Chapter 1: The Way Things Come Together
The house was at the end of an unusually long driveway, up a small hill. Once it came fully into view Sirius pulled out his phone and took a picture of it. It was nothing special. Just a faded yellow house that seemed incongruous with the grey December skies. It had probably been built in the sixties and renovated a few times since. The paint was faded but it didn't look that old.
"Doesn't look like much," Sirius said, his breath visible in the cold air.
"Dude, it's practically on the coast," his best friend James said, with a look of disbelief.
James was house really wasn't on the coast but the coast was certainly visible in the horizon. This was the fifth place they had looked at this week and only looked great because it wasn't packed with other students. The Craigslist ad had described it as a fixer-upper but the rent was on the low end of what Sirius could afford. James could afford more but he had promised Sirius he would follow no matter where he went.
The ad had few details about the residents of the house. There were two of them including an owner named Lily. Sirius had only communicated with her via email and text. He pictured her as being vaguely middle aged and folksy. The other resident was presumably her partner of indeterminate gender. Sirius kept holding out hope for queer roommates but all the other places they looked at were seemingly occupied by cishets. It would be nice to be able to relax about being queer and trans for once.
Sirius and James arrived on the porch, Sirius finding the creaking of the wood oddly unsettling. The only furniture on porch was an old wooden chair that didn't look especially comfy or stable. James knocked on the door and got no response.
"Are you sure this is the right place?" James asked.
"Yeah," Sirius said but he double checked the address just in case.
James knocked again and the door finally unlocked then quickly opened. A young woman, perhaps their age, stood behind the door. She was a smiling figure with dark-red hair, incredibly striking green eyes and a light brown complexion. She distinctly smelled like pot.
"You're here to see the house?" she asked.
"Yeah," Sirius said.
"Great. Come inside. Please," she said, stepping aside.
James and Sirius wiped their feet aggressively on the welcome mat then stepped inside the house. The floors were all wooden and every step they made echoed just a little through the house. There was barely any furniture in the house, minus a few old and very dusty paintings and a sofa that looked nearly as old but somewhat more comfortable than the old chair on the porch.
"I'm Lily, by the way," the owner said, extending her hand to both of them to shake.
"James," James said, shaking her hand.
"Sirius,' Sirius said before doing the same.
"Cool. So, let me show you around. Remus and I literally just moved in three days ago. I'm sorry it's so cold. The heater doesn't work," Lily said, cringing.
She was far cuter than what Sirius had envisioned the owner of this home looking like. She was tallish and chubby. In her red sweater and dark-blue pyjama bottoms she looked cozy. Sirius glanced at James as they followed her into the kitchen. Sirius smiled and tried to suppress a chuckle at the way James was looking at their new potential roommate. He seemed very pleased to meet her.
"This is the kitchen. Umm… I don't think the dishwasher works. The oven seems kinda new. It works fine. The microwave is new. I bought that," Lily said, gesturing around the kitchen.
"This place seems kinda big. Bigger than I thought," James said.
"Yeah, it's bigger on the inside," Lily said, grinning proudly.
James gave a big laugh for what Sirius thought was a slightly outdated Doctor Who reference. God, they were already flirting, Sirius thought with some annoyance. Sirius had conflicting thoughts on he heard people talk about it and the things they loved about it he was mostly freaked out. And then you add in the notion of heartbreak and it didn't seem any more appealing.
Romance was passé and an old way of handling relationships. He prided himself on never succumbing to those baser urges to pair up and mate, feeling like he was perfectly fine on his own. He supposed he couldn't discount the possibility that he could meet someone but in twenty years of life no one incredible enough had presented themselves.
The idea of sex was intellectually appealing to some small degree. He experienced the physical response but he had never felt the urge to go out and find a person to do it with. He really didn't see what the big deal was. It seemed such a strange thing for people to obsess over. He didn't understand why anyone would want to have sex for the sake of it. Surely, it wasn't that great and he couldn't imagine just hooking up with someone.
"Obviously, there's plenty of cupboard space for everyone," Lily said, opening and shutting some cupboards.
"Looks good," James said, Sirius briefly catching James glancing at her butt as she leaned up to open a cupboard.
Lily then showed them the dining room, complete with an old but sturdy-looking table that matched the other furnishings.
"I actually got this table at Goodwill. Umm… Yeah, I inherited this place from my Great Aunt. She didn't have any kids and my sister is married and they have their own house. But most of the furniture and stuff still went to other relatives or got sold. But I want to make it nice," Lily said, smiling and nodding in a way that projected confidence.
"Sooo there are two rooms and maybe the basement that I'm trying to rent out right now. One room is downstairs, another is upstairs and the basement is… Oh. Uh… Well, it's a basement," she said and laughed with a snort.
"Is there an attic?" Sirius asked, thinking it could be neat to live in an attic.
"Yeah. My friend Remus lives up there," Lily said.
So Remus wasn't her partner, apparently. James was probably happy about that, Sirius wagered.
"Is he home?" James asked.
"Yeah. Hopefully, he'll come down at some point. He's kinda shy," Lily said apologetically.
"I guess show us the upstairs room first," Sirius said.
They walked back through the kitchen to the hallway by the living room and headed up the wooden staircase, a distinct marijuana smell increasing as they made their way up.
"This is my room," Lily said, gesturing at the door on the right side of the hallway that was half open and clearly the source of the marijuana smell.
Inside the door Sirius could see a bed that was covered in stuffed animals, boxes strewn about the floor, an acoustic guitar leaning against a corner and a few fancy looking bongs on a table. A large pansexual flag hung over her bed and Sirius resisted the urge to pump his fist in approval.
"Nice," James said.
Behind them were two doors. Lily opened one door and said, "We want to turn this into like a library-study type thing. Unless we end up needing the money, I guess."
She then opened the other door and said, "So this is the upstairs room. It's larger than the downstairs room. Slightly. I can't really tell the difference."
It was just an empty room, looking much like the rest of the house.
"Are we going to fight over this one?" James said, playfully grinning at Sirius.
"Nah. You take it," Sirius said, thinking it would not only be less crowded downstairs but the smell of marijuana might not be so constant.
"This is the upstairs bathroom. It needs a new lightbulb. I can get that later," Lily said, flipping the switch repeatedly as if it might turn on if she tried enough.
Sirius popped his head inside, swiping dark hair out of his eyes to behind his left ear. There was a conservatively sized shower surrounded by glass that Sirius was certain was no less than seventy-five percent transparent. He hoped the lock on the door worked.
"Remus?" Lily called up to the door up the staircase at the end of the hallway that presumably lead to the attic.
After there was no response she shrugged and headed back downstairs. The downstairs room looked identical to the upstairs room.
"Yeah, I'll take it," Sirius said, looking forward to having a view of the coast out his back window.
"Awesome. Do you guys want to see the basement space? Oh, do you know anyone who might be interested?" she pleaded.
"Oh. Um. Maybe. Pete?" Sirius said, glancing at James and feeling bad for having forgotten to ask if there was room for Peter.
"Our friend Peter lives with his mom right now. He's not really in the market now but I think he could be persuaded. What do you want for it?" James asked.
"I'd take three-hundred a month for it. It's pretty small," Lily said.
"I think I can convince him," James said.
"Cool. That would be great," Lily said and lead them back to the kitchen where she opened a door that Sirius had before assumed was a closet but actually lead to a short sets of steps.
The room below was in fact small but the walls were covered in wood unlike the rooms above. There was definitely enough room for a twin-size bed and a few small furnishing. Peter didn't own much, though, and Sirius bet he would be happy to be near the kitchen.
"Is there another bathroom?" Sirius asked.
"Yeah!" Lily said, taking them back down the hallway and opening the door next to the room Sirius had claimed.
"Just a tub down here. But you'll have this bathroom to yourself most of the time… unless your friend moves in," Lily said.
Sirius was rather fond of hot baths. He could already see himself putting on some music and relaxing with a nice bubble bath.
"Nice," Sirius said.
"OK. Anything else?" Lily asked, walking into the living room and leaning back against the sofa and smiling.
"Do you have any plans for like… a TV? Maybe a stereo?" James asked.
"I mostly just watch Netflix on my laptop," Lily said.
"I've got a TV. It's really too big for my room anyway. I've also got an Xbox," James said, looking proud.
"No shit? Well, hey, if you want to share, I won't say no. Do you smoke weed?" Lily asked hopefully.
"Sometimes," James said.
"Well, you'll have to smoke some weed with me sometime. My treat," Lily said with a grin.
James rubbed a dark hand on his chin then with enthusiasm.
"You're welcome to join too, Sirius," Lily said.
"I'm kinda neutral on pot. But thanks for the offer," Sirius said with a small smile.
"OK. Cool. Well, when do you want to move in… or do you want more time to decide?" Lily asked.
"Nah… I think we're sold. This weekend?" James said.
"Sounds good to me. Maybe Remus will be feeling more social," Lily said, though she looked doubtful.
Sirius was curious what this reclusive fellow in the attic was like. Certainly, not outgoing.
"It was nice meeting you," Sirius said.
"You too!" Lily said as they headed to the door.
"Yeah," James said.
"See you this weekend. Text me!" Lily said as they went out the front door.
"Will do," James said as they headed back down the driveway.
"Well?" Sirius said.
"Well, what?" James replied.
"Come on, man. I know you too well. Don't hold out on me," Sirius said, grinning with anticipation.
"Yeah. OK. She's fucking cute. Really cute. Like… how is it even legal to be that cute? That's really unfair," James said.
Sirius chuckled, thinking how predictable James was, though he wasn't wrong about how cute she was.
"Did you see her dimples?" James said and Sirius smiled, knowing this was all he was going to hear for the rest of the week until they moved in.
Remus's phone dinged. A text from Lily. He checked it and took a sigh of relief. They were gone now. He shuffled out of his room to pee then went downstairs to grab a drink. Lily was sitting on the kitchen counter and eating one of her almond milk puddings.
"Hey," Lily said.
"Hey," Remus replied.
"You missed the new roommates," Lily said, stating the obvious.
"Yeah. Do they seem nice?" Remus asked.
"Yeah. They're both really cute," Lily said with a small grin.
"Oh?" Remus asked, grabbing a cold root beer from the fridge.
"Yeah. Actually, James is pretty hot," she said wistfully.
"Well… um… that's nice," Remus said and started to head back upstairs.
"Wait," Lily said, sliding off the counter and tossing the the empty pudding container into the recycling bin and dropping her spoon into the sink.
"Huh?" Remus said, turning around.
"Are you OK?" Lily said with concern.
"Yeah," Remus said, defensively.
Lily skeptically tilted her head.
"You're a bad liar, Remus Lupin," Lily said with a frown.
"I'm anxious. I'll get over it. I've never lived with strangers before," Remus said.
Lily brushed at his hair at his forehead with her finger tips then gave him a tight hug.
"You'll be fine. I promise. If you have any problems let me know and I'll do whatever I can to make things easier," Lily said.
Lily gave the best hugs. Remus didn't really understand what he had done to be blessed with such a wonderful best friend.
"Thanks. You're far too good to me. What did I ever do to deserve your friendship?" Remus said.
"Stuff," Lily said, giving him a soft kiss on the check and patting him on the shoulder.
"No, really. I have nothing of value to offer you or anyone. Doesn't seem like a very solid investment," Remus said.
Lily pursed her lips and shook her head.
"You have plenty to offer. Speaking of which, wanna come up to my room and watch Netflix with me?" Lily asked with a smile.
"Like what?" Remus said.
"I dunno. Stuff," Lily said.
"You're so good with words," Remus said.
"Yeah," Lily replied, walking past him and heading upstairs.
"Do you mind if smoke?" Lily asked, entering her room.
"Just don't blow it in my face and we're cool," Remus said, flopping onto her bed.
Remus didn't particularly care for weed but was usually willing to compromise to spend time with his best friend. After all, he had known she was a stoner when he first befriended her five years ago. He really couldn't complain.
