How Long 'Til My Soul Gets It Right - Chapter 1 - krabapple - Harry Potter (2024)

Chapter Text

It’s only three days out from Dumbledore’s letter when Remus, working on a translation of an ancient Defense text in Old English in the second bedroom he calls a study, hears the sound of scratching at the kitchen door. How he can hear it from upstairs he’s not quite sure, aside from the fact that he has spent the last year listening for Padfoot in any and all places – the kitchen door, the front door, through the garden gate, at the entrance to the shed. All the listening had been futile, of course, Sirius first off to a remote location and then hiding near Hogsmeade to help Harry through the Tri-Wizard Tournament. Remus got Sirius’ scratchy but precise cursive instead, short bursts of texts that said little more than I’m still alive and I wish things were different.

Remus gets up now, treading down the stairs lightly but quickly, wand out as he steps through the kitchen and opens the door. There, finally, is Padfoot in his current form: bone thin, with ribs showing, fur matted and dirty, but still the same clear, piercing grey eyes. Remus lets out a breath he hadn’t known he had been holding and steps aside, providing a clear path for the dog. Padfoot comes in quietly and Remus shuts the door and locks it, making sure the protective spells are still up around the house. They are, of course. They had simply automatically let Sirius in, and Remus is once again reminded that magic is as much an art as it is a science.

By the time he turns from the door, Sirius has transformed back into his human self, which doesn’t look much better than his dog self. Sirius is more than dirty, he’s filthy, a deep layer of dirt and grime visible from where Remus is standing. His once shining hair, short and meticulously styled through the first war, is longer than Remus has ever seen it, including that night in the Shrieking Shack, and matted like the dog’s fur. Sirius is far too thin even from this distance, the hands that are limp at his sides revealing long, bony wrists at the end of them that stick out from the long-sleeved button-down Sirius must have acquired from somewhere. Still, like the dog, the grey eyes are as piercing and sharp as ever, a testament to Sirius’ survival of Azkaban.

They stand there, silent and still, in Remus’ kitchen for a moment until Remus manages, “It didn’t take you as long as I thought it would.”

Sirius smiles, a small but genuine thing, and Remus’ stomach flutters. He brings up an arm and shakes it a bit, a wand coming out of his sleeve and into his hand. “Nicked this off a poor wizard in Hogsmeade who wasn’t paying enough attention,” he says. “Allowed me to apparate some, mostly short bursts. Some travel as a wizard, some as a dog,” he explains, then continues. “Tried to avoid attention each way.”

Remus nods, not knowing what to say. This is the longest they’ve been able to be alone in 13 years. “You’ll need a new one,” he says, indicating the wand.

Sirius, to Remus’ surprise, shrugs. “This one’s not bad. Not like I can go out to Ollivander’s, or even probably Knockturn Alley.”

“I can,” Remus says softly. “Get one that’s closer to your magic.”

“You know my magic well enough?” Sirius asks, and it’s not in the teasing tone Remus might have expected. There’s a hint of vulnerability in it that Remus can hear, and he swallows.

“Always,” Remus answers, matching the vulnerability. He might as well – what does he have left to lose with Sirius?

Sirius blinks, and Remus can see the overbrightness of his eyes. Remus looks down to give Sirius a bit of privacy.

“Wasn’t sure I was coming to the right place, actually,” Sirius says, and Remus looks up. “All Dumbledore told me was to ‘lie low at Lupin’s’.” There’s a slight smile playing across Sirius’ lips, and Remus feels the matching twitch of his own.

“Only place to find me, I’m afraid,” Remus answers. “Not a lot of other choices.” He’d been living at his parents’ house in Wales since Lyall’s death, except when he was teaching at Hogwarts. Sirius had spent a couple of weeks here the summer after he’d escaped to the Potters’, when they were kids, and for one memorable Christmas Eve they had spent with Hope and Lyall.

“I thought as much,” Sirius says. “Even the owls you use have a Welsh accent.”

At that, Remus smiles fully. It’s absolutely not true, and he starts to say as much when Sirius says, simply, “Moony.”

“What?” Remus says, simply asking in turn.

“I forgave you long ago,” Sirius says. It’s little more than a whisper. But it’s so like Sirius that Remus takes in a sharp breath, not at the statement, but at the man who made it, who always cuts right to the heart of any matter, while Remus is always content to skirt the edges.

“I don’t see how,” Remus begins. “I don’t see how. I left you to rot, left you.” He stops, can’t keep his voice from shaking, or the trembling of his hands.

“I’d betrayed you once before,” Sirius says. “How could I blame you for thinking I could do it again, even to James?” His voice is soft, but there’s no shaking in it.

“If I’d only thought,” Remus starts, and watches as Sirius shakes his head.

“If only I’d trusted you,” Sirius says softly.

Remus sighs, surprised to find the old ache gone, filled wholly by the longing that never went away. “I forgave you for that,” he answers.

“Did we tread this ground already?” Sirius asks, and Remus hears the lilt, the amusem*nt at the very edges.

“In front of three teenagers and Peter Pettigrew, no less,” Remus agrees, and sees the amusem*nt begin to break out across the too-new lines around Sirius’ eyes.

“Then let’s put it to bed,” Sirius says.

“Let sleeping dogs lie?”

“Something like that,” Sirius answers softly.

Remus sighs. He may be slow to anger, but he’s also fast to let go of hurt, and he let this one go a year ago. Sirius has always been the opposite. So there’s a part of him that doesn’t believe, not quite yet, that Sirius holds no grudge.

As if he’s reading Remus’ mind, Sirius says. “It hurts. It probably always will. But what hurts is that I failed you. That I failed James and Lily and Harry.” Sirius stops and Remus hears his voice break now.

“You did not,” Remus insists, looking up again. Sirius’ eyes are dry, but that’s because of the fire in them. “You did not,” he repeats.

Sirius sighs.

Remus spares a thought that it’s slightly ridiculous, them, they are, standing just inside Remus’ kitchen, the one his mam used to fill with the smell of breaking bread, continuing to absolve each other of hurts decades old, real and imagined. He has a feeling they will continue to do so, for the rest of their lives, and Remus is willing to be a party to that, he is, if it means Sirius will just let go, if it means Sirius will stay, if it means Sirius.

Remus turns to practical matters, so that the ghosts of James and Lily, and of his own pain, can have a rest for a moment. “What would you like?” he asks softly. “Food? A bath? A shower? Clean clothes? Tea? All of the above?”

“You, first,” Sirius answers unexpectedly, and Remus blinks, not sure what that means, until Sirius comes forward and very carefully wraps his arms around Remus.

It’s not a hug, it’s an embrace, and Remus feels like he should fight against it, but he has no willingness to, so he carefully brings his arms up, wrapping them around Sirius, who is too slight. The hold is too tight even for Remus to rest his head on Sirius’ shoulder, so he stands there, holding on for dear life instead. Sirius smells like dirt and moss and dog, but he still smells like Sirius, a little like sandalwood and a little like musk, and Remus inhales deeply before he knows he is doing it. Before he can feel any kind of shame, he feels Sirius’ chest move against him and knows Sirius is breathing him in, too, and Remus swallows thickly.

Remus feels Sirius’ head move and then Sirius’ lips press a light kiss to his temple. Remus tips his head up before he even realizes what he’s doing, but Sirius doesn’t move, so Remus finds his courage and Sirius’ lips with his own. The kiss is heavy with emotion but chaste, and Sirius doesn’t pull away. Remus does, finally, and Sirius pulls him impossibly closer.

***

The rest of the answer is a combination of all of the above, with Sirius taking a long shower, dressing in a pair of Lyall’s old slacks and one of Remus’ old t-shirts, both slightly too small for him, and eating a plate of toast and jam and drinking three cups of tea. Remus had continued to work until Sirius was ready to eat, and then they sat at the small kitchen table together. Remus thinks idly that he’ll need to go down to the shops tomorrow, for both clothing for Sirius and food. Sirius fills Remus in as he eats, Remus nursing his own cup of tea.

“Where’s Buckbeak?” Remus asks, curious.

“Spending some time with Hagrid again, but he’ll come back to me soon,” Sirius replies. Remus nods. “Hopefully a bit more discreetly than he did before,” Sirius adds, and Remus’ mouth twitches.

“You think Dumbledore’s going to restart the Order?” Remus asks, knowing it’s more or less a rhetorical question.

Sirius nods. “What’s more, I think I’m going to offer use 12 Grimmauld for a headquarters,” he says.

Remus stares, and Sirius’ mouth turns up a bit at his look.

“It’s nearly unplottable, heavily spelled, empty, will answer to me, and almost everyone in the wizarding world thinks I’m a dangerous murderer who wouldn’t dare go near there because I’d be much too easily caught,” Sirius says, licking strawberry jam off his thumb.

Remus is still speechless.

“Can’t imagine the state it’s in now, and it’ll need a good deal of work before we can even rescue Harry from those awful relatives, but both of those things will be a priority.”

“You won’t have to live there,” Remus says, finding his voice.

To his surprise, Sirius shrugs. “Will likely have to, or else the house won’t admit anyone else, without its master there, at least at first.”

“Sirius,” Remus starts.

“You’ll be here, but with apparition,” Sirius starts.

“If you’re going to be there, I’ll be there.” It’s out of Remus’ mouth before he’s even thought about it. “Only if you want –” he begins, but Sirius is fully looking at him now.

“I do,” Sirius says softly.

Remus nods. May God have mercy on us all.

***

They dance around the subject of sleeping arrangements when Sirius, clearly exhausted, needs to sleep, even before dinner. They are sitting on the sofa, Remus’ work abandoned for a novel, Sirius reading beside him, but the book keeps lowering as Sirius continues to fight sleep.

“You can go take a nap, you know,” Remus finally says softly. He takes the book out of Sirius’ hands and puts it on the table next to him.

“’S’kay, Moony,” Sirius says, opening his eyes again.

“I made up the guest bedroom,” Remus says. “My old bedroom is now a study, and I took the main bedroom, but there’s.” An extra, he thinks.

Sirius looks at him for a moment too long, then nods.

“I thought my bedroom would be too much,” Remus says, spilling all his secrets.

“I don’t want to be alone,” Sirius says quickly, and Remus thinks at least he’s not the only one telling secrets.

Remus nods. “You know where it is,” he says softly, and Sirius also nods, though he doesn’t make a move to rise from the sofa.

It takes him a moment of anxiety, of overthinking, before Remus stands and offers a hand to Sirius. “Come,” he says, and Sirius takes his hand, his long fingers threading through Remus’. Remus pulls them up the stairs and to the landing, turning right into his bedroom. The afternoon sunlight is streaming in and Remus goes to the curtains, closing them, before turning back to the bed. He goes to his side, pulling off his socks and shirt, leaving him in his vest and soft summer trousers. He grabs a quilt from a nearby chair for them to use on top of the duvet and turns to face the bed, only to find Sirius staring at his sternum.

“Sirius?” he asks softly, suddenly unsure. Sirius is still standing on the other side of the bed, looking at Remus’ chest. Remus has picked up on the increased rate of Sirius’ breathing.

Remus looks down at himself; he’s hardly in much of a state of undress, surely nothing that could be considered improper or even unusual, especially for two 35-year-old men who were dorm mates during their school lives and lovers afterwards. Then he realizes that as he undressed, the chain he wears around his neck and the item on it must have come lose and are clearly visible. “Oh,” he says softly, reaching a hand up to finger the item a little absently. It's his mother’s wedding ring. Sirius had had it engraved with her birthdate and put on a magically unbreakable golden chain for Remus’ 20th birthday. He has worn it constantly ever since.

“When did you put it back on?” Sirius asks, his voice soft and a little disbelieving.

“I’ve never taken it off,” Remus answers truthfully.

“It was your mother’s,” Sirius says, standing remarkably still.

“It was a gift from you,” Remus says gently. “And one whose meaning I knew,” he adds.

Remus watches the tears come to Sirius’ eyes. “For fifteen years?” Sirius asks.

“For fifteen years. And another fifteen years. And another. For the entirety of my life,” Remus continues. He climbs on the bed and opens his arms and then Sirius is there, too, burying his tears in Remus’ neck. Neither of them speaks for a long time, until Sirius brings his head up and kisses Remus again, this time mouth open. There’s not much heat in it, but it is searching, and Remus opens underneath him, trying to give the answers he knows Sirius is searching for.

When Sirius pulls back, Remus cups his face in his hands. “Sleep now, yes?” Remus asks, and Sirius nods. Remus doesn’t let go, however, allowing Sirius to fall asleep half on top of him, listening, Remus knows, to his heartbeat. Remus manages to stay awake long after Sirius is asleep, but eventually his eyelids grow heavy, and he, too, slips away from the world.

***

Remus still wakes first, and is debating whether to get up, fix them some dinner, thinking it’s actually best for him to stay where he is, when Sirius wakes with a start.

“You’re here, at my house in Wales. It’s alright,” Remus murmurs and Sirius relaxes fractionally. “Hungry?” he asks, and he feels Sirius shake his head. It makes Remus frown.

“You need to eat,” Remus says, and Sirius sighs a bit against him.

“Too comfortable,” Sirius murmurs, and this appeases Remus for a few more minutes.

Finally, Remus sighs, feeling Sirius’ head on his chest rise and fall with it. “I have leftover stew. It’s not much, but there’s good bread to go with it.”

This time, it’s Sirius who sighs. “You’re going to make me get up, aren’t you, Moony?”

Remus smiles a bit. “I am. We can come back.”

“Only if you promise,” Sirius says.

“I promise,” Remus says, meaning it, and he and Sirius both sit and swing their legs over the sides of the bed.

***

Stuffed with stew and bread, they make it back to Remus’ bed, and this time they huddle under the duvet with the telly running in the background.

“I can’t believe you have a telly,” Sirius murmurs, sounding amused.

“It was my parents’,” Remus answers. “Not exactly the newest or top of the line.”

“Do we have to get up to change the channels?” Sirius teases, and it’s so close to himself, to the Sirius Remus knew, that Remus has to blink back tears.

“It’s new enough to have a remote, let’s leave it at that,” Remus manages.

They lay half-entwined on the bed, partly watching a black and white movie that Remus is barely following, as he’s caught up more in the fact that Sirius is here and close. He is so caught up in his own thoughts that it catches him by surprise when Sirius gently uses his fingers to pull Remus’ face towards him, kissing him again.

This time, there is heat behind it, and Remus feels himself respond, opening his mouth to allow Sirius’ lush tongue to slip along his, for Sirius to pull back and tilt Remus’ head with the hand cupping his face. Sirius tastes like bread and butter and stew and toothpaste, and Remus shudders involuntarily.

Sirius pulls back, and it makes Remus both frustrated and teary. “I know it’s been less than a day,” he says.

“It’s been a year,” Remus answers. “And twelve more before that.”

Oh,” Sirius says. He looks down. “I’m not even sure I can still.” He pauses. “And you owe me nothing and I must look,” he adds. “But I want –”

“I want nothing more or less than you,” Remus says, knowing it’s true. “Come here,” he says, pulling off his shirt and vest, letting the ring hit back and forth along his breastbone. He pushes down the duvet.

Sirius follows the movement, and Remus unbuttons his shirt, pulling it from Sirius’ shoulders. Sirius is gaunt, and his ribs are showing. There are tattoos he didn’t have before, runes and, Remus notes, the phases of the moon, the phase they are in now showing up inky black on Sirius’ pale white skin. They have to be magical.

“You’re beautiful,” Remus murmurs, shushing Sirius as he shakes his head, protesting.

“Remus,” he starts.

“Then I will simply have to make you feel beautiful,” Remus says, applying his mouth to the task, mouthing gently at the moon tattoos until he feels Sirius shiver underneath him. Remus rises at that, taking Sirius’ mouth again, and Sirius pushes back, long and hot. Remus can feel his own co*ck start to stir and fill inside of his pants, but he leaves it alone for now, choosing instead to kiss along the evening stubble of Sirius’ jaw.

They end up lying down, facing each other on the bed. Remus takes his time kissing Sirius, as if he hasn’t ever done this before, and maybe he hasn’t, not with this Sirius, who bites his lower lip with just enough pressure when they part to change angles, who kisses him like Remus is the best thing he’s ever tasted. It’s both shockingly familiar and wholly new and the feel of it is going straight to Remus’ co*ck, his body once again betraying what he thinks is his rational mind.

Finally, Remus rolls them until he’s straddling Sirius, looking down at him with his hands on each side of the pillow. Sirius’ hair is spread in a mess underneath him and there’s a flush on his cheeks that spreads down his neck. Remus can feel beneath him that Sirius isn’t completely disinterested in the process, and he grinds down, causing both of them to gasp.

“What do you want, Padfoot?” Remus says softly, grinding again for his own pleasure, deliberately using the name.

Sirius’ eyes have closed, and it’s taking him a bit to respond. Remus waits, leaning down to press kisses along Sirius’ collarbone.

Sirius’ eyes finally open, a sharp, slate grey, pupils blown wide with desire. “You. Like this. But me inside you,” he finally manages, taking in a sharp breath.

Remus shivers at the thought. “Perfect,” he says. He leans down again to kiss Sirius, who surges up, suddenly hungry, as if giving voice to what he wants has given him new purpose. Remus breaks the kiss and moves off of Sirius long enough to take off his trousers and pants, leaving him completely naked. Sirius stares openly enough to make Remus blush.

“I –” Remus starts, unsure of what is going to come out. Am older. Have more scars. Not all the years have been kind to me. Feel more nervous than I did at seventeen.

“You,” Sirius starts, sitting up and running a hand over Remus’ cheek, down his jaw, then further down his neck, his shoulder, his arm. Sirius starts again at Remus’ other cheek, again tracing his jaw, his neck, then down his chest, moving sideways to crest a hipbone. Remus closes his eyes, opens them again when he hears Sirius’ voice.

“You. I never thought I’d see you again, much less talk to you again, much less spend time with you again, much less be with you again.” He stops. “You’re too good for me,” he finishes.

Remus blinks, moves forward quickly, capturing Sirius’ mouth again, bringing his hands to Sirius’ face. “Good, good, Padfoot, it’s not about being good, and if it was you are so good –”

Sirius looks down. “I am angry, and temperamental, and too quick to hurt people, and cruel, and I –”

Remus places his palm over Sirius’ heart. He can feel it beating wildly in Sirius’ chest. “In here, you are good. In that massive brain, yes, things go wrong, but here.”

“I never thought you were the optimist, Moony, or ever naïve.”

“I’m neither. I’ve just lived long enough, survived long enough, to know,” Remus says, spreading his fingers across Sirius’ chest a little. He’s aware he’s still naked, and rock hard, but this, this, Sirius has to know.

Sirius brings one hand up to cover Remus’ on his chest. “That I know something about, too,” he says.

“So believe me, and trust me, that I have seen your heart, Sirius Black, and I know what is in it.”

“You, you’re in it,” Sirius replies immediately.

“Oh, god, I know, or I wouldn’t have carried you in mine, even when you were long lost to me, to the world,” Remus says, and Sirius leans forward and kisses him again.

“Did you really? All this time?”

“If that’s not achingly clear, Sirius,” Remus starts, but he stops when Sirius smiles.

“Since at least a year ago,” Sirius says. “And this afternoon, and now.”

Remus pulls a breath, well aware his hand hasn’t moved, but Sirius’ is now, those long fingers running the length of his co*ck, from the base to the tip, and Remus pulls another breath, as if he’s drowning, and he thinks he very well may be.

“You’ve always been so gorgeous, and you have the prettiest co*ck,” Sirius says in a way that would have been matter-of-fact if it hadn’t been so breathless.

Remus huffs a little bit of a laugh, but shivers when Sirius touches him again, retracing his path along Remus’ co*ck.

“No being modest, Remus,” Sirius warns, running his thumb over Remus’ slit.

“Wouldn’t think of it,” Remus says, and this time it’s Sirius who huffs a laugh.

“Liar,” Sirius says, but it’s light, and teasing, and Remus sees another glimpse of the young man Sirius once was and he bites his lip, half to keep from moaning and half to keep from coming right there from the thought. He starts in on Sirius’ trousers and pants to distract himself, a poor diversionary tactic, it turns out, since Sirius helps him by pulling the trousers and pants down and kicking them off, and then Sirius is naked, too, his very interested co*ck curled upwards from its nest of dark curls, flushed and heavy. Remus bites down on his lower lip hard enough to draw blood. He watches’ Sirius’ co*ck grow even fuller just under his gaze, and he looks up to see Sirius looking at him intently.

“Moony,” Sirius breathes, and Remus moves his hand, bringing it down to palm Sirius’ co*ck and it twitches in his hand, and Sirius’ breath speeds up.

“I might not,” Sirius says, and Remus smiles, continuing to hold Sirius in his palm.

“Then we will get to see what your refractory period is like,” Remus whispers.

Sirius half-laughs. “That should not have sounded as hot as it did.”

Remus smiles. “How’s this then? I’m going to keep you in my hand, for a little while, just because I like the feel of it. I would love to take you in my mouth, to take you down my throat, to have you f*ck my mouth, but I wouldn’t let you go until you did come for me then, and while I want that to happen, and soon, I may save that for tomorrow. Or just later. Because more than anything, I want you, as you said, inside of me, and you will come inside of me, either after you come over my hand or, if you can manage to hold out, only inside of me. If you can’t manage to hold off, then I will stroke, lick and suck you back into hardness, because your brilliant mind always has brilliant ideas, and I liked that first one quite a bit. How does that sound, Padfoot?”

Sirius makes a noise in his throat that could only be classified as a whine, and Remus smiles.

“I’ll take that as a yes,” Remus says, staying true to his word, using the precome that’s leaking out of Sirius’ co*ck to slick his hand, gently closing his fingers around Sirius’ co*ck and pumping him up and down slowly. Sirius keens again and shifts his hips, but Remus is a bit mesmerized now, watching his hand move, watching various sections of Sirius’ co*ck be hidden and then revealed by his fist, feeling Sirius only grow heavier, the flesh in his hand already almost feverishly hot. He’s not at all surprised when Sirius whines from his throat again and comes, spurting long, thick strips of come over Remus’ hand, Sirius’ stomach and chest, and the bed, where they have settled on their knees. Remus strokes Sirius through his org*sm, still watching his hand, until Sirius’ co*ck stops twitching in his palm.

He looks up to see Sirius’ face – mouth open, eyes open, those grey eyes a little fuzzy around the edges but as sharp as ever. Sirius’ chest is heaving, and Remus quickly casts a wandless cleaning charm, surging forward to capture Sirius’ open mouth in a kiss. Sirius kisses back hard, hard enough to bruise, and Remus takes it, lets Sirius take control for a moment, before taking hold of Sirius’ hips and maneuvering him onto his back. Remus leans over him, the ring on the chain swinging between them.

Remus licks a path up Sirius’ neck, catching a bead of sweat and following it back up to its source, the hair tucked behind Sirius’ ear. He takes Sirius’ ear lobe in his mouth for a moment and sucks gently, before moving his mouth up, breathing hotly in Sirius’ ear. “Have another one in you, darling?”

He feels more than sees Sirius shake his head a bit, before Sirius manages to breathe out, “Don’t know.”

Remus smiles against the shell of Sirius’ ear and feels Sirius shiver. “Let find out, shall we?” he asks before moving away, kissing along Sirius’ jaw.

He pulls back a little bit, considering, when he hears Sirius say, “Moony. You haven’t.”

Remus shakes his head, smiling again. He moves so that he’s straddling Sirius again, and looks down at Sirius, who looks already looks completely, utterly wrecked. It’s so amazingly hot that Remus closes his eyes and takes himself in his hand and pumps himself a few times, just to try to get some friction, to relieve some of the pressure. Sirius swallows hard, and Remus knows he’s watching.

“I’m doing quite well,” Remus finally replies, letting go of his own co*ck to consider Sirius underneath him. He grinds down, rubbing his hard co*ck against Sirius’ comparably soft one, and gasps in satisfaction at the feel of it.

“Remus. Moony. Let me,” Sirius chokes out, but Remus shakes his head. He’s dizzy with it, with how in control he feels in these moments, how much he wants nothing but Sirius’ pleasure, more than he wants his own, wants to make Sirius feel again, be close to him again.

Remus moves his hips again, first in slow, teasing circles and then back and forth, thrusting gently against Sirius – his stomach, his thigh, his co*ck. A little to Remus’ surprise, he can feel Sirius beginning to harden again already, and he gets a hand between them, stroking a few times. He stops before Sirius can get fully hard, and Sirius moans at the loss of contact before Remus carefully and deliberately shifts again until he’s literally sitting on Sirius, Sirius’ co*ck against the cleft of his arse. Sirius stiffens immediately and shifts his hips, and Remus grins.

“Ah, there you are,” Remus says, shifting again, unable to help a groan himself.

“Moony, I,” Sirius says, and Remus opens his eyes. Sirius is wide and wild eyed, looking up at him. His hands find Remus’ hips and he pulls down, letting Remus’ arse trap his co*ck, and they both moan again.

Remus lifts himself a bit, going on his knees, and Sirius pants, watching him.

“I’m going to prep myself now,” Remus says, going for a neutral tone, but his breath is giving him away, making him sound slightly winded.

“Moony, I,” Sirius says again, but Remus shakes his head.

“I want you to watch, darling. You can touch me only when you’re inside me,” he says, and from this angle he watches Sirius’ co*ck fill just a little more, hears Sirius’ breath get even more ragged.

Remus mutters the charm, gasping at the sudden feeling of wet and slick inside of him. He mutters it again, this time in order to coat his fingers. He carefully reaches down with his hand and finds his opening, working himself with one finger slowly before sliding that finger inside. He lets his head drop at the feeling, though it’s not nearly enough, not nearly full enough. Still, he moves that finger in and out slowly, and hears Sirius’ breathing pick up underneath him. He adds another finger, gently swirling and scissoring and opening himself. He knows he needs more than this, more than two fingers if he’s going to take Sirius, and the thought of taking Sirius makes his co*ck jump. Sirius must notice it because he moans again, and Remus has to stop, two fingers deep inside of himself, before he comes himself. Eventually, slowly, he pushes in a third finger, and the stretch is so good he moans, and he’s so slick and wet inside. He shifts his hips back and forth on his hand and Sirius says, underneath him, ”Moony,” and Remus suddenly isn’t sure how long either one of them is going to last anymore. He pulls his fingers out and sifts, bracing himself on the bed on either side of Sirius.

He opens his eyes to find Sirius watching him intently, eyes blown wide with want, cheekbones flushed.

God, Padfoot,” he manages. “I can’t,” he chokes out, and Sirius nods.

Please,” Sirius says.

Remus merely nods, also whispering the lychanthropic contraceptive charm. He has no idea if he still cycles anymore; males never do on a regular schedule anyway, and his ability may be lost to age and time, but there’s no need to take a chance if he doesn’t have to take one. If Sirius notices it he doesn’t say, and Remus takes Sirius’ co*ck in his hand, guiding it. Remus is slick enough from the charm that the head of Sirius’ co*ck breaching him causes him to stretch, but it isn’t painful.

He pauses for a moment, adjusting, before sinking slowly onto Sirius’ co*ck. The adjustment should take longer but Remus is so turned on he’s become impatient, so while it takes him a bit to fully sheath Sirius inside of him, he does it faster than he probably should, and it burns, but he’s so glad it does, so f*cking glad it does, because the burn means here and now and Sirius. He stills for a moment, opening his eyes and looking down again. Sirius’ mouth is open, lips parted, and he’s looking at Remus with something akin to awe, as if he’s the whole world right now, and Remus thinks it’s good, that maybe he is.

Remus begins to rock his hips back and forth, and it’s everything and it’s Sirius and it’s not enough, so soon he pulls himself up and comes back down, hard, and he moans at the feel of it, of Sirius completely inside of him. Sirius’ hips move and he thrusts up as much as he can, and Remus begins to move up and down.

They find a pace quickly, and Remus is lost in how full he feels until Sirius chokes out, “Moony, please, touch, let me.” Remus nods and then Sirius gets a hand between them, still thrusting up to meet Remus, and Sirius’ long fingers are wrapped around Remus’ co*ck and Remus could cry from the feeling, from Sirius inside him and around him.

“Oh, god, Padfoot,” he manages, and then he goes quiet, the only sounds in the room their harsh breathing and the sound of their bodies meeting. Remus throws his head back and then forward, using his hands to brace himself on the bed, finding Sirius’ mouth with his own and then capturing it, Sirius kissing back, all tongue, and that, that is what does it for Remus, Sirius’ tongue in his mouth, Sirius’ hand around him, Sirius’ co*ck inside of him, and Remus comes hard, shuddering. Sirius thrusts once more and then follows him. They continue to kiss, sloppier now, made a little more careless by their org*sms.

Remus finally pulls off Sirius’ mouth to draw much needed breath. Sirius’ chest is heaving underneath him. Remus remains still, luxuriating in the feel of Sirius inside of him until Sirius grows soft enough to slip out. When he does, Remus moves off of Sirius, his legs still shaky, coming to rest on his back on the bed long enough to cast cleaning charms on himself, Sirius, and the bedding before curling into Sirius’ side. He reaches down and pulls the duvet back up over them.

This time he’s the one to fall asleep to a heartbeat, Sirius’ strong and sure underneath his ear.

***

Remus is surprised to find Sirius awake before him in the morning, rolling from where he’s held close in Sirius’ arms to face him.

“Morning,” Remus manages, yawing.

Sirius’ answering smile is slightly shy. “Morning, Moony.”

Remus regards him even through the fading haze of sleep. “No trying to take anything back,” he warns, knowing he’s more than right when Sirius sighs.

“I can’t guess for you, but I know I’ve been so lone—”

Remus uses his palm on Sirius’ mouth to halt whatever might come out of it next. “I’m supposed to be the overthinker, here, remember? I’m a grown man, I know what I was doing. I know what it meant. If you’re not sure, if you don’t feel the same –” Remus is stopped by Sirius’ tongue reaching out to swipe his palm, and he pulls it back, laughing, Sirius laughing with him.

They dissolve into helpless laughter for a couple of minutes, and then Sirius says, “Don’t ever think I’m not sure, don’t ever think I don’t feel about you. How I’ve always felt about you, still. Now. Always.”

Remus nods. They haven’t used the word yet, but he knows they will, and in the meantime, they don’t really need to. Sirius leans in to kiss him, and that’s sweet enough all on its own.

***

The next few days are idyllic in a way that Remus knows won’t last. They eat when they are hungry, have sex often, and spend long hours together, Remus working or reading, Sirius reading, even watching telly together, curled up on Remus’ bed, until even Sirius can mostly follow a football match.

It ends in early July, when Dumbledore summons them to 12 Grimmauld Place. They each pack, Sirius a bag of new clothes and toiletries, Remus a few boxes of clothing, books and other personal items. They kiss as they depart, Remus to apparate in a few hops to Diagon Alley, where he will take a room for a couple of nights at The Leaky Cauldron until meeting Sirius at Grimmauld Place. Sirius is taking Buckbeak, a risky route that will take him longer. It worries Remus, but Sirius has been getting around on Buckbeak for over a year and refuses to leave the Hippogriff behind.

Remus has just finished locking up the house, and Sirius is standing in the overgrown front garden, when Remus turns from the front door to hear Sirius say, quietly, “I love you, Moony.”

Something unfurls in Remus’ chest, and he steps forward, kissing Sirius again. “I love you, Sirius. Be safe.”

Sirius throws him a tight, if genuine, smile, before walking out of the garden in search of Buckbeak. Remus walks far enough outside of the protective spells to apparate, his first stop a narrow alleyway in Cardiff.

***

Remus thinks he was ready for Grimmauld Place, only to be proven dead wrong. He is not ready for the mounted house elf heads, or the appalling state of the townhouse, now a moldering pit of decay, or for the portrait of Walburga Black, who screams so loudly at him when he enters he thinks for a few horrifying moments she might actually claw her way out of the portrait to continue to scream, “Dark Creature! Dark Creature!” at him, until she turns to Sirius and starts screaming even louder, “Abomination! The broken and charred remains of my flesh! How dare you enter the house of my fathers again! Shame of my flesh!” and Remus becomes so determined to shut her up, to stop the blood draining from Sirius’ face, that he wrenches the curtain around her portrait closed by himself, Sirius remaining breathing heavily and sheet white in the entryway. Dumbledore merely sighs and heads to the kitchen, and Remus feels the closest he’s ever come to fury in Dumbledore’s presence.

