Turning Time

Different Now

28 July, 1993 14:38

I had to find a way to research what had happened following the war. More than that, I needed a wand. By thieving as a dog, I'd accrued twelve galleons. In my Animagus form, I approached a homeless witch outside Diagon Alley with a shopping list: old newspapers, and a wand of dragon heartstring, cypress, measuring around nine inches.

The witch returned later that evening, eying me carefully before handing over the goods. Once I was satisfied she'd completed the job, I gave her the entirety of my funds and trotted away, bag clamped in my jaws. I found an abandoned building a few blocks down from the Leaky Cauldron and made temporary camp, now able to put various protection spells in place around me to ward off anyone who might be looking for me.

I spent an hour napping before I roused myself and began to read. After sifting through the newspaper, the earliest the witch had managed to find was from two years ago; a special wide-release edition of the Daily Prophet that commemorated the tenth anniversary of Voldemort's fall.

It was obvious, as I skimmed through, that fear was present in post-war society as much as relief. There was a cynical edge to any aspect of the news. Perhaps I wouldn't have noticed, if I'd regularly read the paper since the war ended. Apart from the commemorative issue, Voldemort (or "You-Know-Who," as the paper referred to him, though the Taboo curse could hardly do anything now) was rarely mentioned. The Bad News section was frivolous, almost forced, as though the writers struggled to find anything unfavorable to cover. While Good News might celebrate ongoing economic growth in Britain and Fudge's most recent accomplishment, Bad News constituted an escaped dragon in Romania.

My best resource was the newspaper from two years ago. I could at least glean something useful about what I'd missed over the past twelve years.

There was an article that highlighted the courage of twenty witches and wizards from the war. Most, I knew about from before Voldemort's death: the Alice and Frank Longbottom, Lily and James Potter, Gideon and Fabian Prewett.… There was one, however, that surprised me.

Raven Faralyn. There was a small picture of her, and the memories came back; she was a pureblood, close friends with Regulus, and most importantly, the girl Remus snogged in our sixth year to get back at me. A small part of me was glad she was no longer competition. Mildly interested, I skimmed through the section on her.

"Rejected the Dark Arts…started home for witches and wizards on the run from You-Know-Who…last remaining members of her family imprisoned…"

She was the last out of the twenty to have died. Killed later in the year, after James and Lily.

A thought struck me. If she was good in the end, then why be friends with Regulus? Or, more appropriately, why would he be friends with her if he was on his way to becoming a Death Eater?

I put the mystery aside and turned the page.

New Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor at Hogwarts.

I nearly choked. Remus. He was allowed to teach? Dumbledore knew of his condition, perhaps he let him work there…he'd be a fantastic professor. I ran by finger across the picture of him. By the grimace in his expression, he undoubtedly was unused to taking pictures. I kept my gaze on the picture, waiting with bated breath, praying to Merlin he would move his left hand so I could see.

After several minutes , he raised his left hand to run a hand through his hair. I exhaled, stomach light. He wasn't wearing a ring. I imagined him hearing of my escape, once it was known, and what he'd feel. For now, he would hate me, thinking I killed Peter, assuming I killed James and Lily. Killing Peter would at least make me feel better, even if Remus never believed me.

6 August, 1993 19:12

There he was. James and Lily's son, in the flesh. He looked—his silhouette, at least—like James; short, thin, hair a dark mop.

He had his suitcase. What was wrong? Why was he leaving? I wasn't yet sure if I should get closer, so I remained hulked between a garage and a fence.

And then he realized someone was watching him, looking around wildly. I tensed, ready to move, when Harry illuminated his wand and shone it in my direction.

He stumbled back in surprise, wand flying out of his hand as he fell onto the pavement.

I was about to step forward to help when, with a bang, the Knight bus hurtled into view. As Harry boarded, I knew then that I wouldn't be meeting him until I caught up at Hogwarts. My patience was wearing thin, despite years of waiting. I couldn't be idle for long.

6 June, 1994 19:28

I bounded toward the three again—there was no way they'd follow me willingly—and hit Harry in the chest. If I could drag one of them down…

Counting on him to hang onto Peter, I chose the Weasley boy, leaving the others in pursuit.

When we reached the Shrieking Shack, I left Weasley to cower in the corner as I transformed back to my human self. Ignoring the whimpers from the boy, I stretched, finally out of my Animagus form. The room was just as I remembered; disorderedly, dusty, paper peeling from the walls. A twinge in my heart cut through my fury as I surveyed the broken furniture. Remus.

I heard Harry and the girl downstairs. So Harry hadn't quite inherited his father's aptitude for stealth. I shifted so they could hear I was upstairs, and waited.

Weasley continued to moan, too absorbed in his pain to say anything to me.

Harry and his friend ran into the room, rushing to Ron's side. "Ron—are you okay?"

"Where's the dog?"

"Not a dog," Ron moaned, teeth gritted with pain. "Harry, it's a trap—"

"What—"

"He's the dog…he's an Animagus."

