The Sugar Quill
Author: eca celli  Story: Most Valuable  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Remus listened to the springs creak as he sunk into the dilapidated old couch, staring at the flames licking their

            Remus listened to the springs creak as he sunk into the dilapidated old couch, staring at the flames licking their merry time away in the hearth. It wasn’t the common room, but it would have to do.

He squeezed the mug of butterbeer in his hand unconsciously. It was so strange, being out of Hogwarts. He’d never realized how much he would miss it—the sounds of quills scraping on parchment, the musty smell of books, the raucous laughter of students pounding in and out of the portrait hole. He liked the clamor of the school, the rush of the students bustling from class to class. He liked the power of ten thousand tomes at his fingertips, even with Madam Pince’s annoying tendency to snip at the slightest sound.

            The hardest part to get used to was sleeping in a room alone. It was odd not hearing the steady breathing of three other boys in their respective beds, weird to think that if he spoke out into the night no groggy voice would moan an answer. Honestly, Remus didn’t particularly like sleeping in a room alone. It was too lonely, after all those years of sharing a dormitory with his three best friends. It was probably the reason he chose to stay up so late now, talking to Sirius in their pathetic little flat here trying to pretend their shabby living room was in any way similar to the Gryffindor common room.

            Sirius plopped into the armchair across from him amid a cloud of dust. “Do you want more butterbeer or tea or something? I’m really thirsty,” he declared, folding his hands behind his head and reclining, apparently having never had the intention of actually retrieving the drinks.

            Remus shook his head. “Sirius, where did you get this furniture again?”

            “My uncle Alphard. Why?” Sirius answered, carelessly picking at a tattered corner of the upholstery.

            “And you didn’t take the time to clean it at all?” Remus said, waving the dust away from his face.

            “Dust never hurt anyone,” Sirius shrugged.

            “Yes, Sirius, dust never hurt anyone except those with serious allergies and countless other conditions, including a highly sensitive sense of smell.”

            Sirius raised his eyebrows. “You want me to clean the furniture, then?”

            “No, not really. It’s not that urgent,” Remus answered, getting up and refilling his mug of butterbeer on his own.

            Sirius rolled his eyes at him as he walked away. Moony was so confusing half the time. He’d act like he was going to scold Sirius about something then, at the last minute, recant all his complaints and act like nothing happened. For being a man who lived his life by patterns, Remus was the most unpredictable person Sirius knew. Remus’ routines absolutely bewildered him.

 For instance, now Remus was going to walk into the kitchen, turn on the sink and rinse out his mug for some inexplicable reason. Why? In Sirius’ mind there was no good explanation for rinsing out one’s mug when it was just going to get used again anyway. It drove him up the wall. There! Sirius could hear the faucet running now. Yes, and now he could hear a drawer opening and Remus retrieving a towel and then the fridge creaking open and finally the sound of pouring liquid. It was daft. Completely mad.

Remus emerged from the kitchen, his mug in his hand again. “We should really clean up around here,” he said, pushing a pile of magazines over to make room for his mug on the coffee table as he sat down again.

“Cleanliness is in the eye of the beholder,” Sirius prattled. “The flat’s fine the way it is.” He reached for his empty mug and frowned at it.

“I believe that’s ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder,’” Remus corrected. “And before you go complaining about my not bringing you a drink, I’d like to point out that you didn’t bring me one so we’re perfectly even.”

Sirius shook his head and heaved himself out of the chair. “You’re so strange.”

Remus blinked innocently at him. “That’s rather rich coming from you.”

In theory, Remus had lived with Sirius for going on eight years but up until this point, all of those years had been tempered by the company of other, comparatively normal, roommates (if one could call James and Peter normal, which was a stretch in itself). But the point was, no matter how much Remus loved Sirius; it was only possible to take him in small doses. Of course, everyone had their peculiarities. Remus knew this—he himself had his fair share. But, dear God, Sirius was a nutcase.

He hummed far too much. Remus doubted that Sirius was even aware he was doing it, but he was constantly humming and, if he wasn’t doing this, he was muttering to himself. Even now, he was humming some tuneless melody while he dithered away in the kitchen. It drove Remus insane—could the man never be silent? Could he never, for even a second, let there be peace?! Sirius filled every waking moment with some sort of movement, some sort of sound, some sort of pointless action and Remus found it absolutely annoying.

Remus wouldn’t find Sirius’ nervous energy so off-putting if not for the fact that he never did anything of use. It was one thing to be a naturally active person, always looking for the next entertainment, the next amusing shiny object; but it was quite another to never use that same boundless energy for the benefit of others—like washing the dishes, for example, or making the bed or cleaning the damn dusty couches.

Clattering sounds emanated from the kitchen and Remus was positive that Sirius was rummaging through the cupboards, expelling all kinds of things that would never be put back in their proper place until Remus finally became bothered enough to do it himself months later.

