Red-Handed





With huge thanks to Rochefort, who went above and beyond the call of duty, waved her magic wand, made this a thousand times better, and gave me the confidence to put it out there after all. Originally intended for the Fuh-Q-Fest, but really started in Dublin in April of 2003. Bless St. Stephen's Green, my companion and a certain monument that lives among very comfortable - and much visited - grass.

To all the people that made last year what it was, and who will hopefully stick around for the new one.




Remus noticed that their shadows seemed closer than their bodies. It must have been the mid-day sun blazing in the sky, creeping shadows closer to one another, while taking over everything else with light. Walking next to him, Sirius was silent, shuffling his feet almost unwillingly, his books in danger of falling out of his grasp. Remus looked away and walked on, squinting his eyes against the light. They were almost there, on his hill. 'His' because he had never seen anybody else on it, not since he spent an afternoon on its peak with his mother, after he had been attacked in the woods opposite, over a half mile to the west. Now, ten years later, he had spent most of his summer days up in that seclusion, reading, occasionally writing, and avoiding life's problems. What had possessed him to bring one of those problems with him today, he didn't know. As it was, Sirius was still prudently trailing by his side, silent with the promise not to disturb Remus with too much Quidditch talk. While James was away with his family on holiday, Sirius, instead of going with them, had decided to stay within the country's borders and invited himself over to Remus's. Since Remus's family was away as well, this posed little trouble. Discounting, of course, the fact that being alone with Sirius had many potential problems in itself.

However, the week so far had gone without much trouble. Two nights ago, they got quite trashed, and had to sleep it off until three the next day, but other than that, Sirius hadn't proposed much that would get them disqualified from school or in hot water with Remus's parents once they got back. In fact, if Remus didn't know better, Sirius's mood this past week might even have been called 'broody'. It was probably because of his family. Even though it had been a year since he had left them, he could never truly escape them. Regulus had come into Hogwarts two years ago, and had been tormenting Sirius the entire time. The good little Slytherin did the best he could to trip up his Gryffindor brother, but luckily for Sirius, Regulus wasn't nearly in the same league as he was. Still, Sirius could never exact his revenge fully, no doubt remembering the little prick as a harmless baby. He walked away each time. And each time he wouldn't talk to anyone for the rest of the day.

'Well, here we are. Make yourself at home.' Remus dropped his books on the ground and followed them down a moment later.

'Don't mind if I do,' Sirius quipped and dropped down beside him. Shielding his eyes, he looked around, seemingly approving. Remus looked around as well, seeing his hill for the first time through someone else's eyes. Green was everywhere, overwhelming. The light green grass rustled underneath his body, its texture roughened by the summer sun. The emerald leaves of the woods behind them let bits of sunlight shine through, enough to make the woods appear to glow from within. When Remus had been younger, he believed that those woods were magical, full of fairies and pixies. He had since found out that this wasn't one of the magical forests listed by the Ministry, but by then it didn't matter. He had already made it his home.

'Like it?'

Sirius turned back to him and grinned:

'Not bad. Lacks a Quidditch pitch or two, but it'll do.'

'Just another reason why I like it.'

'Lardy-arse.'

'Mindless Quidditch jerk.'

'Bookworm.'

'Imbecile.'

Their daily insults out of the way, they turned to their books. Remus had bought his N.E.W.T.'s prep book last week and had decided to get a copy for Sirius as well. If nothing else, it would shut Sirius up for two or three hours at a time. Now they sat, Sirius looking deep in thought, and shared a sort of comfortable silence, the kind that Remus didn't really think they could have shared.

Some time into their reading, Remus shifted, lay down on his stomach and his foot accidentally touched Sirius's shin. As if scalded, he jerked it away. Sirius's gaze fixed on his, completely inscrutable and terrifyingly blue. Remus looked away and willed his heart to stop pounding so quickly. He wasn't completely sure why that little touch had caused such fear when boyhood wrestling matches had left him unmoved. He wasn't sure why Sirius had looked at him for so long. But Remus, hopeful, maddened, incensed, moved his foot slightly and it returned to its place next to Sirius's leg. He concentrated on his reading once more.

