from subtle(ish) jabs at Remus/Dorcas wherever possible. Oh well.
Over the first few weeks of term, the number of attempts by one James Potter to engage the elusive Lily Evans in conversation goes from one to nine. The number of successful attempts remains squarely at zero. By week four, James is almost catatonic with misery and Sirius is reaching the end of his tether. A distraction is urgently needed. For this reason, Sirius and Remus are heading for Slughorn’s supply cupboard at one am to stock up on the essentials. Zonko’s is a wonderful place, but nothing quite beats the satisfaction of good old-fashioned homemade mayhem.
‘OK’, says Sirius, once he’s staring up at the rows of jar-filled shelves. ‘Do you have the list?’
Remus squeezes in behind him. The door clicks closed. ‘Yes, I have the list. Just like I did the last time you asked, and the time before that. Lumos.’ His face blooms out of the darkness, weird and unearthly in the wandlight. He casts around, as much as he can in the limited space available. ‘Right, bat spleens. Are those- ’ He reaches for a jar and turns it to see the label. ‘Nope, osprey gizzards. Easy mistake to make.’ He spots the bat spleens glinting nastily a couple of shelves down, and slips them into his bag. ‘This is probably a stupid question, but why does everything have to be so squelchy and/or pungent?’
‘I ought to revoke your Maraudership on the spot’, says Sirius. ‘Squelchiness and pungenticity are two of the greatest joys in life, as you well know.’
‘Pungenticity is not a word’, says Remus wearily. ‘I’m not sure squelchiness is either, technically, but I’ll let it pass. And clearly you have never experienced the greatest joys in life. Pass me the dropwort root, would you, it’s by your elbow.’
‘And you have?’ scoffs Sirius, passing it. ‘Remus Lupin, who at his own admission has ne’er felt the Touch of a Woman?’ There is a brief, uncomfortable silence.
‘I know I don’t have much to base this on’, says Remus slowly, ‘but I don’t think that- I like chocolate, and I like good books, and I like the feeling of finally understanding a good book when you thought you never would. Go on. Make fun of me.’
Sirius finds that he can’t. It’s always strangely uncomfortable when Remus is honest like this, in a weird way he can’t quite define. He coughs. ‘Have you got the powdered marrow?’
Remus glances around the shelves and then reaches over Sirius’s shoulder. There is a clattering noise and the light from his wand goes out. Sirius can still make out his face, though only dimly. ‘Damn, I’ve dropped my wand. Give me a-’ He attempts a sort of half-crouch and wobbles, putting out a hand to steady himself. Unfortunately, the nearest thing for him to grab hold of happens to be Sirius. Or to be more specific, Sirius’s crotch. Sirius jumps backwards into the shelves. There is the crash and tinkle of breaking glass, followed by an overpowering odour of lavender.
‘For goodness sake’, Remus snaps. ‘I- fine, look, I know bringing this up violates some sort of sacred Boy Code, but I’m not actually going to jump your bones, all right? Lumos.’
‘You- you think that’s-’ splutters Sirius. ‘Merlin’s pants, Moony, greater wizards than I would be put off by an accidental bollock massage in a dark cupboard at arse o’clock in the morning. This has nothing to do with-’
‘Really?’ bites out Remus. He’s still fumbling around the floor, clutching a shelf for support. ‘Because you’ve been acting awfully strangely ever since- Lumos, you bastard, Lumos! You keep disappearing! And you act as if I’ve got the plague whenever I touch you and fuck it I honestly cannot find this damn wand. Can you open the door a minute?’
Sirius turns the doorknob. Nothing happens. He rattles it experimentally. ‘No’, he says carefully, after a moment. ‘No, I don’t think I can.’
‘What do you mean you- oh.’ Remus looks up at him from the floor. ‘Marvelous.’
‘Guess Sluggy’s installed some new security measures.’
‘So it would appear.’
‘We’re stuck in here.’
‘All available evidence points that way.’
The ensuing pause is broken only by the tinkling sound of Remus’s elbow causing another breakage. Then Sirius says, ‘We’re actually going to have to talk about this, aren’t we.’
