Sirius couldn’t help but be a little nervous. He glanced around the classroom, trying to figure out what to expect for the next 6 weeks. There were lots of young faces, who Sirius assumed were college kids trying to get their foreign language credits over the summer. An older couple sat together, chatting in low voices, and Sirius wondered briefly why they were there. One middle-aged woman sat by herself, scrolling through her phone.
Sirius checked the time. Five minutes until class began. He switched his phone to vibrate. He wished he’d been able to talk a friend into taking the class with him, but none of his teacher friends had been willing to give up one their weeknights of family time just to make Sirius feel more comfortable about taking a college course. Sirius understood (he felt bad just leaving his dog at home, much less a partner or children), but he still wished he had someone he knew.
The door opened again, making Sirius glance up and do a double take. His jaw dropped as the man set down a laptop bag on the front table and began setting up for class. He’d been expecting the professor to be a dodgery, old guy like his previous dean of education, but the man that entered was nothing like what Sirius would imagine as a teacher. He was young, with light curly hair, and well-fitted khaki chinos that were far too fashionable for a professor. He shrugged off his blazer and rolled his shirt-sleeves up to his forearms, then turned around to write something on the board. Sirius gazed unabashedly at his ass, until he turned around to face the class again.
He waved his hands to get the class’s attention, and then he began signing. Sirius was surprised to hear a woman’s voice speaking from the side of the classroom. A woman had slipped in after the professor, and she was sitting unobtrusively to the side; Sirius realized that she was interpreting what the professor was saying. He turned his focus back to the professor.
“Hello, everyone! My name is-” the professor did something quick with his fingers and the interpreter paused for just a moment before continuing, “-Remus Lupin. This is my sign name.” The interpreter paused again, while the teacher signed something at his forehead before continuing. “I’ll be your teacher for ASL I. Welcome! I’m happy you’re all here! I want to start by telling you a little about myself. I grew up here locally, moved to Washington D.C. and got my degree in ASL Linguistics from Gallaudet University, then moved back home. I completed my Master’s degree in education about a year ago and have been teaching ASL classes here since then.
“To start our class, I would like for each of you to introduce yourselves and why you’ve decided to take an ASL class. If you know how to fingerspell your name and want to try, go for it! But if you don’t know any sign yet, well, first of all, you’re in the right place, and second of all, we have an interpreter tonight. Feel free to use English for tonight. Let’s start on the right and work our way around the room.”
Five people were before Sirius. He listened as a bored-looking kid introduced themself and explained that they needed a foreign-language credit. The middle-aged woman who had been on her phone was an empty-nester, looking for something new to fill her time. Three more people. Sirius started to plan out his own introduction. He made a mental checklist of things to say: his name, and why he’s taking this class. College kid. College kid. One more person. Someone who had always wanted to learn the language. Sirius’ turn.
Sirius used a boot to push himself up a bit in his chair. “Hi, I’m Sirius. I want to learn ASL because I’m an elementary school teacher, and I’m going to have a student who is deaf in my class this fall,” said Sirius, making sure to use person-first language. The professor looked mostly at the interpreter, but he glanced back and seemed to assess Sirius with a sharp but friendly gaze. His lips curled up a little at the edges as their eyes met, and Sirius felt his usual cool manner slip for a moment as he returned the small smile.
Sirius missed the next person introducing herself as his heart returned to its normal rate. He reviewed his introduction, trying to make sure he hadn’t missed anything being distracted by the cute professor. He refocused and caught the last introduction, the older couple, who introduced themselves together and explained that they had decided to take this class because their grandson was born deaf. Their grandson was about a year old now, and they wanted to make sure they’d have a way to communicate with him as he grew up. This drew a delighted smile from the professor, making his eyes crinkle attractively at the corners.
After everyone was introduced, the professor started signing again. “So, I have three goals for tonight. The first thing I want to do is go over my class expectations, then I’m going to tell you a little bit about the history of American Sign Language, and then I want you to start practicing the alphabet and learn how to introduce yourself.”
He passed out a syllabus and started reviewing it. It was mostly standard information about what components would make up the final grade, a notice that they would be expected to attend a Deaf community event, and encouraging them to contact him if they had some kind of emergency and couldn’t attend class, the usual spiel about being respectful during discussions. Sirius felt a kinship with the professor, as he knew exactly how it felt to implement rules in a classroom, although with a much younger age group.
“The biggest expectation that I’ve had issues with in the past is that after tonight, when you enter this classroom, it’s ASL only. English is banned! I understand that you are all beginners, but the best way to learn a new language is through immersion. I promise to be patient and if worst comes to worst, we can write notes. Any questions about class expectations?”
When no one raised their hand, the professor started a PowerPoint and began to lecture about the history of American Sign Language. Sirius was riveted; he’d had no idea about any of the history or culture—not about its relation to French Sign Language, not about Gallaudet and Clerc, not about the Milan Conference of 1880, or about George Veditz working to preserve the language. He knew he was just getting a brief overview, but was still surprised by how much they’d covered in just an hour.
