Home for the Holidays
"James sends his love," Sirius called from the doorway of Remus's room after the most perfunctory of knocks, waving a postcard at him.
Remus looked up from his potions textbook. "I know, Sirius," he said patiently. "I got one, too."
"Oh." Sirius looked crestfallen, and Remus sighed as he pushed the book away. He'd wondered more than once if Sirius had known what he was doing when he'd decided to stay in London with Remus's family over the winter holiday, rather than accompany the Potters to Crete. After all, he'd warned Sirius that Christmas at his house was a quiet family affair, that he himself would be revising for his N.E.W.T.s almost the entire holiday...in short, that Sirius would be bored out of his skull.
Sirius had insisted that he'd love nothing better than to have a quiet, boring Christmas and, when pressed further by James, had invented an entirely spurious allergy to sand that required him to stay in England. None of which explained why Remus found himself setting aside his work every time Sirius seemed on the verge of tedium.
"What did James write in yours?" he asked now.
Sirius's face lit up and he came the rest of the way into Remus's room, dropping full-length onto his bed. "The weather's lovely, the sea is lovely, and the girls aren't half as pretty as Miss Lily Evans," he recited, turning over to gaze contemplatively at Remus's ceiling. "And why is this the first I've noticed how comfortable your bed is?"
"Maybe because my parents haven't left the house for more than a few minutes ever since you got here," Remus said, blushing faintly. "Why, isn't the guestroom bed good enough for you?"
"It's all right." Sirius shrugged. "The mattress is a little hard. And it's very big."
"Well, it has to fit both my Uncle Louis-Philippe and my Aunt Ethelred every time they visit," Remus explained.
"I've met them, haven't I?"
"I'd say so," Remus said wryly. "Aunt Ethelred cooed over you for at least an hour during one of my birthday parties, and she tried to pick you up for a hug at the end until you persuaded her that fourteen year-old boys were too dignified to be lifted off their feet."
"Oh, yes, I remember now. She must be part giant; isn't she?"
"I don't think so. Just very large. Her ancestors were mostly Vikings."
"And your uncle's the one who's a blood relative?"
"Yes, he's my father's brother...well, half-brother, really. And is there some reason for this sudden interest in my family tree?"
"I was only curious." Sirius gave Remus a sidelong glance. "We still on for tonight?"
"Of course. I promised, didn't I?"
Two days before Christmas was an odd time to go clubbing, in Remus's opinion, but Sirius had begged--alternately in his own form and as Padfoot--until Remus had given in.
"And you'll actually dress in something other than your school robes?" Sirius persisted.
"I'll do my best to uphold the infamous Black reputation," Remus assured him dryly.
"Remus! What on earth are you dressed like that for?" his mother asked as he clomped down the stairs in his leather boots.
"Sirius and I are going out tonight, Mum. I told you we were a couple days ago."
"Did you? I must have forgotten," she said, then fingered his silk shirt. "You look very nice. You won't be cold, though?"
"I'll cast a warming spell before we leave," he reassured her. "And I'll make sure Sirius uses one, too."
"Uses one what?" Sirius called from the guestroom upstairs.
"Warming spell," Remus called back.
"Oh, no. No. It ruins the effect, when your--are you talking to your mother down there?"
"Yes," Remus said quickly, in sudden apprehension.
"Oh. Well, come up here, then, so I can talk to you properly."
Remus exchanged a glance with his mother. "I think we'll just apparate from Sirius's room," he said.
"Do you know what time you'll be home?"
"Midnight?" Remus shrugged. "Maybe earlier."
"Just as long as it's not later," she said and kissed his cheek. "And Remus?" she added when he was halfway up the stairs.
"Watch out for Sirius, please."
He grinned. "I'll do that, Mum."
"I'm not joking, Remus. Your father and I have made a decision concerning how many times we're willing to fetch our guests from the police station, and Sirius has already exceeded his quota for this visit. Now, promise."
"I promise," Remus said, though privately he wondered what exactly he was supposed to do to stop Sirius the next time he wanted to rappel down the Tower of London. Not that he was at all likely to want to do that again; Sirius seemed to believe that repetition was a failure of imagination.
"Come in," Sirius called when Remus knocked on the half-open door.
