The words scarred into Remus' left wrist had baffled him forever. Soul marks came in all manner of places on a person's body; but they were always words, and they were always the first words that your soulmate spoke to you.
Some people didn't have soul marks, be it because their soulmate had died, or because they just weren't interested in romance of any kind. Remus' father didn't have a soul mark – but this was because his mother was a muggle, and muggles didn't have soul marks. Both elder Lupins had been just as baffled as Remus was when they saw the words scarred into Remus' skin, but were happy that their son had a soulmate – especially when the soul mark stayed through his change into a werewolf.
Going to Hogwarts had never been something Remus expected to do, and he certainly hadn't expected to be sorted into Gryffindor; he didn't think himself brave in any sense of the word. He was staring at the empty plate in front of him, determinedly avoiding looking anyone in the eye, when there were two thumps and two black-haired boys sat either side of him.
He glanced up briefly at the boy to his left, and looked away hurriedly when he met the other's eyes. "I'll pay you ten sickles to punch me in the face." The boy said suddenly. Remus' mouth dropped open, and he turned astonished blue eyes on him.
Remus stuttered for a moment in disbelief, "What did you just say?"
"I'll pay you ten sickle to punch me in the face." The boy grinned at Remus' shocked look, but didn't say anything further, despite the clear need for an explanation of some sort!
"I- Why?" When Remus had dreaded coming to Hogwarts it certainly hadn't been because of the chance some insane boy would ask him to punch them. No, he'd more expected running away from him coupled with screaming. This was probably an improvement, but he was in a bit too much shock to say.
"Cos this one here…" The boy leaned around Remus, his wavy black hair falling into his face, to gesture at the other boy beside him.
"Hi, James Potter," Said other boy stuck his hand out, cheeky grin on his face, hazel eyes sparkling with amusement behind his glasses. At least this was a normal greeting, though Remus had the distinct feeling he was being made fun of.
"Remus Lupin." He shook James' hand.
"Yes, yes! Not important." The first boy waved his hand impatiently between them. "James called me a wuss, said I couldn't take a punch. So, I'll pay you ten sickles to punch me in the face."
Remus just stared at the first boy, then turned and stared at James. They both grinned at him. "Are you having me on?"
From that day Remus Lupin, Sirius Black, and James Potter were fast friends (though Remus refused to punch Sirius in the face). By Christmas another boy, Peter Pettigrew, had joined their little group, and by the end of first year, they had all been in too many detentions to count for their pranks and tricks - indiscriminate against everyone except each other - and Lily Evans because James had some kind of infatuation with her, much to her disgust.
"I'll pay you ten sickles to punch me in the face, Remus."
"One day, I'm going to take you up on that, and it's going to be when you least expect it." Remus narrowed his eyes down at Sirius, who had sprawled across the sofa - and Remus' lap - in the common room, and was now staring up at Remus with a cheeky grin on his face.
"Ahh that'll be the day."
"Fuck off, Sirius." Remus pushed his fellow third year off his lap and onto the hard stone floor. Sirius went, laughing and landed with a whoosh of breath being knocked out of him.
"You know you love me really, Lupin!"
Remus just scoffed, ignoring the way the words seared into his wrist seemed to burn under the glamouring paste he carefully applied every morning.
"If you say what I think you're gonna say, Sirius, I'll punch you somewhere much more delicate!"
Sirius stumbled into their dorm, reeking of alcohol and cigarette smoke, and fell onto Remus' bed with him, half on-half off.
"Padfoot?" Remus was rudely awakened, "Ack! What the fuck, Pads." He shoved at his friend ineffectually, the dead weight of Sirius meaning he couldn't get any leverage to roll him out the bed.
"Moony! What are you doing in my bed?"
"It's not your bed, Pads!"
"Oh." There was a brief silence whilst Remus waited for Sirius to come to his senses and pull himself across the room to his own bed. When that didn't happen, Remus frowned.
"I'm a useless blood traitor, did you know, Remus?"
Remus' mind was racing, someone had said something to Sirius clearly. Usually Sirius wore his blood traitor status with pride ever since he had gone to live with James' family half-way through the summer earlier this year.
"What happened?" He asked again, hoping for some clarity.
"Ran into Regulus." Sirius slurred, rolling over and burying his head in Remus' chest. Remus tensed uneasily, but was sure Sirius didn't notice. "He- He said-" Remus hesitated a moment, and then rested his hand lightly on top of Sirius' silky black hair.
