Sirius was one hell of an actor, Remus had to admit, especially when it came to acting like nothing was wrong. Remus had witnessed this byproduct of Sirius' childhood many times, but had never seen such a flawless performance as Sirius gave in the final days before the Yule Ball. Remus' nerves were more raw than ever now that he knew exactly what he was missing, but Sirius wrestled with James and hexed First Years and teased Peter and finalized the band's set list with Remus exactly as he would have BCE, or Before the Cataclysmic Event as Remus came to term it mentally.
In fact, the only difference was the conspicuous absence of the song Sirius had been working on by himself. Peter and James didn't notice, or didn't comment at any rate; they had more than enough songs if they combined the original stuff with some covers of Top 40 singles. Remus wondered about the song, but had a suspicion that it had to do with him and Sirius and what had happened between them, so he refrained from asking questions.
They exchanged presents early, in the Common Room on the morning of the Ball, and Sirius rolled his eyes before unwrapping Remus' gift.
"Book again," he sighed as Remus handed him the square package. "It's always a bloody book with you, isn't it?"
Remus said nothing, even though Sirius' traditional comment was a bit more sharp this year than usual. He patiently waited until Sirius figured out what his present actually was.
The cover of the leather-bound book said nothing, and Sirius furrowed his brow as he opened it, then his eyebrows shot up.
It was a book of blank music sheets, dozens of them, more than Sirius could fill for a long time, even if he wrote songs every day for the next couple years. At the top of each page was printed "From the Paws of Mr. Padfoot".
"It's spelled so you'll never run out," Remus explained quietly as Sirius flipped through the pages. "Happy Christmas, Padfoot."
Sirius looked up and stared at him intently, and Remus stared right back knowing exactly what Sirius was searching his face for and refusing to give it.
It's better this way, Remus thought hard, as though he could send the message mentally, or maybe just talk himself into believing it. It was hard to believe it when Sirius stared at him like that, like he could see right through Remus' act.
"Oi!" James said suddenly through a mouthful of the chocolate frogs Remus had given him. "Wha ur ee onna ear oon eye?"
"What?" Sirius flicked his gaze over to James in irritation. "Swallow, git."
"I ed," James gulped hugely, "what are we going to wear tonight?"
"What do you mean?" Peter asked, perplexed. "We've always worn dress robes before, haven't we?"
"We can't wear dress robes!" James looked horrified. "We're the BAND for Merlin's sake! How'm I supposed to be a heartthrob lead vocalist in a dress robe?!"
"Lads, lads, relax," Sirius said easily. "I've got it totally covered. It just so happens that my dear cousin Andromeda has sent me the necessaries. Package arrived yesterday."
"Oh really?" Remus raised an eyebrow. "I'm sure I can't wait to see what sort of ridiculous get-up you've got planned for us now. Go on then, show us. It's likely to be more entertaining than when we play tonight."
"You're going to eat those words," Sirius told him archly. They traded heated glares before he stood up and stalked towards their dorm, Remus watching him swagger away with a barely audible snarl, half of irritation and half of sexual frustration.
When Sirius reappeared several minutes later, Remus cursed the way Sirius was always right. Or at least, he would have been right if Remus' throat would have unconstricted enough for him to swallow anything, words or…whatever else.
Sirius had apparently decided that Muggle rock music required a Muggle approach to costuming as well. The skintight jeans were back, the acid-washed denim squeezing his ass in a way that made Remus' palms itch to do the same. The T-shirt was similarly tight, but made of a silvery sort of material, stretched taut across his shoulders and riding up over his navel as he moved, revealing a line of pale flesh. Remus, unable to tear his eyes away, squeezed them shut, but they flew open again when an image of him licking the skin right above Sirius' jeans played across the back of his eyelids.
Sirius strutted across the room to the catcalls and cheers of James and Peter, and he tossed floppy packages wrapped in brown paper to each of them, presumably containing similar clothes. He stopped in front of Remus and leaned close to drop his package onto Remus' lap.
"What do you think?" he murmured huskily, his face within six inches of Remus'. Remus glared at him, knowing his face, his whole body, was betraying him with the answer already. He opened his mouth to snarl, but it was then that he noticed it.
A collar. Sirius was wearing a collar.
The swing of Sirius' hair half-concealed it and the rest of the outfit was too distracting for Remus to have noticed it before, but now that it was right in front of him, Remus had no idea how he could have missed it, how he would ever be able to get the image out of his mind of black leather fitting snug against Sirius' throat. Remus could practically taste the pulse throbbing underneath it.
"See something you like?" Sirius whispered, his mouth twitching in a half-smile.
Remus clawed his way back to composure, positive the effort to rebuild his neutral expression was visible to Sirius. When he was sure he was under control, Remus met Sirius' gaze and stared back at him impassively.
I'm not giving in to you, Remus thought, letting that be the only thing his face showed. A flash of irritation crossed Sirius' eyes, but he smirked as he pulled away. Remus clung to his outward indifference with grim determination.
