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Things That Can't Be Changed

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Remus was late.

It wasn’t, in fact, unusual for Remus to be late these days, but each time it had gotten slightly more irritating, and currently Sirius was very irritated. He had drunk a bit as he waited, had then drunk a bit more. And Remus was still gone.

Sirius poured himself yet another drink and thought about Remus. He thought about the fresh scars on Remus’s back that couldn’t have been caused by Remus himself. He knew that Remus was spending time with other werewolves, he had known it for months. Ever since they had first been asked to become members of the Order, he had known that what Dumbledore wanted from Remus would have something to do with werewolves. It was self-explanatory. So, he knew, even though he wasn’t supposed to know.

Remus had taken good care to never talk about his missions. Sirius knew that it was exactly how they were supposed to deal with things, but it had quickly started to aggravate him. Remus knew that he already knew, so why could he not talk? No, instead Remus always reprimanded him when he shared details of what he was supposed to be doing.

“We shouldn’t talk about that,” Remus tended to say.

And Sirius felt like he would tear out his own hair if he had to hear Remus say that even once more.

And it wasn’t just the missions any longer. It was the mysterious disappearances between missions. Remus would be gone for the entire day, having left before Sirius woke up, returning late at night after Sirius had gone to bed, sometimes staying out the entire night and returning the next morning or late the following afternoon looking twitchy.

“Where were you last night?” was a question Sirius had never imagined he would need to ask, yet he could no longer remember how many times he had asked it.

And Remus never had an answer – or not a satisfying one, at least.

“I was out,” he would say. “I got called to a meeting about my mission,” he would say. “It’s not important,” he would say. “You know I can’t talk about it.”

All of it was bullshit, Sirius knew, because he could read Remus and he knew when Remus was lying. He could still read Remus, even though Remus had stopped being quite so open with his face, even though Remus would turn his eyes away more often than let their gazes meet.

Remus was keeping secrets, Sirius told himself. It didn’t mean they were bad secrets, he told himself.

He poured himself another drink and thought about Remus. He tried to remember exactly what Remus had looked like before they became grown-ups too quickly, before Remus got his first grey hair. He thought about that discovery, how they had been lying in bed on an unusually lazy morning, Remus still half-asleep as Sirius ran his fingers through his hair, watching how it glowed in the faint streak of sunlight that their curtains could never quite keep out. And there, at Remus’s left temple, a grey hair. Sirius stroked it with soft fingertips. He knew that Remus was going to notice it quickly, and he wondered if he should try to pre-emptively placate him, reassure him because Remus often got insecure over his appearances.

Sirius drank and thought about how Remus still got insecure, no matter how many times Sirius had told him, had shown him, that he had nothing to worry about, he had no reason to be ashamed of his body because his body was a part of him and Sirius loved him completely.

Or at least he had.

Sirius stared at the bottom of his empty glass and frowned. Did he still love Remus?

It was supposed to be an easy question. His answer should be an immediate yes, he shouldn’t need to think about how different things were now than they had been five years ago, when Sirius had first looked at Remus as a lover rather than a seemingly unrequited crush. It had been late spring in their fifth year, and Remus had only quite recently started acting normally with him, he had finally been forgiven, and the relief made him reckless.

They had been sitting together on Remus’s bed, alone in the dormitory with James in Quidditch practice and Peter who knows where. Remus was explaining a very complicated spell that he thought would improve the Map, and Sirius had been so happy, he had been ecstatic that Remus didn’t go all awkward and quiet when they were alone. Remus’s eyes had finally lost the faint traces of hurt and anger and mistrust that Sirius had almost grown used to.

He poured himself another drink and remembered how soft Remus’s lips had been when Sirius had abruptly leaned forward and pressed their mouths together. It had been a brief kiss, and Sirius had pulled back to see Remus’s startled face before Remus had leaned in and pulled him into a longer kiss. A deeper kiss. The best kiss Sirius had ever experienced. It was still high on his list of best kisses ever.

The glass under Sirius’s finger was cool. He thought about touching Remus with the same finger, the same hand, his skin and Remus’s skin rubbing together as he explored. It had always been happy. Remus had always smiled brightly when they had sex, when they hugged, even when they just held hands. Remus’s smile was the brightest right after they kissed, a faint flush over his cheeks that never ceased to make Sirius’s heart skip a beat. Because Remus was beautiful and Remus was his and he was Remus’s in return and nothing could have made either of them happier.

And now Remus was late. And fidgety in a completely new way. And no longer took off his shirt when they had sex.

Once, when Remus had fallen asleep after sex, Sirius had lifted his shirt to see what he was hiding. That’s how he had discovered the new scars that he couldn’t ask about because that would be admitting that he had looked. He hadn’t understood why Remus hadn’t wanted him to see. He still didn’t understand, as Remus still didn’t want him to see. Remus had always had scars, so what was so different about these scars, except the fact that they were clearly caused by someone other than Remus himself?

Remus had been pulling away. It almost appeared that he was trying to do it discreetly but was failing spectacularly. Sirius had noticed. It was almost impossible not to notice that his boyfriend no longer smiled into their kisses, flinched back when Sirius rested his hands on his waist without warning, and the one time Sirius had asked him to bottom for a change, Remus had gone pale and withdrawn into himself, shoulders hunched and upper lip sweaty.

How had he explained that away? Sirius couldn’t remember. He was sure it had been one more bullshit excuse that put him on a bad mood for days afterwards, and when he was on a bad mood, Remus went quiet and hid behind his books. He had never done that before. Before, when Sirius was on a bad mood, Remus snapped him out of it because Remus had always been fierce and strong and not this odd shadow of his former self that he had become.

It was dark out and Sirius lifted the glass to his lips. The alcohol no longer burnt like it used to and wasn’t that just one more thing that was different. He remembered the first times of drinking, the giddiness of knowing they weren’t supposed to even have alcohol, not to mention drink it, how James had turned out to be a total lightweight, and Remus started giggling uncontrollably. Peter seemed to hold his liquor surprisingly well, and Sirius couldn’t stop watching Remus giggle. The alcohol warmed his body, his cheeks felt flushed, and their Moony was giggling so hard he couldn’t sit upright.

He missed still being a Marauder.

If he ever made the mistake of bringing that up with any of the others, they would tell him that they still were Marauders, nothing had changed just because they had left school, but really, everything had changed. Nothing was like it used to be and it made Sirius uneasy, it made him feel like he was drifting in a river that was carrying him to an unknown destination. He was alone in the river, Prongs and Wormtail and Moony had drifted into their own rivers and were headed away from him.

It had been Prongs first. He had finally managed to snatch Lily like he had always wanted, and it was already obvious during their last year at Hogwarts that Lily would never stop being a part of James’s life. It was no longer just James, it was always James and Lily, even more so now that they were married and had a son. As much as Sirius loved Harry, he couldn’t help mourning a friendship that would never return to the way it had once been; they had been closer than brothers, always trusting each other with everything, and he had been the first to find out when James had gotten further with Lily, and James had been the first to find out when Sirius figured out his sexuality.

Back then Sirius could monopolise James’s time, and because he was still Prongs, James had not only let him but also liked it. They had liked being always together, always inseparable, always James and Sirius, Sirius and James, the best of friends, brothers.

Wormtail was the second to drift away. Some months after they had left Hogwarts, his mother had fallen ill, and Peter spent a lot of time helping her. Then she had gotten better, but he had still needed to care for her. Sirius couldn’t remember what it was that she had had. It was some Muggle disease that seemed serious from the way Remus had reacted. Sometimes it almost sounded like Peter was making excuses not to spend time with his friends, but it must have been that his mother still required a lot from him.

It was surprisingly lonely without Peter. Sirius hadn’t realised how much space Wormtail had occupied in the Marauders. Peter had always been there, always ready to explore and help with pranks and study advanced magic to improve their map. Peter was a quiet constant that Sirius only knew to miss when he was already gone.

And then, of course, there was Moony. He and Sirius were dating, so their rivers had run parallel to each other for longer than with the others. They moved in together. They woke up together, brushed their teeth together, ate together, breathed together, existed together. They couldn’t stop touching, constant contact between them that Remus wanted to keep on the down-low, so Sirius indulged him and made sure that while he always stood close to Remus, while he always had his hand resting somewhere in Remus’s person, it never seemed more than friendly while they were with people who weren’t their immediate circle.

When they were alone, they were all over each other, couldn’t stop kissing or caressing or stroking, and they had sex more than once a day, Remus had learned to suck cock so well that the thought of his mouth worked as foreplay for Sirius. They tumbled in bed together, trying out different things, laughed at the things that didn’t work out, smiled in post-coital bliss and wrapped their bodies around one another and slept under the same blanket.

Sirius quickly drained his drink and put the glass down with a loud noise that made him jump. He blinked rapidly a few times.

Their mission schedules were difficult, because they rarely coincided. It often happened that when Remus finally returned, looking haggard and worn, Sirius had barely a moment to kiss him goodbye before leaving himself. Remus’s missions were longer, keeping him gone for so many days it was weeks, and then he stopped talking and smiling and how could someone so sad and burdened be their Moony?

And then Remus’s missions stretched past what they were supposed to be, and Sirius didn’t know if it was something Dumbledore planned or even knew about, or if Remus was…

The bottle was empty, and Sirius threw it at the wall. It shattered into pieces with a resounding crack, and Sirius threw his tumbler too, looked in satisfaction at the way shards of glass pooled on the floor.

The door to their flat opened and closed. Sirius sat in his chair and listened. There was a rustle of clothes, shoes being tugged off tired feet, and Remus stumbled before making it to the doorway.

“Oh,” was the first word Remus spoke to him in three weeks. “I thought you’d be in bed.”

“I was waiting for you,” Sirius said, and his voice only slurred a bit.

He listened to Remus, how he hovered at the doorway, uncertain. Why did Remus want him to be asleep when he got back from a mission? He could ask, he could already see how Remus would squirm and try to explain it away without saying anything. It would amuse him for a moment, he was sure.

“Well,” Remus then said, and he sounded tired. “Thank you.”

“You’re late,” Sirius said.

Remus was quiet. Sirius turned enough to just see him. Remus was looking at the shattered glass on the floor, eyes unreadable, the bags under them less so. He saw Remus swallow.

“I had to wait for the right moment to leave,” Remus said, and it was more than he had ever said before. “I then went straight to Dumbledore, so I won’t have to tomorrow. I’m so tired.”

Remus turned to look at him. Sirius turned more. Their eyes met only for a fraction of a second before Remus looked away again, his gaze wandering around the room as if he hadn’t lived there for three years. Sirius watched him.

The first time Remus had returned late from a mission, there had been a scar on his face. Remus had always implied that he was thankful that he had managed to avoid scarring his face during a full moon, and then he was standing there in their small flat, a fresh scar on the right side of his face, stretching a short distance from his nose to his cheek. It was still red and immediately noticeable, and Sirius tried his hardest not to stare. He tried his hardest to pretend that he couldn’t see it, because his Moony was fragile when it came to his scars, to the way he mutilated his own body every full moon, and Sirius was never going to make him feel self-conscious.

Remus had been self-conscious, started keeping his head down when they went to Order meetings, when they went out with people, when they went somewhere where there was the possibility of running into people. If it weren’t so sad, it would have been funny with how tall Remus was and how impossible it was for him to stop being noticed.

There had been no more facial scars, but Sirius wondered what the extent of what Remus was hiding under his shirt was.

This time, Remus seemed like a shadow of the shadow he had become. He looked tired like he hadn’t had a good night’s sleep in a while, like he hadn’t had a proper meal in a while. He was hunching his shoulders differently from before. It almost made Sirius think that this time Remus would not stop doing it after a couple of days back home. There was something different about the way Remus was holding himself in general.

He was feeling guilty.

He had been out there with his Death Eater buddies betraying his friends and now he was feeling guilty.

It was obvious that Remus couldn’t look him in the eye, wouldn’t look him in the eye. Sirius stood up, swaying a bit, and leaned against the table for support in a way he hoped was not obvious. Remus’s eyes were still everywhere but on Sirius.

“How was the mission?” Sirius asked. “Successful? Learn anything of interest?”

Remus’s quick glance at Sirius was almost worse than no contact at all.

“You know we can’t talk about the missions,” Remus said quietly.

Sirius snorted unkindly. “More like you can’t be arsed to think of lies,” he said, noticing to his dismay that he was maybe slurring more than he had first thought.

“What?” Remus asked, and his eyes were now intently watching Sirius.

“You heard me,” Sirius said.

Remus stared at him, but Sirius couldn’t read his face. His eyes were round in surprise but wary. Obvious signs of guilt all over his face, in the way his lips were pressed together a bit too tightly, the way his hand was shaking ever so slightly.

“You are so bloody obvious,” Sirius said.

“What do you mean?” Remus asked, and his voice was strained too.

“You know what I mean.”

Remus shook his head, the movement small enough to be almost unnoticeable. But Sirius knew, he had known for a while now, he had just been too stupid and in love to let himself believe. There was no way to hide the truth anymore.

It was clear that there was a traitor within their immediate circle. It had been clear to them all for a long time, how their missions sometimes went so horrifically wrong, how the Death Eaters seemed to know things they weren’t supposed to know unless they had learned those things from someone on the inside.

Who had regular contact with Death Eater supporters? Who was the only one going so obviously undercover with the enemy? Who was the only one who could never explain his absences, his lateness, his changed attitude, the cooling of his heart?

Remus, Remus, Remus.

“I know it’s you, Moony,” Sirius said, spitting out the nickname that had once been spoken with utmost care, with adoration and love so thick it threatened to suffocate them both.

“You’re absurd,” came Remus’s response, but it was too quick. “And you’re drunk. You need to sleep it off. I’m not having this conversation with you while you’re so drunk.”

“Stop that,” Sirius snapped.

He stepped forward, and Remus stepped back, eyes widening more, but now the look in them was worried.

Sirius had him all figured out. That fucking traitor.

“I’m not too drunk to understand things,” he continued, discreetly stepping back to lean against the table before he lost his balance. “On the contrary, I understand completely. My head is totally clear.”

“I doubt that,” Remus said, more force in his voice again, his face also settling to something more familiar and closed. “From the way you’re stumbling with your words, I’d say you’re not seeing anything clearly right now. Let’s go to bed.”

“I don’t sleep with traitors,” Sirius hissed, eyes narrow as he leaned forward, keeping most of his weight still against the table.

Remus flinched. Sirius smirked.

“I’m not going to let the traitor fuck me,” Sirius added. “You can’t fool me anymore.”

“Padfoot,” Remus said, and his voice was almost pleading. “You don’t mean that.”

“I do mean it, Moony,” Sirius said forcefully, pushing himself away from the table and immediately stumbling, so he leaned back again. “I have never meant anything as much as I mean this.”

He thought about how Remus had blushed and smiled shyly the first time Sirius said I love you. He thought about how Remus’s entire face had shined like the sun when Sirius had told him that I want to marry you, Moony. I want to spend the rest of my life with you.

He had meant those things back then, and now they seemed like a dream from a past life, words that he would have never uttered had he known that Remus was no longer their Moony, Remus had become someone else who didn’t care about betraying his friends, his best friend’s family. Sirius.

And there Remus was now, staring at him with cold eyes. He had known, he had been right.

“You don’t mean it,” Remus repeated assertively.

“I know it, Moony,” Sirius said. “You’ve been feeding information to the Death Eaters. How did they win you over, huh? A promised cure for Lycanthropy? Or just improved conditions? Are they promising you freedom? Are they telling you they’ll treat you better than the current Ministry?”

Remus was biting his lip so hard that Sirius expected to see blood.

“Or,” he continued, voice now taunting, waiting for Remus to snap and admit it all, “maybe they’re offering you pleasures of the flesh. Is one of your Death Eater buddies a better lay than me? Do you let them fuck you, Moony?”

“Shut up.”

Sirius had his mouth open, ready to continue, but the hard edge in Remus’s voice cut off his words. Remus had pressed his hands into fists, and they were shaking. His face had drained of colour.

“You don’t understand anything,” Remus said. “You don’t know anything.”

“I know enough.”

Remus stared at him with inscrutable eyes. Once, they had been the most beautiful eyes Sirius had ever seen, fascinatingly green and filled with love. Now they weren’t filled with anything, they seemed dark in the underlit room.

“I know you’re the traitor,” Sirius repeated and watched how Remus squeezed his fist tighter.

Quietly, Remus said, “Fuck you, Sirius Black.”

Then he turned, with long strides made his way back to the hall. Sirius could just see him from where he was standing. He watched how Remus put on his shoes, pulled on his coat, and lifted his rucksack. Never turning back, Remus opened the door, stepped out, and closed it without slamming.