Harry turned to follow Ron's gaze, and I closed the door. Before they could get over their shock, I disarmed them.

I was taken aback by the hatred in Harry's eyes. With limited exposure to human expression in over a decade, emotion seemed exaggerated in his features. And his striking resemblance to James made it hard to breathe. "I thought you'd come and help your friend. Your father would have done the same for me. Brave of you not to run for a teacher. I'm grateful…it will make everything much easier…" Talking was difficult, I didn't remember how to piece everything together.

Harry's eyes blazed, and he started toward me, but his friends held him back. "No, Harry!"

Ron glared at me, now standing. "If you want to kill Harry, you'll have to kill us too!"

I flinched. The idea was offensive to me after everything I'd done—or tried to do—to protect him. "Lie down," I told Ron. "You will damage that leg even more."

Ron refused. "Did you hear me? You'll have to kill all three of us!"

"There'll be only one murder here tonight," I said, and my mouth split into a grin.

Harry tried to lunge at me again. "Why's that? Didn't care last time, did you? Didn't mind slaughtering all those Muggles to get at Pettigrew…What's the matter, gone soft in Azkaban?"

The girl teared up. "Harry! Be quiet!"

"He killed my mum and dad!" Harry broke away and grabbed my wrist, forcing the wands away, pushing us into the wall. I struggled, trying to get away, but Harry was punching me…Finally, I got a grip on Harry's throat, and then they were all attacking me—

The cat joined in, clawing into Harry, but it didn't help, he had a wand—

"Get out of the way!"

Harry advanced on me, but his anger was too shallow, impulsive.

"Going to kill me, Harry?" I whispered, ignoring my bleeding nose.

"You killed my parents." Harry kept his wand steady.

I stared up at him. If he knew, did everyone? "I don't deny it. But if you knew the whole story…"

"The whole story? You sold them to Voldemort. That's all I need to know."

How had he found out about that? "You've got to listen to me. You'll regret it if you don't…You don't understand…"

"I understand a lot better than you think." Harry's voice shook. "You never heard her, did you? My mum…trying to stop Voldemort killing me…and you did that…you did it…"

Before either of us could say another word, the cat leapt onto my chest and settled right over my heart. "Get off," I told him, but he wouldn't budge, instead staring up at Harry.

Harry didn't seem to care. He raised the wand. Did he know the Killing Curse? What spell did he intend on using? James didn't have it in him to kill, would Harry?

Muffled footsteps echoed up through the floor—someone was moving downstairs.

"WE'RE UP HERE!" Hermione screamed. "WE'RE UP HERE—SIRIUS BLACK—QUICK!"

The door of the room burst open in a shower of red sparks. Remus ran in, his face bloodless, wand raised. He looked over the scene, and then finally to me. He looked too many years older, hair gray, features heavy with weariness. His eyes quickly flicked up and down, and a prickle of shame at my appearance found its way into my mind. And then more importantly—was their hate in his eyes?

"Expelliarmus!" Remus shouted.

Harry's wand flew once more out of his hand; so did the two Hermione was holding. Remus caught them, but kept his eyes on me. "Where is he, Sirius?"

He knew about Peter. I looked at the rat Ron held, then pointed at it.

"But then…"

The hunger I had felt for Harry and for Peter's death was almost surpassed for my hunger for Remus. I realized, as Remus struggled to put the pieces together, that he had the energy to be in shock. For once in our lives, he was more animated in his movements than me.

"…Why hasn't he shown himself before now? Unless—unless he was the one…unless you switched…without telling me?"

I nodded. Thank God.

"Professor," Harry said, annoyed, "what's going on—?"

Remus lowered his wand, gaze fixed on me. He approached me, seized my hand, pulled me to my feet, and embraced me. Everything, our past together, rushed back to my senses, and I soaked him in. Something about knowing we would kill together—finally have revenge, justice together—made our reunion even more meaningful. If he was willing to do this with me, then perhaps he forgave me for betraying him.

"I don't believe it!" The girl was pale.

Remus broke the hug, but kept hold of my arm.

The girl's expression turned into disgust. "You—you—"

"Hermione—"

"—you and him!"

"Hermione, calm down—"

"I didn't tell anyone! I've been covering up for you—"

Remus let go of me, imploring her. "Hermione, listen to me, please. I can explain—"

Harry, too, turned on Remus. "I trusted you, and all the time you've been his friend!"

"You're wrong," Remus said, glancing at me. "I haven't been Sirius' friend, but I am now—Let me explain…"

"No!" The girl—Hermione—lost it again. "Harry, don't trust him, he's been helping Black get into the castle, he wants you dead too—he's a werewolf!"

Everyone fell silent and turned to Remus.

"Not at all up to your usual standard, Hermione," he said. Christ, he was calm. "Only one out of three, I'm afraid. I have not been helping Sirius get into the castle and I certainly don't want Harry dead. But I won't deny that I am a werewolf."

