Constellations of Consolation
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Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended. I do not own Harry Potter, its characters, or anything associated with it. I'm not making any money from this story, and I don't intend to.
Challenge & Summary: Challenge FM #04: The Defense Against the Dark Arts professor hates non-purebloods, those of other races, those of non-English nationality, "deviants," and nonhumans. How does our favorite halfblood gay werewolf cope? And how does Sirius? Remus may have a painful history, but he also has Sirius.
Author Notes: None
He had stolen a bottle of firewhiskey from Siriusís secret stash and was hidden away in a spare classroom, drunk.
Professor Amulius knew, and refused to teach him. He had drawn his wand and trained it on Remus and said all the horrible things people consider justifiable when they believe their victim inhuman.
Stay the hell away from me, or youíll regret it, believe me. Iíve killed your kind before. Donít think I will spare you because you are young. Your breed is never innocent. You are dismissed from my class. It would be blasphemy to have you here.
Remus had a vision, then, a vision of being the wolf and tearing this man apart with his teeth, ripping off his skin. He had a vision of so much blood that it stained Amuliusís white robes crimson, and of the last tentative beat of his dying heart. This image was quickly followed by a rising nausea that battled against the feral fury that had spawned it. He stood, paralyzed, as the ranting continued.
You wretched beast. Youíre a miserable little creature, arenít you? Iíve seen it in your eyes. Itís what you deserve, monster. Yes, he had sneered, making a slow circle around Remus, appraising him as though he were an animal for study or sale. Yes, I see it in your face. The shadow of the wolf is in your eyes, in the set of your mouth. I can smell his stink of blood and mud still on you. Did you really think it disappeared with the dawn? No, no, stupid boy, it lingers. Anyone who knows the signs of darkness will recognize them in you.
He ran, then. He had heard the man screaming after him, even as he tore away down the hall.
Not true, he swore, kicking his foot through one of the three stained glass windows at the back of the classroom. Red, green, and blue shards glistened for the slimmest of moments in the moonlight and then fell out of sight. Not true that Iím miserable. Not fucking true, you stupid old bastard. You know nothing. If Iím miserable, itís because the whole world is miserable. Iíve just as much happiness as anyone else. His boot crashed through the second window. Youíre the disgusting one, cruel and vicious, savoring my suffering. No, not true, not suffering. Happy as anyone else, happy as anyone else. You lie, old man. No one can see it on me, no one can see it. Itís not me. The third window shattered underneath his blow. Itís not even a part of me, itís just something that happens one night a month, thatís all, it just happens. Yes, itís a horrible thing, but it passes, it passes. All the windows were broken now, though some blades of glass still protruded from the frames like jagged fangs. Now that there was nothing more to break, he felt ashamed of the destruction. He stumbled from the room. Across the hall he found another empty space, hardly bigger than a closet, and shut himself inside, slumping against the wall and sliding down to land in a heap on the floor.
The confrontation today, stupid and hateful though it was, could not break him. No, nothing about it should have lingered, but it had called up other memories which were now fighting their way free and forcing themselves back into his consciousness. Now he was afraid, again, that the shadow did linger and lurk, that it was painted across his face, corroding him and making him hideous. Damn Amulius, damn him. The memories his words had invoked renewed the ruthless sorrow that was inescapable as Remusís own skin. How could he ever hope to be free of it?
He was just a child when it happened, but the boy he had been was gone, stolen away. Everything was different, after.
Heís not the same, Mama said, fighting with Daddy, late at night when they thought he was asleep. I canít look at him anymore without seeing that thing inside him. Maybe it would have been betterÖ
Please donít say it.
Maybe it would have been betterÖ
Iím begging you, stop this.
I think it would have been betterÖ
Daddy screaming, then. Shut up! God damn it, will you just shut up! A long pause, Daddy collecting himself, so that when he spoke again his voice was quiet, but menacing in its harnessed tension. Heís our only child. You may think it would be easier to live without him, but I donít. I canít.
