It was hard not to notice that something had happened between The Marauders. More specifically, that Sirius Black had done something to Remus Lupin that had thrown off the entire dynamic of the group.
Rumors, of course, were flying.
"I heard he cheated on him. Everyone knows he's a huge slut anyway."
"I heard they got into a fight and Black cursed him. Can't say I'm surprised, considering his upbringing."
"It was only a matter of time before Black turned on all of them. I knew he'd never make it in Gryffindor."
"Don't listen to them, Sirius." James warned, noticing how uncomfortable Sirius had become as they walked through the hall to Defense Against The Dark Arts. "They don't know shit, and you and Moony are working things out. Just stay focused on that and your OWLs and this will pass."
Sirius nodded silently.
He and Remus were working things out, slowly. He could tell that Remus was slightly apprehensive every time Sirius would get too close or try to show some sort of affection, so he had started to back off. Instead he let Remus come to him. And Remus did occasionally, but not as much as Sirius would hope.
"It's going to take some time, Padfoot." James sighed one night after Sirius sat down beside Remus in the common room just to have the other boy stand and move a few seats over. "But you'll get there...come on, want to set off some dungbombs in the girls' lav in the dungeons?"
The corner of his mouth twitched up slightly, imagining Bellatrix going to use the loo and having dungbombs explode around her. "Yeah, sure..." He stood and looked back at Remus. "Want to come?"
"No thanks." The boy shook his head. "I've got some studying to do and a prefects meeting in a bit." He looked up from his book and smiled. "Be safe."
"Yeah, we will." Sirius forced a smile back. As he walked past Remus' chair, the werewolf grabbed his wrist and pulled him back.
Sirius bit his lip. "We'll be careful, Rem. I'm not going to get into trouble, I-"
Remus chuckled and shook his head. "Idiot. Just wanted to kiss you." He pulled him down and pressed their lips together. "Go on then. Don't get caught. Prefects meeting is in an hour on the third floor so, avoid it if you can."
This time Sirius genuinely smiled back before he headed to the dorm with James for their dungbomb stash, the map and the cloak.
Sirius was trying, and that much was very clear to the rest of them. He seemed to take a moment to think before he did or said anything to anyone. He tried not to push his luck as far as his relationship with Remus went, even if it did hurt whenever the taller boy would decide he didn't want to be too close to him. James and Peter did their best to keep Sirius distracted during those times and to let Remus have his space. Though these days Peter was often MIA, running about with his girlfriend Emmeline. This gave Sirius and James time to themselves, causing mild mischief around the castle and discussing different ways James could approach Lily Evans, since his tactics didn't seem to be getting him far.
"Have you tried just talking to her like a normal person, Prongs?" Sirius rolled his eyes as he carefully placed dungbombs under the seat of a toilet.
"Of course I've tried." Grumbled James, leaning against the stall. "In my brain, I walk up to her and tell her she looks lovely and I ask if she'd like to come out for a butterbeer. But then I open my mouth and 'OY EVANS! YOU'RE LOOKING FIT! BET YOU FIT IN MY BED!' Comes out.." He ruffled his hair and sighed. "I don't know why. Doesn't help that she looks at me like I'm toad scum."
Sirius snorted. "She thinks you're an arrogant prat."
"Yeah, but why?"
"Because you're an arrogant prat." Sirius grinned up at him as he stood and looked over his handiwork. "Think we should put a sticking charm?"
James shrugged, taking his wand out. "Couldn't hurt. Don't want Myrtle coming through and wrecking it all." He added the sticking charm and they moved to the next stall. "Aren't you pals with her all of the sudden?"
Sirius frowned. "With Moaning Myrtle?"
"No, git. Evans!"
Sirius laughed and shook his head. "I mean, I wouldn't say we were about to go get manicures together or anything. She just doesn't have the desire to hex me on sight like she does with you." He sighed. "We just...we understand each other. She walked up on me and Regulus having a row and she broke it up and let me go without detention...she told me about her problems with her muggle sister. Now we're civil to each other out of respect." He looked thoughtful. "She and Moony are sort of close though."
