hermiones: (Default)
Cat ([personal profile] hermiones) wrote2011-04-03 11:12 pm

HP fic: Better The Devil (Sirius/Remus, Sirius/Bellatrix)

Title: Better The Devil
Pairing: Sirius/Remus, Sirius/Bellatrix
Rating: R
Summary: For [livejournal.com profile] peacock because the best present for one's birthday is clearly Blackcest. I played fast and loose with First Wizarding War canon here, i.e. switching the Longbottoms for the Potters. And, uh, the Marauders all survived.
Warnings: INCEST, POTENTIALLY TRIGGERING SEXUAL BEHAVIOUR, VIOLENCE. Angst. Rude language, rude content.




'I don't love him. Winter just wasn't my season.'

“What was the happiest moment of your life?”

---


June '79. Probably the 18th, but Sirius isn't counting. Or caring. The sun is so high in the sky that it looks just about ready to float away. The grass is warm and clammy-smelling, wondrously intoxicating. There's nothing like the thick scent of grass. Enthusiasm isn't something he does unless it's Quidditch because, well, he's a teenage boy – but the feeling is there nonetheless. A little crystal of sensical thought. He wants to offer it to Remus wrapped in ribbon. One of the many things he wants to offer Remus wrapped in ribbon.

Remus has a book. James has his fingers in his hair and his eyes somewhere off in the middle-distance and it doesn't matter, because Remus has a book and Remus is reading it, as if it doesn't matter that James is finger-combing and Sirius is staring at Remus like an idiot. His long fingers turn the pages. The paper takes a small breath as it falls. There's a breeze in the air but it doesn't touch the paper – maybe Sirius has added the detail afterwards – and Remus has loosened his tie and the top button of his shirt so as to take advantage of it.


---


This is a question that's been fucking with him for nearly three hours. Partly because he knows the answer and it simply hurts. Partly because the happiest moment of his life happened roughly twenty minutes before the unhappiest. This moment is one of the many that have marked him out as somehow unsanitary; normal people have normal happy memories, not ones spoiled by initial humiliation and a subsequent grudge.

---


It's so hot. Hot enough to cook a person, Sirius thinks, and that's a crystal too but Remus isn't in the mood for Sirius' wisdom. So Sirius kicks James' ankle with his foot, once and twice and then and only then does James tear his eyes away from Lily Sodding Evans. His face is indignant and pained, though, and Sirius curses him for being able to feel like this; so pathetically open, so above criticism and shame.

“It's hot enough to cook a person,” Sirius says, adds “a Slytherin person.” Because James, unlike Remus, cares less for sensical thought than for great mental imagery.

“I'm being cooked right now,” Peter says. He is lying almost with his head in the lake and all kinds of pond life are likely crawling into his hair. Remus doesn't even look up. Sirius eyes Peter briefly which Peter almost seems to sense as he draws his shirt down a bit.

“Right you are,” James says. “Cooking grandly. Should've done that spell for stopping your face from burning, what's it called?”

The book must be bloody good because Remus doesn't answer. And that means that Sirius doesn't care about Peter's face, burnt or otherwise.

“Snivellus' hair is probably on fire by now, what with all the cooking fat,” he says. “They're probably using him to heat up their entrails.”

“Who is? Whose entrails?” James says. “What're you on about?”

“Slytherin people. Hufflepuff entrails. I don't know. Stop looking at me to provide conversation. It's too hot.”

“I wasn't – you started talking. I was busy and then you were talking. I thought you had, you know, a thought-”

“You were busy stalking,” Sirius says. “I did have a thought. About cooking people. Which makes my thought a whole ton better than your thoughts.”

James' face is so unimpressed that Sirius thinks it might reject him and them and life itself. Slide off into the lake. Or Peter's hair. Whichever is closest.

“You have decried all that is holy and good.” James says. “Shame on you.”

And he turns his head back, fingers hungrily poised – and then he grunts, loud and cross, because of course Lily Sodding Evans has better things to do than be stared at by lunatics all day.

“Fuck,” he says, which Sirius catches only on the edge of the breeze. He's back to looking at Remus' long fingers and wondering if he really is being cooked alive, because every organ feels like it's being slowly licked by a dragon.


