A Thing of Dark Imaginings
Archiving: All FQF will be archived solely at this site until September 30th, 2005. After that, it's yours to do with as you will.
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended. I do not own Harry Potter, its characters, or anything associated with it. I'm not making any money from this story, and I don't intend to.
Challenge & Summary: Challenge FM #02: Dark!Sirius is using gay!Remus for sex. Remus (one way or another) decides to leave him. Sirius finally decides that he truly does want Remus.
Author Notes: Thanks to kabeyk, pre_raphaelite1 and tesseract_5 for the beta!
Remus walks to his room at dawn. He sleeps badly these days, the ache in his joints and the cold air from the windows keeping him awake. He doesn’t like to sleep too close to Sirius, sweaty skin and entangled limbs making his discomfort worse. The hand on his back is enough.
The bathroom mirror tells him there’s a new bruise on his neck, a mark of Sirius’ teeth just above his collarbone. Remus knows his shirt won’t cover it, undoubtedly as Sirius intended. His employers are unlikely to notice, though. The bookshop where he works is small and badly lit, full of dark corners and hidden nooks. There are, nevertheless, customers whom Remus speaks to and who look at him. Remus considers putting a red and gold scarf on his neck, or maybe his new green one. But that’s probably what Sirius wanted. Remus decides on an old white shirt, made thin and soft from many washings, and leaves the top button open.
The early month of May is evident in the throngs of people Remus passes on his way to work. Girls in short skirts, young men with their jackets over their arms, middle-aged women showing scandalous amounts of cleavage. The sun that shone through Sirius’ curtains when he woke up is gone, and there’s a smell of rain in the air. Remus puts his hands in his pockets.
He is the first person to arrive at the shop, and he starts the day by making a pot of tea; a permissible indulgence despite the weather. The rooms are cold, and he walks through the corridors, rearranges some of the books, and tries to keep himself warm. He enjoys these early mornings, and the emptiness of the place, the freedom that it implies. The shop is dusty, but not stale, and Remus makes sure it is clean. He pulls back the curtains, opens the window, and sits down with his tea and his books.
Sometimes his friends come to see him at work. Lily has dragged James in a few times, but usually comes by herself, buys a book and takes Remus out for lunch. Peter comes by in the afternoon, and they walk to the pub to meet up with James and Sirius. Sirius’ visits are rare, but when he comes he pulls Remus into a corner behind French Literature and strokes him through his trousers, his face close to Remus as he watches him bite his lip and try not to scream.
Remus has finished his first pot of tea, and got half way through the second, before the first customer arrives. He points the way to Ancient History, and doesn’t show that he notices the way her eyes are drawn to his neck. By the time Lily arrives to take him to lunch, he has had five comments on it, three come-ons and twenty-odd looks.
Lily doesn’t say anything, just looks at him and lifts an eyebrow. Remus lifts one corner of his mouth in response and gets his coat.
They go to Muggle cafes where the food is cheap and the atmosphere is not filled with dread. They talk about the Ministry’s latest attempts to curb widespread panic and the regulation of unsavoury elements in the wizarding population. They know from James and Sirius that the attacks are coming more and more often, and that the reports in The Daily Prophet focus only on wizarding casualties. Lily is frustrated with her job at the Ministry and with her superiors who pat her on the head and tell her not to worry. But she has enough tact not to complain about being female and Muggleborn to a werewolf, and he has enough understanding to accept it. They are good friends, and when she is leaving, Lily can give him a kiss on the cheek and tell him to get rid of the hickey before the evening, and he can choose to ignore her.
He buys a bottle of wine from the off-license on the way home. Frank and Alice are more acquaintances than friends, but there are few of them as it is and in a time of war celebrations are rare. He hopes Sirius has already gone to the party, straight from work, or straight to the pub with James. He’ll have the chance to eat something and get ready in peace.
They’ve shared a flat for two years, bought with Sirius’ money and Remus paying rent. Sirius had lived by himself for the first year after Hogwarts, but he claimed he got bored, and with Remus’ job prospects dwindling lower he had agreed to move in. The furniture was old and Sirius didn’t bother much with cleaning, but it was by far the best place Remus had lived in.
The smell of spaghetti bolognese hits him by the frontdoor. Sirius cooks rarely, but always in large amounts, and Remus feels a slight regret for having eaten at work. But going straight to his room is easier; it holds no dangers of being scraped raw by companionship. He closes the door behind him and leans against it, momentarily blissful in the safety of his room.
Although Frank and Alice aren’t formal people, wizarding robes are required for their engagement party. Remus’ only set of dress robes are from his fifth year at school, a present from not-yet-disowned Sirius, and far too small for him now. The mark on his neck is visible through the collar of his white shirt, and in the harsh light of the bathroom he looks poor, colourless and dead against the green tiles.
“You want to borrow my robes?’
Sirius’ voice is confident and casual, but the alertness of his pose as he leans against the bathroom door suggests that he is prepared for an argument. They both know Remus dislikes taking things from him. Sirius steps forward, a stack of dark materials over his arm, and looks at Remus through the mirror.
“Thanks, but I’ll be fine. This is fine.”