‘And all it took was getting stuck in a cupboard.’ Remus gives a despairing sort of snort into his hands then stands up. ‘Your wand.’ says Sirius stupidly.
‘Least of my worries, really’, says Remus. ‘I’ll get it if we ever get out of here alive.’
‘Look’, says Sirius, ‘it isn’t as if- It’s not like this has never happened before, historically. Between, you know, mates. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t mean anything. When I was thirteen I rubbed one off on my bedpost.’ Remus chokes. ‘It doesn’t mean I have feelings for the bedpost. It doesn’t mean I ever had feelings for the bedpost, plus, you know, splinters-’
‘OK, STOP’, yelps Remus. ‘Am I a bedpost in this scenario?’ He pauses. ‘No, I get it. Friction. Basic biology. It makes sense.’
‘No.’ says Sirius firmly. ‘That was a bloody stupid analogy, OK. You’re-’
‘Important’, says Remus. ‘I know.’ And Sirius realises with a jolt that he really doesn’t believe it. It isn’t that he has no sense of self-worth. It’s that he doesn’t believe he has enough worth to Sirius, and that makes him feel worse than he knew it was possible for him to feel. ‘I’m a dick’, he whispers. ‘I’m a dick, and a total arse.’
‘Bit of a mixed metaphor, that’, says Remus, smiling crookedly in the half-light. And because his smile makes everything that was awful suddenly so much better, and because he wants to prove how much Remus matters to him any way he knows how, Sirius kisses him.
Remus makes a noise like mmph and stumbles back against the shelves, pulling Sirius with him. A chorus of tinkles heralds the addition of several new smells to the miasma. His foot scuffs against something long and thin that rolls away- Remus’s wand- and he tries his best to be concerned about breaking it but Remus’s lips are rough and firm and his breath is warm and his fingers curling possessively into the finer hairs at the nape of his neck are sending shivers right through him. Remus’s arm snakes around his shoulder, his fist scrunching into the back of Sirius’s shirt. He bites Sirius’s bottom lip hard and Sirius makes a totally involuntary and truly embarrassing noise that is almost a whine. Remus’s fingernails curl into his back through the material of his shirt, and the shiver that goes through him seems to make his whole body seize up for a moment, cold and hot at the same time, and he whimpers something that is half Remus and half just noise, beyond caring how he sounds.
It’s more than a little terrifying, how he can be so totally out of control, how Remus could ask him to jump into the lake in exchange for more of this and he would do it without a moment’s hesitation, giant squid be damned. He’s used to squishy, pliable bodies, to girls who are happy to more or less go where he wants as he directs them through the basic language of a slap on the arse or a guiding hand on the waist. It’s terrifying, and it’s incredible, and he never wants it to stop.
‘Shit’, he gasps. ‘Holy fucking shit, Remus, oh my god-’
‘Shut up’, Remus groans. ‘Shut up, Padfoot.’ His face in the semi-darkness is shadowed. Remus’s lips are raw and wet and obscene and Sirius wants to bite them, so he does. Remus moans and then his lips slip away from Sirius’s and move messily over his jaw, teeth scraping over the bone. Sirius swears incoherently under his breath as he feels Remus’s tongue trail over his neck, and he manages enough of a moment of rational thought to wonder how Remus could possibly be so good at this, before his lips close over Sirius’s collarbone and all coherent thought is lost. Remus’s hand slips under his shirt and he shivers at the rough fingers against his skin, gasping into Remus’s mouth. Then the lock of the door clicks and they spring apart. The knob turns and the door is opened to reveal Filch, looking delighted.
‘Bit noisier than usual, boys’, he grins. ‘Lost your touch? Right. With me.’
Not to become one of those fic writers who uses their fic as an excuse to tell everyone about their life, but I had a performance yesterday and I'm so tired I very nearly forgot to update. Good thing I put it in my phone.
P.S. Coming up with potions ingredients is surprisingly difficult, especially when you consider that I was awesome at potions back when people still went on Pottermore.
