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.)
It was the third full moon since Harry had come to live with them, and things were not getting easier.
Remus had expected that at least the years of Changing with Padfoot around would have taught him some self control, in that he felt more...more himself, when he was with someone else who was both animal and human. He'd feared that the opposite would be true, as well, that the years of not having to control himself would result in having no control.
The truth was somewhere in the middle; it was just like it had been when he was a young boy, only now he was more conscious of what happened when he Changed -- he couldn't stop himself from clawing and biting, but he remembered it more clearly afterwards.
This was not exactly a comfort when he found himself on the hard, dusty floor of the Shrieking Shack, and had to slowly pull himself up onto a bed, uncoordinated, half-blind, and nauseated.
He was nearly asleep, so exhausted that breathing was an effort, when he heard the sound of someone Apparating into the dim, dusty room. He didn't have the energy to move.
"Give me the day, Pads," he said, appalled at how little sound actually made it past his cracked lips. "Come back tonight. I can't travel right now."
"I didn't come to take you home," Sirius said, and he heard him draw closer. "I wanted to see how you were."
"I'm okay. Where's Harry?"
"School. Molly's taking the boys and Ginny on a picnic."
"Harry'll like that," Remus said, trying hard to concentrate on the words, and what they meant. "I'm fine, Pads. Just sleepy."
There was a brief rush of cold air, and he hissed; then warmth again, under the thick, ratty old blanket that had been in the Shack time out of mind. A separate warmth, human and physical, pressed against his back.
"Shh. I read about this," Sirius said, body molding to his angular lines, knees curling against his. "You know, your whole body's one big heating pad, right? And heat's good for healing."
"You're mad," Remus replied, but he let Sirius pull the blanket closer, let the heat of the other man seep into his skin.
"If I were Padfoot you'd let me sleep on the bed," Sirius pointed out. Remus winced, slightly, as Sirius' hand, draping over his hip, touched a sore spot just below the waistband of the cotton pyjama pants he wore.
"Sorry," Sirius mumbled, and Remus felt the roughness of Sirius' trousers on his bare waist.
"It'll heal," Remus answered. The world seemed unreal; warm, to be sure, full of a distant pain, and somehow slow -- as if time was not passing the way it normally did.
"How are you, Moony?"
"You smell dusty."
"Can't be helped."
"I didn't say I minded."
Remus was aware of Sirius' face, pressed against his neck; of Sirius' lips, moving against his skin. He did not wince, this time, when they slid over a healing cut on his back. Sirius' breath warmed his skin, his shoulder now, and the sensitive, uninjured stretch of his neck...
"Sirius," Remus muttered, the light kisses moving closer to his jaw. "What're you doing..."
"Shh, don't worry," Sirius answered. "Just lie still."
Sirius' hand, Remus realised, was rubbing small circles on the mostly-intact skin of his stomach.
"Sirius, you should stop..." he said, turning his head with supreme effort, and Sirius, now propped on one elbow over him, silenced him with his mouth.
Remus moaned into the kiss and fell back, face upwards, with Sirius bent over him, hand still pressed to his stomach, lightly. Sirius leaned forward, moving gingerly, not wanting to hurt him.
"Heat's supposed to be good for you," he said, his body shifting to cover Remus entirely -- jumper soft against him, hands now holding Remus' head gently, thumbs stroking his cheekbones. Remus closed his eyes, too exhausted to do more than feel -- Sirius' warmth, Sirius' careful movements, Sirius' lips tracing electric sensation across his jaw, back up to his mouth again.
"Lie still," Sirius repeated, into his mouth. "I'm here. I'll take care of you."
Remus gasped softly, through the fatigue and the pain and the sudden joy pooling in his stomach at the thought of Sirius, his Sirius, here, caring for him...
He didn't know how long they lay like that, Sirius propped over him, legs and hips lying against his, kissing him, hands on his face -- had no idea how much time passed until he began to feel numb, even to this, as fatigue overcame him. He heard Sirius murmuring reassurances as he slid into sleep.
