Remus had himself mostly under control by the time he came to dinner, although it was hardly a sure thing when Sirius fixed a brilliant grin on him, not looking at all perturbed by what had happened under the stairs. Remus noticed Peter raising an eyebrow when they slipped some food into their pockets and hurried off.
When Sirius joined him on his bed with the guitar and the sheets of parchment from earlier, still acting as though nothing was amiss, Remus steeled his nerves.
I can act normal just as easily. He distracted himself by taking a good look at the lyrics Sirius had scribbled down and suppressed a smile; they were ridiculous.
"Told you so," Sirius grumbled, reading his expression perfectly.
"It's not too bad," Remus soothed. "Why don't you just tell me what it's about and we'll see what I can do?"
Sirius was hesitant, stumbling over his words at first, but he eventually got his point across by half explaining and half playing, and Remus set to work. Before James and Peter returned from dinner, Remus had constructed a perfectly workable set of lyrics.
"We'll see what James can do with it," Remus said, setting down his quill. "He's the one who'll be singing it, after all."
"I spent two hours coming up with that tripe and you fixed it in half an hour," Sirius complained, but his eyes were excited as he read over the new lines again. He looked up and Remus caught his breath as their gazes met. "It's brilliant!" There was a slight pause, in which Remus' nerves threatened to snap, before Sirius added softly. "You're brilliant."
James and Peter thankfully slammed in the door before Remus had to come up with an intelligent reply.
Later that night, in the Shrieking Shack, Remus fingered a few chords unconsciously as he watched Sirius and James fumble out the vocal part, dark heads bobbing close together as they leaned over Sirius' guitar. Remus sighed a little more heavily than he'd intended to.
"Remus, are you really all right?" Peter asked from behind his drums. "You haven't been yourself lately. And you're always rushing off somewhere."
"I'm…" Remus had been about to answer that he was fine again, but then stopped. Maybe it would help his recent lack of control to talk about the problem rather than bottling it up all the time. Peter was a good listener. Not the whole truth obviously, but… "I'm desperately in lust with somebody, Wormtail."
"Finally!" Peter grinned. "We thought you'd never get round to it!"
"Wish I hadn't," Remus huffed another sigh. "I feel so stupid and out of control…it just pops up at the worst times imaginable. Er. No pun intended."
"That's rough," Peter agreed, nodding knowingly. "Maybe you should just tell her how you feel."
"It would just make things worse," Remus shot another envious glance towards James and Sirius who were now snickering at some private joke.
"Still, you ought to do something," Peter advised sagely. "Otherwise you'd be me, wouldn't you?"
"Want to trade?" Remus asked darkly.
"Sure," Peter laughed. "Who…"
"All right, we're ready to give it a go," Sirius interrupted them, and Remus shrugged at Peter. That had been a close call. Remus was glad to distract himself with the throb of his bass and the loud mess that was their sound so far.
Lost in the feel of it, he snapped back to himself with surprise when James said they'd been at it for two hours and ought to quit. He was even more surprised when he listened more closely to their last run-through and realized they were nearly a rock band.
* * * * * *
More than once in the next week, Sirius came to Remus with something new and they worked out a song-draft together. After the other Seventh Years were asleep, they closed the curtains around Remus' bed and cast a Silencing Charm before going at it, Remus struggling to ignore the highly questionable nature of it all. James seemed completely oblivious, but when Sirius gave Remus an exhausted grin at breakfast the next morning, Peter glanced and forth between them with a furrowed brow.
That afternoon Remus was slower than usual copying down his Runes assignment, the late nights with Sirius starting to take their toll. He was the last student in the room, and he lingered over packing up his things, yawning slightly.
As he finally moved towards the door, he heard Professor McGonagall's voice out in the hall.
"…band's cancelled! Cancelled! I don't know what we're going to do, the Yule Ball's only a month away, it's far too late to book another decent act…"
Remus cleared his throat as he stepped out of the door.
"Professor," he said to a startled McGonagall, "I might be able to help you…"
* * * * * *
There was dead silence in the Seventh Years' dormitory when Remus broke his good news.
