Summary: When Sirius fears changing their relationship, Remus tells him he'll wait for him. But after leaving Hogwarts, Remus finds working in Diagon Alley and exploring newfound freedoms make for a more complicated summer than he expected.
Fandom: Harry Potter
Pairing: Remus Lupin/Sirius Black
Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No copyright infringement is intended.
Original Story: Replace the Fear by lls_mutant
Word Count: 8,504 words
Author's Notes: I so enjoyed working with your story, lls_mutant. I hope you enjoy this remix. Thanks very much to my betas wesleysgirl and soundingsea for their help and patience.
The door let out a happy trill as Remus pulled it open and stepped inside. On the walls of the brightly coloured room, drawings of ice cream cones and sundaes glimmered and wriggled, showing off their sprinkles and toppings to their best advantage. One cherry atop four towering scoops of ice cream seemed to wink at him when he passed.
From behind the counter, a voice called out, "Summer hours don't begin until next week. We open in a half hour, lad; come back then."
Remus straightened his robes and cleared his throat. "No, er, I'm Remus, Remus Lupin. Professor Dumbledore said --"
"Oh, that's right -- today's the day, eh? Remus, of course -- Albus told me all about you." The man behind the glass display of ice creams and sherbets grunted as he stood, and then dusted off his hands so he could offer one. "I was just seeing to the Coconut Ice Pops -- new this season, you know."
"I'm very grateful that you could take me on, Mr. Fortescue," Remus began. "I understand Dumbledore, I mean, the Headmaster, approached you --"
The other man waved a hand in the air as a gesture of dismissal. "It's Florean. And you needn't worry you're putting me out in the slightest. Come summertime, I always need another set of hands to help with the scooping. My nephew Freddie is help enough the other seasons -- well, almost help enough --"
"I heard that," a man just a few years older than Remus said good-naturedly as he came through a back door, hefting a barrel of something on his shoulder. "Freddie Fortescue," he added to Remus after he set down his burden on one of the wrought-iron tables in the seating area. "Tried a Coconut Ice Pop yet? They're new this season."
"Er, no." Immediately Freddie handed him one, and Remus couldn't help but grin.
The other young man grinned back. "You're obviously Remus, so how about some help? We've hooks in the other room for robes."
"Yes, of course." Remus caught the apron that Freddie tossed him, shifted the Ice Pop to his other hand, and went into the back room to begin his employment.
"It's brilliant," said Peter, his eyes wide.
"It's ice cream," Remus clarified.
"How did you get the...thingy..." Peter held up the ice cream cone for inspection, examining the different ice blue and green swirls in the scoop and looking wide eyed at the puff of air coming from the cold cream. "Just like the candy!"
To Remus it looked a bit how he imagined the ice caps, creamy snow seemingly shot with strands of cool colours in the trick of the arctic light, the barest hint of melting at the edges evident only in the warmest of seasons.
"It's brilliant," Peter concluded. "Can't believe you made this by yourself."
Remus leaned on the counter and smiled. "Glad you approve, Mister Wormtail. And I only came up with the idea for the flavour; Freddie made up a batch to see how it might work. Florean said I should learn how to mix trial flavours, though, now that I've worked here for over two weeks, especially if I keep on having ideas for them."
"You ought; that way he'll likely keep you around past the summer," Peter advised.
Rather than replying to this, Remus pulled out a damp rag and cleaned off the speckled counter.
"Has Sirius tried this one yet?"
Remus forced himself to dab away one last spot and only then looked up. "No, he hasn't been by the parlour this week."
Peter's expression was one of keen interest. "Mmm. Would have thought he'd be round all the time."
"He's busy with his training at St. Mungo's. You know the Healers' program he was accepted into is a rigorous one."
"I never would have figured Sirius for a Healer."
"Well, in any case, he can't just take time off to eat free ice cream every day, unlike some others I know."
Peter huffed. "I like that, making snide comments about a good friend like me. I'll have you know that owl training and breeding provide what we in the business call a flexible model of employment."
"Must be nice, setting your own hours. And undoubtedly, cleaning up after owls."
Peter made a face and opened his mouth to speak again, but not before the door gave out its regular happy trill, announcing customers.
"May I help you?" Remus turned to the woman who had entered with two small excitable children at her side.
Once the customers were handed their dishes of ice cream and moved outside to eat them, Remus cast a sideways glance at Peter. Odd that Peter would pry about how often Sirius visited Remus at work. As far as Remus knew, Peter wasn't privy to anything that had happened between Sirius and Remus before the term's end, but it certainly seemed like he was curious how they were getting on. As there were no similar questions about James, Remus couldn't help but think Peter had cottoned on to the shift between Sirius and himself.
Now that he thought on it, he was sure Peter must have suspected something, maybe even as far back as those last weeks at Hogwarts. After all, as soon as Remus had inklings Sirius might be remotely interested, Remus had broken it off with the Ravenclaw he had been seeing for three months.
Remus was quite sure only James and Sirius had known of his relationship with Christian, because they were the only two to speak to him about it. But even to Peter it must have been obvious that Remus had stopped spending quite so much time with a boy he had been seeing rather a lot of before then. If the reasons behind that had been evident it couldn't have been much of a leap to realize who else might take the focus of Remus's attentions in Christian's place.
