Rating: PG-13 for talk about sex
Beta: thecatgoesmoo did a super speedy next-day job!
Summary: Remus Lupin gives his boy the sex talk. Well. A sex talk. He talks. About sex. But it turns out to be about something else.
ETA: kasche drew the most gorgeous picture for me for the 2005 Shacking Up Secret Santa. * wipes away tears of awe *
This is a story about sex, but there’s no sex in it. Consider yourself warned, kiddo.
When I was a little older than you are now, I was surprised to find that people who are having lots of sex tend to keep their mouths shut about it, and people who haven't a bloody clue yammer on and on and on.
In my fifth year I fell into the first category. It wasn't simply not wanting to be labelled a slag and have to face the ragging by my dorm mates. It just wasn't really any of their business, right?
I had no illusions about my chances of employment in the Wizarding world after graduation (nil) or the chances that the differences artificially erased by the school would drive my friends and me apart (great). I loved my friends, I would and did exert myself to do foolish and wild things with them, but there was that overhanging sense of doom. The kind you feel when the older brother of a playmate calls you a freak and you know, no matter how smashingly you get on now, great invisible tides will pull you and your mate apart.
Exactly like that.
Trust me. I've dealt with it all my life.
So, in my other life, the one where I lied about my age for summer jobs and where my parents made me study for O-levels, in that life where I'd likely spend the rest of my life, I had finally found one thing that wasn't grim and depressing. Can you really be that surprised that I racked up more sexual experience in the summer of my fifteenth year than all of my dorm mates combined? It was a summer of sneaking out to clubs, and sex in bathrooms, alleys, under tables, behind doors, and once, I'm not kidding, in the extremely posh house of a famous television presenter. The bloke I'd hooked up with being the man who looked after her houseplants and dogs and things.
Which was another reason why I wasn't running my mouth about sex. I hadn't checked in my Best Mates Manual, but I really suspected that sleeping with men was not approved. Call it a hunch. So when my mate James collapsed on his bed with yet another tragic sigh about Lily Evans, I was glad to commiserate while keeping my own experience zippered, so to speak. When Peter began decorating his corner of the room with girls' undergarments, I joined in the game of “guess whose?” but I wasn't likely to start collecting Y-fronts.
But it was Sirius Black who really got under my skin, because I was that sure that he'd never done any of what his reputation said he had. He was never crude or explicit, but through a few tacit, well-placed words and gestures he had everyone in awe of his sexual antics (most of which, we were led to assume, took place during exciting summers in his parents' London townhouse; he pronounced the "scene" at Hogwarts "dull beyond belief"). What was most intriguing was that he didn't seem to care whether it was the girls or the boys who were reputed to have fallen under his spell.
Sirius' handicap, as I saw it, was that he was drop-dead gorgeous. He had thick black hair that he wore so that it fell long in the front, framing his face. His face was pale and aristocratic, a bit pointy-chinned and foxy but redeemed by his eyes, which were large and luminous and the colour of rain. Unlike the rest of us, Sirius never had an awkward, gangly period when his hands or knees got all disproportionate to his limbs, or when his shoulders widened and left him with a xylophone chest, or when his Adam's apple stuck out further than his chin. He had looked like a sex object from the time he walked on the Hogwarts train at age eleven, long before any of us ought to have known what that was. Older students and staff watched Sirius just a second or two longer than they looked at other students. He had a reputation for being vain when in fact even I spent longer each day in front of a mirror (my hair being the bane of my existence).
He used his good looks, of course, milked them for all they were worth. But he also knew that he was the spitting image of his father in his school days, and if there was anyone Sirius hated, it was his father.
So there we were, putting James and Peter aside for argument's sake, quiet buttoned-up and bit-of-a-joke-really Remus Lupin (secretly queer as an Irish galleon) and bad-boy Sirius Black (suspected secret virgin), living together in a room no longer than ten paces to a side and smelling strongly of boy and boy-sweat and boy-hormones and other things I find hard to ignore.
Can you blame me if I set myself a challenge, then, of seducing said Sirius Black?
I thought it would be a bit of a lark, a little bit of fun (and I found I missed having a bit of fun, summer being a long way off). In my own defence, considering what happened later, please recall that I had never been in a relationship, had never seriously considered such a thing even possible. Not when I was what I was. Have you ever tried explaining lycanthropy to a Muggle?