---


Why anyone thinks this shit is consoling, he'll never know. He's starting to really worry about Dumbledore. Not that he ever wasn't, really, but. Kansas has gone and he isn't at Hogwarts anymore. That and Dumbledore's happiest memory apparently involves being locked up in his bedroom for weeks on end and writing letters to some other boy. Sirius has been there, done that, burned the t-shirt.

There are people who probably relate to it, though. People Sirius doesn't really want to think about.

“It helps to think about these things in times of one's need,” Dumbledore is saying. “Lighting a candle in the mind, you might say. I'll leave you to chew on it. Need to steal a moment of Alastair's precious time- you know, I think there's a spell in there somewhere, happy thoughts. Hm. Well, must be off.”

Mad, Sirius thinks. Completely mad.

It doesn't even help. There's nothing that will help. He's so fucked that he's glad to be doing what he's doing now, if only to have a reason to feel so angry all the time. The war is over, the right side won – if you call what happened 'winning' – and yet he still feels precisely the same as he did three weeks ago, when they were right in the thick of it. At least working on Bellatrix's trial gives him an excuse. He's tired of faking happy, of thinking happy. One thing all these people should know by now is that there's no point in happy thoughts; things just happen, life just turns, the world just shits on people at random. You could carry an umbrella all the time but that takes effort and who wants to live in a world where you have to have an umbrella on you all the time. Where you have to always expect rain.

Fuck, he thinks. Now he's wondering what the happiest moment of Remus' life is.

---


He doesn't know right there and then that this moment is it, not exactly. Nobody does. Nobody lives through a moment completely aware of its significance. It's only after, with the music playing in your mind and the extraneous details added, that a moment begins to form meaning. But he wasn't entirely ignorant of its importance. At the time he sensed that something about it was different; like the way magic feels thrumming through a wand when it's working versus when it isn't. He sensed that he was on the precipice of something. The world stopped turning, if only for a second. A whole lifetime of moments were immediately condensed into one or two seconds: a life, his life, was crammed down into one tiny amazing box. All of the breaths he'd ever taken smashed together into one great gulping one. All of the heartbeats he'd ever felt ran the ladder from his stomach to his mouth.

That's the kind of thing he wishes he'd said, at the time, because he knows now that it would've made the difference between what happened and what could've.


---


The thing about Bellatrix is that she defies understanding. On the surface she's very simplistic and the headlines in the Daily Prophet have capitalised on it with catchphrases. Psychopath, sociopath, hedonist, lunatic. Even sexual sadist, that week in September when the journalists were feeling especially fruity. Sirius gets it. Nobody wants anyone to relate to this creature, not after everything she's done and every Dark Mark she stood for. Plus to add extra offence, she's a woman. It revolts people, disturbs them; makes her the kind of societal smudge that they can all agree should be rubbed away.

They couldn't catch Voldemort. He had the decency to dissolve into vapour, to vanish. Bellatrix's feet are still lodged firm in the Earth. Her eye is on the sky, her brain is thick with desire, her voice is a landslide of devotion. She's a good and necessary target. The victors will pursue her execution with just as much fervour as she pursued theirs.

And he one of them.

He's staring at the blank parchment and the quill is nudging ink onto the curve of his hand. This should be a lot easier than it is. Everything about this should be a lot easier than it is. All he's being asked to do is write notes about her. About their childhood. Evidence of her early madness. Little titbits of totalitarianism. Lovely crumbs of cruelty. Shit like that. It's not that he can't think of anything. He can think of lots of things. It's just that his quill stills in his hand and he can't commit to any of them.

He files the paper away in his drawer and he stands to leave; legs unsteady, brain unfocussed, dreams unrealised.

Name:
Bellatrix Lestrange

Born:
1951, to Cygnus and Druella Black

Siblings:
Narcissa Malfoy, Andromeda Tonks

Childhood tendencies:
fuck this


He slopes back to his place feeling so exhausted that he can't even be bothered to fix dinner. He can't even be bothered to draw the curtains. So he doesn't. He just falls into bed and wonders, dangerously, whether Remus and the uselessness he describes as his fiancee are lying awake, right now, discussing the uselessness that is getting married.


He's eight and his shoes don't fit, much to her Majesty's displeasure. Whilst his mother is wailing to some unlucky lackey, he's outside on the street barefoot. The rebellion feels cool and sharp but he can't make himself run. He's trying, but whatever part of him recognises his own insignificance glues him solid. The part of him that knows that without this family, he is nothing. He won't survive. Still, the shrill tremor of his mother's voice, locked in the slippery dark walls he's left behind – it's enough to make him want so hard to try.

