Remus froze by the door, the keys still dangling in his hand. The sight in front of him was one that never promised anything good; the smell of smoke and beer was strong, making the air in the room feel heavy and loaded. He could already feel the cold sweat at the back of his neck. He considered opening the door again and just leaving the house, but then one of the men sitting in the living room glanced up, and his eyes landed right on Remus, smirking, making Remus’ muscles lock in disgust.
Remus knew the two men all too well. He knew their names, but never thought of them if he could avoid it; they brought too many bad memories. The dark-haired one -who was still looking at Remus- was the worst; the one with dirty blond curls was just a stupid pawn. Both of them were sprawled on the couch, talking loudly as if they were in their own house, their dirty boots propped on the coffee table that Remus had cleaned that very morning.
Their visits were becoming more and more frequent, and Remus didn’t miss how they always coincided with Lyall’s worst episodes. He was pretty sure they actually encouraged them for their own amusement.
His sorry excuse of a father followed his friend’s gaze then, finally noticing Remus still standing by the front door. Remus gulped as Lyall’s bleary eyes became darker.
“Where the fuck were you?”
“At work.” He tried to come out strong, but the sound of the keys clinking in his trembling hand betrayed his attempt.
Lyall stood up and took a couple of wobbly steps closer to Remus, bracing a hand on the shelf on the wall to support himself. Behind him, the man with raven black hair looked Remus up and down slowly, licking his lips. Remus felt dirty being watched like that.
“I told you I was having people over. I ordered you to come back to make dinner for us,” said Lyall, glaring at him. Remus felt his blood boil.
“Well someone has to bring money to pay the bills, since you are too busy being a lazy ass drunkard.”
He regretted the words as soon as they left his lips, it was not smart of him to talk like that right now. But he was just overwhelmed by the unfairness of it all.
“Don’t talk to me like that, you fucking brat!” Lyall yelled, swinging his arm violently over the shelf he’d been holding, and throwing everything on top of it to the floor.
Remus watched horrified as the silver frame that had his mother’s picture fell through the air, arching as if in slow motion. It landed viciously on the hardwood floor. When he heard the loud crack it made, Remus felt his heart shattering as well.
The sound sprang him into motion for the first time since stepping into this godforsaken house. He rushed over, kneeling on the floor next to the small shards scattered all over the floor. One of them dug itself into his knee, but Remus barely even noticed it. He was looking at the frame, the glass had cracked into a million pieces, forming sharp spiderwebs that spreaded over Hope’s smiling face.
“What the hell are you doing?!” Remus yelled, holding it close to his chest with both arms, protecting it like his life depended on it. Maybe it did.
He was using all of his strength to fight the tears; he would not cry in front of these men. Standing up slowly, he glared at Lyall. Remus could have sworn that he saw regret in his eyes for a moment, but it was gone the minute Remus spoke again.
“You disgust me,” he spat.
Lyall’s eyes glinted, and if Remus hadn’t been holding his mother’s picture he would have raised his arms to protect his head. As it was though, Lyall’s fist connected with his jaw, making his head snap to the side painfully. He’d punched him with the full strength of a drunken adult, which made Remus see stars dancing in his vision and stumble back, while the two guys behind them cackled loudly.
A few tears escaped Remus’ eyes then, both from the pain in his face and the even greater one in his chest. He could still remember a time when the man in front of him was actually his father. A time when they would laugh together, and Lyall would teach him to play ball. But that had all been when Hope was still in their lives. Lyall had not been the same after the accident, and in consequence, Remus had lost both of his parents the day Hope’d died.
Cold fear crept up Remus’ spine as he stared at the rage seeping out of Lyall’s eyes. He knew where this was going, how everything would turn out if he didn’t do something; and he was pretty sure that he didn’t have any more antiseptics or gauzes hidden in his room, he’d used them all the last time.
He took a careful step back.
“Where do you think you are going?”
Remus didn’t stay to give an answer, he turned around and bolted to his room. Lyall was too drunk to catch him, but Remus could hear the clumsy steps and the string of curses following behind him. As soon as he had one foot inside his bedroom, he slammed the door shut, throwing the lock on.
