“Sirius?” Remus knocked on the bedroom door lightly, in case Sirius really was asleep. It seemed unlikely, given Sirius’s usual – and unusual – hours, as of late, but he’d been so cautious around Sirius for these last few months, it seemed natural to extend the courtesy further. He listened for movement, and when no sound came, he almost retreated back to his own room. Or, at least, he had wanted to, but found himself standing quite still. And still no noise, no rustle, no invitation. Was Sirius even inside? He breathed in, and braced one hand against the heavy oak door. Only one way to find out. He twisted the knob and pushed; the door gave way.

The only light was coming from the outside: Sirius hadn’t pulled the heavy drapes closed, and there had been no need to. Nobody would see the inside of this house, in any case. The window was propped slightly open, and a quick scan of the bedroom told him Sirius wasn’t inside, after all. Remus wasn’t sure if his sigh was one of relief or … something else. He didn’t feel like questioning it further. He also didn’t feel like getting caught snooping around his friend’s room, so he turned, ready to go back and perhaps pour himself some tea down in the kitchen, when a slight movement caught his eye. Outside. Of course. Sirius was on the roof. Or, at least, Padfoot was. A moment of hesitation, and Remus was propping his feet on the window ledge, pushing the frame open, and positioning himself to leave the room Sirius-style. The breeze was comfortably cool, the London air feeling so different from his home up North, with the snow and the cold sea. Even this Christmas night, it didn’t feel like December here. Not true December, in any case. Not shivering, he climbed out, and moved carefully over the ledge onto the edge of the roof, next to Padfoot. Padfoot turned his head, and the next minute, it was Sirius’s face looking into his own. Remus was about to start discussing the possible dangers of Sirius being out here, outside, out in the open, when he remembered that they were still on the roof of the house. This meant, of course, that they wouldn’t be seen. He clamped his mouth shut and looked away. The air out here was still fresher than inside 12 Grimmauld Place, in any case.

For a long while, they didn’t talk. What could one say? I’m sorry that this Christmas has you down. Or, I’m sorry I didn’t know sooner. Or, I’m sorry. But these were things that Sirius didn’t need to know. Probably knew, anyway, but Remus didn’t want to say them. It was too late. They’d made their amends two years ago, and have had to live with them ever since. So, he remained quiet, sharing the silence that Sirius had extended towards him, almost as an invitation. He hadn’t been called out here, but he hadn’t been called away, either. He was as welcome as he ever was with Sirius. Which is to say, he was welcome.

Sirius was the first one to speak. His voice still sounded harsh to Remus’s ears, not at all like the voice of the boy they’d all left behind. Twelve years of silence and howling at the moon did their job, of course. Remus wasn’t much better off. If he hadn’t been sentenced to a solitary life of talking to strangers, his voice would have sounded as unused and terrifiying as Sirius’s. He was doing his best not to flinch every time it startled him into remembering.

“Couldn’t sleep?”

“No. You?”

“No need. Can sleep anytime.”

And that was true enough. Sirius had time now. A lot of time, too much time. Remus understood that, too. Sirius was restless. Even worse than restless, he was almost reckless. Even sitting on top of an unplottable building, there was still danger. Remus simply chose to overlook it for his friend’s sake. For the sake of this night. Sirius’s earlier antics involving firewhisky and re-written Christmas carols had abated a few hours ago, and Remus watched the progression of sadness steal over him. Watched it like a hawk, and was useless to stop it. They didn’t have much anymore. They had each other; their duties. Sirius’s duty was harsher than his; harder to carry out, if one were Sirius. If one were Sirius, how was one to sit still and not do anything at all? Some days, Remus couldn’t even face it; had to leave, just so he wouldn’t have to see that sadness on that face. Remus loved that face. Not in the same way that he had loved it at sixteen, with passion and desire and reckless joy and sadness. He loved it like a lifeline. He loved it like it was a small, barely living thing, that he had to hold and nurse back to life. He knew it was silly – Sirius had to keep breathing and living on his own, nobody could help him. But Remus wanted to. He wanted to, and couldn’t. Couldn’t bridge that gap, that stagnant and hollow gap that separated them now, had separated them for fifteen years. They hadn’t talked about it, though they’d had every opportunity to. Apart from the first fierce hug upon discovery, they barely touched. It had become like momentum: the more they didn’t talk or didn’t touch, the easier it was becoming to not talk, or not touch. Or, not easier. Simpler. Less complicated.

