Summary: Seven years. Seven birthdays. Many gifts.
Fandom: Harry Potter
Title, Author and URL of original story: Happy Birthday Remus by chicleeblair
Notes: Thanks so much to mommanerd for a great beta and handholding.
The first time Remus had woken him up with one of his nightmares, it was only the third day of school. After the shock of being sorted into Gryffindor, not to mention the torture he’d since endured at the hands of some of his Slytherin "friends" and relatives, Sirius hadn't been sleeping very well. Of course it was just when he'd managed to finally nod off that night that Lupin started with the thrashing and the moaning. Sirius had marched over to his bed and shaken him awake, ready to tell him to shut the bloody hell up - until he saw the look of absolute terror in Remus' eyes. Like the sodding hounds of hell were after him.
Lupin wasn’t anybody, really. Sirius had never even heard of him before coming to Hogwarts, but he had been nice to Sirius the past few days, even when Sirius had snapped at him to mind his own damn business. It bothered him to see Remus so scared. He felt this insane need to do something, but he didn't know what. So Sirius did the first thing he could think of - he made a joke. And Remus had smiled at him, and the fear in his eyes had gone away.
Now it was months later, and Remus was still having nightmares. "I was dreaming again?" Remus asked, rubbing his eyes and pulling out of the gentle hold Sirius had on his upper arms.
"That's what you get for eating all that chocolate birthday cake right before bedtime. Bound to give you nightmares." They both knew that it had nothing to do with the cake, though.
"Sorry if I woke you. Again."
"Nah. I was up to use the loo and saw you thrashing about. Didn't want you to strain something. Good thing James and Peter sleep like the dead." The two of them produced loud snores right then as if to emphasize his point, and he and Remus shared a giggle. "What was it about this time?"
Remus sat up and rubbed the back of his neck. "Don't remember," he said, looking away.
He always said that. And it was always a lie. Just like the mum who so often fell ill and the relatives who mysteriously died, causing Remus to miss school. And uncharacteristically, Sirius never called him on it. Remus wouldn't lie to him unless he had to. He didn't know why he was so sure of that, but he was.
"Think you can go back to sleep now?"
Remus drew in a breath and gave him a shaky smile. "Sure, of course."
"Well, I don't think I can. You've gotten me all awake, now. Maybe you could read one of those Muggle books of yours to me for awhile? That'll be sure to make me nod off." He winked, and Remus gave him a light punch in the arm.
"Well, I guess I owe you that much."
Sirius lay down on top of the covers while Remus took a book called Treasure Island off his nightstand. "Thank you, Sirius," he said softly.
"For what? Allowing you to bore me to death? It's my pleasure, really."
Remus looked over at him, eyes dark and solemn and older than his just-turned-twelve years. "No, really. Thank you, Sirius."
Sirius felt something warm and bright explode inside his chest, and it caused a heat to rise into his cheeks. He ducked his head to hide the huge grin on his face. "Yeah, well...happy birthday, Remus."
They'd gone and buggered this up royally, hoping to spring a birthday surprise, and instead they'd made Remus feel ambushed. Sirius saw it going pear-shaped as if from a distance, but the whole situation seemed to have taken on a life of its own. They were all talking over each other in their excitement and no one was making sense, not even realizing that they'd backed poor Remus into a corner until the word "werewolf" was finally uttered, and then he resembled nothing as much as a trapped and terrified animal.
"Please don't tell! I'll move out, into another room or something, anything you want! I just don't want to leave school."
How could they not have seen this coming? Sirius started to panic, but as usual, it was James who saved the day.
"Don't be daft," he said, slinging an arm around Remus' shoulders and ruffling his hair. We don't give a lick about your furry little problem!"
"R...really?" He looked past James and gave Sirius a tentative, hopeful look.
"We're your mates, you idiot," Sirius said. "Nothing's going to change that. Right, Pete?"
Peter gave Remus a brave smile. "Right! We think it's actually kind of...cool."
Sirius gave Pete a pat on the shoulder. He was rather proud of Pete. Sirius knew he was actually a bit terrified of the fact that he'd been living with a werewolf, but he was doing a good job of hiding it.
"Really, Remus. D'ya think we'd give you your birthday presents and then kick you out on your ear?" James popped one of the chocolate frogs that Pete had given Remus into his mouth and grinned. "Even if it is a large, pointy ear."