Ron tried to stand, but whimpered in pain—Remus made toward him, but Ron said, "Get away from me, werewolf!"

I watched Remus' face. I'd forgotten the stigmatism around his status, but it was clear in the way Remus' face contorted. He then looked to Hermione and asked, "How long have you known?"

"Ages. Since I did Professor Snape's essay…"

At the mention of Snape, I stifled a growl.

"He'll be delighted," said Remus. "He assigned that essay hoping someone would realize what my symptoms meant…Did you check the lunar chart and realize that I was always ill at the full moon? Or did you realize that the boggart changed into the moon when it saw me?"

"Both."

Remus forced a laugh. "You're the cleverest witch of your age I've ever met, Hermione."

"I'm not. If I'd been a bit cleverer, I'd have told everyone what you are!"

"But they already know," Remus said. "At least, the staff do."

Ron gasped. "Dumbledore hired you when he knew you were a werewolf. Is he mad?"

"Some of the staff thought so. He had to work very hard to convince certain teachers that I'm trustworthy—"

Harry boiled over again. "And he was wrong! You've been helping him all this time!" He pointed at me.

I crossed to the four-poster bed and sank onto it. Crookshanks leapt beside me and stepped onto my lap, purring. Children. This was taking much longer than it should. I fell into my thoughts. As Remus returned their wands, I imagined wringing Peter's neck until it was thin and contorted, his lifeless head flopping around as we carried him burn his body…

"…the Marauder's Map. I was in my office examining it—"

"You know how to work it?"

Remus waved his question away with impatience. "Of course I know how to work it. I helped write it. I'm Moony—that was my friends' nickname for me at school."

"You wrote—?"

"The important thing is, I was watching it carefully this evening, because I had an idea that you, Ron, and Hermione might try and sneak out of the castle to visit Hagrid before his hippogriff was executed. And I was right, wasn't I? You might have been wearing your father's old cloak, Harry—"

"How d'you know about the cloak?"

"The number of times I saw James disappearing under it…"

I glanced at Harry. Funny how both of them were drawn to the same activity, sneaking around after hours. If Remus had seen James disappear under the cloak five hundred times, I could count a thousand. And what about Peter? Had it meant anything? It had to be not only cowardice but jealousy that drove him to betray James…

"…what's Scabbers got to do with it?"

I glanced up. Finally, getting to the point.

"Everything," Remus said. "Could I see him, please?"

Peter thrashed as Ron pulled him out. "What? What's my rat got to do with anything?"

I glared at Peter. "That's not a rat."

"What d'you mean—of course he's a rat—"

"No, he's not," Remus said quietly. "He's a wizard."

"An Animagus," I said, "by the name of Peter Pettigrew."

Silence. And then—

"You're both mental."

"Ridiculous!"

"Peter Pettrigrew's dead! He killed him twelve years ago!" Harry pointed at me.

I bared my teeth. "I meant to, but little Peter got the better of me…not this time, though!" I lunged at Peter, but Remus grabbed me and tried to pull me back.

"Sirius, no! Wait! You can't do it just like that—they need to understand—we've got to explain—"

I had waited too long. "We can explain afterwards!"

Remus threw himself around me so I couldn't lift my arms. "They've—got—a—right—to—know—everything! Ron's kept him as a pet! There are parts of it even I don't understand, and Harry—you owe Harry the truth, Sirius!"

I stopped. As much as it pained me, I agreed, not taking my eyes off Peter. "Alright, then. Tell them whatever you like. But make it quick, Remus. I want to commit the murder I was imprisoned for…"

Remus explained his story, from becoming a werewolf to our adventures with James, and how he suspected me.

Then his face hardened. "All this year, I have been battling with myself, wondering whether I should tell Dumbledore that Sirius was an Animagus. But I didn't do it. Why? Because I was too cowardly. It would have meant admitting that I'd betrayed his trust while I was at school, admitting that I'd led others along with me…and Dumbledore's trust has meant everything to me. He let me into Hogwarts as a boy, and he gave me a job when I have been shunned all my adult life, unable to find paid work because of what I am. And so I convinced myself that Sirius was getting into the school using Dark Arts he learned from Voldemort, that being an Animagus had nothing to do with it…so, in a way, Snape's been right about me all along."

"Snape?" My insides turned to ice at the mere mention of Snivellus. "What's Snape got to do with it?"

"He's here, Sirius." Remus seemed impatient with my disgust. "He's teaching here as well." He looked up at Harry, Ron, and Hermione. "Professor Snape was at school with us. He fought very hard against my appointment to the Defense Against the Dark Arts job. He has been telling Dumbledore all year that I am not to be trusted. He has his reasons…you see, Sirius here played a trick on him which nearly killed him, a trick which involved me—"

I scoffed. Sure, if it could be called a trick. But they couldn't know the full reason. "It served him right. Sneaking around, trying to find out what we were up to…hoping he could get us expelled…"

Remus looked at the children. "Severus was very interested in where I went every month. We were in the same year, you know, and we—er—didn't like each other very much. He especially disliked James." Remus searched for a way to put it simply, to move on from the point— "…Jealous, I think, of James's talent on the Quidditch field… Anyway, Snape had seen me crossing the grounds with Madam Pomfrey one evening as she led me toward the Whomping Willow to transform. Sirius thought it would be—er—"

Get on with the lie, I willed him.

