Author: Cobalt Violet
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 #18: For every day in December, one of the pair dreams of the other, and focuses on one reason he loves him each day. Maybe it's entirely one-sided, until the dreamer wakes up Christmas Morn to find the very confused/lost one waiting outside without a clue why he's there. Remus receives an early present that makes him redefine his relationship with Sirius.
Author Notes: None Given.
Remus Lupin stared at the gold chain, which was flashing in the flickering light of the fire. Cupped in his hands, it was like a cool trickle of water as he shifted it from one palm to the other, frowning as he did so.
It had arrived by owl not five minutes ago, wrapped in a small, dirty box and tied with a piece of grubby string. There had been no message – no clue as to who the sender was. The only piece of information he had was a spare bit of parchment on which, in spidery handwriting, someone had scrawled a note. The quill they had used was evidently old, a conclusion Remus had reached thanks to the ample evidence of splatters of ink dotted around the strange words.
“To see the world through a grain of sand,” he announced to the empty room at large, “and heaven in a wild flower, to hold infinity in the palm of your hand, and eternity in an hour.” He blinked and shrugged. “Blake. Not at all useful.” Looking back down at the chain, his breath caught in his throat as he watched the rich glitter of it against his pale skin. “Expensive,” he murmured, winding it through and around his fingers, “but who sent you?” Picking up the scrap of parchment with his free hand, he stared at Blake’s words again, a thought half formed at the back of his mind.
The words were familiar – he’d heard them before, but where he couldn’t say.
“…Eternity in the palm of – oh, this is ridiculous!” Crumpling the parchment into a ball, Remus tossed it to one side in an uncharacteristically violent movement. Stuffing the chain in his pocket, he stood up and walked into the kitchen, determined to make some tea. ‘Someone’s playing jokes,’ he reasoned, turning on the tap and filling the kettle. ‘Or maybe the parcel got sent to the wrong address.’
Dropping a teabag into a chipped mug, he frowned blankly out of the window. “Not that I care,” he said out loud. “If it is a joke, it’s a pretty stupid one. And if it’s been sent to the wrong address – well, I can’t send it back now. The owl’s gone.”
The thick silence of the cottage was his only answer – the stillness of the moment broken only by the sound of branches tapping on the kitchen window as he folded his arms, waiting for the tea to steep.
‘I wonder where James is,’ he wondered suddenly, his thoughts changing swiftly from irritated to amused. ‘He was bemoaning the fact that he had to visit Lily’s parents; he’ll probably be there right about now.’ This thought was closely followed by a contemplation of Peter’s whereabouts, before Remus’s mind eventually alighted, inevitably, upon the topic of Sirius – something he wished to avoid.
Thinking of Sirius made him feel guilty, because if he thought of Sirius, he thought about how Sirius, too, was probably sitting in his flat, on his own. This led on to the idea that Remus could visit him, which in turn pushed the idea into his head that if he did, Sirius would take him out drinking down the local pub and then, as usual, demand to know which of the barmaids he found the most attractive.
Another topic Remus wasn’t particularly keen on.
Barmaids would eventually lead to another heart to heart with his friend in which Sirius would remark upon things innocently and Remus would desperately try not to place too many double entendres into his own sentences. Eventually they would both become so drunk that Remus would wake up the next day with a severe hangover on the floor of Sirius’s grotty little flat.
All in all, Remus decided as he tipped some milk into the mug and fished the teabag out, he was better off just spending a quiet evening alone with Chaucer, and to hell with Sirius, drinking, barmaids and hangovers. Picking up his cup of tea, he wandered back into the small living room, acquiring his old and battered cop of The Canterbury Tales along the way, before curling up in the worn red armchair.
Sirius, and his isolation, would just have to wait.
“To see the world through a grain of sand…” a voice murmured in his ear.
Remus jumped and opened his eyes, expecting to see the pale walls of his own bedroom. Instead, much to his astonishment, all that met his gaze was an endless field of white. Snow stretched out under his feet on all directions, merging with the grey sky on the horizon and a cold breeze brushed through his hair, whipping it against his cheeks, which were becoming steadily colder by the second.
The air was frozen, and as he breathed out, he could see small clouds of steam rising in front of his face. He shivered and rubbed his arms, trying to warm them until something soft and thick landed about his shoulders.
“Here,” the voice remarked, “you look cold.”