It was the most unsatisfying fight of Sirius’s life.

*

Sirius decided not to tell James and Peter exactly what had happened. Not that they had the time for long chats. He showed up to say goodbye to James with Peter the next afternoon, knowing that in the worst case it could be years before they would see James again. Peter and he could see more often if they wanted to, but they had agreed that it would be safer for them to keep a bit of a distance, at least at first.

“Moony visited this morning,” James said, and Sirius’s heart stuttered.

“Did he?” Sirius managed to say keeping his voice even.

James nodded and looked at Sirius with worry. Sirius looked away, smiled weakly at Peter who was frowning.

“He said he was going away for a while,” James said. “It must be tough for you.”

Sirius cleared his throat.

“How are you holding up?” James asked. “I know he just returned yesterday.”

Peter was also looking at Sirius with something like worry, and Sirius hated it. His skin was itching, it felt like it was shrinking and he’d have to get out of himself to feel better.

“I,” he started to say, then swallowed heavily as tears suddenly sprang in his eyes. He furiously blinked them away. “It’s… We…”

James was watching him with all-seeing eyes, his hair a familiar mess, dark bags under his eyes slightly obscured by his glasses. Peter was biting his lip, looking expectant, looking almost eager to hear what Sirius was going to say.

I figured out that Moony was the traitor, so we fought, and he left.

We broke up because Moony was going to get us all killed.

I confronted Moony about his odd behaviour and learned that he’s the traitor. I don’t know if I threw him out or if he left because I was drunk enough for it to fog my memories, but Moony and I are no longer together because I don’t sleep with traitors.

Moony left because I yelled at him and I’m not sure if I even had reason to do so.

I think we broke up because Moony no longer loves me.

He couldn’t say any of that. James was going into hiding; they would not and could not have any contact before the war was over. He couldn’t leave James to dwell on his own personal issues.

“I’ll be okay,” he said weakly.

James smiled at him, that encouraging smile that never failed to lift Sirius’s spirits.

It didn’t work anymore.

“Did you tell him?” Peter asked. “About the switch?”

Sirius shook his head.

“He has to spend so much time around Death Eater supporters,” he said, voice still oddly quiet, “it’s better he doesn’t know. Maybe I’ll tell him eventually, but not… Well, he’s gone anyway.”

James placed his hand on Sirius’s arm and squeezed.

“You’re right,” he said. “It’s probably better this way. The fewer people know, the better.”

Peter nodded.

Sirius and James exchanged the strongest hug they had ever shared, long and lingering, and Sirius had trouble breathing through the lump in his throat. He thought of all the times they had touched: accidental brushes of elbows, encouraging pats on the back and squeezes on the shoulder, wrestling on the dormitory floor until they were laughing too hard to continue, James jumping on Sirius’s back in excitement. Hugs for strength, half a hug just because they meant so much to each other. He squeezed his eyes shut and felt James’s muscular body in his arms, and he already missed James’s warmth.

He and Peter left together, also hugging briefly before parting ways. Peter was going into hiding himself, but Sirius promised to see him at the end of the week to discuss how they should proceed.

Sirius had meant to go into hiding as well. He and Remus had fought about it because Sirius didn’t want to be alone, but Remus didn’t want to let Dumbledore down and stop going on his missions. Now that Sirius thought about it, they hadn’t really reached a conclusion, they just stopped talking about it.

They had stopped talking about many things.

Sirius returned to a quiet flat. An empty flat. He didn’t even have any alcohol left, and he didn’t think it was safe to go out just for some Firewhisky.

His insides were stone, heavy and cold and it felt like dread but not quite. He should be afraid, surely. Once the Death Eaters figured out that the Potters had gone into hiding, once they realised that they were under a Fidelius, they would come for him.

And would Remus be with them?

Sirius looked at the books that were still lying on the coffee table, right where Remus had placed them. Several of them had bookmarks sticking out, some of them more than one.

Would Remus come back for his things?

Sirius wasn’t sure what he wanted. He wanted to see Remus but seeing him would be painful. They would have to talk, and it would be hard because Sirius wasn’t even sure what he had said exactly. He remembered accusing Remus of being the spy, of betraying his friends, but he couldn’t remember the words he had used.

Could he take it back?

Did he want to take it back?

Remus was gone, so did it mean that he had been right?

His chest felt heavy and he sat down on the sofa, right where Remus would sit and read his books, curled under a warm blanket with a cup of tea forgotten on the side table. He could almost feel the warmth left behind by Remus. He could almost see himself sitting on the opposite end of the sofa, toes poking at Remus’s thigh, quietly begging for attention but unwilling to really disturb Remus.

He would come back.

Where had he even gone? James hadn’t said, which meant that Remus probably hadn’t told him. Where could Remus go? A lot of their friends were dead. Remus’s parents were alive, as far as Sirius knew, but Remus had never liked imposing himself on them. Sometimes Remus seemed angry at them but wouldn’t talk about why.

If he was the traitor, he would surely go to his Death Eater buddies. Except they wouldn’t care because Remus was a werewolf. He would have to go to the werewolves. But wasn’t that almost the same?

If Remus wasn’t the traitor…

Sirius squeezed his eyes closed. He squeezed them harder until he saw flashes of colours.

When he opened his eyes, Remus was still gone and the flat was still empty.

Sirius didn’t know how long he sat there staring at Remus’s books, but the next time he became aware of his surroundings, it was dark.

He didn’t want to go to bed. The bed would be empty, too big, like a vast field of nothing but cold loneliness. He had slept alone in that bed for three weeks. He should have shared it with Remus the previous night, but then he had ruined it all. He thought about how lost Remus had looked, his shirt too big on his skinny frame and eyes unsettled, and Sirius had only made it worse because he was drunk and filled with what he believed to be justified acrimony.

If he had returned from a two-week-long mission and been greeted by Remus drunk and angry, he would have looked uneasy too.

But then, he didn’t have mysterious disappearances that he couldn’t or wouldn’t explain. He wasn’t spending most of his time as a spy among Death Eater supporters, immersed in their rhetoric and empty promises of a better world. He also wasn’t a werewolf who had spent all his life trying to hide it, there were no laws making his life difficult if one didn’t count it being illegal for him to marry the man of his dreams, and he would never understand Remus’s life because they were so inherently different, they started from different places, their paths had taken drastically different turns, and even though they had been together for such a long time, there were still layers of Remus that Sirius had never gotten even a glimpse of.

Sirius would have never had a reason to turn traitor.

Remus had plenty of reasons.

Remus was smart, but surely even he could be blinded by a promise of a world where he wouldn’t need to hide, where he would be allowed to exist without someone always contending it.

Sirius rubbed his eyes. They were dry.

*

Sirius existed in a stupor. Once the sun was up, he had gone out and bought several bottles of expensive Firewhisky. He didn’t know how long it took him to get through the first bottle. In fact, he lost count of his bottles altogether, courting the edge between very drunk and too drunk to live. He didn’t remember throwing up, but he woke up with the taste of vomit in his mouth. He didn’t remember going to bed, but he woke up curled up on Remus’s side. The pillow no longer smelled like Remus because Sirius had scrubbed the bed clean in a bout of anger while Remus was still out on his mission.

Where was Remus now? Was he still on the same bloody mission? Sirius would have to have a word with Dumbledore about sending Remus on such difficult missions. What if one of those missions was compromised by the spy?

The spy? They had a traitor in their midst.

And then he remembered: Remus was gone because Sirius had been convinced that he was the spy.

“Moony,” he whined, surprised by how pitiful he sounded.

The next time he woke up, he was hungry. He wobbled to the bathroom and took a piss, stopping to look at himself in the mirror on his way out. His hair was a mess, eyes bloodshot and underlined by dark bags. His stubble was a few days old, and that's what alerted him to the fact that he wasn't sure what day it was. He slowly made his way to the kitchen, drank a big glass of water and found some stale bread to chew on. It didn't make him feel any better, and he regretted not having stocked up on hangover potion. He definitely could have used some.

Instead, he had a drink. His robes were wrinkled and smelly, so he stripped out of them, carelessly tossing them somewhere, then returned to the bathroom for a shower. The water was too cold, and he regretted not making Remus teach him how to get it just right. His own charm-work made the water just a tad too hot. Remus always got it right.

His legs didn't feel stable enough, so he sat down in the tub and let the too hot water rain over him. It felt cleansing, and when he finally crawled out of the tub, he felt somewhat more alive. He went to the bedroom and opened the closet. Remus’s clothes were still there.

Remus didn’t have a big collection of clothes and seeing them there next to Sirius’s overflowing collection of both Muggle and wizarding clothing made them seem even fewer. He must have had a change of clothes with him, but even then, he surely wouldn’t have carried more than a couple of pairs of trousers and a few shirts.

Remus had such few clothes.

Sirius pulled on a clean pair of underwear, then hesitated. He had planned on going for robes to make sulking more comfortable and undressing easier in case he got too drunk again, but as he was reaching for them, his hand ended up landing on one of Remus’s jumpers. Without stopping to think too much, he pulled the jumper on, found a pair of his own jeans (because there were none of Remus’s left, and even if there were, they would have been too long on him), and headed out. Sirius wore his trusty leather jacket. It was a cool day, and he rather wished that he could have stayed inside.

He made his way to Diagon Alley for more Firewhisky. On his way he managed to catch the date on the papers. It was the 30th, meaning that he would need to go see Peter the next day. He would have to drink less. In fact, it would be ideal if he didn’t drink at all.

He bought a bottle of Firewhisky. He drank too much of it. He passed out by the kitchen table, thinking about Remus’s big warm hands.

*

Sirius cursed himself for not having acquired any hangover cure while he had foolishly gone out again just to get more alcohol. What had he been thinking, both about the potion and about the going out?

The thing was, Remus had always done the thinking. Sirius did the reacting. Sirius acted and Remus thought, and then Remus reprimanded him for being reckless.

At any moment, you could have Death Eaters come looking for you, he heard Remus’s voice in his head. If you absolutely had to go out for more alcohol, you should have made sure that you won’t be incapacitated after you’ve drunk it all.

Joke's on Moony, he hadn’t drunk it all.

Sirius groaned and looked at the time. He had enough time to properly wake up and remember how to pretend to be a living person.

He had forgotten to buy food.

When he finally made his way outside, he felt only half-human. He went to the local Muggle pub and had greasy food that didn’t make him feel much better. The pub was loud, and someone was smoking in the next table, and Sirius really wanted a fag but had none left. He couldn’t remember when he had run out. He only smoked occasionally so he hadn’t thought to buy more cigarettes, but he decided to buy some now with the last of his Muggle money.

He smoked two cigarettes in a row. They didn’t make him feel better, but at least they calmed some of the jitters he’d been experiencing. He went back home, got his motorbike and headed out to Peter’s hiding place.

He was cold. He had forgotten to wear gloves and his fingers were freezing, but the cold cleared his head a bit more, and he felt his thoughts sluggishly rearrange themselves into something resembling coherence. He felt at least three quarters human by the time he reached Peter’s hiding place. He took off his helmet, then blew hot air on his fingers to warm them up. He’d ask Peter for a pair of gloves to wear.

He found that he couldn’t wait to see Peter, have a bit of a chat about everything. He’d been lonely for a long time now, he realised, what with Remus being gone so often and James having had to spend a lot of time figuring out how to keep his family safe, and Peter being… Well, Sirius didn’t know what Peter had been doing that kept him out of touch at times. Maybe he never really thought about it either, because he and Peter had never been the closest. They’d been friends, but they also both understood that they weren’t an ideal pair. Sirius was too impatient and explosive, Peter was too…

Sirius shook his head. He didn’t want to think about why Peter often made him so irritated right before he was to meet him.

He strode over to the door and knocked. He looked around.

Peter was staying in a small cabin at the edge of a forest. Sirius felt dread creeping up his back as he considered the trees, how dark it was among them especially now that there was no sunlight left. He was sure that it would be dark in bright daylight as well.

He knocked again. He felt like someone was standing right behind him, watching him, but he couldn’t see anyone or anything. It was quiet. Almost eerily quiet, but it also meant that if there really was someone watching him, they would probably eventually make some noise and he would hear it and…

Why was Peter not opening the door?

He knocked yet again, this time louder, even though it was sure to draw attention to him if someone happened to be close-by. Not that him arriving on a motorbike wouldn’t have done that already.

Was he just really stupid? Was Remus right about that? Was Sirius just deeply stupid?

To be fair, he couldn’t remember the last time he had seen a sober day, so he was really just an alcoholic. Which was fine, probably. One can’t fix stupidity, but one can stop drinking.

As if he wanted to stop.

He already ached to go back home and get a drink and forget everything about everything for a bit. He wouldn’t be called on missions because he was supposed to be hiding, Remus was gone and James was under the Fidelius, so what else was there to do?

He took in a deep breath and looked around again. He could still see no one.

He turned back to the door and pounded on it with both fists.

“Peter!” he yelled, hearing it echo along with his pounding. “Peter, open the door!”

He stopped abruptly.

Nothing.

His stomach squirmed, and this time it was not caused by a hangover. He swallowed against the dread that was crawling up his throat.

“Peter?” he tried. “Wormy?”

Of course, if Peter hadn’t heard him trying to break down the door, he wouldn’t hear Sirius’s voice when it was not much louder than a whisper, but one could always hope.

Sirius had his wand firmly in hand when he reached out, took a hold of the doorknob and prepared to charm the door open. He turned the knob and the door opened.

An unlocked door.

An unlocked door that was supposed to be locked because it was attached to a cabin that was being used as a hiding place by someone who was in hiding due to being a Secret Keeper for people who were being pursued by a murderous lunatic.

Sirius didn’t manage to swallow down his dread a second time. His skin was crawling as he slowly pulled the door open, peeking inside and seeing nothing unusual. Very, very carefully he made his way in, searched the cabin from top to bottom, and concluded that there was nothing to find, nothing out of place except Peter being nowhere to be found.

Sirius used his wand to turn on the lights. The flickering candlelight made everything look eerily alive, the shadows dancing over furniture and a curtain fluttering in the cold breeze that blew in through the front door that Sirius had foolishly left open.

“Peter?” Sirius whispered.

“Wormtail?” he whispered.

It remained quiet and still.

It wasn’t right. It was all wrong. It was all so, so wrong.

Sirius backed out of the cabin, closed the door and pressed his forehead against its cold surface. He spent a moment catching his breath and forcing it under control.

There must have been an explanation, he thought when he hurried to his bike, when he kicked off and soared up into the sky, when he realised that his fingers were going to freeze even worse because he still had no gloves and he was higher up.

He suddenly remembered the first time someone had suggested to him that maybe Remus wasn’t completely trustworthy.

“Have you noticed anything odd about Moony?” Peter had asked quietly.

“Odd how?” Sirius had asked in return.

“He’s always gone,” Peter said, lowering his voice to a whisper. “Where does he go? Has he told you?”

Sirius hadn’t been sure what to say.

“I thought so,” Peter said when Sirius remained quiet. “How do we know he’s not, you know… That he’s still on our side?”

“Of course, we know that!” Sirius said a bit too loudly, then lowered his voice. “He’s our Moony. Of course, we can trust him.”

“How do you know that, though?” Peter asked. “If he won’t tell you, and you’re his boyfriend. He should tell you.”

Sirius’s frown deepened and he nodded.

“It’s so obvious that someone’s leaking information,” Peter had said. “He’s the only one who keeps disappearing with no explanation.”

Peter.

*

Sirius didn’t know how he had managed to make it to Godric’s Hollow without incident. His heart was lodged in his throat, his stomach had lost its bottom, and his fingers were so cold he was certain they would drop off the moment he tried to dislodge them from the handlebars. He could see James and Lily’s safehouse from the distance, which meant that the secret had been given away, but he refused to believe it.

It must have been a mistake.

It must have been a mistake.

He had hardly even touched the ground before he was off, running towards the house that had collapsed in on itself, the front door wide open – no, the front door was gone, and there, by the staircase, lay James.

“No,” Sirius gasped and skidded to a halt by James.

James was undeniably dead. His face still looked determined, his eyes unseeing, lying still on the cold floor. His glasses had a crack on one lens.

Sirius couldn’t see anything else as tears blurred his vision. He let out a broken sob, let go of James’s hand (When had he taken it? He couldn’t remember.) and stood up. He could hear crying, loud and heart-breaking, and he wiped his eyes as he hurried upstairs.

Harry’s room was hardly recognisable as a room. The roof had collapsed, a wall was missing, and for a while Sirius didn’t understand how a child could be alive in that room. He stubbed his toe on something soft and saw Lily lying on her stomach. Half of her body was buried in the rubble, and Sirius didn’t need to check to know that she was dead, but he did anyway.