"…amusing to tell Snape all he had to do was prod the knot on the tree trunk with a long stick, and he'd be able to get in after me. Well, of course, Snape tried it—if he'd got as far as this house, he'd have met a fully grown werewolf—but your father, who'd heard what Sirius had done, went after Snape and pulled him back, at great risk to his life…Snape glimpsed me, though, at the end of the tunnel. He was forbidden by Dumbledore to tell anybody, but from that time on he knew what I was…"

"So that's why Snape doesn't like you," said Harry slowly, "because he thought you were in on the joke?"

"That's right." Snape pulled off the invisibility cloak, wand pointed directly at Remus.
Snape, at no surprise to me, was too caught up in his ego to listen to the truth. After he attacked Remus, Harry knocked him out cold. It was an accident, but still I could hardly hide my glee under my gentle scolding. "You shouldn't have done that. You should have left him to me…"

"We attacked a teacher…We attacked a teacher…" Hermione stared at Snape.

I wondered how Snape had become a teacher. Surely Dumbledore knew of his involvement in the Dark Arts, or at least that he was a greasy-haired prick.

Hermione wrung her hands. "Oh, we're going to be in so much trouble—"

Remus struggled against the bonds Snape had cast around him. I bent down and untied him. Remus watched my fingers, as though I weren't there—he was absorbed in the movement of my hands. When I finished, Remus straightened up, rubbing his arms where the ropes had cut into them.

I explained to everyone how I discovered Peter in the paper, how this "Scabbers" fit into the puzzle. Hermione was the first to believe my innocence, and then—

"That's not true!" A switch had flipped and Harry was furious again. "He was their Secret-Keeper! He said so before you turned up. He said he killed them!"

I shook my head, and I knew they'd be able to see the shine in my eyes. "Harry…I as good as killed them. I persuaded Lily and James to change to Peter at the last moment, persuaded them to use him as Secret-Keeper instead of me…I'm to blame, I know it…The night they died—" I didn't want to bring up the two-way mirror, it was too personal, so I altered the story quickly. "…I'd arranged to check on Peter, make sure he was still safe, but when I arrived at his hiding place, he'd gone. Yet there was no sign of a struggle. It didn't feel right. I was scared. I set out for your parents' house straight away. And when I saw their house, destroyed, and their bodies…I realized what Peter must've done…what I'd done…" My voice broke and I turned away.

"Enough of this."

I felt Remus' eyes on me. I could hear the steeliness in his voice, and I knew he thought the same thing; if I hadn't mistrusted him, this wouldn't have happened. I had projected my own guilt and disloyalty onto Remus, blaming him instead of myself. I'd had twelve years to realize this. Remus had no idea how much I hated myself, how many hours I'd spent laboring over the same thoughts.

Remus' gaze slid over to the others. "There's one certain way to prove what really happened. Ron, give me that rat."

"What are you going to do with him if I give him to you?"

"Force him to show himself. If he really is a rat, it won't hurt him."

Ron hesitated, then handed Peter over.

I retrieved Snape's wand, then stood beside Remus.

Remus glanced back at me. "Ready, Sirius?"

"Together?" I said quietly, letting rage overcome my sorrow.

"I think so…" Remus held Scabbers up. "On the count of three. One—two—three!"

I'd had every intention of killing Peter. There was little else I wanted more than to see his body mangled and empty.

But after the truth was revealed, Harry insisted in leaving Peter to the dementors, proving my innocence. Harry proved himself to be his father's son.

2 July, 1994 18:04

Because Peter escaped, I remained suspected of killing Peter and a number of Muggles. which forced Harry and I apart. Despite the distance we would be forced to endure, and Peter's untimely getaway, I was better off as a wanted man than in Azkaban.

I knew I had to leave Europe. Perhaps things would die down. But I couldn't put anyone's life in danger. I expected to leave without having to say goodbye, until I received a letter from Remus—

June 30th, 1974

I expect you wish to disappear for a while. It's easier, I'd think. At least before you go—I'm staying in London at the moment. Stop by July 2nd, the address and room number is on the back of the note.

— Remus

I flipped the note over, then looked at Buckbeak. "You okay if I leave you here? It's only for…" I stopped. I didn't know how long I'd be gone. Was it too naive of me to consider that I could stay the night? "Well, at the latest, tomorrow morning. Alright? Meet me here."

I put on a few disguise charms, then Apparated as close to the address as I was familiar; the last time I was in Soho was James' stag party. I walked to the hotel, a brick, three-story building, then to his room.