Remus had never exactly been good at making friends when he moved to a new town where everyone seemed straight, white and boring and not entirely welcoming to a queer, half-Korean kid like him. When the gift of friendship was extended to him from someone as cool as Lily Evans, he couldn't say no.
Lily was the polyamorous, pagan, pansexual daughter of a Puerto Rican mother and an English father. She was also openly dating two different people when he met her, an ambitious undertaking for a fifteen year old he'd thought.
The idea of dating more than one person at a time had never occurred to Remus before meeting her. Admittedly, even the idea of dating one person had remained elusive to Remus. No person he would ever be attracted to would ever find him an acceptable partner.
For reasons he might never understand, Lily quickly took to him and helped Remus come to terms with his own sexual feelings, such as they were. He still didn't understand how to label himself. Lily was always so comfortable and confident with her labels. Remus felt weird trying to use them, worried that if he assigned anything to himself he would just change his mind and have to give them out all over again.
Remus had generally found himself mostly attracted to other men but not exclusively and it varied with different people. Remus never had been able to get a grasp on what it was he felt for Lily. She was certainly attractive and he certainly loved her but they had a camaraderie that might be difficult to overcome for anything else. He mostly tried not to think about things and enjoy them as they were. That lead to far less stress.
He wondered if he could ever be non-monogamous like her. It seemed so complicated. She was still seeing two different people back in her hometown that she only communicated with on her phone and the internet. When Remus had questioned how you could even continue a relationship that way she explained that almost anything you could do in person could be done in some form over the internet, even sex.
Remus didn't think a long distance thing would ever work for him. He had plenty of online friends but what he really wanted was… more than that. It was difficult for him to put into words. More than just physical intimacy but definitely including that. He'd be grateful just for one person to do… whatever it was he wanted with.
Lily got her bong ready and told Remus to get on her laptop and pick something stupid to watch. Remus wasn't sure what she meant exactly so he just picked a random sitcom to watch. He knew he was just going to pass out from comfort and the second-hand smoke anyway. Lily slid in bed next to him, and pressed her shoulder against his.
Halfway through the first episode of whatever it was, Remus began to drift off, thinking that Lily really was far too good to him.
Sirius couldn't believe he had been living in the house for a week and had yet to meet the mysterious roommate living up in the attic. He could hear him sometimes, walking about up there or using the upstairs bathroom. Sometimes he was in Lily's room and Sirius could hear his voice muffled and distant.
Not that he was sure why he cared. Sirius had mostly been keeping to himself anyway. It was time for the holidays and Sirius had few good memories of that time of year. The wound of a Christmas four years before when an anonymous relative had outed him as being trans and gay still felt deep and sore. Of course, he didn't really think of himself as gay exactly. He preferred to call himself queer. But he had definitely hoped to move out of his parents's home before they found out he was trans.
The Black family household had descended into chaos as his mother spewed threats and slurs of many sorts. She threatened to toss him onto the streets so he did her one better and ran away to the safety of his best friend's parents. After that his parents never seemed to care what happened to him and he made a pact with himself to stop celebrating the holidays and focus on self-care.
Sirius stretched and looked at his phone. It was half-past midnight. He'd gotten three texts from James, all three about Lily Evans. He'd talked to her for twenty minutes in the kitchen about one of those anime that James loved that it turned out she also loved. James was into this girl. Way into her and he barely knew her.
James had fallen hard and fast for a few girls in the time Sirius had known him, though it had been almost two years since his breakup with Charity Burbage. That breakup had been hard on James, even though they hadn't been involved for all that long. It was almost funny how quickly they had got involved then crashed and burned.
This was the problem with romance in Sirius's mind: everyone did it wrong! How come no one ever let things develop over time? Why couldn't they build a history together rather than racing to some sort of idealized finish line? It was all so foolish as far as he was concerned. Why rush into heartbreak?
Sirius slid out of bed, sliding his phone into his pocket, feeling hungry. He left his room and went down to the kitchen where he yelped in surprise at the figure casually standing next to the counter and looking at his phone.
"Oh. Hi. I'm Sirius," Sirius said.
"Hi. Uhhh. I'm Remus?" the stranger said, almost as if he was uncertain of his own identity.
Remus was a very pleasant looking young man with honey-brown hair and lips that looked ever so full and soft. He was gorgeous. Sirius wanted to run back to his room to scream into his pillow but instead he tried to remain calm and continue about his business. He silently made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and tried not to think about the hottie who was still casually hanging about in the kitchen, an angel gracing mere mortals with his presence.
"So… umm.. How are you?" Sirius asked.
"Fine," Remus said.
"That's good," Sirius replied, feeling stupid.
This guy clearly wasn't interested in talking to him. Out of your league, Black, give it up.
"Do you like living here?" Sirius said.
"Sure," Remus said.
The time to retreat is now, Sirius told himself but couldn't seem to stop himself.
"So what do you do? Are you in college?" Sirius asked, hoping they would at least have that in common.
"No. I… uh… I write," Remus said.
"Oh really? Like what?" Sirius asked.
Remus looked uncomfortable and ready to flee at any moment. Good going, Sirius, he told himself.
"Fanfic," Remus said with a worried look on his face, aimed at the floor.
"Really? I read fanfic. What fandom do you write?" Sirius asked, smiling at Remus with interest.
"I've really got into Stucky shipping," Remus said.
"What's Stucky?" Sirius said.
"Oh uh… the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Captain America. It's uh… have you seen The Winter Soldier?" Remus asked.
"No. I don't really watch that many movies anymore. I saw Iron Man ages ago," Sirius replied, cursing himself for rejecting all of James and Peter's invitations to watch those films.
"Oh… Well, you should watch the Captain America movies. Winter Soldier is great. Anyhow, Stucky is from that," Remus said, seeming to warm up a little.
"Oh. Well, maybe I will. Then I could read one of your fics!" Sirius grinned but Remus looked sort of mortified despite nodding.
"Well… it was nice to meet you, Remus," Sirius said his sandwich fully prepared and no longer providing him an excuse to remain.
"You too," Remus said.
"Oh, hey. We should exchange numbers. Could come in handy since we live together," Sirius said, setting his plate back down and pulling out his phone.
"OK," Remus said and they both repeated their numbers to each other.
Of course, Sirius wanted Remus's number for other reasons but had no intention of abusing the power. He didn't want to lose contact with the reclusive hottie who lived in the attic.
"Well, umm… Goodnight," Sirius said and went back to his bedroom, where he set his food down then furiously texted at James as fast as he could get his fingers to move.
Why didn't you tell me he was hot?
Remus hit send and waited for a reply.
I… literally did
You undersold it. He is sooo hot.
Which one do you mean?
Oh. Right. Yeah, he's hot too.
Remus stared up at the wood ceiling of the attic. He kept replaying the conversation in his mind and picturing Sirius's smooth, dark hair and grey eyes. Picturing the shapes his thin lips made when he spoke. He was tall and slender and had an aristocratic look to him, at least as aristocratic one could look in pyjamas.
Remus's phone chimed.
Anyhow, glad you are making friends with the new roommates.
Was this what a crush was like? Why did it make him feel so anxious? It was exciting but also sort of terrifying. He wanted to talk to Sirius again but he was also afraid to talk to him again. What if it went poorly? After all, he still knew nothing about Sirius. Maybe he should've asked Sirius some personal questions. Maybe it was wrong to just let him ask the questions. How did people even manage shit like this?
No, it was much easier to be alone. Much safer. He shouldn't pursue such flights of fancy. He laid in bed and tried to put the grey-eyed Mr. Black out of his mind but found little relief from his feelings.
Sirius woke up exhausted the next morning. Thoughts of the reclusive Mr. Lupin had made achieving sleep difficult. Sirius was angry with himself. This sort of thing happened to other people, not him. Sirius had always been so good about not letting attractions overwhelm him but there was something different about Remus. But how? He didn't even know anything about him!
Sure, he did. He was hot. Really hot. He didn't understand how someone so beautiful could be so shy and unsure. He wondered what his lips felt like. He wondered… No, he couldn't get started down that track again. That was what lead him to not getting any sleep in the first damn place.
Still.. Sirius knew that no photograph he had ever taken was as beautiful as Remus Lupin. But Sirius didn't do photography anymore. Not since…
Painful memories were bubbling up to the surface. Sirius closed his eyes and took some deep breaths. He couldn't let himself go there, not right now.
He checked his phone and felt his heart begin to race when it showed he had a text from Remus, pushing his pain aside.
Hey, lemme know if you watch any MCU movies. Or um.. Idk. We could watch some together if you wanted.
Sirius glared at the text with wide eyes like he was holding the secret to the darkest questions of the universe in his hands.
Sure. That would be cool.
Well, I've stepped right in it now, Sirius thought, clutching his phone to his chest. He was waiting for a chime signaling Remus's response and thought to himself that this was what it was like. This was the stupid shit people wrote songs about, the stupid shit people fucked up their lives over and the worst part was that he had never been more excited in his entire life.
Chapter 2: Making Christmas
"Does your family do Christmas on Christmas or Christmas Eve?"
Sirius frowned at Lily, spinning a green apple in his palm.
"James's parents did Christmas on Christmas Day," Sirius answered.
"Oh," Lily said, looking sad.
"Don't worry. I just don't like talking about my family. Until I moved in with the Potters I never even really understood what people meant when they talked about the spirit of Christmas. The most memorable Christmas with my family was when someone, probably one of my cousins, outed me," Sirius said biting into the apple and leaning back against the kitchen counter.
"Oh god. I'm so sorry," Lily said, lifting a hand to her mouth.
"It gave me the push I needed to make myself safe. My parents were never going to accept my gender," Sirius said and took another bite of apple.
"I'm trying to figure out sort of comfort levels and if I wanted to celebrate the holidays what everyone would be most comfortable with. Not in a religious way. I mean I'm a pagan anyhow. Sort of. I'm slightly Catholic in that way that it will always be a part of me," Lily said.
"I'm an atheist. Or an agnostic," Sirius said.
"Not both?" Lily said.
"I guess. I'm not sure I get the meanings that well. It's not that I believe there's nothing so much as I don't really believe in anything. I don't know and I don't care," Sirius said.
Lily looked a little uncomfortable.
"It's not really a big deal though. Not believing. I'm all apathy, I swear," Sirius said with a grin, biting into the apple again.
"Yeah. I just don't want to alienate anyone. I mean Remus isn't really religious either but I already know he doesn't mind religious stuff," Lily said.
Sirius couldn't stop himself from grinning. A mention of the reclusive hottie in the attic always got Sirius a little excited. The two of them had been having a little bit of back and forth via texting the last couple of weeks, even if Sirius had barely laid eyes on Remus during that time.
"Oh? That's cool. I don't either. James is pretty religious. He loves him some Jesus. But not in a Jesus hates gay people way so much as a Jesus loves everyone sort of way," Sirius said.
Lily green eyes got wide and she made a pleased grin.
"I must admit I love when cute guys don't think I'm going to burn in hell," Lily said with a happy nod.
"Nah, James isn't like that. I'm not really sure what it is he believes. You'd have to ask him," Sirius said.
"I don't think we're there yet," Lily said.
"That's fair. Anyhow… as far as I'm concerned it's your house. If you wanna Christmas it up go for it," Sirius said.
Lily looked thoughtful, like she was contemplating something.
"I wish my girlfriends were here. It's good to have a shopping buddy. I could invite Remus but… I know he won't be into it. I don't want to bother him," Lily said, looking disappointed.
Sirius tossed the apple core in garbage and said, "I wouldn't mind helping out."
"Really?" Lily said, her face scrunching up in surprise.
"I'm not doing anything else. I can be your shopping buddy," he replied.
Sirius wanted to mention that he'd spent lots of time thinking about how to frame spaces because of his photography but he still wasn't ready to talk about that with his new roommates.