Then she would sob. Remus was so weary of hearing her cry, of his own tears wetting his face with sympathy, with shame. She said, I know. I know itís a sin to think that, I know! You think this doesnít hurt me? Itís killing me. I canít do this, no mother wants to feel this way about her child. Iím afraid of him! John, what are we going to do? Weíve tried everything, everything! Nothing works, nothing can remove it and I canít take this any more. Itís killing me.
Quiet! Babe, please, please, be quiet. Youíll wake him. You donít want to wake him. He needs his sleep. You donít want to frighten him. Honey, please, donít cry. Please, donít you know it kills me to see you like this? Please, please, stop.
Nothing he said was ever enough. Her words, like her tears, continued in torrents. Itís all over, itís all over, now. Thereís nothing we can do, but I will keep trying. What kind of life can he have? Who could ever look past it? He canít live like this. I canít live like this. Iíll find a way, thatís all there is to it. Iíll find a fucking way and if you love me, youíll help me. We have to bring him back.
Heís not gone.
He is. You didnít carry him inside you, so you canít understand. A mother always knows. I can see the change, I see it in his eyes. Heís not the same.
In the before, Mama tucked him into bed at night. She would sing him songs, and her voice was pretty and high and sometimes he would fall asleep while she was singing and in the morning he would swear that all night long as he was sleeping he could still hear her beautiful voice and she would laugh and bend down to brush the tip of her nose against his and it tickled and she called it ĎEskimo kissesí. After, she did not sing to him. He followed her, as he always had, down the street as she walked him to school, but when he reached his hand up to her, she did not take it. She said, youíre a big boy now, Remus, and you can take care of yourself.
Before, before, because he always found it hard to say how he felt, to admit he was hurt or upset, she watched over him. When she noticed him gnaw at his lip, or his eyes water, or his hands clench in fists, or his brow furrow, she would always say, tell me, love. Tell Mama whatís wrong.
And he would reach his arms up to her, and she would hold him.
After, after, even the time a gang of older boys from school managed to catch him and his arm was broken, even then, she could not give him more than a few light pats on the shoulder, a brief momentís joy of her fingers trailing so gently over the bruise on his cheek, tears in her eyes, as though she still hoped her loving touch could be enough to heal him. Youíre a big boy, now. You can take care of yourself. Yes. You can take care of yourself.
Mama was not there, at each grateful dawn that overcame the full moonís night. As soon as the sun rose, and the creature had receded, it was his father who fixed his wounds and covered him in bandages. Mama was not there.
She was still kind, of course, especially in the day after each monthly ordeal, when she would serve him his meals in bed. She had to miss work to be with him, and they needed the money, but she never complained. She brought him comic books and candy and tried to make him smile. She would say, do you feel better, my love, my darling boy, but she never touched him. She would stand in the doorway, blowing him kisses, and he would reach his hands into the air to catch them and count each one aloud, and sometimes he counted all the way up to one hundred. She would say, yes, a hundred kisses for my love, my only. Sometimes her voice would break, and when it did, she would leave, saying, youíd like to be alone, wouldnít you darling? She wanted to spare him the burden of her tears. She did not understand how tethered his heart was to hers, and that he carried the weight of her sadness with him. Her hand was on the doorknob and she said, Iíll leave you alone.
He was drifting, slipping in and out of consciousnessí grip, and all the remembered fragments felt real, like they were happening right then. There were no windows and it was very dark.
Iíll stay with you, Sirius says.
Remus stands in the light streaming in from the window, wearing only his pajama bottoms. The elastic is starting to give way, and they hang down very low on his hips. He has just gotten out of the bath, and in the distance he can hear the water draining. He hunches his shoulders as he peers down at his belly, monitoring how the scrapes and bruises are healing. Sirius sits on the edge of the windowsill, watching, the top to Remusís pajamas held lightly in his rough hands. Remusís fingers run over a particularly bad bruise above his hip bone, and he winces. Sirius reaches his fingers out, as though he too wants to touch the bruise, but stops when Remus withdraws. You can go, Sirius. Iím alright.