When the class had reconvened after a break, the professor explained the importance of name signs and how they must be given by someone who is Deaf, and explained the difference between little d deaf and big D culturally Deaf. Sirius was familiar with person-first language, but identity-first language was new, and he made a mental note to check what his student preferred in the fall. Then Remus stopped using the interpreter. They learned the alphabet and practiced spelling their names, then the professor wrote My name is _______ on the board in spiky print, and he demonstrated with three signs. First a palm on the chest, then index and pointer fingers tapping together, lastly two spread hands with a little shaking movement. Afterwards, he wrote My name what? ______ then demonstrated the three signs again, pointing to each word as he signed them. Palm on chest-MY. Index and pointers tapping- NAME. Spread hands shaking- WHAT.
As Sirius copied the signs, he was surprised by how different ASL was to English. He had expected to learn one sign for each word, but the word order was different, and it seemed that smaller, less important words were omitted. Each letter of his name had to be carefully spelled. The professor partnered them up, and Sirius practiced introducing himself and asking for his partner’s name as the professor came by and checked their work. Sirius’ partner was the woman whose introduction he’d missed. He was struggling to understand the letters in her name, and he had to keep checking back to the board where the professor had posted an alphabet chart.
Sirius jumped a little when he felt a tap on his shoulder. The professor had finally made it around to him. Slowly and clearly, the professor asked YOUR NAME WHAT?
The professor watched patiently as Sirius’ fingers stumbled through spelling his name. At the last S in his name, he did a little wave to get Sirius’ attention, then made a fist— not a fist, an S. Sirius watched as the professor tucked his thumb inside his fist, shook his head, then tapped his thumb before untucking it and nodding.
Sirius glanced at his own hand, and realized he’d been making the S wrong. He put his thumb on the outside, earning an approving nod and smile from the professor. He spelled his name again, correctly this time, and tried to ignore how that smile made his stomach flip. Instead of being corrected, he got to ask YOUR NAME WHAT? in return.
Slowly, but with practiced ease, the professor spelled out R-E-M-U-S, then showed his name sign again. Sirius immediately tried to copy it, but struggled to get his fingers to move in the right way. His effort made his teacher — Remus, Sirius thought, eager to use his name now that he’d been personally introduced — smile again, and Sirius wondered if he’d have put more effort into his previous college classes if Remus had been his teacher then.
Sirius carefully twisted his fingers, making what he could now identify as an R, and curved his thumb so it made a half-circle shape. Remus moved his hand, putting his thumb at his temple and then moved it in a sweeping motion towards the ceiling. Sirius copied the motion, earning a grin and a thumbs up before Remus turned to Sirius' partner, whose name Sirius still hadn’t figured out, to correct their signs.
Eventually, Remus moved onto the next group and returned to the front of the room, he waved his hands again, drawing attention back to himself at the front of the room. “If you have any questions, you’re welcome to stay and ask. We have the interpreter for another 30 minutes. Otherwise, keep practicing your alphabet and introductions, and we’ll pick back up next week. And remember- no English next week!”
Sirius shoved his notebook into his backpack and tried to think of something, anything, to ask Remus. He felt a little ridiculous, knowing he only wanted to ask a question because he was crushing on his professor, but it wasn’t like anything would come of it.
He waited patiently for the older couple to finish showing off pictures of their grandbaby, then stepped up, eyeing the interpreter nervously. “Hey, would you ask him if he has a list of Deaf events we could attend?”
There was a beat while the interpreter relayed the message before Remus responded, and Sirius took in his rapid signing, a little taken aback when Remus pointed directly at him. “You’re talking to me, not the interpreter. Say what you want to say to me, and I will do the same for you. Look at and address me when you’re talking. Now, try again. You had a question about Deaf community events?”
Sirius blinked, surprised and chastened. He swallowed then asked again. “Sorry. Uh, do you have a list of upcoming Deaf events?”
Remus rewarded him with a small smile as he answered. “Yes, I do have some options. I’ll bring a list to class next week so everyone can start planning.” Sirius had to fight the urge to look at the interpreter, because that’s where he was hearing the answer come from.
He nervously ran a hand through his hair. “Alright, great. Thanks. Yeah. Okay, have a good night.”
“See you next week,” Remus responded through the interpreter.
There was a sign with two fingers by his eyes, then something going out and under his palm. Sirius tried his best to replicate it, and Remus, realizing what he was doing, repeated it for him, slowing it down.
SEE- two fingers, middle finger on the cheek. YOU- index finger pointing. NEXT WEEK- pointer finger dragging from the tips of the other hand down to the palm, then a swoop underneath.
Sirius clumsily copied the signs, adjusting slightly until he’d earned Remus’ nod of approval.
See you next week, Remus signed.
See you next week, Sirius signed back.
Remus’ mouth tilted up at the corners and Sirius left class smiling to himself.
