A/N: This world and these characters are not mine, they belong to JK Rowling, and I claim no ownership of them whatsoever by writing this small piece of fan fiction.
Someone is leaking information to the Death Eaters regarding the whereabouts of James and Lily Potter, but who? Sirius Black has been missing for months and he returns to pick up his possessions, with the not entirely true news that he is to be secret keeper for the Potter family; but Remus Lupin cannot understand why he is being so distant all of a sudden and what exactly has happened to make him move out so unexpectedly.
This one-shot details the last meeting between Sirius and Remus before the death of the Potters and the betrayal of their friend, and fellow marauder, Peter Pettigrew. It is based on the realisation in the moment they meet again for the first time in years in the Shrieking Shack, in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, where we discover that they have both suspected each other of the betrayal for years.
There is a chip on the brim of the white coffee cup that Remus likes to drink from in the mornings, and the off-white of the cheap plates that Sirius had bought them doesn’t match the fancy ones that Remus had lied about the price of because he’d liked them so much. A small crack between the bottom of the bedroom door and the floor allows him to see that there is a red sock under the bed, something he did not notice while cleaning that morning, or any other morning for that matter. How long had it been there? How had he not noticed? Did it even matter? The light coming from the window is dirty, much like the window itself. Remus realises that it is probably the only thing in the flat that has not been cleaned since they moved in a year or so ago. How disgusting – to think of the bacteria that it could have accumulated by now. He could get up and clean it – maybe it would make the flat look a little lighter. Moving towards the sink, he slowly wets a cloth and walks quietly over to the window. There is a bird on the sill, but it flies away when he pulls it open, flecks of yellowing paint crumbling onto the carpet. It flies in a low arc, down to the base of the block of flats, where it sits for a moment, as if thinking what to do next. Remus looks down at the bird pensively and his eye catches a glimpse of a shadow of black by the dustbins. Forgetting the window, for a moment, he cranes his neck to peer down at the object. Could that be an animal? Placing the cloth carefully back by the sink, Remus makes his way downstairs and through the back door, to the dustbins.
It could be him - it is definitely a feasible notion. Sirius in dog form is black, just like the object, and it wouldn’t be the first time he had come back like this. Trying not to rush or seem too eager, Remus pulls the biggest dustbin back, throwing his whole weight against it. The stink is almost unbearable. Rotting bits of old food fall, as the bin grinds to a halt, and flecks of mouldy cornflakes lodge themselves in Remus’ hair, as he looks into the space he has just cleared. It is not a dog, as he has so suspected. It is a black sack: a black sack that someone had been too goddamn lazy to simply place in the bin like a normal person. Kicking out at the stupid sack, Remus sends rubbish flying everywhere. It scatters across the ground, making him feel sick to the stomach. Looking back down, he realises that the bird had flown away. He turns on his heel to walk back inside, before anyone can see what he’s done. Let them clean it up themselves for once – he doesn’t feel like being the good guy today.
Sirius has been distant for a while now: keeping to himself, avoiding their usual haunts, staying with someone else - presumably James and Lily. Remus suspects that he is in some kind of strop. He had done this plenty of times before – granted, never for so long – but the man has always been one for making a point. Sirius tends to be a bit dramatic and overstated when he wants something to be acknowledged, but he comes back eventually. He has to. It was just what they did. It was their way. They fought about some ridiculous thing Sirius had done - that he considered unimportant and mundane to the point of boredom, but that irked Remus all the same. Remus shouted and said things he didn’t mean and Sirius left and distanced himself for a few weeks, until one day Remus would come into the kitchen for breakfast and find him sitting there, devouring a plate of pancakes, as if nothing had changed. They went on with their lives and nobody talked about it; at least, until the next time. This time, however, it had not just been a couple of weeks and it had not just been Sirius. They all seemed to be detaching themselves from him, slowly but surely, and this worried Remus very much. His friends - the marauders and, of course, Lily - had saved him from himself on countless occasions – he needed them; who else would be there, if they all went now?
