A strangled cry woke Remus up, and he blinked slowly in the darkness. Crisp cotton scratched along his bare chest, and he could feel sticky sleep crusted in the inside corners of his eyes. Blackness surrounded him, and Remus' head felt light, making the world seem ephemeral in the early morning hour. But as he reached up to rub at his eyes, the sheet that had been covering his chest slipped down, and he realized quite suddenly that he was in his bed in the Seventh Year dormitory, the dark crimson curtains of his four-poster pulled shut.
A very quiet groan sounded from his left, and Remus knew that it was coming from Sirius' bed. Rapid breathing, and, yes, he knew what had woken him up. Even if Sirius had been discreet about it, Remus still would have known.
It was a funny thing, really, how all hormonally driven teenaged boys indulged themselves in the exact same activities, and yet refrained from talking about it amongst themselves. An occasional aside from the attention-seeker, and some uncomfortable laughing sometimes, but it was not analysed in the way that Quidditch and lessons and even girls were.
Sirius had always been one of those 'attention-seekers.' While other boys found their own private places to do what they didn't talk about, Sirius did it even when he could be heard. Not that he dropped his trousers in front of the Great Hall and started stroking himself in front of pupils and professors alike, but Sirius had been the type to laugh about it, calling it his 'early-morning ritual' in a joking manner to his friends-to which Peter had just played dumb, James had rolled his eyes, and Remus had coughed, embarrassed, and looked off to study a rather interesting spot on the carpet. Only Sirius could say out loud without blushing that he wanked off regularly without shame.
And regularly was the right way to describe it. Like clockwork, it woke Remus up many, many mornings, most often around the exact same time, about half an hour before it was time to wake up.
Remus wasn't delusional. He knew that James and Peter did it, just like Sirius did. They were just not 'attention-seekers' like Sirius was about it. Remus had once walked in on James during the day, but the curtains were drawn around James' bed, and Remus heard more than he saw. He had walked in, felt his face grow hot at the sounds coming from behind the drawn curtain, and quietly backed out of the room. Peter did it in the shower, and although he tried to be quiet about it, muffled moans and squishing noises still carried occasionally over the sound of running water.
Remus himself also preferred doing it in the shower, and sometimes in the Shrieking Shack before a full moon. It drained his body of some of the anticipation that he felt at changing into the wolf, and it was one of the only times that he found himself alone, for he never let his friends come into the room while he transformed. He felt too vulnerable, so he made them wait outside until they heard that he was finished changing, and then Sirius would push the trapdoor open with his nose to let him out. Sometimes, Remus wondered if his friend in dog form could smell the remnants of the activity that he engaged in before the change.
The first time Remus had woken up to the experience of hearing Sirius doing it, back in Fourth Year, he had thought that it was something different. He had heard a groan, and thought that Sirius might be hurt, or having a nightmare, and had softly called out, "Sirius? You okay?" Nothing but complete silence had been the answer, the groan ended. It had taken only one more time to figure out what the groan was actually for, and although embarrassed by it, Remus decided that he would never mention it.
By now, he was used to hearing the noises first thing in the morning, for he woke up at least once a week to them. This particular morning, Remus waited until a few minutes after that last soft groan signalled the end of Sirius' activity, and then got up to get ready for the day. Grabbing his school bag, he made his way down the stairwell to find Peter waiting for him down in the common room, like he did most mornings.
Hiding a yawn behind his hand, Peter squeezed his eyes shut, opened them, and grinned at Remus. "I'm starving. We don't have to wait for James and Sirius, do we?"
Remus' stomach rumbled, and he rolled his eyes. "We'll miss breakfast if we do, just like last week. Let's go-they'll come down when they're ready." They walked out together, and Remus reached into his bag to pull out his mostly-finished essay for Potions, which was his first lesson today.
They had it with the Slytherins, and one thing that he hated more than the actual lessons was Professor Wauldin, who smelled like sweat and had thick eyebrows that were grown together. The professor had once told Remus in a nasally tone that, "Lupin, your potion is exactly the same vomit-like colour as your hair, and it's SUPPOSED to be green," which had received snickers from the entire class, including his friends, though they tried to be polite about it. He had never been as snappy to his friends as he was for the rest of that day, and at the end, James had apologized sincerely. Peter had brought him an extra Pumpkin Pastry from the kitchens while Sirius had told him that his hair was actually the colour of caramel.