But I want to stay.
I want to be with you. You wonít send me away, will you?
Remus finishes his inspection, reaches out his hand to Sirius for his shirt and slips it on. The fabric is a soft, worn flannel, white, with royal blue piping on the edges and bright blue buttons.
Sirius stands and slaps Remusís hands away, so that he can slowly draw the shirt onto Remusís body. I like how you look in this, he says, as he fastens it on. It doesnít quite fit you, but I like you edged all in blue.
They were my fatherís. Thatís why theyíre too big. Iím much skinnier than he is.
Heís a good man, is he? Kind?
He tries to be, Remus says. Perhaps, he thinks, thatís the best anyone can hope for, a desperate, grappling, attempt. And yet Siriusís broad fingers are so careful, move so gently, as they interlace with his own.
Heíd have to be a better man than my father, at least.
Remus, recognizing Siriusís intent to comfort, squeezes his hand in return, brings it to his lips so he can kiss each of those long fingers. After the last kiss, he reluctantly lets go. I need to rest, he admits.
Sirius nods and once Remus has slipped into his bed, gotten comfortable and settled, the great dog leaps up and nestles himself down at the foot of the bed. Like this, he does not feel as vulnerable, as alone. Like this, it is easier to fall asleep.
The memories were circling and, like new film through a projector, a different strip of his story appeared before him. Now it was cinders of last summer that came to comfort him.
Together, side by side. Siriusís flat, Siriusís bed. Remus had gotten off the train at the Marylebone station and somehow, then, knowing he was just moments, minutes, away from seeing Sirius for the first time in two months, he was frightened. What if he got hit by a car crossing the road? Heíd never see Sirius again and that would be the worst thing that could ever happen.
The reunion canít happen soon enough, and then, suddenly, as if heís been sleepwalking, itís here, right in front of him. Sirius is waiting at his door when Remus first arrives with his duffle bag in his sweaty hands. His heart is hammering, more from anticipation than the five flights of stairs. Sirius, again, finally, right here, wearing a Muggleís white dress shirt, with the sleeves rolled up so that for a moment all Remus does is admire his strong forearms, and then Sirius is grabbing him, hugging him, like he will never let go, and it seems Sirius has grown even taller, because Remus doesnít have to bend down much to press his face to Siriusís chest and hear his heart. He has to hear Siriusís heart, has to make sure itís beating, has continued beating even without Remus as its witness. He is listening to Siriusís heart and one of Siriusís hands rests heavily on top of his head, like a blessing. Siriusís other hand is at the back his neck, holding him close. When Remus finally pulls away, lulled into something like delirium by the steady beat, Sirius bends down and Remus hears something even more beautiful. Sirius whispers, welcome home.
Yes, Remus thinks. Wherever, whenever, they are together, that is home.
In Siriusís bed, their bed, that first night, and it is spelled so very dark, so very quiet, and Sirius says, doesnít it feel like weíre the only people left in the world?
Remus shivers. I donít like that. Itíd be lonely.
Not if weíre together. Not if we have each other. Sirius turns to face him. Remus, his eyes shut, reaches his fingertips forward to meet Siriusís lips, as though he is a newborn, learning everything by touch. This is Siriusís face. What is Siriusís is Remusís. This is Remusís other face, his favorite face in the entire world. Remus, Sirius whispers hoarsely, and Remus shivers again, because every time Siriusís voice trembles, he knows they are sharing the same feeling. He knows what Sirius is going to say, does not need the proof of it, but wants to hear it, wants to hear Siriusís voice shake again. I love you, Sirius says. That day, in the forest, I canít stop thinking about it.
Yes, Remus says.