I knocked. A few seconds later, Remus opened the door.

"Remus." Before I could say anything more, he hugged me, but, sensing my awkwardness, let me go after only a moment.

Remus studied me, then led me inside. "It's been a while."

I nodded and set my things at the foot of the bed. "Can I use your bath? I've had to use cleaning spells, and it isn't the same. You can probably tell I haven't washed in…" I tried to remember.

"Go ahead." Remus sat down in the chair at the end of the room.

I shut the washroom door behind me, disrobed, then studied myself in the mirror. I hadn't seen my full reflection in twelve years, and regretted seeing myself now. My ribs stuck out, I was dirty, and the slight build I'd had in my younger years was gone, leaving only bones behind.

As I bathed, I tried to keep myself from expecting Remus to join me. But it wasn’t just the thought of him that gave me an erection; the warmth of the water, the overwhelming sense of safety consumed me. When I stepped out of the shower, I saw Remus had placed some of his clothes on the floor beside the shower, presumably for me to wear. I changed into them, then stepped out of the room.

Remus had opened a bottle of whiskey. Once he finished pouring two glasses, he glanced up. “You usually sing in the shower.”

I forced a smile. “Well, I suppose you might expect I’m not as…joyful as I was before prison.”

Remus scrutinized my hair. “Do you mind if I give you a haircut?” He set down the drinks and started to look through his things.

I raised an eyebrow. “I reckon I could use one.”

Remus found what he was looking for: his shaving kit. He pulled up a chair and gestured for me to take a seat.

I did so, closing my eyes as he got to work. “Tell me everything. I’m assuming werewolf laws haven’t changed.”

“That’s why I left my cottage for a while. I suspect people may come by, try something…Anyhow, they haven’t found a real cure yet, either.” Remus combed his fingers through my hair. “It’s been impossible to find work.”

Shivers ran down my neck from the tips of his fingers. “Then…what’ve you done to survive?”

The first snip of the scissors. “After you were sent to Azkaban, I searched for work that paid a living wage. I’ve been telling people I couldn’t find work, but that’s a lie. I couldn’t find legal work. The job I got seemed innocent enough; I was a secretary for a magical remedy manufacturer. But after a couple years, they let me in on the real business. The illegal part.”

Remus was the biggest rule-follower I knew. Breaking the law on an income seemed more up my alley, if anything.

He could tell my interest was piqued, and I could hear the sly smile in his voice as he said, “Don’t get too excited, Padfoot.”

Another shiver. Padfoot. He called me Padfoot.

“They sent—well, send, I suppose—their employees around Britain to heal Muggles. Of course, the risk is the Muggle world finding out about the wizarding world, let alone the Ministry catching us.”

I smirked. “So you got to stick it to the Ministry.”

Remus chuckled. “More like follow the prejudices they set against my kind, but yeah, sometimes I saw it like that. At least they did, that’s why they trusted me. So anyhow, this underground business they’ve got has booths at festivals, fairs—quiet sorts of events. And the remedies usually come in the form of spells and on-site potions—so there’s no evidence. If the user doesn’t drink the potion within 24 hours, there’s a charm that makes the buyer lose it.”

Details, details. I huffed a bit in impatience. “Is the Ministry on your arse, then?”

Remus studied my hair from the front, then, satisfied, waved his wand to send the clippings to the bin. He got out a razor and shaving cream, lathered my face, and began to draw the blade slowly across my face.

“The Ministry isn’t after me, specifically, but there were a fair number of slip-ups that could’ve ruined the whole operation. Enough wizarding folk pull Muggle-healing shit on their own for us to cover our tracks. But anyway, everyone has a job tailored to their experience or personality. Muggleborns typically assimilate into religious communities, offering paid spiritual advice, performing the occasional miracle to bolster their reputation. The youngest and oldest witches tend to go into fairs and festivals. The few remaining are assigned to specialized gigs. Ultimately it’s all better than going rogue—working outside the company—because you’re guaranteed housing, and you can always go back into secretarial if you’re not good at selling.”

As he rinsed the razor, I said, “So I’m guessing you did specialized gigs.”

“Well, no, actually. I was an exception.” He narrowed his eyes in concentration as he shaved my upper lip.

I cocked an eyebrow, and once he had cleaned off the remainder of the cream, said, “So what did you do?”

Remus’ fingers hesitated before he dried my hair with a quick spell. “One of the questions they asked was…what my sexual orientation was.”

“What’d you say?”

Remus took his drink and sat on the edge of the bed. His movements were so much slower and more precise than I remembered, his age apparent in the flecks of grey in his hair and the lines by his eyes. “I asked why it mattered and they said it wouldn’t hurt me, only help me, if I gave them an honest answer. So I told them I was bisexual.”

“And you are, then?” I turned the chair and folded my arms over the top of it.

