A Clock in Profile
Author: Affected MangoO and Nohwrah
Archiving: All FQF will be archived solely at this site until September 30th, 2005. After that, it's yours to do with as you will.
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended. I do not own Harry Potter, its characters, or anything associated with it. I'm not making any money from this story, and I don't intend to.
Challenge & Summary: Challenge OC #09: There was another man in Remus' life during Sirius' incarceration in Azkaban. They parted, for whatever reason. After Remus and Sirius get back together again, Remus' ex returns, and he wants something from Remus (closure, a resumption of their relationship, etc.).
Author Notes: Many thanks to Thistlerose for the wonderful job she did on betaing.
First and foremost, I would like to apologise, both for having left you yet again and for doing so without explaining. I know that I have done this too many times and I sincerely am sorry. You have put up with too much from me and I am ever so grateful to you.
Secondly, I'd like to explain why I left. I know it might seem unfair of me to ask you to read this, but I feel as if I owe you an explanation. I would not like for you to feel forced to read this, and if you do not want to, then you are welcome to throw this letter out. I'll at least know that I've tried.
One of the reasons is that I've been offered a teaching job at my old school. I know I once told you I would never go back to the wizarding world and I was serious at that time. But now I have realised that ignoring my problems is not going to make them go away.
Another reason is, as you might have guessed, that I still haven't been able to get over my past. I have caused you and myself much pain by trying to convince myself I was, but it is time I stopped lying. I might need a lifetime to forget all about him and I'm not going to ask you to wait that long. Again, I apologise, there are no excuses for the way I’ve treated you.
Also, Robert, please, do not think I never loved you. I did. And I probably still do. You were there for me at one of the most miserable times in my life and you have helped me and supported me. When I look back upon us, it seems as if I merely took what you had to offer and never gave you something in return. In other circumstances I might’ve given you everything. Even my heart, but I’m sorry to say that it’s not mine to give anymore. I would be mortified to find out that you believe that my feelings were false. They were not, Robert. I have loved you.
I understand if you don't want to see me anymore, which might be for the best, as I only seem to hurt you.
I wish you all the best for your health and happiness.
Robert sighed and put down the letter. It seemed the only time Remus truly opened up to him, was to close on him forever.
The rain was clattering loudly on the roof of a forgotten cottage down an abandoned alleyway. At the window, Remus J. Lupin put on an extra cardigan (his favourite with the suede elbow patches) and levitated a few more logs into the fire. He sighed contentedly.
He loved evenings like these, when the weather was just too miserable to set even one foot out the door and when the small rooms of his also small cottage were nice and warm and lit with the soft glow of the fire.
He’d go read a book in a few minutes (one he’d inevitably already read before) with a nice, chipped cup of hot tea. And maybe, just maybe, if he was feeling a bit adventurous afterwards, he might crack a bottle of Cointreau and listen to some swing music.
At that moment, Remus J. Lupin was very close to being happy.
One could never get sick of Wilde, Remus decided and took The Happy Prince and Other Tales from one of the shelves. He put on his reading glasses and just as he was about to start on The Happy Prince, which was probably his favourite fairy tale, he heard a hasty knock on his backdoor.
Remus was not used to visitors, certainly not visitors who came round the back; the neighbourhood was as good as deserted and almost no one knew where he lived. So he got up and opened the door a little wearily. At the far end of his beloved garden, Remus saw some plants rustle, as if someone was pushing them aside.
‘Bloody hell,’ he whispered, grabbing his wand. If that ruddy cat was planning on stepping on one more begonia, it was going to pay for it with its life.
Remus had never been a cat-person; he liked dogs more. Of course, Remus realised he was biased, but this cat really had come from the depths of hell to pester and annoy him.
He went out the backdoor and crept, wand at the ready, toward the moving patch of turquoise flowers. He pointed his wand at what he assumed was the cat’s nose and carefully pushed his plants aside. He knelt down to get a closer look and saw two grey eyes stare at him. Remus fell over in shock.
This can’t be.
The big, black dog in front of him merely cocked its head.
Padfoot barked twice and ran into the cottage.
‘How nice seeing you again after almost a year. No. No, I’m fine,’ Remus muttered to one of his flowers as he dusted off his trousers. ‘Would you like to come in?’
‘I heard that,’ came a voice from the kitchen.
‘You were allowed to,’ Remus said, as he walked back to the cottage.
When he entered his small living room, he saw Sirius sitting on his couch. ‘What are you doing here?’ he asked.
‘Lying low,’ answered Sirius, looking unhealthy and dirty. ‘Dumbledore’s orders.’
That was not the answer Remus had wanted to hear.