The crying drew him away from his sorrow and he hurried towards the cot that had been buried under pieces of what might have once been a wall but could have been a ceiling. He carefully lifted out the debris, taking too much time but unwilling to risk hurting Harry any more than he had already been hurt. His hands were shaking.

When he could finally see Harry, he was relieved to find that not only was he alive, he seemed unharmed except for a small amount of bleeding on his forehead. He carefully extricated Harry from his cot, making sure to direct his gaze away from Lily’s corpse.

“Harry,” he whispered.

Harry had quietened down and was looking at Sirius with big, marvelling, wet eyes, sniffling quietly as Sirius pressed him against his shoulder, whispering nonsense to keep him calm.

Harry was warm. Harry was breathing. Harry was alive, and Sirius had tears in his eyes just because Harry survived. He continued cradling Harry against himself, stroking his hair and his back, humming quietly, and it didn’t take long for Harry’s sniffles to cease and his breathing to calm down.

Sirius checked to make sure that Harry had truly fallen asleep before he hurriedly gathered as many baby things as he could find, wary of looking at Lily lying unnaturally still, carefully not thinking about James downstairs in the same state. He had to move fast, before anyone else arrived. He was sure that there would be Muggle officials arriving too.

After he thought he had everything he might need, he managed to secure Harry against his chest in a sling that would probably not pass any closer scrutiny but seemed to be doing its job. He made sure to double-check every odd knot and fold before he felt somewhat confident that it would hold.

He hurried outside, picked up his bike, hardly having time to have a fleeting thought about how letting it fall to the ground might have damaged the paint, before stuffing Harry’s things in the storage compartment and mounting the bike. From the distance he could hear Muggle sirens.

Then he heard movement much closer-by and froze. He wrapped his arms around Harry, hoping against hope that he would stay asleep, thankful that in his haste he had left his bike a bit to the side so he wasn’t immediately visible from the front of the house, especially because he was shrouded in shadows. He could see movement.

He waited with bated breath, then recognised the moving shape as Hagrid.

What was Hagrid doing there? He must have been there on Dumbledore’s orders. Why had Dumbledore sent Hagrid?

Sirius’s head was spinning with all the questions that were popping up, arms tightening around Harry. He waited. Hagrid went inside. He heard a quiet wail, which must have meant that Hagrid had found James. He waited. The Muggle sirens were getting close now.

He thought he could hear the stairs creaking, he waited for a moment longer, and only then did he start the engine. He took off as quickly as he could. Hagrid could probably hear him, and it wouldn’t take a genius to guess that a missing Harry Potter and a motorcycle speeding away equalled one desperate godfather, but he could not give Harry up. He could not give up the only person he still had left.

Every now and then – and probably more often than that – he checked that the baby sling still held and Harry was safe. He then started worrying that Harry would get too cold, so after he found a nice, empty area, he landed and applied numerous heating charms on him.

He stopped to think.

He didn’t know what had happened. If he went back to his flat, would he be safe? Where else could he possibly go?

He didn’t know.

He wished that he had trusted Remus. He wished that Remus was there with him, giving him all the rational answers that he needed. He missed Remus so much it hurt, his entire body ached with it.

He wished that he had trusted Remus because none of this would have happened.

And look at the mess he had made – because it was his fault: he had convinced James that switching to Peter had been the best course of action, he had driven Remus away and he had been so obsessed with figuring out Remus that he had remained completely blind to Peter and his odd disappearances and now that he thought about it, it all seemed so obvious.

He swallowed heavily.

Remus might come back.

If Remus came back and Sirius wasn’t in the flat, Remus wouldn’t know where to find him.

“Moony,” he whispered, sounding more miserable than he had ever sounded in his life.

Slowly, he started driving again, staying on the ground because he still wasn’t sure where he was going.

Rationally, he knew that Remus wasn’t likely to return to their flat, but there was still a big part of him that wanted to cling to hope, that maybe Remus would want to come back to the only friend he had left, maybe he would want to be a part of Harry’s life, maybe he would want to help Sirius, maybe he still loved Sirius.

Rationally, he knew that their flat would be the first place Dumbledore would come looking for Harry. The flat would be the first place anyone would come looking for Harry. The flat would be the first place Death Eaters would come looking for him.

He took off to the sky and headed home.

*

Sirius spent the better part of an hour casting different protective spells to strengthen the protections their flat had already had. He cast every spell he could think of, then cast them again. He even quickly looked through Remus’s books on protective spells to see if there were any more that he could use. He made sure that the spells would still allow Remus through.

Once he was done, Harry was still asleep.

Sirius sat down heavily on the sofa and slowly disentangled himself and Harry from the sling. He was horrified to realise that he had forgotten about Harry’s bleeding wound. Luckily, the wound seemed to have stopped bleeding by then, and it didn’t seem to have bled all that much to begin with.

He summoned a clean flannel and used an Aguamenti to wet it. He carefully cleaned the blood off Harry’s face and revealed a wound in the shape of a lightning bolt. He tried healing it to prevent it from scarring, but nothing happened.

He had a toddler with a curse wound. He nearly laughed, hysterics quickly mounting inside him. Before he had time to completely lose his mind, he realised that Dumbledore thought that he had been the Secret Keeper. Dumbledore had no idea that it had been Peter.

Dumbledore thought that Sirius had betrayed James and Lily to Voldemort. Hagrid had surely figured out that Sirius had taken Harry with him.

How did that look?

“He thinks I took Harry for that sick bastard,” he said, part in awe over the realisation, part in anger that anyone could ever think that he would…

“I need to tell Dumbledore,” he mumbled to Harry.

He took his wand in hand and raised it, did his best to dig up his happy memory of him and James right after he had come out to James, and James had smiled and hugged him, telling him that they were brothers and nothing could ever change that.

Expecto Patronum.”

He wasn’t sure he was going to produce a corporeal Patronus at all, the sorrow trying to dig its claws in to corrupt his happy memory. He was relieved to see that the silver mist was quickly taking form.

But rather than the familiar dog, it became a wolf.

Sirius stared, dumbfounded.

He had seen that wolf only a handful of times before. He was one of the few people in the world who had ever seen it at all. The wolf was usually incorporeal, because the man it belonged to, hated the association it had with his Lycanthropy.

Sirius’s wand clattered to the floor and the wolf disappeared.

“No,” he whispered.

He blinked hard to keep his tears at bay.

He didn’t know when his Patronus had changed forms, but he knew that he had cast the charm quite recently before… So, it must have happened after…

After he had driven Remus away.

“Can’t think of that right now,” he mumbled to himself.

This time, he was prepared, and seeing the wolf only made a small lump form in his throat. He sent word to Dumbledore. He watched the wolf go.

He hugged Harry to his chest and finally allowed himself to cry.

Chapter Text

Six-year-olds were a menace, was Sirius's firm opinion, but that might have just been the stress.

Also, strictly speaking, Harry wasn't quite six yet. That was still a week away.

But, without his sixth birthday, Sirius would not be under such stress, therefore six-year-olds were the issue.

Not that he hadn't gone through the exact same stress every birthday. Harry's second had been the worst because not only was the pain of losing everything still so fresh, he also hadn't quite managed to figure out the parenting thing. He had still spent sleepless nights wishing that he had been less stupid, more trusting of Remus, less trusting of Peter. More mature and less alcoholic.

He was still ashamed to admit that it had been the stress of Harry's second birthday that had made him realise that he could not keep drinking every night – even if he didn't get drunk, just pleasantly tipsy. He had only decided to stop drinking completely a year after James and Lily's death, when he had gotten blackout drunk, stumbled to the Weasleys the following afternoon and been told by Molly that she could not in good conscious let him take Harry home. Or be by himself, for that matter. When the hangover had abated, he had done a lot of thinking.

In the end, Harry was more important than trying to fix his sorrow with alcohol.

And now, here he was, a mature adult (even if he said so himself) organising a birthday party for his godson. His son?

Even after all these years, he wasn't sure if it was okay for him to think about Harry as his son. He had been raising Harry as his own, he loved Harry as if he was his own. Harry had started calling him Dad when he was three. Sirius had officially adopted Harry, for Merlin's sake, but there was still a part of him that felt like it would dishonour James and Lily's memory. Maybe one day he could let go, but today was not that day.

He sighed and stepped out of the Leaky Cauldron to access Diagon Alley, but his train of thought was rudely interrupted by him walking straight into someone else. Someone, who fell to the ground at the force of their collision.

“I'm sorry,” the person mumbled, hardly audible.

“What?” Sirius asked, completely taken aback by being on the receiving end of an apology. “I'm sorry. I should have looked where I was going.”

He offered a hand to help while feverishly trying to figure out why the man's voice had sounded somewhat familiar, when the man turned his head to frown at the offered hand. Sirius would have recognised that frown anywhere.

“Moony?”

Remus – because it really was him – snapped his head up and the frown was replaced by surprise, which was quickly replaced by horror, which was even more quickly replaced by defeat and then forced calmness. Remus stood up without accepting Sirius's help, then dusted down his clothes. He was wearing a shabby robe that had been patched a few too many times. His face seemed much older, his hair was already going grey, his cheeks were hollow and cheekbones sharp, and the bags under his eyes were dark.

Then there was the scar on his face. It was thick, travelling over his right cheek from the inner corner of his eye all the way to his ear. It was prominent enough to nearly overshadow the smaller scars, of which there were several. One broke the curve of his upper lip. There were two on his chin, one on his left temple and three faint ones on his forehead. Then there was the one that Sirius had once been intimately familiar with, the scar right next to his nose on the right side of his face, the one that had seemed so noticeable back then when it was the only one but now seemed pale in comparison.

It was painfully obvious that life had not treated Remus gently, and Sirius was trying hard to ignore the sinking feeling that was trying to overtake him.

He had thought about Remus a lot throughout the years. He had never forgotten. But he had also been so stressed out that he had never thought to look for Remus. First it was the grief and the taking care of a one-year-old toddler who would cry for his Mum and not understand that she was never coming back. He had hardly understood it himself. Then it was the alcoholism, trying to find his feet, listening to Dumbledore’s advice, selling their flat and moving to a nice cottage far away from everyone, packing Remus’s things in boxes and storing them in their attic because how could he ever get rid of them, because what if Remus came back, what if Remus would wake up one day and decide that he still loved Sirius; sleeping alone in bed and feeling cold and lonely but knowing that Remus would always be angry with him, Remus would not want to hear from him. Remus was never coming back.

And all the while he was still parenting a child who grew up too fast and Sirius wasn’t sure how he was keeping up at all. Harry was everywhere at once, taking things from the tables once he learned to walk without aid, bursts of accidental magic causing chaos, and Sirius was alone even when Molly Weasley always listened to his worries and offered advice that he was following closely.

He was lying to himself. He hadn’t tried to find Remus because he knew that what he had said – even though he still couldn’t remember what it had been exactly – had been unforgivable and Remus would always hate him for… well, for causing the deaths of their best friends.

But now Remus was right there.

Remus was right there and Sirius’s heart skipped a beat or two, because no matter what, Remus’s face was still the face that Sirius loved the most, the one face he still wanted to see each morning when he opened his eyes in his lonely bedroom (that was less lonely on the mornings when Harry woke him up by jumping on top of him and telling him he was being boring). Remus was right there next to him, and he never wanted to be apart from Remus again.

“Moony,” he said breathlessly, feeling like all his intelligence had dripped out through his ears.

Remus’s eyes were shifting all over the alley, never stopping on Sirius. He opened his mouth, and Sirius knew that he was going to make his excuses (if that) and leave, and he couldn’t let that happen.

“Let me buy you a drink,” he blurted out, taking a hold of Remus’s arm.

Remus jerked but didn’t pull his arm away. Sirius felt his cheeks heating up as he remembered that it was hardly even noon, not to mention that it wasn’t a good idea for him to be that close to alcohol.

“Well, not a drink,” he amended. “It’s a bit early for that. Let me buy you lunch. Please.”

Remus frowned and opened his mouth again to, undoubtedly, turn Sirius down.

“Oh!” Sirius exclaimed with an unnaturally high voice. “It’s Harry’s birthday next week. We’re having a party at our place. You should come.”

Remus’s frown deepened.

“No,” he said before Sirius could think of anything else to distract him with.

“Why not?” Sirius asked. “Harry would be delighted.”

“He doesn’t know who I am,” Remus said.

“Yes, he does,” Sirius said. “I’ve told him about you. He would want you there.”

Remus looked at him for a long time, face completely unreadable. Even his frown had disappeared.

“Why would he want me there?” he asked. “He doesn’t want an unknown werewolf at his birthday party.”

“Remus, please!” Sirius insisted. “You were best friends with his parents.”

Remus snorted. “Yes, so best that they thought me a traitor.”

Sirius opened his mouth, then closed it. He blinked a few times, feeling stupider by the minute.

“They didn’t think you were a traitor,” he then said, voice gone soft.

“Oh yeah?” Remus asked, raising his brow. “They just decided not to trust me about the Secret Keeper for some unrelated reasons?”

“No, Remus,” Sirius said, grabbing a hold of Remus’s other arm as well. “Listen, they didn’t think you were a traitor. Lily didn’t know we switched, she had no idea. James thought that I was going to tell you. They never thought you would betray them.”

Remus snorted again and shook his head.

“They trusted you,” Sirius felt the need to add.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Remus said. “Why did they choose Peter, then?”

“Lily didn’t choose him,” Sirius said, carefully enunciating each word. “Lily didn’t know. And James chose him because I suggested it. He chose Peter for the same reasons we switched in the first place.”

“Those reasons being?”

Sirius swallowed heavily and blinked a few times. Most days, he was fine. Most days, he would say that he had gotten over the loss of his best friends. But now Remus was there and Remus was still just as tall as he always was, just as smart and sarcastic and self-deprecating, and he felt like he had travelled back in time.

“We switched,” he said, trying to control his trembling voice, “because I thought that I was too obvious an option. I thought that they would never think that James and Lily would choose Peter as their Secret Keeper. They would have come straight after me, but not Peter.”

Remus shook his head but didn’t say anything. Sirius swallowed again.

“Lunch?” he asked, voice small and hopeful.

Remus shook his head again and averted his eyes. He was watching the backdoor to the Leaky Cauldron. Sirius could almost hear his brain calculating how to most easily escape.

“So, what have you been up to?” Sirius asked.

“That’s none of your business,” came the careless reply.

Remus was still watching the door.

“Oh, but Moony–”

“No,” Remus snapped, turning to glare at Sirius. “No, Sirius, you can’t. You can’t expect me to just… just forget everything and have a nice chat with you.”

“But… But Moony,” Sirius said, then didn’t know what else to say.

Remus looked at him for a moment that seemed to stretch, sticky and increasingly uneasy, brittle like pulling a long string of dead skin off one’s arm.

“You outright accused me of being the spy,” Remus said, voice gone quiet and cold. “You claimed to love me and then believed that I could… that I would ever…”

Remus swallowed heavily. Sirius could only stare.

“I never doubted you,” Remus said. “I never once believed that you would be the spy, and I thought that you felt the same way about me, that you trusted me enough to know that I would never betray any of you. But you didn’t. And then James and Lily died. They were my friends too, Sirius. Peter was a traitor. You had broken up with me. I had no one left.”

“What about your parents?” Sirius whispered.

“They were both dead by then,” Remus said. “Not that I expect you to have noticed. Every time I talked to you, it was like you weren’t listening at all. You weren’t hearing what I said because you were always looking for a hidden meaning behind every word, weren’t you?”

“What?” Sirius exclaimed. “But you never mourned them.”

“I didn’t have time, Sirius,” Remus said. “I had a quick cry, first over my mother, less than a year later over my father, but I didn’t have time for anything more. Dumbledore helped arrange their funerals, and both times I had to be away because of the Full Moon.”

Sirius opened his mouth, but Remus glared at him so intensely that he immediately snapped it shut.

“And after what happened, you never once bothered to see how I was doing,” Remus continued, and the toneless quality of his voice sent uneasy shivers down Sirius’s back. “Even after you knew you had baselessly accused me of being capable of betraying my best friends, you never did anything to reach out. You haven’t said a single word to apologise, you never tried to find me, you never cared how I was doing. I bet you haven’t even thought about me in years before now that you literally ran into me.”

Sirius opened his mouth once more but found himself at a loss for words. He slowly closed it, aware of how Remus could see, how Remus would take that as a confirmation to everything he had just said. But Sirius didn’t know how to express himself, how to put into words what he had been feeling, how he had thought about Remus every single day, how he always missed Remus, starting right after he had driven Remus away.