Remus spent a few minutes jotting a few more sentences on the properties of the Aging potion, making his handwriting extra large so that it would fill the bottom of the twelve-inch parchment. Peter took out his own and read it out loud, so Remus could pick and choose things to say that he hadn't already, and he found enough rubbish to finish taking up the last of the space. Breathing a sigh of relief, he stuck the parchment back into his bag and set about preparing a plate of food as the owls delivering the mail came swooping down, blasting the Great Hall with the sounds of fluttering and swishing wings.
Chewing on a piece of sausage, Remus listened to Peter read a headline out loud from the Daily Prophet. Something about the Dark Lord, and another attack. They had been increasing steadily within the last few months, and people were now afraid to leave their houses, or so the article said.
Peter's voice broke off as the paper was snatched out of his hands, and Remus watched with amusement as James laughed, Sirius behind him, the latter holding the paper high above his head out of Peter's reach as the shorter youth jumped for it and missed, accidentally landing on Sirius' foot.
"Ow, Peter! You broke my toe!" Sirius grabbed his foot and hopped up and down on one leg as he wailed out in absolute misery, making Remus and James laugh. He bumped into the back of a Ravenclaw girl who glared at him, while he just smiled apologetically and handed the paper back to Peter, sitting across from Remus. He seized a strip of bacon from the plate at the centre of the table and crunched it between his teeth. Bringing his knee up to his chest and rubbing his foot through his boot, he examined the scuff on the top. "You owe me a shoe shine!"
Peter snorted. "Yeah, right. Dream on, prat!" He leaned away and swatted at Sirius' hand, which had reached up to muss Peter's blond hair. "Hey, sod off! I hate that!"
"You know you love me," Sirius replied back, grinning.
"You'd better tuck in," Remus told him, pointing to Sirius' still-empty plate. "You've got about ten minutes to eat."
James sat on the other side of Remus, across from Peter, and stole a piece of sausage from Remus' plate. "Wasn't there an essay due for Potions today?"
Remus pushed his plate towards James, who eagerly ate another sausage. "Yeah, on the complications of using an Aging potion. Did you finish?"
James shrugged. "More or less," he answered with a smirk, the juice from the meat dripping down his chin. "What I didn't finish, I'll just take from parts of Sirius' essay."
Remus handed him a napkin, shaking his head, forcing his face to take on a stern look. "Cheating, James, really. You'll never learn a thing if you don't complete your own work in a timely manner..." He trailed off while Peter snorted.
"What I don't understand," Sirius complained, "is why we have to write about a potion AFTER the fact. Shouldn't we know of the consequences of taking something before we attempt to make one?" He dug into his bag, which was at his feet, and pulled out some parchment. "Mine's dreadful. I finished it last night. I might have embellished it a bit, though. Do you think descriptions of an old codger taking the potion and having his face rot off and his brittle hair fall out is too much?"
Remus found himself rolling his eyes. "Wauldin loves that gruesome stuff. You're sure to get top marks."
Sirius just grinned at him, shrugging, and then put his parchment back into his bag. "Well, I'll give him something gruesome to love next week. It's a Hogsmeade weekend, and I've saved up a little money to replenish my supply of Dungbombs."
"Oh, come on," complained Peter. "You can't possibly tell me that you've thought up a place to leave one that you haven't already."
Sirius smiled evilly. "Oh, quite the contrary, my dear Wormtail. I've never left one on his seat in his office, before. So obvious, and yet SO unexpected. He'll probably sit down and set if off before realizing it's there."
"You can't get in there," Remus scoffed. "He has about four or five passwords guarding it, and the doorway's probably jinxed with a couple of hexes, as well."
"My money's on Sirius doing it AND getting away with it," James said around a mouthful of toast. He waved his fork around. "After all, if anyone can, it's him. Remember that time, Remus, when he charmed that bed in the Shrieking Shack to moan really loudly for an entire week last term? Every man and woman in Hogmeade thought the ghosts were randy old spirits, didn't they?"
Remus' stomach began to hurt as he tried not to laugh too loudly at the memory. "I remember Dumbledore asking me who I had taken to the Shack, and whether or not I had been taught the precautions of safe sex."
"That prank was brilliant," Peter said through his laughter, wiping his eyes. "You know, Sirius, you should make whatever Dungbomb you put on Wauldin's chair semi-permanent, somehow."
Remus noticed Sirius' eyes light up at the challenge. The blue eyes focused on him. "Remus, you know any spells that could make it stick, and not come off of his robes for, say, a few days?"
Smiling at the image of Wauldin walking around with soiled robes, Remus nodded. "I can think of one, but Wauldin's not that stupid. If it explodes all over his bum, he'll just change into a different robe."