Anyone truly observant might have guessed his feelings for Sirius, Remus reflected. Not that he was the type to wear his heart on his sleeve, but part of him had held fast to the belief that if only Sirius were attracted to him, they should make a go of it. It would have been foolish to assume he could hide that from his closest friends who had known him for seven years.
After all, even Christian had said, "It's your friend Sirius, isn't it?" when Remus explained he wanted to stop. Remus could have easily said it wasn't Sirius, especially since he and Christian had already both agreed what was between them would never turn into something permanent. That was the case from the start, given Christian's arrangements to apprentice in another country after school.
Just because Sirius had mumbled something one night in the infirmary that led Remus to hope he might have feelings for him, just because there was no other reason to break off something that had been going relatively well, didn't mean that every decision Remus made was due to Sirius.
No, he thought, that wasn't right either. It was always Sirius for him.
The noise of a spoon scraping against the bottom of a dish startled Remus out of his musings. "That night before the term's end, when Sirius got out of the infirmary --" he began.
"After that Kelpie broke his ankle in the Forbidden Forest?" Peter asked. "Too bad Sirius hadn't already started his Healer training then, eh? Though, I suppose, the solution would always have been a nice big glass of Skele-Gro." He shuddered.
"You and James walked out with us once Pomfrey said Sirius could go. Then when we went back to the dorm, you both went elsewhere." Helpful, that, the two of them leaving the dormitory to Remus and Sirius, and suspicious as hell for friends who allegedly had no idea what was going on. He hadn't thought on it at the time, to be sure. But then figuring out how he was going to try to kiss Sirius had pushed aside all other ideas.
Right. Obviously Peter knew that something had occurred. That Sirius had stopped Remus after two kisses, saying they should leave aside anything that might interfere with their friendship, was probably less obvious. And that Remus had told Sirius he would wait for him, despite Sirius's disavowals, well. No one knew that except the two of them.
"James likely went off with Lily that night. As for me, I had enough to occupy me in the common room." Peter gave a knowing grin. "Liz thought I was so brave all that week, helping Sirius out of a Kelpie's clutches. In fact, I think that's what convinced her to move in with me after school. Couldn't let that sort of opportunity go, now, could I?"
"I suppose not."
"Remus, did you need -- oh, hello." Freddie came out from the back room and nodded familiarly at Peter. "Get your free ice cream today?" Freddie asked with a wink. Though Florean encouraged both Remus and Freddie to give servings without charge to good friends, Remus imagined that both he and Freddie must have noticed that only Peter took advantage of the benefit daily.
"That I did." Peter gave the case of ices a beady, appreciative squint and spread his small hands against the glass cover. "But I wouldn't say no to another."
"Coming right up," Remus said with a slight roll of his eyes. There would be some other time to quiz Peter on what he knew of things with Sirius; for now, he had to get back to work.
When Sirius and James announced they were hosting a party to celebrate one month of freedom from school, Remus came round with a few quarts of Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlour's special flavour of the month, Pumpkin Nut.
It seemed fitting that he'd share it. Now that Florean was encouraging him every evening with conversations about new potential offerings for the parlour, he'd begun to think more about what sorts of tastes he could develop. It kept his mind off of things like the translations and research jobs he had hoped to pursue after school, before he realized that few employers would be sympathetic to a clerk who needed to take time off every single month for an undisclosed magical transformation.
Of the different ideas, this was the first that had come to full fruition, since he'd come up with the flavour himself, and actually experimented with ingredients to create it.
After a number of false starts, he and Freddie had found the right combination. Just the scent of the ice cream reminded Remus of the Pumpkin Pasties James would buy for all four of them to share on the Hogwarts Express. Tasting the cold confection made him think he could close his eyes and feel the rhythm of the train carrying them to another year of school.
The party was already in full swing when he pushed his way into the flat, with former Gryffindors, Ravenclaws, and Hufflepuffs from their year and still others who had been through with school even longer, all chattering and drinking and leaning familiarly towards one another.
He greeted a few old acquaintances, becoming drawn into their conversations at once. It was some time before the crowd thinned a bit, and Remus finally found himself in a group in the kitchen that included his three closest friends.
"Have another," Sirius said earnestly, pushing a fresh glass into his hand. He teetered precariously upon the counter on which he sat. Remus leaned against it, providing ballast that Sirius immediately utilized by slumping against him with a grin. He moved towards Remus's ear, as though to confide something, but James interrupted.
"Do you know I didn't get more than one spoonful of that ice cream you brought? This lot gobbled it all up."
Remus grinned at James. "You'll have to come by for more during the week while you're taking a well-deserved break from working at Quality Quidditch Supplies."
"Don't mind if I do. I keep meaning to stop by, but what with work and the other activities..." James shrugged, obviously not about to reference their involvement with the Order of the Phoenix aloud. "Anyway, I'll be there this week for certain. I'll be glad to see old Fortescue's again, now that you've made your mark there. And speaking of making your mark, how do you like the new set up for..." James lowered his voice and, "Your furry little problem?"