“What’re you making all that racket for?” Remus yelled.

            The kitchen door banged open and Sirius’ head poked out. “You’ve been keeping secrets from me.”

             Remus laughed. “I told you not to go through my underwear drawer.”

            “No, no, you’ve been keeping secrets from me. I can tell because you’ve hid it in the cleaning cupboard where you thought I’d never find it, but you were wrong because I have. Sirius Black has discovered your stash! He has unearthed your deep dark secret!”

            “Pray tell, what exactly were you doing in the cleaning cupboard?” asked Remus, amused.

            “Actually, I was looking for the whiskey. A while back I got a bit pissed and hid it somewhere where there was Mrs. Skower's Cleaning... whatsit. Didn’t really know we even had a cleaning cupboard until then—all I remember was that the place reeked of alcohol. Gave me a terrible headache.”

            “Are you sure it wasn’t you that reeked of the alcohol and not the cupboard?”

            Sirius glared. “That’s beside the point.”

            “What is the point then?” Remus smirked.

            Sirius emerged from the kitchen, clutching his butterbeer mug and hiding one hand behind his back. “The point is that while I was searching for some good hard liquor to liven up this party, I stumbled upon your secret stash…” he hovered above Remus now, his hand still tucked behind his back like he was about to reveal some incredibly cheesy magic trick, “of chocolate,” Sirius finished, exposing a large hunk of dark brown delicacy, perched precariously on his fingertips with a flourish as if it was some sort of precious jewel…which it was, as far as Remus was concerned.

There were few things that Remus could afford to indulge himself in after all his expenses, but the most valuable commodity he routinely invested in was invariably chocolate. Other people had drugs, cigarettes, and alcohol but Remus had chocolate. It solved all his problems. When the mental and physical injuries of his horrific monthly transformations and hectic daily life weighed down on him, Remus turned to chocolate. There was nothing quite like that warm, sweet, ethereal taste to calm ragged nerves and Remus knew this better than anyone. In a world of chaos, chocolate was what kept Remus reasonably sane.  

            “Sirius,” Remus began, as if speaking to a very small, very stupid child, his eye trained on the treasure, “you’re not supposed to get into that. It’s very valuable and very mine.”

Sirius opened his mouth to reply and, in one fluid movement, Remus made to snatch the chocolate out of his hands but Sirius had anticipated him. “Ha! You can’t get it that easily!” But even Sirius’ fingers were too clumsy that moment and with an ominous “flugg” Remus felt his mug of butterbeer suddenly grow much heavier.

“Sirius!” Remus cried.

“I’m not getting it.”

“That was…the last of….my chocolate,” Remus whimpered. His idiot of a friend…damn… “Sirius!

His black haired comrade shrugged, falling back in his dusty armchair. “I didn’t mean to.”

“I never said you meant to. It doesn’t matter if you meant to or not, my chocolate is all gone and it’s because of you!” Remus ranted, burying his nose in his mug. The warm butterbeer was starting to melt the hunk of chocolate; murky clouds of dark brown emanating from the bottom of the glass. Poor chocolate.

“You can fish it out if you want.”

“It’ll be soggy,” Remus sighed.

Sirius leaned back in the armchair, causing another small poof of dust to fly up into the air. Remus would file this cloud of dust in his memory, Sirius knew, to bring up at another point in time but he wouldn’t say anything about it now. Remus dealt with one transgression at a time, it was his idea of fair play but, regardless, months and months from now he would spring a list of misdeeds on Sirius in order to guilt him into submission for some purpose or another. Honestly, Sirius didn’t mean to mess up so often. He really hadn’t meant to drop that precious piece of chocolate in Remus’ butterbeer—he knew how much Remus loved his sweets. He had only meant to negotiate a small piece for himself.

Still, Sirius thought, watching Remus gazing, melancholy, into his mug, there were opportunities in the most unexpected situations. He almost giggled out loud at the idea that dawned on him. Just like the old days… “Well, it’s not all a loss,” Sirius declared.

Remus looked up incredulously. “What’re you on about?”

A devilish smile spread across Sirius’ fine features and Remus felt a wave of foreboding. “Haven’t you ever studied Potions, my dear Remus?” At his companion’s humorless stare, he continued undeterred, “It’s simple science. The chocolate and butterbeer have undergone a physical change—the chocolate has been added to the butterbeer—but that does by no means mean that the chocolate no longer exists. It has been mixed into the butterbeer. In order to experience the beauty that is the chocolate, all you must do is drink the butterbeer-chocolate mixture.”

Remus cringed, flinging himself into the back of the couch, holding his glass miserably, “Ew.”

“Come on, Remus! Drink it! I dare you!” Sirius exclaimed, sitting more alertly now, abandoning his quasi-scientific manner to sound like the easily excitable overgrown schoolboy that he was.

