Sirius walked down busy streets crowded with people, holding a coffee. He had his headphones in, listening to a soft song, looking up at where the sky drifted between the rooftops and the powerlines.
It was a cloudy day but sometimes the sun would slide from behind a cloud.
He wore his boots and some comfortable pants and a tight shirt, for underneath his work gear. He was on his way, called in this afternoon. He sighed along to the song; it was a sweet one. Bicycles whirred past through the people and businesses chattered along on the sides of the street.
Everyone wore a face mask. It was a confusion of waving face masks, bobbing along. He sipped his coffee. He wasn’t wearing one, how could he? It would be very irritating to wear one and drink coffee, wouldn’t it.
This coronavirus was hiking its black skirts up, though, it seemed.
He spent the walk dazedly glancing at the sky and taking savoring mouthfuls of warm coffee. He’d get a good look at the pretty light fixtures, lamps, or flowers as he walked past. He replayed the song four times before he arrived.
Marlene greeted him in the break room. “Good morning, lovely!”
He smiled at her. “Good morning, lovely.” He echoed. She started telling him about her past few days as they put their things in their lockers and began prework routines. Clocking in, reviewing the assignment. She was telling him about her stressful course load – premed - and her apprehension at the idea of going to online classes should the school decide to close – which seemed likely. And as always, Dorcas. They’d been together for as long as Sirius had known her. By now he knew everything there was to know about Dorcas Meadows that could be learned via oral account. It was adorable. He could probably weather James and Lily splitting up, as if that would ever happen, but Marlene and Dorcas would be the last straw. James was his brother, they could get through it together, but Marlene and Dorcas existed in a sunny mental landscape in Sirius’ mind. He’d never met Dorcas.
“If you two ever split up I’ll stop believing in love.” Sirius said, sipping the last of that cup of coffee. They were just breaking from a team meeting, discussing protocol and today’s assignment and the expected leave from work if the situation with COVID-19 got any worse.
“Well, actually that’s the reason we’re still together.” Marlene said as they loaded up in the van and buckled in along with the rest of the team of four. They were Sirius, Marlene, Kingsley, and McGonagall (the team lead, whom Sirius called Minnie or Minnie Cakes or Minnie Mouse or simply McGonagall when it was serious). “Dorcas wanted to break up last year during that rough patch with my classes, but I told her, you’ve no idea what this will do to Sirius. Please reconsider. She was too polite to break your heart.”
“What a dear.” Sirius sighed with a sweet, humorous smile. “I took her in with my looks, it’s not her fault.”
“Your looks?” Marlene laughed.
“Well you’ve seen me!” He shrugged haughtily, “She’ll know I’m pretty. The awe and admiration is transmittable.”
They arrived at the site and unloaded from the van. They put on the full suit of protective equipment. Head to toe, complete coverage, ventilation. A necessary hassle. And they got along with it, beginning to make their way to the elevator in the laundry mat.
“What I’d give to be able to listen to music in this space suit.” Sirius complained to Marlene as they ascended.
“Really?” She asked as they left the elevator into an apartment complex and began to climb a few flights of stairs to the room. “Like, while you work?”
“Sure. Of course.” He shrugged. “It would pass the time.”
“What would you listen to?” She asked as they waited for McGonagall to do her prayer to the gods. It was a personal preference. He’d worked with teams where no one prayed before entering the room. But for those that did prefer it, the team was always tolerant and patient.
“Hm.” He pursed his lips in thought, “Maybe I’ll Be Seeing You. Or something else, really kick ass.”
“Hm.” She nodded with a discerning tilt of the mouth.
This was not true. Sirius had already thought of this idea before. The work could be long and tedious, and he had wished that he could listen to some music. But he’d never be able to. It would feel disrespectful and he wasn’t the type.
They entered the flat. Now, he’d been able to smell this scent once they’d exited the elevator. And this wasn’t his first rodeo. But that odor never gets old. Each time he had to adjust to this very specific scent. It’s the kind that you never forgot, that you recognize immediately upon smelling it even if you haven’t smelled it in years.
They set about their duties. In order to make this go as quickly as it could go, they would split up. It was unfortunately Sirius’ turn on the place of death. No one liked this particular duty and occasionally the whole team would pitch in to make it easier.
Remus John Lupin, 25, physics grad student. Dead for 4 months.
He hadn’t died of the virus, or they wouldn’t be cleaning this up. That would be a more specialized team for disease control. Sirius worked for a company called “To-Do”. A contracted company for cleaning up after cases of Lonely Death. Because someone had to do it.
The flat was buzzing with a fair few flies. The body wouldn’t be here, it was already taken by the city. Sometimes his mind imagined it into the scenes anyway. As he made his way to the back of the tiny little home, he picked through piles and piles of rubbish scattered out of the way. Sometimes he’d need to step over, but mostly it was out of the walkway.
Cans, food containers, so many instant meal containers, trash pile up, cigarette butts, and anything one could need for daily life.
At the back corner of the flat there was a window. It was open, letting the flies come and go, and ventilating the room which was actually an extremely rare gift for his job. And probably a contributor to why he hadn’t been found earlier. Next to the window was a bed on the floor. There were two thin pillows and one blanket. There was a TV in the room near to the bed. A laptop nearby, wires cluttering the floor and piles of accumulated things. There were many books near the bed. Most of everything he’d been doing in his last days seemed to be drawn up near to the bed. Which told Sirius that he’d not left his flat for a long time, which explained why it had taken so long for anyone to notice he was dead. Also, that he may not have died suddenly.
But Remus hadn’t died in his bed. He’d died next to his bed. One can tell exactly where someone has decomposed for a long period of time. They leave a mark like a dark shadow wherever they lay.
And Remus’ outline lay next to his bed, on the cheap hardwood floor. Sirius paused before he approached it. It was a dark sort of silhouette. Black and brown, made up of the fluid and fat and hair that would excrete from the body over time. It always reminded him of a nuclear bomb shadow. As if some suit up top had finally pulled the trigger and the bomb had exploded in this room, leaving behind the outline of the incinerated people as a perfect snapshot of time frozen. A thumbprint of their death.
Sirius used to gag in the beginning. He’d actually thrown up his first time. Something about the room, the smell, the horrible lack of family members, and that outline – it had taken adapting at the beginning. It was a familiar feeling, the reflexive swallow in the back of the throat, weak and sickly. The roll in the stomach and the cold feeling on the skin.
These days he was fine.
He got to work. Kneeling next to the spot on the floor. His was a long lonely death. It left plenty of time for this to be hard work. He used his tools to spray it down, chemicals that would probably burn to the bare skin. Then the scraping. He had a waste bag and a few tools to begin peeling the grime off the floor. It was clumps of long dried tissue and fat, stuck to the wood. A few residual dead maggots. Some of it was impossible to scrape off without taking a little bit of the flooring with it. That was okay. He worked like this for a good while, as the rest of his team worked hard and quietly and resolutely around him to clean up the living space and organize things for reselling and for disposing.
At the top of the shade, he was scraping up Remus’ hair. He used to cry sometimes. Not everyone did. Most didn’t. But he’d gone through a rough period for about a year after Regulus’ death, and he’d cried quietly and privately while he worked. He’d been forcibly prevented from this particular duty during that whole year.