‘Don’t give me that look,’ Sirius said, stifling a yawn.
‘It might’ve been fourteen years, but I still know that look, Moony.’
Shivers ran down Remus’ spine. It had been years since someone had called him that. ‘Which look is that, exactly?’ Remus managed. He couldn’t believe Sirius Black was sitting on his couch. Talking to him. Lecturing him on his own facial expressions. Not a year ago, Remus had sworn to himself he’d never let anyone pull him and Sirius apart again. He hadn’t thought about the fact that Sirius might want to walk away himself.
And he did.
‘-almost offended, that one,’ Sirius finished. ‘And I know the one you’re giving me now means you haven’t heard a single word I said because you were lost in thought and you’ll apologise for it any minute now.’
‘Well, I won’t now,’ Remus huffed. He sighed and rubbed his knees. ‘Is there anything you might like? Food? A bath? A good hexing?'
Sirius looked at him and laughed, baring his yellow teeth. ‘Incidentally, why were you about to hex me?’ he asked. ‘Back in the garden?’
‘Oh.’ Remus waved a hand dismissively. ‘There’s this cat that’s been ruining my flowers. I think it hates me.’
‘You never were good with cats.’ Sirius chuckled.
‘You just like to revel in my misery,’ said Remus, smiling.
‘Because yes, indeed, Azkaban is nothing compared to having a few flowers trampled,’ said Sirius.
A silence fell.
‘Shower’s through there,’ Remus said, pointing at the door and not able to look at Sirius. ‘Under the stairs.’
‘I’m-’ Sirius started. ‘Remus, I’m-’
‘There should be enough towels for you, soap comes out of the shower head as well,’ he said, while turning to walk back into the kitchen. ‘I’ll put some of my clothes on the stairs for you to wear and I’ll make you something to eat.’
Sirius seemed to know Remus would bear no more argument and went to shower. Remus sighed and started checking his cupboards for food. ‘Eggs it is,’ he muttered. He put a pan on the stove and heated a bit of butter.
This was not at all like old times. There was this huge barrier between them that had never been there before. Both of them knew so little about each other, about the people they’d become. It was like first meeting all over. They were strangers.
No longer one, Remus thought, and he cracked an egg.
‘There’s something wrong with your shower,’ Sirius said, clad in a towel. ‘Dry my hair, will you?’
‘What’s wrong with it, then?’ Remus looked at the cold eggs on the table and grabbed his wand. ‘Wouldn’t you rather have me cut it?’
‘No, I’m used to it by now.’ He ran a hand through his hair and sat down. ‘There’s no hot water.’
‘Oh, no there isn’t,’ Remus answered. ‘Your eggs have gone cold, you know.’
‘What do you mean, there isn’t?’ Sirius answered.
‘This house doesn’t have hot water,’ Remus explained. ‘The water heater was broken when I moved in and I don’t have the money to pay for a new one.’
‘Can’t you just fix it?’
‘I could if I knew what was wrong with it,’ Remus said. ‘My knowledge of boilers is surprisingly non-existent.’
Sirius frowned. ‘D’you mean to say you’ve been living here for what- twelve years- without hot water?’
‘Eight years. I usually just use my wand to heat it.’
‘Thank you for saying that now,’ Sirius barked. ‘What’s for dinner?’
‘Eggs that wouldn’t have gone cold if you hadn’t spent an hour and a half in the shower,’ Remus answered. ‘What took you so long? You’re not even dressed yet.’
‘I spent forty minutes looking for the hot water tap,’ Sirius huffed, ‘and I was dirty.’
Remus walked out into the hall and took the clothes he’d laid out for him. ‘Put those on. You must be freezing.’
‘I’m used to worse, Moony,’ Sirius said, even-faced, while putting on a shirt. ‘Want to re-heat my eggs?’
Remus didn’t know how to react to Sirius’ comments about Azkaban; it was unsettling. He just warmed up Sirius’ eggs and made some tea. They’d sat in silence for some time, when Sirius spoke again. ‘You know, Moony, I’m-’ his voice was hoarse and raspy. Remus had trouble recognising it. ‘I’m- Remus, don’t make me say it.’
Remus knew full well what he was about to say, but he’d never liked conversations such as these. He never liked Sirius apologising. Sirius was supposed to be the one who was too stubborn to admit he was wrong and too manly to cry or show emotions. So instead of reacting to what had just been said, he looked out the window and sighed. ‘Is that cat back again? I think I just saw something move.’
‘Don’t do that,’ Sirius said.
‘I’ve worked hard on that garden,’ Remus told him.
