The problem with living with three other boys was that his stuff often went missing. It wasn't that they stole from him. No, it was just that Sirius had the nicest clothes, being the only one who really cared about such things, and therefore, the only one who spent money on them. The other boys (well, if Sirius thought about it, really, it was only Remus) sometimes felt the need to borrow them. And sometimes they forgot to return them.
Just now, his favorite shirt was missing. If they were on speaking terms, Remus would scoff and ask him how he could tell the difference between one white, cotton shirt and another, but Sirius could, and did.
It was slightly larger than his other shirts, with more room across the shoulders, and had been washed often, leaving it exceptionally soft to the touch.
But really, it was his favorite because it was the one Remus wore most often. Remus liked his clothes looser than current fashion dictated, and since he was thinner than James and Sirius, frequently borrowed their stuff. Sirius had noticed the first time when he put the shirt on and it smelled like Remus. It was a subtle scent, slightly salty, with a hint of the woods, as if the forest had imprinted itself on him, even though he spent only the one night a month there.
Of course, the tea stain on the left cuff was also a clue. Sirius had been a little upset at the house-elves for bringing the shirt back spotless and starched. He needn't have worried. A week later, the right cuff was stained with ink. Remus was always dragging his sleeves through something or other, distracted by a book or a lively conversation.
In the three months since The Incident (and no one spoke of it, but it was definitely capitalized in Sirius's mind), Remus had stopped speaking to him, stopped looking at him, and most definitely stopped borrowing his clothes.
So the fact that the shirt had gone missing again was actually a relief.
He knew things would never -- could never -- go back to being the way they were, but he hoped they could be better. Good in different, new ways.
He whistled as he dressed, causing James to throw a sock at him.
"You're in a good mood, Padfoot," Peter said.
"You have a way of stating the obvious, my dear Wormtail," he replied. James cast him a curious glance, but Sirius shook his head. He didn't want to discuss it in front of Peter.
He looked around, but Remus was gone, bed neatly made, curtains drawn back, almost as if it hadn't been slept in at all.
Sirius shook his head. While Remus had spent a couple of weeks sleeping down in the common room directly following The Incident, lately he'd been coming up to bed. He wasn't one to stay out all night without someone else prodding him. And since he and Sirius were not on speaking terms, there was no one else to prod him.
They slid into place at the Gryffindor table, and Sirius scanned the line of students for Remus. Who was sitting with Lily Evans, their heads bent close in quiet conversation. He felt a growl rise in his throat, and heard James grinding his teeth.
Lily laughed and took a bite of Remus's toast.
"You better straighten things out with Remus," James muttered, "before I have to kill him."
"I think things are going to be okay," Sirius replied. "He's wearing my shirt."
James looked skeptical, but said nothing.
Neither of them was so sanguine after watching Lily and Remus sit together in Arithmancy and Transfiguration. Sirius watched as Lily held Remus's attention, simmered as Remus dragged his sleeve -- Sirius's sleeve -- through the wet ink of his notes, and seethed as Remus flushed, Lily giggled and McGonagall eyed them indulgently.
When Peter headed to Divination, James and Sirius skived off Ancient Runes and headed out to the Quidditch pitch.
"I can't believe him!" James said, throwing himself down onto the grass. "He knows I've fancied Lily forever. And I'm the one who saved his arse when you--"
Sirius tensed, then forced himself to relax. "Don't worry about it, Prongs."
"Easy for you to say." James ripped a handful of grass up and tossed it at him. "You're the one he should be angry with! But I don't see him sharing his toast with Eleanor Faraday."
"I don't fancy Eleanor Faraday anymore, so I wouldn't care."
James looked up from the patch of grass he was stripping bare. "What? You fancied her for ages."
Sirius nodded. "Finally shagged her, too."
James's eyes widened behind his perpetually smudged glasses. "When? And why didn't you tell me?"
Sirius shrugged. "Valentine's Day. It was a big disappointment. I mean, yeah, it was fine, but it didn't mean anything."
"Mean anything?" James looked baffled. "What the bloody fuck are you on about, Padfoot? It means you shagged her."
"If you shagged Evans, it would mean something, right? 'Cause you fancy her, and not just for a quick lay."
"Yeah, of course it would."
"Well, Eleanor Faraday didn't."
"You're such a bloody girl sometimes. Worse than Moony, even." James's face darkened again. "He better not be shagging Lily."