"Well, say something!" Remus finally demanded, still grinning like a fool because for once he'd done something that shocked the others into silence, instead of the other way round.
"A gig?" Sirius caught his grin. "You got us a gig, Moony!"
"Um, but we…" James started.
"I can't believe McGonagall said yes!" Peter interrupted him.
"Yes, but…" James tried again.
"After last year, she said she'd do anything that would keep us four occupied for the whole Ball," Remus replied, shooting a sharp glare towards Sirius.
"Oi!" James raised his voice.
"She can't prove a thing!" Sirius interrupted him loudly. "It could've been anybody with that Inebriation Charm and they shouldn't have left that cauldron of punch just sitting out like that…"
"WE'VE ONLY GOT ONE SONG!" James finally roared. Everyone else fell silent again.
"Well, yes, that's true," Peter said, looking hopefully at Sirius. "But I bet Padfoot's got something worked out, haven't you?"
"Er." Sirius looked over at Remus, and Remus realized with a buzz of pleasure that Sirius was asking permission to tell the others about their brainstorming sessions. Remus nodded firmly.
"Yes," he said. "Sirius does have a few somethings up his sleeve."
"I knew it!" Peter exclaimed, looking supremely pleased with himself. "So that's why you've been sneaking into Moony's bed every night!"
"What?" James asked, looking startled.
"Right," Sirius agreed briskly, not noticing Remus' embarrassed cough. "Prongs, you and Wormtail go ahead to the Shack; Moony and I'll bring the, uh, somethings, and we'll have an emergency practice."
Peter raised an eyebrow at Remus, who shrugged as Sirius tugged him up the stairs to their dormitory. James stared after them, agog, and Remus was glad he had only mentioned his situation to Peter. He seemed to have thankfully leaped to the wrong conclusion.
"I can't believe you talked McGonagall into letting us play!" Sirius exclaimed with glee as he was digging the parchments out of his trunk. "And to think you didn't even want to be in the band in the first place!"
"The irony has not escaped me," Remus commented, sitting down on the edge of the bed for a moment. "You know what this means though, don't you?"
"Yes, we need a name," Sirius replied briskly. "The Marauders is the obvious choice, but I'm open to suggestions…"
"That's not what I meant," Remus headed him off. "If we're going to play a dance, we're going to need slow songs too."
"What?" Sirius stopped rummaging around in his trunk and craned his neck to stare at Remus.
"Slow songs," Remus repeated. "You know, love songs? Songs that people might actually dance to? They might want to dance at the dance, nitwit."
Sirius scowled and threw a loose sock at Remus, who batted it away without looking away from Sirius.
"I can write slow songs too," Sirius grumbled after a few moments, more to himself than Remus. "Just haven't tried yet, is all."
* * * * * *
True to his word, Sirius set to work writing a slow song, and within several night sessions he had produced two and a half more fast rock songs, plus one wireless jingle for Zonko's.
"Still no good?" Remus asked as a very shagged-out looking Sirius plunked himself down in a chair across from Remus at the library. He eyed Sirius warily, the constant nearness of him lately having wreaked havoc with his nerves, his concentration, and his homework.
"No," Sirius replied shortly.
"You've dated half the girls at school, Padfoot," Remus pointed out. "Hasn't any of them inspired any deeper feeling in you?"
"I've a deep aesthetic appreciation for the female form," Sirius propped his head up on a hand. "It's not helping. Besides, I haven't seen anybody yet this year, I'll have you know."
Remus did know, in fact, but had refrained from reading deeper meaning into this knowledge and wasn't about to start now. He tried to lighten Sirius' mood instead.
"It's just as well, I've run out of words that rhyme with 'breasts'." Remus gave Sirius an encouraging smile and returned to his book. After a few minutes, Remus heard frantic quill scratching and looked up to see Sirius scribbling on a piece of parchment and bobbing his head to a rhythm only he could hear.
Remus made to stand quietly, thinking to slip away so he might actually get some work done instead of the preferable pastime of watching Sirius, but Sirius jerked his head up and fixed him with a piercing stare.
