Summary: Remus and Sirius have secretly become lovers, but they aren’t “in love,” are they? What attracts each to the other? First story in a series of five.
Disclaimer: The characters and the world they inhabit all belong to J.K. Rowling. The title comes from the song “Say Goodbye” by Dave Matthews—“Lovers for a night, lovers for tonight…Tomorrow go back to being friends.”
Author’s Note: This brief interlude in the lives of MWPP takes place after they have graduated, but before James marries Lily.
“Where are you taking us this time?” James asked with an indulgent smile. He sat cross-legged on Sirius’s bed, watching his friend first brush his hair and then run his fingers through it, achieving the illusion of hair that was naturally perfect without any effort.
Sirius was not content to go to the same pub or club night after night. He was always searching out new nocturnal haunts. For him, variety was indeed the spice of life. His friends indulged these whims of his and went along, but while some locations had proven great fun—some had been downright frightening.
“Actually,” Sirius said as he checked his appearance in the mirror one last time, “Peter’s choice; he picked a pub near his house. He sent directions by owl so we can apparate or Floo.”
“Is Moony meeting us here or at the pub?”
“At the pub, I think. Ready to go?”
“Of course,” James said as he pulled on the Muggle jacket that Lily had helped him purchase. “I learned a long time ago that it was a waste of time to try to do anything with my hair.”
“Too true, dear friend.” Sirius suddenly scowled and looked around the bedroom.
James guessed at the meaning of his friend’s expression. “You left Peter’s present in the living room.”
Sirius immediately smiled. “He’s going to like this.” He hurried into the living room to get the gift, his leather jacket, and the directions to the pub Peter had chosen.
James snorted. “That’s what you said about my birthday present.”
“I’m sure that seeing Lily in red satin and lace more than made up for a brief moment of embarrassment when you opened the box,” Sirius countered. “You’re just too much of a prude to admit it.” Sirius thought he noticed a faint blush on his friend’s face, but he decided not to pursue the matter further—at least not until James had a few drinks in him, and they had an audience.
“Just promise me something, Padfoot. If you got him something embarrassing, tell Peter to open it at home instead of the pub. You know he doesn’t like being embarrassed in public.”
Sirius shook his head as he handed James the note from Peter with the directions. “Don’t worry. It’s nothing like that. I’ll wait until Peter has a girlfriend before I buy him lingerie.”
* * * * *
The Thirsty Murtlap was Canterbury’s equivalent to the Leaky Cauldron. A few robed wizards stood at the brass-railed bar, and wizards, witches, and even two goblins sat at the small wooden tables. In this ancient room lit by candlelight and heated by a fireplace (and a discreet warming charm on the stone floor), James and Sirius, clad in Muggle clothing, seemed like visitors from the future. However, Sirius had made it a rule, “Always wear Muggle clothes when pub crawling so we can go anywhere.”
Only one other denizen of the pub was dressed in Muggle clothing. A young man with brown hair sat at the table nearest the fireplace. He had turned his chair to face the fire better, and sat now leaning back, his arms crossed on his chest, his eyes closed, and a contented smile on his face. James handed a gift-wrapped box to Sirius and then headed straight to the bar to buy the first round. Sirius headed straight for their waiting friend.
“Hello, Sirius,” Remus said quietly without opening his eyes. Sirius did not know if Remus recognized him by scent, or by the sound of his booted footfalls, or by a combination of the two. What he did know was that it gave him a small thrill whenever Remus did recognize him this way. It was a slight reminder of Remus’s not-quite human nature, of his “otherness.” Despite all outward appearances, Remus was not docile nor shy nor altogether tame. Sirius loved the fierce spirit hidden inside Remus. From the very first full moon that Padfoot had joined Moony’s pack, there had been no doubt which canine would be the alpha. The wolf was the embodiment of nobility and power. Compared to him, Padfoot was just an overgrown puppy. But what impressed Sirius most about Remus was not the power inherent in his wolf side, but in his human one. A remarkable degree of control and force of will was required to keep the wolf at bay, to maintain the illusion of docility.
“I’m jealous,” Sirius said with a pout as he took a seat beside his friend. He began to play with the empty teacup beside Remus’s elbow.
“Oh? Of whom?” Remus asked. His slight smile disappeared, but he kept his eyes closed as he basked in the warmth of the fire.
