"Don't you look dashing," said James, flicking paper doves at Sirius's dress robes. They had just enough flap in their wings to cross to the other side of the bed and embed themselves inside his collar, scratching at his neck.
"You," he said, yanking them out, "ought to have to endure this with me. I know your family was invited."
"My family was invited for propriety alone," said James. "It's not my cousin who's being married after all. They'd be appalled if we actually showed up."
"Lucky for you," said Sirius, brushing away the last of the doves and straightening his spine. "Do I look suitably superior and mean-spirited?"
"Slytherin enough, you mean?" said James with a snort. "You do. Now get out of here before you're late. I'm frankly terrified of your mother, mate, and if she shows up here to fetch you I'll never forgive you."
"You're not the only one," muttered Peter.
"I'd come with you, but your mother would curse me on sight," said Remus regretfully, reaching out to fix Sirius's collar.
"Nonsense, she'd only hex you if there were witnesses," Sirius assured him. "Can you come with me part of the way? The less time I have to spend without you lot, the better."
"Just let me fetch my cloak," said Remus, as James and Peter both made kissy noises in Sirius's general direction. "I'll be along in just a moment."
James sent off another dove, which circled Sirius's head twice before crash landing onto his nose. "So help me god, Prongs, if you do that one more time..." With Sirius's luck he'd have a great welt on his nose by the time he got to Narcissa's wedding; she would never forgive him for looking anything but perfect.
"Last one, mate," said James, choking back a laugh. "Had to make it a good one. I swear, it hardly shows..."
Sirius scrubbed at his nose till Remus took his arm and yanked him out of the room. "Are you using the fireplace at the Three Broomsticks, or have you got special dispensation to leave direct from the school?"
"Oh, Hogsmeade's much more fun," said Sirius. "Perhaps we can get lost on the way, and I won't have to go to this wretched affair at all. I know a hundred places to get lost in."
"If you know them so well, you can hardly be lost," said Remus, entirely too pragmatically.
"Oh, hush. It's not as though they know that. I could kidnap myself into the Forbidden Forest, just long enough for a shag or three, which has the added benefit of ruining Narcissa's day. She doesn't want me there, of course, but she has to have me. It's a little bit delicious, really."
"Only you would think so, Sirius."
They were upright and proper, as much as they ever were, through the corridors and out the front doors onto the path to Hogsmeade, right until they were out of sight of the castle.
"I was serious about a shag in the woods," said Sirius, stopping right next to the big oak where Prongs had taken off half the bark one night. They'd never asked quite how, and James had never told them, though there had been much speculation about the mating habits of stags. "I could have you right here, right against Prongs's tree."
"How romantic," said Remus dryly. "I could have you, don't you mean? You'll want to look as debauched as possible when you finally show up at the reception, of course."
"If only I didn't think I'd come back minus a pair of my prized possessions if I did," said Sirius, with a glance at the parts in question. "The wedding's a joke anyhow. They'll never last."
"Oh, I don't know. They're well matched, don't you think? He with his money and connections, she with her..."
"Money and cun--"
"One of them will eat the other alive, mark my words," said Sirius. "I just don't know which it will be yet."
"Which is precisely my point," said Remus. "Well matched."
"Care to make a wager on it, then?"
"You know I haven't got any money. I'd wager my supper, but you'd just help yourself to that anyhow."
"Only once you're finished!" protested Sirius. "How about this: if you're right, and they stay together, I'll give you a blowjob that'll curl your toes."
"And I suppose you'll want the same if you're right and they split up?"
"Naturally," said Sirius. "If I'm right -- and I am right -- I promise you I'll be right there on the spot to collect. Have we got a deal?"
"I think I could handle that," Remus conceded. Sirius grabbed his hand for a quick shake, moments before Remus added, "Wait, that's not right, I won't ever be able to collect!"
"Pish. Technicalities," said Sirius with a wicked grin. "Besides, you can collect if one of them dies. As long as one didn't kill the other, that would rather indicate they didn't make it work, I'd think."
"I still think I got cheated on that bet."
"As if there aren't a large number of blowjobs in your future from me anyhow," said Sirius, then looked back over his shoulder, up the path to Hogsmeade. "I suppose I've got to go."
"Suppose you do," agreed Remus. "You know where to find me when you return. Between James's thrashing about and Peter's snoring, we can take a moment."
"Believe me, I'm going to need it," said Sirius, and stole a kiss before going on his way.
September 1, 1998
No one questioned Remus's presence at the Ministry, even in the Department for Family Relations, a place he really had no legitimate business being. It wasn't that he had free rein of the place, just that mostly he went unnoticed.
He wasn't even entirely sure why he'd come, except for one stupid afternoon on the edge of the Forbidden Forest, one of a thousand memories he'd like to have back without the taint of the last couple of decades upon them.
He had only to stand behind the door of an adjacent office to watch; it would only take a moment.
"Now, if the issues of equitable division of assets are settled--"
"Yes, yes, get on with it," snapped Lucius. "Everything's been settled."
"Very well, then, if you'll both just sign here."
Narcissa's handwriting was sharp and quick, Lucius's thick and deliberate, but they both had that pinched, tired look about them, of people who had been through entirely too much in a very short period of time. Remus had seen a lot of that, since the war.
The Ministry official rolled up the faintly glowing scrolls and tucked them under his arm. "If you'll excuse me," he said. "I've got to file these, and we've got to protect against Polyjuice potion, of course. You understand. Just last week we had someone try to-- well, I suppose you aren't interested in that, are you. I'll be back in--" He consulted his pocketwatch. "--I suppose about fifteen more minutes ought to do it. That should give me enough time."