Remus grimaced into his mug, “That’s absolutely revolting.”

“Come on!” Sirius hissed, “Drink it. We’ve got nothing better to do. It’ll be an experiment! Do it in the name of academic inquiry!”

“You’re pathetic,” Remus tried but he was already beginning to crack despite himself. For some reason, and Remus didn’t really care to analyze it, he couldn’t ever remain angry at his friends for any extended period of time. More than anyone else, they knew how to make him cave, Sirius especially.  No matter what the transgression, his saucy, rude, uncouth, incredibly clever and terribly funny friend could charm his way back onto Remus’ good side. He often tried to resist but found a long time ago that it was futile. 

“Okay then, do it for the chocolate,” Sirius smirked, confident that Remus wouldn’t be truly put out with him if he nudged him a bit further. If truth be known, Sirius lived for moments like these when his playful teasing and immature games pushed Remus a bit outside of his routine, made him abandon his well established patterns because he loved seeing Remus bothered, loved seeing him crawl out of his shell, show some kind of raw emotion. It made a person more human, Sirius reasoned, if one could make them fidget.

Remus stared into the mug for a while. All that chocolate, beautiful, delightful, wonderful chocolate and all of it gone to waste. It couldn’t taste that bad, could it? Butterbeer and chocolate…someone had to try it. God, he was such a softy. He laughed, “You know how my mind works.”

Sirius grinned. “Only after years of practice.”

“All right, I’m going to try it but I’m warning you: if I sick it up, I’m aiming in your direction.”

“I’ll make sure to duck.”

“You know, this is unbelievably childish,” Remus said, raising the mug to his lips slowly.

“Drink it, you wimp.”

Remus did.

            Butterbeer and chocolate, it turned out, were two flavors that were never meant to blend. Any virtue the one held independent of the other was lost—it tasted horrible. The previously smooth, warm taste of the butterbeer was now ruined by the grit of un-dissolved chocolate, greasy and lumpy. It was revolting, the way it stuck in his throat. It was absolutely disgusting, but Remus had been challenged and he was determined to meet that challenge. He felt himself grimace as he gulped it down. The butterbeer was starting to dribble down his chin...only one more swallow. His eyelid started to twitch.

            Sirius watched Remus frown, watched him cringe and fidget as he forced down the butterbeer. He had always loved to see Remus show emotion—any kind of emotion. It was like a traveler coming home from abroad and hearing his native language for the first time—it doesn’t matter what’s said, as long as he understands. And Sirius understood Remus’ grimaces more than he had ever understood his silence. Gulping down the butterbeer, Remus’ eyelid twitching--for some reason, Sirius found the scene absolutely hilarious. He started to giggle.

            “Oi!” Remus sputtered, spitting and retching. “Ew, that stuff’s disgusting.” He threw down the mug, glaring at it and a giggling Sirius in turns. “I suppose you find my misery humorous?”

            “You have a bit of dribble on your lip there,” Sirius laughed.

            Remus swiped his hand across his face. “You know what this means, don’t you?”

            “Hmm?”

            “It means,” Remus leaned forward in his seat, “that you’ll have to buy me chocolate.”

            Sirius stopped giggling. It had only been a joke, but something about the way Remus had said it struck a strange chord, reminding Sirius of something that had been there for a long time. He felt odd, all of a sudden.

            “Because I love chocolate,” Remus continued, “and now it’s all in the bottom of my mug…” but he couldn’t speak anymore. Sirius had kissed him.

            It wasn’t a passionate kiss and it wasn’t a motherly peck. It was somewhere in that gray in between, lips pressed against lips in a solid, quick embrace. But it was definitely a kiss. It was over all too fast.

            Damn it, damn it, damn it. Sirius wished he wasn’t so impulsive, so reckless, so God damn bloody stupid. Should he run? Should he act like nothing happened? Should he say something?

            “I um…I-I uh…I should go…rinse this mug out,” Remus stammered suddenly, stumbling out of the room. Sirius considered telling him that the kitchen was in the opposite direction but somehow he suspected that had never really been his destination. 

*

            The mug mocked him.

            Sitting on his wardrobe, it stared unseeingly at him, insensitive to his turmoil, a mocking memorial to that… incident.

            Remus couldn’t say that he was angry because he wasn’t.  Sirius did stupid things and he’d forgive him because he always forgave him. He was more shocked. Shocked that even Sirius would do something so incredibly reckless, shocked that he would toy with emotions like that, shocked that he had been kissed by his best mate in the world and he wasn’t angry about it. He was confused.