Regulus wasn’t a lonely death. He was an overdose. He’d been found by Andy almost immediately after death; it was her who first gave him the news.
He clumped some hair into his trash bag. Some of these people - they would find out from family - had brought their lonely deaths on themselves. The vast majority of them were just old or socially disconnected through little fault of their own. Either way, Sirius always took some sort of care in this work. Death is a grand equalizer.
Once the tough stuff was up, he’d spray and spray again, and wipe and wash the floor, and spray and wipe and spray and wipe. Until the floor was mostly clean besides the stain. Which would come up if left to soak overnight.
It’s highly fortunate that the floor was not carpeted. He thought this and looked up at the window, where a breeze came in and ruffled the leaves of loose paper stacked on the floor in the room. He took a moment to just look outside and stare at the sky. He was getting to where he did things like this more often. In the very beginning he hadn’t been so sentimental.
But so it goes.
This job was a rather long job. It took them three full days to strip the flat to its bare walls. It would have taken maybe one or one and a half with a larger team.
By the time they were finished, they stood breathing just slightly laboriously in the empty shell, hands propped on hips. They were stood next to a large sack of personal belongings that were not possible to resell.
They looked at the living space where the bed had lain, now trashed and gone. Even hollowed of all signs of its former life, the flat was small. Very small. But, now it looked ready for a new guest, a new tenant, new life. It didn’t uplift Sirius, it just was. There was really never any resolution or infusion of joy at the completion of their job. It just had to be done. When it was done, some of them commented to each other of that distant eerie feeling of looking at the cleanliness. As if no one had lived there at all.
At least it was clean and done with.
They began to gather up the things left over. Stacks of legal and academic records and photographs. Gatherings of personal information that was of no use to anyone else and couldn’t be repurposed. These things would either find their way back to next of kin or be trashed. In this case, they would definitely be trashed.
They bundled the belongings out and Marlene stepped back inside to put down a special deodorizer. They would leave it here over night and return in the morning to collect it. McGonagall had also scheduled for a monk to come and bless the apartment, cleansing the space.
Sirius needn’t be there for that and he wouldn’t be. They made their way back to the van. As they were putting the belongings in the back of the van, he noticed some journals. They were thick and bound with hair ties and rubber bands to keep from falling open. There were two in sight. He was staring at the little books as he removed his own protective gear.
He made a quick decision as he lingered. His team had already unclothed and were going around the car to get inside, leaving him to shut the back and follow after. He swiped the journals and shoved them into his, fortunately, large pockets. They were small enough to avoid detection until arriving back at work. They were given time to unwind and refresh before a quick meeting and then going home. He took that time to open his locker and slip the books out of his pants and into his shoulder bag. His chest tingled with excitement at the success.
The belongings were to stay at the office for three weeks. They would be taken for inventory, recorded of content. They would remain that long in case management was able to find any family that was willing to take the items. Only distant relatives would possibly accept Remus’ things.
Besides, it was taboo to throw away a person’s very personal assets. Some believed they contained parts of the soul. Sirius didn’t believe in that.
He stretched and chatted with Marlene as they debriefed and packed up and strolled home. It was nighttime, and the city carried on in glowing lights and sleepless buzz, lazily.
The next day after the assignment, Sirius got an email from work and a few texts from Marlene and McGonagall. They were suspending all assignments indefinitely, due to the virus.
Take care of yourself during the break. Try to stay home. If you need anything, feel free to call me or text me. Good job yesterday.
McGonagall. He smiled slightly and replied. Of course Miss Minnie. But worry about yourself. You’re quite the old bag. We can’t have you getting a sniffle. Call me if you need anything. ;;;)
Marline pinged in, This is bullshit. at least I get to stay home with the missus. classes went to online. i’m officially fucked. code SNAFU. pray for my gpa and wallet.
He texted, I don’t need to pray for your gpa. Just keep your head out of Dorcas’ skirt and you’ll be fine. As for your wallet, send your paypal.
Sirius, do be reasonable.
Marlene, did I stutter?
it’s a text.
Exactly, I did not.
you’re a nut. see you as soon as it blows over.
See you then.
Sirius set the phone on the counter and padded barefoot around the apartment. It was dirty. Normally he would get to cleaning it up in case someone visited. But with the social pause occurring, he left it and laid out on the couch and sighed loud and long.
He wasn’t in any sort of trouble over the temporary lay-off. James’ parents would never have let him struggle any more than they would James. But they didn’t have to worry about it anyway. A few years after he’d gotten his job with “To-Do,” his Uncle Alphard had passed and Sirius was his beneficiary, much to his surprise.
Any Black inheritance was a guaranteed gold mine. After all, it did make sense. Uncle Al had had a few brief interactions with young Sirius. But it was clear he was a family outcast and, in all likelihood, just as queer as the day is long. Disowned like himself.
Sirius lay there for a while with his eyes closed. Then the phone rang, it was on vibrate but he could hear it buzzing on the counter in the small little apartment. He let it ring for a few moments, blinking with a sigh at the ceiling. It could be James. Or Lily.
He heaved up with a great exhale and made for the kitchen counter, scratching his side under his Queen shirt. It was James. At that he didn’t feel so bad about having gotten up and come over.
“Pads!” James shouted, “What’s up.”
Sirius smiled and wandered around the apartment absently as they talked. James promised to come over soon and play some video games or watch a movie. He told him all about Lily and asked about his day.
James did come over as promised, twice. Lily also came over and they all had dinner and talked about the growing number of viruses. They were happy Sirius was suspended from work. Lily maintained that he should get a different job. James didn’t mind his work. He’d been there before the job, when Regulus had died. Sirius had gone through that rough patch and taken this job during that year. James thought the job might be something helpful for Sirius to process the grief. Sirius thought it definitely paid enough regardless of whatever motivation he might have in doing it.
And then, about a week after his last assignment, the city went to quarantine. He frowned at the government alert notification on his phone. He opened the internet and searched the news for confirmation. He called James and talked while they watched the news and confirmed the forced lock down. The city was emptying its streets besides essential travel.
“I’ve been out and about almost every day.” Sirius complained. He always was, he liked to stay busy.
“Christ, Sirius, every day?” James berated him. He was born in a Christian family and used terms like ‘Jesus Christ’ and ‘good lord’, which Sirius had picked up along the years.
“Yes, mum.” He muttered.
Sirius looked around his flat. It suddenly seemed a bit smaller. He said as much, with a dry irritable tone, to James.
“Well, don’t worry. We’ll do video calls every day and keep together. We can even fall asleep together!” He chirped.
“Ah, yes, I’m sure Lily will appreciate the extra addition to your bedroom.” He grinned with the phone pressed to his ear, wandering around the flat and kicking his feet.
“She’ll be talking your ear off and asking you to proof-read her latest paper on racial justice or gender identity. She’ll still have classes. And she’ll know you’ve got fuck all going on.”
Sirius laughed, “Tell her to give me her best shot. I need reading material.”
And that’s how the first few days went. Sirius did answer calls and he watched a few movies online with them. He did pretty well keeping up with texts back and forth. He always said goodnight.