"Oh, do you have a cat?" a pretty girl Remus had never seen before asked. She appeared at his elbow and nodded at him in convivial earnestness, spilling her drink in the process. Sirius scowled in her direction, but she went on undeterred. "My flat-mate had the same problem, it being mating season and all. She found a marvellous tonic that you just rub all over --"
"I bet she did," Peter said with a toothy smile. He poured himself another drink of Ogden's and held the bottle out to the girl. She took it with a giggle.
"Oh, honestly, Peter, Liz is in the very next room." Lily shot him a look of disgust before she managed to distract the girl and lead her out of the kitchen.
"So you did find a place?" Peter asked as though they had not been interrupted by a reminder of his current girlfriend just beyond the door. "I wondered if you would go back to Hogsmeade for...that sort of thing."
After a quick glance to confirm they were the only ones left in the room and the door was closed, Remus nodded. "At work. It's part of the reason why Dumbledore thought of the job for me. The Fortescues had a cousin, same age as Florean's father, who was a werewolf. So my employer Florean knows, his nephew Freddie knows, and they're as understanding as I could wish about the, er, once-a-month issues I have. There's a basement that's outfitted with the necessities; not bad, truly, though it's nothing like having a good run during the night with you three."
"You've used it already?" Sirius asked in surprise.
"It has been over a month," James said quietly. "What did you expect?"
"It's never --" Sirius stopped, and then laughed. "Yes, of course, it's been a full month. I didn't forget."
"Shame, having to make arrangements for it all over again. Too bad it isn't something you can outgrow as you get older," Peter mused. "Like spots."
"Why, I had lycanthropy so often, it seemed it was every single month! Then I learned about Were-Be-Gone. Now I can enjoy the full moons, just like all the other girls," James proclaimed in a falsetto.
"Shut it," Remus said with an amused shake of his head.
Sirius gave him a strangely uncertain smile, and reached out to refresh Remus's drink.
Hours later, Peter left with his girlfriend, and James and Lily made a show of yawning when they slipped into James's bedroom.
Looking around the empty room, Remus reflected that he ought to get back to his own flat. After all, he had work in the morning, and it was only two days before his next transformation. As he tended towards exhaustion when it was over, it never hurt to get extra rest beforehand.
But for now he found it too appealing to lounge on the couch with Sirius, and talk about the party and how much or how little the people they knew had changed since they'd left school.
There was a creak of the mattress in the next room followed by a breathless laugh, and they both snickered, leaning towards one another conspiratorially. In the dim room scattered with half-empty glasses and abandoned bottles, Sirius's body felt warm as he stretched beside him, his head angled towards Remus. Remus was suddenly reminded of a night in the midst of taking N.E.W.T.S. when nightmares had awoken Sirius. Remus spent the night sitting in bed with him, Sirius's head on his lap, stroking Sirius's hair so that he could sleep while Remus continued to study and watch over him.
It took a moment for him to realize Sirius was speaking to him. "What about you, Remus? Why aren't you off shagging someone?"
For a moment, Remus thought about Freddie at work, the way he smiled at Remus as they worked to shut down the ice cream parlour each night, or nudged him as they laughed at something a customer had said. His mind even brought forward the image of the girl from earlier that night. After he came out of the kitchen, she had come over to chatter at him, touching his arm to make points as she spoke. Before she left she let him know where he might send her an owl if he liked.
Neither of them -- nor anyone, really -- had anything on Sirius.
Much as he wanted to, he didn't look right at Sirius. How could he, and still keep his voice steady? "Why do you think?"
Sirius shrugged, as though he was speaking in an offhand manner. To Remus, his words seemed carefully chosen for someone who had a great deal to drink. "You could find someone."
He exhaled slowly to keep the flash of frustration from rising to his face. Despite vague mentions of "someone" else for Remus, there was no way Sirius had forgotten how they had left things. "I told you I'd wait until you're ready."
He nearly retorted that Sirius had no say in what he should or shouldn't do. Then he glanced at Sirius's grey eyes, and let his gaze drift down to Sirius's soft lips. "Why not? I'm not missing anything." Not when he had someone like this, not when there was the possibility --
"You like sex," Sirius interrupted his thoughts.
"So do most people." At that Sirius nodded absently, licking his lips, and Remus only just stopped his voice from cracking as he continued, "That doesn't mean I can't do without it pretty happily."
"Are you happy?" Sirius asked.
He hesitated. There was something in Sirius's voice, in the way he was watching Remus closely, in how flushed his cheeks had become...not that Remus should by rights try anything, he told himself sternly. They had both had plenty to drink, and Remus didn't need to train as a Healer to know neither of them was thinking clearly.
Just as that night at school, when Sirius woke from his nightmare and asked Remus to stay, he had to hold back. Even if Sirius may have meant something more, feeling scared and confused, Remus knew he had been right in treating it as an opportunity for comfort and nothing else. "Right now? Yes. I'm completely drunk and I'm here with you." With a sigh, he let his head drop down to Sirius's shoulder. "I don't need anything else."
