AU. When Sirius and Remus go looking for Peter Pettigrew, they make a wrong turn and someone else finds him first. Eight years later, Sirius owns a book store and Remus manages it for him. When Harry stumbles into the store and they find out the truth, they decide it's time to be Stealing Harry. (SB/RL slash relationship in later chapters.)
Remus, recovering from the kiss he'd just received and the feel of Sirius' body against his, was halfway through a calming letter to Dumbledore, carefully and possibly redundantly updating him on Harry's progress, when Sirius, from the couch, cleared his throat. He glanced up. Sirius was staring at his book, one leg drawn up against his chest.
"You know when we were in school, James and I..." he said, trailing off. Still looking at the book, Remus noted. "Well, we'd been down to the pub after the Cup match, sixth year, you remember after the party, we went out."
"Yes, because the Slytherins came looking to murder you and nearly got hexed by Lily instead."
"We nicked some firewhiskey and went up to the Shrieking Shack to celebrate."
"Hell of a place to have a party."
"And James said to me, oi Sirius, you ever kissed a boy?"
Remus' breath caught, sharply.
"And we were drunk, and stupid, and what the hell, right?" Sirius said, an embarrassed crimson creeping over his cheeks.
Remus examined himself for bitterness, and was pleased to find none; ten years ago he would have hated Sirius for having let James do that, for having played that game with James and not with him, but James was dead and Sirius was a grown man now, and Remus had done some growing-up of his own.
"Is this supposed to make me feel better about the fact that I'm not going to let you fool around with me because I'm in love with you?" Remus asked, before he could think what he was saying.
Sirius stared at him. It took Remus a minute to figure out why.
"Me?" Sirius asked, slowly, while Remus panicked with his usual quiet grace.
"If you must know," Remus answered tightly, dipping his quill in the ink and bending to finish a sentence.
"You're not stupid, Sirius, don't act like it."
"You're in love with me?"
"Yes, well, why else would anyone tolerate your atrocious taste in art," Remus replied. "You daft idiot, did you think I kept working at Sandust because I didn't realise I liked it there? I could have bought a partnership in it twice over. I didn't want to. I wanted to work there, still, not have you hire some spotty teenager to do my job while I took in profit and did nothing. I wanted to be around you. Or for you to keep me around. Either way," he added, with a shrug.
"Moony, that's a hell of a thing to tell a man you're supposed to be platonically sharing a bedroom with."
"You're the one who kissed me. Don't tell me you weren't planning to drag me down the hall and seduce me on one of those twin beds."
Sirius brooded for a while. Remus kept writing, though he'd no idea what he was saying; words about Harry and school, his friendship with Ron and Oliver, and Molly's regard for the boy kept flowing from the pen without any attention on his part.
"You don't seem too upset about it," Sirius said finally.
"About the fact that I'm in love with you and you sleep with any female who'll give you the time of day?" Remus asked. Sirius winced. "Well, after nine years -- "
"Nine bloody years, Moony?"
" -- one becomes rather resigned to one's fate. Besides, the physical aspect of any relationship is the least satisfying."
"Wow, have you been sleeping with the wrong people."
Remus laid his quill down, and rested his chin on one hand.
"We spend every day together, Sirius," he said softly. "Whether you're you or Padfoot. We've talked about everything there is to talk about in this world and still we find new things, every day, so that neither of us like it when an actual customer comes in and I've got to help them. You come to me when you need reassurance, when Padfoot wants to be skritched behind the ears, when you don't know what to do. I come to you when I want company, when I'm unsure of myself, and you keep me sane during the full moon, or patch me up after it. We almost never fight. We get drunk together. We're raising a child together, Sirius, for God's sake. You tell me I need to have sex with you to be happy? I have a good life. I don't regret much. I love you. That's enough."
Sirius looked as though his world had been destroyed, and Remus felt a moment of regret, but what could he have done? The words were spoken. There wasn't any way to unspeak them.
"Nine years?" he asked, hoarsely.
"Probably longer," Remus admitted. "But you know, it was James and Lily getting engaged, that really made me think about it."
"For crying out loud, Moony. Why didn't you say something?"
"Because you'd sit there with your jaw open and ask ridiculous questions. Love isn't all grand passions and dying confessions, Sirius. You read too many Russian novels."
Sirius seemed to check himself, and rubbed a hand over his face. Remus finished the letter to Dumbledore, and set it aside to be sealed and sent. What was next -- oh yes, he had a list of things to buy for Harry in Diagon Alley, from Molly, and he wanted to send a note back asking if she wanted him to get anything for her class while he was there...