Sirius and Remus spend the rest of the day cleaning the kitchen as much as possible in order to make it serviceable for an Order meeting later that evening. Kreacher had appeared the second they entered the kitchen, but Sirius had ordered him off to polish his mother’s jewelry, and Kreacher hadn’t been able to disobey. They manage to clear off and clean the table and start a fire in the grate, which Remus thinks they wouldn’t usually need in July, but the house is bone-chillingly cold, and Remus strongly suspects not all of that is related to any actual weather. Sirius installs Buckbeak in his mother’s old room, out of spite, Remus knows, but he doesn’t disagree. They manage to find a room suitable for their own use, a large one on the third floor with a fireplace and bookshelves along one wall, and a big bed with heavy green bedding and drapery. They change the bedding and clean the sheets and blankets as best they can with magic, which works quite well. Remus changes the drapery from green to Gryffindor red and starts another fire.

If Dumbledore realizes they made up one bedroom instead of two, he does not mention it.

They perform the Fidelius Charm that afternoon, and Dumbledore takes on the role of Secret Keeper. Remus privately wonders if it’s even necessary, with how heavily spelled he can feel the house is already, and he can also feel it already bowing to Sirius’ will.

One by one, at the appointed time after dinner (curry take away from down the street for Remus and Sirius, and god only knows what Dumbledore ate, if anything), Order members begin to arrive on the street outside Grimmauld Place, brought by Dumbledore and handed the address. Remus and Sirius wait in the entryway for each visitor, more to keep Walburga Black quiet than to actually welcome anyone in any formal way. Half the time the visitors wake Walburga anyway, and it takes both of them to wrestle the curtains closed again. After Andromeda and Ted Tonks’ daughter, Nymphadora, or Tonks, as she wants to be called, arrives and turns over the coat rack lurking in a corner it takes a full five minutes for Remus and Sirius to close the curtain, Sirius’ hands going increasingly slack under the onslaught of Mrs. Black’s attention. Shame of my flesh was just her opening line, Remus learns, and he is glad that Tonks is well down the hall by the time she starts in on the hom*osexual slurs and the impurity of men lying with other men.

Dumbledore gestures them toward the kitchen once they all arrive, and as Remus enters and takes a seat, he realizes they are more than a bit of a motley crew. There are the Weasleys, Molly and Arthur; Alastor Moody, Tonks, and Kingsley Shacklebolt; Arabella Figg; Mundungus Fletcher; Severus Snape; Minerva McGonagall; and the two of them. Molly has already started in on the state of the house. It’s not unimportant, especially if it’s to be habitable, by himself and Sirius and by, whom Remus is sure Sirius is thinking of, Harry.

“Let me come and help,” Molly is saying to Moody, who seems to be nodding. “I can even bring the children. Many hands make light work,” she says, and Arthur nods.

“Do you really think this house is suitable for children?” Sirius asks, taking a seat. The ones next to him are already taken, so Remus sits on the bench seat next to Shacklebolt, a couple of seats across from Sirius.

“Not as it is now,” Molly continues. “But after a few days –”

Sirius grimaces.

“If you want Harry to come, it will have to be,” Remus says softly. Sirius looks at him briefly and then away quickly, nodding once.

“Molly, that may be quite an imposition for your family,” Dumbledore starts, but Molly is already shaking her head.

“It’ll be no imposition. We can begin to get the place in order, fix up rooms, give Harry and his friends a place to stay. If Ron is here, and Harry, Hermione will want to be as well,” Molly says, and Remus doesn’t argue. Neither, he notes, does Sirius.

“So be it,” Dumbledore says. “We don’t have much time until term starts, and Mr. Potter.” Dumbledore stops and looks, to Remus’ surprise, to Mrs. Figg.

“Harry has been staying close to his aunt and uncle’s,” she says softly, and Remus looks up.

Dumbledore catches Remus’ expression. “Mrs. Figg is Harry’s neighbor on Privet Drive. Has been since, well.”

“Since you dropped him off with those Muggles,” Minerva says archly enough that Remus fights down the urge to raise his eyebrows.

“Indeed,” Dumbledore says. “As long as he’s keeping his head down.”

“He is,” Mrs. Figg says. “His aunt and uncle, they, well. They keep him close to home in any case.”

“Don’t want him to out himself as magical to their nosy neighbors,” Sirius says, shifting in his seat, and Remus agrees.

“Have you heard from him?” Molly asks Sirius directly.

“A bit,” Sirius says cautiously, and Remus knows it’s true. Sirius has wanted to write more, to tell Harry more, over the last couple of weeks, but he’s been keeping quiet, under Dumbledore’s direction. “He’s. I think he’s struggling,” Sirius says at last.

“Of course he is, poor dear,” Molly says, and Remus sees Sirius stiffen. Remus knows Molly cares deeply for Harry, but he isn’t sure that Molly knows how deeply Sirius cares for Harry.

“I know that, Molly,” Sirius starts, before Dumbledore quickly intervenes.

“Of course, Mr. Potter’s safety is one of our first priorities,” Dumbledore says smoothly. Remus catches Snape, of all people, snort a bit, and that is enough to raise Remus’ eyebrows.

Dumbledore ignores this. “We’ve had no word of Voldemort,” he says bluntly. “The Ministry –“

“Is intent on denying his return,” Moody interjects, and Tonks, Kingsley and Arthur all look uncomfortable.

“Why?” Remus asks. “What do they have to gain?”

“Giving the public a false sense of security,” Moody answers. “As long as the public continues to believe Voldemort was defeated in 1981, Minister Fudge –”

“Can continue his term uninterrupted,” Snape finishes.

Remus sighs. “That path will only lead to disaster,” he says, and he catches Sirius’ eye.

It’s Kingsley Shacklebolt who inclines his head. “Of course,” he says. “But Fudge is too short-sighted at the moment to see that.”

“So what do we do in the meantime?” Sirius asks.

“We set up the Order,” Dumbledore answers. “Moody, Tonks, and Shacklebolt will continue to maintain us much of a presence as they can at the Ministry and gather information. Professors Snape and McGonagall will continue their work at Hogwarts, looking toward the safety of Mr. Potter, his friends, and all the students once the term starts. Mrs. Figg will continue her post, and Mr. Mundungus will see what information he can gather on the black market. Arthur will try to gather allies at the Ministry in other departments, and Molly will help here at Grimmauld Place, at least until the start of term. Mr. Black will stay here –”

Remus sees Sirius open his mouth to argue.

“Sirius, in the eyes of the Ministry, the Aurors, and the public, you are a wanted man who is still every bit as guilty of the crimes you are thought to have committed as you were when you went to Azkaban,” Dumbledore says bluntly.

Remus winces and sees two spots of color start to show up on Sirius’ cheeks.

“And even if that were not true, Fidelius Charm or no charm, I am not sure this house will hold up to others if you are not in it.”

“Everyone here is clear that he is in it because he is innocent, because Peter Pettigrew,” Remus starts, a little loudly.

“They are,” Dumbledore says, much more quietly, and Remus is relieved to see the heads around the table nod, including Molly Weasley’s and Snape’s.

But Sirius has already bowed his head, and Remus doesn’t like that, not one bit.

“Mr. Lupin, you are to help where necessary, both here at Grimmauld, and I, believe, in the field.”

“In the field?” Remus asks, and at that, Sirius’ head comes up again.

Dumbledore and Moody exchange a glance Remus doesn’t miss. “For now, you are the only one of us capable enough in Defense to deploy in the field who doesn’t already have another assignment.”

“Because I don’t hold a steady job, or have a family,” Remus says.

“Remus,” Dumbledore starts.

“It’s fine,” Remus says, not wanting to get into it at the moment.

“It’s not fine,” Sirius counters, but he subsides when he catches the subtle shake of Remus’ head.

Snape clears his throat. “There’s also the matter of the prophecy,” he says, and Remus looks at Dumbledore, whose face hasn’t outwardly changed, but who still manages to look unhappy at the change in topic.

“The prophecy?” Arthur and Sirius ask at the same time, in two completely different tones. Arthur’s is one of bafflement, and Sirius’ is sharp.

Dumbledore clears his throat. “The prophecy. I believe Voldemort is rather obsessed with it, and I am willing to let him be.”

“The prophecy that James and Lily’s son would be the one who would have to defeat him?” Sirius asks, loudly.

Molly gasps.

“The prophecy made to me in the winter of 1980, yes. One that was about the Dark Lord, and one about a boy who would be born at the end of July. A boy, yes, that Voldemort ended up marking as Harry Potter.”

Remus blinks. He hadn’t known about any such prophecy, but apparently Sirius had. Which probably meant that James had. But they hadn’t told him. He suddenly feels the old ache of being distrusted in his chest, but it’s a dull feeling, and one he knows he need not pay attention to anymore.

“Harry doesn’t know about it, does he?” Sirius asks bluntly.

“No,” Dumbledore says.

“He’ll need to be told,” Sirius continues. “He’ll want to know. Why Voldemort is obsessed with him. Why he used him. Why he wanted.” He pauses, swallows. “Why he wanted his parents.”

“He’s a child,” Molly begins.

“He’ll be fifteen, and Voldemort has already come after him at every opportunity,” Sirius starts.

“And where were you?” Molly says, and Remus turns in her direction, his eyes wide.

Sirius stops. They all know where Sirius was.

“Molly,” Arthur says, placing a hand on her arm.

“Harry will want to know,” Sirius repeats. “If we don’t tell him, he’ll seek his own answers.”

Remus hears Snape draw a breath, and briefly wonders if Snape will actually take the same side as Sirius. The two men still haven’t spoken to each other.

Before Snape can speak, Dumbledore steps in. “I think we should table that discussion for now. For now, Mr. Potter does not know about the prophecy, and I am content to let it remain so, at least for the time being.”

“But,” Sirius starts, and Dumbledore is shaking his head.

“Not now. For now, the priority is to see Mr. Potter here, to this house, safely. Molly, Sirius. All of us. I think we can all agree on that.”

Heads around the table nod, including Sirius’. Remus lets out a breath.

***

Remus finds Sirius upstairs in their new room. Sirius had left Remus to see everyone out, and Remus doesn’t blame him. He’d had to make arrangements with Molly for her family, and then for Hermione, who would join them in about a week. Sirius is probably avoiding Molly, and Remus can see why. They are already shaping up to be adversaries – Remus knows Sirius, how deeply he loves Harry and how deeply he feels the things he believes are right, and if Molly Weasley tries to stand in the way of those two things, Remus thinks not much will be of help to her.

Sirius is sitting on the edge of their bed, his head in his hands.

“Everyone’s off,” Remus says lightly, coming to sit beside him.

Sirius hums. “They’ll be back.”

“Hmmm. Yes. At least temporarily. But that will lead to Harry being here,” Remus ventures, and Sirius picks his head up at that. “I know you want that,” he adds.

“I do. The thought of him being with those people.” Sirius sighs.

“He’ll be here soon enough,” Remus says, carding his fingers through Sirius’ hair. Remus had cut it before they had left his parents’ house, but it is still fairly long, brushing Sirius’ shoulders. Sirius leans into the touch, so he does it again. “You didn’t tell me how charming your mother was,” he says, and it makes Sirius bark out a laugh.

“You knew how charming my mother was,” Sirius replies.

“Knowing it and seeing it are two different things,” Remus says, and runs his fingers through Sirius’ hair again.

“At least it’s just her portrait,” Sirius says softly, and Remus’ heart suddenly squeezes in his chest, realizing that for all those years, it was the woman herself.

“She can’t hurt you anymore,” Remus says, more fiercely than he had intended, and Sirius looks at him. This, this house, what Remus is realizing is going to be a second imprisonment for Sirius, makes Remus’ heart break.

“No, she can’t,” Sirius replies softly, and it’s not-quite-a lie but not-quite-the-truth, and there’s nothing Remus can do about it.

Sirius looks at him, and as if reading his thoughts, says, “You can do what you always did, Moony.”

“And what’s that?”

“Love me through it,” Sirius says, and the raw honesty on his face causes Remus’ throat to close.

“Padfoot, always,” Remus says, leaning forward and capturing Sirius’ mouth with his own.

It turns heated quickly, but Sirius pulls away eventually. “Are you trying to distract me with sex?” he asks. He’s not teasing.

“No,” Remus says honestly. He’s really not. It might be a distraction, yes, but he knows Sirius is, in spite of how electric his mind is, rarely distracted.

Sirius raises his eyebrows.

“It’s part of loving you through it,” Remus says. “Just like it will be when you get in a strop and I let you stomp up the stairs; or when you disappear and I find you with a cup of tea; or when you take a nap in the middle of the afternoon just to get away and I crawl into bed next to you. Or when you literally start to burn all of your mother’s remaining letters and I build a fire to make it easier. It all means the same thing.”

Sirius’ mouth has lost the lines around its edges. “Oh,” he says.

“Oh,” Remus says in reply. He stands, coming in front of Sirius. “Yeah, oh,” he repeats, before dropping to his knees.

Sirius takes in a breath but otherwise remains silent as Remus’ fingers work Sirius’ belt buckle. Remus looks up to make sure he has permission and sees that Sirius face is softer, but his cheeks have colored, and Sirius nods just slightly.

At that nod, Remus pulls the belt out of its loops and makes quick work of the button and zip on Sirius’ trousers. Sirius raises up just enough to help Remus pull his trousers and pants down, enough to free Sirius’ rapidly hardening co*ck. Remus takes a deep breath to steady himself and then carefully wraps a hand around the base, feeling Sirius’ co*ck harden even more in his hand. He wets his lips without noticing it, but Sirius does, because Sirius lets out a bit of a whimper at the sight. Remus realizes what he did and smiles, before ducking his head, taking as much of Sirius as he can. Sirius gasps and Remus hums in response, and Remus can feel himself getting very hard, very fast. Sirius’ hands have come to land on the back of his head, and Remus loves the feeling, almost as much as he loves Sirius’ co*ck in his mouth, and he sucks a bit, making Sirius groan. It’s loud in the room and that means it’s loud in the house and Remus thinks good, so he hollows his cheeks and sucks again and when Sirius moans louder, Remus gets so hard he doesn’t think he can stand it. He put the heel of his free hand against his co*ck to add just a bit of pressure, but he doesn’t stop what he’s doing with his mouth, sliding up and down Sirius’ length, which has become increasingly slick with Remus’ own saliva. His mouth is watering, he can’t help it, and it’s messy, but he hears Sirius breathing heavily so he doesn’t care. He doesn’t care that each breath goes directly to his own co*ck or that he pushes through his gag reflex to take even more of Sirius, all he cares about is Sirius’ breath and Sirius moaning and his own co*ck, aching in his pants. Remus hums again and Sirius comes fast and hard with a shout and Remus swallows. Then Remus can’t help it, following in his pants, untouched, moaning a bit himself around Sirius’ co*ck before pulling off.

Sirius is looking down at him, hair stuck to his face a bit, and Remus must be a mess, but he thinks it’s a mess in all the best ways.

“Moony, c’mere,” Sirius pants out.

Remus puts a hand on Sirius’ knee to steady himself, and he stands slowly, knowing he’s already a sticky mess and not minding a bit. Sirius’ hands go to Remus’ own zip but Remus shakes his head.

Sirius’ hands still, and he looks at Remus, confused.

“Already. Already,” Remus manages, and Sirius has the absolute audacity to grin at him.

Remus catches the look and laughs a little. “Shut it,” he says.

“I’m torn between joking that you are too old for that and preening about the fact that you did,” Sirius admits, a grin still on his face.

“It can be both,” Remus answers with as much dignity as possible. The grin is still there and Remus finds it quite lovely.

“Should we see what we can do about making sure the shower is useable?” Sirius asks.

“An excellent practical idea,” Remus agrees, and if Sirius laughs at the way he walks into the bathroom, Remus doesn’t comment.

***

Remus is nearly asleep that night, drifting just on the edges of consciousness, when he hears it, Sirius’ voice, soft, by his ear.

“What can I do to love you through it?”

Remus thinks. “Be Padfoot on the full. Bring me lunch when I forget to eat. Rub my shoulders and my back and my hip when they ache. Make sure we have novels in the house somehow. Wait up for me if I have to leave. Listen when I talk.”

Sirius presses a kiss to the nape of Remus’ neck.

“And worship my co*ck at every available opportunity.”

Sirius barks out a laugh, and Remus is so very glad that Sirius does he smiles.

***

Remus is slightly afraid that the Weasleys alone are going to overwhelm Sirius, but he is pleasantly surprised when they do not. Sirius gives Molly a fairly wide berth, but Remus doesn’t blame him. Molly also has Fred, George, Ron and Ginny in tow, and Remus learns immediately that she had not been kidding about putting the children to work. They all seem quite adept at household work and spells, which, again, shouldn’t surprise Remus but does.

Fred and George, who have turned of age and been granted their apparition licenses are apparating from one part of the house to another. It’s driving their mother mad but Sirius finds it quite amusing, and that doesn’t surprise Remus – if there are kindred spirits to Sirius in this house, it’s Fred and George Weasley, and not because they are troublemakers. They are troublemakers for what Remus has suspected since he taught them are the same reasons Sirius was one: they are too smart for their own good, and the usual wizarding outlets for that intelligence are not a good fit.

Ron is mostly put out that he has been told not to write much of substance to Harry, and Ron shares that particular affliction with Sirius, too. Both are chafing under the restrictions, and Remus, who taught Harry publicly and privately for almost a year, wonders how Harry himself feels about it. He suspects Harry, stuck at the Dursleys after an enormously trying and traumatizing year, might be feeling isolated and lonely. When he says so at Order meetings, backed up by Sirius, his concerns are dismissed by Dumbledore and Molly as unnecessary, as Harry will be with them soon enough. Remus, who has more experience with isolation and loneliness than either of them, and with what happens to young boys who are the subject of it, thinks this is shortsighted. When Hermione comes the last week of July, within days of Harry’s birthday, Remus catches her and Ron conversing in loud whispers they always cut off abruptly when an adult comes around, and Remus doesn’t think he is alone in his thoughts about Harry.

The children are banished upstairs when Dumbledore arrives on the evening of August 2, calling upon Remus, Sirius, Molly and Arthur to join him in the kitchen.

He speaks first to Arthur, and he sounds angry. “Arthur, I will need you to write to Mr. Potter immediately. Inform him he is to stay in the Dursley house while I sort things out with the Ministry, and to not surrender his wand for any reason.”

Remus sees Sirius start to open his mouth, and Dumbledore adds. “Arthur, I want you to do it because you are an employee of the Ministry and Harry may trust you on the matter.”

“What’s happened?” Sirius says sharply. Molly jumps a little, and Remus thinks she must not be paying as much attention as she should.

Dumbledore turns to Sirius. “Mr. Potter was attacked tonight, along with the Dursley boy. Dementors. Mrs. Figg sensed part of it and came to his aid. I fear the Ministry is going to act quickly, jumping on the opportunity that Mr. Potter used underage magic in order to discredit him, and possibly expel him.”

“Dementors?” Remus says, incredulous. “Dementors, around Harry. Around Muggles?” In the corner of his eye, Sirius looks furious. Even Molly has snapped to attention, and Arthur is already scrounging around the kitchen for parchment and a quill.

“You know the effect Dementors have on Harry –” Remus begins.

“Indeed. And thanks to you, he is able to defend himself, which he did admirably tonight. He probably saved his cousin’s life.”

“Not that that will hold much sway with his family,” Sirius says darkly. Remus looks at him and tilts his head in acknowledgement.

“His family is the least of my worries,” Dumbledore says, and if that doesn’t sum up Dumbledore’s priorities, Remus doesn’t know what does. “I am going to personally sort this out with the Ministry. Mr. Potter needs to calm down and stay put for now. As soon as I can get the matter somewhat settled, we will need to sort out a plan to bring him here. I no longer trust he is safe outside the scope of the protection we can provide.”

Remus sees Sirius nod, and the other adults must be in silent agreement, because no one says anything for a moment, Arthur’s frantic writing the only sound in the room.

“Mundungus Fletcher was supposed to be on duty for him tonight,” Molly finally says as Arthur summons Pidgewigeon and starts tying the note to the owl.

“And he left his post to try to work out a shady business deal,” Dumbledore answers, and Sirius swears. Molly looks just ready to protest, but Dumbledore shakes his head. “I must be off to the Ministry. I’ll have to speak to Cornelius personally.”

“He had better see reason,” Sirius says, and Remus nods. So does Dumbledore.

“I’ll see to it,” Dumbledore says, as Arthur sends the owl. “I shall return with news. In the meantime, know we will be bringing Harry here as soon as possible.”

Remus sees Sirius nod, and so does he. While he suspects they both wish the circ*mstances were better, Remus also thinks there’s nothing else they both think should have been the priority from the start.

Dumbledore leaves, and Sirius turns from the room, heading up the stairs.

***

Remus finds Sirius in the upstairs sitting room. There seem to be endless rooms like this in the house: sitting rooms, parlors, drawing rooms. What the people here did in them and with all of them, Remus still has yet to figure out. He’s carrying two cups of tea, and he sets one on a round table near Sirius’ elbow before perching on the seat of his armchair on the other side. Sirius looked up when he came in but didn’t speak.

“Harry’s fine for now,” Remus starts. “Dumbledore managed to argue Fudge into suspending an expulsion from Hogwarts, but Harry has to face a disciplinary hearing on August 12.”

Sirius is still silent.

“We’ll be collecting him from the Dursleys prior to that, probably in a couple of days. I’ll make sure I’m part of the party who goes.” Remus pauses. “I want to, and you can’t, and I may be the only Order member willing to go whom Harry would recognize.”

“Because I can’t go,” Sirius finally says.

“No,” Remus agrees slowly.

Sirius’ hasn’t touched his tea. “He should have been here.”

“I don’t disagree.”

“Why we waited –“

“We will never bring this place up to fire code, so,” Remus says mildly, taking a sip of tea.

“Fire code?” Sirius asks, and Remus smiles a bit.

“Never mind. You’re right. He should have been here. For a while now. Certainly since you’ve been here. It’s what he would have wanted. It’s what you have wanted.”

Sirius glares at an area of the rug.

“I’m going to go get him, Padfoot. I’m going to go get that boy. For him, and for you.”

Sirius has to look up at him because of where Remus is sitting. “f*cking blood protection.”

Remus gestures with his mug. “Also not wrong.”

“How am I supposed to fight with you when you are agreeing with me?” Sirius finally says after a moment of silence. Remus watches his mouth twitch at the side.

“I’ll let you fight with me some other time when you need to redirect your anger.”

Sirius lets loose a startled laugh. “Do you want me to worship your co*ck this time instead?” he asks, and now it’s Remus’ turn to laugh.

“Couldn’t hurt,” he says, and Sirius laughs again.

***

Sirius’ hand on his arm stops Remus from where he’s walking toward the entryway of Grimmauld Place. The members of the Order who are assembling to go get Harry from Privet Drive are on their way out, with Molly, Arthur and Sirius staying behind. Remus is trailing Moody when Sirius catches up with him. He lets the others continue to go ahead and turns around, finds Sirius’ face serious, those grey eyes searching his face for a moment. Sirius reaches out and straightens Remus’ collar.

“Be careful, Moony,” Sirius offers, dropping his hand.

“I will.” He doesn’t say it should be simple enough, because they both know that nothing is ever that simple. “I love you,” he adds.

“Love you, Moony,” Sirius answers, leaning forward to kiss Remus briefly but soundly.

There’s a crash in the entryway, and Walburga’s portrait starts screaming. “Your mother betrayed this family –”

Remus sighs and Sirius shakes his head. “She’s an Auror,” Sirius says.

“I think she failed the stealth part of the exam,” Remus answers, and they both move toward the door in order to wrestle the curtain back into place.

***

Privet Drive is exactly as quiet as Remus had expected it to be in the middle of the night in a suburb. There are no lights on in the Dursley house and almost none on in the street at all. Mrs. Figg’s sitting room light is on, and Remus is certain she’s watching. The Order had lured the Dursleys out with some excuse; Remus didn’t pay attention to the details. He was certain it was a matter of little importance in the real world that would matter a great deal in the Dursley’s world.

The small rescue party enters the house through the kitchen. It was easy enough to gain entry through magic, even though the door was locked. Every member is inside when Tonks manages to knock over a plate from the kitchen table as she stumbles in the dark. Remus winces.

Remus represses a sigh, hearing Sirius’ voice in his ear. She’s an Auror. Tonks starts to apologize but Moody cuts her off sharply – bad enough she’d made an enormous noise, they were now bloody talking, damnit, he says, and Remus doesn’t fault him. Remus knows Moody is fond of Tonks; it is hard not to be, with her friendly personality, and Moody is her mentor, but Remus privately thinks that maybe he needs to focus a bit on some of the skills she is lacking in.

Moody goes slightly ahead, aiming his wand, unlocking every locked door in the house. No one has previously been here and knows which room is Harry’s. Unlocking them all seems like the fastest way. Remus more than half-suspects that the Dursleys have locked Harry in rather than Harry locking himself in for privacy. As Remus joins them in the hallway below the stairs, he becomes enormously aware of the light coming in through the streetlight glowing through the glass door. He looks up when he senses more than sees motion. There is now a figure standing at the head of the stairs.

Harry.

“Lower your wand, boy, before you take someone’s eye out,” Moody growls.

“Professor Moody?” Harry says.

He sounds uncertain to Remus, and Remus remembers why, exactly, he’d call Moody Professor, and why he has reason to sound frightened. Remus swallows hard, noting how tall Harry has gotten.

“I don’t know so much about ‘Professor,’” Moody growls again. “Never got round to much teaching did I? Get down here, we want to see you properly.”

But Harry doesn’t move, not even to lower his wand completely, and Remus’ heart squeezes a bit in his chest.

“It’s alright, Harry. We’ve come to take you away,” Remus calls, just loudly enough to be heard. His voice is still horse from the full moon three days ago. Now that he is working with the Order Dumbledore has Snape brewing Wolfsbane for him again, but he still has to transform, and the effects of that take a toll even, and maybe especially, after all of these years.

“P-Professor Lupin?” Harry says, and Remus can hear the disbelief in it. Remus’ heart squeezes again. He’s spent too long away from the boy, as usual. “Is that you?” Harry continues.

“Why are we all standing in the dark?” Tonks says. “Lumos.” Her wand-tip flares, illuminating the hall with magical light.

Remus pushes his way to the front of the group easily. He had been right – he is the only one Harry might possibly trust. Everyone else is craning their heads up for a better look, though whether it’s because they want to see Harry or see the Harry Potter Remus isn’t sure. He does make sure he’s standing nearest to Harry, and seeing Harry fully illuminated makes him smile.

“Oooh, he looks just like I thought he would,” Tonks says, holding her wand higher. Remus suppresses a sigh. Harry isn’t on display. “Wotcher, Harry!” she adds.

Kingsley speaks next, and even he isn’t immune to seeing Harry Potter in person. “Yeah, I see what you mean, Remus,” he says. “He looks exactly like James.”

Indeed he does, Remus thinks, feeling the familiar ache.

“Except the eyes,” Elphias Doge puts in. “Lily’s eyes.”

That, too, Remus thinks.

“Are you quite sure that’s him, Lupin?” Moody growls. “It’d be a nice lookout if we bring back some Death Eater impersonating him. We ought to ask him something only the real Potter would know. Unless anyone brought any Veritaserum?”

Remus suppresses a sigh. Veritaserum, on a fifteen-year-old boy. “Harry, what form does your Patronus take?” he asks instead.

“A stag,” Harry says nervously.

“That’s him, Mad-Eye,” Remus says.

Only then does Harry begin to descend the stairs, stowing his wand into the back pocket of his jeans. He still looks anxious to Remus.

“Don’t put your wand there, boy!”’ Moody roars. “What if it ignited? Better wizards than you have lost buttocks, you know!”

“Who d’you know who’s lost a buttock?” Tonks asks, and Remus has to bite his cheek to keep from laughing. She has a point. That’s why she’s an Auror, and Moody’s protégé at that, he thinks.

“Never you mind, you just keep your wand out of your back pocket!” Moody growls.

“Elementary wand safety, nobody bothers about it anymore.” Moody begins to stomp off toward the kitchen and Tonks rolls her eyes. “And I saw that,” he adds irritably.

Remus wants to hug Harry, but there are so many of them here, and it has been a year. He sighs to himself again. He holds out his hand for Harry to shake instead, and Harry takes it, shaking gladly, and Remus’ heart relaxes a little.

“How are you?” he asks, looking at Harry closely.

“F-fine . . .”

Remus notices that Harry begins to look around him to the rest of the Order members gathered in the Dursley entry. Harry looks disheveled and a little pale.

“I’m – you’re really lucky the Dursley’s are out,” Harry mumbles.

“Lucky, ha!” Tonks laughs. “It was me that lured them out of the way. Sent a letter by Muggle post telling them they’d been short-listed for the All-England Best-Kept Suburban Lawn Competition. They’re heading off to the prize-giving right now . . . or think they are.”

Harry seems to think for a moment. “We are leaving, aren’t we?” he asks. “Soon?”

“Almost at once,” said Lupin. “We’re just waiting for the all-clear.”

“Where are we going? The Burrow?” Harry asks hopefully.

“Not the Burrow, no,” said Lupin, motioning Harry toward the kitchen. The rest of the group follows, all still eyeing Harry like he’s a curiosity. Remus knew too many people volunteered for this duty than was necessary, and he doesn’t like the way they look at Harry. “Too risky,” he continues. “We’ve set up a headquarters somewhere undetectable. It’s taken a while.”

They enter the kitchen where Moody is waiting.

“This is Alastor Moody, Harry,” Remus keeps going, pointing toward Moody.

“Yeah, I know,” Harry says, and Remus catches the definite note of uncertainty.

“And this is Nymphadora –” Remus half-uses the entire name just to irritate Tonks, who can’t bloody be bothered not to trip.

Don’t call me Nymphadora, Remus,” she says with a shudder. “It’s Tonks.”

“Nymphadora Tonks, who prefers to be known by her surname only,” Remus finishes, which he would have, if she had let him in the first place.

“So would you if your fool of a mother had called you ‘Nymphadora’” mutters Tonks. Remus, who had met Andromeda on one occasion, would never think to call her a fool, though perhaps she didn’t have the best judgement in the baby naming department.

“And this is Kingsley Shacklebolt, Elphias Doge, Dedalus Diggle –” Remus continues.

“We’ve met before,” Diggle says, dropping his top hat.

“Emmeline Vance, Sturgis Podmore, and Hestia Jones.”

Harry looks around at the assembled group and inclines his head awkwardly as each member is introduced. He looks like someone who has had a spotlight thrown on him more than a gentle Lumos.

“A surprising number of people volunteered to come and get you,” Remus says, the corners of his mouth twitching.

“Yeah, well, the more the better,” Moody says darkly. “We’re your guard, Potter.”

“We’re just waiting for the signal to tell us it’s safe to set off,” Remus says again, glancing out the kitchen window. “We’ve got about fifteen minutes.”

Tonks begins to talk but Remus is honestly tuning her out a bit at this point, and he sees Harry turn back to him.

“What’s going on, I haven’t heard anything from anyone, what’s Vol –”

Remus hears several of his companions hiss or sigh, and Moody outright says, “Shut up!” Remus knows why, but it frustrates him. In the even clearer light from the windows Harry looks pale, anxious and disheveled in a way Remus never saw him at Hogwarts. He looks like he hasn’t been taking care of himself, and it concerns Remus.

Remus continues to split his attention between Harry and the window. Harry’s watching Moody clean his eye, which, really, did he have to do now, Tonks has a point. Harry is beginning to look downright annoyed at the staring of many of the advanced guard. It’s an expression Remus realizes he recognizes from Lily’s face, not James’. Remus doesn’t blame him.

“How’re we getting – wherever we’re going?” Harry asks.

“Brooms,” Remus replies. “Only way. You’re too young to apparate, they’ll be watching the Floo Network, and it’s more than our life’s worth to set up an unauthorized Portkey.”

“Remus says you’re a good flier,” Kingsley Shacklebolt says, and Remus is glad Kingsley has something relevant – and complimentary – to say about Harry.

“He’s excellent,” Remus says. Just like his father. He turns to Harry. “Anyway, you’d better go and get packed, Harry, we want to be ready to go when the signal comes.” Remus is more than ready to leave, and he has the impression that Harry would agree with him.

“I’ll come and help you,” Tonks says brightly, and she follows Harry as he heads out of the kitchen and back upstairs.

The murmuring breaks out almost immediately after Harry leaves, other members of the guard beginning to whisper about Harry. Remus does his best to ignore it, and he notices Kingsley doesn’t participate. Remus watches out the window and thinks about Sirius, waiting at Grimmauld Place, stuck there on Dumbledore’s restrictions. Sirius will be anxious to see them, though Remus thinks that the Order meeting may have started by the time they get back, which will mean more delay between the time Harry arrives and Sirius sees him. Remus wishes they had thought about this whole operation more with Sirius in mind, but he knows that Sirius isn’t Dumbledore’s priority. But Sirius is Remus’, and that won’t change.