He'd just closed it behind him when Sirius continued, "So, as I was saying, casting a warming spell ruins the effect of your entire outfit, because then your nipples don't get hard, which, let's own up to it, is most of the reason for wearing short sleeves in December to begin with."
Remus blinked. "Is it?" he asked, his voice strangled.
"Of course," Sirius said. He stopped fussing with his hair in the mirror and turned towards Remus. "It's--bloody hell."
"What are you wearing?"
"You told me not to wear my Hogwarts robes, and I'm not," Remus said defensively.
Sirius shook his head. "Remus, you're wearing blue jeans. That look as though they were actually made for you and not Hagrid."
Remus made an annoyed face at Sirius's second statement. Just because he happened to be rather fond of his own circulation...
"Yes," he said. "So?"
"You don't own blue jeans."
"They're an early Christmas present."
"And...is that?" Sirius stepped closer and grasped Remus's chin with one hand, peering into his face.
Remus shook himself free irritably. "Yes, it's eyeliner, yes, you may borrow some, and can I assume that this inspection's the result of envy and not actual disapproval of my outfit?"
"Well...something like that, at least," Sirius said, breaking into a sudden grin.
"Good. How much longer do I have to watch you primping before we can go?"
"Are you going to fetch your eyeliner for me?" Sirius countered.
"Just as soon as you let go of my shirt."
Sirius immediately stopped brushing his hand along Remus's sleeve and blushed. "Sorry. It's just...it's very shiny."
Remus rolled his eyes. "Honestly, I can't imagine why your animagus form isn't a magpie."
"Dogs like shiny things, too," Sirius protested.
"Dogs like anything they can drool on," Remus corrected, and then watched in astonishment as Sirius's eyes glazed over. "Sirius?" he asked a moment later. "You're not having some sort of Padfoot moment, are you? Because there's some leftover turkey that's gone off that I think my mother wanted to get rid of in the kitchen."
Sirius shook his head, looking rather unconsciously doggy despite his human form. "I'm fine." He glared at Remus suddenly. "And I'm not here to eat your moldy old leftovers."
"Oh, right, you're just here to eat every scrap of edible food in the house."
"Is that..." Sirius bit his lip, looking chagrined. "You know I've offered to pay for my room and board, Moony. I've plenty of money in my Gringotts account, still. I don't want to be a burden on your family."
Remus rolled his eyes. Despite numerous assurances, Sirius couldn't seem to grasp that lacking a family fortune was not the same as being a pauper. "I was more concerned with the fact that there wasn't a single slice of gingerbread left when I went to the kitchen for a snack late last night."
"Oh." Sirius grinned unrepentantly. "It was very good."
"Of course it was. My mum made it. And it would have been even better with a mug of hot chocolate when I needed a break from my History of Magic notes at one in the morning."
"Your mum'll bake more soon. Or maybe jam tarts; those are good, too. Or her chocolate biscuits."
"Not that it'll do me any good if you eat them all every time she does," Remus grumbled.
"Promise to wake me the next time you go down for a late night snack, and I'll stop going on kitchen raids by myself."
"No, thank you. I have more than enough of waking you at Hogwarts--I'm trying to get through this holiday as unhexed as possible."
"I wouldn't have hexed you at all if you hadn't dumped ice water over me."
"Yes, well, it was a last resort. You should have woken up sooner."
"Last resort, ha!" Sirius said. "Is that what you call saying, 'Wake up, Sirius, it's time for breakfast, oh, bugger this,' before turning my nice, warm bed into the Bering Strait?"
Remus made a mostly unsuccessful attempt to keep from smiling. "Well, obviously if you could hear what I was saying, then you were awake enough to get out of bed on your own."
Sirius looked at him crossly. "I hate you. I've always hated you. Go get your eyeliner so we can leave."
"Just please try to be finished with your hair before I get back," Remus said as he ducked out of the room.
Of course, Sirius was still combing it with his fingers when he returned a minute later, but Remus simply grabbed his free hand and placed the kohl pencil onto his palm.
Sirius looked down at, and then back up at Remus. "What am I supposed to do with this, then?"
"Your eyes. Don't tell me you've forgotten in the twenty seconds it took me to fetch the thing."
"I don't know how to put on cosmetics." He handed the pencil back to Remus. "You do it."
"Oh, for... Sit down, then, and hold still."