P.P.S. I may have accidentally made it sound like Filch ships Remus/Sirius. Whoops. If you want to imagine that after this he goes back to his office and fangirls to Mrs Norris about how he totes caught his OTP making out in the potions closet, feel free to do so.
EDIT 11.10.12 I forgot to say, next chapter is the last one. It's the longest one by miles, though. I can't believe this is almost over, thank you so much to everyone who's been reading and reviewing, you're all made of awesome.
Final chapter! It's by far the longest, so I hope that makes up for the shameless POV-hopping. Plus there's the long-awaited smut. Not to make you feel obligated to review, or anything, but writing smut is my least favourite thing in the world and this chapter in particular led to a lot of incoherent 4:30 am messages to my beta along the 'WHY AM I DOING THIS I HATE YOU I HATE EVERYTHING I DON'T EVEN LIKE PENIS BLARGHHHH' lines.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The clock ticks.
Surely, Sirius thinks, it can’t be necessary for it to tick so loudly. What possible benefit could be derived from this torture? Nor is there any way the problem cannot be solved by magic. No, he thinks, this is deliberate. This is, in fact, a special Detention Clock, made for the express purpose of causing him to misspell ‘thief’ for the eighth time and have to cross out yet another line.
At the desk beside him, Remus’s hand moves carefully and steadily across the parchment. From what Sirius can see, his handwriting is perfect. He probably likes doing lines. He probably finds it soothing, or thinks of it as an opportunity to improve his handwriting, or something. Sirius feels hot and itchy just looking at him. He feels something of a sense of déjà vu at how his gaze is drawn to Remus’s hand, gliding around the curves of each letter so precisely it’s almost hypnotic. He takes in the tension in Remus’s thumb where it grasps the quill, the way it stretches the skin over his knuckle and makes the scar there gleam white. He shakes himself. Even a desk away, he is as aware of Remus’s physical presence as if he were pressed up against him. It seems to make the air buzz, as though even the tiniest movement on Remus’s part sends some kind of ripple outwards, making Sirius’s skin prickle. Even Slughorn seems aware of the tension between them. When Sirius looks away from Remus, he notices Slughorn glancing back and forth between them, looking faintly confused. Sirius gives him a weak smile, then averts his eyes. Even staring in the opposite direction, he can still feel that Remus is there. The hairs on the back of his neck feel as though they’re standing on end.
Now seriously disconcerted, he looks back to his lines and sees that he’s smudged the last several rows while distracted. Swearing, he attempts to fix the damage with his wand, but only succeeds in turning the ink faintly purple. When he glances up he catches Remus smirking at him. The sight of his smile sends a jolt straight through his stomach to his groin. They both look hurriedly away. Sirius shifts in his seat to try and conceal the fact that he’s now half-hard. He counts the lines he’s done so far. Only one hundred and twenty-seven to go.
The clock ticks.
It’s past midnight, and Remus and James are alone in the common room, Remus curled up in a chair by the fire and James leaning against an ottoman with the soles of his bare feet only inches away from the embers. They have an ongoing if not particularly competitive competition to see who can get more bits of scrap parchment into the grate, and it’s a good thing it isn’t competitive because Remus is being soundly defeated. If it was competitive, Remus would point out the gross unfairness of the whole thing given James’s obvious advantages of a) Quidditch and b) being closer to the fire. But he’s far too mature for that.
