Summary: They have been silent for so long, only their dreams still speak.
Fandom: Harry Potter
Spoilers and/or Warnings: Set during and right after Prisoner of Azkaban.
Title, Author and URL of original story: "A Good Dog" and "Wolf Dream" by inneffabili_tea. Dialog in part two taken directly from "A Good Dog".
The world is dead, and all those he’s ever loved.
Remus puts his nose to the wind, but all he can smell is death. His mouth waters and it makes his stomach lurch. He’s too caught up in the run to stop and transform to man shape and gag away the taste coating his tongue.
Far beneath him the sea rages, leaping up the cliff, reaching for him. Bits of water cling to his fur and his bones ache with cold.
In the distance, a wolf song, and it echoes in his blood, in his pulse, in the rhythm of his paws.
If he could stop running, he could tilt back his head and let his howl ring out. He could add his voice to the song, layer in his harmonic howl. He can’t stop running, even when he tries, even when he tells his body stop and sit and play dead still he races the rise of the ocean and the salt-cold wind.
The melody is gone and all that’s left is the lone howl, mournful and out of tune.
Remus outruns the cliff and his paws strike air and then nothing.
They bask in the sun during the day, eyes closed, faces turned into the light. Sometimes Remus reads, but for the moment, he’s had his fill of books and lessons and the vim and vigor of students.
A year at Hogwarts once felt like forever, caught in the circle of his friends, but as Professor Lupin, it passed in no time at all and yet still he is exhausted from it, worn to his very bones.
Next to him, Sirius stretches and scratches his nose by bumping the back of his wrist against it. A paw and a muzzle in his dream, maybe, but then he squints, his eyes dark slashes in his pale skin, and Remus knows he’s awake.
“Ever dream of the wolf?” Sirius asks like they’re in the middle of a conversation, like they’ve been talking for hours, and not lying next to each other in absolute silence but for the slap of the waves on the sand.
Remus sits up. It’s hard to look at Sirius still. They’ve not had the talk which looms over them, between them, around them, the talk where Remus apologizes and Sirius – well. Perhaps Sirius forgives him, as he certainly seems to do, but the why of that is left unspoken.
“At times.” The nights he dreams of the wolf buried beneath his skin are of two types. In the first, he hunts people, devours them, and wakes himself screaming, but his cries sound more like terrible howls of triumph.
His tongue is coated those nights and in the morning he tastes something quite like blood.
The second type of dreams that haunt him even when he’s awake and safe in the warmth of the sun, on an empty beach, content and happy, or at least the closest he’s been to happy in a long, long time. Still, at the back of his thoughts lurks the empty ache which sends him running, four paws eating up the ground. The ache which he will not name but which he knows, he recognizes, as the need for companionship.
For a wolf pack of his own, together beneath the rise of the moon.
Sirius shifts his weight and Remus glances at him. He’s sprawled across the blanket and though a moment ago he looked serious and the moment before that innocent in sleep, decadence clings to him now, the languid lines of his body, the sharp cut of his collar bone and shoulder and hip. He’s far too skinny, his hair unkempt, his skin sick-pale, but there’s a blush of red across his stomach and his smile is, while slightly manic, more natural then even a day ago.
There’s something delicious about him and it wakes not the wolf in Remus but the man.
They could kiss or share their secrets or do any of a hundred things, but instead they sit together in the sunshine, desire and heat between them, and over everything, a welcome, hazy peace.
Even as Padfoot, Sirius dreams man-dreams.
Because the scent of Remus is all around him, the smell of home and food and love, he dreams of Remus and their time at Hogwarts together, when they were happiest and their wildness, while not tamed, was tempered at least.
The man hides, but the dog wants to find his pack mate, to curl up tail to nose and bask in the furnace-heat and the bite of predator smell. When he sleeps, both are calmer, free in dreams of run-play and hunt-flee and mine.
Sirius – Padfoot - both - shudders with cold and his belly growls. His tongue lolls out and in his sleep he can taste fresh rabbit and warm blood and the tang when he swipes his tongue across the end of Remus’s - Moony’s - muzzle.
Something big disturbs the air at the end of the alley and he comes awake, dog first, but then the man, too. Both ready to flee or, if forced, fight.
It’s not Remus, Sirius knows as much, but in that flash between awake dog and sleeping man, he thinks, maybe, and he thinks, find me, and he thinks, please.
As soon as the man’s awake, he knows there’s no reason for Remus to find him, and even if he did, no reason for Remus to welcome him. Whoever’s at the end of the alley may be looking for a black dog, may know who he is, what he is. There’s no reason for Remus to keep his secret any more. He’s not really safe as the dog, even if it feels safer than being the man.
But the dog is loyal and has faith and thinks, in something quite like abstract, that maybe Remus keeps their secret – his secret – are they one or two? – the secret for the very best reason of all, lingering in his heart, tattered but there.
Hope lives when all else dies and neither man nor dog understands why.
A big man moves another step into the alley. He smells of a big dog and other animals and wood fires and dirt and pleasant things.
“What’s this here? Haven’t seen yeh before.” Both the man and the dog trust that voice, the rumble of it, much like wild things in the forest and pleasant evenings basking in warm dry places with enough to eat and drink. “What’re yeh doin’ in the village? Don’t look like yeh belong ter nobody. Yer as thin and scruffy as Professor Lupin.”