And to give myself an altruistic motive, I figured it would be good for Sirius. Gain a little experience. Release of tension and all that. I didn't know or particularly care if he preferred boys or girls or both. Despite what people fuss about, it's not that important. The fundamentals are the same: learning how to touch and be touched, learning to please and to be pleased. If he turned me down, or if we found we didn't have any common ground, well. Potentially humiliating, but I was prepared for that. I was, you recall, assuming that after graduation I'd not be likely to see any of my roommates again, except possibly in strained meetings in bars, where we would try not to notice that we’d drifted apart.
Having set my sights on Sirius–admit that when I pick a challenge I do it well–I had no idea of how to begin. I had usually been the one picked up in the clubs, but that experience didn't translate well in this situation. I wasn't about to grab Sirius' arse and whisper, "Hey, wanna fuck?"
So I started by watching him. So much gets overlooked when you live and work side by side someone. But as I observed Sirius I noticed several things that I must have been blind to have missed.
Most people assumed that he was like James, one read through the book and it was all in his head. But Sirius spent twice as much time studying as James did, not the least because Peter and James could knock him out of orbit so easily. Sirius would leap up and run off with them, returning with suspicious pudding in his hair or showing off someone's initials shaved into James' leg hair. But long after James had dropped off snoring, a light shone behind Sirius' curtain.
If called on anything, he'd give you that narrow-eyed look of scorn, the look that said “any fool can do that”, “everyone knows that.”
But he practiced his hexes and charms and jinxes until sweat plastered his hair to his head and his arm shook. He regularly stayed up all night to finish essays and assignments. He would not be left behind by James. More than brothers, I think he wanted to be twins with James. To be James.
Which was bollocks as I saw it.
James had his strengths, mostly a good brain and an extremely thick skull to keep it in, but also that certain kind of leadership quality that lends itself to town-square statuary: Forward, boys, into the fray!
Sirius had different strengths. He excelled at languages and art and never seemed to know what he was thinking. Strange and wonderful ideas would fall from his mouth and his eyes would widen just a bit in surprise. He also had an intuitive grasp on the rules of school and social situations. That he flouted these rules, that he spent his days in detention or fighting pointless battles: well, I found myself wondering, what is he trying to prove? And to whom?
I also noticed that Sirius had a Thing about touching. He did not touch; nor did he like being touched. He would make an effort with James, Peter, and myself: we had been wrestling and fighting and staggering around under each other's heavy arms for four years now. We knew what we looked like naked; we had no privacy beyond bed curtains and wonky silencing spells.
But Sirius projected a kind of aggressive untouchability. As we left the dormitory for the common room, he distanced himself from us, just a little. Through the portrait, just a little further. And so on. When we were outside running around like idiots (our natural state), Sirius was the first to spin away, as if breaking free of tethers, fleeing from a cage.
Lots of people are like that, of course, for a myriad of reasons. But Sirius was the only person I knew who could also turn into a dog. And Padfoot loved being touched. He begged for it, slobbered all over our faces and shoes, climbed on our chests and shed immense quantities of black fur all over us. If I watched–after I started really looking at Sirius– I could see a Padfoot mood steal over him. When he could transform at these times, Padfoot was wild for affection. If, as it so often happened, he could not transform, well. Those were the times when Sirius' innate wildness spun out of control.
I wasn't sure how to go about seducing someone. No more than you would, I imagine.
I wanted Sirius to become aware of me, in little insignificant ways that would change the way he saw me.
I started rearranging my schedule so that we bumped into each other at odd times, coming in or out of the showers, for example, or as we rushed to classes at the opposite ends of the castle. It's a ploy that can become ridiculously obvious (witness James Potter, exhibit A) so I also began avoiding Sirius. I came too late to meals to sit near him, grabbing a seat at the far end of the Great Hall where I'd sit backwards on the bench and talk to the Ravenclaws. Things we'd always done together–the Sunday morning Toast Roast in the Common Room, or not returning to the dormitory after an astronomy practicum and spending the night up on the tower–I'd do, or not do, no explanations given.
After a couple of weeks, Sirius began looking at me warily. There was no one thing he could accuse me of, and he knew it, but the balance had been upset. If you've never tried to be mysterious, I recommend it. It's immensely entertaining.
The next part of the plan came together due to pure serendipity, and I owed it entirely to my mother and Peter Pettigrew.
My family is close, and a tradition of ours was that on New Years Eve we rolled up the rugs and had every relative in Britain over for a party. This year, my mother suggested that I invite my friends from school (the prospect of four boys to move furniture and clean must have been a motive; but she forgot to calculate the immense cost of feeding us). On the minus side, I had no idea what my Muggle cousins would make of my poor roommates. On the plus side, it was a dance party. And I doubted Sirius'd ever attended the like.
