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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: Challenge #30: Sirius ran away from home on Christmas Day.
Author Notes: Well, if you squint, you can perhaps see the beginnings of a relationship, but really it's more of a friendship fic. I apologize for procrastinating so much that I didn't have time for a beta, and I probably blundered the Britishisms spectacularly -- this is my first full-length fic toying around with the pups, so constructive criticism is always greatly appreciated. :x
Sirius Black runs away from home on Christmas morning.
The predawn settles heavy on London and wraps itself around him like tendrils of smoky grey atmosphere, slipping in between the crack of his lips and awkward crook of elbows. He imagines that the powdering of snow crushed into the asphalt and patches of bare soil is the ash he taps from the end of his cigarette (and his fingers shake and fumble with the roll of milky paper, and maybe he chokes around an inhalation of smoke and rising bile and rests his forehead against the panes.)
He pauses and watches the wind roll over the empty city streets, leaves lifted up in the soft whisper, and knows that it is time it is time. It is not so much urgency as finality; recognition.
Around him, the house does not breathe.
Erstwhile they murmur, and provinces and blood traitors and the shutters bang against the frames just above his head -- furious, this house has learned the temperament of its inhabitants -- and he is an erstwhile, he is a province, he is a streetlamp blinking, winking dimly down by the pavement: why hallo what are you doing up this late.
The light is murky, underwater and dust eddies huh-whirling in the glow, a brilliant chiaroscuro on stonewalls laden with ivy creepers that shudder in the breeze.
It is a very long fall to the merry-go-round ground from the third floor of Grimmauld Place. There are no trees that dare grow too near the House of Black, or stretch their spindly branches out towards the frosted panes of Sirius’ bedroom window (and when he was seven Regulus fell out of an oak tree and broke his wrist in three splintered fractures.) And whilst the Ministry’s regulations are the least of his concerns, Euphrosyne Black with her raingutter nose and taloned nails would smell the crisp scent of magic and escape; like snapping twigs and cracking ribs beneath her grasp.
Sirius claws at the brick, his fingernails scrabbling into the crevices and dragging painfully, and his cheek tingles with the singe of grit and stone ground into his skin. He clings desperately with what little hold he has, inching down with muscles that quiver and tense, and laughs, shallow and sharp.
But suspension is a temporary state (and he is a marionette.) His jacket snags on the brick -- patched and fading olive green, a horrible Muggle thing that Remus gave him in fifth year, covered in zippers and snaps on to keep his fingers occupied, charmed with expanding pockets and a warming spell, a little thing like home here, and crumbs from some late night kitchen raid here -- and the momentary distraction sends him plunging to the ground.
The landing is a spread-eagle of limbs and joints that creak like an unhinged door.
James is the logical choice. James with his glasses always threatening to pitch right off the tip of his nose and his six-centimetre growth spurt and his mum with flour-handprints and that gaudy pink lipstick (give us a kiss!), and his da that makes mountains look like trees. But even Mr. Potter with his hands like some botched up Muggle fairytale, large and warm and bonecrushing, even he cannot answer to the Most Ancient and Honourable House of Black.
Sirius stares at his mottled reflection in the brass bedframe as the Knight Bus lurches forward, a flicker of peripheral vision and half of England blurring by with each acceleration, and knows he is not ready.
It feels like an invasion, maybe, a place he is not invited, crouched in the frostbitten garden just below Remus’ bedroom window and tapping out a telegraph on the glass. With every moment that passes, it seems impulsive and daft to come here like this, but his fingers drum more insistently. There is a rustle from one corner of the room, a shudder of blankets as Remus emerges sleep-worn and ruffled, the heel of his palm pressed to his eye.
In this light, Sirius notices, his hair is muddy brown -- a little like dishwater, a little like tobacco stains, a little like tea dregs -- spilling over his eyes and sticking out with sleep like stalks of wheat. Sirius stands, shoulders hunched and his fists shoved into his coat pockets, as Remus pads softly across the floor, knowing every loose board, his pyjama bottoms pooled around his ankles. (Maybe his chest tightens when Remus smiles curiously and sweeps his fringe behind one seashell ear and maybe he tastes blood.)
His face stretches cold and weary with some reckless grin, teeth chattering morse code in puffs of breath while he rocks back on his heels, impatient. Remus’ gaze is subtle, piece-mealing answers without the questions as he climbs up into the window seat. Sirius fidgets with the lining of his coat, works one fingernail into the seam, maybe flinches just a little when the window frame rasps and slides open.
“Cou’n’t ‘ave owled, Pads?”
Swallowing down the drowsy slur, Remus’ voice vibrates warm and coarse, and his lips curl up at the corners. Sirius scowls.
“A natch preoccupied for such courtesies. Bloody let me in.”
Remus blinks -- slow; once, twice now -- before he leans back so Sirius can climb through, and flicks his eyes over Sirius’ scrapes and dishevelled state, perhaps cataloguing each indignity like he is an amateur cartographer (this bruise here on his chin, ladies and gents, this is where Sirius lost his pride, and the rise of his hackles is every time he forgot to apologize.)
Sirius stumbles through, hands braced against the frame and fingers curling into the soft wood before he huddles into the sofa defensively, perhaps a bit petulant. This is the game they play, as Remus shuts the window with a soft snick, and settles down beside him, eyes burnt sienna in the twilight.
“Are you staying?”
He shifts uncomfortably, his nose shoved up against a kneecap, and chews on one sleeve, sinks his teeth into the smooth flesh of his wrist to hide guilt. Remus just nudges his boots with the fleshy, pink toes of his right foot.
“You can, you know.”
Here, tucked between the bend of Remus’ knees and hook of fingertips on his cigarette, here is a place to breathe.