Disclaimer: If you really want to pretend
that JK wrote this, weíll let you.
Is it indeed toward your mate you
sing? or is it really to me?
For I, that was a child, my tongueís
use sleeping, now I have heard you,
Now in a moment I know what I am
for, I awake,
And already a thousand singers, a
thousand songs, clearer, louder and more sorrowful than yours,
A thousand warbling echoes have started
to life within me, never to die.
-Walt Whitman, "Out of the Cradle
The only sound in the flat was the steady
thudding of his fingers on the kitchen table. Sirius twitched in his
seat, briefly considered doing the dishes, and stared at the kitchen
door. Where the hell was Moony? The picnic had ended an hour and a half
ago- long enough for Sirius to have dropped off Natalia and come home.
Long enough for him to have changed robes, read the Daily Prophet, and
paced the length of the flat several times before settling down in the
kitchen to lie in wait for Remus.
The picnic today had been an unqualified
disaster from his point of view. Remusí mood from the night before had
not abated by this morning, and he barely said a word all day. Which
really pissed Sirius off- why couldnít he just get mad and yell like
a normal person? Remusí silences were far worse than anyone elseís tantrums.
For one thing, they were completely and totally distracting. It was
absolutely impossible to concentrate on anything else when Remus was
behaving like that.
Sirius checked his watch for the fourth
time in fifteen minutes, sighed, and re-cataloged his numerous woes.
Natalia was irritated with him now; she had made that quite clear when
he dropped her off at her flat.
"Why did you invite me to the stupid
picnic if you werenít planning to talk to me the entire day?" He
had to admit she had a point. But this, also, was all Remusí fault.
He wouldnít swim; he wouldnít play Quidditch- he just sat under the
same bloody tree all afternoon. What was he supposed to do? Just let
Moony sit there like a lump with a dark look on his face? He was trying
to be a good friend. Well, bugger that, because apparently everyone
was pissed at him now.
He thought about throwing something,
but realized heíd just have to clean it up. Where had he put that bottle
A soft Ďpopí from the living room brought
Sirius to his feet. "Remus?" He tried to keep the annoyance
out of his voice.
There was a long silence. "Padfoot?
I didnít expect you to be home." Remus appeared in the doorway,
his face tired.
"Where have you been?" The
words came out more harshly than heíd intended. It was a demand, not
Remus looked taken aback. "What?
I was helping clean up after the picnic. What are you doing here? Whereís
"Home. Whatís wrong with you?"
The words tumbled out of his mouth before he could stop them.
"What?" The single word was
spoken sharply, and Remusí eyes narrowed.
"You know what Iím talking about.
You stormed out of the bar last night, you hardly said two words all
day today, and youíreÖ" He stopped. Usually he could feel his way
through any situation with Remus. True, his natural composure made it
difficult to know what he was thinking. He had enormous reserves of
control. But Sirius had known him so long, heíd become good at reading
his moods, and heíd never seen him like this.
"Iím what?" The words
were spoken mildly, but they were unmistakably a warning.
"Youíve completely closed
yourself off, and itís a really bad time for that, Moony." All
of a sudden, he wanted to see him break. He wanted to see Remus lose
that iron control; he wanted to see him. "Five days. Itís less
than a week before the Fidelius Charm. And after that, how often will
we see them? We wonít, Remus. Not until this is all over, somehow.
These are our last few days together."
"You think I donít know that?"
Remusí voice was still calm, but there was a dangerous edge to it.
"Then why did you spend the
entire day ignoring all of us? Why wonít you talk to us? What the hell
happened yesterday?" Sirius found himself on his feet.
"Iím tired. Iím too tired
for this." Remus ran his hand through his hair. "Iím going
"Youíre not leaving."
Sirius moved to block the door. "Not before this conversation
"This conversation is over."
"No, itís not."
"Move aside." Remus
closed the small distance between them; they were scant inches away
from each other now, eyes locked. With a faint sense of shock,
Sirius realized how easily this could turn into a physical confrontation.
"No." Angry gold threatened
to subsume the cool green in Remusí hazel eyes. Neither of them
seemed to be blinking anymore, Sirius noted. He struggled to draw a
breath against the weight on his chest.
Remus finally broke eye contact.
"It doesnít have anything to do with you, Sirius. Itís my own affair."
"Thatís the problem. Everythingís
your own affair."
"What are you talking about?"