Lucius looked impatient at the delay; Narcissa just looked bored.
"I told you they'd never last."
Remus felt a chill go up his spine at the sound of that voice at his ear, from his tailbone right to the base of his skull. He didn't turn around, didn't look, didn't so much as twitch. He couldn't.
"Stop that incessant pacing," said Narcissa, sinking her fingers into Lucius's arm. "You'll have your way soon enough, can you not be still for even a few minutes?"
"Polyjuice! As if someone would dare--"
"Oh do shut up, Lucius. Of course they would dare, you haven't got a shred of respect left. You're just lucky you aren't still--"
"We do not talk about Azkaban," he hissed, grabbing her arm in return and yanking her close. "We do not talk about such things anymore."
The voice hadn't moved. "Didn't they have a boy? Hideous, bald, wailing child, if I remember correctly."
Remus cleared his throat and still couldn't bring himself to turn. "He's gone off to... somewhere in Africa, I believe. Said to hell with the both of them and took off."
"Clever boy. Comes from my side of the family, of course."
Finally Remus turned, and it wasn't just a disembodied voice in his ear, it really was Sirius, standing there true as life. Grinning and posing and looking as he would have if twelve years of Azkaban hadn't taken their toll on him, the strong, confident man Remus had always thought he would grow up to be.
"I've gone mad," he whispered, and closed his eyes.
"You haven't," said Sirius. "Or, if you have, it's nothing to do with me being here. Never thought it would take them twenty-one years, but in the end I still win."
Remus turned back around before opening his eyes, as though the sight of Sirius would burn his eyes. Instead he watched Lucius press Narcissa to him, each clutching the other's arm so tightly their fingers were white.
"I have lost my son, my fortune and my reputation," said Lucius. "And then you ask me to lose you as well. I will do what you ask, Narcissa, but I need not do it as you ask."
"An allegiance between the Black family and the Malfoy family is no longer advantageous," she said stiffly. "Even you can see that."
"Saving the family holdings from the Ministry by cutting your ties? How pragmatic of you, Narcissa. Or perhaps you really have been spreading your legs for the Minister for Magic."
Remus could almost feel the slap that followed; even more the smoldering look they gave one another following.
"Definitely a Black, that one," said Sirius, sliding his lips along the back of Remus's neck. "So do I get to collect on that bet now? I think we both remember what you owe me."
"I can't," Remus choked out "You... you could... Polyjuice, you could be anyone."
"But I'm not," said Sirius, kissing along the other side of his neck, right up to his earlobe. "Fifth year, after a night class in the Astronomy Tower, I charmed the patch of floor between your bed and mine silent. The only other people who knew that are dead, Remus."
"So're you," said Remus tightly.
"Which is why I haven't much time," said Sirius. A hand fell on Remus's shoulder and he was gently being turned, back towards Sirius's waiting and faintly unfamiliar face. "We haven't much time."
Remus stared at him then, and wouldn't let himself close his eyes again in case this was the only moment he ever had. "I'm not sure you won anyhow," he said, as he reached out to part Sirius's robes. There was a thump behind him, a sound he knew was Narcissa pressing Lucius up against a wall, clutching his arms and ravishing his mouth with hers. "They may be divorcing, but--"
"We wagered on their marriage, not their relationship. I still win." Sirius reached out to lift Remus's chin, and Remus finally met his eyes. "I'm a big believer in technicalities, these days."
"You win," Remus whispered, and looked down and away briefly before going to his knees. If this was his only chance, then he wasn't going to waste any more time on disbelief. And if he was wrong, if this was madness or trickery, well, he didn't want to know.
Sirius felt just the way he used to, arched just the way he used to, groaned just the way he used it. It was so familiar that Remus felt dizzy, disoriented. He forgot the other set of voices, panting and crying and rubbing in the other room, and heard only Sirius, the way he breathed, moaned, shivered.
Remus couldn't breathe and he didn't care; he grabbed at Sirius's robes, then his legs, then his arse as he swallowed him down, and cherished every moment of it. It could have lasted hours and it still would have been over too soon, and even after Sirius came, choking softly and spilling into Remus's throat, Remus held him in his mouth, held him until he grew soft and finally, inevitably, slipped out.
"I've got to go," said Sirius, helping him to stand and wiping Remus's lower lip with his thumb.
"No, not yet," said Remus, grabbing his wrist and holding it tight. "Not yet, not yet."
"I've got to go," he said again. "I'm sorry, I can't stay, I've got to go."
"You can't, I can't let you, I'll never... we'll never..." Remus shook his head fiercely. "I can't let you go again, I've done it too many times already."
"It's all right," said Sirius, "it's all right, Remus, it'll be all right. I promised to be here and I was, wasn't I?"
"A few moments with you in a dark office at the Ministry, it's not enough," said Remus. "It's not enough and I can't let you go again, I can't do it."
"You can, and you will," he said, and already Remus's grip on his wrist felt looser, as if Sirius grew smaller or more indistinct with each passing moment. "We haven't got a choice."
"I have to go," he said, one last time. "But remember, Remus, all the other promises I've ever made you. Remember them."
It was only that thought that allowed Remus to let go, let him watch Sirius fade away to nothing again. For Sirius had always been very free with his promises, and Remus could only hope he intended to honour each one of them.