ONE MOMENT IN TIME
(Note: Mature themes. Rated "R")
The day had started with Sirius wanting nothing more than to be left alone. Now he wondered if he would ever be able to tolerate being alone again. He was overwhelmed by what had happened with Eve, with the intensity of the emotion, the opening of his senses…
They had untangled themselves slowly, reluctantly, delaying the inevitable with caresses and kisses—but there was no doubt that she could not stay. She would be missed, there would be awkward questions— No, she could not stay, that much had been clear. But now, alone, he found he could no longer bear the solitude. He was changed. Something within him had broken, as if he had been torn apart—shattered into pieces, and it was wonderful and terrifying all at once. He felt the need for human contact, for someone, anyone, to stem the flow of the gaping wound that was left. He closed his eyes, wondering if he had begged aloud for her to stay... Please don’t leave…
Sirius opened his eyes abruptly and looked around his room. His refuge, he had called it. Buckbeak was sleeping peacefully, and Sirius reached over and absently stroked the shining feathers. "You knew, didn't you?" Sirius asked softly, with a slight smirk. Buckbeak had clearly trusted Eve. A year and a half on the run together and the beast knew him better than he knew himself. Now, however, the hippogriff remained sleeping, and Sirius felt terribly alone. He felt he had only the memory of the moments he had spent with Eve for comfort. He was suddenly tired of living with memories. He stood, brushed himself off and left the room, closing the door behind him.
Perhaps Remus was home. Sirius heaved a great sigh and started down the stairs, feeling more confused than ever, if that could be possible. Finding himself at the kitchen, he opened the door and let his eyes adjust to the gloomy light. Several people were seated at the table and looked up as he entered. His breath caught as he saw Eve among them.
"Sirius! You decided to come down for dinner! Wonderful!" Arthur Weasley rose and took him by the arm, leading him to a seat. "It’s been several nights now. We were growing rather worried about you."
"Thanks, Arthur –I’m just a bit hungry, that’s all, and I…wondered if anyone was still about." He nodded to the members of the group as they greeted him.
Most of them were finished with dinner and had pushed their chairs back from the table, chatting. Kingsley was there, in conversation with Tonks; probably about something that had happened during someone’s guard duty. Next to Arthur’s chair was Bill, who smiled a greeting. As Arthur ushered Sirius to an empty chair, he gestured across the table. "You know Eve, don’t you, Sirius? I believe you’ve met."
Sirius glanced at Eve, who was grinning wickedly at him. He dropped his eyes quickly, and fought to suppress his own grin. "Yeah, Arthur, we’ve met."
Molly bustled out of the pantry. "Sirius! Thank goodness you’ve come down. I was starting to worry, we haven’t seen you in days—" She stopped, studying him. "My, but you look ever so much brighter! You are feeling better, aren’t you? What have you been up to?"
Sirius felt his face reddening; Eve was watching him like a hawk. "Hard to say," he shrugged.
"Well whatever it is, it has certainly helped."
He ignored the sudden choking sound from Eve as she set her glass on the table.
"Er—Molly, is there any food left? I’m rather hungry tonight…"
"Certainly! Quite a bit, in fact. I saved some for you in case you decided to come down later, as you sometimes do… Everything all right, Eve?" Molly asked, as she began to gather his dinner.
"Oh yes," Eve replied as she recovered. "Couldn’t be better, actually…" She shot a sly, cryptic look towards Sirius.
The red crept into his face again.
Molly returned with a well-stocked plate of food and set it in front of him.
"Thanks," Sirius said sincerely. "I appreciate this." They had had their differences, but Molly was not one to turn away from anyone in need. He was grateful for her help.
She nodded and gave him a quick pat on the shoulder.
"Where’s Remus?" he asked, starting into the meal.
Tonks looked up. "He’s on duty tonight at the Ministry. I’m going over to join him later."
"And I’ve just returned from there," said Kingsley. "Quiet day."
Arthur leaned toward Sirius reassuringly. "Things are all under control, don’t worry." Sirius gave a brief nod, frowning slightly. Nothing I can do to help in any event... With effort, he pulled his mind away from that train of thought.