“I don’t blame you, really,” Remus said, startling Sirius. “Of course, the werewolf is always the most likely suspect. We’re never trustworthy. We’re not as noble as wizards. We’re not even human. I understand why you stopped caring. Who could ever genuinely care for a werewolf?”

Sirius’s heart cracked painfully. He was so startled by Remus’s words that he didn’t do anything when Remus pulled his arms free, turned around and Disapparated.

Sirius didn’t know how long he spent staring at the spot where Remus had just been standing. He was brought back to reality by the Leaky Cauldron’s door hitting him in the back when someone exited.

"My apologies," he heard that someone say.

He turned on his heels and returned to the pub. He sat himself at the bar.

“One Firewhisky, please,” he said to Tom, who raised his brow but didn’t comment.

Sirius sat at the bar, staring into his Firewhisky and sliding his finger over the glass. When he left, it was already getting dark. He left behind his untouched whiskey and took the Floo to the Weasleys.

*

He could not stop thinking about Remus. Molly noticed that something was going on, tried gently prying, but after Sirius kept insisting that nothing had happened, she eventually let it be.

Harry noticed it too.

“Dad, why are you sad?” Harry asked him one evening.

“I'm not sad,” Sirius replied without thinking. He stopped for a beat, then added, “Am I?”

Harry nodded emphatically.

“Oh,” was all Sirius could say.

Harry was looking at him with a small pout. Sirius didn't know what to tell him. Was he too young to hear about Sirius's heartaches? What was the appropriate way to approach the situation? Clearly, he could not lie his way out of it, so he had to have something to say.

Why hadn't he foreseen that Harry would notice, Harry always noticed. He should have asked Molly for advice.

He patted the sofa and Harry jumped on it, then settled close to Sirius.

“I miss Moony,” he said, forbidding himself from thinking too hard.

“Why?” Harry asked. “You didn't miss him before.”

Sirius smiled but he could feel that it didn't reach his eyes. He pulled Harry closer to himself.

“I have always missed Moony,” he said. “I just… It used to be easier to forget. But now it's hard because I met him the other day.”

“You met Moony?” Harry asked and spun around to look at Sirius with bright eyes. “Where? Why didn't you bring him to see me? Can he come over? I want to meet him.”

“Harry,” Sirius said slowly, stroking Harry's hair to calm himself. “He… He was busy, so he couldn't come. I will ask him another time, okay? But…”

He let his words trail off for a bit. He didn’t know if he would ever see Remus again, let alone ask him to visit Harry. He didn’t want to disappoint Harry, but he couldn't lie to him either.

“Moony is very busy,” he said. “I don't know if he will have time for a visit.”

“Maybe we can visit him?” Harry suggested immediately, eyes still shining with possibility.

“We'll have to see about that,” Sirius said. Then, more quietly, he added, “Don't be too disappointed if we can't. I will ask him, but it might not work out.”

“Why?” Harry asked. “Doesn’t he miss you too?”

I don't know that he does, Sirius thought, then blinked furiously to stop his tears from falling.

“I'm sure he does,” he said, and his voice didn't wobble at all. “But Moony is a very busy man.”

Harry looked thoughtful for a moment, then said, “Okay.”

Sirius stayed on the sofa for a long time after Harry had gone to bed. He felt wrong, but he wasn't sure why. He felt like a part of him had been thrust back into the past while a part of him remained in the present. A part of him wanted to shut down each thought with alcohol, while a part of him wondered if he had remembered to buy balloons for Harry’s party.

He had bought a bottle of Firewhisky. It was in the kitchen cupboard, hidden behind boring jars of pickles. It made his stomach squirm. He shouldn’t have bought it in the first place, he shouldn’t be keeping it somewhere where he could access it.

At least he hadn’t opened it. He hadn’t even tried.

He had managed to avoid temptation back at the Leaky, but he wasn’t sure if he could do so at home, where nothing would distract him from the smell of it. The familiarity of the smell of alcohol was something he hated. It made him feel like all his troubles would be solved if he just had one little drink, but it also reminded him of waking up in the morning with no memories of the previous night, possibly even the day, depending on what time he had started drinking.

He should give it to someone as a gift.

He wanted to keep it in the cupboard.

He felt like it was still growth, he was acknowledging the difficulties, and he could only hope that if the temptation proved too much, rather than actually drinking, he would take Harry and go somewhere safe. To the Weasleys, probably.

He and Molly had had a rocky start. Molly had thought him too reckless – and she had been right, although she hadn’t even known that he couldn’t sleep without a drink – and they had come to blows several times, but as months turned into years, she had started seeing him in a different light. Sirius tried to think that she didn’t think of him as a complete wreck, but that was probably exactly what had turned her more maternal towards him.

Sirius shook his head. It was no good getting too deep into thoughts about the past and his issues.

It was especially no good to keep thinking about the bottle of Firewhisky waiting for him.

He got up, went to the study (what a joke, Sirius Black has his own study, he still laughed) and took out a blank piece of parchment. He gave himself a moment to think, and then carefully wrote out a letter.

Dear Remus,

I know you probably don’t want to hear from me, but please read this letter through before throwing it away or burning it or whatever it is you feel like doing to it.

I’m the worst kind of idiot there is. I know that. You know that. You have always known that because you have always known me. And I thought I knew you too and I think I did. I just let my own fears and doubts blind me and skew the image of you.

After you left – and you need to excuse me because I’m not entirely clear on the details, did you leave or did I throw you out? I’m inclined to believe that you left because you would never allow me to throw you out, right? – I still loved you. I was unsure of whether I had done the right thing and truthfully I don’t remember much of the days between you leaving and and the worst happening but what I do remember is that mostly I just missed you so much I felt like I was drowning.

Right from the beginning I wanted you back and I still want you back.

I know you don’t want to come back but would you at least talk to me?

Harry was asking after you. He would really like to meet you. He was disappointed to hear that I had met you but hadn’t brought you to meet him.

I don’t want to make it sound like I’m forcing you to meet him. He would like it but I did also tell him that you’re busy so you might not be able to.

I miss you so much.

Always yours,

He hesitated there for a long time. He wanted to sign the letter with Padfoot, but it seemed inappropriate. They hadn’t seen each other in five years. Remus appeared to truly dislike him.

He looked at what he had written. His heart twisted in a new way.

He took out a blank piece of parchment.

Dear Remus,

Harry was asking after you. He would really like to meet you. He was disappointed to hear that I had met you but hadn’t brought you to meet him. I did also tell him that you’re a very busy man so you might not be able to meet him so if you really don’t want to you don’t need to. But he would love it.

Still yours,

Sirius

He then went to the bathroom, locked the door and used the strongest silencing spell he knew, before having a guilty wank over Remus, amazing beautiful Remus who could have been his all these years if he hadn’t been such an awful boyfriend and an awful friend.

*

First thing in the morning, he went looking for their owl, who was named Wings because Sirius had made the mistake of letting a very small Harry name their new owl. He sent the letter to an unknown address, hoping that Wings would find her way to Remus.

It took several hours, but when Wings returned, the letter was still with her.

“Undelivered because you couldn’t find him or because he didn’t want it?” Sirius asked Wings, who held out her leg for Sirius to remove the letter.

Wings flew away and Sirius turned the letter in his hands. There was a smudge of dirt that looked like a fingerprint on it. Sirius’s heart beat harder. Maybe Wings had found Remus. Maybe Remus had recognised his handwriting and had refused to take the letter.

That night, he wrote another letter. He was tired and wasn’t sure what he wrote, but he sent it the next morning anyway. It returned to him, this time much faster, and Wings didn’t indicate irritation over being told to deliver letters to a person she couldn’t find. Sirius was certain that Wings had found Remus.

Every night, Sirius found himself sitting in his study writing letters. He had stopped censoring himself.

Dear Remus,

It was Harry’s birthday yesterday. We had a small party at the Weasleys. I can’t believe he’s 6 already. I can’t believe it’s been nearly 5 years since I last got to talk to you and tell you how much I love you.

Or did I? I don’t remember if I kept telling you until the end. Maybe I stopped saying it at some point because I was scared that you no longer loved me. If I stopped saying it first then it wouldn’t hurt so much when you eventually told me to piss off. I felt like everything was falling apart.

And I’m being unfair to you because I did honestly think for a time that maybe you were the spy. It seemed to make sense it. Peter made me doubt you and I will never forgive myself. I should have always trusted you over anyone else.

I don’t even know what I want to say. I just miss you so much and I’m sorry that I didn’t know how to reach out to you after. I was a mess Moony. I was barely keeping myself alive while making sure that Harry had everything he needed.

I never really cared about myself. Only you cared about me.

Remaining yours,

Sirius

He didn’t send every letter he wrote. Sometimes he burned them right after writing them. And each letter he sent returned unopened.

*

Sirius was stressed out. Thinking about Remus stressed him out, but he didn’t want to stop. Thinking about the bottle in his cupboard stressed him out, but he wasn’t ready to get rid of it either.

He was scared.

There was a huge chance that if he ended up opening the bottle, he wouldn’t be able to stop again, and he kept reminding himself of that. Do not open the fucking bottle, he repeated each time he glanced at the cupboard.

Harry had picked up on his mood quickly, even though he tried his hardest to appear burdened on only a normal level. Harry had taken to sitting very close to him on the sofa in the evenings, chattering about his day, and Sirius loved him so much he could have cried.

But still, Sirius was stressed out, and after watching it for a couple of weeks, Molly insisted that he should have a day off from Harry. Sirius didn’t quite agree, but at least it would give Harry the opportunity to spend time with people who were not as sad as he was. Harry gave him a surprisingly strong hug as he dropped him off at the Weasleys, and Sirius told him to have fun.

When the kitchen cupboard started being the centre of each thought, he had decided that he needed to get out of the house. He got dressed in Muggle clothes, took the Floo to the Leaky, and headed to Muggle London. He knew where he was going, but he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do when he got there.

He wanted to meet Remus, but Remus didn’t want to meet him. Therefore, it would be healthy for him to finally move on. Now that Harry was older, Sirius could take a bit more time to himself. Maybe he had only thought he still loved Remus because he hadn’t had time to really think about it. Maybe he could find someone who was less tall and less sarcastic and less gorgeous, someone who would not hate him because of all the hurtful things he had done throughout his life.

He wanted to go to a club and dance, but then he would be around people who were drunk, he would be around easily accessible alcohol, and that was a Bad Idea.

He realised that he didn’t even know how to meet someone. He had never needed to know because he had already met Remus.

He stopped.

He had wanted to go somewhere where there would be people like him, where he wouldn’t feel quite so alone, but now he felt insecure and undeserving. What had happened to him? Sirius Black didn’t get insecure over his looks. He had no reason to be insecure.

But he was almost 27 years old, he hadn’t thought about his looks in nearly five years. Was he even attractive anymore?

He tried looking at his reflection on a window, but it told him nothing. It told him that he was still wearing a well-fitted T-shirt, he was still wearing jeans that were probably a bit too tight. Was he too old to dress that way?

He wasn’t sure he really wanted to meet anyone anyway. He hadn’t been able to stop thinking about Remus so far. Would getting laid make him stop? It could stop him from wanking to the thought of Remus and then having to live with the guilt of being able to think about sex with Remus while Remus was clearly struggling with life.

He hadn’t had sex in five years. Did he even know how anymore?

It had been a bad idea to come, he decided. In a bit of a daze, he turned his head forward, and right at that moment, he saw Remus walking towards him.

He found it, maybe, a bit surprising that he had recognised Remus immediately, because Remus looked different. He was still very tall, his clothes were still more comfortable than fashionable, and he still held his head down around people, but everything else about him was so different. His hair was greyer than back then, his clothes were clearly old and worn out, and there was a look of defeat on him.

“Remus,” Sirius said before Remus could walk past him.

Remus snapped his head up, then turned it down again and tried walking past anyway. Sirius turned and followed him.

“Remus,” he said again. “How are you?”

Remus said nothing, merely lengthened his strides.

“Can’t we have a chat?” Sirius asked. “I would really like to talk to you.”

Remus turned his head so Sirius could no longer see his face at all. He determinedly kept up.

“Remus,” he said, already starting to sound more desperate than he wanted. “Please, talk to me.”

Remus stopped so abruptly that Sirius walked a couple of steps ahead of him before he realised.

“Will you stop sending me letters if I do?” Remus asked.

Sirius blinked and turned to look at Remus, who was still looking to the other side of the street.

“Yes,” he said. He would have said anything if it gave him a moment with Remus. “Yes, if you want me to stop, I’ll stop. Just, please, let’s talk.”

Remus turned to look at him. The look on his face was dark and defeated.

“Fine,” he snapped.

“Let me buy you dinner?” Sirius asked hopefully.

Remus crossed his arms and frowned. Sirius could hardly breathe.

“Fine,” Remus finally said.

“You decide,” Sirius said. “Anywhere you want.”

Remus glared at him for a moment, then turned around and started walking back to where they had just come from. Sirius followed him in silence. They remained quiet until Remus stopped at the door to a cosy pub.

Remus turned to look at Sirius, his eyes clearly challenging, expecting Sirius to shoot down the suggestion and insist that they go somewhere nicer.

Instead, Sirius nodded. “Okay.”

Remus walked in without a word.

They found a secluded table. Remus was having less food than Sirius would have hoped, but at least he was eating. Remus also ordered a pint, then looked at Sirius’s choice of water.

“You’re not drinking?”

Sirius couldn’t help beaming at him. It was the first thing Remus had asked him.

“I don’t drink anymore,” he said, trying to tame his smile without much success. “I had a bit of a problem.”

Remus looked at him for a long time, then nodded and turned to his food.

“It,” Remus said so quietly that Sirius had to lean forward to hear him properly. “Does it bother you that I drink? I’m sorry, I should have asked earlier.”

“No, it’s okay!” Sirius hurried to say. “It’s fine. And you didn’t know. It’s okay.”

Remus kept his head down, fingers absentmindedly rubbing the table. Sirius watched him, but Remus remained closed.

“Eat your chips,” Sirius finally said, hoping that his voice came out light.

Remus jerked his hand back from where it had been getting increasingly close to his pint.

“No, Remus,” Sirius hurried to say. “I didn’t mean that… I just meant that you should eat them before they go cold.”

Remus nodded, and finally started eating.

Sirius didn’t know how to talk to this Remus. If he remembered Remus being a shadow of himself right before Sirius had driven him away, this Remus was a shadow of a shadow of a shadow. He couldn’t recognise Remus’s body language at all. It was as if Sirius was viewing him through a thick pane of glass that distorted the image.

“What are you doing these days?” Sirius asked.

Remus shrugged and said, “This and that.”

Sirius wondered if that meant that Remus couldn’t find a job that would keep him. It would explain a lot.

He felt increasingly bad for not reaching out to Remus years before. It made his stomach squirm and he found himself unable to eat. He sipped his water and watched Remus down his dinner, then his pint, stealing guilty looks at Sirius.

If this Remus was the result of werewolf discrimination, then what could have happened five years ago that had made Remus into something similar back then? It could have maybe been the stress; they had been in war, and even though Sirius vaguely knew that Remus was working with the werewolves, he didn’t really know what that entailed. How dangerous was it for Remus to go there? Did they distrust him? Had someone attacked him?

“What happened to you?” Sirius asked almost desperately, unable to keep his thoughts to himself. “What happened to you back then?”

“I don’t see how that’s any of your business,” Remus responded in monotone. “What do you care?”

“I care, Moony,” Sirius said and hated how whiny his voice was. “I’m… I still love you.”

Remus snorted quietly.

“Please?” Sirius tried. “I still care about you so much.”

“You’re unbelievable,” Remus said and shook his head. He looked at Sirius in frustration. “How can you even say that?”

“Because it’s true,” Sirius insisted.

Remus looked at him for a long time without a word. Sirius waited. Let him look. Maybe that would finally convince him.

It also gave Sirius the opportunity to look without feeling like a creep, although he ended up feeling like a creep anyway, because he couldn’t stop thinking about how it had been just last night that he had thought about Remus while touching himself, trying to remember what Remus’s mouth felt like exactly as he sucked Sirius into an orgasm. His cheeks were burning, and he suddenly had an irrational fear that maybe Remus could read his thoughts. And if one really thought about it, it wasn’t that irrational, because maybe Remus had learned Legilimency, maybe…

“You really want to know?” Remus asked then.

The silence had lasted for so long that Sirius jumped when Remus finally spoke. Sirius looked him straight in the eye.

“Yes.”

Remus took a moment longer to look at him before breaking eye-contact. He didn’t seem very happy about Sirius caring.