"Moony, what am I supposed to say to you?" Sirius asked finally.
"Unless you're planning to radically readjust your sexuality and your idea of what love is, I doubt you can say anything," Remus replied.
"What you said about us, doing all those things together, I'm half of that, you know."
"Yes, and you love me like a brother, I'm sure. But you don't want me, you don't desire me, and, ergo, you don't get to seduce me just so you can feel what it's like to be with another man, which, aside from the fact that you haven't been laid in too long, I can only assume is your motivation. Now let's close the book on this and forget it happened," Remus added, setting Molly's note aside. He found his desk clear, and glanced up. Sirius was staring at him still. Remus stood, and walked to the bookshelf, taking down a copy of Euripides' selected plays.
He felt the warmth behind him, the hand on his, before he even realised Sirius had stood. Sirius' hand made him push the book back into the shelf. Sirius' other arm went around his waist.
A small ache started in Remus' stomach. Sirius didn't understand, he was still going to try this, and Remus would have to push him away again.
"I've done my experimenting," Sirius said softly, into his ear. The ache spread upwards, changing as it did so. Remus was familiar with pain, and he knew that it was modulating from the ache of wanting something you couldn't have to the ache of being touched after so long without touch...
"With James," Remus answered.
"I know how it feels."
"Bully for you."
Sirius nuzzled him in the place where his neck met his shoulder, and Remus twitched.
"You smelled so good," he said, his hand bringing Remus' -- still raised to touch the book -- down and across, until both his arms were wrapped around Remus' slim body.
"You didn't borrow my cologne, did you," Remus moaned. "Sirius, stop it -- "
"No," Sirius answered. "I'm half of all we've done, Remus."
The ache had clenched the muscles at his throat, now, and the pleasurable pain where Sirius' lips were pressed to his pulse was almost unbearable.
"You like women," Remus protested, tilting his head back a little to provide Sirius easier access to the sensitive skin of his throat.
"I like you," Sirius replied, breathing small puffs of air along his skin. They stood there for what seemed like too long, until Remus relaxed, slowly, into Sirius' embrace. He turned his head, let Sirius kiss him on the lips again, let Sirius' tongue explore his mouth. He could feel the same sensual, tingling ache in every place their bodies touched; lips, throats, Sirius' chest against his shoulderblades, Sirius' hips against his, the arms around his body, very nearly holding him up.
"Sometimes love is about grand passions," Sirius murmured, into his mouth.
"Too many Russian novels by half," Remus replied, a sigh catching in his throat as Sirius released him, steadied him on his feet. He turned. Sirius was staring at him as if he'd seen a revelation. "It's no good, Sirius," he said softly. "Don't think I don't want this, I'd kill for it, but I don't want you if you're going to enjoy yourself for a few weeks and then go back to chatting up the customers in Sandust."
"That must have killed you," Sirius whispered.
"You are who you are," Remus shrugged, unwilling to admit that the first time it had happened, seven years before, he'd nearly put his fist through the wall. He ran his fingers through his hair, re-ordering it where Sirius' attentions had tangled it. Sirius smiled and stepped close. Remus lifted his head and Sirius bent slightly and their foreheads pressed together, and Remus thought he might just die from the ache that was now covering his skin, making it hypersensitive to touch.
"I don't know why I thought it," Sirius said. "God, you smelled good, and I thought...I wanted to touch you. I didn't know how, Moony."
"You did all right," Remus answered. Sirius moved slightly so that their lips were touching again --
There was a knock at the door, and Sirius let out a moan of frustration.
"We're not finished," he said, as Remus pushed past him to answer it.
It was Arthur, a sheepish grin on his face. "Harry forgot his books," he explained. Remus held out a hand to accept them, examining the titles carefully before passing them to Sirius. "Molly says they've reading for Monday, so I thought I ought to bring them by."
"I've a note for Molly, actually..." Remus ducked back towards his desk, fetching the parchment.
"Thank you, Arthur," Sirius said, with a smile. "I'm sure Harry will appreciate that."
"Also, I wanted to ask if you wouldn't mind showing me -- that is to say, I know Harry took Ron around the Muggle shops near Sandust," Arthur said. "As a curiousity, I'd like to see them too, but I'd rather not get into trouble without a...well, a guide."
"No trouble at all," Sirius said, over Remus' shoulder, as he passed him the letter for Molly. "Drop by anytime."