“What, bi?” He raised an eyebrow. “A lot has changed since you’ve been away, Sirius, but that’s one thing that hasn’t. And…it won’t. It can’t, really.” Remus downed half his glass, blinking a bit at its strength. “So it ended up being better I told them the truth, because it got me one of the highest paying—albeit most dangerous—jobs they had.”

“And why was it the most dangerous?”

“Well, I wasn’t healing sore backs, or colds, or mundane things like that. It can’t be cured by Muggle doctors.”

“What is it, then?”

Remus took a long drink, then cleared his throat. “A Muggle disease. They refer to the disease as HIV and AIDS. Er, Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. The former often leads to the latter.” He paused, one hand gripping the armrest of his chair, knuckles white. “You’ve sort of missed the whole crisis. In the Muggle world there was—and is still—a lot of prejudice and fear surrounding it, because so many of the victims have been gay and bi men. Treatment is certainly better than twelve years ago, but they can’t be cured.

“So my job was to provide the cure. I would stick around in places like Kemptown and Soho for a couple weeks, getting to know the locals—”

“What does that mean?”

Remus scowled. “Oh, come on.” But he still didn’t meet my gaze.

I knew a lot had changed, I had to know that, but I couldn’t bring myself to accept everything. “I may be an arse for this, but…I assumed you wouldn’t want to be with any man ever again because of me. I assumed you wouldn’t want to have anything to do with me.”

Remus poured himself more firewhiskey. “It wasn’t just men, though, yes, I did feel that way, at first. But after spending two, three years alone, I finally had to try to move on. Besides, it never meant much, at least not most of the time. I couldn’t stay anywhere too long, so I’d hook up with someone once, make sure anyone getting the cure had been living there for a while, that they weren’t a spy, then sell him—it was usually a man—and his friends the cure for five thousand pounds each, which is the same as a month’s worth of Muggle treatment.”

“Now you’re making the job sound easy.”

Remus drank the rest of his wine, eyes focused on something in the distance. “It was easy when I didn’t have to erase the memory of the person I healed, or their friends and family. Not everyone was willing to keep the cure a secret.

“A lot of the money went into housing and to the company, but I still ended up with 40,000 pounds and 2,000 galleons per year. That would’ve been much more than enough, but I allowed myself to become emotionally attached to the communities and people in them. So most of my income went toward Muggle charities and people who couldn’t afford the drug whom I cared for. Sometimes after several years I’d hear from someone I’d grown close to and—they’d tell me they were on the verge of death. But by then, a cure would raise suspicion, so except for a few who had lost friends and family when they came out, I was forced to—to let them die.”

I watched Remus as he covered his face in his hands. Having my happiness drained for over a decade seemed, for the first time, comparable to the life he’d lived, supposedly outside of prison walls. The envy I’d felt over his freedom faded.

“Did you love any of them? The men—the people you were with?”

Remus lifted his head. “What would it take to love someone?”

I didn’t know what to say, but it didn’t matter, he continued anyway.

“Going into it all, I’d never been in an adult relationship—sorry, you know what I mean—so there were many I fancied just because they offered something new, and made me feel good…but love? I never stayed anywhere long enough, and I couldn’t…” He blinked to clear his vision and studied me. “Enough about me. What was it like in Azkaban?”

“Looking back, there’s not much to say. Twelve years in the same cell, with the same walls, the same food, same dementors, same everything…”

“What got you through it?”

“I spent a long time thinking about revenge. About torturing Peter for what he did. When the dementors came round, I’d either think about that, or—or I’d think about you.” Despite the seriousness of our conversation, I felt excitement stir within me.

Remus swallowed and shifted in his seat, eyes flicking almost imperceptibly to his trousers before meeting mine again.

“Eventually, though, they tainted even those memories. They forced me to think about the night I left you. The night I betrayed you.”

Remus shook his head. “Sirius, you had to do what was best for James. I understand that now. I expected too much of you.”

“It wasn’t as though I loved him more, Remus. Just that your life wasn’t on the line, his was, and I saw risking his life as selfish.”

Remus’ eyes shone. “I suppose I—I knew that was the reason, but I convinced myself otherwise.”

I shook my head. “I was wrong. I spent more time doubting you than I doubted Peter. Even if you had betrayed us, I should’ve trusted you. I just—I wanted the Marauders to have a future together. Live to serve as an example to impressionable youth.” I thought for a moment and chuckled. “Imagine us at Dumbledore’s age, pranking nurses at some retirement home.”

“You may be alive and kicking then, but the life expectancy of werewolves is barely sixty.”

“Hell, and I had just been thinking I’ve become more of a pessimist than you. I take it back.”

Remus chuckled, then asked, “Where will you go after this? I wish I could offer you a place, but I only have a cottage in Yorkshire, and it’s probably too dangerous for you at the moment.”

I nodded. “I have to leave Europe. Perhaps I’ll go to Canada, or to India where James’ distant relatives are…somewhere where people know English. But I don’t know how long I’d stay. Years, maybe.”