Pete drew in a quick breath, wondering if Remus would be offended, but he just laughed, as free and easy a laugh as Sirius had ever heard from him. And his eyes lost that shuttered look they'd so often had. And that night, when Sirius woke Remus up from another nightmare, he didn’t have to ask him what he was dreaming about. And Remus didn’t have to lie.
"It's alright. Just a bad dream," Sirius soothed, after climbing out of bed and gently shaking him awake. "Dreams can't hurt you, mate. Or anyone else."
Remus smiled in relief, and this time when he insisted that he could fall back to sleep, Sirius believed him.
"You two head for the suit of armor, and we'll try to distract her!" James whispered.
"We?" Pete squeaked. "How did I get involved in all this?"
"You're a Marauder, mate!" James yelled - all part of his brilliant plan, no doubt. "All for one and all that rot!"
Sirius grabbed for Remus' hand and took off at a full on sprint, while James and Peter tried to lead her in the opposite direction. But it was no use. Bellatrix knew who had to have been the brains behind this particular prank, and she had zeroed in on her too-smart-for-his-own-good cousin immediately. Which wouldn't have been bad, really, as Sirius could nearly take her in a duel despite the fact that she had a couple more years of experience. It was just that she was currently a giant vampire bat, and that posed a bit of a problem. He supposed he should have learnt the counter spell, too.
"Sirius! Sirius, this way!" Remus feinted left, then dodged right, almost yanking Sirius off his feet. But the result was that they ended up safely behind the closed door of a broom cupboard in the nick of time, while Bellatrix ineffectively beat her leathery wings against it.
"Lumos," Sirius said, mentally composing his apology to Remus as he did. His wand illuminated the tiny space, barely large enough for the two of them. But as soon as he opened his mouth, ready to say how sorry he was for nearly getting them both killed, Remus burst out laughing. Sirius couldn't help but join in. "Wait," he said, when he could catch his breath. "What are we laughing about?" This sent Remus into another fit of giggles, which only got worse as Bellatrix let out a screech and clawed at the door.
"I just...I just...want to thank you," he finally said.
"For nearly getting you exsanguinated?"
"For the best birthday present ever!"
Sirius grinned. "It was a pretty good one, wasn't it?"
"Are you kidding me? You've been practicing your transfigurations, haven't you? That was a pretty advanced spell. I mean, you turned her into a bat. A giant bat!"
Sirius shrugged. He wished he could tell Remus why he was working so hard at transfiguration, but that would have to remain a secret for now. Especially since he wasn't sure if they could ever get the animagus spell to work. Nearly a year into it, and they hadn't gotten very far. Not nearly as far as he wanted, at least.
"But you know what the funniest thing is?" Remus said. He leaned in to whisper in Sirius' ear, his warm breath causing goose bumps to break out on Sirius' skin. "It looks just like her." Sirius broke up again, and had to lean on Remus so he didn't fall over.
"What gave you the idea, anyway?" Remus asked.
"You mean other than the fact that she's an evil..."
"Yes, other than that," Remus said.
"Just wanted to make you smile." Sirius reached up and touched the corner of Remus' mouth. "I like your smile. And I don't see it enough." It was a heady feeling, being able to coax a smile from Remus Lupin, as a Remus smile was a rare and precious thing. It seemed Sirius had become a bit addicted to them.
Remus' eyes widened, and Sirius realized that he had probably said or done something he shouldn't have. He opened his mouth as if to say something - anything - but at that moment the door flew open and a very angry, very human Bellatrix Black pulled Sirius out into the corridor by the collar of his robe. What a relief.
"Why you little..."
"That will be enough, Miss Black. Please unhand your cousin." Professor McGonagall looked down her nose at the both of them, but Sirius would later swear that he had seen her wink at him when Bella's head was turned. He was sure of it.
"But, but Professor! Do you know what he did to me?"
"I know very well, Miss Black. Whom do you think just performed the counter spell? And rest assured that Mr. Black will be punished." She turned towards Sirius. "Thirty points from Gryffindor! And a week's detention, sir."
"Yes, Ma'am," Sirius agreed. As far as he was concerned, he'd gotten off easy. And the reaction he'd gotten from Remus had made any consequence worth it.
"That's it?" Bellatrix was fuming.
"Yes, Miss Black. That is the punishment I've deemed suitable to the crime. And should you choose to take matters into your own hands, I'm afraid I'll have no choice but to take that personally. I suggest you return to the Dungeons and try to forget this unfortunate, but ultimately harmless, incident."