“As I should be!” Remus snapped. “I’m not used to waking up in the middle of bloody Antarctica!”
“You’re not awake.” The voice sounded amused.
Remus frowned. “Then if this is a dream it’s the most realistic I’ve ever had,” he remarked acidly, but pulled the coat around himself anyway. “Normally my imaginings are half-baked things that involve a good deal more blood than there appears to be here.”
“Are you always this rude in your dreams?”
“Of course. It’s only my subconscious that I’m being rude to.”
“Hm, perhaps.” The voice sounded noncommittal and Remus had to fight down the irrational urge to hiss in annoyance at the deliberate blandness. “Alright then. Let’s say I’m your subconscious. As your subconscious, I’m here to tell you several things, alright?”
“Well hurry up, my feet are going numb.” Remus’ teeth were beginning to chatter, too, but he didn’t point that out.
“As much as this frozen wasteland is a place of beauty,” the voice remarked, “I can see you don’t appreciate it. Shall we take this somewhere…warmer?”
Before Remus could answer, there was a flash of light followed by a soft ‘thump’ as he landed unceremoniously on a thick, red carpet.
A suspiciously familiar thick red carpet.
“Oy, Remus. You ok mate?” A pair of concerned grey eyes presented themselves in front of his confused gaze and Sirius bit his lip, tucking a strand of inky hair behind his ear as he crouched down next to the shocked werewolf. “You blacked out there for a second.” He pursed his lips, thoughtfully. “I knew too much studying was bad for you. Come on, we’re going to see Madame Pomphrey – get you sorted out.”
“S-Sirius?” Remus blinked, stunned. “What’s going – what am I – why am I here?”
“Er.” Sirius opened his mouth, closed it again and remained crouching on the floor as his friend stood up abruptly. “You’re at Hogwarts, Remus. Hogwarts? You remember Hogwarts? You know why you’re at Hogwarts? Look, maybe you hit your head when you fell over, or…”
“No, why am I here?” Remus’s voice took on a shrill edge as Sirius remained, staring up at him from under thick dark lashes.
“Is this one of those ‘what’s the point of life anymore’ questions?” the animagus enquired dubiously. “Because I’m not good with psychiatry. Merlin knows my own childhood has probably left me completely fucked up.” He spoke matter-of-factly, but Remus heard the note of pain in his voice and the brief flicker of disgust in his eyes.
“Oh. No, no it’s nothing like that.” Remus forced himself to laugh, weakly. “It’s just…I could have sworn I was dreaming and, er, normally you’re fairly agreeable in my dreams, not…er, arguing…”
“Right,” Sirius said dubiously, finally standing up and folding his arms. “Look, maybe it would be best if we went to see Pomphrey…” He side stepped around Remus and pushed open the portrait door. “Just in case,” he added, shooting Remus a worried glance. “Don’t want you blacking out again or anything, do we? I mean, we need you to do our homework for us!”
“Ha, ha, Padfoot. I love the concern you’re showing for me – or to be more specific – my homework skills.” But Remus was smiling as he said it. “I just love your friendly concern.”
“Ah, there. You see?” The voice was back again. “Friendly concern. A good characteristic to have, but did you ever stop to think that it was more than friendly concern?”
“What?” Remus asked, puzzled.
“What?” Sirius echoed, looking at him with a slight frown. “I didn’t say anything.”
“You always have such a narrow view of things, Remus. You believe that what you think is the only way the world could ever be – you never stop to consider other possibilities, do you? Maybe someone does like you, really. Maybe that piece of homework didn’t need so much attention and care, just as your friends said. So many things, such a singular perspective you take on all of it. You really do ‘see the world through a grain of sand’, if you take the words as a good metaphor in this instance.”
“What are you talking about?” Remus demanded, more confused than irritated.
“I didn’t say anything!” Sirius looked genuinely panicked now. “Honestly, Remus, you are not ok. You are coming with me right now and we are going to the hospital wing.”
“I’m not talking to you!” Remus snapped, then jumped as the voice spoke again.
“Be nice,” it remonstrated, “he’s just worried for you.”
And Remus woke with a start, as his book fell to the floor with a loud thump.
Groaning, he rubbed a hand across his eyes, then raked his air back from his face, wincing at the slight sheen of sweat, caused from sitting in front of the fire for too long. Staring down at the spread pages of the book, which had landed at his feet, he blinked and tried to dispel the slight headache, which throbbed in his temples. From outside there came the sound of his neighbours shouting cheerfully to one another across the garden fence, and the occasional scrape of a spade as they dug over their flower beds.