His tone of voice deflected the intensity of the moment; suddenly it
was as if their conversation was no more than a friendly chat about
Something inside Sirius broke open completely.
"Jesus Christ, Moony! How the hell do you do that? I know youíre
seriously upset about something. And I know youíre completely hacked
off at me right now- Iím standing here blocking you from leaving your
own damn kitchen. So talk to me! Yell at me! Donít you need anybody?"
Remusí entire body froze. "Iím
not baring my soul to you. That doesnít mean Iíve shut the world out,"
he said finally.
"Then there is someone privy to
the inner workings of Remus Lupin? I find that hard to believe."
Siriusís voice was bitter and biting. "Oh, because havenít you
heard? Ordinary mortals canít possibly understand him."
For a moment, Sirius thought that Remus
was going to hit him. Heíd never seen that look on Moonyís face before.
His familiar face was twisted into a mask of unguarded anger and something
elseÖsomething that made his heart pound. Itís the adrenaline, he thought.
Itís the charge of actually seeing him break.
"Who the fuck do you think you
are?" Remus nearly snarled. Sirius could feel the heat of
Remusí anger enfold him, and he stiffened his pose in the doorway.
"What claim do you think you have on me? Give me one good reason
my life should be an open book to you." He pinned Sirius with his
Sirius opened his mouth, but no words
emerged. He didnít know whether it was because he didnít have a good
answer, or if it was just impossible to speak with Remus looking at
him like that.
"I thought so," Remus growled,
and his arm shot out. Sirius found himself on the floor of the kitchen
watching Remus slam the door of his bedroom before he knew what had
happened. Well, heíd wanted to see him lose control, he thought, his
heart hammering against his chest. He picked himself up from the floor
shakily. Remus had never used his strength against him before, and God,
he was strong.
He wasnít willing to let this end here.
Adrenaline was coursing through his body, and he thought it would be
worth it to get good and beaten up if meant that Moony would talk to
"Moony?" He strode over to
Remusí door and pounded on it. "Moony!"
"Get. Away. From. The. Door."
"Please? Please. I know it has
something to do with yesterday. With that werewolf. I donít
know what youíre thinking, Moony, but thatís not you. Itís got nothing
to do with you. Iíve never seen you intentionally hurt anyone in my
There was a long silence, and Sirius
leaned against the door to catch any sounds behind it. Finally he heard
Remusí voice. He was obviously right up against the other side of the
door, but Sirius had to strain to catch the words. "Donít presume
to know what Iím capable of, Padfoot. I donít know what Iím capable
The noise inside the Leaky Cauldron
was clamorous, the booths and tables filled to capacity. All except
one. Sirius and Natalia sat in a far corner, their table cloaked in
uncomfortable silence. Heíd fled to her house the night before,
after his row with Remus. It hadnít been a very good idea, he
could see that now, but at the time heíd been so wound up and restless
he hadnít been able to think straight. And now there was an air
of tension between them that seemed to be mounting with each passing
moment. He looked across the table at Natalia, who sat fiddling
with the napkin under the drink in front of her.
"Seems ridiculous to sit here in
silence," Sirius offered, in an attempt at conversation.
She glanced up at him, with a smile
that didnít quite reach her eyes. "Yes, I suppose so."
"Iím sorry that Iíve been soÖdistracted
lately. Itís just that Iím so concerned about Lily and JamesÖ"
Natalia shook her head quickly. "No,
Sirius. Theyíve got a really bad situation right now, and I know you
have to help them. I just wish that when you were with me, youíd
be happier about it. It just seems that we never have any time to ourselves."
She gave him a searching glance and then spoke, tentatively. "It
seems like, maybe, you donít want to be alone with me."
He rolled his eyes and sighed loudly.
"Now, that is ridiculous." The instant he finished speaking,
he spotted Remus across the room. Oh dear Lord. Heíd forgotten
that heíd invited Moony. This was going to require some delicate handling.
"ErÖNatalia? Donít get mad, okay?"
Perhaps not the best opening. With a look of dawning comprehension,
she scanned the room. Her face turned thunderous as she spotted
"I donít believe you," she
"Iím sorry, Iím really sorry. Itís
just that we had a bit of a row last night. Weíre all rather having
a time of it lately, and I thought it would be good if--"
"You had a fight last night?"
She interrupted him. "YouÖandÖ.he? Had a fight?" It was as
if she was on the verge of solving a difficult Arithmancy problem. "Would
this fight have taken place about fifteen minutes before you came over
to my flat?" Her voice scaled up, and had Sirius been paying closer
attention, he would have caught the outrage.