When Sirius smiled and draped an arm around his shoulder, Remus let himself lean closer still. Such a familiar gesture, repeated throughout years of friendship, and yet tonight it felt completely different. All was quiet around them, save for the soft sighs coming from behind the closed door on the other side of the room. It seemed so natural to Remus to close his eyes and pretend, just for a moment, that this was their flat he shared with Sirius, like Peter did with his girlfriend, and that in just a moment they would be rising and going to bed together.
Sirius brushed his cheek against Remus's hair, and Remus held his breath. At a low moan from James's bedroom, he shifted.
"You asleep?" At Sirius's quiet, "no," Remus said, "Good. I need to sit up. My back is killing me." As he adjusted and stretched his legs, he though to himself now was surely the time to go. He was being foolish, reading things into the situation that weren't there.
But Sirius evidently didn't think Remus should depart just yet, for his arm remained around Remus's shoulders.
In desperation, Remus blurted out, "So how are things going at St. Mungo's?"
He barely listened as Sirius complained that only Remus would ask such a thing while drunk. The responses he gave to Sirius's comments were not very invested, he knew, but his mind was focused on figuring out how to take his leave.
"It's good," Sirius remarked, and Remus struggled to find his place in the conversation. "I like it. I'm through a lot of the basics and I'm starting in trauma next week."
I should be going, Remus meant to say, but Sirius was right there, watching him with an intent look on his face, his arm still around Remus, his body so very close.
When their lips met, it wasn't at all like the sweet but all-too-brief kisses they had shared in their dormitory. No, he was brushing those soft pliant lips against his own and feeling Sirius respond with a muffled cry, threading his fingers through Sirius's soft black hair and gasping at the heat of Sirius's body moving against his, deepening the kiss and sliding his tongue inside that wet warmth when Sirius moaned against his mouth.
How could he refuse this, he thought through the haze of Sirius's fingertips trailing over his jaw and lightly massaging his shoulders? The idea that they were drunk and not thinking clearly receded until it was a mere wisp, fading into nothingness at the soft sounds of their mouths meeting.
But he needed to hear Sirius confirm this was what they both wanted. At first when he pulled away he hesitated, and instead of speaking pressed kisses down the tendon of Sirius's neck. Less than two months ago, he had thought Sirius wanted him, and while he hadn't been wrong exactly, they had remained only friends. But surely this time was different, with Sirius responding this way.
When Sirius moved with him, and sighed as Remus slid his hand along the bare skin of his lower back, it gave him courage to speak at last.
"Should I stay?" he whispered.
Sirius froze. As he pulled away, Remus couldn't help but reach for him, but Sirius shifted further.
"No. You should go."
There was nothing Remus could say to that, but somehow he couldn't just turn and leave. The best he could manage was to stand and watch as Sirius set his rumpled clothing to rights.
Sirius took a shaky breath. His lips were still swollen from Remus's kisses.
James burst out of his room clad only in his pyjama bottoms, his glasses askew, and a love bite on his throat. "Oh! Hullo." He paused, took a step towards the kitchen, and then stopped again. "All right, Remus?"
"I was just leaving," Remus said quickly.
"You sure?" James called as he made his way to the door. "Padfoot, say something," James said in a softer voice.
Remus didn't look back as he pulled the door shut.
The walk back to his flat seemed very long indeed.
James kept his word and dropped by Fortescue's several times the next week. At first he traded anecdotes about working in Diagon Alley and told Remus about the latest products they were testing at Quality Quidditch Supplies. But by week's end, obviously tiring of this unaccustomed subtle approach, he spoke of almost nothing but Sirius.
"He's completely miserable," he declared.
"That may be." I know I am, Remus was tempted to add. Instead he watched James dig into his bowl of Raspberry Chocolate Cream Sundae Surprise. Leave it to James to have figured out the flow of customer traffic in the parlour in less than a week. It was the right time of day now, early enough that their usual afternoon crowd had yet to troop in, so James could pry uninterrupted while Remus had to stand behind the counter and listen.
"He's scared." James jabbed his spoon at the air for emphasis.
"I can't demand he become involved with me, James."
"Can't you?" James asked wistfully. His tongue flicked out to lick away a drop of cream on his lip. "It would make all of our lives so much easier. And at this rate, I can't tell how anything is going to happen between you without one of you flat out declaring his undying love and adoration under a rose-covered arbour."
Remus sighed. "I've told him I'll wait for him."
"Really?" James pushed his glasses up on his nose with a sticky finger. "That's practically a love declaration as it is."
"Now you know how I felt about Lily, chasing after her all those long lonely years." James gave a dramatic sigh. "Take heart from my example of patience and fortitude, my fine furry friend."
Remus snorted. "I'll be certain to do that."
"If it's any consolation, Lily said he couldn't take his eyes off you at the Order meeting the other night."
Remus tightened his grip on the counter. "Probably because I looked like death that day." He sounded bitter even to himself, so he followed with a noncommittal shrug.
"Tough change this go-round?" James touched his hand just for a moment.
"Not the easiest," Remus admitted.