It feels strange to be able to worry about small things, like whether accidentally-on-purpose kicking James in the head to break his run of twenty-three on-target shots in a row is outside the boundaries of his moral code. There’s a strange tension that he and Sirius share now, a hyper-awareness of the placement of each other’s bodies that makes it difficult to concentrate on much else. It’s as if he can see Sirius even when he isn’t looking at him, which is plainly ridiculous. But still, he feels strangely drained. If nothing else, he hasn’t slept well the last few nights. Even with two sets of bedcurtains between them, he feels as if he can sense Sirius from across the dormitory. He wonders if he’s been sleeping. It’s been three days since the closet incident (and yes, he is well aware of the irony, thank you), and he’s very nearly at the point of wishing it had never happened. Even if it was- well. His experience is pretty limited, but he can’t imagine that anything could possibly measure up to that minute and a half in a dark cupboard with frogspawn all over his shoe. But nothing is worth losing Sirius over, whatever the number of Silencing Charms he’s had to cast over the past few nights might suggest to the contrary. And maybe he’s worrying too much, but it feels like he might be. They haven’t had a conversation lasting over a minute since Closetgate. Sirius’s disappearances are getting steadily more frequent, his excuses more and more flimsy. He’s even started bolting out of lessons, and not just History of Magic but Transfiguration. Remus doesn’t think it’s an over-reaction to find it hurtful that Sirius is willing to so frequently risk the wrath of McGonagall just to get away from him.
James can be surprisingly perceptive, a fact Remus often forgets, which is why he nearly jumps out of his skin when James looks up at him and says, ‘Stop agitating and do something about it.’
Remus completely fluffs his throw. The balled-up parchment bounces off the wall and lands on James’s calf. ‘What are you-’
‘I’m not just a pretty face, you know’, says James. ‘Honestly, Moony, do you think I’m a complete idiot? Or did you just genuinely not realise that this little domestic, whatever it’s about, affects the rest of us too? Poor Peter has been comfort-eating like nobody’s business.’
‘I thought that was because he still hasn’t plucked up the courage to tell Mary he’s a virgin’, says Remus. Peter and Mary have been dating for nearly a month, a period of time in which she would usually have dated, shagged and dumped at least three guys, and Peter is starting to break out in a cold sweat whenever anyone so much as mentions sex (which, around Gryffindors, is a lot). It would be sort of sweet except that it necessitates Remus contemplating Peter’s hypothetical sex life, which he’d really rather not do.
‘That, too’, James concedes. ‘But mostly it’s because you and Sirius won’t even look one another in the eye and, without sounding like a girl, it’s scaring the shit out of us.’ The silence stretches between them for a long time. Then James says, ‘Look, you don’t have to tell me-’
This is a golden opportunity to escape this whole awkward conversation, and Remus knows it. But- well, he hasn’t talked to anyone about it. Having the same conversation with himself for three days straight cannot possibly be healthy. At this point, he’s willing to do almost anything to stave off the inevitable insanity. Even talk to James.
‘No’, he says, still not quite able to believe that he’s voluntarily initiating this conversation. ‘No, um, look, you have to promise not to freak out, okay? Swear you won’t freak out?’
‘I swear’, says James, ‘on Lily Evans’s limpid emerald-green eyes.’
Suppressing the simultaneous urges to ask James where the hell he learned the word ‘limpid’ and beg him to never, ever use it again causes Remus actual physical pain. But he knows he can’t give himself an excuse to chicken out by changing the subject. ‘Right’, he says, wrestling his urge to gag into submission. ‘Yes, well, er. Me and Sirius, we sort of, um, we. You know.’
James stares blankly at him for a long, torturous moment. Remus finds himself wondering if it’s too late to take it back, to scream ONLY JOKING or cast Obliviate or shove his head in the fire as a distraction. But then James’s face changes into something odd that Remus can’t quite read. ‘Oh’, he says, quietly. It isn’t quite an ‘oh’ of surprise, and Remus reminds himself once again that James is more perceptive than he appears. ‘You, um’, he continues. There is clearly some kind of fierce inner struggle going on in his brain. ‘You and Sirius, you…shagged?’
Remus chokes, leading to a coughing fit so violent his eyes fill with tears. He manages to wheeze, as forcefully as he can with the limited breath available to him, ‘No! No. Absolutely not. NO.’ He takes a few deep breaths. ‘We just, er, kissed.’ This is true enough that his conscience only gives a very minor twinge. Trying to explain to James the exact ratio of innocent kissing to not-so-innocent semi-groping that went on is more than he can take. This entire conversation is already fast shaping up to be a hot contender for the single most excruciating experience of his life.