Then there's a hand on his shoulder and it's a hot hand which enables him to quickly identify it. He hasn't learnt to flinch away from it yet but he will. He knows immediately that the only other person in this family who feels warm to the touch is his aunt Bella, and he knows it because she so often draws him close. It's something he still trusts. One of the only things.

The clouds are grey and there's a threat of rain because the air is stony in his lungs. She's crouching down now and looking him up and down, from the bare feet to the hair pulled tightly back. Her Majesty's pleasure. He feels suddenly embarrassed at his lack of shoes.

“Well,” she says. “I suppose you don't have a garden to play in.”

And that was that.

She stands with him for some time, a strange couple waiting for something. His mother's voice grows dimmer, as if sucked in by the black hole that is 12 Grimmauld Place. He knows Bella will have to leave soon. He never looks forward to her visiting, but when she leaves it makes him feel sad.

“Wanting to run away?” she asks. He finds it in himself to nod.

“I don't blame you,” she says, with a satisfied nod. “It's tough for boys to grow up, I'm told. Regulus will find out soon enough. You're becoming quite the man, Sirius.”

The compliment means so much when he only hears 'boy', spat soft and gently cold. He doesn't recognise in that moment how big and dangerous the gap between the two.

“Yeah?” he says.

“Mmm, but no more compliments today. I couldn't possibly be caught spoiling you.”

He wants another compliment more than he wants anything in the whole world, so he turns his face to her. And she's so vibrant, not like the dark walls and the cavernous caves in the house. Her hair is a disgruntled cloud around her face, her eyes wickedly bright. Her mouth seems huge and red and succulent. She's tall and she's got curves, curves that Sirius has never seen on anyone else, curves that make him curious about everything and nothing. And she's all of sixteen, which makes her seem incredibly adult. He wants her to give him a compliment more than anything.

“No no,” she says, laughing, her voice folding out like a new bedsheet. “Not falling for that. No, you'd have to really impress me. I don't want you to grow up strutting around, you know, like some kind of peacock. Not like that Malfoy prick. Couldn't have that, couldn't have that.”

“What can I do?” he asks.

“Hm,” she says, looking out into the road and the cars and all of the people who don't glance at them twice, the people Sirius can't understand. “Well, you could – no. No, what am I thinking? You'd have to be at least as brave as an eleven year old. Maybe even braver.”

“I can be brave,” he says, because to be brave is almost as important to him as it is to earn her favour.

“I know, but you're only eight. This is too much for you. Maybe when you're older.”

“I can do it now,” he pleads, on the verge of grabbing her hand, something he hasn't done since he decided that it was too childish for words. “Tell me. Tell me, I can. I can do it.”

“Hm,” she says again. “Well, I don't blame you if you can't, understand – you're still so little. But you shouldn't stand here like this, just wanting to do something. You should do it. You know? Like now, I can tell that you want to run. You should just do it.”

“Run away?”

“Sure,” she says. “You want to, don't you?”

“Yes,” he says. “But I-”

“Oh, I knew, Sirius. I knew you were too young for this.”

“No, it's not – I'm not too young, I'm not, but how will I- who will. I don't know how to-”

He can feel the flush on his face.

She shrugs, delicate, her whole body moving in an undulation. “It's got to be better than here, hasn't it? With the mother who favours your brother, your father who's just dying for an excuse to punish you? Don't you think that I want what's best for you? I love you, cousin. Go on. Be brave. I'll keep them from chasing you. I'll protect you.”

And he looks at her as she folds her arms, the picture of determination, rebellion, protection. He doesn't understand anything but he understands that he has to do this. So he forces himself to pick up one foot, then the other and at first he's walking but then it's a run, and halfway down the street he regrets not holding onto her one last time because he'll never see her again, because he's free and that's all that's ever going to matter, ever again.

And of course, he runs only for a street or so before he runs right into his father and he can almost hear the bell of her laugh, spinning him down into the dark.


---


He doesn't go into work the next day because he doesn't see the point in that, either. Waking up in a cold sweat will do that to a person. So he sits and smokes and watches the world go by, faintly wishing he were part of it. That his main concerns in life were tedious, that he could bore people to tears.