Florean came to the front with an enthusiastic greeting for James and some instructions for Remus to see to the washing up at the end of his shift. "Freddie will come by to help, but he might be a bit late," he advised at the close of his directions. "He's meeting one of our ingredients suppliers beforehand."
"That's fine," Remus assured him. "I don't have any plans after."
"Thanks." Florean took an appraising glance around his shop, patting his robes as he took in the array of colours in the display. "No new flavours for us today then, Remus?"
Remus shook his head. "Not this week, I think." He forced a small smile.
Florean gave him a shrewd look, but let the matter drop. "Well, I'm off. Oh, and I think your mate needs more chocolate topping," he said with another nod for James before departing.
James held out his bowl, grinning. "I always knew Florean Fortescue liked me best. Who is Freddie, again?" he asked in an off-hand way.
Remus reached over the counter as though to take James's bowl, and instead thwapped James on the head. "You know he's Florean's nephew. He served you a Clotted Cream With Strawberry Crumble cone only yesterday."
"Oh, the nephew, right, it's coming back to me now. Young man, hovers about unnecessarily, smiles at you a lot for no special reason?" James took another loaded spoonful of cream and talked around it as Remus ladled on more topping. "Say, why can't the Fortescues give each other names that don't all begin with the letter 'F'? Might make things less confusing for those of us trying to follow along."
"Freddie is just a friend."
James's expression seemed full of mischief, but his eyes were sober. "Poor Freddie. I imagine he's hoping Sirius won't work up his courage any time soon; then he might have a brief chance with you."
He would have no chance at all, Remus wanted to protest. Sirius and he had been so close to going beyond just friendship after the party. Though Remus had been turned down twice now, he just couldn't believe that there was no hope. Perhaps if he had not been so foolish as to insist on saying something out loud as they kissed on the couch they might have spent the night together.
As for Freddie, Remus had honestly been too distracted to consider whether his fellow worker had genuine feelings for him. Besides, he knew it didn't matter in the end. If there was even the slightest possibility with Sirius, Remus certainly would not be the one to squash it by having some friendly fling with Freddie or anyone else in the meantime. Sirius had been wary enough when Remus broke it off with Christian in their last term at Hogwarts, thinking Remus perhaps treated romantic relationships too lightly. Despite his strong sense that this was not fair -- after all, Sirius had never been open about his interest before then, and Remus's involvement with Christian was never actually serious, so he could hardly be accused of acting cavalier about it -- Remus wasn't willing to take the chance of getting even temporarily involved with someone else.
"Isn't that Wormtail?" James asked suddenly.
Remus glanced up, expecting to see Peter opening the door. But instead their friend stood outside the shop at the edge of the large storefront, nearly out of sight. The person he was speaking to was unmistakable, however: it was Sirius's brother Regulus.
"That's odd," Remus murmured.
Regulus gestured in that proud, haughty way he had while Peter listened, a resentful look on his face. There was a flutter of something between them, almost as if a note was being passed. But that was ridiculous, Remus knew; what could Peter possibly have to exchange with Regulus?
"You know, I seem to remember Peter telling me he hexed Regulus not long ago."
"He did," Remus confirmed. "That day on the train platform, after Sirius called Regulus's name and Regulus turned away. You had already gone to find a compartment."
"Don't tell me Peter's gone and apologized," James said in exasperation. "Regulus was a prat for ignoring Sirius, particularly as it was likely the last chance they'd have to speak."
Remus peered outside at the pair. They didn't seem to be arguing, but neither could he determine whether their interaction was friendly. Regulus seemed to do much of the speaking. "It's hard to say."
Outside the window, Regulus gave Peter a curt nod and departed. Peter stared after him anxiously for a moment, and then turned to walk away, not even glancing into the ice cream parlour.
"I suppose he has to deal with all sorts of people, being in the owl business," James said as if that decided the matter. "Must be awful."
Remus frowned. James was likely right, even if it seemed out of character for Peter to speak at length to anyone who was or had been in Slytherin. At any rate, Remus had enough troubling his mind to think on it further.
"I like the blackcurrant jam," Freddie said thoughtfully.
He and Remus were in the back room, sampling a new creation. After speaking to James, Remus was no closer in knowing what, if anything, to do next about Sirius. But the next morning he did wake up resolved to work on a new flavour, if only to provide himself with a distraction.
"But are the bits of toast crispy enough?" Remus asked. "It's difficult, trying to get them to retain the butter and not go soggy."
"They taste crispy --"
"They do now, but the charm I've used on them won't last more than twelve hours, so this version won't store --"
Florean poked his head around the corner. "Remus, perhaps you had best come out front."
He exchanged a confused look with Freddie. "All right."
When Remus emerged, glancing around automatically to see whether the queue of customers had gotten very full, he saw Sirius standing at the side of the parlour area, white as a sheet and trying to catch his breath.
"He Apparated right inside; startled me a bit." Florean tutted in concern. "I had to help him with his eyebrows and fingernails, because he'd splinched --"
"Thank you, Mr. Fortescue," Remus breathed out, and hurried to guide Sirius into the back room.
Freddie took one look at them and murmured, "I'll just -- you'll want --" and left.