‘Oh, well that’s-’ starts James, and then backtracks, ‘Not that I wouldn’t be alright with, I mean, if you two wanted to- you know, me and Peter could-’
‘Please’, whimpers Remus, ‘I beg you, stop talking.’
‘Right-o’, says James, with entirely unconvincing breeziness. The awkward silence to end all awkward silences ensues. Remus gnaws at his hangnails and stares into the fire, determinedly not looking James’s way. After what feels like an eternity, James says, ‘And that’s why things have been so…weird?’
Remus nods. Then James slowly and precisely balls up a piece of doodle-festooned parchment and lobs it at Remus’s head. His aim, as ever, is perfect.
‘Ow’, says Remus, making no attempt to mask the relief in his voice. ‘What was that for?’
‘Fix this, you muffin’, says James. ‘It’s nowhere near as complicated as you think it is.’
‘Coming from you-’ Remus starts to say, then gives up. After all, James’s advice can’t possibly make the situation worse. Probably.
‘Look’, says James, in a gratingly patronising tone, ‘have you considered maybe talking to him about this?’
‘Talking to him!’, squeaks Remus, trying hard not to think about the last time he really tried to talk to Sirius. ‘Silly me! Oh, yes, I can just see that conversation going down a treat!’ Then he deflates and says defeatedly, ‘What would I even say?’
James stares hard at him. ‘What do you want to say?’
‘That is the least helpful advice anyone has ever given anyone else in the long and illustrious history of unhelpful advice’, says Remus.
‘Okay’, says James. ‘Well, what do you want?’
Remus’s first thought is, I want things to go back to normal. But he’s not sure they ever could, and moreover, he realises suddenly, he doesn’t want them to.
‘I want things to be alright between us’, he says. ‘Between all of us. And…’ Part of him wants to leave it there, but James is staring him down over his glasses in a disconcertingly Dumbledore-ish fashion. It is clear he will brook no avoidance. ‘And I want… to do it again, I suppose. Kissing him, and…so on. Without these horrible awkward pauses in between.’
‘All right’, says James. ‘Off you go, then.’
‘What?’ Remus squawks. ‘What do I-’
James fixes him with a stare of alarming intensity.
‘Go and tell him what you just told me. Or kiss him and then tell him. Or tell him and then kiss him, I really don’t care. Don’t stammer at me, do it. This is going to be a good year. Our mischief making will be more spectacular than ever before, our names more feared, and I absolutely positively will get a date with Lily Evans. And if you two want to have at it as well, then I honestly don’t care, though I can’t say I think much of your taste. But there is one thing I will not allow, and that is you two and your total inability to communicate making everything awkward and destroying the Marauderly camaraderie that is the very backbone of our brotherhood. Go on! Sod off! Go!’ And he continues to glare at Remus until he gets up from his chair and scrambles up the steps to the dormitory.
Sirius is lying awake. Of course he’s lying awake. It isn’t Peter’s fault. Peter’s snores are as loud as ever, but he’s long since learned how to tune them out. But Remus still hasn’t gone to bed, even though it has to be past one and it’s not like him to stay up so late. What if he’s decided that he can’t even sleep in the same room as Sirius anymore? What if he’s gone off to sleep in the common room, or in the Shack, or something? It’s the sort of thing Remus would do. Maybe he should go find him.
He’s halfway out of bed and groping for his dressing gown by the time he hears the door click open. Remus appears, shuffling into the room as if he’s not sure he wants to be there. Sirius freezes. He briefly entertains the thought of feigning sleepwalking before Remus hisses ‘Sirius?’ and he figures it’s a lost cause. Remus hovers by his bedpost. He’s chewing his hangnail. In the dark, it’s much harder to acknowledge that they’re Being Awkward. Something about whispered conversations in the middle of the night preclude awkwardness. ‘Come with me?’ whispers Remus. ‘I need to talk to you.’
‘Where?’ Sirius hisses back. ‘I think James is still in the common room.’