When Remus asks him to go for a drink, he goes. Even though it's barely 1pm. Even though he's supposed to be at work. It's Remus, after all. He just hopes that he won't bring Rebecca.

---


“It's going fine,” Remus says, with the edge of the defensive he always gets when he talks about anything non-straightforward. He's toying with the beer mat, turning and touching its corners. Sirius feels incredibly old, like they're having the conversation sixty years from now.

“When's the wedding,” Sirius says. He's watching the beer mat turning.

“We're thinking maybe autumn,” Remus says. “October might be a bit cold, though. I don't know. Rebecca's sort of – she's taken over a bit.”

“It's probably more her thing than yours.”

“Why, because she's a woman?” Remus laughs, only it isn't funny and neither is his tone.

“No, because she actually wants to get married,” Sirius says.

“That isn't fair,” Remus says. “I asked her. There's not – this isn't. It's not your place. Can't we just settle this? Nobody should be fighting now. Nobody.”

“Oh, spare me,” Sirius says. “I've heard enough of 'We're All In This Together'.”

“The war is over,” Remus says, aghast. “Can you not just be happy for that?”

Sirius shrugs, a lot more brutal than he intends to be. Not that it isn't true, just – stealing happiness from Remus is like taking money from a homeless person. He has so little of it, it doesn't seem fair. But Sirius always thought Remus understood. James, James was meant to be a clueless adorable heterosexual man, bumbling his way around a serious relationship, blundering through marriage and kids and emerging triumphant. Remus was supposed to understand the darkness that comes with loving someone awkwardly and with dark fire. With fear and jealousy.

“I don't understand,” Remus says and Sirius wants to nod, ain't that the truth.

“No, I mean – I don't understand why you're. Last week you were fine. Is it the trial?”

“Yeah,” Sirius lies. “It's the trial.”

“Well, it's not on you. You know that, right? It's not up to you what happens to her. Everything that happens to her, she brought on herself. They orphaned Neville Longbottom, Sirius. He's only a year old, and-”

“I know that,” Sirius snaps, sharp and weirdly delicious in the pit of his stomach. “Of course I know that. Jesus, Moony. We all know. Be thankful you didn't see the fucking photographs.”

“Well, I didn't – I didn't mean. I know that you know, I just. I'm trying to do the best I can. And life's too short.”

“For what?” Sirius says, honestly wondering what the fuck life is too short for.

“To be alone, I suppose,” Remus manages, with a weak smile. “To not be with someone. To not be trying.”

“So you're achieving some kind of ambition here, are you? Working at the library, marrying some tedious woman who's only thinking of babies and doesn't even know about the rest of it, the thing, your thing. Is that your idea of a perfect life?”

Remus draws back, stung. Sirius would think he's gone too far, but sometimes there are things that need to be said. He almost can't find it in himself to care, which is how he knows he should care, more than he's probably able to. A long silence passes, Remus returns to turning the beer mat. Sirius resumes watching him do it.

“I think perfection is relative,” Remus says eventually. “I'm alive and I'm grateful. And I'm grateful for her because she's kind and patient and she understands some things that I don't say. She loves me and it's good to have that. Life's too short to search for more than the simple things.”

“Wonderful,” Sirius says, standing up. “Glad we cleared that up.”

“Oh, don't leave,” Remus says, rubbing his face. “This is – fucked up, that we can't even talk to each other anymore.”

“No, don't worry about it,” Sirius says. “People change. I get it. Just do me a favour, eh, Moony? Make that little speech your vows. See what she thinks of you then.”

Remus opens his mouth as if to retort, then something in him falls and fades and it's as though the words – once his great weapons – fail him. Sirius leaves, before he has a chance to rearm.

---


It's the 18th of June 1979. Sirius isn't counting except that he is, because this life is almost over. And life is too short. Life is too short to be watching a man turn over the pages of a novel and to be thinking about his fingers in your mouth and hair and arse and ohfuckbollockseverywhere. So Sirius waits for James to inevitably get bored and for Peter to inevitably follow him back up to the castle and he watches the pair of them slope off in the distance.

He notes that Remus' arms are gooseflesh and he knows that his moment is fleeting. He watches James turn around while walking, watching them – and realises that James understands more than he lets on. As always.

