Starfall, Moonset

Chapter One: Bridges Burned

By Irish

       

Padfoot stopped out side the tiny cabin... really more of a shack, looking over his shoulder at Buckbeak, whose halter lead he held in his canine maw. Remus was going to be pissed. For one, where the hell was he going to put a hippogriff, for two.... he was late. Though the ex professor was a fairly gentle and mild mannered man, nothing bothered him more then tardiness. Not in little things, but if he asked you to be there for something, you were there on time. Remus had asked him to be here for the full moon. That was yesterday. Talk about being a day late and a dollar short, Padfoot was most certainly both at the moment, and Moony was going to kill him. With a heavy doggy sigh Sirius Black padded up the stairs to the cabin in dog form, hopping up on his hind legs to scratch at the door whining.

'Come on Remus answer the damn door,' he thought to himself. It took a few moments for his sharp ears to hear the shuffle of bare feet over hardwood. Finally, the door creaked open, reveling a very exhausted Remus Lupin. He must have known who was at the door because he hadn't even bothered to dress and wore only a pair of pajama bottoms that were about two inches too short, and very well worn around the seams.

The tawny haired man pinned his canine friend with a look before just stepping back and letting the odd duo enter. Once the door was closed behind him, Sirius released Buckbeak's lead and shifted up into human form. It had been a month since Remus had seen his friend last, in the forbidden forest, as he had been corralled away from the children, and truthfully, Sirius hadn't improved much. His clothes were worse then before, the gray prison robes of Azkaban were worn down to the point of being practically see through. His black hair, which he had always worn long, fell in a tangled mess past his shoulders, and

Remus could swear he saw fleas, or lice, or both, hopping around on him. Most notably though, the man was totally emaciated. Even though Lupin had felt a sharp stab of anger seeing his friend on the doorstep a day late, it melted away seeing his condition.

Sirius knew he was off the hook. He saw those expressive eyes go from hard as amber, melting into toffee. Oh how he knew that look, and oh how he had missed it. He almost fell into Remus's arms, almost dropped to his knees and begged forgiveness and comfort. But he steeled himself. No, no he knew the pain of needing someone. He knew what it felt like, to lay weeping for your lover, to pray to all manner of higher being for just a few moments of comfort. Sirius knew what it was to ache, physically ache, for that familiar warmth in your arms, and he swore, swore on all things sacred he would never let anything make him feel like that again. Going back to Azkaban was a looming reality, and the only way he knew to stop that endless ache, was to not love. To let that part that had been so thoroughly sucked from his soul, to remain gone. To not repair those bridges, no matter how much present comfort they would offer, because in the end... in the end there was only frozen tears.

"I've got to admit my friend... you look a little worse for wear." Remus smiled gently, taking any edge off that might have been in those words.

"Yeah well you know.... the starving fugitive look is in these days.... Listen, I think I've got fleas.... or lice.... or some other unpleasant biting bug... you might not want to get to close." Sirius's voice was a harsh rasp, like a heavy smoker who had been strangled and had a head cold.

"I see that.... if I thought you actually wanted to be touched I wouldnít let that stop me." There was hurt in his ex lover's voice and it made Sirius blanche. They had had something once but, Azkaban had sucked all the joy and love of that from Sirius.... and left him only with that endless aching need. He was numb no w and he wanted it to stay like that.

"Don't be like that right now Remus...."

"Be like what?" The ex professor side, running a hand through his hair. "Which do you want first, food or shower?"

"You got someplace I can put Buckbeak here? He's pretty tired too." Sirius patted the hippogriff on the neck fondly as he looked around trying to discern where Remmy kept the rest of his living quarters. Though cheerful, if not shabby, the shack currently held only one room that was separated by rugs and furniture into a kitchen and a living room. The only other thing in the room was a back door. And as far as Sirius had seen from the outside, there was nothing more to the dimensions of this humble abode then this room.

"Yeah, I have a spare room, of sorts..." Remus moved over to the back door and tapped the knob with his wand and said. "stable." Opening the door he reveled a very comfortable looking paddock complete with oats, straw to rest on and a nice big trough to clean up in, as well as a bucket of water to drink from. Buckbeak nudged his handler, then pranced impatiently as he waited for the bridle to be removed. Finally freed from his tack the hippogriff trotted happily into his new home. Remus shut the door behind him. "Now, I would suggest a shower, I can get some food ready for you while you clean up.... and call me when youíre almost done so I can do a delousing spell."

"I donít suppose you have a tub." Sirius had shuddered visibly at the word shower, and Remus made a few guesses as to why.

"Yes I do, a very warm and comfortable one, if not terribly big.... here... come on." Remus gingerly grasped the cuff of his friends robe and pulled him over to the door which he opened again, this time onto a small, but tidy and functional bathroom, with a shower stall, a claw foot tub, a loo and a basin to wash in. Remus led Sirius all the way into the bathroom, nudging him to sit on the counter that held the basin before kneeling at his feet, unlacing his boots with concentration and tenderness.

"Remmy... donít...." Sirius tried to pull his foot away.