Remus looks at Sirius looking at him, taking in the thinness of his shirt and the red bruise beneath it.
“You’d do better with these.”
Remus knows he’s right, that it isn’t just Sirius telling him what to do because he wants it done, or wants to be right. But the idea of wearing Sirius’ clothes produces a vague nausea in the pit of his stomach. And there are other concerns, not just dignity, he tells himself. Not just that.
“And we wouldn’t want everybody to see that, now would we?”
Remus watches as Sirius steps closer, holds the robes behind him and pushes his hands through the sleeves, smiling wickedly all the time. He stands behind Remus as he fastens the buttons, straightens the shoulders, draws his hands over Remus’ body as he makes sure the cloth flows right. His fingers are attaching buttons over Remus’ waist, and when he’s done they stay there, keeping hold of Remus as he watches them in the mirror.
Sirius looks impossibly dark behind him, the blackness of his hair and the red of his mouth making Remus appear all the more colourless. The delight in his smile cutting Remus into pieces. And when he leans over, and presses his mouth beneath Remus’ ear, the sight of it is somehow so devastating that Remus has to close his eyes. The urge to lean back, get closer to the warmth and give in is overwhelming.
“I thought you wanted people to see it.”
Sirius’ lips leave his skin, and Remus tells himself he is glad.
“That wouldn’t be very wise, would it? It’s not like they know it was me, but there would be questions. And do you really want to start inventing stories about people, about how you got it?”
After Sirius had left to get ready himself, Remus charms the robes not to smell of him.
Remus is drinking steadily from the bottle of wine he had brought. There’s beer, and whiskey, and vodka (The latest fashion among Scandinavian Wizards – Finlandia Vodka! The polar bears are drinking it – are you cool enough?) and some strange wizarding cocktails that seem to explode every five minutes. But that could be just James and Sirius.
Lily comes and tells him he shouldn’t be moping alone in a corner, and he allows himself to be dragged to a circle consisting of Frank, James and Sirius.
Remus watches Sirius tell the story, of some girl he’d pulled last weekend and spent a few days fucking. He remembers last weekend, and what they’d done, how many times, what positions, on the living room floor, on the kitchen table, in the shower, against the wall next to the front door while two old ladies gossiped five feet away. As Sirius talks about how great she was, how up for it unlike most girls, Remus remembers another conversation a few months ago.
“But you’re queer. Isn’t taking it up the arse the whole point?”
“No, it isn’t, actually. And even if I wanted to do that, what makes you think it would be that way round?”
“What would you do then? What else is there?”
And Remus had told him, enjoying the slight blush on Sirius’ cheeks and the quiet confidence in his own voice, as he spoke about what could be done with fingers and tongues, what caused sensations, and pain, and pleasure. When Sirius looked at him and said, Show me, he did. And when Sirius, flushed and trembling and sweating and moaning, with Remus’ fingers inside him, said, Fuck me, Remus did.
It wasn’t the reaction he’d expected when Sirius had found out he was gay. But it makes sense that Sirius, always wanting to know everything and to feel everything, should want this. Even if it is Remus, perhaps precisely because it is him. Remus knows that for Sirius, touching him is a way of discovering things Remus refuses to tell him.
They all laugh at the punch line of the story, but clearly there is something unsatisfactory in Remus’ smile because Sirius frowns at him. He puts his arm around Remus, and places an overtly drunken-yet-winning grin on his face. Remus smells sweat and exhilaration and desire.
“I should get another drink. Let’s go more drinks, eh, Moony?”
They go by the drinks table, past Alice and Peter and Gideon, towards the bathroom. Sirius doesn’t stop leaning against him, but rather takes the opportunity to drape himself over Remus.
“Why do you lie about it?”
Remus stands still as Sirius drops the drunken act and moves back. Sirius’ voice is quiet but compelling.
“What should I have told them? That I was fucking Moony? That Moony was fucking me?”
Sirius doesn’t sound angry, but the words come out too fluently, even for him, for this to be the first time he has thought them.
“If you want to tell everybody what we do, fine, let’s. Let’s do it.”
Remus looks at Sirius through the mirror, his mouth dark from the wine, his cheekbones flushed. He realises that he’s furious, not because Sirius lies about them, but at himself, because whatever he wants it isn’t this. It isn’t being frustrated and angry and scared and so full of poison all the time.
“Would it make you happy if they knew?”
“No, it wouldn’t. It isn’t about that, about telling them. Why do you have to talk about it at all?”
“Because they would get suspicious if they thought I wasn’t getting any? Because Sirius Black must get laid?”
“For your reputation then? Because Sirius Black must boast about his conquests, even if they’re imaginary?”
“Not all imaginary.”
And then Sirius is standing behind him, opening the buttons on Remus’ robes that he had fastened earlier, his teeth behind Remus’ ear, then lower, moving on to the bite hidden beneath the dark material.
Remus tries to still Sirius’ hands, but they grab hold of his wrists and pin them behind his back.
“Yes here. With all our friends in the next room, thinking that we’re here drinking or throwing up or doing anything but this.”
