“Whoa, fuck. Whoa. Sirius, I think actually… we should just turn ourselves round and head right back inside. Yes, I think that seems like a good idea.”
Sometimes, Lily had this particular way of speaking that imbued her voice with an extra vein of steel beyond the not insignificant amount she already possessed, so neither of them even thought to argue with her.
James turned on his heel, Sirius followed.
Remus and Peter hadn’t even made it near the door. In light of the life-changing film experience Peter had just undergone, he was attempting, with little success, to convince Remus to dress up as the Blues Brothers with him for Halloween.
“No one at the party is going to get it,” Remus said, patiently. “We are the only people we know that go to the cinema.”
“It doesn’t matter, cause we’re gonna look so cool no one is even going to be thinking about it.”
“I don’t really go in for dressing up. Don’t you think you should be working on James or Sirius?”
“James is already doing a couples’ costume with Lily. He’s being Copernicus and she’s going as the sun. She’s already charmed a load of quidditch stuff to be the planets, it’s wicked. She’ll kill me if I even look James’s way over this.”
“I could be doing a couple’s costume with Sirius, you never know!”
“Bollocks to that. You both go green if anything cutesy gets within one hundred feet of either of you.”
“I’m pretty sure that dressing up as the Blues Brothers with you is equally ‘cutesy’. Anyway, Sirius could be convinced in your favour!”
“He looks nothing like Dan Aykroyd!”
“And I do?!”
“I don’t know, from side angle at least. His hair is going to ruin it. It never stays charmed. And we’ve got the shorter and taller thing going on. Sirius is the same height as me.”
“You really will look the spit of Belushi with a touch of charm work… argh! No! I won’t be sucked into your scheme. I’m going to dress as myself but old like I do every year because it amuses me when people don’t notice and that’s the last I’ll hear of it.”
“We could borrow Lily’s car and transfigure it to look like the one in the film…”
For a moment, there was a certain glimmer in Remus’ eye. He absolutely loved driving. But then he reminded himself that if he did it, all night, people were going to look at him and ask him who he was supposed to be and ask him to do a line from the film and try to get the accent right and Peter would be nagging him to sing, which Remus Did Not Do in Front of People (people being anyone who wasn’t a marauder or his mother). No thank you.
He was saved from further discussion by the reappearance of Lily, James and Sirius who had gone to bring the car round to the front of the theatre.
Lily was marching purposefully. She had a hold of Sirius’ sleeve and she’d pulled him with her into the women’s toilets before the rest of them even thought to question her. This in turn reminded Peter that he needed to go to the toilet, which left James and Remus leaning against the wall next to a water fountain, shoulder to shoulder.
“I’ve noticed this is becoming a theme,” James said.
“Lily marching into toilets?” Remus asked. “I’m pretty sure that’s always been a thing. She is a woman that knows her bladder’s needs.”
“No, the two of us standing around like numpties while she and Sirius stir up some kind of drama.”
“That’s old news, too,” Remus said. “Just look at us.”
James looked at them. It occurred to him that they were wearing nearly matching clothes. Both were in mildly flared jeans and by-no-means-ugly but certainly sensible brown boots. James floral button-down was at least slightly edgy in comparison with Remus’ over-sized jumper. Right?
“I’ve always looked like someone’s square dad and you’re really growing into the position nicely.”
“Oh god,” James said.
“They’re in there looking at themselves in the mirror and taking over the world.”
Remus laughed at him.
“Maybe we should go smoke or something.” James suggested. “That would help, surely. We’d feel pretty slick standing outside a cinema at 11 o’clock at night smoking.”
“Sirius has my pack.”
“Lily has mine! Remus, it’s worse than I’d even realised. I should just go in there and hand her the rest of my dignity right now.”
“But you’re not cool enough to get away with going into the women’s toilets, are you?”
“I am not.”
Inside the toilets, the conversation was thus:
“It is the size of Texas. It’s absolutely, fucking huge, Sirius.”
“Well, gee Lily, thanks. I mean, the Black genes had to be good for something in the end but what would James say if—”
“Not your dick, you cretin. The moon!”
“The moon is huge tonight. It looks like the set of a spooky play out there. It’s heart-breakingly gorgeous, butter gold and fucking enormous. He’s going to go nuts.”
“It’s not full for four days!”
“Well it looks insane.”
“It must be the stupid harvest moon thing. He’ll be… he’ll be okay. We’ll just go home and go to bed and it’ll be fine. We were on holiday this time last year, remember? It’s less noticeable the farther south you go. Something to do with the angles when it’s rising.”
“What was he like the year before that?”
“We were in a fight, about something to do with joining the Order I think.”
“He was visiting his parents, maybe?”
“He’s been avoiding you for it.”
“Fuuuuck,” Sirius said, scratching the back of his neck nervously. “He properly has, hasn’t he? He must have forgotten this year. We’ve been so busy.”
“What do you wanna do?”
“There’s no helping it,” Sirius said. “He won’t change from it. Maybe it’ll be fine. He hasn’t been acting weird yet and it’s not like it’s the actual sight of the moon that changes him.”
They both knew that these were merely words of comfort. Like all magic, the rules of how the moon affected Remus were nebulous, inconsistent and unscientific on the best of days and down-right bizarre the rest of the time. It was certainly true that Remus did not need to be in the light of the full moon to change into a werewolf. However, the reverse fact – that the light of any other moon was nothing to him – did not hold.
“Shall we tell him before we go out?” Lily asked.
“I don’t think so,” Sirius said, shaking his head. “He’ll just get worked up.”
They stood looking at themselves and each other in the mirror for a long moment, considering the variables.
“Right.” Sirius said, finally. “No use fussing about it anymore, he’ll smell a secret on you quicker than anything else. Let’s go.”
