Chapter 1: Dogs
A moment before the start of the year, old friends still getting used to seeing each other after so long apart. No one ever talks about Lupin's outsider status and class differences among the marauders. His ostracisation and poverty as a werewolf always seemed obviously to be a class comment! Sirius meanwhile is forced to return to the house symbolising his unwanted aristocratic roots.
i just want someone to believe in me
tell me they know im hurt but the goodness is all they see in me
Harry had only meant to go back for a glass of milk. It was the way Sirius was standing in the kitchen still muggy in the heat from the ager and steam of dinner, kicking a heel back against the sink, distractedly circling a glass with a tea towel. He was going to say something important and, unable to suppress his curiosity, Harry slunk inside the larder knowing he’d be unable to leave without being seen. It was with a forced casualness that his godfather spoke.
‘So, this thing with Nymphadora, it’ll last, you think?’
Over his shoulder Lupin raised his eyebrows. ‘Sirius, I love you. Despite all your harebrained antics.’ The smile between them was soft but strained. Harry definitely shouldn’t have been hearing this. ‘Which you never seem to grow out of. Nevertheless, you know full well there were always things we didn’t share.’
‘It really doesn’t matter, you’re back,’ a pause and a whisper, ‘you’re here with me, and I’d hardly ever dared believe it would happen. Lets be grateful, shall we?’
‘No, Remus, stop mollifying. I shared everything with you. What things?’
Lupin turned away from Sirius’s anger. ‘Yes, I know. Lets not rehash it all again. You were dear friends, I couldn’t have asked for anything more.’ He didn’t speak for a long time, as if he was considering the intelligence of continuing. ‘I was never going to be an old boy, I was at odds from all that from the start. You know.’
Harry was shocked to see Sirius start to cry. His raw voice cracked and seemed as if it might fail. ‘I’m not that man, Remus. I mean, I am, of course. But all I feel like is the man who’s been in Azkaban for twelve years.’ Lupin was in front of him immediately, taking him by the shoulders, shaking his head gravely. Sirius was laughing, that hoarse deranged laugh that made Harry turn cold.
‘It all comes down to being a fucking Black again? They can scratch you off the tapestry but you never escape the legacy. Mother would’ve been proud. Once.’ Lupin took his lined face tenderly in both hands. ‘How do you do it, Moony? Decades and incarceration and you just have to stand there to make me feel like an adolescent. And there’s something I can’t give you because of a family I never fucking wanted.’
‘No. God no.’
‘I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to say it like that.’
Lupin was so close now Sirius must have felt his breath on his cheek. Harry could barely hear his words. ‘You are the bravest man here. No one will ever know how good you are, but I do. You feel reduced but you’re not, not to me. When I saw you again- I was... humbled, and proud, Pad, before you’d explained, just to see you. It’s still more gratifying than you can know.’
‘I’m here.’ Sirius beat his own breast as if trying to prove it to himself. ‘Look, hold on to me, I’m solid.’ Lupin smoothed his hands over Sirius’s long dishevelled hair. He turned away momentarily and there was a wistful look Harry didn’t see often but recognised on this face, one of a man used to denying himself. ‘Shitting fuck’ Sirius sobbed, and Lupin pressed his head to his chest. Sirius’s hands came up to clutch his shoulders with an almost feral force. Lupin’s slender washed out body didn’t look strong enough for the tightness of this embrace. Sirius pushed him away and strode to the other side of the room.
‘God only knows, Sirius,’ he sighed, giving him what he wanted, ‘She’s so young, and she hasn’t seen the things we have. But you’d be wrong to underestimate her. She’s worth having in our lives, right now, she’s a great asset in the struggle. Her experience isn’t of the elite, it isn’t so insular. You must understand.’
‘Yes, I understand.’
It pained them, it was obvious, to have to say things when they were so used to communicating almost telepathically. Lupin looked infinitely weary.
‘Sit down, for god’s sake.’ Sirius moved across from behind the dresser as Lupin lowered himself into one of the great wooden chairs, pulling another out from the table when Lupin grasped his arm in indication that he sit too. Sirius stared at their arms on the tabletop. ‘The moon’s been hard on you this month.’ Lupin nodded, squeezed Sirius’s forearm. ‘I wish... I could be there again. Even with the potion, y’know.’
Sirius lowered his voice to a gruff whisper. ‘Stay with me this time. Let me look after you.’
Just then Snape strode in with a pile of parchments, stopping in his tracks when he saw the two men together at the table.
Sirius shot him a look of unreserved disgust, making no effort to disguise the tear marks on his face. Snape made a show of slowly and deliberately shuffling the pile of documents on the table before flouncing out.
Chapter 2: Love Like Blood
It was nearing midnight; most of the house was collected around the big wooden table over spread out pages. Harry sat with Hermione eating a sandwich he wasn’t sure he wanted. The large kitchen filled with the low hum of those gathered at the sink washing and drying the last of the dishes or talking quietly in corners. Kingsley was playing cards with Ginny across the middle of the table. Harry glanced across to the other end where Lupin was drinking hot chocolate contentedly with his slippered feet up on a stool. Opposite him Sirius slouched in an unusually tranquil quietude, taking occasional interest in the card game. Harry didn’t think anyone else was paying attention, but when he sometimes looked over it was obvious that all he was really doing was watching Remus stare into space. He saw his godfather softly rub the other’s shin and Remus smile.
