Part two and final.
I had a lot of trouble getting this to go where I wanted it to end up. Actually the scene went totally differently than it was supposed to when I started to write it. But I like the way it turned out, and I hope you do too.
Mine? Still no.
Sirius itched. He always itched in dress robes. He squirmed in his seat, struggling to get comfortable, struggling to scratch the spot between his shoulder blades without elbowing James or the stern-looking lady on his other side. The lady gave an impetuous sniff into her lace handkerchief when he bumped her.
"Shh," James hissed. "Sit still, you're making a scene."
Sirius scowled, burrowing mutinously deeper into his seat. The old James would never have used the phrase "making a scene." The old James loved to be "making a scene." But grown-up, serious, Head Boy, Lily's James sat still and straight, staring solemnly ahead. It would have made Sirius sick if Moony hadn't already.
Remus sat next to his mother at the front, all stiff and untouchable except for his hands. Sirius could see his fingers tugging and twining with one another, turning over and over in a twisting dance of awkwardness in Remus's lap. Despite his unwavering gaze toward the stream of his father's friends making eulogies, those fingers betrayed his lack of focus.
Watching those fingers pull at one another, Sirius wasn't focused on the service either. It ended unexpectedly with James's elbow in his ribs.
"Get up," Pete said. "It's over. Time to go to Moony's."
The Lupin house was small and dingy-looking. The cleaning and preparation for company only emphasized the age and wear: stains in the carpet, scratches on the table. It formed a bleak contrast with the cozy home of the Potters and the polished mansion of Sirius's former family. It was as though the building, not just the family inhabiting it, was bereft.
Remus looked worn, too. Gone was the comforting propriety of the service; he was limp and helpless, drowning in a sea of condolences. Sirius remembered the full moon coming tonight—Remus should have been resting, not becoming steadily more drained as he greeted strange old people and accepted their handshakes, casseroles, and words of dubious comfort. Sirius felt tired just looking at him.
So instead he tried not to look at him. He focused on the photographs on the shelf. Younger, happier versions of Remus waved and smiled up at him from his mother's lap, his father's shoulders. It was odd to note how Moony had changed just through the pictures. In each one, he was more drawn, more serious, with more scars and a thinner smile. Increasingly the photo-Remus shrugged around with a book tucked under his arm. One had opened his and was attempting to read it while, next to him, James and Lily battled over something hidden from the frame.
Sirius smiled. That was his Moony, always sticking his head into some book or other. To the left of that photo was one of the Marauders drinking cocoa their first Christmas at Hogwarts all together—third year, he thought it was. But his favorite picture on the shelf was hidden a little behind that one. It was of the two of them, one afternoon last term. It had been taken right after a full moon, and it had been Sirius's turn to take notes for the classes Moony missed. They sat close as Sirius helped Remus decipher his untidy scrawl, and Remus rested his head on Sirius's shoulder as Sirius slipped a supportive arm around his back.
Sirius remembered the smell of an exhausted Remus so close, and a wave of heartbreak broke over his body. Suddenly every fiber of his being wished that a simple hug could fix everything now, as it had seemed to then. But this was an irrational and inexplicable desire. If touch could dissipate life's sorrows, the awkward embraces of Remus's family would have cured his troubles by now. Instead he looked ill at ease with all the touching; it seemed to be doing the aunts more good than Remus, who flinched, barely perceptibly, every time someone touched him.
Besides, he couldn't just go up to Remus and wrap his arms around him… for one thing, if he did, Remus would probably stiffen all over like Sirius was scalding him with his very touch. It would be inappropriate. It violated the most basic rules of polite company which had been beaten into Sirius at a very young age and into which Remus had trained himself. And even if there weren't other people…
It's not that they were awkward with one another. They weren't. But that lack of awkwardness was the result of a series of very carefully constructed, if unspoken, rules. All the same, Sirius wasn't sure he could control himself when Remus was such a mess inside his skin, not if they were alone. So, really, it was a good thing there were all those relatives in the way.
He pulled his attention back to the shelf of things that didn't matter. Anything to avoid seeing the expression on Remus's face as he listened to some cousins saying they had always liked Uncle John the best, which mattered rather too much for comfort.
Even after things had calmed down some, and James had gone with Lily on his arm and Peter trailing after him to talk to Moony, Sirius couldn't bring himself to do it.
It was just so unfair. So fucking unfair. They were seventeen. They should not be losing people, or knowing people who were losing people. Not any way, and definitely not in some stupid war. Remus was barely seventeen. He shouldn't be holding up his broken family. He shouldn't have to take care of them. Someone should be taking care of him.
And no one was. Some people were trying, but they didn't know how to help him. Maybe it was self-centered of him, but Sirius felt like he knew better than they did. At least he knew Moony, which was more than he could say for the second cousins and their weeping mothers. Where had they been days Remus couldn't afford lunch, or the nights the transformations were so bad he spent three days in bed after?
But now they thought there was something they could do. It was another injustice, bitter and stinging in Sirius's eyes.
"You should talk to Moony, mate," James whispered close to his ear. "He kept looking over here. I think he's hurt you haven't been over yet."
"How is he?" Sirius asked, turning to face James.
James's hazel eyes flicked over to where Remus was standing. "Not well, Pads. He won't say anything about it, but I don't think he's all right. Maybe you can get him to talk about it."
By the time Sirius had worked up his courage to go talk to Moony—feeling all the while like maybe he'd make it worse, which was utterly bonkers, since what was he here for if not to comfort Moony? They were mates after all—it was late, and the sun had set. Remus had disappeared from the room where the adults were making polite (if tearful) conversation. But Sirius knew exactly where to find him. He always did, if Moony had gone, know just where to look.
Remus had gone into his bedroom and was sitting on the little bed (half the size of the beds at school) with his head in his hands. He wasn't crying. He wasn't shaking. He was perfectly still, but his stance still conveyed complete defeat.
Sirius crept in, feeling guilty and weirdly self-conscious. He did not understand this feeling. He always knew exactly what he was doing, even when he made mistakes. Things were different now. Here. With Moony.
He sat down on the edge of the bed. "Hey."
Remus didn't look up. He didn't have to. "You don't have to say anything. Please."
So Sirius said nothing. He just did.
And for the first time in days, something felt right.