The fire in the grate popped and crackled, and as Remus watched it, a shower of sparks fell onto the hearth, glowing a dull, angry red before dying out. Shrugging, he stuck his hand in his pocket, in search of a tissue with which to wipe up the ashes. He flinched, however, as his fingertips struck cool metal and he pulled out the chain, which he had pocketed and forgotten.
As he stared at it, he noticed that one of the links had turned a deep grey – not exactly silver, but something remarkably close to it. The colour reminded him of something – what, he couldn’t say – and as he watched, the next link flickered before it, too, changed colour.
Slightly disturbed, he dropped the chain on the coffee table and leant down to pick up his book. Resolving to take the necklace down to the post office the following morning, he retrieved The Canterbury Tales and was just about to put it back on the shelf when a knock sounded at the front door.
Peering out of the window, he was surprised to see a tall, dark haired figure huddled on the front step, a long red scarf wrapped around its pale throat. The figure was gesturing amiably as it spoke to Remus’s neighbours, who were leaning against the fence, chatting. Rolling his eyes, Remus opened the door and tugged on the scarf, an obvious target against the dark folds of the black cloak.
“Remus!” Sirius’s voice was slightly hoarse, but his grin was genuinely cheerful. Waving to the neighbours – Mr and Mrs Grey, both old and slightly deaf – he allowed himself to be pulled through into the warm confines of his friend’s cottage.
“What happened to your voice?” Remus asked over his shoulder, as he led the way through to the kitchen.
“What? Oh, cold. Nothing serious, I’m sure I’ll get over it in a couple of days.” Sirius unhooked his scarf from around his neck and tossed it, and his cloak, onto the back of a wooden chair, which rested beside the kitchen table. “Lily did offer to make me some Pepper-Up Potion, but I declined. No point in me wasting her time when it’s nothing serious.” He sniffed and grabbed the box of tissues Remus had resting on the counter.
“That was rather silly wasn’t it, Pads? Surely it wouldn’t take Lily that long to make one – and it’s better than feeling rotten for Christmas.”
“Oh, Remus, Christmas is ages away.” Sirius blew his nose and stuffed the tissue in the bin. “But that is why I wanted to talk to you. Want to spend Christmas day together? I mean,” he added hurriedly as Remus raised an eyebrow, “you don’t have any family, neither…neither do I. James will be busy with Lily and the in-laws, so I thought us two fine old bachelors could spend the day with each other. I’ll even cook, if you want,” he added virtuously, knowing full well that Remus would die before he actually deigned to eat anything Sirius had had a hand in creating.
“No, that’s fine, Sirius,” Remus said hastily. “I’ll cook. Tell you what, you come over for dinner here, alright? That way everything will be ready for you when you arrive.” Without you touching it went unsaid.
Sirius grinned then sniffed again, rubbing the back of his hand across his nose.
“That’s disgusting!” Remus pulled a face and handed his friend another tissue. “Blow,” he ordered.
Sirius grinned. “Yes, mother.”
“James! I can’t believe you volunteered us for this!” Sirius’s voice was full of disgust as Remus opened his eyes.
He was not, as he had anticipated, in his bedroom. Nor was he in the Gryffindor common room. Instead, thick, lush vegetation grew around him on all sides. Steam rose from the rich, damp earth and the heat of the place was so oppressive that, for a moment, Remus struggled for breath. As he drew in a lungful of air slowly, he turned his head and noticed, to his surprise, that Sirius and James were standing in a small clearing.
Both of his friends were clad in shorts and thin shirts – muggle clothing, Remus noted immediately – which gave rise to the idea that it was, perhaps, James who had packed the clothes as opposed to Sirius, the bespectacled boy being the more practical of the two. Sirius’s long hair was viciously scraped back into a ponytail, but strands of it had escaped to stick to his sweaty skin. James, on the other hand, looked relatively cool.
“Calm down, will you?” James paused to slice away a dense patch of foliage with a spell. “Dumbledore needed volunteers, you and I were free and so I said we’d go.”
“But this isn’t exactly what I had in mind when I said I wanted to travel!” Sirius whined, pausing to swipe at a strand of hair that was falling into his eyes. “Hacking my way through some godforsaken jungle to talk to some bloody pygmies is not my idea of fun!”