Invitations were duly made; my mother sent off polite notes to the Potters, Pettigrews, and Blacks (I believe Sirius gave my mother the address of his more tolerant cousin Andromeda; not that he needed his parents’ permission to go anywhere for the holidays—he stayed with the Potters, generally). Peter and James worried about their clothes and petitioned to have their girlfriends invited. My mother sent off more letters, to the Evans' and the Yu's. And then Peter cornered me in the hall after Transfiguration one day and confessed that he didn't, exactly, know how to dance.
I am not sure if the correlation means anything, but in my experience, the more pure-blooded the wizard, the less aptitude he or she has for anything musical. It most likely is a result of nurture–anyone forced to listen to musicians like Celestina Warbeck on the wireless is bound to become warped–but I don't rule out a genetic component. I'm half-blood and my mother is from Brazil. I've an excellent sense of rhythm.
I arranged to meet Peter after lessons in our room to gauge the extent of the disaster. I had the record player that I had smuggled into the dormitory first year and a record collection that took up half my trunk. I decided to start with the basics, and within fifteen minutes Peter had nearly killed me. He somehow elbowed me hard enough behind the ear that I saw spots, dropped me on my arse twice, and slammed his head in the door while attempting something that could only politely be called a curtsey. After that I called time-out and we both fell over each other laughing so hard we could barely breathe.
Then James and Sirius walked in.
The next fifteen minutes were, if possible, even more maddening and hysterical, but the end result was that all our beds and belongings were shoved over against the wall, clearing a space large enough for us to practice dancing without losing any major limbs. James and Peter burned with grim determination not to make fools out of themselves now that their girlfriends were coming. Sirius mostly lounged on his bed amongst the great piles of stuff that had been hastily swept up and watched in great amusement.
I didn't say anything to Sirius, but the essential injustice of his non-participation obviously stung James, who lacked the ability to move both his arms and legs in rhythm. Off a broomstick and in trousers, James was a sad sight, and Sirius was delighting in it just a little too much. By our fourth day of lessons, James ceased making snappish comments and simply dragged Sirius out onto our makeshift dance floor by the hair.
Sirius protested that he'd never catch up and that he had a bald spot now. I told James to practice with Peter and took Sirius into my arms for the first time.
Ha! Doesn't that sound melodramatic. I just added that bit to see if you were paying attention. To continue.
It was mostly a matter of smiling through toe mutilation and saying encouraging things even after having my head cracked into a bedpost like a coconut or being shoved under James as Peter whirled him past in an oblivious daze.
Oddly enough, progress was made. Peter at least showed real promise, and James mastered the steps, even though he moved as if he kept a broomstick concealed on his person.
A bit before we left for winter break, James and Peter asked if they could have Lily and Ji Min over for a bit of private dancing. It was adolescent overconfidence at its finest, completely hormone driven, and I have no idea still why the girls agreed to go along with it. Sirius and I found ourselves in a dimly-lit room with romantic music on the stereo and two totally absorbed couples. We watched them for a while, and then Sirius leaned over and whispered in my ear, "Let's get out of here." I doubt our departure was noted.
We had discovered the way onto the top of Gryffindor Tower third year, and while it lacks the amenities of the Astronomy Tower (namely, a staircase), it was a good place to escape to without risking getting Filched. I perched myself up on the wall, making myself oblivious to the breezy dark drop-off behind me and lit a fag. Sirius crouched down in the shadow of the wall–the moon was waning but still bright–and flicked small rocks at me.
"Didn't know you smoked, Moony."
I swallowed the smoke and I swallowed his words. He spoke as if it didn't matter. Which might mean that it did. I held the cigarette out to him. "Have a drag?"
He shook his head. "I never have, I'd make a bigger fool of myself than I do dancing. How long do you suppose they'll be at it?"
"With Lily Evans there, not long. Half an hour. Forty minutes, tops."
"Bloody freezing up here."
I unlit the cigarette and stuck it back in the pack. If I was good, I could make one fag last four or five days. "We could head back."
"No. Stay here and talk with me a while. We don't talk anymore. Well, you say things like, ‘lead with the left foot’ and ‘ow dammit,’ and I say things like, ‘oh sorry,’ but that's not really conversation."
I crossed to sit by him. It was true, part of my Plan-with-the-capital-P, but he sounded all forlorn.
"What are we conversing about, then?"
He shrugged, releasing warmth into the air. "I didn't know you smoked. I didn't know you knew how to dance. I had no bloody idea that you had eight million Muggle cousins half of whom are eligible females. It's a bit… well. I thought that we. You know, that we knew each other pretty well. What other surprises are you going to spring on me? Do you have a girlfriend somewhere? Do you write dreadful poetry? Did you have wild mad sex with her all last summer in a cabana on a tropical isle? Man of intrigue, you are."