“You want to know why I changed?” Remus asked, no longer looking at Sirius, his head turned away completely. “Why I stopped wanting to be touched? Why I took so long to return to you after each mission?”

Sirius nodded, unable to speak under the weight of Remus’s voice. Remus turned to look at him, but rather than meet his eyes, he was staring at Sirius’s ear.

“I was raped,” he said, and his voice was surprisingly even. “And it almost happened many times more. And I always had to keep going back.”

Sirius faintly realised that he was gaping at Remus, but he could hardly process what Remus had just said.

“I was raped a second time just before I came back home that last time,” Remus said. “And I always came back home to you only to find you drunk and angry and bitter. Funny how I didn’t exactly fancy being touched by someone angry after… Never mind. That’s what happened.”

Remus kept staring at Sirius’s ear. There were no discernible emotions on his face.

“Do you even remember what you told me?” Remus asked.

Sirius shook his head.

“That night, when I came back,” Remus said and swallowed heavily, the only sign that the conversation was getting to him. “You… You asked me if I was letting my Death Eater buddies fuck me. So, that’s your mystery solved, then. Maybe now you can finally move on.”

Remus stood up. Sirius still had his mouth open, but no words came forward.

“Goodbye, Sirius,” Remus said.

Sirius watched him walk away. Once the door had closed behind Remus, Sirius finally found the wherewithal to close his mouth.

*

Sirius wasn’t sure how he had managed, but he found himself back home. He was vaguely proud of himself for having left the pub without buying a drink. He was seated by the kitchen table, his unopened bottle of Firewhisky had somehow made its way from the cupboard onto the table, and Sirius was holding a photo of James in his hands.

“I messed up big time, Prongs,” he said to the photo.

James smiled and waved at him. He was blurry. Sirius blinked to clear the tears from his eyes.

“I hurt the one person who meant the world to me,” he whispered at the smiling James. “How could I be so stupid?”

This time he was unable to stop the tears from overflowing, his cheeks already wet as he sobbed loudly.

“How did he ever see anything good in me?” he asked James, whose face he could no longer make out. “He should have known that I would muck it up. I always muck things up. I’m a fuck-up, and he always knew it.”

He tried to dry his eyes, but he hadn’t allowed himself to cry in a long time and he found the tears impossible to control.

“I never deserved him,” he told the photo. “Did he only choose me because I was the only option? I imagine there aren’t that many gay wizards to choose from. And I already knew his secret too. He could have done so much better.”

He placed the photo on the table and slid it away from him lest he get it wet with snot and tears.

“I can’t believe I said something so horrible,” he sobbed. “I can’t believe I didn’t trust him. Wasn’t I supposed to love him?”

He couldn’t imagine how much pain he had caused Remus just by being a self-centred prick. He couldn’t even begin to understand what Remus had gone through.

And Remus had gone through all that to protect them. To protect Sirius. Remus had gone through that so that maybe they could have a better world to live in, and while Remus was out there being violated in the worst ways possible, Sirius was sitting at home drinking and being bitter and poisoning everything around him, including himself.

“I’m so sorry, Moony,” he muttered between sobs. “I’m so sorry.”

He didn’t know how long he spent crying, blubbering like he never had before, until his head ached, and his eyes were swollen, and his mouth was parched. He didn’t know when he had fallen asleep, just that when he woke up it was morning, and someone was stroking his back.

“Moony?” he mumbled as he cracked his eyes open.

“Things can’t continue like this,” Molly said.

Sirius slowly raised himself into a sitting position. He was still seated at the kitchen table and his back was stiff. His head felt stuffy. The uncorked bottle of Firewhisky sat right next to his elbow.

“I didn’t open it,” he said quietly. “I didn’t drink.”

“I know,” Molly said.

She placed a glass of water on the table and sat down. Sirius rubbed his eyes, then drank deeply.

“What’s going on?” Molly asked gently. “And don’t you try telling me there’s nothing going on or that it’s fine. It’s clearly not fine.”

Sirius shrugged.

“How long have you had that bottle?” Molly asked.

Sirius looked at the bottle in question. He had to admit that he was quite surprised that he hadn’t opened it.

“Since before Harry’s birthday,” he mumbled.

Molly looked at him in the gentle motherly way that always made Sirius feel funny. He wasn’t used to having a mother or a mother figure who cared about him. He still wasn’t sure how to deal with it.

“Something happened back then,” Molly said, and it wasn’t a question. “You stayed out late. What happened?”

“Harry hasn’t mentioned?” Sirius asked, trying to buy himself a bit more time.

He knew that Molly wouldn’t let him wriggle his way out of the conversation, but at least she could give him a bit more time to settle his guts that were churning with anxiety.

“What has he not mentioned?” Molly asked.

Sirius took in a deep breath, held it, then released it slowly, before finally saying in a rush, “I ran into Remus.”

“Oh,” Molly said. She seemed to be surprised by the news, so maybe Harry really hadn’t mentioned it. “You always seemed on edge about it, so I never asked, but something happened between the two of you back then, back before… Well.”

Sirius nodded slowly. He had just realised that Molly didn’t know that he and Remus had been together. She didn’t know that Sirius was gay to begin with. He hadn’t exactly fancied coming out to her. He had vaguely planned on keeping it to himself until he would possibly meet someone and want to start a long-term relationship. In reality, he had mostly thought that he would wait until either Remus came back or he died of old age.

There was no way, however, that he could have this conversation with Molly without revealing certain things.

“I’m in love with Remus,” he said.

Molly looked surprised, which made Sirius’s gut sink. He had hoped that maybe she had figured it out. He and Remus couldn’t have been that subtle, could they? Surely, at least the people who knew them best had figured it out? But maybe Molly hadn’t really been one of those people. She had been namely a part of the Order, but she had been busy raising her children.

“We were a couple back then,” Sirius added, before Molly had a chance to say anything. “And I completely fucked it up because I’m an idiot and I don’t deserve someone as kind and good as Remus.”

He could feel tears burning the back of his throat. He swallowed, hoping to stop the inevitable from happening.

“You are also kind and good,” Molly said unexpectedly.

“You don’t know what I was like back then,” Sirius said.

“Then tell me,” Molly said. “What happened with Remus?”

So, Sirius told her what had happened. How he had been manipulated by Peter into believing that Remus was a spy, how he had been scared and how he had been using alcohol to cope, how the stress of the war, the fear of losing everyone important to him, how the few nasty rumours among some Order members of Sirius being the spy had all ended up with him willing to believe that Remus could betray them. He told Molly about missing memories that sometimes stretched into days because he had been constantly so drunk, told her about Remus’s behaviour that he hadn’t understood back then but he did now, he did now and he had never regretted anything as much as he regretted reading Remus’s body language as that of a traitor rather than that of a broken man.

He didn’t go into too much detail, it wasn’t his place to tell her, but she understood that something bad had happened to Remus and Sirius had said things that were absolutely unforgivable on their own and even worse when put into the context of what Remus had gone through.

He told her how much he had missed Remus right away, how he had never fully forgotten, Remus always lurked at the back of his mind, always the one piece that was missing from his life and it was his own fault that his life would never feel complete. He talked about running into Remus, knowing that he could have been there to support him while the rest of the world was shunning him, the heavy regret of his own actions in the past and the actions he could never take because of them. How he missed Remus so much it physically hurt him.

“And I feel selfish,” he said. “It’s so selfish of me to think that I could… to wish that he would still be with me.”

“When I listen to you,” Molly said, “what I hear is not selfishness. What I hear is empathy.”

Sirius scoffed.

“You care about him a lot,” Molly said. “And when we care about people, it’s natural to want them to be close to us. However, you are correct in thinking that if he doesn’t want to come back, there’s nothing you can do to change that. And you shouldn’t try to change that. You need to find a way to move on, even if it is painful.”

*

They agreed that Sirius would come pick Harry up a bit later. Molly left with the bottle of Firewhisky, although Sirius had been reluctant to let her take it. He knew it was for the best, but it felt like getting rid of one possible plan of survival. It felt like closing a door that he had wanted to keep open.

He took a long shower. He had a slow breakfast. After he had gotten dressed, he sat down by his desk and spread out a blank piece of parchment. He hesitated for a moment, which was long enough for his quill to drip ink onto the parchment. He scowled at it.

Remus,

I know I said I would stop sending you letters and I promise this is the last one.

Please would you visit me? There’s something I want to show you and it’s something that you need to see in person because I know you won’t believe me if I just tell you. After I have shown you, you decide if you want to leave and never hear from me again or if you might give me a chance to apologise and explain. You were right when you said that I didn’t even try to apologise and there are no excuses for that but I haven’t really known how to say anything. This time I will be more prepared for a conversation if you would grant me the chance of telling you. You can leave at any point you want.

Please please just give me one more chance.

Always yours,

Sirius

P.S. I will send Harry to the Weasleys if you do decide to visit this isn’t some kind of a ruse to manipulate you into anything.

Sirius called for Wings and sent the letter away. He was too nervous to sit down and too anxious to have Harry home yet, so he set out to deep cleaning the kitchen. He was just inspecting a suspicious stain in the farthest corner of the very annoying cupboard where they stored their pots and pans, when there was a knock on the window. He hit his head painfully.

Rubbing the back of his head with a grimace on his face, he let Wings in. Wings extended her leg to give him back the unopened letter. Sirius stroked her head and sighed. That was that. He would have to somehow force himself to believe that Remus didn’t want anything to do with him.

Only after Sirius was about to throw the letter into the bin, did he realise that it was a different letter and it was addressed to him in Remus’s familiar scrawl.

You are allowed to send me one more letter with your Floo address and a time.

RJL

Sirius stared at the note. He couldn’t stop his tears.

*

At quarter to four, Sirius was pacing. He had been pacing ever since he sent Wings off with his last letter to Remus, suggesting that they meet up immediately. He had barely been able to Floo call Molly to let her know that something came up and he would be picking up Harry in the evening. After that, he had been pacing.

The kitchen was still in chaos, all their pots stacked on the counters as Sirius hadn’t been able to return to cleaning up. There had been no new letter when Wings returned, so Sirius assumed that Remus had agreed.

For a moment, Sirius wondered if Remus would show up at all. It would be what he deserved, he thought, but it would also probably kill him.

Why had he let Molly take his Firewhisky away?

Right at that moment, the Floo flared to life, and for one mad minute Sirius was sure it was Molly coming in to give him a lecture on why it was a Good Idea to stay sober after four years of sobriety.

It was Remus.

Remus was standing in their living room, dusting down his shirt, and Sirius’s mouth was suddenly very dry. His heart was clearly not beating correctly, and maybe he was having a heart attack. Remus straightened up, still just as tall as ever, still making Sirius’s heart skip a beat, or maybe that was the heart attack.

Remus frowned. Sirius opened his mouth but found that he couldn’t say anything. He closed his mouth and cleared his throat. He wondered if he should get a glass of water, but he was afraid that if he turned his back to Remus for even a second, Remus would suddenly disappear.

Remus crossed his arms. His frown remained. He was wearing ill-fitting corduroys.

“Right,” Sirius whispered to himself.

He took out his wand, somehow giddy when he received a surprised look from Remus, who quickly went back to frowning. Sirius took a deep breath.

He closed his eyes to focus on his happy memory, in which Harry was four and had just drawn a picture of his family, which included himself with big messy hair and Sirius both as a human and as Padfoot. Harry had eagerly explained which lines were grass, and which scribbles made up their home, and Sirius had been overcome by a sense of happiness he hadn’t felt in a very long time – if ever.

He opened his eyes right before saying, “Expecto Patronum.”

Remus’s frown deepened but he didn’t comment. A strand of silver shot out of Sirius’s wand, quickly taking the form of a wolf.

Sirius let out a small sigh of relief. He had been scared – also too scared to admit to himself that he was scared in the first place – that somehow his Patronus would have changed forms again. But there it was, the wolf was gracefully prowling around the living room and Sirius couldn’t stop looking at Remus, who was staring at the wolf with inscrutable eyes.

When the wolf disappeared, Remus turned his eyes to Sirius. His face was sharp, which Sirius recognised as Remus trying to hide his emotions.

“How?” Remus asked, and his voice felt brittle.

“It changed after you left,” Sirius said. “At least, I think so. It was still a dog a couple of days before you came back from your mission.”

Remus stared at the spot where the wolf had disappeared.

“When did you notice?” Remus whispered.

Sirius swallowed, then said, “The night… After I had taken Harry and realised that everyone thought I was the Secret Keeper. I had to send Dumbledore a message.”

Remus looked like he didn’t know what to say or how to react. Sirius held his breath, wondering if Remus was about to turn around and take the Floo out of Sirius’s life. Instead, Remus looked around the room, as if he only now realised that he had never been there before. His eyes stopped at a collection of Harry’s drawings that Sirius had hung up on the wall.

“It just occurred to me,” Remus said quietly, still looking at the drawings, “that I don’t even know what happened. I was up north on a mission and only found out a week after. They had already held the funeral.”

Sirius felt like crying again. He swallowed and blinked his eyes, squeezed his hands into fists, then relaxed them.

“Do you want to hear it?” he asked cautiously.

Remus turned to look at him. There was no more hostility on his face, and he nodded.

Sirius gestured for him to sit down on the sofa, and Remus did, moving slowly and carefully, as if he thought that he was intruding and didn’t belong sitting on the comfortable sofa. Sirius wasn’t sure where to sit. He wanted to sit next to Remus, but he didn’t know if he had permission to do so. He took a jerky step towards the armchair, but then Remus patted the sofa next to himself, not looking at Sirius.

Slowly, Sirius sat down, careful to keep a distance between them. He felt like Remus was a skittish animal who was just waiting for a reason to run.

Before Sirius could gather his thought and start telling Remus how he had gone and rescued Harry from the rubble, Remus cleared his throat. Sirius turned to look at him.

“I just,” Remus said uncertainly, keeping his head ducked down. “Does… Do you even remember our fight?”

Sirius was taken aback by the question but tried his hardest not to show it by immediately saying, “I seem to recall that it was mostly me doing the fighting. I don’t… I don’t remember all that I said, I just know I accused you of being a traitor. And I know that as a result you left, but I’m not sure if you decided to leave or if I… I don’t know, did I throw you out? That seems unrealistic.”

There was a small smile on Remus’s face when he raised his head.

“You could hardly stand up,” he said, glancing at Sirius. “I could have stayed if I wanted to.”

It didn’t escape Sirius’s notice that Remus was implying he hadn’t wanted to stay. He didn’t want a verbal confirmation, though, so he tried to feverishly think of anything else to talk about.

“You said a lot of things,” Remus said, “but I guess mostly they all boiled down to you accusing me of being a traitor.”

“Oh no,” Sirius groaned and rubbed his hands over his face.

“I guess you were trying to figure out what might have made me switch sides,” Remus said, turning his head down again. “It seemed like you were trying to get me to react, so you’d know.” Remus snorted humourlessly. “And it worked, didn’t it? I reacted.”

Sirius was too afraid of seeing Remus’s face, so he turned away, leaned back and stared at the ceiling.

“Was it,” he asked quietly, “the comment I made about… about sex?”

“Yes,” Remus said, his voice quiet as well.

“I’m so sorry, Moony,” Sirius whispered.

Neither spoke for a moment. The clock was ticking on the mantel, making Sirius feel oddly normal in this moment of chaos. He was sitting at home, in the home he shared with Harry, and Remus was there, and Remus had never been there before, Remus had never belonged to the memories of those rooms, but now Remus would always live as a part of the living room, on that specific spot on the sofa, which, Sirius now realised, was the same spot where he had sat back at their flat too when he was reading. It made Sirius nostalgic, but not for the past – for a future that he could never have.

“I’m not sure I even believed the things I said to you,” Sirius said then. “I was… I… I was scared that maybe I’m not looking at you objectively because I was so in love with you. And I don’t know if I would have ever thought to question you if it wasn’t for Peter.”

“What’s Peter got to do with anything?” Remus asked.

“He was the person who introduced the idea that maybe you can’t be trusted,” Sirius said. “I don’t know if he talked to James about it. James and I certainly didn’t talk about it. And Peter was subtle about it. After that first conversation he only brought it up a few times, never quite as directly, just enough to make me doubt myself.”

“Me,” Remus said, and when Sirius turned to look at him in question, he added, “It made you doubt me.”

Sirius looked at Remus. Remus seemed sad. Even now that he wasn’t projecting any particular emotion on his face, he seemed sad. He looked like he had been kicked a few too many times and he was ready to give up. Was that why he had finally agreed to hear Sirius out?

“Well, yes,” Sirius agreed. “It made me doubt you, which it never should have. But I think I only doubted you because I also doubted myself.”

“That makes no sense,” Remus said.