"Yeah but Moony won't tell her I have great abs, I've asked him...you're a better wingman."
Sirius chuckled. "Yeah mate, I really don't think she cares to hear about your rippling Quidditch bod. Why don't you just leave the poor lass alone for a week? What's the saying? Absence makes the heart forget how much of a spaz you are?"
"I will set this dungbomb off in your pants, Padfoot." James said flatly, holding one up to show he meant it.
"Well that would be the only action my pants would be getting." Sirius mumbled.
James tilted his head and frowned. "You and Moony haven't been-?"
Sirius sighed and shook his head, performing a sticking charm on this toilet seat as well and standing up. "And I get it. He's not ready to be with me like that again...I'm lucky with what we've even got at this point and I am beyond grateful, believe me...I just...I miss him in that way..."
James nodded. "It'll get better, Sirius. Moony loves you."
"He doesn't say it anymore." Sirius muttered, feeling his chest tighten.
"He isn't ready." James said, putting his arm around Sirius' shoulders comfortingly. "But he does. He told us nearly every day when you lads weren't speaking. He wouldn't have taken you back if he didn't. It's just going to take some time to rebuild that trust. Just let him go at his pace."
"I know. And so does Moony." He tightened his arm around Sirius. "Everyone can see how hard you're trying to make this right, Padfoot. Just keep doing it. Stay focused. I believe in you, mate."
The prefects meeting was long and boring as usual and Remus and Lily dreaded their rounds for the night, simply wanting to return to Gryffindor tower and fall asleep.
"You're looking better at least." Lily commented as they slowly walked through the corridors. "For a while I was starting to get worried. Is everything alright?"
Remus nodded dismissively. "Everything's fine...just...well, I'm sure it's no secret Sirius and I were having an issue."
Lily worried her lip for a moment, clearly wanting to say something but unsure if she should. "Was it...I mean..." She sighed. "Was it about your lycanthropy?"
Remus' eyes widened and he choked on air. "I-what-? N-no...I...who told-?" His mind immediately went to Snape.
Lily gave him an apologetic look and shook her head. "No one told me anything, I promise." She smiled softly. "I sort of figured it out on my own a while back...I haven't said anything to anyone and I'm not going to, of course."
Remus stared at her, still panicked, but he did trust her. "Th-thanks...um..." He cleared his throat. "I guess the thing with Sirius had something to do with it." He rubbed the back of his neck anxiously.
"You don't need to tell me about it." Lily assured him gently. "But...I just wanted to make sure you're alright, that's all. You both seemed to take it pretty hard."
Remus sighed and nodded. "Yeah. We're alright...we will be, anyway. We're working on it."
They turned the corner and Remus lit his wand to light the dark corridor. It had become common for the group of Anti Muggle Slytherins to lurk in the deserted halls. Everything seemed quiet enough tonight, though. "I probably shouldn't forgive him, to tell the truth. But...I can't help it. I'm in love with the bastard." He gave a wry smirk.
Lily raised an eyebrow. "Was it that horrible? What he did...? Sorry, I don't mean to pry, but-"
Remus shrugged her off. "No, it's alright...it's actually nice to talk to someone un-involved." As he said it he realized how true it actually was. He slowly exhaled. "He just...what he did was bad, yes. But I know him. I know how much he struggles with his emotions and controlling himself...I know he wasn't thinking of the consequences and how it would affect me or anyone else." He smiled, but it didn't reach his eyes, which still looked sad and tired. "He really is a good person, Lily. And he's done more for me than I could have ever asked for. He made a mistake...a big one...but when I look at it from his point of view, I can't stay mad at him."
Lily smiled and took his hand, squeezing it lightly. "I'm glad you've worked it out. He makes you happy, that much has always been clear."
Remus chuckled and nodded. "Yeah...we'll get back to where we were...I'm not quite ready to let him back in completely yet. But I know I've been very lucky to have him and Peter and James...I'm not ready to let something come between all of us, either. I never will be."