~*~

Sirius knew Remus hadn't noticed his leg move in closer to his friend's foot. He didn't know why he had done it. Remus had seemed to jerk away from the touch as if hit by lightning. But all Sirius had felt was a charge of warmth that left him wanting more. Wanting, as if that was all he existed to feel. He wanted, and he didn't know how to rid himself of that want. He knew of no way to resolve his constant desire, that desperate and mindless force. At times, it seemed like his desires would take over him completely and leave nothing untouched. He knew that he should have been feeling shame along with those desires, because Remus would probably have been disgusted if he'd found out. But something was keeping Sirius from feeling shame. His mind simply couldn't put shame to an image of Remus. Whenever Sirius watched him, all he saw was beauty, a strange sort of presence, remarkable in its power over him. He was well aware of Remus's imperfections, but they were made perfect by the strange presence that seemed to surround Remus wherever he went. It was absurd, Sirius knew that. Remus wasn't particularly tall; he was too thin. He had whipcord muscles, the kind that could have been called gangly. But he had long fingers, and the way they moved with a quill gave Sirius such hard-ons in class, he used to escape to the loo just to calm down. Remus's tanned forehead was obscured by a flop of fair hair now, and his hazel eyes were hidden beneath long brown lashes. Sirius watched as a shadow began creeping up Remus's torso from his book. His thoughts seemed to freeze with time.

The shadow crept up Remus's neck and cupped his chin like a stealthy hand of a lover, gently caressing and possessing at the same time. Sirius wanted to sweep away that ghost of a hand and replace it with his own, solid and warm and real. But he knew that that was no more real than the shadow, because his own desires never seemed to touch Remus or come as close to him as that shadow could, now taking over more of the beloved face. Sirius wanted to turn away and couldn't. He was overwhelmed and maddened, and the madness addled his brain. Unsure of the reason, he whispered Remus's name. When Remus's eyes turned on his, it was like a flash of sunlight. And as if shielding himself from danger, Sirius blinked and turned away. He saw the world in the slight squint of Remus's eyes, some mystery that thrilled and frightened. But it was an impenetrable mystery, the sort that Sirius didn't think he was allowed into. He had a clue to only one mystery, and he didn't think that Remus could ever share it.

Was this love, he wondered, after he had calmed down. Was it? He didn't know. He had no capacity to know, really. No basis for comparison. He only knew that he wanted, and wanted just as easily as he breathed. Love and desire interwove and all Sirius was aware of was the sun, the grass, and Remus's quiet breathing, his brows drawn in concentration. Sirius moved his foot closer still and the leg of Remus's trousers creased with the pressure. Sirius watched its shadows, and, as if through a haze, heard voices intrude on their silence. Before he had a chance to move away, three boys of their age appeared on the hill.

They were Muggles – that was apparent from the start. They were also huge, moving stiffly as if their own bulk restrained them from moving freely. Sirius only had a chance to briefly wonder if those muscles were supposed to make up for inadequacies elsewhere, when, through some sixth sense, he realized that he and Remus had been spotted – and not in a simple way. Whatever Sirius had been hiding deep inside his mind was now clear as daylight, tainted and sullied by a foreign lack of any real knowledge – or the desire for it.

Out of the corner of his eye, Sirius saw Remus flinch. The three boys stopped a few feet from them.

'Well, then. We interrupting anything, Lupin?' The shortest and stockiest of the three stepped forward and gave an unpleasant sneer. Sirius shut his book, flipped it over and turned to Remus in surprise – did he know these jokers? He saw Remus's hands clench in tight fists. His face was wiped blank, completely impenetrable.

'What do you want?'

'Oh, we just saw you and your, er ... friend, meander on up here, and decided to see if we could, you know ... join in on any fun.'

'Fuck off, Moleson.' Remus shut his own book with a snap.

'That wasn't in my plans for today, Lupin.'

'No, I suppose that fucking would be difficult for you.'

Sirius couldn't believe his ears. He'd never heard Remus's voice be so cold and cutting. Were these boys neighbors? Why hadn't Remus ever mentioned them? All these thoughts raced through Sirius's mind as he tried figuring out the outcome of the encounter. He looked behind Moleson, who was clearly the leader of the gang, and saw the other two looking mutely ahead of them. They seemed to be waiting for some sort of signal.

'So, who's your poncey friend?' Moleson pointed towards Sirius.

Sirius's thoughts stopped whirling. 'Poncey,' was he? Forgetting that he didn't have his wand on him, he jumped up and faced Moleson from two feet away. It was satisfying to see the bastard almost a foot shorter than him. He decided not to think about the fact that his opponent could probably lift Sirius's entire weight with his left arm. After all, Sirius himself wasn't too bad in that department – being a Beater demanded quite a bit of strength. Now he'd see if it came in as useful off the pitch as it did in a match.

'Name is Black. Anything else you'd like to know before that nose ends up at the back of your head?'

Within a second, Sirius found out what signal the other two had been waiting for. The punch to his stomach took the wind out of him, but in a second he hit back and punched Moleson in the face as hard as he could manage without any prior thought. He was sure he'd heard his own knuckles crack, but perhaps it had just been the slicing pain of impact. Dimly he was aware of Remus's voice pitching in volume, of foreign arms attempting to lock his behind his back. He fought blindly but surely. A few good punches were landed; he heard a gratifying crack in somebody's rib, and only hoped it hadn't belonged to Remus. He was pretty sure it hadn't, though, because it took quite a few layers of meaty muscle to get to that rib.