Bella rounded on Sirius. "I will not forget, little cousin. Not for a moment." She then fled down the corridor in a dramatic sweep of her robes, pushing past James and Peter as she did so.
"She really does look like a bat, doesn't she?" James asked. Remus and Sirius just looked at each other and laughed.
Sirius sat next to Remus' bed and took a good, long look at him. It wasn't often he had the chance to just...look, and he didn't want to examine too closely why he felt the need to do that so often these days. But Madame Pomfrey had just sighed and glanced the other way when he'd snuck in, so he knew even before he saw him that the night must have been a rough one. Remus looked so pale and thin he practically disappeared into the hospital bed. His arms were wrapped in bandages nearly the same color as his fair skin, and his tawny hair and the dark lashes against his cheeks provided the only contrast to the crisp, white sheets that covered him.
Sirius felt the sting of tears behind his eyes. The animagus spell was probably a stupid idea. It was extremely difficult, and he felt like he and James were wasting all their time trying to help Peter in a lost cause. This was so unfair, what Remus went through every month, and Sirius felt helpless. And Sirius Black didn't like feeling helpless.
Sirius took his hand, the heat radiating from Remus' skin giving him some comfort. Sirius noted the long, elegant fingers and the callous from Remus' quill on one finger. His heart ached at the traces of blood still beneath his nails.
"Hey you," Remus said, and Sirius released his hand quickly, embarrassed at being caught.
"Hey! You're awake." He attempted to smile, and must've failed miserably.
"Do I look that bad?" Remus' voice slurred slightly from the sleeping and pain potions he'd been given.
"No worse than usual," Sirius teased.
Remus smiled. "Ha, ha. Don't you have class?"
"Couldn't let the day go by without wishing you a happy birthday, could I?"
"Oh, that's right," Remus said, eyelids fluttering. "Happy birthday to me. Where's the party?" Even injured and drugged, you could always count on Remus for a little well-placed sarcasm.
"I know you probably don't feel much like celebrating right now," Sirius said, "but when you get out of here we'll have one bloody good party, alright? The house-elves are already cooking something up. All your favorites."
"Sure, okay. But Sirius?" He could barely keep his eyes open.
He took up Sirius' hand again and held it firmly in his own. "I'm glad you're here now."
His eyes fluttered closed and he was asleep again in seconds, but Sirius said it anyway. "No place I'd rather be."
He was going to make that bloody animagus spell work if it killed him.
When Sirius became a dog, his senses underwent a change as much as his outward appearance did. He might've seen fewer colors, but the improvement in his senses of smell and hearing more than made up for that. Even from the stairwell, for example, he could smell Remus' familiar, delicious scent and the ink dripping off his quill as he worked on his essay. He could hear his yawn because he was still recovering from last month's transformation, as well as the scratch of that same quill against his parchment. Even these mundane things were exciting to him, all the more so because it was Remus! Remus, Remus, Remus! His tail thumped loudly against the walls of the stairwell, and he practically danced on his four paws.
"Sirius, calm down!" James scolded. James was no fun. Sirius barked at him, and James rolled his eyes.
"Hush, Sirius! He's going to hear you! And I need to concentrate!" Pete closed his eyes. Pete needed to concentrate to transform. Pete looked constipated.
"Performance anxiety," James said, winking at Sirius.
Sirius couldn't wait. He smelled Remus, he heard Remus, he needed to see Remus! He bound down the stairs and into the Common Room, skidding across the wood floor and stopping just in front of his feet.
"Well, hello there!" Remus grinned. "I thought I heard barking. Who are you, and how did you get into the castle?"
Sirius nosed his hand, and Remus pet him, threading his fingers through his thick, black fur. Remus laughed. "You're a very handsome boy, aren't you?"
Sirius barked his agreement.
Peter scurried up next to them a moment later, ears and whiskers twitching, before James entered the room with a knowing smirk on his face.
Remus listened to his explanation with astonishment and disbelief, but when Sirius put his big paws on Remus' shoulders and looked into his eyes, he could see that Remus recognized him. When Sirius transformed again, his arms around Remus' shoulders, he could feel him trembling.
"Now we can be with you when you transform," James said.
"And you won't have to be alone," Sirius added. He could see tears shining in Remus' eyes.
“I don’t know what to say. I don’t know how to thank you...”
"Never mind that. It’ll be fun! And I'm an animagus too - a stag. I just can't transform here in the common room as I'm too big. Much, much too big," James said. "Huge, in fact."