Sirius felt the moment Moony slipped from consciousness, and drew back a little, moving to curl around his body, covering as much of it as he could with his own. The other man's breathing deepened and slowed, and Sirius felt it slowing his own; he had time to sleep a little, if he liked. Harry wouldn't be arriving at Sandust until late this afternoon.
Moony had said wait until the next full moon, and Sirius was not a patient man. The full moon was done; he was here.
It was different, wasn't it, from women; he knew that vaguely from one rather fuzzy night with James, years ago. For one thing, most women weren't ridiculously tall, as Moony was. There were more angles to his body, fewer curves, though part of that was simply because in addition to being ridiculously tall he was ridiculously skinny, for a man who ate three square meals a day. His jaw was stubble-rough, which was certainly something Sirius had never encountered in any of the many women he'd taken out.
But he was Moony.
Sirius took care of him, had always taken care of him. Since the first day of classes at Hogwarts, when one of the older Slytherin girls was picking on him in the hallway for being the smallest (and for the way, the night before, the Sorting Hat had fit over almost his entire head), and Sirius had made her shoelaces tie themselves together magically while Remus tried not to laugh...
They'd grown up together, explored Hogwarts together -- there had been two or three years when Remus was looking for a job and Sirius was being a useless ass, living off his inheritance -- but then after James and Lily died, and Sirius realised that Remus wasn't eating, couldn't afford to -- Merlin, Moony, you couldn't have told me you were starving?
He paid his salary, kept him company on the full moon, gave him free rein in running Sandust, and in return Moony...
He sighed, and pressed his face to the soft brown hair which was already turning silver. Had he been doing this for years because Moony loved him or had Moony loved him because he'd been doing this for years -- or had he been doing this for years because he...
...or did it matter?
You like girls, Moony had said, and Sirius had replied I like you.
Well, he wasn't going to break Moony's big stupid heart. He liked Moony and liked the sound of Moony's voice and the way he always crouched to hug Harry goodnight and the look in his eyes when he was frustrated and Moony when he was tired and Moony when he burned the scrambled eggs in the morning and then ate them anyway, and he liked how Moony's body felt against him.
The idea of a life where Remus Lupin wasn't the one behind the counter at Sandust was a chilling one. He would do what he had to, to keep the happy life he'd built.
"Moony," he said softly, and felt the other man shift to curl closer to him. He repeated the name, over and over, soothingly.
"Pads," Moony muttered softly, in his sleep.
Remus woke to the comfortingly familiar sound of Sirius counting his press-ups, and drowsed his way through Sirius counting his sit-ups before bothering to move. He was warm, and surprisingly comfortable; not nearly as sore as he'd been the past two Changes. Perhaps he really was getting used to it. He vaguely remembered the morning after the Change, being bundled up by Sirius and brought back to the flat, and the usual trauma, the shakes, the pain, the half-consciousness; seeing the sunlight now on the floor of their bedroom, it was probably morning again already, day after the Change. Moon waning.
He pondered, watching Sirius through slitted eyes as he performed some kind of bizarre slow-motion martial arts.
A strange memory from the day before floated to the surface, and he prodded it, while his hands explored the few vicious wounds still healing on his ribcage and hips.
It wasn't as though he'd never had dreams about Sirius before. They spent all their time together, after all. And it was true that his dreams did tend to be more vivid around the full moon. But that one, sometime between Changing and waking again to Sirius bringing him home, had been...particularly so.
Well, obviously he'd heard Sirius talking and worked it into a dream, or some such.
He gingerly pushed himself up, carefully noting just where it hurt. Less stiffness in his back than usual. Good shoulder rotation. He turned his head.
"Daft underwater kung-fu," he said, in a hoarse voice, and Sirius at once dropped what he was doing, like a puppet with its strings cut.
"Good morning," he said, and Remus thought he detected a note of caution in his voice. "Sleep well?"
Remus rolled his shoulders. "What time is it?"
"Coming on ten. Feel all right?"