Sirius took Remus’ hand as he walked out of the toilets which made Remus raise his eyebrows. Lily glared at Sirius as if to say, give it away, why don’t you and Remus’ eyebrows climbed another few centimetres. They nearly forgot Peter in the toilets – he wasn’t surprised to see them all heading for the doors without him.
They stepped outside. Peter looked up at the sky and said, “Gee, that’s beautiful.”
Remus looked up to see what he was on about and the moon was there, hanging in the sky so close he felt like he could touch it, he felt like he could lick it. A feeling ran down his spine that was the deliciously intense pain of a boiling sugar burn: sex and death and all things base. I am a creature. Remus thought. I am not a human being, I am a creature. “Fuck, I forgot,” he said out loud. His voice was a deep as roses and came out like a growl.
“Oh boy,” James said.
“Moony, my hand,” Sirius said. Remus realised that he was gripping Sirius’ hand so hard that he could feel the bones grinding together and there was something good about the feeling, because Sirius was his so he could do what he liked to him. He took a deep breath and made himself let go.
Somehow that too had been a mistake. The smells of everything filled in with frightening detail. “Fuuuuuck,” he said. He could smell too well any given day of the month, but this was on another level entirely. He could smell the popcorn in the cinema and spilled soda and the fact that Peter hadn’t washed his hands in the toilet. He could smell when James and Lily had last had sex and he could smell his own aftershave on Sirius’ neck and his own spit at the edge of Sirius’ mouth and that reminded him that Sirius was his. An unprecedented feeling of possessiveness rolled through his chest: he launched himself at Sirius, one hand in his hair, laying a kiss that was mostly bite at the vulnerable junction of neck just beneath his ear.
“Remus,” Lily said sharply. He wrenched himself off with a gasp and Sirius sort of listed sideways, putting half of his weight on Remus, which sent a thrill through both of them.
“Look at his eyes,” Sirius said, wonderingly.
It was true that his vision was strange now. The colours were the same as they ever were, worse if anything, but even the slightest movement seemed to leave an afterimage on his retina. The definition in the leaves shifting in the breeze; a lock of Sirius’ hair sliding off his shoulder; the way the folds in Lily’s cardigan creased and un-creased the tiniest bit each time her chest rose and fell with her breathing: it was all mouth-wateringly defined.
“Tapetum lucidum,” Lily said, her voice sounding distant with surprise. “The reflective layer allows nocturnal predators an advantage in low light levels.”
“Thanks, Encyclopaedia Evans,” Peter said. “What’s happened to him?”
“It’s the harvest moon,” Remus gritted out. He could not get over the echoing cavern that was now his voice.
“Honestly, I don’t know if this is affecting him or me, more,” Sirius joked, but his eyes were black.
“What are we going to do with him? We can’t go back to Godric’s Hollow looking like that. A wizard would probably spot him in a second. I think his teeth got pointy.” Lily said, exasperated.
“Is it just the teeth? What do I look like? Is it bad?”
“Noooo no no no.” Sirius rushed.
“That is not… exactly how I would put it,” Peter said, diplomatically.
Every breath Sirius took brushed sensually across the fine hairs on the back of his neck and it was making non-existent hackles rise. “What’s wrong, then?”
“You luck like fucking sex on legs, mate,” James said, grinning delightedly at him. “I honestly can’t think of what it is, but every bit of you just got a tiny bit more fit in a way that really works for you plus you look sharp enough to cut a steak.”
“We’ll just do like I said to you, Lily.” Sirius recommended. “I’ll take him home and go to bed and in the morning, voila! He’ll be back to normal.”
“You can’t leave me at home with Sirius, I’ll take him to pieces in ten minutes!”
Peter blanched, “You really want to kill him?”
Remus rolled his eyes and bit back, “Not literally, you twerp. If you leave me alone with him, I’ll fuck him through the wall.”
Peter was visibly startled by the vitriol in Remus’ response.
“Oooh no more mister nice Moony.” James laughed off the tension of the moment.
“I think… I’ll manage it ok,” Sirius said, trying for confidence. The tips of his ears had gone red, an exceptionally rare occurrence, and it made Remus want to swallow him whole. He had to forcibly bite back a growl.
“I’m not even slightly exaggerating,” Remus said. He let his fingernails sink into Sirius’ arm just enough to hurt, where he’d folded Sirius protectively under him without even thinking about it. The growl rose again and this time Remus let it simmer audibly in the air for a moment.
Sirius huffed out a half-audible sound that was pure prey animal. “Merlin,” he breathed. His eyes were locked onto Remus’ and his blush was now a scent rising off his skin. The smell of hot blood, his leather jacket and motorcycle oil was all too much to bear. “God, your mouth,” Sirius whispered.
“All the better to eat you with, my dear,” Remus said. His smirk was vicious enough to strip paint.
“Holy shit,” Peter squeaked. “Is he joking?”
“Ohhhkay, well on that note,” Lily said. “The grown-ups are stepping in. I think it’s better if we at least give Remus a chance to get a hold of himself before we leave them unsupervised. Why don’t we just apparate to James and mine and we can play… scrabble or something for a few hours.”
“I think we should go to a club,” James said suddenly, eyes bright.
Lily started right in on him. “James, do you want your best friend to kill and eat someone right in front—”
“Actually, that could be kind of cool,” Peter chipped in. “Not the eating and killing, obviously. I mean, Remus thinks they’re so boring usually, maybe he’d get into it tonight. It could be good for him.”
“Sirius, I literally cannot believe that I’m looking to you to be the voice of reason right now, but—”
“I can speak for myself, thanks very much,” Remus cut in. “I want to go. It’ll be a good distraction. If you try to put me in your living room with a board game right now I’ll chew through the sofa. I feel like I’ve had eighteen coffees and a line of coke.”