"Yeah. OK. Meet me at the car in say two minutes?" Lily said.
"Oh. Wow. Yeah. OK. Uh… yeah," Sirius said and rushed out of the kitchen to get a coat on fast.
"I was only kidding!" Lily called out laughing.
"What kind of music do you like, Sirius?" Lily said as they got in her car.
"Oh, uh. Lots of stuff. I like a lot of female vocalists. A lot of indie pop… I don't really listen to the radio much," Sirius said.
"Geez, I wouldn't have rented to you if I knew you were a friggin' hipster," Lily said, winking at him as she plugged in her iPod.
Sirius laughed and said, "No, no. I'm not a hipster! I don't care how famous an artist is or anything. Just give me a strong melody and a good beat and I'm cool," Sirius said.
"It's funny but I took you for the sort of guy who likes The Cure or Joy Division or Bauhaus or Sisters of Mercy," Lily said.
"Just because I'm really pale, have dark hair and my last name is Black doesn't mean I'm a goth," Sirius said with a raised eyebrow.
"That's fair," Lily said, telling her iPod to play her dance and hip-hop playlist.
"Not Christmas music?" Sirius asked as Lily began to pull out of the long driveway.
"Nah. I like saving it for a few days before. If you wear it out before the holiday comes it loses all meaning," Lily said.
"So where are we going?" Sirius asked as they drove down the road away from the house.
"I don't know. Not Wal-Mart!" Lily said.
"Yeah. Fuck Wal-Mart," Sirius sneered.
"I think I want find something more thrifty. And also I worked at a Wal-Mart for a few years. I've had enough of them for a lifetime," Lily said.
"There's a place a downtown actually. Molly and Arthur's. A thrift store downstairs and they live upstairs. They're always really friendly," Sirius said.
"Cool," Lily said.
Shortly, they pulled into the small parking lot next to Molly and Arthur's. Lily felt a bit silly for not having inquired where all the cool spots in town were from James and Sirius before now and followed Sirius inside with enthusiasm.
The place smelled amazing. There was a distinct scent of sweet baked goods wafting through the door. A woman with fiery red hair much lighter than Lily's own smiled at them and waving, interrupting her sweeping.
"Hello, hello! Sirius, you haven't been in for months!" the woman said, rushing over and hugging him to her surprise and apparently his as well based on the face he made over the woman's shoulder.
"Sorry. We just moved actually. It's a farther walk now," Sirius said.
The woman released him and turned to Lily.
"Hi. I'm Molly. Molly Weasley. My husband I own this shop. Please, look around. Oh, if you both would like I have some cookies baking upstairs," Molly said.
"Hi! I'm Lily Oh, that would be nice," Lily said, shaking her hand.
"If you'll excuse me, I need to check on the children…" Molly said and went over to the staircase that went upstairs and dashed up.
"Molly and Arthur have… five kids I think? She just had twins earlier this year, believe it or not," Sirius said as they started wandering down the aisles of the store.
"Five. Wow. I'd like to have a kid someday. I… don't know about five. That's… she and her husband… stay busy," Lily said.
"Yeah. Arthur also is on the city council," Sirius said.
The Weasleys had a large section with Christmas decorations, many of them quite eccentric novelty items.
"Woah. Sexy Santa!" Lily said, holding up a figurine of a surprisingly well-tanned and ripped Santa Claus, only wearing a pair of swim shorts while he held a surfboard in his arms.
"I mean who doesn't need a sexy Santa Claus?" Sirius said.
Lily giggled and placed him in her handcart.
"Oooo, Rudolph the Rainbow-Nosed Reinqueer!" Sirius said, picking up a reindeer figure that had a light-up rainbow colored nose.
"Amazing," Lily said and tossed it in the basket.
Moments later Molly came back down with a small boy at her side.
"Say hello, Percy," Molly said, nudging the boy.
"Hi," the boy said with a small wave.
"Hi!" Lily said, waving at him.
"He's growing so fast," Sirius said.
"They do that. In a few years, Bill and Charlie will be taller than me," Molly said.
Lily didn't think that was too difficult a task given how short Molly Weasley was.
"Well, I'll let you get back to your shopping. Come along, Percy…" Molly said, leading the boy over to checkout counter at the front of the store.
Suddenly there was the sound of a crying baby upstairs that was quickly joined by another. Molly sighed.
"Well, there they go. When one cries, they both do. Yes, I'm coming Fred and George, dears," Molly said, heading upstairs while Percy remained seated on a stool at the checkout counter.
By the time Molly came back down, Lily and Sirius had finished their shopping and were standing at the checkout counter.
"The cookies have cooled if you want to come upstairs now," Molly said, as she handed Lily her change.
The upstairs domicile covered two floors and was extremely cozy. It reminded Lily of a relative's house she had visited as a child. She couldn't recall who she had been. Maybe she wasn't even in a relative but rather a friend of her parents. She had been an older woman who had covered her walls with things that said Home Sweet Home and art carved out of real wood. It was probably what her great aunt's house had been like before relatives stripped it of all its character.
The cookies were delicious, though not vegan. Lily felt a little bad about betraying her own veganism but didn't suppose the vegan police would arrest her for having two cookies.
With the cookies eaten and a short tour of the home given Lily and Sirius headed out to look for more Christmas decorations of the more traditional sort. The local Goodwill had a section set out for cheap Christmas decorations.
"Ooo, look at this wreath!" Lily said, rushing over and picking it up.
The wood felt real but the small white flowers that graced it definitely weren't.
"That's lovely," Sirius said.
"Right?" Lily said, holding it up with joy.
There was something about buying things that looked nice but weren't expensive that gave her a great amount of joy. There was something deeply therapeutic about shopping in general.
They also found some lights to hang up around the living room and some other figures and accents. It wouldn't be the most Christmassey Christmas ever but it wouldn't be bad.
"Maybe we should do a Christmas dinner," Sirius suggested as they drove home.
"Maybe," Lily said, suspecting there was no way she'd be able to get Remus to attend.
"I've never had a vegan Christmas," Sirius said.
"Me either. Not exactly. My mom tried to make me some vegan dishes for the last few Christmases before…"
The death of her parents still weighed heavily on her. She wondered if it always would. To her surprise, Sirius rubbed her shoulder. She smiled at him to let him know it was OK.
Once they were home Lily quickly put the wreath on the front door and tried to find places for all the figures. James Potter entered the house with a whistle.
"It's beginning to look like Christmas!" James said with excitement.
Lily beamed with pride while Sirius said, "Yeah. A bit."
"You need a tree? I mean, do you want a tree? I could get a tree," James said rubbing his hands together, leading Lily to almost believe he could conjure one by magic.
"I don't know. They are kind of a pain," Lily said.
"I could get an artificial tree. Honestly, I'm surprised I don't already own one," James said.
Lily went to the northwestern corner of the room, next to the TV and contemplated the space.
"We'd need to move things. Yeah. OK," Lily said.
"Awesome," James said, continuing to rub his hands together.
"I make it your quest, James Potter, to find a fake Christmas tree and bring it to me. Also maybe you could get some balls… Erm… you know. The kind you hang… on Christmas trees. Why are you guys looking at me like that?" Lily laughed.
"Sure. Some balls. And a star for the top?" James said.
"Yeah. That'll probably do for this year. Thanks," Lily said.
"No problem. Coming with me, Sirius?" James asked.
"Nah. I'm shopped out for today," Sirius said.
"Geez. Stealing my best friend, are you?" James said with a wink and headed back out.
A couple of hours later, James was back with the tree and some ornaments. He and Lily set it up with amazing energy and speed. Sirius offered to help but they seemed to have it under control. By the time sun had set the living room looked very nice. Sirius pulled out his phone and took a picture of James and Lily standing proudly in front of tree, telling himself it wasn’t photography, not really.
There was something fascinating about the way that James and Lily looked at each other. Their attraction was palpable. It was cute in a sort of nauseating way. He wondered if what they felt was similar to the tingly feelings he was getting about Remus Lupin. Something about the way they looked at each other struck Sirius as being more driven out of a desire to get physical in some capacity. And that wasn’t exactly what he was feeling. He wasn’t really sure what he was feeling other than interested.
But he didn’t see much hope for anything really happening between him and Remus. For one thing, Remus hardly left the attic. On the other hand, every time Sirius got a text from Remus his heart started pounding in that stupid way that he craved whenever it was gone.
They were still talking about doing that Marvel movie marathon but it hadn’t happened yet. Remus had made tentative dates only to bail shortly before a couple of times. Sirius was trying his best to be patient but it wasn’t always easy. Remus was more introverted and shy than anyone he had ever met. But it didn’t make any sense. How could someone so beautiful want to hide it all away?
“We should get stoned,” Lily said suddenly, startling Sirius from his thoughts.
“Yeah. We’ve probably earned it,” James said.
“Count me out,” Sirius said with an apologetic wave.
“Aww you don’t want to sit and watch anime with us?” Lily asked.
“Nah. Have fun,” Sirius said and headed over to his room, more than happy to leave those two to themselves.
The house seemed quiet, Remus thought. He opened the attic door and peered out. There were no lights on upstairs. He slowly walked downstairs, being careful not to wake anyone up. As he passed the living room he had a start as he spotted Lily and James lying on the couch together, Lily with her head against James’s shoulder, covering him in dark red hair. He cracked an embarrassed smile and carried on to the kitchen.
He turned on the kitchen light and roamed about for a snack of some sort. He had been writing all day and had forgotten to eat again. This happened all the time. It was even easier with lots of roommates. He was constantly torn by his desire to see more of Sirius Black and his very real fear of talking to Sirius Black. It didn’t matter how much he told himself it was stupid and irrational, the anxiety remained his constant companion.
Remus assembled a tunafish sandwich as quickly as he could, fearing as always that someone would wake up and come in the kitchen. If he was fast enough he could get out. He silently praised himself for eating his tuna dry. He didn’t like mayo. He hated when people made fun of him for eating his tuna dry but he knew what he liked and that was all that mattered. It was nothing a big glass of water couldn’t fix.
The sound of a toilet flushing in the bathroom startled him and he dropped his fork. He sighed and picked it up. He took it to the sink to clean it off and that’s when he heard footsteps softly moving into the kitchen. Remus glanced behind him with trepidation, seeing the handsome face of Sirius Black smiling at him.
“Hey,” Remus said quietly.
“Hey,” Sirius said, relieving Remus when he went about his business.
Remus was almost certain he would confront of him about their plans to marathon Marvel movies. Part of him was disappointed that he didn’t. He felt guilty about it. It was his idea after all.
“We should do the marathon on New Years. For real I mean,” Remus said, forcing himself to smile even though he was nervous.
Seeing Sirius grin in response was enough to ensure that his smile wasn’t forced.
“Are you sure?” Sirius asked.
“Yeah. I won’t cancel this time. I promise. I know that’s still almost two weeks away but… Well, it’s time to prepare,” Remus said, hoping Sirius didn’t ask him to explain what he meant by prepare.
“Fair,” Sirius said, closing the cabinet he had been rummaging through.
“Am I in your way? I was just making a sandwich. I’m done, actually,” Remus said, grabbing his plate.
“Nah. I don’t even want anything. Do you ever just… Like you’re not really hungry but you’re bored and you feel like eating something will entertain your mouth?” Sirius said then yawned.
Remus chuckled, wanting to affectionately call Sirius a dork but resisting the urge.
“Yeah. I keep lots of snacks of in my room. But I lose track of time…” Remus said trailing off, distracted by James snoring in the living room.
Sirius glanced behind him into the living room and shook his head.
“I can’t believe his snoring hasn’t woken her up,” Sirius said.
“Guess you haven’t seen her smoke pot. She’s in a cannabis coma,” Remus said.
Sirius silently laughed and shook his head.
“Well, I guess I’m going back to bed. Hopefully, I can shut my mind off,” Sirius said.
