Warnings: crude intimate medical procedures
Beta: The lovely harriet_black–much appreciated!
Summary: Part the First: A Prank Gone Wrong (wherein there are insults and curses). Part the Second: Where Werewolves Go (wherein it is not pleasant for Our Heroes). Part the Third: Charming Gentlemen (wherein Our Heroes don't get their just dessert because of an owl on it, but sweet nonetheless). Yes, busaikko has been re-reading Freckles….
Series: The Maddest House: follows Seduction and Seduction (the Mrs Lupin Remix).
This one's from the hip
oh love I should have warned you about me
it should have been whipped
out of me
I'm sick and I'm tired
and I don't care anymore
(From the Hip by Lloyd Cole)
Part the First: A Prank Gone Wrong (wherein there are insults and curses)
The Lupins' feather-duster of an owl swooped into the great hall that morning with a pale peach Muggle-stationery envelope. Sirius carried the owl out, away from the curious eyes of his House and the judgmental eyes of his friends.The letter said simply, "Explain yourself".He grabbed parchment, quill and owl and went out the window, the dangerous way up the tower, but he didn't really give a damn.He'd already fallen.
He'd been so close, so nearly free, and he'd thrown it away in a moment of spite.
Sirius started his letter "Dear Mrs Lupin" but then scratched it out and wrote "Dear Ana." And then he wrote everything, with apologies between every paragraph and between every line.
The reply came that afternoon. Sirius took the limp owl up to the owlery to recover and opened the envelope with shaking fingers. There was another letter inside, with Remus scrawled on it in heavy blue ink. The note for Sirius was short:
Thank you. Take this to Remus as soon as you get it. Tell him you're sorry, and don't let him push you away.?Ana Luisa
Sirius hadn't seen Remus yet. Madame Pomfrey had turned him away four times already, but this time the letter was his ticket in.
Remus looked at Sirius with no expression at all. It felt as if the chill of winter had descended. Peter and James snuck awkward glances, one to the other, but when Sirius handed over the letter from Mrs Lupin they grabbed the moment as their chance to escape.
Remus' right arm was strapped to his chest. Sirius moved around to the left side of the bed and held the envelope out.
"I'm so sorry, Remus," he said, "I am so godawfully sorry. I did the worst possible thing I could have ever done to you. I used you, and I put your life in danger, and Snape's, and I wasn't thinking, it was just bloody stupidity?"
"Shut it," Remus said tiredly. He handed the envelope back. "Open it for me." Sirius did, silently, taking the folded letter out and setting it on top, and if Remus noticed that he was doing a good job of not crying he didn't mention it.
He watched as Remus read each page and moved it awkwardly to the back. Finally, Remus finished and folded the letter back into the envelope, awkwardly and with much rumpling. "My mother says she believes you're a basically good person, if incredibly stupid and immature. She says your explanation made a kind of twisted, hot-headed sense." He looked Sirius straight in the eyes. "I don't want to hear your explanations, alright? When I get out of here, I'm going to beat the crap out of you."
"I deserve it."
"You do. You deserve far worse." Remus was also Not Crying, and Sirius crouched down next to the bed and put his arms around him, carefully, because Remus was all banged up. Remus was stiff against him, and then his breath went out in a hiccup of pain.
"You bloody ignorant proditorious bastard, you stupid fuck," Remus said into Sirius' shoulder, the words muffled by the folds of Sirius' robe. "You can burn in hell for all I care. I wish you pain and suffering and itches you can't scratch and mangling. You're an absolute walking disaster, a goddamned nightmare with your aprosexic head up your arse, you never do anything right. A total waste. Mad, and bad, and dangerous…. I thought you liked me, you know, I thought I liked you."
"I do like you."
"Then how could you do this?"
Sirius pressed his face into Remus' hair. "I'll tell you everything if you want."
"No excuses. No explanations. I can't think of any reason good enough."
"Neither can I."
"Was someone hurting you? Snape performed the Cruciatus Curse on you, and you just snapped under torture?"