Sirius looked both shaken and stirred. His eyes were glassy and his mouth was wet. He couldn’t tear his gaze away from Remus for more than ten seconds at a time. Fat chance he was going to have one coherent thing to say for the rest of the night. Well, Lily thought, It’s your funeral. She hoped she was being melodramatic.
After a brief argument between Lily and Sirius, which Sirius unexpectedly won, they apparated to back alley behind the 100 Club. There was a queue to get in and Lily tried to push for the Marquee again.
“It’s a Saturday night, Lils, there’s gonna be a wait anywhere,” Sirius was saying as Remus abruptly walked off. He reached the front of the queue, flicked his eyes up to the bouncer and after a moment of confused hesitation, the bouncer stepped aside.
Remus beckoned them casually over. “Them too,” he said to the bouncer.
“No problem, you have a good night,” the bouncer said accommodatingly. Remus’ eyes caught the red light from the sign, flashing. The bouncer looked quickly away from them like he was trying to pretend that whatever was happening right now wasn’t real.
“He just did a Jedi mind trick on that guy,” Peter said, in awe. “Wicked.”
“You do realise that you are an actual wizard who could have used your actual magical powers to get in if you’d wanted to, right?” James said with good humour.
“Did you cast a spell?” Peter asked, catching up to Remus’ shoulder.
Remus said nothing, just tossed him a knife-edged grin, which was answer enough. His teeth definitely were sharper than normal.
“How did he do that?” Peter was complained mournfully to James as they pushed into the crowd inside. “He and I are the uncool ones together. This is so unfair.”
“They’re gone!” Lily announced. She scanned the dimly lit room. “It’s been thirty bloody seconds. James, go see if they’re at the bar… And bring me back a gin and tonic.”
Luckily, Sirius and Remus reappeared before James had even returned and before Lily had managed to work up too much of a panic. They looked only incrementally more dishevelled than they had moments before. The reason for their disappearance was immediately evident. Sirius was now wearing his leather jacket over a bare chest. Remus had disposed of his sensible jumper and was wearing Sirius’ t-shirt which was obscenely tight-fitting on his broader frame and had also acquired several strategically placed holes.
Lily raised her eyebrows, making no effort to couch the intensity of her judgement.
“I’m not entirely off my rocker, Evans,” Remus snapped. “It’s just too hot. Sirius, I want to dance.”
“You what?!” Sirius, Lily and Peter spoke in shocked tandem.
“Don’t test me,” Remus growled. Sirius held up his hands as if to say, you won’t get any more arguments from this direction.
James had returned with full hands. He was wearing that irritatingly thoughtful and bemused expression he sometimes got. “I always knew you were a diva at heart, Remus,” he said, watchfully.
“Fuck you,” Remus replied, deadpan.
“I’m not even fazed,” James said, and he even managed to sound like he meant it, the cocky shit.
Remus could dance. Lily had not known this. James, Peter and Sirius had but prior to this moment they had all been sure that it was a secret to be deeply held and taken to the grave.
Remus and Sirius put themselves at the darkest, back corner of the dancefloor, right up against a wall and some broken chairs, pushed out of the way. It didn’t matter, they were glowing. His arms were around Sirius’ neck, loose but confident, crossed at the wrists. There was sheen of sweat rising that caught the light and made onlookers aware of his unexpectedly present biceps. His hips looked in control of the situation, his eyes were otherworldly and his head was tilted back in shining pleasure. Sirius was glued to him, his face tucked right into the wonderful juncture between Remus’ neck and shoulder, moving against him with unselfconscious devotion.
“What is happening?” Lily whispered to Peter.
“He can do all the wizard ballroom ones as well,” Peter said. “His grandmother made him learn. She’s a pureblood. She used to tell him she couldn’t make him respectable to society so she was at least going to make him a respectable dancer.”
“You should have got me to place bets before we got here. You could have been rich.”
“Do you think we should be worried for them? Muggles don’t really go in for two boys dancing together, do they?” Peter asked.
“I genuinely pity anyone who so much as looks at them funny,” Lily said.
“I can’t quite tell whether they’re real or metaphorical, but I can definitely see fangs." James added.
It was true that if Remus’ sex appeal had doubled, the waves of dangerous energy that poured off him had quadrupled. In fact, there was something of a ring of space forming around them, and the few double-takes were not down to bigotry.
Lily downed her gin and tonic. “I’m getting more drinks, do you want another round?”
Peter and James both held up their barely touched pints in answer. “I think we’ll get a table?” James said.
“What?” Lily asked. “The music is too loud, I can’t even think in here. Let alone deal with the emotional turmoil of watching that.” She gestured vaguely to the fact that Sirius was now visibly licking Remus’ neck.
“He said we’re going to get a table,” Peter replied, nearly shouting. The band came to the end of the song just as he spoke so his voice went ringing out across the whole club. Peter clapped his hands over his mouth in embarrassment while James guffawed at his misfortune. “Why do these things always happen to me?”
James just grinned his shit-eating grin and clapped Peter across the back. They parked themselves on a too-small table near enough to the dance floor that they could still keep an eye on Sirius and Remus. Lily returned with a full round of drinks, apparently having decided to disregard their lack of need. She put her head on James shoulder and gazed up at him and he gazed down at her like she was the moon and sun and stars put together, which was honestly more embarrassing to Peter than the whole incident with the accidental shouting into the void of silence thing had been. He meandered out onto the dance floor.
He managed to inch his way into a group. There were three girls and a boy. The boy and one of the girls were both wasted and mostly just leaning on each other but the other two girls smiled at Peter and sidled up to him. There was a girl with dark brown eyes and a soft, private smile and a girl with huge, perfect, feathery hair and an elfish chin. The girl with the hair took no time in gesturing over to Remus and Sirius.
