Merry Christmas From the Family

Author: Aura
Rating: NC-17
Archiving: All FQF will be archived solely at this site until January 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 #33: MWPP era. It's Sirius and Remus's first Christmas as a couple, and when Sirius visits on Christmas day just about everyone in Remus's enormous family has their own opinion about him. When Remus invites Sirius to spend Christmas with him, he promises that he'll tell every member of the enormous Lupin family that Sirius is his boyfriend. But is this promise more than Remus can handle?
Author Notes: See end of fic for Author Notes.

Two days previous:

" Oi! Remus! Wait up!"

Remus paused in the corridor to let his boyfriend catch up to him.

"Hullo, Padfoot."

" Moony, it's tragical! In twelve hours, the final Christmas holiday of our debauched young lives will begin. Aren't you going to miss it?"

"Certainly. I shall miss waking to the smell of dungbombs in the morning -- or is that just your and Prongs' socks?"

"Speaking of, are you coming with me to James' for Christmas?"

Remus hesitated. "I don't know. I don't think Christmas would be the same if I didn't go home."

"Come by after, then."

"Why don't you spend it with me?"

" Mooony," Sirius whinged, "big, happy families give me the creeps."

"They're great, honest. They know about us."

"They do? This may change my opinion of the inherent unnaturalness of spending too much time with people who share your blood."

"So you'll come?"

"I'll be coming down your chimney Christmas morning."

"Brilliant! My family will love you."


Remus' mother had been cooking for two days.

If any of the Lupin men dared venture into the kitchen, Helen Lupin shouted that she had thirty-six relatives coming to her house tomorrow and so help me, Merlin, if you don't stay out of my way, youwill not live to see Christmas. She said this wielding a dripping spatula and giving the impression that she could use it to take down any invader from Lupin male to Voldemort.

Remus had avoided his mum since her annual nervous breakdown began, but he couldn't put this off any longer. Taking a deep breath, he said, "Listen, Mum, I need to ask you something." I just want her opinion, not her permission, he thought.

The oven door glowed, signaling that the pie inside was about to turn to candied shellac. Striving for patience, Mrs. Lupin tossed a goopy wooden spoon into the sink and bid her eldest son to speak.

"I want to know if you think it would be all right to tell Gran and Pop that, you know, Sirius is my . . ." Remus swallowed. "That I'm gay."

Mrs. Lupin sighed and opened the oven door to investigate the impending doom of the mincemeat pie.

"I don't think that's wise, dear. Evanesco." The ruined pie disappeared into the ether; Mrs. Lupin tiredly tossed the tin onto the counter and began calling up the ingredients for a new one.

"But, Mum--"

"Remus," she said sharply "Please. Don't do this to me. Not during Christmas. If you want to give your grandparents respective aneurysms, it can wait until after the holidays."

The doorbell rang. Remus, having a moment of clairvoyance, winced. His mother flicked her wand at the mirror on the wall; the cloudy surface cleared to reveal a dark-haired, leather jacketed boy standing on their stoop with a canvas duffle propped over one shoulder. The hand that held Mrs. Lupin's wand went white-knuckled.

"Guess he's a little early," Remus said weakly.

"A whole day early?" Mrs. Lupin hissed.

Remus hurried to the front foyer, where his father was vigorously shaking Sirius' hand.

"We're glad to finally meet you," Harold Lupin said. "So you're a wizard like Remus, eh? None of that stuff for me, I'm just an ordinary guy. It's Remus' mother who's the magic one in the family, or at least she is to me, ha-ha."

Remus cringed. Since the Big Conversation, his dad had vacillated between stilted, overly polite conversations and ebullient displays of encouragement. Their old rapport was gone; Remus' father hadn't asked Remus to help him hang the lights this year.

But if, to Harold Lupin, Remus was a stranger where his son had once stood, Sirius was even worse: a rogue variable, without context or explanation. It didn't help that Harold's eyes were flicking from Sirius' leather jacket to his studded collar, finally landing on his chipped, black nail polish.

Remus greeted Sirius as if he vaguely remembered him from a class or two.

"Hope it's okay that I got here early," Sirius said. "They were predicting snow for tomorrow. Didn't want to fly through that."

"It's not a problem at all," Harold said quickly. Something crashed in the kitchen. He smiled wanly. "Remus, why don't you take your friend upstairs so he can put his things in your room?"

Remus waited until they were alone in the hall to growl, "You couldn't have looked like less of a delinquent to meet my parents?"

Before Sirius could snark a reply, a towheaded, smaller version of Remus rocketed from a bedroom, nearly knocking into the older boys.

"Where're you going?" Remus asked.

"Who're you?" Jason said to Sirius, ignoring his brother.

"Who're you?" Sirius returned.

"I asked you first."

Remus rolled his eyes. "This is Sirius. Sirius, my brother, Jason. Goodbye, Jason."

Remus pulled Sirius past his brother and into his bedroom. Sirius chucked his bag in a corner and took in the room.

"Bunk beds, Moony?"

"I used to share the room with Jason," Remus said, terribly embarrassed by everything from his family to the stupid Quidditch players whizzing around the wallpaper border. That Sirius had been raised in sprawling luxury was an aside; even his current fleabag apartment was cooler than Remus' horribly average home.

"No, it's nice," Sirius said, gesturing to the cave-like space of the lower bunk. "It's, um, it's like a fort."

Remus smiled and stepped towards his boyfriend, outstretched hand empty for the feel of Sirius' muscled back. . . .

"Why do you call him 'Moony'?" Jason asked.

Sirius spun.

Remus adopted a grownup and slightly condescending tone to order his little brother to get the fuck out.

"Mum said to tell you we're leaving for church in half an hour." Jason climbed the bunk bed ladder, gripped the top rung, and flipped bum-over-teakettle onto the bunk.

"Church?" Sirius rounded on Remus. "Muggle church?"

"It's Christmas Eve," Remus said. At Sirius' horrified expression, he elaborated, "Don't worry, you won't combust."

"Are you a vampire?" Jason said, eyes wide.

"Yeah," Sirius said with a straight face.

Jason grinned. "If I get a letter like Remus did, I'm gonna go to wizard school next year."

"Bully for you. Moony, church? There was no warning about church."

"Because it's in the Black modus operandi to be early for something," Remus said sarcastically. "You did bring a proper suit, didn't you?"

Sirius raised a pointed eyebrow in a, 'we've met, yes?' expression.

Aside from fashionably disreputable Muggle clothes, Sirius had brought exactly one pair of trousers that didn't have holes in the crotch, and one jumper that James' mum had given him, which he flatly refused to wear.