He took a couple of steps back, not daring to take his eyes off the door, but he still flinched when Lyall started pounding on it.
“Open the fucking door!”
His back bumped into the opposite wall, and he leaned his weight against it. He was shaking way too much to stand on his own.
Fuck fuck fuck fuck.
What should he do? There was no way he could open that door, but Lyall was pummeling it so hard that the hinges were groaning. Remus glanced around frantically, and his eyes landed on his dresser. Pushing himself off the wall, he rushed over and shoved it in front of the door, panting with the effort.
There was a pause in the rapping, leaving behind a silence that felt heavy on Remus’ shoulders. His breathing was coming in short and painful bursts; the air around him didn’t seem enough to fill his lungs. He needed to calm down, but he also needed to get the fuck out of there, he didn’t believe for a second that Lyall had simply decided to let it go.
Remus took out his phone and called the only person that was on his mind at that moment. Luckily, the line rang only two times.
“Re? Hey, what’s up?”
Remus took a shaky breath in, willing his voice to be steady, but he could only manage a hoarse whisper.
“Can you come pick me up?”
“Right now? I can’t, my bike broke down yesterday, remember? I didn’t have time to get it fixed yet.”
Remus did remember. James, Sirius and Remus had gone to an old dirt road that Sirius loved to go to because it meant he could use his bike at top speed and pretend he was in a Motocross race. But Sirius had also tried to teach James how to ride it, which had clearly been a terrible mistake. James had somehow managed to crash into a tree going 20 km an hour; and even though he hadn’t been injured, the handlebar had broken. Sirius had almost cried when he saw the state of his motorbike, and Remus had been teasing both him and James since.
“James’ parents took the car too, but I could take a bus to your house,” Sirius suggested, saying it as a question, but Remus shook his head even if Sirius couldn’t see him. He knew it would be too late then.
“No, no. It’s ok. Don’t worry, everything’s fine.”
His voice broke at the end, and Remus had to clamp a hand over his mouth to reign in a sob.
“What’s wrong?” Sirius asked immediately. The worry in his voice was evident, but Remus’ throat had closed up, he couldn’t reply. “Re? Remus, what’s going on?”
The pounding on the door started again, making Remus jump while he scrambled to hang up. He didn’t want Sirius listening to this.
“REMUS! I swear I will knock this fucking door down!”
Remus didn’t doubt that he meant it. He had to get out.
Grabbing a bag from his wardrobe, Remus hastily filled it with essentials, starting with the picture frame he was still holding against his chest. He wrapped it up in a t-shirt to protect the rest of his stuff from the broken glass, there was not time to get rid of it now.
All the while, the curses and fists against the door didn’t stop; Remus could tell that the other two men had joined in to try and get into his room. Right then, he was so fucking thankful for that old, heavy dresser.
The wood sounded like it was cracking when Remus had finally gathered everything he needed and threw the window open. Trying not to think about the distance to the ground, he swung both legs over the windowsill and jumped as quietly as he could.
Remus rolled on the floor a few times, a sharp pain shooting through his knee. He’d completely forgotten about the shard of glass that had undoubtedly buried itself deeper just now, but that was the least of his worries at the moment. He had to go before they noticed he was gone. He didn’t think they would go after him, but he couldn’t take any chances.
Greeting his teeth, Remus ran down the street until he turned the corner; then he slowed down a bit until he was walking at a fast pace, mentally preparing himself for the 45 minute walk to James’ house. The fresh night air felt like a blessing against his face as he tried to calm his nerves, but Remus knew he wouldn’t feel completely safe until he was at his friend’s house.
He was about halfway there when his phone rang.
“Rem, what the hell is going on? Sirius has been walking around the house like a maniac, babbling nonsense about you acting weird, and needing our help…”
“It’s fine James, don’t worry. I’m actually on my w-” Remus tried to explain, but James kept talking at full speed.
“…and then Mum and Dad came back and Sirius just stole the car keys and ran out, yelling for me to call you and tell you that-”
“Wait, what?” Remus yelled, stopping abruptly in the middle of the sidewalk.
