Two days after the kiss he had shared with Sirius, Remus was once again in the Gryffindor common room studying Herbology. But he was finding it supremely hard to focus, as his mind kept wandering back to that very kiss. He was just about to give up and move (reluctantly) to the library, so he could actually concentrate on his work, when James clomped down the stairs.
"Moony! How's the studying going?"
"Not so well," Remus admitted.
"Y'know, you haven't been yourself for the past few days. You and Sirius both. Maybe you should go see Madam Pomfrey. You look like a Pepper-up Potion would do you a world of good."
What would do me a world of good, thought Remus, is kissing Sirius again. To James, he merely replied, "Oh, I'm sure it'll pass on its own. What are you up to this fine evening?"
"Just putting the finishing touches on my prank for Sirius. It starts tomorrow at breakfast."
"Oh? What have you come up with to rival the Snogging Nog?"
"It was pretty hard finding something to match it, that's for sure. I had to scrap my original idea entirely. But I finally came up with just the right thing." James paused and glanced suspiciously from side to side, as if he expected Sirius to be lurking in a corner. "I'm going to slip some Stripping Solution in his pumpkin juice at breakfast."
"I thought the point was that you weren't pranking each other?"
"I take it you've never heard of Stripping Solution, eh?"
"No, but it sounds foul."
"What makes you say that?"
Remus realized that he was thinking of Muggle paint stripper, a connection his pureblood friend was unlikely to have made. "Never mind. You're right, I've never heard of Stripping Solution. What does it do?"
"Such a sheltered life you lead, Moony. Here, just look at the bottle." James reached into his bag and pulled out a small glass bottle. The label proclaimed it to contain "Sexy Sindi's Stripping Solution." It also prominently featured a blonde, doe-eyed witch, presumably Sindi herself, performing a provocative striptease.
"Oh, that kind of stripping," replied Remus, hoping against hope that he wasn't blushing. "Since you claim this isn't a prank on Sirius, I take it that it doesn't make the one who imbibes it do the stripping." Which was really too bad, in a way. He forced himself to focus on James' explanation of the Stripping Solution, shoving aside visions of Sirius slowly, teasingly, loosening his tie, licking his lips ever so tantalizingly as he unbuttoned first one button, then another and another…
Ahem. Shoving those visions aside.
"No, indeed. Just one spoonful of this in his morning beverage and Sirius will be seeing other people naked all day long. And they'll never know. The potion just lets the person who drinks it see through their clothes, it doesn't make them actually take them off."
"Prongs, I'm not sure how that's any better. I mean, a day spent seeing people like Snape and McGonagall and Filch and Dumbledore naked doesn't sound like much of a present to me."
"Read the back label. They put certain restrictions on the potion. So the only people Sirius'll see naked are those he's attracted to. That hopefully rules out all those you mentioned, though I have my doubts about McGonagall."
Remus had to admit that this did indeed sound like the perfect prank for Sirius, and he told James as much. But then another thought occurred to him. "Prongs, why're you giving this stuff to Sirius? I'd think you'd want to use it yourself, for Lily."
James gave him a sly look. "What makes you think I haven't?"
Remus was safely ensconced in the library and in the midst of his Transfiguration homework when the full implications of James' gift to Sirius hit him. If this Stripping Solution made Sirius see people he was attracted to naked, then if, if Sirius was attracted to him, Sirius would see him naked!
For a moment, Remus wasn't sure whether he should thank Prongs or kill him. This was his chance to find out how Sirius felt about the kiss; all he had to do was wait for Sirius' reaction to him after he drank the Stripping Solution. But on the other hand, if Sirius could see him naked, it could make for a rather awkward day. Not that Remus was entirely opposed to the idea - far from it. But he had always assumed that he'd have some control over the circumstances when and if he and Sirius did anything that involved seeing each other naked. That was another thing - the 'each other' part. It wasn't fair that Sirius would get to see him, but not vice-versa! He could ask James for some Stripping Solution of his own, but he'd want an explanation, and Remus wasn't ready to give him one.
Merlin, he hadn't thought about James and Peter! Since Remus would be sitting right across the table from Sirius at breakfast, he'd likely be the first person Sirius saw under the effects of the potion. And if he said anything about Remus' sudden and mysterious lack of clothing, James and Peter would know right away what it meant. Remus wasn't entirely sure how they'd react to that. Even though two boys who had cheerfully accepted his lycanthropy were unlikely to have an absolutely negative reaction to the idea of Sirius (and Remus) being interested in boys as well as girls, it would come as quite a shock all the same, especially revealed in such a way. And even if that didn't bother them, they were bound to be weird about the fact that they were all friends, and Remus hardly could blame them for that. He sometimes worried about that himself - would he really want to have Sirius at the expense of the friendship he had with all the Marauders? And finally, even if they were okay with all that, they would still be bound to tease him and Sirius mercilessly, just as he and Sirius and Peter (well, sometimes Peter) teased James about Lily.