"What happened?" Remus asked, catching Sirius's trembling hands and holding them fast. "Sirius, are you all right?"
It was some time before he got the full story: a young woman had died under Sirius's care at St. Mungo's, leaving her husband and young child behind. Sirius kept insisting he was fine, but repeating over and over that the woman had been bleeding, that she had died, that he couldn't save her.
Before long Remus had set him down on an overturned ice cream bucket and was holding him while Sirius's body shook with silent grief.
Remus said nothing -- what could he say in the face of such obvious distress? Sirius had seemed eager to begin his training in trauma when he spoke of it only a week ago after his party, but of course the reality he must have faced would be very different. Remus himself was more than familiar with pain and injury from his transformations. But he had seldom encountered others' suffering, and had no idea how he would respond to being expected to help or even save those in dire need.
With a shudder, Remus remembered what Dumbledore had announced at the last Order meeting: Edgar Bones and his family were dead, victims of the ever-increasing forces of darkness flocking to Voldemort. Was this young woman who lost her life also a victim of Death Eaters?
He held Sirius tighter, making soothing nonsense sounds. He had told Sirius he would wait for him, and he was prepared to do just that -- but it could be that possibility would be taken away from them by forces beyond their control. What if Sirius had to watch him die because he had been cursed by one of Voldemort's minions? What if Remus went to meet others in the Order, only to learn that the occasion for their gathering was Sirius's disappearance? What if he was left with only a dark mark lingering where Sirius, all brightness and life, had lived?
Eventually Sirius drew back, mumbling an apology for bursting in on Remus at work.
Remus shrugged as though he was unaffected, when everything in him yearned to pull Sirius back into his arms. To cover his confusion, he dully voiced the assurance that he understood, that anyone would have been very upset by what Sirius had undergone.
When Sirius nodded at Remus's insistence that he stay until Remus finished work, Remus moved to return to the parlour beyond the door.
"Will your friend be all right?" Freddie asked in an undertone as Remus emerged from the back.
"He'll be fine," Remus said, forcing a smile. "Everything will be fine."
He had seen Sirius home that night.
There was a scrap of parchment on the table, James's familiar untidy scrawl on it explaining he and Lily were out with his parents, and would be back quite late.
When Remus suggested gently he would stay if Sirius wanted, Sirius only shook his head and went to lie down. There was nothing to do after that but return to his own flat.
Remus was to have had Saturday and Sunday off, but when he showed to work on Saturday, Florean and Freddie only made room for him at the counter and entertained him during the slow times of day with stories about experimental flavours gone wrong.
"What's the one flavour you could imagine eating every day for the rest of your life?" Freddie asked as the evening at last waned and the sky grew rosy.
Remus shrugged, lounging in one of the wrought iron chairs they had in front of the parlour.
"Me, I would choose the Eggnog --" Freddie offered.
"Treacle Tart," Remus said suddenly, remembering what had been Sirius's favorite dessert while they were at Hogwarts.
Freddie laughed. "But we haven't any such flavour yet."
"Well, then." Remus smiled slowly, a smile that felt nearly right to him. "We'll have to do something about that."
That night he returned to his flat stiff and exhausted. He had volunteered to take inventory after they closed, and could already feel the results of the extra effort of lifting and sorting the heavy containers. With any luck, he thought, he would be tired enough to keep unsettling thoughts from preying on his mind and actually get some sleep.
After a quick shower, he collapsed on his narrow bed. Only then did he notice the owl perched on his bedstead.
He was still unused to having his own owl. At Hogwarts, he had always gone to the Owlery to borrow a school owl whenever he needed to send a message to his parents or order extra quills. But Peter had insisted on providing them each of them with an owl once he began to get a return on his business. Remus had to admit it was handy to have a way to send messages.
This owl, however, was Sirius's. He glanced over at his bureau and saw his own owl perched on his cage, giving a wary look to the interloper.
"What have you got for me, Persephone?" he asked in a hoarse whisper.
She cocked her head at him and stuck out her leg so he could untie the scroll.
Meet me at the tree tomorrow at noon. You remember the one you showed me. There won't be a soul there since the students won't have returned yet.
He let the parchment fall from his hand. Funny how Sirius had chosen a spot that Remus had first led him to years ago, a secluded dell midway between Hogwarts and Hogsmeade. There were many times his footsteps led him there as a boy, when he wanted to be alone or relax, and Sirius was the only person he had ever asked to accompany him there. He had meant to visit the dell before leaving school, but somehow it seemed there wasn't time enough.
It was possible though, he acknowledge now, that he simply hadn't wanted to go to the spot that last time all alone.
Groping for and finding a quill on his nightstand, he jotted down a simple, Yes, and attached his answer to Persephone's leg.
Remus spent a nervous Sunday morning cleaning his flat for no reason whatsoever.
At least it took his mind off what Sirius might want from this meeting, and burned some of the anxious energy jangling his nerves.
It took a far shorter time to change clothes and find his robe than he had expected. After the fifth time checking his watch, he gave up and concentrated on the setting he remembered so well, picturing the brilliant green of the grass in spring and summer, the startling clarity of blue skies above.