Sirius’ mouth is touching his ear with every word, and his free hand, the one that isn’t struggling with Remus’ wrists, is lifting his shirt from his trousers, up to his neck where he tucks it beneath his collar. Remus watches Sirius’ long fingers moving smoothly over his nipples, barely touching them, and then stroking down his stomach to open his trousers. The sight is mesmerising: his skin so pale against the black cloth; Sirius’ hand, somehow even paler, touching his cock as he strains against Sirius’ grip.
“Look at you, Moony. So gorgeous. What would they say if they saw you like this?”
Sirius’ smirk is satisfied as Remus breaks free and pushes him against the wall so hard that his head slams against it. Remus’ mouth is hard, biting at Sirius’ lips until they are dark with blood and broken skin. Remus’ hands tear at his clothes and his nails leave marks on Sirius’ pale body. When they are pressed together, cocks straining against each other and hands clawing, Sirius presses his mouth on the mark on Remus’ neck and bites down.
When Remus first realised he fancied boys, he took a long hard look at Sirius Black and decided I don’t want that. Sirius is undoubtedly attractive, high cheekbones and a lush mouth, grey eyes fringed with disturbingly long dark eyelashes and a compelling grin. At rest, he is almost painfully beautiful, but when animated, the quirk of achingly perfect eyebrows and the smile in the corner of his mouth make him dangerously alluring. Remus knows that everybody wants Sirius, and that Sirius knows this, that he plays with the power given to him and with the people this attracts. Remus has seen people lose themselves in that glorious smile, convinced that the secret of the universe lies in those eyes so they give up any thoughts of dignity and self-respect just to get closer.
As a Marauder he has some level of equality with Sirius, not as much as James but not as little as Peter. Getting a flat with Sirius is something he could do without danger, after seven years of living together he was immune to the sight of Sirius wondering around in a towel, or any infectious grins he might come up with. But Sirius wanting to touch him is another thing.
He hadn’t told his friends he was gay. Lily knew without him saying anything, but they never discussed it, and the others weren’t too bothered about his sex-life. But Sirius had seen him, touching another man, an old flame, in a dark corner of a Muggle nightclub. And he had wanted to know things.
Sirius is alive and intense in ways Remus has never hoped to be. The idea that this dazzling creature might want him is too painful to think about (but what if he, what if, what if) so he doesn’t. Even when Sirius’ mouth is on his cock, or his fingers inside Remus. Particularly then.
The next morning Remus wakes up in Sirius’ bed, sweat cold on his skin, sheets tangled in his feet. Sirius is laying half on top of him, his mouth breathing a wet patch on Remus’ neck. His head hurts with a low ache that will get worse as the day goes on.
Sirius isn’t beautiful in the mornings. His mouth is slack, drooling on the pillow now that Remus has moved further away, and he smells of cigarettes, and mud, and wine gone sour. The grey light coming through the windows doesn’t flatter him and the bed linen, dirty and colourless, makes his skin look pasty. But even asleep, even ugly, he isn’t harmless. Remus gets up quietly.
He has spent a lot of time thinking about why he doesn’t have to think about what they do. It’s just sex, a bit of fun between friends. They don’t talk about it. And although Sirius comes and touches him and lures him into his bed most nights, Remus likes to think that it isn’t obvious, there’s a choice every night and he might not. This, in any case, is how he presents it to Sirius. He has given up lying to himself about wanting Sirius. But the desire to fuck somebody doesn’t necessarily mean anything beyond the desire for warm skin, so Remus allows himself that: they’re flatmates and it’s convenient, it’s easy. Sirius shows no sign of wanting anything else, not that he ever has, with anyone.
Remus doesn’t leave a note when he goes. Sirius knows he is meeting Dumbledore, and anything more cannot be said.
By the time it begins to rain, Remus has been crouched next to a dustbin for three hours. He has become used to the smell coming from the trash, and Fabian has started to curse it only once every half an hour or so. But the rain makes it worse.
There had been a lead on a Death Eater meeting in a rundown London street, an opportunity to capture and question. The spy who had given the information had been new, but apparently dependable. Whether the fault was his or his employers would be for Dumbledore to decide. After they got out of the trap.
They had met up in a pub in Manchester, full of football fans in various states of drunkenness. Moody, the Prewetts, and Remus had read Dumbledore’s missive, decided on a plan, and Apparated south.
The smell had hit Remus first, not only garbage and beer bottles and vomit, but fresh blood, and fear. He didn’t have time to say anything before the first curse came. Words he’d never heard before, magic seething in unusual colours and shapes. There were threats being thrown, some just at him, werewolf, mudblood, scum. They had known he would be there, but there wasn’t time to worry about that just now.
For the first hour Remus and Fabian had heard horrible noises coming from behind the bins on the other side of the alley, twenty feet away. Remus had seen Moody and Gideon dive behind them, had heard some of the hexes thrown at them. Then nothing, and as Fabian’s complaints become more crude and his face more colourless, Remus becomes more silent. There is nothing to say. They both know what could be happening, and what they can do about it.
Their conversations are brief, but words pick up new meanings in situations like this. When Fabian says I broke up with Matthew, Remus knows it isn’t intended as a come on, as it once would have been, and maybe will again. They have spent a few drunken nights together, rented rooms in small towns after a battle, but it was always about loss, and relief, and warm skin and companionship. But now it isn’t about sex, but can I handle it alone, will I handle it alone, will my brother die, will I die? Remus thinks about friendship, and last night, and what will happen when he goes home. He closes his eyes.
