Stealing Joy
by Victoria P.

Sirius noticed it the first time at lunch their second day at Grimmauld Place; it was amusing and slightly puzzling.

Moody showed up with Shacklebolt and Tonks in tow, Molly fussed over everybody, and somehow, when they all got sorted around the table, Tonks was sitting between him and Remus.

He noticed how Tonks monopolized Remus, asking him about his travels -- both personal and for the Order -- his research, his life. She was finding out things about Remus that Sirius still didn't know.

Sure, they'd exchanged letters in the year since that night in the Shrieking Shack, but those had mostly been impersonal and cryptic, as befitted men who were beyond the pale of wizarding society. And they'd spent two weeks together in Remus's dingy council flat in Wapping, but neither of them had been comfortable enough to make any sort of move. Sirius was uncertain of Remus's feelings toward him; Remus was his usual, inscrutable self. Fourteen years apart had left Sirius's skills at reading Remus extremely rusty. He wanted to resume their former relationship, but he understood Remus's wariness and the reasons for it.

One thing he did know was that Remus seemed amused and pleased at Tonks's attention; he smiled and didn't pull away when she laid a hand on his arm and then almost stabbed him with her fork while making a point.

He thought it was nice his cousin was such a cool kid, and that she and Remus got along. Even if he had to bite back a snarl when Remus didn't pull away from her touch. Remus didn't like to be touched by most people. Unless that had changed over the years. There was so much Sirius still didn't know.

He tried to listen to their conversation, but Bill Weasley was peppering him with questions about the tropics and Molly wanted to discuss cleaning the house, so he didn't have a chance.

The second time Sirius noticed, it was more annoying than amusing.

The next morning, Tonks arrived while he and Remus were having breakfast. Her clumsiness set his mother off, and he ran to shut her up while Remus helped Tonks regain her balance. As he left, he noticed that Tonks didn't seem too eager to move out of Remus's grip, and that she brushed her not-insubstantial chest against his arm when she finally did.

Upon his return to the kitchen, he found Tonks sitting at the table, drinking a cup of tea. Remus offered to split his pancakes with her, and she accepted with a grin and a blush. Sirius spent the meal sulking and plotting revenge he knew he'd never carry out. After all, if Remus was going to offer his pancakes to someone, it should have been him, not Tonks.

When he and Remus were alone that afternoon, he broached the subject bluntly, as if they were still the same boys who'd lived together for seven years at Hogwarts, and then four more in London before their lives went to hell.

"I think Tonks fancies you."

Remus looked surprised, and then shrugged. "I doubt it. She's just friendly. Anyway, I'm old enough to be her--"

"Very cool older cousin," Sirius said, relieved at Remus's disinterest. He decided to be magnanimous and not bring up the pancakes.

"Yes, exactly," Remus replied, smiling.

But Sirius kept his eyes open anyway. Too many things had been taken from him over the years; he guarded what was his jealously. Even if Remus didn't seem to realize anymore that he was included in what Sirius considered his.

The third time he noticed, it was more like a kick in the balls.

He had a hard time sleeping in the old house. He was using one of the guest chambers; his childhood room held too many bad memories, and the idea of sleeping in his parents' bed made his skin crawl. Buckbeak was ensconced in the faded splendor of that chamber, and he was welcome to it, as far as Sirius was concerned. The hippogriff was a nobler occupant than his mother had been, at any rate.

He often ended up down in the kitchen at three a.m., unable to sleep and unwilling to wake Remus up to keep him company, as he would have done when they were younger. He was still coming to grips with the fact that they were sleeping in separate beds, separate rooms. He knew a lot of time had passed, but it didn't feel like it. It felt like he and Remus should be together, the way they'd been those last few years, and it was a harsh blow to discover that maybe Remus didn't feel the same way. He'd been too unsure to put it to the test in the face of Remus's apparent serenity.

He visited Buckbeak, but one can only get so much consolation from a hippogriff, and Buckbeak wasn't too thrilled with living in the house, either.

One night shortly after the pancakes incident, after another argument with Dumbledore about when they'd finally be able to rescue Harry from those hateful Muggles, he woke in a cold sweat from nightmares where he failed Harry yet again. He made his way downstairs on silent feet, not wanting to deal with his mother's portrait. On the second to last step, he noticed a dim light coming from the kitchen, and heard the sound of laughter.

Moony's laughter.

Padding on silent feet to the doorway, he saw Remus and Tonks sitting at the table. Tonks had a hand over her mouth as she laughed, as if to keep quiet, but Remus had his head thrown back, his face lit with a joy Sirius hadn't seen since that night in the Shrieking Shack.