“Are they your friends?” she said in his ear. “I saw you come in with them.”
Peter nodded, dubious.
“Do you think they’d be into dancing with me, too?”
This had not been the direction he’d thought she was going in and the question took him by surprise. He hesitated. Both Remus and Sirius had been known to express the odd bit of interest in girls. Remus more-so than Sirius but Sirius had his moments (usually for willowy squares that looked like the human equivalent of a wet autumn day – he really did have a type).
As far as he knew, they’d been pretty solidly monogamous for the last few years, but that hadn’t always been the case and on the other-other hand, he really didn’t know how to warn her about what she might be getting herself into on this occasion. Was it his business either way? It was hard to say. He settled for a drawn-out shrug with the raising of eyebrows and some complicated gesturing that aimed generally at suggesting ‘You could have a go?’
The girl gleefully took that as a firm yes, which was what Peter had been secretly hoping for because as she sauntered off, he was left sort-of alone with the brown-eyed girl. He gave her his best shy and unassuming smile. She put her hand on his arm. It was all going swimmingly.
Peter kept one eye on Remus and Sirius. The girl was talking to them now. She put a hand on Remus’ shoulder and he tensed up a little, but nothing exploded. Peter turned his full attention to the girl. She was looking up at him. Somewhere deep in her gaze he could feel the most pale and distant echo of the way that James and Lily had been looking at each other. A sudden and sick feeling of desperation unfolded in his belly.
“Are you having a good night?” he asked.
She nodded. He put one hand on her waist. She seemed fine with it. Peter glanced at Remus and Sirius again. Lily was with them now. She was dancing with the other girl. They were talking into each other’s ears and Lily looked like she was Handling the Situation.
“What’s your name?” He even sounded desperate. God, he always fucked himself over at this exact point. She was too shy. She hadn’t even spoken to him yet and he was already asking her to give him personal information. She wasn’t going to tell him.
She opened her mouth to speak. She was smiling at him still but she was hesitating. The music surged. Peter looked at the band to avoid the girl’s face. The lead guitarist was killing it and the crowd was dying. The sound and the heat of the room all turned up one degree too high.
“Get off her.” Remus’ voice rolled out across the dance floor like a wave crashing to shore. The sound seemed to cut a physical path for itself right through the middle of everything: the dancing, the music, the talking, the drinking.
Peter spun around. A tall man with even more perfect hair than the girl’s was practically laying on top of Lily, who had fallen into the broken chairs piled against the wall.
“And him.” Remus added, chillingly. Peter hadn’t even noticed that the girl had pressed herself between Remus and Sirius in the momentary distraction. He was vibrating. His head was titled back like he was scenting the air. Sirius was trying to calm him down but the girl hadn’t backed off yet.
“Jeeze, sorry man,” the guy was saying. He climbed off Lily way too slowly, putting his hands everywhere they didn’t need to go to get to his feet. “I just tripped.”
The second Lily was upright, she slugged the guy right in the nose. “I guess your hand ‘just tripped’ up my skirt there at the end, too?” She spat.
Remus was on him in less than a second. Sirius finally extricated himself from the girl’s clutches and waded into the fray to try to separate Remus from the man. Remus was not quite fighting like a human and it was making him hard to predict.
“Sorry,” Peter said to the girl, legging it towards them. At least it wasn’t going to be his fault when he didn’t pull. “James!” he shouted. The band stopped playing, cottoning on the fact that something was going down at the back.
James appeared at the edge of the crowd and started helping Sirius try to pull Remus off the guy. “Don’t fucking try to bite him,” Sirius was saying. “You are going to hate yourself tomorrow. Circe’s pigs! James, hold his—”
Peter and Lily got started on holding back the other guy. They were having a lot more success, which was making the fight pretty one-sided.
“Just fucking apparate,” Lily shouted. “If you get a clear chance, just go! Peter and I will clean up.”
The bouncers turned up and were about to make everything fifty times worse, when Sirius and James finally got a good hold around Remus’ middle and wrenched hard backwards. All three of them went sprawling across the floor. Without a second of hesitation, James slammed one hand onto Remus’ heaving chest, the other into the pocket where he kept his wand and they popped out of existence.
Everything went silent.
Lily started to laugh, which got Sirius going, which got Peter going.
“What the fuck?” the guy asked.
“You shouldn’t have…” Lily wheezed. She couldn’t get the words out. “You shouldn’t have…”
“Hey, he didn’t break the skin, right?” Peter said, wiping tears from his eyes.
“When our friend went for you, did he actually bite you?”
The guy looked rough, but Peter couldn’t see any blood. His lip was split, but that might have been Lily’s doing at the start.
“No…?” the guy said.
“You better check,” Lily said, dusting herself off and giving her elbow a rub where she’d hit it on one of the chairs. The crowd had graduated from dumbfounded silence to agitated muttering. The tension was rising somewhat. The bouncers looked like spare parts and they didn’t like it.
Sirius had his wand out in a flash, still chuckling to himself. “Petrificus totalus omnis,” he said adding an extra flourish to the end of the wand movements. A curious purplish dome descended across most the crowd. Lily did the rest. Then she started down the line of them, touching her wand to the temple of each person as the cool, silvery flow of obliviate poured from her wand like water from a jug.
“Show me what bare skin you had exposed,” Peter said.
“No! I’m not going to—”
“Oh, sorry,” Peter said, flat-voiced. “Am I making you uncomfortable?”
Peter fixed his memory after confirming that there were no Remus shaped bite marks to be found. On impulse, rather than just obliviating him, Peter edited things slightly so that he would remember Lily punching him out cold. It looked like his nose was broken, so he’d need an explanation for that, anyway.
