12. To Hold You
It was the darkest word in the world to Sirius. The young man who had once shined as bright as his namesake star, was levelled. Broken. By one word.
He had paced the circular room at first, waiting, sure Remus would come, sure that his plea would be answered. Then he had sat, wondering if he had assumed too much. Now, hours later, he lay in bed like a man crushed and condemned to death. The dormitory heater gurgled. Wind and sleet rattled the milky window pane. And no one came up the stairs.
“I’ll wait for you. James and Peter are away – “
Remus looked at him with disgust.
“We don’t need to do anything!” Sirius added quickly, reaching for Remus’ hand. “I just want to hold you.”
Remus had pulled his hand away. He wanted nothing to do with Sirius anymore. Veronica was dead – cut down in her prime – and her parents had not wanted ‘those boys’ at the funeral. Theo had committed the crime, but Remus and Sirius had delievered the tragic news. Everyone knew that they had been there. And though it had been almost two weeks since her death, the fallout was still killing them both.
In their grief, Veronica’s parents had laid blame at Remus and Sirius’ feet as well, and no matter how many times he tried, Sirius still could not adequately explain why he and Remus had survived, while their daughter had lost her life so senselessly. Dumbledore and McGonagall believed him of course, but still there was an unspeakable disquiet behind their comfort. It seemed faith had left Hogwarts, and innocence had died on the greenhouse floor. Part of him wanted to hunt Theo down and strangle away the knot of pain he felt inside. Perhaps squeezing the life out of Nott’s rotting lungs would help Sirius breathe again.
Theo’s blood pooled at my feet might even make me smile, he mused darkly.
Even darker than this were the feelings he dared not disturb, lest they overcome and suffocate him. Part of him felt like he had not done enough to save Veronica. Had Theo had been correct when he accused Sirius of wanting Remus for himself? In light of Veronica's death and Sirius' part in it, it sounded less and less ridiculous. Theo’s venom became a toxic seed of doubt in his mind. That seed had begun to sprout, and unfurl, unchecked. Remus wouldn't prune it, and so, nourished by the Flint family’s resentment, and strengthened by his teachers’ grief, Sirius' guilt grew the roots of a weed. And when he thought about how he had acted… all the times he had been crass about Veronica, and all the jealous wedges he had thrown between she and Remus in a desperate attempt to try and pry them apart, he wanted to wilt in shame. No wonder Remus hated him.
“You let her die!”
Sirius shivered and pulled up his blanket. It did little for the chill inside. He had felt very dark things in his life – growing up amongst pureblood xenophobes trained you for a hate-filled existence. He hated Theo, he hated Snape, but never had he felt such cold hatred for himself. It was debilitating. It broke his will.
And Remus, the only one with the power to end his self-torment, wasn’t coming.
"I just need to hold you.“ Sirius whispered to the night. But it was Sirius that needed to be held.
He did not feel like a hero for saving Remus' life. He felt like a selfish bastard - maybe he had done it for himself after all. Maybe he hadn't wanted Veronica to die, but hadn't it all worked out so conveniently? These sick thoughts swirled without censor until even the face in the mirror seemed like an abomination. It was the reason why the proud young man avoided his reflection these days.
The true, coal-blackness of Sirius Black was too ugly to bear.
An uneasy sleep claimed him, his nightmares kept at bay by his constant waking, but barely. Once, the black water of the greenhouse crept into his brain – he could smell the wet, sense the doom, feel the reaching shadows of the swinging cage, and almost hear the screaming.
He woke himself before he could see the death.
The stove had gone out, and the cold began to nip at his feet. On the coldest and loneliest night of the year, he found himself watching his breath, moving and disappearing with grace and with suddenness. It reminded him of Veronica. Everything reminded him of her. Sirius started to shiver, but still he felt no need to get up and make the fire again. Sadly, he realized that the possibility of freezing to death wasn’t quite so unwelcome. Not anymore, anyways.
When the bed creaked, Sirius was sure he had dreamt it. Maybe this time, he wouldn’t wake, and the endless sleep would be far preferable to life in solitary.
And then he felt familiar fingers brush his hand. Wonderful, warm, familiar fingers.
“You came.” Sirius whispered, overwhelmed.
At once, the dam broke and Sirius was shamelessly crying. He buried his face in his pillow, but there was no hiding it. Grief and release shook his entire body. Remus’ arms came around him, squeezing him tight, as if physically trying to hold his friend together.
“Shh. It’s okay.” Remus said softly, in that hoarse and soothing voice. “It’s okay. I came.”