“Maybe,” Sirius said.

“Even if you were totally confident in yourself and your ability to read me objectively,” Remus said, “it doesn’t mean that you couldn’t have read me wrong. Then you would have just been more confident about it.”

Sirius bit his lip. Remus was right.

“I guess I still need to do a lot of growing up,” he said. “I’ve tried my best, but I still feel like there’s been a mistake, you know. How am I classified as an adult? Not to mention I’m supposed to raise a child. How have I been given all that responsibility?”

Remus didn’t say anything. He was looking at Harry’s drawings again.

“It all boils down to how much I regret,” Sirius said, “not trusting you. I keep thinking that if I had trusted you, things would have turned out differently.”

“They wouldn’t have,” Remus said. “You would have still chosen Peter to be the Secret Keeper, because what you said about the reasoning behind it sounds sensible. We would have stayed together for a bit longer but eventually something else would have come up and driven us apart.”

Sirius turned to properly face Remus, who wasn’t looking at him.

“I didn’t know you felt that way,” he said. “I had no idea you were unhappy with me.”

“That doesn’t surprise me,” Remus said. He was quiet for a moment, then added, “You’re not the only one with communication issues, Padfoot.”

Hearing Remus used his nickname made Sirius’s heart do funny things. It felt like forgiveness in a way, it felt like Remus was willing to establish a connection with him.

“Why were you unhappy with me?” Sirius asked. “I mean, I can imagine, but I…”

Remus finally looked at him. His eyes were just as intense as Sirius remembered them.

“You were absolutely devoted to James,” Remus said.

Sirius had not expected that. He blinked stupidly, then stuttered out weakly, “What?”

“That was the first thing,” Remus said. “Back in school, you were always ready to choose James over me, and I was incredibly jealous.”

Sirius still didn’t know what to say.

“I always felt like you would do anything for him,” Remus said. “But to be fair, for a time it seemed that you would also do anything for me.”

“Just for a time?” Sirius asked, almost afraid of hearing the answer.

“First,” Remus said, turning to look at Harry’s drawings again, “it was just that being in a relationship was so new to both of us. Didn’t you feel that way? That you wanted to keep me at a bit of a distance before we could figure out how we work together as more than friends?”

Sirius shook his head. Remus hummed in thought.

“That’s just me overthinking then,” he said. “When we moved in together, at first it was good. James wasn’t there to hog your attention and you were genuinely trying your hardest to make me happy. And I was happy, Sirius, I don’t want you to think otherwise.”

“But you were also unhappy,” Sirius said quietly.

“Not at first,” Remus said. “Things started changing, you know, the war and being in the Order and all that. I just gradually became unhappier with you because of the way you reacted to it all. And it made me feel bad, like I was being unfair to you because it’s not like I was without damage. But your self-destructiveness made me worry, and you stopped listening to me about things and I was already quite tired with your behaviour before I…”

Remus pressed his lips tightly together. Sirius didn’t think before he had already shifted closer and placed his hand on Remus’s arm. He was relieved when Remus didn’t flinch.

“I was tired,” Remus said then, clearly forcing his voice to remain even. “I was already tired with how you were treating me, tired of watching you drink too much and tired of worrying that because of that you would get careless and die. And then I… I had to go on a mission and… It… It was a different werewolf pack than the one I had been working with previously. They were different. They were more distrusting of wizards. They hated me. That’s why my missions were getting so long too. I had to build trust and I couldn’t exactly do that if I disappeared for weeks between moons.”

Remus sighed. Sirius wondered if he could shift his hand to Remus’s shoulder but chose not to try.

“I had stayed with them for just over a week,” Remus said. “Their leader got tired of waiting for me to make a mistake and he decided the best course of action was to drive me away. It was two days before the Full Moon, and I was unusually tired. I was just sleeping, then woke up to him… Well, you know what happened. I already told you.”

Sirius nodded.

“When I came back home,” Remus said, voice thick as his eyes stayed fixated on Harry’s drawings, “I was hoping that I could catch a break from all that hostility. But you were just as hostile towards me. You didn’t show it outright, but I could tell. And you were drinking still and then you’d get angry about little things.”

Remus took in a deep breath. He blinked rapidly.

“Sometimes I wished that Dumbledore would send me out on a mission sooner than planned,” Remus said quietly. “I preferred being there over being at home with you because home is supposed to feel safe. A hostile pack of werewolves was never supposed to be safe. It was easier to deal with.”

Sirius swallowed the lump in his throat, then croaked out, “I’m so sorry, Remus. I… I was such a selfish bastard. I was hurting and I never stopped to consider that you were hurting too, and that my behaviour was hurting you more.”

“To be quite honest, Sirius,” Remus said, “I never expected anything else. I knew you. I knew you lacked empathy in a very specific way. I guess I was just naïve enough to hope that maybe I could help you find it.”

Sirius’s lips trembled. He didn’t try to stop his tears, but he did try to stop sounding like he was crying. He didn’t deserve it. Remus deserved to cry, but Remus was keeping himself together much more easily.

“Sometimes I had nightmares about you attacking me,” Remus said quietly.

Remus sighed deeply, then turned to look at Sirius. Unexpectedly, his face went gentle.

“Oh, Padfoot,” he said.

Sirius sat frozen as Remus lifted a hand to stroke his wet cheek. Remus’s hand was just as big as it used to be, his touch just as soft, even though he had new callouses on his palm.

“You’re allowed to cry,” Remus said.

Sirius sniffled. He couldn’t stop the sob that followed, and before he knew it, was sobbing uncontrollably. Remus pulled his hand away and Sirius panicked, thinking that he had just pushed Remus away for good, but then Remus pulled him against himself. Sirius rested his head on Remus’s shoulder and cried all the tears he had once forced himself to hold back.

“I’m sorry,” he mumbled against Remus every time he could draw enough breath.

Remus didn’t say anything, but Sirius could feel him trembling.

It took longer than Sirius wanted to admit for him to calm down. When he pulled back, Remus wiped his own eyes and let out a wet laugh.

“Weren’t you the one who was supposed to be doing all the explaining?” he asked.

Sirius managed a small laugh too. He fetched them both a glass of water, quickly washing his face in the kitchen before returning. Remus was still sitting on his spot on the sofa. He gave Sirius a small smile in thanks.

“You said you stopped drinking,” Remus said after Sirius had settled down again.

“Yes,” Sirius said. “I… Fuck, I was a mess, Moony. After you left… The next day, we performed the Fidelius, then I went home and just drank. I’m kind of surprised I’m even alive after that. I was pretty drunk that day as well, you know, I… I was supposed to check in on Peter and I went late at night because I was too drunk to go earlier.”

“Did you stop drinking because of Harry?” Remus asked quietly.

Sirius shook his head and laughed sadly. “No. I was still drinking after I had him. I just did less of it. I… I could still pretend to be functional during the daytime, but I couldn’t even sleep without a drink. And I know it was awful and Harry deserved someone who…”

Sirius had to stop talking when he felt the tears returning.

“How did you deal with him when he woke up at night?” Remus asked quietly.

Sirius couldn’t speak, so he merely shrugged and shook his head. Remus gave him time to calm down.

“I don’t know how I did it, Moony,” Sirius said, voice too fragile, but he forced himself to go on. “I only realised something had to change when Harry was turning two. I realised I can’t get anything done when I’m drinking, so I stopped doing it every night, but I still drank occasionally.”

“What changed that made you stop completely?” Remus asked.

“The first Halloween,” Sirius said. “I got so drunk I don’t… I don’t remember much. Molly wouldn’t let me take Harry home when I showed up late afternoon still badly hungover. Then she wouldn’t let me leave alone either.”

“Have you drunk since?” Remus asked.

Sirius shook his head. “I stopped there.”

Remus thought for a beat before saying, “I’m glad you could stop.”

“I almost relapsed last night,” Sirius blurted out.

Remus’s face fell.

“I’m not trying to blame it on you,” Sirius hurried to add. “I’m just… I wrote to you because I needed closure one way or another. I know this isn’t good.”

“You didn’t think it was enough closure when I repeatedly turned you down?” Remus asked, sounding incredulous.

Sirius opened his mouth, then stopped to think. He closed his mouth again and felt his face flush.

“I guess,” he croaked out, “I’m still just as dense and stubborn as ever.”

Remus lifted his brow but didn’t seem genuinely irritated.

“I think,” Sirius said quietly, “maybe I needed to feel like I had tried everything possible. And showing you my Patronus was the last thing I could have possibly done.”

He was surprised when Remus smiled at him. It was peeved, but a smile, nonetheless.

“This is all wrong,” Sirius said and ducked his head. “You’re not supposed to be here to make me feel better. You’re not… You always do that, you know? You’re so kind that you will take other people’s burdens upon yourself with a smile, but you never get to unburden yourself. You probably do it partly on purpose too.” Sirius lifted his head up to look at Remus. “You don’t want to talk because, well, I’m just guessing here, but maybe you feel like you don’t deserve it?

Remus was staring. His smile had disappeared. Sirius bit his lip. He was suddenly worried that Remus was about to get up and leave without a word.

“Remus,” he started to say, but Remus raised up a hand to stop him.

Sirius shut his mouth. Remus looked at him quietly. The scars suddenly made him look vulnerable, and Sirius wanted to turn his eyes away because he felt like he was seeing something he wasn’t supposed to see.

“You’re partially right,” Remus said, and his voice was tight. “I do think I don’t deserve it. But it’s also…”

Remus trailed off. He swallowed. Sirius didn’t know what to do so he simply sat there feeling helpless and stupid.

“Do you realise,” Remus said slowly, “how difficult it is to be a werewolf? Even before the scars,” he gestured at his face, “it was hard to find a job because on average it takes two months for them to realise. If I was unlucky, they realised the first time I took time off during a Full Moon.”

Remus sighed deeply and leaned back. He looked like he had suddenly lost whatever force that had kept him together.

“I had my parents’ house,” Remus said. He had turned to look at Harry’s drawings again. “At least I didn’t need to try to find someone who would rent to a werewolf. At least I was guaranteed to keep a roof over my head, even when I didn’t have food. But it gets to you. The more scars I have on my face, the quicker people are to realise there’s something wrong with me. The nasty looks turn into nasty words, and those turn into physical attacks, and you can’t say anything back to them, you can’t do anything because then you’ll be an aggressive beast and proof that werewolves don’t belong among humans.”

Sirius had been getting increasingly angry while Remus talked. His frown was deep, and he wished that there was something he could do to shield Remus from judgement.

“You learn to be invisible,” Remus said. “You have to learn, because if you stand out, you’re only attracting more attention. You don’t want attention. There’s no one who wants you around, there’s no one you can ever talk to because it’s your own fault that your life turned out like this, it’s your fault for being a monster, no matter how hard you try to always do the right thing and chain yourself into a cramped cellar every Full Moon knowing that you’ll wake up injured the next morning and knowing that you might not wake up at all.”

Sirius found himself on the verge of tears again. He remembered how horrible Remus had looked after each full moon back when he didn’t have his friends with him. He remembered how awful Remus had looked the time about a year after graduation, when Sirius had been out on a mission during a full moon and Remus had had to transform by himself. There had been so much blood that for a moment Sirius had been certain Remus couldn’t be alive.

“I tried to kill myself,” Remus said, and what chilled Sirius to the bone was the way his voice was so nonchalant. “I tried twice and failed both times, albeit just due to dumb luck. I don’t have anyone. I don’t have anything but a cabin that’s falling apart because I can’t afford to maintain it. I don’t have anything but my scars and the nasty looks people throw at me wherever I go. So, I have learned to keep quiet because people won’t care. In fact, they would probably be happy to know that my life is going to shit because that’s what I deserve.”

Remus stopped speaking, and the silence felt almost abrupt.

“You don’t believe that, do you?” Sirius asked quietly.

Remus didn’t say anything.

“Remus,” Sirius said, then took in a deep breath. “Earlier you said, you said that you understood why I… That you being a werewolf was an issue for me and that’s why I thought you’d be the traitor. But that’s not… You being a werewolf was never an issue with me. You’re not… You’re the wolf only once a month, but the rest of the time you’re just you. You’re just Remus. And you deserve everything any other person would deserve, because you are a human as well.”

Remus shook his head but didn’t verbally argue. Sirius slowly took a hold of his hand, breathing a quiet sigh of relief when Remus didn’t pull it away. His skin was warm.

“I’m happy that you’re alive,” Sirius said quietly. “And screw everyone who thinks differently. You are important. You being here is important. I mean, here as in existing in the world, not… not right here, although that’s… It’s important to me.”

Remus scoffed.

“I’m sorry,” Sirius said. “I’m so sorry I never tried to reach out. I… I’ve had a lot going on, but a part of it was just me being afraid that you wouldn’t want anything to do with me anymore. And it doesn’t even matter, does it? Because all that matters is that I didn’t try to find you even when I should have because you… Well, I don’t want to be presumptuous and say that you needed me specifically, but clearly you needed someone. And maybe I could have been that person. Or maybe you would have told me to piss off. But we’ll never know because I never tried, and I’m deeply sorry about that.”

“The disappointing part of life is that you can’t change things afterwards,” Remus said.

Sirius chuckled sadly.

“Padfoot,” Remus said then, “please, don’t make me talk about this any more. I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Okay,” Sirius said and squeezed Remus’s hand before gently letting go of it.

Remus turned to look at him in wonder, and Sirius thought that maybe in the past he wouldn’t have dropped it as easily.

“Tell me how you ended up with Harry,” Remus said.

Sirius told him what had happened, starting from his visit to Peter’s hiding place. When he got to the part where he was fashioning a baby sling to carry Harry with, Remus laughed.

“A baby sling?” he asked. “Wasn’t he a bit too old for that?”

“Maybe so, Moony,” Sirius said haughtily, “but aren’t you forgetting that I was panicking and hysterical?”

“Poor Padfoot,” Remus said and smiled, and Sirius could see he was trying to hide the pain of losing their friends.

“And it worked,” Sirius added, delighted when Remus grinned almost genuinely. “I got Harry out and I didn’t drop him from my motorbike, so I’d say it all worked out perfectly.”

Remus laughed and shook his head. He almost looked like the Remus Sirius had once known. He wanted to say something else that would make Remus laugh, but after a moment’s thought decided to return to his story.

“So, as I was carrying Harry away in his baby sling,” he couldn’t resist saying, and was unable to hide his pleased smile when Remus snorted.

He finished the story with his discovery of his new Patronus. Remus’s eyes went slightly glassy for a moment, then he blinked himself back to the present.

“I can’t believe…” he said. “Will you show me again?”

“My Patronus?” Sirius asked, surprised and a bit delighted. “Sure.”

He watched Remus watching his Patronus. Remus’s eyes were big and focused, and he looked exactly like himself. This was the Remus Sirius most remembered from Hogwarts, this was the Remus he had felt had been lost during the war. This was still the same Remus.

Remus turned to look at him. His eyes were piercing, and for a moment Sirius was certain Remus was using Legilimency on him.

“How haven’t you found someone else?” Remus asked.

“What?” Sirius asked, completely baffled.

“Another boyfriend,” Remus said. “How come you haven’t moved on? I’d think it would be easy for you to find someone.”

Sirius stared at him. He must have misheard or misunderstood, but nothing on Remus’s face helped him figure out which it was.

“I’m sorry, what?” he finally asked.

Remus frowned and his voice was snappier when he said, “Why haven’t you just found a new boyfriend? Why are you still hung up on me?”

Understanding spread over Sirius, closely followed by indignation, which he tried to hide from his face. He couldn’t lose his cool now. He was an adult. He was ready to have an adult discussion. He was no longer the selfish child he used to be.

“Remus,” he said as clearly as he could. “I love you. I haven’t wanted anyone else, but to be completely honest with you, I really haven’t even thought about dating for years. I… Look. I’ve been busy learning to be a single parent. I’ve been busy trying to stay sober. I’ve been busy regretting that I was an idiot and didn’t work harder to keep you. I haven’t…”

Remus frowned, but it wasn’t the deep frown he got when he was upset. It was the gentle frown of not understanding something.

“But you were going out yesterday,” Remus said.

Sirius snorted. “Yes,” he said. “I was going out because I spent two weeks moping over you, and it was not working out very well. Harry knew that something was going on with me, Molly knew it too, and she pretty much forced me to take a night off. So I thought, fine, if pining over you upsets everyone around me, maybe I should find someone new.”

“Wait,” Remus said, then took a moment to think. “Are you saying… It’s just, it almost sounds like you’re telling me that you hadn’t thought about finding someone new until after you ran into me.”

Sirius nodded. Remus frowned deeper, which moved his frown into ‘I don’t understand your reasoning and am on my way to being upset over it.’