"Wicked!" Jason cried as he watched in adoration as Remus transfigured a shirt to fit Sirius.

"Are you going to get dressed?" Remus asked his brother.

"Yes, Dad."

"I see where you get it," Sirius said as he changed his shirt.

"Get what?" Remus tried not to leer at Sirius' bare chest, not with Jason there.

"The prefect thing."

Jason hitched onto the guardrail of the top bunk and dropped backwards. Sirius started. Remus calmly watched his brother hang by his knees from the bar, arms flopping over his head like a fish pulled from a lake, showing pudgy kid-belly.

"Do you know my brother's gay?" Jason asked Sirius.

Sirius' intimidating punk persona -- honed from years of convincing ankle-biter firsties that the potions classroom was in the tower -- dropped, as well as his jaw. Remus merely sighed.

Sirius recovered quickly. "Got a problem with that?"

Jason looked irritated that he hadn't elicited a better reaction from the cool, older boy.

"Boys!" Mr. Lupin called from downstairs. "Be ready to go in ten."

"Help me down," Jason said.

"Why should I?" Remus said blithely. He slipped on his horrid dress shoes that pinched his toes.

"C'mon, my knees hurt."

"Shouldn't have hung from them, then." Sirius unconcernedly tied his shoes.

After a bit more brother-baiting -- while Jason's face turned steadily more tomato-like -- Remus grabbed his brother and flipped him upside-down onto his back, spinning while the boy shrieked and giggled. The two boys were a blur of arms and legs until Jason twisted out of Remus' grasp. They both fell to the floor with a solid thud. Mrs. Lupin shouted something from the kitchen.

Sirius watched the easy roughhousing, faintly remembering an afternoon spent playing circus, flipping Reg like that. Inevitably, it had ended with a broken collarbone for Sirius and a punishment hex for Reg.

"Go get dressed, Jason," Remus said, steering him into the hall by the shoulders.

"I'm going." To Sirius, he said, "You're way cooler than Remus." Jason slammed the door on his way out.

"Smart lad," Sirius said.

"He thinks so." Remus frowned, looking down at his finger trapped in his tie that wouldn't tie.

Sirius seized the moment. He pounced, grabbing Remus in a bear hug and capturing his lips in a proper hello. Remus laughed, surprised, and wrapped his arms around Sirius' neck; Sirius backed him up against the closet door. His hands were in Remus' partially buttoned shirt when Sirius felt nimble fingers at the base of his skull, undoing his spike-studded collar.

"Mmm, thought we were leaving soon," Sirius said.

"We are," Remus said. Sirius felt fingers at his wrist. "You're not wearing bondage gear to church."

"Aw, c'mon!" Sirius attempted to pull his leather-cuffed wrist away, but Remus held on with that surprising strength of his. "Jesus was into bondage," Sirius grumbled.

"Pads, of all the horrifying things you've ever said, that is the latest."

"Me and James saw it on Lily's T.B.," Sirius said petulantly. "With that ponce from the gladiator movie. The whips and the crown of thorns? He was omnipotent -- if he wasn't into it, he could've escaped."

"What did you do, sneak porn magazines into Sunday school as a kid and link them up in your debauched brain?"

"The Blacks worship Satan, love. Bellabitch pops down to blow the Dark Prince yearly. ' Tis the secret of the family fortune."

"Off with the earring, too. You are not going to church looking like you're going to skin our cat and--"

"Seduce their angel into shirtlifting degeneracy?"

Remus put on such an irritated puss that Sirius couldn't help but nip the pouting bottom lip with his teeth. "You told your little brother?" he asked.

"He listened at the door when I told my parents last year."

"Bloody annoying critters, brothers are. You do realize that I'm not comfortable with this happy family bloody Courier and Ives bit, right?"

"You know who Courier and Ives are?" said Remus, who grew up with two prints in the hall every winter.

"Topic?" Sirius beckoned him.

"Sorry." Remus tossed the wrist cuff onto the dresser and twined Sirius' fingers with his. "My family likes who I like. As long as . . . well--"

Before Remus could continue, there was a knock at the closed bedroom door. Mr. Lupin poked his head in; Remus dropped Sirius' hand.

"Almost ready to go, boys? Big turnout on Christmas Eve. Your mother's nervous about getting a seat with your sister."

"Be ready in a minute," Remus said.

"Need help with that tie?"

"I've got it, Dad."

"Okay, sport, just hurry up."

'Sport?' Sirius mouthed.

Mr. Lupin started to close the door, paused, and left it several inches ajar. Remus rolled his eyes while Sirius smirked.

On the drive to the church, Sirius held the seat in a death-grip, half expecting the unenchanted Muggle car to explode. Adding to his nerves was Remus' mother, who repeatedly reminded Mr. Lupin of the proper directions to the church. He turned to ask Remus how long services would be, but the boy was staring out of the car window, gazing at the decorated houses with an expression of childlike pleasure and tranquility. Ignoring the lights himself, Sirius instead watched Remus watch the ropes of glowing rubies and emeralds that seemed to hover unaided in the quiet darkness.

The church was built on Mars, Sirius decided. The floors looked like some kind of mass-produced marble, each perfectly square block as smooth as glass; the lights were a kind of strange, lit tube. Compared to a properly built cathedral, the clean edges inside the building were eerily precise -- because of the aliens, Sirius surmised -- and it was as gauchely bright as a summer day. However, the sanctuary, lit by hundreds of candles, was a bit less unnerving, with its familiar Gothic spires and long rows of benches.

"Pews," Remus corrected.

"Pew what?" Sirius asked.

"You really haven't ever been to church, have you?"

"Me and Reg did a Celtic ritual in the orchard once, when he was five. Didn't turn out the way I planned. I didn't know faeries had a cut-off age for infant abduction."



"There's your sister, and she saved us seats." Mrs. Lupin pointed out a willowy blonde in a prarie dress who was holding a baby on her lap.

Remus explained to Sirius that Pamie was Remus and Jason's half-sister -- "not that it matters" -- and her husband was on assignment for Gringotts. Hugs and kisses were traded around, as well as inquiries about work and school; Sirius got the sense they didn't see Pamie as often as they would like. Remus' mother plucked up her grandson, babbling in baby talk.

Singing people in robes filed in, which Sirius guessed meant that the service was beginning.

Sirius tried to stay awake. He really did. But hot, dry air wafted from the veritable holocaust of candles, and the guy in the funny hat up front kept droning from the longest, dullest passages. Sirius couldn't remember if this was the one where the Muggle god dies or is born; solstice celebrations always blurred together in his mind.

