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Chapter 1: Let It Burn
“Sirius, what in God’s name are we doing?” Remus asked, but he was laughing under his breath.
“Exactly what we want to,” said Sirius as he had Remus backed up against the wall of the little broom cupboard off the Hogwarts entrance hall. Then he leaned over and pressed a kiss near Remus’ ear.
“But what would James think?”
“I think he wouldn’t be all that surprised to be honest. Come on, put your arms around me.”
As he said this, Sirius did the same thing to Remus, slipping his arms around Remus’ neck, and Remus gave another laugh, one perhaps that said, “Oh very well,” and slipped his arms in turn around Sirius’ waist. Rather nervously, but anticipatorily too, he pulled him closer against him.
Sirius closed his eyes and kissed him again, and then worked his way down to Remus’ mouth, which had been just waiting for him to reach it. He was in fact so surprised at the enthusiasm with which Remus kissed him back that his knees buckled for a moment—
But only for a moment.
Then he clung on harder, and renewed their deepening kiss several times, until they paused and pulled away, breathing heavily, hearts pounding. When Sirius opened his eyes, he saw his own desire reflected in Remus’ eyes, and they both smiled, and even after that they couldn’t help but blush a little before they dove in—Remus reaching up and cupping Sirius’ face in his hands—and kissed again.
Nymphadora Tonks, Sirius’ awkward but fun and colorful baby second-cousin, planted an affectionate kiss on Remus’ cheek as he sat at the table with Sirius in the basement kitchen of 12 Grimmauld Place; it had been a particularly brutal day at the Auror Office, and she had come back in search of some hot chocolate and sympathy.
Remus had both for her, and as he handed her a mug of hot chocolate, and leaned up and gave her a kiss of his own, one on the lips, one that was far more intimate, one that made her sigh and giggle a little bit.
Sirius observed the charade with the same spark of jealousy that he always did.
Out in the hall, Sirius watched Remus and Tonks (Nymphadora preferred her surname) bidding each other goodbye, for she was off to assume guard duty of the prophecy, and when Remus had closed the door behind her, after telling her to be careful, and that she’d better come back safe, Sirius stepped out of the shadows.
“Remus, we need to talk,” he announced.
Remus turned around, but he had known that Sirius had been watching him and Tonks—he could sense things that way—and he merely sighed. “Sirius, we’ve been over this: I don’t feel that way anymore—”
“But you promised me,” Sirius cut across him, taking a step towards him. “You promised me that you would always—”
“I was a boy, Sirius. I was young, I didn’t know what I really wanted.” This was not the first time Remus had conveyed this sentiment.
“You mean you thought it was all just a misunderstanding where your nature was concerned?” Sirius raised a defiant eyebrow.
Remus shook his head. “No, that’s not so. I like women, but I like men too. I still look at men.”
“You don’t look at me,” Sirius growled.
“That’s because I don’t feel that way about you anymore. How many times do I have to repeat that to you?”
Sirius crossed his arms and leaned against the moldering wall. “What was it that changed your affection, that’s what I’d really like to know. I don’t think you were ever clear on that.”
At this, Remus averted his gaze in a definite expression of shame. “You don’t want to know,” he muttered, and tried to leave through the door that lead back down to the kitchen.
Sirius uncrossed his arms and took another step forward to grab him by the arm and stop him. “Why not? The mere fact that you’ve said that only increases my curiosity.”
Remus still wouldn’t look at him directly. A bad sign.
“It’ll only set you off.”
“Set me off?”
“I know how quick-tempered you are, and I don’t want to hurt you any more than I already have.”
“How could you possibly hurt me more?” Sirius’ voice cracked on the word “more”, and indeed the pain had begun to seep in and bleed over the anger. “You broke my heart….”
He gripped Remus’ arm a little more tightly.
“Please tell me.” He was begging now, he knew, and he hated that, because he felt it made him more pathetic.
Remus drew in a deep breath and sighed heavily. “You’re not going to like this at all,” he began, but at last he looked Sirius directly in the eye again. “When I was reunited with you, after your escape from Azkaban—and let me just say that I was more than overjoyed at learning that you didn’t betray James, Lily, and Harry, nor were you the one who killed all those Muggles—but despite that, I knew too, once I had taken in your presence, the way you acted—regardless of how desperately you wanted to kill Wormtail—I knew that you had changed, that…you were no longer the Sirius I had fallen in love with. And you should know that that was a painful realization for me, because I didn’t want it to be that way. I wanted us to be able to pick up where we’d left off before they locked you up. But I was aggrievedly forced to accept that I could not love the man you were now, not the way that I did once, and not because I didn’t appreciate what you’d gone through either—God knows you’ve braved the gates of hell itself in that prison—but nevertheless, it changed who you were inside.”