“Yeah. See you on New Year’s. I mean… before New Year’s too. But especially,” Remus said.
“You bet,” Sirius said, disappearing from the kitchen.
Remus followed not far behind, turning off the light and creeping past the living room, only stopping to glance to realise it hadn’t been James who had been snoring at all.
Snoring woke James up. He blinked and looked at the screen. It was graced by a message asking if they were still watching Netflix.
“S’pose, not,” he said to the TV and glanced at the snoring figure who had her head laying on his shoulder, a little drool dripping from the corner of her mouth.
James shifted and Lily popped up.
“Huh?” Lily said.
“We passed out. Are you cold?” James asked, rubbing his forearms.
“Yeah,” Lily said and got up from the sofa and went into the hall to turn on the heater.
“Do you smell tuna?” Lily said, making a revolted face.
“I guess,” James said as Lily wandered into the kitchen.
“Someone had tuna,” Lily said, looking at the recycling bin.
James’s stomach rumbled.
“Tuna sounds good,” James said.
“I’ll pass,” Lily said, and opened the refrigerator, pulling out a bag of baby carrots.
“Oh, those look good too,” James said.
Lily nodded at him and held out the bag, letting him stick his fingers inside to pull some out.
“Thanks,” James said, crunching into one.
“No problem,” Lily said with a warm smile.
They stood there in silence, munching on baby carrots, occasionally glancing and smiling at each other. James was suddenly filled with happiness. This felt normal. This felt good. He wondered if it had ever felt this good with his last girlfriend, Charity. He didn’t think so, though he had loved her with everything he had.
He was already falling for this girl. He urged himself to be cool and take it easy. But then Lily smiled at him again and he wondered if that would even be possible. This… might be a problem, he realised. But that was all right. James Potter never backed down from a challenge.
Chapter 3: Moving Too Fast
Previously posted as a separate work.
Lily sighed and opened her laptop. It was the night before Christmas and time for an update for her girlfriends. They certainly texted about things all the time but it was sometimes good to be able to send more words.
Normally she would send them separate emails but in this case she knew she would just be repeating herself.
I wanted to write you both a proper update on what's been going on over here on the west coast. Everything feels so new and exciting. There's so many little things that I wish I could explain without filling up your phones with absurdly long texts. But it's Christmas Eve so I guess I wanted to make sure you were both in the loop.
James and Sirius are fitting into the house well. Their friend Peter is moving in next week. That should be neat. I think Remus has a crush on Sirius. Can you believe it? I can't recall Remus ever being interested in anyone. I mean he won't admit that it's a crush it but he keeps texting me freaking out about every little interaction they have. They have a date set for New Year's. I mean, he won't let me call it a date but that's what it is.
Now that the holidays have hit, Sirius mostly keeps to himself or hangs out with James… they do stuff out of the house a lot. I wondered if maybe they had a thing but James mentioned off-hand that he's been single for a while. I must admit to being kinda into James. He's just… so hot. And cool in a nerdy sort of way. He maybe he's nerdy in a cool sort of way?
It's mostly nbd but he kinda seems into me? I don't mean to be vain or anything but… I'm pretty sure. Like… last week he helped me decorate the house and we smoked pot and… we ended up laying together on the sofa. I mean, yeah, you know me… that's nothing new. I cuddle with Remus… I used to cuddle with Sev… I don't know. Maybe I'm being stupid and reading too much into things.
The house is progressing slowly. I got the heater fixed and that pretty much nuked my savings. I'm going to have work some more soon. It's just more awkward with roommates around. Once James and Sirius start school back up I should be able to manage. This is all kind of nerve wracking. I'm not even sure if camming will be enough. I'm worried about taxes. Everything else should be fine with all the rent everyone is paying me.
James wants to bring some furniture and stuff in. He put a TV in the living room and his Xbox. I should see if he wants to do anything tonight…
Shit, am I talking about James too much? I don't want this to seem like a big deal. Because it's not. He's just a hot guy. And I'm just a girl whose girlfriends are on the other side of the country. But shit. It's a bad idea, right? He's my tenant. I can't bone my tenants, can I? And what if he's not down with me being poly? That's… kinda important. Really important. SUPER important. The most important. If I bone him then he wants to be monogamous it'll just be a mess. And… I could avoid that by… not boning him.
I'm not really asking for permission or approval. I know we have a well understood agreement. But I would definitely welcome some advice.
Lily groaned. She really was failing at making her attraction to James Potter seem not like a big deal. But emotionally speaking it wasn't a big deal. On a surface level, she just really wanted to get laid and James Potter was a potent target for her lust. On a deeper level… things were more complicated. Sure, she'd like the full package… She'd love to snuggle and make out but… she didn't want to let herself go there. Emotions were messy but sex was fun.
Dorcas and Mary had promised some Skype dates for fun but with the holidays they had been too busy. She obviously hadn't had time for anything else in the few weeks since she moved to Oregon. She was so used to having easy access to sex that it almost caught her off guard by how much she wanted it when she didn't have it. It was like an incessant itch that only got worse and worse and masturbation was only a temporary solution.
Remus had always bemoaned the obsession people had with getting laid. If you can take care of it yourself, why is it such a big deal? She had tried to explain it to him the best she could. She didn't have to have sex. It wasn't like needing water, food or oxygen. She could function without it. But she wanted it. She really wanted it and when you really want something that you have access to there's often little reason not to take it. Why deny yourself something you enjoy?
Currently, she wanted it but wasn't so sure she could get it and furthermore she wasn't sure that if she could get it she should get it. She wasn't sure what the protocol for banging people who pay you rent was. Surely there were ethical concerns and possible abuses of power? But she would never abuse that sort of power… but she didn't have any way of proving that she wouldn't.
Lily closed her eyes, blocking out the white glow of her laptop screen. She pictured James Potter's jawline and his full lips and the way he smiled. She pictured the way his butt looked in a pair of jeans and tried not to picture how it would look out of a pair of jeans.
"Hold it together, Lily," she whispered to herself and started typing more of the email, asking both of her girlfriends how their holidays were going.
She ended by attaching a selfie she took of herself that morning on the back porch with the coast in the background, blowing them a kiss. She hit send and hoped that they would forgive her for her new obsession and possibly give her some advice.
Lily closed her laptop and set it aside. She looked over at her bong. No, it was too late to smoke anymore weed. But she couldn't sleep either. She shrugged and reached into the bottom drawer of her nightstand to retrieve her vibrator.
James Potter had never been this messed up by a girl before. It just didn’t go this way. There was a protocol. His modus operandi, you might say. He met girls, turned up the charm, made them laugh, asked them out and managed to rack up at least one date, even if it wasn’t successful.
This wasn’t like Charity. He hadn’t even cared about Charity… until he really cared about Charity. But this… It was like the moment he had laid eyes on her something had sparked inside of him. She wasn’t just cute… she was… special. She was interesting and the old rules from high school didn’t seem to apply anymore.
In fact, he found the more he interacted with Lily the less capable he was of sticking to the plan. The thing about the plan was that there was no particular end result. James liked to think he knew his own worth and his own appeal but he never wanted to be the sort of guy who was angling for any particular thing, especially sex. Sure, a few times sex had been the result of the plan but it was never the goal. And it least once, with his friend Petrova, sex had resulted entirely absent of the plan. But that was just sex. This… this was different.
Now, James wouldn’t say that he had any particular goals with Lily Evans. I mean, Christ, he had barely known her for three weeks. But nonetheless he had never been this damn infatuated with a girl and it kinda freaked him out.
Sirius had definitely noticed the difference. You won’t shut up about her. That was fair but James still threw Remus back in Sirius’s face. And then Sirius turned bright red, admitting his crush on the guy James had barely even met who lived in the attic while also avoiding admitting it completely. They were both a bit hung up on their new roommates, though Sirius was still a little in denial.
James wanted to be in denial. He knew it wasn’t healthy to be obsessing over someone like this. He knew that nothing good could come of lying in bed and imagining various scenarios between the two of them. He wanted to show her his favorite anime that she had never seen before. He wanted to impress her with his knowledge of soccer and video game design.
Oh, Christ! He didn’t even know if she liked sports or video games. What if she was one of those people who didn’t like sports? He was pretty sure she owned a 3DS. She had mentioned it before. What if she liked sports but not soccer… which, would be all right but soccer really was James’s forte. He’d still be playing soccer if it wasn’t for that stupid injury in junior year of high school.
Lily really liked smoking pot. James liked pot but what if he didn’t like it as much as she did? He didn’t even own a bong. She owned at least three. He could buy a bong but there really wasn’t any reason to. He never smoked pot alone. When they’d smoked pot and watched Naruto together the week before it was like the best date he had ever had. Was that the pot speaking or the crush? Maybe it was both. Either way he wanted to do it again. And again. He would watch all of Naruto while smoking pot if it meant getting to spend time with Lily and he didn’t even like Naruto that much.
James looked at his phone and wondered if he should text her. It was Christmas morning. He could just wish her a Merry Christmas.
James stared at the screen. Well… that was that. There was no spinning that out into a conversation.
I was thinking about having some vegan eggnog and watching some Christmas stuff ;)
Never had James been so desperate to understand the meaning of a winky face.
She hadn’t invited him technically but perhaps that much was implied by the winky face. Still he couldn’t invite himself. If he was wrong about her intentions then he might make things awkward.
Or we could just watch some more Naruto ;)
OK, he couldn’t be misinterpreting that.
That wasn’t a lie. It did sound great. They could lie on the sofa and chill while they ate some of those tasty cookies Lily’s reclusive, attic-dwelling friend, Remus, had made a few days before, if Sirius hadn't already eaten them all.
Too bad the sofa is so uncomfortable haha.
“Fuck”, James said to himself, realizing that it now probably sounded like he was looking for an excuse to not hang out.
We could watch stuff on my laptop in my room. My bed is comfy.
James’s pulse raced and he stared at the text. Was this really happening?
I wouldn’t want to intrude.
Nah, it’s fine. Remus does it all the time.
James felt a little deflated. It wasn’t so special if she was cool with doing it with her best friend. James was definitely interpreting too much. He tried desperately to block images of scooting next to Lily and giving her a kiss. That might freak her out and rightly so, James wagered. He definitely shouldn’t be trying to make out with a girl he had only just met.
James remembered how he had met Petrova and shook his head at himself. That was different. Having sex with Petrova had been about having sex with Petrova. He didn’t like her in… that way.
Just let me know.
James set his phone down. He needed breakfast. Matters of the heart would have to wait until his belly was more full.
Lily smiled at her phone, setting it aside to check her email on her laptop. Dorcas had replied:
I’m doing fine. Christmas is always chaotic. I’m glad you’re OK, though.
There’s multiple questions that arose in my mind after reading about your boy trouble.
1. Are you sure he’s even into you? Don’t get me wrong, hon. I think you’re the shit.
2. I paid $50 a month for a couple of months before to sleep on your couch. We definitely had sex a few times. I know it’s not exactly the same but I’m just saying… It’s mostly just a business transaction. It’s not like you’re his boss.
3. You should tell him you’re poly and queer. Lay your cards on the table.
4. Be cautious. I think you’re right to worry a little. Sleeping with a guy isn’t a big deal but you should make sure you’re on the same page. Tell him you’re poly and have girlfriends. If he seems cool with that, and not just PRETENDING to be cool with it like some guys, then go for it!
Good luck and I miss you. Gotta get up and do family stuff. Mary going to be over this weekend. Skype date Saturday night?
Love you, Dorcas.
P.S.: Send me pics of James!!!
Nothing about Dorcas’s reply surprised Lily, not even her request for pictures of James. Lily obviously hadn’t taken any pictures of James just yet but she did have him friended on Facebook so she passed Mary and Dorcas that, but nothing on his Facebook profile lived up to the reality.