Or more complicated, as Remus would feel every night, curled up on his own bed, in his own room, with his own curtains open to let in the night light. He was used to the loneliness, but this was different. This was a loneliness one could only feel with another person. He didn’t know if Sirius felt it, too. After all, they didn’t talk about it. Any of it. Not for years now.

“Moony?” The nickname startled him. He realized he’d been staring at Sirius’s hands for the past few minutes, lost as he was in his own monotone thoughts. He tore his eyes away from the bony fingers and looked up.

“Yes, Padfoot?” Olive branch. Some sort of lifeline.

“I -” Sirius croaked and stopped. He cleared his throat, and started over. “Thank you.”

“For what?” This was…this was. Unexpected.

“For doing this. Living here. I know-- it isn’t easy.”

Ah. They’d never discussed why Remus chose to move in. It wasn’t strictly necessary. It wasn’t strictly unnecessary. Remus offered, Sirius accepted. There was no discussion. For months, there had been no discussion. Perhaps Sirius was still slightly addled on the alcohol. Remus found himself unnerved and oddly pleased.

“I see no other way,” he shrugged and looked away. “It’s –“ You, he wanted to say, and I have to be here with you, but didn’t, because that wasn’t strictly necessary, either. And Sirius didn’t need to know.

“It’s…what?” He could feel Sirius’s gaze on him, probing him for answers, like he had done in all the time they’d known each other. His eyes might have been dead and hollow looking, but they were still Sirius’s eyes, and they still held his attention, after fifteen years of dread and shock and confusion.

“It’s…good.” He forced himself to look back at Sirius, and to speak. “You’re here.” Perhaps he’d had some alcohol while he wasn’t looking. Remus found himself talking with more honesty than he had in months; years, maybe. “I like… knowing that you’re here.” He couldn’t read Sirius’s expression. It was frustrating, really, because he always had been able to, before. Things had been easier before. Less complicated. He willed Sirius to speak, to say something, to break this cold air that hovered between them now. It had got colder while they sat out here. Remus hadn’t noticed until now.

Sirius didn’t speak for what felt like five, ten minutes. It couldn’t have been, but it felt like it. Then, Remus felt the first shock of touch. Tentative, cold, sharp. Sirius’s fingers were touching his knee, in a way they hadn’t touched any part of Remus in years. Fifteen years. Fifteen years, five months, two days. He leaned his knee in to the touch, hoping to extend it just a little bit longer, just a little bit warmer. So did Sirius. His entire hand now rubbed against the thin fabric of Remus’s robes, burning patterns into his skin. Remus forced himself to breathe evenly, not to let on just how much he needed this now, how much he had wanted it, before. He couldn’t look at Sirius; not yet. He merely sat and waited and pretended to himself that he wasn’t baiting his breath; wasn’t expecting more.

“Remus –”

”Yes?” His answer was quicker than the rest of his brain. He forced himself to finally look at Sirius. He saw Sirius’s eyes, blue, sad, beautiful, and waited. Sirius looked at him. He looked at him, and Remus looked back, and whatever it was that hadn’t been broken, or snapped, or not talked about or around, was hovering between them, and Remus found no words, and neither did Sirius. Perhaps they hadn’t needed to talk, anyway. Perhaps that had been their mistake. What could they say? But they could touch. Sirius had shown him, just now, that they could still touch, and they could still…feel, maybe. Maybe, there was something left, that something that was hovering just above their minds, out in the cold air. He had to try and see if it could grow.

He leaned in; and so did Sirius. And then, there were cold lips and harsh breath and a snap and they were kissing, slowly, gently, trying not to break each other, brittle and unbending from fifteen years of cold. He opened his mouth more, and so did Sirius. Reaching out a tentative tongue, he felt a familiar slick warmth against it, and he crushed himself against Sirius, crushed himself so maybe that they would break, that they would snap, and maybe, they could rebuild it, rebuild themselves, and each other, in a different way. He felt Sirius shivering and shuddering against him, and he knew they should go back inside, and get warm, and get more comfortable, because, God knew, they weren’t sixteen or nineteen or even thirty anymore, but it would come later, not now, because now was the time to break apart and break away and build it all up again. No words would do it. But another touch could.

He felt a smile against his lips. And answered it.

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