            It hadn’t been a romantic kiss, but it hadn’t been familial either. It had been the kind of kiss old couples gave each other after fifty years of marriage and two grown children. And that was confusing. Remus really couldn’t believe it…there had to be an explanation. Maybe it hadn’t been what he thought it was at all. Maybe he was making an idiot of himself. Maybe this was a trap set up by James and Sirius and they were lurking in the background now waiting to jump out and laugh at him. And maybe Sirius had just been kidding and Remus was supposed to laugh but instead he had ruined a good joke, made it awkward and possibly ended the best friendship he’d ever had in his life. Maybe Sirius had just been drunk. Or maybe…Britain was in Europe. European men kissed, right? It was normal, right? Right? Who was Remus kidding—they weren’t European, they were British. And British men definitely did not go around kissing their mates.

            He and Sirius had always had a different kind of relationship. Where James and Sirius had always been brothers from the start, inseparable best friends of the same heart, Remus and Sirius had always been opposites—opposites who shared a similar sense of humor, a similar sense of fun and a similar set of values. Remus had to admit, their relationship hadn’t been without tension. Sirius annoyed the hell out of him. But it was those same annoying characteristics that he also found fascinatingly endearing. They had been friends for eight years now and Remus couldn’t help but recall an old Muggle saying now—opposites attract. 

            He was disturbed. He should just stop thinking about it. Right.

            Remus clambered into bed, pulling cold covers up around him, nestling himself between one dusty book and another, both left on his bed long ago from some late night reading excursion. He missed Hogwarts at night. He missed the fortress of library books he would pile around his four poster and Madam Pince’s pride when he returned every single one of them back in mint condition. He missed the dark red hangings of his four poster. He missed the comforting sounds of the common room. He missed being able to speak out into the night and hear an answer.

Remus smiled drowsily, caught in that limbo between sleep and wakefulness. James was whispering in the middle of the night, Peter was snoring and somewhere in the vicinity he could hear Sirius’ soft footfalls as he went about his midnight mischief. Just like it always was. Remus remembered one night when Sirius, covered in darkness, had tripped over one of Remus’ books and sent the whole wall crashing down, along with himself, onto Remus’ bed. It had been awkward but then, it was Sirius. Sirius. His face was looming above Remus suddenly, unbearably close and then he was kissing him and… Remus’ eyes flew open.

He wouldn’t catch any sleep tonight. The silence was ill fitting to him. His thoughts swarmed about him, attacking him from all angles. He tried not to think about it, tried to find something else to dwell on but everything led back to James and Peter and…Sirius. The light of the waning moon shone palely on his bedroom wall and visions of a stag, a rat and a dog glowed before him. Remus stared at the ceiling. Right now, he needed to hear the steady breathing of his friends in the night, needed to know they were sleeping soundly somewhere in the dark near beyond. He needed that sense of normalcy. And, most of all, he needed their secure friendship. Remus valued nothing more.

            The mug mocked him.

*

            The couch was miraculously free of dust when Remus shuffled out of his bedroom that morning, though its occupant looked a bit worse for the wear. Sirius was curled into himself, his clothes bedraggled and his black hair looking uncharacteristically like James’ as he slept on that old, ratty sofa. The embers of the fire were dying and their lack of warmth reflected in the features of a sleeping Sirius. And Remus recognized it for what it was—peace offering. Sirius had been wracked by anxiety too last night; their worry had been mutual. Everything might turn out all right yet.  Normally, Remus would have shoved Sirius awake on finding him like this but somehow that seemed inappropriate now. He shuffled his way into the kitchen.

            Remus liked routine. He liked dependability. And he tried to reflect those values in his actions. Every morning, he’d shuffle out of the bedroom and into the kitchen and every morning he would blindly scavenge for the tea pot and every morning he would drowsily fill it up and set it on the stove until its shrill whistle pulled him out of his stupor. And this morning, he did the same. Except when he went to pour the water into the rusty old tea pot, he found a package in the sink. A package from Honeydukes. A package of Honeydukes’ best chocolate. Another peace offering.

            The kitchen door creaked open and Sirius slipped in with the Daily Prophet, shuffled over to the cupboard to retrieve a tea cup and plopped down at the table, waiting for Remus to pour him his tea like he did every morning.

The thing about Sirius was that he was unpredictable. And Remus expected this. But whenever he anticipated some reckless, stupid or crazy action from his maniac of a friend, Sirius would go and do the unexpected—he’d act normal. And for all his appreciation of routine and dependability, Remus liked this spontaneity. It confused him, it annoyed him but it also made him feel alive.

Remus watched in awe as Sirius rustled the paper open. Black eyes flicked upward to meet his gaze. “I bought you chocolate,” Sirius rasped, his voice not yet accustomed to consciousness.

            Remus nodded. “I know.”

            It was almost normal between them--something feeling old, familiar and comfortable—that morning in the kitchen. There was nothing Remus valued more.

FIN

A/N: I love Remus and Sirius and I believe they love each other. Please review, I appreciate feedback greatly.

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