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After Laughter

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“If I take him to—”

“See, I don’t think that’s a great idea because he’ll—”

“You’re right. How about—”

“Yes, but you’d have to—”

“But I can’t make him dinner! Remember when I—”

“Of course I remember. I couldn’t eat seafood for a year.”

“Stop being so self-centered. What if—”

“Can’t you just push this whole thing back a year or three?”

“How dare you?”

“It’s just that my very pregnant girlfriend is going to be so mad if Remus gets a—”

“It’s not my fault that I know how to put on a condom and you don’t.”

“It’s not my fault that you’re gay and literally can’t—”

“Wait, Remus is calling. I gotta go, I gotta go.” As Sirius hung up on James and answered Remus’ incoming call, his voice shifted from mildly antagonistic to impossibly soft in an instant. “Babe?”

“Can you come down? I have a bit of a situation.”

What couldn’t have been more than thirty seconds later, Sirius was out of their apartment and down in the parking garage. Remus was leaned up against Sirius’ car with his plump pink lips formed into a pout. Sirius resisted the urge to reach over and bite them and instead walked closer to rest his hands on the boy’s slim hips. “Did you run over a traffic cone again?” Sirius asked, mostly because he wanted to see the pout deepen. 

Instead of pouting, however, Remus smiled. His brown eyes twinkled with the pride of someone who’d just run a 15k. “No! I did good, I promise.”

Sirius raised his eyebrows.

“I did! Well…I may have missed my exit. Twice. But overall I did—”

Sirius caught the remaining words with his mouth. After a few seconds, Remus pulled away from the kiss to take a breath and Sirius turned his attention to Remus’ neck, which he loved only slightly less than his lips.

Remus laughed, “Sirius, I really need your help.”

Placing one last peck on Remus’ cheek, Sirius pulled away to assess the damage. “What’s wrong? Oh.” Though Remus had parked inside the confines of their assigned parking spot, he was dangerously close to the car beside him and would undoubtedly hit said car if he continued to back out at the angle he was currently in. “How’d this happen?” Sirius asked, forcing laughter down.

“I pulled in a little too close. Then when I tried to fix myself your car started yelling at me and I got frazzled—”

“My car was yelling at you?”

“The parking sensors have this extraordinarily aggressive beep.”

“You are literally the fucking cutest thing ever.”

Remus grinned sheepishly. “Will you please fix it for me?”

At that moment, Sirius’ chest swelled with so much affection that he thought maybe he wouldn’t ever be able to breathe again. As he looked into the big, blinking doe eyes across from him, he knew there wasn’t one thing that he wouldn’t do for Remus Lupin.

“Will you marry me?”

The two boys stared at each other with equally wide and confused eyes for what could have been a lifetime.

“Fuck!” Sirius finally shouted, realizing that the words had indeed slipped from his traitorous mouth. “I swear I had a plan! I was going to take you to Gladstones and we were going to sit at the same table where we had our first date. Your mom helped me design a ring. I—”

Fuck it.

Sirius dropped down to one knee. Though the pavement was unbearably hot against his bare skin, the only sensation he could focus on was the anxiety paralyzing his body like a bad shot of anesthesia.

Remus continued to stare, mouth agape.

“Remus Lupin,” Sirius began, “I know that we’re only twenty. We’re young and I’m dumb. But you are the best thing that has ever and will ever happen to me. You are literally the ray of sunshine that makes waking up every day worth it. That sounds cheesy but it’s true. You are my heart and my soul and my happiness. I don’t have any idea what I want to do with the rest of my life, but I know I want to spend it with you. Will you marry—”

“Yes!”

Remus dropped down to Sirius’ level and flung his arms around him. He buried his face in the crook of Sirius’ neck but Sirius pulled away so he could press their mouths hard together in the vague hope they might somehow be permanently melded. After a few moments, Remus pulled away and rested his forehead against Sirius’. He mumbled, “Lily’s going to be so mad that I got a ring before her.”

 


 

Sirius wondered what it was about throwing up that made toilets safe to touch. See, under normal circumstances, he’d rather rest his head against a meat cleaver than a toilet. Yet, here he sat, not only with his head resting against the seat but with his arms clutching it like a long lost lover.

“Are you okay?” Miles from Erewhon asked when Sirius finally managed to rip himself away from the ceramic purgatory and reenter the bedroom.

Sirius ignored the question. He walked over to a pile of clothes that looked the most like his. After confirming that they indeed belonged to him, he slipped on his trousers and asked, “Do you need me to get you an Uber?”

“What? I—” Miles from Erewhon stumbled over his words. “Uh, no. I’ll get one myself.”

“Great,” Sirius replied. Redressing himself with well-practiced swiftness, he patted his pockets. Phone? Check. Wallet? Check. Ring? Check. He then pulled out a wrinkled ten and tossed it on the dresser. After seeing redness flush across Miles from Erewhon’s face, Sirius flatly explained, “For the maid.”