Lily stretched and set her laptop aside to get out of bed. She had already made plans with James to watch some Christmas stuff. She needed a shower before she could make breakfast.
A short while later, she was squeaky clean and sitting in bed shoveling scrambled eggs into her mouth and reading over Mary’s short reply to the email:
OK, he’s pretty hot. Idk. I might break from Dorcas on this one and say just go for it. I mean after you tell him you’re poly and not interested in monogamy. If he still sleeps with you after that he only has himself to blame for his hurt feelings.
All right… maybe that’s a little harsh. I’m sure you’ll figure out what’s best for yourself. You usually do.
Lily sighed. The girlfriends weren’t going to decide this for her, were they? She supposed she could talk to Remus. She finished her eggs then went to knock on his door.
“Yeah?” Remus called out.
“Can I come in?” Lily asked.
“Oh, OK,” Remus said and Lily entered the attic, the wood creaking with her steps.
The attic was dusty. Remus kept saying he would take care of it but he hadn’t yet. Just seeing all that dust made her want to sneeze but she didn’t want to give him a hard time about it, especially since they had only just moved in. But sometimes she felt like it was a struggle to motivate Remus to take good care of himself. She knew it wasn’t her responsibility but… she felt bad for him.
Remus was at his desk at the window typing away, perhaps working his big Stucky fanfic. Lily went and laid down on his bed next to him and grunted.
“I have a problem,” Lily said.
“Yeah?” Remus said, stopping what he was doing and turning towards her.
“Yeah. It’s… James,” Lily said.
Remus smirked and shook his head.
“What’s new? You’ve been going on about how hot he is for three weeks,” Remus said.
“Yeah… I’m just… I need some advice. I’ve already talked to Mary and Dorcas and they were kinda split,” Lily said.
“You wanna ask me for relationship advice? I’ve never even dated anyone. I’m barely even handling… having a crush,” Remus said, lowering his voice for the last part.
“Relax. James and Sirius are both downstairs making breakfast. Anyhow… I’m just trying to figure out… It’s… I’m trying to figure out if sleeping with James would be a good idea?” Lily said, cringing as Remus chuckled.
“I don’t know, man. If you want to? Does he want to?” Remus replied.
“I dunno,” Lily shrugged.
“Sooo you’re just assuming that if you put the moves on him, he’ll naturally succumb to your charms?” Remus said, then covered his mouth as he laughed.
Lily rolled her eyes and laughed.
“Well, when you put it like that!” Lily said, then rolled over onto her side, propping her head up on a hand.
“Can’t you just jerk off?” Remus said.
“Let’s default to assuming that’s already been tried. Doesn’t help, though it sure as hell doesn’t hurt. I’m just… in need,” Lily said with a frown.
“I mean… James is way hot and clearly he’s into you. And most importantly, he’s not Sirius. Can I declare Sirius off-limits for now?” Remus asked, crossing his fingers in front of her with desperation.
“Please, Remus, I would never. Sure, I’m all for poly and non-monogamy but I’m also for not stomping all over my best friend’s heart. You are free to pursue the charmingly handsome Mr. Black unimpeded,” Lily said with a wink.
“Nice. Thanks,” Remus said, smiling out the window.
“I just don’t want to mess things up. James is my tenant and potentially a new good friend and I don’t exactly have many of those around here,” Lily said.
“Can’t you like… find casual sex on Ok Cupid or Craigslist or something? Tinder?” Remus said.
“I could. I don’t know. I’ve never cared for hooking up with strangers. It’s not the same thing,” Lily said.
“Makes sense, I guess,” Remus said, stroking his chin.
“I prefer hooking up with friends or at least hot acquaintances. Hey, I don’t suppose you want to sleep with me?” Lily said with a grin.
“Pfft,” Remus sputtered turning red as he doubled over in laughter.
“What? It can’t hurt to ask, right?” Lily said, feeling her cheeks turning red as well.
“No, no,” Remus said, turning his face away as it grew ever redder.
“It’s OK. I’m only joking. Mostly. Fifty-fifty?” Lily said, sticking her tongue out at him.
“Ask me again after I’ve actually had sex. I’m not sure I could sleep with you without laughing. You’re my best friend. The idea… is sort of hilarious,” Remus said.
“Hey!” Lily said, swatting him on the shoulder.
“I don’t mean that as an insult. Hey, would you really have sex with me?” Remus said, turning to her as if he was only just now realizing she might actually be serious.
“Honestly? Yeah,” Lily nodded.
“Really?” Remus said, his mouth hanging open and crinkling his nose in realisation.
“You qualify for my criteria. Hot and good to spend time with. I trust you,” Lily said.
“Huh,” Remus said, turning away from her and staring at the window, still looking red.
Lily knew that sleeping with Remus would be a potential disaster but in her current mood she’d certainly go for it if the opportunity arose. But only if Remus was one-hundred percent certain it was what he wanted. She would always take his feelings into consideration first and foremost.
“Well, I guess I’m gonna go get ready to hang out with James. We’re going to watch some Christmas movies and smoke weed in my room. Hey, you should see if Sirius wants to do anything. You guys could take the living room!” Lily said, standing up.
“Maybe. I mean… we could. We’re supposed to on New Year’s. I promised. I’m just so… nervous,” Remus said with a sigh.
Lily frowned and leaned over and kissed Remus on the forehead.
“There’s nothing to be afraid of, sweetie. He’s probably nervous too. You should give it a try. I bet he wouldn’t turn down you moving it up a week,” Lily said, pulling away from his head.
“I know. I want to. I’m terrorized by a million different thoughts of the stupid things I might say to embarrass myself. I can’t shut it out,” Remus said.
“Have you been looking for a new therapist?” Lily said.
“Not yet,” Remus said, looking down at his desk with shame.
“Please do. And give Sirius a try. You obviously like each other,” Lily said.
“I’m not so sure it’s obvious on his end,” Remus said, his deep brown eyes seeming sad.
“Trust me,” Lily said.
Remus cracked a smile.
“I do have a gift coming for you by the way. I’m sorry it’s not here yet. I got it on Amazon,” Remus said.
“Don’t worry about it. Your gift is under the tree. I think James and Sirius have already done their gifts,” Lily said and exited the attic.
Sirius was standing at his mirror and trying on the new jacket that James had gifted him. He couldn’t decide if he liked the collar up or down. It was nice, that was for sure. James wasn’t a cheap gifter.
His phone dinged and he went over to check it.
Sorry if this is sudden but… do you want to watch some movies with me? Like… now?
“Holy shit,” Sirius whispered at his phone, feeling his heart begin to pound in excitement.
Yeah. Why not.
Sirius half expected Remus to immediately text back that he had already changed his mind.
Cool. See you soon.
“Fuck,” Sirius said, looking at himself in the mirror and pulling the jacket off.
He grabbed his brush and obsessively tried to straighten his hair out. He’d already showered, blow dried and brushed it this morning but it couldn’t hurt to do it a little more.
This is really happening, he thought.
“I can do this,” he said to himself in the mirror.
He took a deep breath and went out to the living room.
James’s heart was pounding when he knocked on Lily’s door. He kept telling himself that this wasn’t a big deal but when she called out, “Come in!” he felt like he was going to ascend towards the sky in joy.
James stepped inside, quietly closing the door behind him. He was dressed comfortably in a red tee-shirt and festive pyjama bottoms. He had showered earlier but wasn’t trying to make too big of a deal of things. He had resisted putting on any cologne or rather he had stared at the bottle for nearly half an hour debating whether to wear any cologne, deciding against it completely at random.
Lily was lying on her side with her laptop in the middle of the bed next to her. She was wearing a festive sweater and nearly matching pyjama bottoms. She patted on the space on the bed opposite her and James gleefully hopped on.
“A Charlie Brown Christmas, cool?” Lily asked, with a wild grin.
“Yeah. I haven’t seen that since I was like twelve,” James said.
“I watch it every year,” Lily said.
“You seem pretty festive,” James said as Lily hit play on the DVD.
“Yeah. My mom loved Christmas. My dad was a bit of a grump on the other hand, at least when it came to Christmas,” Lily said, grabbing the bong and a lighter.
“I don’t mean to pry but you talk about them in the past tense,” James said, as Lily took a hit from the bong.
“Yeah. They’re dead. Actually, my mom died spring of last year. She was barely forty-five,” Lily said as she blew smoke out and passed the bong to James.
“My parents are dead too. Actually… they also passed away last spring,” he said then inhaled deeply from the bong then exhaled as he passed it and the lighter back over.
“That sucks. I’m sorry,” Lily said, looking sad and affectionately touching his shoulder.
The wound of his parents’s death would never fully heal. In a strange way knowing that Lily had suffered the same tragedy made him want to get closer to her.
Lily took a hit from the bong then gestured to James but he shook his head. He was already feeling pretty euphoric and out of step with reality. He could feel his body relaxing and sinking into the bed. He was tingly and everything seemed to be moving simultaneously faster and slower than he was.
“So tell me more about yourself, James. Your background? Any girlfriends? Any boyfriends?” Lily said with a wink
“I’m kinda boring. Sirius and I are from San Francisco. We moved up here for college… Sort of. It’s a long story. I wanted Sirius to get away from his family. And there was a girl. But… that’s in the past. I’m not seeing anyone now,” James said.
“My mom was from New York but her parents were both born in Puerto Rico. My dad was British but had an American citizenship. They fell in love and settled down in a small town in New Hampshire. Had me and my sister Petunia,” Lily said.
“I’m biracial too. My mom was Afro-Caribbean and my dad was white… I’m not sure where he was from originally. Somewhere in California, I guess,” James said, scratching his head.
“Cool. So you, me and Remus are all biracial. Remus’s mom was white, dad Korean,” Lily said.
“That makes Sirius the odd white guy out,” James said.
“Guess so, but he seems all right,” Lily said.
James scoffed. Sirius was more than all right as far as he was concerned.
“Sirius has been my best friend since we were fourteen. We’ve been through a lot. I feel pretty protective of him. When his family tossed him out for being trans… I was so angry. It was like they had done it to me. No, the truth is… outside of my parents, there’s no one I’ve ever loved more than Sirius Black,” James said, stunning himself with this admission.
“Awww,” Lily said with a grin, covering the center of her chest with clenched hands.
“Yeah, yeah,” James said, cheeks feeling hot.
“No, it’s sweet. I feel the same way about Remus, though I’m pretty fond of my girlfriends too,” Lily said.
James noticed Charlie Brown was over already. That was funny, he thought.
“That was over quick,” James said.
“Only a half hour. We should watch Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer next. It’s pretty weird even when you’re not stoned,” Lily said with a chuckle.
“Sounds good to me,” James grinned.
Moments later the DVD was in and they had taken a few more bong hits each. Something kept flitting in the back of James’s mind… something Lily had just said.
“When you say girlfriends…” James said.
“Mary and Dorcas. They still live back out east,” Lily said.
James was starting to realize that when Lily was stoned it made the green in her eyes pop out more. It was sort of entrancing and he worried that he was staring too much. But she didn’t seem to notice or mind.
“Oh… umm… I mean… Uhh,” James stammered unsure how to phrase what he wanted to ask delicately.
“I’m poly. Or non-monogamous if you prefer. I’m dating both of them and they kinda also date each other but we’re all pretty free to date whoever we want. It’s pretty chill,” Lily said with a snicker.
“That’s cool. I’ve uh… never done anything like that,” James said, suddenly worrying that Lily wouldn’t think he was cool and wondering if he should brag about his cool friend with benefits he had for a while.
“It’s not for everyone,” Lily said with a shrug, taking another bong hit.
“I don’t know whether it’s for me or not. I’ve… never really known anyone who was like that. Most girls I’ve dated got jealous if I even looked at another girl,” James said.
Lily passed the bong over to James, exhaled then groaned.
“That’s no way to live your life,” Lily said.