There were fewer people in class the second week. The person Sirius had partnered with the week before didn’t show up (which was fine because Sirius had never figured out her name anyways), and when the older couple came in, they sat next to Sirius and engaged him in a fingerspelling guessing game to exchange names until Remus arrived.
Sirius knew he had glanced at the door an embarrassing number of times, but he didn’t realize he’d been so obvious until the older woman, Effie (or possibly Eddie, but Sirius was pretty sure he’d finally figured it out) asked in a teasing tone, “Are you looking for someone? Or just have a crick in your neck?”
Sirius blushed and made himself turn around, firm in his decision not to look back at the door, and immediately caved the next time it was opened.
This time it finally was Remus. He came in and immediately went to write on the board. Sirius didn’t stop himself from enjoying the view of Remus’ backside again, and wondered if this could become part of a weekly routine.
Remus wrote a list of bullet points on the board — their schedule for tonight’s class — then pulled up a PowerPoint.
When he was ready, he waved to get everyone’s attention, then signed something Sirius didn’t recognize. Remus pointed to the board, and signed it again, even slower this time.
The slide on the board said Good Morning, Good Afternoon, Good Evening/Night. Everyone was still sitting in awkward silence. It wasn’t morning or afternoon, and it was the beginning of class so it was logical that Remus was welcoming everyone to class. Good evening , Remus signed again, bigger and with more enthusiasm.
Sirius copied the two movements. Good evening . Remus grinned and nodded encouragingly, and everybody began to sign. The class was slow and halting, but Remus was quick to praise and correct and after a minute the whole class was able to sign the greeting back to him. He pointed to the board and taught everyone “good morning” and “good afternoon,” then changed the slide. There were three words on the new slide.
Remus showed a sign, then pointed at the first word. DEAF — pointer finger at the ear, then at the mouth. Everyone copied him. HEARING — a horizontal pointer finger making a little circle in front of the mouth. WHICH — two thumbs up, alternating turns to go up and down. Remus pointed to himself, then signed DEAF.
He clicked over to the next slide, which said “Nice to meet you!” He took a dry erase marker and made an X over the “to.” NICE — one palm sliding across the other. MEET — two pointer fingers coming together. YOU — point at the other person.
Remus started with Effie’s husband and reintroduced himself.
GOOD EVENING. MY NAME WHAT? R-E-M-U-S. He showed his name sign again. YOUR NAME WHAT?
MY NAME M-O-N-T-Y.
DEAF HEARING WHICH? Remus asked.
HEARING. Monty replied.
Remus shook Monty’s hand. NICE MEET YOU.
Monty tentatively copied Remus’ signs, earning himself a thumbs up and smile. Remus repeated the process again with Effie (Sirius watched her spell it again and was sure her name was Effie), then with Sirius.
Nice to meet you, Remus, Sirius signed when it was his turn.
Remus’ friendly smile grew into a grin at the use of his name sign. Sirius’ heart did a little flutter in his chest and he tried to surreptitiously wipe his hands on his jeans before shaking Remus’ hand. He hoped his palms weren’t sweaty.
Remus’ hand was warm and dry in his, and Sirius would’ve sworn there was a little squeeze at the end of the handshake but maybe he was just crushing so hard he imagined it. He knew that the warmth in Remus’ eyes wasn’t imagined though, and wished that he could’ve had more time to see exactly what kind of brown eyes Remus had.
After Remus had introduced himself to everyone in the room, he started them on time signs like today, tomorrow, and yesterday, days of the week, then introduced numbers so they could tell time.
Sirius practiced his numbers. One and two were the same as he was used to, but instead of the three he was used to with a pointer, middle, and ring finger, a three in ASL was the pointer, ring, and thumb. Four and five were the same. Six through nine were more difficult because each number corresponded with touching a specific finger to your thumb and Sirius kept wanting to start with his pointer for six instead of his pinky. Once he got it, he made himself practice it over and over.
Remus split them into small groups and worked his way around the room, adjusting and correcting as he went. He had to pause and clarify about which way to turn your hand when signing one through five. Facing out, two fingers was a V. Facing in, two fingers was TWO. They learned 1-30, then were able to follow the pattern from there. They practiced how to ask and answer questions about ages. Sirius mentally practiced how to say TWENTY-EIGHT. Pointer on his chin with the thumb out, then the middle finger on his thumb.
OLD YOU? Remus asked him.
TWENTY-EIGHT. Sirius replied.
Remus’ face instantly lit up, and he signed something in response. Sirius could recognize the Y shape, but didn’t know what it meant. Remus darted over to the board and wrote SAME, in that spiky writing of his, his smile bright and contagious.
Sirius cautiously put together the few signs he knew for a sentence. YOU ME AGE SAME TWENTY-EIGHT
Remus nodded, delightedly, and gave Sirius a thumbs up before moving on to the next group.