* * * * * *
Sirius changed back into his robes and they snuck off to the Shack for one last rehearsal. With only a few hours to go until they had to report to the Great Hall for set-up, the Marauders rustled up an early dinner from the kitchen elves, then returned to their dorm to get ready before any of the other Seventh Years returned from dinner.
Remus had slipped off the showers, hoping to rid himself of some of the sexual tension that was battling the stage fright for control of his body. He changed into his Muggle clothes there so that he could get a good look at himself without the others around.
It was every bit as bad as he had feared. His jeans, a much darker blue than Sirius', fit him like a second skin, and the dark green T-shirt clung to his wiry frame. The look had fit Sirius perfectly, who would show off his admittedly pleasing body under any pretext, but was absolutely mind-blowing on Remus, if for no other reason than because the change was so startling. Remus had spent seven years cultivating a wardrobe which let him hide his body in shapeless obscurity; under the thin fabric hugging his torso, the nearly supernatural ripple of muscle under skin was breathtakingly obvious.
I'm a sex god, Remus thought gloomily as he scrutinized himself in the mirror. If Sirius only had two hormones to rub together I'd be in trouble. I'm going to have to beat him off with a stick.
"No pun intended," he snarled out loud.
He threw his robes back on before returning to the dorm, hoping to put off showing the others for as long as possible. He found James and Sirius reviewing their own results with glee and charming James' shirt a more Gryffindor-esque red than it had started out.
"So now I'm in it," Peter, who had never had an ideal body, looked ridiculously uncomfortable, despite the fact that his belated growth spurt made the tight clothes reasonably attractive. He tugged the hem of his T-shirt down futilely. "I'm just not sure I'll be able to get out of it."
"That's what girls are for!" James replied, turning suddenly towards him right as Sirius said "Rubra!". The charm missed James completely and struck Remus' desk, turning his Arithmancy essay the gaudy red.
"Watch it, can't you!" Remus snapped, pulling out his wand and casting the countercharm.
"Sorry!" Sirius chirped, not sounding sorry at all. Remus felt Sirius eyes follow him over James' shoulder as Remus went over to his bed and sat down.
"Where's your stuff?" Peter asked suspiciously, the implication clear that if he had to do it, so did everyone else.
"Got it on," Remus grunted.
"Aha!" Sirius turned, James' shirt forgotten. "Let's see it then."
"No," Remus replied shortly. "It's cold in here. Finish James' shirt."
"I said let's see it." Sirius crossed his arms and set his jaw. "Don't make me turn you upside down, Moony."
"Shove off," Remus scowled.
"Will you leave him alone and do my shirt already?!" James demanded irritably. Sirius refused to budge. "Oh for the love…Remus, take off the damn robes!"
Remus stood up, glaring blackly at the floor, and reached up to undo the clasp of his robes. The heavy fabric slithered down his body to the floor, rasping in the expectant silence.
"Holy fuck," Peter was the first to speak after a long moment.
"Merlin's left nut!" James swore.
Sirius made an odd sort of squeak. Werewolf instinct raised Remus' head before he could stop it. One look at Sirius' open-mouthed stare and Remus' ever-present erection decided to join the party, and this time there were no robes and no Hogwarts, a History to hide behind.
On the up side, the damn jeans were so tight that the only pronounced outward effect was a faint blush across Remus' nose.
"Bastard," James grumbled, completely oblivious as always. "I'M supposed to be the heartthrob!"
Sirius shook himself slightly, but instead of the lust Remus expected to see on his face, Sirius' expression settled into one of anger.
"Stop whinging!" he snapped at James. "Do you want your shirt done or not?"
"I've been waiting for you!" James replied indignantly. Remus sank back down onto his bed, too strung out to break up their bickering for once. Instead he turned to Peter and they exchanged a nervous smile.
"All right," Sirius said shortly, turning away from James' finally-charmed shirt. "All that's left is the make-up, then."
"The what?!" James exclaimed. "I feel like enough of a nancy as it is, there's no way you're putting anything else on me!"
"It's GLAM, Prongs," Sirius snarled through gritted teeth. "Do you want to look it or don't you?"
They argued some more, but Sirius won in the end, and ten minutes later, Sirius was putting the finishing touches on a disgruntled James. Remus watched from his bed.
"Stop scowling," Sirius ordered. "Unscrunch your eyes."
"Takes too long," James complained, fidgeting.
"Don't be a child." Sirius finished with the eye pencil. "There, you're finished."
"Well?" James asked, opening his eyes and glaring at them. "How is it?"
"It's hot," Peter assured him. "Do me next."
After doing the same to Peter, Sirius pulled a lip gloss out of his pocket and tossed it to them before striding over to Remus' bed.
"You're next," he scowled.
"What's wrong with you?" Remus asked, more out of academic curiosity than personal concern. Sirius sat down heavily.