“Of the fire,” Sirius replied quietly. “I thought I was the only one who could make you smile like a contented cat.”
Remus smiled again as he opened his eyes. “You, chocolate, and a fire when I’m cold.” The combination Remus’s “cat that ate the canary” smile and his predatory stare told Sirius that Remus did not want to go home alone tonight. But James was now making his way back to the table carrying three pints. Any sexual banter would have to wait—or be carefully disguised.
“Cold? It’s only early October, Moony. Autumn’s just begun.”
Remus shrugged and turned his chair into the table to better face his friends. “Thanks, James,” he said as James carefully put the drinks on the table. “I spent all day up in the Orkneys clearing two kelpies and the ghosts of three drowned sailors out of a harbor. Believe me, between the wind off the North Sea and falling in the water twice—don’t laugh—I’m quite chilled to the core. This fire is heavenly.”
“Would you prefer something warmer to drink?” James asked.
“No,” Remus shook his head and took a sip. “This is fine. But I just might need an extra blanket or something to keep me warm when I go to bed tonight.” Remus kept his tone neutral and looked at James as he spoke, but under the table, Sirius felt Remus’s knee rub against his thigh. He had not misread the look Remus had given him.
“So, what did you do with the ghosts after evicting them from the harbor?” James asked. “You didn’t leave them homeless, did you?”
“No. Fortunately, there’s a small old hotel in the same town that has been advertising itself as being haunted, even though it wasn’t. Apparently, some Muggles get a thrill out of visiting haunted places, so claiming to be haunted attracted tourists. I figured that if pretending to be haunted was good for business, then really being haunted would be even better. I convinced the ghosts to move in there. I’ll go back in a few months and make sure I haven’t created a problem for the hotel owner. Either way, they’re out of the harbor and the harbormaster paid cash.” Neither Remus’s voice nor his expression betrayed the way Sirius’s hand was stroking and massaging his thigh.
“A toast to employers who actually pay!” Sirius proposed as he lifted his glass with his free hand.
“I’ll drink to that,” Remus said with a wry smile. More than once, employers had allowed him to work for them only to “discover” that he was a werewolf just before payday. He would then be summarily fired—unpaid.
The warm orange and yellow flames of the fireplace abruptly cooled to green, and a dark spinning shape appeared in their midst. Peter stepped out of the flames without a stumble and brushed ash off his blue-grey robes. He smiled as soon as he saw his friends.
“Sorry I’m late, guys, but you know what my mum and my aunts are like. They just wouldn’t let me leave.”
“No problem,” James said as he rose to go get another beer. “We just got here ourselves.”
“Besides, even if you kept us waiting for hours, we aren’t allowed to get angry with you on your birthday,” Sirius pointed out.
“If you wanted your mum to let you leave, you should have told her that I might show up at her house looking for you,” Remus said with the same wry smile he had when discussing his past employers. It was common knowledge among them that Mrs. Pettigrew had been quite horrified to learn that one of her son’s friends was a werewolf. Her dislike of Remus was, in fact, the reason Peter’s friends met him here instead of attending the birthday dinner at Mrs. Pettigrew’s house. She had been willing to invite James and Sirius, but not Remus. Peter had agreed with James and Sirius’s decision to stay away if Remus were not welcome.
“Actually, I did,” Peter grinned, “just not in those exact words. I said that I was meeting the three of you, and that you all might come looking for me if I was late. She actually turned white and started pushing me toward the fireplace. Who knows what my brothers and aunts thought of that.”
Under the table, Sirius sought out and found Remus’s hand. Remus might be willing to joke about people’s prejudices, but that didn’t mean they didn’t bother him. Sirius squeezed Remus’s hand as if to say, “Don’t let that stupid bigoted woman get to you.” Remus squeezed back.
“Here you go, Peter,” James said as put a pint down in front of him. “Happy birthday!”
“Presents now! Mine first!” Sirius exclaimed as he pulled a yellow-papered box out of a jacket pocket half its size. The paper resembled Swiss cheese, and a cartoon mouse appeared and disappeared as he moved from hole to hole.
“Cute paper,” Peter laughed as he began to tear it off the box.