Sirius quivers. Man and dog recognize that name and man and dog both want the same thing. Him and home. The man recognizes the importance of professor and the dog’s tongue lolls out in a canine grin. He’s teaching at Hogwarts. He always wanted that but thought a werewolf never could.
“I’d bring yeh up ter the castle with me, but Fang’s a possessive sort o’ dog, so…” Sirius is pretty good at being a dog, maybe better than at being a man, but he doesn’t want to fight another dog for a home.
Unless it’s the home he really wants.
It’s a good thing Remus never wanted to have anything to do with any other werewolf ever, or Sirius would have left his scent all over on purpose, to mark his territory.
“But I can’t just leave yeh here ter starve. I’ll just swing by Rosmerta’s for a bit o’ food for yeh, yeh great mangy cur, how’s that? Meantime, stay here, alrigh’?”
He doesn’t move but to wag his tail. It’s the dog’s way to say yes and the big man knows, he pats his head. “Yer a good dog, yeh are.” One final rub and he’s gone.
The dog trusts him to bring back food, because he smells like trust and woodsmoke and baking. The man knows this is more than just the first decent meal in a week. He remembers the big man. If Hagrid isn’t looking for a big black dog, Dumbledore isn’t looking for a big black dog. Dumbledore doesn’t know that he is both man and dog.
Remus kept his – their – secret.
His belly growls and the air is still cold, but man and dog feel warmer than they have in weeks.
Good dog lingers and he sinks down to the ground and rests his muzzle on his paws, curls his tail along his side. He falls asleep while he waits for his dinner.
Sirius is on a beach. The sky is hazy gray but the sun is warm. The sand is packed hard and wet and cold seaweed clings to his toes. There are conch shells in Technicolor and something large and dark disturbs the water far out to sea.
“Good dog,” Remus says and he turns. He’s part wolf and part man, both at once and neither, his body blurred in places and clear in others.
Sirius kicks water and sand at him, low so it splatters on his bare legs. He looks young at first and then older, lines at the corners of eyes and mouth, and a sadness, an anger, to his expression that breaks Sirius’s heart.
Who hurt him so?
“Good dog,” Remus says again and suddenly Sirius is underwater and he can’t breathe. He can’t breathe and he can’t swim to the surface and there are metal bars pressed against his hands, his paws, he’s drowning, he’s drowning, and Remus is watching him die.
The dog wakes first with a whimper and Sirius wants to cry out too.
The big man – Hagrid – is there with food. The smell of it, warm and moist, meats and breads, fills his mouth with saliva and the dog whines a little, crouches low to the ground and scoots closer, hungry always.
Sirius knows he needs to eat and lets the dog take control, lets him bury his muzzle – their muzzle – in the food and gulp it down.
He’ll still feel empty after, shaky and cold.
“Good dog,” Hagrid says and gives him one final pat.
I am a good dog, Sirius thinks. I am. I’ll make things right.
Good dog and Remus’s voice in his head and the slow-death suffocation of the cage haunts his dreams.
“I’m sorry,” Remus says. It is night and the stars are so bright overhead. It is not the right time of year to see canis major, to see the star for which Sirius is named – the dog star, as if his parents could predict the future when he was born. Perhaps the Blacks did, perhaps they could tell fortunes as well as create madness.
“For what?” It has been a lazy, languid day, week, month for them. They travel slowly and only when they feel like it, careful to keep Sirius hidden from the wizarding world. Sirius has put on some weight from the food and his bones no longer look knife-sharp beneath his too tight skin.
“For not believing in you,” Remus explains, but that isn’t precisely correct. “For believing you could do such a thing.”
Sirius tips back his head and his teeth flash white. “Do what such thing?” he asks, and then adds, “Kill a man?”
“Kill so many innocents.” But that’s not the truth either. “Betray James and Lily.” Betray me but he leaves that left unsaid.
“I am good at that.” Sirius looks down, at the dark sand and the empty beach and the water beyond everything. He turns his eyes away from the stars, from the light in the darkness. Guilt throbs with every beat of Remus’s heart. He has put that sadness, that tightness on Sirius.
“You’re very good at being loyal.”
“A good dog.” He laughs, a sharp, jagged noise. It’s not very funny, but Remus bares his teeth in the parody of a smile.
“A good man.”
“Yes.” Sirius looks at him quickly from the corner of his eye. “A good man is hard to find.”
“You’ve been listening to Muggle music.”
“After Azkaban,” he stops for a long moment and simply breathes. Remus matches him breath for breath, “I dislike the silence. I hear things in it.”
“I should never have believed it of you. I said I trusted you. I should have done.”
Sirius shrugs. “There was so much fear,” he says, and his voice is ever so slightly shaky. “So much death.”
Remus can remember the moment he learnt of Sirius’s betrayal and the falling sensation that sucked him down. Breathing hurt and every heartbeat was a reminder that he was alone.
“I’m sorry,” he says again but it doesn’t banish the sour slick of regret from his tongue.
“I forgive you.”
Sirius reaches out into the darkness and takes his hand. Remus, for an instant, hears a wolf song on the wind.