He doesn’t care to answer that question, but he is worried about it. Remus Lupin is a worrier. He worries about things - silly things - that don’t need worrying about. He frets about whether or not Sirius’ socks are in correct pairs, in the top drawer of his wardrobe; he worries about Peter living by himself, with no-one to look after him; he worries that the others don’t treat Peter as well as they should; but, most of all, he worries about when they will wake up and realise that he isn’t who they think he is. Remus has always felt like a fake, an impostor. They have no reason, in his mind, to want to be friends with him, so they must have some false notion of him being something he is not, or so he assumes. He could just be being paranoid and silly - everything could be fine and it could all be a misunderstanding - but Remus can’t shake the feeling that something is wrong, that he has somehow done something to offend the others and, worst of all, he doesn’t have a clue what it is. Perhaps they have discovered the real him, but he finds this doubtful because surely, if that were the case, someone would have said something. They would not have just left him hanging, as he is now. Remus sits down and sighs – how very complicated this all is.
“You have cornflakes in your hair, Moony.” Sirius’ voice floats through the door, which Remus appears to have left wide open. “And you stink of rubbish.” He strolls casually into the room, shutting the door with a quiet click behind him and tossing the key on the side. “Guess I didn’t need this thing, after all.” He shrugs. “Didn’t have a clue how to use it anyway.”
“Nice to see you too,” Remus retorts, frowning at Sirius’ words. Only Sirius Black could possibly come home for the first time in two months and greet him with something as absurdly unimportant as this. He missed the absurdity. “You could have used Alohomora, you know? If it had been locked, that is.” No answer. “You’re back then?” he asks, trying to sound nonchalant and shooting Sirius a cool look. He deserves it, being away for so long without any notification.
“No, just collecting some clothes. I’m staying with Wormtail.” His eyes turn to the floor, refusing to look at Remus. “His place isn’t bad, really. Not as clean as here, but that’s only ‘cause you’re a neat freak and he’s, well, Peter. Not exactly housewife of the year.” Pause. “Although you don’t clean under the bed, I’ve noticed.” He smiles a little, but only a little and only for a split second, walking into the bedroom and opening the drawers. “I’ve had a sock under there for about a million years now that you haven’t noticed.”
Remus frowns. Of course it is Sirius’ sock – who else would leave their sock in such a place? Deliberately, too – it’s classic Padfoot. He has to stop himself from smiling at this and, instead, looks at Sirius and what he is doing. Sirius is trying to make small talk to distract him from the packing and the moving out. He is trying to distract Remus from whatever is bothering him, and Remus isn’t having it at all. “Padfoot…” he begins, but trails off as he sees the look on Sirius’ face. He is angry. Why on earth is Sirius angry with him? “Let me help you,” he offers, watching him from the doorframe. Sirius has never been much good at packing. “Look, here, you never were any good at packing spells. Let me do it,” He ventures into the room slowly, wand drawn but pointed downwards. Sirius backs up a little, a guarded look about him.
“It’s fine, Moony, I can do it,” he says, his eyes staring firmly at the ground.
“No, please, let me.” Remus can’t understand any of this. Sirius is being far too quiet for his liking. He almost misses the idiot who spills tea over him every single morning, without fail, and never apologises. He does miss him, and doesn’t much care for the cold, unforgiving fellow who seemed to have replaced him. “Sirius…”
The frown on Sirius’ face warns Remus off what he’s about to say. He wants, so much, to ask what is going on; to just ask what the matter is, because he sure as hell doesn’t know. Drumming his fingers against the bedpost, Remus bends down to retrieve the sock and hands it silently to Sirius, who still can’t look at him. Never before has there been a silence this awkward, Remus decides, as he sits down on the bed next to Sirius and waits for him to say something, anything that can explain what is going on here. Is he leaving for good? Why is he living with Peter? Does everyone hate him now, and why? Questions stream through Remus’ mind. Opening his mouth to ask them, he shoots Sirius a sideways glance. He isn’t just angry – he’s sad, and he’s disappointed. It is written all over his face – those puppy-dog eyes that hold such a mournful look, the way he sets his chin so straight that it is practically aligned with the line running up the centre of the wardrobe; it all gives him away. Remus knows every inch of that face like the back of his hand – more so, even – and he can read it better than anyone else in the world. “W-” Remus begins, but Sirius cuts him off.