"Don't," he said quietly. "If you move, I'll lose it."
Perplexed but obedient, Remus sank back down into his chair and tried to go on reading, pausing every few minutes to savor the sight of Sirius in fierce concentration, the warm light of the library sconces glinting in his tousled hair. Remus had not read a page in a long time when Sirius finally threw down his quill and began massaging his writing hand with the other.
"Ready to work on some lyrics?" Remus asked.
"I think I'd rather give this one a go on my own," Sirius replied as he read through what he'd written again. "If you don't mind, Moony."
Sirius looked up questioningly, lower lip puffy from where he'd been chewing on it, and in that moment, Remus came within an inch of leaping the table and snogging him until he begged for mercy. Pleading with his body to be placated by a more acceptable form of contact, Remus answered Sirius' question by reaching across and pushing away Sirius' clumsy attempt to relieve his cramped hand. Smoothing Sirius' palm out between his fingers, Remus rubbed out some of the stiffness with practiced thumbs, hoping it wasn't obvious on his face how much the heat and roughness of Sirius' skin was affecting him. When Sirius could flex his fingers without wincing again, Remus reluctantly pulled his hands away, cold after the warmth of Sirius.
"They're your songs," he reminded lightly before he picked up his book yet again.
"Ours," Sirius corrected, hand hovering absurdly in the air where Remus had let it go. Remus gripped his book tighter and tried to ignore the way his hands were shaking slightly, the way he could still feel Sirius' guitar calluses under his fingertips.
* * * * * *
"I've got a bit of a slow song," Sirius announced at their next practice. "I don't have the lyrics down yet, Prongs, but I thought the rest of us might give the parts a go, get the feel of it."
He gave them the gist of the melody with his guitar, Remus and Peter picking up on it after he'd run through it a couple times. Sirius shouted some directions and the tweaking helped, but it was obvious from his face that he wasn't getting what he wanted.
"Stop a moment, let me think," he finally asked.
"It'll sound different with James in," Peter reminded. Sirius shook his head.
"No, it's something with the…like the rhythm, but not the drums…" Sirius was clearly frustrated, and he strummed through a verse again, biting down on his lip.
Remus allowed himself to stare with obvious appreciation while everyone else watched Sirius. It was something about the way Sirius concentrated, the fierce look, the way he shook his hair out of his eyes, the tense line of his body practically curling around the guitar, making Remus intensely jealous of the glinting instrument. Remus' heart sped up just watching, thumping loudly in his ears, and suddenly he knew exactly what the song needed.
Sirius was still going at his part, and Remus joined in suddenly, playing the same chords he had been before, but with a stronger pulse that echoed the way Sirius made his heart pound. A heartbeat, that's what had been missing.
Sirius jerked his head up and stared at Remus with his mouth open before breaking out into a wild grin. He took the half dozen steps over without ceasing his own playing and leaned into Remus, letting the pulse into his own guitar. It wasn't faster exactly, or louder, but more driven, more intense.
"Exactly what I needed," Sirius murmured near Remus' ear, and Remus pressed his body back against Sirius', too wrapped up in the sound and feel to remember that the heat washing through him was supposed to be a secret.
"If you two are going to do that onstage, no one's going to even notice me," James commented sourly, snapping Remus out of his trance. He flushed scarlet and moved away from Sirius. He felt Sirius staring at him, but refused to look back while he willed his body back under control.
"Let's practice something else," James rolled his eyes. "Anything to keep you two nancies off each other."
Remus flushed, but Sirius whipped out his wand and cast Autorixa, commonly referred to as the Stop Hitting Yourself Hex.
"All right then," Sirius said as though James were not on the ground, pummeling himself into submission, "I want to do that again."
So do I, Remus practically ached to say, but he kept his physical distance from Sirius this time through, completely unable to trust his body's response.
When Sirius was finally satisfied and they quit for the night, Remus' nerves were still too raw to allow him into the confined space of the secret passage anywhere near Sirius. He lagged behind to help Peter re-enchant the one drum that had a disturbing habit of turning back into a cauldron in the middle of a song.