During the sermon, Sirius occupied himself by using the jagged end of a broken tithe pencil to carve one end of his candle into a phallus. He turned to make a lewd gesture at Remus, but his boyfriend was engrossed in a book.

"Are you reading the Bible?" Sirius whispered.

"Do you see any other books in here?"

Remus pointed to the passage he was reading. Sirius raised his eyebrows at the gristly war story.

The interminable sermon ended at last and the congregation stood to sing. Remus, relieved for a chance to stretch his legs, traded the Bible for a hymnal; relieved, that was, until Sirius pulled the hymnal halfway between them.

"What're you doing?" Remus whispered over the warbling church biddies behind them.

"'S'no other ones," Sirius said. He began singing both loudly and tonelessly.

Remus glanced furtively at all the happy hetero couples sharing hymnals -- the husband's hand on the small of the wife's back -- the only other people sharing hymnals.

"I thought you made up lyrics during group sing- alongs," Remus said.

"Do you want me to impress your family or not?"

Remus, at a loss, gave in.

After the service, Remus watched in horror as Sirius carelessly tossed his obscene 'sculpture' into the basket with the rest of the candles. Remus hoped someone discovered it before they handed the candles out again next year.

In the vestibule, Mr. and Mrs. Lupin mingled with friends while Pamie, rocking the dozing baby, chatted with Sirius. Remus was oddly quiet and removed from the conversation.

"So, Sirius, do you have a girlfriend?" Pamie asked.

Sirius shot Remus a piercing, surprised look. Remus wouldn't meet his eyes.

"No, no girlfriend," Sirius choked.

"Really? Handsome bloke like you?" Pamie said. "What about you, Remus?"

Remus was saved from answering by his father rounding them up to leave. As they navigated the snowdrifts blowing across the sidewalk, Mrs. Lupin listed the multitude of tasks still left in preparation for Christmas dinner. Mr. Lupin massaged her shoulders and told her it would be lovely, as always, no matter what. Mrs. Lupin leaned into her husband's hands, smiling at him gratefully, and privately decided to give him one Christmas present a few hours early.

After tea and biscuits and hanging the stockings, bedtime was declared for the boys and Remus and Sirius were finally alone. To have the conversation Remus had been dreading.

"So, scale of one to a million, how ashamed of me are you?" Sirius said with typical subtlety and lack of drama.

"Sirius . . ." Remus fished his pajamas from the tangle of bedclothes on the top bunk.

"No, honestly, I want to know. I'm conducting a survey of nancy boy closet-cases who lie to their boyfriends."

"Sirius, shut up. I'm sorry, okay? My mum and dad know we're dating. My brother knows I'm gay. That's it. No one else," he said firmly.

Without meeting his eyes, Remus took back the shirt Sirius had borrowed. He began to transfigure it longer but narrower across the shoulders.

"Why didn't you tell me?" Sirius sounded genuinely hurt.

Remus' mum knocked on the door, coming in to say goodnight. Mrs. Lupin cupped her son's cheek and kissed his forehead with a tenderness that almost made Sirius ache. This was the first Christmas since -- no. He wouldn't think about that, not when he was trying to be angry.

"Good night, duck."

"Happy Christmas, Mum."

To Sirius' surprise, Mrs. Lupin kissed his forehead as well. "Happy Christmas, Sirius, dear. We're very glad to share the holiday with you."

Sirius mumbled a thanks and a happy Christmas. With a reminder that she expected both bunks to be occupied all night, Mrs. Lupin left -- leaving the door a few inches open. Remus counted his mother's steps down the hall and closed it again.


Remus sighed.

"Sirius, it's Christmas, can't we just--"

"Why did you lie to me?"

"I didn't lie." Before Sirius could insist that he did, Remus said, "I didn't mean to lie. I meant to tell my whole family -- all my cousins and grandparents and everyone -- but . . ." I couldn't go through with it. And what's worse, I knew I wouldn't when I said I would. But you're my boyfriend. You're supposed to spend Christmas with me, not with James.

"So tomorrow, all of your relatives are going to think you and I are just friends?" Sirius said.

"I'm sorry. I couldn't tell them."

"Oh." Sirius rocked back on his heels, crossing his arms. "No, I get it. It's fine. It's not a big deal. I just thought it would be different."

He felt stupid, now, for having imagined the Lupins as some fantasy perfect family who accepted everyone no matter what. He tried to squash the errant thread of longing that had nothing at all to do with the conversation at hand.

"Sirius?" Remus lifted Sirius' shaggy dark fringe out of the boy's eyes, concern evident in his expression.

Sirius ducked his head, forcing a smile. "It doesn't matter. I just thought . . . I just wanted you to have a really cool family."

"They are. They like you." Remus pulled Sirius to him, hugging him tightly and kissing his cheek. "Is this difficult? Being away from home on Christmas for the first time?"

Sirius leaned his head on Remus' shoulder, burying his face in his neck. That was exactly it, and Remus knew it. Sirius didn't answer -- couldn't talk about it -- only felt grateful for this caring boy who loved him. Remus may not say words very often, but Sirius heard them in a thousand other ways. He felt them then, in Remus' arms around his shoulders, his hands gently smoothing Sirius' hair, and in the whispers of encouragement and comfort.

Home didn't matter, Sirius reminded himself. He had the best friends in the world; they were his family now.


Remus lay in bed that night -- on the top bunk with Sirius snoring on the bottom one -- and listened to the sounds of Christmas Eve: his parents shuffling gifts out of hiding places, the clink of silverware as the good china was set out.

He drifted off to the sound of the wind whistling in the bare trees, and wondered if it might snow tomorrow.


Christmas began with a ten-year-old boy pouncing on the lower bunk, the ensuing bellow, and said boy repeating his attack on the upper bunk.

Remus came back from the bathroom to a cold room that smelled faintly of cigarettes, despite Sirius' wand directing the smoke out of the window.

"Happy Christmas, Moony," Sirius said, crossing the room to greet him.

" Ew, I'm not kissing you tasting like that."

"Fine," Sirius growled. Remus smacked his bum as Sirius passed him to go brush his teeth. In the hall, Remus heard Jason claim that he was going to 'tell' that Sirius had been smoking. There was a scuffle of bare feet, a series of thuds, and the trill of reedy laughter.

When Sirius returned, he kissed Remus as he mumbled something against his lips.

"Say 'gain?" Sirius said.

"I said happy Christmas."

Sirius sleepily burrowed his head in Remus' shoulder, blocking the morning light from his eyes. Moony's chest was warm against his. "Could stay here all day," Sirius mumbled.

"Then you wouldn't get your gift."