It was five days into being locked in the house when he started feeling sluggish. He didn’t mean to fall behind on James’ texts. He’d be laying in bed, covered in a blanket with his laptop on his chest, pulled up close to his chin with his fingers curling over the touchpad, and watching another rerun on Netflix when James would text a link or a comment. He liked to read them. But he couldn’t think of anything good to say. He just scrolled through the Netflix selections and thought about watching something new before deciding he couldn’t be bothered and then go back to the same show he’d watched too many times. It wasn’t really entertaining but at least he didn’t have to think. It was like his brain was trained to be mildly pleased by the same series over and over. It filled the time.
James texted him a photograph of his TV screen. It was the Netflix home page, centered on the Continue Watching for Padfoot. They shared a family Netflix account and sometimes visited each other’s pages. (Personal pages named: Potter Parents, Prongs, and Padfoot). Under Sirius’ recent history was the same show he’d been watching since they were in school.
Let he who has not sinned cast the first stone. He texted back. James didn’t reply.
This went on, and similar, for about a week.
He was expecting the quarantine to let up, but another week had continued like this. He sat on the window seat, his long legs folded up against the glass. His arms crossed around them. He stared out at the quiet street. He watched the birds jump along the power lines and the cats and street dogs trot across the stones. Once he even saw a deer. That had been an extremely exciting moment, he’d texted James about it.
He watched the clouds pass overhead for fifteen minutes. Watching the way the sunlight glowed in the hair on his arms and then went away.
He was looking at that hair when he remembered scraping hair off the hardwood. And he remembered the notebooks. He lifted his head and looked over his shoulder at the room as if searching for the book. Then actually got up and dug around in the closet where he’d hung his bag. He rummaged and pulled out the two books.
He stared at them in the closet for a moment. It had been so many days since he’d looked at them, it felt strange. Did I really steal these? Well, can you steal from the dead? Yes, yes you can… He hummed to himself and decided he may as well take a look.
He used to have a lot of energy, and he used to be dogmatic in his interests. It was unusual that he’d forget about these. It had been a long year.
He sat on his bed and lay one of the books beside him. Pulling the rubber bands off, he unwrapped the book in his hands. It peeled open with a crackle. He held it carefully to keep the loose papers inside from falling out.
His eyes widened at the accordion effect of the pages. It was stiff with disuse. He opened it wide enough to see a page and read the date. It was dated 2019. He flipped to the front and saw the first date, in November of 2018. He checked the dates as they succeeded. Sometimes they were consecutive for days at a time. Sometimes they would skip days to weeks of time. The pages themselves were covered in handwriting and drawings. Lots of drawings. The loose pages in between were all sorts. Tickets for museums, more handwriting, math equations, some photographs and some drawings. Some in color and some in pencil or pen. Mostly in pencil.
He ran his fingers over the paper for a moment. He dipped his head to smell. It was stuffy and old smelling. It hadn’t been opened in a very long time. It must have smelled like what Remus smelled like.
Sirius thought about that as he fingered the pages with a glazed look, smelling the pages again. All of the homes smelled the same to him. Well, mostly. Sometimes they were called to clean up only days after the lonely death. But as for the other cases, the only scent was the decomposition. Whoever they’d smelled like was impossible to discern at that point.
He didn’t hesitate, started at the first page. It was just a general account of his day.
He woke up early for work, teaching at a learning center, got a hot tea afterward on the way to the library where he studied for “two measly hours. Something is better than nothing, I guess.” Then he went to class. “SF: Origins and then Phys Optics then Quantum Mech. Optics sucks but QM is the most interesting but I’m having to study a lot for it. Origins is getting fun.” He detailed what he had found interesting about class that day. Then he went home and just studied. Sirius made a face at that.
He skipped forward a few days. There were not any days of the weeks marked, only date numbers. He assumed he’d reached the weekend, there was no class on this day, or at least he hadn’t written about it. He was fairly sure there was no class on this day. He read along to him talking about the book he was reading right now. He hadn’t said what the title was, or perhaps he had a few pages ago… His narration was jumpy and disorganized here. As if he was just scribbling his thoughts absently, thinking about the story he was enjoying. Then he talked about his friend from work, what they talked about.
He turned a drawing over, inspecting the pencil. It was a drawing of a cup of tea. It was quite good, he thought. He peaked further to see a tag for the tea bag string, just like the one in the photo. He smiled at this curiously.
He spent the rest of the day, mostly fanning the pages and skipping around and around, trying to catch some sort of set of events in order. Classes changing across semesters, holidays passing. He had both the books open.
He checked on Christmases specifically. Most other holidays were not mentioned generally, or the dates weren’t recorded. Christmas, however, was pitiable. Sirius couldn’t stand a poorly Christmas. Remus had had some poorly Christmases.
He also found his birthday by accident. According to the dates across both books, which spanned two years, there could only be two birthdays at most. That is if he did make an entry on that day. The birthday that was recorded was wholly uneventful. It was a short entry, mostly made to describe pleasant birthdays that occurred in the past, and to mention what age he was turning. Twenty four, on March 10 of 2019.
He finds a photograph. There are two girls and two boys, smiling at the camera with drinks in hand, at a party. Probably a Christmas party. He wonders which one is Remus. He searches for another photo, worried there wouldn’t be one. There were two more. One of a cat, an old picture by the look of things. One of a woman and one teenager in a cap and gown. A high school graduation.
This, he decided, is Remus. He cross referenced the two photos and studied his face with the pictures in his hand. He breathed shallow and quiet, staring at the face. The smile on the photographed face was humble and gentle.
Sirius became highly curious at this. He passed days in this way, reading the diaries and looking at the drawings and mementos.
Mostly, Remus wrote about what was interesting to him or what he had done during the day. But sometimes, there would be long descriptions of his state of being. His feelings. Sirius read these multiple times, laying in bed, inspecting those entries as much as the ones that gave details about his material life. His feelings were quite low, quite often. He often wrote about how much he thoroughly enjoyed something but, with increasing frequency, he wrote about feeling down.
He would excuse himself even in his writing. Brushing away his low moods and often trying to be practical. But he would write about his moods. Sometimes, they cropped up out of nowhere in a long string of lighthearted entries. Sometimes they connected in a line, referencing each other. Feeling better today. I know if I wait, it always blows over.
Sirius learns that his father died when he was young in a car accident. He doesn’t know yet what happened to his mother. But he knows he doesn’t have one, otherwise it would be her in possession of these books.
He was asleep when James called. He missed the first one and woke for the second one. Someone was telling him to wake up. He rolled over and rubs his face, squeaking sleepily.
“Wake up, the phone is ringing.”
He stretched and grabbed the phone, seeing James’ name and answering.
“Hey.” He said groggily.
“Hey, man.” James answerd, “Were you asleep?”
“Uh…” He blinked at the time on his phone and then at the dark window. It was just passed sundown. “Yeah.”
“I’ve been texting you, why aren’t you answering?”
“I’m- I’ve been getting them.” He rolled on his back and rubbed his eyes, waking up.
“I just forgot.”
James kept him on the phone for a long while, as he made food and listened to his updates. He glanced at the books, carefully laid beside his bed. He doesn’t mention them when James asks about what he’s been doing. It’s definitely not allowed that he has them, he thinks it best to keep them a secret. There aren’t many between him and James. Or, on that note, any that he can think of. And the notebooks make him feel possessive.