He has been in the Order of the Phoenix for two years. The war has been going on for longer, years he doesn’t know about, has barely heard of. The terror has been there for years, attacks on Muggles and Muggleborns, strange signs in the sky, names whispered in the dark.
He used to think Hogwarts was safe. Dumbledore has managed to avoid direct attacks so far, but the rumours they keep hearing, snatches of conversations and the shaping of enemy plans, suggest that Lord Voldemort has an interest in children. And nowhere is safe.
Remus tries to see a plan in what has is asked to do. There is research, half-lit libraries and scrolls in languages he has never heard of. There is writing letters, unbeatable arguments and heartbreaking stories to convince people of whatever it is that Dumbledore wants them convinced. There are missions, moments of unhesitating activity and hours of waiting and wondering and hesitating afterwards. He doesn’t know what Sirius and James are doing with the Aurors, what Lily does with the Ministry, what Peter does with the Ministry. Dumbledore says it is safer if they don’t know what the other members are doing. Remus looks at his friends, the way James bites his nails when Lily is away and the way Sirius erupts in sudden shows of affection and guilt, and thinks safety is not the only result of secrecy.
Fabian has started to tear a piece of parchment into little bits, transfiguring it back, then tearing it up again. His hands have always been nervous, in motion at all times, touching or prodding or shaping or just flickering in air. When Remus moves his hand to still Fabian’s, he can’t stop and his fingers are shaking. They both look at their hands and avoid looking up.
Moody’s voice shouts a warning and they are both on their feet without thinking.
“Come out! It’s safe!”
They look at each other, and don’t move.
“Come on, lads! Gideon here needs a healer and I can’t move him by myself!”
Fabian runs past him before Remus can say anything. He follows, wand at the ready, ears prickling as he tries to listen for signs of danger.
Moody and Fabian are holding Gideon between them. His right leg hangs in a strange angle and his face is white, but he is conscious and talking quietly to Fabian’s ear.
“I’ll tell you later, once we got him taken care of. Apparate to St. Mungo’s on the count of three. One, two, three!”
Remus has barely the time to hear the crack before he follows them.
He can hear the music coming from the flat as he climbs the steps, slowly, leaning on the balustrade. He had hurt his leg when running for cover, and his knee hadn’t yet recovered from the previous full moon. The pain is bearable when he walks, but the stairs are killing him.
He doesn’t recognise most of the people inside. There are some acquaintances from Hogwarts, a few people from the Order, Peter for some incongruous reason, talking to a tall redheaded Ravenclaw. The smoke is making his eyes sting.
Sirius comes to the hallway, his shirt hanging together by one button, lipstick traces on his stomach. Remus can smell tequila and salt on his breath when he drapes a drunken arm over Remus’ shoulders.
“How was it? Everything all right?”
Remus decides that the best thing to do is just nod and go to his room. But Sirius refuses to let go, and there’s a brief scuffle as Remus attempts to extricate himself.
“Come and join the party. There are shots to be had and women to be tickled. Come and have a drink.”
Sirius is tugging at Remus’ waist as he tries to move them towards the living room.
“Actually, I’d rather not. I’ve had a very long day and I want to go to bed. So tempting as shots and tickling are, I’m afraid I have to decline.”
“Oh, come on, Moony, I’ll even tickle you.”
Remus wonders for a moment whether Sirius realises how insulting that is, but then remembers that this is Sirius Black, and of course he does. He opens his mouth to say Thank you, Sirius, I’m not in the mood to be tickled, but what comes out is Fuck you.
“Only if you ask nicely. In fact, only if you beg.”
And Remus remembers why he doesn’t like Sirius, why there is a limit to what he will take and how often Sirius crosses it. It’s usually Peter who is the victim of Sirius’ vitriol, but neither friendship nor anything else can stop him when he decides to hack somebody to pieces.
Sirius is looking at him expectantly, waiting for Remus to refute his suggestion so he can start giving examples to the contrary in a loud voice that will attract an audience. As Remus turns away and walks to his room, he can hear Sirius shouting something, some kind of abuse, at his back, but he concentrates on the pain in his knee and is almost sure he didn’t hear it.
Remus wakes up at four in the morning in his own room. Sirius is sitting on his bed, drained by anger and alcohol, picking a thread in Remus’ sheets.
“Sirius, what the fuck? Why are you here?”
“I tried knocking but you didn’t answer, so I came in.”
“I put on a silencing charm. Now what do you want?”
“I want to sleep with you.”
At Remus’ astonished stare, he continues.
“Just to sleep.”
“Why aren’t you sleeping in your own bed?”
Sirius is silent but Remus can see the colour, of guilt, pleasure, drunkenness, on his cheeks.
“There’s somebody already there. And then you come to me.”
“Yeah. Listen, Moony, I’m sorry about before. I didn’t mean to…I didn’t mean it. And that girl, it’s just… I was worried about you and I didn’t want to be alone, and so…I was drunk and stupid. It didn’t mean anything. It doesn’t mean anything.”