So, how to go about finding out if Sirius was attracted to him (thanks to the Stripping Solution) without tipping James and Peter off if he was? Remus squandered an entire half-hour that could have been better spent on Transfiguration before coming up with what he felt was a workable plan. All it required was a ball-point pen - for this purpose, a quill just wouldn't do.
The next morning, Remus came down for breakfast a little late, but apparently he hadn't missed anything. As he sat down, he saw James slip him a wink and pour the Stripping Solution into Sirius' pumpkin juice while Peter kept him distracted with questions about the best way to transfigure a tomato into a Quaffle for a quiz that day. Remus tried to remain calm as Sirius finished explaining, turned and drained his pumpkin juice in one gulp.
Sure enough, Sirius immediately narrowed his eyes and gave Remus a most peculiar look. "Moony," he began, but then stopped and stared at Remus' chest. Oh good, his plan was working. Sirius seemed to come to himself and realize that his sentence needed finishing, as he transferred his gaze from Remus' chest to his face, then continued, "er, how you doing, mate? Lovely day, isn't it?"
"Yes, quite," Remus replied, as calm as could be. If he had to walk around all day with the knowledge that Sirius could see him naked, he at least wanted to make Sirius squirm a little, too. And at the moment, with the table hiding most of him from Sirius' view, it was pretty easy to act nonchalant.
Lily Evans chose that moment to approach the Marauders' spot at the table - a most unusual occurrence. James looked up hopefully, and Sirius - Sirius winked at Remus while James was distracted and then turned his attention to Lily. Oho, Remus thought, if that's the game he wants to play, it's on his head.
"Don't look so pathetically expectant, Potter, I still haven't forgiven you for the snogging incident."
"I told you, Evans - that was Sirius."
"Well, if he was involved, you were too. Might as well be Siamese twins, the way you work in tandem. Don't think I don't know that."
"Well, Lily," interjected Sirius, fixing her with a penetrating leer and managing to add whole new levels of suggestiveness to the two syllables of her name as he said it. He was so convincing Remus began to wonder if he really could see Lily naked, thanks to the Stripping Solution. "If you didn't come by to give in and put James out of his misery, what brings you to our end of the table?" He quirked one perfect eyebrow in that maddeningly sexy way he had.
Lily stared back at him coolly. "What's with you today, Black? Anyway, I couldn't help but overhear Peter asking about the Transfiguration quiz, and the wand movement you were demonstrating wasn't quite correct. I came by to offer to help him, if he'd like."
"That's very nice of you to offer, Lily. Not now, I don't think, but maybe we could meet outside the room before class and practice then?" Peter always had the best nose for when trouble was about to break, and he clearly didn't want to miss the Stripping Solution fallout.
"Sure. I'll see you then, Peter. See you, Potter, Black, Remus."
Sirius continued to watch her as she made her way out of the Great Hall, quite obviously staring at her arse. When she was out of view, he turned deliberately to James, who had been watching him watch Lily and turning vaguely purple, and said, "Stripping Solution in the pumpkin juice, Prongs? Well, thanks for the present. It's already provided me with an amazing view." But as James sputtered incoherently and tried manfully to restrain himself from attacking him, while Peter watched them both gleefully from over his toast, Sirius turned to Remus and winked again. Oh god, he thought, does he mean me?
"Come along, Moony. Prongs looks like he needs time to recover himself, but we'll be late to Charms if we don't get going." Before Remus had really thought about it, he had stood up to follow Sirius. He flushed and suppressed a strong urge to sit back down. Sirius will be able to see you naked all day long, he told himself, you can't avoid it forever. The best course was definitely to brazen it out, since he didn't want James and Peter to think anything out-of-the-ordinary was going on between him and Sirius. He started to accompany Sirius out of the Great Hall, trying to put all thoughts of nudity out of his head. He hoped it would get easier as the day went on.
They were halfway down the table when Sirius turned to him and, looking him up and down with a sideways glance, said, "Oops! I think I forgot my quill back at the table. Go on ahead without me - you wouldn't want to be late for class. I'll catch up."
Remus couldn't remember Sirius having a quill out at the table, but if he wanted to go look, fine. If Remus walked to Charms by himself, he wouldn't have to spend the whole time thinking about how Sirius could see his bits, and resisting the urge to walk everywhere with his books strategically placed. He was just starting to relax at that realization, when another suddenly hit him, and he didn't have to turn around to know that Sirius was now staring at his arse just as avidly as he had Lily's.