He takes a break from reading the diaries because James keeps him on the phone for hours. He tells him he’s going to go back to sleep and lays in bed to do so. James insists on keeping on the line.
As Sirius is falling asleep, half awake he hears, “You didn’t leave the TV on, did you?”
He doesn’t answer this and drifts off but hears again, “Did you leave the TV on?”
“No.” He grumbles.
“What?” James asks.
“Do you have work tomorrow?”
“No. No work.” Sirius garbles, falling asleep.
“What? …I think he’s sleep talking.” He hears.
He’s more than two weeks into quarantine when he sees someone in the kitchen. He jumped at the sight. He was tired, so he assumed it was an imagination. He checked the kitchen to find no one there.
He’d been hearing a lot of talking when he was falling asleep and waking up. It sounded vivid and clear, as if a conversation is occurring right next to him. Sometimes he’s involved in the talking and he responds. Sometimes it was someone else talking about something mundane like the weather. Sometimes about math or Ursula K. Le Guin.
He drifted in or out and listened mostly. He didn’t think about it, the voices were gentle and mostly quiet. He’d heard voices like that before. While falling asleep, as if someone suddenly said something loudly in his mind.
He received a food delivery and it was the most action he’d had in two weeks.
He started leaving the window open to smell the outside air, to feel the way it changes throughout the day. He checked on James sporadically. He forgot for days to think about it and then remembered, picking up his phone and calling. He always answers. Sirius held his phone to his face and curled up on the window seat, relieved to hear him.
“Are you alright?” James asks.
“Yeah.” He answered, “Yeah, I’m well.”
“You sound upset.” James insisted.
“I haven’t left my flat in two weeks, I’m fairly miffed about that.”
James grumbled at that. “You should have come to lock in with us.”
“It’s cabin fever.” This was not James. Sirius became quickly tense at that and didn’t look around, just stared forward out the window.
“How about Lily?” He asked. James lead this to Lily’s finished paper for her class which she emailed to Sirius.
Some hours passed and they fell asleep. Sirius hung the phone up while they slept. It was late at night now and he was at the kitchen table reading the paper on the laptop. He got up to get water and, on his way back, found a man leaning over the back of the chair, peering at the laptop.
Sirius paused, squeezing his glass tightly. He shifted on his feet and stared.
“Hello.” He finally spoke up. The man who looked up was definitely Remus or someone who looked too much like him.
“Hey.” He smiled, like in the photo. “This is for her social lit paper?”
He watched Remus look back at the paper and read over it.
“Yeah.” Sirius said under his breath. Remus didn’t say anything back, just kept reading. He glanced back up at Sirius and then shuffled into the adjacent chair, mumbling sorry for occupying Sirius’ spot. Sirius took his seat again and started reading the paper. Mostly Remus was silent, leaning to the side and watching while he scrolled through the paper. Sirius stayed silent too, not looking and not speaking to him.
He actually forgot for a little while that Remus was reading with him and when he looked back up, he was gone.
He went and watched The Office for an hour and then fell asleep. He’d been sleeping a lot.
The next day Remus was there again, but when Sirius started to type an email to Lily of his thoughts on her paper, Remus offered thoughts and advice on how she could improve it.
“Nerd.” Sirius muttered.
“You read the paper.” Remus rebutted as they sat on the couch and Sirius typed.
“Yeah but you guys are the school goers.”
Remus made a noise of sarcastic understanding. Sirius put on The Office again.
“Maybe you should find a podcast you like.” Remus muttered quietly.
“Why.” Sirius frowned at him. He was trying to go along with this until it ended.
“You watch this too much.” Sirius made an acquiescent nod and said he didn’t know any podcasts. Remus ended up directing him inadvertently into watching slow motion videos on YouTube.
“Shit.” Sirius whispered under his breath. “What the fuck.” He backed the video up and watched it again. They both stared at the screen until the glass on screen broke and they oohed and aahed together. They watched a lot of nature documentaries.
He fell asleep on the couch. When he woke up, Remus was sleeping on the armchair. He was curled up tightly, still with one of his feet hanging off the arm. He had noticed that Remus was maybe a few inches shorter than him. Sirius watched him sleep for a while. Then he was reading his journals again.
He read the pages that he would have skipped before. He took slow time in it.
He found a page with the lyrics for In A Week by Hozier. He read them a long time, frowning.
“Your brow is furrowing.” Remus spoke up. “You’ll get a wrinkle like that.” He was sunbathing on the window seat. He had his head tilted back to let his face be warmed. The breeze from outside touched his hair.
Sirius stared at him for a moment before coming to join him. Remus drew his legs in to give him enough room to tuck into the other side of the seat. He looked at him while he closed his eyes and warmed in the shine. He stared at his hair. It was a little shiny, auburn and just slightly gold in the sunlight. It blew capriciously. His hair was nice to look at.
Sirius felt a very bad feeling raise up in his chest. His face wrinkled with it, pinching unhappily. He looked outside once before his gaze jumped back to Remus. Remus opened an eye and blinked at him curiously.
“I cleaned up your flat after you died.” Sirius blurted. He felt a tightness in his chest that made him uncomfortable. He tensed waiting for the response, he hadn’t known he was going to say that.
Remus lifted his head from its recline and blinked not unkindly at him. When he spoke it was mildly and gently, with the ever present husky quality he had.
“And how was that?”
Sirius stared at him and his heart started to slow. “It was fine.” He shrugged.
“Alright.” Remus murmured evenly, like he was very sensible. Sirius looked out the window in order to speak again, feeling a strange sense of insecurity.
“I read your diaries.”
“I see that.” Remus nodded at them on the bed with a sort of amused tone.
Sirius nodded as if they had just come up with a plan. “Okay.” He breathed under his breath. His shoulders relaxed. Remus looked on him gently and then quirked a brow and sat up.
“Do you want to play solitaire? Pairs?”
Sirius looked up at his brown eyes, warmed to honey in the light. He said yes and grabbed some cards. While they played Sirius played music from his phone. When At The Door by The Strokes finished Remus looked up.
“Damn.” He raised his brows at him. “That’s sad.”
“Yeah.” Sirius huffed a laugh. Remus smiled at that and showed him his two favorite songs (There Will Be Tears and Strawberry Swing) from Frank Ocean’s first mixtape, which he described the background of as they played. He was a fan. Eventually Sirius won the round.
“Have you checked the news recently?” Remus chirped up.
“You sound like James.” Sirius raised a fine brow. “Have you turned on the news? Did you get enough food? Do you have toilet paper?”
“Did James hoard toilet paper?” Remus was reclining on the couch, his head and arm hanging off the side.
“No.” Sirius shook his head sternly, “James and Lily aren’t like that. They were tweeting about sharing resources during a crisis and all that jazz.”
Remus grinned, “I like James.”
“So do I.” Sirius smiled back.
“Turn on the fucking news.” Remus pointed flippantly and jerked his chin to the TV.
“Why?” Sirius groaned irritably.
“Because, you tit, I want to know what’s going on.” Sirius felt his toe nudge against his thigh. He became still and distracted by it. He wasn’t sure what to think when things like that happened. His mind just became sort of quiet and he waited for the concern to go away.
“I don’t want to watch the fucking news,” Sirius protested for another moment. Then Remus started mocking him and speaking over him teasingly. So he growled, fine and turned it on. He let the news play for a little bit.