They strolled down the hall together, still hand in hand, silently enjoying each other's company.
"Speaking of James, have I mentioned he's got great abs?"
"Sorry. I promised him I'd say it."
Remus returned to the dorm, surprised to find the curtains on all of his friends' beds closed and the sound of Peter snoring. He had expected them to be out much later. He changed into his pajamas and went to the bathroom to brush his teeth. He hesitated by Sirius' bed on the way back to his own and smiled at the thought of surprising the other boy by sliding in beside him. He pulled the curtain back slightly.
Panic overtook him for a second as he didn't see Sirius asleep in his bed, a million thoughts of what he could be up to on his own popping into his head. The blankets started to move and the panic was replaced with guilt as a wet, black nose poked out, followed by the rest of Padfoot's shaggy head. Remus sighed, smiling down at him. He should really start to try to have more faith in Sirius. He sat on the edge of the bed and scratched the dog behind his ear. "What're you doing, Pads?"
The dog licked his hand and emerged from the blankets, shaking off his fur before morphing back into a teenage boy. Sirius yawned. "Hey Moony."
A pink flush tinted Sirius' cheeks and he smiled sheepishly, running a hand through his hair. "I've been sleeping in dog form for last few weeks when I'm alone...it's just...easier." He muttered. Remus watched him sadly. He hated seeing Sirius this way, so tormented by his own guilt. But at the same time, it was necessary. Sirius had to learn to control himself of suffer the consequences. And suffering he was. Remus patted the other boy's hand softly. "Come on, let's go to my bed. Yours is covered in dog hair."
Once they were both settled and the curtains were drawn around Remus' bed, he pulled Sirius to him and kissed him firmly on the mouth. Sirius made a content sound in the back of his throat as Remus' tongue traced his bottom lip before slipping into his mouth to tangle with his own. Their lips slid slowly against each other and their bodies started to move in the same rhythm. Sirius' hand slowly traveled down Remus' chest and stomach, fingers hooking in the waistband on his pajama pants.
And Remus grabbed his wrist, breaking the kiss. "Sirius...no." He was slightly breathless, cheeks pink and lips wet and bruised. His eyes were apologetic as he moved Sirius' hand away. "I'm sorry, Sirius." He bit his lip. "I'm not ready to go back to that just yet."
Sadness flashed through Sirius' eyes and he swallowed as he shifted to lie on his back, not looking at Remus. "Right...of course...that's...sorry, I shouldn't have..." He shook his head. "Sorry, Remus. I know it's going to take more time. I know you don't...you don't trust me-"
Remus sat up abruptly and took Sirius' hand in his. "That's not it, Sirius." He sighed. "I know how hard you're trying to give me space and let me come to terms with everything that happened in my own time. And I see you making an effort to be more conscious of the things you do and say...you're doing everything you can, just like you promised me. I can't ask you for more than that, Padfoot..." He brushed Sirius' hair behind his ear and bit his lip. "It's not you that I don't trust. It's me."
Sirius frowned and sat up. "What?"
Remus' eyes fell, slightly embarrassed, and he focused on their joined hands as he spoke his honest fears. "I...I'm not angry anymore about what happened. But there's a part of me," he emphasized. "That wants to..." He struggled, trying to find the right way to describe the constant battle he fought in his head whenever he got too close to Sirius. It had always been there; wanting to pin him down, bite him, mark him, dominate him. He shuddered. But since Sirius' betrayal, it seemed to have gotten stronger. The wolf wanted Sirius to know he had crossed a line and to know his place. "I don't want to hurt you, Sirius. And I don't trust myself not to right now. There is still too much pain from what happened...I'm really sorry."
Sirius' expression changed as he seemed to understand what Remus meant. He brought Remus' hand to his lips and kissed it. "That's okay, Moony. Whenever you're ready." He smiled and laid back down, bringing Remus down with him. They were quiet for a few minutes, holding each other and thinking over everything they had just said. Sirius shifted up onto his elbow.