Before the class ended, Remus passed out papers with a list of Deaf events and dates. There were several game nights, a poetry night, a Deaf rec league baseball game, and a fundraising dinner at a Deaf Club. Sirius looked over the list, and began to tick dates off in his mind. The game nights were both on Thursdays, and Sirius felt guilty being away from his dog two nights in a row with his Wednesday class. He was out of town the weekend of the fundraising dinner. He didn’t much feel like going out to sit at a ball game in the heat, but it was that or a poetry night. He shoved the list in his backpack with his notebook and made a mental note to pick one later.
Sirius had been dreading the third class. It had said on the syllabus that they’d be learning family signs and how to talk about families. He was never sure what to say about his family in English, much less in ASL. He hadn’t had any kind of relationship with his mother and father for the last 10 years. He sent his brother a Christmas card once a year, but he never heard back and wasn’t even sure that he had the right address.
He watched as Monty and Effie described their son and his wife and their grandson with joy and pride in their eyes. Effie had a sister who she seemed close with, and Monty’s mother was still alive, though she was 90 something. Then it was Sirius’ turn.
Sirius panicked. D-O-G.
There was an awkward moment as Monty and Effie processed what he was saying, then seemed to give each other a look, before quickly accepting this new information and moving on. Effie asked NAME WHAT?
P-A-D-F-O-O-T. Sirius responded, but then they were stuck because they hadn’t learned many animal signs yet. Monty beckoned Remus over and passed notes back and forth to learn new words like COLOR and KIND. Remus showed Sirius the actual sign for DOG so he didn’t have to fingerspell it, and Monty and Effie asked to see pictures of Padfoot, of which he had a million. He appreciated that they didn’t pry and seemed genuinely interested in his dog. He felt a growing closeness to them.
When class was finished, Effie pulled him aside in the hall before he could leave.
“Monty and I were talking. It’s hard for us to practice by ourselves at home. We know all the answers to each other’s questions already! It’s not a challenge to our receptive skills. Would you be interested in practicing with us sometime before class?”
Sirius was a bit surprised, but had to admit it was a good idea. It was hard for him to practice by himself at home. He agreed, and was surprised to find himself so excited about it for the next class.
The next couple classes were the same. Monty and Effie would buy Sirius dinner, despite his protests, and they’d practice together before each class. In class, Sirius tried and failed not to pine too much, and he hoped that everyone else in the class didn’t notice that he had the hots for the teacher. Remus was polite and friendly and professional with all of the students, Sirius included, but Sirius couldn’t help but wonder if Remus was also attracted to him. There was a night that Sirius had arrived early and ran into Remus in the parking garage while parking his bike. Remus stopped dead in his tracks for a moment and watched as Sirius hung his helmet on the handlebars of his motorcycle, his mouth open in a little “o” and Sirius had a vivid thought of putting his finger in that mouth, but then Remus recovered and gave a small, awkward wave before hurrying inside, leaving Sirius feeling aroused and bewildered.
All in all, Sirius was truly very careful. Sure, he ogled Remus’ ass when he wrote on board, and he sometimes felt like Remus’ gaze was more assessing on him than other students, but that was the extent of it. Sirius didn’t look up the college’s rules on dating students, but it felt like common sense that it was prohibited. Sirius had mostly grown out of his trouble-making days and certainly didn’t want to cause any problems for Remus at his job.
Instead, he tried to refocus himself on why he was taking the class in the first place. He researched ways to make his classroom more Deaf-friendly, and he started emailing with the interpreter who would be in his room the next year to find out more about what to expect. He knew it was likely that the student had hearing parents and therefore probably wouldn’t identify as culturally Deaf, but he still tried to think of ways to be inclusive.
He spoke with his principal and the building maintenance staff about getting softer light bulbs to help avoid a strain on the eyes and started adjusting his lesson plans to allow places for all his students to learn signs that would match any vocabulary words. He bought an ASL alphabet poster and added a fingerspelling component to the spelling word practice. He’d had no idea that checking all his videos for captioning would be such a frustrating task; he used lots of educational videos from YouTube, which didn’t require creators to add captioning, and although it did provide some automated captioning, the captions were often wrong. After reading that facial hair could make it difficult to lip-read, he decided to shave his beard. Effie didn’t recognize him immediately when he came to class the next week, but Monty laughed heartily since he’d shaved his own trim mustache, and joked about the weather being too hot for facial hair. Sirius felt like Remus kept giving him odd looks, but perhaps he was just imagining it.
After discussing it with Monty and Effie, they all decided to attend the poetry night. It was being hosted by a local coffee shop, and Sirius arrived early and bought an Americano before grabbing a table near the small stage for the three of them. He waved when he saw Effie, dressed in an eye-catching royal blue salwar. Monty came in behind her a moment later, followed by a young couple with a baby who Sirius presumed to be their son, daughter-in-law, and grandbaby. He gamely helped them pull up more chairs, feeling both awkward and glad to be included.