"Leave it alone, all right? Even if he did you'd just be angry because then you'd have to feel sorry for me instead of despising me."
"I do rather want to despise you right now."
"It doesn't bother me. I've been despising myself all day."
Remus wiped his face carefully on the point of Sirius' shoulder. "I'm tired." He lay back, his face blotchy, eyes closed.
Sirius kept one hand on Remus' arm and brushed the hair back from Remus' face with the other. "Do you want me to go?"
"I want you to know. I need you to know, or this all means nothing, do you understand that? If you don't know, if you don't understand, then our friendship means… nothing." Remus shut his eyes on the desolation in Sirius' face. "You come with me. I'm going to the Registry. Before winter break. You come with me then, and we'll see if you learn anything. I'll give you the tour." He smiled in a way that was both vicious and exhausted. "I'll show you the execution room?who knows, we might be lucky enough to see someone put down. Then you tell me what you think."
Part the Second: Where Werewolves Go (wherein it is not pleasant for Our Heroes)
Penance.Punishment.Waiting room.The most unpleasant kind of waiting room that could be possibly imagined, and yet still worse. Wood-slat benches that were a slat short in the seat, so that Sirius had to brace his weight on his feet or collapse to the floor. The floor was a masterwork of rough, uneven stones, with moisture collecting between them. The room was in a basement: a very deep basement far under the Ministry of Magic. It was accessible only by a round iron staircase, and after descending the first four flights Sirius had nearly been ill.
He might still be ill.
The room was airless and devoid of any reading material. The walls were lined with public health posters about horrible diseases.
And lycanthropy, of course.
A particularly graphic one showed a werewolf going through transformation in an endless loop of silent agony. It was spellotaped on the back of the office door, directly under the brass tag that read "Werewolf Registry."
There were more people waiting than Sirius had thought there would be, but after half an hour it didn't surprise him. The Werewolf Registrar was in and out constantly, rushing down the corridor to the Werewolf Capture Unit or pounding up the stairs with armloads of files. When he did call a name from the sign-in tacked to the wall, it was almost an afterthought.
The shame and resignation in the room was palpable; looking sidelong at Remus, Sirius bit, chewed, and swallowed every comment that came to rest on the tip of his tongue. Upstairs, at Werewolf Support Services, Remus had been able to make an appointment with a counselor, and there had been shabby but comfortable chairs and a cup of tea involved. That was the difference, Sirius supposed, between Being and Beast.
He shifted his feet, all the muscles in his legs spasming, and put his hand over Remus'. Remus didn't look at him, but he turned his hand over, lacing his fingers with Sirius' and squeezing tightly.
"I shouldn't have made you come here," Remus said suddenly. "It's not fair. You should… you should go."
"I'd want to be here anyway," Sirius said. "For you." It was true, and Remus didn't even know (and would never be told) how hard Sirius had worked to be sitting right there on that painfully uncomfortable bench, where only werewolves, approved family members, and Ministry-approved advocates were allowed. He didn't know that Sirius had petitioned to be declared a legal adult in order to sit the Advocate's exam, or that he'd failed the exam the first time and had to sit it again, in Dover. It didn't really matter. McGonagall thought he was acting rashly, and seemed to relish handing him every new pile of documents that he had to complete. His mother, when word got back to her as it inevitably would, would throw fits. But Remus, Remus had asked him to come. So he came.
"Do you think I'm making a mistake, Pads?" Remus asked quietly.
"You said you'd beat me up again if I tried to talk you out of this."
A huff of air that might have been a laugh. "I didn't think I'd be so scared."
"All your options are bad. You said it yourself, you just had to choose so that you lost the least."
"I'm starting to think I've ranked my freedom and integrity too low."
"There are still three months until your birthday. If you wanted to leave now."
"If I left now I'd be jailed for it, desertion or dereliction or some such thing. It's OK. I have been thinking it over my whole life." Remus sighed and squeezed Sirius' hand in apology. "It's not the right thing to do, but it's the best I can do. I'm not going to leave the country."