He looks back at Remus, who is stretching out his left leg, which he's been sitting on all this time even though he knows it makes it go to sleep. He doesn't seem conscious of the fact that Sirius is still there, watching him – though he isn't stupid, he must know what's going on. For all that he's been, Sirius has never been subtle.

“Moony,” Sirius says, softly.

“Mm,” Remus says. “I know it's hot, but you can't go in the lake again. I know it's your namesake, but it's full of germs. Trust me.”

“No, that's not what I was going to say.”

“I don't have any food either,” Remus says, turning a page. He reaches up, scratches his neck. Long fingers, immaculate nails. The gesture is so small and yet so perfect, it makes Sirius' heart ache.

“I'm not talking about food,” Sirius says.

“You can't read my book,” Remus says. “I'm just getting to a good bit.”

Sirius just looks at him. “Moony, look at me,” he says.

“What?” Remus says. “I'm nearly at the end of this chapter, promise. Just give me a minute.”

“Moony.”

“Oh, God, Sirius, can't you be just a little bit patient? Even as an experiment? Bugger this, you're distracting me.”

“Well, you're always distracting me.”

“Dust distracts you.”

“Well, alright, fine but – I'm trying to speak here. Moony. A man is trying to talk.”

“I wouldn't go that far.”

“Remus, for the love of Merlin.”

Remus near-explodes. Never come between a werewolf and his book, Sirius thinks. “What?” he says, smacking his book shut with only the barest smudge of regret on his face after. It makes Sirius want to laugh and also, kiss him.

“Are you blind?” Sirius says.

Remus narrows his eyes. “No,” he says. “Is this a prank? It's not my birthday.”

“No,” Sirius says. “But. I mean. How can you not see what's going on?”

“What? Oh God. Has it got to do with James and Peter? Did they only pretend to leave? Sirius, this isn't funny, it's-”

“No, it hasn't got anything to do with James or Peter, thank fuck,” Sirius says, impatiently. “Just shut up for two seconds, please.”

“I feel a bit ill,” Remus says.

“That's because you've not the Gryffindor stomach,” Sirius says. “We can't all have it. I sympathise. But no, shut up. I need to talk. I need to tell you that despite James' accusations, you are definitely not heterosexual. At least, I think not. And that's probably something you should continue not being because I have an interest in it. And I think you could be convinced that I am worth the, er, being glad. Of the interest thereof. And so on.”

Remus is watching him with either confusion or indigestion or both.

“Sirius,” he says, eventually. “What are you talking about?”

“I'm talking about you,” Sirius says, exasperated.

“And my not being heterosexual and you finding that interesting?”

“Are you denying it?”

“Which part? My sexuality or your interest?”

“Er.”

“Look, Sirius, I'm sure you're handling this with all of the aplomb you know how to but really, you're not someone I want to discuss the intricate details with. I'm fine. Really. Handling it. You can stop being fascinated.”

“That's not what I meant.”

“We can't all be like you and James, womanising everywhere.” Remus picks up his book once more, and Sirius feels the moment falling away.

“That's not. Fuck. Fuck, Moony. How is it you understand History of Magic perfectly but you can't understand this?”

“Well, Professor Binns doesn't talk like you, thankfully, but-”

“Remus. I'm trying to tell you that I fancy the pants off you. What is wrong with you? I'm trying to. I'm trying to be very clear. But you're distracting. As previously mentioned.”

Remus looks at him for the longest time and Sirius matches it, desperate to try and translate the movement of his eyes, the wrinkle in his nose, the way he checks his jaw with a crooked finger. Half a scratch and a swallow. An entire language belonging to another person.

“Sirius,” he says eventually. “I don't think this has anything to do with us, more – the timing, you know. Everyone's leaving, everything's changing. Anxiety is understandable. But everything will be fine.”

Sirius just looks at him. “You think I can't be, because you are. And the way you are is the only way anyone can be.”

“Don't start again,” Remus says, amiably. “You were just starting to make sense.”

“I was being serious,” Sirius says.

“I know that this is how you deal with difficult situations,” Remus says. “That's all. You won't feel the same way after school. You'll get over it.”

Sirius sits back on his heels, utterly horrified and unable to think of a way to proceed, because this is not what he thought was going to happen when he found the right moment for the effortless confession that he'd planned in his head. Remus is back to his book and the moment, if it were ever there, is gone altogether.