“It’s serious out there.” Remus commented, still lazily reclined.
“It’s certainly not serious out there, it’s serious in here.” Sirius looked at him sort of hopefully with a jaunty grin. To his delight, he laughed at this.
Then Remus gasped and sat up.
“It’s raining!” He shouted. He ran to the window seat and leaned against, looking out. Sirius hopped up and followed, crawling up and perching beside. He felt the wet air blow in through the window crack and brush his face. He leaned as far as he could. He could smell it. Sweet.
“You ever notice how there’s petrichor and then there’s, like… the city version of that?” Sirius murmured quietly.
“Yeah.” Remus smiled with a dreamy glimmer in his eye, fond as if staring out at the dripping city was a sweet thing. “Like wet pavement. It even smells hot.”
“Yeah.” Sirius whispered. The water dripped and dripped on. Like an odd miracle. He was lulled silent with his companion. They sat together. Sometimes a bird raced by. Remus would point at a tree growing from a neighbor’s balcony, noting how the water dripped on the twiggy, swaying branches.
Remus leaned his head against the wall and sighed, as if they were two dogs bedding down.
“That must be one of the sweetest sounds on Earth.” Remus murmured. And that was the only sound that continued for some time after. Gentle droplets.
It rained on and off for another two days. Sirius and Remus stayed huddled on the window. Their crossed legs often bumped knees, which Sirius ignored so effectively that he got used to it.
They were crafting paper airplanes and trying to make them fly into the rain. They all failed so quickly that when one of them traveled any distance from the window out over the street it was a grand excitement. They competed, comparing folding techniques and throwing styles.
Sirius played music on his phone. Right now was 29 # Strafford APTS by Bon Iver. Sirius was smiling a little. Remus leaned over his hands while they folded a paper airplane.
“What is this song about?” Remus asked.
“No clue.” Sirius said and threw the plane. They leaned toward it and quietly wished it to fly far, watching it fall at average success. “I don’t even know what he’s saying really.”
They’d exhausted polluting the street with paper, and Remus was reading Pride and Prejudice while Sirius read his diary.
“This is beautiful, Remus.” Sirius showed him a drawing he’d done. This one had some color. “How did you do the colors like that?”
“That’s some kind of wax crayon,” Remus paused to inspect with a narrow eye. “You have to really press to make them look good.”
Sirius put it back where he found it in the pages and flipped until he found a pencil sketch of an older woman. The entries between which the drawing was wedged had no information that might help. He flipped for about thirty minutes, reading before he found it. Something.
His mother, who’s name he couldn’t find because Remus only called her Mom, had died a few years ago of a sudden bout of respiratory illness. Leaving him an orphan. He didn’t have any close family left besides. He’d even taken her ashes home alone. Sirius thought hard about if he had seen them in the flat but he couldn’t recall seeing an urn.
He pulled the pencil drawing carefully and showed it to Remus. Remus looked at it and tilted his head, his eyes becoming calm and soft.
“Is this your mother?” He asked. Remus nodded, fingers smoothing mindlessly over Pride and Prejudice in his lap.
“Yeah, that’s her.” He cooed. Sirius looked at it himself.
“What was she like?” He stared at the photo.
“Good. Just the best person I ever knew.”
He lifted his head to look on him, his easy demeanor. Remus nudged Sirius’ phone with his hand, “Can you put on Re: Stacks?”
He obliged, going back to gazing out the window for a while as the song played.
There’s a black crow sitting across from me. His wiry legs are crossed. He’s dangling my keys, he even fakes a toss. Whatever could it be that has brought me to this loss?
“That’s my favorite part.” Remus said quietly. Sirius’ lips turned up just so, with a gentle glance.
33 “GOD” came on shuffle later.
“Do you think there’s a god?” Remus asked as if it’s just any other question. Sirius paused in his reading of Remus’ diary. He was on a particularly numb and low area of text. Remus was sick with a cough and cooped up inside. He was doing homework, but his mood had him procrastinating and turning work in late. His typically high grades – the benefactor of his full ride scholarship - were lower.
“Sure.” He nodded, his hair drawn up in a high twist, held with a hair clip.
Remus looked up at him abruptly and lowered the book. His gaze went straight to Sirius and his brow quirked inward just so, giving him a sort of disbelieving look. It was jarring. As if he was saying, now what are you lying for?
“I don’t know.” Sirius retracted, his gaze steady and unsure but unwavering.
“You’ve cleaned a lot of apartments, right?” Remus commented.
“Yeah.” He shrugged a shoulder.
“And you don’t have a thought one way or another?”
He thought, glancing out the window. “I don’t know. I don’t… I know I don’t… feel like it.”
“You don’t feel like there’s anything at all? After?” He tilted his head. Sirius swallowed and his shoulders drew in just a bit. He got that uncomfortable feeling in his body he sometimes got.
“I don’t know.” He mumbled. “I guess… I don’t think so. I guess I don’t think so.”
Remus watched him, so detached. Sirius looked back at him until they both let each other go, to put their eyes back in their books.
Remus got Sirius to read that book. He’d protested at first.
“Remus, if I’ve only weeks left to live before the corona takes me, do you really want me to spend it reading Pride and Prejudice?” He asked, sitting on the floor in the kitchen drinking water and doing puzzles which Remus helped with.
“Of course.” Remus said.
Later, Sirius’ nose was in the book, cross legged on his bed and Remus was looking over the back of the couch.
“Holy shit.” Sirius gasped.
“Did Elizabeth just reject him? Eviscerating-ly?” He grinned over his arm.
“My god.” He glanced up, “Does he survive this?”
Remus laughed. Sirius read the rest of the book obsessively.
He finished the last few pages while lying in bed with Remus laying curled on the pillow beside, watching over his shoulder. He sighed when Darcy touched her hand.
They were lying on the floor; Sirius had made a blanket bed for sleepover fun. He wasn’t feeling good. He knew he could get like this. Remus asked him, “What’s wrong?”
“I’m really just not meant to live alone.” Sirius responded, intending to make a joke but failing to make the sound of one.
“It hasn’t been that long.” Remus tutted consolingly.
“Easy for you to say mister king of dying alone in your apartment and pushing four months before your landlord found you.” His tone was flat.
“Well, I’m just saying.” Remus gave a haughty raise of his brows and a muttered, excuse me.
“It’s been too long.” He mumbled, “For me.”
“Maybe you should eat something.” He prompted.
“There’s nothing but sugar and… old bananas.”
“Perhaps you should go out and get something.”
“Go out?” Sirius frowned.
“You’ll die for certain if you starve. I think this is a good time to venture out.”
“What’s with you, mum?” Sirius muttered, “I hate my mum, by the way, that’s no compliment.”
Remus was quiet for a little bit.
“Why’s that?” He rolled his head over to look at him.
“Why do you hate your mother?” He asked.
He opens his mouth ready with any of the number of reasons that flies to his lips so quickly. His throat closes and he doesn’t know what to say then.
“She wasn’t good.” He says clearly.
He watched the sunlight move languidly across the ceiling as it set, dust drifting overhead.
“I think if she’d been better Regulus would be alive.” He said without thinking. Who cares about Orion. He was barely there.
There was no response. Sirius just swallowed, staring at the dusk lit ceiling.