Another sigh, and Remus' shoulder brushed against Sirius' lightly. "Leave my family and friends? Leave school? When I am the first of my kind to make it this far?" He raised his hand and let it drop.
"Tell me that you're doing it for Hogwarts and the United Lycanthropes of Britain and I'll personally deport you."
"I don't think that I want children. That's the main thing, isn't it. With the damn war on, sometimes I don't think any of us will reproduce."
"Art Weasley just had his third."
Remus winced. "Well, there. He can have my children for me."
Sirius rubbed his thumb across the back of Remus' hand. Words failed him yet again. He thought that it must be a talent of the Lupin family, to reduce his normal eloquent charm to spasms of speechlessness.
Remus stood, and Sirius followed him into the cramped office.
The Registrar looked at Sirius with impatience. "And who are you?"
"I'm his Citizen Advocate." Sirius seized the initiative and showed his badge, smiling fetchingly as he extended his hand. The Registrar shook automatically, but dropped Sirius' hand as if it were a live coal when he realised what he was doing. He had shifty eyes, Sirius thought, and a weak chin. Thinning mousy hair and the complexion of someone who never saw daylight. Which he probably didn't.
"Then you, my friend, are in the wrong place."
Sirius smiled in a way that was not exactly friendly. "Advocacy code, section 3, paragraph 14. Werewolves are specifically designated as citizens."
"You'll note for posterity that I'm not exactly in dispute with Lupin, here." The Registrar looked at Remus. "Records."
Remus handed his folder over wordlessly.
The Registrar took Remus' file and flipped through it. "Ten years, eh? Should've had him down here earlier. The whole legal-age issue is so irrelevant, don't you think, considering the danger to society at large." He didn't expect an answer, but waved Remus over to a hard, narrow cot covered with a threadbare bath towel in institutional beige. "Strip and lie down."
Remus walked over slowly.
"Does he need to take off all his clothes?" Sirius asked. He held up his badge when the man glared at him.
"We like to get a good look at them," he said, ignoring Remus.
"But you don't need to, do you?" Sirius asked, trying desperately to channel Lily Evans. Calm yet strong, he thought, and made eye contact. And held it.
The Registrar was first to look away. "Fine," he said. "Fine. Waist down, at least, Lupin. And don't waste any more of my time."
Remus bent to untie his boots and toed them off. He removed his trousers and underpants together and folded them neatly on the end of the bed before he lay down.
The Registrar snapped his wand at Remus, and Remus stiffened.
Sirius bit back a curse: calm and rational, or he'll have you put out. "What did you do?"
"It's a simple Petrificus. It's a lot worse when they can move around, trust me. And this way there's no risk of getting bitten. End of everything if you're bitten."
Sirius breathed in, slowly, through his nose. "His eyes are shut. Would you mind if I asked him…?"
"Yes, I bloody well would. Stand back, there's a boy. Tergeo." The Registrar grimaced and used his wand to shift Remus' penis to one side. He aimed a short chain of spells at the exposed scrotum and stepped back as soon as the last word left his lips, wiping his wand off with a paper handkerchief.
"There now. Males are so much easier, just a twist on the surgical diffindo, y'see. Now the females." He gave Sirius a jaunty wink. "Well, female anatomy is just a bitch."
Sirius stood with his fists balled, forcing himself to breathe normally. He wondered what Mrs Lupin's reaction would have been. Somehow he suspected it would have ended up with a rather more violent castration.
The Registrar flipped open a metal strongbox on his desk and picked out type, setting it in an odd little metal device. He hummed through his nose as he did this. Sirius took up one of Remus' hands and squeezed it gently. The room was terribly warm, and the balls of fire that sufficed for light flickered too much. Sirius was feeling ill again. He did not want to think how Remus was feeling.
The Registrar pressed the odd little metal device against a tablet and checked that the number matched that at the top of Remus' file. Then he turned and gave a smile that wholly failed to be reassuring.
"This will take a few minutes. If you want to sit down and read a magazine," he said vaguely, waving at the stool in front of the desk and the tottering stack of Dark Creatures Review piled in the corner. "You look, you know, like you might. Want to sit down."