"Ta, lads," Arthur said, giving them a jaunty grin as he and Disapparated from their doorstep. The pair of them stood there for a minute, looking out, before Sirius closed the door, slowly. He turned, and leaned against it, crossing his arms.
"What do we do now, Moony?" he asked, handing Remus the books. Remus set the books down on the hall table, and tried to breathe. Sirius was giving him a look that made it difficult.
"Tea," he said finally. Sirius blinked. "I need tea," he repeated.
"You do realise you're compulsive about tea?" Sirius asked, following him into the kitchen.
"You're compulsive even for an Englishman."
Remus filled the kettle with water, and pointed his wand at it. It sparked, and steam began to emerge.
"D'you want some?" he asked, taking down two cups. He heard Sirius walk forward, felt his arms go around him again...he was not going to be able to take much more of this relentless affection...
Sirius' right hand turned the cups over, dropped a measure of loose tea into each. Remus leaned back into him, slightly, covering Sirius' left with his where it slid around his waist. Sirius poured the hot water.
"Sugar," Sirius murmured, picking up the shaker and pouring some into one of the mugs. "Honey," he continued, adding it to the other. "Milk?"
"No..." Remus moaned.
"Drink," Sirius said, picking up the cup with the honey in it, and holding it to Remus' lips. He drank, smoothly, the hot tea warming him. Sirius' fingers made small circles against his shirt, just above his hip.
The mug clicked on the counter when Sirius set it down.
"You don't understand," Remus said, gently and reluctantly prying Sirius' arm away.
"I do," Sirius answered, stepping back. "I do understand and you're just frightened."
"I have everything to lose."
"Yes. And if I lose you I lose Harry -- he's not my godson -- "
"You won't lose me."
"Prove it," Remus said quietly. Sirius looked lost.
"Be you," Remus replied. "And I will be me. And we'll go on for a while. Like we have been."
Sirius let out an impatient whine, a note of Padfoot in it.
"And if you stay, knowing what you know -- at least until the next full moon is done -- then I'll believe you," Remus said finally. Sirius bent his head, rubbed his neck anxiously.
"Fine," he said. "But after that you don't get to tell me what I'm thinking anymore."
Remus felt a twinge of shame and fear, but Sirius smiled, and reached around him to take his tea.
"I think I'll go read a Russian novel," he said loftily.
In the morning, Harry woke to find himself draped across the foot of Oliver's bed, rolled up tightly in Oliver's blanket, while his own sleeping bag seemed to be covering the other boy, who was sleeping properly on the bed, snoring and tossing occasionally.
"Morning, Parvus," said one of the other boys, and Harry slid off the bed. "Sleep all right?"
"Yes, thank you," Harry said politely, digging in his knapsack for clean clothes. The other boy didn't seem at all worried about undressing, so Harry merely turned his back as he changed, packing up his pajamas and laying Frog carefully on top.
"Coming to breakfast?" Percy Weasley asked. "The rest of them'll probably sleep through it, but you can come with me if you like. When're you going home?"
"This afternoon," Harry said sleepily, falling into step with the red-headed boy. "I'm s'posed to go to the Headmaster's office before lunch."
"Right, I can show you were that is," Percy said, as they crossed the silent common room and passed through the portrait hole. "It'll probably be a bore, but you can come to the library with me if you want. I've a paper to write."
"Dark Creatures," Percy answered.
"What're they, then?"
Percy looked down at him curiously. "Like vampires and werewolves, and ghouls, and all. We don't really get to learn about 'em until third year, but we're supposed to write a paper about the different kinds. Sort of a...an overview," he concluded. "It's for Defence Against the Dark Arts."
Harry nodded, and let Percy ramble on, while they found their way down the stairs and into the Great Hall. A couple of early-rising Slytherins waved to him as he sat across from Percy at the Gryffindor table, and he saw Professor McGonagall talking to Headmaster Dumbledore at the high teachers' table.
Once he'd woken up a bit, with help from some really excellent fried eggs, he peppered Percy with questions about his classes, until Percy laughed and said the younger boy could help him with his research in the library. Harry, who had been quickly infected with Remus' love of books, followed Percy eagerly, and helped carry books to a study-table.
"You look for pictures of werewolves I could copy out," Percy ordered. "I'm going to find some facts about vampires."
Harry paged through the volumes slowly, staring in awe at the printed plates of various monsters and magical creatures. Percy muttered to himself, copying things down occasionally.
Harry turned a page, and looked down. There was a cartoonish drawing of a normal-looking man, with a little diagram nearby; arrows pointed to his hands and his eyebrows.