"Ooh, yes! Present time."

They retrieved their gifts from hiding places, sat cross-legged on the lower bunk, and started gleefully ripping paper.

"Oh, Moony . . ."

Remus paused to glance nervously at Sirius. "Do you like it?" he asked.

"You must have saved forever for this."

"Don't be stupid. Do you like it?"

"Merlin -- yes! I love it! I love Pink Floyd!"

"Good," Remus said, relieved. "I wasn't sure which bands you like, because James always hogs the phonograph with his stuff, and you always say you like his albums, but it's hard to argue with James about music--"

"Moony, lay off the Pepper-Up, mmkay? I love it. Thank you." Sirius leaned forward and kissed him. "What're you waiting for? Open yours."

Inside was a square of leather that, when released from the box, magically unfolded -- and unfolded, and unfolded. Against the laws of physics, but not of Sirius' wild imagination for spellcrafting, the leather unfurled and expanded until it became a messenger bag. The shoulder strap lolled against Remus' foot like the tongue of a dog who wanted to play.

" S'a magic bag," Sirius said. "I charmed it."

"You did?" Remus said, eyes sketchy. "And it won't 'mysteriously' transfer my homework to your bag, or try to convince me that classes were canceled?"

"Moony, would I do that to you?"

Remus didn't answer. He didn't have to.

"Bloody ungrateful, you are, after all that work--"

Remus silenced him with a kiss. "I love it. Thank you. Tell me what you did to it."

Sirius grinned. "It can get as big or as small as you want, so when you're reading that dead guy who goes on for a thousand pages--"

"You'll have to narrow that down a bit."

"The one Peter said you could club a hippogriff with."

"Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire."

"Right, when you're reading some godawful book that no one under a hundred years old should read, you can cram it in with all your schoolbooks, and the bag will expand. And," Sirius added excitedly, "it's intelligent. See?"

He grabbed a handful of papers from Remus' nightstand and stuffed them into the bag. When he opened it again, the pages were flat, uncrumpled, and filed into little flaps. Remus thumbed through them; the assignments were grouped by subject and the notes by topic (the vast majority filed under " Corresp. w/: Black, Sirius, re: [adult content]").

"Thank you, Padfoot."

"Welcome," Sirius said. "I knew you needed it, because of the way your parchment always gets crushed into little fleecy balls. It's self-cleaning, too, for all those quill bits and crumbs and stuff in the bottom -- really, Moony, you're disgusting."

Spontaneously, Remus grabbed Sirius by the back of the neck and kissed him thoroughly.

"What was that for?"

"Careful, Pads. Don't want it getting 'round that you're a doting boyfriend."

"It's just a schoolbag." The twitching corners of Sirius' mouth belied his attempt at a scowl.

Jason reappeared at the door of Remus' room to whinge that Mum wouldn't let anyone near the Christmas tree until everyone was present. Reluctantly, Remus and Sirius went downstairs.

In the living room, Remus and his brother knelt to distribute the cornucopia of brightly colored gifts that spilled from beneath the tree. Sirius hung back awkwardly, unsure of the protocol for hanging around a family moment that didn't include him.

"This one's for Sirius," Remus said.

Sirius took the proffered gift in confusion.

"Remus wasn't very helpful when I asked him what you wanted for Christmas, dear," Mrs. Lupin said. "I hope you don't mind that I decided to err on the side of practicality."

Gobsmacked and as far from his standard 'cool' persona as possible, Sirius stuttered a thanks. He began to blushing apologize for not bringing a gift for them, but Mr. Lupin waved it aside.

"You knew?" Sirius whispered to Remus as he sat cross-legged next to him on the floor. Remus merely smiled.

A little after noon, the doorbell started ringing, and aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents began to file in. The house was soon overfilled and over warm from both the crackling fire and the flowing wine.

Remus -- who, Sirius knew, was uncomfortable in crowds -- seemed to be taking to it well, greeting relative after relative with the same polite smile, repeating a hundred times that he enjoyed school and was doing well.

"Sirius, these are my cousins, Farrah and Bessie," Remus introduced two blonde teenagers.

"Beatrice," the younger of the sisters corrected.

"Like that's so much better," the older one said. They both had American accents that tickled Sirius' ear.

"This is my boyfriend, Henri," Bernice said. "I met him in France, on exchange. Mom said I could visit his family over Christmas. He doesn't speak any English." The girl seemed to be saying this pointedly at her older sister, who hadn't brought a date.

"Joyeux Noel, comment allez vous?" Sirius said, proffering his hand. After three non-English nannies and a gardener whom Sirius suspected his father had gotten deported, Sirius knew enough to get around the continent.

Henri delicately shook Sirius' hand, took in he and Remus boredly, and responded, " Tous les Anglais sont-ils des pedes?"

Sirius' smile became a hard line, caught between being more offended for himself or his country. Beatrice -- who must not have learned much on exchange -- glanced between her boyfriend and Sirius in confusion. Remus watched them nervously, unsure of the cause of Sirius' stony face, but knowing what it portended.

Abruptly, Sirius barked a laugh and clapped Henri on the shoulder -- a little too hard.

"What'd he say?" Remus asked.

"He asked if we were having a good Christmas."

"Oh!" In halting, grammatically atrocious French, Remus said, "Yes, we are."

Both Sirius and Henri swallowed laughter as Sirius pulled Remus away, asking to be lead to those yummy-looking crab puffs.


Sirius discovered that attending someone else's family function was akin to being an anthropologist studying a foreign tribe, watching all the similarities and differences inherent in a family at turns clash and harmonize.

Though at least half of Remus' family was wizarding, Sirius noticed that the family organized itself by Muggle customs. There was the gender separation, for one thing; floating from the kitchen were the cackles that ensued whenever a gaggle of women got together. Meanwhile, Sirius found himself in the living room with Remus and his uncles, avoiding the bitter ale and trying to suss out the rules of a very dull Muggle ball game on TV.

"So what year are you, Sirius?" said a large, mustached man whose name Sirius had lost in the crush of people.

"Seventh," Sirius said.

The mustached man pelted Sirius with questions about his grades, his future plans, his opinion about the new PM ("The what?"), and whether or not he was "working hard at school or hardly working, heh heh heh?"

Sirius bolted the moment dinner was announced. He cut in line behind Remus in the queue for the buffet-style spread in the kitchen. Remus loaded his plate with his favorite holiday goop, but Sirius, he noticed, took whatever Remus took.

"All right there, Pads?" Remus asked.

Sirius waved his wand to carve off an enormous slab of familiar wizarding roast beast.

"Your family likes weird stuff."