Sirius sat obediently in the nearby chair and lifted his head trustingly.
"Close your eyes," Remus instructed. Sirius's eyelashes were so thick they cast shadows on his cheeks, and they twitched as Remus gently drew a dark line along the bottom of each eyelid. "All right, open them now."
Sirius's eyes blinked open, dark and fathomless, and Remus caught his breath. "This bit's scarier, but I promise to be careful," he said.
"Okay," Sirius murmured, and he gazed unflinchingly at Remus as the pencil traced each lower eyelid.
Remus stepped back to gauge the full effect. Sirius's eyes seemed even deeper and blacker when rimmed with eyeliner, and the whites were so clear they seemed tinged blue. There was a light flush high on Sirius's cheekbones. Still, he couldn't have been that warm, since Remus could, in fact, see the erect nipples through the light fabric of Sirius's silver-grey shirt.
"Does it look all right?" Sirius's voice broke the silence.
"Yes," Remus said a trifle hoarsely, and cleared his throat. "You have everything you need?"
Sirius patted the pocket of his black trousers. "All right here. You did tell your parents where we're going, right?"
Remus nodded. "By the way, my parents have apparently set certain limits," he warned just as they were about to disapparate. "It seems you're only allowed to become involved in one disaster that results in your being taken into custody per visit."
"And how many minor disasters?" Sirius asked curiously.
"They didn't say, but I'm sure that--"
Sirius smiled in what Remus privately thought was a very alarming manner. "Oh, well, that's probably all right then," he said, and disapparated before Remus could remember about the warming spell. Shrugging resignedly, Remus followed him.
Remus winced as they entered the club, and he cast a hasty dampening charm. Magical amplification guaranteed that everyone could hear the music and still be able to hold a quiet conversation with his neighbor at the same time. By contrast, Muggles were just noisy.
"Isn't this marvelous?" Sirius shouted, already moving to the beat.
"Very," Remus said. "I'm just going to..." He gestured at the bar.
"You are going to dance tonight, though, right?"
Remus nodded. "Later." Preferably after a good many drinks.
"I'll hold you to that," Sirius called over his shoulder.
Remus watched him attach himself to a highly enthusiastic group of dancers, spared a no doubt futile wish that Sirius might become too distracted to remember this conversation, and headed for the bar.
The hard cider he ordered was cool and delicious: not quite as good as butterbeer, but, on the upside, it had something like twenty times the alcohol content. Remus sipped from his glass, gazing out on the dance floor where Sirius was shaking his hips to the music, his dark head tossed back.
"Excuse me, but I think I've seen you before, haven't I?"
Remus hid a smile and turned to the man on his left, only to narrow his eyes in sudden consideration. "You do look a bit familiar. I'm fairly certain we've never met, though. Have we?"
"No. But, well...I'm Ian Kirke, Alexander's older brother. Could we have gone to school together?"
A faint memory surfaced of a gangly, dark-haired Ravenclaw poring over his books at breakfast. "That's it. You were, what, a seventh year when I was a first?"
Ian shook his head. "Sixth, I think, but I spent most of seventh holed up in the potions laboratory, so I'm not surprised you didn't notice me around."
"You're interested in potions, then?"
"No," Ian laughed. "If I were, I wouldn't have had to spend so much time on it trying to pass the bloody class. At the time, though, I thought I wanted to be a veter-wizard, and a potions N.E.W.T. is required for the position."
"You're not a veter-wizard now?"
"Never was one at all, actually. I went on a bit of a grand tour when I'd finished at Hogwarts, and after coming in contact with some of the creatures I'd been studying I decided that I'd be far happier encountering them in books than in my office." He grinned irrepressibly at Remus, and Remus smiled back. "And, speaking of Hogwarts, I have to say that I'm surprised to find another wizard here. Not many frequent Muggle clubs, you know."
"My friend dragged me here," Remus explained, gesturing vaguely to the part of the dance floor that Sirius had commandeered. "You?"
"Oh, I'm here for the music."
Remus arched an eyebrow, but refrained from comment.
Ian didn't seem to notice. Instead, he began recounting some of the sights from his grand tour, with enough wit and good humor that Remus was happy to relax over the succession of ciders the bartender provided him with and listen.