Then the punches began landing from all angles – his sides, his back, his face. He was fighting back, but not to rid himself of pain. Through the rushing of his ears he realized that he was fighting to hold on to something, something that seemed to be slipping away with each agonizing breath – the last of his innocence, perhaps, his secret, his dignity, his untainted feelings for Remus. In one minute, it had all come crashing down around him, through somebody else's boredom and blind hatred. He found he could hate too, and his hands ached from trying to prove it. The last thing he remembered before a fist drove him to unconsciousness was Remus's voice somewhere behind him, shouting familiar words that overrode the sharp whisper in his ear. 'Fucking poof, you'll get what's coming to you.'

The world went dark as he hit the ground.

~*~

Remus swore to himself. How could he have been so fucking stupid? How could he have not remembered that he'd brought his wand with him, as his parents had asked him to do at all times, defying all of Ministry's laws? Perhaps it was the rush of hatred he had felt at seeing Moleson and his mindless gang, at a time when they had been least necessary in his life. Perhaps it was seeing Sirius being knocked about as if he weren't the most important person in the world. Or, perhaps, it was from being held back by Moleson while his two cronies worked their magic on Sirius. Why had they chosen Sirius for their beating, why not him? They'd hated him as long as he'd known them, why stop now? Remus shook his head of all his thoughts save one: help Sirius.

By the time he'd miraculously freed himself of Moleson's grasp – he could always count on surprising his opponents with his strength – and got to his wand, Sirius had been knocked flat. At least he immobilized them in time. Remembering Sirius fall flat on the ground, Remus shuddered and kicked all three of them hard with his boot, once to check they were really out cold, and twice more to have more symmetry between Sirius’s bruises and theirs. They'd come to in a few hours, by which time they'd already be nicely baked and stinking of their own sweat. He Obliviated them, for good measure.

Remus allowed himself a moment of satisfaction, before remembering that he'd probably have an ominous owl awaiting him at home. However, with the Ministry being slightly preoccupied these days, perhaps they wouldn't even notice. Remus prayed on the luck of his first offense and heaved Sirius up. He was still unconscious and his head rolled to the side when Remus tried lifting him off the ground.

'Sirius...' He exhaled and looked at the tanned and scraped face. If he didn't know before that it was possible to love something so much, he thought he did now. Something welled inside his chest and he let Sirius slump back to the ground, taking care not to jar him with sharp movement. 'Sirius.' Realizing that he was facing a possible expulsion already, Remus knew he couldn’t use any more magic. He would have to carry Sirius, relying on his strength alone. He sighed and slid one arm underneath the broad shoulders. Adjusting his position he slipped his other arm underneath Sirius's knees and slowly stood up.

Everything hurt. His shirt was soaked through and stuck to his back, imprisoning him in unbearable heat. Taking it one step at a time he tried thinking of anything but the pain each movement caused. Sirius was still out, a dead weight in his arms. He had once envisioned having Sirius in his arms like that, but the circumstances had been so drastically different, it seemed as if life was laughing at him. The way home seemed like hours.

'C'mon... we can make it... we can... hold on...'

It was pointless, talking like that, and he knew he should have been saving his strength for walking, but the silence was pressing on him. He supposed that there was the trouble he'd been vaguely imagining. Yet, even with all the pain and the hatred and the revulsion, something in him shifted. Something broke. He didn't want this to be all he could expect out of life. He had once been afraid of seeing himself fully. But if there existed an alternative like Moleson, then what had he been afraid of? If the world endured such unbridled loathing, how could it also not carry simple love with it? The word sounded new and solid to his mind. He didn't even particularly care if Sirius felt the same way, because he was in his arms, and he felt good. And he had whispered Remus's name. The end of the walk was in sight, and the shade of the front garden trees cooled his brow. He stepped through the doorway and walked to his bedroom. Sirius moaned slightly and hid his face in Remus's soaked shirt.

~*~

Remus lay him down on the bed, looked his fill. Large bruise on the left cheekbone; small abrasion near the temple; hair tangled. One sleeve ripped almost entirely; a tear in the cloth where the nipple now showed, pink, clean. Black eyelashes rested against the cheek like fluttering velvet. Sirius hardly moved, only his chest rose up with each labored breath. Remus looked, watched, gave up comprehension and leaned into the inevitable.

He felt it in a series of moments searing themselves into his consciousness.