“Remus,” Sirius said firmly. “I am not lying when I tell you I have hardly even had a wank once a month over the past five years.”

Remus’s frown kept deepening.

“In any case,” Sirius said, “I was on my way out to find someone new, then realised that I don’t even know how to meet people. I don’t… I haven’t had time to think about my looks, do I even still look okay? I don’t… I had actually just decided to come back home when you showed up.”

Remus’s frown was now the upset type, but Sirius couldn’t even begin to guess what exactly he found upsetting.

“You’re saying,” Remus said slowly, “that you haven’t gotten laid in five years?”

Sirius was surprised to find his cheeks burning when Remus put it so clearly into words.

“Isn’t that pathetic,” he mumbled, now turning to look at Harry’s drawings himself. They were happy drawings. They were good to look at.

“That’s not what I meant,” Remus said. “I just… I know you. I know you don’t… You like sex.”

Sirius snorted, eyes focused on the drawing that was featured in his happiest memory. It had been two years already. Children really did grow up fast.

“Did I upset you?” Remus asked.

Sirius forced himself to turn his head and meet Remus’s eyes. His cheeks were still burning hot.

“No,” he said. “No, I’m not upset about it. That’s just the way it is. And… I don’t think I could have. I was still hung up over you. I… I never got over you.”

Remus face went sad, and Sirius knew what was coming before Remus said it.

“I got over you.”

Sirius nodded, blinked his tears away, and turned to look at Harry’s drawings. Remus’s voice had been quiet, but his words had been unmistakable.

“Padfoot,” Remus said, still quietly. “You very obviously didn’t want me anymore. You clearly… Well, fine, you didn’t say that you wanted to break up, but it was implied. It was… To me, it was clear that we were over.”

Sirius nodded again, but his throat was too tight for him to dare try to speak.

“And after it all happened,” Remus said, “and you didn’t try reaching out to me, I figured you didn’t want to. That I had been right.”

Sirius nodded again. His eyes were burning. How did he even have tears left, he wasn’t sure.

“I’ll get over you, Remus,” he croaked out. “If you tell me to piss of, I’ll… I will get over you. I just need to… I need to hear it. Because…”

He stopped to clear his throat when his voice got too close to breaking. Remus shifted closer to him.

“It was different for you, wasn’t it?” Remus said quietly.

Sirius nodded. “I don’t remember… I don’t even remember it properly. And I would wake up thinking that you were still on that mission and you were going to return any minute. And I… You… No one told me that we had broken up. I didn’t know for sure and… I was so drunk back then that a lot of it feels like a dream. None of it feels real, and it never felt real. A part of me always knew that you weren’t coming back, but then the other part of me kept hoping that maybe what I said wasn’t so unforgiveable that you wouldn’t want to return. So… In a way, to me, we never broke up. You were just gone.”

“Padfoot,” Remus said, and the tone of his voice was enough to tell Sirius that he was going to say something that would hurt. “I don’t know if we’re good together. We’ve both changed. We don’t really know each other any longer.”

Sirius squeaked in protest but was too afraid of opening his mouth in case he would only manage to sob loudly. Remus shifted closer again and took a hold of Sirius’s hand.

“I don’t know if we would ever work out as a couple,” Remus said. “But I would really love to be your friend again. You were the only friends I’d ever had. And you’re the only one who remains. I don’t want to lose my last friend.”

Sirius closed his eyes. Remus squeezed his hand and leaned closer. His body was warm, and Sirius could feel tears forcing their way from between his eyelids.

“I want to be your friend,” he managed to whisper. “I don’t really have any friends either.”

Remus lay his head on Sirius’s shoulder, and they sat there quietly, Sirius trying his hardest to stop his tears. He sniffled and each inhale was trembling, but the weight of Remus against him made him feel whole in a way he hadn’t experienced in a long time.

“I don’t want to go home,” Remus whispered, when Sirius had stopped sniffling. “I’ll be alone there, and when I’m alone, I overthink. And I’ll get scared and I’ll start avoiding you again.”

Sirius breathed in deeply.

“You can stay here,” he said. “We have a guestroom. If you think you’re okay with meeting Harry, that is. He’s been looking forward to meeting you.”

“How can he look forward to something he didn’t know was going to happen?” Remus asked.

“He knows I ran into you,” Sirius said. “He asked me why I was sad, so I told him. And his first question was why I hadn’t brought you to meet him.”

It was quiet for a bit.

“I’m not sure how to feel about that, to be honest,” Remus said.

He lifted his head and Sirius already missed its weight. Remus looked frightened, which in turn made Sirius scared, because Remus never showed emotions that might make him look vulnerable.

“He’s going to hate me,” Remus said quietly.

“No, he’s not,” Sirius immediately replied. “He’s going to love you because you can tell him embarrassing stories about me.”

Remus was quiet for a beat, and then said, “Will he be… I don’t know, scared?” He quickly touched the biggest scar on his face.

“He won’t,” Sirius said. “You don’t look scary. You look kind.”

Remus looked like he didn’t believe it, but at least he didn’t argue. Sirius tried smiling at him encouragingly. Then he remembered the boxes in the attic.

“I still have all your stuff,” he blurted out.

Remus froze, staring at him. He blinked slowly.

“Why?” he asked.

Why? Why not?” Sirius said. “What else would I have done with it all? I was living under the delusion that you might want to come get it.”

“Oh,” Remus said, then didn’t say anything else.

“I am actually a bit surprised you didn’t,” Sirius said with a frown. “Didn’t you need your books?”

“I did,” Remus said, looking uncomfortable. “I just figured it might not be safe to come back.”

“Oh.” Sirius blinked and turned to look away. Harry’s drawings. He understood exactly why Remus had spent so much of the conversation staring at them.

“I’m sorry I made you feel you weren’t safe with me,” he said.

Remus squeezed his hand. He was still sitting very close to Sirius.

“You’re currently making me feel pretty safe,” Remus said. “Which is a bit of a surprise. Not because of you but because of me.”

“Because you don’t feel safe with anyone?” Sirius asked, turning his head just a bit to see Remus from his peripheral vision.

“Yes,” Remus whispered and squeezed Sirius’s hand tighter.

Sirius wasn’t sure if it was allowed but he also figured Remus would let him know if he was crossing a line, so he turned and pulled Remus into a hug. Remus’s breath was hot against his collarbone and it felt familiar, it felt so achingly familiar and if Sirius closed his eyes, he could imagine that none of it had happened and they were still together, still in love and always together. He pulled Remus closer. He closed his eyes.

Remus smelled familiar but he felt different, he felt smaller. He had been quite skinny by the end of the war, but this was different from ‘hasn’t had a proper meal in a couple of weeks.’ This was long-term, this was Remus who couldn’t keep a job because people were tossers, this was Remus who hadn’t had anyone to rely on for years, and Sirius wanted to be who Remus could rely on. He wanted to be there for Remus, as a friend or as a lover, but he wanted to be there for him.

He opened his eyes and happened to look at the clock.

“I should go get Harry,” he mumbled against Remus’s hair, then pulled back to look at him. “Will you be okay waiting here? Or do you want to come with me? I should warn you that Molly won’t let you leave without a proper meal, though.”

Remus blinked a few times. He looked unsure, which was a look Sirius wasn’t used to seeing on his face.

“What does she know about this?” Remus asked. “Does she know why I left?”

Sirius cleared his throat, suddenly embarrassed.

“I… I may have told her everything,” Sirius said. “Just this morning.”

“By everything you mean…” Remus trailed off, sounding uncertain.

“Everything,” Sirius said. “She knows we used to be together. And she seemed to be okay with it. She’s got more tact than show it even if she’s not fully okay, but I think she was.”

“It might be different now that I’m back,” Remus said and pulled back from Sirius.

Sirius shrugged.

“We’ll just have to show her we’re still the same people,” he said. “She’ll quickly notice that I’m still the same idiot. And Harry will talk to her, he always talks a lot, and he will tell her how happy I am to have my best friend back.”

Sirius smiled a bit hesitantly. Remus looked at him, still uncertain, but then he smiled too.

“I meant it when I said I overthink when I’m alone,” he said. “I think I’d much rather suffer a social gathering.”

Sirius smiled wider.

“That’s my Moony,” he said.

Sirius got up from the sofa and stretched.

“We better get going,” he said. “I was supposed to pick Harry up this morning.”

Remus nodded and stood up, but there was unusual awkwardness in the way he held himself. Sirius reached out to take a hold of his hand.

“Don’t be nervous, Moony,” he said. “I promise I won’t let you out of my sight. I won’t let Molly get too overbearing. Or Harry, for that matter.”

Remus smiled sweetly and nodded. They only let go of each other when they stepped up to the fireplace and Sirius took a handful of Floo Powder in hand. He smirked at Remus before the Floo took him away, and at the Weasleys he didn’t turn away from watching the fireplace before Remus had come through as well.

Harry had hurried into the room when he had heard the Floo, and Sirius looked at him with a big smile on his face.

“Harry,” he said. “This is Moony.”

Chapter Text

Remus was late.

Sirius sat by the kitchen table, food growing cold. He was getting increasingly nervous. It had started raining. He sat at the kitchen table and looked at the rain-streaked window.

His glass was empty. Condensation had slid down its sides onto the table. Sirius poked at the wetness with his finger. The clock was ticking. Otherwise, it was eerily quiet.

Sirius was contemplating getting up for another glass of water, when he heard the door open and close. He turned to look at the doorway, listened to the rustle of clothes and a whispered Hot-Air Charm, and then Remus was standing there in the doorway.

“Oh,” Remus said, looking around the room. “I didn’t expect you there.”

Sirius looked at him expectantly. Remus’s face bore no clues. The silence stretched.

“Well?” Sirius finally snapped, when Remus didn’t do or say anything.

Remus clearly tried to keep his composure, but a smile broke through.

“I got the job,” he said.

Sirius jumped up so fast the chair fell backwards. He didn’t notice, he was too busy laughing and launching himself at Remus, who happily took him in his arms. Sirius pressed a hurried kiss to his lips.

“I’m still not sure it’s a good idea,” Remus said. “A Muggle job. I haven’t been around Muggles much in a long time.”

“You’ll be brilliant,” Sirius said.

He pressed his hands on Remus’s warm cheeks and pulled him in to a proper kiss. Remus’s lips were chapped; Sirius supposed that he had been chewing them in his nervousness.

“Eww, Dad!”

Sirius burst to laughter into the kiss, but Remus pulled away quickly, cheeks going red. Harry was standing in the doorway with a pout on his face.

“Get used to it, kid,” Sirius said and reached out to ruffle Harry’s hair.

Harry dodged and batted away his had before heading to the sink. Sirius couldn’t contain his grin, his thumb absentmindedly rubbing over the thick scar on Remus’s cheek. Harry poured himself a glass of water. Remus’s breath was brushing Sirius’s wrist. Everything was perfect in the world.

Sirius’s smirk widened and he pulled Remus closer. Remus looked apprehensive but didn’t try to stop him, so Sirius kissed him again.

“Dad,” he heard Harry groan by the sink.

Sirius chuckled against Remus’s lips.

“What a charming kid,” he said.

“You’re awful,” Harry said and stomped out of the room. Sirius watched him go with a smile.

Remus chuckled nervously and pulled back to properly look at Sirius.

“Is this okay?” he asked uncertainly. “If it bothers Harry-”

“It doesn’t really bother him,” Sirius was quick to reassure. “He’s just acting his age. At that age, no one wants to see their handsome dad snogging a handsome werewolf.”

Remus’s cheeks were charmingly red. Sirius grinned happily.

It hadn’t been perfect and easy with Harry. While Harry had been happy to finally meet the famous Moony, he hadn’t been sure how to feel about Moony staying with them for extended periods of time. Sirius had sat with Harry many times to talk and had made sure to keep reminding him that he was still very important to Sirius, but that Remus and Sirius were also important to each other.

Remus had also been very good with Harry, always ready to listen attentively when Harry wanted to talk.

“Honestly, Remus,” Sirius said. “Harry’s fine. He’s happy that I’m happy. He’s glad to have you around. It’s all good.”

Remus didn’t look completely reassured, but it was a start.

“And now,” Sirius said, “I want to taste that scar.”

He had just enough time to see Remus raise his brow in amusement before his lips landed on the scar that split Remus’s upper lip. He trailed his tongue over it before drawing the lip into his mouth and sucking gently. Remus’s hands were big and safe against his back.

Kissing Remus still felt new and exciting. They had stayed strictly friends for a couple of years, and Sirius had been happy. Remus was his friend again, and Sirius had been pleasantly surprised to find that it was enough. It had been Remus, who started flirting first. Sirius hadn’t been sure if he understood it correctly, and it took him months to gather the courage to ask.

Remus had been flirting. And when Sirius asked if he was hoping they’d get back together, Remus had shyly answered, “I would like to try.”

And they were trying. They had first kissed a few weeks back, Remus having blushed beautifully before pressing their lips together for the first time in years. Sirius had been so overwhelmed that he had left to the kitchen to make a cup of tea, much to Remus’s amusement.

And now he was allowed to kiss Remus, and each kiss felt happy.

“Sirius,” Remus said, and pulled back. “I mean it. I haven’t been keeping up with the Muggle world.”

“That’ll be fine,” Sirius said and stroked Remus’s hair. “You’re so smart, Moony. You’ll learn quickly. You just tell them that being sick has put you a bit out of the loop and they’ll happily explain things to you.”

“They’ll get tired of me always taking time off,” Remus said, worrying his lower lip again.

Sirius pressed his thumb against Remus’s lower lip, pressing more insistently until Remus stopped biting it.

“You told them you would have to do that,” Sirius said. “They decided to hire you while knowing that. You will be fine.”

Remus met his eyes, uncertainty clear in his gaze, and Sirius pressed one more kiss to his lips.

“You’ll be fine,” he said against Remus’s lips.

Remus looked mildly reassured, so Sirius pulled away, took a hold of his hand, and guided him to the table.

“I made food,” he announced and sat Remus on a chair.

“Thank you,” Remus said and smiled brightly before using a heating charm on the food.

Sirius picked up his fallen chair and sat down too. Even after three years, it still made him happy to see Remus eat. It seemed to satisfy the same part of him that was also pleased when he saw Harry happy and healthy.

He sounded awfully adult.

Granted, he was turning 30 in a couple of months, but he had yet to stop feeling like a teenager just pretending to be an adult. He wondered if he would still feel the same way when he turned 40.

He smiled, knowing exactly how besotted he must have looked, as he watched Remus eat. Remus’s scars looked less prominent now that his cheeks were fuller. Remus was so utterly handsome. Sirius could have looked at him all day long.

“You’re thinking loudly,” Remus said without turning his eyes away from his food.

“You’re gorgeous,” Sirius said with a small sigh.

Remus snorted quietly, but his cheeks flushed.

They hadn’t done more than kissing yet. Sirius didn’t mind waiting, but he also really wanted to make love to Remus, make him feel good in the body that had caused him so much pain. When Remus was ready to take the next step, Sirius would send Harry off to the Weasleys for a day or two so he could dedicate all his attention to pleasuring Remus rather than making sure the door was locked and silenced.

He wondered if Remus would stay the night if he asked. He wanted to sleep together and wake up in the morning to watch Remus breathe before kissing him awake.

“Have you thought about selling your place?” Sirius asked before he knew he was going to ask it.

Remus’s hand froze for just a moment before returning to put the fork down, as he had intended.

“I just mean,” Sirius said, trying to quickly gather his thoughts that seemed to be scattering everywhere. “I don’t mean right now, or, like, not soon. Just. Eventually.”

Remus looked at him, eyebrow raised in what could be amusement or bemusement.

“I just,” Sirius said. “I’ve just been thinking.”

“What about?” Remus asked.

Sirius’s cheeks were burning up. Why had he brought up this specific topic? He had hardly even thought it through on his own.

“I’ve been wondering,” he said, trying to keep his voice even, unsure if he managed because his heart was beating way too loudly, “if you would, you know… Maybe at some point we might possibly live together?”

Remus’s face didn’t divulge his thoughts, and Sirius found his palms sweating.

“I don’t know about that,” Remus said simply, before returning to his food.

“Oh,” Sirius said and couldn’t quite disguise his disappointment.

It was quiet expect for the clock ticking, the rain pattering on the windowsill, Remus chewing, and Sirius’s heart trying to beat out of his chest.