"Shh, heís almost here. Hey, Moony!"
He waved his hand so Remus could locate them in the crowded pub. Okay,
so maybe this wasnít such a great idea. This afternoon, it had
seemed like a brilliant tactic. Natalia could be a buffer between he
and Remus, and Remusí presence could diffuse the awkwardness of his
ill-planned visit to Nataliaís last night. But from the look on
Moonyís face as he spotted Natalia at the table, he might have set himself
up for a really uncomfortable situation.
"Have a seat, Moony." His
best defense, Sirius decided, was to be completely oblivious to the
tension at the table.
"Hello, Natalia." Remusí greeting
was pleasant, but his spine was so stiff he resembled a coat-rack.
"Good evening, Remus." She
tried to approximate his tone, but there was a noticeable undercurrent
"Iím sorry. I wonít interrupt your
eveningóI was just stopping to say hello." He ventured a half-smile.
"What are you talking about? I
invited you. Sit down." Both Remus and Natalia shot him looks-
Remusí exasperation, Nataliaís incredulity.
"No, thatís fine. You two have
a nice evening." Remus nodded at them and turned to go, but Sirius
seized his arm and pulled him into the chair.
A very long, very tense silence followed.
"Should we order wine?" attempted
"Look, Iím just going to go."
Remus started to rise, but Sirius shot out his hand in protest.
"No! Youíre staying. Weíre all
Natalia gave him a searching look and
reached for her bag. "No, Sirius. Weíre not. I can tell when Iím
not needed. Iím going home." Seeing that Remus was hastily
rising again, she stopped him, shaking her head as she stepped away
from the table. "Goodbye Sirius, Remus." And she turned, striding
quickly from the pub.
Sirius sat back in utter shock.
Somewhere along the line this evening had gone horribly wrong, and he
was at a loss to explain why.
Remus was gesturing frantically toward
the door. "Go after her, you daft bastard!"
Sirius nodded mutely, and bounded toward
the door. Stepping out onto the deserted street, he spotted Natalia
already halfway down the block. He raced down the street, shouting
after her. "Natalia! Please wait!"
She stopped at the corner, and waited
for him to catch up. The street-lantern burning above her head
gave Nataliaís face a fierce intensity. "I donít really think
thereís anything to say, Sirius."
"Nothing to say?" he spluttered.
"After all this time thereís nothing to say? Shouldnít we at least
talk about this? Please donít do this, not now. "
"Do what? I havenít done anything.
Thatís the material point! I should have done this a long time
"Why?" His brow furrowed as
he said angrily, "I donít understand why youíre doing it now!"
Natalia gave him a piercing glance,
and then spoke so quietly Sirius had to strain to hear. "You
wonít like what Iím going to say."
"Please, Natalia. Just say something."
Her eyes narrowed. "Fine. Iím just
not prepared to be someone elseís stand-in."
He shook his head. "I donít have
a clue what youíre talking about."
"Oh, I think you do. Thereís something
going on here, and it doesnít have a thing to do with me. Last night
He grimaced. "Look, I already said
I was sorry that I was a littleÖrough. I donít know what else to say."
Natalia smiled sadly. "I wouldnít
have minded, Sirius, if it had been about us. But it wasnítÖand it hasnít
been for a while. Itís not fair to me, Sirius. And I wonít do it anymore.
Goodbye." She paused for a moment and then turned away. He
watched until her dark figure disappeared into the horizon.
Remus was still sitting at the table,
looking as nervous as Remus ever looked. He raised an eyebrow
questioningly. Sirius shook his head, and sat back on his chair
with a defeated thud. Remus quickly leaned forward, a look of
concern on his face.
"Iím sorry, Sirius. Did she tell
you why?" Sirius nodded dispiritedly.
"She said it wasnít about her.
That it hadnít been for a while. Iím not sure what I did to make it
about me, but thatís what she said." He shrugged. "I guessÖsheís
right. Iíve been so wrapped up in myself, with Lily and James,
and I suppose I havenít been very attentive to her." He heaved
a great sigh and shook his head. "Iíve been dumped. That fucking
Remus nodded sympathetically. "Had
the two of you talked about a future together? I mean, the other night
you were considering marriage and nowÖ" He trailed off. Sirius
shrugged and looked away.