James exhaled and passed the bong back to Lily who put it aside again. James realized she had slid closer to him at some point, the warmth of her thigh pressed against his leg. Even through their pyjamas she felt so warm, almost like she was on fire. Maybe it was just the weed. Either way, James kinda wanted to get closer and scooted his shoulder over to touch hers.
“Heh, do you wanna snuggle? That’s cool,” Lily beamed.
God, James loved the way she smiled. He put his arm behind her and rested a hand on her shoulder. Lily made a happy sound and her head lolled over onto his shoulder. Minutes later she was out and lightly snoring. James smiled and had to stop himself from watching her sleep but couldn’t help but take a moment to appreciate the round shape of her face and features, the curious curve of her thin, pink lips and those irresistible dimples. James closed his eyes, his brain barely processing the stop-motion animation that was still on the screen.
Sirius peered over at Remus. Steve Rogers was on the screen kicking Nazi ass and Remus’s face was lit up. Sirius suddenly wished he could pause time and take a picture of this very moment. He was certain it would be the most beautiful photograph he had ever taken.
He gulped and put his focus back on the movie. Why was he suddenly thinking about photography right now? He vowed to push it out of his mind as they continued to watch The First Avenger. He even resisted as they carried on through The Avengers and The Winter Soldier.
As the credits rolled on the The Winter Soldier, for reasons he didn’t understand he said: “Have I mentioned that I used to do photography?”
It was as if his own mouth had betrayed him by mentioning the last possible thing he wanted to mention.
“No. You did? That’s cool,” Remus said, glancing at him with a smile.
“Yeah. I could show some of it some time if you’re interested,” Sirius said, the betrayal of his mouth only worsening.
“That would be cool,” Remus said, finally turning towards Sirius.
Sirius never failed to be surprised by how beautiful Remus was. It was absurd. As long as Remus was smiling at him he couldn’t be afraid, even if he knew the fear would set in as soon as he was back in his own room alone.
“Yeah,” Sirius said, smiling despite himself.
“Another?” Remus said.
“Sure. Which one is next?” Sirius asked.
“Well, I mean we skipped over some. We could do the Iron Man films. You said you only watched the first one years ago,” Remus said.
“Sounds good to me,” Sirius said, thinking he would do just about anything to stay in the company of Remus Lupin right now.
Lily was lying on something solid… something solid that was definitely breathing. She opened her eyes and looked up at the handsome dark-skinned figure who continued to sleep in her bed. They hadn’t fucked. They hadn’t even made out. It hadn’t really come up. That was nice though. Her laptop was stuck on the menu screen of the Rudolph DVD. She closed it with frustration and gasped at the time. It was four in the morning.
“James,” Lily whispered.
“Hmm?” James groaned.
“It’s four in the morning. Christmas is over. I’m sorry,” Lily whispered.
“Huh. I guess we were tired,” James said and yawned.
“Really stoned, more like. I’m hungry. Are you hungry?” Lily said.
“Yeah. I need to pee too,” James said.
“Meet me in the kitchen in like five minutes,” Lily said, turning on a lamp and slipping her feet into her slippers.
She let James use the upstairs bathroom and stopped in the downstairs bathroom herself. While she sat on the toilet she pulled her phone out and checked her texts. Just a couple from Remus wanting to know how things went.
Yeah, we totally banged all night. Jk we got high and fuckin’ passed out after like an hour. It was cool though. I really like him :)
She smiled at his text explaining that he and Sirius had watched movies together and replied:
Congrats and movies with Sirius. You’ll have to catch me up on the details later.
Remus was presumably sleeping so she would have to wait for his playful snark in the morning. Finishing up her business in the bathroom, she headed to the kitchen and started rifling through cupboards.
“Hey,” James said, startling her.
“Shit. You scared me!” Lily said then laughed.
“It’s the hair, isn’t it?” James said, mussing it up wildly with his fingers.
“Here, let me,” Lily said, then reached up and tried to straighten it as best she could.
“It’s untamable, I promise you,” James said, his hazel eyes looking bemused.
“Yeesh,” Lily said then went back to the cupboards.
“So what are you thinking?” James said.
“Cookies?” Lily asked.
“Do we have to share?” James said.
“Only if we want to make our best friends happy, and between you and me, Remus is weak for chocolate chip cookies,” Lily said.
“Noted. If I ever want to defeat Remus in battle I’ll come armed with a plate of chocolate chip cookies,” James said.
Lily snorted while she pulled out ingredients. She hadn’t banged James Potter. She still kinda did want to bang James Potter but she also kinda liked whatever this was too. She wasn’t really sure where this was going but she had told him she was poly and he hadn’t freaked out… yet. Maybe she should give that time to stew.
As if on cue, James spoke up: “So Um… about you being poly and um… you have girlfriends… Umm… Does that mean… Uh… Listen, I don’t wanna-“
Lily laughed then turned around to place a pale finger over his full lips.
“Yes, I can date other people, potentially even tall, hot guys in glasses,” Lily said then turned back to the counter to start to mix ingredients.
“Do you know any other tall, hot guys in glasses?” James said.
“God, I wish. Can you get the eggs out?” Lily said.
“I feel like it should be noted that in addition to being tall and wearing glasses I’m also pretty athletic, I’m not a bad singer and I can dance,” James said setting the eggs next to her.
“Oooo. Now you’ve gotta prove it,” Lily said, grinning at James and trying not to imagine him naked and doing stretches.
“Which part? Athletic is hard. I used to play soccer but I injured my back. I stay in shape but I’m not really at my peak if I’m being honest,” James said.
“The singing and dancing then,” Lily said walking over to the oven and turning it on.
“What do you want me to sing?” James asked.
“Whatever you like,” Lily replied, tossing half a stick of butter in a saucepan.
James began to hop and gyrate on the kitchen floor, looking sort of silly in a very sexy sort of way.
“Shake it out, shake it out. Shake it out, shake it out, ooh whoa. Shake it out, shake it out. Shake it out, shake it out, ooh whoa. And it's hard to dance with a devil on your back, so shake him off, oh whoa,” James crooned, in what Lily wagered was a fairly reasonable imitation of Florence Welch under the circumstances.
Lily clapped once the performance was complete, taking the now melted butter over to the bowl with the rest of the wet ingredients.
“Thank you, thank you,” James said, taking a couple of dramatic bows.
“What in the hell is this?” a voice said at the kitchen doorway.
Lily glanced over to find James’s grey eyed friend standing there looking tired and grumpy.
“I was just showing Lily what an amazing singer and dancer I am,” James said.
Sirius rolled his eyes.
“Flirt all you like, but please keep it down. What are you making?” Sirius asked, sniffing about and walking over.
“Cookies,” Lily said, giving him a sideways grin.
“Never mind. You’re forgiven. I knew there would be an upside to living with pot smokers,” Sirius said, strolling back out of the kitchen.
Lily mixed ingredients and thought how she could see what James admired in Sirius.
“So you and Sirius… always just friends?” Lily probed as soon as she heard Sirius’s bedroom door close.
“Yeah. I mean… I wouldn’t say just friends. That sounds like I’m putting it down. Friendship is great,” James said.
“Yeah. A lot of guys don’t feel that way. The fucking friendzone,” Lily said with a groan.
“Nah, that’s bullshit. But, anyhow, to answer your question, no, nothing has ever happened between me and Sirius. Frankly, until Remus he’s never shown an interest in anyone at all,” James said.
“Do you think he’s cute?” Lily said.
“Uhhh, ummm…,” James stammered, awkwardly chuckling.
Lily snorted and began to roll the dough into balls onto a pan.
“It’s not a trick question,” Lily said.
“I mean… yeah. I guess. He’s my best friend, though. And… I’m straight. Mostly. I guess,” James said.
“Are you? You guess? Huh. Anyhow, Remus is my best friend and I think he’s pretty hot,” Lily said, wondering what it meant to be mostly straight.
“Oh, have you ever-“ James started.
“Nah. Unfortunately. Much like Sirius, he’s only recently taken an interest in such things,” Lily said.
“Ah. Well, that’s good at least. I mean… that they are um… bringing that out in each other,” James said.
James sounded tired. Lily wondered if he would be up for returning to her bed once they were done making cookies. Maybe she shouldn’t push her luck. Moments later she put the dough covered pan into the oven and set the timer.
“You can go to bed if you want,” Lily said.
James yawned but shook his head.
“I’m cool. I’m waiting for cookies,” he said.
“Suit yourself,” Lily said, leaning against the counter.
Lily checked her phone. Two texts from Remus were waiting.
Glad your date or w/e went well.
Sirius texted me to complain about the noise down there. Are you fucking him in the kitchen? What the hell. :P
Lily snickered then replied.
Yeah, we’re doing it all over the kitchen. On the counters, the floor, inside the fridge, in the sink. Don’t want to miss a spot :D
She put her phone back down and looked over at James, who was looking evermore sleepy which had an unfortunate effect of also making him cuter. She really could kiss him. She could, couldn’t she? Nothing in the world was stopping her and she could really imagine how his lips would feel against hers. But if they kissed, they would make out and if they made out… well, other things might happen.
And… there was nothing wrong with that. Nothing wrong at all, though it wasn’t the easiest path and she knew she would be cursing herself later. It would be perfectly fine to move things fast and get caught up in the moment but she thought it also might be nice to savor the moment, not because banging James Potter needed to be special but because she was quickly realizing that every moment she spent with him was sort of special and if she moved too fast she might miss them.
Even before, James and Lily had woken him up, Sirius had been struggling with sleep. He’d messed up. Dammit, he’d messed up! He rolled over, shoving his face into his pillow with a groan. He was really going to have to do it, wasn’t he? He was going to have to share some of his old photography with Remus.
Sirius considered texting James to vent his anxieties but not only could he still hear him in the kitchen with Lily but he really shouldn’t just let James solve all his problems. He was an adult and he had to learn to deal with things without his brother holding his hand.
Sirius flinched. His brother… Regs. No, Regs. Not now. Sirius found himself unable not to see the last photograph he had ever taken, two and a half years ago before he moved north with James for college: Regulus Black smoking a cigarette and looking away, down a long hill. He had been leaning up against the side of an old drugstore that had long been closed up. He was still underage and shouldn’t have been smoking. Actually, in Sirius’s view no one should smoke but especially not Regs.
Sirius had never had a good relationship with his brother. Regs had been the sort of son their parents had wanted, at first at least. Regulus didn’t have much of a defiant streak in him or perhaps his defiant streak had taken a long time to reveal itself. And when his defiance revealed itself, Regulus Black exploded.
No one had been absolutely certain that Regulus was on drugs but when he first tried to reconnect with Sirius a year after Sirius had ran away from home it was obvious that he wasn’t well. Now, Sirius didn’t think of himself as ideological. He respected people’s choices about what they did with their own bodies, after all Sirius expected the same in return. But Sirius did think there was a difference between his testosterone injections and the drugs that Regulus put inside himself.
Perhaps, Sirius was still being too judgmental. The testosterone injections made Sirius feel more comfortable in his own skin, perhaps the drugs made Regulus feel more comfortable in his own skin. No… Regulus didn’t look comfortable. Especially not the last time he saw him. Regulus looked less himself than he ever had, so Sirius took a picture before everything that was Regulus was gone.
They found his body only two weeks later, the last of Regulus Black destroyed. Sirius had just arrived in Oregon, staying in a townhouse with James and Peter and some other people. His parents didn’t even call him to tell him. His cousin Andromeda had to tell him that Regs was dead. Sirius was crushed. He was completely useless that summer and once school started he was no more than a zombie wandering the halls of a community college. James had done everything he could to pull Sirius out of the darkness but nothing would work.
Sirius supposed it wasn’t entirely true that he had stopped taking pictures. He still took pictures to capture memories with his phone but never any of his cameras. And the pictures he took weren’t art… they were just snapshots in time so that he could remember later.
