How Bitter A Thing
by Victoria P.

"Love is a barren sea, bitter and deep" ~AC Swinburne

It begins in silence.

Sirius grabs Remus in the dark one night, presses him against the wall in the hallway, across from the curtained alcove containing Mrs. Black's portrait -- yet another act of defiance in a life made up of nothing but.

They come together in a fierce tangle of lips and teeth and tongue, hands and hips and cocks, the only sound the harsh symphony of their mingled breathing and the slide of skin on skin.

Remus finds bruises the next morning, finger-shapes blossoming black and blue on his hips, teeth marks on his neck. Sirius never has learned the art of subtlety. He's never had the time.

On some level, Remus knows that's what it's about. They have spoken words of forgiveness, and they have fallen almost too easily back into their old patterns. But the past fifteen years are a shadow hanging over them, anger-guilt-shame-hate imprinted so deep Remus knows they will never fully heal.

They've an unspoken agreement to leave the bitterness lie, to let it scab over in a thin layer of lust and hope and sex. So much between them has always been unspoken -- it's easier that way. If they don't talk, they don't lie, and there have been times when Remus believed the so-called love between them is nothing but lies.

But the body never lies, and when they are alone in the silent dark, their bodies speak of lust and need and something else Remus thinks must be love, because he has no other name for it.

Remus allows Sirius to punish him at night, to take him and use him without so much as a request. No soft words spoken, no whispered avowals of love or devotion. When the others come to stay at the house, Sirius is slightly more careful -- he's mindful of the children, at least. At the end of the evening, when the house is as quiet as it ever gets, with his mother's wailing silenced and Kreacher's muttering a constant hum in the background, he waits for Remus at the top of the stairs, or in the dark of the bedroom they don't officially share.

They fuck like other people make war, a push-pull of territory marked and claimed, taken and retaken, night after night. Sirius has a scorched earth battle plan and it leaves Remus weak and sated. It's pain and pleasure, sin and penance, all in the stroke of tongue and hand and cock. Remus can't tell the difference anymore, can't even remember when it wasn't like this, when the iron tang of blood and regret (and hate, if he would admit it, which he won't. But why shouldn't he hate Sirius, and Sirius hate him? Both betrayed and betrayer twice over. No, he can't think that way) didn't underlie every look, every touch, every kiss, every fuck.

He has no such hesitations in making his feelings known while they are their animal selves -- the wolf is fierce with Padfoot, showing him his rightful place in the pack, and Sirius has bruises of his own the morning after their first full moon together.

He knows Sirius is waiting for him to waver, to refuse, to bring it up, to offer or withhold forgiveness, but he is stronger than Sirius thinks; he always has been. Sirius is deep and changeable -- and treacherous -- as the sea, but the sea forever breaks upon the shore, and Remus is a rock, stolid and unyielding over the short-term, even as he's shaped by the relentless drive of Siriusís personality. He knows that in this struggle, his will is the stronger, for all he seems to bend to Sirius's without protest.

As expected, Sirius breaks first.

Remus returns from a mission, the first that's taken him away for more than one night, and Sirius is pacing like a caged tiger. Remus knows how much he hates the house; it is simply Azkaban relocated to London, and all his pleas to Dumbledore on Sirius's behalf fall on deaf ears. He knows Sirius resents him for being able to come and go at will, and his inability to sway Dumbledore is just another in his long list of failures -- allowing Wormtail to escape that night at Hogwarts, not trying to free Sirius from Azkaban, not being James, not being human.

"Took you bloody long enough," Sirius snarls and Remus accepts his anger. It is his due, his curse and his benediction. He is tired, though, and closer to snapping than he'd like to admit. He pushes past Sirius, who reeks of stale whiskey and unwashed hair. He heads toward the stairs, wishing for a hot bath and a cold drink, knowing all he will get is a fight.

"I picked up a tail in Calais," he says mildly, this lack of response geared toward goading Sirius. "It seemed safer to take the long way home."

Sirius sputters for a moment, and Remus can't quite tell if it's because he was in danger or because he's made it home safely.

"I wouldn't mind a little excitement," Sirius finally mutters, and Remus has to bite back a sigh. He was so sure this would be the night.

He recalls overhearing the children he taught at Hogwarts. "Whatever," he replies, dismissive, and schools his face to indifference. "I'm going to bed."

He turns and before he can take the first step, Sirius is on him, hauling him around and shoving him against the wall. He cocks his head to the side so he doesn't have to crane his neck (damn Sirius for being a good four inches taller), raises his eyes to meet Sirius's dark gaze.

"Was there something?" he asks.

"Fuck you, Remus."

"I was under the impression that's what you've been doing every night for the past four months."

Long-fingered hands scrabble at his shoulders, pinning him to the wall. "Fuck. You," Sirius says again, each word distinct, its own sentence. Remus waits for the explosion. They've only been together again since July, but some things never change. He counts silently and before he reaches five, Sirius is yelling at him. "Why? Why are you taking this shit from me, Remus? Why don't you tell me to fuck off and die?" Remus opens his mouth, but Sirius isn't finished. "Is this about guilt? Forgiveness? Is it pity?"

"Yes. No. I don't know."

Sirius isn't listening, though. "Well, I don't want your pity and I don't want to be your penance, okay? Go flagellate yourself somewhere else. Maybe you and Snivellus can make a match of it."

Remus blinks. That's new and unexpected. But then, Sirius is always doing the unexpected; it's just been a while since he's had to adapt on the fly.

He raises his hands, easily breaks Sirius's hold on his shoulders, and grabs fistfuls of his shirt, drawing him in close.

"I don't know how to do this," he says. "And neither do you." He cups Sirius's face and for the first time, initiates a kiss -- soft, chaste, as if he's afraid Sirius will bolt when he expresses something other than raw need.

"No," Sirius says, more breath than sound. "We're not exactly Molly and Arthur, are we?"

"More like Titania and Bottom," Remus replies, and it takes Sirius a moment to get the reference, but then he laughs.

"Am I the fairy or the ass?"

"A little of both, I think," Remus says, and then they're kissing. Remus has no idea who moved in first, nor does he care.

It's still not gentle, and the bitter taste of regret will always linger in their mouths, but it's love, or something like it, and it's better than being alone.


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