Sirius turned towards the voice and could feel his face break into a smile when he recognised Remus.
“Moony!” he exclaimed happily and gestured towards the empty chair next to himself.
Remus sat down, smiling too. He had a drink and grinned apologetically when Sirius glanced at it.
“Should have gone sober tonight,” Remus said with a laugh.
Sirius waved his hand dismissively and shook his head.
“You know it doesn’t bother me,” he said.
Remus gave him a stern look, and Sirius hid his face behind his own alcohol-free drink.
Remus still knew him too well.
“It's been a while,” Remus said, then looked around. “Are you here with someone?”
“Nah,” Sirius said and shook his head. “You?”
“No,” Remus said and took a sip of his drink.
“But you were hoping to pull?” Sirius guessed.
Remus chuckled, looking embarrassed.
“What have you been up to?” he then asked.
Sirius shrugged and said, “Not much. Work, mostly.”
“And Adam?” Remus asked.
Sirius laughed and looked at him. Remus raised his brows in surprise.
“We broke it off months ago,” Sirius said. “It really has been a long time, hasn’t it?”
Remus laughed nervously.
Sirius didn’t think he had heard Remus that nervous since their break-up. It had been six years, but Sirius still remembered how his gut had sank when Remus had come home from work and Sirius had tried to kiss him, but Remus had turned his head away. They had sat down by the table, and Remus had held Sirius’s hands, but it hadn't felt comforting.
“Sirius,” Remus had said, then opened and closed his mouth several times as if about to say something but not knowing what.
“Remus,” Sirius had said in return, and it was a warning but mostly a plea, because he knew what Remus was about to say.
Remus squeezed his hands gently and said, “I don’t think this relationship is healthy for either of us.”
Then he looked at Sirius, and his eyes were big and sorrowful, and Sirius knew there was nothing he could say to change his mind.
Of course, Remus was also correct, but Sirius wasn't about to admit that.
“How do you mean?” he asked, managing to sound irritated rather than heartbroken.
Remus took in a deep breath and squeezed Sirius’s hands again. Sirius pulled his hands out of Remus’s grasp and saw a flash of hurt on his face. It gave him childish joy.
“I mean,” Remus said, “that you don’t have any friends–”
“I have friends,” Sirius snapped without thinking.
“Name three,” Remus said immediately. “I don’t count.”
“Molly and Arthur,” Sirius said.
“And how many times have you met them without Harry being somehow involved?” Remus asked. “Do you go out with them just to have fun?”
“I do that with you,” Sirius whined.
“And a third name?” Remus asked.
Sirius, of course, could name no one else, so he merely scowled at Remus.
“No one?” Remus asked, now starting to sound peeved himself.
“You name three of your friends,” Sirius snapped.
“Jim,” Remus said calmly. “Paul. Kingsley.”
“I knew it!” Sirius said and slammed his fist onto the table. “This is all Kingsley's doing, isn't it?”
Remus raised his brows in bemusement.
“What on earth does that mean?” he asked.
“I knew it!” Sirius said, hardly even hearing what Remus said. “Something hasn't been right since you started spending time with him! Is he really that much better than me? Have you been sleeping with him right from the beginning?”
Remus shot up from his chair so fast that it toppled back and fell onto the floor with a dull clang. He leaned against the table towards Sirius, and when he spoke, there was a growl in his voice.
“I'm not going to sit here and let you accuse me of cheating,” he said, voice dangerously low. “I'm not going to sit here and let you insult me like that.”
Sirius could only stare. He had only ever seen Remus genuinely angry a handful of times, and it had been years since the last time.
Remus pushed himself away from the table.
“I see you're still not ready for an adult conversation,” he said.
Then, he turned away and strode out of the room.
Sirius had sat by the table, thoroughly chastised. True, he had been jealous when he had learned that Remus had made friends with Kingsley Shacklebolt because he knew that Remus had fancied Kingsley back in school, but he had never genuinely thought that Remus might cheat on him with Kingsley. Or with anyone else, for that matter.
Remus had been right about everything, but especially about Sirius not being mature. He might have been turning 32 soon, but it didn’t mean he was an adult. He still felt just as lost as he had as a teenager, as a child in a house filled with hatred, and he still went for the worst insult he could think of when he was angry.