Sirius flicked through photos on his phone, remembering the fall of 2012 with pain. He hadn’t taken any selfies for an entire year and he wouldn’t let James take any of him either, though James may have snuck a few here or there. Sirius didn’t want to be captured. All he could think of was that last picture of Regulus and that dark feeling that somehow he had killed his brother with a photograph. He knew that was wrong. He knew it was the drugs that took Regulus. But sometimes you can’t shake those irrational thoughts and feelings.
The winter of 2013 had been his low point. He’d starved himself into the hospital. It was a wake up call. It did fix all his problems but he did start to turn things around. And then James’s parents passed away shortly thereafter. That didn’t help.
Sirius sighed in defeat. He wasn’t getting anymore sleep tonight. He reached over and flicked his lamp on then rubbed his bleary eyes. He slid out of bed, his feet cold on the wooden floor of his bedroom. He dropped to his knees and pulled out an old leather suitcase. He unlatched and opened it, revealing quite a few binders and photo albums.
The binders were filled with old sketches and poetry. He had never been any good at either but liked to hold onto the memories, just to know they were there. The photo albums were divided into two categories: memories and art. Most of his photos were digital but he had managed to collect a surprising amount of physical photos and polaroids over the year to store in the memories albums. The art albums were more robust as Sirius had deliberately experimented with using actual film.
Sirius opened the album marked Art I and turned the pages, wondering if he could show Remus these. They weren’t very good. He took a lot of pictures of weird trees when he was young. It took him some time to learn to search for hidden truth in his art. Most of his later work, the really raw and painful stuff, was stored digitally. A great deal of it was still on DeviantArt, despite the recurring urge Sirius’d had to delete his entire profile.
Yes, these old photos were fairly innocuous. He could show Remus those and still keep himself safe and protected. There was only so much of himself he could reveal at one time. But he longed to bond with Remus and for that a sacrifice would have to be made.
“Maybe, on New Year’s,” Sirius whispered to himself, hoping he could keep the promise he was making to himself.
Chapter 4: Pictures of You
“Morning, Sirius,” James said and patted Sirius on the back of his shoulder.
“Morning,” Sirius echoed, still staring forward, out the coast from the back porch.
“What are you doing?” James asked.
“Thinking,” Sirius replied.
“About?” James asked.
Sirius turned and gave James a raised eyebrow.
“I wasn’t aware I had to report my every thought to you.”
James laughed and shrugged.
“When I stare at the coast I’m… usually thinking how nice the coast looks,” James said, then sat down on the wooden steps that lead to the backyard.
“The ocean is vast, mysterious and unyielding. I stare at it to lose myself. It’s… freeing,” Sirius confessed.
“Fair enough. So Lily said you had a date with Remus last night. How’d it go?” James asked.
“It wasn’t a date! But it went fine. We watched some movies,” Sirius said, reluctantly sitting down next to his best friend.
“Cool. That all?” James asked, giving Sirius a sideways grin.
“What?” Sirius asked, perplexed.
“I mean… I don’t know. Any vibes or significant moments?” James asked.
“Are you asking if we kissed or something? Jesus!” Sirius asked, recoiling.
“No, no. Nothing like that. I’m sure you’d tell me if something like that happened. And I mean, I haven’t even kissed Lily even though I’m pretty sure she wants to kiss me and I’m pretty sure I want to kiss her,” James said, looking confused.
“Then why don’t you kiss her?” Sirius asked.
“I don’t know. Maybe it’s a mistake. I really like her. I don’t want to make a wrong move. It’s not a big deal… but it damn sure feels like one,” James said, stroking his chin.
“Do you think it’s like Jenga? Pull out the wrong piece and the whole thing comes crashing down?” Sirius said then laughed.
“Maybe. Anyhow… weren’t we talking about your crush?” James said with a pointed glance from his bespectacled hazel eyes.
“He’s not a crush! I don’t get* crushes. I’m twenty years old. If I didn’t get a single crush as a teenager why would I start now?” Sirius protested.
“When I was a kid I hated coconut,” James said.
“You love coconut!” Sirius countered.
“I know, I know. I do. But I didn’t before,” James said.
“What changed?” Sirius asked, narrowing his eyes.
“I had a coconut cream pie… sort of on accident. It was delicious and I wasn’t really thinking about the fact that it was coconut. It was kind of a slippery slope from there. But do you get what I’m saying? I didn’t like coconut until I found something that I liked coconut in, without thinking about it. I’m not saying that now that you’ve got a crush you’re going to like getting more of them… My point is just that… people can change and grow. Some things that we take for granted about ourselves change. Other things never change. The only way to find out who we are is to live life, I guess.”
Sirius smiled at James and wondered if he was ready to live his life or if he would prefer to continue to pretend to hate coconut even though right now he was… kind of finding himself drawn to coconut.
“Thanks. That’s… helpful,” Sirius admitted.
James reached an arm around Sirius and squeezed him tight, tipping Sirius over and making them both laugh.
“So, what will you do now?” James asked.
“With Remus, you mean?” Sirius asked.
“I think… I think I’m going to show him some of my photography. Not today. New Year’s. We’re supposed to watch some movies again,” Sirius said.
“Really? Are you going to start taking pictures again?” James asked, his face bright with excitement.
Sirius laughed awkwardly.
“I don’t know if I can. But I was thinking earlier while I was looking at my old work. I have so many ideas now… about gender, sexuality, politics, religion… Maybe even…”
James gave him a curious look.
“Maybe even what?”
“Maybe even love,” Sirius said and cringed, promising himself to banish that word from his vocabulary.
On Saturday, Peter finally moved in. He didn’t bring many things. His girlfriend, Maddy Yaxley helped him to carry things in. Sirius really didn’t care for her. Something about her and her cold eyes made him uncomfortable. But Peter seemed to like her so he mostly left it alone.
“Thanks, again,” Peter said, placing money into Lily’s hand while simultaneously shaking it.
“It’s no problem. Sorry the room is so small,” Lily said.
“It’s fine. I’m good with small spaces,” Peter said with a grin.
Maddy Yaxley eyeballed Lily the entire time. She always looked like she was evaluating everyone on the basis of standards that were probably only known to her. She didn’t introduce herself to Lily beyond a quick smile and a wave.
“The gang’s all back together, Pete,” James said, slapping their friend on the back.
“Yeah!” Peter said, pulling James and Sirius into a hug.
Sirius was positive that Peter would probably continue to spend all of his time with Madeleine Yaxley, though he did hope Peter would find some time for his friends.
“So how’s it been going?” Peter asked, as Maddy Yaxley walked outside, probably to smoke a cigarette.
“Good. Remus and Lily are good people,” James said.
“Thanks,” Lily said, as she headed back upstairs.
“No problem,” James called up to her with a smile.
“Gosh, it’s really Christmas in here,” Peter said, smiling at all the decorations about the living room.
“Yeah. It felt important for some reason. It felt right,” James said.
Sirius was glad that he and Lily had kicked the ball rolling on Christmas. It seemed to have worked out well for everyone.
“Yeah, it was just me and mom. Usually is,” Peter admitted.
“How is your mom, Pete?” Sirius asked.
Peter frowned and shook his head.
“Fine, I guess. I mean… she’s been better. I don’t know,” Peter said.
“Well, uh… I hope she gets better,” Sirius replied, still unsure what it was that was exactly wrong with his mother.
“Yeah. So… I’m supposed to do a thing with Maddy in a few but… man, I’d love to play some Xbox, if you’re up for it, James,” Peter grinned.
“Hell yeah,” James said and they went around the sofa and sat down.
Sirius counted down the remaining days of 2014 with a mixture of dread and anticipation. By the morning of New Year’s Eve he was all nerves.
“Morning, Sirius,” Lily said as he entered the kitchen.
“Morning,” Sirius said.
“Looking forward to your date tonight?” Lily asked.
“It’s not a date,” Sirius denied.
Lily snorted and smiled in that infectious way that she often did. Sirius had an itch to ask her if Remus had called it a date but he stopped himself, fearing the answer either way.
“It’s cool. I don’t think it matters what you call it. I’m just glad Remus is getting out of the attic again,” Lily said, dark-red hair in a ponytail and her green eyes focused on stirring whatever it was in the pot on the oven that smelled so delicious.
“Yeah. Actually, he asked me to umm… show him something,” Sirius said, leaning against a counter.
“Oh, yeah?” Lily asked.
“Yeah. Umm… Stuff I did. Art… Stuff,” Sirius stammered, not wishing to introduce the pressure of a second person wanting to see his photography.
“Stuff,” she said, nodding enthusiastically with a bright smile.
He’d known Lily a few weeks now and was starting realize that she wasn’t the sort to make you talk about something if you didn’t want to. She was kinder and more patient than perhaps anyone else he had ever known. It was easy to see why James was attracted to her. She was cute as a button and so damn sweet it made Sirius’s teeth hurt.
“Yeah. Stuff. Sorry,” Sirius apologized.
“Nah, it’s cool. Hey, do you want some of this?” Lily said, gesturing at the pot in front of her.
“What is it?” Sirius asked, peering over at what looked like it might be pasta.
“It’s vegan mac and cheese. It’s gluten free!” Lily said proudly.
“Huh. I’ve never had vegan mac and cheese,” Sirius said.
Lily grabbed a bowl out of the cupboard and quickly spooned some of the pasta into it.
“Here. Try it!” Lily said.
“Thanks,” Sirius said then put some in a spoon and blew on it to cool it off.
Lily was already spooning it into her mouth with a smile by the time Sirius had his first bite.
“Wow. That sauce is really something. That’s definitely not cheese,” Sirius said.
“It’s good though, right?” Lily said.
“Yeah. That’s interesting,” Sirius said.
“Thanks. Maybe I should see if James wants some? I’m supposed to take a bowl up to Remus in a minute,” Lily said.
“Oh. Will you… tell him I said hi. And that I… uh. Dug out some of the stuff. That he wanted to see. And if he wants I can bring it out tonight,” Sirius said, then had another spoonful of vegan mac and cheese.
“Yeah. No problem,” Lily said.
“Come in,” Remus said, hearing Lily knocking on his door.
“Hey,” Lily said, holding a bowl of vegan mac and cheese in her hands, her hands protected from the heat by a hand towel.
She quickly set it down on his desk.
“Thanks. You know you didn’t have to bring it up. I could’ve came down to get it,” Remus said.
Though the truth is he might’ve waited until it was cold before gathering the will to go down to get it if she hadn’t brought it straight up.
“It was no problem. Try it!” Lily said with enthusiasm.
Remus spooned some into his mouth, enjoying the creamy taste.
“Huh. It doesn’t taste like cheese but it’s pretty good,” Remus said, gleefully spooning some more into his mouth.
“Thanks. Oh, Sirius wanted me to tell you he can bring… the stuff you guys were talking about before out tonight. If you want,” Lily said, looking confused.
“Stuff? Oh. He said he used to do photography. Yeah. I’ll text him and let him know,” Remus said.
“Are you excited?” Lily asked.
“Yeah. It’s just strange. This has never happened to me before. Maybe it’s not happening now,” Remus said.
Lily sat down on his bed.
“I don’t think something not happening in the past means it can’t ever happen,” Lily said.
“Well, sure. I just… don’t think I deserve it,” Remus said, spooning more mac into his mouth.
“What does that even mean? How can you not deserve love? I love you and I certainly think you deserve it,” Lily said.
“I love you too, Lils. I just don’t really feel like I do much to deserve anything,” Remus said.
“Remus, you are a human being. You’re a good person. You’re a great friend. As far as I’m concerned everyone is deserving of love,” Lily said.
“Even Rush Limbaugh,” Remus countered with a grin.
Lily rolled her eyes.
“Sure. Why not,” Lily said with a snort.
“What about the Red Skull? Is the Red Skull deserving of love?” Remus said.
“The Red Skull is evil and a Nazi. And fictional. I don’t think he counts,” Lily said.
“That’s fair,” Remus said.