"I don't think--" Sirius took a deep breath. "I don't think Moony likes girls. I hope he doesn't."
"You don't think-- doesn't like girls? What do you-- Moony's a shirt-lifter?"
"I think so." Sirius ignored the insult, steeled himself for possible rejection -- something he was now intimately familiar with, thanks to Remus --and blurted, "And I think I am, too."
"I think I'm gay and I'm in love with Remus." It came out in a rush. It was the first time he'd said it aloud, and his chest was tight with anxiety.
James bolted upright. "Bloody hell, Sirius. Warn a bloke before you spring something like that on him!"
Sirius stared down at his shoes, feeling the flush creep up his cheeks. It had been difficult enough to admit it to himself, even after the dreams, years of dreams and the need to watch other boys in the locker room, in the showers, in their room at night.
He still went out with girls -- Eleanor Faraday had been the latest in a long line. But snogging girls hadn't stopped him from dreaming of boys.
James, he'd thought at first. It was just how much he loved James, more than his own brother, more than himself. But it wasn't James's face he'd see when he closed his eyes and touched himself. First had been Athelstone Brown, the Ravenclaw Quidditch captain when Sirius was a fifth-year. Last summer, it was Finbar O'Shea, one of the Gryffindor Beaters.
And then, at the beginning of this year, Remus.
His breath caught as he remembered being huddled under James's Invisibility Cloak with Remus, hiding from Filch, breathing each other in, unable to tell where he ended and Remus began. Their first kiss, tentative, fumbling, exactly like kissing a girl and absolutely nothing like it, the body pressed against his hard and lean, a mirror of his own -- similar, but different in so many little ways, so precisely Remus that Sirius couldn't breathe even thinking about it. They'd pulled apart, laughing in little huffs, mumbling jokes about practicing before Christmas rolled around and mistletoe littered the castle. But that hadn't been the end of it. No, that had only been the beginning.
There were stolen kisses in the greenhouses, and behind the equipment shed. Secret explorations with hands and lips and tongues at night when Peter and James were sleeping; the silk slide of skin on skin in the Prefects' bathroom, bathing in warm water, warm hands, warm breath.
He'd fallen headlong and hadn't even known it at the time. When Eleanor Faraday, a year older and possibly the most beautiful girl at Hogwarts, whom he'd pursued fruitlessly -- aimlessly -- all term, asked him to Hogsmeade with her for Valentine's, he'd gone like the eager puppy James always called him, avoiding Remus's eye. Because he fancied girls and this thing with Remus was just a lark, two mates having fun because they couldn't be arsed to charm girls.
But the experience had been a clue he couldn't ignore. It hadn't been bad. It was just that he'd thought it would be different, more, better. That his skin would tingle for hours afterward where she'd touched him, that he'd yearn for her taste to linger on his tongue, dream of her fine copper hair spread on his pillow.
Instead, her perfume had made him sneeze and her full lips and lush body suddenly seemed overripe, unappealing -- a trap instead of a treasure. He'd rushed off as soon as it was over, showered quickly, sneaked into his own bed and dreamt of Remus.
He'd had to do some fast talking the next day, and he didn't tell Remus he'd shagged her. Just that he wasn't interested in her anymore.
Remus had looked skeptical, but willing to be won over with a playful wrestling match that soon turned into something else entirely. Hands lingered under shirts, lips and breath warmed skin against the early spring chill; bodies thrust together until they both came, shuddering and shaking in the grass beneath their favorite tree. He'd held Remus, or Remus had held him --Sirius wasn't sure anymore; they'd been so closely entwined that again, he'd almost believed they were one body -- until they were able to move again. The blissful languor weighing down their limbs had made them late for supper.
But then Snape had ruined everything, sticking his big nose into their business, spreading rumors about them and insinuating that Sirius wasn't the only one with whom Remus was experimenting.
Even remembering the sly look on Snivellus's face was enough to make Sirius's blood boil, and recalling the disappointment on Remus's was enough to give him chills.
"Whoa, Padfoot, where'd you go?"
Sirius blinked, James's voice pulling him out of his reverie. "Sorry. I was just remembering. Before --" James nodded, no need to say before what, "Remus and I were," he thought for a moment for the right words, "feeling things out. And then--" Another nod from James, glasses slipping down his nose. "But he borrowed my shirt this morning."