’That’s not what I meant.’ Sirius sounded irritated. ‘I haven’t done this in a long time. I haven’t really talked to people anymore so it’s only normal I’d-’
‘No, I really think it’s out there again.’ Remus got up and went to look out the window.
‘For heaven’s sake, Remus,’ Sirius said, raising his voice. ‘This isn’t easy for me, either, you know.’
‘All the more reason we don’t do this.’
Sirius glared at him and started clearing the table. Remus sighed; what had happened to make them go from contented couple to- this? He couldn’t even define what they were anymore.
‘Maybe we should go to bed,’ Remus suggested. ‘You must be tired; you’ve come a long way.’
‘Yeah,’ Sirius said, although Remus could see he was lying. ‘I’ll sleep on the couch, right?’
‘No, I will,’ Remus said. ‘You haven’t slept in a decent bed in ages.’
‘Really, Moony,’ Sirius answered right away. ‘I’m grateful you’re putting me up, I’ll sleep on the couch.’
‘Sirius, they’ll check on me,’ Remus said. ‘If they decide to do it by Floo and see you on my couch, what do you think will happen?’
Sirius opened his mouth to say something, but closed it again, an angry look on his face.
‘I sleep on it all the time,’ Remus continued, trying to smile. ‘I always fall asleep while reading. I’m used to it.’
He gestured for Sirius to follow him and led the way upstairs.
‘Here you go,’ he said as he showed the tiny room to his friend. ‘The toilet’s in the next room, should you have to go.’ He walked over to the dresser and took a big bowl made of china. ‘You can fill this in the kitchen in the morning to wash up. I’ll look for an extra toothbrush as well.’
‘You use a bowl?’ Sirius asked, perplexed.
‘Well, you’re free to take a shower again, if you’d like that better.’
‘You don’t have a bathroom?’
‘No,’ Remus answered, feeling rather poor. ‘This house doesn’t have one. I don’t miss it, though. I’ve been living here for so long, I got used to it.’
‘Eight years isn’t that long, Moony,’ Sirius answered, still looking puzzled.
‘This used to be my parents’.’ Remus smiled. ‘I grew up here.’
‘Oh,’ Sirius said, colour rising in his cheeks. ‘You lived here with three people?’
‘And a cat,’ Remus answered. ‘That was until I got bitten. We never saw the cat again after that. I think that’s when everything went wrong with my cat-relations.’
‘You had a cat?’ Sirius asked again. ‘Wait, wait- Where did your parents sleep?’
‘The living room was a bedroom at that time,’ Remus said, feeling uncomfortable. ‘I converted it to a living room, because well, I have no need for a second bedroom.’
Sirius looked around the small room, mouth open. Remus watched him, knowing that Sirius’ bedroom at Grimmauld Place probably was twice the size of the entire cottage. He felt incredibly uneasy.
‘Well, I’ll let you go to bed,’ he said eventually and went downstairs.
Remus was awakened by the scratching of a chair on the tiles of the kitchen floor. He squinted at the light. ‘Christ, Sirius,’ he muttered. He got up and walked into the kitchen to make some tea. He was awake now anyway.
‘I missed you,’ Sirius said, suddenly.
Remus said nothing; he just put his kettle on the stove and leaned against the counter.
‘Everything about you,’ Sirius continued. ‘I never realised how much until I saw you tonight, with two cardigans on and your glasses almost falling down your nose.’
The kettle started whistling and Remus had never before felt so relieved to have something to do with his hands.
‘D’you want some chocolate?’ he asked.
‘Tea and chocolate, that’s still you, is it, Moony?’ Sirius said with a smile.
Remus returned an awkward one and decided that if Sirius didn’t want any, he’d sure like some. As he was reaching into one of the cupboards, he suddenly felt two skinny arms around his waist. After a few thoughts Remus quickly decided were out of place (‘My, Sirius, you’re so thin’, ‘You’ve still got it’ and ‘We still fit, don’t we?’), he found the strength to say, ‘I don’t know, Sirius.’
‘When you look at a clock in profile it no longer tells the time,’ Remus blurted.
‘What are you saying?’ Sirius asked, as he let go of him. ‘That I’m a broken clock?’
‘No! No, Sirius.’ Remus sighed. ‘I’m merely trying to say that both our perspectives have changed. Granted, that might not have been a clear way of explaining but, just- We’re no longer looking at the time.’
‘But that’s good isn’t it?’ Sirius tried, as he sat back down. ‘That time shouldn’t matter for us?’
‘Yes… No,’ Remus said, as he ran a hand through his hair and tried to find a comfortable position. ‘We both stopped looking at different times, you see. You got stuck twelve years ago. I didn’t. I’ve seen the time between then and now and I’ve changed because of it.’