After he turned on the spot and felt the squeezing sensation of Disapparating, he blinked in the brightness surrounding him. The scene was very nearly exactly as he had pictured, and yet it felt like a dream, returning to that hidden and much loved spot. He had not been gone from Hogwarts long, true. On the other hand, so much had happened since then, this patch of earth he knew so well felt worlds away.
Then he saw Sirius sitting under the tree, and everything under that blinding sun came into focus.
Step after step brought him closer, until they were in speaking distance and offering quick greetings. When Remus asked how Sirius was doing, Sirius assured him he was better now that he had spoken with his mentor in the training program.
"But that wasn't what I wanted to talk to you about," Sirius said.
"What is it, then?" Remus knelt on the ground, and tried to stay calm. But the long exhalation that followed from Sirius's mouth made his shoulders tighten.
"What about me?" Remus asked. In the quiet of the dell, the sound of a bird cooing to its mate filled the air.
Sirius regarded him with a guarded expression. "I wanted to know... Are you still waiting?"
Of course he was waiting, he wanted to say hotly; hadn't he told Sirius time and again that he would wait for him? Frustration warred with a sense or urgency until Remus was filled with longing to make Sirius understand the thoughts he'd had the other night, when he'd held Sirius in the back room of the ice cream parlour. Yes, yes, he would wait, but what if the time left them in this quickly changing world of theirs was all too short?
Instead he restrained himself, saying only, "Yes."
"See, the thing is -- I don't want you to wait." Sirius rushed through his answer so quickly that it took Remus a moment to process it.
"Sirius, I told you --"
"No. Remus, listen to what I'm saying." Grey eyes met his, nervous and a little hopeful. "I don't want you to wait any longer."
He opened his mouth to protest, but before he could speak he saw the flush rising to Sirius's cheeks, the way Sirius worried his soft lower lip, the almost imperceptible sense that Sirius's body was poised to move closer to him.
When Sirius only waited, Remus took one last chance. He leaned in, bring their mouths together and fluttering a soft kiss across Sirius's lips.
Sirius reached for him, cradling Remus's jaw in one hand and yanking him into a tight embrace with the other, turning the questioning kiss into something hot and demanding. As Remus overcame his surprise and kissed back with all enthusiasm, Sirius pulled him closer and clumsily undid the buttons of his robe, rushing to move warm trembling hands under his shirt.
He drew back only to toss aside robes and shirt, returning immediately to unbutton Sirius's shirt and push it off his shoulders. "Sirius," he mouthed silently against his collarbone and neck, tongue flickering out to taste the skin along Sirius's chest. He arched against that sun-warmed body as Sirius's hands pressed and stroked the small of his back.
Again they were stretched out together, but this wasn't a quirk of positioning or the result of a drunken night; no, this time it was clear Sirius wanted this too. He raised his lips back to take Sirius's mouth, and stroked his hand down, palming over the hardness at Sirius's groin, gasping as it grew even more under his touch.
With a shuddering breath, he opened the fly on Sirius's trousers and slipped his hand inside, making a small noise as his fingers wrapped around that hot hard length. "You feel so --" he whispered brokenly, and then gave up trying to speak, intent only on the pull of his hand over hot skin.
The expression on Sirius's face was maddening, exhilarating -- he had tipped his head back, and his dark eyelashes fluttered in the sun as arousal parted his full lips and burned at his cheeks.
Then Sirius made a choked noise and pulled him closer. His long fingers moved to caress Remus's cheek, shaking with either nervousness, desire, or both. Remus surged into his touch as he panted, and turned his head to kiss Sirius's palm.
"I don't just want to --" Sirius gestured at his erection and grinned foolishly. "After all this time, we ought to make it something worthwhile. But what do you want?" He brushed the hair out of Remus's eyes. "I'll do anything you want, Remus."
Remus dropped his head, forehead resting against Sirius's. "Anything I want?"
As if by mutual consent, they pressed together and moved with the push of their bodies, rolling so that Sirius was atop him.
"Anything." Sirius kissed him again, the promise on his lips.
"I want to feel you inside me," Remus breathed.
As soon as the words left his mouth, Sirius scrambled to pull the rest of their clothes off, his hands occasionally batting Remus's as he reached to help him finish the job. They snickered at each other, laughing as they wriggled to adjust themselves in the grass.
"Do you think anyone will see us?" he asked suddenly.
"Who cares?" Sirius laughed, no doubt at Remus's scandalized expression, but then that familiar mischievous look returned to his face, and Remus's heart leapt to see it. "Promise, Moony, no one's around for leagues. Anyway, no one knows of this spot besides you and me."
Remus snorted and lifted his legs to shift Sirius between them. When their bodies aligned, Sirius grunted in surprise and then rolled his hips forward as though he couldn't help but move.
"Fuck. I've never done this," Sirius mumbled. He leaned forward for a nervous kiss. "I don't want to ruin it."
The honesty of that awkward confession sent a buzz through his body more effectively than any bravado would have. Smiling, Remus thrust up, letting Sirius feel the brush of their hard cocks together. "It will be fine. It's just you and me, Sirius. Trust me."