"Shh. You don't need to say, Sirius."
"My family hates me, Remus." Sirius' voice was quiet, and subdued. Remus' heart clenched in his chest and he angrily brushed away the few tears that had leaked out, with his spare hand.
"We're your family, Padfoot!" The words on Remus' wrist seemed to burn something fierce, trying to remind him he could be something more, Sirius' other half. Remus pushed the thought away fiercely. How could he, a scarred, poor werewolf, ever be enough for Sirius Black.
"Yeah." He heard more than saw the smile in Sirius' voice. Between one breath and another, Sirius was asleep in Remus' bed with his head resting over Remus' heart.
Remus didn't get much sleep that night.
When Remus awoke to the pale light of the hospital wing the morning after the June full moon, he could immediately tell something was wrong. Very wrong.
"Moony!" It was James' voice. Remus turned his head painfully slowly to see his three best friends standing at the side of his bed. James looked anxious, Peter looked scared, and Sirius, well Sirius wouldn't even look in Remus' direction. It hurt something deep inside Remus that felt like he was being rejected by his soulmate.
"Wha' happened?" His voice was slurred with exhaustion, and his muscles hurt even more than usual after a full moon, as he pushed himself up so he was sitting.
James glared at Sirius fiercely until said boy turned to look at Remus. With a jolt he suddenly realised whatever was wrong was Sirius' fault. "Tell him, Pads. Or I will." Remus didn't think he'd ever heard James so angry with Sirius ever before.
In stilting sentences, the story came out. Sirius had let Snape overhear him talking about how to get into the tunnel leading to the Shrieking Shack, and as suspicious as the Slytherin had always been about Remus, he followed those instructions.
If James hadn't been there to stop and save Snape, he would either be turned or dead right now. And Remus would have been on his way to Azkaban, to be locked up like the animal he was.
None of the boys were quick enough to react when Remus swung out with a balled fist and punched Sirius square in the middle of his face, breaking his nose.
"You owe me so much more than ten sickles, Black!" Remus shouted, rage and horror and anguish making his voice shake. "Get the fuck away from me." Remus turned his back to his friends, and listened as Peter shuffled a silent Sirius over to Madame Pomfrey to be looked over, and then out the room.
James came 'round the bed, and took a seat in the chair facing Remus. Without a word he reached out and let his hand lay firmly over Remus', saying nothing as his friend broke down. Tears soaking the bed sheets beneath him.
The words on James' wrist - Get away from me, Toerag - were revealed in seventh year, and by the time they left the school he and Lily were blissfully happy together.
Remus' words remained hidden, his soul still missing its other half. He had forgiven Sirius though.
He'd betrayed them. He'd betrayed them all. James and Lily's locations revealed to Voldemort, Peter and 12 muggles blown up, and Harry now living with his aunt and uncle, unaware of the tragedy surrounding him. Remus wasn't even able to look after Harry like he was supposed to thanks to the Ministry's new laws regarding Werewolves.
But none of it mattered as much as his soul shattering into pieces right then and there when he'd seen the pictures in the Daily Prophet of his soulmate being dragged, laughing, to Azkaban.
12 years since he'd seen any of his friends. 12 years of lonely full moons, hardly any food, and being turned away from any and every job.
And now he was going to work at Hogwarts, because the man that had done all of this to him had escaped Azkaban.
He'd stopped covering his words years ago. There was no one left who would understand the significance of them after all.
A year of turmoil, and he found himself poised in the doorway of the horrid shack he had spent every month in as a teenager.
There he was, older and tireder and so haggard looking, his soulmate. The man he thought had betrayed Lily and James, had betrayed him. But it hadn't been. It'd been the rat he'd mourned for 12 years.
He disarmed the boy he should have raised, and his two friends, and then turned to Sirius, emotion making his voice thick, and asked "Where is he, Sirius?" Sirius stared at him blankly for a moment, eyes flickering to Remus' exposed wrist and widening, before flicking away. Then, very slowly, he pointed at Weasley.
"But then..." Remus muttered to himself, staring at Sirius intently, hoping against hope, "...why hasn't he shown himself before now? Unless" His eyes widened, "-unless he was the one...unless you switched... without telling me?"
Very slowly, Sirius nodded, not looking away from Remus.