They made their way back out onto the street. It was past midnight now and the sky was awash with stars. The moon looked a little less severe, but it was still a golden lamp taking up more than its fair share of the sky.
“Where do you think they went?” Lily asked.
“To the lake, maybe?” Sirius said.
“Good bet,” Lily agreed and they apparated.
It took them a few jumps to get there from London. The lake was in the Mendip Hills, where they tended to go for full moons these days seeing as Godric’s Hollow was only a quick hop away. They had to be careful of the sheep and walkers but they’d found a lake, little more than a glorified pond, well away from the popular tourist site of Cheddar Gorge. There was a good cave that stayed dry whatever the weather and James and Sirius had walked a mile radius around it, casting redirection charms every twenty feet. Now it was as good as theirs.
By the time they arrived, Sirius’ head was swimming. He stood, breathing the sharp October air in deep, greedy lungfuls. The air was so clean and sweet out here it almost had a colour.
Lily and Peter appeared a second later at his shoulder.
“They’re up ahead,” Sirius said.
Far in the distance, along a spindly deer track that led past the cave, James was silhouetted against the hills, leaning on a boulder. Remus was sitting cross-legged on another boulder, a bit higher up. He’d have a perfect view from there, out over the whole lake and the valley with its distant, twinkling lights, pouring out across the dark horizon into shaded nothingness beyond. It should have been too dark to see them, but the moonlight was bright enough to cast shadows.
Remus’ head turned, noticing them before them before they were even close enough to hear.
“You lot okay?” James called out, once they were near.
“All good!” Lily replied. “You?”
“All good,” James echoed. “You know. As we can be.”
“Did I bite him?” Remus asked. His voice was complicated.
“No,” Peter answered.
Remus blew out a long breath. “Right. Good. That’s good.” He was clearly convincing himself of this which was both funny and perhaps the most worrying thing that had happened yet.
“I guess we’re not allowed to go clubbing again,” Sirius said.
“Yeah, I think an ‘I told you so’ is in order,” Lily responded.
Sirius scrambled up to the higher rocks to sit with Remus and once he’d settled himself, Remus was on him. Sirius hadn’t pegged that he’d been holding himself back before but it was very clear in the way Remus draped himself all over him, rubbing his face into Sirius’ neck. “Are you marking me?” Sirius murmured.
“No,” Remus said, immediately. Then after a sheepish moment passed: “Yes.”
Lily and Peter found their own rocks to perch on and they looked out over the lake and the valley. It was a still night and the moon was reflected in the surface of the lake, creating two huge, mirrored pools of honey across the landscape.
“That can’t be helping,” Sirius whispered.
“I can feel it waxing,” Remus rumbled. Out here, his eyes were all shine and no colour. Sirius felt like he could slip into them and go for a swim.
“Please let yourself take me home,” Sirius said. He rested his head on Remus’ bent knees.
“It’s nearly at its highest point. I’ll have more control over myself when it starts to set. I’ll take you home then.”
“Okay,” Sirius whispered into Remus’ jeans. “I can wait.”
“Shelley has this poem about the moon, only short… it starts ‘Art thou pale for loneliness / Of climbing heaven and gazing on the earth’. Have you ever seen anything less pale or so close…? He must have never seen it like this…”
“Not lonely, is it?” Sirius remarked.
“No,” Remus said.
They sat in silence for a while. Lily, James and Peter could be heard talking softly below them, but it was not easy to make out exactly what was being said.
“What are you thinking about?” Sirius asked.
Remus gave a little dark laugh. “Not human things,” he replied. “I’m mostly thinking about what I can smell.”
Sirius contemplated this for a moment and then, after some rearranging and shuffling, he pulled away from Remus, nearly sliding off the rock. Suddenly, he was Padfoot. The burst of magical energy, which usually seemed undetectable, made Remus sneeze.
Padfoot settled himself on the rock and Remus scratched behind his ears. He pressed his cold, wet nose against Remus’ neck.
“Can you smell the badger?” Remus asked. Padfoot whuffed agreement.
“I bet you’d like to chase the poor thing,” Remus said. “I know I would.”
“C’mere, boy,” Lily said, from the rocks below. She was holding a stick.
“Oh god,” Remus said, and Padfoot was already off like a shot. She threw the stick into the lake, probably just to spite Remus for all the trouble he’d caused them tonight. Padfoot flung himself from the rocks into the lake, a good ten-foot drop into the water. The splash was enormous and echoed through the perfect stillness of the night. It was possible even to hear Padfoot’s panting as he swam towards the stick. Ripples arced away from him, disturbing the mirror-moon and sending reflections of light shuddering towards the shoreline.
Padfoot couldn’t climb back out of the lake where he’d jumped in, so once he’d retrieved his prize, he came out on a little pebbled inlet, ran up the path they’d walked to get to the rocks, and climbed back out, in line with Remus. He scrambled over him to get to Lily, leaving muddy paw prints all over Remus’ jeans and hitting him in the face with his sodden tail.
The process was repeated twice more. Lily was howling with laughter by the end of it, watching Padfoot bother Remus as much as he possibly could, climbing around on top of him with the pretence of getting back down to where Lily, James and Peter were sitting again so he could bring Lily the stick.
“You win, you win,” Remus said, finally, laughing. “Change back.”
Padfoot dropped the stick, wiggled around excitedly for a minute and then, abruptly, Remus had his arms full of a sopping wet Sirius. He must have taken his jacket off when he’d first transformed and Remus was still wearing his shirt, so he had nothing on above the waist. He was shivering a little, his dark hair was plastered to his neck. He smelled of the lake and mud and everything that had happened. He was smiling with all his teeth, looking up at Remus, right into his eyes, which was a challenge to a wolf.