“I didn’t mean to let her die.” Sirius wept desperately. "She was wonderful. She would have been perfect for you. Everyone knows I let her die..."
“No, Sirius... you saved me. I should have been grateful. I should thank you will all my heart, and instead I blamed you. I swear I was hurting and I should have n-never – “ but his words died.
Because Remus was crying too.
They held each other, rocking gently, all their pain bare and raw and real, but only for each other. And when Remus buried his face in Sirius’ neck, his lips murmuring comfort, Sirius pulled him closer. He was a balm on his wounds. Remus numbed his pain, and made him feel alive again without even trying. He ran his hands down Remus’ back, to hold him more preciously, but instead of deepening the embrace, Remus raised his head to look Sirius in the eyes.
“I came to say goodbye.” Remus said.
Sirius froze. “What?”
“This… you and I… it cost too much. It can’t be. I have to leave the school. You understand this, don’t you?”
A ragged breath. A hand on his face. And Remus begging him to understand why he was leaving him.
Maybe this was a nightmare after all.
"If you leave, I’ll follow you.” Sirius whispered. “I want to be wherever you are. I don`t want to play any more games.”
Remus shook his head. “That`s why I have to go. Whatever we had, Sirius… we killed it.”
“With my grades, I can get an honorarium spot at Durmstrang.” Remus carried on, as if reading from a cold and sparse script. He was staring at the wall. “It`ll only be for a few months until I graduate. They don`t know about my condition. With luck, they won’t find out. I’m already ahead in my NEWT-work. I’ll double-up to finish sooner, maybe I can find a job out there…”
Remus kept talking, but Sirius wasn`t listening. Only one question rang through his mind.
Why are you ripping my heart out, Remus?
When Remus was done reciting the details of his plan, he didn’t move from the old bed. He seemed to be waiting for Sirius to speak. To give his blessing.
It was something he wouldn’t get.
“So you’re leaving me?” Sirius asked, with more strength than he felt.
“It’s best for both of us.”
"How can you say that?" Sirius asked. "Who's it best for exactly?" Remus didn't respond, but something small but powerful demanded that Sirius keep fighting. He was suddenly driven to reel in the madness that was tearing them apart.
“No. You're wrong. We didn’t kill it.” Sirius said firmly. He had not expected the anger and conviction in his own voice. “Whatever we had between us, we didn’t kill it. We didn’t even give it a chance, dammit.”
“Veronica died because we gave it too many chances.”
“She died because Theo is ignorant and bigoted and a criminal! Even Veronica wanted us to be happy. Because what we have – Remus, it isn’t just sex. It’s not just getting off or fucking around or whatever it turned into. What we have is something more – or so I thought.”
“What we have, can’t be. We broke everything with careless hands and grabbing hearts and it just..." Remus shook his head, he would not hear, he would not listen. Maybe he was crushed with guilt too, "...we can't exist together without destroying everything and everyone around us. This is the end. It broke and it died and left us with nothing and it ends tonight.” Still he did not move from the bed.
“Then end it properly.” Sirius snapped, resisting the urge to shove Remus onto his ass. “Walk out of here and don’t look back! You want me to tell you I don’t mind? You want me to tell you that never seeing each other again is a good fucking idea? After all we've been through and all we've been to each other? Well it isn’t gonna happen.” Sirius couldn’t believe what he was saying, but it wouldn’t stop coming. It hurt too much to keep it inside. “I’m not telling you it’s okay to go. Not now, not ever. You’ll have to slam the door on my face.”
“I can’t believe we’re fighting again. After everything we’ve been through.” Remus’ fingers went to his temples. “It never changes.”
“How would YOU feel if I was leaving forever? Would you be glad if I told you we’d never see each other again?” His voice shook with emotion. “Tell me – would you be fucking glad? Would you throw a goddamn party if I was leaving you?”
“No.” Remus’ voice was suddenly small.
Sirius went on, speaking from the heart, not knowing if he was making a terrible mistake and opening himself up for more pain. He didn't care. “If you were losing your best friend, who became your lover, who became the person who touched your soul, inside and out... who knew you better than you knew yourself – the person who was always there for you and held you and made you the man you’ve always wanted to be – would you just shake it off and move on like nothing had happened?” Sirius asked.
“Then how do you expect me to let you go?” Sirius whispered in earnest. “Are you insane? You are all those things to me. And if I've said it wrong before, I hope I'm saying it right now. You're everything to me. Hell, you always were."