"Think you might be making a bit much of the size thing, James," Sirius said, winking at Peter, who was looking more like himself now.
"Oh, you think?" Peter asked. "Rat, here!"
Sirius pulled an exhausted and overwhelmed Remus to his feet, keeping his arm around him as they made their way upstairs and to bed. Sirius waited for the protests he usually heard: "I'm fine, I'm not a bloody invalid!" were the usual laments. But this time Remus seemed content to lean on Sirius.
"You should be asleep," Sirius said, when Remus padded over to his bed a half an hour later. Sirius was sitting up, reading by the light of his wand. He set his book aside.
The bed dipped as Remus sat down on the edge, eyes shining in the semi-darkness. "How long did it take you to figure out?"
"A while," Sirius said. Remus gave him a look, and he sighed. "Close to three years."
"Merlin, Sirius. That was an incredible amount of work. And you all could get in a lot of trouble because of it."
Sirius grinned. "I know. That made it all the more appealing."
Remus laughed softly. "Well, of course it did." He placed his hand on top of Sirius'. "I can't even tell you what this means to me. I know this must've been your idea, and I just don't even know how to..."
"You don't have to say anything," Sirius said. "About killed me, seeing you so hurt every month and I..." His eyes started to water, and he looked away, angry with himself. He took a deep breath and met Remus' eyes. "I don't like to see my friends hurt."
Remus leaned forward and embraced Sirius for a long moment, kissing his cheek softly before getting up and crossing the room to his own bed.
"Yeah?" Sirius asked, surprised that he was still able to form words.
"I really wonder how you're going to top this next year."
Their soft laughter echoed in the otherwise silent room.
Sirius did not for a moment regret leaving home and moving in with James and his family. He didn't belong at Grimmauld Place anymore, if he ever did. But the howlers his dear mum continued to send him on a regular basis were growing tiresome. This latest one was worse. It had come two days ago, informing him and everyone else who happened to be in the Great Hall at the time that his father was seriously ill and he was to blame for it. He'd searched out his brother to see if the news of his father's illness was true, and knew that it was when he saw Reg's tearful eyes, just before he stomped away.
Sirius had been as scarce as possible ever since, going to class and disappearing afterward, not eating meals with his friends or even talking to them if he could help it. He knew they were only trying to help, but he didn't want to talk about it. He didn't want to be distracted. He didn't want to get over it. He just wanted to be left alone, and they didn't understand. So he avoided them as much as he could, sneaking down to the kitchen after hours, letting the house elves fuss over him, and then crawling into bed after everyone was already asleep. Tonight he was in the Astronomy tower, looking up at the stars. His namesake, and his father Orion's were right there, bright in the night sky.
"I'd say a penny for your thoughts, but I'm sure they're worth much more than that." Sirius looked up, startled, to find Remus smiling down at him. He held up the map. "I've waited three days to use this thing, and I wouldn't let James or Pete come find you either. But I couldn't wait any longer." He sat down on the cold, stone floor next to Sirius, their shoulders touching. "I was worried about you."
"I'm fine," Sirius said, his voice breaking.
Remus put his arm around him and Sirius turned his face into his shoulder, feeling hot tears on his face. He let them come, finally.
"It's not your fault," Remus said after a while. "Whatever's happening with you father, you're not to blame."
"I've disappointed him so. All of them." That he even cared was not something he would admit to anyone else, with the possible exception of James.
"And they've disappointed you."
Sirius nodded, unable to speak, reveling in the comfort of his touch as Remus stroked his hair gently, warm voice in his ear. Sirius could listen to that voice forever.
"You can't pretend you're something you're not, Sirius. That's just not how you're made. And I, for one, wouldn't want you any other way."
That was possibly the nicest thing anyone had ever said to him.
"Merlin," he said, sitting up straight and pulling out of Remus' arms. He was a little afraid of what might happen if he stayed there any longer. Embarrass himself further, no doubt. He pushed his hair out of his eyes. "I don't even know what day it is."
"I meant the date."
Remus smile gently. "The tenth."
Sirius just stared. "It's not. Today is March tenth?"
"I'm afraid so, Padfoot." Remus laughed.
"Bloody hell. I can't believe it! I forgot your birthday. Well, you wondered how I was going to top last year's gift, and here it is."
"It's not!" Sirius ran his hands through his hair, shaking his head in disbelief at this own stupidity. "I can't believe I'm such a selfish git!"
"Sirius, you're not."
"I'm so sorry, Moony. I was so caught up in my own stupid family drama that I completely forgot. I'm such a..."