“Yeah, he just said he was going to get you. He looked pretty worried when he left, but he didn’t explain anything.”
“No. No no no no no.”
Remus panicked. If Sirius went to his house, where Lyall and his friends were surely mad that Remus had ran away… He shuddered to think what they would do. And Sirius absolutely lacked common sense and self preservation, he was too reckless.
“Remus? Remus please, talk to me.”
“I need to call him. He can’t go there, I need to-”
“I tried, but the prat left his phone. He just ran off as soon as my parents came in.”
Remus felt as if his world was starting to collapse. He couldn’t stand the idea of Sirius getting hurt because of him. He couldn’t stand the idea of Sirius getting hurt, period. He looked around frantically, as if he would find something that could help him in the deserted street.
“How long ago did he leave?” he asked James. He could hear the desperation in his own voice, and the confusion in James’.
“Just a few minutes, but-”
Remus hung up. He turned around and sprinted as fast as he could, back to the hell house. He felt his phone vibrating in his pocket, but he couldn’t stop to explain everything to James. The only thing on his mind was Sirius.
Images of everything that Remus had been going through at home came rushing in, but with Sirius’ face instead of his, bloody and broken. The mere mental image caused him so much pain and rage, it was unbearable.
Sirius was the most important person in his life, the thought of losing him scared the shit out of Remus. He was like the sunshine in Remus’ longest night. He’d picked up Remus’ pieces when his Mum’s death had torn him apart, and stayed by his side when Lyall started spiralling down. He always knew where to find Remus and how to bring him into the light.
Remus had never told any of his friends what was going on at home, he couldn’t stand the idea of them looking at him with pity, knowing he was a coward that couldn’t stand up for himself. Especially not Sirius. Sirius who was all courage, smiles and warm feelings.
Feelings, Remus groaned internally.
He’d been trying to get rid of his feelings for Sirius for months now, but they only seemed to be getting stronger. Remus had been terrified when he’d realized he was in love with his best friend, he’d had no idea what to do. He still didn’t. Telling his friends that he was gay would have been a good start, but after Hope had passed Remus had lost the nerve to do it. He couldn’t tell Sirius, he couldn’t risk losing him.
His lungs were burning by the time he reached his house, but the sight of the Potter’s car parked hastily with the front wheel on top of the curb gave him a boost of energy.
The front door was open, the yelling reaching Remus’ ears and sending another pang of fear through him.
As Remus stepped in, what he saw inside froze him in place for a moment, just like a mere hour earlier. But the sight in front of him right now was scarier in a very different way.
The man with the dirty blond hair was sprawled on the floor, unconscious. The other man was just standing there, cracking his knuckles and laughing perversely at the two men standing in the middle of the room. Lyall seemed to be out of it, a beer bottle clutched in his hand and his eyes full of hate.
Sirius was shorter than Lyall, but he was standing just a few inches from him nonetheless, yelling in his face. His hair was in a messy bun, strands falling in his face, and Remus gasped when he saw the split lip, blood trickling down Sirius’ chin. Even in this shitty situation and with everything going on around him, Remus thought that he was beautiful.
Then he cursed himself, focusing again.
The three men went quiet as they turned around, the tension in the room shifting on its edge to land on Remus, almost crushing him. He could feel their gazes and everything they carried, the hate, the anger, the lasciviousness. Remus blocked all of those, focusing solely on Sirius, making sure he was ok.
Remus was not ready for Sirius’ reaction when the boy took a good look at him though. Remus could only imagine what he looked like: sweaty, with blood on his jeans and maybe a swollen face. He watched as Sirius’ scowl got deeper and he spun around, shoving Lyall hard.
“What the fuck did you do to him?!”
Lyall staggered back but managed to stay up.
“It has nothing to do with you!”
Remus, who was already used to it, saw it coming before Sirius did. As Lyall threw his arm back, Remus’ feet moved on their own, and before he realized it he was standing between the two of them, looking right at Lyall’s surprised eyes as his fist connected with the side of Remus’ head.