“It needed doing!” James snapped, stomping on a vine that was trying to curl around his foot. “Now get over here and help me.”
“Fine, fine.” Sirius sighed and shuffled reluctantly over.
As Remus watched his two friends, the voice that had haunted his previous dream spoke up.
“This happened only three weeks ago.”
“I know, Sirius told me all about it when he got back.” Remus winced as the vine that had been trying to grab James turned on Sirius, lashing out at his unprotected leg and drawing blood. The animagus’ enraged howl echoed through the steamy air, startling a flock of brightly coloured birds from their roosts.
“FUCKING PLANT! I’LL SHOW YOU, YOU LITTLE BASTARD!”
“Oh for heaven’s sake.” James rolled his eyes and sliced the vine in half, before Sirius could trample on it with his incredibly stylish brown leather hiking boots.
“Sirius may have told you about this trip,” the voice continued, as though no interruption had occurred. “But did he tell you about what happened after this?”
“After what?” Remus asked, puzzled.
“After this…vine incident. Something happened. Something that would interest you, I’m sure.”
“No, he told me about meeting the pygmies.”
“Ah,” the voice sounded satisfied. “Just watch, then.”
“Stop complaining,” James was saying as he peered at Sirius’s leg. “It’s only a small scratch.”
“It hurts,” Sirius replied, sulkily. “And if it hadn’t been for me distracting it, that vine would have trussed you up like a turkey by now. You should be grateful…” he trailed off and peered at the foliage directly behind James. “Hey, Prongs?”
“Hmmm?” James raised an eyebrow, as he pointed his wand at Sirius’s leg and muttered a small healing charm.
“Was that flower there a minute ago?”
“Flower?” James turned and nearly jumped back at the sight of a large, red flower poking out from behind dark, shining leaves. “What the –?” He blinked, shoving his glasses up his nose as they slipped down. “I don’t think it was.”
“Strange,” Sirius murmured, reaching out to pluck it from its resting place. “Look!” he exclaimed a moment later in delight, “it’s got prickles!”
“I don’t think that’s a cause for celebration,” James said dubiously. “They could be poisonous. Don’t touch it!” he added, as Sirius ran a finger curiously over the deep red petals. “I don’t want to have to zap you back to hospital and explain to Dumbledore exactly why the mission was aborted.”
“It reminds me of something,” Sirius said, ignoring James as he frowned at the flower in his hand.
“Yeah, a dangerous prickly plant.” James peered closer, and his eyes widened. “I think it’s a blood rose,” he added, almost to himself as Sirius continued to pay him no heed. “‘Formed from the blood of innocents. >From blood given in self-sacrifice.’ Are you even listening to me?” he added, realising Sirius wasn’t even looking at him as his friend’s grey eyes remained fixed on the flower.
“I know what it reminds me of!” Sirius exclaimed triumphantly, a moment later.
James snorted in disgust. “Oh, what?”
“Remus?” James’s eyes widened. “Well that certainly came out of nowhere, Padfoot.”
“Look, it’s all prickly on the outside, but delicate on the inside.”
“…I’ll let you tell Remus you called him delicate, shall I?”
“Prongs! You know what I mean!” Sirius cried, exasperated.
“Yes, I do. And I think you’re absolutely hopeless, Black. For God’s sake man, pull yourself together. It’s a plant; it slurps up water from the ground and converts carbon dioxide into oxygen. End of story.”
“No, really, look at it!” Sirius insisted, just as the voice spoke to Remus again.
“Hopeless romantic, isn’t he?”
“Who, Sirius?” Remus shook his head, confused. “There’s nothing romantic about what he just said…”
“Oh no?” The voice was amused. “Remember what I told you last time about seeing things only through a very narrow, Remus-shaped funnel? Well.” If voices could shrug, this one would have. “He just compared you to a flower. I’d say that’s pretty romantic.”
“He’s Sirius, he’s always making outrageous statements like that.” Remus bent his head, a small smile playing about his lips. “It’s what he does.”
“Hmm. ‘Heaven in a wild flower’ mean anything to you?” the voice enquired mischievously. “He sees you in that wild flower. Therefore, to him, you must be heaven.”
“I hardly think Sirius is governed by the principles of Blake’s poem!” Remus snapped. “I think you’re reading a little too much into the situation, there. That sort of thing could be applied to any situation, really.”