Remus casts around for a second, worrying still harder at the side of his thumb. ’Um. Bathroom? It’s important.’
They tiptoe one by one into the bathroom. Remus turns the light on, flooding Sirius’s corneas with white-hot agony. Sirius lets out a yelp that is cut off by Remus slapping his hand over his mouth, a totally non-sexual gesture that somehow makes him nearly jump out of his skin. In circumstances such as these, Sirius would usually lick Remus’s hand to make him let go, but at a time like this it doesn’t feel as if it would have the connotation of innocent mischief that it usually carries. Remus takes his hand away, squinting in the blinding light. ‘Um. Sorry. Light off?’
Sirius nods. Remus turns out the light and mutters Lumos, producing a much more bearable amount of light. He sits down with his back against the bath. Sirius sits beside him. ‘Oh, god’, says Remus, sounding kind of nauseous, and then he leans in and cups Sirius’s jaw with his hand and kisses him, hard and closed-mouthed and determined. It starts out more a statement than a kiss, but then Sirius breathes out and lets his shoulders slump and the clash of their lips and teeth melts into something easier. They kiss for a long moment, and then Remus pulls away.
‘Look’, says Remus, sounding much calmer than Sirius feels, ‘the thing is- OK. I really, really fancy you.’ Sirius opens his mouth- to say what, he has no idea- but Remus shushes him. ‘I just have to say this, OK? I don’t think this thing is going to just stop, or go away or something. And besides, I don’t want it to. Because I fancy you. And what I want is to keep doing this, on a more than semi-regular basis, without it being horrible and weird in between.’ He runs his hand frantically through his hair. ‘Can’t this- us doing this- can’t it just be normal?’
Sirius breathes out, long and slow. ‘That sounds fucking ace.’
Remus grins and kisses him. His wand has gone out but it doesn’t matter, their eyes have adjusted sufficiently to the dark that they can see each other anyway. This is the first kiss that feels halfway normal; not some earth-shattering, friendship-destroying event that rewrites Sirius’s insides, just warm-tasting and firm and real and Remus. ‘Don’t run off with Dorcas Meadowes, OK?’ Sirius whispers, and he thinks Remus understands the deeper meaning behind it, but he says anyway ‘I don’t want- I just want you. No-one else.’ It feels like a promise, and really he is far too young and virile to be foisted with such commitment, but then Remus’s teeth catch at his lower lip and he decides he doesn’t care.
Remus is a really, really fantastic kisser.
It’s been four days since the bathroom incident (days filled with so much truly fantastic kissing that his lips look as if they’ve been hit with a Swelling Solution) and Sirius still isn’t sure whether or not he should be surprised by this. It’s extremely difficult to ponder such deep philosophical conundrums while Remus’s lips are ghosting over his jaw, just barely brushing against his skin. It’s maddening. One thing he knows for sure, though- he will never be fooled by Remus’s mild-mannered, cardigan-wearing, tea-loving exterior again. It was all a lie, a big fat lie. He doesn’t really mind, on the whole.
Remus grins at him wickedly. Sirius is not used to Remus grinning like this. It would be downright disturbing if it wasn’t so attractive. He pulls Remus closer by the back of the neck and kisses him, hard. Remus wriggles closer still, and then with a stealthiness that has to be some sort of werewolf trick and really shouldn’t be allowed he slides his leg over Sirius’s and shifts his weight so that all of a sudden he is directly on top of Sirius, straddling him. Sirius lets out a rush of air all at once. He finds it suddenly very difficult to think about anything other than the feeling of Remus’s weight pressing down on him, the heat, the pressure of Remus’s thighs on either side of him. Remus looks down at him and there is a sudden flash of the Remus he’s used to as he realises exactly what he’s done and where he’s sitting, or rather what he’s sitting on. He turns bright red. It’s a lovely colour on him, Sirius thinks.