Remus pulls a pen, paper and envelope out of his pocket in order to leave a note for the Dursleys and he starts in on that as some of the other Order members examine the Muggle appliances. Moody finally puts an end to the whispering when they hear Tonks and Harry on the stairs. Harry and Tonks reenter the kitchen as Remus is sealing the letter addressed to the Durlseys.

“Excellent,” he says, looking at Harry and Tonks. “We’ve got about a minute, I think. We should probably get out into the garden so we’re ready. Harry, I’ve left a letter telling your aunt and uncle not to worry –”

“They won’t,” Harry interrupts.

“That you’re safe –”

“That’ll just depress them.”

“ – and you’ll see them next summer.”

“Do I have to?”

Remus smiles but doesn’t answer. This is more like the Harry he knows, and he’s glad for it. He watches as Moody calls Harry forward and casts the Disillusionment Charm, and he agrees with Tonks it’s well done. Harry merely blends into the background of where he’s standing. Remus exits with the others onto the back lawn at Moody’s insistence.

Moody begins to give instructions, predictably ordering them repeatedly not to break ranks. Remus, who lived through this war before, doesn’t need the reminder, but some of the other members of the party make him nervous, so he doesn’t blame Moody’s overly deliberate and morbid instructions. He mentions a few times what should happen should someone die, and Remus glad for both Tonks’ and Kingsley’s input that no one is going to die. They go about it in different ways, but the overall message is the same, and Remus can see from Harry’s anxious face he needs to hear it.

“Mount your brooms, that’s the first signal!” Remus says, pointing to the sky. Finally, finally. Far, far above them, a shower of bright red sparks had flared among the stars on this clear night. Harry immediately swings his right leg over his Firebolt, gripping its handle tightly. Well done, Harry, Remus thinks.

More sparks, green this time, explode high above them and Remus says, loudly enough to be heard by the entire party, “Second signal, let’s go!”

It’s downright cold as high as Moody is having them fly, and he’s not as high as Harry and some of the rest of the guard are, as he’s covering Harry from below. He can hear muffled shouting above him, mostly between Moody and Tonks, but Harry is doing well. Remus is a decent flyer, even if it’s not his particular strength, but Harry is a natural on a broom. He makes it look effortless, even in these conditions. The Firebolt helps, of course, but Remus thinks you could hand Harry an ordinary Muggle broom from a shop around the corner and Harry would be able to fly on it. His eyes prick a bit, and not from the weather conditions. James would have loved Harry even if Harry hadn’t been able to get a foot off the ground, but Harry, this Harry, on a broom? James would have been enthralled and so very, very proud.

Moody is trying to talk them into doubling back, but Remus will have none of it.

“Time to start the descent!” he says, loudly enough for Harry to hear. Moody doesn’t have to make all the decisions. “Follow Tonks, Harry!”

Harry does, and Remus watches as they dive and then land, Harry touching down effortlessly. James, that’s your boy, he thinks.

“Where are we?” Harry asks.

“In a minute,” Remus says quietly.

Moody fishes out a lighter and clicks it, and as he does, the streetlamp nearest to them goes out. Moody continues the process until every lamp in the square is extinguished. Once that’s done, he explains what he’s done to Harry and then takes Harry by the arm, leading him across the road and onto the pavement. Remus helps Tonks lift Harry’s trunk and they carry it between them slightly behind Moody and Harry.

Finally, Moody hands Harry the piece of paper with the address of 12 Grimmauld Place on it, and Remus watches Harry read it under Moody’s supervision.

Harry, probably predictably, immediately starts to ask a question. “What’s the Order of the –”

Moody snarls, “Not here, boy! Wait until we’re inside!” He pulls the parchment of Harry’s hand and lights it on fire with his wand.

Remus watches Harry begin to look around at the houses in front of them again. They are standing in front of number eleven.

“But where’s –”

“Think about what you’ve just memorized,” Remus instructs quietly.

The house has been visible to Remus the entire time, as he’d been there, and been living there, but he can see the awareness of its existence reflect in Harry’s face. His mouth has fallen slightly open, and Remus hides a smile. Well done, Harry.

They walk up the stone steps, and Remus pulls out his wand and taps the door once. There’s a series of loud, metallic clicks as the many locks click open, and Remus hears the chain drop, too. The door creaks open of its own accord.

“Get in quick, Harry,” Remus whispers. “But don’t go far inside and don’t touch anything.”

Remus helps Tonks with Harry’s trunk and Hedwig’s cage as Harry enters, following instructions and looking around him with curiosity. Remus is vaguely aware of Moody turning the streetlamps inside back on; he’s the last to enter and he closes the front door, causing the front hall to fall into darkness. As Remus’ eyes adjust he sees Moody tap Harry again on the top of his head with his wand, breaking the Disillusionment Charm. Moody is just again causing the candles in the old gas lamps to light when Remus hears hurried footsteps head down the hallway toward them.

Remus had been hoping Sirius would be the first to greet Harry, but he knows from the footsteps it isn’t him, and he’s right. It’s Molly Weasley. Remus frowns a bit; the Order meeting must have definitely started while they were gone, and it may not be going well, if Sirius is still in it, instead of greeting Harry.

Molly greets Harry, and Remus hears her assessment of Harry isn’t far off from Remus’, though he hears her tell Harry he’ll have to wait a bit for dinner. Remus knows this is a sure sign the meeting has started already, and Molly turns to the rest of their party to say so. The witches and wizards begin to whisper and Remus looks once more at Harry before moving down the hallway himself. He’d like to reassure Harry, but Molly has already stepped in, and if it’s Molly, and not Sirius, Remus, once again, thinks this is a poor omen.

Remus enters the kitchen behind most of the rest of the advanced guard, and one look at Sirius’ thunderous face tells him everything he really needs to know. Still, Sirius looks up as he comes in and they make eye contact. Remus nods slightly. I got him. I got your boy. He’s here, and he’s safe. Sirius must see it in his face, in his eyes, because his expression clears for just a second and he nods back.

Remus takes the seat next to Sirius and nods at Dumbledore. Moody is already debriefing the members who had stayed behind on the mission to get Harry, with Tonks making the occasional interjection.

Dumbledore nods, satisfied. “He’ll be safe here,” he says.

“I’ll make sure of it,” Sirius speaks up, but Dumbledore barely acknowledges it, and Remus frowns.

“Won’t have the opportunity to do much else,” Snape says, and Remus turns his head to him, and wonders what the hell happened while he was gone, but Dumbledore is faster, cutting Snape off from saying anything further to Sirius by asking Snape for his report.

Snape and Sirius exchange one last look between them before Snape begins, detailing, in Remus’ opinion, just how little he knows. Voldemort and his followers, including Peter, are so far keeping a low profile, mostly keeping to themselves and lurking in the shadows. He’s been keeping tabs on known Death Eaters, as have others, but Snape is often allowed closer, and allowed more information. This time, however, there’s not much to report, and Sirius’ face hasn’t lost that sullen look.

Dumbledore checks in with other members of the Order, who also give their reports. Allies at the Ministry are few and far between. Bill reports on Gringotts, and Remus thinks he wants to talk to Bill a bit more a little later. The Goblins could be powerful allies, but they, like many of the other so-called “magical races” have little regard for wizards, and Remus himself has some insight on to why.

Eventually the meeting ends and the Order members begin to leave the house. Remus remains in the kitchen for a moment, not rising from his chair, even when Dumbledore takes his leave. When Molly goes upstairs to fetch the children, Remus finds Sirius’ gaze again.

“That bad?” he asks quietly. Mundungus Fletcher hasn’t moved, and even though he’s asleep, Remus doesn’t trust him.

Sirius’ grey eyes find Remus’, and he sighs. “That bad. Not to tell Harry more than he needs to know.”

Remus also sighs. He thinks this is bad news for Harry and for Sirius.

“More hammering on about ‘restrictions’,” Sirius adds.

Remus feels his mouth thin into a line. Sirius knows he’s a wanted criminal; he knows the Aurors are trying to throw the Ministry off his scent as much as possible; he knows he’s stuck in this god-awful house of his ancestors. And Remus knows it is doing nothing for his mood. Taking Sirius and putting him in a cage – this cage in particular – is already taking its toll, and Remus privately wonders how much Dumbledore is courting disaster. Rubbing Sirius’ face in it certainly isn’t the answer. It’s telling to Remus that Dumbledore felt the need to repeat all of this when Remus was otherwise occupied.

Remus opens his mouth to reply when an enormous crash sounds from the hall. He can hear Molly’s exasperated “Tonks!” from where he’s sitting, which is no surprise, but then, of course, what follows is even worse. Tonks has set off Walburga’s portrait.

Remus and Sirius both jump up at once, out of the kitchen and into the hallway. Remus reaches the portrait first and goes to where Molly is already trying to tug the curtains closed, the children watching with a mixture of fascination and horror, the latter mostly written on Harry’s face already.

Walburga is screaming and Tonks is apologizing and finally Sirius reaches them, matching Walburga in volume.

“Shut up, you horrible old hag, shut UP!” Sirius roars, seizing the curtain from Molly, who lets him.

Remus sees Walburga’s face go white and braces himself for what’s coming now that she’s seen Sirius.

Yooooou!” she howls, her eyes popping at the sight of him. “Blood traitor, abomination, shame of my flesh!”

“I said – shut – UP!” Sirius shouts again, and together, he and Remus manage to force the curtains closed again.

Silence falls, and Remus is breathing hard from the effort. He notices Sirius is also breathing hard, both from the exertion and from the verbal assault. He can hear Sirius take a deep breath before making a motion to sweep his hair out of his eyes, and he turns to Harry.

“Hello, Harry,” he says grimly. “I see you’ve met my mother.”

“Your?”

“My dear old mum, yeah,” Sirius says. “We’ve been trying to get her down but we think she put a Permanent Sticking Charm on the back of the canvas. Let’s get downstairs, quick, before they all wake up again.”

“But what’s the portrait of your mother doing here?” Harry asks. Remus, walking behind him, thinks he sounds confused – no one has explained to him what 12 Grimmauld Place is exactly.

“Hasn’t anyone told you?” Sirius echoes Remus’ thoughts. “This was my parents’ house,” he continues. “But I’m the last Black left, so it’s mine now. I offered it to Dumbledore for headquarters – about the only useful thing I’ve been able to do.”

Remus hears the notes of frustration and slight wistfulness and he frowns. He’ll have to see what he can do after dinner, for both Harry and Sirius; they needed a better reunion with each other than that.

When they enter the kitchen, Arthur and Bill are still talking quietly at the head of the table. Molly clears her throat and Arthur jumps up, coming over to Harry to welcome him, shaking his hand vigorously. Bill cleans up the rest of the parchment and notes on the table.

“Journey all right, Harry?” Bill calls, still trying to clean up more scrolls. “Mad-Eye didn’t make you come via Greenland, then?”

Remus smiles. Almost, he thinks.

Tonks chimes in, “He tried,” before she manages to send a candle toppling over on the table.

Remus sees Sirius just barely suppress an eyeroll; he can tell from the way his eyes move to the table. Molly steps in quickly to repair the parchment but also collect it from where Harry is trying to look, curious. Harry. Harry, who wants information, who deserves information, who needs information. Harry, who Remus well knows will go out of his way to get it. He must make a frustrated sound, because now it’s Sirius who looks at him, and they exchange a glance behind Molly and Harry’s back, Remus knowing Sirius saw the same thing, even as Molly is talking about having things cleared away promptly at the end of meetings.

“Sit down Harry,” Sirius invites. “You’ve met Mundungus, haven’t you?”

“Some’n say m’name?” Mundungus mumbled sleepily. “I ‘gree with Sirius.” He raises a very grubby hand in the air as though voting, and Ginny giggles.

“The meeting’s over, Dung,” Sirius says, as they all sit around the table. “Harry’s arrived.”

Remus lets Sirius sit next to Harry, taking a seat across from them and a little down the table, allowing Hermione and Ron to sit as closely to Harry as possible. Mundungus and Molly are having a back and forth about Mundungus’ smoking. Molly asks for help for dinner and Tonks volunteers, though Remus sees Molly’s look of apprehension, and Molly tries to beg off. Remus hides a smile in his new mug. Remus does get up, though, helping with plates and food from the pantry, assisting in setting the table. Crookshanks jumps up in Sirius’ lap and Sirius pets the cat absentmindedly as he turns to Harry.

“Had a good summer so far?” he asks Harry.

“No, it’s been lousy,” Harry says, and for the first time since Harry’s been here, Remus sees something like a grin flit across Sirius’ face as he’s putting out plates.

“Don’t know what you’re complaining about, myself.”

Remus frowns a bit. The meeting had to have been bad.

Harry saves Remus from having to speak by saying, “What?”

“Personally, I’d have welcomed a dementor attack. A deadly struggle for my soul would have broken the monotony nicely. You think you’ve had it bad, at least you’ve been able to get out and about, stretch your legs, get in a few fights . . . I’ve been stuck inside for a month.”

Remus listens intently over the sounds of the cooking behind him.

“Because the Ministry of Magic’s still after me, and Voldemort will know all about me being an anamgus by now, Wormtail will have told him, so my big disguise is useless. There’s not much I can do for the Order of the Phoneix . . . or so Dumbledore feels.”

Remus notes the flat tone of voice Sirius uses to talk about Dumbledore and thinks, ah.

“At least you’ve known what’s been going on,” Harry argues back, and Remus is a bit glad; it will give Sirius something to chew on.

“Oh, yeah,” Sirius says, and Remus doesn’t miss the sarcasm. He lifts his head. Careful, Padfoot. “Listening to Snape’s reports, having to take all his snide hints that he’s out there risking his life while I’m sat on my backside here having a nice comfortable time . . . asking me how the cleaning’s going –”

“What cleaning?” asks Harry.

“Trying to make this place fit for human habitation,” Sirius says, waving a hand around the kitchen. “No one’s lived here for ten years, not since my dear mother died, unless you count her old house-elf, and he’s gone round the twist, hasn’t cleaned anything in ages –”

Mundungus interrupts, and Remus is privately glad he does. He asks if this is real silver, which, Remus, knowing the Blacks, knows it is. He’s been careful not touch any of it when possible.

Suddenly Molly shrieks at Fred and George, who are attempting to levitate most of the dinner toward the table, and badly. Remus had turned to the pantry but he turns back around in time to see Harry, Sirius and Mundungus all duck, and a knife land where Sirius’ hand had been just before.

Molly begins to shout but Remus sees Harry and Sirius both laughing as Arthur steps in to back Molly up. Remus is secretly amused, and glad it got Sirius off of the subject he’d been going on about. Molly has wound herself up now, though she gets into a rant and is about to mention Percy when she stops dead.

“Let’s eat,” Bill says quickly.

“It looks wonderful, Molly,” Remus tries, ladling stew onto a plate for her and handing it across the table.

It’s silent for a few minutes as everyone settles in to eat. Then Molly turns to Sirius and says, “I’ve been meaning to tell you, there’s something trapped in that writing desk in the drawing room, it keeps rattling and shaking. Of course, it could just be a boggart, but I thought we out to ask Alastor to have a look at it before we let it out.”

“Whatever you like,” Sirius says indifferently.

“The curtains in there are full of doxies, too,” Molly goes on. “I thought we might try and tackle them tomorrow.”

“I look forward to it,” Sirius says, and Remus catches the sarcasm. From the way Harry glances Sirius’ way, Remus wouldn’t be surprised if Harry did, too.

Tonks is using her metamorphagus abilities to keep the children entertained, and Remus finds himself drawn into a discussion with Bill and Arthur about the goblins, the very one he wanted to start before.

“They’re not giving anything away yet,” said Bill. “I still can’t work out whether they believe he’s back or not. ‘Course, they might not prefer not to take sides at all. Keep out of it.”

Remus doesn’t blame them. He has more than an inkling that Dumbledore is about to send him back to the packs, who, if they aren’t under Greyback’s thrall, also want to keep out of it. He hasn’t shared this with Sirius, yet, because to say Sirius will be furious about the thought is an understatement.

“I’m sure they’d never go over to You-Know-Who,” said Mr. Weasley, shaking his head. “They’ve suffered losses, too. Remember the goblin family he murdered last time, somewhere near Nottingham?”

“I think it depends on what they’re offered,” Remus notes. “And I’m not talking about gold; if they’re offered freedoms we’ve been denying them for centuries they’re going to be tempted. Have you still not had any lock with Ragnok, Bill?”

“He’s feeling pretty anti-wizard at the moment,” says Bill. Remus nods. “He hasn’t stopped raging about the Bagman business, he reckons the Ministry did a cover-up, those goblins never got their gold from him, you know –”

A gale of laugher from down the table drowns out the rest of what Bill says. Remus looks, and Fred, George, Ron and Mundungus are rolling in their seats. Mundungus is telling a story about one of his business deals gone wrong, and from what Remus can tell it’s fairly kid-friendly, which can’t always be said of Mundungus’ stories.

Still, Molly interrupts, trying to put a stop to it. Remus wonders for a moment if what happened at the meeting while he was gone is affecting Molly as much as Sirius. He hears Mundungus and Molly have another curt exchange, and for some reason, Molly throws such a nasty look at Sirius as she gets up to go fetch the pudding Remus can’t help but raise his eyebrows. Harry, who caught the look, too, turns to look at Sirius.

“Molly doesn’t approve of Mundungus,” Sirius says softly.

“How come he’s in the Order?” Harry says very quietly.

“He’s useful,” Sirius mutters. “Knows all the crooks – well, he would, seeing as he’s one himself. But he’s also very loyal to Dumbledore, who helped him out of a tight spot once. It pays to have someone like Dung around, he hears things we don’t. But Molly thinks inviting him to stay for dinner is going too far. She hasn’t forgiven him for slipping off duty when he was supposed to be tailing you.”

The rest of dinner passes fairly quietly, and Remus notes that Harry has three helpings of the rhubarb crumble, bless the boy. Everyone is looking well fed and tired. Remus himself is beginning to feel weary; Harry’s rescue was emotionally draining, as tense as it had made him, and the flying conditions had been less than optimal.

“Nearly time for bed, I think,” Molly says with a yawn. This time, Remus doesn’t disagree with her, so he’s surprised when Sirius speaks up.

“Not just yet, Molly,” Sirius says, and Remus glances at him. It sounds like he’s winding up, and Remus’ full stomach clenches just a little.

Sirius turns to look at Harry. “You know, I’m surprised at you. I though the first thing you’d do when you got here would be to start asking questions about Voldemort.”

In fact, it had been the first thing he’d try to ask back at Privet Drive, but Sirius doesn’t know that. And Sirius, Remus knows, isn’t making a point to Harry. Careful, Padfoot, he thinks again.

The atmosphere in the room changes on a dime. It goes from sleepily relaxed to charged and tense, and Remus finds himself scooting forward a bit in his seat. He had about to been about to take a sip of wine, but he lowers his goblet slowly, looking at everyone carefully.

“I did!” Harry says indignantly. “I asked Ron and Hermione but they said we’re not allowed in the Order, so –”

“And they’re quite right,” said Mrs. Weasley. “You’re too young.”

Remus notes Molly is sitting bolt upright in her chair, her fists clenched upon its arms, looking incredibly alert.

“Since when did someone have to be in the Order of the Phoenix to ask questions?” Sirius asks. “Harry’s been trapped in that Muggle house for a month. He’s got the right to know what’s been happen –”

Remus notes the use of the word trapped.

“Hang on!” interrupts George loudly.

“How come Harry gets his questions answered?” says Fred angrily.

We’ve been trying to get stuff out of you for a month and you haven’t told us a single stinking thing!” says George.

Remus thinks again about the similarities between Fred, George and Sirius. Too bright to be trapped.

You’re too young, you’re not in the Order,” Fred says in a shockingly accurate imitation of Molly. It’s extremely unflattering. “Harry’s not even of age!”

“It’s not my fault you haven’t been told what the Order’s doing,” Sirius says calmly. “That’s your parent’s decision. Harry, on the other hand –“

“It’s not down to you to decide what’s good for Harry!” Molly says, and Remus’ hackles raise immediately. It’s exactly down to him, Remus thinks. It’s what James and Lily decided.

Molly manages to continue. “You haven’t forgotten what Dumbledore said, I suppose?”

“Which bit,” Sirius asks politely, but Remus knows him, knows this is a Sirius readying for a fight. Remus partly thinks this is foolish on Sirius’ part, to pick a fight with Molly, but another part of him thinks he’s also doing the best he can for Harry.

“The bit about not telling Harry more than he needs to know,” says Molly. The other children are looking between Molly and Sirius, but Remus looks toward Sirius, fixing his gaze there. He sees the sharpness in Sirius’ eyes, and the set of his mouth. Sirius is ready to go to war.

“I don’t intend to tell him more than he needs to know, Molly,” Sirius says. “But as he was the only one who saw Voldemort come back, he has more right than most to –”

“He’s not a member of the Order of the Phoenix!” Molly says. “He’s only fifteen and –”

“ – and he’s dealt with as much as most in the Order,” Sirius finishes. “And more than some –“

“No one’s denying what he’s done!” Molly says, her voice rising. “But he’s still –”

“He’s not a child!” Sirius says impatiently. Remus continues to look at him, measuring. He’s going to let Sirius say his piece, he decides.

“He’s not an adult either!” says Molly, the color rising in her cheeks. “He’s not James, Sirius!”

Oh no, Remus thinks immediately. It’s a low blow, even for Molly. To even mention James in front of Sirius, much less use James against him. And Remus knows Sirius has never, not once, confused James and Harry. It’s a blow that is meant to hurt, and Remus can tell by the look in Sirius’ eyes, it does, in more ways than Molly Weasley can imagine.

“I’m perfectly clear who he is, thanks, Molly,” Sirius says coldly. It’s what Remus has always thought of as Sirius’ Black Voice, the posh, carefully enunciated, every-syllable-a-statement-full-of-ice voice.

“I’m not sure you are!” Molly only continues. Remus winces. He wishes she’d back down. She should back down. “Sometimes, the way you talk about him, it’s as though you think you’ve got your best friend back!”

Remus gasps, but he doesn’t think anyone heard him over Molly, and this time, it’s Harry himself who jumps in.

“What’s wrong with that?” Harry asks.

“What’s wrong, Harry, is that you are not your father, however much you might look like him!” Molly answers, her eyes still boring into Sirius. Remus wants to get up and drag both Sirius and Harry away from the table. “You are still at school and adults responsible for you should not forget it!”

f*ck, Remus thinks, still looking at Sirius, whose eyes have narrowed further.

“Meaning I’m an irresponsible godfather?” Sirius demands, and this time it’s louder, and Remus knows Molly has done damage.

“Meaning you’ve been known to act rashly, Sirius, which is why Dumbledore keeps reminding you to stay at home and –”

“We’ll leave my instructions from Dumbledore out of this if you please!” Sirius says, loudly again.

“Arthur!” Molly says, rounding on him. “Arthur, back me up!”

Arthur, Remus notes with interest, even though his eyes don’t leave Sirius, doesn’t speak right away. Eventually he says, “Dumbledore knows the position has changed, Molly. He accepts that Harry will have to be filled in to a certain extent now that he is staying at headquarters –”

“Yes, but there’s a difference between that and inviting hm to ask whatever he likes!”

Enough, Remus thinks. “Personally,” Remus says quietly, finally looking away from Sirius. Molly turns to him and he knows she thinks he’s going to support her. Not likely, he thinks. “I think it better that Harry gets the facts – not all the facts, Molly, but the general picture – from us, rather than a garbled version from . . . others.”

Sirius glances at him long enough to for Remus to discreetly glance back. Understood and understanding.

“Well,” said Molly, breathing deeply and looking around the table for support that does not come. “Well, I can see I’m going to be overruled. I’ll just say this: Dumbledore must have had his reasons for not wanting Harry to know too much, and speaking as someone who has got Harry’s best interests at heart –”

My god, you are not the only one who does, Remus thinks. He wants to snap at her, but, as usual, Sirius is faster.

“He’s not your son,” Sirius says quietly.

“He’s as good as,” Molly says fiercely. “Who else has he got?”

Who else? Remus wants to scream.

“He’s got me!” Sirius says.

“Yes,” Molly says, and Remus doesn’t miss her lip curling. He knows whatever is going to come next is going to be ugly. “The thing is, it’s been rather difficult for you to look after him when you’ve been locked up in Azkaban, hasn’t it?”

There’s a roaring sound in Remus’ ears for a moment. Did Molly just use Azkaban against Sirius, again, in front of Harry? Molly wouldn’t last a week in Azkaban, not to mention 12 years out of guilt for thinking he was responsible for James and Lily’s deaths, after that was all down to Peter Pettigrew.

Remus sees Sirius start to rise from his chair, and Remus doesn’t want to give Molly the satisfaction.

“Molly, you’re not the only person at this table who cares about Harry,” Remus snaps. “Sirius, sit down.”

Sirius does, to Remus’ relief, though Remus sees his face is white. Molly’s lower lip is trembling, and Remus could not care less about it.

“I think Harry ought to be allowed a say in this,” Remus continues, saying what he knows Sirius no longer can. “He’s old enough to decide for himself.”

“I want to know what’s been going on,” Harry says at once. Remus is completely unsurprised.

Molly begins to try to gather up her children, but Remus barely hears her. Sirius is still pale and looks far more shaken than he should, not that anyone else will notice. The children argue until it’s down to just Ginny storming out and raging her way up the stairs, which only makes Walburga’s portrait go off again. Remus gets up to go take care of that, because the last thing anyone, including Sirius, needs is another overbearing woman yelling at them. He can tell no one has started in on any news to Harry when he returns; everyone looks frozen to their seats. Remus suspects Sirius purposefully waited for him. He closes the kitchen door behind him and sits at the table again, and Sirius speaks.

“Okay, Harry . . . what do you want to know?”

Harry takes a deep breath. “Where’s Voldemort? What’s he been doing? I’ve been trying to watch the Muggle news, and there hasn’t been anything that looks like him yet, no funny deaths or anything –”

“That’s because there haven’t been any suspicious deaths yet,” Sirius says calmly. “Not as far as we know, anyway . . . and we know quite a lot.”

“More than he thinks we do anyway,” Remus adds, and Sirius nods at him.

“How come he’s stopped killing people?” Harry asks.

“Because he doesn’t want to draw attention to himself at the moment,” Sirius says. “It would be dangerous for him. His comeback didn’t come off quite the way he wanted it to, you see. He messed it up.”

Sirius is being honest and clear with Harry, and Remus is proud. “Or rather, you messed it up for him,” Remus adds with a satisfied smile.

“How?” Harry asks, genuinely confused.

Oh, Harry, Remus thinks. This is how we know you’re not like James at 15.

“You weren’t supposed to survive!” Sirius says. “Nobody apart from his Death Eaters were supposed to know he’d come back. But you survived to bear witness.”

“And the very last person he wanted alerted to his return the moment he got back was Dumbledore,” Remus continues. “And you made sure Dumbledore knew at once.”

“How has that helped?” Harry asks.

“Are you kidding?” Bill interjects incredulously. “Dumbledore was the only one You-Know-Who was ever scared of!”

“Thanks to you, Dumbledore was able to recall the Order of the Phoenix about an hour after Dumbledore returned,” Sirius says.

“So what’s the Order been doing?” says Harry, looking around at them all.

“Working as hard as we can to make sure Voldemort can’t carry out his plans,” Sirius says.

“How d’you know what his plans are?” Harry asks quickly.

“Dumbledore’s got a shrewd idea,” Remus says. “And Dumbledore’s shrewd ideas normally turn out to be accurate.”

“So what does Dumbledore reckon he’s planning?”

“Well, firstly, he wants to build up his army again,” Sirius says. “In the old days he had huge numbers at his command; witches and wizards he’d bullied or bewitched into following him, his faithful Death Eaters, a great variety of Dark creatures. You heard him planning to recruit the giants; well they’ll be just one group he’s after. He’s certainly not going to try and take on the Ministry of Magic with only a dozen Death Eaters.”

“So you’re trying to stop him getting more followers?”

“We’re doing our best,” Remus says.

“How?”

“Well, the main thing is to try and convince as many people as possible that You-Know-Who really has returned, to put them on their guard,” says Bill. “It’s proving tricky though.”

“Why?”

“Because of the Ministry’s attitude,” Tonks chimes in. “You saw Cornelius Fudge after You-Know-Who came back, Harry. Well, he hasn’t shifted his position at all. He’s absolutely refusing to believe it’s happened.”

“But why?” Harry says desperately. “Why’s he being so stupid? If Dumbledore –”

“Ah, well, you’ve put your finger on the problem,” Arthur says with a wry smile. “Dumbledore.”

“Fudge is frightened of him, you see,” says Tonks sadly.

“Frighted of Dumbledore?” Harry sounds incredulous, and Remus hides a smile.

“Frightened of what he’s up to,” says Mr. Weasley. “You see, Fudge thinks Dumbledore’s plotting to overthrow him. He thinks Dumbledore wants to be Minister of Magic.”

“But Dumbledore doesn’t want –“

“Of course he doesn’t,” says Mr. Weasley. “He’s never wanted the Minister’s job, even though a lot of people wanted him to take it when Millicent Bagnold retired. Fudge came to power instead, and he’s never quite forgotten how much popular support Dumbledore had, even though Dumbledore never applied for the job.”

“Deep down, Fudge knows Dumbledore’s much cleverer than he is, a much more powerful wizard, and in the early days of his Ministry he was forever asking Dumbledore for help and advice,” Remus says. “But it seems he’s become fond of power now, and much more confident. He loves being Minister of Magic, and he’s managed to convince himself that he’s the clever one and Dumbledore’s simply stirring up trouble for the sake of it.”

“How can he think that?” Harry says, and he sounds angry. “How can he think Dumbledore would just make it all up – that I’d make it all up?”

Ah, Remus thinks. The boy no one ever believes, Remus thinks sadly.

“Because accepting that Voldemort’s back would mean trouble like the Ministry hasn’t had to cope with for nearly fourteen years,” says Sirius bitterly. Trouble like Sirius, Remus thinks. “Fudge can’t just bring himself to face it. It’s so much more comfortable to convince himself Dumbledore’s lying to destabilize him.”

“You see the problem,” Remus explains. “While the Ministry insists there is nothing to fear from Voldemort, it’s hard to convince people he’s back, especially as they really don’t want to believe it in the first place. What’s more, the Ministry’s leaning heavily on the Daily Prophet not to report any of what they’re calling Dumbledore’s rumor-mongering, so most of the Wizarding community are completely unaware anything’s happened, and that makes them easy targets for the Death Eaters if they are using the Imperius Curse.”

“But you’re telling people, aren’t you?” Harry says, looking around at them. “You’re all letting people know he’s back.”

Remus watches the same humorless smile bloom on everyone else’s faces.

“Well, as everyone thinks I’m a mad mass murderer and the Ministry’s put a ten-thousand-Galleon price on my head, I can hardly stroll up the street and start handing out leaflets, can I?” Sirius says, and Remus can hear the restlessness in it.

He answers it with his own. “And I’m not a very popular dinner guest with most of the community,” Remus says. “It’s an occupational hazard of being a werewolf.”

“Tonks and Arthur would lose their jobs at the Ministry if they started shooting their mouths off,” Sirius continues. “It’s important for us to have spies inside the Ministry, because we can bet Voldemort will have them.”

“We’ve managed to convince a couple of people, though,” says Mr. Weasley. “Tonks here, for one – she’s too young to have been in the Order of the Phoenix last time, and having Aurors on our side is a huge advantage – Kingsley Shacklebolt’s been a real asset, too. He’s in charge of the hunt for Sirius, so he’s been feeding the Ministry information that Sirius is in Tibet.”

“But if none of you’s putting the news out that Voldemort’s back –” Harry begins.

“Who said none of us was putting the news out?” Sirius asks. “Why d’you think Dumbledore’s in such trouble?”

“What do you mean?” Harry asks.

“They’re trying to discredit him,” Remus adds. “Didn’t you see the Daily Prophet last week? They reported that he’d been voted out of the Chairmanship of the International Confederation of Wizards because he was getting old and losing his grip, but it’s not true, he was voted out by Ministry wizards after he made a speech announcing Voldemort’s return. They’ve demoted him from Chief Warlock on the Wizengamot – that’s the Wizard High Court – and they’re taking away his Order of Merlin, First Class, too.”

“But Dumbledore says he doesn’t care what they do as long as they don’t take him off the Chocolate Frog cards,” says Bill, grinning.