“I've felt this way for years,” he says.

And then Remus looks up at him. He opens his mouth and he breaks his heart.


---


He's twelve and it's his first dinner party. He's in dress robes custom-made not to drag on the floor and despite the fact that he's scared of his father and loathes his mother, he's excited to see something adult. Something he might be able to exert some control over. He's overheard the parties, of course, they're especially loud and exciting from two floors up. But this is different. Being somewhere that Regulus can't, for one, but also being considered something more than the son who's failed the entire family.

Bella is late, as is her wont, but she swoops in as if it doesn't matter. Sirius' mother purses her lips in displeasure but says nothing, because she's brought Rodolphus and Sirius knows that his mother wants this match more than almost anything else in the world. Bella nods at everyone and Rodolphus watches over her, as if he's hoping for something. The distance between them is striking. Bella sits down without waiting for him to move out her chair. If it irritates him, it's barely perceptible. It irritates Sirius' mother, but nobody is looking at her. All eyes are on Bella.

They eat. Conversation is made. Sirius is bored beyond reason. So he too watches Bella. Watches the way she turns her head away from Rodolphus, allowing him greater access to her neck, which he resists with an obvious struggle. She turns her voice down to a purr when conversing with him, which makes Sirius grapple his fork. She turns her eyes to him from time to time and there's a hint of a smile around her face. He doesn't understand anything.

After dinner, she catches him in the hallway. She has to hold the train of her dress as she walks, but when she's standing she's surrounded by a dark pool and it gives him the feeling of drowning.

“He wants me something terrible,” she says. “And I've a mind to give in to him. To let him take me. It's so hard to turn a man down, you know. When you can feel the weight of his desire in his eyes. When he's watching you all night. When you hold the key to everything that he wants.”

And when Sirius steps towards her, she pulls back and then she's gone. And Sirius, hooked on rage – he follows her, back into the dining room. And when she turns to watch him lose control he feels the blood rushing downwards, the fear squirrelling away in the dark.

“Fuck you,” he manages, though his voice comes out high and shaky. “Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you-”

And then all he remembers is the feel of his father's huge hand in the back of his shirt and then the close four walls of an upstairs storage closet, the formal finality of the lock turning. He's in there for too long for him to recall, though at times during the night he's sure he can hear a soft female “hush, hush, hush” at the door.


---


He goes in to work the next day because there's no reason not to. As usual, the Ministry is buzzing with activity and a kind of anxious relief that's been there since everything ended. People feel a kind of guilty joie de vivre, a terrible pleasure in being alive. There are probably others who wish they'd died but it's not acceptable to mention it, so Sirius just sits and pulls out the parchment from the bottom drawer once more. He doesn't suppose he can write on it, “once convinced me to run away”, because that's – they were kids. Even Bella was a child once. But she was only a handful of years younger than he is now and he can't conceive of the difference between them, the things they saw. It makes him feel sick.

He sits and he holds the quill until it drips ink all down the page and then he begins to write.

---


He's fifteen and a hair's breadth away from being disowned, though he doesn't know this yet. He sits at the wrong end of the table, far from his father and mother's reach and the fall of their eyes. Regulus sits by his father's side, the highest but for his senior, his back ramrod straight with pride. Sirius sits on the corner with his cousins, minus Andromeda – and he tries to make eye contact. Mostly because his brain is twenty-five and knows more than any brain should about the way the world he knows is starting to fall – but his dick is fifteen and can't stop noticing the tiny emerald Bella is wearing between her breasts.

She doesn't eat at the table. He's long known that. She drinks more than enough to compensate, though, much to Cissy's disapproval. Lucius is there, too, pale and fastidious. Sirius hates him, but no more than he hates anyone else sitting around the table.

He focusses his eyes elsewhere. He's learnt to deal with this now. It feels tedious and familiar, like a game they've been playing since childhood. He's had some experience at school and that's – he's glad of that, because it means that when he watches Bella flirt with him he's able to recognise it, to steadfastly ignore it. Mostly.

Sometimes he wonders just how many cousins have married to grow this poisonous tree.