He kept half an eye on Sirius, who kept flitting from the dance floor to the bar for a quick drink and back again, but who also seemed to be keeping himself out of trouble. Remus smiled at Ian again. "So, besides the omnipresent mummies, did you see any other interesting creatures while in Egypt?"
"Loads," Ian said, and proceeded to tell him all about them. After which he covered the creatures he'd seen elsewhere, and some of the problematic legislation concerning magical creatures in Britain, and the uncanny similarities between small children and Cornish pixies.
"What are you still doing here?" Sirius said, appearing suddenly behind Remus. "You promised me you'd dance later, and it's nearly ten o'clock."
"Oh, sorry. Ian was just telling me about how they dealt with the niffler infestation at the grammar school he teaches at."
Sirius's eyes flicked over to Ian, and then back to Remus. "And I'm sure it's all very fascinating, but you can't just come to a Muggle club to drink and cram for your N.E.W.T.s, Remus."
"All right." Remus drained his glass with a few healthy swallows and wiped his mouth on the back of his hand. "I'm ready. It was nice meeting you, Ian."
"Same," Ian said, extending his hand to shake Remus's. "I'll see you around, maybe."
Remus barely had time to smile back at Ian before Sirius was tugging him away from the bar.
"Only you would treat a night out as a learning experience," Sirius said, shaking his head as he pulled Remus onto the dance floor.
"It was interesting," he protested mildly. "I was enjoying myself."
"That's not the point."
"Well, what is the point, then? Why go out at all if not to have fun?"
"The point is if you go to a club you ought to have fun dancing, not learning about magical creatures."
Sirius looked at him in startlement, and then shoved him lightly. "Git."
After a moment, Sirius did as well. "Look, I know dancing isn't really your thing, but we'll have to leave in just a bit, and I really wanted a couple of dances with you first."
He hooked a casual finger through Remus's belt loop to pull him closer. Remus looked down at Sirius's hand for a moment, splayed over his hip, and then up into Sirius's dark, earnest eyes, and supposed that he might somehow manage to make the sacrifice.
There was a light drizzle when they stumbled out onto the street an hour later, and the streetlamps cast wavery haloes over the empty street.
"Maybe we should find a flue," Remus said, feeling the ground sway beneath his feet.
"Don't be ridiculous. I'm perfectly capable of apparating us both."
"Are you sure?" Remus examined Sirius's face suspiciously. It was true that he looked sober, but then Sirius usually did, right up until about five seconds before he passed out.
"Of course. Trust me."
And since Remus did find Sirius trustworthy, in spite of not infrequent evidence to the contrary, he shrugged and consigned himself to Sirius's loose embrace. Apparating had become so automatic that it took an effort to relinquish control. Remus closed his eyes and concentrated on their commingled breaths and on the rushing feel of Sirius's magic.
When he opened his eyes a moment later, it took him a few blinks to realize that the foggy, cobblestone street wasn't his own. A quick glance at the door of the house in front of them confirmed that they were at 12 Grimmauld Place.
"You tosser, you are drunk," he accused. "Now how are we supposed to get back home? You're liable to land us in Wales next if we were to try apparating again."
Sirius cleared his throat. "Actually, I meant to come here."
Remus stared at him incredulously. "Taking it as a given that you're absolutely insane, what possible reason could even you have for bringing me to your family's house when we're both pissed and I'm tarted up like a rentboy?"
"A what?" Sirius asked, puzzled.
"A catamite," Remus said, pronouncing each syllable precisely.
"Oh." Sirius's cheeks flushed. "You're not at all like a... You look beautiful, Remus."
Now it was Remus's turn to blush. Whatever few inhibitions Sirius possessed were abandoned entirely after a few drinks, and his comments were often embarrassingly disarming.
"Anyway," Sirius continued, "I know for a fact that my entire family--house elf included--is at the Malfoys' for Yule. I was explicitly not invited," he added.
Remus frowned slightly. "As glad as I am to hear that you're not completely barmy, that still doesn't explain why we're here."
"We're here because...well, because..." Sirius gazed at him helplessly and shrugged. "I don't know. I needed to."
His face was a confused mixture of bewilderment and desperation, and Remus tried to imagine yet again what it must be like to be without a home, to be repudiated by your own family. And it was almost Christmas. "All right, Sirius," he said, subdued. "Do you want to go inside?"