"I never mentioned it to her. I
got scared, I suppose. Big step, and all that. Anyway, arenít you the
one that said it wasnít a good idea?"
"Hey, I never said that. I said
I thought it was sudden, thatís all. Besides, Iím not the one to be
asking about things like that." Sirius could tell Remus was getting
irritated and he knew he should let the subject drop; they were moving
into tender territory here. But he found he couldnít help himself.
During the last few days, heíd been seeing an entirely different side
of his friend, and he wanted more.
"Why do you keep saying that, Moony?
What is it that makes you unqualified as an advisor? Havenít you ever
been in love?" He instantly regretted his words. Remusí eyes narrowed,
and Sirius could see that unfathomable something glinting from inside
them. And then it was gone, locked away behind Remusí resolve.
"Are you trying to pick a fight,
Sirius?" Remus spoke quietly; his precise words a mix of threat
Sirius shook his head. "No. I donít
want to fight anymore. I just want you to talk to me, Remus. I
know that youíreÖ" but Remus cut him off sharply.
"You donít know. You canít."
Sirius knew he was right. There were
aspects of Remusí life that he knew he could never fully appreciate,
and it tore at him. "Okay, fine. I donít know. But you could
help me to understand, couldnít you?"
Remus folded his arms as Sirius gazed
at him imploringly. "Please, Moony."
"Werewolves mate for life. Did
you know that? Do you know what that means?"
Sirius leaned forward, his startled
brain racing. He spoke slowly and deliberately. "You meanÖif youÖitísÖ"
Remus laughed mirthlessly. "Yes,
Sirius. Thatís exactly what it means." Sirius sat back, and hoped
that he didnít look as incredulous as he felt. He could feel Remus watching
"Okay, Moony. Iíll admit it. That
is not what I thought you were going to say." He shook his head,
laughing, unable to stop the goofy grin that was spreading over his
face. Thankfully, Remus was laughing as well, and Sirius could feel
some of the tension between them dissipating.
"Arenít you glad you asked?"
Sirius nodded, still laughing. "So,
now what? Any other deep, dark secrets youíd care to share tonight?"
Something flickered again in his bottomless
hazel eyes, but Remus smiled, and shook his head. Raising his hand,
he signaled the bartender. Remus grinned broadly at the inquiring look
Sirius gave him. "Only one thing left to do, mate. Drink
heavily in an attempt to forget what a lousy prick you are."
If Sirius drank any more, he really
would forget who he was. He was having a hard enough time staying
in his chair. He opened his eyes widely in an attempt to clear
the blur, and succeeded enough to see Remus leaning forward, his elbows
resting haphazardly on the table. Remus raised his head, and peered
at Sirius through the one eye he was able to keep open.
"I think that last whisky shot
was the bad one, Siriusss." He snickered. "Siriusss. You have
a silly name. So many sísss. Makes me sound drunk."
Sirius chortled loudly. "You are
drunk, you prat. Youíre very, very drunk." He tried to point an
admonishing finger at his inebriated friend, but found that he was suddenly
unable to focus his eyes on just one Remus. "Stop moving around,
Moony! Iím trying to point at you!"
Remus giggled. "Iím not moving!
Iím sitting. Iím sitting very still. Youíre the drunk one. You canít
"I think youíre both fairly gone,
gents. Time to pack it in." Both Remus and Sirius turned drunkenly
toward Tom the bartender who was standing over them, both hands on his
hips in a position of fatherly concern.
Sirius looked from Tom, to Remus, and
back to Tom in confusion. "Weíre not gone, Tom! Weíre right here!"
Tom shook his head, and offered both hands to the drunken men. He pulled
them up with the familiarity of a man whoís seen lifetime of similar
sights, and pushed them toward the stairs.
"Neither of you are going home
tonight. Room 3ís open. I wonít take the chance of you to gits trying
to Apparate and getting yourselves splinched."
Remus stopped and grabbed Siriusís arm
as he stumbled. He turned back to Tom. "Youíre just the nicest
Tom grinned, and shook his head. "Get
along with you upstairs, now. Thereís water on the nightstand. Take
my advice and drink some. "
They stumbled toward the open staircase.
Sirius wrapped his arm around Remusí waist. "I have to hold you
up. Youíll fall down if I donít!" He exclaimed in response to the
look Remus gave him. Remus laughed as Sirius tripped over the front
step. He looped his arm around Siriusí back and half-carried him up
the stairs. He kicked open the door to Room 3 and dropped Sirius
inside the darkened room.