“We’ll be okay, now,” Remus said, speaking loudly enough that Lily, James and Peter could hear them. “The moon is going down. I’ve calmed down.” He didn’t dare take his eyes of Sirius’. They were both suddenly breathless with the knowledge that neither of them could quite tell if Remus was lying or not.
Remus apparated, taking Sirius with him.
“Are they both gone?” Peter asked into the silence that descended over them after the crack of the spell.
“I think so,” Lily said.
“Come along lads and ladies. We better get home. We’ll have to have an early morning. Someone’s got to go over to their flat and scrape Sirius off the wall.”
“Oh my god, James. That’s disgusting. You’re such a prick,” Lily said, rolling her eyes.
“You’re making it disgusting, Lily. All I’m thinking of is checking on my loved ones’ safety after a night of intense intercourse. I’ve been broken down from more than seventy different counts of falling asleep in the safety of my dorm room only to hear distinctive sounds arising from my two dearest friends together in the bed not one metre away from me—”
Here, Peter cut in. “And then just as it really gets going, a sudden silencio cuts it off. And Lily, let me tell you. Just because you can’t hear and you can’t see, doesn’t mean you don’t know what’s happening. There’s no boundaries left.”
“We’re fresh out of boundaries,” James added, sagely. “Fresh. Out.”
“Seventy?” Lily asked, genuinely curious.
“I think that’s a low estimation,” Peter said.
“Perhaps,” said James, contemplative. “Want to come over for a night-cap, Wormtail?”
“I’m going to go home and start planning my Halloween costume,” Peter said. “I’m the only one around here with my priorities worked out.”
“Breakfast at The Bell, Book and Candle in the morning?”
“Not before ten thirty,” Peter said. “I’m gonna have a hangover from all the excitement.”
“Such a delicate constitution,” Lily jibed.
Peter gave them each a one-armed hug and disappeared. James and Lily went wordlessly, hand-in-hand, a moment later.
The moon sunk unhurriedly into its own image on the lake, spilling gold wider and wider across the water.
Remus appeared in front of the bathtub and he had upended Sirius into if before either of them had a chance to catch their breath. Without pausing, he put the water on as hot as it would go and then climbed in after Sirius, still fully dressed.
Sirius sputtered for a minute in shock and then went to take his jeans off, but Remus’ hands were already there. He struggled with the buttons for a minute before simply ripping them open and shoving them down around Sirius’ ankles.
“Why the shower?” Sirius asked, obligingly kicking at the trousers.
Remus was busy pulling off his own clothes, but he took a moment to look up. Sirius had been telling himself that he wasn’t nervous. Now as the fluttering feeling fell away under Remus’ gaze, as direct and affectionate as usual, he realised he’d been only a half-step away from scared.
“You were cold,” Remus said. Then, sheepishly. “I wanted you to smell like only you. Like only us. I could smell that girl on you, and the cinema and everything else…”
He finished getting rid of their clothes and threw them onto the bathmat with a wet slap. Then he poured a generous amount of shampoo over Sirius’ head. He started to work it into a lather but he got distracted by the fact that they were now both naked and touching everywhere. Sirius manoeuvred them directly under the spray so that the soap would wash out without their involvement and that was the last coherent thought he had time for.
Remus’ hands were everywhere, sliding slickly down his back, bringing their hips firmly together. He wrapped one fist solidly around their cocks and stroked them roughly three times, sweeping his thumb over the pressed-together heads. Sirius was gasping at the quickness of everything, his limbs all felt too heavy, he let himself lean his forehead on Remus’ shoulder, his mouth open and breathing hotly onto Remus’ collarbone and then Remus let go, flipped him around and crushed him up against the wall.
The cold of the tile sent shivers down his arms, raising his hairs. He wrapped one hand around his cock desperately, but Remus was there just as quickly, pulling Sirius’ arms above his head and pinning them to the wall with his forearm. He took over from Sirius for a moment, jerking him with his iron grip and then his fingers, gentler now, were running across his hole, holding him open, but not pressing in yet, just a tease.
“Look at you,” Remus whispered, surprising him with the tenderness of the words, spoken right into the thin, soft skin just under Sirius’ ear. Remus left a kiss with a bite pressed there. His free hand was now back on Sirius’ cock, edging and edging with tiny, maddeningly consistent movements. Instead of fingers between his ass-cheeks, stroking his hole, Remus’ cock was there, but he wasn’t pressing in, just pressing against, just a solid thing that felt bigger the longer it wasn’t inside him.
All he could think about was being fucked and all Remus did was very precisely not fuck him. Remus’ cock was slipping up and down, soap making the glide long and smooth.
There was a hint of pressure. Sirius braced himself against the wall, feeling urgent and nearly sick with arousal. And then without any warning, Remus tore himself away, shutting the water off and climbing out of the tub. Sirius released a breath he’d been holding for too long and sagged down against the tile, disorientated. Before he even had the chance to turn around Remus wrapped him up in a towel, hot from hanging on the radiator.
“Come on,” Remus said, impatiently, and then, without waiting, picked Sirius up again, as though he weighed nothing and carried him bridal style to the bedroom.
“Watch your head,” Remus muttered as they went down the dark hall.
When they got to the bedroom, Remus tossed Sirius unceremoniously on the bed and went across to the windows to fling the curtains back. Moonlight poured into the room like milk into a glass. Being an attic flat in the tallest of the neatly dressed Georgian houses along their street, the square of night sky that was revealed was as unobstructed as any city view could be. Remus made a kind of pleased sound and turned back to look at Sirius.
Sirius sat up and unwrapped himself, using the towel to scrub perfunctorily at his damp hair before tossing it to the floor beside the bed. Remus was in full shadow, backlit by the window, so it was impossible to see his expression. Sirius thought of how Remus had been looking at him in the club, enigmatic and sharp-toothed. He thought of him saying to Peter “I’ll fuck him through the wall” with that husky voice that rattled bones.