“Lily gets the credit for the paper,” James said as he placed on the table an even larger box wrapped in the same. “She found the cheese design paper at a Muggle shop and moved the mice from a comic book to the wrapping paper with a charm. She said they were the closest she could find to rats.”
“Oh wow, Sirius!” Peter exclaimed as he opened the box. “These are brilliant!”
“What’d he give you, Peter?” Remus asked.
“A set of really amazing chessmen,” Peter said as he began pulling various small figures out of the box and setting them on the table. A tiny Dumbledore and a tiny McGonagall both wore gold crowns around the brims of their pointed hats. The bishops were Professor Flitwick and Professor Grianan, the knights were Professor Kettleburn and Hagrid mounted on hippogriffs, and the pawns were students in Hogwarts robes. Even the rooks were replicas of the Hogwarts Astronomy Tower and Gryffindor Tower.
Remus couldn’t help but smile at the highly appropriate nature of this gift. Peter was by far the best chess player of the four of them, and when one was a friend of Sirius and James, it wasn’t often that one could be the best at anything. With this gift, Sirius was encouraging Peter to enjoy his pre-eminence at chess.
“Thanks, Padfoot. Now you each have to promise me an opportunity to destroy you at chess.”
“Don’t get cocky, Wormtail,” Sirius said with a grin. “You may have the cream of the Hogwarts staff on your side, but you still have to beat me yourself.”
“Very good gift, Padfoot,” Remus said quietly as Peter began unwrapping the gift from James. Sirius gave Remus an enormous smile, as if he were as pleased with Remus’s approval as he was with Peter’s.
Peter laughed as he lifted a Muggle jacket out of the box. “Let me guess—you didn’t shop alone.”
“No,” James admitted. “Lily said that you and I both needed help in the ‘dressing like Muggles’ department. But I did charm it to repel rain and to make the pockets really roomy.”
“She helps you select a gift and wraps your gift. Can’t you do anything without her, Prongs?” Remus asked in a teasing tone.
“Not a thing,” James answered proudly. “That’s why I’m marrying her.”
“If she were any girl other than Lily,” Sirius said, “I’d tease you unmercifully for being in such an incredible hurry to tie yourself down. But I guess when you meet the right girl, you can’t let her get away.” As he spoke, Sirius leaned back in his chair and casually rested his hand on the back of Remus’s chair. But at his final words, he felt Remus’s back tense, and Remus shifted forward in his seat, away from Sirius’s touch.
“Think before you speak, Padfoot,” Sirius scolded himself. Although Sirius was convinced that “the right girl” was indeed out there for Remus, Remus did not agree. He resisted all of Sirius’s matchmaking efforts, saying that no one wanted to be with a werewolf.
“I’m afraid that mine isn’t wrapped,” Remus said as he put a small box on the table.
“You didn’t have to get me anything, Remus,” Peter said as he took off the new jacket he had been trying on. “When you did all those wards for my house this summer, I told you to consider them early birthday and Christmas presents.”
Remus shrugged. “It’s nothing big.” Peter opened the box and lifted out a bracelet, a rectangular opaque white stone on a knotted cord. “The stone absorbs some of the energy from spells powered by anger or hatred, so it gives you a little bit of protection from curses and hexes. It can protect you completely from minor curses or weaken a very powerful one, but the more magic it absorbs, the darker it becomes. When it’s black, it’s no longer useful.”
“I resent that implication,” Sirius said with a mock pout.
“Not useful, but quite attractive,” Remus amended.
“That’s better,” Sirius said. Remus settled back in his chair again, and Sirius began to trail his fingers back and forth across Remus’s back just above the top of the chair.
“This is really nice of you, Remus,” Peter said as he began to slip it on.
“No, don’t wear it on your wand arm; it might interfere with casting some spells,” Remus explained. He raised his glass toward Peter in a toast. “I hope it stays completely white for you, Peter.” James and Sirius raised their glasses as well.
“I second that motion,” James said just before they all took a sip. Sirius took a large gulp of his beer and set the glass back on the table with a solid thunk.
“Well, Wormtail, I must say the Thirsty Murtlap is an ideal place to meet and talk with dear friends,” Sirius said with a sly smile, “but now that the gift opening portion of the evening is over, I suggest we bring you home to change into Muggle attire and move onto somewhere a bit livelier.”