Molly sat down next to Eve. "Did I hear you saying that you two have met?" she asked Sirius.
"Yeah, we knew each other briefly before…since before," he finished lamely.
"Oh, were you at Hogwarts together?"
"Yes," Eve said, nodding. "Sirius was a year ahead of me, but we didn’t know each other very well then. We became friends later, just for a few months, you know, before…" she trailed off.
Before I got chucked into Azkaban, Sirius wanted to add. But he knew no one would laugh, and they would only look at him with concern. He kept quiet. No one knew quite what to say; Sirius felt the air become thick with tension. They all seemed to be worried about how he would react tonight.
"Delicious food, Molly," he said, to everyone’s relief.
"Yes," someone piped up, "an excellent meal!"
The talk began to pick up, and Sirius ate quietly in the warm glow of a group who was working together for a higher cause. He tried to feel part of them, but he could not escape the fact that he was not helping actively like the others. Eve became involved in a discussion regarding the afternoon’s Order meeting. Sirius turned his eyes away. He had nothing of importance to contribute. It hadn’t taken long for him to become restless.
"I think I’ll turn in early tonight," he announced as he stood from the table. "You won’t mind showing yourselves out when you’re ready?"
There were murmurs of assent and the group as a whole started to break up their talk and gather their things. Sirius drained his last bit of drink, and carried his plate to the sink where the last of the dishes were being magically scrubbed. "Thanks again, Molly."
"Don't mention it, Sirius. I’m just about to head home myself. I won’t be able to come back for a few days, but I’ve stocked the pantry."
"Don’t worry, I’ll be fine."
She nodded, and he turned to the door. As he climbed the stairs, he realized how edgy he felt; his mood was steadily sliding backwards toward hopelessness. Reaching the landing, he suddenly saw Eve. She must have slipped out of the kitchen ahead of him. She was pulling on her coat, ready to leave.
Their eyes met. Sirius smiled briefly, and looked away. He hadn’t felt this awkward with a woman since he was sixteen.
"Goodnight, Sirius," she whispered, mindful of the portrait. She leaned in to kiss him on the cheek.
"Don’t go," he said abruptly. Bloody hell. Where did that come from?
"What?" she asked, stopping in her tracks.
"Stay tonight. Unless…unless you, er, have to be somewhere else… or you would rather not," he added clumsily. He was aware of his heart pounding…
She looked steadily into his eyes, as if she was searching for something…but he was unable to read her expression. A smile formed on her lips and she nodded. He took her hand and quickly led her up the steps. They stepped into one of the spare rooms and Sirius locked the door behind them with his wand, then slowly turned to face her.
"Thank you, Eve," he said in a low voice.
"For what?" she asked, dropping her coat over a chair.
"For…helping me this afternoon," he said, feeling rather stupid. How could he express that she had saved him from himself? He dropped his eyes. "I don’t know what I’m trying to say…"
When he looked up she was very close and had put her fingers on his lips. "Try not saying anything," she whispered.
A very good plan, he thought, as he leaned into her body and kissed her, gently at first, then, as the feelings of contact flooded his senses, with urgency. He moved his hands over her back, over her ribs, and to her breasts as she gave a low gasp of pleasure. The feel of her touching him, the feel of her body, of her insistent lips…Please don’t go…
"Besides," she said into his mouth, "your hands are speaking extremely well."
He laughed, a short, dog-like bark of a laugh, and she pulled him onto the bed. His energy surged, and he began to fumble with buttons and straps, removing clothing as quickly as he could.
"A bit more comfortable than the bathroom floor," he said, as he kissed and stroked the skin he was uncovering, exploring her body. "I’m sorry about that," he added as an afterthought, worry creeping in…
"You have nothing to be sorry about. But I do owe you an apology for my mistake earlier."
He looked up abruptly, concern in his eyes. He was sure he had been too forceful. "Mistake?"