She is leaning back in her chair and her dress – green silk – is a loose v shape over her breasts. He can see their fullness, the shape of them clear and trembly through the soft fabric. When she breathes, he can see them moving and he can almost feel her around him, on him – things he thinks about at night even though he knows he shouldn't. He wonders what it's like to be mounted by a woman, to be taken forcefully, to have her heaving breath so close to you. To feel her tighten around you.

He tries not to, because there's no place less appropriate for arousal than this, but then she's opposite him and whenever she moves, the light catches her dress and the stone in her cleavage and he finds himself drawn to it, like a fish on a hook.

There's a moment when everyone is talking, probably about Cissy's plans for children, and everyone is elsewhere and there's nothing between Bella and Sirius but air. And suddenly he finds his attention caught by the glint of silver on the wooden floor, where she's dropped her fork. And as his eyes travel upwards to her face, she's moved a sliver of silk over her thigh, the split in her dress revealing one of her long, supple legs – clad in its stocking, black and smooth with a tight cuff of lace and black diamonds. And her hand toys there, on her pale tight thigh, stroking a small circle. And he can't, can't, can't draw his eyes away. Not until she throws the silk back over and he finds himself meeting her eyes, his skin pulsing with shock.

She holds his gaze with her big dark eyes, and then she turns her elegant head away without so much as a smile.

---


He knows almost as soon as he arrives that it's a terrible idea. A long line of many, in his case, but that's besides the point. There're just too many unanswered questions, too many tiny moments that have guided every step of his stupid sorry life. And despite everything that's happened, he can't condemn this woman without so much as a conversation. She's always been the one part of his family that blew too hot for comfort, not too cold.

She's being held in the underground compartments of the Wizengamot. The top-level isn't a place that he enjoys visiting, so he's unsurprised to see that the bottom-level is much worse. It reminds him of Grimmauld Place, dark and festering. Sinisterly quiet. His steps echo as he's guarded by a nameless, faceless warden and there's nobody else there. This is the big one. The big trial. The chance for public retribution.

He walks down to her cell, unsure of what to expect. She isn't standing weirdly, or praying, or doing anything he might've considered if he'd paid it any thought. She's sitting, she's quiet, but there's God in her eyes.

She regards him with a casual interest, as if she expected him. He came under a falsehood, so he knows she didn't, but it's always been Bella's knack to pretend otherwise. The guard notes his pause, cocks his head to one side. Asks if he's certain. He'll never be certain. But at this point, he has nothing to lose.

“Sirius, my darling,” she says. There's a thin layer of sarcasm, muddied by the tug right back to his adolescence. “Haven't you done well?”

He enters, tries to dominate the space. The cell isn't big and it's very dark. He can just make out her face from the light in the corridor. She's still, even now, beautiful. The price of the family looks, paid by their genetic disposition towards insanity. He watches her watching him and then, finally, he speaks.

“Better than you, I'd say.”

“Oh, I don't know about that,” she says, idly. She brushes a stray hair off her thigh, twines it between thumb and forefinger and drops it to the side.

“Well, I'd say you're about to be imprisoned for life. If not executed. Hoping to join your master?”

“He's not dead,” she says. Her voice solidifies onto a point, like a trembling guitar string. “And neither will I be. You'd be a fool to think they'll execute me. And imprisonment – that I will bear. I will bear it for him.”

He looks at her. She's ridiculous. Nobody, nobody, is this stupid. “Of course he's dead,” Sirius says. “By a toddler. What else do you think happened to him?”

“He's not dead,” she simply repeats. “Certainly not at the hands of that – that little frogspawn. You wait. You wait, cousin, you'll see. He will rise again and he will take what's rightfully ours.”

“I thought maybe, maybe you'd feel something.”

She rises, then, still holding his gaze. “Like remorse?” she sing-songs, her lip turning down into a pout. “Walk around all sorrowful and sad, like a little puppy? I'm not Lucius. I won't. I don't feel anything except anticipation. I feel alive, Sirius. Do you even know how that feels? You're even more pathetic than I remember you as a kid.”

“Yeah, because what you've done is really brave.”

“Bravery matters only to Gryffindors, I'm told. So really, you've only failed yourself, Sirius. Isn't bravery your thing? Isn't that what you so desperately wanted? You must feel very foolish. What a silly boy. If only you'd been more like Regu-”

“Don't say his name,” Sirius snaps. She's right up close, close enough for him to see the curl of her lip and the dark waves of her hair. She looks older. She's wearing cruelty all over her face but it just adds strength to her beauty. An assertiveness to her sexuality. It's impossible to tear his eyes away and he senses, then, that he's made another terrible mistake.