"It's Sirius, isn't it?" Peter asked him suddenly.
"What's Sirius?" Remus tried valiantly to keep his voice from cracking.
"Don't treat me like I'm simple," Peter snapped. "It's Sirius you fancy, isn't it?"
"Keep your voice down," Remus commanded, glancing over his shoulder to make sure James and Sirius had already left the room.
"There's no point in trying to hide it," Peter obediently spoke softly. "If you hadn't said, I wouldn't have known, but then I started watching, and you're always staring at each other."
"What do you mean?" Remus demanded, rather more sharply than he'd intended. He softened his voice with an effort. "What do you mean, at each other?"
"He's worse than you are," Peter made a face. "James's been at him for weeks, haven't you noticed? We thought he had some secret girlfriend he's been mooning over but…" Peter interrupted himself with a small snicker, "…sorry, mooning over…"
"But…" Remus swallowed, thinking of being pressed underneath the stairwell with Sirius. "But, Sirius likes girls. He can't…Peter, he likes girls."
"Don't you?" Peter asked, and Remus was caught off-guard and answerless.
"It's never come up," he finally answered, a note of pleading threading through the words. "Does that mean no?"
"Why're you asking me?" Peter shrugged. "I'm not a…I mean, I'm not…damn, Remus, you know what I mean."
"So James doesn't know?" Remus changed the subject quickly. Peter shook his head.
"He's rather daft about things that aren't Quidditch," Peter rolled his eyes. "Girls especially."
"There's the truth," Remus laughed. "If he would just shut his mouth for two seconds, Lily would be all over him."
Remus froze, realizing he'd just let another secret slip, but Peter looked less than shocked.
"Moony," he laughed, shaking his head, "everybody knows that! First Years know it! Dumbledore probably knows it!"
It felt good to laugh at somebody else's expense for a change, but Peter's words about Sirius kept him awake long into the night.
* * * * * *
As the week of the Yule Ball approached, Remus very nearly forgot about his conversation with Peter in the crush of exams, emergency rehearsals, and a monumental case of nerves. With six days to go, James found him in the common room shredding a piece of parchment compulsively. He laid a hand on Remus' shoulder, and Remus shot into the air with a muffled curse.
"All right, Moony?" he asked, looking concerned. "Usually you're this jumpy before the full moon, not after it."
"I think I've got stage fright," Remus admitted, forcing himself to set down the parchment. "I just keep thinking about all those people, staring at me…all of Hogwarts! Is this what it's like to play Quidditch?"
"Plus the threat of permanent physical injury, yes," James said dryly. "So you can see why I'm a bit less worked up."
Remus gave a wan smile.
"I'm just not used to doing things that are so public," Remus sighed. "Even being a Prefect, it's nothing like this."
"Far slighter chance of getting a hot date out of it," James laughed, then looked suddenly thoughtful. "Speaking of girls, have you noticed how strange Sirius has been acting lately? I think he's got a girlfriend we don’t know about."
"Do you?" Remus began shredding the parchment again. "Who is it?"
"I haven't the faintest idea and it's driving me mad," James looked disgusted. "It's not like him to be hooked up on one person so long either. She must be fantastic. I wonder where he's hiding her?"
"Maybe it's not a girl," Remus blurted out before he could stop himself, then stopped mid-shred, horrified at what he'd just said.
"Course it's a girl," James waved him off. "He never gets this weird about anything but girls, not exams or Quidditch or anything…"
Remus relaxed slightly as it became obvious that James had completely misconstrued his comment but remained perplexed at his own behavior. First Peter, now James, what was wrong with him?
"…too bad we won't find out at the Ball," James was saying.
"What?" Remus narrowed his eyes. "What do you mean?"
"We don't need dates since we're the band," James pointed out. "If we did we could see who Sirius was taking. Shame about it too, now Evans won't have the pleasure of hanging on my arm all evening."
"Oh," Remus said. He couldn't think of anything else to add, so he just said "oh" again.
"You're acting a bit off as well, lately," James peered at Remus closer. "You're not hiding away some girl yourself, are you?"
