I think this is one of the best pieces of fanfiction I've written in any fandom, with any pairing, and on any theme. After this piece is when I got bored with fanfiction, and I figure that must mean something. Maybe I hit my fanfic peake here. Sirius' Cure for Exam Tension was the most popular piece of mine on ff.net, but that's probably because there were some cheap gags in it and it didn't require one to understand much of anything, which is good in its own way but I don't feel that it was the best of the bunch. This one is a little more refined, and the characters are more, well, in character.
Rating: PG. All except for the last line, which is a wee bit naughtier.
Pairing: Remus Lupin/Sirius Black
Summary: A speculation on how Lupin and Sirius' relationship (sod Tonks, it's canon!) may have started out.
Disclaimer: All characters belong to J.K. Rowling except ones I may have invented for my own convenience. I'm making no money here, and don't I know it.
He could read the black print of the newspaper with his fingertips alone, if he wanted to make the effort. Eyes closed, soft pads of his fingers trailing across the cold parchment until they found the hot blackness of the headline. A large letter V, the rest of the words fading slightly in a vague warm haze. He found an O, smaller than the capital letter, next to it an L; decided he didn’t want to know what the headline was after all. Instead he let his hands move over the date. Monday, but he knew that already. Was it the 13th? The 14th? The font was too small for him to make out the characters by the heat they gave off alone. He gave a frustrated grunt and opened his eyes; the world swam back into monochrome focus, sharpening up when he pulled his glasses down from their perch at his hairline. Yes, there were people worse off than him. He knew he wouldn’t be able to cope if he couldn’t see at all, and he should be thankful for his lot. Sometimes, though, it was difficult to see why.
The denizens of the dormitory were all staring at him, so he gave them a faint smile. James Potter was on his bed with a magazine – Remus really didn’t want to know what it was about – while the others were on or around Sirius Black’s bed and his record player. James didn’t share his friends’ taste in music despite Sirius’ efforts to convert him to David Bowie, Lou Reed and Queen. However, Remus knew how to appreciate all kinds of music. He might not think the words made sense or were appropriate, but simple melodies were as good as works of art to him. Vibrant colours and shapes could be formed from sound which he didn’t need his eyes to see. A piece of music could stir emotions akin to canvas masterpieces, and Remus had far more scope to appreciate sounds. Despite the fact that Freddie Mercury could make his earwax run.
“If you’re done being weird, Moony, you can pass me that t-shirt on the floor,” said James, ever the athlete, pointing vaguely at the mass of teenage boys’ clothes on the floor between Remus’ bed and James’. Remus peered down.
“Which t-shirt?” he asked, noting that there were at least five there, all creased and smelly. He wondered if he was the only seventeen year old boy around here who would notice such things.
“The blue one,” said James. Remus raised his eyebrows, but his friend had apparently not noticed what he had said or who he had said it to. Sirius was staring at them again, and when James didn’t respond Sirius cleared his throat.
“Huh?” James looked up from his magazine. “Oh…Sorry, Moony.”
He got the t-shirt himself, pulled it on over the thin vest he wore. Remus winced, apparently having forgotten the moment’s awkwardness.
“Prongs, it’s bloody hot.”
“No it’s not.”
“It is,” Sirius added, smiling at Remus across the room. Remus’ cheeks went pink, or at least he felt them flush hot and someone once told him he looked pink when they did that. He wondered vaguely what pink looked like. Maybe it was warm and soft…but he had trouble imagining what colours should be.
He could vaguely remember what the world had looked like before he was bitten. His mother, for example, had blonde hair, and his father used to wear a blue jumper. He could remember the blonde, but not the blue. He could remember that the shirt had been warm, but perhaps that had been his father underneath. He knew that blue and yellow made green, and red and blue made purple and all the rest of it; that he had learned before the attack. But now it meant nothing to him.
It was because he was a werewolf that the world was now devoid of colour to him. The technicalities were beyond his understanding, but he understood that when he changed at full moon his eyes were not capable of adjusting to canine vision. The irises went yellowier – so he was told – but the eyes themselves remained the same. His brain had tried to find a comfortable medium between human and canine vision, and had left him completely colour-blind. Apparently it happened to a lot of werewolves, which was supposed to comfort him at first. Some lost their human vision; he should be thankful he wasn’t one of them. His world was one of grey fuzziness until he put on his glasses and it became sharp black and white with shades of grey in between. Sometimes he knew what colour something was simply because it was similar to the sky – which everyone knows to be blue – or the grass or the sun, or because it was black or white. He had become good at memorising any comments people made about the colour of things, and trying to match that particular shade of grey to other things. Most of the time, it wasn’t worth his effort. These days people were a network of smells and sounds. He could tell who had entered a room by the pace of their steps, the sound of their breath, and the cocktail of scents which made them up; James smelled of broomstick wax, grass and bad aftershave, while Peter had a permanent smell of nervousness mingled with soap and a hint of toast. Right now, he also smelled of the sugar quills which had mysteriously vanished from under Remus’ bed, although to be fair it was probably Sirius who stole them. Everyone in the dormitory smelled of unwashed teenage boy, but so did Remus so he seldom noticed.