"Ouch, Moony. That hurt."
He pouted at Remus and rubbed the sore spot on his bum. He could hear
Remus stumbling around the darkened room, cracking into furniture and
"I canít find the bloody-ow-sodding-ouch!-light.
Whatís this? Oh, itís the bed." A soft thud came from the direction
of the bed, as Remus dropped onto it. "Screw the light anyway.
Too much work."
It was suddenly very apparent to Sirius
that water was an immediate necessity. "Moony?" His voice
wavered. "Can I have the water?" He heard Remus rolling off
the bed, and fumbling along the nightstand. "Canít see a bloody
thingÖoh, hereÖ" Remus made his way along the floor, and approached
Siriusí prone form. He thrust the goblet into Siriusí waiting
Clumsily, Sirius drank from the goblet,
spilling most of the contents down the length of his robes. "Oh.
IÖspilled. Look!" He grabbed for Remusí arm.
"Itís dark! I canít see. Oh. Right."
Remus fumbled in his robes, finally pulling his wand from his pocket.
"Whatís the spell for Lumos?" The wandís tip sparked, startling
Remus and illuminating Sirius and his sodden robes.
Sirius gave him a look of utter agony.
"Oh, Moony! Iím all wet," he moaned.
"Take your robe off, then!"
"No!" Sirius moaned again.
"Iíll be practically starkers. And you wonít. Itíll be like that
bad dream where Iím back at Hogwarts, standing in the Great Hall, and
I look down and see that Iím completely starkers and everyoneís staring
at me. And thatís not even the worst part. I see Snape and heísÖ"
Remus cut him off quickly, shuddering.
"Fine! Iíll take my robes off too. Anything to make you stop telling
The dim light of the wand flickered
as the two fumbled with their robes. Finally discarding the garments,
Remus led the way toward the bed. They clambered up onto the soft
bed, discovering that it was quite a snug fit for two grown men. But
personal space didnít seem too crucial an issue to Sirius at the moment.
He flopped down haphazardly, moving only when Remus nudged or pushed
him out of the middle.
They lay in silence for a moment. Sirius
found he was oddly comforted by the solid heat of Remusí body next to
his. He breathed in pine and musk, a scent distinctly Remus, and
found he was comforted by that as well.
"Mm-hmm?" Remus answered groggily.
"Youíre very strong, arenít you.
I forget sometimesÖthat youíre so strong." The words came unbidden
from his mouth. His drunken state had obviously loosened his tongue.
"Yes. Iím very, very strong. Iím
also very, very drunk."
Sirius giggled. God. He was drunk. "Because
you donít look as strong as you are," he continued. "And then
you surprise me." His addled brain was swirling with vague thoughts
and actions, but one idea was coming through crystal clear.
He wanted to touch Remus.
With the certainty of the very drunk,
Sirius reached out a wavering hand until it came in contact with Remusí
forearm. It was solid and sinewy, covered with a layer of soft hair.
Unconsciously, his fingers stroked upwards, sliding along Remusí arm,
along the powerful bicep. It was the strangest thing, to feel
the steely musculature of Remusí body. It was all angles and curves,
covered with hair, so unlike anything Sirius had ever known. Dimly,
he became aware of his desire to touch more. He paused briefly at the
sculpted shoulder, waiting for Remus to stop him, but he made no sound.
Encouraged, he trailed his fingers down Remusí sternum. He heard
a sharp intake of breath as his fingers traveled along Remusí hard stomach,
and he splayed his hand full out across the rigid plane. Something tightened
inside his chest, as he felt Remus tensing beneath him. Tentatively,
his fingers brushed against the pattern of hair just beneath his navel.
Suddenly, Sirius felt a strong grip encircle his wrist. He slowly exhaled.
Remus cut him off, dropping his hand
back by his side. "Itís okay. Letís just go to sleep, alright?"
"Yeah. Thatís a good idea."
Sirius lay quietly, trying to make sense of what had just happened.
He felt so oddÖsoÖhe couldnít put his finger on it. Not like heíd put
his fingers on Remus. Which had been nice. Which wasÖoddÖreallyÖbecauseÖhe
drifted off to sleep.
Authorís Notes: This particular installment
is dedicated to Honeychurch's potential hedgehog that will not be named
Seamifer, and to Signy, the werewolf girl, who has the potential to
be the cheesiest character ever created in the history of fan fiction-which
is saying a lot.
To be continued...