He thought of how he knew that Remus had wanted, even if it was only for one terrible moment, to bite that man in the bar until he bled. Sirius’ breath was coming fast, pure prey instinct and he couldn’t make himself control it. He leaned hard into the feeling, until it was something like anticipation and fell back on the bed. He let his wet hair tangle on the white pillowcase and he let his thighs slide apart. He imagined that he could smell Remus’ desire the way he knew that Remus could smell his.
“You’re so beautiful,” Remus said, like it hurt, like Sirius was something he could cut himself on, but he was wrong, it was the other way around. Then Remus was on the bed, slinking, skin sliding against skin, his mouth making a trail of kisses from Sirius’ knees, to his thighs to his hips to his shoulders to his mouth. They made out desperately like they were teenagers again, rolling against each other.
Remus pushed their hips together, grinding. His fingers found Sirius’ hole again and this time they pushed inside without a second’s hesitation, slippery with some wandless spell Remus hadn’t even had to think about to cast. Sirius’ spine arched like a taut bow and he drove himself back on Remus’ hand twisting and whining into their gasping, uncontrolled kiss. Remus bent up, bracing himself on his knees so he could free his other hand and used that to stroke Sirius’ cock until he came suddenly and unexpectedly.
Remus used the surprise of the moment to push into Sirus’s hole and Sirius nearly cried with the intensity of it, the vulnerability. “Okay?” Remus managed to ask. Sirius could feel the strain in his voice. He couldn’t answer because he was nothing, just a twisted-up, exposed nerve. Merlin, he’d been on the edge for so long. Since they were at the club and Remus had taken Sirius’ shirt off him in a toilet stall, since before even, when he’d first seen the strangeness of Remus’ eyes at the cinema.
Remus stilled, holding himself with a vibrating energy that he could clearly not fully contain. “Do you need a minute?” He whispered. “I can stop a minute,” he lied.
Sirius gasped, “I’m good, we’re good.” Remus collapsed his weight down onto Sirius’ hips with relief, forcing himself to pick out at least a slightly gentler rhythm. After a bare minute, Sirius almost had his breath back. The second Sirius relaxed, Remus flipped them bodily so that Sirius was straddling his hips. Remus manoeuvred them so that he could grip Sirius’ waist, holding him in place with one hand. The other he moored lightly around Sirius’ neck. With each forceful thrust, he lifted Sirius off him with the hand on his waist and then pulled Sirius back down from the neck. Sirius could feel the bruises forming and he was so tight and full and good there were tears in his eyes.
Remus’ breath began to grow ragged and Sirius thought he was about to come. Yet, without warning, he dragged Sirius off him, pushed him back spread eagle, held his thighs down roughly and swallowed Sirius’ cock.
Sirius threw his head back with a choked moan, he was still too sensitive, but it was too fucking good to shy away from so he just lay there, writhing with it. Somehow he was getting close again, but it was a long, slow and strange thing, too much and not enough all at once. He felt empty now. He said as much and Remus moaned around Sirius’ cock in his throat.
“Please,” Sirius whined, not knowing what he even wanted.
Remus released his hold on Sirius and leaned back onto his knees. There was a moment of stillness. The moonlight fell across them painting the bed and their skin in silver and gold. Sirius was gasping and maybe crying a little, and Remus stared at him hungrily, his eyes glittering. He slid one silently possessive hand up across Sirius’ skin, starting at his calf, skimming up his side, over his arm, all the way to his chin, a full outline, where he stroked Sirius’ cheek, catching a stray tear. Sirius felt like he was made of silk and something intangible and perfect. By touching him so gently and with so much ownership, Remus had done it to him, had made him perfect.
Remus bent low, kissed Sirius on the mouth and fucked into him again, an easy glide. He wrapped a hand around Sirius’ cock so that Sirius was pinned between two different pleasures. Sirius came again after only a few minutes of this, his hips twisting inconsistently, not knowing what to do with himself anymore. Remus released Sirius’ cock, put his forehead on Sirius’ shoulder and went all out, punishingly, till finally he gasped and came, collapsing into a wrung-out heap.
They dozed for a while. When they woke again, Remus took Sirius languidly, lazily, holding his wrists against the mattress over Sirius’ head and kissing him long and sweet. Sirius was shuddering the whole time, half dreaming. Remus kept telling him how good he was, unbearably tender. They slept again after, deeply for a long time.
The floo went off just past noon. Remus startled awake instantly. Sirius barely stirred. “Tell ‘m to g’way,” he contributed before putting a pillow over his face.
Remus put on his dressing gown and went out into the living room. His thighs were a little sore and he really needed a shower. James was in the kitchen boiling the kettle.
“Sooo,” James said, and then trailed off.
“He’s fine. I’m fine. We’re fine.”
“You won’t be annoyed with me if I go check?”
“He’s naked and face up, just to warn you.”
“Won’t be the first time, nor the last,” James sighed, and disappeared down the hallway, while Remus put tea bags into the mugs. It was a perfectly crisp, autumnal day. The sky was porcelain blue, and the sun was gilding the edges of every amber and red leaf into sharp focus. He could tell exactly what the air would smell like outside without even opening the window.
James came back out into the hallway. “He told me to tell you that he wants the fancy Earl Grey,” James said.
Remus sighed, putting the tea bags back in their box and taking the pot out of the cupboard with a measuring spoon.
“You’ll have to come round again tonight,” Remus said. “It’ll be like this until Sunday. Bring... I don’t know bring scrabble, God help us.”
“Maybe if you just stay inside?” James suggested. “You were fine in the theatre.”
Remus shrugged. “It could work.” He stared hard at the round, silver face of the measuring spoon to avoid James gaze, and continued with his concerted effort to not think about anything too deeply. “It could not. You only need stay until it starts to set, like last night. It was… I was…within reason.”