Sirius's face shone. "If they haven't spelled the door against me. I don't imagine that they have."
"And if they have, we could probably break in anyway."
"I'm sure we could," Sirius agreed enthusiastically.
As it turned out, however, the door responded immediately to Sirius's presence and swung heavily and slowly open. Inside, the foyer was nearly black, only a dim light reaching it from the drawing room.
"This way," Sirius said, half-whispering, and he took Remus's hand in his own as he led them towards the light.
A tall evergreen stood in the middle of the room, decorated with tiny gold ornaments and fairy lights. As Remus gazed at it, he noticed that most of the ornaments were moving: a circle of ducks waddled in a perpetual circle on their string; a Seeker chased after a miniscule Snitch; a couple in old-fashioned robes waltzed together. "Oh," he breathed, entranced. He'd never imagined that the Black residence could be anything other than unbearable, but the dark walls and furnishings gleamed faintly in the tree's glow, and the musty air was overlaid with the fresh scent of pine.
Sirius squeezed his hand tightly. "It's all right, isn't it?" he asked, his voice sounding almost fearful.
Remus hesitated. He couldn't think what Sirius might be upset about, though, and even less how he might reassure him, so he decided simply to be honest. "It's beautiful," he said.
"Yes, I suppose it is." Sirius released Remus's hand suddenly, and while Remus was still trying to decide if that were a good or a bad sign, he said, "I'd like to go upstairs, too. Did you want to look some more, or should we go now?"
Remus took one last glance at the tree. "I'm ready."
The long walk back down the hallway and up two flights of stairs was enough to dispel any lingering warmth from the memory of the tree. Shadows bled down the walls and crept along the floor in a manner somehow more ominous than darkness anywhere else. Remus had the impression that the house was enfolding them in layer upon stifling layer of dark wood and ancient wallpaper.
Their footsteps echoed hollowly in the looming quiet. Remus wondered what Sirius was thinking, but Sirius's silence was so uncharacteristic as to forbid interruption. Neither of them cast Lumos even after reaching the unlit third floor; Remus followed Sirius's sure-footed steps down the corridor to his old room, his eyes gradually adjusting to the blackness.
A sudden unwelcome thought made him catch Sirius's hand before it could touch the doorknob. "You don't think they might have...well, booby-trapped it?"
Sirius shook his head. "They wouldn't put themselves to that much trouble," he said, and indeed the doorknob turned silently and harmlessly under his hand.
Gazing around the room for merely the third or fourth time in all the years that he and Sirius had been friends, Remus was again struck by how thin the veneer of Sirius's presence was on his former bedroom. The dark-paneled walls and heavy furniture cast deep shadows across the burgundy carpet, seeming to loom over every inch of space beneath the high ceiling. Light gleamed through the windows from the streetlamp directly outside, but everything in the room nonetheless seemed leached of color and blanketed in shadow. Only then did Remus notice what a surprising number of Sirius's things were still there.
"You left your posters here?" he asked, seizing upon the most unlikely objects still present.
Sirius grimaced. "I didn't have a choice. I didn't trust my family to leave my room alone while I was at Hogwarts, so I put my posters up with a Permanent Sticking charm. I couldn't remove them now without tearing them to shreds."
Remus thought it odd that the Blacks hadn't taken gleeful responsibility for that job in the months since Sirius had run away, but he didn't say anything. Maybe they were saving the desecration of Sirius's room for a family Christmas present. Or maybe they simply didn't care.
"Lily might be able to find a charm that would let you remove them," he suggested.
Sirius shrugged, then shook his head. "It doesn't really matter."
They continued gazing at the room in silence. Sirius reached out to grasp Remus's hand once again--who started to wonder at Sirius's wanting to hold hands twice in the space of a quarter of an hour--and he sighed quietly.
"Was there anything else you needed to do, or is this enough?" Remus asked.
Sirius rubbed his thumb slowly against the sensitive inner skin of Remus's wrist. "Well, actually, I was hoping we might..."
"Oh, I think we might," Remus smiled.