The evening drew on with David Bowie in the background along with the banal chatter of his friends. James and the fifth occupant of the dorm, a boy named Thomas, struck up an argument on contemporary music, and Peter eventually fell asleep. Sirius Black remained almost silent, his eyes on Remus as the werewolf read the newspaper; Remus aware of his attentions but refusing to admit it. He had spent the past year pretending he had no reason to notice Sirius any more than James or Peter, and he realised he’d been very good at it. Sirius apparently had no idea that when he wasn’t watching Remus, Remus was watching him. The only difference was that Remus didn’t always use his eyes to watch Sirius; his ears were just as good. Every sound Sirius made was cause for Remus to shiver with some unidentifiable emotion. His breathing was slow, shallow, his voice an easily excitable, home counties drawl. When he laughed, no one could resist staring at him. It was the sort of laugh only the young, healthy and well-educated ever possessed. Even the noises Sirius made when brushing his teeth made Remus stop whatever he was doing and sigh fondly.
Likewise, the scent of Sirius was enough to bring him to his knees, especially after Quidditch or first thing in the morning. Sirius’ hair had its own scent, almost dusty but fresh, while the rest of him was leather and cigarette ash and musk. There was a faint chemical smell to him when he styled his hair, and he usually smelled of whatever had exploded over him most recently. Today it was their potions experiment which had involved mint leaves, but since Sirius chewed gum all the time that he wasn’t smoking or eating, mint was a usual smell for him anyway. Remus could hear his breathing and smell the sharp tang of mint mingled with smoke all the way across the room. He couldn’t help it any longer; none of the words were going in. He had been staring at the same page of the newspaper for the past five minutes, none of it making any sense to him. Finally, he glanced over at Sirius.
It wasn’t possible for Sirius to look dull, and being monochrome merely gave him a mysterious, enchanting tint. He was thin, his skull-structure angular but strikingly handsome. His hair was very dark and managed to look as if it should be falling in elegant locks even though it was relatively short. Right now, he was trying to cultivate a small beard; Remus made a mental note to advise him against pursuing this ambition any further. His lips were large and probably very red, and his eyes tended towards the doleful when not mischievous or curious. He wore black and white in a world where everyone else wore shades of grey, and this was striking to Remus’ eye.
He had been looking too long; Sirius raised his head from the record cover he was examining and stared back at Remus who quickly glanced away, examining the page in front of him again. But he realised barely five seconds later that Sirius was still looking at him. He met the other boy’s gaze again, and Sirius glanced towards the door then back at him again. A moment later he rose from the bed and made a vague excuse before leaving the dormitory. Remus followed a few minutes after, no one even questioning him.
Sirius was waiting down the corridor, leaning nonchalantly against a statue of some old witch in medieval robes. Remus padded silently towards him, and Sirius moved off down the steps and out into the school. They didn’t bother hiding themselves or staying in the shadows as it was gone midnight and no professor in their right mind would still be up and wandering the castle. Even Filch the caretaker had to sleep sometime. Remus remained a step behind, the darkness making no difference to his vision. Sirius seemed to have his own private resources of stealth and agility not related to any condition or infliction, and even managed to avoid a trap presumably left by Filch to catch students out after midnight and fling them into a self-locking wardrobe, keeping them there until morning.
“Did you want to talk to me about something?” Remus asked, hoping his nerves didn’t manifest in his voice.
Sirius stopped before a window. The moonlight cast half his face in shadow, and Remus was forced to turn away to stop himself staring. But the moon was waning so it was forgiven.
“I guess,” said Sirius. He shrugged slightly, like a cat would shrug if it felt so inclined, a slow, languid movement made almost as much for the pleasure of moving the muscles as to indicate indifference, or perhaps the pretence of indifference.
“So what is it?” Remus leaned against the opposite wall, trying to remain casual, regarding Sirius with a cool stare. He became aware of his ponytail lolling over his shoulder, and the hair tickling his neck to the point of irritation. He flicked it back behind him, a careless gesture indicating that Sirius didn’t have to be the centre of his attention; he had time to worry about his hair, it just so happened that Sirius was there too.
“Look.” Sudden impatience. “I can’t be bothered with this pissing about any longer. I know you like me.”
“Of course I like you, Sirius.”
“I mean I know you want me. You’re attracted to me. Damn it, Remus, why am I explaining this to you? You know perfectly well what I’m talking about. You think I’m so simple I haven’t known you’ve known I like you for over a year?” Sirius was unsettled, strode back and forth before the window. His eyes flicked about, always aware of his surroundings, but frequently settling on Remus again. “This is just going to get pathetic if it isn’t nipped in the bud. Why didn’t you say something? Why is it up to me?”