The rest of the day passed far more quickly than Remus would have anticipated, although it had its moments. He was devoutly thankful that he sat behind Sirius in most of their classes. Sirius did keep turning around to glance at him, but that would've happened anyway, what with all the whispering and note-passing Sirius usually did in class. And at first he had tried touching him a lot more than usual - just pokes and slaps on the back, nothing too out of the ordinary - but feeling Remus' robes when he could see only skin must have been disorienting, because he stopped after awhile.
In general, Remus thought Sirius had done a much better job than he would have at behaving normally on a day when he could see everyone he was attracted to naked. Granted, he disappeared briefly after every single class, causing much snickering from James and Peter, but you could hardly blame him for needing to relieve the tension, as it were. And to Remus, who had special reason to pay attention, he wasn't making it particularly obvious whom he could see naked. He supposed that Sirius didn't want to get caught in the midst of a prank that could get him in a great deal of trouble, so was trying to be subtle, but Remus couldn't help but fancy that some of the discretion was for his sake, that Sirius didn't want to make him jealous. He continued to leer at Lily all morning, taking delight in the obvious frustration it caused James, which burst out as a furious, but whispered (lest Lily or anyone else hear about the prank) row at lunch. After that, Sirius pointedly ignored Lily, and James was much calmer. In Transfiguration, Remus noticed that Sirius kept his eyes everywhere but on McGonagall, and recalled James' suspicions.
After classes had finished, James and Peter talked Sirius into accompanying them down to the Quidditch pitch to watch Ravenclaw practice. There were some very fit girls on the Ravenclaw team, and James and Peter no doubt thought Sirius would enjoy seeing some of them flying about naked. Remus retreated to the library, where the afternoon and early evening passed in a blur of distracted studying and anticipation. He had expected to find spending a whole day around Sirius knowing that he could see him naked embarrassing; he hadn't realized that it would also be so arousing, once he got used to the idea. Every time Sirius looked at him, he had flushed, remembering that not only did he want Sirius, Sirius wanted him back, and the proof was in the Stripping Solution.
After dinner, Remus moved his studying to the common room, where he was joined by James and Peter, though Sirius was nowhere to be seen. Peter was still fretting over the Transfiguration quiz, so Remus went over the theory behind plant transformations yet again. Eventually James, who had been yawning more and more over his Potions essay, went to bed.
Peter was clearly frustrated by his lack of progress. Soon after James left, he too started packing his parchment and quill away. "Gosh, it's late. Are you coming up, Moony?" he asked as he got up from the table they were studying at.
"Nah," Remus replied, "I'd like to get this Runes essay finished." Briefly, he wondered where Sirius was.
He didn't have to wonder for long; as soon as Peter was up the stairs and out of sight, Sirius pulled off James' Invisibility Cloak and revealed himself to be sitting in one of the couches by the fire.
"Hey there, Moony!"
Remus nearly jumped out of his seat. "When'd you get here? Were you under James' cloak the whole time? Does James know you have the cloak?"
"He loaned it to me willingly once I apologised about Lily. I told him the Stripping Solution had inspired me, so he probably thinks I'm in the Astronomy Tower with some girl. But don't act so surprised to see me, Moony. After all, you're the one who invited me." He patted the seat beside him, and Remus came and joined him on the couch. "Pretty clever idea, that, writing a note to me on your chest. Must've been hard to do with a quill."
"That's why I didn't use a quill, I used a Muggle pen. Still took quite a while, though." He had had to spend an extra fifteen minutes in the bathroom that morning, painstakingly inking -
'Pads- If you can see this, don't say anything. Stripping Solution in the pumpkin juice. –Moony
P.S. Meet me in the common room after Prongs and Wormtail leave.'
It was hard to write on his own chest, and looking in the mirror only made it harder. "I figured that if, well, you were…interested, you wouldn't want James and Peter to figure it out, at least not that way, so I thought a note where only you could see it, and then only if the Stripping Solution worked, would be best."
"If the Stripping Solution worked? So you weren't sure it would?"
"Of course I wasn't sure," Remus snapped. "You kissed me once and then ran away, and you've been acting funny around me since then. That could mean any number of things."
Sirius looked suitably chastened. "I'm sorry, Moony, it was just…it's scary, isn't it? I mean, you're my friend, and you're a bloke, and I didn't quite understand why I was feeling the way I did about you, and then I kissed you and - I was wrong, Moony."
"Wrong about what?"
"About kissing. I thought I'd had good kisses with other people, girls I didn't particularly care about, but that kiss with you - they were nothing like that." Sirius leaned in close, and Remus could feel his breath on his ear. "I'd never had a good kiss until I kissed you."
What response could Remus give to that but to kiss him again? When their lips finally parted once more, he pressed his forehead against Sirius' and said, softly, "You're right."
"Right about what?"