Yes, that day in the forbidden forest, running as fast as they can away from rampaging centaurs that are determined to trample them underfoot for daring to trespass. It is May, and bright sun shines down through the leaves to dapple the roots and moss and leaves. That was fucking amazing, Sirius says, once they are finally out of harmís way. He is bending over, his hands on his thighs, barely able to get the words out as he gasps for breath. There is such recklessness in his eyes that Remus throws himself towards it, this insane beautiful aspect of Sirius, the way he is never frightened, even when he should be, the way he embraces every single crazy fucked-up thing that happens and somehow makes it glorious. He throws his arms around Sirius, so full of the want of him, the closeness of these wild impulses that he shares and recognizes. Yes, this is the wanting and longing that makes the pulse of life throb, makes his heart clench in his chest till it aches. Everything aches. He wrestles Sirius down to the ground, slapping at him, hitting him, until he hits back. Trading blows until they become kisses, and sometimes going back and forth, a kiss, a slap, a gentle mouth coupled with bruising hands, and then suddenly letting hands become soft and shy and pulling back lips to let canine teeth have their way. It might hurt, but it is all good hurt, the way desire hurts. This is what Remus discovers, over and over. When heís with Sirius, he feels everything. Love leads to happiness and fear and utter desperation because Sirius is all he wants. When they are together, it is not the wolf who hijacks his body. It is Sirius.
Remus is running his tongue up the side of Siriusís torso, savoring the salt of his skin, and the valleys that lie between each of his ribs. Itís obscene how much he wants. He wants everything. He wishes there were a way to fuck and touch and kiss every bit of Sirius, every fucking cell of him. When they are together and he is part of Sirius, Sirius part of him, canít there be a way to melt and meld every part of them together, permanently? His hand drifts down to press against that hot, damp crease where the inside of Siriusís leg meets his groin. His other hand clutches all up and down Siriusís body, the back of his flexed thigh, the soft and slight curve of his waist, the nape of his neck, wet with sweat. He needs Sirius so much, he is terrified he will disappear. The only way to stay together is to cling, he must always keep his hands on Siriusís body.
Sirius is whispering to him, again. If I had one wish, Moony, one wish, I would wish for it to always be like this. Me and you, always together, like this. I would wish to never be apart from you. I wish it now. Iíll say it, Iíll say it so many times that it will become true. It will always be like this. We will always be together.
Donít, Remus says, though he loves the undiluted, deluded dreams that course through Sirius. Donít. Youíre tempting fate.
Iím not. It will always be like this. It has to be.
Everything changes. Everything has to end, someday. Thatís how the world works.
I reject the world, then. I renounce it. Iím going to destroy this world, burn it to the ground, and build my own world where I can have whatever I want and what I want is for you to be happy.
Shut up, Remus says, and he is smiling.
Tell me youíre happy, here with me.
You know I am.
Tell me. Say it. Let me hear it, I want to hear you say it.
Iím happy, here with you. So happy, I donít think you know how happy.
I know. Believe me, I know. Do you love me?
You know I do.
I love you, Sirius.
In the dark, like this, there is nothing besides Sirius. No. There is never anything but Sirius. This is what the dark reveals and makes clear. Everything that blurs Remusís vision is gone. Everything that tries to get in the way of the two of them, the two of them together, disappears. This. This. This is the only thing. Here in the dark, it is only the essentials. It is only how it feels. This feeling between them takes precedence over all else. He will trace his lips over the arch of Siriusís shoulder blade for hours, the place where wings would grow if Wizards flew like phoenixes. He will run his fingertips over the beloved features, the slopes and valleys and curves and corners of Siriusís face, until they are carved into his memory. He will grind against Siriusís body until all flesh sears together.
He stays at Siriusís until it is time to return to school. That was not the plan, but his parents owl to say that he should stay, that he should have fun. Sirius thinks itís great, and, yes, of course, Remus wants to stay, but the rejection woven with invisible threads into the polite, business-like letter sent by those who should be his nearest and dearest tears at him. He mopes, and Sirius does not understand, tracks him around the flat, stalks him, trying to draw this melancholy from him. They fight, in the end. It is the best thing. Sirius trails behind him and then suddenly leaps and lands on him, knocking him back onto their bed. He pins Remus down and holds his hands captive in his own. Look at me, Moony, he says. Remus doesnít. He wonít. But Sirius just stays on, making little noises of encouragement as though Remus were a frightened puppy, which is so insulting that Remus finally gives up and glares at him. Oh, and stupid fool that he is, he is not really prepared for Siriusís gaze. He is never prepared for it. He always thinks he can hide himself from Sirius, he always thinks he can stop up lock up tear out his heart, but he never has yet. Soft, sad eyes and a soft, sad voice that says, oh, Moony. Please donít be upset. Iím here. Iíll take care of you.