“You really think so?” The voice laughed. “If you insist, stubborn one.”
For the next couple of days, the nagging feeling that All Was Not Right in his normally ordered world, plagued Remus.
Each night he dreamt, and whilst no more Blake seemed to be forthcoming from the mysterious voice, he was irritated to find that Sirius featured prominently. What was worse was the way each time he dreamt, it was not only about Sirius, but about a specific trait that the dark haired boy possessed as well. Despite Remus’s fervent wishes to learn no more about Sirius’s personality, the characteristics had gone far beyond Sirius’s concern for his friends and his idealistic romanticism. Things such as loyalty, courage and, surprisingly, Sirius’s infamous temper had all been included. Sometimes Sirius spoke directly to him in the dreams, including him in scenes that were sometimes familiar, sometimes not, and other times the voice alone spoke to Remus as he watched from a distance – a third party.
Perhaps even stranger than the dreams was the way that each time Remus woke, it was to discover that another link in the gold chain had turned grey. Not only this, but each time he considered taking the necklace down to the post office and turning it in as missing post, it somehow slipped his mind every time he went into the village.
With Christmas fast approaching, and the prospect of having to spend the day alone with Sirius, Remus decided it was high time he sought advice about the whole situation.
Which was why, two days before Christmas, he found himself sitting in the comfortable Potter living room, telling James about his problem.
His friend listened, thoughtfully, his lips pursed as he frowned. When Remus had finished, he rose and looked out of the window, turning his back on Remus as he stared out across the front garden.
“I think I know what it is,” he said at length. “But I’m not entirely sure. Give me a couple of days to check, would you Moony? When I’m certain, I might be able to tell you what it is, and what’s causing it.” He coughed, his shoulders shaking for a moment. “I’m sure if it’s a curse or a spell of some kind it can be easily cured.” Turning around, he shot Remus a comforting smile. “Still, nothing bad has come of it, right?”
Remus had to agree that this was so, but that with two days left to Christmas, at this rate he didn’t think he’d be able to face Sirius when he came over.
“Nonsense,” James said briskly, shooing him out of the living room and towards the front door. “Even if you told Sirius about all this, I’m sure he wouldn’t mind.”
“Where is he now, anyway?” Remus asked as he pulled on his cloak.
“Oh…mission,” James said vaguely. “Dumbledore sent him out, under the condition, of course, that he was back for Christmas day.” He grinned. “Don’t worry, Moony. I’m sure he wouldn’t miss Christmas dinner at your house for the world.”
As the front door shut behind Remus, he heard something that sounded suspiciously like laughter, abruptly cut off.
“Sirius, where are we going?” Remus asked as he was tugged up the narrow spiral staircase of the Astronomy tower.
“You’ll see.” Sirius didn’t even look at him, too intent on reaching his destination.
Flinging open the thick oak door that led to the outside platform at the top of the tower, Sirius bundled Remus through and slammed it behind them. Peering up at the sky he grinned in satisfaction; then turned to his bemused friend.
“I wanted to give you your birthday present.”
“Why at the top of a tower, Padfoot?” Remus sighed and folded his arms. “It’s freezing out here,” he added for good measure.
Sirius shrugged, looking unrepentant, and grabbed Remus again, spinning him around so that he was looking out over Hogwarts’ grounds. “Look up,” he murmured, voice quiet even in the stillness of the night air. “Look up at the sky – it’s clear this evening, isn’t it?” He laughed, gently, as Remus shot him a confused expression over one shoulder. “Reach up to the stars with your hand, Remus.”
“What?” Remus blinked, quite sure Sirius had lost his mind.
“Hold out your hand.” Not waiting for a reply, Sirius’s palm slid down the length of Remus’s arm, before his long fingers closed over Remus’s wrist, tugging his hand upwards to shoulder height. “Now spread your fingers…that’s right. See? You can see the stars through them.”
“I don’t see what this has to do with anything.”
“Stars. They represent infinity in so many pieces of literature.” There was a subtle shift from behind Remus, then Sirius’s voice returned. “Now clench your fist – clench it tightly! You’ve got to catch the stars – catch infinity!”
“What?” Remus laughed, but obeyed. As he did so, he felt the hard curve of something settle into his palm and he jumped in surprise, nearly falling over in astonishment. Behind him, Sirius chuckled and he heard the laughter echoed by James and Peter, who had emerged from the shadows to stand behind him as well.