Sirius smirked. "Not if I nick them all, first."
The four laughed, and Remus looked forward to the following week, if only to see if Sirius was able to get away with such a prank. Sirius had the courage, of course, but sometimes the dark-haired boy was a little too rash in his plans.
But it wasn't as if Sirius were out to kill someone. He just wanted to play a harmless prank, so if he got caught, so what? It certainly wouldn't be the first time that he had come close to being expelled, and Remus really didn't think that Dumbledore would let one of the most clever students in the school be expelled so close to the N.E.W.T.S.
"I can't wait for next week, then," Peter said, breaking Remus' train of thoughts. "Is it really only Tuesday?"
"Now the rest of the week will drag longer than normal," Remus told him with a small smile.
Sirius groaned. "Speaking of Tuesday, it's time to go to our favourite lesson." He heaved his bag onto his shoulder and led the way out, Remus filing in beside him. James and Peter walked behind them, talking about the upcoming Quidditch match against Slytherin.
"I think we're making Melding potions today," Sirius commented to Remus as they sat down. He got out his Potions book, and Remus put his cauldron on the table in between them.
Sure enough, they were making Melding potions. Professor Wauldin glared around the room, instructing them on how to make it, making random comments that they had to take notes on, and then the pupils worked quietly as the various cauldrons bubbled.
Once, as Remus was reaching for the knotgrass, his hand bumped against something. Sirius' hand was reaching for the same thing, not moving though, and Remus looked up to find Sirius staring at him rather strangely, his blue eyes intense. "What?"
"Nothing," Sirius seemed to shake himself out of it, smiling at him, and grabbing at the knotgrass first, shaking some into the potion. "I wonder what the purpose of THIS potion is?"
"I think, but I'm not QUITE sure, that a Melding potion is supposed to be used to Meld things together," Remus quipped slowly, as if he were talking to a small child. Sirius smirked at him.
"Well, how are we supposed to know if we haven't done our bloody essay yet, smart arse?"
Remus could swear that Sirius winked. "Too right."
Letting Sirius stir the potion counter-clockwise with the heavy metal ladle, Remus looked up at the board, where the ingredients and instructions were still written down. They were using pure silver cauldrons today, and Sirius was adamant about Remus not getting too close to touching his skin to it.
"Have you boys added the crushed Erumpent horn, yet?" Professor Wauldin swooped down in between Remus and Sirius and peered into their cauldron. Remus held his breath, nearly letting it out in laughter as Sirius looked at him over the professor's back, holding his nose, waving the other hand across his face like a fan, his upper lip curled.
"No sir," Remus answered. "We were going to do that last." He reached for it at the same time as Sirius did, again, as the professor backed away.
With his left hand, Remus carefully sprinkled some of the crushed horn into the cauldron. Sirius, too, was adding some, his hand right next to his. Professor Wauldin almost smiled, Remus noted as he looked to his professor to see if they were doing it correctly. They must have been doing something right. In fact, it must have been something fantastic, because Wauldin had a rare twinkle in his eye. Fighting down his pride, Remus turned his attention back to the cauldron, not noticing the potion until too late. It bubbled frantically, and suddenly, the thick liquid expanded out of the cauldron, and Sirius yelped. Remus felt Sirius' hand grab his wrist, but not before he felt the hot liquid hit his skin.
"Bloody hell!" Sirius exclaimed, pulling his hand away from the top of the cauldron, just as the liquid settled down as quickly as it had erupted. Remus moved his burned hand down, too, but it was not voluntary. In fact...
"Well, be careful, class. If you add the crushed Erumpent horn BEFORE the knotgrass, like I said to do, then you won't have this problem. Adding it last will still make the potion work, but as I said before, it causes it to become a little...violent." The professor smiled down at where Sirius' right hand was Melded onto Remus' left wrist. "Tut, tut, boys. See what you get for not listening closely? Leave it to idiotic Gryffindors to screw up a perfectly good formula."
After that, Remus couldn't remember the order of things that happened. Between Peter and James jumping up from their chairs and yelling at the professor, to the entire class laughing, to Sirius shouting as he grabbed Remus' left hand with his left and tried to pry his right hand away, to the other cauldrons bubbling, it was absolute chaos.
Peter rushed over to them, snarling at where they were joined together. "That prat! He didn't tell us to not add the horn last. I was listening!" James found his way over, as well.
"You two better get to the hospital wing," he commented, but with a smile dancing in his hazel eyes as he cast a quick healing charm at the burns on both of their hands. Remus just glared at him.