Remus is tempted to say And this does? but there would be no point. He doesn’t want to hear Sirius claim that of course it does, they’re mates, of course it matters. Remus is tired. Sirius has been cutting him to pieces for years, and this, this makes it so much worse. He can tell himself not to expect anything, he knows it’s stupid to want anything. But he can’t keep himself from doing it. The touch of a careless hand breaks him so easily. He doesn’t want to spend his days waiting for the sound of Sirius’ voice in his ear, remembering and trying not to remember, waiting and knowing he can’t not think about Sirius. And lying to Sirius about it is one thing, but lying to himself is too stupid even for him. He knows what to do.
“Look, Sirius. This…this is fucked-up. We’re supposed to be mates, and all that other stuff, it just complicates everything. It’s fucking irresponsible, actually, thinking we’re in the middle of a war and really don’t need the extra confusion. So let’s just…not.”
Sirius’ silence is longer this time, and his face is hidden behind a dark curtain of hair. When he speaks, his voice is clear.
After he’s gone, Remus lies in bed and rehearses better ways that he could have said that. He decides it doesn’t matter, but doesn’t sleep before the sun is up.
The next day Remus wakes up with a fever. Light is painful in his eyes, and he feels disoriented, almost faints when he tries to get up. A magical variation of the common cold, he is told, but his condition makes it more difficult to treat.
Lily comes to nurse him, not, as she likes to remind them, because she’s a girl, but because the rest of them are so useless. She makes him tea with honey, charms his quilt to stay warm although Remus claims he still can’t feel his feet, and commands Peter to cook and James to clean the flat. When James complains about having to clean up the mess even though he didn’t get to go to the party, Lily smacks him and threatens to make him cook. She commands Sirius to read out loud to Remus, as he can’t do it himself and it might teach Sirius something (“I do read! You just don’t appreciate my taste in literature!”). But she tells him to stop when she sees Remus’ hands clutching at the sheets at the sound of Sirius’ voice. She sends Sirius to the shops, and when he returns with all the items on her list, two boxes of Belgian chocolates and a collection of jazz records, she doesn’t say anything.
Remus has nightmares where he tries to run but can’t, his limbs heavy and his joints refusing to move. He dreams of Fabian telling him how he saved his brother, how the sacrifice wasn’t really that painful, how Slytherins were people you had to learn how to handle. He sees visions of Lily with her throat slashed open and her hands cut off. He sees James with his eyes gouged out and bleeding on his face, and of Peter lying on the street with his body broken. And Sirius screaming, endlessly, his voice growing hoarse but never stopping. He wakes up screaming himself.
They take turns to watch over him. At night it’s usually Sirius, whose work and insomnia make it easy for him to stay up. His hands are painful on Remus’ body, even as they try to soothe when he untangles the sheets. Sirius doesn’t speak much. His voice makes Remus twitch.
The delirium gets better after a few days. Remus is able to outspeak the tumble of voices in his head and to get some order into his thoughts. The muscles in his arms and legs are burning, and there are creaking noises when he tries to move, but he is glad to be coherent enough to know that. The room has been charmed cool, not too cold, and the bed is warm. He can smell fresh bread, coming from the kitchen.
The next time he wakes up, Lily is sitting on the chair next to him. She is pale, and the colour of her hair seems strange in the dark room. But there is quiet joy in the curve of her lips, and a dimple.
“How are you feeling?”
Remus tries to sit, and his heart starts to beat up faster as he struggles to lift himself up higher against the pillows.
“Better, I think. Less dizzy.”
She hands him a cup of tea. It burns his fingers but he holds on to it anyway.
“Is there any news? Have you heard anything about Gideon?”
Her mouth straightens a little, but does not threaten a frown. They both know she isn’t supposed to know, and certainly isn’t supposed to tell him. But they have all learned to separate dangerous secrets from less dangerous ones, and to balance the telling and the omissions in what is said.
“He is injured, but getting better. He will be able to walk.”
She doesn’t smile when she says this. Remus tries to understand what she isn’t saying, but his brain is still sick and he cannot think.
“We don’t know what the spell was.”
Remus is motionless as theories and questions flood his brain. If not a knife, a sword, an axe, a weapon. What kind of magic. What effects would. Why that rather than.
“At least he can be healed,” she says and takes the empty cup off his hands. Remus wonders whether it is strange that he trusts her above his other friends. Or trusts her to trust him.
“Thank you. That was lovely.”
He finds his mouth doesn’t hurt when he smiles. Usually when he feels this sick it is the morning after the full moon, and his mouth bleeds. But now, the pain isn’t so bad.
He insists he is well enough when Dumbledore calls him to his office a week later. He can stand on his own, and walk, and do things, and if he still has headaches and nightmares, no one else knows about them. He puts a silencing charm on his door every night, but something in his subconscious tells him to be quiet and he rarely wakes up screaming these days. And the headaches aren’t that bad, a dull throb rather than sharp spikes, and he has learnt to conserve his eyes and to avoid bright lights.