"It is scary. I mean, less scary now that I know you feel the same way, but I'm worried, too, about staying friends with you if we try this and it doesn't work, and about how James and Peter will take it, if we even tell them. And…"
"And what, Moony?"
"And, well," Remus took a deep breath and said the rest of what he had to say very quickly, before he could chicken out. "I've never really done more than kissing and I think I want to do more with you but I'm not entirely sure how and I don't think I'll be any good at it."
That made Sirius chuckle. He kissed Remus on his forehead, and then on the tip of his nose, and said, "Well, I'm hardly an expert on these matters myself, at least between two blokes. But we can figure it out, just like we'll figure out how to do this and be friends, too, and how to tell James and Peter when we're ready. We can take it nice and slow. Except…"
"Except I've been able to see you naked all day and you're still naked right now and if we don't do something I think I might die. Just this once, please, Moony? Then we'll go back to slow."
Remus remembered how it had felt to have Sirius' eyes on him all day, knowing what Sirius could see, and found he too was definitely interested in 'doing something'. "Well," he said, licking his lips nervously, "I hate to admit it, but I never did get you a Christmas present, so perhaps I do owe you something. What did you have in mind?"
"Could I just touch you? And maybe you could touch me, too? I reckon that's a good place to start."
"Okay." Remus nodded. "Okay."
They kissed some more, but it gradually turned awkward; Remus could tell Sirius was as nervous about what they were going to do as he was, and that made him feel a bit better. He moved his hand from where it had been resting on Sirius' thigh to press it against the bulge at his crotch. Encouraged by the soft moan Sirius uttered into his mouth, he rubbed his hand up and down the length of it. There was no need to be nervous, really, he thought; it would be just like doing it to himself.
Then Sirius moved his hand to press against him, and he realized this was nothing like doing it to himself - it was exponentially better than that. He moaned and thrust instinctively into the touch just as Sirius groaned and pulled away from the kiss.
"Fuck, Moony, I just - I can see you, but I can't feel you, and it's driving me mad."
Of course. Remus briefly considered reaching for the Invisibility Cloak, but settled for crossing his fingers and hoping no one came down into the common room in the next few minutes. Judging from how he was feeling, this probably wouldn't take that long. "Feel free," he said, and undid the fly of Sirius' trousers, then boldly slipped his hand into Sirius' boxers. The noise Sirius made when he wrapped his hand around the hard shaft was so arousing - not to mention the fact that oh my god he was touching Sirius, something he'd wanted to do for months - he worried that he might come right then before Sirius could return the favour.
Sirius had soon undone his fly, too, and managed, somewhat awkwardly, to pull down his pants a little (I should really look into some boxers, Remus thought). "I've been wanting to do this all day," he panted, as he gripped Remus firmly. "You're so fucking hard."
"So are you," Remus replied, and then there was no more talking. It felt much better than doing it to himself, but the principle of the thing was the same, he found, and just as he had suspected, it wasn't too long before Sirius let out a sort of strangled yelp as he came. The feel of that wetness all over his hand was enough to send Remus over the edge, too.
For a minute they just sat there in front of the fire, recovering. Remus was the first to break the silence. "So, Happy Christmas, Padfoot. Did you like your present?"
"Best I've ever received. Better than James' Stripping Solution, although it's a close second. Y'know, I didn't get you a Christmas present either, Moony, so I guess this could be yours too?"
"It really is the best gift ever. Beats books and chocolate by a mile. And more than that, I get the feeling it's a gift that keeps on giving."
"I suspect you're right about that, because I know I want to do this every chance we get."
Remus gave him another kiss, then asked, "Could you really see Lily? With the Stripping Solution, I mean?"
"Nah, I just wanted to get at Prongs. Plus, I had to make it clear it was working without bringing you into it."
"What about McGonagall?" Remus inquired, unable to help himself.
Sirius looked shamefaced and muttered something only vaguely comprehensible about Regulus' nanny and demanding women who wore tweed, and Remus decided not to pursue the subject further. He snuggled up against Sirius and said, "I want to spend every Christmas like this."
"With your pants half undone in a room that someone could walk into at any second?"
"No," Remus replied hastily, but he did do up his fly. "I meant curled up in front of a fire with you."
Sirius looked amazed but happy to hear that. He kissed Remus once more, sweetly and gently this time, and then said, "You're right. This is the perfect way to spend Christmas. In fact, it makes me want to sing, I'm so happy." And with one final swift kiss to the tip of Remus' nose, he burst out into song as he pulled Remus up from the couch and led him towards the stairs.
"Werewolf toasty by an open fire, Padfoot nipping at his toes, Yuletide carols with lyrics that are dire, and bed-curtains charmed with Silencios…"
This time, Remus couldn't help but join in. "Everybody knows, an Animagus and some mistletoe help to make the season bright…"