"I love you, Remus."
Remus winced and opened his mouth to say something but Sirius cut him off. "You don't have to say it back if you're still not ready. But...I hate not saying it to you, because it's true and I want you to know it."
Remus smiled and pulled him back down for another kiss. "I do know it, Sirius. I promise. I know."
Things slowly began to feel normal again. Sirius continued to let Remus decide when to be close to him and when he needed space, but the time between was finally becoming shorter and shorter. It had been nearly a month, and The Marauders finally felt like The Marauders again. Sirius had become his loud and energetic self once more, though he was noticeably more cautious about exactly what came out of his mouth, and he was quick to stop what he was doing if Remus made it clear didn't approve of it.
There was simply no stopping Sirius sometimes, especially when paired with James and the two of them seemed to have fallen back on track as well and had returned to spending nearly all of their free time planning their next big project.
"I can't believe Minnie gave us separate detentions!" Sirius huffed as they barged loudly into the dorm. "How the bloody hell are we suppose to make it through detention alone? I'll be bored!"
Remus groaned, bringing his pillow over his ears. "That's the ruddy point of detention, you fuckwits. And must you be so loud? I'm trying to sleep."
James and Sirius both flinched.
"Sorry, Moony..." James apologized, dropping his voice. "Forgot you were up here."
It was early afternoon and Remus was trying to get some rest before the upcoming full moon that night. So far it wasn't happening. He tossed and turned all day. unable to shut off his brain and sleep. He already felt restless and trapped inside his own body. He whined and curled up further.
Sirius cautiously approached the werewolf's bed, pulling back the corner of the curtain. "Hey, is there anything we can get you? Tea? Chocolate?"
At the sound of Sirius' voice, Remus growled and turned away from him. "No. Just be fucking quiet and leave me alone, Sirius."
Sirius let the curtain fall back closed and he and James looked at each other with mild confusion and concern. They slipped out of the dorm room as quietly as they could and took a seat in the common room instead.
"It's too bad we don't have something to bring around with us so we can contact each other from different places...they'd noticed us sending owls back and forth through the castle." James said, stretching out across the sofa. Sirius took the same position on the other end, their legs tangling together in the middle.
"You mean like those muggle hellophones Remus was telling us about?" Sirius asked thoughtfully. "Don't those need to be hooked up through the wall? They use...er..."
"Electricity." James supplied.
"Right that." Sirius hummed. "So hellophones won't work."
There was a girlish laugh and both Marlene and Dorcas's heads appeared from behind the sofa, resting on the top of the back cushion. From their disheveled hair and lip gloss, James and Sirius didn't have to guess what they had been doing behind the couch and both of the boys snorted.
"Hello ladies," James smirked. "Have we interrupted something important? You've got your own dorm you know."
Dorcas shrugged. "Oh we don't mind the company. We had been doing homework but, well..."
"Got a bit distracted?" Sirius winked at Marlene.
"A bit." The blonde girl grinned at him. "Anyway, it's pronounced 'telephone', you dolt." She rolled her eyes at him. "Merlin, don't you take Muggle Studies?"
Both James and Sirius pouted. "Oh sure, pick on the stupid, sheltered purebloods who don't know rubbish about muggles." Sirius said in a mock-hurt voice.
Both of the girls laughed some more and Marlene perched herself on the back on the couch. "A phone wouldn't do you lads any good for what you're thinking of. You need something more like...Oh! Walkie-talkies!"
James frowned. "Walking What nows?"
"Two way radios." Dorcas tried, but the two pureblood boys still didn't grasp the concept. "They're used for short range communication and such. You could be in the dungeon, lets say, and Sirius could be in the astronomy tower and you'd talk into them and the other would hear you and be able to respond."
Sirius clapped his hands together. "Yes. That. Exactly! Think of everything we could get done with something like that, James."
James nodded and flashed the girls a grin. "Absolutely. We'll have to brainstorm that. Thank you, girls...er...you could go back to your...well...whatever you were doing. We don't mind." He leaned forward slightly with a devilish smirk and both Marlene and Dorcas rolled their eyes.