“I don’t know, Sirius. It’s a workday tomorrow. I really don’t want to face the day with a hangover.”
“So—drink lemonade. C’mon, music, dancing, pretty girls—you only turn nineteen once, Wormtail.”
“It’s alright, Peter,” Remus urged. “We’ll just go for a little while. I don’t want to stay out really late either.” Remus’s hand, which had discreetly moved into Sirius’s lap, suddenly proved to Sirius just how much Remus did not want to stay out late.
“Are you O.K.?” James asked when Sirius suddenly choked on his beer.
“Fine—finish up, gents, and we’ll be off.”
* * * * *
Peter lived alone in a small but comfortable house in the wizard district of Canterbury. His portion of his father’s estate had allowed him to purchase the house shortly after graduating from Hogwarts.
“I’ll just be a minute,” Peter said as he headed upstairs to change.
“Maybe you should go help him pick out Muggle clothes, Prongs,” Sirius said smirking. “The blind leading the blind.” Sirius had grown up in a primarily Muggle village, and Remus had attended a Muggle primary school—the wizard schools wouldn’t accept a werewolf—so they both found it amusing how clueless their friends were when it came to all things Muggle.
“Ha ha. I’m going to use the bathroom.”
Sirius watched James leave the room, calculating how long he and Remus would be alone. He turned back expecting to see Remus still standing beside the sofa. Instead, he found that Remus had come up behind him silently and stood only inches away. Sirius took one startled step back and found himself pressed against the wall. Remus braced his palms against the wall, one on either side of Sirius. He leaned in close to Sirius’s neck, breathing in his scent. Sirius turned his head slightly to expose his throat more fully, and Remus kissed him where his throat fluttered with his pulse.
“Just tell me, Padfoot,” he whispered hoarsely, “before we get to this club of yours with all the pretty girls, who are you going home with tonight?”
“You don’t have to,” Remus said just before he licked Sirius’s jaw. “I just want to know before we go.” He pulled back just enough to gaze at Sirius with the same predatory stare he had given him when Sirius had first arrived at the pub.
“Believe me, Moony, when you look at me like that, I’d be insane not to go home with you.”
“Your place,” Remus said and walked away. James reentered the room a few moments later.
* * * * *
The nightclub was, as Remus had expected, a full-blown assault on his keen senses. Deafening music made the very air throb, flashing lights in a spectrum of colors flashed and swooped through the smoke, and the scents of tobacco, pot, alcohol, perfume, sweat, and sex thickly scented the air. For a moment, it was all too much. He had to close his eyes and adjust to the sensory overload. “At least it isn’t a weekend,” he thought. “This place would be even more crowded.” When he reopened his eyes, he saw that James and Peter had found a table not far from dance floor, and Sirius was already at the bar. Remus skirted the edge of the dance floor and made his way to Sirius’s elbow. Sirius was holding up four fingers and shouting an order to the bartender. “He must be able to read lips,” Remus thought, “there’s no way he can hear anyone.” He pulled some of his pay from his pocket and nudged Sirius in the ribs. “Let me buy this round!” He shouted near Sirius’s ear.
“You sure?” Sirius shouted back, and Remus nodded. It was one of the many unspoken rules of their group. No one expected Remus to buy a round of drinks, as all too often, he simply couldn’t afford to. But when he could afford it, he would, and no one embarrassed him by making a big deal out of it either way. The bartender put four bottled beers on the bar and held up fingers to indicate the cost. Remus put the money plus a tip on the bar and grabbed two bottles in each hand, giving two to Sirius as they headed back to their friends.
Either James or Peter had put a charm around their table that muffled the music to a more reasonable level. “My ears thank you,” Remus said as he slipped into a seat between them and handed a bottle to Peter.
“Your ears are welcome,” James replied. Sirius had handed James a bottle but remained standing, looking out at the dance floor, selecting someone worth his time. Apparently, someone was spotted, for Sirius took a large swig from the bottle, left it on the table and headed out into the crowd.
Remus avoided looking out at the dance floor. Every time he went out with Sirius like this, it became harder and harder to pretend that he didn’t care what Sirius did, or with whom he did it. But the temptation to watch Sirius dance was also quite strong. He lost himself completely in music and becoming the living embodiment of sex appeal. “Dancing with him must be the next best thing to having sex with him.” Remus knew he’d never get to enjoy the more public of those two activities, but he had been promised the private one. He risked looking out at the dance floor.