Sirius’ face was blank.
‘It’s like you’re looking at that clock from the left and I am from the right.’
‘Could you stop speaking in metaphors, please?’ Sirius said; his voice didn’t waver, but his eyes were filled with fear. ‘Just say whatever you want to say.’
Remus stared at the floor, while biting his lower lip. He didn’t want to say this, but he’d have to.
‘I think that,’ he said, eventually, ‘we might be too different to make it work again.’
‘We’re not going to go through this again, are we?’ Sirius asked, anger apparent in his voice.
‘What do you-’
‘You didn’t believe me at first, when I told you I loved you,’ Sirius continued. ‘And you don’t want to believe me now either. That’s fine with me, Moony. I’ve survived twelve years of Azkaban without you. I think I can get through the rest of my life as well.’
Remus finished his tea, with one gulp, gave Sirius as polite a smile as he could manage and said, ‘Goodnight.’ He set his cup in the sink, trying to hide his shaking hand, and walked back into the living room.
‘Moony-’ Sirius tried feebly, but Remus just crept back onto the couch and turned the light off with his wand. He heard a sigh and then- to his surprise- he felt a dog curl up on his feet. *
He blinked slowly, stretched his back and was reminded, painfully, of being on the couch. As he looked down, he saw Padfoot still lying at his feet, snoring slightly. Remus wondered whether Padfoot dreamt human dreams, or preferred to fill them with cats being chased up trees. He had never asked Sirius and wondered if it would’ve made a difference in Azkaban.
He got up carefully -trying to not disturb the dog- and shuffled toward the kitchen to put on water for tea. Maybe he had been a bit short with Sirius last night; he hadn’t meant to hurt his friend’s feelings, of course, but some things needed to be said. He still loved Sirius; he didn’t think he could ever stop loving him. If twelve years of thinking he was a traitor hadn’t done the trick, it wouldn’t happen. He held no illusions about that.
He took out a frying pan and hoped Sirius didn’t mind eating more eggs; there wasn’t anything else in the house. (He made a mental note not to forget to buy groceries later.) A relationship with Sirius just wasn’t the right thing to do, really. Sirius might be in love with the old Remus, but that Remus was long gone. He had grown up; he no longer was the idealistic boy he once had been. They were too different now, and he didn’t know whether they could fall in love with each other again. Maybe he still loved the old Sirius too much to accept the new one. He sighed.
‘What’s with the sighing, Moony?’ Sirius suddenly stood beside him. ‘Aren’t those eggs done yet? They’re starting to look a bit dry.’
Remus started and put the scrambled eggs on two plates. ‘I happen to like them like that.’
‘I'm sure you do.’ Sirius chuckled, reached for a plate and started eating. ‘What were you thinking about?’
‘Nothing much. I have to go grocery shopping later.’
There was a silence.
‘Maybe you should ask Albus if you can stay somewhere else.’ It hurt to say it, but he felt like he had to say something.
‘Listen, Moony, I am sorry about last night.’ Sirius put his hand on Remus’ arm. ‘I shouldn’t have pushed. If you don’t want to be with me, then that’s your choice.’
‘Sirius, it’s not that I don’t want to be with you.’ Remus felt sad. ‘We talked about this; it’s just not a good idea.’
‘I think it’s a very good idea. You should know we belong together, no matter what part of the bloody clock you want to look at.’
‘That’s not funny, Padfoot.’ Remus raised his voice. ‘I have grown up- We’ve grown apart. I'm just not the person you knew, I'm nothing like I was before. I’m more serious now and-’
‘More serious?’ Sirius’ eyes widened at that. ‘Moony, that’s just not possible.’
‘Sirius-’ Remus hesitated. ‘Think. Would you want us to get together only to realise that it doesn’t work?’
Sirius was quiet for a couple of seconds. ‘But, Moony.’ He went to stand behind Remus and wrapped his arms around him. Remus froze in his arms, for a moment. ‘You’ll never know if we don’t try. Don’t tell me you’d rather think about what we had than give us a second chance. We’ve got nothing to lose.’
‘But we do.’ Remus started leaning toward him. ‘We still are friends.’
‘I know, Moony.’ He buried his nose in Remus’ neck and breathed in his scent. ‘You should listen to me for once. You think too much.’ And he kissed Remus right under his left ear.
‘You used to say that too,’ Remus said with a smile and he slowly turned around in Sirius’ arms. They looked at each other for a few more minutes, then Remus suddenly looked away and started clearing the table, with one of his famous awkward smiles.