"Smooth Potter." Dorcas chuckled, taking her girlfriend's hand as Marlene slid off the couch gracefully.
"But just not smooth enough." Giggled Marlene. They wound their arms around each other's waists and headed up to the girls' dorm. Once he heard the door to their room click closed, Sirius turned back to James.
"I'm worried about Moony."
James sighed. "It's just PMS, he's always like that."
Sirius snorted and rolled his eyes. PMS meant 'Pre Moon Syndrome' in Marauder code. He shook his head. "He seems a little grouchier than usual, that's all."
James shrugged, not meeting Sirius' eyes. "Can you blame him? I mean...last month didn't exactly go well..." He glanced up at him. Sirius huffed, crossing his arms and looking out the window at the still bright, sunny April day.
"I guess so..." He groaned and ran his hands through his hair. "I just want things to go back to normal, James."
"They will, Sirius." The other boy said reassuringly. "They are already! Look, I'm sure that after we have a normal full moon run out in the forest tonight, Remus will feel better and everything will go back to the way it was. We talked about this, Pads. You need to give it time."
"Right..." Sirius muttered.
By the time James, Peter and Sirius got to the shack that night, Remus was already pacing back and forth across the room. He had already shed his t-shirt and there were harsh red scratches running down his forearms. Sirius quickly crossed the room to him and took his hands, bringing them down to stop him from clawing at himself.
"Rem, stop. We're here, it's alright."
Remus didn't look at him. He roughly shoved Sirius off and moved away from him. "G'way, Sirius..." He mumbled, keeping his eyes downcast.
Sirius looked back at James who looked just as confused as he was.
"Peter," Remus called quietly from where he now stood in the corner of the room, away from Sirius. "Could you get me some water?"
Peter blinked a few times, not quite knowing what to do or why Remus would ask him instead of Sirius. He was never very comfortable getting too close to Remus during the short time before the moon rose. "I...um..." He looked at Sirius, slightly panicked. Something felt wrong. Sirius took a tentative step closer again, reaching into his bag for the bottle of water he kept there. "Moony-?"
"I asked Peter, Sirius." Remus snapped, his eyes flashing dangerously. Sirius inhaled sharply, frozen in shock from Remus' tone. He shook himself out of it and passed the water bottle to Peter who brought it to Remus and quickly went back to stand by James.
There was a heavy silence where all they could hear was the creaking of the shack or the wind blowing outside. Occasionally Remus would make a noise of discomfort and Sirius would instinctively step forward to go to him only to have the other boy shove him away again. After about the third time, James intervened.
"Remus...um...is something wrong?"
Remus didn't respond right away and from the look on his face, he was struggling to find the right words to do so. He whimpered, biting his lip. "Sirius..."
This time Sirius didn't move closer. He stood his ground at a distance, but he met Remus' bright yellow eyes. "Yeah, Re? What...what's wrong?"
Remus swallowed hard, tears filling his eyes. He looked away, wrapping his arms around himself. "I want you to leave."
Sirius' heart dropped into his stomach and James and Peter both gasped audibly.
"W-what?" Sirius stared at him in disbelief, hands shaking and feeling like he was going to be sick. "Y-you...why? No!"
"You need to leave, Sirius. Please." Remus begged him, he voice hardly above a whisper.
Sirius didn't move. "No! I'm not leaving you, Remus-"
"GET OUT SIRIUS! I DON'T WANT YOU HERE!" Remus would have lunged at the boy had James not immediately grabbed him and held him back. James pulled Remus aside, whispering something that Sirius couldn't hear. After a few moments of hushed conversation, James sighed heavily. "Alright..." He looked over at Sirius anxiously before stepping away from Remus.
Sirius looked at his friend pleadingly. "J-James, what-?"
James bit his lip. "I'm sorry, Sirius..."
"No!" Sirius protested desperately. "Remus, please-!"
