Drown Ophelia

It's the last time he sees Sirius's mouth smeared bright red, strands of dark hair sticking to his lips. Like the blokes they see on the telly in their flat, dolled up with black-rimmed eyes, red lips, lace cuffs.

"We're going to a wedding," he says, and grins, and takes Remus's hand. His sleeve hangs loose and gauzy between their palms so only their fingers touch.

"If it's one of your relations," says Remus, "I'd just as soon not."

"Only very distantly, by marriage."

He nods at the calendar; the date is circled in black, a crude drawing of a crown twinkling beneath it. Two days from today the date is circled in red, and a much finer drawing of a very small child giggles and kicks his legs in the air.

Remus is fairly certain the British royal family never had a place on the Black family tapestry, distant relations or not. It feels right anyway, that Sirius ought to be a prince.

"My family would sooner slit their own throats than so much as acknowledge it," says Sirius. "It's perfect. Get dressed."

Remus sheds his robes, a swirl of brown and grey and hints of red that crumples to the floor, discarded. He wears little underneath, thrift-shop threadbare trousers and polyester shirt, but Sirius deems it perfect. Remus looks the part of servant to the prince, and thinks he always has.

They weave through crowded London streets and Remus wonders which one of these Muggles the Death Eaters will kill next. Or perhaps in a moment the skies will open and dementors will swoop down and the Dark Lord will claim them all, and the street will be a battlefield and the side of light is spread to thin today to resist.

"We can't be going to the cathedral," Remus says instead of this. "We're not invited."

"I could get in," says Sirius, and no doubt he could. Sirius can get anywhere he likes, when he wants to. He can do anything. It startles Remus sometimes, how unsimple he can be. "I'd growl and frighten everyone away."

No one, Remus is sure as he smiles in Sirius's face, will fear a dog in red lipstick, no matter how large and shaggy and Black.

The Muggles disapprove of them. Remus stares at the hole in his shoe; Sirius flips them off with his free hand and tells them they dress funny. Fascination is no substitute for half a life among them, and Sirius still isn't very good with Muggles.

They stay until the carriage rolls past, craning their necks with hundreds of strangers to catch a glimpse of white dress and shimmering veil. Remus feels his neck tingle, and thinks of the dozens of wizards on rooftops, in nooks, in disguise, watching for signs of trouble. He wonders why Sirius wants to be here today.

But Sirius raises Remus's knuckles to his lips as the blushing bride passes and he forgets for a moment that he wonders. A prince, a dog, a lover too. His hand comes away red-tinged, like the morning after a beastly night before. He wipes it clean on his trousers.

"Well, that was lovely," says Sirius cheerfully as he tugs him away again. Remus tugs in return, steering them away from the crowds.

"We'd have seen more if we'd stayed home and watched the telly."

"We weren't just here to watch," says Sirius, and Remus doesn't ask what he means. He only knows his own reasons, nine parts selfish, one part to protect the throng of Muggles from the whim of Voldemort. Though his protection in this was neither asked for nor expected.

Remus pauses to look in a shop window; Sirius stomps heavily on a crack in the pavement. A woman in an odd hat gives them the evil eye.

"I need to buy Harry a present," Sirius says suddenly. "I'll buy him something here. Do you think he would like one of the souvenir tea towels they were selling at the corner?"

"What in the world would little Harry do with a tea towel?"

"Drool on it, most likely. I could charm it so The Lady Diana coos at him when he sucks on her elbow."

"I'm sure the Misuse of Muggle Artefacts Department would be delighted by that," says Remus. "I've got a thought. You find a gift for Harry, and I'll go back to the flat and--"

"--miss all the excitement? Perish the thought, you're coming with me. I'll not let you out of my sight."

He doesn't, and he buys the tea towel and makes Remus carry it because he doesn't want to look like the tosser with the tea towel at the wedding.

"My family owns a cottage overlooking the cathedral," he says. "I'd forgotten until now. We can watch from there."

"There are no cottages overlooking St. Paul's Cathedral," Remus tells him. "You're thinking of something else again."

"I'm not, and they do," Sirius insists. "It's a dreary thing that even the poor cousins turn their noses up at. My mother took me once, a tour of all that would one day be mine." He spits on the pavement. "I've got all I want, thank you Mother."

Remus had long ago become convinced the Sirius would never possess all that he wanted, no matter how hard he tried. "There won't be a dragon waiting to devour you on sight, will there?"

"Of course not," says Sirius. "They would never try the same thing twice, it reeks of desperation. They've probably forgotten the place is even there. Or burnt it to the ground. But we'll hope they haven't because it really does have the loveliest view, if you look out the right window."

Sirius pulls him into the alley beside a locked-up haberdashery and Apparates them both away. The pop is thought to be another firecracker, and no one looks.

They arrive in a courtyard littered with decaying leaves. "Scourgify," says Sirius before Remus can turn. "Fluesis." Somehow, as they arrived, they'd parted.

Sirius stands regal, wand pointed in front of him imperiously. A pose that inspires thoughts of Avada Kedavra, then his shoulders relax and he puts the wand away and looks very satisfied with himself.

A fountain, obsidian, a great black dragon rising up from the centre, spouts fire and ash that becomes pristine water before raining into the basin.

"This is no cottage," murmurs Remus. The Black family he knows would be quite comfortable here; he wonders why it was forgotten. He wonders why Sirius remembers.

"The carriage can't have arrived yet," says Sirius, gesturing faintly to left of the courtyard, where Remus imagines a large enchanted window lies. "We have some time."

He sits on the edge of the fountain and trails his fingers in the water, then tips himself over and slides beneath the surface. Remus cannot move, or does not, just watches as Sirius rises again.

Dark hair floats away from his face, white shirt flows all around him on the surface of the water. His eyes are closed, his arms outstretched, a drowning virgin. But even in repose, Sirius cannot look innocent.

Water rains endlessly over his face, and though he floats away gently, Remus sees him slowly going under.

"Stop," Remus says, and finally moves. Curls his fingers around Sirius's collar and tugs and he's always hated these games, always hated them. Sirius finally breaks the pose, sputters and sits on the rim of the fountain again and reaches up.

"Who are you?" he says, and runs his fingers down Remus's cheeks. Remus says nothing.

In the morning Sirius is summoned before Dumbledore. Remus is not.

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[ by CJ Marlowe ]   [ home ]   [ disclaimer ]

25dec04. Written for losselen for the Shacking Up Secret Santa.