The words clunked into Sirius’ brain like cold stones. “No…no it didn’t…I….” His grip on Remus slackened and his hand dropped to his side; in point of fact, he was far too dumbstruck by this pronouncement to be furious. All he could feel was that numb sense of fading away.
Remus took this opportunity to withdraw from him. “I’m sorry,” he whispered, and Sirius, through his shock, heard the sincerity in it.
But that did not prevent what happened after Remus had disappeared back down the steps to the kitchen: Sirius came back to himself, and the anger and the painful jealousy flared up like a roar of flame in his heart, and he gave a strangled yell and pounded the walls with his fists and kicked the baseboard with his feet.
Tears leaked from his eyes to douse the burn, and then he crumpled to his knees and leaned his forehead against the wall, sobbing.
He should have chased Remus down those steps and punched him until he was black and blue all over, but instead he beat up the house he hated so much, and now he’d allowed himself to collapse into a lachrymal puddle of pathetic despair.
Because even after all of that, Sirius still loved Remus too much to lay a hand on him. Not again.
James was looking from Sirius to Remus sat on the sofa in the otherwise empty Common Room, and then to their linked hands, as he stood in front of them with his back to the fire. Peter was examining them in this manner too as he stood next to James, but while he had a perplexed expression, James was grinning far too knowingly.
“Well, well…I see the canines have picked up on their puppy love,” he joked.
“James, for Godric’s sake, don’t be so pleased with yourself.” Sirius rolled his eyes, but then he smiled at Remus. “I told you he wouldn’t be all that surprised.”
Remus chuckled and then he noticed Peter still staring at them. “Peter, I suppose you didn’t get the memo?”
Peter’s brow furrowed, if possible, even more. “Memo?”
Sirius sniggered and he tucked his legs underneath him on the cushions so he could hug Remus’ whole arm and snuggle against his shoulder. “Pete, you are too thick sometimes, you know that?”
“Come on Pete, you don’t mean to say that you didn’t see this coming?” James made a theatrical show of acting flabbergasted.
“And it’s not going anywhere either,” Remus assured them, and he pressed a kiss into Sirius’ dark hair.
Sirius looked up at him. “You sure about that?”
“From where I’m sitting right now I am,” said Remus, though he spoke as though he only wanted Sirius to hear those words.
“Well…that sounds good to me,” Sirius murmured after a moment, and his smile widened against Remus’ shoulder.
Sirius sat in the dark feeding rats to Buckbeak the fugitive hippogriff in his mother’s old bedroom. “You don’t mind my company do you boy?” he murmured as he held out another one of the dead rodents. “What a pair we make, eh? Running from the law?”
Buckbeak snapped the rat up in his beak and swallowed it whole.
Sirius was thinking about what Remus had told him, all of those years ago, about his affection “not going anywhere”. But then, he had also said, “from where I’m sitting right now”.
What a life had been laid out for him: an escaped convict, locked up in his hated mother’s house, sick for the only man he had ever loved, and that man had found love with a woman instead.
Because prison had changed him.
The anger and the jealousy seared again across his heart, and it was all the more terrible because this woman was the daughter of his favorite cousin, had been to him like a baby sister for as long as he could remember. And as for Remus, he loved him more than life itself. He still remembered how he had spent long hours on end in his cell in Azkaban pining for Remus when he wasn’t grieving James and Lily and hoping against hope that Harry was doing okay.
The pining had been that much more painful because he’d known he was pining for someone who thought him a murderer and a traitor. It had been a cool flood of relief to finally convince Remus of his innocence (insomuch as he was not directly responsible for James and Lily’s deaths); when Remus had pulled him into his arms and embraced him, he had felt the first thread of true life flood back into him, such as he had not felt since the shock of initially escaping Azkaban and the clutches of the dementors and feeling the rebirth effects of his freedom.
It had been all he could do to restrain himself from taking Remus’ lovely scarred face in his hands and covering it in grateful kisses. There had been so much at stake at the time: Hermione Granger had started screaming at Remus for being in league with him, still believing him to be a guilty traitor and murderer as well, and Harry had soon followed, berating him (that too had been painful to endure).
And now? This?
Sirius appeared at Lupin Cottage with Buckbeak, though he made certain that he was inconspicuous about it: he had hidden the hippogriff in the nearby forest, and then he’d transformed into a dog and trotted over to wait near the front gate to the cottage. At Remus’ undoubted arrival, he had stood up from sitting on his hindquarters and his tail set to wagging.
Remus recognized him immediately, and played along with the idea that he was merely a stray until he got him safely into the concealment of the house, after which Sirius transformed.
Before Remus could say a word though, Sirius flew towards him, taking his face in his hands.
“Remus! Oh God…” And he pulled his mouth down to his.