“Now, Peggy Carter, on the other hand. She’s definitely deserving of love. So much love. I could give her so much love,” Lily said with a wistful sigh.
Remus broke down into snickers, embarrassed by his friend’s apparent crush on a fictional character.
“Welp. I’m gonna go back to my room and think about Peggy Carter,” Lily said, sticking her tongue out and standing up.
“Fair enough. I’m gonna finish this and see if I can get any writing done before I meet up with Sirius later,” Remus said.
“Good luck. Have fun tonight,” Lily said, waved and exited the attic.
“Hey,” Remus said, as he came around the corner and into the living room.
“Hey,” Sirius replied, holding the Art I album on his lap.
“Sorry, I made you wait so long,” Remus said.
“No, it’s fine,” Sirius said.
Sirius understood that Remus had a lot of anxiety and shyness that couldn’t be helped. Sirius got panic attacks from time to time and had a lot of sympathy, even though he had found himself actually looking forward to showing the photos to Remus by the time evening had arrived.
“So, that’s the thing,” Remus said, sitting down next to Sirius.
“Yeah,” Sirius said, looking over at the handsome young man with the soft lips, honey-brown hair and deep-brown eyes.
There was something almost angelic about Remus Lupin. He looked soft, gentle and hard all at the same time. Sirius looked down at the album, begging himself to stop staring at Remus’s face.
“So, I thought I could just start by showing you my old stuff. It’s pretty stupid but I was like twelve,” Sirius said, opening the album.
“Oh, I like that tree,” Remus said, pointing at one of the earliest photos.
“Yeah. It was in a neighbor’s back yard. I… I hopped their fence to take the picture. I was literally crouching and trying to get the perfect angle and their dog came barking behind me,” Sirius said.
“Wow. That’s wild,” Remus said with a grin.
Oh, God, yes! Sirius liked it when he made Remus smile. It sent tingly flames of joy up Sirius’s body and forced a smile onto his face.
“Heh. Yeah. I did a lot of stupid shit like that, at least when I wasn’t grounded or worse,” Sirius said, turning the page.
“What do you mean worse?” Remus asked, looking concerned.
“Oh. I uh… I mean that… well… my mom used to lock me in my room,” Sirius admitted with a frown.
“God! Who would do that to a child? That’s monstrous!” Remus almost shouted.
“Yeah. I was never the child my parents wanted me to be. They just wanted me to conform to whatever they thought I was supposed to be. They wanted me to be like them. Racist, homophobic, transphobic Republican bigots,” Sirius snarled.
“That sucks,” Remus said, looking sad.
“What are your parents like?” Sirius asked.
“They’re all right. I uh… I’m not out to them or anything. Mostly because I don’t know what I would tell them. I’m not straight but who comes out like that. Mom? Dad? I’ve got something to tell you… I’m… not straight!” Remus said then snickered and bounced back in his seat.
Sirius chuckled. Remus could be such a dork and Sirius loved it.
“So, you don’t know who you find attractive?” Sirius asked.
“Oh. I… uh… Haha,” Remus said, rubbing the back of his neck nervously.
“It’s fine. I’ve never really had much interest in dating or stuff,” Sirius said.
“Oh, I like that one,” Remus said, pointing at a blurry photo Sirius had taken at his ballroom dancing lessons when he was thirteen.
“Thanks,” Sirius said.
“Yeah, I’ve never really dated or anything. I don’t know. I guess there was never anyone special. And Lily always met all my social needs. I guess. Like… I’ve thought people were physically attractive but I just never thought it was worth all the trouble. Didn’t really see the big deal,” Remus said.
Sirius felt an odd sensation. He was at once both happy to relate to Remus but also afraid that Remus still felt that way. Sirius wasn’t sure what this thing was that he was feeling towards Remus but he definitely wasn’t ready to have that door shut in his face.
“Me too. Like… everyone is so obsessed with partnering up and getting married and having kids. There are more important things in the world,” Sirius said.
“Like art!” Remus said, pointing at Sirius’s album.
“Yeah,” Sirius said with a grin.
“Who’s she?” Remus said, pointing at the fourteen year old girl sitting on a stone by a creek in a black and white photograph.
“She’s… She was my best friend until… until I came out. Her name was Sarah,” Sirius said.
Sirius remembered that day well. Sarah convinced Sirius that he should be taking photographs of people. She offered to model for him for a picture. Sarah always had an a strange austerity to her. Sirius was often surprised she wasn’t related to him with her dark hair and subtle snobbery. But that wasn’t doing her enough credit. She had been better than his family in all but one respect.
Sirius closed his eyes, feeling old pain bubbling to the surface. He swallowed it down and looked back down at the album, turning the page. Unfortunately, there were more photos of Sarah. Dammit, he had been so worried about the one photo of Regs that he had forgotten entirely about her. Sirius felt himself disengaging from the moment, letting himself turn the pages until that era was past. He was thankful he hadn’t tried to go through one of the memories albums, lest he really make himself suffer.
Remus had gone silent and Sirius felt bad that his discomfort was in turn making Remus uncomfortable. Before he knew it he had reached the back of the album.
“Well, that’s the end of my first year or so of photography. I didn’t really know what I was doing. I also started taking a lot of digital photographs and posting them on DeviantArt,” Sirius said, once again finding himself regretting something he had just said.
“You have a DeviantArt?” Remus asked, excited.
“Yeah,” Sirius said.
Don’t tell him your name on DeviantArt, Sirius told himself.
“What’s your name on DeviantArt?” Remus asked, going to his browser on his phone.
Don’t tell him! Say you forgot!
“Dogstar94,” Sirius said.
“Dogstar?” Remus asked as he typed
“My name. Sirius. It’s the dog star. There’s kind of a thing in my family of naming everyone after stars. I selected Sirius as my new name. It felt more… me,” Sirius said with a smile, praying that Remus wouldn’t ask him what his deadname was.
“Cool. I like it,” Remus said.
“Thanks,” Sirius said, leaning over to see what Remus was peering at on his phone.
“Wow. These are great!” Remus said.
“Yeah. I branched out. I tried to capture more live subjects and I tried to really make sure every photo told a story. I only posted the very best stuff on there, though,” Sirius said
Remus scrolled through images quickly, almost as if he was downloading them into his mind for later usage. Eventually he reached the image that Sirius was dreading him ask about.
“Hey, this guy kinda looks like you. Are you related?” Remus asked, pointing at the image of Regulus smoking a cigarette.
“Yeah, uh… he was my brother,” Sirius said.
Remus clearly detected Sirius’s use of the past tense and frowned.
Sirius sighed and hung his head.
“He died. Drug overdose. That… that was the last photo I ever took,” Sirius said.
“Oh, Sirius, I’m so sorry,” Remus said and Sirius felt a warm hand gently placed on his own hand that rested on the album.
There came that tingly feeling again. It was magnificent until Remus quickly removed his hand, looking ashamed. Sirius didn’t know what to say. He wiped at his eyes. He was feeling a bit like going to have a good cry he didn’t want to leave Remus’s presence, especially as they hadn’t even started a movie yet.
“Do you think… Do you think you’ll ever start taking photos again?” Remus asked.
“I don’t know. I probably wouldn’t be any good anymore,” Sirius said.
“Oh, well, if you decide you want to do more I would l-love to be your subject,” Remus said, sounding nervous.
“Would you really?” Sirius said.
“Yeah. It would be c-cool,” Remus said, seeming genuinely excited.
“OK. Yeah. OK. We’ll.. Umm… I’ll have to get my camera out and charge the battery. But… I’ll get back to you,” Sirius said.
“Cool. Ready to watch The Incredible Hulk?” Remus said with a grin.
“Sounds great,” Sirius said while Remus went over to the shelf.
After the Incredible Hulk they watched the two Thor films and finished just in time for midnight. Lily and James were upstairs together and loudly counting down, probably both stoned out of their minds. When they shouted happy new year together he wondered if they kissed. He said happy near year to Remus, wondering if a year from now they would be kissing at midnight. The idea was strange, frightening and appealing all at once.
James and Lily fell onto her bed laughing.
“Happy new year!” Lily called out again.
“Happy new year,” James echoed.
For one beautiful moment James had thought they were going to kiss at midnight but for reasons he didn’t understand they both pulled away. He supposed the moment hadn’t come yet. Even still as they laughed and flopped around on her bed he had a suspicion he would be spending the night there. He found the thought comforting.
Sirius couldn’t stop shaking. How on Earth was he supposed to take a picture of anything if he couldn’t hold the damn camera still? Maybe he was just cold. It was like thirty-five degrees outside and possibly colder at their current location on the beach.
“I’ve been surprised at how rocky the beaches are around here,” Remus said, staring out at the water.
“Yeah. It’s different. You should go to up Cannon Beach sometime. James and I went there last summer,” Sirius said.
“Will do. So how do you want me?” Remus said, turning back around to face Sirius.
Sirius pondered all the possible answers to that question but chose the most simple: “I want you to stand there and… think about something you miss.”
“Something I miss? Well I suppose I miss-“
“No, no. Don’t tell me. I just want you to think about it. To capture the emotion,” Sirius said.
“Fair enough,” Remus replied and went silent.
Sirius felt he wasn’t close enough and moved in closer. Normally, he wouldn’t get too close to a subject because most didn’t like having cameras right in their faces. They felt it exposed them too much, made their perceived flaws more obvious. But Remus didn’t have any flaws as far as Sirius was concerned and Remus made no protestations as Sirius approached.
Remus seemed deeply focused. His face didn’t seem sad. He also seemed happy to think about something he missed. Sirius knew it was a request that might have driven himself to tears. He did wonder what it was that Remus missed but didn’t want to ask. Some mysteries were worth waiting for.
Sirius took a number of different pictures from different angles but he already knew he preferred the ones where Remus’s face filled most of the screen, with the ocean’s relatively calm waters behind him. How he had found an ability to remain still, he wasn’t sure.
“OK. That’s good,” Sirius said.
“That’s it? We’re done?” Remus asked.
“Yeah,” Sirius said as he slipped his camera back in its case.
“Huh. I guess it’s pretty cold anyhow,” Remus said.
The truth was that Sirius didn’t want to ruin it all. He would take at thousand pictures of Remus Lupin if he allowed himself. He was getting invested too quickly. He always thought that he had been above heartbreak but that wasn’t really true. Sarah had broken his heart and so had Regulus. Remus was another chance to have his heart broken and Sirius wasn’t sure if he was ready to let go, though he really wanted to.
“Pretty far from the attic, anyhow,” Sirius said.
“Oh. Yeah… I guess it is,” Remus said, looking like he almost hadn’t thought of that.
“I’m sorry… I shouldn’t-“
“No, it’s fine,” Remus replied.
“It’s none of my business,” Sirius said.
“Really, it’s fine. I know who I am. I should get out more. Thank you for giving me an opportunity,” Remus said as they walked across the rocks.
“Oh. Well… you’re welcome. It suits you,” Sirius said with a smile.
Remus looked embarrassed and chuckled.
“Thanks,” Remus said.
Hey, check my DeviantArt ;)
Cool! You made a great choice :)
Sirius was lying in bed, smiling at his phone. It hadn’t been easy to rule it down to just one photo but he had managed. He had been terrified to post something to DeviantArt again after all this time and wasn’t sure what sort of reaction he would get.
His phone chimed.
Let me know if you want to do anymore. I’m totally game.
Thanks. Will do. You’re a more than worthy subject.
Sirius clutched his phone to his chest, swelling with pride and other feelings that had remained a mystery to him for his entire life prior to meeting the reclusive hottie in the attic.
Next edit and reassembling of works coming sooner or later. I'm theoretically busy with the RS games right now. But I think this part was the hard part and everything else should be easier, providing I can figure out which arcs to lump together. Some stuff will probably remain standalone. I don't think I'll be writing anymore totally new chapters unless something really strikes me as necessary.