"The only way to tell a werewolf from an ordinary human being is to look for hair on the knuckles and a single eyebrow crossing the bridge of the nose," Harry read aloud. "Though not all werewolves possess both these traits, one or another will usually mani...mafi..."
Percy leaned over. "Manifest," he said.
"Manifest itself in an adult werewolf," Harry finished. "Golly, they look just like everyone else."
Percy nodded. "They're savage during the full moon, though. I heard my mum talking about it once. If there aren't any humans around to attack, they'll attack themselves."
Harry, staring at the illustration of a slavering wolf on the opposite page from the smiling, cartoonish man, felt a sudden shock.
He's just sick, Sirius' voice said.
A vision of Remus, lying on the bed and shivering, covered in clawed cuts and bite marks, rose in Harry's mind.
"But they only change on a full moon," Percy said. "And there's only twelve, thirteen of those a year."
Twelve times three is thirty six, Sirius' voice continued.
Two and a half, Remus' voice replied.
Twelve full moons a year and two and a half years until Harry started school...
One of us has to be human, said Remus, in his head.
Harry let out a small gasp, and nearly fell off his chair.
"What?" Percy asked, anxiously. "What is it?"
"N...nothing," Harry stammered. "A picture scared me, that's all."
Percy gave him a tolerant, slightly condescending smile, and returned to his essay.
Moony's a werewolf, Harry thought, staring in shock at the vicious, frightening drawing in front of him. He could even see Remus' hands, deft, nimble-fingered, tying one of Harry's shoes, and the light-brown hair across the knuckles.
He slid off the chair, closing the book suddenly. "I have to go," he said. Percy looked at a clock on the wall.
"There's an hour yet," he said.
"I need to talk to the Headmaster," Harry insisted. "And get my knapsack."
"All right, do you want me to -- "
"No, I know the way," Harry said, hoping he did.
"Are you sure?"
Harry nodded, and fled the library.
He ran down the hallways, navigating by faint memories of following Professor Snape through the castle, until he reached Gryffindor Tower. Oliver and the others were dressing, and Harry pulled the sleeping bag off Oliver's bed, squashing it up until it was once again about the size of his fist.
"Thank you for inviting me," he gasped, because even Moony being a werewolf was not more important than the good manners Moony had taught him. "I had a wonderful time."
"Are you going already?" Oliver asked, disappointed.
"Got to. I'll be back...thanks again..." Harry called, as he ran out.
He found the Headmaster's office without error, but ran into a problem once he arrived; he could knock all he wanted, but the door remained firmly shut.
"Password," a gargoyle said, and Harry almost burst into tears of frustration.
"Cadbury Creme Egg," came a voice from behind Harry, and Harry nearly jumped out of his skin.
Albus Dumbledore stood behind him, smiling gently. "I had not expected you for a while yet," he said, offering his hand to lead Harry into the stairs that led to his office. "Homesick already?" he asked, going to Fawkes' cage and dropping in a handful of some kind of strange feed.
"I...I wanted to ask you..." Harry stammered. Last time, Oliver had asked permission for him to come stay; Harry was still in awe of the Headmaster.
"It's all right, Harry," the Headmaster said, tapping him with his wand to remove the glamour on his scar, the extra-long hair. After nearly two days of having it, Harry felt strange to feel his own close-cropped cut again.
"Is Moony a werewolf?" he blurted. Dumbledore looked down at him, thoughtfully.
"I did think you might come to that conclusion, though I don't think anyone expected it to be so soon," he said, still in the same gentle tone. Harry thought for an awful minute that the Headmaster might tell him that it wasn't his buisness to tell, but instead he said bluntly, "Yes. Remus Lupin is a werewolf." He paused. "You aren't frightened of him, surely?"
"No," Harry said angrily. "He's Moony."
"Ah, the logic of youth," Dumbledore smiled. "You understand that he can't help the way he is?"
"He's not bad, is he?"
Dumbledore shook his head. "No, he's not. Merely unlucky."
Harry contemplated this. "Should I tell him?"
"That he's unlucky?"
"That I know."
Dumbledore regarded him gravely. "That is your decision, my boy. Now, I believe your guardians are expecting you..." he guided Harry to the large fireplace, and tossed in a handful of Floo powder. "Mr. Lupin, Mr. Black?"
"Here, Headmaster," came Sirius' voice, faintly. "You're early."
"I'm sending Harry through now."
"All right..." Sirius's voice trailed off as Harry stepped into the fire, and announced, "Sandust Bookshop!"