Sirius’ back is the first thing he sees when he enters the headmaster’s office, but Remus lets his eyes slide on to Dumbledore, who is watching him from behind his glasses. Neither of them smiles. He takes the seat next to Sirius.
They have never been sent on a mission together. As Dumbledore begins to explain the situation, what is required of them, why the standard procedures won’t apply in this, Remus thinks about why they have been placed together. What does Dumbledore know, what is he trying to do, putting them together and telling them what to do in case they are separated, captured, tortured. What kind of situation would require the combination of Sirius Black and Remus Lupin.
Dumbledore doesn’t mention Sirius’ brother by name, but it is obvious from the things said that he, and some other members of Sirius’ family, will be involved. Sirius shows no signs of caring, and says nothing to Remus as they Apparate back to the south to take their positions.
Remus has moved to stand before Sirius by the time they see the body. There are no marks on him, a white body wrapped in black robes, grey eyes staring empty at the sky above the trees. The night is warm, the sky still light after the recent sun, and there is no smell of death in the forest as they step closer. He looks like Sirius, a little shorter, a little slimmer, a little sharper in the face. Remus grabs hold of Sirius’ arm and doesn’t let go until they’re back in Hogwarts, despite some cursing and pulling from Sirius’ part. Dumbledore takes the news calmly, looks without curiosity at Remus hand still touching Sirius’ sleeve, and tells them to go and get some rest. Sirius pulls his arm away.
Remus doesn’t have nightmares that night, but he wakes up to screaming anyway. He doesn’t get up, but there is little sleep afterwards.
Remus wakes up because he is cold. The June heat has turned into rain and more rain, and what little sunshine there is doesn’t reach his window. He tries to convince himself he is warm enough for a few minutes, but then gives in, and gets up to make some tea.
Sirius is still asleep. Remus considers knocking on his door, offering tea. The chances of being kicked out are quite high. He knocks anyway.
Remus goes in but doesn’t say anything about tea. Sirius is lying naked on his bed, dark robes beneath and around him. He is staring at the ceiling, and doesn’t look at Remus.
“Have you told James?”
Sirius’ voice is quiet and without inflections. Remus shakes his head, tries to rid himself of images crowding his brain. A white body laid on black cloth, bare and cold.
“No, I haven’t. Do you want me to?”
Sirius turns to look at him. His eyes are cold but his mouth looks lost.
Sirius turns his head straight again and looks at the ceiling. He is waiting for Remus to leave, but Remus is looking at Sirius’ body and seeing little scratch marks, traces of nails and teeth that cover him. Not unlike the marks a werewolf leaves on himself when there is no one else to claw, but on a smaller scale.
He steps closer, sits on the bed, and puts his hand on Sirius’ stomach. His fingers are shaking slightly but they become steady as soon as they touch his friend’s body. Sirius doesn’t move.
Remus’ hands are slow, avoiding the bruises. He doesn’t say anything, but Sirius seems to understand what Remus’ mouth is telling him, as he begins to move beneath Remus. Sirius’ skin becomes less clammy and Remus can feel his heartbeat getting faster under his lips. There are no moans or groaning, the subtle intake of breath the only indication of feeling. They don’t banish death, but Remus feels that the body underneath him is alive.
Remus owls James later that evening, and he arrives with bloodshot eyes, gives Remus a nod and walks straight into Sirius’ room. He is still there when Remus goes to bed a few hours later, but in the morning there is no sign of him. Yet that night Lily and James come over, and Lily cooks while James tells perverted, yet amusing stories about the sex life of British Muggles. He only stops when Lily and Remus offer to act them out for further elucidation and strike certain evocative poses. Lily’s demand that he demonstrate them with Remus instead results in much amusement and calling of humorous names.
They don’t mention any names that have been forbidden in the house for a long time. But when Sirius begins to talk, and comment, and tell jokes and insult James, Lily takes his hand and gives him a kiss on the cheek. They are all silent for a moment, and then Sirius grabs Lily, bends her over in a dramatic pose and kisses her with as much noise as possible. James pretends to be angry, Remus pretends to have to restrain him and Lily smiles smugly and says how much fun she is going to have telling her girlfriends that she snogged Sirius Black. Then James starts complaining about how she never brags about him and Sirius says how there’s nothing to brag about in his performance and they all laugh, and have more wine.
But when the guests are leaving, Remus watches as Sirius whispers something in Lily’s ear, and watches as she nods and smiles, and gives him a hug. Yet James doesn’t go purple, and Sirius doesn’t make suggestive comments, and that night, Remus doesn’t wake up to screaming.
The next assignment takes them all by surprise. There have been rumours: that the McKinnons have joined the Dark Lord, that there is a spy among them, that the Prewetts are dead. James, Remus and Sirius are sent to a location, a country house in Yorkshire reputed to be a den of iniquity or a meetinghouse of Death Eaters.
Remus cannot smell anything. The grass outside the house is just a picture, something he can’t touch and taste and smell. This is what tells him something is wrong, yet again, in another way that they haven’t anticipated. A spell to remove all smell? Someone must research that and find out what they’re trying to hide.
It’s a sunny day, one of the few truly gorgeous English summer days, when the thought of rain seems impossible. Yet sunny days are some of the things that become meaningless in war, and they move inside, grateful only that there is no noise from rain or disturbance of possible evidence.