James crossed over to him and clapped him on the back. “He looks fine. He looks like he had a great fuck. I can see you thinking and you needn’t.”
“It’s not okay that I—” Remus stopped himself and shook his head. He didn’t want to argue about it with James. He could have the whole thing out in his head, what he would say, what James would say back. They’d already been over every inch of Remus and his guilt a hundred times before.
“I can see everything thing you’re thinking and its bollocks,” James said. He probably could. “Go talk to Sirius. And don’t start by apologising. We’ll be over at six. Should I invite Frank? He’ll be totally fascinated.”
“I’m kind of kidding, but I’m kind of not.”
“Bye.” James gave him a cheery wave as he stepped into the fireplace and disappeared.
Remus measured two tablespoons of tea into the pot and tried hard to accept James’s advice but all he could carefully not think of was the fact that James had come over here and gone in to look at Sirius to make sure he wasn’t in need of medical attention.
Remus finished making the tea and put the pot on a tray with milk and sugar and two cups like he never usually bothered. He got the newspaper from where it was lying on the doormat and as an afterthought, he made some toast and buttered the pieces right to the edges, perfectly.
He went into the bedroom. Sirius was propped up against the wall, reading a book. He had pillow marks pressed into his face and his hair was wild and flattened on one side from sleeping on it wet.
“Toast!” he said as Remus came in. Remus put the tray on the end of the bed, shucked off his dressing gown and crawled back under the covers. He lay still for a moment, looking up at the ceiling. He could feel Sirius watching him.
“I’m so sorry,” Remus said, finally.
“I’m pretty sure I heard James tell you not to say that,” Sirius said.
“I have to.”
“No, come on Moony, don’t be ridiculous.” Sirius was already insistent. “I made it pretty obvious that I am not even slightly bothered by the way you were. If anything, I owe you an apology because I basically climbed you like a tree—”
“Pads wait. It’s not just that. I don’t… I don’t know what I’m more sorry for. That I couldn’t help myself last night about any of it or that I can’t…”
He went quiet for a long moment and Sirius waited patiently. Patience was something he’d learned loving Remus and he gave it now like a gift. They were still. Autumn air was percolating through the cracked-open window, the exact scent Remus had known it would have.
“I know that I’m boring. And tired all the time. And the boyfriend equivalent of a cheese sandwich with the crusts cut off. But it’s just too much to bear, to want everything, to be desperate to taste, to touch all the time with every inch of my skin. Fuck...! I’m sorry I can’t be like that for you all the time.”
Sirius was surprised. Remus could tell even though he was trying not to look it. Sirius sat up properly with a little wince that did not ease Remus’ conscience.
Remus couldn’t help but say it all. “I know you like how I get near the full moon.”
He’d expected this to shock Sirius further – giving voice after all this time to this unspoken thing they had both so long left laying between them, but it didn’t even faze Sirius.
“It’s hot, okay! Obviously!” He barrelled on without a breath, like he’d been holding all this inside him and he was so glad to finally say it. “It’s insanely fucking hot. It wouldn’t be hot if you were in pain or actually out of your mind, but that’s not how it is. You’d like to do the things you do to me under the moon no matter what was happening in the fucking sky. I see it sometimes, a little flicker, but you just push it right down. And then you can’t anymore and, yes, it’s hot! It’s not like you’re even really violent! You’re just over the edge and it’s… so ridiculously intense.”
“Over the edge is a pretty polite way of putting not in control—”
“Well, what does it matter as long as I’m fine? The way you look at me. The way you touch me like I’m too good to be real, who wouldn’t be affected by that?
“So then you get it. That’s why I’m sorry! Because I should be like that for you not just when—”
“No!” Sirius cut him off. Perhaps he was still learning about patience in some ways. “Because then what am I supposed to do when I want someone to remind me to brush my teeth or to read the newspaper to me while I’m cooking dinner? I can’t have last night every night, I’d be fucking dead! It’s exhausting.”
Remus snapped back like he’d been struck. “So, I was right the first time round and I should be sorry because I’m a goddamn creature of the night.”
“Remus!” Sirius said, frustration written over his face. “Please.” His hands were still on the covers. Remus could not stop looking at the bruises on his wrists.
“I don’t want to be with you because of how you are or despite how you are, you just are and I want all of it. I can’t… I can’t think of how else to say it.” He let out a little humourless huff of baffled laughter. “I can’t think of how else.”
Remus let Sirius’ words lay over him for a long moment like hiding from the heat under a cotton sheet in summer. He tried with his whole heart to believe them.
He could almost, almost do it.
Sirius leaned over him and watched his face. He put his hand to Remus’ temple and brushed back the fine hairs there, soothing. “You are so good,” he said.
Remus could almost, almost believe it and he could believe that Sirius meant it and so…it was enough. It had to be enough. They lay in silence, watching each other’s faces. The October sun was on them like a cool hand. Sirius kept stroking Remus’ hair and Remus kept letting him, leaning in to the touch, just. They were saying everything to each other that you could say without words.
“Can I eat my toast now?” Sirius asked, finally.
“Eat your toast.”
Sirius handed over a mug of tea. Remus took it, but before Sirius had pulled his hand away, he caught Sirius’ wrist and rubbed his thumb over the bruises, considering them and avoiding Sirius’ eyes.
“Yes, it’s very sexy,” Sirius said, gently.
Remus let out a long sigh and said, “Okay, then,” like giving in.
“Will you read me the newspaper?” Sirius asked, “Let’s have the headlines and then we can do the crossword.”
“Okay,” Remus said. “Get a pen.”
Sirius found one under the bed while Remus started reading. Maybe it could be as easy as that. Maybe it was just any other morning.