"So you think he's going to stop hanging about Lily and forgive you?"
Sirius nodded. "Soon, I expect." He clung desperately to this hope; he managed to sound far more confident than he felt, but he just couldn't believe Remus would taunt him like that. It had to mean something. He realized James was still regarding him warily and knew how strange the whole situation must appear to him. He shrugged a shoulder, hoping James would understand. "You don't mind, do you?"
James took his glasses off and wiped them on his robe. Sirius knew he was stalling, and waited.
"Mind? No. I guess not. It's just weird. I -- You never fancied me, did you?"
"No, you prat."
"I'm a flash bloke, you know. All the girls dig me. Nothing to be ashamed of." Sirius punched him in the shoulder, James punched back, and Sirius knew it would be all right. A little weird at first, yes, but nothing they couldn't handle.
Sirius kept telling himself it would all be all right, even though Remus almost missed dinner. He rushed in, flushed and disheveled, just as dessert was served, and walked right by Sirius to sit with Primrose Slattery, one of Lily's friends.
He didn't join them in the common room, either. Peter and James went off on a kitchen raid and Sirius stared into the fire, wondering if he'd got everything wrong again.
Lily sat across from him, head bent over some Muggle paperback, and at first he didn't even focus on her, but something seemed off, and he couldn't quite put his finger on it. He stared at her as if he'd never seen her before. She hadn't been at dinner, he realized, and she'd changed clothes sometime during the afternoon. When the realization hit, he had to close and open his eyes and look again, pieces of the puzzle locking into place, filling him with a cold and deadly fury.
When the other students began drifting up to their rooms, he waited, his eyes never leaving her.
James and Peter came back from their kitchen raid and offered him some illicit sweets. He shook his absently and said, "You go on. I'll be right up." He barely recognized the strangled sound of his own voice.
James followed Sirius's gaze to Lily, frowned, and then looked askance at him. "You sure you're all right?"
"Fine," he said flatly. James didn't seem convinced, but he herded Peter away, throwing a glance over his shoulder at Sirius before disappearing up the stairs.
Soon he and Lily were the only two left in the room. She rose and stretched, delicate beneath the oversized clothes she wore.
Sirius moved quickly, blocked her way to the stairs.
Her nose wrinkled in distaste. "Did you want something, Sirius?"
"You're wearing my shirt." His voice was cold and dangerous.
Her eyes widened in surprise. "What?"
"My name is stamped inside the collar." She looked skeptical, so he reached around and pulled at the neck of the shirt. She turned and blinked, because sure enough, his initials and the Black family crest adorned the inside of the shirt.
She took a deep breath and unbuttoned the shirt, slipping it off her shoulders, holding his gaze with those clear and scornful green eyes. He stared at her, fair skin and white cotton bra luminous in the firelight. She dropped the shirt as though it were beneath her to touch it, and when he reached out to catch it, she walked past him up the stairs, back straight and head held high.
He was still standing there, clutching the shirt like a security blanket, when Remus came through the portrait hole.
His anger flared from cold to hot. He flung the shirt at Remus.
"You backstabbing son of a bitch."
Remus caught it easily, his expression unreadable. "Are you talking to yourself or to me?"
Sirius hit him.
Their confrontations had rarely been physical. At first, he'd been afraid to hurt the deceptively frail-looking Remus; later he'd learned that even muscles developed from hours of Quidditch practice were no match for werewolf strength. He didn't care at the moment, hot with righteous anger at evidence of Remus's betrayal.
He landed the first punch and then found himself flat on his back, Remus straddling his chest, not even breathing hard.
"How could you?" he asked, not bothering to wipe away the blood trickling from his now-tender nose. "Fucking Evans! How could you do that to James? You know she belongs to him."
"I'd say Lily belongs to herself," Remus replied, "and what she does is her own business."
"This is how you repay your friends? James saved your arse --"
Remus leaned forward until his nose was almost touching Sirius's; his eyes were dark with anger and something else Sirius couldn't identify.
"James only had to save me because you fucked up."
Sirius looked away for a moment and swallowed hard before bulling on with the conversation. "James is your friend and you know how he feels about her."
"You're angry because it's Lily? You're angry for James?" The intensity in his voice sent a thrill through Sirius, even in his anger.