“Why?” she says. “Because you can't bear the fact that you gave up on our family for the one you made. Yes, with James Potter, married now, has no time for you. And Peter! Useless, spineless Peter who came over to our side. Oh, and your werewolf. The one I think you had a little thing for? The one who didn't like you any more than we did? Mm. Yes. I suppose I see why you wouldn't want to remember your brother, who-”

“The family I made is one hundred times the family I ever got from you,” Sirius spits. “People – school, it's not the same but it's not. It's not as though we're not close, it's not as though we wouldn't die-”

“Oh, everyone says they'd die for someone, but who really knows. You don't know that. I can see it in your eyes. James has his own family now. He'd sooner die for them than you. And Remus? He'll go the same way. That's the trouble with normal people, Sirius. They do normal things.”

“And us?” Sirius rages. “What is it, exactly, that we do?”

She's breathing hard, now. Her eyes are on fire. Her chest is heaving and her fingers are trembling over it, over the buttons of her dress.

“Oh God,” he says. “Oh God.”

She looks at him and looks at him and looks at him, undoing a button for every beat of his stupid canine heart. And then she says, “we keep it in the family.”

---


This is another moment he knows that he'll come to regret. They're in almost-darkness, sniffing each other out. She's against the wall in the darkest corner of the cell, the loose wooden shelf bearing half of her weight. His hips take the other half. And as she wraps her legs around, her hands flutter down, undoing his trousers, freeing him and taking him in her hot little hand. And as she strokes him hard, she lids her eyes at him; black and fluttery like spiders, like every fantasy he ever had growing up, every moment of forcing it all back as he fucked his own hand.

She moves her underwear to the side and then, wrapping her legs around tight, she pulls him in. Her body is taut and tight and ringing with it, a little sound emerging from her lips. He doesn't know how to be. He doesn't know what to do. His instinct is to kiss but he can't, so he buries his head against her throat, her collarbone, her shoulder. He feels her nails on his scalp and he feels the way he's pushing into her, so hot and so wet and so fucking tight, and he feels like the world might be ending but at least he's aware. His nerves are throbbing. He's alive. He's fucking alive.

She has his face between her palms and she's looking right at him, her lips parted and her breath full and thick. And she's crooning at him, just sounds, just bearing her hips down and taking and taking and taking, and he can tell when the pleasure intensifies because she says oh! like he's the first and his ego just swells. She's taking her own pleasure and he's okay with that, unable to maintain eye contact, unable to vocalise anything but the ache of need within him. To be fulfilled, to be satisfied, to come. To come home.

It has to be quick. They both know it. If they're caught, he doesn't even want to think about it. But the feel of himself inside her, it's enough. It's more than enough. And when he ducks his head down and he takes her nipple in his mouth, first soft with pliant lips and then a snappy little bite, she tugs his hair so hard he's surprised it remains intact. And then she moans into it, pleased and surprised, and she coos, “oh, my sweet boy.”

And really, that's all it takes. He moves his mouth back to her jaw, her throat – bites down, down, down until she's tearing at his back, until she's crying out into the back of her own hand, until their hips are clanging together and he's sure that the entire building must be aware of them both. And it's perfect, it's raw, but it's touching the part of him that's desperately afraid of everything and he knows, then, that he'll never be afraid again.

---


“I've felt this way for years,” he says.

Remus looks up, holds the book open with the crutch of his fingers. He's looking, really looking. And there's a moment when Sirius thinks that he understands, that he truly knows, and that everything's going to be alright.

“I need you to understand,” he says. “That I need normalcy. I'm a – you know what. I'm going to have enough strange chaos in my life. I need stability. I need someone to make me feel safe. You don't make me feel safe. I'm not what you think I am. You might be, but I'm not. I never will be. I can't allow myself to be. I've got enough strife as it is. Can you please try to understand?”


---


Just as she's about to come, she slaps his face. The shock makes him pin her arms above her head and then, as her body starts to beat around him, she kisses him. It isn't romantic and it isn't nice, but the feel of her mouth on his is everything that he needs and he kisses her, kisses her, kisses her until he's brave and bold and done.

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