where you've been
Wolves mate for life, you know.
I, on the other hand, did not know that. I didn't know that one drunken night was going to ruin Moony's life. I'm not sure if he knew. He knows now, though.
"And werewolves, like ordinary wolves, mate for life," professor Tiddlywit said, and I could feel all the colour disappearing from my face.
James, one table over, raised his hand. Good old James; he knew Remus wouldn't dare taking on the attention, not on this. "How does this work, Professor? Do they just decide to do it, or is it a magical binding?"
The Professor beamed at him. It still gives me a nasty shock sometimes to realize one of my best friends can get this expression on teachers' faces. "That's a very good question, actually, Potter."
Damned right it was.
"Since werewolves are one, very rare, and two, rarely cooperative when it comes to anything at all, this is a mere theory developed by people who've had many dealings with werewolf packs, but it is believed that once a werewolf have, as you say, Potter, 'done it' with either another werewolf or another creature, there is a magical link between them, but the decision to have sexual intercourse have no magical ties. Of course, this means that werewolves NEVER have casual sex, so in that regard I believe that many of us might have a thing or two to learn from them."
I sank deeply into my seat, trying to ignore the professor's glance my way. This was not a good thing. Not at all.
Remus raised a hand in the air, looking very uncomfortable. "Um. Is there some way to, um, un-do the link?"
Professor Tiddlywit glanced at him over his glasses. "I have never heard of that happening, but it's an interesting idea."
Remus looked down at his hands and I cursed myself from here to hell and back again. What have I done?
"I shall have to consult my books and get back to you on that, young Lupin," the professor said and started to gather up his books. "Remember to read the chapter about werewolves in your 'Exotic Creatures' book and I'll see you again tomorrow. Class dismissed."
I shot out of my chair, grabbed Remus's arm and dragged him with me into the empty Divination classroom. He looked down at me with clouded brown eyes.
"Is it true? What the professor said?"
"I don't know. Maybe." He looked away. "Probably."
"Fuck!" I hit the nearest desk with my fist. Remus jumped and stared wideeyed at me. "Why haven't you _said_ anything?"
"What was I supposed to say? 'What did you get on your Dark Arts test, oh, and by the way, I'm pretty sure I can read your mind'? Lacks a certain something. Like a guarantee that you won't have a bloody coronary!"
"You can read my mind?" My voice rose at the end of the sentence.
He looked away. "Not all the time."
"Not all the -- bloody hell. Can you tell what I'm thinking now?"
Looking back at me, he scowled, his own voice raising. "Oh, let's see, something along the lines of 'what the hell is going on, can he hear this, hey Remus can you hear this, I can't believe this is happening, why the bloody hell did we go and fuck each other stupid I'm never drinking again, I'm joining a bloody convent, I can't believe this is happening!' Is that about right? Like I need a bloody connection for that!"
I gave him a stunned look.
"For god's sake, _Snape_ could have guessed what you were thinking right now," he growled.
"I really hope not," I commented absently. The thought of Snape thinking about us... I shuddered. "I really hope not. Look, Remus, we're going to have to figure out some way to... to un-mate. Or something."
"Didn't you listen to the man back there," He said, voice strangely dull. Not Remus-like at all. "There's no way. This isn't a keep-the-receipt deal. You do this, it's done. It's not --"
"It's not what," I prodded, finally. My voice was gentler than I would have liked. He looked so -- something, standing there. Not quite isolated, just...
I felt like I couldn't touch him if I tried.
Something terrified and whispring in the back of my mind told me I shouldn't try, should sit on my hands and not let them wander towards him, because what if I was right.
I've never been a coward. That's the most important thing I know about myself. I reached out to touch his shoulder; he flinched out of the way before I was even close. Damn those were-senses anyway.
"Don't fucking do that." Still too low, to ragged, but also angry, and I couldn't figure why the hell he was angry at *me*. Like I was responsible for this mess? It wasn't like I *blamed* him. We both drank too much that night. But he should have bloody *told* me -- should have trusted me enough. I thought he did trust me enough. Bloody hell.
"It's not what," I said again, and my voice was stronger now, more fitting. More cutting, somehow, and that felt right.