Conversation was stilted at first, as James and Lily were both more proficient at sign, and Sirius felt like he was lagging behind, but Effie noticed and signed slower and again often enough that Sirius was able to understand the gist of the conversation. The conversation was mostly focused on the baby, a chubby, smiling child, not quite infant but not yet toddler, named Harry, who seemed happy to have his grandparents’ attention. Sirius watched as Harry’s recent accomplishments were relayed with enthusiasm: Harry had a new tooth, had signed a new word, had gained 2 pounds. Every little achievement was met with excitement and joy from his grandparents. Sirius watched James, with his dark, wild hair in contrast to his father’s neat and tidy but with the same warm, golden-brown skin as his father and bright, friendly smile as his mother. His signs were big and exuberant, but he held his son gently. Sirius couldn’t imagine his father had ever held him so close. James’ wife, Lily, was quick to laugh and entertained Harry with silly faces, gently disentangling his tight little fists from her long red hair and blowing raspberry kisses on his cheeks to make him laugh. Harry didn’t mind being passed from person to person, even let Sirius hold him for a couple minutes, though Sirius was much more careful to keep Harry’s sticky hands out of his hair than Lily had been.
The lights at the front flashed on and off, drawing their attention. “Hello, hello! And welcome,” a voice came over the microphone as the person on the stage began to sign, “to tonight’s ASL Poetry Night! We’re very excited to have both familiar and new faces here to perform with us tonight. Real quick, before we start, I’d like to let you know that we do have an interpreter for introductions, but he will not be interpreting the poems themselves. So much of ASL emotion is conveyed through facial expressions, it would be impossible for the interpreter to truly capture the emotion being conveyed by our poets and give an equal interpretation in English. Just like English poetry follows certain rules, has a flow and rhyme patterns, ASL has its own poetry form. You might notice repetition in hand-shapes or movement, or an order to the hand-shapes, such as numerical or alphabetical. The poet might drop formal signs altogether and rely on classifiers, role-shifting, and expression for storytelling. I truly hope that even if you don’t understand the words or signs, you can see the beauty, complexity, and depth that this language has to offer.
“Without further ado, I’d like to introduce our first poet, someone who has been sharing their talent with us for many years and has performed across the country in D.C., New York City, Rochester, Denver, Austin, and Fremont. Please welcome Mary MacDonald!”
There was a mix of clapping and ASL applause, that reminded Sirius of jazz-hands, then a middle-aged woman with short brown hair took the stage. She wore a plain maroon shirt with long sleeves, even though it was summer. She took a moment to compose herself, then began signing.
Sirius was able to catch a few signs here and there — something about a hearing mother, a Deaf son, and a tree. He watched her face, open and earnest, pleading. Her signs connected and flowed together, keeping him captivated even if he didn’t understand it all.
She stepped off the stage at the end of the poem to enthusiastic applause. A high school student took the stage next, and Sirius was able to notice the ABC form of his first poem, and the 123 pattern of his second poem, though he didn’t understand anything else. An old man signed slowly and clearly. A young woman whose poems made the audience laugh uproariously, though Sirius missed the joke.
Sirius was focused on writing a note in his phone when he heard Remus Lupin introduced. His head shot up, and sure enough, Remus was on the stage.
Sirius had never seen Remus look so casual. He was in a dark henley, the sleeves pushed back in a way that reminded Sirius of the way Remus always rolled up his shirt-sleeves before class, and jeans that clung tightly to his thighs. Sirius imagined Remus turning around to write on the whiteboard in those jeans and his cheeks burned when Effie nudged him. So much for keeping his crush a secret.
Remus began signing, and Sirius could tell he was signing something about yellow flowers and maybe something like wind but then he fingerspelled something quickly and Sirius lost track. Watching him perform, Sirius realized how much Remus slowed himself down for the class. His whole body moved with his signs, his shoulders swaying in time with his hands, his face expressive. Sirius had thought Remus was objectively beautiful before, but now, watching him in his element, Sirius had a new appreciation for his beauty. His movements were graceful, and every once in a while, Sirius understood a sign, but it was the expression on his face that conveyed the most meaning. It had started out tentative, hopeful, becoming more set and determined until it was almost rebellious. It was the expression at the end that was seared into Sirius’ mind though, one that was connected to a sign with open hands, and Remus’ eyes followed his hands until they stopped moving and he looked up through his lashes to give the audience a satisfied, challenging smirk. Sirius applauded with the rest of the audience, and smiled at Remus’ look of shock when he realized Sirius and the Potters were there.
There was one more poem, and then the host was thanking them all for coming and reminding them to like the ASL Poetry Night Facebook page. Sirius stretched as he stood, then helped Monty put the chairs and tables back. Harry had fallen asleep during the performances — cheek smushed against James’ chest, sweaty hair plastered to his forehead — but was jostled awake as James stood. He blinked blearily at his grandmother who signed Sleepy baby. Sweet baby. I love you.
