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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: Full Moon 12: One of the pups feels underappreciated by the other.
Author Notes: Technically the summary should be 'Sirius sulks approximately 2000 words in Grimmauld Place before Remus shuts him up.' I hope you will forgive me. The sulking was necessary.
“Ah ha… Knight to E4… whicht, if I’m not much mistaken, puts you in Check. Your move.”
Sirius looks up triumphantly from the chess board to find Remus slumped delicately in his chair, clearly, very asleep. There is a brief moment in which the part of Sirius that isn’t consumed with anger and frustration argues that Remus has been up since five o’clock for the last three days and probably needs his sleep and then the rest of Sirius steps on his friend’s foot sharply.
Remus comes to quickly, eyes flaring open but out of focus.
“What is it?” he manages, his voice slightly worried as if expecting Sirius to inform him that Albus Dumbledore has just owled them desperately, needing his assistance.
“It’s your move,” Sirius remarks pointedly. “You’re in check.”
“Oh…” Remus says. He scans the board with slowly awakening eyes. “Yes, you’re right.”
“I know I’m right,” Sirius snaps, irritably. Chess with Remus has ceased to be entertainment and has become a battle in which he struggles to control his temper because even Remus’ sleeping company is better than no company at all. He has momentarily forgotten the existence of Kreacher and now the elf resurfaces in his mind, foully, making the situation feel direr still. “Look,” he tries again, trying to impose calm into his voice, “I’m sorry, I know you must be tired. We can finish the game tomorrow if you want.” He knows Remus will protest and continue to play so the offer is safely made and shallow.
A shadow - of what? Guilt? - passes over Remus’ face. “We’d better finish today,” he says carefully, obviously mindful of Sirius’ humour. “I’m afraid I won’t be here at all tomorrow.”
“Of course you won’t be,” Sirius says, with false good grace, his words sounding sardonic even in his own ears.
“I’m-” Remus begins but Sirius finds that another apology is just going to make him angrier and cuts it off before his friend has begun.
“It’s fine,” he says, though, of course, it isn’t. “Really. I’m sure you have lots of important things to do. In fact, I have lots of important things to do tomorrow as well.” Which he does: if cleaning this disgusting place can be counted as “important”. Dumbledore insists it is; as important as the work the rest of the Order are doing though Sirius is not stupid enough to believe him. “Actually, I don’t feel much like chess,” he lies, rising from his chair. “I think I’m going to go to bed early. Good night Remus.”
The gesture is futile and childish but the pleasure of hearing Remus call, “Sirius, wait…” as he swirls from the room is undeniable. For added effect he lets the door slam, awakening his mother who screams about how much of a disgrace he is to the family bloodline.
Sirius raises an eyebrow and moves past. Let her scream at Remus; he is going to bed.
“Honey, I’m home,” Remus calls, softly and, Sirius thinks, extremely frivolously from the hallway.
He glares at the werewolf across the kitchen table as the other enters the room and closes the door.
Remus is not drunk. He knows this because he has not seen this new, older, more serious version of Remus ever touch alcohol (Sirius, on the other hand, has, this week, emptied two bottles of Firewhisky on his own) and because the new Remus would undoubtedly be as much of a light-weight as the old Remus was and would probably be singing rather badly – though he sings well enough when sober – if he were drunk right now.
So Remus is not drunk. Sirius wonders why then he thinks it is appropriate to enter fondly, stinking of magic and muggle fellyvision, when they have not been lovers for almost fifteen years and when Remus must know that Sirius has been sitting here, fuming and alone; waiting for him to return for a week.
“You’re late,” he points out, morosely, as way of greeting. There is a thick dark smear of something, hopefully dust, slashing its way across Remus’ face; Sirius glowers at it. “You said you’d be home by Monday at the latest.”
“I know. I got held up near Aberdeen by a particularly nasty group of vampires.” Remus sits down in the chair opposite Sirius, obviously notices the empty glass at his wrist but says nothing. He gestures at the plate of what Sirius intended to be stew. “Have you finished?”
Remus pulls the plate towards him and attacks it with a mixture of his usual grace and ravenous hunger. After a moment the pace of his eating slows down until he can presumably taste the stuff and Remus stops and looks up. “Did you make this?” he enquires, bringing the fork back up to his mouth.
“Yer,” Sirius says. “Like it?”
Remus makes a gallant effort to swallow and then his face contorts into what was probably intended to be a smile, but is clearly a grimace. “Just like Molly used to make,” he says and laughs slightly, digging his fork back into the brown stuff Dung swore blind was beef the day before one of the wardrobes mysteriously disappeared.
A rush of affection for Remus, who is still doggedly eating the disgusting stew Sirius abandoned ten minutes ago and who can still laugh about it, washes over Sirius and he smiles. “You must be hungry if you’re willing to eat that.”
“Starving,” Remus agrees. “Haven’t eaten since Tuesday.”
Sirius is shocked. “That was two days ago.”
Remus raises an eyebrow but does not answer.
The question ‘Why not’” rises to his lips but Sirius fights it back down. The answer can only be ‘because I couldn’t afford it,’ or something equally degrading and for some reason he doesn’t feel like bating Remus today. Instead he says: “You’ve got dirt on your cheek, did you know?”