“Better cornflakes than grease, I suppose.” he says quietly with a small bark-like laugh.
“Your hair,” He nods to the specks of mouldy cornflake that Remus has not yet brushed away. “Better cornflakes than grease. At least you haven’t turned into Snivellus. Yet.”
Remus does not like the sound of that ‘yet’ one little bit. It sounds just like the old times, when they had been at school, and Sirius had been speaking to Severus. It is that same accusatory tone of voice that he reserves only for people who have really managed to anger him, or people who have hurt him badly. Attack has always been Sirius’ chosen method of defence. Remus has heard that voice many times before, but never has it been directed at him, and never has he imagined it stinging this much. “Don’t,” Sirius says, as Remus begins to open his mouth to protest. He shoves the sock into his suitcase and turns to empty another drawer. “James and Lily have decided to make me their secret keeper.” he says, his voice expressionless.
Remus frowns. “Well who else would they use?” he says, stowing his wand back in his robes. Sirius is clearly not going to let him help. “You’re the obvious choice, mate. I mean – I knew they weren’t going to have me and surely not Wormtail. Of course it would be you.” He pauses for a moment. He would have thought that Sirius would have something more to say on the subject, or at least show some emotion about it, but his face is completely blank. Suddenly it dawns on him. “Oh - that’s not why you’re going, is it?”
“In a word: yes.” Sirius says, forcing the suitcase shut and testing its weight. “I would have thought better of you, Moony.” His eyes remain firmly on the floor.
Remus doesn’t understand what he’s talking about. If Sirius wants to move then that’s fine by him – he could pack his few possessions and they could go somewhere safer together. He doesn’t have to leave – they don’t have to say goodbye like this, surely. Sirius scratches his nose, to give himself something to do, and Remus takes the opportunity to speak. “Padfoot, I-”
“Don’t call me that,” Sirius says, shifting his weight to his feet and standing up.
“What?” Remus asks, standing with him and following him out of the room.
“Padfoot. Don’t call me Padfoot.”
Incredulous, Remus looks at Sirius, who has deliberately turned his back to him. “What do you mean ‘don’t call me that’?” he asks. “I haven’t done something that bad, have I?” Sirius says nothing. “Oh, for goodness’ sake, will you kindly inform me as to what the bloody hell you’re talking about?” Remus explodes. “You go missing for months without a single word and then you come back here, presumably to get your things and move out, without even a sentence to explain what on earth is going on!”
Remus realises that he is now shouting. An angry neighbour bangs on her ceiling to tell them to shut up. Sirius looks up. The pain in his face is enough to make Remus break down and sob, or vomit all over the floor, but he doesn’t. He just stands there, bristling with indignant thoughts, and looks at Sirius straight on. He looks older all of a sudden. Remus can make out lines on Sirius’ face that he has never seen there before – he is worried too, although Remus cannot imagine what about to make him act so very irrationally. “Tea?” he offers weakly, unsure of what to say next. “Coffee? Water? Firewhiskey?” ‘Some kind of poison?’ he adds silently, as Sirius shakes his head.
The tap drips, dully clanging as the water hits the inside of the sink. Remus hovers by, hesitant of what to do now. Sirius picks at the paint on the table, rolling the little chips between his finger and thumb and flicking them at the floor. “I’m going to go,” he says and Remus feels a sense of panic rise within him, as Sirius makes for the door. He does not pick up his keys, or look behind for one last glance of the flat. Instead, he throws a bag of coins down on the counter and lifts the suitcase, hoisting it through the door. “That’ll cover the rent.” he says quietly, and makes as if to close the door.