Harry was talking in the background, but Remus couldn't hear him over the rushing blood in his ears. Sirius was innocent, his soulmate was innocent, and - oh god - he'd been locked up in Azkaban for 12 years for something he didn't do! Remus was moving before he knew it, pulling Sirius from the floor and into a tight hug, his heart beating in his throat, tears in his eyes as he whispered, "Padfoot."
The rest of the night was a cluster-fuck of epic proportions, but by the end of it Sirius was alive and free (for some definitions of the word), and Remus hadn't felt so light in years.
When Remus arrived home after leaving Hogwarts, trunk in his pocket, he found Sirius sitting on his sofa. Sirius looked up at him silently for a moment, glancing away when Remus' stare seemed to become too much. He'd showered in the intervening time, and his hair was once again back to the shoulder length mass of waves it had always been in school. Merlin, he'd missed this man.
When Sirius spoke his voice was as hoarse as it had been in the shack, "I owe you ten sickles, Moony."
The breath caught harshly in Remus' chest. "Pads-"
"Why did you never say anything?"
"Some Gryffindors we are." Sirius rose from the sofa, standing in front of Remus, wearing a weird sisters shirt Remus had forgotten he owned, and a pair of Remus' jeans which were too long so they bunched around his ankles, and too large because they were barely staying up over Sirius' bony hips - which was saying something considering how skinny Remus was.
Sirius lifted the borrowed shirt, exposing an emaciated belly, his ribs standing out sharply through his skin, and black words inked into his skin by fate What did you just say in Remus' own hand. Remus was reaching out to touch before he realised, hesitating before his fingers touched skin, only to be urged along by Sirius.
"Pads." Remus cleared his throat desperately, "Sirius."
"Apparently we're both cowards," Sirius said as he reached out to trace the words on Remus' wrist revealed when he stretched his arm out. "Why didn't we ever see them in school? Mine are much easier to hide."
"Concealing paste." Remus shrugged, not wanting to dwell on the past.
They moved slow, getting to know each other as friends again first. The first few months were amazing and awful and so so painful as they worked through their many issues. The money was running out, too fast, considering Remus usually barely had enough to scrape by and now he was having to put up Sirius who didn't have access to his vault yet.
He came home one day to Sirius packing up, and though he understood and agreed that it wasn't safe for Sirius to stay any longer, it was still upsetting.
The Battle in the Department of Mysteries was something, years later, that he refused to think about. Nearly losing Sirius was akin to nothing else, the scream that had caught in his throat as he'd seen Sirius' body arching backwards towards the veil was hysterical. Thank Merlin Dumbledore had arrived in time to quickly save Sirius from falling through with an obscure spell.
Remus had not left Sirius' bedside that night in the Hogwarts hospital wing, sitting there with his head bowed over Sirius' and his joined hands. He wasn't one to pray, but that night he prayed to Merlin, Morgana, Circe, anyone who would listen, to keep Sirius alive.
When Sirius had woken up days later, the only one who had still been unconscious save Hermione, Remus had drawn him into his arms and not let go for a long time. "Moony."
"Don't you dare nearly die on me again, Pads!" He pulled back enough to stare into Sirius' eyes determinedly. Whatever smart arse thing Sirius went to say in response was lost when Remus pressed their lips together desperately. Sirius returned the frantic kiss immediately, lifting his hands to tangle them in Remus' sandy blonde hair. When Sirius' tongue ran along Remus' bottom lip gently, begging entrance, Remus was lost, pulling Sirius (gently, so gently - he was injured after all) closer, as close as they could get.
"Mr Lupin!" Poppy Pomfrey's strident voice interrupted their moment, and they pulled away from each other, panting. Looking more like 15 year olds getting caught snogging by their parents, than the 36 year olds they really were. "Honestly, Mr Black is still injured. You can return to… that." She waved her hand at them both, "When he is fully healed and out of my hospital wing!"
Sirius grinned unrepentantly, "Are you jealous, Poppy?" She glared at him so ferociously that, had he been a lesser man, he would've shrunk away. As it was he just winked, and gripped Remus' hand tighter when he tried to pull away discreetly. "I've been waiting way too long to kiss my soulmate for some little thing like being injured to get in the way." He said firmly after a brief stand-off with Madame Pomfrey. She huffed, but Remus could see the smile hovering around her lips as she walked away from them.
Remus tightened his hand around Sirius' reflexively, love swelling in his throat and choking him with emotions - in the best possible way. He was never letting this man go again.