“Happy birthday, Moony!” James crowed, folding his arms and nudging Peter as Remus stared at the small brooch in his hand. “Do you like your present?”
“Sirius chose it,” Peter added, “but we all paid for it.”
”You…you lot…” Remus felt his throat tighten as he stared at the small, silver crescent moon nestled in his palm. Down one side, the letters ‘MWPP’ had been engraved and in the top point a small diamond, hardly noticeable, had been set. “How is it…how can I…”
Sirius, who clearly understood the half formed sentences, leant over and tapped the brooch. “Platinum,” he explained. “Not actual silver. Do you like the star?” he added, quietly, his words audible to Remus alone. “I added it. Thought it was appropriate.”
“Well, because, you know…stars and infinity and all that. I thought it was fairly appropriate – Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs forever.” Sirius smiled, but his gaze slid away from Remus’s, almost as though he was uncomfortable. He coughed and shifted, turning away to look at James. “Did you bring that Butterbeer, Potter?”
“I’m sorry mate, but nothing’s come up so far.” James’s expression was apologetic, and Remus knew that if he’d had a body to speak of, his hands would have been spread in a conciliatory gesture. “Besides, it’s only been a day – I said it would take a couple, at least, to find anything out.”
“Yes, but the dreams are still happening!” Remus ran a hand through his hair in exasperation then took the chain out of his pocket. “And look! Nearly all the links have turned grey! There’s only one gold one left! What will happen when the whole thing’s transformed, hmm? What if it activates a curse or something?”
“Remus, I hardly think there’s a curse on that thing,” James said soothingly, blinking as the wood smoke of the fire stung his eyes. “You’re being a little paranoid. Besides, it was obviously meant to come to you, since you keep dreaming about all of us, don’t you? I mean,” he continued as Remus opened his mouth to point out that he was dreaming, to be more precise, of Sirius, “what happened in last night’s dream?”
“Er, it was my eighteenth birthday. The last one at Hogwarts, where you all gave me the brooch.”
“Ah, which showed innovation, intelligence and imagination from the Marauders when they chose your present.” James paused for a moment, smiling fondly. “I never did work out where Sirius found that –”
“Alright, alright, the chain,” James said hastily as Remus folded his arms, glaring. “Look, it can’t be something sinister since everything you’ve dreamed is nice, right? Maybe it was just an early Christmas present.”
“Very early. It arrived at the beginning of December!”
James blinked and Remus could tell he was shrugging from the way his head bobbed in the fire. “Well, look, I’m going to be busy for the next couple of days – it’s Christmas Eve, after all – but once all these festivities are over, I’ll enquire at work as to whether anyone’s ever heard of magical objects that send you pleasant dreams about your friends.” He grinned. “One second, Lily wants me.” His head vanished, then reappeared a moment later. “She wants to know whether you and Padfoot would like to come over tomorrow evening for tea – she knows how difficult Sirius is to entertain when there’s only one of you.”
“Thanks,” Remus said gratefully. “We’ll be over at about five. That’ll give Padfoot enough time to have eaten dinner, had a nap and driven me to distraction. Giving him someone else to torture – er, ‘entertain’ will let me have a little rest.”
James laughed. “Alright. And I’ll have a quick nose in the library to see if I can find anything about that mysterious necklace of yours, ok?”
“Not a problem, mate.”
James’s head vanished from the fire, and Remus sat back on his heels, frowning. Glancing dubiously at the chain still wrapped around his fingers, he stood up and ambled into the kitchen, determined that, for the rest of the day at least, he would think about it no more. He would concentrate instead, he resolved, on wrapping presents, decorating the Christmas tree and peeling the potatoes ready for tomorrow.
He wouldn’t think about how Sirius had begun to play a lot more on his mind, recently.
“I see you’re back, then,” the voice commented, as Remus opened his eyes with a groan. “Last time, though, I promise.”
“The last time?” A flash of hope blossomed in Remus and he looked around, curiously. “No more dreams after this? I finally get a decent night’s sleep?”
“Of course, there’s only one more link left in the chain,” the voice said, a little too cheerfully. “Anyway,” it added, “you have been getting a good night’s sleep – you’ve just been, er, dreaming rather a lot with it.”