His saw Sirius instantly, as if his gaze were magnetically drawn to him. But to his surprise, Sirius was not dancing, but returning to the table pulling two laughing women along with him. James ended the silencing charm with a gesture and the volume of the music increased dramatically. Sirius pointed at Peter and spoke in the ear of the blonde. She laughed and fell into Peter’s lap.
“Happy birthday! Let’s dance!” she yelled. Peter grinned at Sirius and went with her. Remus suddenly found himself with a brunette in his lap.
“Your friend says you’re a fantastic dancer and an even better lover,” she said loudly in his ear. “Can I find out?” Remus stared at Sirius. Sirius smirked at him as he sat in Peter’s vacated chair and took another swig of his beer.
“I want to see you dance,” Sirius shouted just before he licked an imaginary drop of beer from the mouth of the bottle. Remus felt himself being pulled to the dance floor by the woman—and pushed there by Sirius’s gaze.
Remus wasn’t the dancer Sirius was. One had to lose oneself in the music, to lose control, and Remus’s entire life was one long exercise in maintaining control. There were only two times that Remus truly allowed the illusion of control to slip away, during the full moon, and when he made love with Sirius. When his friends had become animagi and begun sharing his full moon nights with him, they had given him the gift of allowing him to enjoy his nights as a wolf. They controlled his wolf nature when he could not. When Sirius had become his lover, he had given Remus the gift of allowing him to enjoy abandoning control while human. Sirius didn’t mind that he was fierce, that he was wild, that he was dangerous, and somehow, Remus knew that he would never truly harm Sirius. It was safe to let go when he was with Sirius.
Remus could move to the music, but as he watched his pretty dance partner, he couldn’t truly let go. He closed his eyes and imagined that he was dancing with Sirius instead. He breathed in the thick air of the club, trying to detect that scent that was uniquely his Sirius. He felt her hand briefly stroke his leg and imagined that Sirius’s hand would touch him at any moment. She moved close to him, and her hair brushed his cheek. He imagined Sirius’s hair brushing him as they moved together. He opened his eyes slowly and looked toward Sirius. Sirius was leaning back in his chair, his lips parted slightly as they did when he panted during sex, and watching Remus’s every move. James leaned in closer to Sirius and spoke, but Sirius answered without taking his eyes off Remus. Remus smiled and closed his eyes again.
* * * * *
The night air was refreshingly cool and clear as they stepped out of the club. Sirius deliberately quickened his step to walk beside James instead of Remus. If he walked any closer to Remus, he would have even more difficulty resisting the urge to push him up against the nearest wall and devour him with a deep kiss. He could feel Remus’s eyes upon him, and suspected that Remus felt the same.
“Just to be on the safe side,” he called over his shoulder to Remus and Peter, “I don’t think either of you should apparate tonight. You’ve both had enough to drink that splinching yourselves is within the realm of possibility.”
James looked at him curiously. Tonight had actually been rather tame, and splinching seemed a very remote possibility.
“We aren’t far from the Leaky Cauldron,” Remus said. “Peter can Floo back to the Thirsty Murtlap from there. It’s an easy walk home from the Murtlap, isn’t it, Peter?”
“Uh-huh. I guess that would be the safe way to go.” Peter suddenly shuddered as if imagining a splinching accident. Peter had a fireplace in his house, of course, but one of Remus’s protective wards kept it blocked from the Floo Network. “What about you, Remus? Do you have somewhere you can Floo to?”
“You can walk home with us,” Sirius said casually, trying to disguise that this had been the intent of the entire conversation. “My bed is huge and unlike James, I don’t kick and punch in my sleep.”
“I do not!”
“Remember when Peeves poured those buckets of water on my bed in the middle of the night second year? I changed into dry clothes and got into your bed. I was black and blue the next morning.”
“I only punched you once, and it was because you stole the blankets.”
Sirius turned and walked backward. “Your choice, Moony. The nocturnal boxer or the blanket thief?”
Remus cocked his head and considered for a moment. “Who knows what I’d do if I’m kicked or punched in the middle the night, and I’d really hate to apologize to Lily for permanently maiming her fiancé—so, I guess I’ll bunk with you, Pads.”