“It’s no laughing matter,” Arthur says shortly. “If he carries on defying the Ministry like this, he could end up in Azkaban and the last thing we want is Dumbledore locked up. While You-Know-Who knows Dumbledore’s out there and wise to what he’s up to, he’s going to go cautiously for a while. If Dumbledore’s out of the way – well You-Know-Who will have a clear field.”

“But if Voldemort’s trying to recruit more Death Eaters, it’s bound to get out that he’s come back, isn’t it?” Harry asks desperately.

“Voldemort doesn’t march up to people’s houses and bang on their front doors, Harry,” Sirius explains gently. “He tricks, jinxes, and blackmails them. He’s well-practiced at operating in secrecy. In any case, gathering followers is only one thing he’s interested in, he’s got other plans, too, plans he can put into operation very quietly indeed, and he’s concentrating on them at the moment.”

“What’s he after apart from followers?” Harry asks swiftly.

Remus and Sirius exchange a glance. Remus knew they’d end up here. Sirius pauses. “Stuff he can get only by stealth,” he settles on.

Harry continues to look puzzled, so Sirius continues. “Like a weapon. Something he didn’t have last time.”

“When he was powerful before?”

“Yes.”

“What kind of a weapon?” asks Harry. “Something worse than Avada Kadavra?”

“That’s enough.”

Remus just manages to suppress a sigh. He knows they are dancing around the prophecy, but even Sirius has been cautious. Remus sees Molly in the doorway, looking furious, and she orders the children to bed.

“You can’t boss us –” Fred begins.

“Watch me,” snarls Molly. She’s trembling slightly and looking at Sirius. Remus hates it. Sirius has done nothing to provoke this level of ire from her.

“You’ve given Harry plenty of information. Any more and you might as well induct him into the Order straightaway.”

“Why not?” Harry says quickly. “I’ll join, I want to join, I want to fight.”

“No,” Remus speaks quietly. He and Sirius have talked about this, as has the Order. “The Order is comprised only of overage wizards,” he says. “Wizards who have left school,” he adds, as Fred and George open their mouths. “There are dangers involved of which you can have no idea, any of you.” He pauses, hating to say it. “I think Molly’s right, Sirius. We’ve said enough.”

Sirius half-shrugs, but he doesn’t argue. Remus will talk to him later. Molly beckons imperiously to her sons and Hermione, and they get up one by one. Harry, Remus can see, recognizes defeat when he sees it, and follows suit.

***

Remus makes sure Molly goes upstairs first, before making two cups of tea and heading upstairs himself. Sirius had gone up almost directly after her, and Remus finds him in their bedroom, staring a little blankly at a book. There’s a fire going in the grate, and Sirius’ hair looks wet from a shower. Remus hands Sirius a mug and wanders off to shower himself, then dresses quickly, climbing on the bed.

“I wish I’d done better greeting Harry,” Sirius finally says softly.

“I know. But he did fine with it,” Remus agrees. “Maybe you can find some time to get him alone tomorrow, have a nice chat.”

“If Molly Weasley will even let me near him alone,” Sirius says darkly, and Remus sighs.

“I’ll chaperone,” Remus offers. “But then really not. What Molly doesn’t know won’t hurt her.”

“Why, Moony, that’s downright sneaky,” Sirius says. “I approve,” he continues, but he still doesn’t smile.

“Good,” Remus said mildly. “You still did well with him. You were truthful and you answered his questions.”

Sirius sighs. “He should know about the prophecy.”

“I agree.”

“You agreed with Molly it was time to stop,” Sirius says.

Remus knows that would stick to Sirius’ bones. “Because otherwise, she’ll only have more ammunition to go after you, and I won’t give her that,” Remus says bitterly.

“Why is she?” Sirius asks, and his voice sounds small in a way Remus very much does not like.

Remus puts his mug down, and then reaches his arms out. Sirius comes willingly, leaning his head onto Remus’ shoulder. Remus holds on tightly.

“Because Harry adores you. And she wants that all for herself.”

“Moony.”

“It’s true. I understand that she cares about Harry, and Harry needs as many people as possible to care about him, that’s true. I won’t come between them. But. The way she speaks to you is completely unacceptable to me. To taunt you with Azkaban? It’s cruel. She can think whatever she likes about what Harry should and should not know, but she has no quarter to claim she’s the only one who cares about Harry, or to say that you think he’s James,” Remus says bluntly.

“I don’t think he’s James.”

“I know, love.”

“He’s got too much Lily in him, for one,” Sirius starts, and Remus laughs a little.

“Too true.”

“I’m not crazy, for another,” Sirius adds.

“Also true. I know that, love.”

Sirius is silent long enough Remus hears the question.

“I know that. Do you think I would be here if I thought otherwise? Do you think I would love you if I thought otherwise?”

“Maybe,” Sirius says, and an uncertain Sirius is not one Remus is used to, and it reminds him a little sharply of the first war, and what the fall out from that was, for all of them.

“You’re right, in a way. I think I would love you regardless. But I wouldn’t live with you. I wouldn’t trust you. With my life, or Harry’s. And I fully believe James would agree with me.”

“Oh, god, Moony. I just want to do right by him. By them both.”

Remus can hear the tears. He curses Molly Weasley silently, as if Sirius needs this on his mind, as if he needs to doubt himself. He wants to let go of Sirius, stalk down the hall and throttle the woman, except that he’s not going to let go of Sirius for anything.

“You are. You are. I fully believe it. And I think Harry does, too. Did you see the way he looked to you for answers? No one else. You. We helped out, but you are who Harry wants.”

Sirius sighs against his shoulder.

Remus lets the silence spool out, the fire crackling in the background. Eventually he says, “I think we should shag on the kitchen table before breakfast tomorrow and let her catch us.”

“I didn’t know you were into voyeurism, Remus,” Sirius says, but he barks out a laugh.

“I’m into spite,” Remus answers, and Sirius laughs again. They eventually fall asleep in each other’s arms, the fire dying out on its own.

***

Remus stirs into wakefulness the next morning to find Sirius watching him with soft eyes.

“Morning, Moony,” Sirius says, and his voice is still rough from sleep. He can’t have been awake long.

There are other sounds in the house, doors opening and closing, some softly and some not. Footsteps on the stairs.

Remus rolls over, faces Sirius. “I think we’ve missed our opportunity for the kitchen table,” he says, letting a note of mischief into his voice.

Sirius grins. “This morning, maybe. There will be others. And.”

Remus smiles, because he knows where this is headed. He preempts Sirius by moving forward and capturing Sirius’ mouth in a kiss.

They’re breathless when they part, and Sirius observes, “You always did like morning sex.”

“Still do,” Remus answers, letting Sirius roll him until Sirius is on top of him, mouthing across his jaw.

“Mmm,” Sirius hums. “I love the stubble,” he says, biting gently at Remus’ jaw.

Remus, already getting hard, thrusts up, grinding against Sirius, who, Remus is not surprised to discover, is also hardening. Remus grinds up again and Sirius gasps, moving his mouth from Remus’ jaw to Remus’ throat. Remus lets his hands roam down, feeling the planes of Sirius’ back before coming to cup his arse, pulling Sirius against him again.

Sirius pulls his mouth off of Remus’ throat. “Remus, if you keep doing that, this isn’t going to last very long,” he manages, pulling at the hem of Remus’ shirt. Remus obliges, lifting up and allowing Sirius to pull his shirt off.

“Doesn’t have to last long,” Remus says simply. “I want you.” He pulls Sirius down again for emphasis.

Sirius brushes his lips across Remus’ clavicle and grinds down hard enough Remus gasps. Remus mutters the silencing charm, and Sirius raises an eyebrow.

“The kids are here,” Remus pants out.

“God, one day I’m going to have you moaning so loud and so long that every adult in the house will know what we are to each other,” Sirius says, and looks smug when Remus lets out a moan at that.

Remus surges up to kiss Sirius thoroughly, saying the contraceptive spell when he breaks away, before letting go of Sirius’ arse so that he can attempt to wiggle out of his pajama bottoms and pants. Sirius breaks apart from him long enough to allow them both to take off their clothing, before descending again to capture Remus’ mouth in another kiss, their tongues sliding together.

Sirius breaks the kiss and runs his mouth down Remus’ chest, placing a reverent kiss to the ring on Remus’ sternum before continuing downward toward Remus’ crotch.

Remus shifts his hips restlessly. “Padfoot,” he pants out, grabbing Sirius’ hips. He whispers the lubrication spell and shifts his hips again at the feeling. Sirius doesn’t miss either the spell or the movement, and he looks down at Remus, pupils blown wide.

Without another word, Sirius settles between Remus’ legs, which Remus has thrown wide for him, and breaches Remus with a finger. Remus bites back a moan, pushing back. More, he thinks, and Sirius, as if reading his mind, adds another finger, gently circling and scissoring. Sirius crooks his fingers just so and Remus gasps, letting out a moan, watching Sirius grin.

Padfoot,” Remus manages, pushing back again, his own hips beginning to thrust up on their own.

“Remus,” Sirius starts, but Remus shakes his head.

“If you aren’t inside of me in the next ten seconds –” he starts.

“I’d love to hear how that sentence ends,” Sirius huffs out, but he doesn’t hesitate, lining himself up and letting the head of his co*ck enter Remus. Now it’s Sirius’ turn to moan at the contact, and Remus shifts his hips a bit to adjust, then grabs hold of Sirius’ hips.

Sirius moans again and Remus says, “Good, I want you to be loud,” and Sirius obeys as he continues to enter Remus, until he finally bottoms out, fully inside Remus.

Remus is gripping Sirius’ hips probably hard enough to bruise, and he doesn’t care. Sirius starts to move, fast and hard, angling so that he hits Remus’ prostate with every thrust and god, this is going to be over soon at this pace. Not that Remus minds, he thinks, as he throws his head back on the pillow, a bead of sweat trickling down his temple. Sirius seems like he’s on a mission and Remus loves it, takes it, takes all of what Sirius has to offer. Remus moves a hand from Sirius’ hip to head towards his own co*ck, but Sirius bats it away, slicks his hand with Remus’ pre-come and begins to pump Remus up and down, even as he continues to pound into Remus.

Remus comes fairly quickly with a cry, and Sirius follows, moaning and gasping for breath. Sirius pulls out after a moment and Remus utters the cleaning charm, watching their chests heave as they lay together trying to catch their breaths.

Eventually their breathing slows, and Sirius takes Remus’ hand in his, gently entwining their fingers. Remus looks over at Sirius’ face to find it interestingly pensive.

Sirius looks back, then brings their hands up to kiss Remus’ knuckles. “You still use the contraception charm,” he says.

That observation surprises Remus. He nods slowly. “It’s not well studied in males. No one really knows how it works, or how often, or until what age . . .” Remus trails off. He shrugs a little. “Seems safer.”

Sirius nods, too, though he moves his head so he’s looking up at the ceiling, and not at Remus. “Sometimes. Sometimes. I just wonder.”

Remus breathes, waits.

“Maybe, in another life. One where I’d trusted you like I should have. Where I didn’t go to Azkaban.” Sirius stops. “Now, Harry. Voldemort. The war.” He sighs.

This time, it’s Remus who lifts their hands, who kisses Sirius’ knuckles. “In another life, I think it could have been amazing,” he says softly.

Now Sirius turns to look at him. They look at each other for a moment, the air heavy. Finally, Sirius says, “Me, too.”

***

Molly has the children breakfast quickly and then join her in the drawing room, where she’s attempting to get the doxies out of the curtains. Sirius and Remus eat quickly, parting ways, Remus to do a bit of work in the small bedroom they’ve repurposed into a study for him. It holds some bookshelves, a writing desk and a small bed, and Remus more than half-thinks Molly thinks he sleeps there. Sirius goes to feed Buckbeak.

The drawing room isn’t far down the hall, but the children and Molly’s voices are muffled. Remus hears Sirius’ footsteps go down the hallway into the drawing room and enter. He’s likely taking a look at the desk Molly had talked about at dinner the night before. Remus hears a loud, clanging bell sound from downstairs and sighs, especially as it is followed at once by Walburga screaming her head off. He hears Sirius go by rather quickly, still muttering, “I keep telling them not to ring the doorbell!”

Sirius lets whomever rang the doorbell in and manages to wrangle the portrait, too, as it stops screeching. Remus thinks he hears Kingsley, and wonders if it’s worth it for him to get up, but this translation is due in two days, and he lost most of yesterday to rescuing Harry, though that was well worth it. He leaves Kingsley to Sirius and continues working.

Just a little while later, the doorbell rings again, and Remus thinks he hears both Molly’s voice and Mundungus’. Now there’s a combination. They walk down the hall a bit, and Remus thinks they are headed toward the kitchen, or wherever Kingsley and Sirius have taken up residence. It’s almost time for lunch, and Remus wonders again if it’s worth taking a break, when he hears the sound of Molly shouting even through the closed door. She’s shouting about not running a hideout for stolen goods, and Remus wonders what on earth Mundungus is trying to smuggle into the house. He’s actually amused, but Molly’s voice is continuing, yelling and anything but amused. She manages to set off Walburga’s portrait again, and the combined yelling makes Remus rub his temples. As if he’s going to get any work done right now at this rate anyway.

The screaming, from both Molly and Walburga finally stops, and Remus sits back. He hears Sirius come back down the hall, the familiar footsteps stopping in the drawing room. Whatever is happening there, Sirius’ voice sounds cold, a note of ice in it he’d never use with Harry or the children. Remus hasn’t heard anyone else come up the stairs or down the hall, when a thought finally occurs to him: Kreacher. Kreacher may have taken the opportunity while the other adults have been occupied to take a look at Harry. He sighs.

Remus hears Sirius voice in what sounds like a back and forth, and the voice is formal, a little stilted – definitely Kreacher. They had mostly been able to keep Kreacher at bay, but he does like to make an appearance, and Harry’s arrival will most certainly pique his interest. Finally the conversation ends, or Sirius’ side of it does, anyway, until Remus hears Sirius say, rather loudly and irritably, “Keep muttering and I will be a murderer!” and Remus sighs. The house in general gets under Sirius’ skin, but Kreacher doesn’t help, continuing to berate Sirius and defend his beloved mistress.

Remus has given up all pretense of work now, listening to the voices down the hall. Sirius sounds like he’s in the rhythm of a conversation with someone though he still is talking too loudly, and a little too fast. Remus thinks he catches the word tapestry and sighs. If Sirius is talking about the tapestry then he is definitely filling Harry in on his family. It’s information Harry needs about Sirius, and that Sirius should give him, but Remus isn’t sure this is the way. Still, what’s done is done. Remus hears what he thinks is Molly come up the stairs again and down the hallway, and then hears her voice announce, “Lunch!”

Still, Remus can hear Sirius’ voice go up and down, and another, probably Harry’s. He’s surprised Molly’s not putting a stop to it outright, especially if Sirius is talking about his family, and the tapestry, but perhaps she knows better than to interfere. Remus can hear Sirius’ tone become more clipped, more precise, shorter, a sure sign he’s wound himself up. Remus sighs. Finally he hears Sirius’ voice go quiet, and thinks he and Harry must be having some lunch. Remus thinks this is a good idea, and he opens the door of his study to go downstairs, see if he can get some information from Kingsley while he’s at it.

***

Sirius is quiet that night, and Remus thinks it has as much to do with the house and the tapestry and Harry as it does that Kingsley had brought news from Dumbledore that Remus was to start leaving the house, venturing into different werewolf enclaves and packs. Remus will start close to home, in London, and then branch out throughout the UK. Remus privately wonders how futile the effort would be, how many werewolves would be willing to talk to him, even entertain him, but he knows orders when he hears them, and so does Sirius, who had been ordered to stay in the house.

They’re reading in bed that night, the rest of the house asleep, or at least in their own beds. Remus misses the telly from the house in Wales and wonders how much trouble it would be to hook one up here. Probably quite a bit, considering how the house isn’t so much resisting a cleaning as it is waging war on them. He can’t imagine what introducing something that would require electricity or a magical equivalent to do. Though, Remus thinks darkly, it might be worth it if it causes the whole damn place to burn to the ground.

Sirius sighs and Remus looks over to find Sirius looking at him, his book in his lap. “This is not who I want to be for Harry,” Sirius says bluntly.

Remus is taken aback by the honesty. “And who is it you think you’re being?” he asks softly.

“Someone who is restless, bitter, angry,” Sirius answers readily. “You should have heard me talking about my family, about the tapestry, today.”

“But you are those things,” Remus says softly, and Sirius immediately looks away, so Remus reaches out, grabs his chin to try to move his face back toward him.

“Remus,” Sirius starts.

“That’s not an indictment, Sirius. Padfoot. It’s not a judgment of your character,” Remus says firmly. “It’s the truth, because you’ve been through an enormous amount of hurt, and it’s the truth, because this place is horrific. It’s what you feel, not who you are.”

“I’m not so sure there’s a difference.”

“I am,” Remus says firmly.

“I wish. I wish I could hide it better. That I had more control. At least around Harry.”

At that, Remus laughs a little, and Sirius’ eyes meet his. “First of all, as someone who lives that life, no you don’t. Secondly, Harry doesn’t. I don’t think Harry wishes you to be anything, or feel anything, other than what you are. Harry wants honesty, Sirius. You are nothing if not always completely transparent with him. That’s something he values. So live up to it, even when it’s not your best self.”

Sirius sighs, but Remus sees his face relax a bit. “When did you get so wise, Professor Lupin?” he asks.

“Thirty,” Remus answers, and Sirius barks out a laugh.

“Just like that?”

“When the clock turned midnight. It was mystical,” Remus deadpans.

Sirius laughs again, and Remus loves it, so he kisses him until Sirius’ laughter pours down Remus’ throat.

***

They continue on, Remus beginning to make day or overnight trips to various werewolf groups in London, while Sirius, Molly and the children keep battling the house. The morning of Harry’s ministry hearing, Remus, Sirius, Molly, Arthur and Tonks are all in the kitchen having breakfast. Sirius is nervous, and in a bit of a mood, having been told by Dumbledore – and Molly – that he must stay at Grimmauld Place. Tonks had been working all night, making sure the Ministry was secure before Harry’s arrival, and Remus pushes a cup of coffee in front of her.

Harry enters the kitchen bright and early, before the other children are up. Molly jumps to her feet the moment he enters, starting breakfast. She asks Harry what he wants, as Tonks makes some small talk. Harry asks only for toast, and Remus, who knows firsthand how fifteen year old boys normally eat, glances at him before directing a question about Scrimgeour to Tonks. They talk for a moment, Tonks saying she can’t do night duty again tomorrow, and Arthur offering to cover for her.

Arthur turns to Harry with an expression Remus wouldn’t be surprised to see is close to the one on his own face. “How are you feeling?” Arthur asks.

Harry shrugs, and Remus frowns a little. He feels Sirius shift next to him.

“It’ll all be over soon,” Arthur says bracingly. “In a few hours’ time, you’ll be cleared.”

Harry still doesn’t say anything, and Remus feels Sirius shift again.

“The hearing’s on my floor, In Amelia Bones’ office. She’s Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement and she’s the one who’ll be questioning you.”

“Amelia Bones is okay, Harry,” Tonks offers earnestly. “She’s fair, she’ll hear you out.”

Harry still just nods.

“Don’t lose your temper,” Sirius finally puts in. “Be polite and stick to the facts.”

Harry nods again, and it’s worrying Remus a bit. “The law’s on your side,” he says quietly. “Even underage wizards are allowed to use magic in life-threatening situations.”

Remus looks up to see Molly Weasley attempting to put a wet comb through Harry’s hair, and Remus sees Harry wince a bit as cold water trickles down the back of his neck.

“Doesn’t it ever lie flat?” Molly says, and Harry shakes his head. Remus bites his lip to keep from laughing, and sees Sirius look away suddenly to hide his grin. They both know from long experience with James that no, that hair will never lie flat a day in Harry’s life.

Arthur checks his watch and looks up at Harry. “I think we’ll go now,” he says. “We’re a bit early, but I think you’ll be better off there than hanging around here.”

“Okay,” Harry says, dropping his toast and getting to his feet.

“You’ll be all right, Harry,” Tonks says, patting him on the arm.

“Good luck,” Remus says. “I’m sure it will be fine.”

“And if it’s not,” Sirius says grimly, “I’ll see to Amelia Bones for you.” Remus knows Sirius is joking and can tell Harry does, too, because he smiles through his nervousness.

Molly comes forward and hugs him. “We’ve all got our fingers crossed,” she says.

“Right,” Harry says. “Well . . . see you later then.”

He follows Arthur out of the room, and Remus exhales, feels Sirius retake the seat next to him.

“What were you saying about Scrimgeour?” Molly asks Tonks, and Remus sneaks his hand underneath the table to give Sirius’ hand a squeeze.

***

Remus comes in late that night. After Arthur had seen Harry off, Remus had been off himself, to see a small group of werewolves, about 6 in total, all cramped into a dingy bedsit on the outskirts of London. Remus had talked to them for hours, and fed them for more than a few of them, out of the funds he receives from the Order. They are neutral about Voldemort’s return, which is both the good news and the bad news. They hold no court with Voldemort’s views, but with nothing of value from the Ministry or the rest of the wizarding world to offer them, they have no incentive to join the Order or the fight against Voldemort, either. Finally Remus had called it a night, though he puts them on his list to visit again, to lobby Dumbledore or others to offer them something.

The house is quiet when Remus enters, and he manages not to disturb the portrait as he heads to the kitchen. He’s been anxious about Harry all day, and he wants a cup of tea before bed, or maybe even hot milk. He assumes he would have heard something had the news been bad about Harry, but he can’t be sure.

He opens the door to the kitchen and is surprised to see Sirius sitting at the table, a mug held between his hands. Sirius looks up when Remus comes in, a slight smile breaking out on his face.

“He was cleared,” Sirius says, and Remus sighs deeply.

“Never should have been charged in the first place,” Remus says, checking the kettle, which is still hot.

Sirius hums agreement. “I suspect the whole thing was political. Fudge wanted him discredited and done with.”

Remus nods, grabbing an herbal mix out of the cupboard and pouring water over it in a mug. He comes to sit next to Sirius. “Waiting up for me?” Remus sees Sirius blush a bit, just a light dusting of pink across his high cheekbones, and it makes Remus’ stomach flutter like he’s sixteen again.

“Always,” Sirius says easily, taking a sip from his own mug.

“Then I’ll always come home to you,” Remus says, landing a kiss on Sirius’ lips before sitting down.

They sit in silence for a moment, the only sound in the room the crackling of the fire. “I’m a little disappointed,” Sirius confesses softly.

At first, Remus isn’t sure he heard him, but then he realizes he had, and he doesn’t want to play games.

“Padfoot,” Remus starts.

“It’s selfish.”

Remus thinks. “I think. I think you’ve been lonely, for a very long time. And you love him, and you want the years you missed, that could have been with him, back. And there’s no getting them back.”

Sirius sighs, and Remus hears the sorrow. “It’s going to make me –”

“Moody? Sullen?”

Sirius looks sideways at him. Remus shrugs. “I have no idea what it’s like to deal with you when you’re like that,” Remus adds, allowing his mouth to twitch up a bit.

“Moony.”

“Hogwarts is the best thing for Harry. I know you know that. So when the other side of you gets the best of you, let me help.”

“Didn’t know what you’d be signing on for, did you, Moony?”

Remus doesn’t like the bitterness in Sirius’ tone. “I’m quite sure I did,” Remus says.

Sirius suddenly drops his head onto Remus’ shoulder.

“Let me love you through it, Padfoot,” Remus says quietly.

Sirius nods his head against Remus’ shoulder.

“I’m going to owe you so many shoulder massages,” Sirius says, and Remus laughs a little.

“I look forward to receiving them,” Remus says.

“I could f*ck you on the table,” Sirius offers, but the spell is broken by a yawn that Remus quickly catches. They both end up laughing a bit.

“Being over thirty-five is a bitch,” Sirius says, stretching enough to pop his back.

Remus finishes his tea. “I’ll settle for a blowie and a good night’s sleep,” Remus says, putting his mug down.

Sirius stares at him. “Deal,” he says, holding out his hand as he stands up, and Remus takes it.

***

The last night before term, Molly organizes a party for Ron and Hermione, who have been made prefects. Remus thinks it’s going a bit overboard, personally, but he’s willing to give Molly the benefit of the doubt. Remus changes into some of his better trousers and a white button-down, Sirius in jeans and a button-down as well, this one in black.

“I see you ogling my arse in these jeans,” Sirius says as they leave their room. “And to think you were the prefect.”

Remus shrugs. “James ended up usurping me as Head Boy anyway, if you’ll recall. Besides, he wouldn’t have appreciated your arse in those jeans properly,” he says, and Sirius laughs.

They join the party downstairs, which is comprised of the Weasley family and some Order members. Hermione corners Remus almost at once to discuss elf rights. He humors her; he doesn’t disagree with her, not on principle, but her enthusiasm is far from infectious. Arthur offers a toast to Ron and Hermione, and they both beam during the applause, making Remus smile.

Remus and Sirius end up in a group with Ginny, Hermione and Tonks as they head toward the food table. Tonks offers that she never was a prefect. “My Head of House said I lacked certain necessary qualities.”

“Like what?” says Ginny, who is choosing a baked potato.

“Like the ability to behave myself,” Tonks says, and Remus catches Sirius’ grin before he turns his head.

Ginny laughs outright. Hermione looks torn and takes a huge swig of butterbeer she ends up choking on.

“What about you Sirius?” Ginny asks, thumping Hermione on the back.

Sirius, standing right beside Harry, lets out his usual barklike laugh. “No one would have made me a prefect, I spent too much time in detention with James. Lupin was the good boy, he got the badge.” Sirius looks over at Remus, which Remus thinks the children mostly miss.

“I think Dumbledore might have hoped that I would be able to exercise some control over my best friends” Remus says. “I need scarcely say that I failed dismally.”

They gather their food and Remus is caught by Hermione again, god bless her. He’s just thinking that if Sirius really loved him he’d come rescue him, when Kingsley makes his way up. They talk for a bit about Order business, Harry busy in the corner talking to Fred and George and, Remus notes, Mundungus, which he makes note of.

Kingsley is asking why Dumbledore didn’t make Harry a prefect, and Remus sees Harry look their way at his voice, a look Remus doesn’t like on his face. Harry looks hurt.

“He’ll have his reasons,” Remus says neutrally.

“But it would’ve shown confidence in him. It’s what I’d have done,” persists Kingsley, and Remus just manages not to sigh. “Especially with the Daily Prophet having a go at him every few days.”

Now Remus does sigh. Harry’s not just a pawn; Harry’s not just a player in a political game he’s not participating in. He sees Harry turn around quickly and look away, in a show that he’s not listening to Kingsley and Remus. The move is too obvious, and too like James, for Remus to miss. Damn it.

After a few more moments of talking with Kingsley, Remus manages to make his way over to Sirius. They watch together as Moody approaches Harry, takes out what looks to be a photograph. They don’t speak, and Harry looks much more shaken than pleased, even as Moody clearly wants him to be the latter.

Remus and Sirius exchange a glance, Sirius making a move to stand, as Harry attempts a very fake grin. Remus watches Sirius stride over as Harry is stammering out an excuse.

“What’s that you’ve got there, Mad-Eye?” Sirius asks, and it has the desired effect, Moody turning to him. Remus watches as Harry crosses the room and goes up the stairs before anyone can say anything to him. Remus goes over to Sirius and Mad-Eye, and sees Moody has a photograph, one of the first Order. Moody probably though it might have been a treat for Harry, but Remus knows Harry would have seen it differently, as a picture of people who had loved each other unreservedly and paid the price for it. He hears Sirius sigh next to him and knows Sirius has thought the same thing.

Remus isn’t quite sure what he is going to say to Moody, only that it’s preempted by Harry’s voice, loud, coming from upstairs. Remus exits the room at once, Sirius on his heels, Moody following at a slower place. Remus takes the stairs two at a time, Sirius with him, until they reach the drawing room.

“What’s going on?” Remus asks, running into the room, followed closely by Sirius. But he already knows. He looks from Molly to the dead Harry on the floor and understands immediately. He pulls his wand and says, firmly and clearly, “Riddikulus!”

Harry’s body on the floor vanishes, and the moon takes its place, coming to hang in the air instead. Remus waves his wand once more and the orb vanishes in a puff of smoke.

“Oh-oh-oh!” gulps Molly, and she breaks out into a storm of crying, her face in her hands. Remus and Sirius exchange a quick look, and even Sirius looks concerned.

“Molly,” Remus tries, walking over to her. “Molly, don’t . . .”

The next thing he knows, Molly is sobbing her heart out on his shoulder.

“Molly, it was just a boggart,” he says soothingly, patting her on the head. “Just a stupid boggart . . .”

“I see them d-d-dead all the time!” Molly moans into Remus’ shoulder. “All the t-t-time! I d-d-dream about it . . .”

Sirius, Remus sees over Molly’s head, is staring at the patch of carpet where the boggart, pretending to be Harry’s body, had lain. Moody is looking at Harry, who is determinedly not looking back.

“D-d-don’t tell Arthur,” Molly says, gulping now, mopping her eyes frantically with the cuffs of her sleeves. “I d-d-don’t want him to know . . . Being silly.”

Remus digs in his trouser pockets and produces a handkerchief, handing it to Molly, who blows her nose. Sirius is still staring at the carpet, and Remus doesn’t like it one bit.

“Harry, I’m so sorry, what must you think of me?” Molly asks shakily. “Not even able to get rid of a boggart . . .”

“Don’t be stupid,” says Harry, trying to smile.

“I’m just s-s-so worried,” she says, tears spilling out of her eyes again. “Half the f-f-family’s in the Order, it’ll b-b-be a miracle if we all come through this . . . and P-P-Percy’s not talking to us . . . What if something d-d-dreadful happens and we never m-m-made up? And what’s going to happen if Arthur and I get killed, who’s g-g-going to look after Ron and Ginny?”

“Molly, that’s enough,” Remus says firmly. “This isn’t like last time. The Order is better prepared, we’ve got a head start, we know what Voldemort’s up to –”

Molly gives a little squeak of fright at the sound of the name.

“Oh, Molly, come on, it’s about time you got used to hearing it – look, I can’t promise no one’s going to get hurt, nobody can promise that, but we’re much better off than we were last time, you weren’t in the Order then, you don’t understand, last time we were outnumbered twenty to one by the Death Eaters and they were picking us off one by one –” Remus pauses, looking at Harry.

“Don’t worry about Percy,” Sirius says, finally. “He’ll come round. It’s a matter of time before Voldemort moves into the open; once he does, the whole Ministry’s going to be begging us to forgive them. And I’m not sure I’ll be accepting their apology,” he adds, with a trace of bitterness. Remus is reminded this is the man who was sent to Azkaban without a trial.

“And as for who’s going to look after Ron and Ginny if you and Arthur died,” Remus says, smiling slightly. “What do you think we’d do, let them starve?”

Molly smiles tremulously.

“Being silly,” she mutters again, mopping her eyes.

***

Remus finally gets Molly to retire to her bedroom, and goes to speak quietly to Arthur, while Sirius and Harry also go to bed. Arthur trails Remus up the stairs, breaking off to go to his and Molly’s room, while Remus waits a moment, and then goes to the room he shares with Sirius.

Sirius is sitting on the edge of their bed, fully clothed, hands clasped together in front of him. He’s pale and looking at a patch of the rug with unseeing eyes.

“Padfoot?” Remus says softly, coming to sit beside him.

“It was just a boggart,” Sirius says, just as quietly.

“It was Harry’s body,” Remus says, taking both of Sirius’ hands in his own. He watches Sirius swallow thickly.

“Not just Harry’s –” Sirius manages, before a great, heaving sob comes out. “James. James’. Looked so much like –”

“Oh, god, Sirius, Padfoot,” Remus says, encircling Sirius in his arms as much as he can next to him. Sirius takes great, gulping breaths of air, as if he’s drowning. Remus sometimes forgets, forgets that Sirius had gone to Godric’s Hollow that night, had found James and Lily, dead, stepped over their very bodies to try to get to Harry in his crib. He shouldn’t. He should never forget that.

Sirius shudders in his arms, breathing ragged.

“It’s alright, love. Harry’s fine.”

Sirius shakes his head. “What if he’s not? What if I fail him, the way I failed James?”

“You did not fail James,” Remus says firmly. “And we have each other, and Harry –”

“What if it’s one of us? What if one day it’s you?”

The thought that one day it might be Sirius takes Remus’ breath away, and now he’s fighting tears, gasping for a breath.

“You can’t promise me, any more than you could promise Molly, and I’ve already seen it –”

Remus fights for a breath, takes it. “Then we love as well as we can, for as long as we can, until we can no more,” he says, tightening his arms around Sirius. “I love you,” he whispers.