“When are you leaving?” Remus tried to seem nonchalant.

“Tomorrow.” Saying this, I realized, sounded like I expected sex. I didn’t necessarily mean I’d stay in the hotel…or did I?

“I suppose you should make the best use of your time, then?” Remus glanced up at me.

“If you’d have me.” I met his gaze.

Remus stood, then took my hand and pulled me up, gently. He placed his hands on either side of my face, drinking in my features, then kissed me. His lips were hesitant at first.

I had been nervous, but now I was caught up in making him feel as good as I did. I held him closer to me, hand at the back of his neck and between the blades of his shoulders.

Remus placed a hand on my chest and pushed me back on the bed. I lifted my head and moved backward. With my eyes locked on Remus, I unbuttoned his shirt and threw it to the side.

I lifted my arms and he pulled off my shirt with one movement, then kissed me, hands resting on my chest. He pulled away to study me, eyes moving from rib to rib, then smiled slightly to reassure me. I realized how much I ached not only for Remus, but to be touched in general. Remus, on the other hand, was accustomed to being with others, but still, it was me he had wanted.

I was so taken aback by Remus’ confidence that I could only watch as his mouth trailed down my stomach. When he glanced back up at me, I regained my senses and sat up to meet his lips. His cheek was warm in my hand, the familiarity of his scars setting goosebumps over my skin.

Remus traced my hand with his fingers, weaving his other hand into my hair. His mouth became more rough, but his hands, as they moved across my chest, were delicate. I realized he was taking me in for what could be the last time, and that I should do the same. My hands felt the ridges of old wounds, the knots of muscles, and the slight sheen on his skin.

I pulled away so I could look at him. His expression cut through me, and my mind was in multiple moments at once, remembering that same look over the years. He felt alive.

I hesitated, a rare moment of insecurity. “It’s been twelve years.”

Remus searched my eyes, then said, “And I’ve never wanted you more in my life.” He traced his hands down my sides, unbuttoned my trousers, then looked up for my permission.

I nodded and let my head sink back in the pillow, closing my eyes. Remus tugged my trousers off, pants and all. His warm breath tickled me for a moment, shallow and quick, before his mouth closed around me. I gasped and glanced up to meet his gaze. I was embarrassed at first about how the pleasure consumed me, but after a few minutes, I forgot to care.

“Shit, no, I’m, I’m…!”

We both lifted our heads to look at each other. Remus licked the corner of his mouth.

“Keep going,” I said, voice distant, trying not to beg.

Remus stared at me with animalistic precision. “Turn over.”

I flipped onto my stomach, and Remus pushed me further into position.

“Lubrico,” Remus said, then entered me.

I gripped the sheets. “Remus…!”

He lowered himself along the length of me so I could feel him, the brush of his belly, his chest against my shoulders. His grunts came short in my ear, starting low, steady in their pace, as he ignored my begging for him to go faster. “I’ll wait until you’re ready,” he said, hand slipping beneath me to my cock.

When I finally rose to him, Remus turned me onto my back. “Fuck, yes…Merlin…” I placed my hands on his hips, moaning, no longer coherent. And then I met his gaze. He was staring at me, eyes red, as though I would Disapparate at any moment.

Startled, I lifted my head and kissed him. After we parted, he cried out and came, continuing to thrust until I followed suit.

Remus fell back onto the bed next to me. I looked over; he was holding back a laugh.

I felt a rush of color. “What’ve I done?”

“No, it’s not you, Padfoot—it’s just, I haven’t felt this young in ages. You and I—we were barely over twenty-one the last time we had sex.” He laughed openly, now, the frown lines on his face straining with the effort.

I grinned, relieved. “You’re right.” I turned onto my side and ran my thumb over his cheek. “You’ve lived so much these past twelve years. God help us, you’ve matured so much. I still feel twenty-one, but I look forty.” Stupidly, I felt tears well up in my eyes. All the muscles in my body tightened, and I curled slightly, jaw clenched.

“Sirius, what—” Remus stopped short as he realized I was crying. He stroked my shoulders and my hair, concern showing through in the cautiously slow movements of his hands.

I let him do this for a time as I let my emotions run free. The shame at sobbing so unabashedly passed into relief, and then I had recovered enough to steady myself.

“You’re not usually the type to cry after sex,” Remus said finally, kissing the salty trails on my cheeks.

I snorted, and he drew back, surprised, and we both laughed, relaxing. “I’ve developed a tendency to overthink things. I should be happy. I am happy.”

Remus studied me. “I don’t want to be apart again. But if it means we can be together later, I’m willing to compromise.”

Warmth spread through me. Grinning, I lay back in the bed and stretched. “Accio cigarette!” I waited, but nothing came. “Worth a try.”

“Sorry. Haven’t smoked since I was in the Muggle world. Want some more whiskey?” Remus summoned the bottle, drank, and handed it to me.