Miles from Erewhon nodded. Siris wondered if it was relief or disappointment that crossed his face—sometimes it was hard to tell with aspiring actors. “So I guess I’ll see you around,” the boy muttered as Sirius neared the door.

Sirius responded only with the click of the door closing behind him. As soon as he was safely inside the elevator, he pulled out his phone and typed out: Fell asleep at James’ last night. Just woke up. Be home later.

Twenty seconds later, Sirius’ phone started buzzing. Babe flashed across the screen. Sirius declined the call and tried to remember where he was and where he parked his car.

 


 

“James?”

“Hey, Sirius. How goes it?”

The unmistakable sound of junior football carried over from James’ end and Sirius felt a pang of guilt when he vaguely remembered he had told Harry he’d come to watch his practice. He cleared his throat, “Can you do me a favor? If…if anyone asks, can you say that I crashed at your house last night?”

The line was silent except for fuzzy youthful shouts.

“Did you hear me?” Sirius huffed, though in the back of his mind was the awareness that he shouldn’t be the one who was annoyed.

“For fucks sake Sirius.”

“Don’t start,” Sirius growled.

“Do you just not give a fuck at all anymore? Is there no shame?”

“Shame? I think it’s shameful that as my best friend you’re refusing a simple favor that’ll make—”

“You have the fucking nerve—”

“This is my business and you should keep your nose out of it—”

“It’s your business except for needing me to lie for you, right? Then it’s my problem.”

“Fuck you,” Sirius grunted before hanging up.

 


 

“I had a dream again,” Sirius said. 

“What was this one about?”

Sirius took a second to stare at the phoenix statue on the shelf behind Dumbledore. At its current angle, it looked like it was perched atop the man’s shoulder. Sirius answered, “I dreamt about the day I proposed to Remus.”

“Ah,” Dumbledore replied simply. “Was it a good dream or a bad dream?”

“A good dream,” Sirius said. “Remus is always good...”

“I sense a but coming.”

“But,” Sirius conceded, “it made me sick. Physically nauseous.”

“Hmmm,” Dumbledore clasped his fingers, “What about the dream upset you?”

Sirius shrugged.

“If I asked you to describe it to me right now in detail, would it bring you joy?”

“Yes and no.”

“Why yes and why no?”

“Yes because it was the happiest day of my life—I mean, one of the happiest days of my life. No, because… “

After Sirius didn’t continue for a long moment, Dumbledore prompted, “Because…?”

“Because now I’m miserable.”

Dumbledore nodded. “Sirius, we’ve been getting at the same thing in every session we’ve had over the past few months—your relationship has a crack in it.”

Sirius nodded, although he wasn’t sure if “crack” was the right word.

“And now you need to decide if you want to move forward.”

“How do I move forward?”

Dumbledore leaned back into his chair and laced his fingertips together. “Well, first you must decide if your relationship is worth fixing. Is it?”

“I don’t know,” Sirius lied.

 


 

Sirius was already preparing himself for the inevitable showdown when he pulled into his four-car garage. Apparently, so was his husband. The other man had a pillowcase of something—Sirius couldn’t make out what—and it looked heavy. With a sigh, he turned off the ignition, opened the car door very slowly, and braced himself.

He was right—the pillowcase was heavy.

“You son of a bitch!”

“Stop!” Sirius shouted, attempting to shield himself with his forearms.

“You said it was the last time! You promised!”

“I told you!” Sirius yelled, hunching over in self-defense, “I fell asleep at James’ house!”

“Oh yeah?” Caradoc grunted, trying to land a blow to Sirius’ nether regions. “How the fuck does that happen?”

“We were watching the Lions game and I fucking fell asleep. That’s it.” But Sirius had paused for a second too long.

“You lying, cheating bastard!”

“You always do this!” Sirius shouted, now trying to wrestle the pillowcase away altogether. “You accuse me of things just because you know how shitty you are to me and you want to make yourself feel better!”

“Fucking manipulative bastard,” Caradoc growled, keeping his hold firm. “You’re always trying to gaslight me and I fucking hate it!”

Before Sirius could respond, the loud ringing of their doorbell startled him into releasing his grip and taking a step back.

“It’s five o’clock on Sunday, or did you forget?” Caradoc said coolly, dropping the weapon at last and kicking it into the shadows of the garage.

“Shut the fuck up,” Sirius growled, rising to his full height.

Caradoc simply rolled his eyes and stomped to the kitchen.

The bell rang once more, and like a magnet, Sirius was at the door within seconds. He opened it to reveal a set of big, blinking doe eyes. 

“Hey Dad,” Teddy greeted, stepping in through the doorway.

Sirius kneeled to the boy’s level and pulled him into a tight hug. “Hi, Buddy,” he mumbled into Teddy’s soft hair, immediately finding calmness in the scent of lavender. He lifted his head and—feeling a sick pleasure in the sudden onslaught of butterflies fluttering through his stomach—softly greeted the other person standing before him. “Hi, Rem.” 