“Love you, Moony,” Sirius manages, still shaking in Remus’ arms.

***

The trip to King’s Cross the next day is fairly chaotic, what with Harry’s guard and them going in groups to best protect Harry and the rest of the children. The good news, the best news, is that Sirius comes along in his dog form, amusing Harry and, Remus doesn’t doubt, himself, by chasing cats, birds and generally behaving, well, like he’s thrilled. Remus finds it delightful, though a little bit of a sad commentary on what Sirius’ life has been like trapped in Grimmauld Place. Molly scolds him at least once to act more like a dog when he gets up on his hind legs to give Harry a hug, but Remus wants to laugh. At least he didn’t lick Harry’s face.

They tumble back into Grimmauld Place, the adults heading into the kitchen. Sirius is still in dog form as Remus redoes the locks, and when Remus turns from the door he stands on his hind legs once again, and makes an attempt to lick Remus’ face. Remus pushes him off, laughing. “Get off, you silly dog,” he says, and then Sirius transforms back, also laughing, and they collapse into giggles in the entryway like schoolboys.

On impulse, Remus peeks down the hallway and seeks that it’s empty, then takes Sirius’ hand and guides him up the stairs to their room. He closes the door before he crowds Sirius against it, kissing him soundly.

“What’s this then, Moony?” Sirius asks, breathless.

“I like seeing you happy,” Remus replies, sucking kisses down Sirius’ neck.

“Appreciated, but half the Order is in the kitchen having tea,” Sirius points out, but he tilts his head back to give Remus better access.

“So let them. We’ll show up if we show up,” Remus says, flicking open the first button on Sirius’ shirt.

“We’ll be a scandal,” Sirius says, but he’s already breathing heavily, his chest rising and falling as Remus continues to undo the buttons on his shirt, running a hand down Sirius’ chest, playing with his belt buckle.

“It’s about damn time we were, then,” Remus says, pulling Sirius’ shirt off.

“Hear, hear,” Sirius says.

“Exactly. No silencing spell,” Remus instructs, and he looks up from undoing Sirius belt to see Sirius grinning at him. Remus places a palm on the back of Sirius’ neck and pulls him in for another kiss, one that’s all teeth and tongue, and that makes Sirius growl in his throat.

“There you go,” Remus says, stepping back long enough to pull his own shirt and vest over his head, and pull his trousers and pants down and off.

“God, Remus,” Sirius says, putting his hands on Remus’ hips in order to spin them, push Remus against the door. Sirius finishes undressing himself and Remus is pleased to note he’s already hard. Sirius uses his hands on Remus’ hips to pull them together, grinding their co*cks against each other until Remus gasps.

“I really had more planned than for us to rub each other off against the door,” Remus says when he can find the breath, “but I’ll take that.”

“Like what?” Sirius breathes out, his neck and chest flushed.

Remus’ brain short-circuits a bit at the slide of Sirius’ co*ck against his. “I thought you could f*ck me into oblivion against the door,” he manages, hissing at another slide.

“God, Remus,” Sirius says, muttering the lubrication spell, and Remus moans at the feel of it. “Warn a man first.”

“I did,” Remus says, spreading his legs so that Sirius can reach between them, behind him, working him open and slipping a finger inside. “Ah, ah,” he pants. Sirius manages another finger and Remus moans again, loudly, and Sirius huffs out a laugh.

“You’ve been holding out on me, Lupin,” Sirius says, crooking his fingers.

Ah, ah, god,” Remus manages. “I am the good boy; I’m the one who got the badge.”

Sirius stops what he’s doing for a moment and stares before bursting into laughter, Remus quickly following. They laugh for a moment before Sirius slides his fingers out, using his grip to lift Remus up. Remus allows himself to be pulled, for Sirius to wrap his arms around his waist, and he uses a bit of a levitation charm to help before they work together to sink Remus down onto Sirius’ co*ck, Remus’ legs coming to wrap around Sirius’ waist. Remus says the contraception charm and wraps his arms around Sirius’ neck, Sirius who is stronger than he looks, mouthing bites long Remus’ collarbone.

Sirius sets a fast pace, pounding into Remus with every thrust, and it doesn’t take long before Remus comes trapped between their stomachs, Sirius’ hips snapping until he comes, too, with a long, loud moan.

They gulp air together for a few minutes, until Sirius slowly pulls out and lowers Remus onto shaky legs. Sirius uses a bit of wandless magic to clean them up, and they redress, much more quietly.

“How do I look?” Remus asks, finishing the buttons on his shirt.

Sirius reaches out, touches a tender love bite that is just inside Remus’ collar. “Well f*cked,” he says.

“Same to you,” Remus says, grinning.

Good,” Sirius says. “Let’s go have tea.” He opens the door and Remus laughs.

***

If Remus thought things would settle a bit once the children had gone back to school, and the Weasleys back to the Burrow, he had been wrong. Order members come in and out of Grimmauld at all hours, unless no one is in Grimmauld, which is even harder, because it makes Sirius tense and edgy. Remus himself is often out during the day, and now his missions sometimes last overnight or more, which leaves Sirius to his own devices, and Remus has known since he was eleven years old that a Sirius left to his own devices is a dangerous Sirius, indeed.

Fortunately, he is there when Harry’s letter arrives after the first week of term. He had been working in his study, still trying to earn as much of a living as possible, when Sirius came in with the letter. Sirius explains and hands it over, and Remus scans it quickly.

“You think the thing about last year is his scar?” Remus asks, and Sirius nods.

“I think we need to tell Dumbledore,” Sirius says, which surprises Remus, because Sirius rarely feels the need for Dumbledore to know anything.

Remus considers. “Agreed. It may be nothing, but it also clearly speaks to the connection between Harry and Voldemort. Do you think we should wait until the next Order meeting, or talk to him separately?”

Sirius seems to think. “You’re going to be off tomorrow – at least a week?”

Remus sighs. “Yes. A pack outside Dublin.” He hates the thought of leaving Sirius alone that long. Order members may come and go during the week, but it’s often quiet on weekends.

Sirius sighs, too. “Before you go then, yeah?”

“Yes.” He thinks. “Yes. Are you going to write to Harry?”

Sirius nods, but there’s something in it that Remus can’t quite place. “Wish I could do more than that,” Sirius sighs again.

Remus feels unsettled. He really doesn’t want to leave, let alone for that long. “Be safe, Padfoot,” he says.

The smile Sirius gives him is totally unconvincing. “Of course, Moony.”

***

Remus returns from the pack near Dublin dirty, tired, and wet. It had rained nearly the entire time he had been there, and though the pack is doing as well as can be expected, they are struggling. Still, yet again, they are sympathetic to the Order’s cause but see no real benefit to them. Remus wants to tell them, and does, that once Voldemort’s power grows, there will be no quarter for them except with the Order. Voldemort has no more to offer than the Ministry, and anything he does offer will be lies. They have no information the Order doesn’t already have, but once again, they are a group Remus can’t exactly write off, like he would if he’d known they were already aligned with Voldemort or, just as badly to his mind, Greyback.

The house is quiet when Remus gets home, and he drops his bag right there in the entryway. He can deal with it later. It’s late, but not overly so, and Remus can see the light coming from the kitchen doorway. He treads lightly down the hallway and opens the door to find Sirius there, alone, sitting at the table with a mug and some firewhiskey. Remus sighs.

He walks down the stairs and over to Sirius, leaning down to press a quick kiss to Sirius’ lips.

“I know you told me not to drink,” Sirius starts, watching as Remus retrieves a mug from the cabinet.

“I told you not to drink alone,” Remus clarifies, taking the bottle off of the table and pouring himself a generous amount before sitting across from Sirius. “Which is good advice, and some you need to take to heart.”

“I take it it went well,” Sirius says.

“They have no incentive to join us, and I don’t blame them.” Remus takes a sip, feels the warmth slide down to his belly. “They will if Voldemort comes to power, but it might be too late by then.” He drinks again. “You?”

Sirius looks at him.

Remus raises an eyebrow shrewdly. “How bad is it?”

“Pretty bad.” Sirius sighs. “I used the floo to call Harry. In the Gryffindor Common Room.”

Remus stares.

“And –”

“There’s more?”

“I suggested I might be able to meet them in Hogsmeade—”

Sirius –”

“And then, when they were responsible and sensible about it, I told Harry he was less like James than I’d thought,” Sirius finishes, downing the rest of his firewhiskey and setting the mug on the table with a clang.

Remus rubs a hand over his eyes. “I honestly don’t know what to say to that.”

Sirius shrugs, and even that seems to convey his hurt and frustration. “Didn’t think you would.”

“Sirius –”

“It was cruel, and I know it, and I’ll have to live with having said it. Which is its own kind of punishment.”

“I don’t want to see you punished, Padfoot,” Remus says softly. “You always did know how to find people’s soft spots.”

“I used James against him. I used James against Harry.”

“So apologize,” Remus says.

“Not everyone is you, Remus.”

“People other than me accept apologies when they are heartfelt,” Remus says, drinking again.

Sirius is silent, as if he’s thinking about it.

“I hate this place, I hate what it’s doing to you,” Remus admits.

“No one’s asking you to stay,” Sirius starts.

“No, but I’m choosing to, because I love you, and don’t try to pick a fight with me to assuage your guilt about Harry.”

Sirius sighs.

“Sirius, you can’t take it back. Just like you can’t take so very many things back. There are things I’d like to take back, too. But that’s not how it works.” Remus knocks back the rest of the firewhiskey in his mug. “Sleep. Write to the boy. Let him decide how he feels. Do the best you can.”

“What if my best isn’t good enough?”

“It will be. I trust Harry’s heart. It will be.”

“Moony, you’ve grown to be an optimist in your old age.”

“No, I just remember James. And Lily. And have seen you with that boy. You’re enough.” Remus reaches across the table, lets his fingertips ghost along Sirius’ cheek. “No matter what this house tells you, what the people who used to live in it told you, you are always enough.”

“I’m reckless, and cruel.”

“You’re restless and lashing out. There’s a difference. And I’m a coward and a pathological people pleaser.”

“Moony.”

“See? Hurts to hear the person you love talk about themselves like they’re dirt, doesn’t it?”

“Remus.”

Remus pulls Sirius’ mug toward him, and takes it, along with his own and the bottle of firewhiskey, to the sink. Then he turns, holds out his hand, and offers it to Sirius, who takes it, giving it a kiss before using it to stand.

“You’re too good for me, Moony,” Sirius says.

“Not even on my best day,” Remus says, leading them upstairs.

***

The next few days are peaceful. Order members still come in and out, making reports about the security they have going to monitor the Department of Mysteries or their attempts to recruit members or Mundungus’ latest report on what’s going on in Knockturn Alley. There’s no formal meeting, and Remus is grateful for it. The place is enough of a revolving door as it is.

Remus works, continuing to try to freelance so he can earn some money of his own, even though Sirius is largely supporting him. Remus also suspects Sirius is largely supporting the Order out of his own vault and wonders how in the world it’s so easy for people like Molly Weasley to have a go at him when Sirius is the one who is quietly making their operations possible.

Sirius, for the most part, spends time with Buckbeak when Remus is working, or he reads, or sometimes writes to Harry. But sandwiches show up at Remus’ elbow around lunchtime, or he’ll be working on translating a passage when strong thumbs begin to roll the knots in his neck. One day, he happens to be in the kitchen when Sirius takes a large, brown paper wrapped parcel from Mundungus. It makes Remus’ eyebrows go up a bit at first, but then that night on his nightstand Remus finds a copy of Frankenstein, and it makes him smile.

Remus is up first the next morning and makes breakfast. Tea, toast, eggs, even some fried tomatoes. Sirius comes down in his pajamas, a little bedraggled. Remus is still in his own pajamas and a dressing gown. They aren’t expecting anyone yet, though of course, people have taken to coming in and out on their own schedules, with little regard to the fact that Sirius and Remus actually live here. Sirius gives Remus a quick kiss that tastes a bit like toothpaste before settling at the table with the Daily Prophet, flipping straight to the crossword section. Remus brings plates loaded with breakfast to the table as Sirius continues to work the puzzle, and they eat in companionable silence. Remus doesn’t push Sirius to talk. He’s the very definition of “not a morning person” and always has been, at least until some tea and some breakfast are sitting in his stomach.

Still, Remus notes that Sirius puts the paper down to clear the plates, setting them to wash with magic. The crossword is completely finished.

“Big plans for today, Moony?” Sirius finally speaks, filling his mug from the kettle again before coming to sit down across from Remus.

Remus hums. “I’m going to work some more. The Order is meeting again tonight, and I suspect I’ll have duties after that.”

Sirius’ face darkens, but he doesn’t say anything, choosing to sip from his mug again instead. “You’ll be gone, you mean.”

“Yes,” Remus sighs. “You know I’m not –” he starts, but Sirius holds up a hand to stop him.

“I know you’re not searching these assignments out, Remus,” he says softly, and it dislodges Remus’ automatic defense from his throat.

“I’m not,” Remus says softly. “They’re terrible. Conditions in packs, with werewolves, has always been awful, but since the Ministry passed its legislation, they’ve become horrific.” He pauses. “I could so easily have ended up there. No Hogwarts, no education, trying to scrape by on odd Muggle jobs.” He shakes his head.

“But you didn’t,” Sirius says softly.

“I didn’t, thanks to Dumbledore.”

Sirius tilts his head. “Not so sure about that,” he says.

“Dumbledore, if he hadn’t let me come to Hogwarts –”

“I know that part, Remus. So do you. What I’m saying is that he had you come to Hogwarts because you’re brilliant, and a powerful wizard, and a kind, caring person. You always would have been. Dumbledore just knew what he had on his hands.”

Remus blinks. “Do you think he’s using me?”

“Well, yes. I think you know that.”

Remus does. He doesn’t disagree.

“You’re still missing my point,” Sirius continues.

“Which is?”

“That you’re brilliant, and a powerful wizard, and a kind, caring person. With or without Hogwarts. You give yourself too little credit,” Sirius says simply.

Remus thinks. “I spent far too many years so close to where the people I see now are,” he says quietly.

Sirius looks down for a moment. “And that makes you think less of them?”

“No.”

Exactly,” Sirius says. “You see them as capable, strong people in their own right. It’s why you want better for them, want the wizarding community to be better for them, want the Order to be able to provide something to offer them. The choices shouldn’t be living on the edge of society in poverty or Greyback,” Sirius ends bluntly.

“Well, this turned into a pleasant conversation,” Remus says mildly.

“I think it’s one you needed to have,” Sirius says, and Remus thinks to himself he needs to never underestimate the man across from him. Sirius puts down his mug, and then continues. “I may have some ways to distract you from it.”

Remus lets a smile play at his lips. “Oh?”

“Well, for starters, we keep talking about shagging on this table and then never doing that, and I’d love to correct that oversight.”

Remus’ eyebrows shoot toward his hairline. “Anyone could come at any time, you know that.”

Sirius shrugs. “If I had my way, we’d start about 20 minutes before the scheduled time of tonight’s meeting, so if you’d rather wait,” he says.

“Oh, shut it,” Remus manages, leaning across the table to kiss Sirius, who has started laughing. Sirius’ laughter quickly dies out as Remus opens his mouth, sliding his tongue in and tasting Sirius’ tea and breakfast and Sirius. When they break the kiss, Remus tilts his head and changes the angle, diving in again just for the sweetness. He feels his co*ck start to fill, and finally pulls his mouth from Sirius’ when he can’t breathe anymore.

Remus takes a couple of gasping breaths. “How do you propose –”

“Clothing off, first,” Sirius instructs, and it sends a shiver down Remus’ spine, so he does as he’s directed, stripping off his dressing gown and pajamas. He watches as Sirius also removes his clothing. A flush has broken out across Sirius’ neck and chest from arousal, and Remus swallows thickly. He sees Sirius assessing the table, and then Remus feels the flush on his own face and neck.

“This might have been easier when we were seventeen,” Remus notes, and Sirius looks up at him with a wide grin that causes Remus’ heart to speed up.

“I would have loved to have f*cked you on this table when we were seventeen,” Sirius laughs. “Oh my god, my mother –”

“Don’t bring your mother into this,” Remus warns, and laughs when Sirius closes his mouth immediately. He eyes the table a little warily. “I think – cushioning charm? My back, your knees.”

“Bold of you to think you’re just going to lie down and take it, Moony,” Sirius manages, but Remus has seen the flush on his cheekbones.

“Darling, I am going to lie down and take it all, as much as you can give me, every single inch, as full of you and your co*ck as absolutely possible,” Remus says mildly, casting the cushioning charm on the table as Sirius stares at him.

“Holy f*ck, Moony,” Sirius manages, while Remus climbs on the table and tests out the charm.

Remus thinks it’s serviceable enough. He’s hard as a rock already, especially after what he said, and the effect it had on Sirius.

“I think this’ll do,” Remus says, holding out a hand to Sirius, who also climbs up on the table. Remus can see he’s just as hard.

They kiss again, Sirius’ hands roaming Remus’ body, over his shoulders and back, pulling him close. Sirius is thrusting gently, so gently Remus isn’t sure Sirius knows he is doing it, but Remus can feel the drag of Sirius’ co*ck across his hip, and he shivers a bit.

Sirius picks up on this, breaking the kiss. “Moony?”

“You,” Remus breathes, letting their noses bump, their breath mingle. “You’re already so hard.”

“So hard for you, love,” Sirius breathes. “Only for you.”

“Only for me,” Remus breathes, kissing Sirius again, but softly this time. “I want to feel every inch of that hardness inside me,” he says. “Feel it drag along me, feel you hit my prostate with every thrust. Can you do that, Padfoot?”

Sirius merely nods, as if he’s lost the power of speech, and isn’t that something, Remus thinks, robbing Sirius Black of his ability to talk. Remus kisses Sirius again before uttering the lubrication charm himself, as well as the contraceptive one. He gasps against Sirius’ mouth at the feeling, and he takes Sirius’ hand, guiding him down to his entrance. He hears Sirius mutter and then feels one already slick finger push inside as Remus begins to lower himself onto his back for better access.

Sirius works him open slowly, breathing harshly as he adds a second finger, then a third, and then even a fourth, until Remus is squirming from the feeling of full but not full enough.

“Need you to be ready for me, Moony. Ready to take all of me. You can do that, right? Be so good, take all of me? Every bit?”

Remus groans at Sirius’ words, and sees Sirius smile, the smug bastard.

“I know you can. You’re so good for me, Moony. So open, so willing,” Sirius continues, and Remus feels himself grow impossibly harder at the praise.

“You like that? Hearing how good you are?” Sirius takes Remus’ co*ck in the hand not buried in Remus and pumps it a few times, causing Remus to throw his head back. “I hope you do, because you are so good,” Sirius says, and for a moment Remus doesn’t know if Sirius is speaking generally or sexually, and he isn’t sure Sirius does either. God.

Sirius withdraws his fingers, and Remus whines at the loss. “Shhh, I’ve got you, love,” Sirius says, letting go of Remus’ co*ck to use both hands to grab Remus’ hips and pull Remus toward him, and line himself up. He makes eye contact before saying, “Are you ready? Ready for it all?”

All of it,” Remus says, meaning it, all of Sirius’ co*ck, all of Sirius himself, good, brilliant, angry, sad, all of it. All of it.

Sirius tosses his head to get some hair off his face, but nods, as if he knows exactly what Remus means, and Remus thinks he probably does. Sirius moves forward in one fluid thrust, bottoming out immediately, not going slowly at all, or giving Remus any time to adjust.

f*ck,” Remus says, but it’s not a noise of complaint, it’s one of feeling, so full, so amazing, so quickly.

“Okay?” Sirius asks, and when Remus nods, Sirius continues. “I knew you could do it, Moony. You’ve always done it. Been so good for me. Always let me fill you up, always been so tight, so hot for me, just for me, only for me.”

“Only for you,” Remus manages, as Sirius sets up a pounding pace, both inside of him and on his co*ck.

“God, Moony, you have no idea how you feel. So amazing, so present, always there, always.”

“Always, always,” Remus chants, though the emotion of it, along with the drag and slide of Sirius’ co*ck inside of him, makes him come, hard and long.

Sirius’ hips trust even harder, but more unevenly. “I’m going to fill you up, Moony, come inside of you, all of me, inside of you. You are so good, you can take it all.”

“It all,” Remus whispers, and feels Sirius spasm inside of him after Sirius thrusts in one more time, coming in thick, wet spurts.

Sirius kisses Remus again, even though they are both breathless already, and Remus kisses back, hard. Sirius waits until their chests stop heaving, just a bit, before pulling out and back, uttering the cleaning charm as he goes.

Remus sits up, and he feels a bit wobbly. The cushioning charm was a good idea for a few reasons. Sirius leans over and kisses him again, this time a bit more softly.

“You always did have the best ideas, Padfoot,” Remus says, and is gratified when Sirius laughs.

***

At the meeting that night, they are gathered around, listening to Kingsley outline the educational decree he thinks the Ministry is about to pass. Remus hears Molly say lightly to Arthur that the kitchen table is a little worse for wear, and Sirius might think about replacing it with a newer model.

“I don’t know, Molly, Sirius and I find it has many uses,” he says quietly, and then looks up to see Sirius’ eyes dancing at him from over his mug.

“The table stays,” Sirius says, turning back to Kingsley.

***

Remus knows Halloween is going to be difficult, and it is. He himself had been away, on a mission with a pack of werewolves in Romania. The reality of what he thought had happened, what he had thought was his new life, had come crashing in on him only on November 1, first through newspapers and then an emergency Portkey from Dumbledore smuggled through a contact, that brought him back to Britain on November 2nd.

But Sirius had lived through Halloween of 1981. He had gotten a bad feeling and gone to check on Peter. He had then gone to Godric’s Hollow, finding the truth, and a destroyed house. A dead James and Lily, and a crying Harry. He had left Harry and gone to face Peter, who was cleverer and more cunning than any of them knew, and gotten framed for murders he didn’t commit, thrown into Azkaban for deaths he felt responsible for anyway.

This Halloween, Remus makes sure he is home, at Grimmauld Place. Sirius comes down to breakfast but then disappears, and Remus works away in his study. Remus cooks dinner for two people, one of whom doesn’t come. There are no footsteps upstairs, or on the stairs, or anywhere in the house. Remus does the washing up and then heads up the stairs to their bedroom.

He finds Sirius on their bed, fully clothed on his side but curled up almost in a ball, back to the door. Without saying a word, Remus closes the door softly and then pads over to the bed, climbing up onto it. He embraces Sirius from behind, and a little to Remus’ surprise, Sirius lets him. Remus molds his body to Sirius’, holding him as closely as possible. He can feel Sirius breathing in his arms.

After a long while, Sirius says only, “Moony.”

“I know, Padfoot. I know,” Remus says softly.

Remus continues to hold on, all night, long after Sirius’ breathing has evened out. He simply holds on.

***

A few days later, Sirius’ birthday dawns grey and cool. Remus kisses him awake, and Sirius smiles a little shyly at the attention.

“Happy birthday, Sirius,” Remus says, smiling at the face filling his vision.

“Indeed,” Sirius answers back. “36, an auspicious occasion.”

Remus laughs a little and brings his hand up to cup Sirius’ cheek. “It is, you stupid old dog,” he says. “Now, up with you. We have places to be.”

“Like the kitchen?” Sirius asks, not making any signs of moving.

“Actually, no,” Remus says. “We are going out to breakfast.”

Sirius raises his eyebrows. “Did Dumbledore approve this?” he asks, half-jokingly, half-seriously.

“Not at all,” Remus answers. “Didn’t even ask him.”

Sirius’ eyebrows go up even further.

“We are going to breakfast, and you are going to go as yourself, not as the dog, even if we have to cast a few glamours. There’s a new Muggle café not far from here I think you’d like, and the croissants happen to be amazing.”

“You’ve been holding out on me, Moony,” Sirius says.

“They are better fresh, or I would have brought some home. So I’m going to bring you to them.”

“It’ll – it’s still dangerous.”

Remus shrugs. “We’ll be gone an hour and a half at the most. And after all, Stubby Boardman needs to make an appearance to keep up his adoring public happy. I know you know this isn’t blanket permission to leave the house again. Are you really protesting?”

Sirius’ face breaks out into a grin so wide it cracks his face open like the sunrise. Remus’ stomach loops a bit. “Not for a second,” he replies.

They get ready and dress quickly, and Remus does cast a few glamours on Sirius. If anyone was really looking for him none of it would throw them off, but Remus is certain that no one is going to care much about two random men in a Muggle café.

Remus is correct, especially as they choose to take their tea and coffee and breakfasts outside. It’s cool enough they are the only people eating at the few outside tables, but it’s not too cool for Remus, not when he sees the look on Sirius’ face, sees those sharp grey eyes take in everything around him. They chat a bit and laugh when a dog is so happy to see Sirius it wraps its leash around the leg of Sirius’ chair. The owner is a bit embarrassed, but Sirius is gracious and kind, giving the dog a knowing pat before it wanders away with its owner. On impulse, Remus leans over and gives Sirius a quick kiss, and he’s pleased at the light blush that it brings to Sirius’ cheeks.

They return to Grimmauld Place and hang their coats in the closet. Sirius leans in and kisses Remus softly. “Thank you, Moony,” he says. “That was the best present.”

Remus smiles, but he feels a deep pang of sadness that not even two hours out having breakfast counts as a present, as an undeserved treat, to this man, this man, who is the brightest star in the galaxy.

“That wasn’t your present, just breakfast,” Remus says lightly, reaching into his pocket. “This is your present,” he says, pulling out the long, slender box he had cast a spell on to fit in his pocket.

Sirius takes the box gently. It’s clear what must be inside it – only wands come in boxes like this in the wizarding world. “Remus—” he says.

“Open it,” Remus says, and Sirius does, bringing out a wand.

“You got me a wand?” Sirius asks.

“We talked about it. You need a better one than your stolen one. And, as you said, I know your magic. 12 inches, oak, dragon heart string. I had to try to think like you, which I might add is no easy feat, but it worked well for me when I did. Transfigured no less than three objects. Worked less well for me when I used it without you in mind.”

Sirius looks up into Remus’ face. “Moony, I.”

Remus shrugs a bit, but smiles. “Try it,” he says.

Sirius reaches into the box, lifting the wand out and hefting it in his hand, getting a feel for it, Remus knows. After a moment, Sirius says, “Explliarimus!” and Remus’ own wand comes flying out of his pocket and Sirius catches it.

They both laugh.

“Moony, I – how?”

“I do work for a living, you know,” Remus says lightly. “And I have some contacts that neither you nor Dumbledore need to know about.”

Sirius gives him a knowing look, still hefting the wand in his hand. He tosses Remus his wand back, and Remus catches it easily.

“Remus, Moony. Thank you. This is – it’s a lot, too much.”

“It’s not enough,” Remus says softly, and he watches as Sirius’ eyes get overly bright. “It’s not,” he says, leaning in to kiss Sirius. Sirius deepens it a bit, opening his mouth to slide his tongue gently into Remus’ mouth. Remus can taste coffee and hazelnut. Everything about it is sweet.

“What do you want to do with the rest of your day?” Remus asks as they part.

“I want to spend the rest of my day in bed with you, taking naps and making love until we can’t tell where one of us ends and the other begins,” Sirius softly.

Remus smiles and kisses Sirius again. “A nap first, you are getting old,” he teases, but Sirius laughs, and Remus quiets him with a kiss before he can wake up that bloody old hag with his barklike laugh.

***

Remus had left when the other Order members had, and by leaving, it meant he’d gone upstairs to their bedroom before the other members saw themselves out. Sirius remained in the kitchen, waiting until he could catch Harry in the fire at Hogwarts. Mundungus had overheard the children’s plans, and there, of course, had been much discussion in the Order about it. By discussion, Remus thinks, he means arguing, some barbed remarks, and a few thoughtful utterances. Molly, for one, had slammed the door shut with more force than necessary when she left to go on duty that night at the Department of Mysteries.

Remus looks up from his novel when Sirius comes in. Sirius is smiling and looks satisfied, and Remus smiles in return. “I take it you got in touch with Harry then?”

“And Hermione, and Ron.”

“I’d expect no less,” Remus says, putting down his book. He eyes Sirius. “They’re going to go through with it, aren’t they?”

“Yes. And yes, I gave them suggestions. And yes, I passed on Molly’s exact words to Ron. Though I need to bring up with the group that I think that Umbridge woman is monitoring both post and the floo. She nearly caught me.”

Sirius.”

“It was fine,” Sirius shrugs. “I can handle her.”

Remus hums at that and then catches Sirius looking at him appraisingly. “You were quiet in the meeting,” Sirius observes.

“I can’t say it’s the best idea. A brilliant idea, but maybe not the best.”

“You did get the badge, and the professorship,” Sirius notes. He shifts where he’s sitting on his side of the bed.

“it’s not just that. I do worry about them. Harry’s not completely a child, but he’s only fifteen.”

“James and I wouldn’t have just given into that woman. And you wouldn’t have, either,” Sirius adds softly.

“Not at fifteen, no,” Remus admits.

“And now?”

“No,” Remus says immediately, and Sirius gives him a look that says Remus has proven his point. “She’s horrific. She’s a bigot, and a menace, and she wields power like a blunt instrument to everyone she thinks is lesser than she is, which is just about everyone aside from Fudge.”

“So Moony,” Sirius begins.

“I worry. I worry about the real damage she could do to Harry and his friends if they get caught. I worry about –” you, Remus wants to end, but the word gets caught in his throat. Everywhere seems like a prison to Remus: the packs, this house, even, increasingly, Hogwarts.

“It’s going to get worse before it gets better,” Sirius says softly, surprising Remus.

Remus sighs, knowing that’s the truth. “For everyone,” he says.

“Moony.”

“Molly’s right, the odds that we all make it out of this alive –” Remus stops.

“Oh, hey. Oh. Moony.” Sirius pauses. “You were right with Molly. We have a head start this time. Our experience is better, our numbers are better. We are better equipped. I worry.” This time Sirius stops.

“That Harry isn’t as equipped as he should be,” Remus finishes.

Sirius nods.

“I don’t disagree with that, either,” Remus admits.

“So at what point do we override Dumbledore? Molly Weasley? The Order?”

“I don’t know,” Remus says truthfully. “Not now, but. I don’t know how much time we have.” He feels Sirius take his hand.

“This way, Harry will be better equipped. He’ll have something,” Sirius says.

Remus sighs. “That’s true. And he’ll be bloody brilliant at it.”

Sirius’ smile catches Remus off-guard a bit, it’s so bright. “He will, won’t he? Saved me from the Dementors.”

“That’s probably just the beginning for him. He’s so gifted in Defense. Would have given you and James a run for your money, that’s for sure, and that’s saying something.”

“Given you a run,” Sirius says, bringing their hands up and kissing Remus’ knuckles.

“He did nearly every day for a year,” Remus says, and laughs a little.

“So trust him a little,” Sirius adds. “Even if he’s young.”

Remus nods.

“I knew you were going to worry this to death, and you’ll continue to do it,” Sirius says.

“You did, did you now?” Remus asks, smiling.

“My god, Moony, it’s like you think I don’t know you or something,” Sirius says with mock-exasperation, and Remus’ smile gets bigger.

Sirius leans over and kisses him. It starts off slow and sweet, but turns heated quickly, and Remus lets it. He needs to feel something solid, feel connected, feel less unmoored than he has since the meeting ended. Sirius breaks the kiss long enough to pull off his own shirt, then Remus’, pulling them together until they are chest to chest. He kisses the side of Remus’ face and his jaw. Sirius slowly rolls them until Sirius is on top of Remus, his body weight pressing him into the bed. Remus loves this, this weight, all of it, it feels like an anchor, and he surges up, kissing Sirius until he can’t anymore, needs air.

They are breathing heavily together, chests heaving against each other. Remus grinds up for the friction, feeling Sirius against him, growing hard as well. Sirius grinds down and Remus gasps.

“Moony, tell me,” Sirius manages, grinding down again, and Remus reaches for Sirius’ arse, grabbing it and pulling him down, making Sirius stay there as his hips buck up, and they both moan at the contact, even through their clothing.

“I am telling you,” Remus says, not letting go, even as he wants more, wants their clothing gone, wants the long, slow drag of Sirius’ co*ck against his.

“Love, if I don’t get rid of these pants in the next five seconds,” Sirius starts.

“You’ll come in them?” Remus finishes, and Sirius drips his head to Remus’ shoulder and groans.

Yes,” Sirius says.

Good,” Remus answers, tightening his hold on Sirius even as prickles of heat and sweat break out on his own skin. He pulls down again at the same time he pushes up and Sirius begins to pant. Remus begins to thrust and Sirius outright moans, beginning to match Remus’ movements.