“That’s one way of putting it,” Remus said, but he smiled a little, nonetheless. “So, where are we going this evening? Anywhere exciting? Or simply back to another one of my childhood memories?”
The voice did not reply. Instead, there was the sudden sensation of falling backwards, and Remus blinked, astonished to find himself in a small living room that looked altogether too familiar. The grey carpet underfoot and the simple black leather sofas certainly argued that the living room – if it could even be called that, so messy was it – was somewhere Remus had spent many an hour. The carpet, too, reminded Remus none too fondly of several nights spent sleeping on it after copious amounts of drinking.
As if to confirm Remus’s thoughts as to where he was, there came the slap of bare feet against linoleum from the kitchen, and Sirius entered the room, clad only in a towel and with a toothbrush hanging out of his mouth.
His hair was sticking to his damp body in a manner that Remus, much to his embarrassment, found vaguely suggestive and more than a little intriguing. As Sirius wandered around the room, humming through the toothbrush and paste, Remus’s gaze followed him, half guiltily as he shifted nervously, in case Sirius happened to notice he was there. Ridiculous, of course, his mind protested, because this was a dream, after all, and anything that happened now had very little bearing on real life.
Sirius paused in his wanderings to pick something up from the coffee table. Remus realised it was an old, leather bound book and that as Sirius flipped it open, he could just make out the title emblazoned in neat gold scroll work down the spine:
‘Poems by W. Blake’
Frowning, he stepped nearer; then jumped in surprise as the voice spoke quietly in his ear.
“Astonishing. You wouldn’t think someone such as he would have an appreciation for poetry, would you?” There was the sound of laughter as Remus raised an eyebrow, torn between agreeing and defending his friend. “Oh, don’t worry. I assure you I am in no way insulting Sirius. His intelligence is a remarkable thing, is it not? Along with his other… personal qualities, that I’m sure you’ve noticed over the past few weeks.”
Remus flushed, unable to deny this.
Sirius, in the meantime, had moved to the leather sofa, flopping down on it with the careless abandon of one who is confident that he is quite alone and that no one will observe his actions. Folding his legs, and ignoring the fact that he was still dressed only in a towel, he flipped open the book, clearly searching for something as he flicked rapidly through the pages.
“Why am I here?” Remus murmured softly, eyes fixed on Sirius, who was still flipping through the book. “There doesn’t seem to be any point to this.”
“Wait. Watch.” The voice sounded remarkably patient for once. “Ah! There! Pay attention now.”
Sirius had paused, his eyes fixed on a page. Grinning, suddenly, he placed the book to one side and leant over the arm of the sofa, reaching out to pick up a small box that had been resting on the floor. Settling back down, he pulled off the lid and drew out a small platinum ring. Resting it in one hand, he scrabbled for his wand with the other, then, muttering quietly, cast a spell.
The ring began to change shape. It suddenly began to writhe, as though it were molten and not solid at all; stretching, it became a thin wire, which broke up abruptly into small links. The links joined together with a series of quiet clicks until they had formed a chain. As Remus watched, the chain itself suddenly gleamed, brightly and turned a rich gold before it lay still in Sirius’s hand. Losing his frown of concentration, Sirius placed the chain back in the box and hastily scribbled a note on a scrap piece of parchment.
Remus swallowed, realising he didn’t have to read the note to know what it said.
Standing up, Sirius wrapped both box and note together and attached them to the leg of an owl, which had no doubt been hired. Taking the bird to the window, he tossed it outside then paused, watching it fly off over the grey rooftops of the London houses.
“I can’t believe this!” Remus hissed, hands fisting as he stared at Sirius’s back. “He’s been playing a joke on me all this time! He actually…” he broke of, breath hissing between his teeth as he blushed.
“To see the world through a grain of sand,” Sirius said softly, even as Remus spluttered in outraged indignation.
“And heaven in a wild flower,” the mysterious voice of Remus’s dreams spoke just as quietly, joining with Sirius’s own as they both rose, blending together until they shifted, merging into one.
“To hold infinity in the palm of your hand,” Sirius turned away from the window, and stared directly at Remus for the first time, a small, hesitant smile playing around his lips. “And eternity in an hour.” He took a deep breath, holding out his hand. “Happy Christmas, Moony.”
utter bastard!” Remus finished, jerking awake and into a sitting position.