“Hey, Sirius,” Remus replied distractedly, eyes trained on the Incredibles duffle bag he was rifling through. “So my mom bought Ted a Batman t-shirt and he says he absolutely has to wear it to school tomorrow.”

Sirius grinned at the now-beaming boy. “You know you have to wear your uniform to school.”

“I’ll wear it under my clothes,” Teddy countered like it was the most obvious solution in the world. “Like a real superhero.”

“Yeah,” Remus deadpanned to Sirius, head still buried in the duffle bag. “You can have fun figuring that one out tomorrow. Anyway, I know the doctor said he’s fine but he still has a little bit of a cough so I picked up more of that medicine he likes—” Remus’ sentence came to an abrupt halt when he finally looked to Sirius. “Uh, Ted? Why don’t you go show Caradoc your new t-shirt?”

Teddy hesitated for a moment but eventually did as he was told.

“What the hell happened to you?”

Sirius rubbed his palms against his eyes roughly. “That psycho in the kitchen is what happened to me,” he hissed in Caradoc’s general direction. “He came at me with a pillowcase full of tennis balls.”

Remus’ mouth opened and closed. “I— What are you guys fighting about?”

“He’s paranoid and—”

Caradoc appeared like an apparition. “Go ahead,” he sneered. “Finish. While you’re at it, tell Remus where you were last night.”

“That’s okay,” Remus cut in quickly. “You guys don’t have to tell me anything. I’m just going to grab Teddy and head out. He can come back tomorrow—”

“No,” Sirius told Remus, then turned to Caradoc with a sneer of his own. “You’re the one that should leave. You are pathetic. Look at you. Look at how you’re acting right now.”

“He was out all night,” Caradoc told Remus. “No doubt fucking some two-bit homewrecking whore!”

Sirius wanted to slam Caradoc’s head against one of their granite pillars for having the nerve to say that to Remus—for even thinking he had the right to speak to Remus at all. Instead, he allowed the venom that had no doubt evolved through generations of Blacks to take over his tongue. “Caradoc, you’re a two-bit homewrecking whore, in case you forgot.”

There was stunned silence, then Remus firmly said, “That’s enough."

Sirius frowned but said no more.

Caradoc burst into tears.

“Oh stop,” Sirius scoffed. “Go ahead. Play the victim like you always do—”

“Sirius,” Remus commanded with a hiss, “stop it.”

Sirius stared into Remus’ chocolate eyes for a solid beat. It was there that he found the answer to Dumbledore’s question.

“I want a divorce.”

Surprisingly, Caradoc’s tears halted. Unsurprising, in their place came another round of blows. “You’re divorcing me?” Caradoc shrieked, fists flying wildly. “You’re divorcing me? After all the shit you put me through? I stay by your side and now you’re divorcing me?”

“Caradoc!” Remus yelled, trying to pull him away from Sirius. “Calm down!”

“No!” Caradoc replied. “No! He is evil!” He punctuated the word evil with a blow to Sirius’ belly. Sirius hunched over from the impact. Caradoc said, “You are the fucking devil. You are so selfish. You have no loyalty to anyone but yourself. Look at you. Look what you’re doing to me. Look what you did to Rem—”

“I hate you,” Sirius growled. “I don’t love you. I feel nothing—”

“You don’t know how to love anyone! Your heart is as black as your fucking name.”

“You guys need to stop right now,” Remus ordered sharply. “Remember what happened the last time you were both drinking? Do you want the neighbors to call the cops again?"

“No—” Caradoc started.

“You need a break. Stay apart for the night. Sirius, go to James and Lily’s and—”

No!” Caradoc cried, “That’s the whole fucking problem. If he leaves, he’ll just go to Benjy.”

“I told you,” Sirius growled, averting his gaze from where it had planted on Remus, “I haven’t seen Benjy in months—”

“Sirius can stay the night at my house,” Remus offered with a sigh. “Okay?”

Caradoc contemplated this for a moment. “You’ll tell me if he fucks off somewhere?”

Sirius opened his mouth to argue but Remus promised, “Yes.”

Caradoc remained silent. Eventually, he nodded his assent.

Sirius should have lost his temper. He should have exclaimed loudly and firmly that he was a grown man who could go wherever the fuck he wanted. In fact, he should have kicked Caradoc out; Sirius did buy the damn house (and everything in it) after all. But…

Remus walked to the end of the foyer and yelled, “Teddy!”

The small boy came running straight to Remus: he tucked himself against the man’s side not dissimilarly to a starfish attaching itself to a rock. He had obviously heard the yelling. Remus immediately began rubbing small circles onto his back. “There’s been a change of plans. We’re gonna go home. Why don’t you and Dad go get your stuff? Caradoc, can you please walk me to my car?”

Caradoc nodded wordlessly and Sirius watched them disappear through the front door.

And this was how—for the first time in six years—Sirius found himself spending the night with Remus Lupin.