Perhaps he did go a bit mad, for the wait until this moment had certainly driven him so, driven out all thoughts of discretion from his fevered brain, but it did not matter, because Remus was clearly just as eager, and he snaked his arms around him and pressed him close, deepening the kiss, not a care that his lover was filthy and his breath must have tasted foul.
When he finally tore his lips away to take a breath, he pressed their cheeks together. “Oh Sirius…I’ve missed you so much…thank God you’re not a traitor…there was always a part of me that hoped….”
To say that the two of them spent the evening in the throes of amorous ecstasy would be sugarcoating the violence of their ardor. In fact it had been so mixed with tears of both rapture and grief that it was akin to an unbearable, torturous burn, the kind that sears the flesh and kills the nerves.
All the same, Sirius awoke in the wake of their repetitious copulation sometime around dawn, still breathless from the whirlwind. In spite of it though, Sirius had smiled softly at the memory of the night before, so fresh, so reminiscent of earlier episodes in clandestine bedrooms throughout the War before Voldemort’s fall, the sight of Remus’ scarred skin cast in white-silver relief by the moonlight, the beauty of him, and he only hoped that now that he had had a chance to wash up in the washroom, he hadn’t disappointed Remus.
He looked over at Remus, still asleep, a satiated smile on his face, and he knew with gladness that he hadn’t.
But after that, things changed.
Sirius was sitting alone in the drawing room, sucking on a bottle of firewhiskey. He looked up through bleary eyes at Tonks, who had returned from guard duty; it was well after three in the morning.
“What are you doing up?” she asked, peering at him with concern.
“Oh…never y’mind your—hic—priddiliddell ‘ead about it,” Sirius assured her rather drunkenly. When he tried to stand, the room started to spin, and he had to lean on the nearby piano to steady himself. “Er…Remus…he er…had to cashzum z’s…lazfull moon wuzzbad, y’know…otherwise….” He found it harder than it should have been to finish that sentence, so he merely waved the bottle in an arbitrary direction.
Tonks gave him a kind smile, and because it was full of love, and not at all pitying, even in his vulnerably inebriated state, Sirius could not hate her.
“C’mon, let’s get you upstairs you big lug….”
She helped him up those creaky steps to his bedroom and tucked him in in a motherly way, forcing him to take some rehydrating potion that would help ease the severity of the hangover he would have in the morning. Then she brushed his brow and kissed him tenderly there.
As she was leaving though, Sirius stopped her. “Tonks…Ims’ry abba the way I bin acting…” he slurred, though he made a conscious effort to be heard. “Y’know Imjus still so in love with—hic—Remus.”
Tonks looked at him, and from the light from the London lampposts outside streaming through the window, he made out her expression, even through his intoxication.
Her face was so forgiving. “It’s okay, Sirius. You should know that it hurts Remus, the fact that he had to let you go, but he never wanted to hurt you. Never.”
Sirius tried to smile. “Innow.”
After that he was too tired and too drunk to say much else, but when he closed his eyes he heard Tonks leave, and he rolled over and buried his face in his pillow to cool the burn in his eyes.
“Sirius…I’m so sorry but…this isn’t going to work.”
The words hit Sirius like a Muggle bullet to the heart. They were sitting together at Remus’ dining room table at Lupin Cottage. Sirius had been there a week since he’d arrived from his escape from the jaws of the Ministry at Hogwarts, Buckbeak making do foraging for worms and the like in the woods, while Remus and Sirius meanwhile had made the leaping attempt to reignite the fire in their relationship.
But after that first night, things slowly took a turn for the worse, smoldering into a suffocated burn. They had spent so much time walking and talking together in the woods, sharing meals with wine, laying a hand over the other’s, but in their talks, Sirius could see that something was putting Remus off. And to be fair, Sirius was much gruffer, much rougher, much ruder than before. On his third night, he had sent their wine goblets to the floor in an unanticipated temper that had ended in piteous bawling, and Remus had had to pick up the pieces.
He had done it because he loved Sirius, but he had withdrawn. It wasn’t hard to comfort him after his nightmares, to hold him close in his arms and let him know that he wasn’t alone and he was free of that hell, but then he seemed to be thrown into a world of uncertainty that Sirius could not fully understand, and it was clear in his face for a while that he was fighting a battle inside himself.
And now this.
“But…why?” Sirius croaked. It was all he could think to say. But why? But why?
“I’ve…there’s something missing…something’s gone,” Remus explained to him evasively, but Sirius was already too shaken on the verge of shattering to press him further.
Something’s missing…something’s gone….
The world seemed to teeter beneath him, and though he was sitting, he still clutched the table for support. Then he saw Remus’ resting on it across from him. Desperately he reached over with both of his and tried to clutch them.
Remus pulled away. “No.”
Like he was saying it to a dog. No! Bad dog!