Sirius leaned down for a kiss, and Remus opened his mouth to Sirius's tongue, sweet with the taste of beer and of Sirius himself. Remus had assumed that he knew the feeling of desperation. He and Sirius were teenaged boys, after all. This time, though, they kissed each other with an even greater than average urgency. Sirius cupped the back of his head with an incongruous gentleness even as their kisses became more and more frantic and they ground desperately against each other, all tongues and heat and tantalizingly insufficient pressure that they couldn't help but rub against.
"Remus," Sirius whispered shakily, and Remus felt his heart contract.
"Just a moment," he whispered back. He pulled away to slip out of his clothes and knelt at the edge of Sirius's bed.
The covers were cool against his heated chest; the carpet prickled his knees. He could hear Sirius draw a sharp breath behind him, before he caught a flurry of movement out of the corner of his eye and the sound of clothes being whipped off, and then Sirius dropped to his knees behind Remus, covering his body with his own.
"God, Moony..." Sirius's voice was nearly inaudible, the words rasped harshly into Remus's hair as Sirius smoothed trembling hands down his sides.
His erection slid along the cleft of Remus's ass, and Remus moaned. So good, so close, the brush of warmth and hardness over his hole, and Sirius was shivering over and around him. On the next thrust, the head of Sirius's cock slipped inside him a centimeter, catching for a moment on sensitive tissue. Remus nearly reached a hand back to hold Sirius still so that he could fuck himself open on his cock before remembering why that was a bad idea.
"Lubrication charm," he gasped, reminding Sirius--reminding them both--and Sirius pulled away to scrabble through their clothes until he'd found his wand. One hand at Remus's hip to hold him steady, though Remus hardly thought that was necessary, and the familiar half-heard mutterings made him tingle with anticipation and with the feel of magic slicking his insides.
And then Sirius was pressing against him and into him, and the consuming need that was shuddering through his veins coalesced to the intersection of his and Sirius's bodies. His cock was painfully hard, slapping against his belly with each thrust, and his balls ached with the desire for release. Remus whimpered, squirming back into the cradle of Sirius's hips.
"Shh." Sirius brushed the hair off of Remus's sweat-damp face and leaned over to kiss his open mouth. He wrapped one hand around Remus's cock, tugging it in rhythm with his thrusts, and Remus moaned against his lips.
The pump of Sirius's hips was increasingly erratic, the orgasm that Remus's body was chasing both elusive and almost there, and he reached for his own cock in desperation. His hand tangled with Sirius's, the two of them rubbing over his swollen flesh, brushing against the curls at the base and the leaking slit at the head. He shuddered, and Sirius convulsed suddenly and came with a sobbing cry, and then Remus was coming, too, pinned helplessly, luxuriously between the mattress and Sirius's heavy body.
After all too brief a time, Sirius drew a deep breath and pulled off of him. Remus straightened into a kneeling position, despite the residual tremors in his limbs.
"I came all over your bedspread," he murmured muzzily, reaching for his wand to perform a cleaning charm.
"Leave it," Sirius said, an odd note in his voice.
Remus turned to him in surprise.
Sirius refused to meet his eyes, but he twined his fingers with Remus's, holding his wand hand securely on top of the bed.
"Your family will see," Remus said carefully, feeling his way around this new and unexpected precipice. "Or Kreacher will, which is the same thing. They'll know we were here, what we did."
Sirius nodded, just a slight inclination of his head. "I know. But it's not...we're not something to be ashamed of."
Remus squeezed his hand. "No, we're not."
There was a long pause, and then Sirius pressed a soft kiss to his mouth. They dressed in silence, and in silence closed the door on the sex-scented bedroom and made their way down the stairs and outside. The front door clicked quietly but resolutely shut behind them.
Remus took advantage of the quarter moon to check his watch. Only half past eleven. They'd be home with time to spare, assuming that Sirius was capable of getting them there in one piece.
"You know I love you?" Sirius said quietly.
Remus turned to stare at him. "Well, no, actually, I didn't."
"Oh." Sirius looked taken aback. He swallowed audibly. "Is that a problem? I mean, you shouldn't feel you have to...to reciprocate. Only...well...do you think you might?"
"Oh, Sirius," Remus said. Sirius looked at him bleakly. "Of course I do."
The wash of relief over Sirius's features was too painful and beautiful to watch, so Remus closed his eyes and kissed him instead. "Come on," he whispered against the curve of Sirius's mouth. "Let's go home."