“But if you steal the blankets, I might put you in a full Body-Bind.”
* * * * *
Escorting Peter to the Leaky Cauldron required only a four-block detour out of the way to James and Sirius’s flat. Sirius and Remus kept James between them the entire walk home. As he waited for James to release the wards protecting the door of their flat, Sirius couldn’t resist sliding his hand onto Remus’s ass and giving a quick squeeze. Remus gave him a look out of the corner of his eye, and Sirius pulled his hand away as Remus followed James into the flat. He wondered how quickly they could disappear into his bedroom without raising James’s suspicions. Fortunately, a barn owl was pacing impatiently on the windowsill, waiting to be let in.
“Uther!” James said happily as he hurried to admit Lily’s owl.
“Good night, James!”
James gave them both a vague wave, “Night,” as he unrolled and began to read her letter.
“Alone at last,” Sirius said with a smile as leaned back against the bedroom door.
“Not quite,” Remus said as he pulled out his wand. He began to set a familiar silencing charm on each of the bedroom walls.
“Don’t forget the floor,” Sirius said pressed himself against Remus’s back and ran his hands down Remus’s torso, “or we might shock the downstairs neighbor. You are so loud.”
“And you’re not?”
“You’re a bad influence on me,” Sirius said as he pulled Remus’s shirt free of his jeans. “I’m not half as loud with anyone else.”
Sirius continued to stand behind Remus as he unbuttoned two buttons of Remus’s shirt and then pulled it up and over his head—he rarely bothered with all the buttons in his impatience to see and touch skin. Remus toed off his own shoes and reached down to pull off his socks, but otherwise allowed Sirius to continue undressing him. He would allow Sirius to undress him, and Sirius would allow Remus to do the same to him. They were coming together as equals; neither needed or wanted to dominate or control the other.
Remus enjoyed sex most when it was like this. As the moon waxed and his wolf instincts became stronger, the need to dominate became paramount. Sirius didn’t seem to mind when Remus became more aggressive and sexually demanding—he actually seemed to find it exciting—but Remus preferred this. He felt more human, more normal.
He crouched down, pulling Sirius’s tight black jeans to the floor, and paused on the way back up to breathe in Sirius’s scent. He brushed his nose against the black curls and lost himself for a few moments in the unique scent of Sirius’s body, the scent that said to his body, “Sex.” He couldn’t resist a slight smile at his own behavior—“No, not human,” but with Sirius he felt normal anyway. No matter what he did—smelling Sirius’s scent, biting his neck and shoulders, expressing himself with sounds that might not be quite human—he didn’t need to be self-conscious with Sirius.
Sirius’s fingers entwined in his hair, and Remus knew that Sirius was watching him. The first few times that he had done this—that he had needed to smell Sirius’s scent—he had disguised his true intent with licks and kisses. He had preferred that Sirius believe that he was orally fixated rather than admit that he wanted to sniff him like an animal would. Sirius had seen right through him of course. He hadn’t said a thing, but the next time that they made love Sirius had smelled Remus. He had started with his hair near his ear, traveled down his neck and torso, and lingered finally at Remus’s crotch, breathing in deeply. No pretense of licks or kisses or nibbles. He merely breathed in Remus’s scent, looked up at Remus with a happy smile, and said, “You smell wonderful, Moony. Warm and real and—like sex.”
Remus rose back up slowly, licking the entire length of Sirius’s erection as he rose. A low moan escaped Sirius’s throat. Remus smiled as he looked into Sirius’s pale, blue eyes, lids already heavy with desire. He nudged Sirius back toward the bed and then crouched down again. The sound of that moan tempted him to try for more.
* * * * *
James looked up at the sound of a soft knock on his open bedroom door. Remus stood in the doorway wearing one of Sirius’s sweaters, navy blue and slightly too large, and boxer shorts.
“Could I borrow a pair of jeans or trousers, James? Sirius’s are too long, and even after a cleaning charm, mine reek of smoke.”
“Sure,” James returned to buttoning his robe. “Jeans are in the bottom drawer and trousers are in the closet. Take whichever.”
“Thanks,” Remus said as he opened the bottom drawer of the dresser.
“So, how was last night?” James asked.