It had taken him months to get Moony to laugh like that back when they were first years. Months of bad jokes and shared candy hadn't done it, until he'd managed to make a complete arse of himself during Herbology. He couldn't remember now what exactly had set Remus off, but he knew they'd laughed long and hard over whatever it was he'd done, forcing the otherwise good-natured Professor Liliacea into taking house points from them. That was one of the first memories he'd lost to the dementors, and only recently had he reclaimed parts of it.

In sixth year, after the Shack incident, he'd made it his personal goal to make Remus laugh again, laugh with him, look at him with the light of joy in his eyes. Again, it had taken months, but it had been worth it.

Sirius knew it was irrational to be angry, but that was his laughter, his joy, and Tonks was stealing it. He was through having his joy stolen from him.

"You're going to wake the bitch," he said, his voice harsh. "And she'll rouse the whole house."

They sobered abruptly, and Tonks muttered, "Sorry."

Remus twisted in his chair to look at him, exposing a strip of bare skin where his shirt rode up. Sirius's mouth went dry.

"What's got your knickers in a twist?" Remus asked, a smile still playing about his lips.

"It's late. Don't you have a home to go to, Tonks?"

Her face seemed to crumple; Sirius wasn't sure if it was a trick of the dim light or if her features really did melt away and reform almost instantaneously.

"I had guard duty, and I stopped by to --"

"To report," Remus interrupted smoothly.

"To report?" Sirius couldn't keep disbelief out of his tone. "And what are you doing up at two in the morning, Remus?"

"Full moon in three days."

That brought Sirius up short. Once upon a time, he'd have known when the full moon was every month for the next three years. Now, time frequently slipped away from him, leaving him frustrated and confused when events sneaked up on him unawares.

One thing he did remember was that Remus's insomnia in the days leading up to the full moon was almost as legendary as his constant state of arousal during that time.

In fact, the cure for the insomnia and the arousal had usually been the same thing -- sex and a lot of it.

The thoughts tumbled through Sirius's brain and clicked together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Remus and Tonks? Not if he had anything to say about it. If anyone was going to relieve Remus's ... needs, it'd be him.

"Did I interrupt something?"

"Tonks was doing her impression of Fudge when Shacklebolt reported you were last seen in Tibet."

"I'm sure she was." He turned to his cousin. "You're not his type, Nymphadora." A small part of him winced at the sneering tone, so reminiscent of his mother, but he couldn't seem to stop the words. She needed to know Remus was off-limits. "So take your girlish giggles and your impressions and bugger off. Find your own boyfriend. Remus is mine."

Remus stood so quickly the chair he'd been sitting in toppled over.

"I don't know what you're playing at, Sirius, but it does not amuse." Remus's voice cracked like a whip. Sirius was surprised at the note of authority it held, the way his shoulders straightened and his gaze dropped to the floor automatically at the sound. In the back of his mind he was impressed; Remus had probably been one hell of a teacher.

"I think I'd better go," Tonks said. She rushed past them with all the grace of a herd of drunken dragons, pausing only to say, "I didn't know you two were together. It's not as if you ever act like you are."

"Tonks," Remus called after her, "I'm sorry."

Her response floated back to them as the front door opened. "S'okay, Remus. It's not your fault." And then she was gone.

"Very touching," Sirius drawled, forcing himself to relax.

"Upstairs. Now," Remus said. Sirius found himself being marched up the stairs. He tried to say something but Remus growled at him. The sound made the hair on the back of his neck stand up, and reminded him that whatever they all might like to pretend, Remus was not always human.

When they reached his room, Remus shut the door with a click, and leaned against it, arms crossed over his chest.

"What is your problem?"

Sirius realized that he was being a prat. Really, he did. But he couldn't help it. The alternative was too horrible to contemplate.

"You and, and her," he burst out, hands flapping wildly. "How could you even think-- She's too young! And my own cousin!" He advanced on Remus, determined to make his point. "I know what you're like around the full moon, Remus. I--"

And then he was being shoved against the wall. He'd been the only one capable of inciting Remus to violence in their younger days. Even now, he was thrilled he could evoke such a response. At least Remus was responding to him, seeing him, touching him.

"You what, Sirius? Think it's all right to treat Tonks like that? To treat anyone like that?"

"No," he muttered, unable to meet Remus's gaze. He was wrong. He knew it.

"What was that? I didn't quite hear you."

On the other hand, he was also not twelve years old and Remus was not his mother. 'Thank God'. He raised his head and looked Remus in the eye.