"You don't get it," He said, whipping round to stare me down. "You don't fucking get it, okay? You're not *like* me. You *can't* get it."
"Fucking hell --" hitting the table didn't even seem enough anymore. I wanted to kick something. Someone. Not him, just -- someone. "Can't you bloody *tell* me? I'm not that much of a dimwit, I'm sure we can --"
"You don't get it, Sirius!" And he was shouting now. Remus never shouts. It was enough of a shock to almost make me forget how angry I was.
"You just don't *get* it! It's not something I can *explain*, that's like trying to explain why the hell I bother to breathe! It's not some bloody *crush*, it's not attraction, that's just -- bloody stupid human things -- you have no *idea* what this is like, okay, so don't come in here demanding that I explain --"
I think he lost his steam by that point. He just stopped, voice growing lower, stood there with hands by his sides. Looking defeated. Another first. All these firsts were scaring me, to tell the truth, somewhere beneath all that bubbling anger.
I couldn't quite find all that bubbling anger right then, all the anger that would have given me some answer for this. He just stared at me, then turned around and walked out of the room, leaving me staring as the door swung shut behind him.
It was three o'clock in the morning when I finally twigged.
Remus didn't _want_ to un-do the link.
But that didn't make any sense. How could he want to stay mated to _me_?
See, Remus *knew* me. No one knew me better than Remus did. Not James, not my parents, not anyone. And Remus... he's the real deal. He's the person you'd want around, whatever happened, whatever didn't.
I mean, sure, he had flaws, whatever. He'd never tell you when something bothered him, and sometimes that felt an awful lot like a lack of trust. He had that part-time eating people disorder. He had the worst taste in music. I could go on and on.
The thing is, you know someone well enough, you learn all of that. You know it by heart. And his are -- his have always been... nothing. Compared to who he is, to what it is to be around him? Nothing at all.
Me, I can do a list on, too. I've known myself seventeen years. It takes about five minutes to see most of my list. Hot tempered, don't much care about what anyone will think, keep grudges to the end of all time, risk taker, don't think things through ninety per cent of the time, and can't be bothered about the consequences even if I do. And I know he thinks I'm too -- ruthless, maybe, sometimes. And he's kind of right.
I'm not some self-hating little boy; I *like* being me. But I don't think I'd much like being someone who's around me. It's strange enough that he wants to be my friend. This is... for life, and much more than a friend; what the hell.
Flash of light; the door opens. Peter, on the bed at the other side of the closet, sighs and rolls, the coils squeaking. I sit up a little and blink at the figure in the doorway. "Moony?"
"Yeah." He stood in the doorway, looking at me for a moment, then sighed and jerked his head towards the door. "Want to come with me?"
I nodded and got off the bed. We walked across the Gryffindor common room and stopped in front of the painting. "Where to?" I asked, turning my head to look at him.
He considered it, rubbing a finger across his eyebrow. Nervous gesture. "The roof?"
"Sounds good. You got the map?"
He pulled the map out of his pants and rolled it open.
I stared fixedly at him as my mind replayed parts of what had happened that drunken night three weeks ago.
Obviously it hadn't been *worth* it, nothing could be worth it, but -- a hazy slash-memory of fingers trailing skin, Strange things. His stomach, his hair, even more out of order than it usually was, and the way his lips felt, the way he tasted like beer.
It might have been worth *something*.
"Are you actually listening to me?"
I shook my head and gave him a blank look. "What?"
He rolled his eyes, and started to repeat what he'd been saying. I heard nothing of it. Looking at his face had brought back another memory. One of him which his head thrown back, panting hard, glazed look in his eyes. Fucking beautiful. He growled, too. Had to have been his first time, but there'd been nothing shy about him. Hell, he'd been wilder than I was.
Wonder what he's like when he's not drunk out of his skull...?
"Not so bloody stupid, that's what," Remus said, folding the map together with hard, jerky motions.
I jerked back in surprise, knowing full well that as preoccupied as I was, I hadn't said *that* out loud. "Don't *do* that!"
"Believe me," he said, the same hard-edged voice, "If I had a choice, I wouldn't."
I gave him an incredulous look. "How can you not have a choice? You don't hear everything I --" vague, chilly suspicion. "Oh god."