As he was about to set the plates down on the counter, he suddenly felt warm fingers slide over the soft skin on the inside of his wrist. He looked up into Sirius’ grey eyes.
‘Let the dishes be, Moony,’ he said, in a warm voice. He took in Remus’ face, the way he used to do before, Remus mused. And then, moving slow enough for Remus to stop him, he put his arms around him again and softly, gently brushed his lips against Remus’.
And who am I to deny him, Remus thought.
‘Moony!’ A voice boomed throughout the little cottage.
Remus started. He’d secretly been glad when Sirius had been ordered to live with him, but he hadn’t really thought about all the racket he would make.
‘We’re out of milk!’
‘We’re out of everything, Padfoot,’ he answered. ‘That’s why I have to go grocery shopping.’
‘Oh.’ Remus heard a kitchen cupboard slam shut and sighed. He was never going to be able to finish another book again. ‘Why didn’t you tell me?’
‘I did,’ he protested. ‘This morning. Didn’t you listen?’
‘I was kind of busy.’
‘You were trying to get me in your bed.’ Remus laughed.
Sirius walked into the tiny living room, carrying a bowl of cereal and some chocolate. ‘I object!’ he said. ‘It’s your bed.’
‘Oi,’ Remus said as his lover landed on him with a loud ‘oof’. ‘That’s my last bit of chocolate!’
‘I think you’ve had quite enough, Moony.’ Sirius winked. ‘Though you can always have a bite.’ He wiggled his eyebrows suggestively.
‘Impossible, how you can make everything sound sexual,’ Remus said, without looking up from his book.
‘I’m just gifted that way,’ Sirius said. ‘And many others, as I trust you know.’
When Remus didn’t answer with more than an incredulous look, he ate some more chocolate and tapped Remus’ book. ‘So that’s what you’ve been doing the past decade, have you? Read?’
‘Among many other things,’ Remus answered absently. ‘I too am talented, you know.’
‘Which other things?’ Remus couldn’t help but notice the genuine interest in Sirius’ voice.
‘I’ve been trying to kill that cat, for one,’ he answered lightly. ‘Or harm it in every possible way, at least.’
‘Shove it, Moony,’ Sirius said, as he ran a hand through his hair. ‘I’m serious. If you really have changed, I want to know how.’
‘You can discover that for yourself,’ he answered. ‘You know, Sirius, you’re really going to ruin your teeth eating that much sugar.’
‘Ruin them more than they are now?’ Sirius said and barked out a laugh. ‘And I haven’t even had anything sweet for years.’
‘So you’re just going to take all I’ve left?’
‘Yes,’ Sirius said as if it was obvious. ‘That’s what you’re here for, isn’t it? To help me get fat.’
‘Prat, get up and let me read my book.’ Remus couldn’t help grinning; he thought about how good it was to have him back. Suddenly, Sirius snatched Remus’ book from his hands and ran to the other side of the tiny living room. ‘Give that back, Sirius, you’ll stain it! You’ve got chocolate all over you!’
Sirius walked into the kitchen and Remus followed him. ‘I just want to see what you’re reading Moony, keep your socks on.’ Remus did not find it one bit amusing.
‘The Happy Ponce, Remus?’ Sirius laughed. ‘Now, really.’
‘It’s The Happy Prince, you plonker,’ Remus answered. ‘It’s Wilde. Give me back my book.’
‘I can be wild too, you know. And what’s this?’ Sirius stood still. ‘“Plus que hier, moins que demain, R.” It was a present, then?’
‘I see your French’s not what it used to be,’ Remus offered with a half-smile, while sticking his hands in his pockets.
‘Twelve years of Azkaban will do that for you,’ Sirius answered, seemingly annoyed. ‘What does it mean?’
‘More than yesterday, less than tomorrow. Honestly,’ Remus said and looked around for something to do, ‘your French is not that bad.’
‘No, I understand it just fine, Moony,’ Sirius replied. ‘I just don’t know what it means. Who gave it to you? Who's this R-person?’
‘An old friend,’ Remus said and made a pass for the book. ‘And it doesn’t mean anything anymore, Sirius. Now give it back.’
‘What do you mean: it doesn’t mean anything anymore?’
‘Exactly what I said, it’s not important,’ Remus said, uncomfortably. ‘D’you want some tea?’
‘There’s no milk to put in the tea,’ Sirius countered. ‘What friend was this? When was this?’
‘You don’t take milk in your tea.’
‘But you do,’ Sirius shot back. ‘You’re not answering my questions.’
‘I actually like tea without milk just fine,’ Remus said, trying to remember when he’d last had it that way. ‘I just happen to like it better with milk.’