Lily gathered the diaper bag and swept cheerios off the table into her hand before giving hugs to her in-laws, and surprising Sirius with a hug of his own. James gave one-armed hugs to his parents, his other arm supporting Harry, and they were just about to head out the door when Remus approached their group with a wave and a smile.
Effie introduced Remus, and James signed a mostly one-handed, Nice to meet you!
Remus peeked at Harry, and signed Cute baby! Hi, baby! What’s his name?
Harry, Lily spelled.
Name sign? Remus asked.
Remus looked contemplative, but what he signed next, Sirius didn’t understand. He leaned over to James and whispered, “What’d he say?”
“He’s asking if we’re going to bring Harry back for more Deaf events,” James whispered back, while Lily replied something in sign. “Lily’s telling him that we will because we want him to have a connection to the community.”
Remus grinned and nodded in agreement. He glanced back down at Harry, whose blinks were becoming slower and slower. He signed something slow, the expression on his face soft. Sirius looked to James again, hoping for another interpretation.
“He’s telling us goodnight and to drive safe,” James whispered and Sirius was grateful to be included in the conversation.
Remus bent his head a bit and waved to Harry. Good night! Sweet dreams!
James and Lily waved one last goodbye, shook “I love you” hands at Monty and Effie, and even Harry gave a small, shy wave before burying his face back in his dad’s chest, then the little family slipped out the door, headed to a sleek minivan.
Sirius glanced back, catching Remus staring at him. Remus’ eyes went wide and his cheeks bloomed a bright red before he ducked his head and looked away as he realized he’d been caught. He started to move away, and Sirius made a frantic wave to get his attention. He didn’t want Remus to leave yet, but he didn’t really have anything he’d wanted to say. Remus turned back, and looked at him expectantly. His eyes were golden-brown, warm and bright. Remus was finally close enough that Sirius could see the freckles on his nose that he’d never been able to notice across the classroom.
I liked your poem! Sirius blurted.
Remus smiled at him, but looked a bit skeptical. Thank you. You understood it?
Not all of it, Sirius admitted.
Remus nodded, seeming to consider something. What did you like about it?
Your face, Sirius said, then immediately wanted to disappear. It was his turn to blush now. Remus raised his eyebrows and seemed to be trying not to smile. As much as he liked Remus’ face, that wasn’t actually what he meant. He tried again. No...I don’t know the sign. Your face...showed feelings.
Remus tilted his head slightly as he considered, then signed something that alternated the movement between hands, fingers bent in front of his face. Sirius slowly copied him.
Feelings on my face. Happy, sad, angry. He repeated the sign, then began to fingerspell. E-x-p-r-e-s-s-i-o-n-s. You liked how I showed expressions?
Yes! Sirius said with relief.
Thank you, Remus said again, this time with a real smile. Sirius could tell it was real because of the way Remus’ eyes crinkled.
Someone Sirius didn’t know interrupted, signing rapidly with Remus and Sirius took that as his opportunity to excuse himself. He tried to convince himself that Remus didn’t look disappointed, that it was just his imagination.
Monty and Effie had been waiting nearby, pretending unconvincingly to search for Monty’s phone, which Sirius knew he always put in his front pants pocket, instead of watching Remus and Sirius’ conversation.
He walked out with them, and bent down to let Effie hug on him. “That looked friendly,” she remarked.
“Did it?” Sirius replied nonchalantly, and she huffed a little as she gave him an extra squeeze before letting him pull away.
“The way Remus looked at you when he thought you weren’t looking was more than friendly,” Monty said with a wink.
Sirius gaped. He had become accustomed to Effie’s constant light teasing, but Monty’s blunt humor was more sparse and always took Sirius by surprise.
Monty just chuckled and clapped Sirius on the shoulder. “Get home safe?”
“You too,” Sirius said, finally getting over his shock. They waved goodbye, and Sirius felt something warm grow inside his chest as Effie waved an “I love you” to him, just like she had to James and Lily.
He pulled his helmet on and started his bike, revving it a little before pulling out of the parking lot and heading home. He still felt a little embarrassed that he’d told Remus “I liked your face” but tried to get over it. He thought about how accommodating Remus had been to figure out what Sirius had really meant and suddenly realized that Remus spent every day like this, working so hard to communicate in a world that wasn’t built for him. He thought about how quickly Remus had signed when he wasn’t holding himself back for beginner signers, that Remus had his bachelor’s degree in linguistics and was brilliant in his first language, that he probably completed his master’s degree in his second language. It would be so frustrating, thought Sirius, to have so much to say and share and so few people who took the time to understand you.
The last few classes seemed to fly by. Sirius still struggled to say what he was thinking in sign, but felt like he could see the improvement in his comprehension since the first few classes. Apparently, that was typical. Lots of second language learners could understand more than they could express themselves.