‘Um,’ Remus says. This is not really up to Remus’s usual high standards of eloquence, but then if he’s feeling anything like how Sirius is feeling this is not really a surprise. Sirius dreams about reaching the pinnacle of articulacy that is ‘Um.’ Or he would, if he wasn’t somewhat preoccupied with the fucking obscene way Remus is chewing on his lower lip, and also arse, directly on top of cock, did he mention? Their eyes meet and they both snort with laughter. It reminds him that Remus is still Remus, hithertofore undetected carnality notwithstanding. He likes both Remuses equally. Well, he thinks, as a smirking Remus mouths his way wetly over Sirius’s neck, nearly equally. Remus’s hips press down over his crotch and he gasps much too loudly and is embarrassed for almost an entire second before Remus does it again. He lets his head flop back against the pillows and makes a sound that is much too high-pitched to be made by anyone with a functional (at present, extremely functional) set of male genitalia. He’s certain he never made so many embarrassing noises in any of his encounters with girls. But Remus is different.
And then Remus’s fingers are reaching for the top button of his shirt and working it open, and they both freeze. Their eyes meet. Mouth dry, Sirius nods.
Remus’s fingers move down the front of his shirt, undoing the buttons one by one. Each brush of fingers against his bare chest sends a shock straight to his crotch. Both of them are breathing slowly, moving slowly, eyes never leaving one another’s face. Sirius’s brain is screaming at him. REMUS IS TAKING OFF YOUR SHIRT HOLY SWEET MERLIN THOSE ARE REMUS’S FINGERS GETTING CLOSER TO YOUR COCK ALERT ALERT THIS IS NOT A DRILL. Then the last button falls open. Remus’s hands move to his shoulders, edging the shirt over his arms, and Sirius props himself up on his elbows to help him. He shoves the shirt away. Whether it falls off the bed or ends up tangled somewhere among the bedding he neither knows nor cares. He reaches out and brushes Remus’s collarbone where it is exposed by the loosened collar of his shirt, feels Remus shiver. ‘Can I-’ he begins. ‘God,’ breathes Remus, ‘yes.’
He has seen Remus shirtless comparatively rarely. Of all the Marauders, he is the least inclined to shed his clothing; in fact, he’s always seemed to have a positive aversion to it. In any case, he’s never really paid attention to him. Sirius is sure, at least, that he’s never seen him look as beautiful as he does now. His eyes are drawn to the way his stomach rises and falls below his ribs, how it makes the scars across it shift and stretch. He touches them, carefully, and Remus shivers and kisses him. This kiss is hungry and there is intent behind it, and when Sirius flips Remus onto his back and straddles him Remus makes a surprised little noise that tails off in a long exhale of breath. He kisses Remus’s neck, his collarbone, and when Remus bucks beneath him it fills him with a strange recklessness. He can’t stop. He doesn’t want to stop, not when Remus is this beautiful beneath him, struggling to keep his breathing steady.
He takes Remus’s nipple between his teeth and Remus slams his head back into the pillow, not quite biting back a moan. Sirius traces a finger along the long scar that starts below Remus’s nipple and ends just above the bottom of his ribcage. Remus moans in earnest, and Sirius kisses the very end of the scar and then works his way downwards, placing kisses across Remus’s stomach. There’s an obvious intent here now he hadn’t fully realised he was implying, and his heart is thudding uncomfortably in his chest, but when he runs his tongue over Remus’s hipbone and hears him moan ‘Oh- Sirius’, he stops caring. He wants this, and even though it feels like a line he can never un-cross, he knows he’ll never want to anyway. He undoes Remus’s fly with shaking fingers, and Remus raises his hips off the bed to allow him to slide his trousers down over his thighs. It’s still a bit of a struggle, and Remus snorts when he nearly falls off the bed trying to pull the leg over Remus’s right foot, but then Remus is wearing nothing but his boxers and he swallows, hard. He glances up at him, as if asking for permission. Remus’s eyes are dark, pupils dilated, and he manages a shaky smile. Sirius presses a wet kiss to Remus’s cock through the sweat-soaked cotton and feels Remus shudder beneath him.