The slice of beast obediently hopped onto Sirius' plate. Remus' Muggle relatives, who saw this trick only once a year, watched in amusement (or perhaps nausea) as Sirius ordered the beast to heel and stay away from his potatoes.

The living room was a noisy, crowded den of kids aged five through twenty, eating, spilling crumbs on the rug, and fighting over the television.

"Hey, go back, that was Bowie!" Remus' cousin Farrah said.

The kid at the TV clicked back to Remus and Sirius' only mutual favorite singer -- who was wearing a sweater and respectable hair and singing a Christmas carol with that old guy that Remus' grandparents liked.

"What has our dear Ziggy done to himself?" Sirius said.

"I know!" Farrah said. "He used to be so far out."

Sirius and Farrah began to compare album collections. Their conversation turned to school, prompting a pair of Remus' younger, Muggle cousins to pelt Sirius with questions about Hogwarts. Remus' cousins listened with dropped jaws as Sirius recounted the post-Quidditch championship party he and James had thrown on the tower wall, a hundred feet in the air and perpendicular to the ground.

Remus didn't mind times like this, when he was a mere satellite to Sirius -- at most reflecting his light. This was the Sirius that Remus had initially been attracted to: the casual jokester with the devilish smile, disarmingly handsome in loosened tie and movie star smile. Someone had to be the confidently charming one in the relationship, and it would never be Remus.


After dinner and a sumptuous array of puddings, a pair of little girls recited a nativity play in the living room while their mother looked on adoringly. The tipsy, overstuffed audience mostly dozed like beached whales, save a clutch of uncles straining to hear the television.

"Mummy! I can't remember the next part!" the child holding the Baby Jesus doll cried for the third time.

Sirius hung back at the edge of the room, watching a rubber-jointed Remus on the sofa, his infant nephew sleeping against his chest. Mrs. Lupin, a glass of wine in her hand, sat next to her son as if she was a puppet with its strings finally cut. Remus said something to her that Sirius couldn't hear, and she smiled and patted his knee.

The little Virgin Mary, apparently not cut out for the stage, fled from the room sobbing. The baby in Remus' arms woke and added his voice to the din; Remus, looking slightly panicked, jiggled his nephew, which prompted a blot of yellow spit-up to land on his shoulder.

Sirius decided it was time for a smoke.

Grabbing his coat, he crossed the kitchen -- which looked like the Great Hall after a four-house food fight -- and went outside onto the back stoop. He fumbled in his jacket pocket for the Muggle lighter with the Harley crest that Prongs had given him two days ago.

"Hi, there."

Sirius turned. In the darkness, he could see the glowing, red tip of another cigarette, and the faint outline of the girl holding it.

"Oh, hullo." Sirius hitched onto the rail. Yikes -- cold.

Farrah smiled. "Bit too much family in there?"

"They're a lot to take," Sirius admitted.

"I know," Farrah said. "Love them, but to a limit. Uncle Fred keeps asking me if I'm 'working hard--'"

"'--or hardly working,'" Sirius finished with her. "What is that?"

"He's drunk," Farrah said flatly. "And he's a creep when he isn't drunk."

Sirius nodded, the bitterness in her voice telling of something he thought he recognized.

"My sister keeps sucking face with that boyfriend of hers," Farrah said, irritation growing. "It's disgusting."

"She's just trying to get a rise out of you," Sirius said. "Ignore her."

Farrah tilted her head, considering something; backlit by the string lights, her blonde hair was a golden corona. A mix of soft emotions played on her face that Sirius couldn't identify.

"So, you go to Hogwarts?" she said.


"I'd love to go to school in a big ol' castle," Farrah sighed.

"Where's yours?"


"One of the ones near the bottom, right?"

"Right, with the horrid humidity," Farrah smiled. "We do a lot of voodoo, on account of the school was founded by escaped Haitian slaves."

"That's kind of cool."

"You'd think so, huh?" Farrah said with perfect boredom, and Sirius liked her a little more. "We don't even learn wand magic until ninth grade."

"Ninth? How many grades are there?"

They chatted about school, classes, and the lack of anything to do on a Saturday night on their respective campuses. Farrah and James would be perfect for each other, Sirius thought, as she explained a wicked potion she'd brewed that had lured a dozen zombies to her school's Halloween party.

"They danced like hell unleashed," Farrah laughed.

Sirius wasn't a scholar like Remus; if a subject didn't come easily to him, he couldn't be arsed to make an effort. But one didn't become an animagus without being able to hold an intelligent conversation about magic. Farrah's eyes sparked when he mentioned his flying motorbike.

"You wouldn't want to see it, would you?" Sirius didn't expend any particular effort to make his false modesty sound convincing.

She did. They set out across the frozen ground to Remus' father's shed and alohamora'd the lock. Sirius explained how he'd taken apart the engine and charmed the parts based on his Clean Sweep broom; Farrah listened intently to every word, asking all the right questions. He crouched to point out the carburetor, and Farrah knelt delicately beside him. Sirius couldn't help but notice her skirt hike up, revealing a flash of bare thigh.


Inside the house, Remus was still attempting to quiet his nephew. He glanced around the living room in desperation, but all potentially helpful females were trying to coax his cousin Angie -- the tearful Virgin Mary -- to stop crying in the loo.

Mr. Lupin sat down beside his son, setting aside the book he'd been reading. Remus glanced at the title: Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

"Let me see that kid," Mr. Lupin said.

Remus passed him the baby gratefully. "Do you know what to do?"

"I've done this a few times," his dad smiled. Mr. Lupin lifted his grandson to his shoulder and patted his back soothingly. The baby's cries grew less shrill, but the tiny feet and hands still pumped the air.

"I think he's just tuckered out," Mr. Lupin said.

Remus clasped his hands between his spindly knees, feeling awkward, as he often did in his father's presence, as of late.

"So that Sirius," Mr. Lupin started. Remus looked up, nervous yet hopeful. "He's something else."

Remus smiled. "Yeah, he is."

Mr. Lupin took note of the smile, the same one that crossed his son's face whenever this Sirius person entered the room or conversation. Mr. Lupin thought he remembered wearing that look a few times himself when he first started dating Remus' mother.

"He told Jason that Father Christmas eats children who don't go to bed on Christmas Eve," Mr. Lupin said.

Remus, knowing that he and his dad were Having a Moment, fought desperately to stifle his laughter.

"At least he didn't sneak downstairs in the middle of the night and poke holes in the presents this year," Mr. Lupin said.

Remus nodded. "Sirius is very convincing."

Mr. Lupin gave his son a funny look. He busied himself with the baby for a moment.