Remus was looking at him with the strangest expression. "Moony?"
"Shut up," he said. And then Remus leaned in and kissed him.
It was just a gentle press of lips, at first, and Sirius was so surprised that he couldn't even respond. But when he felt Remus begin to pull away, Sirius slid his hand behind his neck and pulled him back. He'd been confused, before. Unsure if he should even be feeling what he'd been feeling, or if it was in any way returned. But now, with Remus' mouth on his, fingers tangled in his hair, he was absolutely certain that this was right. This was good. This was home.
"You're not supposed to be surprising me on your birthday, Remus," he said, when they finally broke apart long enough to take a breath.
"Is this really such a surprise?" Remus asked.
"You hold your feelings very close to the vest Mr. Moony. And here I've been, mad for you all this time."
Remus smiled, a more common occurrence these days, but no less precious. "And I thought you said you hadn't a gift for me, Padfoot." And he kissed him again.
It was meant to be a party, their last celebration of Moony's birthday at Hogwarts, but Sirius did not really feel like celebrating. Things had been strained between the two of them, lately. Sirius had been pestering him to move in with him after school was over, and Remus had been adamant that he could “take care of himself.” As if that was the only reason Sirius wanted him around. It was infuriating, and had put a distance between them that hurt his heart. The recent reports of more deaths and missing persons at the hands of Death Eaters had put him in an even fouler mood, especially now that he was completely convinced that Severus Snape had recruited his little brother to the cause.
He sighed and downed another butter beer, glancing around The Three Broomsticks at the other students there, laughing and having fun. He was torn between wishing he were one of them and wondering how they could possibly be so oblivious to what was going on in the world.
"I'll get the next round," he announced, standing and heading for the bar. He couldn't bear sitting there with Moony and not really being with him. He ordered the four butterbeers, and while the bartender was pouring them, he felt a hand at his waist and a voice in his ear.
"You haven't wished me a happy birthday yet, Padfoot," Remus said. His eyes were a little brighter than usual, and Sirius realized he was a little bit drunk. James must have been sneaking him shots of Ogden’s from under the table.
"You haven't really been interested in anything I've had to say recently," Sirius answered.
"Sometimes I'm an idiot," Remus said.
His mouth quirked at the corners. "You're not supposed to agree with me. Especially on my birthday."
Sirius rolled his eyes and reached for the tray of butter beers.
"Wait," Remus said, laying a hand on his arm. "Just...wait."
Sirius sighed, resigned to hearing the same old arguments once again. But instead Remus took his face in his hands and leant his forehead against Sirius'.
"It's just that...I love you. It's my birthday and people are dying and I think I'm a little drunk and I love you."
Sirius couldn’t help but smile. "I love you too," he tried to say, but Remus was kissing him, a soft, slow, thorough kiss that curled his toes and left him dizzy with desire. "You do realize where we are, don't you?" Sirius asked. It wasn’t that they'd made a big secret of their relationship, but they hadn't exactly taken an ad in The Daily Prophet, either. And Moony had never been comfortable with public displays of affection.
"We're still in the Three Broomsticks, aren't we?" Remus asked, gazing about, a little confused.
"Yes!" Sirius laughed. "You make a very adorable drunk, Remus Lupin."
Remus just smiled at him. "So?"
"So where's my gift? It's my birthday, you know. You didn't forget again, did you?"
Sirius shook his head. "Certainly not. But I got your gift a while ago, and then I didn’t think that you’d want it..."
"Well, why don't you give it to me and see?"
Sirius brushed Remus’ fringe out of his eyes. "I'd rather give it to you when you’re sober."
Remus lay his hand against Sirius' cheek. "I'm sober enough, Sirius. Really."
Sirius gave him a long look. "Okay." He reached into the pocket of his robes and retrieved a small, gift wrapped box. Remus took it and carefully untied the red ribbon before lifting off the top. A large silver key lay inside.
"It's a key to my flat," Sirius said. "I would really like you to move in with me. Not just because I want to take care of you, because I‘ll admit it, I do. But also because...I want you to take care of me." He pressed a kiss to Remus’ lips. “We should be taking care of each other.”
Remus picked up the key and held it in his palm as if it were made of the world’s most precious metal before folding it into his hand. The smile he gave Sirius was one of pure happiness. And just a touch a mischief. "And here I thought it was the key to your heart.”
Sirius laughed. "You've already got that, Moony. You've had it all along."