Her lips curved into a self-satisfied smile, perhaps at having so successfully captured his attention. "I told you that you were the same man that I had once known," she said smoothly as she pulled him down to her mouth, lips on his. "However, there was nothing ‘the same’ about this afternoon. And I would very much like to repeat that experience…"
He smiled, and kissed her while fumbling with the remaining clothing. "Oh, no need to worry," he breathed. "I am happy to comply…"
Bare skin against him, her hands on his body, moving over his shoulders and down his back. A low moan escaped him in response to her touch. He felt as if he was melting into her body, becoming a part of her, not sure where she ended and he began. His focus was entirely on her – he was conscious only of her body, her voice, her movement. They moved with more familiarity this time, and without any feeling of sorrow. He was surprised to feel his spirits soaring, surprised at the sense of lighthearted joy that had overtaken him. They laughed and teased until passion overwhelmed any ability to speak. Then, exhausted, they fell asleep holding each other, arms wrapped around waists and hips; moving only if one stirred so as not to lose contact. Sirius needed to keep her body against him as if she were a compass in his own, private storm…The physical passion was one thing, but the simple contact was quite another. He did not know if he could have survived the night without human touch. Please don’t leave…
The smell of breakfast roused them from the tangled bedding and peaceful sleep. Upon waking, Sirius felt no surprise at the fact that she was sharing his bed, even though it had been an impossibly long time since he had been anything but alone in the morning. He had been conscious of her presence even while he slept. He realized with a start that he had slept the entire night through— no nightmares had haunted him, there had been no hours of restless despair. He felt full of hope for the coming day – that he might be able to cope with reality in a cheerful manner. That she might have helped him begin to heal at last.
She woke more slowly, turning over to kiss his neck, one hand resting on his stomach. "How are you?" she mumbled, stretching.
"Wonderful," he replied, moving to pull her closer, one hand around her waist. "Sleep well?"
"Oh my god, Sirius, what is the time?" She was suddenly wide-awake.
"I dunno – half past eight I think," he said, squinting at the clock.
She sat abruptly. "This isn’t good…I don’t know what I was thinking…"
"What’s the matter…have to rush off?" he asked blankly, as she untangled the sheets and stepped out, hurriedly gathering her things which were strewn all over the floor.
"Oh, Sirius, I really should not have stayed this late. I am going to have problems this morning…"
"Can I help you?"
She threw on her clothing awkwardly as she spoke, looking anxious. "No, no; but I have to leave now," she said, and with a quick look back at him she left the room, closing the door behind her. He heard her rushing down the stairs, and then all was quiet, as she must have tiptoed past the portrait. The front door closed.
He felt drained, startled, and surprisingly empty. Well, maybe it wasn’t surprising after feeling her against him all night. What kind of goodbye was that? Did he mean that little to her, after practically begging him to climb into bed with her…and then leaving like that?
Ah, you useless git, what did you get yourself into this time? Got to remember to use your brain, next time…
He opened the door to step into the bathroom, and found Remus, looking at him curiously.
"Sirius? What are you doing? I heard the front door close—it startled me. Who left?"
Sirius closed his eyes. Oh, perfect. Here we go – just get it over with…
"What are you doing in this room?" Remus continued. And slowly, a look of comprehension dawned. "Who just left?"
Sirius leaned against the wall, glad he had thought to pull on his trousers at least before opening the door. He rubbed his face with his hands. Slowly, he looked at Lupin. "It was Eve."
"Here? In this room? With you…?"
Remus grinned. "I don’t believe it. I’ve spent weeks trying to get you out of your room, and then…"
Sirius smirked. "Well, she is a bit better looking than you, Moony."
"My god, I should have sent her up here weeks ago!"
"It was you behind this, Moony! I knew it…I’ll get you for this…"
Remus raised his eyebrows. "Was it that bad?"
Sirius grinned and started walking toward the bathroom. "Wouldn’t you like to know!" He laughed, throwing a superior look toward Remus as he stepped inside. "Save some breakfast for me," he called through the door. "I’m famished!"
Remus laughed. "There’s my answer," he said lightly, then went back down the stairs.