"Convinced you, I suppose." Mr. Lupin wasn't flippant or even angry; he sounded almost sad.

"No," Remus said quickly and firmly. "He didn't convince me of anything. He's a really nice guy, honestly." He loves me, Dad. And I love him. I wish I could make you see that.

"I see." Mr. Lupin seemed to tuck Remus' response away, filed and considered, but to be considered again. He straightened a sock that was slipping off the baby's foot. "So he's nice, eh?"

"He is," Remus said, relieved.

"Well, good." Mr. Lupin coughed brusquely. Businesslike, he said, "All right then. I think your Grandma Lupin was asking for someone to fetch her a cup of tea."

"Oh, I'll get it." Remus hopped off the sofa immediately. He paused and turned to his dad, who had turned his full attention to the baby. "Um . . ."

Mr. Lupin looked up at his son. "You're a good kid, Remus."

Nibbling his lip, a funny fluttering in his chest, Remus went into the kitchen to make tea.


The shed grew cold enough that Sirius and Farrah were forced to crunch back across the frozen lawn to the back door.

"Thanks for showing me," Farrah said.

"My pleasure," Sirius said. "Owl me those plans of yours. My friend James and I have done that charm before; between the two of us, we'll figure out why your astral clone keeps fizzing out in the middle of class."


As Sirius turned the doorknob, he felt Farrah's warm fingers on his.

"Do you have a girlfriend, Sirius?"

"No . . ."

"Pity," Farrah said. She leaned forward, head tilted to one side. Sirius tasted her cranberry lip-gloss.

He didn't push her away, not immediately. The kiss was sweet, and so was she; he didn't want to hurt her feelings. It took him a moment to remember whose stoop he stood on and who was waiting for him inside, and to detangle Farrah's fingers from the hair at the back of his neck. Sirius stepped back, lips still slightly puckered.

Farrah smiled that same friendly smile -- so friendly, those Americans.

"Merry Christmas, Sirius."

"Yeah," Sirius said faintly. "You too."

He watched the swish of blonde hair as she opened the door. The din of party noises that escaped as Farrah slipped inside brought him back to reality.

"Whoops," he said quietly. He shook his head like Padfoot flinging water from his fur.

It meant nothing. Just a Christmas kiss. At least Moony didn't see it. Deciding never to think on it again, Sirius went inside.

And nearly ran over Remus. Standing at the kitchen counter, in front of the window, an abandoned cup of tea in front of him. His amber eyes were wide and shell-shocked. Sirius' lips moved, but no sound emerged. His expression reminded Remus of early animagus experiments, when he returned to the dorm to find young Padfoot amidst the cloudy remains of what used to be a pillow.


"I need to take this to my gran."

Remus picked up the teacup and crossed the living room with long, quick strides. Sirius plowed through a drift of torn wrapping paper, knocked someone's cake out of their hands, and nearly crushed a kid's toy spaceship. His eyes only saw the back of the sandy-haired head and the stiffly perfect posture moving away from him. Remus betrayed no signs that he heard the Sirius-disaster in his wake. He reached his grandmother, tucked into an overstuffed armchair. Sirius hovered behind him.

"Here's your tea, Gran."

"Thank you, dear. Now tell me, what year are you in school?"

"Remus, I need to talk to you," Sirius hissed.

Remus' grandmother glanced disdainfully at the boy bouncing rudely behind her grandson.

"Seventh year," Remus said.

Sirius turned, throwing his arms into the air dramatically. Moony was the sort of polite, well-behaved youth whom the elderly adored; he could drag this on forever.

"Is your friend having a fit?" Remus' grandmother said.

"He's just being a pest."

"He will thank you to not speak about him as if he isn't standing behind you," Sirius said in Remus' ear.

"You need a haircut, young man," Remus' grandmother said to Sirius.

"Yes, ma'am, will take that under consideration, ma'am -- Remus, I need to talk to you."

"You're nervous," Remus' grandmother pronounced from on high. "It's unbeseeming. I don't care for the idea of a poor student distracting you from your work, Remus."

"He's not a poor student."

"Remus is better," Sirius said. "Honestly. Not a day goes by that I'm not amazed by his big, squishy brain."

Remus' grandmother sipped her tea, not acknowledging Sirius.

"You make a good cuppa, Remus, thank you. But why don't you go play with your friend?"

Sirius hooted. Remus sighed. Lacking another excuse, Sirius grabbed him by the wrist and pulled him upstairs. Remus allowed himself to be led into his bedroom; it would be fruitless to attempt to thwart Sirius when he had a bone in his mouth.

"Sirius, whatever you're going to say, don't."

"Moony, c'mon! She kissed me. You know it."


"I went out for a smoke and she was already out there. We just talked about school and stuff -- I wasn't even trying to be nice."

"Farrah has a particular attraction to boys who aren't nice," Remus said pointedly. His face was carefully blank and his arms were crossed over his slim frame.

"You believe me, don't you?" Sirius took a step closer and pushed Remus' fringe out of his eyes.

Remus shook Sirius' hand away. "Fine. I believe you."


"Yes." Whatever.

Sirius plucked at one of the fists that Remus had thrust under his arm, attempting to snag Remus playfully towards him. Remus unfolded his arms and let Sirius entwine their fingers, but his body remained stiff.

"I don't want to talk about it anymore," Remus said.

"So we won't." Remus felt lips on his neck. They sent a jolt to the pit of his gut.

Sirius' tongue followed the line of tendon running up Remus' throat -- stubbly by the end of this long day -- and swirled just below Remus' ear. Sirius' hands groped under the hem of Remus' jumper; seeking purchase; his thumbs gently massaged the anger-tight muscles beside Remus' spine.

Sirius felt the other boy's body relax into his arms, one reluctant muscle group at a time. Remus' head tilted to one side, allowing greater access; Sirius silently cheered his success. Remus' hands were on the back of his neck, fingers in the shaggy, dark hair. Sirius' murmur of appreciation was a vibration against the divot between Remus' collarbones. Sirius lifted his head and took stock in Remus' half-lidded eyes, inscrutable save for flashes of desire; he decided to take the risk. Sirius kissed him, gently, waiting for response, be it encouragement or rebuke.

Cursing himself for his spinelessness, Remus wrapped his arms around Sirius' neck, pulled him closer, and deepened the kiss. Tongues flicked against lips; Sirius pushed his knee between Remus', backing the boy into the bureau. He felt against his hip what he'd been hoping for. His finger hooked just inside the button on Remus' trousers and paused, again giving Remus room to change his mind.