Remus wondered whether he should tell the truth or not, figuring that probably he should. He gave a shrug of his own, a shorter gesture like a bird ruffling its feathers, trying to pretend the cat wasn’t troubling it. “Because you’re you and I’m me.”
“Thank you, Sherlock. I mean it. I’ve been in agony – agony, Remus! – for a year over you. Just shut the hell up for a minute!” he snapped, when Remus opened his mouth to interrupt. “And you knew it the whole time. And you felt the same, which means you could have stopped it all but you didn’t. Do you like watching me squirm every time we sit next to each other? Is that it?”
Remus held up a hand, and Sirius fell silent.
“Padfoot, I’ve hardly said a word so shutting up for a minute isn’t a task as such. I’d be quite interested to know why you haven’t said anything up until now, if you knew I knew.”
“Well I only just realised that, didn’t I?” Sirius fumbled in his jeans pocket for his cigarette packet but quickly put it back when Remus shook his head slightly.
“I don’t know how to tell someone I’m attracted to them,” said Remus matter-of-factly. Sirius paused in the act of unwrapping a stick of chewing gum and stared at him.
“So you are?”
“Attracted to you? Yes, you know that.”
“You don’t act like it. You just stare. You’ve never…I don’t know, touched my knee and pretended it was an accident, or hugged me for too long or…” Another shrug, quicker this time and indicating that he couldn’t be bothered to finish the sentence because Remus was bound to have got the point by now.
Remus smiled, thinking of all the times Sirius had done precisely those things. Sirius chewed the gum, peering up at him, trying to discern the nature of the smile and eventually offering one of his own. He moved forward, opening his arms out, giving Remus the chance to escape before moving in to embrace him. Remus rested his head on the other boy’s shoulder; Sirius a few inches shorter than him, a new development this year. Remus had always been smaller than his two best friends, and his sudden growth spurt left them all bewildered, not least Remus himself. If he turned his head slightly, he could breathe pure Sirius and it would be better than oxygen. Sirius’ grip was tight around his torso, a hand venturing to grip his hip, and his breath was warm on Remus’ neck. Remus shut his eyes tight. Now he had Sirius’ smell and sounds committed to memory, it was time to analyse what he felt like. The breath on his neck was hot, spicy, making the tiny little hairs stand on end. The grip Sirius’ had on the back of Remus’ t-shirt was the most infuriatingly pleasant thing he had ever felt, and the hand on his hip was probably best ignored at this stage. Sirius moved his head so their cheeks brushed; immature stubble against pale, scarred flesh. Then, very gently, Sirius pressed one kiss to Remus’ lips. It was so soft a gesture, almost as if it had been done completely by accident, that Remus heard himself draw breath sharply, lips parting, wanting more than just a peck, but Sirius had seemed to realise that they were still lingering in a corridor past midnight. He moved back a little, raising one hand to run his fingers through Remus’ hair.
“So beautiful…” he murmured. “And all mine.”
. . .
Remus lay in bed that night, unable to sleep. He could see Sirius’ feet sticking out of the bottom of the bedclothes across the room and wondered if he wasn’t sleeping either. He daren’t find out, worried that he’d awaken one of the others. Instead, he contended himself with a mental study of the boy he loved.
He formed a mental catalogue of what Sirius was in his mind: his sharp, thin lines, his lean structure, his elegant posture. The waves of his hair, the twitch of his nose when he concentrated. The way he rolled his eyes when Peter said something stupid, and the way he ran his tongue over his lips when speaking. The slightly camp flick of his wrist when withdrawing his quill from the ink bottle; The tone of voice he used when telling James to give up on Lily Evans already, the little cough he had for when he wanted all attention returned rightfully to him. The sound of his footsteps on the stair, the scratch of his quill across parchment, the tapping of his fingers on the desk when he was trying to think of a word. The way he shouted at Remus barely an hour before, when he lost his temper in the corridor. The little sigh he gave when someone else gave the wrong answer to a question he knew the right answer to in class; The bitter-sweet smell he had after Quidditch, the mint-and-smoke of his breath, even the odour of the shirt he removed and tossed over the back of a chair; The shivers and tingles and tremors Remus experienced when Sirius touched him accidentally. The soft, clean, tangled mass of his hair in Remus’ fingers. The thrill of being in Sirius’ arms, completely wrapped in him with no means or will to escape.
So many things Remus loved about Sirius; he longed to take out a sketchbook or sit down at a piano and compose something to describe him, but it would be pointless. Sirius was so much more complicated than that, everything he did or said or was made up of thrilling one or more of Remus’ senses.
And now there was only one sense left to satisfy.