The last class was an exam, a combination of a receptive portion given as a class, and an expressive portion where students took turns telling a 2-minute story. Sirius recounted a funny story about his dog stealing his socks. Effie’s was a suspenseful tale about Harry getting stitches on his forehead after a disastrous failed attempt to walk (he’d apparently decided to just go for it, skipping the cruising phase entirely). Monty surprised Effie with a heartwarming story about their first date, making her tear up a little and making Sirius admire the man even more.
In the hallway afterwards, Effie hugged him tightly and made him promise that he’d come to family lunch on Sunday, to practice signing more with James and Lily and Harry, so none of them would lose their skills.
Sirius hugged her back and agreed. Monty gave Sirius his signature clap on the shoulder, but his voice was warm as he said, “Don’t be a stranger now, you hear? We’re looking forward to seeing you on Sunday. I’m grilling out. Bring a dessert.”
Sirius smiled and nodded.
The moment was broken as Remus rushed out of the classroom, his head swiveling as he searched frantically in the crowded hallway until he spotted the three of them. They watched as he bee-lined his way over, then began signing excitedly.
I thought of a name sign for H-a-r-r-y! He hurt his head and had to get stitches? Remus drew a little squiggly line on his forehead with his pointer finger. S-c-a-r. He repeated the sign. Scar, then add an H for H-a-r-r-y. He switched the pointer finger to an H, then repeated the movement on his forehead. Harry. Remus was grinning, bright and happy and excited.
Sirius watched as Monty FaceTimed James, and Remus explained the name sign to him, then Lily got on and it was explained all over for a third time. It made Sirius ache inexplicably, to watch this sweet family so full of joy together. He caught Effie’s attention and signed, I have to go.
She nodded, nothing but understanding in her eyes. Sunday? You promise?
One Sunday lunch turned into two Sunday lunches, then three, then a standing invite and the expectation that he’d be there. Effie and Monty seemed to have adopted him and even bought a basket of toys for Padfoot to come and visit too. James and Lily easily made room in their family for him, and Sirius had to excuse himself from the room when Lily called him “Uncle Sirius” to Harry. It didn’t seem to be bothering anyone else, but Sirius would’ve sworn there was a lot of dust floating around all of a sudden, and it made his allergies act up.
With all the Sunday BBQs, the rest of his summer seemed to fly by, and suddenly it was August and school was starting again. Sirius was already ahead of schedule, with all the work he’d done earlier in the summer to revise lesson plans, but there were meetings to attend and paperwork to complete, IEPs and 504s to review and emails to answer.
The interpreter he’d emailed earlier in the summer dropped by a couple days before school started and introduced herself. Her name was Marlene, and she had a cheerful smile. She asked him more about the changes he’d made to his classroom, pronounced everything “awesome” multiple times, and offered her assistance in introducing sign and Deaf culture to his class. Sirius was really looking forward to collaborating more with her as the year continued.
Meet the teacher night came in a whirlwind, and it was the first time Sirius was able to meet most of his students. Some faces were familiar, the younger siblings of previous students, or students he knew from seeing them in the halls, while others were brand new. Sirius was glad to meet each and every one of them.
Sirius was busy with another family when he heard Marlene call for him. He excused himself and hurried over to a desk near the front of the classroom where a little girl with curly brown hair in a purple dress with purple hearing aids stood nervously with her parents, tucking her supplies into her desk. Sirius gave a friendly wave.
My name is Mr. B-l-a-c-k, like the color. What’s your name? Sirius signed.
The little girl’s eyes went wide, then her whole face lit up with a smile. My name is I-s-a-b-e-l-l-a. She showed her name sign, an “I” making the shape of a curl by her face. Sirius smiled and copied it.
Nice to meet you, Isabella.
Nice to meet you, too. You sign?
Sirius held up his thumb and forefinger. A little. I’m learning.
Isabella just nodded.
He introduced himself in English to her parents, then introduced Marlene and let her take over interpreting for him.
Isabella watched shyly as her mother tucked her school box into her new desk, but Sirius saw her trace a finger over her name tag, which had the alphabet, numbers, and colors in both English and ASL.
The beginning of the year always felt like one thing right after another. There were rules and routines to establish, personality dynamics to figure out, and academic placements to assess, and that was all without remembering to adjust his teaching to be inclusive. Several times, Sirius turned to write something on the board, still talking to the class, only to remember that turning would make it more difficult for Isabella’s hearing aids to catch what he was saying. He and Marlene figured out a system to help avoid a lag; when he asked the class a question, he always added “1...2...3...go!” before picking any students to answer so that Isabella had time to process the whole question and raise her hand too.
After the hustle and bustle of the new year had finally settled down, Marlene suggested inviting one of her Deaf friends to be a special reader, and Sirius eagerly agreed. He thought it would be a good experience. Not just for Isabella to see stories told in her language, but to help normalize Deafness and sign for his whole class.
The day the guest reader came was already hectic. Someone had thrown up and gone home before lunch, the specials board had gotten out order so they showed up at Art instead of Music and had to line back up and switch, at which point they were about 10 minutes late. There was an uproar right before the guest reader was supposed to arrive because there was a spider in the reading corner.