I remember thinking that Sirius would enjoy smoking a lot if he got around to trying it. "No girlfriend, Pads, no poetry, not much intrigue."
He was still facing straight ahead, but I could feel his eyes on me. "Ah, but you don't deny the wild mad sex?"
"Why would I?"
He was silent a minute. "Is it good then, sex?"
"It can be. It depends on the person, and what you're doing."
Now his head did turn, tilting slightly, and his dark eyes met mine. "And how many people have you had sex with, Moony, and what have you done?"
I reached for my cigarettes again because it was turning into that kind of conversation. It was a bit rich, Sirius Black, of all people, sounding so scandalized. It rather made me feel like a tart.
"Why would you want to know? I mean, do you want me to really tell you, or should I lie?" I dug out my half-burned fag, and Sirius gently removed it from my hand and stuck it in his pocket.
"I haven't," he said softly. "Had sex, I mean."
"I think I figured that out."
"It's not for lack of opportunity. I just… I want to find someone who wants me. I’m not going to be somebody’s trophy."
Which was when I started to feel guilty. I certainly wasn’t attracted to Sirius’ money or his god-awful family, or even to his attractiveness (it seemed more likely to lead to trouble, although his eyes were nice). But I did like his sly cleverness and his easy humour. I liked the comfortable ease we had with one another. I got on best with him of all. And now I wondered why.
I was fifteen (I know I keep saying that; it’s an excuse and explanation, and it means “I was an idiot” in most cases). While I knew quite a bit about sex, I had absolutely no idea that men could fall in love with each other. There was sex, all right? And then there was love, which was boy-girl territory, white weddings and till death do you part. So don’t go thinking that I looked deeply into Sirius’ eyes and my heart was his, or any such thing. If I felt anything at all towards him, it was a kind of pity-laced wonder.
The options for distraction are limited on a tower roof, in the dark, with nothing at hand but a squashed packet of fags. I pushed myself up, bones already stiff from the cold, and grabbed Sirius’ hand on the way, forcing him to stand as well.
“If you’re not going to allow me my fag, we might as well practice dancing.”
“There’s no music,” he said, his chin rising in the look that said, ‘you idiot,’ but which I had discovered meant, ‘I’m afraid.’
“I’ll count for you. I’d hum for you, but you know I can’t carry a tune.” Too many horrible screaming changes into the wolf and too many nights howling had given me one of the worst cases of lycanthrope’s throat my doctors had ever seen. Talking was hard enough—strangers often asked me to repeat myself when I was younger—but singing was right out of the question.
I arranged his arms to my satisfaction. “You lead.”
It took a few spins around the top of the tower to convince him that I was serious and also that he was a much better dancer than he thought he was, especially when he didn’t have to be on the lookout for Peter-hands or James-feet. I’m a good teacher, and Sirius a good learner. We were so good, in fact, that it was easy to forget that that’s what we were and simply matched our movements each to the other. With his confidence the rhythm came, and it was suddenly everything dancing ought to be. Like flying without a broomstick. Or sex without the nudity.
When Sirius finally fell against me, laughing and out of breath and warm, and begged for mercy, it seemed such a natural thing, it seemed right, to cup his cheek in my hand, to lean forward and steal the laughter from his mouth with my own.
Sirius froze, and I felt the intake of his breath—how could I not have? I shut my eyes and finished kissing him, and then stepped back to eye him warily. I had planned on kissing him as part of my seduction. But just because it was on the schedule didn’t make it any less real, or make my heart beat any slower.
Now I knew where the expression playing with fire came from. I had set myself on fire, and I’d only myself to blame.
“You kissed me.” Sirius’s eyes were wide and dark, his face pale in the moonlight. He touched his mouth with one finger. He had that Padfoot look about him.
“I did.” I shrugged. “I’d like to do it again.”
Sirius was holding back the gates of his protections that threatened to come crashing down. He was trusting me—trusting me with his real self, and it took my breath away. “Is this about sex?” he asked.
I realized something then, blindingly obvious after the fact. Allowing a stranger access to your body permits an enormous freedom of the mind and the emotions. You need never consider the other as a person at all, but merely a tool for your own gratification.
Sharing your body with one of your best mates, or wanting to, was like walking into a minefield. I was conscious of all that I knew about Sirius: the way that he moved, the dazed expression he had waking up, the way he used his handsome face as a barrier to keep the world out, how he constantly expected that barrier to be violated. Of the way he stood in the moonlight, trusting me when I had the power, I saw now, to hurt him very badly indeed.