"Well, I also happened to be listening. There's nothing that can be done except to wait! The professor said that this wears off about a week after it attaches human skin together." He pulled experimentally at one of Sirius' fingers, but it wouldn't budge. He could feel where they were seared into his wrist. "That stupid, bloody git!" Remus had never been so hacked off. "He knew this would happen! He let it happen on purpose!"
Sirius laughed, and Remus growled. "What's so funny?"
"At least it could be worse," Sirius replied, still grinning. "You could have been partners with Snape or somebody, right?" He leaned in close, suddenly serious. "And at least the full moon was a week ago. This'll wear off before the next one."
Peter agreed. "I don't think the wolf would be too happy to have a dog attached to him."
"So...you two will have to sleep in the same bed," James snickered, but stopped as he noticed Remus' glare. "Come on, Remus, you have to admit that it IS kind of funny."
"It's no such thing," Remus complained. "I mean, no offense, Sirius, but I've got a lot of work to do this week. I have to go to the library...and what about lessons? I have Arithmancy at the same time you have Muggle Studies, and I don't want to miss it. And...what about you? You can't write, now. How will you do your own work?"
Sirius shrugged, not concerned in the slightest. "It'll be okay. We'll figure it out. We'll just carry on as normally as we can, and we can take turns as to which lesson we both go to, alright?" He looked around the room, where the professor was waving the other students out of the door as the bell rang, signalling the end of the lesson. "Come on, let's get out of here."
Remus awkwardly picked up his bag and put it over his right shoulder. He was left-handed, and he felt lucky that he at least had use of his writing hand. He had no choice but to follow Sirius out of the classroom, fighting down the urge to hex Wauldin as the older man sneered at him. James and Peter had volunteered to clean up after them, knowing that they wouldn't be able to do it very well on their own.
As they headed to the dormitory, they didn't speak. Remus was well aware of where Sirius' hand was pressed into his skin. He was wondering how he would be able to do his homework, knowing that he would be burdened with Sirius', also. Feeling as if he was dealt the bad hand in the poker game called Life once again, he sighed, unashamed at feeling quite sorry for himself. Sirius just squeezed his wrist, and Remus glanced over to find the other boy smiling sympathetically at him, as if he had heard Remus' thoughts.
They ran into someone familiar rounding the corner to where the Fat Lady was. It was Lily Evans, a Ravenclaw, and James' girlfriend. Her long, curly auburn hair tumbled down her back and her petite but curvy form was not quite hidden beneath her robes. She smiled at them, raising her hand to wave, and Remus, not thinking, raised his left hand to wave back. Sirius' arm flopped alongside his.
"What happened?" Lily asked, astonished, as she took their arms into her hands and peered at where they were joined together.
"Potions accident," Sirius replied before Remus. "It'll wear off in a week."
Lily stepped back, eyeing him. "You don't look too sorry about it."
Remus looked over to Sirius, who was shrugging. "I'm not. I like Remus. He'll be fun to be attached to."
Lily just smiled and nodded, and turned to Remus. "Well, you don't look too thrilled, but it'll be okay. There ARE worse people that you could be attached to, you know." He nodded, sighing, as her eyes twinkled. "I've got to get to Divination. I'll see you guys later. Tell James I said hi." They watched her walk off.
"We'll be late for Herbology," Remus broke the silence gruffly. He tugged Sirius along, past the Fat Lady, through the common room, and into their dormitory. Pulling Sirius along to his bed, he set his bag down and threw the Potions book into his trunk, fetching his Herbology book and dragonhide gloves. Finished, he followed Sirius to his own bed to do the same, and they headed to Herbology together, again not speaking.
It was awkward, Remus thought, walking with his wrist attached to Sirius' hand. They didn't want to walk too closely together, so as to maintain an air of masculinity. But if they didn't walk closely enough, people would try and walk between them, and get caught by their linked arms. Remus kept finding himself drifting further and further away from Sirius, knowing that it just...looked funny if they were TOO close. Boys don't walk very closely to other boys.
It was when the fifth student got caught between them, and gave them an angry look before walking on the other side of Remus, that Sirius sighed loudly. "Oh, hell," he exclaimed, and pushed himself right next to Remus, his attached fingers brushing Remus' hip. Remus didn't say a word. What could he say? 'Sirius, walk a little further away from me, because I don't want to look like I'm gay?' No, that wouldn't do. He was conscious of how they must look, but there wasn't anything to be done about it, so he just kept silent as they walked to the greenhouses outside.