Remus stumbled as he tried to pull the jeans on. “Pardon?”
“Last night—did Sirius steal the blankets?”
“Oh—a few times, but I just pulled them back.”
James sat down on the bed to pull on his socks and boots. “There’s a pot of coffee in the kitchen—tea’s in the cupboard if you prefer. Help yourself to whatever you want for breakfast. I know we have eggs and sausages.”
“Thanks,” Remus said as he left the room.
James had contented himself with some toast this morning and left the protein-rich foods for Remus. It was the tail end of the week of the new moon, so Remus should be just starting to crave those foods as the moon waxed. However, they weren’t at school anymore; Remus couldn’t borrow James’s cloak and visit the kitchens whenever he got hungry. “Who knows if he’s getting enough to eat these days. Sirius and I really should have met him for dinner last night before going to the pub.” James knocked on Sirius’s bedroom door as he passed.
“I’m awake,” Sirius called out.
James leaned against the kitchen doorframe and took an appreciative sniff—greasy, spicy—sausage. “Smells good.”
“Do you want some?” Remus asked over his shoulder as he stirred the scrambled eggs.
“No thanks. I already ate.” James was pleased to see that Remus had taken him up on his offhanded offer to eat a filling breakfast.
Remus pulled something out of the front pocket of his jeans and tossed it to James with the word, “Catch.” James snatched it out of the air—a bracelet identical to the one given to Peter. “It will probably take a half a second for it to go black if you wear it on the job, Mr. Auror, but it might come in handy the next time you annoy a certain redhead.”
James had to laugh at that. “Wouldn’t it drive her nuts if she tried to hex me and it didn’t work?”
“Why wouldn’t it work?” Sirius asked as he came up behind James. James held up the bracelet in answer as he backed out of the doorway to allow Sirius into the kitchen.
“Oh good,” Sirius said as showed James one on his own wrist, “let’s annoy Lily together, and really have fun with them.” He put his arm around Remus’s shoulders. “Thank you, by the way, Moony. It took me forever this morning to notice that you put this on me last night.”
“This morning before you woke up,” Remus said. He extinguished the flame under the pan and opened the cupboard with plates. “I had to wait until I was sure I didn’t need to cast a Body-Bind curse on you. Do you want some of this, Padfoot?”
“No, eat up. I’ll make something for myself.”
“Speaking of annoying Lily,” James said as he watched Remus dish up his food while simultaneously evading Sirius trying to make his own breakfast in the small kitchen, “remember that note I got from her last night?”
“You mean the one that made you forget we existed?” Sirius teased.
“Huh? Oh—sorry about that.”
Sirius began whisking the last two eggs while continuing to tease James. “Poor Moony was so looking forward to spending time with the two of us, but you got an owl from Red and—”
“Ignore him, James,” Remus interrupted. “I just wanted to go to bed.” Sirius chuckled and busied himself with cooking. “What did Lily write?”
James looked at Sirius while answering. “She said that she’ll be a bit late getting done work tomorrow night, so she’s pushing dinner back to eight o’clock. She also said that she’d let Astrid know, so you don’t need to, Padfoot.”
“Astrid Karlson? —from Ravenclaw?” Remus asked lightly. He put the dirty dishes and pans in the sink and then began to wash them without magic.
“Uh-huh. The four of us are going out on a double date tomorrow night. Do you want to come Remus? I’m sure Lily has a dozen friends who would jump at the chance to go out with you.”
“No thanks. You know how I feel about being fixed-up.” He glanced over at Sirius. “Finish your breakfast, Sirius, and go get ready for work. I’ll wash up everything.” Sirius piled what was left of his eggs between two pieces of toast to eat on the way back to his bedroom and left without a word.
Sirius wondered why he felt guilty. “Moony knows I see other people; he knows that I want him to see other people. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with my going out with Astrid or anyone else.” By the time he reached his bedroom, guilt had shaded into anger. “Just because Mr. ‘I Don’t Want to Date Anyone’ won’t see anyone else doesn’t mean that I can’t.” He yanked his boots on a bit more forcefully than was actually required and stalked to the mirror to fix his hair. The scowling face staring back at him shocked him enough that he decided to delay going back into the kitchen and being at risk of saying something stupid. He saw that the edge of his sleeve was caught on the cord of his new bracelet and he couldn’t resist looking at the stone to make sure he hadn’t darkened it with his brief, if private, fit of temper.