“You love Regulus?” Remus asked.
“Yeah.” Sirius whispered but he’d meant to just say it. His throat wouldn’t work around the lump. “If I’d been better maybe…”
Remus stared at him. Sirius didn’t cry.
“I don’t feel good.” Sirius whispered. His nose stung.
“It’s okay.” He whispered in return. And he fell asleep after that, his face tilted toward the window and watching the light fade.
Sirius skipped ahead a few pages to the end of the second book, the most recent entries. He did it by lamplight in the dark of night. He wasn’t sure where Remus was. He read the last twenty entries. They were spaced out and they contained less frequent drawings. But still, though they petered out and disappeared, there were a few drawings at the end.
I know I’ve said it before, but I still don’t know why I’ve kept this little journal. I don’t think there’s a reason. I just like to look at it. I like to write it. I sometimes hope no one will read these. I think no one will. I hope so. I don’t know what good it would do anyone. I imagine it didn’t do me any good, either. Sometimes it feels good to put things somewhere, if only to prove that it happened at all. If anyone is reading this, hi. My mom’s name was Hope Lupin. My dad was Lyall. Heaven only knows where you are now.
He read Remus getting sick. He had been right about his assumptions. He had known and anticipated the death. He’d started failing in school, gotten too sick to go to the doctor, gotten too poor to pay his rent. But ultimately his sick heart was his killer. He could have called for help. But he decided not to.
He fell asleep that night curled on his side, crying. His throat burned with it. His eyes felt as if they floated in tears. He sobbed, hiccupping and hitching and whining.
In the morning, he joined Remus to sit on the window seat. The sun was rising on the dormant city, still horribly quiet.
“Good morning.” They said to each other.
They were quiet through the sound of someone playing what sounded like a trumpet. A long and proudly noble tone, bare and somber. There had been a few performances like this, musicians from their windows, trying to bridge the distance or break the silence. It played alone until the end, when many many hands clapped and many hidden faces cheered into the dawn air.
“You died of a lung infection.” Sirius said, angling his face just a little to him.
“Yeah.” Remus spoke up, a furrow in his brow as if just now realizing.
“Kind of like your mother.”
“Yeah.” He nodded.
“Why didn’t you call a doctor? Or your landlord? Or a neighbor?” He asked.
Remus thought about this for some time. He frowned gently. His eyes were pretty, like black tea when the sun shines through it.
“I don’t know.” He said finally, voice low and scratchy.
“You were sad.” Sirius finally said. In his mind he has an unwelcome memory. He vividly pictured the memories that Remus had detailed in his journal, the ones that stood out to him now. At his childhood home, he had described how it looked so precisely. Riding on training wheels in the road while his mother gripped the back of his shirt to keep him up. Swinging up when his father grabbed his hand and lifted him, laughing wildly.
“You are sad.” Remus said. As if to say, and?
Sirius tried to breath out through his nose but had to open his lips to get air. He asked a question he already didn’t want answered.
“Is there anyone that I can call for you?” Sirius asked slowly, looking at him. He hadn’t even thought before, to ask. What an opportunity. To think of all the times he wishes he could have asked this question to one of the many elderly people whose house he cleaned, whose belongings he cleared away.
Remus took his eyes away from the now higher sun. He looked over to him and smiled at him. Sweetly. Kindly.
“No.” He shook his head.
Sirius felt horribly trapped looking at him. Warm and bright and handsome. His own eyes were filling with tears. He couldn’t find the wherewithal to wipe them away or be ashamed. Remus was unembarrassed by him, just looking on him silently. Sirius just stared back, the tears tracking down wild on his cheek.
He looked away somehow, eventually, staring out at the city. He eventually left the window, wandering to the couch in the same clothes he’d been wearing for weeks, and sat down and curled up.
Sirius laid around for a few days. Sometimes he read the diaries. He tried to go further back to the older dates. He rubbed train tickets between his fingers and read every passage where he talked about physics or a song or a book or a poem he loved. There was a lot of that. He had copied passages from Frankenstein and Wuthering Heights.
He was moving less and slower. It seemed to take more and more energy just to make it to the toilet, which he didn’t need as much anymore. Not really thinking of eating, he hadn’t felt concerned about food in a long time. He actually did stick his hands in the jar of sugar once and just suck the grains off his fingers. It was sweet and nice. But he’d completely forgotten about so many things.
He hadn’t read any journal entries in about three days now; they lay next to the bed. He and Remus had arranged all the blankets they could find to spread on the window seat, making it soft like a pallet on the floor.
That’s where they were at midnight, playing songs until eventually Remus turned it off. Then it was just quiet. Sirius had gotten weary of sitting up so he lay down, curled as small as he could to fit, with his head in Remus’ lap on a pillow.
He sighed, blinking slowly, looking up at the stars with him. With the city locked down, all the cars stopped, the businesses closed, the pollution had gone down. It was the first time in a long time that they could really see hundreds of stars. Not just the big ones and the planets, but the small ones, too. Tonight was beautiful. The moon even hung over them, shining gently as a crescent. A few yellow lights glowed between the buildings in the city. The wind blew in through the window, cool for this time of year. Someone had played piano for a couple of hours at sunset.
Sirius closed his eyes for a moment when Remus pet his hair. He couldn’t think of anything more pleasant, he always loved this. Sometimes James or Lily would do it, but rarely. They were the only ones. He forgets how much he loves this until someone does it. He nuzzled into the pillow and Remus ran his fingers through his hair. Staring up at the stars, a new and wonderful sight.
“Thanks.” Sirius offered. He sounded sick. Remus didn’t say anything. Probably just smiled, and kept petting softly.
“Look at that one.” Remus pointed at the stars and they talked about them for a moment. “Do you know which one is Sirius?”
Sirius huffed a quiet laugh and pointed weakly, “Yeah. I think it’s that one. Somewhere over there.”
“Sirius is much bigger than the sun, you know.” Remus looked down at him and scratched his head. He just laughed.
“What do you think is the first thing you’ll do when the virus is gone?” Remus asked.
Sirius just shrugged.
“Well, you’ll go back to work. Maybe you’ll get some coffee on the way. Or some ice cream.” He said enticingly, like he was his mother. Which Sirius would know nothing about. He was quiet for a while.
“There’s going to be a lot of jobs to clean.” Sirius breathed with a sad tone. He didn’t mean to bring it up he was just talking without thought.
“Yeah?” Remus murmured quietly.
“Yeah.” He nodded. “No one is checking on anyone.”
Remus continued his stroking. He’d combed out the tangles with his fingers.
“Did you always live alone?” Remus asked.
“No… I lived with James for a while when I was a teenager and then we moved out together. We had an apartment for a while.”
He had been more like himself, which had been full of too much energy and loud and happy as long as he was causing trouble.
“You liked that?” Remus said, with a quiet smile. Sirius smiled and said he did. Remus left it at that for a long while. Sirius knows from reading that Remus had lived with some roommates during undergrad for a while to afford rent, but eventually he’d ended up on his own. He made just enough tutoring to scrape by.
“You’re hungry.” Remus pointed out. Sirius would have frowned irritably but he was very tired. “You’ll need to go out to get food.”
Sirius thought that was almost a joke. A strange thought.
“I don’t want to go out.” Sirius muttered.