“Wait.” Remus finds himself saying. He is staring at the door, wide-eyed with shock. His face has turned white. “You can’t go. I-” His words choke in his mouth. The tap drips again and Sirius does not turn round. “Sirius!” he shouts, devoid of all nonchalance now. Pause. “Sirius!” Nothing.
A cool breeze across the flat alerts Remus that the window is still open, and he goes to close it. More flecks of paint litter the carpet. There is a blast of music from the neighbours above them, who quickly turn the track down as several angry voices come from all around and berate them about it. A different bird rests on the window now, a blackbird this time. Remus looks sadly at it for a moment. When he turns around, Sirius is standing in the doorway, facing him. He looks at Remus and Remus wants to die. He opens his mouth but no words come out. Sirius looks as if someone has punched him in the stomach. They stare at one another for a moment. Flapping its wings, as if trying to break the silence between them, the bird flies away. Sirius watches it fly, his face pained. “A friend of yours, I suppose.” he says quietly. Remus shakes his head. He wishes there was something he could say to resolve this whole thing, but his mind is slowing and nothing comes. He not longer wants Sirius to look at him, he cannot stand it. His head tilted to the floor, he opens his mouth.
“Sorry,” he offers. The tap clangs again and Sirius turns his head sharply to face it.
“Would you just get that thing fixed, Moony?” he says irritably. “It’s getting on my bloody nerves.” It is the most he has said all afternoon. Remus nods. He watches Sirius wince as each drip hits the sink and runs into the plughole. Each one is a personal offence to him.
“Sorry,” he repeats.
“Right,” says Sirius, and there is nothing left to say.
They both watch the water drops form and fall for a moment. The only sounds, beside this, are the ticking of the clock on the mantelpiece above the fireplace and the distant hum of the music. Remus thinks of all the fires they’ve had in that grate. He can almost see the flickering flames now, the jovial expression on Sirius’ face, all his friends sitting around laughing and joking. The stain where they spilt hot chocolate last winter has not yet worn out of the white rug and it stands out like a sore thumb in the midst of all the cleanliness. Remus has an overwhelming urge to try to clean it off now, like that will make everything better. Sirius clears his throat and Remus looks up.
“Bye, Moony.” His voice is gruff and determined. Suddenly he walks forward, leaving his suitcase standing alone in the doorway, and puts his arms around Remus. The two embrace tightly, every inch of their bodies pressed together. Tears spring into Remus’ eyes and he says nothing but buries his head in Sirius’ shoulder. He can feel their hearts beating next to one another, the thudding of every last millisecond counting down.
It is Sirius who breaks the embrace and turns sharply for the door. Remus tries not to cry and vomit at the same time. A dull ache in his chest replaces the warmth of where Sirius had just been and he has to stop himself from clutching it. A bubble of air forces itself out of him, in a small gasp, and he stares desperately at the man before him. “Don’t…please…I’ll clean under the beds. I’ll-I’ll-I’ll wash my hair.” he stutters, words catching in his throat. “Don’t leave me like this, Sirius.”
Sirius picks up his suitcase and drags it out of the door. He doesn’t look back.
“Don’t leave me like this.” Remus whispers. “Don’t leave me without resolve.”
The door slams shut and Remus slams his fist hard onto the mantelpiece. The clock face smashes on the floor and his hand begins to throb. The tap drips slowly and every clang feels like a punch to the stomach. He really needs to get that fixed. Wandering over to the sink, he tightens the tap head and water spurts at him. “Damnit,” he curses quietly, wiping his face. His head drops grotesquely, as if he has lost control of all the muscles in his neck, and he begins to sob into the sink, the water splashing his hot face. “Damnit, Sirius.”
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