"Nothing," Sirius spat the word. "Close your eyes."
Remus closed his eyes obediently and felt Sirius outline his eyelids with short angry strokes. Fearing for his eyes, Remus reached up and seized Sirius' wrist.
"Either tell me what you're on about," Remus warned without opening his eyes, "or let someone else do it. You're going to poke my eye out."
"You're the one who said we weren't going to talk about it," Sirius growled in a low voice. He shook off Remus' hand, but the pencil was far more gentle when it again touched Remus' face.
Sirius worked in silence, then Remus felt his touch disappear. He kept his eyes closed until Sirius had slid off the bed and returned to where the others were.
"Remus, get over here."
Remus opened his eyes to see the other three Marauders staring at him, Sirius holding a small jar. He stood up and joined them, eyeing Sirius warily.
"It's not Glam if there isn't glitter," Sirius informed them, and Remus realized that was what the jar contained, very fine silver glitter.
Sirius poured himself a liberal handful and turned to James, ordering him to close his eyes again, then blowing the glitter over him in a steady stream. The shimmering dust swirled in the air before settling on James, spiraling in patterns that caught Remus' eye and made him think of the snowflakes he liked to watch outside the tall window beside his bed.
Sirius repeated the process for Peter and then Remus. Remus allowed himself a small smile as Sirius' breath washed over him, noticing the return of the orange lip gloss.
"Let me," Remus said when it was over, reaching over to take the jar from Sirius. He tipped some of the stuff into his own palm and tilted it to catch the light before blowing his own steady stream of silver over Sirius.
"Messy," James wrinkled his nose as he scuffed at the now-glittery floor. "Could've done it just as easily with magic."
Sirius shook himself a little, and Remus watched with fascination how a small cloud of silver rose from his hair, how every line of his body was outlined in silver with every motion, every breath. He realized that it was magic really, just not the kind you did with wands.
I am so far gone, he thought with a soft sigh.
"AH!" James exclaimed suddenly, making Remus jump. "We're supposed to be in the Hall in ten minutes!"
"Let's go then!" Sirius grinned maniacally. "We've got a show to put on, lads!"
* * * * * *
The last hour before the dance started passed in a blur of set-up and sound checks and dire warnings from McGonagall about what they were not to play ("If I hear so much as the opening bar of that 'Wizard's Staff' song…").
People were peeking in through the double doors far too early for Remus' taste. He clutched the soothing weight of his guitar tighter, more nervous than he could ever remember being in his entire life. Which was ridiculous, given that he was a werewolf hiding in plain sight with three unregistered Animagi as best friends.
After all, he thought while tuning the bass, how many students get to play the Yule Ball? In front of all their friends, and professors…and everybody they know…
Remus swallowed hard and tried to remember everybody in their underwear. He grimaced as his gaze swept over Professor McGonagall and turned his gaze back to the stage. Sirius in his underwear was a much more pleasing thought.
Of course, there was no way Sirius was wearing underwear underneath those jeans.
Remus ducked his head to hide his grin as a hot wash of lust overcame the stage fright quite effectively. He decided to save that technique for later use.
Years later, his first students never did find out why their teacher spent the whole class trying to smother an embarrassed grin.
"Ready to go?" James asked, looking back over his shoulder from the front of the stage where he and Sirius were standing. Peter gave him the thumbs-up, and Remus bared his teeth more than he smiled.
"Ready," he lied. Sirius glanced over his shoulder at Remus and played a chord as though he was testing his sound. Remus recognized it as the very first chord he had ever heard Sirius play, an echo of that first shiver running through him. He grinned back at Sirius, the first real smile he'd given him in days.
"Ready," he repeated, and this time it wasn't a lie. Sirius winked at him before turning back to face the crowd.
"Hello, Hogwarts!" James said into the microphone. "Are you ready to rock?"
The purebloods looked perplexed, but several of the Muggle-borns laughed and shouted "Yeah!".
"I said, are you ready to ROCK?" James tried again, and this time the response was more unified.
"Not exactly a ringing endorsement, Mr. Padfoot," James said to Sirius leaning away from the microphone.
"Better show them then," Sirius grinned. "And now for the traditional count: a-one…a-two…a-one two three four!"
Once the first chords washed through Remus, loud and pure, his nerves died down to a dull buzz and he threw himself into the song. Sirius faded back slightly after starting them off, letting James take center stage, and Remus glanced at him from time to time, memorizing his scowl of fierce concentration and the way his body curled around his guitar perfectly, as if neither he nor it had been made for anything else.
Remus started when the song finished and the people on the floor applauded enthusiastically. He'd practically forgotten there even was a crowd, forgotten the whole band idea was for anybody but them. He barely had time to remember before Sirius was driving them into the next song, and Remus, the adrenaline finally starting to take hold, followed him willingly.
Stand by for part 4 shortly...if you were wondering, I really want this whole thing up before i go on Thanksgiving break. I think it'll take two or three more parts.