We must play our lives like soldiers in the field
But life is short i'm running faster all the time
Strength and beauty destined to decay
So cut the rose in full bloom
'til the fearless come and the act is done
A love like blood, a love like blood
Sirius stands in his old bedroom listening to Killing Joke. The bass throbs antisocially loudly through the floorboards and it’s only through a mixture of fear and consideration that everyone has left him alone – frozen, static, at the window. Drawers are pulled out from desks, scattering their contents across the floor; a yellowed image of a page three girl, dense scribbled notes, unmarked cassette tapes. He’s wearing what looks like a very old biker jacket, patched and grotty, which because he’s so thin fits almost as well as it once would have.
Lupin is stopped just outside the door, his large woollen overcoat pressed tightly against his chest. The pain in his eyes is almost unbearable to see, although when he sees Harry he raises a generous smile.
He neither rushes to pretend he was doing anything other than watching outside Sirius’s door nor says anything about it, but turns to go back the way Harry came. ‘Should be getting on, these cabinets won’t empty themselves.’ But Harry looks behind him and sees he stops at the end of the corridor and has to steady himself against the doorframe, coat dropping loosely from his fingers.
Harry woke from the depths of an exhausted sleep to the jagged cut of Sirius’s screams, in a panic - they were real screams. They’d found him. He toppled out of bed and dashed down the hallway. He was through the doorway but then stopped still in the gloom, confused and half asleep, scared by his godfather’s sightless eyes as he tore at the bedclothes, rising bare chested, clutching at the walls. He barely had a chance to register that there was no actual danger before Lupin came blustering past Harry.
Without fear he took the struggling man by the shoulders and pushed him down onto the pillows, even as he lashed out, yelling ‘Sirius! Stop it. Sirius!’ Sirius seemed to be struggling to catch breath. Lupin was murmuring consolingly, placing a hand on his forehead, gently pulling the covers back from his wasted and marked upper body while he twisted in invisible restraints. The room had a heady male smell of sweat and terror. Lupin looked back at Harry who remained stranded in the middle of the carpet, speaking in a voice blurred with sleep.
‘It’s alright, Harry.’
His sitting on the edge of the bed and hand against Sirius’s heart appeared to ground him somewhat, but Sirius’s eyes were wild. The dementors weren’t here, but Harry was sure Sirius could see them. He took the cue and turned to leave. He had remembered something it was easy to forget in the light of day. This man had murder in his heart, and Lupin, maybe Lupin alone, understood that.
Chapter 3: What Phineas Saw
'Do you really trust his judgement?... You don’t think he’s become kind of reckless?’ (Hermione, The Order of the Phoenix)
‘Come in then, don’t stand on ceremony.’ Lupin was greeted by the door of number 12 Grimmauld Place falling open and the back of some black robes disappearing around the corner before him.
He carefully set down his bag in the hallway, studiously muttering the words that secured the front door from within. ‘Please tell me the kettle is on.’ He made his way somewhat gingerly to the kitchen. Sirius moved the filled kettle to the stove with a metallic clang and looked behind him, taking in his friend’s chalky appearance. Lupin’s tattered robes looked, if possible, even more worn as he hovered unsteadily in the doorway.
‘Remus, you look awful.’
‘Mm. Do you think you might be able to...’ Sirius caught Lupin just as his legs gave way, catching him against his own body, chortling amusedly into his shoulder.
‘It’s a good thing you don’t weigh more than a bag of sugar, Remus.’ Lupin took several shallow breaths with his arms draped around Sirius’s shoulders, the two arms around his middle all that was holding him upright. ‘C’mon, lets get you to an armchair.’
He was lifted bodily from the ground, laughing weakly at the chivalric gesture. ‘Almost thought you’d forgotten- to welcome me’ he breathed weakly into Sirius’s hair as he was unceremoniously deposited on a soft chair in the dingy living room.
‘God,’ Sirius considered, stepping back, ‘you really do look like shit.’
‘You look rather dashing’ Lupin smiled.
Sirius blinked and looked down at himself, a grin breaking across his face. ‘Oh, these old things?’ He gave the embroidered sleeves of the robe a dramatic flick, ‘Too much time on my hands. Think they belonged to old uncle Black, who was definitely a bit of a cad, even when I knew him. Found them in the back of a wardrobe upstairs at any rate. Maybe I should let Kreacher have them, along with the boot, he’s doing my head in.’ Lupin listened to the familiar rasping voice fade as Sirius continued talking on his way back to the kitchen, head falling back against the armchair with a relieved sigh. He shook his head in pleased incredulity at the high embossed ceiling with its ornate lamp fixture, still not quite believing the house, a soft smile ghosting across his lips.
‘Could have remembered to wash them,’ he muttered to the empty room.