‘Would you shut up about the bloody milk?’ Sirius yelled and slammed the book down on the table. ‘Come on, who wrote this? Why can’t I know?’
‘I should go get some, though,’ Remus said, still trying to avoid answering. ‘Is there anything else you need from the store?’
‘If you go right now,’ Sirius said, looking for all the world like a haughty child, ‘I’m not giving this back. Ever.’
‘That’s okay, Remus replied calmly. ‘I think I have another copy ‘round here somewhere. You should read it.’
‘I don’t care about The Loverly Prince!’ Sirius shouted. ‘I want to know who wrote this and why!’
‘It’s The Happy Prince,’ Remus tried one last time. ‘And it’s written by Oscar Wilde, because he felt like it, I suppose.’
Before Sirius had any chance to protest, throw a tantrum or do anything that might stop him, he’d taken his coat and said, ‘I’m off, before the store closes.’ He Disapparated and hoped that Sirius would have forgotten all about it when he got back.
Sirius sighed. Moonies never shared their secrets.
He started checking every book in the house, just to see if there were more vague inscriptions or possibly a name. Ryan? Reginald? Maybe Ruben? He noticed how well organised Remus still was. Every shelf had label on it and the books were in alphabetical order. He’d almost finished rummaging through the second shelf (he was at American Literature, J.D.Salinger), when he heard a couple of knocks on the door.
Sirius wondered who would visit Remus. He hadn’t given it much thought that Remus now probably had this whole life that didn’t involve him. He’d have friends now that were not Marauders and maybe he’d even had a lover that had not been a Padfoot. It sure seemed like it from that silly French quote.
He stealthily crept over to the window next to the front door. Though Sirius knew he ought to be careful, he couldn’t help being curious. So he pulled the curtain aside a bit, to see who was there.
He peered at the man standing in front of the door. Sadly, this window was just as tiny as everything else about the cottage and Sirius couldn’t see any more than a sleeve of a tweed vest and dark, chocolaty skin.
The first person that came to mind, for Sirius, was Kingsley Shacklebolt. Remus had told him Kingsley was leading the investigation about him and that he still was in the Order.
Maybe he had some news from Dumbledore or maybe something had happened to Harry.
But wouldn't Kingsley use the Floo? Maybe- another attack might've destroyed the whole Floo-network so he wouldn't be able to come via the Fireplace. Or maybe-
About ten different scenario's (each as horrible as the next) rapidly formed in Sirius' mind, ranging from Harry's Horrible Death over the Demise of the Wizarding World to the Apocalypse. Sirius decided then that he should open the door. Who knew when Remus would come back from his shopping? Surely, he couldn’t keep Kingsley waiting.
‘Kingsley, how have you been?’ he said cordially.
The man was wearing a tweed vest, as Sirius had seen from the window, with patches on the elbows. (He gleefully thought this man was fit to share a wardrobe with Remus.) Though the first thing that Sirius noticed (and this struck him as very odd) was that Kingsley had hair.
Maybe not Kingsley Shacklebolt after all, he thought with a frown.
The man smiled politely. ‘I’m sorry,’ he said in a voice to match his smile. He held out his hand. ‘I’m Robert, I’m-’
The man hesitated and quickly withdrew his arm. He opened his mouth, as if he’d continue, but closed it just the same.
‘Go on,’ Sirius encouraged him. ‘What are you?’
‘I’m, er, a Jehova’s witness,’ Robert said. ‘I spread the word. Of God.’
‘Oh, well.’ Sirius grinned. He didn’t have anything to do, and he was sure it would annoy Remus. ‘Come on in. I don’t have any milk at the moment, but I can make you a cuppa when you tell me all about that God of yours.’
‘Are you sure?’ Robert smiled hesitantly. ‘Yes, but of course.’
‘Here's your tea, Robert, right?’ Sirius balanced the tray with the teapot and his cup while handing Robert his tea. ‘Do you want sugar?’
‘Yes, it is Robert and no, thank you.’ Robert seemed a tad uncomfortable, Sirius noticed and wondered why he was so nervous. Surely he had done this dozens of times?
‘So, what about that god-chap of yours?’
‘Oh, well, God, yes, he, he's almighty, you know, a very good and benevolent fellow, he is.’ Robert hesitated and took a sip. ‘You make a fine cup of tea, what kind is it?’
‘Oh, I don't know, whatever Remus has got lying around here.’ Sirius shrugged and picked up his cup to add sugar. ‘You said you were a witness, didn't you? What did you see, exactly?’
‘Ah Remus... Er- no, I didn’t see anthing, I just, well I did see it I guess. I saw the light - The Light of God.’ Sirius’ eyes widened at that.