He had sat by the table, head in hands, until he felt like he had sufficiently cooled down. Then he got up and went looking for Remus.
When he found Remus, his heart broke all over again; Remus was packing his things in the bedroom, tossing his clothes into an old school trunk. They were nothing more than a tangle of fabrics, and Sirius took out his wand to fold them neatly into the trunk. Remus turned to glare at him, then tossed in a bunch of socks.
“I’m sorry,” Sirius said. “I didn’t mean it. And I know… I understand why you’re angry.”
Remus scoffed at that but said nothing. Sirius continued to fold his clothes as he tossed them into the trunk.
“I understand why you’re leaving,” he said.
Remus’s movements slowed down, until they came to a complete stop.
“You’re right,” Sirius said quietly. “I just wish you weren’t. I wish… I wish this could be enough.”
“It’s not,” Remus said. “We can’t solely depend on each other.”
“But you no longer solely depend on me,” Sirius pointed out. “You’ve been making friends.”
“You haven’t,” Remus said.
“You won’t,” Remus interrupted. “You have no motivation to try.”
“You’re too comfortable leaning on me,” Remus said. “This isn’t good for you.”
“Now, wait a second, Moony,” he said, and Remus finally turned to look at him. “You’re not going to turn this into you doing what’s best for me.”
“But it is,” Remus insisted.
“How do you know that?” Sirius asked, indignant. “How do you know I can’t just go out and find friends?”
Sirius snapped his mouth shut. Remus looked at him with a sad expression. At least they were both hurting.
“Sirius,” Remus said, and it hurt that he wouldn’t call him Padfoot instead. “I think I made a mistake.”
“What mistake?” Sirius asked weakly.
“I shouldn’t have moved in with you,” Remus said. “I don’t… It just doesn’t feel right.”
“Harry loved having you here,” Sirius whispered.
Remus smiled, and it was so sorrowful that Sirius had to turn away.
“I’m not going to disappear,” Remus said. “I don’t want to… I want to stay in touch with both of you. I just can’t do this… this relationship right now.”
“But maybe later?” Sirius asked quietly, turning his eyes to Remus again.
Remus’s face fell.
“Padfoot,” he whispered. “Don’t do this to me. Please.”
Sirius squeezed his eyes shut before they could tear up. He nodded. For a long time, they stood there quietly. Sirius waited for the lump in his throat to dissolve.
“I’ll help you pack,” he said then, voice only slightly rough. “I can help you move your stuff too, if you want.”
Remus looked just as devastated as Sirius felt and nodded.
It had been a quiet evening of packing things and moving them back to Remus’s cottage via the Floo. It kept Sirius’s thoughts occupied, however, and it was only later, when he had returned home and sat down on the sofa, that he had realised how quiet it was. How empty it was.
Harry had been at Hogwarts, and Remus had left, and Sirius had allowed himself to cry out his loneliness.
He looked at Remus now and found it hard to imagine that Remus had once looked so sad and defeated. The Remus before him now was smiling sweetly and held himself with confidence he’d quite probably never had before. He was sipping his drink, watching Sirius, and Sirius smiled at him in return.
Being left alone had been hard on him, and he’d moved to the Weasleys for a week to avoid the temptation of walking into a liquor store. Remus had told him to give him a couple of weeks to get settled before contacting him again, but after two weeks, Sirius himself wasn’t ready for contact. It had taken him months before he had sent Remus an owl. Remus had responded by emerging from the Floo, and they’d had a perfectly pleasant conversation, albeit somewhat stilted.
Sirius regarded Remus, whose face seemed to have new angles in the club’s lighting. Remus’s face was still familiar. There hadn’t been new scars during the few months Sirius had been unable to bear the thought of talking to Remus again. There never would be new scars again, because Wolfsbane Potion had been invented, and Sirius had insisted upon providing Remus with it. He still wasn’t quite sure how he had managed to talk Remus into accepting.
“How’s work?” Remus asked.
“Okay,” Sirius said and shrugged. “We’ve been discussing the merits of trying to convert some Muggle appliances from electrical to magical.”
“Sounds interesting,” Remus said and leaned closer. “Which appliances?”