Sirius, who had taken the liberty of climbing in through the unlocked front window, smiled sheepishly at him from his perch on the end of the bed. “Um. Yeah. Sorry. Um.” He fidgeted, nervously, two fingers twirling a lock of sleek black hair as he stared at his friend. “I…I thought that, you know. Christ, this is more difficult than I thought it would be.” Exhaling sharply, he leant over towards Remus, who flinched, and picked something up off the bedside table.
“Here. I bought this for you.”
It was the silver ring of Remus’s dream. No longer a gold chain, it lay in Sirius’s hand, a striking contrast to the pale skin of his palm. “It’s an, um, eternity ring.” Sirius coughed, looking embarrassed. “And I thought, maybe…”
“You thought that by using cheap tricks and spells you could win me over, is that it?” Remus’s voice was sharp in the silence of the bedroom. “I’m not some…some girl, Sirius! I don’t want romancing and I don’t need you spouting some melodramatic stuff at me just to prove your point!” He folded his arm, still angry as Sirius dropped his head, staring hard at the quilt of Remus’s bed.
“I’m sorry.” Barely more than a whisper. “I thought that…if you saw the good side of me, you might… you might consider…” he trailed off. “The point is,” he said, beginning again, “I thought that if you saw all the good qualities I have, you might consider…I don’t know. Kissing me? Being with me?” He sighed.
“You were that voice in my dreams,” Remus said slowly. “You were the one pointing everything out.”
“And James was in on this too, I take it?”
Sirius’s guilty look was enough.
Remus sighed, raking a hand through his hair. “One last question,” he said eventually and Sirius winced, waiting for the final judgement to fall and pronounce him a fool and a useless friend. “Why did you use Blake’s poem as part of the spell that linked your mind to the chain…ring….whatever.”
“Because,” Sirius drew in a deep breath, “because it reminded me of you, Moony. I spoke the truth to you – you do see everything through a Remus-shaped perspective; that flower did remind me of you; you did hold infinity when we all gave you that brooch and because…because I want to have eternity with you.” He closed his eyes, defeated. “I’ve been planning this for ages,” he admitted. “I’ve liked you since fifth year. Loved you since seventh. You must think I’m mad.”
“No,” Remus’s tone softened, “I think you’re Sirius and I think,” he continued, pushing the quilt out of the way and crawling over to where his friend sat and tilting his head up with strong, firm fingers, “it is quite the nicest thing you have ever done for me.”
“Really?” The insecurity in Sirius’s eyes melted slightly.
“Really, really.” Remus smiled, hesitantly, and leant forwards, his lips brushing Sirius’s lightly.
He felt his friend gasp and stiffen, in surprise, before he melted into the embrace. Long fingers brushed Remus’s cheek hesitantly, before they traced upwards, slipping through his hair as Sirius pressed closer, mouth opening just slightly. A sigh escaped Remus as Sirius pulled back a hair’s breadth, and he opened his eyes, only to discover his friend’s were still closed, a hint of a smile playing around his lips.
“I should hit you, Black.” Sirius’s laughter vibrated against his mouth and he grinned, aware that he had gone from enraged to romantic in the space of a few minutes. “Unfortunately, I find I am sadly lacking in motivation.”
“What made you start to think of me like this?” Sirius’s question was soft, barely breathed as their lips nudged together again, parting, teasing, tasting. “Was it my consideration of others? My genuine concern for my friends? My hopelessly romantic nature? My amazing gift-picking talent?”
“Then what was it?” Both of Sirius’s hands were tangled in Remus’s hair now. “I don’t understand, I showed you all my good traits – surely one of those must have impressed you, Moony?”
“None of them impressed me, Sirius. I’ve seen you at your worst as well, don’t forget.” Remus smiled as Sirius muttered discontentedly and buried his face in the crook of Remus’s neck, nuzzling as outside the tinny sound of a radio playing Christmas carols echoed from the Grey’s garden.“It was because you’re you,” he murmured and Sirius laughed, his voice muffled.
Remus turned his head to glance out of the window at the iron grey sky that, no doubt, heralded the arrival of rain, and basked happily in the knowledge that neither he, nor Sirius, would likely make it to James and Lily’s for tea. Wrapping his arms around Sirius, he pressed a hesitant kiss to the sleek black hair, before resting his chin on top of his friend’s head and reflecting that he wouldn’t mind not making it to tea.
Not when he had Sirius to burn it for him.