Had he mucked it up again? He was moving too fast, wasn’t he? Of course he was, he was always doing things too fast, never stopping to think before acting, of course Remus didn’t want to even think about moving in with him yet, they had barely started dating again, Sirius was just stuck in the past, in the feelings they once had for each other, and even though they still seemed to have feelings, they were different, things were different, and then there was Harry to consider too, and Sirius was such an idiot, really…

“I just,” Remus said, poking his food with his fork, “don’t really… It makes me feel uneasy to think that I’d be living with you without a place where I could return if… I mean… I’m not saying I’m expecting things to turn out like they did the last time, I’m just…”

“Being careful,” Sirius said and nodded. “That’s okay, Moony. I know you like being careful. And I understand that you… I can understand that it would make you more comfortable to know that you’d have somewhere to go.”

“I was so lucky I hadn’t had time to sell the house,” Remus whispered.

Sirius didn’t particularly want to think about how much harder life would have been for Remus had he not had the cottage to live in. It couldn’t have been easy staying there either, in the home of his childhood saturated with memories that weren’t all happy. Sirius had never found out what Remus’s relationship with his parents had been like: there had always been a strain there, always something dissonant about the way Remus talked about them and how his body language went somewhat stiff. And, if it was something Remus didn’t like talking about, it must have been big.

And he had had to live in a house with those big strains being pushed onto him each day.

Possibly.

It made Sirius sad that there were still so many things about Remus he didn’t know. Back then, before he had started doubting Remus’s loyalty, he had thought that he had known everything there was to know about Remus. He hadn’t known the reason behind Remus’s upset towards his parents, but he hadn’t thought it important.

He didn’t know if it was important, but he decided that he should try to find out.

“I could help you renovate,” he said.

Remus hadn’t let Sirius visit his house. Sirius had once visited it, when they were 16 and it was summer, and he remembered sunlight and warmth and holding Remus’s hand in secret behind the bushes. He had vague memories of the house, but they were all happy memories. He suspected that either Remus didn’t have those same memories, or the house had fallen to such disrepair that he was too embarrassed to let anyone see.

Remus didn’t look very enthusiastic about the suggestion.

“I would love to see it again,” Sirius tried to provoke some kind of a clue out of Remus. “I remember visiting you and snogging you behind the shed.”

Remus couldn’t suppress his smile, although he seemed to be trying.

“You aiming to repeat that experience?” he asked, letting his smile grow wider.

Sirius smirked.

“Who knows,” he said, hoping he sounded seductive. “Are you offering?”

Remus laughed, but before he could say anything, there was a shout from the living room.

“Dad! It’s time for our story!”

“Is it?” Sirius shouted back, turning to look at the clock, surprised to find that it really was their usual story time. “I’m on my way!”

He winked at Remus, who was wearing a soft smile on his face, before heading to the living room where Harry was eagerly waiting with their latest book.

*

After Harry had gone to bed, Remus sat down next to Sirius on the sofa. Sirius put down the Witch Weekly that he had been reading intensely while pretending not to care at all. Remus smiled knowingly at him, and he shrugged.

Remus’s smile dropped, and it was always foreboding. Sirius prepared to hear something bad.

“I think it’s sweet that you read to Harry,” Remus said, throwing Sirius completely off. “I know you never enjoyed reading much.”

“Oh,” Sirius said and cleared his throat, trying to catch up with the conversation. “I think it’s important he learns how meaningful books can be. I know it’s… I wish I enjoyed reading more. I wish I wasn’t so bad at it.”

Remus smiled at him, and it was gentle, and Sirius felt soothed.

“I’m just glad he’s still fine with children’s books,” Sirius said and laughed, although it came out a bit forced. “I don’t know what I’d do if he wanted me to read something with bigger words.”

“Children’s books have plenty of big words in them,” Remus said. “You’re doing fine, Padfoot. You just need to believe in yourself.”

Sirius smiled, his ears warming up, and he wasn’t sure if he was more embarrassed or pleased.

"That’s something you should have told me two decades ago,” he muttered.

“I did tell you, I think,” Remus said.

Sirius could only nod because Remus had always done his best to encourage Sirius to read more.

“Thank you,” he said quietly.

Remus smiled. Then he shifted and took a hold of Sirius’s hand.

“Sirius,” he said, and Sirius only had a fraction of a second to prepare for whatever horrible thing Remus was about to tell him, because he knew that tone of voice. “I don’t know if I can do this.”

“Do what?” Sirius asked, his heart beating somewhere in his throat and his insides squirming.

Remus stroked the back of Sirius’s hand with his thumb, not meeting his eyes.

“Are we making a mistake?” Remus asked.

Sirius waited, but Remus didn’t say anything else, merely continued stroking Sirius’s hand almost absentmindedly.

“About what?” Sirius finally asked.

Remus’s thumb stopped.

“This relationship,” he said quietly.

The bottom fell off Sirius’s stomach. For a moment, he worried that he might actually be sick, and he kept his mouth firmly shut.

“I’m just,” Remus said and turned his head down, “worried. I can’t stop wondering if it’s all going to end up like last time.”

“Moony,” Sirius said, and his voice was trembling.

Remus looked up, eyes softening as he took in the look on Sirius’s face, but the firm line of his mouth remained.

“I like being friends with you,” Remus said. “If we start a relationship and it doesn’t work out… We won’t be able to go back to being friends. And then I’ll have nobody left again.”

Sirius wanted to argue, but he couldn’t. Apart from each other, neither of them had people they would call friends. They had acquaintances, but they weren’t people they could go to with their issues.

They really should have gone out more, Sirius mused. They should have gone out and met people and stopped being so bloody pathetic, how could he have become so unsociable when he was always thriving with attention, he always wanted people around himself, yet for the past eight years he had been quite alright with Harry, the Weasleys, and the addition of Remus. As far as he knew, Remus spent his time firmly at home when he wasn’t staying with Sirius and Harry or out looking for a job.

It was probably not healthy for either of them.

“I don’t know, Padfoot,” Remus said. “Should we just… not?”

Sirius tried to gauge what exactly Remus was thinking, but Remus had ducked his head again and his face was hidden.

“Is this because I asked you to move in with us?” Sirius asked. “Because if it is, you shouldn’t worry about it. I didn’t mean that you’d be moving in immediately. I just… I wasn’t even… I just wanted you to know that I would like it if you were to live here with us. But it’s not a requirement. You don’t ever have to move here permanently if it’s not…”

“Sirius,” Remus interrupted Sirius’s thoughts. “I’m…”

Remus licked his lips and took in a trembling breath. When he lifted his head up, his face looked determined. Sirius wasn’t sure what to think about it, but he was now afraid that Remus was going to break up with him.

“Sirius,” Remus said again. “I’m worried that we haven’t changed enough for our relationship to work out in the long run.”

Sirius blinked a few times.

“Right,” he said, worried that he wouldn’t know what to say and that in itself would prove Remus’s words. “I’m… Well, I do wish to immediately point out that I’m not longer drinking, which is a massive improvement, if you ask me.”

Remus’s face melted.

“Padfoot,” he said with such fondness in his voice that Sirius couldn’t help hoping that underneath the uncertainty Remus was just as smitten as he himself was. “I’m so proud of you. You have grown so much and staying sober is a big feat. I’m… Well, I guess since we agreed to be more honest with each other, I should tell you that if you were still drinking, I couldn’t do this. I feel safe with you now.”

“And you didn’t before,” Sirius said sadly.

Remus’s eyes were still awfully earnest when he said, “I didn’t before. It’s… I know you’re different, Padfoot, and it’s great. I’m more worried about me.”

“What do you mean?” Sirius asked.

Remus bit his lip and took a moment to think, eyes still focused on Sirius, the look in them still equally tender.

“I have,” Remus said quietly, now turning his eyes away, “issues. I have big issues, Padfoot, and I don’t know if I will ever get rid of them. I don’t know if they can ever be fixed. But while I still have those issues, I will also remain the same.”

“That’s not true,” Sirius said before Remus had hardly even stopped speaking. “You have changed. You have been more open about things. You’re trying. And that’s already different.”

Remus shook his head but remained quiet. Sirius straightened up and leaned closer to Remus.

“The fact that you’re acknowledging your issues,” Sirius said, “is already a lot. And it sounds to me like you would like to start working on them. Even wanting to do that is a big step forward.”

“I feel like I’ve only changed for worse,” Remus whispered.

Sirius pulled him against himself.

“That’s not true, Moony,” he said. “You’ve grown up a lot. You have much more life experience. I know that there are also things that went wrong for you, and I understand that those experiences have made it… have changed you. Not for worse. They just have changed you into something a bit different from what you used to be. But, Moony, that’s how it works for everyone.”

Remus let his head lean against Sirius’s shoulder. He didn’t say anything. Sirius wished that he could see Remus’s face so he could tell if he had said even remotely the right thing.

“Remus,” he said quietly. “We will never know for certain. We will never reach a point where we’ll know whether trying a relationship is the right thing to do or not. We can only decide to try and see where it takes us. If we take it slow, maybe we can tell more easily if it’s not the right decision, and maybe then we can just… agree to go back to being just friends. Maybe we can’t, but that’s also something you can’t know.”

Remus chuckled quietly. His breath tickled Sirius’s neck.

“Wow, Padfoot,” Remus said, voice slightly mumbled. “You really have grown up. When did you become so wise?” He pulled back to look Sirius in the eyes. “You’re right, you know,” he said. “We’ll never know for sure. It’s about daring to try.”

Sirius nodded, waiting, because he knew that Remus wasn’t done yet.

“I’m just not sure I dare,” Remus said.

Sirius lifted up his hand and combed his fingers through Remus’s curls.

“Do you want to stop?” he asked. “Do you want to just be friends again?”

Remus shook his head.

“Do you like what we’ve been doing so far?” Sirius questioned him further. “Have you been okay with kissing and touching?”

Remus nodded.

“And you don’t want to give that up?” Sirius asked, and Remus shook his head. “But you don’t want to go further yet?”

Remus bit his lip. Sirius pulled his hand away from Remus’s hair to tease Remus’s lip free. Remus’s cheek fit against his palm like they were made for each other.

“I don’t know,” Remus said. “I… I want more. I want to… I want to… I want to have more of you.”

Remus’s cheeks were red.

“You want to have sex?” Sirius asked.

Remus nodded, then said, “But I’m not sure. I’m… I’m not sure.”

“That’s okay,” Sirius said. “It doesn’t have to happen immediately, you know. We can go on like this until you feel you’re surer.”

“But I don’t really want to wait,” Remus whispered.

Sirius leaned in to press a soft kiss over Remus’s brow.

“Let me take you out,” he said. “We’ll send Harry to the Weasleys, and I’ll take you out on a date. And then we’ll come back home and we’ll kiss, and then you’ll tell me how you feel right at that moment.”

Remus looked at him searchingly for a long time. Then he nodded, eyes still focused on Sirius.

“Yeah?” Sirius asked.

Remus nodded again. Sirius smiled.

“I’ll talk to Molly in the morning,” he said. “You’re free on the weekend, aren’t you?”

“Yes,” Remus said, his cheeks gaining more colour.

“On Saturday, then,” Sirius said.

Remus smiled. It was a genuine smile, and it made Sirius’s heart skip a few beats.

*

The moment he had stepped out of the Floo back at home, Sirius took Remus’s hand in his. Remus looked down at their hands, then up at Sirius and smiled.

“I wish we could do this outside,” Sirius said, already leaning closer to Remus.

“Maybe one day,” Remus said, smiling still.

“You are so utterly handsome,” Sirius mumbled.

Remus didn’t have time to react before Sirius had pressed their lips together. The kiss was a brush of lips, then another, then another. Sirius wrapped his free arm around Remus’s waist, and Remus pressed their bodies together. Remus felt so good against Sirius, familiar and new all at once, his jumper soft under Sirius’s hand, his slight frame seeming to mould against Sirius’s body. Remus licked his way into Sirius’s mouth, and he tasted like the chocolate cake he’d had for dessert.

Sirius groaned, already growing hard. They’d had a few good snogging sessions, but none of those had ended with them so physically close together. Sirius hadn’t realised quite how much he had missed feeling Remus in his arms before now that he was holding Remus, pulling him closer and sucking on his tongue, wishing that he was sucking on another part of Remus’s body.

Remus’s big hand was cupping the back of Sirius’s neck and Sirius’s knees felt weak, his legs were jelly, he leaned against Remus and remembered how thrilling it was to be so much shorter than Remus, his tall, tall Remus whose hair was tickling his forehead.

With great reluctance, Sirius pulled back and looked at Remus. Remus’s cheeks were flushed, and his eyes were bright, his lips red and wet with saliva.

“How are you feeling?” Sirius asked, already out of breath. “Do you want to take this further?”

Remus nodded, but then said, “I’m still scared.”

Sirius stroked his back and squeezed his hand, wishing that he could comb Remus’s hair off his face but unwilling to disengage either hand.

“That’s okay,” he said, and their noses brushed together and Remus smiled, and Sirius had difficulties remembering what he was supposed to be thinking about that was not Remus undressed and in his bed. "It's okay to be scared. But do you feel like you will regret it if we do it? Do you still want it, even if it scares you?”

“Yes,” Remus whispered and nodded.

“Let’s take it to the bedroom, then?” Sirius suggested.

Remus nodded again, so Sirius steered them that way, both hands still holding on to Remus, making moving around somewhat difficult. Remus didn’t seem to mind, though, his lips searching for Sirius’s, noses bumping together and lips landing on chins and corners of their mouths. Remus’s fingers were grabbing a hold of Sirius’s hair, and Sirius was so hard he was leaking already.

They made it to the bed, undressing each other with difficulty because neither seemed inclined to let go of the other. It was clumsy and slow and chaotic, but also the best thing that Sirius could have hoped for. And it ended with naked Remus lying on Sirius’s freshly laundered sheets, Remus once again permitting Sirius to see and touch his amazing body, the best body Sirius had ever seen or touched. His scars were multiple and there were more than there were before, and Sirius wanted to touch each one, trail them with kisses and promises of better years to come, better full moons when Padfoot would continue to keep him company so he didn’t need to be alone.

Their bodies were tightly intertwined as they kissed, Sirius brushing a thumb over Remus’s perky nipple, coaxing out a groan that trembled into their kiss. Remus’s hands were trailing over Sirius’ back and side, arms and hair and arse, and Sirius pressed his hips closer to Remus’s to rub their erections together. Only, there was no erection to rub his own against.

Slowly, Sirius slid his hand down Remus’s body and to his front, finding his soft cock, and at his touch Remus pulled away, lay on his back and threw an arm over his eyes.

“I’m sorry,” Remus said, voice fragile and fingers trembling. “I’m so sorry. I’m just really nervous.”

“That’s okay, Moony,” Sirius said and pressed closer to Remus, unwilling to give up their bodily connection. “It’s okay. I’m happy with this. I’m happy with whatever you give me.”

Remus remained still, breathing unsteadily. Sirius gently touched his stomach, slid his hand up to his chest, then back down, back up to scratch his fingers into Remus’s thick chest hair.

“This is perfect,” Sirius said and kissed Remus’s shoulder. “I just want you, and now I have you here with me. This is all I need.”

Hesitantly, Remus lifted his arm and turned to look at Sirius. His eyes were uncertain, but at least he didn’t look close to crying like Sirius had worried.

“I’m sorry,” Remus said.

Sirius shook his head and smiled soppily. “No need to apologise, Moony. You never need to apologise for feeling strongly.”

Remus snorted and rolled his eyes, then rolled to lie on his side to face Sirius.

“I could,” Remus said, slipping his hand down Sirius’s stomach, fingers grazing against his length.

“No, Moony,” Sirius said. “I just want to lie here with you. Just like this.” Sirius cupped Remus’s cheek, feeling the scar against his palm. “You’re amazing.”

They kissed again, Remus seeming placated for now.

“I love you, Moony,” Sirius whispered against Remus’s mouth.

Remus stroked Sirius’s hair.

“I care a lot about you too, Padfoot,” he said. “But I’m not ready to say it yet.”

“That’s okay,” Sirius said and kissed Remus’s plump lips. “I will wait until the end of the world for you.”

Remus chuckled.

They continued holding each other, hands stroking, kisses exchanged, until Remus drifted off. With a smile on his face, Sirius watched him sleep, pulled the blanket over them, turned off the lights, and with the same smile still on his face, he closed his eyes and let sleep take him too.

Chapter Text

“Sirius?”

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.

“I can–”

“You won’t,” Remus interrupted. “You have no motivation to try.”

“But–”

“You’re too comfortable leaning on me,” Remus said. “This isn’t good for you.”

Sirius frowned.

“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?”

“Have you?”

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.

“Huh?”

“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.”

“But?”

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.”

“What about?”

“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.”

“Why? How?”

“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.”

“Oh.”

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.’”

Sirius chuckled.

“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.