Their fingers had twined. Sirius wasn’t sure how or when, but they were gripping each others’ hands like drowning men, gripping onto each other for dear life. Their eyes met, each young man struggling for the answers, each finding only the other, and a taut, disturbed silence.
Sirius took the back of Remus’ hand, and brushed it across his own cheek. He loved the feel of Remus’ skin, but Remus’ tense fingers and shallow breathing were no comfort. Something more was going on inside of Remus. Anger? Resentment? Or simply... waiting? Was Remus waiting to see if Sirius would accept him, just as he was; in pain and in need and ultimately, imperfect.
Yes he would.
"Forgive me, Remus. Moony. Please, look at me." He let the words tumble out without thinking first. "For all I've fucked up along the way. It’s not even about being physical. We’re more than that. It’s about us. Why can’t you see, I need you in my life? Where would I be without you to guide me, to keep my head on straight, to pull me back on the road when I wipe out?”
“Sirius...” Remus protested when Sirius began to lay gentle kisses on each of his knuckles. But he did not pull away.
Sirius drew Remus’ hand over his lips, parting them just enough to breathe in the taste of his skin. He made Remus’ fingers trail the hard lines of his jaw, and down his vulnerable, exposed throat. Remus’ eyes slid closed as Sirius ran his hand over his bare chest, and stopped it over his heart. It beat slow and strong. Remus’ lips moved, and his head tilted back ever so slightly as he fell under the spell of the pulsing beat.
“I love you.” Sirius murmured. “With every beat of my heart, even if you don’t want to be together anymore, I love you. Even if we have to be friends only, like we used to be. For the love you bear me, if there’s any at all… please stay.”
Remus pressed his forehead to Sirius’. Sirius breathed in his breath, so sacred and so real. He never needed to be perfect. Neither of them did.
Tentatively, gently, Remus began kissing him, his lips beginning on Sirius’ bottom lip, pulling it just enough to make his breath catch. When the kiss deepened, Sirius could feel his body rising in anticipation. His heart trembled in his chest. He wanted the man kissing him so much, but he wanted his friend even more. Was this too much, or not enough? Was it right or was it unconscionably wrong? He didn't know. All he knew was that comfort came in many forms, and Remus' warmth was welcome. Necessary.
“Once more to say goodbye?” Remus asked breathlessly, pulling out of the kiss only enough to speak. He was moved and heady. Wanting. Sirius knew it.
“Once more to say goodbye, but you stay.” Sirius said. He knew it sounded desperate, but his pride didn't matter anymore. Before Remus could answer, Sirius reclaimed the kiss, drawing a strong hand up into Remus’ hair and holding him tightly. Their mouths melded into a slow and passionate dance – Remus straddled Sirius’ lap without breaking the kiss – Sirius made a deep and primal sound in response to this erotic change in positions. There were as close as they could be, without...
He ran his hand down Remus’ back, never releasing the hand in his hair. Remus stiffened and arched against Sirius as his hand played at the small of his back, and lower still, over the taut muscled curves of his buttocks. Once, twice, he surged against Sirius, and Sirius rose to meet him each time, wide-eyed and needful.
"Once more, and you stay." Sirius repeated. Please stay.
“Once more. And I… I stay.” And the resolve Remus had tried so hard to maintain suddenly cracked. It was the vulnerability in Sirius that had always drawn him in, the same vulnerability that was shining in his own eyes now. Right or wrong, Sirius needed him. And he needed Sirius. It had always been this way.
"I love you too, Padfoot. I can’t imagine my life without you. My friend.” Remus said, his voice heavy with feeling. "My lover."
Sirius could finally breathe. The pain behind Remus' eyes was fading, and as it did, his fingers played softly over Sirius' chest, curling hairs idly with delicate fingertips. The fire in the stove was still out, and yet the heat was unbearable as Remus paused his fingers at the waistband of Sirius’ black silk pyjama pants. He patiently rested his hands there, his composed calm driving Sirius to madness. Remus remained unmoving for a long time, very aware of the devastating effect his hesitant hands were having on his friend.
Remus did not look up. He swallowed hard. “Merlin, I can’t resist you.”
“Then have me.” Sirius breathed. “Just… have me. Please.”
“Just once more…” Remus’ eyes sparkled for the first time in days. It was like seeing magic for the first time, and it made Sirius glad. “But I swear to you, I’ll make it count.”
They fell into a rhythm that was only their own, finding comfort and pleasure and joy in the most intimate of embraces. Just once more, both of them trying with all their souls to make this moment enough to last a lifetime.
A/N: feedback welcome. thanks for reading!
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Silk: To Hold You