The house is silent and there is a breeze of air, making the curtains move and signalling that somewhere a window is open. Sirius casts a spell to detect wizards in the ground floor, and when it returns unaffected, they move upstairs. The staircase is wide and looks like it should have a carpet, a thick luxurious thing to cover the sounds of their feet. They get to the first floor, a long hallway with many doors.
There is no smell still, but the sense of no-smell is coming more strongly from the right. A series of head movements indicates to James and Sirius what Remus is thinking. They move to the right, looking back every few seconds.
It’s the third room from the landing. There has been no attempt to hide it. The stains of blood and other things are visible through the open door, and the sign, a squiggle that might be a snake or might be a rune or nothing at all is written on the wall in blood. And the bodies can be seen from the hallway.
Gideon is lying on his back, empty eyes staring at the ceiling and his body still crouched to protect himself from the Cruciatus. There are other wounds, the bone of his leg visible through shredded skin on his thigh, and his left hand a mangled claw. Fabian is lying half on top of him, dead from some other thing than the Adava Kedavra, something that leaves his skin unmarred but his suffering all too easy to see.
In moments like this Remus wishes he could still throw up, still fell sick and shocked and all the things you’re supposed to feel when you see your friends dying and dead. But the defence mechanisms are etched in too deep; he has taught himself too well not to care too much, to keep functioning despite what happens. Yet it infuriates him that the things that come to his mind are what to do next, how to inform the Order, who should be told first, what does this mean for their plans. He can’t bear to look at Fabian and think what kind of curse is that, and not think oh god I have touched that body, I have been touched by him and now he’s dead. Throwing up would be a blessing. Fresh air would be a relief. Anything but this.
And yet it is both. Sirius walks up to him, touches his arm with his hand, and Remus starts breathing again. They walk outside, James following them while performing a spell to inform Dumbledore and Moody of what they found. There is still no smell, the grass means nothing, the cold Yorkshire air is nothing, but Sirius is close and there is this morning’s beans on toast on his breath, and home.
When they get back to the flat, they share two bottles of whiskey between the three of them and throw up in the loo, taking turns, and performing cleaning charms for those who don’t quite make it. And when Remus goes to sleep in the morning, sandwiched between Sirius and James and the hangover starting to kick in, he thinks this is right, this is how it should be.
The next morning Remus wakes up with his clothes on. There is a James-shaped indent on the mattress beside him, and on his other side, Sirius. Who is lying on his stomach on top of the covers, all dirty hair and artfully worn black t-shirt, his eyes wide open and staring at Remus.
“Fuck how my head hurts.”
Remus’ voice is hoarse from last night, from conversations that need to become louder with alcohol. Sirius continues to stare at him.
Sirius lifts himself up on his elbows, reaches out towards the bedside table, and passes Remus a glass of water. It is nectar, it is clean and cold and Remus doesn’t even care about the dust particles that have settled on the surface since last night. He empties the glass and hands it back to Sirius, who puts it back on the table. Remus closes his eyes and moves closer, but stops at Sirius’ voice.
“I’m in love with you.”
Remus opens his eyes. Sirius is still looking at him, but his mouth is closed and he isn’t smiling. He has moved further away from Remus so that their bodies do not touch anywhere.
“You’ve just realised this now?”
Sirius doesn’t say anything more. He looks away from Remus, turns his head straight and stares at the wall one foot away from his face. He’s still holding himself up on his elbows, but his fingers lie still on his pillow.
“A few months. Since I realised, at least. Probably longer.”
Remus looks at the pillows in front of him. They are green, the kind of expensive satin Sirius insists on buying despite his disinheritance. He says he bought them to match Lily’s eyes, which makes James try to hex him and Lily suggest that she should come and test them with James.
“Why tell me now, then?”
Sirius turns to look at him. He lifts himself up , sits on the bed, stands on the floor and puts his hands in his pockets.
“You should know.”
Sirius leaves and closes the door behind him. Remus lies back and thinks about green satin sheets.
It’s not true, he tells himself. But Sirius is honest. And has always been meticulously careful about saying such things, in case some poor deluded fool might think they had a chance. Also Remus is a Marauder, and therefore Sirius would not lie to him, not about something like this.
But it still can’t be true.
This is not the way Sirius seduces people. There was no seeking or granting of attention, no privileged smiles, no grabbing or holding or grinding. Remus has watched girls and boys being drawn closer in a thousand different ways, with subtle touches on the elbow, aborted movements that signal the need to touch, pertinent questions that open the most dedicated bookworm. This is not how to seduce anyone, least of all Remus Lupin. Who knows Sirius well enough not to believe something like that.
So it can’t be true.
At Lily and James’ engagement party Remus tells himself that he is wise to abstain from alcohol, that he needs a clear head for there is danger afoot. Death Eaters gathering, stricter regulation from the Ministry, Sirius Black who decided to wear black leather trousers so that, as he says, Lily can have her last chance to realise that he is far more attractive than James. They are very tight, and slightly too low, so that a pale stretch of skin can be seen beneath his t-shirt. It looks almost unintentional.