He didn't. Remus' breath caught to feel Sirius unzipping his trousers and tugging aside the obstructing layers of cloth. Sirius dropped to his knees. His hands aimlessly stroked Remus' upper thighs, and then the tip of Remus' penis was engulfed in the wet heat of Sirius' mouth. His tongue swirled around the head, licking and sucking in a random, delicious pattern, before settling into a rhythm.

Remus' head tilted back, his awareness narrowing to the perfect waves of pleasure pulsing through his veins yet centered where Sirius' head was bobbing between his hips. Anger and jealousy were insignificant when Sirius was doing that down there -- and oh, it was a spell cast straight at his heart every time -- that beautiful, popular Sirius was on his knees before him, utterly dull Remus --

" Oi, Remus, can you -- Ack!" said a female voice at the door.

Remus felt like a wind tunnel blew through his body and turned his blood to ice. He turned in time to see the door close again.

"I saw nothing!" Pamie called from the hall. Swift footsteps thudded down the stairs.

"Oh, buggering hell," Remus moaned.


The rest of the holiday was spent sleeping late and lazing in front of the television. With Remus' grandparents visiting, the house bustled with too many people and not enough time for Remus and Sirius to be alone. At least, Sirius assumed that that was the reason he and Remus kept near-missing an opportunity for a moment together.

The day before the boys were to return to school, the Wizarding Lupins floo'd to Remus' grandparents' farmhouse for their annual horseback ride. The barn was full of parents casting warming charms on younger children and older cousins leaving in groups sans parents.

Remus hung back, waiting for the rest to leave. Large groups of family members were beginning to grate on his nerves; he was tired of being asked why he looked so glum. Sirius, who had no shame, was chatting up Pamie, who had apparently decided that she hadn't seen or heard anything at all unusual in her brother's room on Christmas.

"You didn't!" Pamie laughed.

"He deserved it," Sirius said. "Blowing up my boyfriend's cauldron. Remus should've gotten full marks for that potion."

"Oh, that's so sweet," Pamie cooed. "Mark would never defend my honor like that."

"Mark is obsessed with you," Remus said. "It's revolting, how he natters on about you."

Pamie smiled at the brotherly teasing. "Well, I like you, Sirius. Remus needs someone who'll pull him out of the library and make him have a little fun."

"Nah, we like to keep Remus in the library -- chained to a chair, whapping a tin cup against the stacks. 'Tis the only way our essays get written."

"I am not a pet homework elf!" Remus snapped.

Sirius looked at him in concern.


The snow fell softly in the silent woods, the only sound the clip-clopping of the horse hooves; the naked trees stood in stark silhouette against the sharply blue sky. A hare flit across the path and dove into a thicket, its fur the exact color of the snow. Sirius watched a family of pheasants shuffle across a wide, white valley.

Sirius took Remus' lead as the boy who was more familiar with the forest guided his horse deep into the woods, abandoning the wide, worn path. The shouts and giggles of the rest of the family grew distant, and the two boys were alone.

"What's that?" Sirius pointed to a lean-to visible through the snow-bent boughs of an evergreen. It was the first thing either of them had said since they'd left the stable.

"Bird blind," Remus answered.

"Want to check it out?" Sirius said, lifting his eyebrows to points.

Leaving their horses warmed by charms under an enormous rhododendron, the boys ventured into the lean-to. Its wide observation windows lined one wall, with a long bench in the middle of the small room. Discarded bottles, remnants of many a summertime teenage tryst, littered the mud-packed ground.

Sirius went about lowering the shutters while Remus gathered some bottles to contain Living Flame charms. The blue fire in the green glass flickered in almost water-like patterns about the walls and ceiling; Remus fancied he must being seeing winter as the Giant Squid did while it swam beneath the frozen Hogwarts lake, the sun glinting through the ice.

The room began to warm, but Sirius had other ideas for keeping them cozy. He straddled the bench beside Remus and wrapped his arms around him, nudging his scarf aside to kiss the back of his neck.

Remus stiffened and pulled away. Sirius poked him in the ribs, going for a grin. Instead, Remus twisted away from Sirius' persistent finger.

"Are you going to tell me what's bugging you?" Sirius said, annoyed.

"You, at the moment."

"No, it's something else."



"We should just leave," Remus said. Whatever he had thought would happen in the bird blind, it wasn't endearing Sirius to him in any way. He was cold, short tempered, and just wanted to go back to school where things would return to normal. As normal as possible with Sirius, anyway.

"Are you still peeved about Christmas?"

Sirius knew what Remus' silence meant. He flung one leg over the bench with an irritated noise and began pacing with pent-up energy.

"Moony, it was nothing," Sirius said earnestly.

"But you liked it," Remus said quietly, looking at his hands.

"For the hundredth time, she kissed me. She accosted me! I'm the victim here!"

"You. Liked. It."

"Why are you persisting this?"

Remus shrugged. He really didn't know. Some masochistic streak, perhaps; something to do with his utter inability to ever to pick the easiest path.

"Fine," Sirius said, "if you want to keep picking at this, then fine. I did. It was a nice kiss, Remus. Wouldn't you like it if some sexy girl kissed you?"

Remus' head snapped up at Sirius in shock. "Did it somehow escape your notice, despite the many times your cock has been in my arse, that I'm gay?"

"You're so Muggle sometimes, Remus."

"Get bent."

"Truth hurts."

Remus looked down at the icy mud floor. Thoughts that he'd been ignoring for some time now plagued his mind, coalescing into a conclusion that, until that moment, he'd avoided reaching.

"If you want -- I mean, if you don't think this is working. . . ." Remus said.


"If you want to be with other people."

"I don't."

"Then it's fine." Remus looked up, meeting Sirius' eyes.

The dark-haired boy looked stricken, while the other looked merely resigned. This was how things happened in Remus' world. Being a werewolf would have been enough difficulty for one life; but adding to that being gay, part-Muggle, and befriending three boys who were utterly different from himself, and now graduation was looming. . . . Remus had long since accepted that his life would be a series of settling for the second best and learning to cope with the worst.

"But not this," Remus said, almost to himself.

Sirius sat beside him on the bench and said with tenderness that Remus didn't want to hear, because it melted his heart: "Moony, what're you on about?"

"It's okay. It's not your fault. It was nice while it lasted--"

"I like you."

"You liked that kiss."

"Remus, this is stupid. Just because a person thinks girls are nice doesn't mean they can't think the same of boys. It's fine if you want to call yourself gay, but I don't know the word for me, and I don't care. It really steams me that you do."

"It's not just that."

"Then what is it?" Sirius said, growing agitated again.

How could Remus tell him? He and Sirius were so different. . . .