"Sort of." He shook his head to clear the last of the cobwebs from it. "I had strange dreams."
"I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself -- "
"Yes, yes," Remus cut him off, a trifle irritably. "That was bad dreams, and you're not allowed to inflict Shakespeare on me until at least after tea."
Sirius shrugged and tossed him a shirt from a nearby chair, following it with underwear and trousers, turning so as to give him some privacy as he dressed.
"Close up Sandust for the day?" Remus asked, buckling his belt. Sirius heard the clasp, and turned to look over his shoulder.
"Just the morning. Thought I'd see you with lunch and then go in and do a half-day. Got to pick up Harry, anyhow."
"Mm. He only has another week of school, you know."
"I know," Sirius said calmly. "I've been talking to the Weasleys about it. He's going to see the Cup next weekend, at Hogwarts, and then I thought perhaps we'd...do something."
"You can't take him to a game yourself, Sirius, you -- "
"No -- I know," Sirius said, and Remus saw a wistfulness in his face that made him turn away, as if he were seeing something he had no right to intrude on. "But -- we can do Muggle things. A touristing trip, somewhere. Italy or Egypt or something."
"Well, I'd be happy to run Sandust," Remus offered. Sirius threw himself onto the edge of the bed, flopping back to stare at the ceiling.
"I was hoping you'd want to come along," he said. "You've been all over, you'd know where to go."
"The places I go aren't really hot tourist spots."
"Well, if you don't want to come, don't feel you must," Sirius answered crossly. Remus was silent, wandering into the bathroom. He never really felt functional in the morning until he'd had a shave.
He examined himself in the mirror, not entirely displeased; he didn't look so much like a walking skeleton as he sometimes did. He touched the corner of his jaw, and suddenly flinched.
The memory crossed his mind so fast he almost missed it. Sirius' lips on his jaw, at the precise point where the joint was, where the muscles bunched and ached after a night of trying to keep them from latching onto his own skin as a wolf.
Sirius lying in bed with him, not only in a dream set in the Shrieking Shack but in his own bed here, as well. Perhaps part of the same dream. Waking twice to find Sirius' arms around his body --
He lifted his shirt, unsure what he would find; nothing but fast-healing dark patches which had been nasty open wounds yesterday.
He probed his memory, laying out the day's events like tools on a surgeon's tray.
He had woken from the Change and crawled into bed, dreaming of Sirius. Woken again to muscle spasms and aches that had made it nearly impossible to stand, even with Sirius supporting him. A few fuzzy moments which must have been their Apparation onto his front step. The sight of Sirius' fingers wrapped around the key to the front door. Bed. Pain. Tremors.
Harry's voice, high and childish, comforting as he and Sirius brought in some dinner. The odd, unpleasant tang of soup broth, irritating his dry throat, followed by cold water -- one of Sirius' hands on the back of his neck while the other hand held the cup to his mouth. Stumbling into a bath, at least able to do that on his own, which allowed him some shred of dignity. Then cotton pyjamas and hot tea with a shot of firewhiskey in it.
Slipping back into sleep and...and dreaming again, the same dream in a different place, warm bodies pressed together, hands covering his.
And then waking this morning to Sirius' usual routine.
He gave up on the mystery and lathered his face, shaving carefully around a small scar, sharp bones, slightly-twitching lips. He almost felt good enough to go in to Sandust himself, and said as much to Sirius, as he patted his face dry.
"You should rest," Sirius rumbled. "It's not like I'm going to dock your pay, you know."
"I like work," Remus answered softly. "And it's nice to be there when Harry comes in."
Sirius was silent for a while. Remus sat on his bed, elbows on knees, thinking.
"Hungry?" Sirius asked, after a while.
"Not really." Remus considered things. "Do I talk much in my sleep?"
Sirius sat up, forehead wrinkling in perplexity. "Not that I've ever heard. Why?"
Remus shrugged. "Just curious."
"Dream about Peter again?"
"No," Remus replied, cheeks reddening slightly. "Other dreams. Nothing really."