He shook his head sharply and started walking away, not looking back, talking to the air right in front of him. "No, I don't hear everything. I'm supposed to have a choice. You're supposed to have a choice. This isn't exactly the real deal, in case you haven't noticed. It's a half-arsed screw up, and just because I can't take it back, doesn't mean I can make it work the way it should."
I hurried after him. "You know how it's supposed to work?"
"Not entirely. I know some of it. Dumbledore had a talk with me last year. And yes, that was exactly as embarressing as it sounds like. I know it's not supposed to be like this." He was still talking to the air and walking quickly. "You're supposed to hear me too."
I stopped. "Come again?"
"Forget it." He pulled the candlestick and the wall swung out to reveal the hidden staircase leading to the roof.
"Oh no. No, no, no. You're telling me that I should be hearing your thoughts? _Why_ aren't I hearing your thoughts when you're hearing mine?"
"Told you," his voice was muffled from the wall, and I quickly caught up with him, hitting the stone that closed the wall. "It was a total cock-up."
"Well what the hell is that supposed to *mean*, Remus? Not all of us got the special edition of the Albus Dumbledore sex talk for magical creatures!"
I didn't actually realize I was all but chasing him at this point until he stopped, abruptly, and I almost smacked my nose into the back of his head.
"I don't know what they told you in grade school, Sirius," he said, his voice suddenly almost as patient as it was tired, "but sex isn't actually the only thing in life. I know that comes as a shock."
I scowled at him. "I know that. And?" I honestly didn't see his point. It was us fucking that had caused this... thing. Wasn't it?
He sighed. "You didn't feel anything, did you? No, of course you didn't. Look, Sir, it's not just the sex. Yeah, it's a _part_ of the mating, but it's not all there is. There's more to it than that."
"Like what?" I pushed open the door to the roof. "Rem?"
He stood on the last step, blinking at me, a bit suspiciously. "Why do you want to know?"
"Gee, I wonder." He just kept looking at me, head tilted a little to the side, and I sighed and stuffed my hands into my pockets, taking a step onto the black tar surface of it. "Well c'mon, Moony, we're stuck with this. We either find some way to take it back or... I don't know." I thought back, uncomfortably, to my realization half an hour ago. Now, out here in the moonlight with Remus Lupin staring right back at me, it seemed ridiculous.
Walking a few steps further from the door, until I could just about see the dense darkness og the Forbidden Forrest peeking over the edge of the roof to my right, I sighed. "Whatever happens, I'd just like to know what the hell is going on, you know? Maybe I'll see something you don't. Maybe -- I don't know. I just don't appreciate being left in the dark, here."
Behind me, I could hear him sigh. We were both barefoot, the tar pleasantly warm under my feet after the frozen floors of the hallways, and I didn't hear him drawing near. Even if I had, I suppose the palm on the small of my back would've surprised me.
"I don't want to fight about this," he said. Turning around halfway, so his hand could stay on my back, I could see him staring off towards the Forrest. "The way I see it -- the way it *is*, it's not you who's stuck with this. It's me. It's my problem, not yours."
The hand dropped away.
I gave him an incredulous look. "'Scuse me, who's hearing who's thoughts here? I think it's very much my fucking problem too."
He didn't say anything.
I placed a hand on his chest and pushed. Angry and frustrated and, and, oddly disappointed in some way I didn't want to think too hard about. "Okay, here's the deal. You talk to me, or I'm going to Dumbledore."
He stumbled back a few steps, then caught his bearings and stared wideeyed at me. "No!"
I smiled tightly. "Watch me."
Remus hesitated, eyes roaming over my face. There was this careful expression of his -- the one I could never read as well as I could the others.
He straightened, shoulders pulled back, crossing his arms against his chest. "I'm calling your bluff."
The nasty pain in the arse factor of knowing someone well enough to find their buttons with your hands tied behind your back and your eyes closed, is, they kind of end up knowing you back.
Not to mention, I realized, now he had an unfair advantage. Not my problem. Bullocks to that.
"I'd love it if you'd just try to keep out of my head, Remus."
A little *too* sharp, maybe. He took a step back as if I'd shoved him again, hands falling to his side, looking stunned. Then, realization, and irritation. "I didn't."