"No. Thank you." Remus' face was stiff and still, not that he had a choice. Sirius held his hand and ran his fingers through Remus' hair. He was not surprised to find it soaked with sweat. He was watching Remus lie there like the dead when Remus flinched. Flinching through the body-bind curse was impressive, and frightening. He turned to stare at the Registrar, who was pressing the metal device against Remus' hip and muttering incantations slowly over it.
"What are you doing to him?" Sirius asked, not really wanting to know.
"Registration number. A lot of them find a way to rip it off –claws, teeth, you know." He winked at Sirius. "So we have to get the number in deep. All the way down to the bone."
Sirius felt the blood drain from his face. "You're burning him?"
"No, it's magic, it doesn't hurt them any. Amazing capacity for pain, Dark creatures."
The metal was starting to glow with a yellowish light. Sirius looked back at Remus. Tears were leaking from under his closed eyelids. Sirius took out his handkerchief and wiped Remus' face gently.
"Almost over, Moony, almost over." But it seemed to last forever, until there was an orange flash and an audible pop from Remus' hip. The Registrar tossed the metal device into a bucket of murky liquid in the corner, where it hissed and sent up dreadful fumes.
"Right, then, all done for today." The Registrar released the body-bind and ignored the whimper that escaped Remus. He stamped Remus' file and handed it to Sirius, who was helping Remus back into his trousers. "No bathing for 24 hours, now. No alcohol and no sex, but you're underage anyway so I don't want to know. Go out the back door," he added, emphasizing his words with a jerk of his head.
Sirius knelt to put Remus' boots on, tug the laces tight and tie them. He stood, looking down at Remus, who was sitting looking down at nothing. He was trembling. Sirius put an arm around his waist and pulled him to standing.
"Let's get out of here," he whispered in Remus' ear, and Remus nodded. The back door led to another corridor, even more dismal and poorly lit. Remus was limping badly, and he kept tripping over the uneven stones. Sirius finally pulled him to a stop outside the Centaur Liaison Office and made him sit down on a dusty, unused sofa.
"You all right, Moony?" Sirius asked, tightening his arm around Remus. Remus leaned just enough to rest his head on Sirius' shoulder.
"Wasn't too bad."
"It hurt like hell, didn't it."
Remus sighed. "I could use a fag." Which certainly wasn't negation.
"You all right?" Sirius repeated, shifting to try and look into Remus' face. Remus resolutely pressed his face into the collar of Sirius' shirt. He hugged Remus tightly, centaurs be damned, and soothed Remus' back with his hands.
"Of course I'm all right, I don't feel pain, or humiliation, or fear, what are you thinking?" Remus said, and his voice was too loud and not a little hysterical. "Oh God, Pads, oh God, what was I thinking?"
"It will be all right," Sirius said into Remus' hair. "It will, I promise you, because you are all right, you're bloody wonderful. I love you, you know. I've never loved anyone before, but I love you."
In his arms Remus stilled, and then one hand reached up to trace the line of his jaw.
"You don't have to say it back," Sirius said, rubbing his cheek against Remus' palm. "It doesn't matter. It's like a present, just say thank you."
"Thank you," Remus whispered.
Part the Third: Charming Gentlemen (wherein Our Heroes don't get their just dessert because of an owl on it, but sweet nonetheless)
The Howler came for Sirius two days later. He had not exactly been expecting it, but he was prepared. The moment the Black's black owl swooped down over the Gryffindor table, he half-stood; and as it came to rest, greedily, on top of the pudding, he snatched the Howler from its talons and sprinted from the Great Hall, hitting the door shoulder-first and spinning with the impact into the corridor; he used his momentum to dash left to the bathrooms. He'd made it to the boys' toilet and thrown up silencing spells before it had even begun to smoke badly.Then it exploded, and his mother's voice filled the room, echoing and resounding until even Sirius' reflection in the mirror covered its ears.…Mudbloods… Dark Creatures! Possessed… your father… the Ministry… the shame to the House of Black… made us a laughing stock…
…throw away everything we've given to you, done for you… think you're an adult… you're on your own then… your father and I… no more. Insult… betrayal… abomination…
Not our son.