Sirius's mouth went dry, and Remus, poised above him, held his breath, his face an impassive mask except for the eyes, which asked a question Sirius couldn't answer. Instead, he nodded once.
Remus rose with easy grace. "Fine," he said, flat and cold, the heat in his eyes gone. "I'll break it off tomorrow." With that, he disappeared up the stairs.
Sirius slept on the couch that night, the shirt clutched in his arms, then left it behind for whoever might find it.
He pretended he didn't care that it was gone; at some point, he forgot it had ever meant anything more than a clean shirt, before he forgot he'd ever owned it at all.
Sirius never told James that Lily had been with Remus; he learned to smile whenever James rhapsodized about her red hair or alabaster skin. As far as he knew, James thought the estrangement between him and Remus was because of The Incident. James never asked about their relationship again, and Sirius was thankful for that unexpected sensitivity.
James did, however, pressure them to behave civilly, to at least try to reach some kind of peace. After a summer apart, Sirius and Remus were able to act normally around each other, and by Halloween of their seventh year, the act had become a reality. They were never as close as they'd been, but Sirius reckoned they were equally to blame for that, though he never voiced the thought aloud.
Christmas rolled around, and they were all feeling a little apprehensive about it. Everyone had lost someone to the violence spreading through the world outside Hogwarts, and many more students than usual stayed at school over the holidays, James, Lily, Sirius and Remus among them. Peter and his family had gone to Canada, away from the dark shadow beginning to stretch over wizarding Britain.
The holiday cheer had a desperate edge to it, and the fact that Christmas Eve was a full moon did nothing to ease that anxiety for Sirius, Remus or James.
James hovered in front of the mirror, attempting to make his hair lie flat while the mirror clucked in sympathy.
"You look a little nervous, there, Prongs," Sirius said, lounging on his bed. "You're never going to fix that mess, and nobody cares anyway. Who are you trying to impress?" He knew the answer, of course. It was Lily, had always been Lily, since they were third-years and she'd pushed James in the lake for hexing one of her friends.
"Ah, yes." James cleared his throat and fidgeted. "I was hoping-- About tonight--" Sirius tensed. "Lily's agreed to have dinner with me in Hogsmeade. Dumbledore's said it's all right -- Christmas Eve and all, but--"
"I'll be alone with Moony."
He hadn't been, though in September he'd rejoined the motley little pack on their monthly runs under the full moon. The wolf had been rough with him at first, but settled down in the following months, especially after they'd finally let go of the lingering rancor between them.
"It's okay with me if it's okay with him," Sirius said with a nonchalance he was far from feeling. His own romantic adventures had included a drunken stumble with Romeo Spinnet and the occasional unsatisfying grope behind the equipment shed with Finbar O'Shea, who wasn't nearly as good a kisser as Remus.
"Let's ask him, then."
"Ask who what?" Remus said, attempting to negotiate the door with his arms full of books and brightly wrapped packages.
"Let me help you with that," James said, grabbing the top two boxes from the pile and dropped them on Remus's bed. "Lily's agreed to go to Hogsmeade with me tonight," he continued, "but it's the full moon and--"
Sirius held his breath and studiously avoided looking at Remus's face. Remus might have been able to hide from everyone else, but Sirius could read him like a book, and just now, he didn't want to see the way his mouth would tighten and his eyes would go flat in resignation. He focused on Remus's jumper, instead, on the too-long sleeves that were fraying at the cuffs.
Remus shrugged and dropped his pile of stuff on the bed, as well. "Good for you, Prongs. It's about time. She's a lovely girl." He turned to Sirius, and Sirius couldn't see any regret in his eyes, but then, he really didn't look very hard.
As the year sped by, James and Lily were suddenly inseparable, and Sirius found himself longing for that kind of connection. He never quite shook the feeling he'd had it and lost it, and it haunted him for years.
"You don't have to move in," Sirius said.
"If you don't want me there--" Remus began.
"No, no. I do. But the place is a horror."
"I remember," Remus said wryly. He'd been treated badly by the Black family on his one visit to number twelve, Grimmauld Place, Sirius recalled.
"I don't know what possessed me to offer it to Dumbledore."
Remus put a warm hand on his shoulder. "You're doing it for Harry."
"I'm sure James would appreciate the sacrifice."
"Yeah." His voice was a little thick, and he noticed Remus's eyes were brighter than usual.