It hurts to hear Siriusís concern, and to see it in his eyes is somehow even worse. So Remus struggles, and says, I can take care of myself, I donít need you, Sirius, get the fuck off me, I fucking hate you! But Sirius continues to hold him down, and itís so stupid, because if he really wanted to, he could throw Sirius off, or hit him, really hurt him. But he would never hurt Sirius. He can get away if he wants to, but he doesnít really want to, he just wants to fight, like this, a fight where no one is going to get hurt. Itís fighting, but itís play-fighting, with Siriusís hands clasped strongly on his wrists. Eventually, Remus stills. His heart is pounding, a strange collection of beats, slowing down for a moment, because the mock battle is over, and then racing again, because Sirius is so near. Sirius slides off of Remus and lies down beside him, throwing an arm over him. Remus takes Siriusís hand in his own and brings it up to his mouth. He has an intense urge to gnaw on Siriusís hand, biting his flesh, tasting his skin, pressing teeth down till they meet bone through a thin barrier of skin. Sometimes when he bites Sirius sucks in his breath at the sting, but Remus does not stop. The thickest part of Siriusís hand is the pad of his palm, and there Remus gives into the pleasure of feeling nothing but flesh between his jaws. It feels so good, to devour and yet somehow still leave Sirius whole. Sirius sits up and unbuttons his shirt, offering his whole upper torso as a bare canvas for Remusís furious teeth, a sacrifice for the insatiably hungry mouth. When his face is bent, near those parts of Sirius where his veins run closest to the surface, his wrists, his neck, Remus swears he can smell the blood streaming, can see its undulation as it travels through its tunnels. Siriusís hips sometimes arch towards Remus, but he mostly lies still in surrender. His eyes are closed, and one of his hands reaches back to grip the headboard, bracing himself for the fiercer assaults. Sometimes his other hand drifts up and down Remusís back, light touches that feel like a ghostís, like a dream. Yes, perhaps Sirius is a dream. Perhaps Remus has been so lonely, so alone, that his desperation has invented Sirius. Perhaps his whole life, since he started Hogwartís, since he has had friends for the very first time, is nothing but a dream. No. This is real. He bites harder around Siriusís nipple to prove it, drawing blood, just as he wants. He tastes that delicious rich rust with his tongue, laps at the wound, cleaning it, as animals do, savoring the rough edges of Siriusís damaged skin. Hearing a whimper, he looks up at his beloved quarry, whose face is tense and creased with pain. For a moment, he freezes, ashamed, but then Sirius opens his eyes. Remus presses his lips together, hiding his teeth away, and brings himself slowly back up Siriusís body to nuzzle their faces together. Brow against brow, cheek against cheek, lips against lips.
Sirius takes the left cuff of his shirt between his fingertips and dabs at the blood that is still pooling in the teeth marks hollowed into his chest. They both watch as the pristine white cotton soaks up the wet red. Sirius is smiling.
That will stain, Remus says.
Good. I want to remember this. Iíve been dying here, all summer, waiting to touch you again.
Remusís reply is to rub his face against Siriusís again, speaking to him in the language of littermates, inarticulate whines and whimpers and cries that reveal everything.
Sirius understands. You missed me, too, he says, and he sounds grateful. Now it is Sirius who presses his lips to the curve of Remusís palm, over and over again, kissing his wrist, and the feeling of the kiss spreads up his arm, through his body, as though all his nerves are linked together into one. Waves of kisses are moving over Remusís body, like Siriusís lips are everywhere.