The force of the impact threw him back, making him fall into Sirius’ arms. The warmth of the other boy’s hands against his sides seeped through his clothes, warming him up to the very core, and Remus glanced up. There was so much concern in Sirius’ eyes that it disarmed him; he was lost in the stormy grey, forgetting about everything else for a second. Remus desperately wanted to place a hand on Sirius’ cheek to reassure him, or maybe kiss his lip better…
“I know what you are!” Lyall’s screaming brought Remus back to the cold, hard reality. “You try to hide it, but everyone knows you’re a damned faggot! It’s your own fault if you got hit, protecting your nancy boyfriend like that!”
Remus paled, his thoughts turning cold as he felt Sirius’ whole body tense up behind him.
No. Please, no. Not now.
“He’s not my boyfriend, leave him out of this,” Remus said, trying to sound calm, but his voice was shaking. What was Sirius thinking? Remus didn’t have the courage to turn around and see, so he stepped out of his grasp instead.
The dark-haired man started laughing loudly then. Remus had almost forgotten he was even there, but his head snapped to him when he felt an icy hand close around his wrist, tugging him forward harshly.
“So it’s true? I’ve been wondering for a while, you know; thought I could teach you a thing or two,” Rick said, lust filling his voice. No, no, don’t think about his name. It doesn’t matter, he’s inconsequential, Remus tried telling himself.
The man pulled him closer, pressing his body against Remus’ back, inhaling the scent from his hair. One of the hands was still holding his wrist with bruising strength, but when the other slipped under his t-shirt, Remus felt paralyzed.
“What are you doing?” Lyall asked. He looked slightly less drunk now, but was stunned in place, his eyes wide. Remus looked up at him pleadingly.
“Nothing, we are just having some fun, right boy?” the man said in a mocking tone.
Lyall didn’t move and Remus wanted to scream at him to do something. Hell, he was screaming at his own body to do something, but the connection between his brain and his extremities was numb, like the rest of him.
“Let go of him,” a quiet voice said. Remus fixed his eyes on the source of it, and was met with pure, concentrated rage. He’d never seen such fury in Sirius’ eyes, and even the dark-haired man took a step back.
“You’ll stay out of it if you know what’s good for you, kid. Unless you want to take his place?”
The words hung in the air as they made their way into Remus’ brain, and once they sunk in, everything in Remus’ vision turned red. He was not going to let that asshole touch so much as a hair on Sirius’s head. He brought his elbow up, digging it deep into the man’s stomach, who doubled over. Sirius rushed forward then and pushed the man with his shoulder, making him stumble backwards and crash into the small table.
Not wasting any time, Sirius grabbed Remus by the hand and tugged him gently but hurriedly to the door, making a quick exit before the man could recover. He only stopped for a second next to the still stunned form of Lyall, looking at him with revulsion.
“Hope would be ashamed of you,” he spat with a venomous glare. As Sirius dragged him outside, Remus looked back and was pretty sure he could see Lyall’s face crumble before he covered it with his hands.
Sirius didn’t stop until they were next to the car. He opened the passenger door for Remus and carefully helped him climb in, even buckling the seatbelt for him. Remus let his friend handle him; he felt like his mind was miles away, the events of the night had not settled in yet, but they were approaching him like an oncoming train.
They rode in silence. Sirius was gripping the steering wheel so hard that his knuckles turned white, and he kept stealing glances at Remus, but none of them said a word.
James, who’d been pacing by the front door, rushed down the steps when he saw them approaching through the long driveway to the estate. They weren’t even completely out of the car before James threw his arms around Remus’ neck.
“Oh god, oh thank fucking god. Are you guys ok?”
He examined Remus’ appearance, scowling at what he saw. When Sirius joined them near the entrance, Remus tried his best not to look him in the eye, which made James glance between the two of them, confused.
“My mum is going crazy. She’s going to bombard you with questions as soon as you step in,” he said, trying to get a grasp on the situation himself.
Remus shook his head quickly.
“Please, I don’t want to talk about it. Not right now,” he whispered.