Sirius peels Remus’s boxers over his hips and feels his heart thump wildly at the sight of Remus’s cock, flushed and heavy against his stomach. It looks intimidatingly huge, and he doesn’t know how much of it he’ll be able to take. He licks tentatively up the shaft, and Remus swears and bucks.
‘This-’ Remus gasps, ‘this isn’t going to last long, fuck-’
The noise Remus makes when he sinks his mouth over the shaft is the most beautiful thing he’s ever heard. He tastes- strange; not bad, but strange, salty and with an odd earthiness underneath it. It is a stretch to get even halfway down. The weight filling his mouth is alien and takes some getting used to. Remus is letting out a more or less constant stream of swearing, hands fisted in Sirius’s hair. He quickly finds a rhythm that doesn’t make him want to cough, and even when the head of Remus’s cock bumps against the back of his throat and makes him gag a little it doesn’t matter because Remus stammers out Sirius’s name and Sirius feels as if he might burst, harder than he’s ever been in his life. When Remus comes he writhes, hips bucking wildly, and groans out Sirius’s name, and Sirius swallows, about half a second from coming in his pants. He pulls off with a wet pop and Remus breathes out shakily before pulling Sirius back up the bed and kissing him, open-mouthed and dirty. Sirius ruts furiously against him, so hard it’s painful, and Remus fumbles open his trousers and wraps a hand around his cock. The angle is awkward but it doesn’t matter, he barely manages two strokes before every muscle in his body seizes up and Sirius comes, swearing into Remus’s shoulder.
He feels boneless, sprawled half onto the bed and half onto Remus. They’re both sticky with sweat. ‘Ugh’, says Remus, regarding his hand, which is still covered in Sirius’s come. ‘This is disgusting. We are disgusting.’
‘Disgustingly sexy’, mumbles Sirius vaguely into Remus’s shoulder. His brain still hasn’t quite started working again. ‘Oh. Um. Sorry about that, Moony old chap.’
Remus regards him for a second, then bursts out laughing. ‘What?’ yelps Sirius, indignant. ‘What are you laughing at? I have to tell you, Moony, most people would take offense to being openly laughed at by the person they’ve just sucked off.’
‘Sorry!’ gasps Remus. ‘I’m sorry, really! It’s just- this is real. And- this-’, he gestures with his messy hand, ‘this is real, too. I’m sorry. It’s just the shock. It’ll wear off, I expect. Given a few more-’
‘What?’ asks Sirius, grinning wickedly. ‘A few more what, exactly?’
Remus hits him in the face with a pillow.
The problem with having really fantastic sex with someone you share a room with is that it after the first time, you more or less never want to stop doing it. Which is all well and good, except that it becomes increasingly difficult to remember that two other people share that room, too.
This doesn’t really become a problem until a week later. Sirius’s trousers are around his ankles and Remus’s hand is wrapped around his cock and all is wonderful in the world when Peter’s voice comes from outside the confines of his bed, asking ‘Sirius, have you see my spare shirt?’ and then the curtains are twitched open and Peter’s face is staring down at them, mouth slightly agape, looking for all the world like a traumatised guppy. Then he vanishes. Sirius wrenches the curtains fully open in time to see Wormtail scuttling out of the dormitory door and away down the stairs. Transforming under stress is a habit of his. Sirius thinks it might be related to his form being a rat in the first place. It makes sense.
They’re both hopping around trying to button their shirts and get their trousers on at the same time when James bursts into the room. Peter stumbles in after him, eyes slightly glazed.
‘All right’, says James, drawing himself up to his full height. Sirius finds himself reaching for Remus for support. ‘Whose bright idea was it to get it on in the middle of the day in the dorm room?’ He glares at them both. ‘Oh, and more to the point. How did neither of you two clowns remember to tell Peter?’
And that's all, folks! Wow, I can't believe this is finally all published. This is both the longest thing I've ever written and the longest time I've spent working on something- I started planning it somewhere around May, I think. Thank you all for reading, and I hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed writing it (apart from the smut. I really, really hope you enjoyed it more than I enjoyed writing the smut).