I took a sip, then reached over Remus to put it on the nightstand. Before I could retract my arm, Remus grabbed me. Eyes fluttering shut, he brought his lips to mine. I crawled on top of him, cradling his face, heart beating quickly as he kissed me, his wanting clear through his lips.

“Wanna go again?”

After we both finished, Remus held me instead of collapsing next to me. “I love you, Sirius.”

I twisted in his grip to face him. “After everything?”

“Especially after everything.” He ran his fingers along my side. “I’ve had to suppress it, all these years, in order to stay sane, and now—now I realize what a lie I’ve been living.”

“What would the point be in suffering?”

Remus pressed his lips together in reluctant agreement. Then he positioned himself so that we faced one another. “Last time we said goodbye, we didn’t see each other again for twelve years. I had so much unsaid, and—I’m sure you can relate to this—so much I wanted to tell you before one of us died.”

“Remus…”

“I know you think it’s not going to be like last time, but if you trust the wrong people, if the Ministry is determined enough, they will catch you. And I don’t want to spend the rest of my life wishing I had done anything differently, tonight.”

“Okay.” I studied him, then rested my head on his chest. “What did you wish you’d said to me, if you’d known how long we would’ve been apart?”

Remus stroked my hair as he thought. “For a while, I regretted being so touchy about your relationship with James. I would’ve rather had some of your affection than none. But I got past that. I realized how much the war had warped our relationship, so it was natural that you’d become suspicious of me, because things weren’t as they’d been before; they couldn’t be. And then I wanted life with you after the war. I wanted to wake up at noon, knowing we had no plans for the day, and make lunch and fuck in the evening. I didn’t want to wake up in the middle of the night to go on a mission, not knowing when we’d have time to eat or if we’d have the energy to fuck. I thought about what it would’ve been like to have that.” Remus realized he’d been gripping my hair frustrated, and released me. “What about you?”

I considered what he’d said. “I can’t put it into words like you can. Azkaban—Azkaban robbed me of words. But there were raw emotions in the memories I kept. The expressions I knew were only for me, the things I knew you’d only told me. I wanted that again. I wanted to talk to you. Just talk, about anything, about us. I wanted to talk to you about embarrassing moments from our childhood…” I paused. “Do you remember when we played Truth or Dare in sixth year? At that party?”

“You gave me a hard on in front of half the school, how could I forget?”

“I wish I could say it was difficult. Anyhow, the point is, that dream I described—”

“I remember that, too. You said you made her—me, rather—come a dozen times?”

“Right, but that dream was one of many. I brought it up now because I remember my first. Because we’re being honest, it wasn’t my first ever sex dream, you remember how James didn’t mind parading around naked in the dorm? He caused frequent issues, but that’s beside the point. In the first dream I had about you, you came into my bed in the middle of the night and sucked me off.”

“And I thought you were awful at Divination.”

I smirked. “When was your first one about me?”

“I never had sex dreams. Whereas you were jacking off every night, I tried to think about sex as little as possible.”

“Why?”

“Because I developed later than you.” It was clear Remus had considered it before, but I knew he’d never spoken about it with anyone. “And even once I had developed, it made me uncomfortable. I should’ve seen it as healthy, but I repressed those sorts of feelings. I focused on the fairy tales, the romance, but I never went beyond that.”

“How about when you had me rub lotion on your back?”

Remus flushed a little. “That was the first time I masturbated.”

“You’re serious?”

“Well, you got me started, and the urge was there…Why do you think I was so embarrassed around you once I came downstairs?”

I grinned. “I hope you realize how much I’m enjoying this.”

“Oh, I can tell.”

“I thought of something. Tell me how you felt, that first time in the shack. In detail.”

Remus ran a hand through his hair. “Well, by then—was it fourth year?—by then I had thought about kissing you quite often, you know, whenever you leaned in too close or looked at me a certain way, so I was thinking about it right before you kissed me. When it happened, I was caught up in that fantasy. In my mind, I forgot every reason we couldn’t be together and I just thought—this is it. Really, though, when you kissed the others, I realized how I felt. I thought I could never want anyone more than I wanted you at the time, but you’ve made me rethink that many times since…”

I listened to his heartbeat pick up speed, then tilted my head so he could kiss me. “We’ve spent so much time being jealous. You were jealous of my feelings for James…I was jealous of the girls you fancied…Faralyn in particular.”

“Regulus’ girlfriend? The one who was killed?”

“Assuming she was his girlfriend, yes. So you must’ve heard it turned out she was on our side. Apparently I can tell when people are good.”

“At least one of us can.”

Remus sighed. “I forgive you. Truly. War makes people do fucked up things. I don’t see it as revealing the darkness in people, only forcing them to do things they would never otherwise have to do. And why waste time holding a grudge when we only have each other?”

I nodded. “Then I’ll forgive myself.” I wrapped my arms around Remus and thought of everything except the fact that I would have to leave the next day.

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