“Can we? At least? God, feel you,” Sirius says, and Remus lets go so they can scramble apart long enough to shuck the rest of their clothing, before Sirius murmurs a lubrication spell and slickness spills between them. Remus rubs it over his co*ck and Sirius’ and Sirius moans again, laying on top of Remus again. Remus grabs Sirius’ hips hard, hard enough to wonder if he’s going to leave bruises, pulling Sirius down to him. They slide together and Remus groans himself, thrusting up.

Sirius continues to grind down as Remus thrusts up, and they find a rhythm and some friction sliding together. Remus cranes his neck up and kisses Sirius, pinned between him and the bed, surrounded by warmth and heat. Sirius has wrapped his arms around Remus and has his hands underneath his shoulder blades and Remus feels utterly safe and contained for once. He continues to blindly thrust up until he manages to get a hand between them, getting a hand around both himself and Sirius. He pumps only a few times before they each come nearly simultaneously, their co*cks hot and wet, trapped between them and sticky. Sirius collapses on top of Remus completely and Remus is more than happy to take his weight.

Sirius finally rolls off, back over to his side of the bed. He mutters the cleaning charm, but then says the same thing Remus is thinking.

“I think a good old-fashioned shower may work better for this, Moony,” he says, and Remus laughs.

“Together?” Remus says, smiling.

“I think so,” Sirius says, grinning back.

***

Remus finishes packing his bag and heads downstairs. Sirius is in the kitchen, but Remus leaves his bag by the front door, where he will need to retrieve it before leaving. Sirius has been in a bit of a mood. Remus will be gone for almost two weeks, including the full moon, to a pack with known ties to Greyback. Sirius can’t write to Harry due to Umbridge’s interference, and even worse, Molly had offered to take Harry in at the Burrow for Christmas, and Dumbledore had approved, so Harry wouldn’t be spending the holidays with them. Remus could go, but Sirius had been told not to leave Grimmauld, and Remus isn’t about to head out for Christmas without Sirius.

Still, Sirius has made Remus a plate of toast and cup of tea, and each is waiting for him at a spot at the table. Sirius barely looks up when Remus enters and sits down, working on a crossword from one of the Muggle books Remus had bought during his last mission for the Order.

“All set?” Sirius asks shortly, not looking up.

“Yes,” Remus says, taking a sip of tea. “Thank you for breakfast.”

Sirius shrugs, scribbling another word into the little boxes.

“I’ll be back by Christmas, probably Christmas Eve,” Remus says, taking a bite.

Sirius doesn’t answer.

“You ordered Harry’s gift?” Remus tries, and at this, Sirius does smile a bit.

“I did, under your name,” Sirius says. “Imagine, buying the boy books for Christmas.”

“The series looks truly stunning,” Remus offers. “I think he’ll get Quidditch things from his friends. This will fascinate him, and he’ll be able to keep them with him for a long time, perhaps forever. It’s a more permanent gift.”

At that, Sirius looks up. “From both of us, yes?”

Remus nods. “Of course. I already signed the card, as did you.”

Sirius tilts his head. “Do you – do you think that will mean anything to Harry?”

Remus takes another bite of toast as he considers his answer. “I honestly don’t know. He’s a fifteen-year-old boy. He might not think that much about it.” He pauses. “Are you asking me if you think we should tell him about us? That we’re together?”

Sirius looks down but gives a short nod.

“Padfoot, I –” Remus begins, but he doesn’t get a chance to finish, because Sirius interrupts.

“You’re going to say no,” Sirius says bluntly, still looking down.

“I’m going to say, not yet,” Remus says gently, but Sirius still doesn’t look up. “Things are hard on Harry right now, with Umbridge at the school, and Voldemort coming back.”

“Didn’t know we counted as a hard thing, Moony,” Sirius bites out.

“We don’t, Padfoot,” Remus says gently. “But –”

“We don’t talk about it to anyone. We don’t tell anyone. We figure if they notice, they notice, but so far no one seems to have. If anyone knows we share a bedroom here, that would be news to me.”

“Sirius –”

“Are you that ashamed of me? That embarrassed about being with me?” Sirius asks abruptly.

Remus’ mouth drops open. “That’s not it at all –” he starts.

“Then what else could it possibly be? Can’t have people thinking you’re involved with the mad, lonely man,” Sirius says bitterly.

“Padfoot, I love you,” Remus starts.

“You just don’t want anyone to know you do,” Sirius says shortly, getting up from the table suddenly.

“Sirius, I have to go, and I don’t want to leave on this note,” Remus tries, a little desperately.

“Then go, Remus,” Sirius says. “I’ll just have to be another one of your secrets,” he finishes, leaving the kitchen. Remus hears him go up the stairs and down the hall, but nothing after that.

***

Remus does make it back Christmas Eve. Dumbledore had made sure the news of Arthur’s attack at the Ministry had made its way to Remus, through a network of underground contacts. He knows the bare bones of the story, and that the Weasleys and Harry will be staying at Grimmauld Place as a safety measure for the holiday. It is late when he arrives back, almost technically Christmas Day, so Remus tries to be as quiet as possible, mostly because the house is also quiet. He doesn’t wake the portrait up, thank god, but he does notice that the house has been decorated for the holidays. There is fake snow on the ground, and garland wrapped around the banister. Soft light is flashing from upstairs, probably out of the drawing room, and Remus wonders briefly what is causing it. Light is also coming from the sitting room on the main floor that Sirius and Remus have claimed as their living space.

Wondering if Sirius is still up, Remus sets his bag down by the door, as he had before his departure, toes his shoes off, and walks softly down the hall. He peeks in the door of the sitting room, and there, by the fire, is Sirius, reading on the sofa in his usual spot. Even though he’d been quiet, Sirius looks up when Remus appears in the doorway.

“Sirius –“ Remus says, but he doesn’t get much farther than that, because Sirius is off the sofa in an instant, cupping Remus’ face with both hands and kissing him softly but thoroughly.

“Oh,” Remus manages when Sirius breaks the kiss, resting his forehead against Remus’. “I thought you’d still be angry with me,” he admits.

Sirius shakes his head, which Remus feels against his own forehead more than he sees it. “No, I. Arthur,” he says.

“I’ve heard some of it,” Remus says. “You’ll have to tell me the rest. I want to know how he is, how Harry is, he had such a frightening experience –” Remus is cut off again by another gentle kiss.

“I will. I’ll tell you everything,” Sirius says. “But.” He pulls back just enough so that Remus can see his face, though Sirius is still holding his in his hands. “I need you to know I’m sorry. I want to tell everyone about us, I do. But I understand your reservations, and the responsibilities you have that I don’t. The people we know, even those who are friendly with us, they, well. They barely accept you as is. I don’t want to pressure you. I know you love me. I know it, and that’s enough.”

“Sirius, Padfoot. I do love you. And I am not at all ashamed of you. I worry about you, what this house is doing to you, what another imprisonment is doing to you, and I don’t want people to judge you for yet another thing you can’t help.”

“God, how are we having the same conversations in 1995 we had in 1975?” Sirius asks.

“Because the wizarding world is marvelous in some ways and extremely backward in others,” Remus says.

“I love you, Remus, Moony, you have to know.”

“I do.”

“When Arthur. He almost. If that had been you, and you had left, and we’d left things the way we had – I’d never have forgiven myself. I’d never recover from that,” Sirius says.

“It’s okay to not want to be secretive, it’s okay to want to be open. I want people to know what we are to each other. I don’t want it to ever be too late for us,” Remus answers.

“God, Moony, me either, me either,” Sirius repeats, leaning in close to kiss Remus. When Sirius pulls back Remus realizes Sirius is crying. Remus himself takes a shaky breath.

“Let’s do it this summer. We’ll keep Harry here for the holiday, after he goes to Privet Drive. Tell him then, at least. The others, the adults, maybe sooner,” Remus says.

Sirius nods. “Yes, okay. Yes.” His warm hands leave Remus’ face, and Remus suddenly feels a little bit of loss at the end of the touch. “Is there anything you need? Are you hungry?”

Remus shakes his head. “I ate. I need a shower, our bed, a good night’s sleep, and you,” he answers.

“Those I can give you, Remus. Those I can give you,” Sirius says, and leans in for one more kiss.

***

When Remus wakes the next morning, he can already hear the sounds of a bustling house. Young feet run up and down the stairs, and the distinct smell of bacon wafts toward him.

“Happy Christmas, Moony,” Sirius says from Remus’ left, and Remus smiles.

“Happy Christmas, Padfoot,” he answers, turning over and smiling at Sirius before kissing him soundly.

“We may be the last ones up,” Remus says, but Sirius shrugs.

“I think the kids got up early. Wanted to go through their loot,” Sirius answers, and Remus laughs a little.

“You’ve been awake?” Remus asks.

Sirius nods. “For a bit.”

“You could have gotten up. I would have made it downstairs,” Remus says.

Sirius shrugs again. “I wanted my loot,” he grins, and Remus laughs again.

“What makes you think I have anything for you?” Remus teases.

“Well, for one thing, there are two perfectly respectable gifts labeled for each of us underneath the tree in the drawing room. I made sure of it. You’re getting the new novel at the top of the best seller list, and you got me some more Muggle crossword books. Surprise,” Sirius says wryly, and Remus smiles.

“What makes you think I got you anything else?” Remus persists, but he knows it’s a futile effort. Of course they had arranged to give each other their own, more personal gifts.

Sirius sits up on the pillows a little and scoffs. “Do you want to go first, or do you want me to?” he asks. “I’d much rather have a small, happy Christmas of our own before facing the Weasley clan plus Harry.”

Remus sits up, too, and smiles. “You, you give yours to me first. I want to go first.”

“Well, that’s a change from Mr. Moony,” Sirius says, but he laughs and gets up momentarily, going to the wardrobe and pulling a box off the top shelf. It’s wrapped in snitch covered wrapping paper, and Remus laughs at that as Sirius hands him the box.

“Wrapped it at the same time as Harry’s?” Remus asks mildly, and Sirius shrugs.

“It’s perfectly good wrapping paper. And yes, for . . . reasons,” Sirius says vaguely.

Remus raises his eyebrows but tears at the paper anyway, pulling it off and opening up the box. When he gets a glimpse of what’s inside, he laughs.

“Reasons, indeed,” he says, pulling out the same set on Defense they’d given Harry.

“I saw how you looked at those books in the catalog. It was downright covetous. But I knew you’d never get them for yourself. Now you have your own set and you won’t have to nick from Harry’s.”

Remus grins, delighted. “Thank you,” he says, giving Sirius a kiss. “I love it.”

Sirius smiles, looking pleased. “You’re welcome. My turn.”

Remus nods, opening his bedside drawer. His box is much smaller and wrapped in Gryffindor red paper. He offers the box to Sirius, who takes it, looking thoughtful.

Sirius makes quick work of the wrapping paper and the box, opening a small jewelry box. His mouth falls open a little as he sees what’s inside, and he pulls out a man’s band, hanging from a gold chain. Remus hears him draw a breath in the now quiet room. “Is this?” Sirius starts.

Remus nods. “It’s my father’s wedding band. I retrieved it from the house in Wales on the way home from a mission. It’s engraved with your birthday,” Remus adds softly. “Not exactly the same, but –”

“The same idea. Moony,” Sirius says, still holding the chain, the ring on it swinging back and forth a bit. “When did you?”

“A while ago. After your birthday. Took some time to find it, the jeweler to engrave it.” Remus pauses. “I. Is it? If you don’t –”

But Sirius surges forwarded, kissing him lovingly. “It’s perfect. And I know what it means,” he says, and Remus can hear the tears. Remus watches as Sirius slips it on, around his neck, making sure Remus sees it hang there for a moment before he slips it underneath his pajama top.

“A matched set,” Sirius says.

“Always,” Remus answers, and Sirius kisses him again.

***

Remus has somehow pulled what he is calling in his head “Molly Weasley duty.” He had stepped in to comfort her on Christmas morning when her children were at a loss, and he had accompanied the family and Harry to St. Mungo’s. At least there he had been able to give the new werewolf some comfort, and his contact information, not as a recruit for the Order, but simply as a person who understands. He’d been grateful for the distraction – he still can’t believe Molly had gone on and on about stitches for god’s sake, even James and Sirius weren’t that pureblooded – and the poor man had needed a friendly face.

There’s also Sirius to contend with. Sirius, who had been thrilled to have company, especially Harry, is growing more sullen and depressed by the day. Remus purposefully shuts himself in his study often, not just to give himself a break, but to give Sirius some place to retreat to if he needs it. And he does need it, often. Sometimes Sirius will go feed Buckbeak, or go lie down or nap their room, but sometimes he seeks Remus out, even if it’s just to sit on the small bed for a moment, or an hour. He’s always compelled to go seek Harry out again, but he spends time with Remus in private. Misery loves company, indeed, Remus sometimes thinks.

Remus is in his study writing a short essay on magical creatures he’d been commissioned for by a small wizarding publication in Spain when Sirius comes in holding what is clearly a letter, all sound and fury. Remus had even heard the tell-tale tread of Sirius’ angry footsteps on the stairs, so it’s no surprise when Sirius bursts in without knocking and flings himself with a grunt onto the bed. Remus looks over at him, and Sirius looks like he’s re-reading the letter again.

Remus turns around in his chair. “Should I even ask?”

Sirius looks up at him, and his mouth twists. “Dumbledore. He wants Harry to begin Occlumency lessons. With Snape. Letter is coded, but it’s clear enough.”

Remus takes in the different pieces of this information. He doesn’t think Occlumency lessons are a bad idea at all. Given Harry’s apparent connection with Voldemort, thrown into stark contrast by his description of how he’d known about the attack on Arthur, and the fact that his scar has been hurting all year, Harry learning to block Voldemort, even if Harry doesn’t know that’s what might be happening, sounds like a good idea. Remus thinks Sirius would likely agree, especially if it means keeping Harry safer. Which leaves the likely issue of who is going to give those lessons. Remus sighs. The sigh makes Sirius’ mouth twist further, and Remus knows even more acutely to be careful here.

“I think Occlumency lessons may be wise,” Remus starts slowly, and he sees Sirius shift, then sigh.

“I do, as well, unfortunately,” Sirius agrees. “The way he describes what happened with how he knew about the attack at the Ministry . . .” Sirius trails off. “It’s worrying.”

Remus abandons his chair and comes to sit next to Sirius on the bed. “Oh, Sirius. Yes. I agree, it is.”

“But with Snape?” Sirius’ voice all but drips contempt.

Remus thinks for a moment about how to best phrase this. “I think . . . I think Snape is the obvious choice.” Sirius opens his mouth to speak, but Remus is faster. “For one, he’s at Hogwarts already.”

This may have been the wrong tactic, because Sirius’ face darkens. “Harry isn’t going to be here.”

“No, love. He’s going back to school, and we all know it.”

Sirius sighs deeply, and Remus once again hates this house, and, increasingly, a Dumbledore and Ministry who are making no moves to pardon an innocent man. He knows Dumbledore is being attacked personally and politically, and that Fudge is busy covering Voldemort’s tracks, but certainly there’s something that could start to be done.

“I know, Moony, I haven’t gone that far round the twist,” Sirius says sarcastically.

“Never said you had, Sirius,” Remus says lightly. “Snape is already at Hogwarts, and he is a master at Occlumency. Even I have to admit that. That man’s mind is like a vault, and even if you get inside, you will only see what he wants you to.”

Sirius raises his eyebrows. “How much have you been trying to root around in Snape’s mind?”

Remus laughs a bit at that. “Not much. But who used to get paired up with him at school during those lessons?” It had been him, of course, in the lessons they shared with Slytherins. No sane professor was going to pair Sirius or James with Snape, or Peter for that matter, even Lily, by the time they were older.

“Oh god, I’d forgotten about that. Our poor young Moony,” Sirius says, and a ghost of a smile flits across his face for a second.

“Talk about taking one for the team,” Remus agrees.

“If I weren’t stuck here,” Sirius says after a beat, and Remus knows this is more than half the problem.

“Even if you weren’t here, you couldn’t do it. You, on the other side of the coin, are pants at Occlumency.”

“Remus!” Sirius has the audacity to look surprised.

“What? You are! Every single emotion you have gets filtered through your face, or your body language, and that’s what you manage not to blurt out with your mouth. Your mind is an open book, Padfoot, especially once you stopped trying to cover it up under all of your posh breeding.”

Sirius looks at him, and finally sighs after a moment.

“It’s because of your huge heart, Sirius,” Remus adds softly, and Sirius looks down, his face partly obscured by his hair.

“Remus.”

“It’s true,” Remus says softly.

“What about you? You could teach him. You’re a natural,” Sirius says. “And that boy loves learning from you.”

Remus feels the blush heat his cheeks. “He might, and I love teaching him, but I’m not much better at Occlumency than you are. I may be controlled on the outside, I’ll admit that, but I’m not that good at blocking out someone who is going looking inside my mind.”

Sirius looks up at him, considering. “Plus, Dumbledore is using you for other purposes,” he adds.

Remus sighs. “That, too.”

“Well, f*ck,” Sirius says. “If it’d been one of us, we might get to see him more often,” he adds softly, and Remus’ heart squeezes a bit. He puts an arm around Sirius and squeezes him, and Sirius allows it, leaning into Remus’ side.

“There will come a day when we see more of Harry. When you will see more of Harry. I am sure of it,” Remus says softly, pressing a kiss to Sirius’ hair.

“You really think so?” Sirius asks.

“I know so,” Remus replies, squeezing again.

***

Remus pulls the duty of taking the children back to Hogwarts with Tonks. He sees Sirius pull Harry aside and shove a package in his hand. Harry stows it in his pocket, and Remus makes a note to ask about it later. Harry looks almost as troubled and depressed as Sirius, like there’s something on his mind, but Sirius draws him into a one-armed hug in the entryway, seemingly unknowingly forestalling anything Harry might say. Then he and Tonks are stepping into the cold, grey January morning, herding the children and summoning the Knight Bus. The ride to Hogwarts is largely uneventful, if nauseating, and Remus pulls Harry aside briefly, after telling the children to look after themselves and shaking hands all around.

“Harry,” he says, lowering his voice, “I know you don’t like Snape, but he is a superb Occlumens and we all – Sirius included – want you to learn to protect yourself, so work hard, all right?”

“Yeah, all right,” Harry says heavily, looking up into Remus’ face. “See you then,” he finishes, and then the children are off, struggling up the slippery slope with their trunks.

Tonks suggests something about grabbing a warm drink in the Hog’s Head, but Remus shakes his head. He just wants to go back home, but he makes an excuse about work, and Tonks doesn’t argue. They apparate back to Grimmauld Place in time for lunch, and Remus is a little bit dismayed to find Molly and Arthur still there, Molly preparing sandwiches. She asks Tonks to join them and Tonks readily agrees before seating herself next to Remus. Sirius doesn’t comment but still manages to look annoyed. As much as Sirius had liked having a house full of people, Remus doesn’t think this is the kind of company he is asking for.

Lunch turns out to be a more prolonged affair than normal, Tonks and Molly chatting back and forth about Tonks’ work, and how the Ministry is holding up under Fudge. Tonks laughs a little bit loudly, and a little too much, but Remus doesn’t think much of it, until the third time Tonks brushes his wrist with her fingers almost in a light hold when she laughs. At that point, he has to think it’s purposeful, which puzzles him for a moment, until he thinks of the Hogs Head offer, and then he thinks to wonder if Tonks is actually flirting with him. Remus feels his face blush a bit and he ducks his head into his water glass. He comes up for air after a moment, but his gaze finds Sirius, who has risen one eyebrow just enough for Remus to catch it. Remus takes a last bite of sandwich just to dislodge Tonks’ fingers, and fights down his embarrassment, and a little bit of indignation.

Molly does the washing up, and she, Arthur and Tonks finally depart. Remus taps the door and the locks clang into place. Then it is just Sirius and him standing in the entryway, until Sirius takes the wrist Tonks had held in a much firmer grip and nearly drags Remus up the stairs. Sirius throws open their bedroom door and doesn’t make a move to close it, instead leaning in to capture Remus’ mouth in a bruising kiss that leaves him breathless.

When they part, Sirius makes quick work of Remus’ cardigan and then the buttons on Remus’ shirt, making sure to lave each nipple with his tongue before slipping it off Remus’ shoulders.

“Impatient, are we, Padfoot?” Remus tries to tease, but his own quick breathing and slowly curling arousal are sure to be giving him away.

Yes,” Sirius says. “I had to put up with that stupid luncheon, including watching my cousin’s daughter make numerous passes at you,” he says, his fingers working on Remus’ belt buckle.

“Numerous?” Remus manages, and Sirius stops what he is doing to look at Remus incredulously.

“Surely even you aren’t that oblivious,” Sirius says, and he’s biting his lip.

Remus is a little indignant, and, honestly, probably, that oblivious, if he’s honest with himself. “I noticed the laughing, and the brushing of my wrist,” he admits, and Sirius picks up the same wrist, pressing a kiss to the inside of it.

Sirius continues to hold the wrist to his mouth. “And the gentle teasing, and the meaningful looks, and I would bet ten galleons she asked you to a drink at The Three Broomsticks earlier.”

“The Hog’s Head,” Remus corrects, and Sirius’ eyebrows go up. “I said no,” he protests.

“Not even to be polite?” Sirius asks, though he of course knows the answer.

“No,” Remus says as Sirius drags his teeth against the inside of Remus’ wrist, making him shiver. A thought occurs to him. “Wait. This is the first time, isn’t it?”

At that, Sirius actually laughs. “No,” he says. “At every Order meeting, too, since at least, huh. October? And at Christmas.”

What?” Remus asks, and Sirius laughs again. Remus thinks. “How did I not know?”

“See earlier, when I mentioned you being oblivious,” Sirius says. “Have some experience with that, as you were oblivious to me for a good couple of years there,” he continues.

“And you aren’t jealous?” Remus asks, and it’s a genuine question. Sirius has never been the jealous type, per se, but his moods now are all over the place.

“I’m plenty f*cking jealous,” Sirius answers quickly. “I hate it, and I loathe Molly’s assistance.”

“Molly’s assistance?”

Sirius lets out a barklike laugh. “Who do you think made the arrangements about the children this morning? With ulterior motives, I might add.”

What?” Remus asks again, and Sirius kisses him thoroughly, all wet heat and tongue.

“I hate every second of it, and am plenty jealous,” he repeats, “except for the fact that I know you and know I have nothing to worry about with you.” He pauses and then adds more softly, “I trust and love you. And I know –” he starts, but Remus cuts him off, because Remus knows he has to be the one to say it.

“I love you, Sirius, and no one else. Not now, not ever.” His hand goes automatically to the ring that’s sitting, cool and solid, against his sternum.

“Moony,” Sirius says, and this time, Remus leans and kisses him, pushing him toward the bed with this body weight. When they part, Sirius is panting, and Remus finishes undressing quickly. Sirius takes off his own shirt before Remus places a hand on his chest and pushes him down onto the bed, climbing up and straddling him before kissing him again. He feels himself harden further, and he grinds down onto Sirius, who is in a bit of an awkward position but not protesting it.

“God, I want you,” Remus confesses, which makes Sirius groan underneath him. He leans down for another kiss and Sirius’ hips buck up, and Remus can feel how hard he is.

“You’ll need to budge up, love, let me undress,” Sirius says softly, and Remus moves to the side and Sirius stands again, quickly undressing.

“I want to ride you,” Remus says bluntly, and he sees Sirius flush from his cheekbones down his neck, chest and torso, seemingly all the way to his hard, curling co*ck.

“Yes, please,” Sirius agrees, climbing onto the bed and settling against the headboard.

Excellent,” Remus says, and he sees Sirius’ co*ck start to leak, which only makes him smile. “I am going to take you, take all of you, every bit of you some silly girl can’t give me, feel you drag and slide inside of me, the best feeling.” Sirius gasps, and Remus reaches out as he gets on the bed, taking the ring Sirius now wears and that is shining against his pale skin, and holds it in his fingers for a moment. “You are mine and I am yours,” Remus says, and Sirius nods.

Remus straddles Sirius and utters the lubrication charm twice, once for his own fingers and once for inside of him. He uses his fingers to reverently coat Sirius’ co*ck one inch at a time, and Sirius is squirming underneath him a bit by the time he finishes and takes Sirius in his hand, feeling the length and weight of him in his palm. It’s delicious, and he closes his hand enough to pump Sirius up and down. Sirius grabs Remus’ hips and sighs out a breathless, “Moony,” before swallowing thickly.

“Remus, if you really want,” Sirius says, and Remus kisses him silent.

“I know, I know,” Remus says softly, reluctantly letting go of Sirius’ co*ck. He flicks his fingers at each of Sirius’ nipples, causing Sirius to squirm again, and Remus thinks it’s delightful.

“Prep myself?” Remus asks, a little breathless himself, but Sirius shakes his head.

“If I watch you do that, I’ll come before we barely get started,” Sirius pants out, saying the lubrication charm and coating his own fingers.

Remus nods as Sirius reaches down between them. Remus lifts up a bit to give him better access and then Sirius is there, pushing in two fingers at once, causing Remus to hiss.

As he adjusts, Sirius leans forward a bit, and whispers into Remus’ ear, his breath hot on the shell. “If you’re going to take all of me, love, let’s get started as we mean to go on,” he says. “And you’re so good for me, I know you can take it. You take my fingers, and my co*ck, so well. Ah, there you are,” Sirius says as Remus begins to feel himself relax, feel the feeling of not enough.

Sirius works the two fingers in and out of Remus, who helps by lowering himself onto them in time with Sirius’ thrusting.

“Sirius, Padfoot,” Remus manages after a few minutes.

“Hold on, Moony,” Sirius says. “You’re barely prepped at all –” he starts, but Remus cuts him off with a messy kiss.

“I want you, I want to take you, be good for you,” Remus nearly whines, but he can still sense Sirius’ hesitation, even as Sirius is clearly holding back with effort. “I can do it, Padfoot. If it’s too much, I’ll tell you.”

“Promise?” Sirius breathes out.

“Promise,” Remus answers, also casting the contraceptive charm.

Sirius withdraws his fingers and Remus angles up even more, so that Sirius can grab the base of his co*ck to line it up. They work in tandem, Remus slowly sinking onto Sirius inch by glorious inch, feeling the slide and drag of Sirius inside of him. Sirius lets him go slowly, biting his lip from the effort, watching Remus with hungry, grey eyes. Finally, Remus sinks completely down, Sirius inside of him from tip to base, and he throws his head back, hot and full and reveling in the feeling.

Sirius leans forward and captures Remus’ pulse point in a wet, open-mouthed kiss. “Moony,” he says breathless.

Sirius,” Remus breathes out, rising again just enough to feel the slow drag of Sirius’ co*ck, Sirius thrusting up just to re-fill him a little bit. “Want you, no one else, fill me, be good for you,” he babbles. He pulls up again almost all the way and slams back down with such force he punches a breath out of himself.

Moony,” Sirius manages again, thrusting again, “Only for me, me, forever and always,” he says as they set a pace together, Remus doing a lot of the work but letting Sirius thrust as he can.

“Always,” Remus echoes, moaning as Sirius thrusts up against his prostate.

Sirius leans in again to kiss him, and they kiss seemingly endlessly, breaking the kiss and then changing angles and diving back in again and again as they work together. Remus can tell Sirius is close by the way his kisses become sloppy, his thrusting harder, not as rhythmic.

Remus breaks their latest kiss and says, “Come, come for me, love, come, I’m so good, fill me up, only you can, only you can,” and Sirius does, thrusting up one last time before coming inside of Remus. Remus continues to pull on and off, working Sirius through his org*sm until Sirius comes back into himself enough to wrap a hand around Remus’ co*ck. He pumps up and down a few times and then Remus bites his own lip and comes between them across Sirius’ stomach and chest, moaning with the feel of it.

They stay joined for a bit, their foreheads together, until Sirius softens enough to slip out. Remus says the cleaning charm and then curls into Sirius, who wraps a protective arm around Remus. They fall asleep like that, quiet, until it’s time for dinner, and they eat the takeaway in bed, chatting, enjoying, rather than rejecting, their privacy.

***

One morning, later in the month, Remus comes down to the kitchen for breakfast to find Sirius, pale, staring at the front page of the morning paper. There’s no tea, no coffee, no breakfast, no crossword puzzle, just Sirius staring at the paper like a ghost.

“Padfoot,” Remus says softly, coming to stand behind him, and he sees the headline: Mass Breakout from Azkaban Ministry Fears Black is “Rallying Point” for Old Death Eaters.

“Sirius,” Remus starts quietly. “You have to know, they’re just fear mongering. Fudge can’t say it’s Voldemort.”

“So I’m the next best thing,” Sirius says, quietly and bitterly.

“You are not,” Remus says fiercely.

“I heard them, you know. Bella, some of the others. All the time. Wanting their Dark Lord to return to them.” Sirius’ voice is a whisper. “And now he has,” he adds, before pushing his chair back and leaving the kitchen.

Remus lets him go but drops some tea and toast onto his nightstand on the way to his study while Sirius is feeding Buckbeak. Sirius doesn’t appear for the rest of the day, and when Remus goes to bed that evening, Sirius rolls over underneath the covers until Remus is holding him against his chest. There are no tears, but Sirius finally falls asleep, breath evening out as Remus cards his fingers through his hair.

***

January passes into February, and for Remus it is one big blur, the dividing lines marked by whether or not he is in Grimmuald Place. He increasingly is not, he thinks, to both Sirius and his detriments. For himself, this means more time with packs, and packs that are less and less safe, less and less likely to come to the Order, and more likely to be aligned with Greyback if not currently, then eventually. Remus knows he is spying more than he is attempting recruitment, at this point, and it makes him hate himself a little, that he is betraying the werewolves who should be his kin as much as he is offering information or protection.

In fact, with ten of his most loyal followers out of Azkaban, even Voldemort does not need the werewolves to be on his side, not yet. He will, if he wants strength in numbers, but for now, Voldemort is more than willing to leave werewolves on the margins, where just about everyone believes they belong. Remus more often than not spends long days, nights, and full moons in shanty towns and encampments, the cold and wet seeping into his joints.

The fact is, the cold and wet don’t completely dissipate when he comes back to Grimmauld Place, either. Sirius is very often happy to see him, and Remus appreciates it, but Sirius himself is in worse and worse shape, often smelling like the alcohol Remus had warned him against long ago. When Remus is at Grimmauld, he sees less of Sirius, who spends a lot of his time either with Buckbeak or in bed, only venturing out for meals, though he’ll sit by the fire on the sofa next to Remus, reading, or with his head in Remus’ lap. Very occasionally he’ll come to keep Remus company while Remus is working in his study, reading himself, or sleeping. One day, Remus hands him a particularly difficult passage in Old English, and Sirius hands it back to him within the hour, completely translated and marked with annotations and footnotes. Remus co*cks an eyebrow and Sirius smiles a bit, and Remus gets a fleeting glimpse of Sirius, the real Sirius, and Remus smiles back.

Remus is away on his birthday, but when he arrives back two days later, he can smell the sweet smell from the kitchen. Remus is a little wary that there are Order members here. They don’t meet on a regular schedule so as to remain secretive, but they’ve been meeting more since the Azkaban break out. Remus isn’t always home to attend meetings, but they do occur more often than not when he is there. Still, he isn’t in the mood for a full-blown Order meeting, and if the smell of baking is any indication, he’s certainly not in the mood for one that will attempt to celebrate his birthday, either. Not that he wouldn’t be grateful, but he really just wants to contemplate 36 in peace with himself and possibly Sirius.

Remus makes his way to the kitchen and is a little surprised to see only Sirius there, wearing an apron around his waist. Sirius’ face lights up when he sees Remus, and Remus’ heart responds, beating in double time for a few quick beats.

“Moony! You’re home!” Sirius swoops in and lands a sweet kiss to his lips before swinging back again to the stove. Remus glances at the kitchen table and sees the source of the scent: a layered cake with velvety dark frosting.

“Was Molly here?” Remus asks lightly, and Sirius laughs. God, I’ve missed that sound.

“You see a cake and think Molly Weasley?”

Remus raises his eyebrows.

Sirius turns back around, a mug of tea in his hand, and gives it to Remus, who accepts it. “I’m wounded, Moony,” Sirius says, and Remus doesn’t lower his eyebrows. Sirius laughs again. “I made it,” he says simply.

“You. You made it.” Remus takes a chair out from the table and sits.

“Turns out, baking is actually a lot like potions, and unlike you, some of us did fairly well in that subject. Molly did provide the recipe book, but other than that, that was the extent of her help. There’s also a roast chicken in the oven, along with potatoes, carrots, and peas.”