“Remus…you don’t…love me…anymore…?”
“No…I don’t—not that way. I can’t. I just can’t…feel it anymore. Do you understand?”
Sirius’ breathing, so constricted a moment ago, kicked in again, rapidly. He was nearly hyperventilating, and at the same time he thought he might be sick. But instead of vomiting, he erupted.
He stood from the table so suddenly he knocked over the chair he was sitting in. Remus merely watched him with a terrible sadness in his eyes.
“Why in God’s name are you doing this?!” Sirius raged. “After what I’ve been through, you see fit to rip my heart out and spit on it?!”
“That’s not my intent,” Remus told him earnestly, but the calm of his voice set off another explosion in the minefield that was Sirius’ temper.
“WELL THAT’S WHAT YOU’RE DOING!”
Remus rose to his feet and stepped close to him. “Sirius, please understand, you will always hold a special place in my heart, forever, that I cannot lie to you about. But this…for me…this love—this kind of love—anymore…is a lie.”
Sirius gaped at him a moment, and then without thinking he smacked him. The second he did it, he regretted it, and since then, he could never bring himself to go that far again with Remus.
Remus however took it in stride and clutched his cheek.
“I…I’m so sorry,” Sirius rasped, his voice watery, and he reached over with the intention of looking it over, of gently touching it as if that could take it back.
Remus took his hand away and allowed him to touch the reddening mark, turning his face toward him. “It’s…it’s alright,” he told him quietly, the sadness so terrible in his brown eyes.
Sirius cringed, ashamed, and then he considered him a moment before he let his hand drop. “Is it because of your lycanthropy?”
“No,” and Remus tried to smile. “It was never that. It was part of what made us fit so well: a wolf and a dog, two canines of daring.”
“Oh.” Sirius bowed his head, and then he peered up at him through hangdog, pleading eyes. “Please don’t do this.”
“I’m so sorry,” and Remus’ voice actually cracked then, his eyes gleaming with tears.
Before Sirius left, they shared one last embrace, one last kiss as lovers; he had to leave, so that Remus wouldn’t be arrested for housing him, but all the same, Remus had been adamant that Sirius remain even if they had broken everything off.
A light rain sprinkled over them as they bid this farewell, and Sirius was sure he could have lit the drops aflame with the fire that his last kiss with Remus possessed.
He tried to look one last time over his shoulder at Remus’ sadly waving figure from the ground as he took off on Buckbeak, but a low morning mist passed over the earth and hid his ex-lover from view, and Sirius could only turn away and lean forward.
His pearly tears fell and splashed into Buckbeak’s indifferent neck feathers.
Remus looked up from the book he was reading in the drawing room. He didn’t have to be on guard duty for a few hours, and Tonks was at work at the Auror Office.
Sirius stepped into the room, his head still pounding a little from last night’s drinking, but he knew that if it hadn’t been for Tonks’ ministrations while putting him to bed, it would have been a lot worse.
He took a seat on the sofa, opposite where Remus was sat in the wingback chair.
Remus laid his book aside on a nearby table, eyeing him expectantly.
Sirius took a deep, shuddering breath and pressed his steepled hands between his knees. “I will…always love you, Remus, no matter what, even if I must come to terms with the fact that your feelings have changed. And…I know you never meant your reasons for your changed affections to be insulting…only true…and I can’t hate you for that, anymore than I can hate Tonks for being the new object of your love and adoration. That being said…I want you to know, that I am happy that you can find happiness, and I only wish…there were so many things I wish I could take back….” He looked up and saw that Remus was regarding him with a wistful smile.
“It’s alright, Sirius,” he said. “Between you and me, I miss what we had together, so much so that it sometimes makes things difficult between Tonks and myself. There are ways that she can’t understand me the way that you do, though perhaps if she were an Animagus….”
Sirius managed a chuckle. “That’d be a sight to see. What animal do you suppose she would be?”
“Something wily and bright, energetic and protective,” Remus said with a fond smile. “Can you a think of a creature that’s like that?”
“Ah well. Neither can I. But that’s what she’d be.”
Sirius sighed. “Oh Remus.” He shook his head, and he couldn’t help but feel his smile widen a little.
Remus looked around the room a moment, and then he said, very intently. “I do love her. I love her very much. More than my life.”
Sirius couldn’t help but soften at this.
“I think…in fact…” Remus pressed on, “that I’m going to ask her to marry me.”
“Ah….” Sirius sank back into the sofa. “I see.”
Remus twiddled with a loose thread in the arm of the wingback chair. “Would you…would you be our best man?” he asked very tentatively.
Sirius gave a dry little laugh, but he knew what his answer would be in an instant, because in his continued love for Remus, there would always be the devotion that came with it. That he was certain of, even from where he was sitting.
“’Course I will,” he said.