"Are you going to get a better apartment after graduation?" Remus asked.

Sirius blinked. "I dunno. What's that -- ?"

"Or maybe you and James will want to room together during auror training."

"We haven't talked about it." But James had asked Sirius that exact question, and Sirius had dodged it.

"Don't you get it?" Remus said. "We're moving in different directions. In five months, your life won't be about pranks and parties and living with your best mates. We're growing up."

Sirius swallowed as if this truth had left a bad taste in his mouth. "Remus, five minutes ago you were whinging that I might not like you. Now you sound like you're breaking up with me."

Remus shrugged.

"Why?" Sirius shouted his anger and frustration. "This is bloody ridiculous! You don't start dating one of your best friends and then call it off because of some paranoia about the future."

Remus looked down at the chapped hands in his lap. Despite the mask of faux armor on his face, he secretly longed for the hidden thoughts of Sirius Black, the words that would make everything okay.

"I'm sick of this, Remus, I'm sick of you waiting for me to turn back into the same kid who pantsed Snape and fucked up with the Willow."

Remus' head snapped up, shock and anger plain on his face. Sternly he said, "This isn't about that."

"Then what's it about? Will you level with me? If you're breaking up with me, you owe me a real reason."

"It wouldn't be fair," Remus said.

"What wouldn't?"

"Me. Your normal life. All of it," Remus flustered. "A year from now, do you really think a werewolf boyfriend with some lousy job will have any place in your life?"

Sirius sat back, stunned. When he spoke, his eyes crackled with energy and his voice was a low rumble. "You must think really low of me if you don't think I would make room for you -- the same as I've always done," he said over Remus' protest. "You tear yourself up during the change, so we become animagi. You make prefect, so we find a way to have fun without getting you in trouble. You--"

"You're a saint, Black, for putting up with such a burden."

Sirius let out a frustrated growl. "I didn't do all that because I had to! Me and James and Peter would do anything for you because -- it wasn't even about wanting to do it, or making a decision to it -- it was just the right thing to do!"

Remus' brow furrowed, curious, yet a trace of suspicion remained.

"C'mon, Moony, you know me -- I don't make an effort for anything in my life that doesn't fit naturally. I want you because without you, everything in my life would be wonky and wrong."

Remus nibbled his lip, tempted to let himself believe that Sirius was sincere, not just trying to get his way. . . .

"You're not the only one who's got stuff that sucks to deal with, you know," Sirius said. "I know the fulls are hell, but that's once a month and you've got the perfect family who actually loves you. I have to go to school with my evil family and I couldn't do it -- none of it -- unless you --" Sirius' rant took an abrupt elbow-turn. "There's a fucking war on and my dad threw me out because I'm not on his side and I'm terrified to graduate and have to be a grownup and I couldn't do it without you. Nothing makes sense unless you're with me."

Remus' lips parted for form an O. While stream-of-consciousness rants were the norm from Sirius, he never admitted he was afraid of anything, or that passing Regulus or his cousins in the corridors every day bothered him on any deep level.

"Sirius . . ."

"Moony, if you don't move in with me after graduation, I swear to Merlin I'll hunt you down, conk you over the head with a Beater's bat, and drag you to my flat by your fur."

Remus laughed, loud and long, the tension in his chest melting.

"What a fucking romantic you are, Pads."

Sirius grinned unsurely and cuffed the back of Remus' neck, tweaking his hair.

"I love you," Sirius said.

"I love you, too," Remus said sheepishly. "I'm sorry."

"You'll be fine after graduation, honestly. You're brilliant and wonderful and you shouldn't want to work with anyone stupid enough not to hire you."

Remus smiled, blushing. Sirius ducked under Remus' down-turned head to sneak a kiss.

"What makes you think I'd want to live with you?" Remus said lightly, thumbs drawing circles on Sirius' denim-clad thighs.

Sirius nipped at an earlobe. "Why wouldn't you?"

"You're a terrible slob."

"You keep house like a girl."

"I've no idea what kind of job I want. I may have to move away." Remus' tone was deceptively level as Sirius started in on his neck.

"I'll go with you."

"You'll make more money as an auror." Remus' voice was wavering.

"You can let me blow you for your half of the rent."

"I don't think that's how prostitution works."


Remus grabbed Sirius by the jacket and pulled him close for a head-buzzing, heart-fluttering, knee-weakening snog. When they parted, Sirius looked dazed and suggestible.

"Tomorrow, Sirius. We'll talk about it tomorrow."

There weren't words after that, only kisses and caresses, fingers stroking patterns on flame-warmed skin, and a mutual sentiment that didn't need to be voiced in order to be heard. Afterwards, the little lean-to in the frozen Welsh wood was steamy with spent passion and the wafting heat of the magical flames. Remus snuggled into Sirius' chest, warm and safe and loved. He murmured something half-muffled by the layers of jumpers and cloaks.

"Hmm?" Sirius said muzzily.

"I said , do you believe in parallel universes?"

Sirius shifted on the charm-softened ground. "Y'know, love, it's always something completely unique with you. Some men are philosophical drunks, but you don't drink. Instead you're a philosophical post-orgasmic."

"I just mean -- what if it's all about choices? Maybe Divination is all wet because the point isn't to see the distant future, it's knowing what's going on at the immediate, you know, moment. Like the way Dumbledore always predicts what's going to happen, but even he says that crystal balls are for confused Muggles looking for quick answers. Maybe he's bloody omnipotent because he knows all the outcomes of all the choices."

"Moony, my dearest, my love, my schnoogly wuzzum," Sirius said in dry monotone, "I promise I'll take part in this conversation some time when my blood isn't still pooled in my lowers."

Remus laid his cheek against Sirius' wool-covered chest, feeling a little stupid yet unable to ignore the little tug in the back of his head, the same sensation he felt when he knew, on page one, that a two-page Arithmancy equation was going to end up in the black. And it scared him a little, all the possibilities and all the outcomes that were yawning in front of he and his friends -- all five of them -- as they toed the precipice of adulthood. But it wasn't as scary as not knowing.

It grew dark faster nowadays, so the boys couldn't put off gathering their things, extinguishing the bottled flame, and taking the horses home. They met up with a few straggling family members whose horses wore bells that jingled merrily in the frosty air.

"We'll be all right," Remus said when the rest were out of earshot. "For always, this time -- just for you. Merry Christmas."

Author's Note:

Sirius says "Merry Christmas, how are you?" And the French punk answers, "Are all Englishmen queer?"

With love and thanks to my cutthroat beta, Sean, who totally went above and beyond and read this five bloody times!

Aura's fic.

Enjoyed the fic? Let the author know!