James was about to argue, but a look from Sirius shut him up, so he nodded instead.
“Ok. Ok, I’ll go talk to them,” he said, and without any warning, he lunged forward again, hugging Remus tightly. “I’m so glad you’re ok. You scared the living daylights out of me.”
It took Remus two seconds to figure out how to move his body again so he could hug James back just as tight. What had he done to deserve friends like this?
James squeezed him one last time before turning around and going into the house, leaving Remus and Sirius alone. Silence fell, broken only by the chirping of the crickets in the big garden that surrounded the house from all sides, and the faint sound of the sea a few miles away.
When Sirius extended a hand towards him, Remus couldn’t help but flinch back. He felt bad instantly as he finally looked up at Sirius, surprised by his own reaction, and saw how Sirius stopped his hand mid-air with a pained expression on his face.
Remus wanted to explain, but what could he say? That even though his brain felt muddled, he couldn’t stop thinking about every time Lyall and his friends had beaten him up?
He didn’t need to say anything though, ‘cause Sirius’ face softened like he understood exactly what Remus was thinking. Not taking his eyes away from Remus’, Sirius extended his hand again, deliberately slow, and held it between them as an offering. He was giving Remus a choice. He didn’t move a muscle until Remus tentatively laced their fingers together, and then Sirius smiled softly, tugging at his hand gently to lead him inside.
Sirius led him up to the first floor, ignoring the hushed voices coming from the kitchen, which Remus was grateful for. He didn’t have the strength to face Mrs and Mr Potter right now.
He didn’t realize Sirius was not taking him to the guest room until he dragged Remus into his own bedroom, closing the door behind them.
As Sirius finally let go of his hand to drop Remus’ bag on the bed, and Remus realized that he was actually there, that he was safe, the numbness in his body receded and the weight of everything crashed into him, as if the train had finally run him over. The events of the night, the months of abuse, the fact that Sirius of all people had seen it, that Sirius knew. Oh God, Sirius knew the truth, he knew everything!
It was impossible for Remus to keep himself together any longer.
He slumped on the floor with his back against the bed, hugging his legs. When it became obvious that he would not be able to reign in the tears, he buried his face in his knees, as the sobs quietly shook him. He was sure Sirius would hate him now, and there was no way that Remus could recover from that.
Just a little longer, he thought, for only a few minutes more he wanted to pretend like none of this had happened and that he could have his friends for a bit more. That he could survive this. He hugged himself tighter, trying to keep his pieces together.
Remus tensed up, but didn’t move. Not yet, please, not yet. I’m not ready.
Warm hands rested lightly on his wrists, kindly prying his arms apart to undo his curled up position.
“Re, look at me,” Sirius whispered.
Reluctantly, Remus slowly raised his head.
“How long has this been going on?” he asked in a quiet but steely voice. Remus wasn’t sure anymore if the anger was directed at him or not, he had never seen Sirius like this. He turned his head to the side, letting his gaze fall on the floor.
“A while,” he replied quietly.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Sirius almost yelled, and the pain in his voice startled Remus into looking at him again.
“I..I didn’t want you to pity me. I didn’t want you to see that side of me,” he said with furrowed eyebrows.
“Remus I’m your best friend! I would have helped you!”
“And what could you have done, Sirius? I have nowhere to go!” Remus replied in the same heated tone. Anxiety gripped him again as he understood that he eventually would have to go back there, to that nightmare. Standing up, he started pacing up and down the room, the movement keeping him sane and functioning. “He’s gonna kill me when I go back,” Remus muttered more to himself than anything else.
“You are not going back there,” Sirius said in a hard voice, standing up as well. Remus stopped his pacing to huff a humorless laugh, staring at his feet.
“It’s not like I have a choice, Sirius. At some point, I’m gonna have to-”
“No. I don’t give a flying fuck about what you think you have to do. You are not going back to that house. And if you think Effie or any of us will let you anywhere near that man, then you are sorely mistaken. You’ll be staying here with us.”