Remus stares a bit.

“Happy birthday,” Sirius says dryly, dropping into the chair next to Remus and kissing him again.

“You cooked. And baked. For my birthday,” Remus says.

Sirius looks partly amused and partly exasperated. “I became an illegal animagus at 15 for you, I could figure out my way around a kitchen,” he huffs. “Go on, your present is on the table, too. We’ve got a few minutes until dinner is ready.”

Remus looks again, and there is a package wrapped in soft blue paper sitting next to the cake. He reaches over and takes it. It’s not heavy, but it’s not light, either. Curious, Remus tears the paper off and then lifts the lid of the box. Inside there’s a briefcase, a buttery, rich brown color. Remus pulls it out gently and sees Professor R.J. Lupin in elegant script across the clasp.

He holds the case in his hands. “Sirius. Padfoot.”

“You’ll need it again someday, I know it,” Sirius says.

It’s a gift that’s more a testament to their possible future than it is to their present, and Remus feels the tears prick his eyes.

“That’s. Thank you. I love it. I love you,” Remus manages.

“I love you,” Sirius says, leaning in for a kiss, breaking it only when a timer begins to go off. “Happy birthday,” he says again, before opening the oven door and pulling out a large, perfectly roasted chicken and vegetables.

***

This time, right at the opening of April, Remus comes home just in time for an Order meeting to start. He’s wet from spending most of the last week in an encampment in Prague, one where the leader had been downright hostile. His hip is aching and all he wants is to sleep, but he arrives at roughly the same time as Kingsley and Mundungus, and therefore has no choice but to be dragged along the hallway with them, talking about Umbridge’s increasingly controlling and numerous educational decrees.

Most of the rest of the regular Order members are already in attendance, including the Weasleys, Tonks, Dumbledore, and Snape. Sirius already looks furious, and Remus can tell why as he gets close enough to hear the conversation that is being had.

“If the boy would focus and apply himself,” Snape is saying. “These lessons would be going much better, and faster, with good results.”

“I’m sure Harry is trying,” Molly puts in as Remus pulls out a chair. Sirius glances over at him quickly before turning back to look at Snape.

“He is trying my patience,” Snape snaps. “He has no discipline,” Snape starts.

“Put you down with protego,” Sirius cuts in, and Snape glares daggers at him.

“That was luck, I’m sure,” Snape says smoothly. “The fact of the matter is that Potter –”

“Must and will have these lessons,” Dumbledore inserts. Remus thinks this should close the matter, but Snape actually continues.

“I knew he was too much like his father for this to be successful,” Snape says, and now Sirius’ face has gone white. Even Remus can’t believe Snape would bring James into this – unless it was to deliberately provoke Sirius.

“James was a brilliant wizard, and powerful, and Harry is no less,” Sirius says. “Perhaps if he had a better teacher –”

“His father was arrogant, and thought himself better than the majority of others, as does his son,” Snape retorts.

“His father was the smartest, bravest person I will ever know,” Sirius says dangerously. “And I won’t hear any differently in my own goddamn house.”

“James Potter was –” Snape starts at the same time Molly says, “Harry isn’t James, Sirius,” and Remus can see the train jump the tracks before it actually happens.

“I am well aware of that, MOLLY,” Sirius roars, slamming his palm on the table and rounding on her.

Molly pales but doesn’t back down. “I just think,” she starts.

“I don’t give two knuts that I could rub together what you think,” Sirius says bluntly. He turns back to Snape. “I understand he needs these lessons. I’ve even encouraged it. But I will not tolerate the denigration of James Potter in my home, nor the continued tearing down of Harry. Is that clear?”

“Quite,” Snape bites out, before adding. “It is, as you say, your house, and since the best you can muster is to sit in it, I suppose I will have to at least attempt to restrain myself while I am here.”

Remus draws breath to speak, but Sirius is already standing. He’s out of the kitchen in three long strides, the kitchen door slamming shut behind him.

“Severus,” Remus starts, but Snape interrupts him.

“I’m not interested in your defense of him, or either Potter,” Snape says.

“What I’m interested in,” Dumbledore says, “is that these lessons continue, with everyone’s best efforts put in. I mean everyone’s.” He and Snape look at each other for a moment before Snape finally looks away.

“Now, Kingsley. If you would be so kind as to give us your report from the Ministry, I will then report on Hogwarts,” Dumbledore says smoothly.

There’s a brief silence, and then Kingsley begins speaking. Remus mostly tunes him out, his attention already with the man upstairs.

***

Remus sees everyone out, tapping his wand against the door and listening as the locks clang into place one by one, as good as any Dementor. He climbs the stairs more slowly than usual, his hip aching, and opens the door to their bedroom. To his surprise, Sirius is sitting on the side of the bed, holding a hot water bottle.

“I could tell by the way you were walking that your hip is hurting,” he says simply. “Been keeping it warm with a charm. You want a shower first? I took one during the meeting.”

Remus nods and heads to the bathroom, showering quickly before emerging. He doesn’t bother with pajamas, slipping underneath the duvet.

“Budge up, Moony,” Sirius says, and Remus does, so that Sirius can put the hot water bottle underneath his hip. Remus relaxes and lets the heat do its work, spinning warmth out over his aching muscles.

Sirius embraces Remus gently and Remus relaxes into it. “Did I miss anything?” Sirius asks.

“In a word, no,” Remus answers, and he feels the ghost of Sirius’ laugh against the back of his neck. “Ministry is still defiantly obtuse, Azkaban escapees still at large, guarding the Department of Mysteries, Umbridge wreaking havoc at Hogwarts.”

Sirius hums.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Remus offers gently.

“In a word, no,” Sirius says, and this time it’s Remus who laughs.

Remus knows Sirius means it, so he stays quiet. It’s a little embarrassing, but he can feel his co*ck begin to stir at Sirius being so close. Remus had been gone almost a week, and he’d missed Sirius, sullen, depressive silences and all. When he’s not going to feel like a lovesick teenager around this man, he’ll never know. They lay in silence for a while, but Remus can tell from Sirius’ breathing that he hasn’t fallen asleep. Remus shifts a bit, trying to get comfortable, in more ways than one.

“Hip?” Sirius asks lightly.

“Yes and no,” Remus sighs.

“You could let me take care of you, Moony,” Sirius says, kissing down the back of Remus’ neck and then starting again down the side of his throat, and his intention is more than clear. Remus feels himself begin to harden further, feels Sirius against the small of his back.

“Sirius,” Remus says, and Sirius kisses the junction between Remus’ neck and shoulder as he slips a hand around Remus’ aching hip, muttering the lubrication charm before he brings Remus’ co*ck into this hand, gently closing his fingers around it.

“Missed you,” Sirius whispers, kissing along Remus’ bare shoulder.

“Missed you,” Remus replies, feeling his breath speed up along with Sirius’ hand on his co*ck. Sirius sets a slow pace that eventually has Remus thrusting gently but steadily into his hand. Remus feels Sirius grow even harder against his back, and Sirius is thrusting gently, too, though Remus isn’t sure Sirius knows he’s doing it. It’s quiet in the room except for their breathing, until Sirius pulls one more time as Remus thrusts, and then Remus comes over Sirius’ hand, himself, and the sheets. Sirius works him through his org*sm, almost to the point of oversensitivity, until Remus’ breathing begins to slow and then Sirius slowly lets go, uttering the cleaning charm.

“I. You,” Remus says softly.

“I can take care of myself,” Sirius says softly, but Remus shakes his head.

“I won’t hear of it,” Remus says, pushing his hips back a bit to make his point, but Sirius places his hand on the hip over the one being warmed.

“Moony,” Sirius says.

“Padfoot,” Remus says. “I won’t break.”

Remus feels Sirius nod and hears Sirius say the lubrication charm before he shifts away a bit, presumably to take off his pajamas. Remus gasps a bit as Sirius brings his hand back to spread him open a bit, run a finger along his entrance.

“You’re sure?”

Sirius,” Remus manages, saying the contraceptive charm and pushing back.

Sirius takes this as the permission it is, using a finger to breach Remus and open him up a little. Remus gasps at the feeling of it and pushes back, and Sirius adds another finger, working him open even more. It seems like an achingly long time before Sirius adds a third finger, thrusting in and out gently. After a while, his fingers disappear and Remus lets out an almost-sob at the loss of contact before Sirius says, “Hush, Moony, I have you,” and then Sirius’ co*ck is entering him. Sirius goes slowly and gently until he’s fully sheathed, his hips flush against Remus, chest pressed fully into Remus’ back. Sirius rocks slowly and steadily, even as Remus can feel how slick Sirius’ chest is from sweat. Sirius continues to thrust gently, putting one hand on Remus’ hip, adding its own warmth to his joints, his breath warm on Remus’ neck.

Finally, his thrusts begin to turn a bit more frantic, and Remus says, “Go on, Padfoot, I have you,” and Sirius comes, spasming inside Remus on his last thrust. Remus hears Sirius catch his breath and then pull out slowly, uttering the cleaning charm again. Sirius moves his hand from Remus’ hip and wraps it around his waist.

“Rest, Moony,” he whispers, kissing Remus’ ear, and Remus does, closing his eyes before drifting off to sleep.

***

It’s nearing the end of April, and Remus is happy that he had been able to be at home this full, spending the night with Sirius as Padfoot, curled up in their sitting room with the fire going. It’s been a squally April, and Remus is relieved that he hadn’t had to spend the full outside with a pack, which also often, but not always, means no Wolfsbane. Sometimes he takes the potion anyway and merely pretends – it can be useful for him to run with a pack even as he keeps his human mind; often the werewolves give things away through their behavior or patterns that they normally would have kept hidden. Even a couple of days later his joints still hurt, and Remus is grateful he’d been at Grimmauld instead of outside.

The same, of course, can not be said for Sirius, who has been roaming the house at all hours of the day and night. Remus is doing the best he can to keep Sirius occupied – crosswords, books, mental and physical puzzles, but the fact is that Sirius has simply been contained for too long, and Remus has been waiting for the inevitable explosion.

It comes one night after dinner. Sirius had cooked again, more taken with the kitchen since Remus’ birthday than Remus thinks Sirius has been in his previous 36 years. Remus appreciates that taking up cooking and baking gives Sirius more to do, and he appreciates the food, too, as it’s usually quite good and better than the sandwiches they used to muster for almost every meal. The problem is that Sirius brings out a bottle of firewhiskey to go along with the apple cake he had made for dessert, and that Sirius doesn’t miss Remus’ raised eyebrow.

“Remus,” Sirius says, setting out the bottle and two tumblers along with the dessert plates and forks. “If you’re going to wind up into a lecture, I’d rather you just get on with it.”

“I’m not going to lecture, Sirius,” Remus sighs, watching Sirius pour generous amounts into the two tumblers.

At this, Sirius raises his own eyebrow. He pushes a tumbler towards Remus, who doesn’t take it.

“But I am going to admit I don’t think it’s a good idea,” he admits.

“I’m hardly alone,” Sirius says. “Isn’t that your stipulation?”

“This isn’t about stipulations.”

“Rules then.”

“Or rules.” Remus sighs. “I don’t make rules, and certainly not for you.”

“Oh no?” Sirius asks, and Remus feels himself frown. “I’m not supposed to drink alone; I’m not supposed to leave the house; I’m not supposed to write to Harry; I’m not supposed to communicate with Harry by floo; I’m not supposed to communicate with you when you are gone; I’m not supposed to know where you’ve gone, unless and until you give a report to the Order; I’m not supposed to tell the Order we’re together; I’m not supposed to tell Harry we’re together; I’m not to interfere with Snape’s treatment of Harry.” Sirius pauses. “Should I continue?”

“Absolutely not,” Remus snaps, feeling his own temper start to flare. He’s achy from the moon and slightly nauseated today, probably also from the moon, and isn’t that a wonderful new symptom to be adding to his gathering array of maladies.

“Thought not,” Sirius says, lifting his glass. “That’s plenty to go on with, isn’t it?”

“Sirius. Those aren’t my rules. They’re meant to –”

“Keep me safe, keep Harry safe, keep the Order functioning,” Sirius says, and it’s in such an accurate imitation of Remus’ voice that Remus feels the sting.

“Well they are,” Remus retorts.

“Meanwhile, Remus, what the hell am I supposed to be doing? Snape’s not half-wrong, the git, that all I do is sit around this house, except that he’s dead wrong about the fact that I am choosing to do it.”

“Well, Sirius, what would you like to be doing?” Remus snaps, feeling his temper continue to rise.

Anything,” Sirius says. “Literally anything else.”

“Really? Would you like to be out in the chilly, wet weather freezing your arse off in some random forest, maybe with a couple of blankets, a tent if you are lucky, handling people who barely tolerate your presence as an outsider, because they have to count you as ‘one of them’ even though they suspect you are there for more than being able to spend the full moon somewhere halfway safe, and what’s more, they’re right?”

“Of course,” Sirius replies. “Of course no one has it worse than you, Remus. God, the audacity of someone to think they might have it worse than Remus Lupin, Head Martyr.”

“I’m not a martyr,” Remus says. “And I’m not saying I have it any better or worse off than you do. It’s not a f*cking contest.”

“Isn’t it? The packs you’re going to, they’re increasingly dangerous, don’t think I haven’t noticed. I know you know that.”

“And?”

“And maybe you should tell Dumbledore no for once in your goddamn life,” Sirius continues.

“Sirius –”

“But of course you won’t, because you need Dumbledore’s approval more than you need anything else.”

Remus feels his face flush with heat. “That’s not true,” he says.

“Isn’t it?” Sirius asks again, and it makes Remus want to hit something. “More than you need anything else. More than you need to be safe. More than you need to take care of yourself. More than you need to be here with me.”

Remus hears the last portion of that and tries to take a calming breath. “It’s not like that.”

“It’s exactly like that,” Sirius says. “You’d rather be with the packs than have to deal with me, and we’d be better off if you’d admit it.”

“I won’t admit it, because it’s not true,” Remus gets out.

“Really? Honestly? Because being around me seems less and less like it’s a priority, Remus, and more like it’s a chore, from where I’m sitting.”

Remus’ tenuous hold on his temper breaks. “Really? Really? I live with you here, Sirius. I come back from those packs to come home to you, Sirius.”

“I’m tired of being a duty.”

“You’re not a duty, goddamn it,” Remus snaps.

“Am I not? Sitting away here, rotting away in this house, barely able to keep it together most days, and that’s when you’re here, when you’re gone.” Sirius stops suddenly. “Must be nice to be useful, both to Dumbledore and to your own ego, taking care of me.”

“I like taking care of you,” Remus says. “You’re not an obligation or a duty.”

“A boost to the ego.”

No. f*ck it, Sirius, I don’t have to be here,” Remus says, and even as it comes it he knows it’s the exact wrong thing to say, know the way Sirius is going to interpret it in a way Remus doesn’t mean.

“No, you f*cking don’t,” Sirius answers, dangerously quietly. “Maybe you shouldn’t be.”

Remus’ mouth falls open. “Are you really? Are you asking me –”

No, I’m not asking you to leave. But I’m telling you not to stay out of pity.”

“It’s not pity, it’s love,” Remus manages, and he feels his anger at war with his hurt, and the pain of Sirius being brought so low he thinks he’s a chore, a duty, and not the brightest star in this or any galaxy.

“Sometimes it doesn’t feel like it,” Sirius says quietly.

“Then I’m doing something wrong, because it certainly shouldn’t feel like f*cking pity,” Remus says softly.

Sirius passes a hand over his face. “f*ck, Remus, I don’t know. I. Sometimes –”

But then he’s cut off by a large, silver phoenix erupting out of thin air in the middle of the kitchen. It opens its mouth and speaks in Dumbledore’s voice. “Umbridge discovered the D.A. I have taken responsibility. Harry is safe. Hogwarts is not. Meeting called for tomorrow evening.” Then the phoenix folds in on itself and disappears.

Sirius and Remus are left staring at the spot it had burst into life in.

“Well, f*ck,” Sirius says with feeling, before throwing a look at Remus and exiting the kitchen.

Remus looks at the uncut cake, and sighs.

***

The Order meeting the next night is disturbing, Remus thinks, more for what it means for Hogwarts, and the students, and the wizarding world, than for Dumbledore personally. Dumbledore had assured the members that he was safe, and had a safe place to go, and Remus thinks of Aberforth, and knows that, at least is true. Snape reports that the staff is deeply shaken, and, to his credit, Snape looks shaken as well. McGonagall is still in her post, and she knows Dumbledore is counting on her to keep things as steady and afloat as possible. If anyone can do that, it’s McGonagall. Remus is thankful Harry and his friends are safe, and Harry was not expelled, or worse, but it troubles him the Ministry has such a foothold at Hogwarts now. Kingsley is equally troubled, and troubled at the spells he cast on Marietta Edgecomb, though he is quick to say he knew what he was doing and would do it again, for the Order. The other Order members look distressed, Molly and Arthur drawn and pale, and even Sirius is quiet, mostly listening. Dumbledore asks them to hold fast to their positions for now, and that he will be in further touch, as regular Order meetings will continue. The rotation at the Department of Ministries is actually to double, and they work out a new rota. Remus is on it, splitting his time between the rotation and the packs. It means less time with the packs and more time at home, which he appreciates, but it’s by no means an easy schedule. Harry still doesn’t know about the prophecy, and Dumbledore wants to keep it that way. When not even Sirius protests, Remus knows he’s right to be worried.

This time, it’s Remus who retreats to their bedroom first, with Sirius making sure everyone makes it out of the house safely and securely. Remus hears Sirius’ footsteps on the stairs and then the door open. He’s lying on the bed staring at the ceiling, too drained at the moment to do much else. Sirius had slept elsewhere in the house the night before, and Remus still doesn’t know where. Remus continues to look at the ceiling, feeling the dip in the bed as Sirius comes to lay next to him. They are silent for several minutes.

“Harry’s safe,” Remus finally ventures, trying for safer territory.

“Harry’s still at Hogwarts. Doesn’t mean he’s safe,” Sirius says.

Remus sighs. “The best we can do.”

“Umbridge.”

“I know.”

There’s more silence.

“Sirius, I’m sorry,” Remus starts, but he stops when Sirius sighs.

“Moony, don’t,” Sirius says, and Remus looks over when he hears the slight tremble in Sirius’ voice. Sirius is still looking up at the ceiling, and his face looks drawn, and old in a way that Remus hasn’t seen before.

“Don’t,” Sirius repeats. “I. I shouldn’t have taken things out on you last night. I’m sorry. I. I know you don’t go out to spite me. I know the packs are unbelievably hard for you. I know you don’t stay here because.” He stops. Remus watches him swallow.

“It’s just so hard,” Remus supplies for him. “This is so terrible for you. I hate it. I hate it. You’re the brightest person, the brightest star, and Kreacher, and even the damn portraits. God. I think of you here now, and what it had to have been like for you then, and I can’t.” This time it’s Remus who stops.

“Moony, it’s fine.”

“It’s not,” Remus says. “Not then, not now, not ever.” He hears Sirius sigh.

“You going to keep loving me through it? Even when I turn into a moody, sullen git?” Sirius asks, and his tone is nothing but serious.

Remus takes Sirius’ hand from where it’s been lying on the bed. “Of course,” he says. “For the rest of my life. Here or anywhere else.”

That causes Sirius to turn his head and meet Remus’ eyes. “Thank you. I love you, Moony. I really do. And I know you’re here –”

“Because I love you,” Remus supplies, and Sirius closes the gap between them, kissing him softly.

***

Remus looks up from his delicate perch near the bathtub as Sirius comes in. The coolness of the lip of the bathtub had been soothing against his cheek, and Remus hates to leave it behind. He lifts his head slowly. The dizziness doesn’t return, but the nausea is definitely still there. Sirius offers him a wet flannel and Remus accepts it gratefully, applying it to his forehead. Sirius takes a seat next to Remus, and Remus is glad, both for the proximity and so that he doesn’t have to look up as much.

“Steady on there, Moony?” Sirius asks, brushing some of his fringe off of Remus’ forehead.

Remus sighs. This is the third day in a row he’s been ill to the point of vomiting, and it’s been deeply unpleasant. The nausea goes in and out in waves, sometimes settling and sometimes cresting, ending in moments like the ones he’s had just before this, when he’s bent over the toilet heaving.

“I don’t know what it is. Probably something I caught with the packs, or even just out doing the shopping,” Remus says.

“It’s been three days,” Sirius notes, and Remus hears the concern in his voice.

“It’ll pass,” Remus says, though he’s not sure who he’s trying to reassure, Sirius or himself.

“You should see someone,” Sirius offers, but Remus shakes his head.

“Unlikely. I can’t go to St. Mungo’s, not with how they treat werewolves, and that would come out immediately. It’s just a virus, Padfoot. It’ll pass,” Remus repeats. He puts his head on Sirius’ shoulder gingerly, and they sit in silence for a moment.

“If you say so, Moony,” Sirius finally says softly, wrapping an arm around Remus’ shoulders.

***

After dinner, which he’d barely managed to eat over the nausea he’s still having, Remus is working at the kitchen table. Normally he’d be working in his study, but Sirius had been helping with this particular translation, quite at bit of Latin, and his work is spread all across the kitchen table. Kreacher had put in quite the appearance the day before, shrieking at Remus for daring to touch his mistresses silverware – and not even the real silver – but he’s disappeared since then, and Sirius has gone off to find him.

Remus is concentrating, and he nearly jumps out of his skin when he hears Harry’s voice call, “Sirius?” from the fire. He looks around and down at Harry’s head in the fireplace.

“Harry!” Remus says, his voice sounding shocked. He can only imagine what his face looks like. “What are you – what’s happened, is everything all right?”

“Yeah,” Harry says. “I just wondered – I mean I just fancied a – a chat with Sirius.”

“I’ll call him,” Remus says, getting to his feet. He’s puzzled as to why Harry wants to so urgently see Sirius, but he keeps his questions to himself. “He went upstairs to look for Kreacher, he seems to be hiding in the attic again.” Remus stops and heads out of the kitchen.

He finds Sirius on the top floor, climbing down from the attic. Sirius takes one look at Remus’ face and asks, “What?”

“It’s Harry. In the fire. He’s doing a floo call, somehow, and he’s asked for you.”

Sirius frowns and they head downstairs together rapidly. They walk into the kitchen, Sirius at Remus’ heels.

“What is it?” Sirius says urgently, sweeping his hair out of his eyes and dropping to the ground in front of the fire, so that he and Harry are on the same level. Remus kneels down, too, concerned. “Are you all right? Do you need help?”

“No,” Harry says, “it’s nothing like that . . . I just wanted to talk . . . about my dad . . .”

Remus turns to Sirius, stunned, and sees a look of surprise on Sirius’ face in return. He barely has time to process this before Harry starts in on his story: the Occlumency lesson, the Pensieve, the memory. Remus happens to remember that day, when they’d taken their Defense O.W.L., and it wasn’t anyone’s finest moment, except, he thinks, for maybe Lily.

When Harry finishes, it’s silent for a moment, until Remus breaks it. “I wouldn’t like you to judge your father on what you saw there, Harry,” he says quietly. “He was only fifteen –”

“I’m fifteen!” Harry says heatedly.

And this is how we know you aren’t James, Remus thinks.

“Look, Harry.” Sirius says placatingly. “James and Snape hated each other from the moment they set eyes on each other, it was just one of those things, you can understand that, can’t you? I think James was everything Snape wanted to be – he was popular, he was good at Quidditch, good at pretty much everything. And Snape was just this little oddball who was up to his eyes in the Dark Arts and James – whatever else he may have appeared to you, Harry – always hated the Dark Arts.”

“Well,” Harry says, “but he just attacked Snape for no good reason, just because – well, just because you said you were bored,” he finishes with a slightly apologetic note in his voice.

“I’m not proud of it,” Sirius says quickly.

Remus looks sideways at Sirius. “Look, Harry, what you’ve got to understand is that your father and Sirius were the best in the school at whatever they did – everyone thought they were the height of cool – if they sometimes got carried away –”

“If we were sometimes arrogant little berks, you mean,” Sirius says, and Remus smiles.

But you were my arrogant little berks, he thinks.

“He kept messing up his hair,” Harry says in a pained voice.

Both Sirius and Remus laugh.

“I’d forgotten he used to do that,” Sirius says, the affection evident in his voice.

“Was he playing with the Snitch?” Remus asks, a little eager, remembering another of James’ regular habits.

“Yeah,” Harry says, and Remus can tell he doesn’t understand why they might be feeling a sudden rush of nostalgia and affection. “Well . . . I thought he was a bit of an idiot.”

“Of course he was a bit of an idiot!” Sirius says bracingly. “We were all idiots! Well – not Moony so much,” he says fairly, looking at Remus, but Remus shakes his head.

“Did I ever tell you to lay off Snape?” Remus says. “Did I ever have the guts to tell you I thought you were out of order?”

“Yeah, well,” Sirius says. “You made us feel ashamed of ourselves sometimes . . . that was something . . .”

“And,” Harry continues doggedly, “he kept looking over at the girls by the lake, hoping they were watching him!”

“Oh, well he always made a fool of himself whenever Lily was around,” Sirius says, shrugging. “He couldn’t stop himself showing off whenever he got near her.”

“How come she married him?” Harry asks, sounding miserable. “She hated him!”

“Nah, she didn’t,” Sirius says.

“She started going out with him in seventh year,” Remus says.

“Once James had deflated his head a bit,” says Sirius.

“And stopped hexing people just for the fun of it,” Remus adds.

“Even Snape?” Harry asks.

“Well,” Remus says, wondering how to put it. “Snape was a special case. I mean, he never lost an opportunity to curse James, so you couldn’t really expect James to take that lying down, could you?”

“And my mum was okay with that?”

“She didn’t know too much about it, to tell you the truth,” Sirius says. “I mean, James didn’t take Snape on dates with her and jinx him in front her, did he?”

Remus sees Sirius frown at Harry, who is still looking unconvinced.

“Look,” Sirius finally says. “Your father was the best friend I ever had, and he was a good person. A lot of people are idiots at the age of fifteen. He grew out of it.”

“Yeah, okay,” Harry says, but his voice still sounds heavy. “I just never thought I’d feel sorry for Snape.”

“Now you mention it,” Remus says, thinking about it, “how did Snape react when he found out you’d seen all this?”

“He told me he’d never teach me Occlumency again” Harry says indifferently, “like that’s a big disappoint –”

“He what?” Sirius shouts, and Harry jumps, inhaling a mouthful of ash.

“Are you serious, Harry?” Remus says quickly. “He’s stopped giving you lessons?”

“Yeah,” Harry says, and he sounds and looks surprised. “But it’s okay, I don’t care, it’s a bit of a relief to tell you the –”

“I’m coming up there to have a word with Snape!” Sirius says forcefully, and he actually goes to stand up, but Remus manages to stop him, forcefully wrenching him back down again.

That’s the last thing they need, Sirius storming into Hogwarts with Umbridge there. “If anyone’s going to tell Snape it will be me!” Remus says firmly, and he feels Sirius relax a little under his hand. “But Harry, first of all, you’re going to go back to Snape and tell him that on no account is he to stop giving you lessons – when Dumbledore hears –”

“I can’t tell him that, he’d kill me,” Harry says, outraged. “You didn’t see him when we got out of the Pensieve –”

“Harry, there is nothing so important as you learning Occlumency!” Remus says sternly. “Do you understand me? Nothing!”

“Okay, okay,” says Harry. He looks annoyed, but Remus doesn’t care. He’s right, and so is Sirius. “I’ll . . . I’ll try and say something to him . . . but it won’t be . . .”

Harry suddenly falls silent. “Is that Kreacher coming downstairs?” he asks.

“No,” Sirius says, glancing behind him. “It must be somebody your end . . .”

Harry suddenly looks panicked. “I’d better go!” he says hastily and pulls his head backward out of Grimmauld Place’s fire.

Remus and Sirius watch him go, a few beats of silence filling the kitchen.

“Harry has to learn Occlumency –” Sirius starts.

“I know, Sirius, I know. We’ll speak to Dumbledore.”

Sirius sighs. “I hate to think he thinks poorly of James,” he adds quietly.

“Oh, Padfoot,” Remus says, reaching up to brush some of Sirius’ long hair back. “I don’t think he really does. Or he won’t, soon. I think it’s.” Remus pauses, thinks about how to continue. “He’s never really known James as a person. And he’s never had to experience James as a teenager. If. Well. At fifteen, no young man still idolizes their father. Harry’s just experiencing that in a different way, that’s all. It’s perfectly normal.”

Sirius looks at him. “Doesn’t help that we were arrogant little berks,” he says, but he smiles a little bit when he says it, and the smile loosens a knot in Remus’ chest.

Remus repeats aloud what he’d thought before. “But you were my arrogant little berks.”

Sirius’ mouth twitches up at that. “Thank goodness for that, Moony,” he says, and Remus leans forward to kiss him.

***

As May turns to June, Remus’ symptoms only get worse, not better. Nothing seems to help – not ginger tea, or bland foods, or even rest, which he gets a little more of now that he’s not with the packs as much, switched over for duty at the Ministry instead.

Sirius finds him curled on their bed one early afternoon after lunch, when Remus has spent most of the last twenty minutes losing said lunch in their shared bathroom. Sirius places a flannel to Remus’ forehead, and Remus offers him a wan smile. Sirius does not smile back.

“I really think you need to see someone, Moony,” Sirius says, sitting gently on the bed next to Remus.

Remus sighs. “I think it’s stress, at most. Or you never know in the packs . . .”

“Remus. I haven’t been sick a day or caught anything from you. And even stress, I understand, but this is extreme.”

“I’ve always had a bad stomach –” Remus starts.

“Not like this,” Sirius says softly. “Moony, you’re barely functioning. You’re nauseated all the time, vomiting daily. I think you’re losing weight.”

“Padfoot –”

“I’m worried,” Sirius says bluntly, and that causes Remus’ protests to die in his throat. “It’s been weeks.”

Remus closes his eyes, thinks. It has been weeks, and he truly feels terrible, though he’s loathe to admit it, even to himself.

“What about Poppy Pomfrey?” Sirius suggests. “She loves you, she knows about the lycanthropy, and she’s a member of the Order, even though she can’t come to meetings.”

Remus opens his eyes, takes in Sirius’ concerned face. “Yes, okay. Yes, Padfoot. I’ll write to Poppy; I can make it cryptic enough to pass through any other reader’s hands, but straightforward. Make an appointment to see her.” Remus watches Sirius’ face relax a bit, though there are still slight frown lines around his mouth.

“Today. You’ll write today,” Sirius says.

“Yes. Today. I promise.”

Sirius runs the back of his fingers across Remus’ cheek. They are nice and cool, and comforting. “Yes, alright, Moony,” he says.

***

Remus is ready to floo out of the kitchen when Sirius enters. Sirius comes up to him, reaches up a hand to straighten out his collar, which doesn’t even need to be straightened. It’s become Sirius’ nervous habit when they are saying good-bye, and even though they say it far too often, Remus tucks a smile away at the gesture anyway.

“It’ll be fine, Moony,” Sirius says, leaning in for a kiss.

Remus kisses back, quickly and lightly. “I don’t think I need to go at all.”

At this, Sirius frowns. “Remus. You’ve been unwell for weeks. This isn’t a bug, or something you’ve caught. Let Poppy take a look. You know you can trust her; you’re her favorite patient. And, while she can never come to meetings, she’s a member of the Order. She’ll do her best by you.” Sirius is repeating what they’ve already said, but Remus needs to hear it anyway. It’s probably why he’s doing it.

Remus sighs anyway. “I still think it’s just stress.” The packs, the spying, the Azkaban breakout, Dumbledore leaving Hogwarts, Voldemort. It’s taking its toll on everyone, including the two of them.

“Then Poppy will say that and send you on your way. I’m sure she might have some potions to settle your stomach, even if it’s just that.” Sirius’ face looks pensive. “Moony, I can’t take care of you with this, not anymore, so please let Poppy try, at least.”

Remus softens at that. “Alright, Padfoot. I’d better go, or I’ll miss my appointment.”

Sirius leans in for one more kiss, and this one they let linger, just for a moment. “I love you, Moony.”

“Love you, Padfoot,” Remus replies, before taking a pinch of floo powder and calling out for Poppy Pomfrey’s office.

***

Remus steps through the fire and ends up in the grate just inside Poppy’s office at Hogwarts. Poppy is waiting for him behind her desk, and she smiles at his entrance.

“Remus,” she says warmly, and Remus feels calmer immediately, stepping out of the grate and further into Poppy’s office. “Come, Remus, sit,” she says, indicating the chairs across from her desk.

