“What do you think?” Remus asked Sirius.
Sirius looked around without stepping the whole way in the gate, his gaze running over an overgrown lawn, a cottage that looked as if ivy was the only thing holding it up, and a path that was more grass than stone. He sniffed the air.
“It looks like it could fall down at any moment,” Sirius finally said. “The first time you transform, it’ll probably disintegrate!”
“I know it needs a bit of work,” Remus sighed. Sirius snorted.
“But it’s two miles to the nearest neighbor. I’ll be safe here. Besides,” Remus seemed to shake off his momentary melancholy, “there’s woods back there. Miles of woods.”
Sirius tried to affect disinterest, but Remus could almost see his ears perk up.
“Nothing but trees as far as the eye can see,” Remus continued, starting to grin mischievously. “Just think of all those leaves to jump through…dead things to roll in…”
“All RIGHT!” Sirius cut him off abruptly, laughing. “You win, I love it, okay?!”
“If only I’d figured out Third Year that all it took to make you happy was something smelly to rub yourself on,” Remus shook his head in mock-disgust.
“I thought you had figured it out,” Sirius sniffed as though he were mortally offended. “If that cologne you wore to our first Yule Ball was any indication…”
“Oh, just get in here,” Remus pushed Sirius through the gate.
“Let’s see what the inside of this place looks like.”
“Death trap,” Sirius muttered.
“SECLUDED COTTAGE,” Remus drowned him out loudly.
The inside of the house turned out to be a little more livable than the outside suggested. The previous owner had left some sturdy furniture, a table, some chairs, and a bed that seemed to currently be the home to a dozen or so mice.
“Too bad McGonagall isn’t here,” Sirius snickered, and Remus punched his arm.
“One animagus at a time, please,” he rolled his eyes. “The bed frame looks all right, but the mice have to go. Help me carry this mattress outside.”
They carried the mattress out the back door and dropped it in the jungle-like garden that sloped down a short hill into the promised woods.
Sirius stared at the deep shade of the trees, captivated as he imagined the nights Padfoot and Moony would run there. He lifted his head and sniffed again, closing his eyes and breathing in the cool scents of greenery and shadows.
He felt Remus slide a hand through his and twine their fingers together.
“What do you think now?” he asked, humor evident in his voice. Sirius raised an eyebrow in response, snorting a soft whuff of capitulation.
“Oh, go ahead and try it out, I know you’re dying to,” Remus laughed, ruffling Sirius’ longish hair. “Padfoot deserves a good run.”
“I’ll try not to roll in anything too smelly,” Sirius promised, leaning down to kiss Remus in gratitude. “I won’t be long.” Sirius bumped noses with Remus and reached up to twirl a strand of his hair.
“Go on then,” Remus, pushed him towards the woods, grinning. “Before you start something we don’t have time to finish.”
Sirius flashed him a broad grin, then suddenly in his place stood a huge black dog sporting an identical grin. Padfoot woofed another loud thanks and licked Remus’ hand before bounding off towards the woods, sniffing everything in sight.
Remus wiped his hand off on his trousers, wishing his own transformations were as easy or as carefree. Wishing he could run through sun-drenched trees with Padfoot.
As Remus turned to go back into the cottage, he comforted himself with thoughts of the wolf running in the moonlight with Padfoot. He wasn’t exactly looking forward to it, but he was a long way away from the dread that used to choke him at the mere thought of a full moon.
Remus found a broom in the corner of what he thought could have been the kitchen, and began sweeping out the leaves and dust and mouse bits that had collected on the floor since the cottage was last used. He was pushing his pile out the front door when someone halloed him from down the path.
Surprised, Remus shielded his eyes against the glare of the afternoon sun to see a wizened old man approaching his front door.
“You must be the young fellow who’s bought the Manor,” the man said.
“Er, yes,” Remus answered, leaning his broom against the house and offering his hand to shake. “The Manor?”
“That’s what the last person who lived here called it,” the man explained. “It was something of a joke round these parts.”
“Are you my neighbor?” Remus asked, keeping his concern masked with polite neutrality.
“One might say that,” the man shrugged. “I live up the road a couple miles or more.”
Relieved, Remus opened his mouth to reply, but just then Padfoot came bounding around the side of the house and up to Remus. He sat down next to Remus, panting heavily, and leaned against him hard enough to almost knock him down.
“This’un yours?” the man asked, raising an eyebrow.
“I don’t know about that,” Remus said wryly, “but he does tend to follow me wherever I go.”
Padfoot barked in reproach and Remus scratched his ears soothingly.
“Might be good to have a friend fierce as that stay with you at the Manor,” the man said, offering his hand for Padfoot to sniff.
“Why do you say that?” Remus asked.
“It might be only rumor,” the man looked a little embarrassed, “before my time, you know, but folk in these parts say the last owner disappeared under mysterious circumstances.”
Remus cocked his head with interest, and felt Padfoot do the same thing.
“There’s naught who know what really happened,” the man continued, “but some say there’s strange howling and banging about from inside this place late at night. Locals won’t go near it after dark.”
Remus was silent, but relief washed through him. He wouldn’t endanger anyone here when he transformed. He was safe here.
“Anyways,” the man said with false cheer, evidently mistaking Remus’ silence for discomfort, “I’d best be on my way. Good luck with the Manor.”
Remus watched the man go, still scratching Padfoot’s ears, and when he was out of sight, Remus looked down to see Sirius leaning against his leg. Sirius sighed happily as Remus tangled fingers in his thick hair.
“Howling and banging in the middle of the night?” Remus said, bemused.
“Feels like home already,” Sirius opened one eye and grinned up at Remus.
“Come on,” Remus sighed after a minute. “ Our lunch hours almost up, Dumbledore expects us back.”
Sirius climbed to his feet with a sigh, casting a longing glance back towards the woods.
“I can’t wait until you can run with me,” he said wistfully. Remus was painfully aware that Sirius’ expression of frustration was echoed loudly on his own.
“Sirius,” he said quietly, “if I had the power, I would tear off all my clothes right now and transform, and spend all afternoon and all night running through trees and rolling in dead things with you, just to see your exhausted, muddy, blissed-out hide crawl into my bed tomorrow morning.”
Sirius stared at Remus wordlessly for a long minute, mouth parted slightly and eyes intense.
“DAMN!” he finally roared. “You ALWAYS do this to me! Right before we have to Apparate back to work, you ALWAYS come up with some way to give me an ENORMOUS STIFFY!”
“It’s not too hard, you must admit,” Remus replied, laughing freely.
“You’ll pay for it this time!” Sirius shouted, tackling a still-snickering Remus to the ground. They wrestled good-naturedly for several minutes, until an out-of-breath Remus came up on top and pinned Sirius to the ground by his wrists.
“I win!” he gasped, leaning down for his victory snog. He rolled off of Sirius despite some desperate protesting and held out a hand.
“Come on, we really have to go now,” he told Sirius. Grumbling, Sirius took his hand and hefted himself back onto his feet. He glanced down at Remus’ trousers and grinned ferally.
“You have grass-stained knees,” he leered. “They’re going to want to know what you’ve been up to on your lunch hour.”
“Well,” Remus leaned to glance at Sirius’ backside with a smirk of his own, “you’ve got a grass-stained arse, so there!”
Remus disappeared with a small pop while Sirius was attempting to twist around and see for himself.
“Bloody werewolf,” he growled good-naturedly when he saw Remus was already gone. He mumbled something else before he too Apparated.
Something about revenge and illegal desk rogerings.