“Telephone was one of them,” Sirius said. “It would make it possible to live in places with no Floo connection and still be able to contact others quickly.”
Remus hummed and took a sip of his drink.
“Anything else?” he asked.
“We’ve been talking about some kitchen appliances,” Sirius said, “but haven’t quite decided if it’s worth it. Most people are at least adequate in spells to do with cooking.”
“That’s true,” Remus said.
He suddenly seemed to be sitting much closer.
“Have you heard from Harry?” Remus asked.
“He just sent a quick note to let me know he’s safely at Hogwarts again,” Sirius said, then frowned. “It’s going to feel odd next year to know he’s no longer at Hogwarts.”
“Has he decided to start Auror training?” Remus asked. “I think the last time I talked to him about it, he was still unsure.”
“I don’t think he’s decided yet,” Sirius said, then chuckled. “I never thought I’d say this, but I’m hoping he’ll choose healing instead. It’s not as dangerous.”
Remus laughed. His shoulder bumped against Sirius’s, which mean that he was now sitting way closer than he had been at first.
“How’s your dating life going?” Sirius asked.
Remus bit his lip and glanced at him before taking a sip of his drink.
“Not very well,” he said as he placed his glass onto the table. “I haven’t really had anything serious since David.”
For a moment, Sirius entertained the thought of making a suggestive joke about Remus not having had anything Sirius, but then let it go. Maybe he was finally growing up.
“Why did you break up with him anyway?” he asked. “Weren’t you doing well?”
Remus sighed and fingered the side of his glass.
“It was getting to the point,” he said slowly, “when I should have told him about… I should have told him that I’m a wizard if I wanted us to last, but I…”
He bit his lip and remained quiet.
“Were you worried about how he’d take it?” Sirius asked.
Remus glanced at him, then lifted his hand and followed his biggest scar with his fingertips.
“I should have told him about this too,” Remus said.
“Oh, Moony,” Sirius said, trying his hardest to find the right words.
“It’s okay,” Remus said and shrugged. “Whatever. It’s been a couple of years now.”
Sirius didn’t know what to say, so he said nothing.
“What about you?” Remus asked after a moment’s silence.
“Your love life?”
Sirius hummed in thought.
“I haven’t had anything since Adam,” he said. “And we broke up nearly six months ago. It hadn’t been very good for a while, though.”
“Oh,” Remus said. “I thought you were fine until the end.”
Sirius shook his head.
“I didn’t talk to you about it much,” he said, “because you had so much on your mind with the Ministry bullshit.”
Remus’s eyes widened and he asked, “It was that long ago?”
Sirius shrugged and said, “I thought maybe I give up too easily, so I tried to make it work, but it didn’t.”
Remus watched him, still looking surprised. Sirius waited, but Remus remained quiet.
“Are you upset?” he asked, when Remus didn’t seem inclined to say anything. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you. But I kind of… Well, you were so stressed out anyway, and I didn’t want to pile my own issues on top of it, especially because it wasn’t that bad, it was fine.”
“Fine,” Remus repeated slowly.
“Yeah, it was fine,” Sirius said.
They were both silent then. Remus was sitting so close that their arms were pressed together.
Remus turned to look to the dancefloor, and Sirius wondered if he should encourage Remus to go. He focused on the dancing bodies as well, wondering if he was in the mood to dance, when he noticed someone vaguely familiar.
“Moony,” he said, leaning closer to Remus. “Isn’t that Jim from work?”
Remus turned to look where Sirius was nodding.
“Oh,” he said, and looked down. “It is.”
Sirius raised his brow, but Remus took a sip of his drink.
“You came here with him, didn’t you?” Sirius asked, when Remus remained evasive.
“With and with,” Remus mumbled, hardly audible, hiding behind his glass.
“You ditched your friend to have a chat with me?” Sirius asked.
Remus shrugged. It was hard to say in the club’s dim lighting, but Sirius was almost certain that Remus was blushing.
Sirius’s heart lurched oddly. It reminded him of being 15 and looking at Remus, not understanding why one of his best friends was suddenly making him feel so nervous.