‘See, I've heard a lot about this God, but I don't get it.’ He was getting nervous. ‘Does it make a difference if you believe in him? Does it change anything if you don't?’
‘No, no, God is always around. Well, some people believe that he dies when nobody believes in him, but that’s not why Im here.’ Robert smiled at him; he started to look more at ease. He took another sip of his tea. ‘I am here to ask you if you want to believe in God too.’
‘He’s always around? Literally always?’ Sirius wasn’t quite sure he liked the idea of somebody watching him all the time. ‘Is he here right now?’
‘Always, you can find him in all the good of the world,’ Robert replied. ‘And if you do something bad, like steal something or murder someone, you go to hell. Or even if you don’t believe in God you might end up there.’
Sirius smiled. ‘I've had worse, trust me.’
‘You're there for eternity, you know.’ Robert looked at Sirius. ‘You should sign up, we have meetings. We can try to save your soul.’
Saving his soul? Sirius raised an eyebrow. ‘We could've used you a couple of years ago then.’ He was getting tired; this guy was obviously full of crap.
‘Yes, yes, very nice, good tea.’ Robert made to leave. ‘I’ll bring around a pamphlet with information then, or you can go to church on Sunday morning.’
‘Well, maybe you could stay.’ Sirius wasn’t sure if he could let this Robert just leave; something was wrong here, and he wanted to know what. ‘You might be more succesful with Remus. He's kind of gullible when it comes to these things.’
‘Yes, I suppose he is.’ Robert nodded. ‘I mean, no I really should go.’
Sirius’ head shot up at that. ‘You know Remus?’
'I, er, I saw him at church. Thank you for the tea.’ Robert got up and started putting on his overcoat.
Remus took his key and opened the door. He could just as well have used his wand, or he could’ve Apparated inside, but Remus liked this. He liked the feel of the heavy brass key and the click when he turned it around in the lock. He liked Muggle things and he might as well, he’d lived as one for half his life.
‘Sirius,’ he called as he walked into the tiny corridor. ‘Sirius, are you still angry?’
He didn’t hear any answer and decided that he probably still was. This called for bribery. He fumbled for something in his grocery bag and walked into the living room.
‘I brought you kiwis,’ he tried. ‘I remembered how you liked-’
Remus looked up and almost dropped his bags. ‘Robert?’
‘Good, you still remember him,’ Sirius said jovially. ‘Robert told me you met at church.’
‘At church?’ Remus asked, puzzled. ‘Sirius, what exactly has Robert been-’
‘My, Remus,’ Robert interrupted. ‘You still have that cardigan?’
‘Yes, Robert, what are you-’ Remus’ voice failed him. ‘Good God, it’s been two years.’
‘D’you really believe in that god-chap?’ Sirius asked, looking concerned.
‘Remus, I was hoping we could talk,’ Robert said gravely. ‘In private.’
‘Of- of course.’ Remus walked into the kitchen to put his groceries on the table. ‘We’ll go up to- to the study. Sirius, if you’ll put away the groceries.’
‘Going to try and talk Remus into your whole Sunday morning ritual, are you?' Sirius said, seemingly oblivious. 'Careful Moony, he’s a slippery little bugger.’
Remus smiled nervously, nodded and left.
As they got into his study, Remus sat down on his desk while running a hand through his hair. Robert walked around curiously, inspecting every corner of the room.
‘You haven’t changed a single thing,’ he said, with a half-smile. ‘Except for that moving picture over-’
He swallowed and sat down in the old armchair that Remus had inherited from his grandmother. ‘Well, you’d have no need for it, I suppose, with the original in the next room.’
‘Robert,’ Remus tried uneasily. ‘Why- that chair is broken.’
A painful silence fell. Both men thoroughly tried to avoid each other’s eyes and when their looks did happen to cross by accident, they smiled and quickly turned to look the other way. After about five minutes, both of them drew a deep breath and started talking.
‘You’re still a teacher?’
‘D’you still work as an accountant?’
Another awkward smile and another silence followed.
‘I’m sorry about telling your friend we met at church,’ Robert said finally. ‘I hadn’t really expected to find anyone but you and then I didn’t know how much you’d told him.’
‘That’s okay, I guess,’ Remus said.
‘I told him I was a Jehova’s witness,’ Robert continued. ‘He invited me in immediately; he wanted to hear everything about God.’
‘Yes,’ Remus said with a chuckle. ‘I can imagine he did so. He should be more careful, though, I told him to be more careful.’
‘He didn’t really seem to buy it.’ Robert got up from the chair and walked over to the window. ‘I can see why you loved him so much.’