“It’s about Remus Lupin,” I said, “and Sirius Black.” He nodded at this, as if it made sense. “I want, I want very much right now, I want just to hold you. To be held by you. Could we do that? Please?”
I don’t recall who moved first; perhaps we both closed the gap. We were the same height then, he and I, and it was so easy to wrap my arms around him. I know my head was on his shoulder. I remember the smell of his hair and the warmth of his neck. The way we fit together without a space at all between us, like two hands clasping.
His hands were on my back, half-curled like fists, and it was funny and sad because I could tell he didn’t even know how to do this. I spread my palms flat and stroked him, gently, shoulder to waist. I felt him tremble, felt his head lower until his forehead was on my shoulder.
I remember that I was talking to him but what the words were escapes me. You might say the same things to an injured animal when you want to tame it or get a wild bird to alight on your hand. You might say the same things to a child screaming with pain. That’s how I learned the words, at any rate, and now I passed them on.
Sirius began talking jerkily in counterpoint, and the sheer need in him was black and bottomless. He was falling, he was drowning, he was compelled into a destiny that he never chose, he was running hard now, it was close behind him now, and, “I’m afraid of the dark, Moony,” he said.
The funny thing about that age is that you feel so damned grown up most of the time, but your child’s heart hasn’t had time to hide away yet. I felt like a child, Sirius looked like a child, and I put aside the game I had been playing because all of a sudden I didn’t see the point of it anymore.
And I kissed Sirius again.
My hands ran through his hair, thicker and coarser than it looked, traced the line of skin behind his ears down to his throat, scraped my knuckles along the faint stubble of his jaw. I could see the moon reflected in his eyes, the fall of his most annoying hair down across those eyes. His hands were tight on my shoulders, to pull me closer or push me away or shake me senseless, I didn’t know. But he kissed me back and not half as badly as he had danced in the beginning.
It wasn’t the prelude to anything, or the promise of things to come, or the seed of romance, I don’t know where you get these ideas.
It was just a kiss.
It was just a kiss that neither of us could end, not even after we’d sunk to the cold rooftop to escape the colder wind, not even after bumping knees and elbows and teeth and noses and rubbing palms raw on the rough stones. It was only when I looked up and realized that the world had gone white all around us that I was able to stop. I pulled back but traced Sirius’ bruised mouth with a finger.
“It’s snowing.” My voice was almost completely gone; I don’t suppose he even heard me, but he was watching my mouth and smiled like the sunrise.
“Remarkable grasp on the obvious, Moony.” He somehow had his hands uncomfortably stuck in my pockets, and this awkward position didn’t allow him to lean back away from me, so we sat almost touching noses, in the snow. “Are we—are you, will you be kissing me again, ever? Or is this just some kind of bizarre rooftop aberration?”
I had to smile. “I might do it again. You look good, kissed.”
He leaned just a bit closer, our foreheads bumping. “You look good kissed, too.”
There was nothing to say to that, really, because it would have only lead to more kissing and being found frozen to death on the tower roof, lip to lip. So we got up, awkwardly, and climbed down the wall in the snowstorm in the dark with a certain amount of numb fingers failing, and flailing, and falling. There was a gutter to manoeuvre that nearly made my heart stop, and then a bit of a ledge, and then we were on the common room balcony, breathing hard.
Sirius brushed his mouth against mine one more time, but it really was too cold for more. “Can I sleep with you tonight?” he asked, grabbing my arm as I worked the window open.
“Anytime,” I replied, and then we were indoors in the blessed warmth, and sneaking up the dormitory stairs.
You’d think we would have been able to continue sneaking until we were both in pyjamas and bed, but God was not so merciful. As soon as the door shut behind us the lights went up, and James and Peter bombarded us with questions. We were wet, covered in scrapes and bruises, reddened with cold, gone three whole hours, and clearly Something had been Up. Neither of them believed that we had simply been up the tower smoking, not the least because we didn’t smell like smoke. So getting to bed took more of an effort than it should have.
I was finally under quilts, at last feeling my toes again, when the curtains around my bed pulled and a great black shape jumped up pretty much all over me. I managed to find room for Padfoot without having dog fur up my nose or my ribs crushed, and woke up with my arms full of dog.
Ha. I told you from the start that this wasn’t a story about sex. I know what you were thinking. But it wasn’t like that at all.
You can go and ask Sirius for the details of our sex life, if you’re feeling voyeuristic. My story was about the deep currents that underflow sex, that move two people, even unlikely ones, together, and about what love looks like, even when you don’t know that that is what it is.
And now my story’s done. Off to bed with you, then. Sweet dreams and we’ll see you in the morning.