"Maybe not." I frowned at him. "But don't you see? There's no way for me to know that. And I don't want you in my head all the time." In my bed, maybe, in my head, no, I added mentally.
"Let me guess. You got that." I couldn't help but grin. Still angry and frustrated, but fuck, this was getting ridiculous. Sometimes you get to a point when there's nothing left to do but laugh. Or hit someone, and I certainly wasn't about to hit Remus. He was stronger than me.
He smiled back, a bit hesitantly. "Yeah."
I studied him for a moment. Tall and lean, shivering a little underneath the green cloak he was pulling around himself. Brown shaggy hair, bright hazel eyes. I could already guess a little how he would look in ten years, when he'd grown into himself. Self-assured and gentle. Handsome. Not a pretty sort of handsome like Lucius, but a definitely masculine sort of --
Remus was turning even redder.
I had a bright idea. I made sure nothing showed on my face, then said, "Remus, tell me what you can hear of my thoughts the next couple of seconds, okay?"
He blinked at me. "What are you --"
"Just do it," I snapped. Fuck, it was way to early -- or late -- to be arguing with him. Amazingly how stubborn he could be when he wanted to. But this really was my problem too, not just his. Why couldn't he see that? It was getting lighter. I wondered if I could take the chance of sneaking into the kitchen for a snack later. Maybe I could get Remus to nick James' invisibility cloak... Well, I could always dream. Speaking of dreaming, wonder what the chance of me getting an A in Arithmancy is? Or of Menna Meisong dancing naked on top of the Hufflepuff table?
"You think it's too early to be fighting with me," Remus said after a while. "And you think I'm stubborn, and you think this is your problem too, and you want me to. I'm not sure about the last thing. Steal something of James'? Did you know that you think in pictures?" he added, nonsenscially.
"No, I didn't." I sat down, crosslegged, and thought. So you can hear me when I think of you?
He looked a bit startled, then nodded cautiously.
I thought of Menna Meisong dancing naked again.
Remus didn't react. And he certainly would have, if he'd heard that thought.
"Okay," I said, feeling a little uplifted. "So you can hear me when I think of you, but not otherwise. I'm not quite sure how this helps yet, but it's a start. Not that _you've_ been any help or anything."
"Honestly, you'd think you _wanted_ to stay mated to me or something."
"Well, maybe I do! You ever think of that?" he exploded, then looked startled.
I stared at him. He was seventeen and wanted to stay mated to me for the rest of his life? Was he completely off in the head?
"I knew you wouldn't understand."
"How the hell to you expect me to understand anything at all when you won't bloody TELL ME ANYTHING?!"
I think I was half expecting a repeat performance of earlier. I would yell, he would yell, I would yell again. That wasn't how most of our rare fights went, or most of the more common half-assed arguments, even. But it's taken us this far, and without actually giving it any thought, I suppose I figured it would take us the rest of the way.
Maybe he had gotten tired of this new routine already, or maybe he was just too tired period to keep it up. His voice was soft and weary. "I don't see how anything I say could make you understand this."
"Remus -- for god's sake." I sighed. "Even assuming this was about somebody I could actually understand wanting to spend your life with, we're *teenagers*. We're supposed to -- have idiotic crushes and have too much sex and get our hearts broken and, shite, all that bullocks girls are always going on about. We're not supposed to get blody *married* over a one night stand!"
He pulled the cloak more securely around himself, his voice even softer. "You don't think I'm somebody to spend life with?"
I blinked at him. Replayed my latest monologue in my head. Oh, honestly. "I was talking about me, actually."
He blinked back, at that, and I could swear the corners of his lips were twitching up a little. Strangely, I noticed that reflex, usually too deeply ingrained for me to pay any attention -- the way it felt like my heart was this one shade lighter every time Remus Lupin smiled. Not in any wanker metaphor way, in a physical sense. At least that's how it felt.
Then he sighed, shook his head, and the sliver of a smile was gone. "You don't think James and Lily are going to be together for years from now?"
"I don't know." I turned to scowl at the Forest again. This was something we've rarely talked about before; I knew James believed it, I knew he was already thinking on proposing on graduation, and while I've told him my opinion, I haven't pushed and haven't talked about it with anyone else. Not even Remus. It felt... wrong. Like breaking a trust. "I don't think they can know, either. I think it's silly to tell yourself you know who you'll be in ten years, who you'll be with. We're just humans, not even clairvoyants or anything. There's no way we can tell."