At that, Sirius shivered. "I do."
Another time, Remus thought, he would show Sirius how to ease a finger into him slowly, thrusting in and out until Remus was begging him to switch and give him his cock. But for now, he didn't want to wait any longer. After he had groped for his wand and rushed through two spells to help prepare himself, he tilted his hips up and rocked back so he could raise his legs.
Sirius got a funny furrow in his brow as he concentrated on the task at hand. Biting that kissable lower lip of his, he glanced down, reaching to position himself, and then at last pushed forward.
"Yes, there," Remus whispered, letting his head drop back at the slow delicious burn of being filled. One hand drifted to his chest to brush over his nipple while the other reached to grasp Sirius's arse, encouraging him to slide in all the way.
Above him Sirius panted and trembled, staring down at him as though he were some sort of unfathomable mystery. "Oh, god, Remus." His arms shook as he strained to hold himself up.
"Move, Sirius," Remus murmured. He lifted his hips, moving in counterpart until Sirius was pulling back and thrusting in more easily.
It took only moments for Sirius to find a steady rhythm, and then they were meeting each other thrust for thrust. Remus worked his hips up with a grunt, crying out hoarsely as Sirius's strokes sped into a fevered pace. With an answering cry, Sirius snapped his hips forward, and then he was clinging to Remus and scattering frantic kisses over his face as he came.
Sirius slumped against him, shuddering as the last spasm worked through his body. When he opened his eyes, they were full of dazed wonder. "Dear god, why have we waited so long to do that?"
Remus smiled at him and brushed sweat-dampened strands of hair away from his face.
"Was it all right?" Sirius asked.
"It was," Remus replied. He held back from saying anything outright, but after a beat passed he couldn't resist pressing his cock against Sirius's stomach.
"Oh, Lord. Did you…?"
He raised an eyebrow, but at Sirius's shamefaced expression, he grinned. "Not yet, anyway. Roll off."
Sirius moved immediately, flushing in a way that had little to do with after-glow. But when Remus drew Sirius's hand to his cock and, joining it with his own, demonstrated how he wanted Sirius to stroke him, Sirius soon lost himself in the action.
Remus stretched and sighed, pushing himself into Sirius's fist with a jerk of his hips as Sirius grew more confident and worked him harder and faster. At first Sirius watched, propped up on his elbow, but then he slid closer so he could brush his cheek against Remus's chest, flicking his tongue out to dart across Remus's nipple before covering it with his mouth.
Remus curled his fingers in the grass as he laid the soles of his feet on the fragrant ground and thrust up, yanking out a patch of sod as he gasped and came.
Sirius gave a triumphant grin as he wiped his hand on the grass. That accomplished, he flopped back beside Remus, snuggling close so he could twine his fingers through Remus's mussed hair.
Gradually the motion slowed, and Remus turned his head to find Sirius had closed his eyes, a peaceful expression on his face.
Sirius smiled. "So.
"We're not waiting any longer," Remus said quietly. "Are we?"
"No." Sirius shifted so he was half on top of Remus and leaned down to kiss him. "We're not."
Remus nodded. That more or less settled the matter. Still, he had to ask. "Why?"
Sirius's brow furrowed again. "Why aren't we waiting any more, or why were we waiting in the first place?"
Remus shrugged. "Both, I suppose."
For a moment Sirius stared off to the meeting of blue and green at the horizon. Hogwarts lay to the east of them, Hogsmeade to the west, though neither could be seen directly from this seclude vantage point. "I was so frightened of losing you," he said at last.
"This summer?" He tightened his arms around Sirius. "I know that it's been hard, hearing at Order meetings how dangerous things are becoming --"
"This summer, yes, but long before any of that. Sixth year, and that stupid prank." Sirius rolled his eyes, but his expression betrayed an anguish Remus had never seen on his face before.
"The prank you played on Snape, telling him to go to the Shrieking Shack?" Remus asked. "I didn't know you still thought about that."
Sirius waved a hand in the air impatiently. "I don't care about Snape; I care about you. It was all a stupid lark, but I almost cost you everything."
He began to rub soothing circles across Sirius's back. "Dumbledore would never have expelled me, not when nothing drastic happened in the end."
"No, it's -- I couldn't look you in the face for weeks after that, Moony, even when you swore you forgave me. What if you had been asked to leave? What if you had --" His face crumpled.
"None of that happened," he whispered.
"But it could have. It could have because of me. Look at my brother, at my entire family. Are any of them speaking to me? My god, not that I like even one of them, but they won't so much as acknowledge me on the street. What if I ever lost you like that?" He shook his head slowly.
"You won't," Remus insisted.
"I only held back for so long because I know how easy it would be for me to ruin everything between us," Sirius said. He slumped against Remus and brushed his lips against his neck. "But now I can't help it any longer; I'm too selfish to let you slip away, even if I'm probably going to muck it all up."
"We're in it together, Sirius," Remus said softly. "You and me, together, and together we'll make everything sort itself out."
Sirius gave him a crooked grin. "Promise?"
Remus pulled him close, and said the word against his soft lips. "Promise."