"No!" Remus' laugh was a bit forced. "Definitely not girl problems."
"Just nerves, then," James slapped Remus on the back as he got up. "It'll be fine, you'll see. The trick is to imagine that everybody in the audience is in their underwear."
"Shouldn't be hard, given the number of times we've seen Severus's," Remus commented sourly. James raised an eyebrow.
"Knew you'd be glad I did that one day," he winked.
Meanwhile, Sirius was taking out his own case of nerves on every First Year in sight, regardless of house, hexing them with everything from the much-loved Bat Bogey to something new which made the victim profess his undying love to the nearest person of the same gender. Irritation began to overshadow lust as Remus spent more and more time convincing Lily that expelling him wouldn't help, just make him go freelance.
"It was just cruel of you to cast it while Gilderoy was standing next to Severus!" he snapped after he'd cornered Sirius in the common room.
"Deserved it," Sirius grunted sullenly.
"He was just walking down the corridor!" Remus hissed, despising himself for still noticing how sexy Sirius' pouted lips were.
"S'my corridor," Sirius retorted, folding his arms like a two-year-old. "First Years should know better than to go blundering down it."
Remus closed his eyes and took a deep breath, his hand fisting compulsively with the desire to stab Sirius up the nose with his wand. He settled for reminding Sirius curtly that if he lost his privilege of going to the Yule Ball he would have wasted several months of all their lives, then stormed up the stairs to study.
That night, Remus was staring at the ceiling, unable to sleep, when he heard movement in the neighboring bed. This was followed by several soft footfalls, and then the rustling of his own hangings.
"Remus?" Sirius's voice was soft and muffled. "Are you awake?"
"Go away," Remus replied, not quietly and not caring whether any of the other boys could hear. "I'm still angry with you."
He could hear Sirius fumbling with the hangings anyway, and rolled over onto his side away from him. He felt the bed sink under added weight and heard the hangings swing back into place. A muttered "Lumos" lit the inside of the hangings with soft blue light.
"I can't sleep," Sirius informed him.
"Not my problem, is it?" Remus refused to roll over and face Sirius. "Get off my bed."
"C'mon, Moony." The note of pleading in Sirius' voice shot heat through Remus' torso. "I've got something I want to show you."
Remus rolled over to shout at Sirius, prepared to kick him off the bed if necessary, but stopped short as he took in the sight in front of him.
Sirius was sitting cross-legged on the end of his bed, wearing only pajama pants (Damn his infernal high metabolism, Remus snarled mentally), the wand light picking up indigo highlights in his bed-mussed hair and glinting off the curves of his muscles, his eyes looking wider without their usual dark outline of eyeliner. The light also played over the glossy surface of the guitar cradled in Sirius' lap -- not his guitar, though.
This guitar was a bass, four silver strings catching the light prismatically as the guitar shifted with Sirius' breath, and much darker than Sirius' bright red. It was a rich midnight blue, Remus knew despite the peculiar lighting, because it shone exactly the same color as Sirius' eyes in the glow of the wand.
Remus pushed himself up to a sitting position slowly, simultaneously trying to work out what Sirius was at now, and memorizing every detail of the scene happening on the end of his bed. The whole thing was so achingly beautiful, so unbearably seductive, and so nonchalantly Sirius, that Remus could think of no response that would not blow his secret wide open.
"Happy early Christmas," Sirius grinned, sliding the bass off his lap and into Remus'. Remus gripped the hard length of it, warm from Sirius' body, with numb hands and still could not think of a response, still could not take his eyes off Sirius.
"Too much," Remus finally managed in a low voice, and it was not clear whether he meant the guitar, Sirius, or the way his desire was threatening to stop his heart.
"Sold Zonko's the jingle," Sirius shrugged, Remus watching the artlessly graceful motion helplessly. "Half of it was yours anyway. You needed a real bass, not a transfigured broom."
Remus forced himself to look away, down at the bass. He even managed to work up a little flame of frustration that Sirius always did this, bought his way out of trouble with some gift and never actually apologized.