He watched Remus now, over 20 years later. Remus was looking down into his glass, which he was still hiding behind. His eyelashes were casting a shadow over his cheekbones. He was a warm presence next to Sirius, and Sirius bit his lip, wondering if he was maybe understanding something that wasn’t really implied.
“I’ve,” Remus said abruptly, and Sirius could hardly even hear him. “I’ve been meaning to talk to you about something, actually.”
“Oh? What about?”
Remus bit his lip and carefully placed his glass onto the table.
“I don’t want to talk about it here,” he said, then glanced at Sirius. “I guess it’s more that I have something I want to show you. And… And hear your opinion on it.”
“What?” Sirius asked, smirking. “Did you get a silly tattoo? Do you want me to tell you it doesn’t take away from your beauty?”
Remus chuckled and gently bumped their shoulders together.
“Whenever you have time,” he said.
“I always have time for regrettable tattoos,” Sirius said, delighted when Remus laughed. More quietly, he added, “I’m free now.”
Remus glanced at him again, then finished his drink in two big gulps.
“Let’s go then,” he said, standing up before Sirius had even realised what was happening.
In a bit of a stupor – because he had not expected Remus to be so eager to show him… whatever it was he wanted to show him – Sirius followed Remus out of the club and all the way to the Leaky Cauldron.
“Yours or mine?” Sirius asked.
“Mine,” Remus said.
They stumbled through the Floo; Remus seeming to have stumbled quite literally, as when Sirius stepped out of the fireplace, Remus was just pushing himself upright from where he was leaning onto the coffee table. He turned to look at Sirius and grinned.
“Whoops,” he said.
Sirius couldn’t help smiling. Slightly tipsy Remus was always endearing, and Sirius thought it was a pity that Remus was so thoughtful that he rarely drank when Sirius was around. (A different part of him was thankful that Remus was so considerate.)
“So, Sirius said and sat down on the sofa. “What was it you wanted to show me?”
Remus cleared his throat and took out his wand, then said, “I discovered something the other day.”
“I see,” Sirius said.
Remus, however, seemed to have lost his bravado, and was now biting his lip, staring at the floor right next to Sirius’s feet.
“What were you doing the other day?” Sirius asked, when Remus remained frozen.
Remus lifted his head and looked at Sirius. He blinked slowly, then seemed to return to the present.
“Oh,” he said, a clear blush rising onto his cheeks. “I was… Well, Kingsley asked me about my Patronus, because he… Well, he said he wasn’t sure but that he thought that I was purposefully not letting my Patronus form properly, and I… Yes, I confirmed that, and he then asked me if I would show him how I do it because… Well, apparently it’s quite impressive to be able to do that.”
Remus’s voice had turned into a mumble by the end. Sirius smiled at him and nodded.
“It is impressive,” he said.
Remus licked his lips, then sighed.
“So, well,” he said. “I said I could show him. And for the purposes of seeing what I did differently, I summoned my Patronus and let it… form completely.”
“Right,” Sirius said slowly.
“And,” Remus said, then went quiet again.
Sirius waited. The silence persisted. Remus was staring at Sirius’s shoulder, lips pressed into a tight line.
Before Sirius could break the silence, Remus raised his wand and said, “Expecto Patronum.”
Silver mist shot out of his wand and quickly formed into… a very familiar dog. Sirius’s eyes widened. He blinked rapidly, wondering if he was imagining things, but a glance at Remus was enough to tell him that his eyes were not, in fact, deceiving him.
“Oh,” he said.
“Yeah,” Remus said quietly. “Oh.”
Sirius cleared his throat and asked, slightly hoarsely, “When did this happen?”
Remus shifted, and the dog disappeared.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I haven’t… I don’t remember the last time I summoned it and let it form. I’m not sure I ever did after school.”
“I see,” Sirius said, not sure what else he could possibly say.
“So,” Remus said, putting his wand back into his pocket, his eyes focused on the action. “That’s what I wanted to… I thought you might be interested to know.”
Sirius watched him for a moment, then, softly, he said, “I am very interested.”
Remus glanced at him, then turned to look out the window. It was dark outside, and the window reflected the room.
“Maybe it’s a stupid idea,” Remus said. “Maybe we’re always doomed to fail. But… It seems that all my other relationships fail too.”