He clings to Siriusís shirt, rolls them over so that he can pull Sirius down on top of him. He wants the broad shoulders, the wide chest suspended above him, he wants to see the muscles of Siriusís arms tensing to hold his body up. I am safe, he thinks. There is shelter here. Sirius begins to move away, and Remus digs his fingers in like claws, until he realizes Sirius is not leaving, is only trying to shuck off his clothes. Remus follows. Naked. Naked again with naked Sirius and how fucking stupid is it that the day comes back and the night and everything that is done in the night is put away, as though it were disposable, instead of the first, the only, the most. No, no, but it doesnít matter, because they are together again, and when Sirius throws his arms around Remus, and Remus wraps his legs around him, when all of their skin is finally, finally touching again, all time between naked now and naked then has been erased. There is only this. There will only ever be this, and he says it, too, as he presses his mouth against Siriusís.
I know, Sirius says.
The heat just keeps building in their little womb, theyíre burning up, together. Theyíre molten flesh and the edges between them are blurring. All distance, all space, between them is about to vanish.
He woke, sometime later, shivering on the stone floor. The bottle was empty.
He crept back to the dorm, slowly, his vision reeling round. Sometimes, when he was alone, he said Siriusís name out loud, just to hear it. It was frightening, the power this name, and all it symbolized, had on him. It was the same grave beauty he had experienced when his mother dragged him to cathedrals throughout Europe, one summer, hoping that if they lit candles there and wished for the curse to be removed, perhaps there could be a possible intercession. But the only intercession he ever had was this. Sirius. And when he said the name, alone, he put his whole heart into it, a prayer for both of them.
He says it now, out loud, into the dark, pulling aside the curtains around Siriusís bed. Sirius. Sirius.
Yeah. Hey. Sorry.
What time is it?
I donít know. Late.
Where were you?
I donít know.
Are you drunk?
Not so much anymore.
Did you drink the rest of my whole fucking bottle?
Most of it. I spilled some, too.
Bastard. Itís not cheap you know. Did you have fun?
You werenít there.
Oh, shut up. Youíre the one who went hiding. Fuck this. Iím going back to sleep. He tugs at Remusís arm. Youíre getting in, yeah?
Sirius moves over to the edge of his bed so that Remus can lie down. He lies on his back and Sirius rolls back over, half-way on top of him, the way he knows Remus likes. He is sprawled there, perfectly still beneath Sirius, and he feels worn out, wrung dry. Siriusís head is resting on his chest and it takes an extraordinary effort to move his weary arm and cup the rough cheek with his palm. Sirius raises his head at the touch and looks up into Remusís eyes. Iím listening to your heart, he says.
Perhaps, Remus wonders, his motherís prayer has come true, though in a far different form than she ever could have expected as she knelt in front of the flames sparking in the dark caverns of chapels, begging, please, please, take this pain from my darling, give him an easier path, walk with him, so that he is not alone. She knew she could not love him as he needed, but she still loved him, so she asked for someone who could love him in her stead. Siriusís eyes are still locked with his, questioning, concerned. Love. He can see love in those eyes, for sure. Perhaps all are cursed, yet all receive some blessing in return. Sirius loves him. He loves Sirius. In the dark this is the most the only the one. The all. He lets everything recede except the face in front of him. Heís free, heís safe, heís home. He lets go.
Ever-faithful Sirius, with his watch-dog heart, keeps his eyes trained until he is sure Remus is asleep. Only then does he rest his head back down, close his eyes, and give consciousness the slip. His cheek is still pressed against Remusís chest, and the steady beat enclosed beneath anchors him to his charge.
In the morning, Sirius will swear to Remus as they walk together to breakfast. He will say, I could hear your heart all through the night. Even when I was dreaming, it was there.
Really, Sirius will reply, and Remus will pull him into an alcove to kiss him.
Years later, Remus will sometimes wake in the darkest, deepest, most silent part of night. For a moment no longer than a single frame in a movie, 1/24th of a second, in long-abandoned recesses of his heart a spring of comfort and happiness wells.
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