He was right though, the real bass did feel different somehow than the transfigured one had, more right in an indefinable way, smoother and more alive underneath Remus' stroking hands. Remus knew instinctively it would sound better as well, clearer and more powerful.
Remus looked up in question at Sirius' breathy noise, and saw Sirius staring at him intently, as if really seeing him suddenly, a new light in his eyes that held Remus motionless with terror. Sirius' eyes were wide and his mouth parted slightly, and before Remus could move, he leaned across the space between them.
Fuck, Remus had just enough time to think, before warm lips slid over his, and something that had been pulled tight in his chest for weeks, for months, snapped violently.
He had exactly enough presence of mind to set the bass on the floor with a clunk before taking two fistfuls of Sirius' hair and yanking him forward, collapsing backwards with Sirius' weight pushing him into the bed. Sirius sighed into Remus' mouth and kissed him harder, pressing against him.
Remus growled in the back of his throat and rolled them over as he had when they were wrestling, this time giving in utterly to the urge to crush Sirius beneath him, Sirius' breathy whines keeping any sort of reason from taking hold of him. He bore down harder, wanting to be closer, wanting more.
Sirius' hand pushed up Remus' pajama shirt to press into his back, arching up into the other boy. Frustrated by the way the material separated his skin from Sirius' and constricted his movement, Remus jerked the shirt over his head impatiently without unbuttoning it, a perk of wearing clothes big enough to hide in. He pressed back down, and Sirius gasped when their bare chests touched. Remus kissed him again, fierce and desperate, the soft noise of Sirius gasping into his mouth and the friction of Sirius' hips pressed into his own driving him mad. He ground into Sirius mindlessly, every breath a sharp moan.
A year's worth of unrequited love plus four months of unrequited lust equaled Remus not lasting very long. Sirius let out a long sigh only a moment or two later and the full weight of what had just happened began to permeate Remus' brain, even through the scent of post-sex Sirius that he was enveloped in. Remus clung to Sirius for several moments longer, the thought of separating his skin from Sirius' trembling heat actually painful.
By the time his breathing had slowed, he'd made his decision. He slid off Sirius and curled up on his side, facing away from him.
"Get out of my bed," he told Sirius in a low voice.
"Remus." Remus hunched his shoulders against the brush of Sirius' hand.
"Now." Remus voice gained an edge of steel. "We aren't going to talk about this."
Remus heard a soft huff of irritation, then felt Sirius slide off the mattress and take his wand with him, plunging Remus into darkness. As his eyes adjusted, he heard Sirius flop hard onto his own bed.
Remus lay very still, not even bothering to find his wand and spell himself clean. His bed seemed too large and cold, and smelled strongly of Sirius.
* * * * * *
Remus stared at the side of his hangings until dawn, wrung out both emotionally and physically but completely unable to sleep. He slid out of bed silently, dressed quickly, and then went to hide in the library until classes.
Several hours later, Sirius came in search of him. Remus knew it was him without looking up, the way the hair on the back of his neck stood up being clue enough. Sirius stood in front of him and cleared his throat when Remus continued pretending to read.
"Moony," Sirius began, but Remus cut him off.
"Thank you for my present, Sirius," he said, still not glancing above his book.
"Remus," Sirius tried again, more firmly, but Remus refused to let him get a full sentence out.
"I told you we weren't going to talk about it, and I meant it."
"Be reasonable!" Sirius snapped.
"You be reasonable," Remus finally did shut the book with a snap and gave Sirius a cold stare. "You've got a crush and you acted on it, like you always do, and by the end of the week you'll be over it and move on to somebody new and do the same with them, like you always do. Be smart for a change, and get to the next down the line as quickly as possible."
Sirius spluttered something angrily, but Remus stood up and pushed by him. Sirius grabbed his arm, halting his escape.
"Dammit, Remus!" he snarled. Remus didn't try to pull away, but came to a stop and gave Sirius a dispassionate stare.
"Let go of me right now," he ordered, each word clipped sharp enough to draw blood. Sirius dropped his arm and said nothing else as Remus left the library, but Remus could feel Sirius' gaze burning into his back the whole way out.
let the editing of part 3 begin...