He resumed packing. He was doing the clothes and the few housewares and pieces of art Remus owned, while Remus went about boxing up his precious books.
For someone who'd lived hand to mouth for so long, Remus had accumulated a lot of ... stuff. Admittedly, his wardrobe was more scant and threadbare than it had been before, but the sheer quantity of books and scrolls and photographs the man owned was ridiculous. Trust Moony to own more books than decent clothing. He didn't even have a broom.
Sirius felt around the back of the closet to make sure he hadn't missed anything, and came up with another shirt. He pulled, but it was stuck on something. Carefully, since most of Remus's clothes were already almost beyond repair, he worked the shirt free of the tangle of hangers trapping it in the closet.
He yanked again, and it came free; his momentum landed him on the bed, shirt in hand. It was old and yellowed, and smelled like it had been at the back of the closet since time began. Maybe it had come with the flat, Sirius thought, an ink stain on the cuff catching his eye.
"Merlin," he breathed.
It couldn't be-- He checked inside the collar and sure enough, his initials were stamped there, along with the Black family coat of arms. "You kept it."
"What?" Remus asked, turning away from the bookshelves. Sirius held up the shirt. "Oh. That." Remus ran a hand through his hair, smudging his cheek with dust. He looked uncomfortable for a moment. "Yes. I-- It was never meant to be revenge, Sirius." Sirius stared at him, unable to speak. "I just-- she--" Remus closed his eyes and shook his head, laughing ruefully. "Lily was a wonderful girl and a good friend." Sirius nodded, still not trusting his voice even if he'd been able to form a coherent thought to speak. "I needed that after-- what happened." He shrugged and took the shirt. "She was-- It was the first time for both of us; it only happened a few times. I didn't much care for girls, though she was lovely. And she-- she loved James even then, I think. Or maybe I just want to believe that."
Sirius closed the distance between them, the ache in his chest for once having almost nothing to do with Lily and James and everything to do with himself and Remus.
"I lied," he said. "It was never about James."
"Excuse me?" Remus asked, startled.
Sirius reached out and took a sleeve in his hand. "I was upset for James, yes. He was my best friend and you knew how he was always yammering on about Lily. But mostly I was angry for myself. Hurt. Jealous."
"Jealous?" Remus said, eyebrows raised in surprise. "You fancied Lily, too?"
Sirius snorted. "No, you git."
"Oh." If the conversation weren't so important, Sirius would have laughed and teased Remus for the way he flushed when he realized what Sirius meant.
"I never forgave you. I wanted-- and I messed it up, and then--" He shook his head. "We never had a chance. I was young and stupid and I threw it away."
"We were young and stupid," Remus corrected gently.
Sirius gave a barking laugh. "Yes, Professor."
They stared at each other for a moment. Sirius looked away first, aware of how much he had to atone for, how much damage he'd done.
"Sirius?" Remus reached out a hand, ran his thumb over the arch of Sirius's cheek. Sirius sucked in a startled breath, his body responding in ways he'd thought it never would again, after the long, cold years in Azkaban. "It's not the most auspicious time, and I'm not in any position to offer you anything," Remus said with a self-deprecating laugh, "but we could still--"
Sirius covered Remus's hand with his own, brought it to his lips and kissed the palm, tasting sweat and dust and Remus.
"I would if you would," Remus finished, breath hitching as Sirius darted his tongue out for another taste.
Achromatic: http://www.unfitforsociety.net/musesfool LJ: http://musesfool.livejournal.com
Please post a comment on this story.
Fandom: Harry Potter
Title: Something Borrowed
Author: Victoria P. [email]
Details: Standalone | PG-13 | 23k | 04/18/04
Pairings: Sirius Black/Remus Lupin
Summary: "If they were on speaking terms, Remus would scoff and ask him how he could tell the difference between one white, cotton shirt and another, but Sirius could, and did."
Notes: Thanks to Jen, Dot, Meg and Pete'n'Melissa. To Pru and Laura, who encouraged this madness, and to Corgi and Chris, who helped when I was stuck. More notes at the end, because there really is something borrowed, but to tell would give it away.
Disclaimer/Other: So not mine.
Archive: Lists, Achromatic.
Feedback: sending feedback rains blessings on your house.
Note: The "You're wearing my shirt" thing comes from the SportsNight ep "Sally." Everyone should own the SN dvds and love Danny.
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