A short while later, they were sipping coffee at the table. Remus kept looking at Sirius as if he had never seen him quite so clearly, occasionally shaking his head.
"Stop it, Remus. Is it really so shocking that I spent the night with her?"
"I just can’t get over how much better you look!"
Sirius grabbed a half-eaten piece of toast off his plate and threw it at him.
"Really, now Sirius, how did this happen?"
"In the usual manner, Moony…"
Remus wasn’t put off. "Did you just waltz down here and invite her upstairs?"
"Now that is the odd part of it, really. She came upstairs and just barged in on me. She talked me into bathing—"
"Alone, of course! And then she wanted to cut my hair, and one thing led to another—"
"And you didn’t chuck her out of your room? You went along with this scheme?"
Sirius considered this. "Oh, Remus, I don’t know. I didn’t want her around. I was bloody annoyed that she was interfering…" A hint of sorrow appeared on his face.
Remus leaned forward, listening, waiting for him to continue.
Sirius dropped his eyes, and toyed with the remaining food on his plate. "I can’t explain, exactly. She seemed so sure that nothing had changed…and to be honest, I thought it might be true when…when she touched me." His eyes closed involuntarily at the memory. "I suppose I needed to know if there was any possibility that she was right…" He trailed off.
"And—do you think she was?"
"I don’t know how I feel. Confused, actually. What does she see in me? Why did she bother in the first place?" He remembered her nervous behavior this morning. His heart stopped momentarily as he considered a new possibility. "You don’t think she’s a spy—?"
"No. No I don’t." Remus visibly fought to suppress his amusement at this suggestion. "Why would you think that?"
"For god’s sake, Remus, look at me! I’m not much of a catch! What other motivation could she possibly have?"
"I would think that’s obvious, Padfoot…"
"Oh please…locked up in this house…the condition I’m in—" he said miserably. He paused, and looked his friend in the eye. "Did you send her up there?"
"We have talked about you on occasion," Remus replied.
Sirius looked away, his brow furrowing.
"But only in the way old friends would talk, Sirius. Friends who care," Remus added. "She was very curious about you, about why you were hiding away upstairs."
"What did you tell her?"
Remus took a breath, and put down his coffee cup. "I told her the truth. That you were trapped in prison, your own prison this time round. That you were locked in, even though there was no lock on the door."
Sirius leaned his face into his hands. He closed his eyes and let out a heavy sigh.
"I never told her to go up there, Sirius. I never dreamt she would do that."
Remus watched him a moment, clearly waiting for a reply. Sirius didn’t move.
"Really, Sirius, I’m sorry – I had no idea..."
Sirius stood without a word and turned to leave the kitchen.
He kept walking.
"Sirius! Don’t you leave! Don’t you retreat again! Not back to that prison!"
Sirius turned around. "What do you know about prison?" he snarled.
Remus glared. "If you could stop feeling sorry for yourself for one minute! Good god, do I need to tell you about my prison? If you’d stop and just think! You don’t have exclusive rights to suffering, you know!" He turned away in disgust.
Sirius felt as if he was glued to the floor. He stared at his friend, breathing heavily, ready to strike, to come to blows, to let his agony out in any way he could. Suddenly he looked away, broken. Every word Remus had spoken was true and he knew it. He dropped his head and stared at the floor. "Remus, forgive me…"
"I’ve been with you in your prison, that’s all," Sirius continued softly, apology in his voice. "I’ve seen you suffer, I’ve lived it with you. You know I have tried to help."
Remus nodded, their eyes meeting. "Yes, and I have tried to help you in the same way, but you won’t let me."
"That’s why you sent Eve upstairs."
"I didn’t send her, I tell you! Talk to her about it! Ask her!" Remus paused, then flashed a grin. "Turns out I should have, though. She has a pretty good sense of you, if you ask me. And handles you quite well – when is the last time you took a bath, anyway? And a shave in the same day? Pity she wasn’t able to manage the hair…"
He ducked, laughing, as the same half-eaten piece of toast, retrieved from the floor where it had landed earlier, went sailing toward him.