"Shut up Padfoot."

Padfoot shut up, feeling his sallow skin heat with embarrassment. Leave it to Remmy to take such good care of him. Once the boots were pried from his feet Remus stood and turned on he water to the tub letting it fill with bubbles as he touched his want to the waters surface muttering a delousing incantation. That done he turned to Sirius once more, and opened his mouth to say something, then just shook his head, sliding from the room. Just before he closed the door he called over his shoulder.

"Soak as long as you like. I will bring the food in." And not giving his friend time to argue, Remus shut the door behind him.

       

When Remus returned to the bathroom, Sirius had sunken down in the water so the only parts of him exposed were his nose, eyes and the top of his head. His black hair floated like tangled seaweed around his shoulders.

"Feel good?" Remus asked softly, kneeling down beside the tub on folded towel. Sirius sat up a little straighter, so his mouth was above water to answer.

"I think itís the first time I've been warm in twelve years."

Remus smiled slightly, setting the tray over the tub, the handles balanced on the lip of the tub.

"Here, I didnít want to give you anything that would be too hard to digest, I made porridge. I mixed it with juice, instead of water, it will taste better, and I thought the dairy would be too hard on your stomach, there is some cinnamon and sugar mixed in, so it should taste all right. There is some green tea with honey to help your throat, and a few bites of chicken. I know porridge and chicken donít go so well but... you need some protein... there is also chocolate there. I donít know if it will help but.... it is the best cure for dementors." Remus knew he was rambling but, his heart ached, ached for his friends condition, for the love that seemed to have slipped through the cracks of their lives....well rather through the great gapping hole of Siriusís. Remus loved him as much as ever, and always would.

"Thanks." The word of gratitude was mumbled out through a mouth full of porridge which Sirius was shoveling into his mouth faster then he could swallow.

"Careful, you'll choke." Remus admonished, settling in next to the tub. Not a word was said again until Sirius has cleaned every morsel of food from the tray but the chocolate, which sat untouched.

"Merlin.... Iím still starving... but I feel like Iím going to spew." Sirius groaned in true misery, leaning back against the tub wall again.

"You ate too fast."

"I couldn't help it."

"Shhh." Remus reached up and gently touched Sirius's wet hair. "Just relax, it will pass."

"Donít do that Remmy."

"Do what?"

"Treat me like a lover."

"What do you want me to treat you like. We're lovers." Remus frowned, finger tips grazing over Sirius's inky hair.

"No. We havenít been lovers in twelve years. There as been no verb about our love in twelve years. And even if you were being loose with the term, I donít love you any more Moony. I cant." Sirius didnít let any emotion show in his voice, trying to sound nonchalant.

"Donít lie to me Sirius, you are terrible at it. I know that you feel.... empty... right now. But I have enough love for both of us... until you find yourself again." The werewolfís voice was gentle as he carded his fingers through dark tresses, coaxing the worst of the tangles to the bottom.

"I'm not lying Moony. And what if I donít want to find that part of me again."

"Why? Because you donít think you deserve it any longer? Because youíre afraid of feeling again, feeling good again, because it can be taken from you, and made ten times worse? Because you wont feel lonely if you are always alone?" As usual the man had a disturbingly accurate insight to the animangus.

"Shut up Remmy."

"What if I donít." It was a gentle challenge. The kind that told Sirius that Remus was as stubborn as always and that he wouldnít let Sirius sink into the unfeeling oblivion he wanted so badly, and Sirius hated him for it.

"Because if you donít I will clock you one. Stop mussing with my hair."

"No you wont. And if you donít let me try to untangle it we will have to cut it off." Irritatingly calm and collected, as always. Remmy conjured a comb out of thin air and started to work on Sirius's hair, letting the man brood. He was forced to conjure a scissors a half hour later when he saw that some of the mats were beyond untangling, but he had managed to comb the worst of them to the ends of Siriusís hair so he was only cutting of a couple inches.

Under Remus's tender ministrations, Sirius had actually fallen asleep, his body lax in the water, snoring softly. When his hair was sorted out, Remus looked him over before grabbing a towel, draping it over his shoulder he carefully lifted Sirius out of the water, his emaciated frame like lifting air. Moony gently wrapped the towel around his friend, walking out into the main room as Sirius slept on, then turned around closing the bathroom door, then opening it again, to reveal his bedroom. Only a handful of candles lit the comfortable room and Remus was careful not to bump and of the fugitives dangling appendages on the furniture as he made his way to the high four poster bed, laying Sirius in its soft depths. Sirius moaned, brow creasing with pain.

Frowning, Remus watched him trying to see what hurt. The starved frame of his friend lay rigidly, his back practically arched, the exhausted muscles unable to really relax. Gently, Remus turned him on his stomach, pulling the warm covers up to his waist before placing a heating enchantment on his hands and laying them over Sirius's back, massaging until he felt the muscles relax and stop spasming, and Sirius lay limp on the soft flannel covers. Smiling Remus sat back, pulling the blankets up to his friends chin, bending to kiss his forehead softly before standing and slipping from the room


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