And it wasn't as if he minded THAT much, anyway. After all, Remus was used to walking with Sirius, James, and/or Peter at all times, and this time just happened to be only a little bit different.
The rest of the day was excruciatingly slow for Remus. Every time he wanted to do something, Sirius was there. When he needed to write, Sirius' hand attached to his wrist distracted and hindered him, because it was an unfamiliar weight on his writing hand. When he wanted to eat at dinner, he had to eat with his right hand, which shook with every bite, because it felt too strange to eat with Sirius' fingers coming towards his mouth.
And the worst, of course, was when he had to use the toilet. Thankfully, Sirius was the first to voice his need of it.
"How, exactly, are we going to pull this off?" Remus asked, trying to fight down the flush in his cheeks. Sirius just grinned.
"We'll just stand next to each other and go at the same time," he said. "It's simple enough. I mean, you have to go too, right?"
Remus sighed. It was more complicated than that, and he told Sirius so. "I do, but...what about...er...you know..." He couldn't get the words out, and it was an embarrassing enough situation as it was.
Sirius' eyes widened in understanding. "Shit."
"Exactly," Remus said pointedly.
"Well," Sirius frowned as they made their way to the nearest boys' loo, "I guess we'll also go at the same time, and just put our arms under the wall between the cubicles."
"So someone has to crawl under it?" Remus asked, disgusted. "You'll have to do that. I'm not crawling around on that floor-there's no telling what's been sprayed around..."
Sirius let out his usual bark-like laugh. "You're too paranoid, Remus. The house elves clean all that up."
Remus huffed. "Still, I don't want my hands to touch the floor."
"Fine, I'll be the one to go under the wall, okay?" Sirius grinned over and up a little at Remus, who was slightly taller. "Just don't look at my willy while we're taking a piss."
He danced away from Remus' fist, which was aiming for his bicep, and laughed again. They made their way to the toilet, and Remus, with a red face and his eyes closed almost the entire time, did his business quickly at the same time as Sirius. They didn't speak, Remus tried to ignore the sounds as much as he possibly could. When Sirius crawled back under the cubicle wall and grinned at him, Remus just huffed. They made their way over to the sink, where Remus had to help Sirius wash his one free hand.
The hardest thing was changing into their night clothes. Remus didn't know what to do. The sleeve, of course, could not be made to get off of his attached hand. Luckily, James came in, saw what they were trying to do, laughed, and said a simple Engorgement charm that widened the sleeve enough for Remus to put his head through and shimmy it down his body. Sirius did the same with his own shirt.
Determined to not look at Sirius while changing, because he knew that it was what boys didn't do, Remus pulled on his pyjama bottoms. Ever since Remus had told his friends about his condition, he had gone to sleep without a shirt, as he did while growing up. The scar was twisted and ugly, running in a semi-circle on the right side of his torso, in the front and back, near his waist. But he got hot when he slept, so he sacrificed his dislike of the scar for comfort. Glancing back over to find Sirius dressed in his usual black boxer shorts and white t-shirt, Remus tugged them both to the bathroom.
After they had each brushed their teeth, they walked back into the room and looked at each other. "We can sleep in your bed," Sirius said, and Remus nodded, feeling his lips tighten with exasperation at how hard it was to deal with their problem. The beds were pretty small, only made for one person, really, so when Remus lay on his back, Sirius next to him, his right arm was off the bed. He tried turning away from Sirius, to lay on his side, but now his left arm was bent backwards, and it was uncomfortable after a few blood-draining minutes. Sighing, Remus turned and faced his friend, jamming his head into his pillow. He had a hard time, though, still, because he couldn't sleep on his side without bending his knees. Sirius, who was still lying on his back, was taking up too much room to do this.
"Hey," Remus said softly. Sirius turned his head, still awake, and looked at Remus. He was barely visible, for the curtains were drawn, and only a sliver of moonlight drifted into the crack in the corner, where the heavy crimson curtains met the stone wall.
Sirius seemed to know what Remus was going to ask, and shifted so that he also lay sideways. Now they were facing each other, but Remus was okay because he had more room to bend his knees a little. Sirius also bent his knees, and they touched, but it was still about as comfortable as they were going to get.
"Goodnight, Remus," Sirius said. His minty breath washed over Remus' face.
"'Night." Remus closed his eyes, the warmth from Sirius' clothed chest making him sweat a little, but it wasn't too bad. There was nothing like the presence of a warm body to make it easier to drift off to sleep, he thought as sleep took him, the closeness synonymous with safety.
Even if that warm body WAS a bloke's.