Lily looks happy, gesturing towards Sirius’ trousers and saying something that makes James blush and Sirius put on a particularly wicked grin. They all laugh at something Sirius has said, and Remus smiles. They will be happy.
There are empty spaces in their group tonight, but there is determination on everybody’s face. That there will be celebrations, despite everything. That there will be life, or shagging and nappies as Sirius puts it.
Sirius catches Remus’ eye, and looks away. He disentangles himself from James and Lily, and moves to the drinks table. After a few moments of selection, he picks up a bottle of Spanish red, and walks out to the hallway, towards the stairs.
It is because that it wasn’t a come-on that Remus chooses to follow him.
Sirius is standing in the guest bedroom with his head tilted up, drinking straight from the bottle. His eyes are closed, and Remus allows himself to unabashedly watch the curve of Sirius’ neck, the movement beneath his skin as he drinks and the way his tongue briefly laps any remaining traces of liquid as he lowers the bottle, and licks his lips. Remus licks his in response. He can taste the wine.
Remus is different from Moony. Moony is a prankster, he can be coaxed into things he pretends he doesn’t want to do. Remus is serious, and holds his delusions higher.
Sirius twists his mouth in a way that indicates an almost smile, a smile that would be bitter on other lips. He holds the bottle to Remus and lifts an eyebrow. On another day Remus would think about how Sirius’ generosity is also demanding and can crumble the dignity of its recipient. But now all the usual signs are wrong, they mean things Remus cannot understand, and won’t believe.
Remus takes the bottle, lifts it to his lips, and drinks. It would have been a good idea not to drink alcohol, but some things just require it.
“Now what brings you up here, old friend? Surely there are bottles to quench your thirst downstairs?”
Remus allows a smile, another not-quite-bitter-but-suggestive-nevertheless one. He looks at Sirius, and tilts his head to the side.
Remus places the bottle on a table, and steps closer. He can hear his shoes creaking, and the laughter and music coming from downstairs, and Sirius’ quiet breathing. Remus’ heartbeat is fast, on wine and lust and relief and exhilaration. He doesn’t try to calm it down.
Just as Sirius opens his mouth to say another casual thing to push him away, Remus steps up to him and grabs hold of his t-shirt.
“Don’t. Whatever you were going to say.”
His breath is brushing against Sirius’ and their lips are almost touching. Remus opens his mouth to lick his lips, and licks Sirius’ instead. He lets out a breath into Sirius’ mouth, and then his teeth are biting into Sirius’ lower lip, and his tongue is stroking the shivering piece of skin in the corner of Sirius’ mouth, and they are kissing.
This is what he hasn’t let himself do, and it’s not a surrender, not giving in to whatever this thing between them is, but doing and feeling and touching and Sirius. He is shaking, they both are, and Remus presses Sirius against the wall, his mouth hot on Sirius’ and their clothes are getting tangled, and there isn’t nearly enough naked skin but it is still the best thing Remus has ever done. Sirius’ hands tear at his shirt, magic forgotten as the buttons go flying and the cloth is wrenched to the floor.
“Want to. Just.”
Remus fingernails scrape against Sirius’ stomach, and he twitches. Sirius’ tongue is licking the skin behind his ear, and as Remus shivers, he moves lower. Then Remus is pushed against the wall with his hands pressed to his sides as Sirius grins. He strokes the skin inside Remus’ elbows, and slowly trails a finger down to his wrists. Remus makes a mewling noise and closes his eyes, then opens them again as Sirius’ mouth moves across his belly, dark hair brushing against his skin as he waits for another touch.
But this isn’t about pleasuring him. Remus grabs hold of Sirius’ shoulders and pulls him up, pushes him on the bed. Most of their clothes are gone at this point, and there is naked skin sliding against naked skin, sweaty and hot and rough as they try to pin the other to the bed. And then Sirius is on his stomach, Remus’ teeth on his neck and Remus’ thigh between his legs, grinding as his hands roam and bruise and caress. All this is his to touch and he can’t quite believe it, can’t understand it, but the noises Sirius’ is making under his fingers are teaching him how.
“Do you want me to fuck you?”
Remus rarely does this; it is a sign of ownership he has refused to do. A sign of what their relationship was not. But Sirius twitches at his words, and thrusts his hips against Remus.
“Fuck, Moony. Now. Please. Moony.”
Sirius’ skin is salty as Remus licks his shoulder, and when Remus grabs hold of his wrists and lifts them above their heads, he can feel Sirius’ heartbeat pounding beneath his tongue. He whispers a spell against Sirius’ throat and feels his hips jerk as slick hotness fills him. Sirius moans as Remus enters him, a low keening sound that cause their joined hands to shudder. Their movements are disjointed and awkward, but when Sirius turns his head to kiss Remus, it all fits, and things like coherence and dignity and breathing are forgotten.
When Sirius comes, fucked into the mattress and trembling with all his body, Remus bites down on his neck.
Remus wakes up in his own bed, entangled with Sirius. He feels hot and sticky, uncomfortable with sweaty skin and cold where the sheets have fallen off. The sun is glaring down on his eyes. But when Sirius shifts his position, and turns to his side, Remus moves closer.
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