“Moony doesn’t deserve my acting like this. He didn’t say anything about Astrid. He’s fine with it. And he isn’t boycotting dating just to make me feel like a heel; he’s just afraid to tell anyone that he’s a werewolf. Someday he’ll meet the right person and tell them. The only reason I feel like dirt is the timing of it all. We spent last night together, we even had sex this morning, for God’s sake, and then James brings up Astrid right in front of Moony less than an hour later. It was bad timing that’s all.”
James had decided that since the dishes were being washed by hand, they should be dried that way as well. He grabbed a dishtowel and set to work. He glanced at the calendar, confirming what he already knew—the full moon was Sunday the sixteenth. “Why don’t you spend next weekend with Sirius and I, Moony? We can stuff ourselves full of take away and rest up before the moon on Sunday.”
“No thank you.”
“C’mon, it’ll be fun.”
“You can’t take an entire weekend off for the full moon; don’t pretend you could. Besides, you guys should spend time your free time with Lily and—Astrid. I’ll see you on the sixteenth.”
“The sixteenth?” Sirius asked as he drew near the kitchen again, now fully dressed and with guilty feelings tucked away. “Where do you want to meet?”
“I think I found a good place yesterday,” Remus replied. He pulled the plug on the sink and dried his hands with James’s towel. “I’ll go back and check it out more fully and send you directions.”
“No,” James said shaking his head. “We already asked for noon Sunday through noon Monday off from work, which means we might be done by mid-afternoon Sunday. Meet us here and we’ll go have an early dinner before moonrise. We can go to Malone’s.” Malone’s was not the sort of restaurant you brought a date to—its chipped wood veneer tables and faded vinyl seats would not impress— but its thick steaks were the stuff of legend. James hoped it would prove enough of a temptation to overcome Remus’s pride in his self-reliance.
Sirius laughed. “Prongs’s ulterior motive reveals itself. He wants to stuff you and I full of steak so we won’t get a craving for venison.”
“Probably not a bad idea,” Remus said with slight smile. “Padfoot was looking a bit hungry last month.”
James glanced at his watch. “We’ve really got to leave, Padfoot. Moody told me to be in by ten, and he’ll flay me alive if I keep him waiting a minute longer. You’re welcome to stay here as long as you want, Remus.”
Remus nodded. “Just for a little while. I’m not overly fond of my current residence.” He followed his friends into the living room and watched them grab their cloaks. When Sirius looked back at him, he forced himself to smile. “Malone’s on the sixteenth.”
“Don’t wait that long before you visit again, Remus. We’re pretty busy most nights—stupid, bloody Death Eaters can’t be civilized and wreak havoc in the daylight—but anytime you’ve got nothing to do, day or night, just drop by. Maybe you’ll get lucky and either James or I will be home.”
“We’ll see,” Remus murmured as he looked down at the carpet. “Yeah, sure, drop by while Sirius has a date here. That would be so much fun.”
“If we don’t see you before the sixteenth,” James said, “come here at noon and let yourself in. We’ll get home as soon as we can. Bye, Moony.”
James stepped into the hallway and Remus heard a faint “pop” as he disapparated. Sirius lingered with one hand on the open door. He opened his mouth as if to speak, but closed it again in a tight line. He did not know what to say, and Remus found that idea highly amusing. He smiled broadly at his friend.
“Have a good time tomorrow night. And—uh—that invitation to just drop by, I’m not going to take you up on it.”
“However, feel free to drop by my place.” Sirius grinned and darted forward to give Remus a quick kiss goodbye. “Stay safe, Padfoot,” Remus said into the silence when he was alone.
Author’s Notes: Why is Peter the best chess player of the four? Because he alone truly understands that you have to sacrifice your own players in order to win.
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M.O.M. Classification XXX
The Murtlap is a ratlike creature found in coastal areas of Britain. It has a growth upon its back resembling a sea anemone. When pickled and eaten, these Murtlap growths promote resistance to curses and jinxes, though an overdose may cause unsightly purple ear hair. Murtlaps eat crustaceans and the feet of anyone foolish enough to step on them.” —from Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander (aka J.K. Rowling)
Written: April 2003