Remus chooses one and sits, allowing the plushness of the armchair to take his weight.

“Would you like some tea?” Poppy offers, indicating a teapot and some teacups she has nearby.

Remus shakes his head no. “Thank you, though, Poppy.”

Poppy nods and uses some wandless magic to have the teapot pour her a cup of tea that she levitates over to her. “Your owl was specific enough, Remus. You’ve been feeling unwell lately? Trouble with your stomach?”

Remus nods. “Nausea, frequent vomiting. Those are the worst symptoms.”

“How frequent? The nausea and the vomiting.”

“Daily,” Remus admits. “To both.”

“Remus,” Poppy starts.

“I know. The nausea is almost constant, though it does ease up toward dinner, which is the meal I can usually eat. Breakfast has become a bit of a gamble, and I often lose all or part of any lunch.”

Poppy frowns. “This is daily?”

“Almost,” Remus admits. “It can vary, but the symptoms aren’t getting any better. I thought I’d caught something from someone I work with when I go out on fieldwork for the Order, but it’s lasted far longer than any bug or virus I’ve ever had.”

“How long?” Poppy asks shrewdly.

“At least the last five to six weeks,” Remus says.

Remus,” Poppy says. “You should have written to me far, far sooner.”

“I honestly think it’s stress, Poppy. You know I’ve always had a nervous stomach and can find it hard to eat if I’m stressed or nervous. I thought this was an extension of that. Still do.”

“It could be,” Poppy concedes. “But the severity of the symptoms has me concerned.” She pauses. “Any further symptoms?”

Remus thinks. “Some dizziness, or lightheadedness. Not often. Sometimes it feels like I’ve stood up too fast, even when I haven’t, if that makes sense.”

Poppy nods. “Fatigue?”

“Yes,” Remus says. “But I’ve also been doing a lot of work for the Order, so I didn’t think that was particularly noteworthy.”

“It may be, or it may not be,” Poppy says. “Remus, I do think this warrants a full examination. I’d like to take some vitals, feel your abdomen for any swelling or something that could be causing symptoms, do some diagnostic spells. This could be any number of things: your gallbladder, acid reflux, just to name a couple of options. Is that alright with you?”

“Yes,” Remus nods. “I thought we’d be headed in that direction,” he adds, though he can’t quite hide the slight grimace he makes.

Poppy puts down her teacup. “It’ll all be standard procedure, Remus, and as non-invasive as possible. And if I do think it’s stress, there may be some potions or herbs I can give you to help,” she adds, and then stands. “Come with me. I’ve made sure the hospital wing is empty, and the door is spelled to warn me of visitors. Luckily, everything today has been minor, and you did make an appointment.” She smiles at him as she leads him out of her office to one of the infirmary beds near the back of the hospital wing.

“We’ll settle here so that in case someone does come, you’ll be cordoned off. I’ll even cast some misdirection charms so that any surprise visitor won’t know you’re here.” Poppy reaches into a small cabinet near the bed and pulls out a hospital gown. “I am going to ask you to change. I’ll pop out and let you do that and be back in a moment.” She hands Remus the gown and is true to her word, walking away to attend to something, pulling the privacy curtain around the bed.

Remus changes quickly, folding his clothing and putting it in one of the chairs stationed near the bed. He wishes Sirius could have come with him for this, and he’s suddenly missing him acutely. Part of it is his nervousness, and part of it is that somehow, in his mind, the hospital wing and Sirius are entwined, as he spent so much time here with Sirius sitting on a chair just like the one beside his bed during his time at Hogwarts.

Remus has settled on the bed, which is tilted at an upward angle, when Poppy returns.

“Remus, no need to look so anxious,” she says softly, a gentle smile on her face.

“Sorry. I have very mixed memories of this place,” he admits honestly. “Though this is far better than what my alternatives were before Hogwarts . . .” he lets himself trail off, and Poppy gives him a sympathetic smile.

“I’m sure,” Poppy says. “You don’t look or feel feverish now – have you had any bouts of fever?”

“No,” Remus shakes his head.

Poppy waves her wand anyway and shakes her head. “No fever. Heart rate is a little high, but that could be anxiety. Blood pressure is within normal range, though toward the low end.” Poppy puts her wand in her pocket and begins to feel Remus’ neck. “Lymph nodes are fine; not swollen, which would be a sign of infection. Not the only sign, though, so I’ll continue. Any headaches, or throat pain?”

“No. Some headaches, but those aren’t unusual.”

Poppy hums. “You’re looking pale, though, Remus. I noticed when you first came in.” Poppy drops her hands. “With all the nausea and vomiting, have you lost any weight?”

“I tend not to keep track,” Remus admits. “But I do have some trousers that are loose, or I’ve had to switch to another notch on a belt.”

Poppy frowns. “Remus,” she chides.

“I know, I know. You’re not the only one lecturing me, if that helps,” he says.

Poppy’s mouth turns up at the corner. “Glad to hear Sirius Black is still the most faithful Remus Lupin watcher I know,” she says mildly.

Remus doesn’t know quite what to say to that, how much Poppy knows or has guessed about his relationship with Sirius now, though he knows she knew they were together their seventh year and after Hogwarts.

“Remus, I’m going to recline the bed a bit, so that I have a better angle for your abdomen. I’m going to palpitate you, feeling for anything that feels off in your organs.”

Remus nods as Poppy lowers the head of the bed a bit, until he’s lying in a more prone position. Her long, capable fingers begin to feel around his stomach, her fingertips making small, rolling motions, beginning on his left side. She begins to work her way across methodically, but Remus sees her frown just slightly as she reaches the middle of his stomach, near his navel. She begins to press a little harder, moving the skin with her fingers, before continuing on to his right side. She moves her fingers back toward the middle of his stomach, this time pressing a little harder near his navel, and down a bit toward his pelvis.

“Poppy?” Remus asks, suddenly nervous. Poppy’s face still looks neutral, though it seems more serious than it did before.

Poppy removes her hands and looks up at Remus. “Remus, there are a few diagnostic spells I’d like to cast, but I want to ask you a couple of questions first. They may seem invasive of your privacy, but what you tell me will be strictly confidential.”

Now Remus is definitely worried – he can feel his heart rate pick up. “Alright. That’s alright, Poppy.”

“Remus. I’m going to try to be delicate, but direct. Have you had any sexual partners lately?”

Remus blinks. He had not been expecting that question. “I have. Yes. I have.”

Poppy nods. “Have they been consensual? Are you safe?”

“I. Yes. Yes, to both. I –” Remus stammers a bit. “I, well.” Per their conversation they haven’t come out and actually told anyone, but Remus still doesn’t know if the other Order members haven’t picked up on his and Sirius’ relationship or simply don’t care. “Sirius and I.”

Poppy seems to relax a little. “I know this is personal.”

“Yes. We’ve, well. We’re together. Have been, for months. I don’t know if the others know and don’t care, or don’t know, but. We’ve kept it private.”

Poppy nods. “I understand that. I don’t want to invade your personal life, Remus, I really don’t. I know you two were together at Hogwarts, and before. Well. But I didn’t know if that relationship had continued.”

“It has,” Remus says simply. “Poppy –”

“Remus,” Poppy offers gently. “Remus, when I palpitated your abdomen, I felt a uterus, and your internal organs have shifted some to provide space for that.”

“A – what?” Remus asks.

“I’ll perform some spells and diagnostics, but, Remus. That’s a clear indication. You know that your lycanthropy makes it possible for you to conceive and carry a child. I know you do, because you and I discussed it when you were a student.”

Remus stares at her. “I do, but. But we’ve been careful. We use the contraceptive charm you taught me. Regularly. Every time.”

“Remus, there is a small failure rate. The charm isn’t 100%. 1% doesn’t seem like much until you are in the 1%.”

“Poppy. Are you saying?” Remus has to stop.

“I think you’re pregnant, Remus,” Poppy says outright, but her voice is still gentle. “I’ll perform some more diagnostics, including a charm to check for a pregnancy and for the length of gestation, which would also give me an idea of a due date. Can I go ahead and do that?”

Remus nods, mute. Of all things, this was not one he had been expecting.

Poppy waves her wand again. First, the tip of Poppy’s wand lights up a deep, emerald green. Then a few numbers float in the air. They flip through each other like a calendar, forward and backward. Remus can’t quite follow it. Poppy waves her wand again and the numbers disappear.

“Remus,” she says. “The green light that lit up my wand is a positive result for a pregnancy scan. The numbers indicate approximate dates of conception and dates of delivery. If you were female, I could also use the dates of your menstrual cycle, but I use those spells even on women, as they are much more precise. According to the spell, you conceived very early in April, probably within the first two or three days of the month. The spell is putting your due date on December 25, Christmas Day. The approximate gestation of your fetus is currently about 11 weeks, nearly 12. You’re almost through your first trimester. Which would be consistent with the timing and intensity of your symptoms.”

Remus tries to draw a breath, and realizes he is struggling.

“I can see this is a surprise,” Poppy says gently.

“Poppy –“ Remus tries.

“You may need to think about it. Talk to Sirius. There are, well. If this is not something you had planned, and it seems like it isn’t, there are other options.”

Other options, Remus thinks. Oh. He’s already shaking his head. He can’t imagine not – he can’t imagine having a child, but he can’t imagine not choosing to carry Sirius’ child, either. But what if this is something Sirius doesn’t want? With Harry, and Grimmauld, and the war . . .

“There are other diagnostics to perform. I would like to check on the health of the fetus, but if you are too overwhelmed, we can do that at another time,” Poppy says.

“No, I. I need all the information. Poppy,” Remus manages.

Poppy pats his hand. “I can perform a scan, cast an image into the air. It may be . . . well, it may be a lot, Remus. If you are already feeling like this is too much –”

But Remus shakes his head. “No, now that I. I need to know,” he says, and Poppy nods.

Poppy waves her wand again, and soon a shimmering blue light begins to emit not from her wand, but from Remus’ abdomen. Eventually, it coalesces into the air, looking like a Muggle sonogram.

“You’re seeing the uterus here, Remus. It looks excellent – the proper size, a good, healthy placenta attached to the uterine wall. Amniotic fluid is just right. And there –”

But Poppy doesn’t need to continue, because Remus can see, there, toward the bottom right of the projection, what looks just like a small baby, with a head, body, and even tiny limbs.

“Oh my god,” Remus breathes.

“Yes,” Poppy smiles. “I can even project the heartbeat, if you’d like.”

Remus tears his eyes away from the projection to her face. “Yes. Yes. Can I?”

Poppy waves her wand again, and a thud-thud-thud fills the infirmary. Tears spring immediately to Remus’ eyes. Poppy lets the sound continue for a moment, and then ends the sound and the projection.

“Remus, I must say, everything looks excellent. The fetus is in good health, and a good size, with a strong heartbeat. We may need to talk further. Given your sex and the lycanthropy, you’d be considered a high-risk pregnancy, though I don’t see any reason you can’t carry to term given the proper medical care, should you decide that is what you’d like. If you decide to continue the pregnancy, I’d like to put you on some anti-nausea potions as well as a nourishing potion, in order to make up for some of the nutrients you are losing through your nausea and vomiting. We may also need to discuss the Wolfsbane.”

“Oh, I,” Remus starts. “I’ve been taking it, I didn’t know.”

Poppy smiles at him. “There’s no one ingredient in it that I think would be harmful. It might mean I need to consult with Professor Snape, hypothetically, of course, at least in the beginning. But in my medical opinion it’s likely safe to take throughout a pregnancy.”

Remus nods. April – he’s been through at least three moons with it, and everything looks fine. Seems fine. The baby. Oh. The baby. God. Sirius. A pregnancy.

“Poppy, I.”

“Remus. You’re overwhelmed. This was unexpected, I can see that. You’d been using protection you thought had been successful. It usually is. Why don’t you get dressed? You can come see me in my office, and we can make arrangements. It may even be possible for me to see you in Grimmauld Place, should you continue the pregnancy, so that you can have support.”

“So Sirius can be there,” Remus whispers.

“Exactly. Remus, again, I respect your wishes. But do know you have my care and support, whatever you decide.”

Remus nods, entirely grateful. “Thank you, Poppy.” Poppy nods to him graciously and exits through the curtain.

Whatever I decide.

In another life.

In this life.

God.

Remus stands on wobbly legs and dresses, fumbling with the buttons a bit on his shirt, his hands shaking. He can’t imagine how he’s going to tell Sirius, but he isn’t going to be able to keep this from him, doesn’t want to. He pictures that tiny, little image, and knows this is one secret he won’t be able to keep.

Remus walks toward Poppy’s office, still a bit shaky. Poppy’s waiting behind her desk, as she was when he entered. “Remus, let’s be in touch, yes? Why don’t you take a few days, owl me when –“

But suddenly, Poppy is interrupted, a huge, billowing phoenix pouring into her office in the form of a Patronus. It settles in front of Remus and speaks in Dumbledore’s voice. “Emergency at the Department of Mysteries, the Ministry, London. All available Order members are called to action. Death Eaters are engaged with students.” The phoenix folds in on itself and disappears, leaving Remus and Poppy looking at each other.

“Remus –”

“I have to go,” he says.

“Remus – it’s not just you right now,” Poppy says.

Oh, god, it’s not.

“Sirius,” Remus manages, and Poppy nods.

“Be careful,” she warns, as Remus takes a pinch of floo powder and calls out, “12 Grimmauld Place, London” before disappearing into the fire.

***

Remus stumbles out of the grate in his haste, emerging in the kitchen of Grimmauld Place.

“Sirius?” he calls loudly.

Sirius? Sirius!

Remus is met with a resounding silence, and he knows instantly what has happened. There’s no way that a Patronus hadn’t also appeared at Grimmauld Place, and no way that Sirius didn’t answer it, especially as it involves students, which means Harry.

f*ck.

Remus runs up the kitchen stairs, down the hall, and flings open the front door. He pelts down the stairs into the street and then, without a thought as to who could be looking, he fixes the Ministry of Magic in his mind and apparates.

***

Remus lands in the middle of the atrium, his heart pounding, and he’s a little relieved to see he’s not alone – Moody, Tonks, and Kingsley are standing in a knot by the fountain, and, with them, is Sirius.

Sirius.

Remus runs forward, and Sirius turns at his footsteps.

“I got the all-call, in a Patronus,” Remus says, coming to a stop when he gets to the group.

Sirius turns to look at him. “Remus, you don’t need to be –”

You don’t need to be,” Remus snaps, can’t help it, fear and adrenaline beginning to make his heart pound.

“I’m fine,” Sirius snaps back. “Are you?”

I’m pregnant, Remus thinks, but he says, “I am,” and he nods sharply.

“Other Order members may join us, or not,” Moody says. “Regardless, I think we need to go in anyway, first guard, at the very least. There are several entrances to the Department of Mysteries. I suggest the top one. It’ll give us a good view of anything that might be going on below.”

The others nod, and Remus does as well. Moody, Kingsley and Tonks set off ahead of them, and Remus notes they are headed for the stairs. God, he really doesn’t want to do the stairs, but doesn’t have a choice. He makes sure he and Sirius hang back just enough for him to grip Sirius’ elbow lightly.

“Love you, Padfoot,” he says softly. I’m pregnant. Oh god, we have to make it out of here.

“Love you, Moony,” Sirius answers back, offering him a slight smile, and Remus’ heart pounds for an entirely different reason.

They catch up to Moody, Kingsley and Tonks, taking the stairs quickly. They exit the stairwell at the doors to the top floor of the Department of Mysteries, and on Kingsley’s count, burst through them. They sprint into the room, and Remus can already tell it’s chaos, and the children are deeply in trouble. He watches as Lucius Malfoy, not even bothering with a mask, the bastard, turns and raises his wand, but Tonks is faster, and has already sent a Stunning Spell right at him.

That’s why she’s an Auror, Remus thinks distantly as he watches Harry dive off the dais where the Veil is fluttering behind him. He and the rest of the group fire off spell after spell, dueling with Death Eaters, or sending spells at the closest adults they can. Remus himself sends off spells and does his best to dodge them, his blood pounding with the knowledge that any spell that hits him could cause damage to the child he’s carrying. The child I’m carrying my god, he thinks, firing off a spell to a masked Death Eater before sprinting sideways.

Sirius is dueling a Death Eater outright, and Tonks is still halfway up the tiered seats, firing spells down at Bellatrix. Remus is a little surprised how quickly it all comes back to him, how fast he can clock where his allies are, and how on alert he is to where any enemies might be. He did plenty of this in the First War, and it’s coming back to him, his body moving through muscle memory of look-sense-alert-fight.

He distantly sees Harry out of the corner of his eye, Harry, who is in trouble, standing over a prone Moody, with Dolohov in front of him, Dolohov who had just jinxed Neville Longbottom. Then Sirius hurtles out of nowhere, ramming Dolohov with his shoulder, and sending him flying away from Harry. Now Sirius and Dolohov are dueling, and Remus’ heart is in his throat, his brain chanting, careful, careful, careful even as he fires off spells at Malfoy.

Suddenly Harry springs up and yells, “Petrificus Totalus!” and Dolohov’s arms and legs snap together and he keels over backward, landing with a crash on his back.

“Nice one!” Remus hears Sirius shout at Harry, before forcing Harry’s head down as a pair of Stunning Spells fly toward them. “Now I want you to get out of –”

Remus is aware they both duck again, and a jet of green light narrowly misses Sirius. No, no, no, Remus thinks. No, not yet, you can’t take him from me yet, he doesn’t know, he’s going to have a child, and he doesn’t know, they won’t know him. He begins to make his way over to Sirius and Harry, watching as Tonks falls almost in slow motion down the dais, and Bellatrix, triumphant, runs toward the fighting.

“Harry, take the prophecy, grab Neville, and run!” Sirius yells, dashing to meet Bellatrix.

The cousins meeting is Remus’ worst nightmare, and he runs forward. They are two sides of the same coin, and neither will give up the other unless helped or forced. Remus is distantly aware of Harry helping Neville up, trying to follow Sirius’ directions. Of course Bellatrix and Sirius are running into the fray, headlong.

But Remus is distracted by Harry, Neville and Malfoy, who is still attempting to get what must be the prophecy from Harry’s hand. He watches Malfoy aim his wand at Harry and Neville yet again, but Remus jumps between them.

“Harry, round up the others and go,” he yells, dodging Malfoy’s Stunning Spell as he does. He’ll be damned if Lucius Malfoy hurts his child.

Harry and Neville continue to hobble away, but Remus watches as the white orb falls out of Neville’s robes and his floundering feet kick it. It flies through the air and breaks, and Remus can distantly hear Neville apologizing, and Harry shouting it doesn’t matter. The two boys freeze, looking up, and Remus does, too, and sees why immediately: Dumbledore.

One of the Death Eaters begins to run for it, before Dumbledore hits him with a spell that effortlessly hooks him back.

Remus feels relief that the Death Eaters seem to want to retreat at Dumbledore’s arrival, before he feels a sinking in the pit of his stomach as he realizes Bellatrix and Sirius are still dueling, either not knowing or not caring about Dumbledore’s arrival.

No, no, no, Remus thinks, as Sirius ducks a jet of red light from Bellatrix. He hears Sirius laugh at her. “Come on, you can do better than that!” he yells, his voice echoing around the cavernous room.

The second jet of light hits him squarely in the chest.

Remus watches in slow motion as the laughter doesn’t quite die from Sirius’ face, and his eyes widen in shock.

No, no, no, Remus thinks again. He needs to know, he’ll never know, and Remus wonders why that’s his next thought, but it’s because he’s aware of what’s behind Sirius, what he’d been sensing during the battle. It seems to take Sirius an age to fall. His body curves into a graceful arc as he sinks backward through the ragged veil hanging from the arch . . .

NO, Remus thinks, seeing the mingled look of fear and surprise on Sirius’ face as he falls through the ancient doorway and disappears behind the veil, which flutters a moment as though in a high wind, and then falls back into place.

Remus hears Bellatrix’s triumphant scream through a haze, through the pounding of his heart, through the sudden and irrevocable grief and regret choking him.

Then he hears Harry screaming, “SIRIUS! SIRIUS!”

Remus looks over to see Harry breathing hard, sees him gasping for breath. He sprints over toward the dais, but Remus is faster, because Sirius would never forgive him if Harry, if Harry – he manages to grab Harry around the chest, holding him back, holding on for dear life, for Harry’s life, for his own child’s life.

“There’s nothing you can do, Harry –” he manages, though the words choke him.

“Get him, save him, he’s only just gone through!”

“It’s too late, Harry –”

“We can still reach him –”

Harry struggles and struggles, but Remus won’t let go. He won’t let go of Harry, he won’t let go of the child inside of him.

“There’s nothing you can do, Harry . . . nothing . . . he’s gone.”

“He hasn’t gone!” Harry yells. He’s fighting against Remus with all his has, but Remus is holding on with all he has, because Harry is all he has left, because Harry has to be safe, because Remus has to be safe, because their child has to be safe, because Sirius is no longer safe.

SIRIUS! SIRIUS!” Harry is bellowing Sirius’ name, and Sirius isn’t going to come, can’t come, can’t come back, not ever again.

“He can’t come back, Harry,” Remus says, his voice breaking. “He can’t come back, because he’s d—”

He can’t finish the sentence, and Harry won’t let him anyway. “HE – IS – NOT – DEAD! SIRIUS!” Harry roars, and Harry’s shock and grief is evident, tearing at his voice.

Remus is distantly aware that there is bustle and noise going on around them, but he’s here, holding Harry, the last one to hold Harry, holding on, holding on, always holding on. Slowly, he manages to drag Harry away from the dais. Harry begins to slacken in his grip. Remus is aware some of the children are still there, and Dumbledore has most of the remaining Death Eaters grouped in the middle of the room. Kingsley is still dueling Bellatrix.

Remus could not care less. All he cares about is Harry, and the child he has inside that no one but he knows about, and his whole world, which has just fallen.

Neville comes up to Harry and they speak quietly. Absently, Remus says, “Here,” and points his wand at Neville’s legs and says, “Finite.”

Remus takes a shaky breath. He’ll never know, he’ll never know. “Let’s – let’s find the others. Where are they, Neville?” he asks. He takes one last look at the archway and turns away. If it sounds like every word is causing him pain, that’s because it is. He can barely manage to focus on Neville.

Suddenly, there’s a loud bang and a yell from behind the dais, and Remus sees Kingsley hit the ground, yelling in pain. Bellatrix turns around and runs, just as Dumbledore whips around. Remus watches as Dumbledore aims a spell at her that she deflects as she goes up the stairs.

“Harry – no!” Remus cries, but Harry has already ripped his arm from Remus’ slackened grip.

“SHE KILLED SIRIUS!” Harry bellows. “SHE KILLED HIM – I’LL KILL HER!”

And then he is off, and Remus hesitates just enough. He can’t let Harry go, can’t let him face Bellatrix alone, but he can’t risk his child any further, not when Sirius – and then Dumbledore more or less makes the decision for him, and Remus sees Dumbledore himself go after Harry.

Remus stands there, shaking, making sure his back is to the dais. Sirius is gone. Sirius is dead. And the only part of him that’s still alive is being carried deep inside Remus’ body.

***

Remus makes it as far as the front steps of Grimmauld Place. Dumbledore will see to Harry, and all the students have been taken back to Hogwarts. Remus has left the rest of the Order to sort itself out – they feel distant in a way Remus has never felt before.

He had simply walked away.

He had walked until he got here, to the front steps of 12 Grimmauld Place. The protective spells let him in, even without the house’s master home. He’s part of the party that knows the location under the Fidelius, of course.

The house’s master.

Remus sits down on the step closest to the house. He sits. He can’t fathom going inside. It’s too much effort. It’s June, so it’s still light outside, but Remus doesn’t really notice. All he can see is the surprise on Sirius’ face. All he can see is the almost balletic arc Sirius had made as he fell. As he fell. As he fell.

As he died.

Molly’s boggart seems silly now, for Molly. Because it isn’t a member of Molly’s family that has been lost.

It is his family.

It is Sirius.

Sirius, the only friend, the only confidant, the only lover, the only that Remus still has or has ever wanted.

The only father of the only child Remus carries, who will never know he was going to have a child, and a child who will never know its father.

Remus stares at the concrete and sees Sirius fall.

He doesn’t know how long he sits there, only that it’s grown dark by the time he hears footsteps approach. Remus hears his name said softly, and he only looks up because he recognizes the voice as Poppy Pomfrey’s.

“Remus,” Poppy says again. She’s standing in front of him, carrying a bag. “Come, Remus. Come inside. I want to check in on you, and I don’t want to do it on the street, my dear.”

Remus looks at her blankly. “Harry –”

“Has been seen to by Dumbledore himself. I’ve seen the other students. I came to see you.”

Remus shakes his head. “Poppy, I –”

Poppy cuts him off. “Remus. You need to be seen to, your health is important. It’s not just your health, Remus,” she adds softly.

Oh god. That gets Remus to stand up, to tap the door of Grimmauld Place with his wand. He hears the locks clank and clang and hopes that Walburga Black’s portrait will stay blessedly silent. He steps into the entryway, Poppy following. Remus closes the door behind them softly, tapping it with his wand so that it locks.

He turns to find Poppy looking at him with such a gentle look on her face his eyes tear up.

“Is there a place I could take a look at you? I don’t want to invade your bedroom –” she starts.

His bedroom. His and Sirius’ bedroom.

“Would I need to lie down?” Remus asks.

“Not necessarily,” Poppy says, voice still soft. “Is there a sitting room or –”

“There are at least five sitting rooms, and a drawing room, and a parlor, and a library.” Remus stops. He draws a breath and adds, “Follow me,” leading the way to the sitting room they set up to live in.

He walks into the room, unprepared to see there’s still a fire going, even though it’s June, and that there are books on each side table at either end of the sofa, one for his use and one for Sirius’. There are a couple of mugs scattered on Sirius’ table, and the novel Remus had been reading is bookmarked on his. All the signs of life, all the ways they lived here, together. He inhales and walks over to the sofa, taking his usual seat. Poppy takes the seat next to him, Sirius’ usual spot, unless Sirius is laying with his head in Remus’ lap or curled in one of the armchairs as Padfoot.

“Poppy, what do you need?”

“I need you to be honest,” Poppy says gently, and it surprises Remus. “I know, well. You’ve had a shock. I can’t imagine how you’re feeling. Especially after I saw you earlier.”

The reminder that Poppy had just seen him earlier this very day, of what they’d discovered, together, earlier this very day, has Remus fighting tears.

“Were you hit with any spells or curses?”

Remus shakes his head.

“How are you feeling, physically?” Poppy asks.

Remus thinks. “Fine. I mean. As usual. Tired.”

“Nauseated?”

Remus shakes his head. For once lately, he’s not.

“But no appetite, I am guessing,” Poppy continues.

Remus nods.

“Do you remember the last time you ate?”

“Before I came to see you,” Remus says. Before I found out I was pregnant. Before I found the house empty. Before I entered a battle. Before Sirius fell. Remus had thought his life was going to be divided into before-1981 and after-1981, but he realizes now it’s going to be divided, always, between before Sirius died and after Sirius died.

Poppy nods. “I want to perform a lot of the same scans as I did earlier. Check your vitals. Check the heartbeat and other vitals of the fetus. I don’t have to do a projection, since I did one earlier, but I do want to check the heartbeat. You don’t have to hear it if you don’t want to, Remus.”

“I do want to,” Remus says immediately. He does want to hear it. It’s the only piece of Sirius he has left. The only piece I have left.

“Whatever you prefer, Remus,” Poppy continues in her gentle tone. She waves her wand and says a few different incantations. “Your temperature, heart rate and blood pressure are fine. Blood pressure is still on the low side, which concerns me a bit. I don’t want it to get too low or too high, both of which would be indications of complications. With your permission, I’d like to set a spell that might notify me at Hogwarts if either one of those happens. You wouldn’t feel it or be bothered by it in any way. It’s merely a precaution.”

“That’s fine, Poppy,” Remus manages.

“Thank you. It will help. And, again, is merely a precaution. Remus, I’m going to listen to the heartbeat now,” she says, and allows Remus to nod before she continues.

A steady thud-thud-thud sounds in the room, and Remus feels the tears in his eyes again. Poppy listens for a moment and then ends the spell, the sound disappearing. Remus thinks the room sounds distinctly silent without it, and he feels bereft at its loss.

“Still steady and strong,” Poppy says, and Remus lets out a breath.

Poppy stows her wand, reaching down beside her to pick up her medical bag. “Remus, I had wanted to check in on you at least once a week anyway, but now, I’d like to see you every couple of days, at least twice a week, until things . . . even out a little.”

“Poppy, is that necessary? I’ll be,” Remus starts, but the words die in his throat. He doesn’t know what he’s going to be.

“You’ll be fine, because I’ll be in to check on you, and your little one,” Poppy says firmly.

“Oh,” Remus manages.

“If anything starts to feel off, or you feel anything like cramping, or experience bleeding, I want you to reach out to me right away, even through a Patronus.”

“Poppy,” Remus says, suddenly afraid in a way he can’t explain. Poppy places a hand on his arm and squeezes gently.

“I don’t think any of that will happen, Remus. I need to say it in my role as your medical provider.”

Remus nods.

Poppy rummages in her bag some more, bringing out several small bottles. “I’ve brought you anti-nausea and anti-vomiting potions, at least for the next few days. Those are the blue bottles. The green bottles are nourishing potion. I’d like you to take one now, or at least as soon as I leave. An anti-vomiting one, too, so you’ll keep it down. I’m also leaving you a bottle of sleeping draught, that’s in the black bottle. It’s perfectly safe for the baby, and will let you rest, at least through the night. I want you to take that one tonight, too, Remus.”

“Poppy, I don’t need –”

“You do need. And, well, my dear, your child needs you.”

His child. Sirius’ child. A sudden thought occurs to him. “Poppy?”

“Yes, Remus?” Poppy answers mildly. She’s closing her bag.

“Do you know. Do you know – if it’s a boy or a girl?”

Poppy looks up, surprise evident on her face.

“I didn’t think to ask earlier. I thought.” Remus stops. I thought I’d have to tell Sirius. I thought he might want to decide if he wanted to know.

“Remus, I do. I perform chromosomal scans along with the projection so it can alert me if anything is off. So I know the child’s chromosomes that indicate sex, yes. It would be too early to tell for any certainty on an anatomy scan, but this is DNA.”

Remus takes a breath.

“Do you really want to know, my dear? Now?”

Suddenly, Remus does. It seems imperative, even though it won’t change anything. It won’t change that he’s pregnant. It won’t change that he never got a chance to tell Sirius. It won’t change that Sirius has died. But suddenly Remus has the overwhelming urge to know.

“I do,” Remus says, and there must be conviction in his voice, in his face, because Poppy’s face softens even further.

“There are only x chromosomes present on the scan, Remus. It’s a girl,” she says, very gently.

At that, Remus lets out a huge breath. “When Lily was having Harry, they decided not to find out, and all Sirius talked about was how he hoped it would be a girl, because he’d only had a brother and grown up all around boys and he was beyond thrilled with Harry, of course –” Remus finds his breathing has becoming uneven, and his face is wet.

“Remus,” Poppy says, and Remus suddenly feels 12 years old again, and Poppy opens her arms and Remus falls into them, sobbing.

“A girl, a daughter, he’ll never know, he’ll never know,” he babbles into her shoulder, and Poppy whispers quietly to him, not quite words, until slowly, eventually, his breathing begins to even out.

“Remus, I can stay,” Poppy offers, but Remus is already shaking his head.

“No, no,” he manages, sitting up.

Poppy lets go of him but places a cool hand on his face. “Remus, take the potions now, while I am here.”

Remus obeys, first the anti-vomiting potion, then the nourishment potion, then finally the sleeping draught.

“I can see you upstairs,” Poppy starts, but Remus shakes his head.

“I can’t. I can’t. Our room.” His voice breaks. “The sofa, it’s fine. There’s a blanket –”

Poppy nods, going to one of the armchairs across from the sofa and getting a blanket that, Remus realizes, will still smell like Sirius. She takes an extra pillow off that chair, too, and sets it next to Remus when she gives him the blanket.

“Lie down and sleep, my dear,” she says, and Remus nods. “I’ll be in touch and see you in just a couple of days. If you need anything.”

Remus nods again, taking off his shoes, and already settling the pillow against the arm of the sofa so he can lay down. “Thank you, Poppy.”

“Of course,” Poppy says, and she lets herself out with a final squeeze to his arm, as Remus, feeling the effects of the sleeping potion already, settles his head and the blanket around him, and falls asleep.

How Long 'Til My Soul Gets It Right - Chapter 1 - krabapple - Harry Potter (2024)

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