Remus was quiet about that for a very long time before he spoke, breaking the silence and the gentle zephyr.
“James would be the one to find you, you know.” He said in a gentle but matter of fact tone.
Sirius felt a cold jolt at the words, catching him by surprise. His brow pinched.
“He would be the first to come looking for you.” The fingers had paused in his hair.
“Stop.” Sirius said harshly, squeezing his eyes shut tightly. “Don’t say that.”
Remus did silence, his fingers slowly moving again. Soft and sweet. Sirius couldn’t really think of anything but that feeling. He closed his eyes and let his attention get consumed by that. Steady and soft.
“Thanks.” Sirius whispered, almost imperceptibly, falling asleep as he spoke.
He’s dozing, imagining what it would be like if someone did come to clean him up. His death shade would be right here, curled on the window. The blankets under him would make it easier, protecting the wood from his flesh. When he worked, he always felt he could vividly picture the body where it died. Like with Remus. As if he was still laying there when they’d arrived. This apartment was messy, sure. But not too bad.
He lifted a very shaky hand, reaching his fingers. Remus took his hand, fingers curled soft and careful around his. Those ten fingers cradled each other. Remus put his other hand back on his head, petting and weaving along through his hair. He was too sleepy to say thank you again, but he thought it. Blinking heavy and blurry eyes at the dark, sparkled sky, backlit by the glow of other windows around town. He fell asleep, easy and soft.
“Wake up.” Remus was saying. His mind was barely there, hardly aware it was even conscious. “Time to wake up.” Remus whispered again, as if in his ear.
“Sirius!” Someone was yelling. He lay there still, dreaming about voices like usual. “Sirius!”
The doorknob was rattling and banging. A key was being forced into the lock and struggled with. Eventually the door opened and slammed shut.
“Sirius!” He yelled. Footsteps bounded through the apartment, running toward him. “Sirius.”
He recognized James’ voice. He’d recognize that voice anywhere, really. He felt a hand on his shoulder, gripping tightly. His shoulder was thinner than it was usually.
“Shit.” James shook him, “Shit.”
Sirius blinked open his eyes in confusion. James rolled him over, started talking at him. He couldn’t understand anything he was saying, he just looked at him.
James was wearing a mask. He had burst into the apartment and peeled off some blue gloves and shoved them in a trash bag. He was still wearing a backpack, which he threw off and let fall to the floor. He was touching Sirius and feeling his face and still talking.
Sirius looked around confused, a furrow in his brow. He tried to talk but nothing came out, then tried again.
“Where’s Remus?” His voice scraped drily.
“What?” James asked. His eyes were wide behind his glasses and his hair was wild. It always seemed to get more unruly the more active he got.
“Remus.” Sirius asked again, voice scratching.
“Who is Remus?” James asked a bit frantically.
Sirius looked at him, actually seeing him for the first time, frowning and disoriented.
“Hey.” James blurted, voice full of worry, hands still holding on to him. Sirius’ face crumpled and he whined quietly, beginning to shake his head.
“I’m sorry.” He managed, covering his face. “I’m sorry.”
“What?” James asked, “It’s okay… It’s okay, Pads.” But he couldn’t stop, he kept apologizing. He thought James had come to find him as all those lonely deaths had been found. He kept crying and saying sorry. James shoved himself up into the seat and roughly gathered him into his hold, squeezing him too tightly.
He allowed him to mumble to himself and to lay there for a little bit. Then he shifted Sirius around and reached and stretched to the ground to grab at his backpack and pull it with stressed and jerky hands. He unzipped it and got out some water, which he made him drink.
“Have you been taking your meds?”
Sirius just groaned quietly, which is about as much confirmation as needed.
James got out some dry food which he broke into small pieces and gave him. He didn’t feel hungry, but he did whatever he was told. James explained to him that he had been calling and texting, but he’d stopped answering anything. Sirius didn’t even know where his phone was right now. James had called his landlord and asked him to check on him, which he had tried to do. But Sirius hadn’t answered. He didn’t remember that but he was having a hard time keeping up with his words in general, at the moment.
“You haven’t been showering.” James said. That did sound right to him.
“Sorry.” He managed.
James managed to get him up and maneuver him over to the couch, where he wrapped him under a blanket. Then he paced around the apartment while on the phone with Lily. He sounded worried but better than he did earlier.
James was pacing and talking, phone trapped between his ear and his shoulder. He was packing his backpack with his clothes.
Sirius looked around the flat. Searching for Remus. He frowned, feeling a strange sick feeling in his stomach. His breath came haltingly. He stared at the chair where Remus had fallen asleep once, the floor where they’d lay. The other end of the couch where he would sprawl. He wanted to see him now. His fingers squeezed the cloth of his shirt with agitation. He’d lay his head on the couch for a moment, then remember to look up, over and over, trying to see where he’d gone.
James kept them there for the rest of the day, feeding him intermittently and talking at him, as if trying to keep the silence away. He was asking questions, too, which Sirius sometimes answered and sometimes just shook his head blearily. At night, just after sundown. James told him they were going back to his place.
“To you and Lily’s?” Sirius asked.
“Yeah.” James nodded, eyes still worried. “It’ll be alright… We just have to make sure we don’t touch anything or anyone and we’ll be fine. I brought masks for both of us.”
And he went around the flat, gathering things up and asking Sirius which things he needed. He was still noncommittal and disconnected but when James wandered over to the bed he did point at the diaries. Those. James gave pause, opening the cover of one to look at the unfamiliar handwriting. He didn’t look long but closed them up with care and gently put them in the backpack.
And that night, James put on his shoes and backpack and gathered them both up. He squeezed Sirius against his side, paused at the door.
“Do we have everything?” He asked. Sirius looked back at the flat. It was empty. His chest pulled horribly inside, his eyes flickering around at the disorganized but otherwise hollow place. His gaze caught the window and he stared.
“Pads?” James prompted, tilting his head to look at him with concern. Sirius pulled his eyes away and glanced at him, eyes sad and uncertain. He whispered, “Come on.” And helped him put on his mask.
They walked through the city, streets empty but for a few people left traveling in groups of one and two. They would sometimes nod toward them and smile from behind masks. Sirius looked up at the buildings, James’ arm still gripping him against him tightly. He was slow and panting, the walk felt long. The buildings hovered over them, yellow windows glowing. Some balconies had people playing music over speakers. Others would dance from their own balconies; some would cheer and wave at them as they walked by on the street. The stars shined from between power lines. Sirius swallowed and kept on, heart thumping, mind quiet.
“We’re almost there.” James muttered and they eventually arrived. James taking off the gloves and throwing them away. Lily was there, relieved and her serious, business-like gaze on them.
“I’m glad you made it back before curfew.” She said as they wiped their hands with sanitary wipes.
“Fifteen minutes to spare!” James offered a fortifying smile.
“Ten.” She smiled back.
They put him on the couch. That night, Lily pulled his hair into a bun and helped him wipe his face with a warm washcloth. She murmured that he’d get himself cleaned up tomorrow. He didn’t talk and only answered questions when James insisted. He slept in the living room with him that night, on the floor nearby.
“Thanks,” Sirius breathed. His brain was too quiet, and he could hardly feel anything, but he knew James would do something he could thank him for. So he did.