Remus knew Mrs Potter cared for him and treated him just like she did Sirius, but there was no way he could impose on her like that. He didn’t feel like arguing about that now though, so he just stayed quiet. Both of them stood there, breathing heavily, Sirius with clenched fists and not taking his eyes off of him, while Remus wrung his hands nervously, still gazing at his feet.
It was a few long minutes before Sirius broke the silence again.
“Is it true?”
Remus knew instantly what Sirius was talking about, but he thought if he pretended not to hear, perhaps Sirius would drop it. He bit his lip, completely missing the way Sirius looked down at his mouth before going back up.
“What that prick said…is it true?” Sirius pressed.
When he didn’t answer again, the sound of steps filled the room before long fingers slipped under Remus’ chin with a care that he had never received before, lifting his head up until gold eyes were locked with silver ones.
Sirius searched his eyes, looking into his very soul, waiting for Remus to say something. Remus knew there was no point avoiding it, Sirius knew him far too well, and it was nearly impossible for Remus to deny him anything when he was staring at him with such an expectant look. He was so stupid when it came to Sirius.
“Yes,” Remus finally replied in a tiny whisper. Sirius’ fingers tensed the slightest bit, which threw Remus into a fit of nervous verbiage. Swallowing over the lump in his throat, he kept talking fast, “I understand if you feel uncomfortable or d-disgusted with me. Take your time, I…I just-”
“Remus, just shut up,” the tenderness in Sirius’ voice contrasted so much with his harsh words, that it left Remus feeling confused. With the rough fingertips still burning under his chin, Remus tilted his head to the side, trying to understand, but he couldn’t figure out the emotion swimming behind the molten silver of Sirius’ eyes.
Sirius hesitated, but then his hand slowly brushed Remus’ face, going up his jaw, until it was cupping his cheek.
“For a smart guy, you can be pretty clueless, you know?” Sirius said with a half smile.
“I…I’m not sure I follow,” Remus said with slightly wide eyes.
Sirius laughed quietly, shaking his head with fondness. He bent down to press their foreheads together, and Remus felt his breath hitch in his throat.
“How could I ever feel disgusted by you? Are you really that blind?”
Remus pulled away an inch with raised eyebrows. He was a bit dense regarding people’s feelings towards him, he knew that much as he always assumed the worst, but the way Sirius was acting…
“You…Are you saying that..?” Remus left the question unfinished; he wasn’t sure about anything anymore. Sirius was giving him a small, shy smile. Sirius Black, shy. Remus thought for sure that he must have been imagining things.
Brushing one of Remus’ curls behind his ear, Sirius struggled for a bit to find the words.
“Re, for the longest time I’ve been holding back. I…I wanted to tell you how I felt, but you were going through so much with your Mum, I just felt like I would be taking advantage when you weren’t doing so great. I didn’t want to add any more pressure into your life, I wanted to wait for the perfect time.”
He laughed bitterly.
“I know I’m not doing much better right now, but I just…I can’t let you sit there thinking that I would hate you for this Re, I…I fucking love you.”
Remus was speechless. All this time, he’d thought he was just a fool for falling for Sirius, for allowing himself to be so close to him when it hurt knowing he could never have him. Remus glanced down when he felt cool fingers lacing themselves with his, and then up to the boy in front of him.
There was so much love pouring out of Sirius that Remus thought he must have definitely been blind not to notice before.
Sirius stared into his eyes, silently asking a question. Remus nodded minutely, and not even a second later he felt soft lips brushing against his, slow and deep.
Remus’ hands tangled into soft black locks, shivering at the idea that he was finally allowed to do it after spending so long wishing for it. Sirius’ own set to explore Remus’ body with a hunger that spoke volumes of Sirius’ restraint, caressing Remus back before settling on his hips.
When they broke apart, their breathing agitated, Remus hid his face in the crook of Sirius’ neck, dizzy with the feelings rushing through his body.
“Thank you for coming for me,” he mumbled against Sirius’ skin, eliciting a shiver from the other boy.
Sirius smiled softly, dropping kisses to Remus’ hair and temple. He slid his hands to the small of his back, bringing Remus closer to his chest.
“I will always find you, Moons.”
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