Sirius was bent over, trying to gently corral the spider into a styrofoam cup with a piece of paper when he heard a knock on the door. He switched tactics, stuck the cup over the spider, then scooted the paper underneath, trapping the spider in the cup. He gingerly stood, turned to the door, and almost dropped everything.
Remus Lupin was standing in his doorway, holding two picture books and looking just as surprised to see Sirius as Sirius was to see him. They both gaped at each other for a moment, until Sirius recovered with a little shake of his head.
“Hey, Remus, come on in! Everyone, please come to your carpet spot in 5...4...3...2...1. Our guest reader is here! ” Sirius paused, unsure of what to do with the spider now that he actually had it contained. He could feel Remus’ eyes on him as he carefully set it on his desk, opened the window and then gently tapped the spider out of the cup.
“What was in the cup?” Marlene asked and Sirius looked up, confused for a moment. She had been in the room when the spider was discovered. She gave a little point to Remus, to indicate that she was interpreting for him.
“Oh, a spider,” Sirius replied, and watched as Remus made a little “oooh” look on his face as Marlene relayed the information.
“You saved it instead of squashing it? You’re very brave.” Remus’ lips quirked up as he seemed to think of something funny. “Do you have a name sign yet?”
Sirius threw the empty cup away and switched to sign. Not yet.
Brave, Remus signed again, this time with just one hand, then he twisted his wrist to show the “S” hand-shape that made up the ending of the sign. S for S-i-r-i-u-s. You’re brave. Your name sign is S-i-r-i-u-s plus brave.
Remus signed it again, demonstrating it slowly for Sirius’ sake. Sirius copied the movement, and Remus smiled and nodded at him the same way he used to do in class. Sirius beamed and immediately wanted to call Effie to tell her about his new name.
You two have already met? Marlene asked, looking both surprised and amused by their exchange.
Sirius suddenly became very aware of 21 pairs of very curious little eyes watching him. He nodded, but it was Remus who answered her, signing much more quickly to her than he had to Sirius. Sirius only caught the words summer class .
He waited for a break in their signing, then asked, Ready?
“Friends,” Sirius addressed the class, “today we have a guest reader. This is Ms. Marlene’s friend, Mr. Lupin. He’s a teacher like I am, but instead of teaching second grade, he teaches sign language. He was my teacher over the summer, and he’s come to read a couple books to you.”
Remus smile and greeted the class as Marlene interpreted and Sirius settled himself behind his desk. He had planned to grade papers but knew he’d be unable to focus with Remus in the room. He thought for a minute, then pulled up the search bar on his computer to look up a few key signs. He practiced them in his head over and over while Remus read his stories.
Sirius stood and got the attention of the class again. “Let’s all say thank you to Mr. Lupin on the count of three.”
Sirius counted them off, and just like they’d practiced, the entire class signed Thank-you! in unison.
Remus looked absolutely delighted, which made Sirius beam in turn. He quickly gave instructions to the class to pack up for the end of the day, and then introduced Isabella, who had become suddenly shy in front of Remus, but she warmed up quickly and began asking Remus all kinds of questions — when he’d learned sign and when he found out he was Deaf and if he’d driven here himself. Sirius let her chat for as long as he could, but eventually he had to send her off to go pack with the rest of the class.
Thank you again for coming today! Sirius signed.
Remus answered in the way he’d taught the class to say “you’re welcome”: Fine! No big deal! Thank you for inviting me!
Remus gathered the books he’d brought and looked as if he was about ready to leave. Sirius thought of his new name sign and summoned his bravery. Can I buy you a coffee?
Marlene, who had been hovering nearby in case Sirius needed her to interpret, suddenly pulled out a book and hid her face behind it.
Remus’ eyes widened in surprise, but he didn’t look displeased by the question. He bit his lip as he seemed to consider it. Like a date?
Sirius nodded, and Remus grinned. His eyes even crinkled.
This weekend? Sirius asked.
Remus nodded again, and Sirius had to restrain himself from fist pumping. Remus asked for a pen and paper, and Sirius handed him a pencil and a pad of sticky notes off his desk. Remus jotted down his phone number, handed it to Sirius, told him to text about the place and time, smiled one more dazzling smile, then waved a good-bye to the class and left.
“How much of that did you catch?” Sirius asked Marlene.
“Are you asking me as your classroom interpreter or as your friend?” Marlene replied.
“Friend,” Sirius chuckled.
“As your friend, I’m thrilled for you,” Marlene answered around her book. “As your interpreter, I have zero feelings about it.”
Sirius snorted. He looked down at the Post-it note in his hand, unable to keep the smile off his face. His weekend plans just became much more interesting. He was going on a date with Remus. He was going to sign up for an ASL II class. And he was going to tell the Potters all about it on Sunday. It was going to be an excellent weekend.