“Maybe,” Sirius said.
As much as he wanted Remus back, he wasn’t sure if he could deal with yet another break-up. If they didn’t work out and he would have to watch Remus go yet again…
“I can’t stop thinking about you,” Remus whispered. “You’re… You’ve…”
Remus turned to look at Sirius, eyes searching for something. Sirius didn’t know what it was, and he wasn’t sure if Remus was going to find it on his face or in his eyes.
The silence persisted, until Remus finally asked, “Don’t you have anything to say?”
Sirius wasn’t sure what to say. What he wanted to say and what he thought he should say were two different things.
“Padfoot,” Remus said softly. “It doesn’t need to be a definite answer. Just tell me a bit of what you’re thinking about.”
Sirius sighed and patted the sofa next to himself. He waited for Remus to get settled before turning towards him.
“I will always love you,” he said, “because you’re my best friend, Moony.”
Sirius bit his lip in thought. He looked around the room, as though hoping that it held the answers to all his questions.
Eventually, he said, “I’m worried.”
“About,” Sirius said slowly. “About if we’ll last this time. I don’t… Moony, I don’t think I can go through yet another break-up with you.”
“I understand that,” Remus said. “Obviously, I’m never keen on breaking up with anyone, but… I guess breaking up with you for the third time would sting worse.”
“But you would still like to try?” Sirius asked, needing confirmation before his thoughts could settle.
“I would still like to try,” Remus said. He leaned back. “I think this time it would be different.”
“Hmm,” Remus said and took a moment to think. His eyes looked bright as he stared towards the ceiling. “This time we aren’t a couple of insecure teenagers at the cusp of a war. We aren’t barely adults having to battle forces of evil. We aren’t… We aren’t completely fixed, but we also aren’t completely broken. We have our lives together, at least for the most part. We have friends. You have a job.”
“How was me not having a job a bad thing?” Sirius asked, choosing to cling to the least emotionally charged detail.
Remus chuckled and said, “You didn’t really have a direction before it, did you? It was fine for as long as Harry was at home, but once he started Hogwarts, you looked so lost. Every day. But you were also too stubborn to listen to reason.”
Remus glanced at him with a smile and crossed his arms. Sirius wondered if it was a sign that Remus wasn’t as confident as he tried to seem.
“I’m still stubborn,” Sirius said.
Remus turned to look at him in surprise, then burst to laughter.
“I wouldn’t have you any other way,” he said.
Sirius couldn’t help smiling. It did warm his hear to hear that Remus wanted him back. Maybe all of his relationships kept failing because he still wanted Remus instead. Was he possibly subconsciously sabotaging his own happiness because he was secretly holding onto hope that maybe Remus might want him too?
“We should probably take it slow,” he said.
Remus watched him for a moment, then smiled brightly.
“Yeah?” he asked.
Sirius nodded. He reached out to take a hold of Remus’s hand. Remus’s long fingers felt familiar against his skin. His cheeks heated up and he shyly glanced at Remus who was smiling softly at him. Remus leaned a bit closer, and soon they were sitting on the sofa, leaning on each other, hand in hand and big smiles on their faces.
“Harry’s going to send me a strongly worded letter, isn’t he,” Remus said then. “Something along the lines of ‘If you hurt Sirius again, you’ll regret it.’”
“He’ll send me one too,” he said.
“No, he won’t,” Remus argued. “You’re his Dad. He’s always going to be on your side.”
“I don’t think he really likes taking sides,” Sirius said.
“Maybe so, but he’ll always take yours.”
Sirius leaned his head against Remus’s.
“Are we idiots?” he then asked.
“Maybe,” Remus said immediately, making Sirius burst to laughter.
“You’re supposed to reassure me,” Sirius said. “You’re supposed to say this is the smartest thing we’ve ever done.”
“I can’t base our relationship on lies,” Remus said.
Sirius turned his head enough to press a soft kiss onto Remus’s temple. Remus’s hair was fetchingly grey.
“Third time’s the charm, right?” Remus asked quietly.
“Mm,” Sirius responded. “Maybe we have finally learned enough to manage a long-term relationship.”
“We can always hope,” Remus said and turned his head to kiss Sirius’s forehead.
There was always hope.