"See, though." Not soft, now; still tired, but... there was something there, something in his voice, that I couldn't define at all. I turned to him, a shadow in the darkness, the pale skin of his hands over the cloaks, slips and slivers of his face, just barely showing through. I didn't have to see his eyes to know how they looked, golden hazel, just almost lighter, more golden, than natural eyes. "I'm not human. Not -- not on this. This isn't the real thing yet, Sirius, but if you think it's some sort of a joke, something that'll fade, you're wrong. I can tell you how I'm going to feel ten years down the line. I can tell you how I'll feel in eighty. It's nothing to do with magic. It's just the way -- things are."
I stared at him for a long while, thinking that maybe. Maybe I was starting to understand what he couldn't explain. I stepped close to him, touching his shoulder gently, lowering my voice. "But I don't know, Moony."
He nodded, a tiny little nod. Barely a movement at all. "I know."
"And this. This. _Thing_ isn't fair to me."
He nodded again. "I know."
There was an odd hitch in his voice, and I looked up, searching his eyes which were turning suspiciously blank. "Moony?"
"I just wanted to feel you. I just." He pressed his lips together and gave me an almost pleading look. "It wasn't that wrong of me, was it?"
I tightened my grip on his shoulder and shook my head. "No." I smiled at him, then looked on with alarm as a tear rolled down his chin. "Oh, don't cry. Please, don't cry."
He sniffed and brushed a hand across his face. "I didn't intend for you to find out. I thought. I thought it would be okay, as long as you didn't know."
"You should have told me right away," I said. "But I think I'm starting to understand why you didn't."
Somewhere behind the tears, there was an almost-silent, harsh laugh that made his shoulders quiver once. "How could you? I don't even understand it. Not completely. It's not like I sat and planned for this to happen, you know."
I nodded, slowly, my hand still tight and steady on his shoulder. "But it also wasn't as out of the blue as it seemed, right?"
"Maybe not," he said, not looking at me, then shook his head again; perhaps realizing how ridiculous it was to claim ignorance this late in the game. "I never planned on -- doing anything about this. I'm not stupid, Sirius. A whole life spent knowing the one person I should be with isn't a possibility isn't exactly my highest aspiration in life. Werewolves... we mate for life, we're meant to mate for life. Sixty years of yearning isn't exactly healthy for the soul, human or not."'
"Then why did you do it?" Eyes on him, hand still on him. Too late in the game for either of us to run away and hide; I wouldn't leave him alone with this, not if I had any choice. Fucked up situation or not, this was Remus.
"What are we going to do?" I whispered when we'd both been silent for a while and the sun starting to climb in the sky.
"I don't know, Padfoot." He reached out and brushed a lock of hair behind my ear, caressing my chin lightly before letting his hand fall down again. "I guess we should just wait and see what professor Tiddlywit has to say, and then maybe go to the library..."
"Yeah." I nodded in agreement. We stood there for a while longer, leaning slightly towards one another.
I really didn't like hurting him, I thought as I turned away and started walking towards the door, knowing that we had to get back to the dorm before everyone woke up. I really didn't. But I was seventeen. He was seventeen. This was impossible.
Something in me yearned for this, though -- this faith, the confidence in a future that would go the way you wanted it to. I wished I could have believed whatever happened to me, wherever I went, I would carry Remus Lupin with me -- I had that belief in him, in James, as friends. But not in something as fickle as love, and I wish I had that.
I wished I could have given him the illusion.
"Good night, Rem," I told him outside our room, turning to look at his face in the half-light of the hall before going back to the complete darkness of it.
A hand on my cheek, and that was somehow so unexpected I didn't even say anything -- not that I had any idea of what I would have said anyhow. A smile, as gentle as his voice had been, rueful and silent. It still made my chest feel like my heart was a ligther weight, just for a moment, swimming between my ribs.
His lips on mine were sweet, without the taste of alcohol and laughter. Salt and silence and Remus, sweet and utterly familiar.
"Good night," he said and walked inside, waiting for me before he shut the door again.