Remus grins. “I’m surprised that’s all that’s visible actually. My dirt-repelling charms must be improving. Soon I won’t need to wash at all.”
Sirius assumes this is a joke, laughs and reaches across the table to wipe the annoying dust – luckily it is only dust after all – away.
“Thank you,” Remus says, and Sirius, feeling the scars beneath his fingers stretch with the soft words, realises his hand is still on Remus’ face. There are new scars here that he does not remember and almost involuntarily his thumb traces the line of one downwards.
Remus’ hand meets his and gently draws it away. “Sirius-” he begins but breaks off as a new voice interrupts.
“- and now the half breed is back, oh my poor mistress, what would she say if see could see her own son-”
Whatever moment there might have been between them is lost as Sirius explodes from his chair and evicts Kreacher as viciously as possible.
“Padfoot, is that really necessary?” Remus admonishes; the reprimand only slightly softened by the use of his nickname. “I know you don’t like Kreacher-”
“Don’t like him?” Sirius exclaims incredulously, slamming the door after Kreacher so the elf’s disgruntled mutterings are blocked out once more. “Remus, the little git tried to poison me when I was thirteen.”
Remus looks uncomfortable and pushes away his empty plate. “Sirius, you know that’s unfair. He could hardly have acted under his own direction.”
“No,” Sirius flings himself, angrily, back into his chair. “I suppose not. That must have been Regulus’ work, though Kreacher would hardly have been wracked with grief if he had succeeded.” He looks away from Remus and focuses instead at the spot on the wall where the aging wallpaper is flaking from the aging walls. “Unfortunately the Sneakoscope on the mantelpiece started whirring as he put the soup in front of me so I didn’t drink it… The Sneakoscope in question was gone when I returned in the holidays.”
“You’ve told me already,” Remus says, slightly matter-of-factly.
Sirius glares at him instead of the walls. “So you think I should be nice to something that once tried to kill me?”
“I think you should try,” Remus replies, yawning slightly.
“I am trying,” Sirius manages between clenched teeth. “He’s still alive, isn’t he?”
Remus looks like he is about to say something more on the subject of Kreacher and how appallingly Sirius is treating him, but instead says: “Do you want to finish our game tonight?”
“Are you going to fall asleep again?” Sirius says, and is surprised to hear how bitter the words sound.
“Possibly,” Remus admits, with the same mild tone he adopts whenever he feels extreme emotion would antagonise the situation further. “I’ve been travelling constantly for the last three days in order to get back… as quickly as possible.”
Sirius quashes the temptation to say “well, you needn’t have bothered,” possibly smashing a valuable family heirloom as he exits, because he knows that, without Remus, Grimmauld Place will become a second Azkaban.
“Chess… would be great,” he says with effort.
Remus nods and covers another yawn with his hand. The two of them traipse into the living room where the chess board is still arranged. Remus’ chess men call out merrily to him (they have been in his family for years) and he smiles and touches the principal pieces reassuringly as he lowers himself into his chair. Sirius’ pieces do not greet him warmly (they too have been in his family for years: his own set, given to him by James a lifetime ago, have long since been lost) and he scowls at them and accidentally knocks one of the more obnoxious knights off the table. Remus stoops and picks it up for him, handing the protesting soldier back with a tired smile.
“It’s still your go,” Sirius says, gruffly, dropping the knight back on the board.
A small niche appears between Remus’ eyebrows as he concentrates on the board. Sirius is reminded of a boy twenty years younger with the same expression poring over the newly formed Marauders Map and a smile breaks, unbidden, onto his face. Remus’ eyebrows relax and he leans back. “Queen to E4.”
Remus is asleep again: Sirius knows this before he looks up. He also knows he shouldn’t be angry at the other for something he cannot control, however, after months of being imprisoned in a house he has hated since he discovered the different between bad and good, he has long ago ceased to care that he is being unfair to his friend.
“Wake up,” he says and jabs Remus with one of his own chess men. “You fell asleep again,” he informs the slowly awakening werewolf. “Please try and stay awake for the ridiculously small time you are actually here or just stay away-”
With an aggravated sigh Remus leans forward and cuts him off mid-rant, with a kiss.
For a moment Sirius cannot respond, his mental faculties entirely dedicated to understanding this new development – he has always privately suspected, though there is not any evidence to suggest this is the case, that if someone were to renew the relationship between them it would not be Remus - and then a part of him awakes and screams “kiss him back!” but, by then, Remus has withdrawn and sits, wearing a half smile of frustration, across from him.
“Um,” Sirius says, eloquently.
Remus favours him with another tired smile. “Sirius,” he says. “I do love you but please could you… be quiet so I can sleep.”
Sirius nods, baffled, because it seems like the right thing to do in the current situation and Remus looks briefly back down at the chess board, an expression of surprised joy creeping over his face as he does.
“Bishop to H6,” he says, with a laugh at the peculiarity of the world. “Checkmate.”
Sirius watches his king sullenly surrender his crown with a sort of wonder and looks back at Remus – possibly the worst chess player Sirius has ever met. But Remus is already asleep again.