"No. I said, 'no.'" He batted uselessly at Remus's hands, which pressed him into the wall, but ended up grabbing handfuls of his shirt instead, pulling him closer. "You didn't answer my question. Are you and Tonks--"

Remus shook his head, but didn't lessen the pressure holding Sirius in place. "You are a monumental prick, do you know that?"

"You never complained before--"

"Stop it, Sirius. Just stop it." Remus's voice had a hard edge Sirius had only heard a few times in all the years they'd known each other, and his grip on Sirius's shoulders tightened. He'd probably have bruises in the morning. Obviously, charm wouldn't work in this situation.

"Remus, please?" He sounded far more broken than he'd intended; he couldn't seem to hide the desperation anymore, not so late at night, with Remus so close and still so far away.

"What is it you want, Sirius?" Still no softening in tone. Sirius's heart was racing; he could feel Remus's breath on his cheek.

"You. Always you." It came out a hoarse whisper.

"And did you ever think that maybe telling me might be a good way to go about that? Instead of acting like a raging arsehole and hurting Tonks's feelings? Goddammit, Sirius, we're not nineteen anymore."

"I know." He rested his head against the wall, an ache in his chest that had nothing to do with anger. "I just -- We've lost so much time."


"James and Lily are dead, Moony."

"I know."

"I just can't -- sometimes I can't wrap my head around it. I keep thinking I'll wake up and it will be November first and everything will have been a nightmare." He closed his eyes, afraid he might actually start crying if he opened them and had to meet Remus's gaze -- Remus, who had suffered as much as he had, in his own way. "You'll be there in bed next to me, and I'll confess that Peter's the Secret-Keeper. I'll beg for forgiveness for not trusting you, and everything will be okay--"

"Shh." He felt Remus's hand in his hair, pushing it off his forehead, and then Remus's thumb glided over his bottom lip, sending a shiver down his spine. "We can't change the past, Sirius. Believe me, I spent a long time going over every detail, wondering how I could have been so wrong about you." His hand dropped away, and Sirius heard himself whimper at the loss of Remus's touch.

"Not your fault." That Remus should carry guilt over what had been his fault, and his alone -- he had convinced James and Lily to switch, he had doubted Remus's loyalty, he had let himself be duped by Peter's innocuous fašade, his disingenuous lies. He had to fix this; he owed Remus a debt as great as the one he owed James and Lily, and Remus was still around to receive payment.

But Remus went on as if he hadn't heard. "I made myself hate you, Sirius. I'm not sure some part of me doesn't hate you still."

Sirius swallowed hard. "Sometimes I--" 'hate myself' "I don't blame you for that." He smoothed his hands over Remus's shoulders, touching as much of him as he could. "I'll beg if you want me to," he said finally, to a point in the vicinity of his feet.

"Now, that sounds interesting," Remus said, but there was laughter in his tone that hadn't been there before. He shifted his stance a little, moved closer. Sirius could smell bergamot and chocolate on Remus's breath. He licked his lips, trying to taste Remus in the air. Remus's mouth was only millimeters away. "Is this what you want?"

"God, yes," Sirius whispered, leaning forward to close the distance between them.

Fourteen years melted away under the soft, wet heat of the kiss, the taste of tea and chocolate and Remus on his tongue. This was all he wanted, all he'd ever wanted. Every other thought fled before the perfection of this moment.

Remus pressed him into the wall, too-thin body sharp and strong and right, moving against him. When Remus broke the kiss, they were both breathing heavily. Sirius cupped Remus's face in his hands, traced the lines of his face -- the shadowed skin under his eyes, straight nose, sharp cheekbones, well-sculpted lips. He knew this face better than his own, still saw it in his dreams on the rare occasions he had dreams instead of nightmares.


Sirius kissed him again, before Remus said something to ruin the moment. This time, when Remus pulled away, his hand slid into Sirius's and drew him towards the bed.

"Come on, then. We're getting too old to be shagging up against the wall."

"Oi! Speak for yourself, Professor. I'm never getting old, and I won't let you, either."

Remus laughed, and it was because of him. This was what he'd wanted, even more than the way Remus's hands were pushing his shirt off his shoulders, Remus's lips dropping kisses along his jaw. This was his joy, and he was stealing it back, for however long fate allowed.

"I believe you," Remus said, smiling against his skin.

"I mean it," he insisted, making short work of Remus's clothing while he spoke. "You and me, Remus, we're going to outlive them all. It's going to work out this time. I promise."

"I believe you," Remus said again. "Now stop talking and kiss me."

So Sirius did.


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