“You’re welcome.” He whispered.
They waited out the rest of the quarantine together. The Potters were well stocked and got food delivered to the house every few weeks, though the virus didn’t continue more than another month. He was mostly quiet and took days to get his mind off of his apartment, the bed, the couch, the window, the floor in front of the TV. Eventually his head finally caught up to where he was. James just kept feeding him snacks through the day and doing work for his job on his laptop, in the living room with him. Lily did her schoolwork and didn’t ask him to read anything. She’d put her feet in his lap when they sat together on the couch. The noise of them both was jarring, the activity and the conversations that carried on, the running water and brushing teeth and footsteps. He started taking note of information he hadn’t had before. He’d been in his flat for a month. The virus was slowing and most people recovered from it.
James had a bag full of his clothes and things, including the two diaries. Sometimes Sirius watched over them, once even running his hand over them, feeling the leather. But he didn’t read them again. Just woke up over time and responded more often to the activity in the house. Slowly smiling again.
He and James sat on the ground in Sirius’ newly gutted apartment. He wore a black shirt with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows, and some track pants and chuck taylors. His hair shined darkly, clean. His clothes smelled of laundry soap. James leaned back on his hands and let out a gusty sigh to the ceiling. The last of the work was done, the place was empty of any furniture and all of his old things. Next to them, all the last of his things was packed in a trash bag and one box.
Remus’ diaries were already settled safely in the new place, on his bed along with his most valuables which hadn’t been packed in a box but moved by hand.
This was a rather familiar position to him. Staring at an empty home. Sirius sighed out, elbows leaned on his knees, legs crossed. He’d like one of his occasional cigarettes about now.
After quarantine, James had asked him if he wanted to stay a little longer before going back. His aim was to hover over him until he was back on his medication. He’d told him flatly, “I’m not going back there.” James had nodded and said okay, and they’d found a new place for him to rent, closer to where James and Lily were.
He’d still gone back on his meds.
“Alright,” James chirped. “Done. I’ll help you walk it over to your new place.”
“Thanks.” He stretched an arm and groaned, “I need a smoke. Or coffee.”
“Mm, a coffee.” James considered. “A coffee I don’t have to make.”
Sirius hummed appreciatively at that.
“So, what’s going on with your job?” James asked, tilting his head to the side and gazing over at him. Sirius glanced up briefly, lips quirked up halfheartedly.
“Oh.” He nodded. “I thought you’d probably be busy after the lockdown. I was wondering why you hadn’t gone in.”
“Yeah.” He shrugged a shoulder and picked at his cuticles. “I have to figure out what the fuck I’m going to do now. That place paid well.”
“Well, you’ve got your Uncle still, right?”
“Yeah, of course.” Sirius laughed as if it was funny that it would run out. “If I didn’t I’d have kept the job until I found something else.”
“Well,” James paused. “I think maybe it was time to get a new one, yeah?”
“Yeah. It wasn’t that bad you know.” It wasn’t. A lot of the times it was mostly just cleaning a house, sometimes there was a bit of body left behind but it was just that. One could adapt.
“I know.” James reassured him. “I was the one who didn’t discourage you, remember. But I think you’ve worked there for a while now. It’s probably time for a change.”
Sirius was quiet, lips pressed together. This was the time where he should tell him about Remus. Who he was still not touching in his mind. He wasn’t even trying to figure that out. He hadn’t seen him since that night. But he couldn’t bring himself to say anything about it out loud. He knew it was too far in left field and it would only worry him. And he wasn’t sure what exactly had happened anyway, and he’d much prefer not to open wounds he didn’t want touched. He didn’t like keeping secrets from James, it didn’t make for easy conversation. There was nothing else he’d ever withheld.
“Did you start keeping a diary?” James asked. It was obvious he knew there was something off about the notebooks.
“No.” Sirius met his eyes. “I stole those from the last apartment we cleaned.”
James’ brows raised up. “Why? Just because they were there?”
He shrugged, “I don’t know. I guess, yeah. No one was going to find out and… they were just going to get thrown away anyways. And he was young. Which is somewhat unusual for our job. I don’t know why.” He shrugged again.
“Is that what brought on that episode?” He asked.
“I don’t know.” Sirius looked down and shook his head insistently. “I have no idea.”
“Well… Just keep checking in, like before. At least once a week you need to actually come over or I will.”
“I know, Prongs.” He sighed, leaning back. “I’m not unsociable. Thank you very much. If you remember… It was just an off time.”
“Yeah.” James mumbled, reassured although concerned. “Well, can I tell you some good news?”
He lifted his head curiously.
“Lily is pregnant.” He smiled.
“No!” Sirius smiled wide and laughed, leaning over to hug him. “When did that happen?”
“Ah… Well, I found out during the quarantine, after you went offline. I was going to tell you earlier but it wasn’t really the first priority at the moment. And then you were getting a new place squared away. I didn’t want to make you feel rushed in any way. I wanted you to be able to just be excited.”
Sirius smiled and bumped their shoulders together, “Alright. Thank you. That’s amazing, James… A baby. This is a whole new chapter.”
“I’m making you the godfather.” James looked at him with a dry, humorous smile. “That’s cool, right?”
Sirius laughed happily at first and then hesitated, with an uncertain look.
“I… I don’t know if… I mean with my moods. Are you sure?”
“Of course.” James said sternly. “I know you’ve got… issues, sometimes, but you’re usually well. You are usually fine, Pads. And besides – I’m not dying anytime soon! There’s nothing on earth to worry about.”
“Oh, thank god.” Sirius huffed.
“Yes, indeed.” James threw an arm around his shoulders and squeezed him close. “Now let’s get this shit home and get some overpriced coffee.”
They hauled up off the floor and James hoisted the bag up into his arms while Sirius took the last box. James had just stepped out when Sirius looked over his shoulder at the place one more time. His eyes went to the window. It was a bright day, the sun landing in a white sheet on the place where they’d sat. Together. Outside the sky was blue. He didn’t want to look away. It looked so good. Happy. Like a seat in heaven.
This was grief.
He stepped out and closed the door, locking with the key. James had been standing there, leaning against the wall with the bag in his arms. Sirius looked up at him and shared a gentle smile. James was like a mother in the way that he always obviously knew if something was going on but he wouldn’t push for information. He jerked his head as if to say let’s go. Sirius dropped the key in the mailbox and they stepped out on the street.
He put in some earbuds and turned on Re: Stacks. His chest soothed as they walked through the city towards his new apartment, like a brief but weakening relief. Towards James and Lily’s home. At least for now. Maybe when Lily was done with school, they’d move to the country like they all said they wanted. With a new baby. Maybe he’d finally do something with all his money, invest or start a business. He was pretty set on that country house. The thought of an empty house disturbed him, but he blinked and shook the thought aside. The sun felt warm, the streets were finally full of activity again, and his best friend’s baby was in the making. Whoever it was, they were going to be the home of his love and joy. He knew it. He’d think of it when empty houses lurked in his thoughts and made his throat tight.
Maybe he’d even visit Regulus’ grave. He’d been to the funeral but had never gone back. Maybe it was time.
The sun really was sweet on his neck. He sighed and soldiered on.
This is not the sound of a new man or crispy realization
It’s the sound of the unlocking and the lift away
Your love will be safe with me