‘Robert, I-’ Remus sighed and walked over to him. ‘Why are you here?’
‘Because I want to take you home with me,’ he answered. He put his arms around Remus’ waist. ‘I know you said you’d never get over him, but how can you be so sure? We were happy together, weren’t we?’
Remus tried to walk away but Robert would not let him go. ‘We have known some good times, yes, but-’
‘All he’s ever done is hurt you, Remus,’ Robert said. ‘Why would you stay with him? I mean, he used to have a pretty face, but now-’
‘Moony!’ The door suddenly swung open. ‘Where do you put these-’
Sirius stood in the door opening, holding a bag of chocolate mints. ‘I’ll come back when you’re done.’
‘No, Sirius.’ Remus wrenched himself from Robert’s grip and followed Sirius downstairs.
‘He’s the ‘R’ from your book, right?’ Sirius asked calmly. ‘Are you together?’
‘No,’ Remus answered.
‘Not yet,’ Robert said, as he walked into the room. ‘And not anymore.’
‘You’ve every right to be angry with me, Sirius,’ Remus said, feeling as if his stomach had just imploded.
‘Moony, I’ve been away for fourteen years,’ Sirius said with a smile. ‘I honestly hadn’t expected you to wait for me. I hadn’t even expected you to take me back in.’
‘I wanted to wait.’ Remus fumbled with the sleeve of his cardigan. ‘For you. But I had to leave for a while and- I just wanted out of the wizarding world and then I just- and then I met Robert. He’s an accountant. And Muggle.’
‘I thought as much. You fit together nicely.’
‘Thank you,’ Robert said. ‘Remus, are you coming with me?’
‘No!’ Remus said immediately. ‘I can’t leave my house or leave Sirius.’
‘It’s fine,’ Sirius told him. ‘I’ll finally have enough milk to last a week. And I bet he gets your clock-metaphor.’
‘Which metaphor might that be?’ Robert asked curiously.
‘When you look at a clock in profile-’ Remus muttered.
‘Oh, you still use that one, do you?’ Robert smi'led.
‘Why did you guys split up, anyway?’ Sirius asked as he walked back into the kitchen to finally put away those chocolate mints.
‘I got that teaching job at Hogwarts,’ Remus answered absent-mindedly.
‘And of course, there was you,’ Robert cut in. ‘Several times, really. Honestly, Remus, you never told him anything about this? How did you ever end up together?’
‘I’m starting to wonder the same thing about us, Robert,’ Remus answered angrily. ‘I broke up with you because I knew I still loved Sirius. That hasn’t changed.’
‘You say that because you don’t know any better,’ Robert tried again. ‘You always left in time so you wouldn’t have to face the fact that I can make you happier than he can. I took care of you, after every full moon. What did he ever do for you?’
‘I changed into a dog and took care of him during the full moon,’ Sirius snapped.
'Sirius! Shut up!' Remus hissed.
Robert glared at him, but said nothing.
‘I’d like for you to leave now, Robert,’ Remus said in a voice that assured everyone that this was the end of the discussion. ‘I love Sirius.’
‘You’ll regret this,’ Robert said. ‘He’ll hurt you again.’
‘Then it is my choice to be hurt and I’ll be just as guilty,’ Remus said and walked into the kitchen too. ‘Goodbye, Robert.’
Robert waited for a few minutes, not moving an inch and looking as if he might explode at any second. In the end he turned around and walked out of the cottage, slamming the door shut as he went.
‘You really will regret it,’ Sirius said after a few moments of silence.
‘Quite probably,’ Remus said with a smile. ‘When you leave your socks all over the place, or when you forget to put the kiwi peels into the garbage can or when I find candy wrappers beneath my pillow. But at the same time, I might really love that about you too. Tea?’
‘Yes- your pillow?’
‘Well, if we’re going to be together, we might as well do it properly,’ Remus answered slyly. ‘I’ll enlarge my bedroom a bit. We’ll fit in easily.’
‘You seem to have experience with it,’ Sirius said, teasingly.
‘Well, I might have.’
‘Did you really split up because of me?’ Sirius asked in barely more than a whisper.
‘Four or five times, I think,’ Remus said, while making tea. ‘D’you think I could ever forget about you?’
‘But fourteen years, Moony,’ Sirius whimpered. ‘I never really realised you’ve lived half your life without me. The clock has kept on ticking, you know.’
Remus put a cup of tea down in front of Sirius and kissed him fiercely on the lips. ‘Who cares about the time?’
Liked the fic? Let the author know!
Email the Authors: Affected MangoO and Nohwrah.
Go to the review board