From out of the smoking remains of the Howler fell a roll of parchment, heavy with seals in blood-red wax. Sirius opened it numbly, read the ornate legal words that meant you have no family or home anymore, then folded it absently into a pocket with shaking hands.
When Sirius opened the door and stepped out into the corridor, Remus was waiting for him.
"Bad news from home?"
He took a long shuddering breath. "She finally persuaded him to disinherit me. A disgrace to the name of Black. Doesn't matter."
Remus pulled him close and held him tightly. "I'm sorry. I really am. I know you fought all the time, but it's a bad ending, isn't it?"
"Nah. Cut free from the past. Live life on my own terms. Life of Riley, Moony, life of bloody Riley." He turned and nuzzled Remus' throat blindly, needing to feel skin and comfort. This would be the language of the world he would live in from now on, he thought dizzily, time to start practicing. He aimed to become fluent.
If any students walked out of the hall and happened to glance down the bathroom corridor, expecting to see chaos and fury, they were, sadly, Disillusioned.
What they didn't see, standing amongst the shards of shattered pasts and lost futures, was Remus Lupin, Prefect, wand still out, running his fingers through the stone-wall dark hair of Sirius Black.
They did not see Sirius' hands find their place on Remus' hips, nor his mouth search for, and find, and open to Remus'.
They certainly did not see two pairs of eyes close, or two bodies press into each other against the chill of the charm, or fingers curl around the arch of a neck and tease their way under a robe, cautiously, to trace clavicles, ribs, the hardness of arm muscles, the delicate mysteries of blood moving under the skin.
Not everyone passing the corridor, however, was a student. A soft, amused cough aimed in their direction caused their heads to turn together towards the light.
"Mr Black. Mr Lupin. Gentlemen. Behind closed doors, if you please."
Remus removed the charm hastily, somehow simultaneously stepping away from Sirius and pulling the front of his robe shut with a nonchalance that Sirius found enviable. "Ah?Professor Flitwick…."
Flitwick regarded them both with a fondness which, under the circumstances, was rather alarming. "Now, this is what I have been telling you, Mr Black," he said, adjusting his eyeglasses. "You must not become complacent with your Charms work. Amazing things you can do with charms, behind closed doors, of course, simply amazing once you put your mind to it." He nodded cordially to them and continued on his way.
"Am I wrong," Sirius said hoarsely, as Flitwick's footsteps faded away, "in thinking that the charms he's referring to are, er?"
Remus was occupied with his buttons, but his ears were an alarming colour. "Not wrong, no, I don't think," he muttered, and glanced up. This proved to be a mistake, because the moment their eyes met Sirius exploded with laughter, and that set Remus off.
It was like the spawn of a Cheering Charm mated with Rictumsempra, and they were still howling as they staggered into the Common Room, after having spent a good twenty minutes trying to tell the password to an increasingly annoyed Fat Lady. "About time," she muttered as Remus finally choked out the words ("Da mihi basilia mille").
Sirius dropped in front of the fire with his arms wrapped around his stomach and moaned. Remus sprawled, gasping, in a chair, tears running down his face. Peter Pettigrew, who had been head-to-head with a curly-haired fourth-year over her Potions text, threw himself upright and aimed his wand at Remus.
"Finite incantatum." Then he turned and did the same for Sirius.
Remus wheezed and looked at Sirius. This time, they both simply grinned at each other, too worn out to have any further hysterics. Communicated in that glance was the knowledge that they shared a capacity for the joy that sustains, despite it all; that it was not an enchantment but something as deep as their bones and blood. That it was their own and could not be banished or rescinded or taken away by anyone else. Sirius took a deep breath of something with the taste of hope and looked away.
"Thanks, Pete," he said, pushing himself upright.
"Nah," Peter said, looking chuffed. "What are friends for?"