Sirius's eyes opening in time with a gasp as Remus closed his mouth over a nipple through the opening in the ripped cloth; the moment of complete silence as the invitation extended waited to be accepted; the large hand wrapping around his head in answer as he rolled them to the side; the dry fumbling of his stiff fingers on the button of Sirius's jeans; the slow slide of cloth revealing smooth flesh and damp, dark curls; the heavy scent of arousal, all encompassing; the beating of his heart in time with Sirius's pulse in his mouth; the sob escaping Sirius as Remus lightly closed his hand around a bony ankle and allowed his throat to work; the heaving of his chest as he lay with his fingers inextricably linked with Sirius's, their hair mingling on the pillow. The wet pressure on his hand and Sirius watching his reaction. The lazy smile spreading across his face, infecting Sirius's scraped cheeks into lifting.

They closed their eyes and a moment later, both were asleep.

~*~

The sun rising was creeping in from behind the closed curtains; Remus sniffed and tried to roll away from the spreading pink light; he couldn't. A set of strong arms was enfolding him, seeping warmth into his entire body. He dimly remembered that he was naked. Something soft fluttered against his neck; a moment of reflection concluded that to be Sirius's eyelashes. He opened his eyes fully. The pinkish-yellow glow infused his room, the white walls like canvas ready to be painted on with a light brush. The curtains seemed to be merely standing in the way of the inevitable. He looked down and saw their legs intertwined – his own with Sirius's longer ones, speckled with dark hair. The bony knees put him in mind of their childhood, the nighttime wrestling matches, more often than not ending in a draw. He looked back up to the window. If only he could open the curtains, but that would end this moment of dreamlike reality. His sluggish mind wasn't allowing him to contemplate anything further than the knowledge of Sirius, holding him. He looked at the left arm around him – there was a nice-sized bruise, purpling the tanned skin. Memories of yesterday stampeded in, taking over his mind for a moment, then retiring to some other place in his consciousness that did not feel quite as much, and he was peaceful once more. What's done is done, he thought. Perhaps they had needed that. Sirius would heal, as would his bruised ego.

'I know you're awake, Moony.' Sirius whispered, as if not wanting to disturb some third presence.

'Hi.' He whispered back, unsure of what else to say.

'Am I hurting you?' Sirius loosened his hold.

'Not at all.' There was an awkward pause; soft breath on his ear.

'Moony?'

'Yes?'

'Alright?'

'Yes.' He exhaled and made as if to turn. Sirius understood and allowed him to roll over, clasping his arms back around his body once they were face to face. They looked at one another for a long moment.

An exhalation. Then, 'God, you're gorgeous.'

Out of shock, Remus didn't respond. Sirius closed his eyes and huffed a little nervous laugh. 'Sorry. Just ... came out.'

'Well, don't let me stop you.' They both knew it wasn't vanity speaking. 'You've got quite a shiner there...' He worked his hand up to Sirius's face and caressed the bruise on his cheekbone.

'Don't remind me.' Sirius sighed but didn't move.

'Does it hurt?' Remus stopped, his fingers hovering just above Sirius's cheek.

'Well, not the skin. Go on.' Remus obeyed. 'I suppose it wasn't my proudest moment.'

'You'll get over it. I wasn't much help, either.'

Sirius's eyes opened. 'You stopped them.' He creased his brows. 'Are you hurt?'

'No, not really. A wand is a wonderful invention. I got in a good punch here and there – I think they were mostly concentrating on you, for one reason or another.'

'Can't think why,' Sirius snorted.

'You're prettier.' It was supposed to have been a joke, and came out quite breathless. Remus wanted to give himself a good kick.

'Well, then. Don't let me stop you.' Sirius smirked and leaned in. Their lips touched, for the third time ever. Remus felt sure that even if they stayed together for years, he'd continue to count each time. Morning breath intruded and they broke apart. A second later, they both leaned in once more and after a while, it didn't matter whose breath was fresher. It could have been hours, could have been years. Neither one seemed to care particularly, and, before long, movement became necessary. The way they fit against each other was achingly right, and after that, thought fled altogether. Sirius's shoulder was smooth, slightly salty, and Remus's tongue drew halting patterns on its surface around his own gasps. Sirius's hands felt good in his hair, squeezing it, stretching it, that wet mouth tugging at the skin on his throat. Remus felt everything stiffening, his bones, his muscles, his very blood, and when everything shattered and began floating once more, he bit the shoulder above him. Sirius's groan was like absolution. He licked the wound he had inflicted in silence.

They didn't speak for some time, merely waited for their heartbeats to return to normal. Finally, on some instinct, Remus looked up at Sirius's face, at last so close, after so long a time. The soft lips smiled at him, the smile reaching those impossibly clear blue eyes. Remus had never seen that sort of smile on those lips before. For a moment he felt bewildered and then everything slipped into place. He let his last defenses fall and smiled back.

They fell asleep once more, their fingers meeting on top of the covers, a yellow ray reaching the wall above them through the curtains.




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