"Sirius," James placed both hands on Sirius' shoulders. "He told me to force you out if I have to...and you know I don't want to do that to you-"
Sirius shook his head. "What-? You can't be...Are you fucking kidding me?" He tried to push past James but he couldn't. This couldn't be happening. "Remus!"
"Don't make this harder on yourself, Sirius!" James said, grabbing him roughly by the arm. "Don't make it harder on any of us! Just do as you're told and not as you fucking want, for once!"
Sirius stopped struggling at that. He took a step back, staring at James who looked back at him with a pained expression. James didn't want it like this either. He took a shaky breath and nodded. "Okay..." He said quietly. "Alright, Remus...I'll go..."
He heard Remus let out a sob from across the room where he was sitting on the floor with his knees to his chest and his arms tightly around himself. He did everything he could not to break down himself as he walked to the door that lead to the tunnel back to the Whomping Willow with James close behind him.
Once he was on the other side of the door he turned around. James averted his eyes. "I'm really sorry, mate."
Sirius nodded, his eyes burning. "Take care of him, Prongs."
"I will." James promised with a sad smile before closing and locking the door. Sirius stood there. He couldn't move. He just stood there and stared at the door as if he could see right through it to Remus if he tried hard enough. He put a hand flat against the door...Things were never going to be the same...
A piercing scream broke him from his thoughts. He could hear the sounds of Remus' transformation starting. "Remus!" He called out to him, knowing he couldn't hear him over the sounds of his own horrific cries. Sirius' whole body shuddered as he could no longer hold back his own anguished sobbing and he fell to the muddy ground of the tunnel, slumped against the door. The screaming turned to howling and then silence. Sirius listened through the door, biting his lip to stop his own crying. He could hear Moony whimpering, whining, calling for Padfoot. Sirius shifted into dog form and laid on his belly with his nose to the tiny space between the door and the ground. He whimpered.
The whole door shook as Moony's paws scratched at it. He barked once. Then again. Then he howled and Padfoot howled back. Then Moony's scent was gone. Padfoot sat up and scratched at the door, whining, but there was no reply. He tried again, barking, whining, howling until he eventually wore himself out and curled up on the ground.
Padfoot's ears perked up to the click of the door being opened and sun light poured into the tunnel. James sighed, staring down at him blearily through exhausted eyes. "Go on,"
The dog scrambled to his feet, darting past James and nearly tripping over Peter as Sirius transformed mid run and stumbled into the room. James and Peter had already gotten Remus to the bed and Sirius practically leaped onto it. "Remus?" His voice shook. Remus didn't look well. He was almost ghostly white and there was a wound somewhere on his chest that was bleeding through the thin sheets on the bed. "Hey, Moony...wake up..."
Peter and James were watching from across the room. They were both bruised and more tired looking than usual.
"He tried to get to you nearly all night." Peter whispered hoarsely. "But he made us swear not to let him before we changed..."
"He was really hard on himself. We couldn't make him stop." James was trembling, looking horrified. "It was really bad, Sirius..."
"Fucking idiot..." Sirius breathed, staring down at the sleeping boy. He peeled back the sheet gently and winced at the claw marks and fresh bites that covered Remus' body. He grabbed his wand from his back pocket and started healing the ones he could, pausing only when he saw Remus start to stir.
"S'rius?" He slurred, still not fully conscious.
Sirius forced a smile at him. "Yeah, Rem?"
"I'm so sorry, Sirius..." Remus mumbled weakly, barely opening his eyes.
Sirius nodded. "I am too, Remus." His free hand went under the blanket to find Remus', winding their fingers together and squeezing gently.
Remus closed his eyes and sighed. "Don't leave me, okay? Stay..."
Sirius looked back to James and Peter and nodded toward the door. James threw the cloak onto the piano. "Be safe." He said quietly, and he and Peter left. Sirius set his wand aside and slid under the blanket beside the other boy. "I'm not going anywhere." He promised. He kissed Remus' cheek and felt him smile a little.
"I love you too."