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sopdetly wrote in damnyellowfics
TITLE: Rebuilding Block Castles
AUTHOR: sopdetly
WORDS: 38,146
FANDOM: Harry Potter
PAIRING: Remus/Sirius, James/Lily, Tonks/OC
SUMMARY: A number of chance encounters with an intriguing man named Remus Lupin sets Sirius off on a path to fall in love, and to learn what it is to fight for the people he loves.

NOTES: Thank you to h4yleyg for making me sound less like an American. Many, many thanks to theemdash for being my sounding board, alpha, and beta as I've fought this fic since the start of the year. Written for the 2009 bigbangblackout. Visit the main archive to see the wonderful artwork mavoorik drew for this story!

« Part 2

Being in love was a wonderful thing, Sirius thought, but it didn't necessarily make things any easier. If anything, it made the anticipation for the second try at meeting little Teddy Lupin more nerve-wracking, because now Sirius felt like he had something really invested in the meeting going well, and that if it didn't, it would be that much more disappointing.

Luckily, his worries were all for naught.

Teddy was shy at first, but Remus had already told Sirius to expect that. His behavior the other day seemed to be simply a fear of meeting someone new, which was dealt with easily enough when Teddy had a few days to get used to the idea and have his dad tell him stories about Sirius and how much fun he would be. Sirius won the lad over by asking to see his collection of toys, and by the time it was bedtime Teddy was asking Sirius to read him his story and tuck him in. Remus left them to it, taking the time to open some wine to breathe and clean up the mess from the day, so that by the time Sirius came down the stairs—his smile as wide as it had ever been—Remus was waiting for him on the couch.

"You have," Sirius said, leaning in to kiss Remus before he settled down next to him, "a most excellent son."

Remus grinned. "I do, don't I?" He handed Sirius a glass of wine, then held his own up for a quick clink before they both sipped, smiling at each other over the rims. "He likes you a lot, too."

Sirius chuckled. "He does, doesn't he? I'm so glad I was able to win him over."

"I think it was the blocks. He's mad for them, and I'm always so dull and just building towers. That was a very impressive castle there."

"James and I would build insane block castles for Harry when he was younger. Lily hated it because it'd be impossible to walk through the house without killing yourself on a fallen wall where the Scots had invaded."

Remus laughed, tugging Sirius closer. "I told you not to worry." Sirius shifted, resting his head on Remus's shoulder. "He takes after his father in many ways, and I knew one of them would be being terribly fond of you." Remus kissed Sirius's head softly, his nose nuzzling Sirius's hair.

"Mmm. You will definitely have to bring him around my place sometime, do a dinner with James's family." He looked up at Remus. "They're dead curious about you."

"Me? Psh, I'm no one special. You must have been telling them wild lies."

Sirius turned more, brushing his lips against the base of Remus's neck. "I only told them that you drive me mad. Since they thought I was already quite mad, they're interested in how you've accomplished the impossible."

After a few minutes of attention to his neck, Remus whispered, "One thing, though, is that he's a bit of a light sleeper, at least at first. Tends to get out of bed at least once in the first hour."

Sirius froze, wondering if Teddy was watching them. Oh god, that would be horrifying....

Remus chuckled. "He's not up yet. I just wanted to let you know, before you thought about taking this any further yet."

With a nod, Sirius sat back a little, taking a sip of his wine. "Then I shall try to restrain myself. You should try not to look so tempting, though."

"I look tempting?"

Sirius reached up to trace Remus's jawline. "You do. It's very hard fighting the urge to taste every inch of your jaw."

Remus moved his head, nipping at Sirius's finger. "Your sacrifice is quite touching. I may have to reward you when the coast is clear."

Knowing full well that with his luck that this was the moment Teddy would likely make an appearance, Sirius leaned up and kissed Remus softly, really unable to help himself, needing the light touch of lips against his own. He felt Remus kiss back, gentle pressure on his mouth, and after a few moments he pulled away, smiling.

"Love you," Remus murmured, running his fingers along Sirius's cheek. Sirius smiled brightly hearing those still-new words again. "Thank you for being so good about my son."

"Thanks for letting me get to know him," Sirius said in response.

They sat quietly for a while, looking out through the front windows to the street, watching people pass. After a while, there was a soft sound of footsteps behind them, and they both turned to see Teddy standing at the outcropping of wall between the living room and the stairs, peering around as though he was trying to spy.

Remus smiled and moved to stand; Sirius shifted to let him up, knowing this time Remus had to be an authority figure and put Teddy back to bed. "Did you wake up, Teddy Eddie?" The boy shook his head. Sirius thought he looked sleepy, and he wondered what it was that kept the child awake, what brought him downstairs one more time.

"Let's get back to bed, then," Remus said, scooping him up. Immediately Teddy curled himself around his father, though Sirius thought he saw little fingers waving at him as he was taken back upstairs.

Sirius sighed, drank some more of his wine, and stretched out on the couch, smiling as he thought that being in love was fantastic.

~ * ~

Schedules and Teddy's next stay with his mother had pushed out Sirius's plan to introduce his friends to his boyfriend further than he'd liked, but despite the longer wait, Remus was still a fair bundle of nervous energy as they waited for the Potters to descend upon Sirius's house. Remus came over earlier with Teddy, letting the boy get comfortable in the new surroundings, playing a bit in the small back garden with his coat hanging half-off and Remus quickly giving up trying to get him to keep it on. Inside, watching from the door into the kitchen, Sirius hugged Remus from behind as they watched Teddy play.

"You should relax, Remus. It's going to be fine."

"I don't think I'll be able to win them over as easily as you did Teddy."

Sirius chuckled. "No worries. Lily's not impressed by blocks, and James will think whatever she tells him to think."

Remus groaned and pulled away, though he looked more amused than anything else. "I just . . . I can still remember meeting some of Dora's friends for the first time, and that was awful." He took Sirius's hand, continuing, "I mean, of course it was, because they knew I'd knocked her up and that I was gay and that I generally had really screwed up big time with their friend, so they hated me from the start. And I know your friends don't feel the same because I haven't knocked you up—" Sirius let out an embarrassing snort of a laugh at the mere idea "—and you're the proper gender and . . ." Remus smiled now, his grip on Sirius's hand relaxing a bit. "And we're sort of fantastic together and this isn't just a convenient shag arrangement, is it?"

Shaking his head, Sirius lifted his other hand to push some hair back away from Remus's brow. "Not just a convenient shag arrangement. Or possibly the most convenient shag arrangement, in that we're a little mad for each other and both willing to give this a real go at the long haul." He cupped Remus's head and pulled him in for a soft kiss....

Which was, of course, the exact moment that James barged his way in, saw them having a sweet moment, and fully ruined it by letting out an exceptionally loud whistle from just a few meters away.

"Dad!" Harry complained, coming into the kitchen with his hands over his ears. "Mum hates it when you do that inside." He ignored the others and ran outside to say hi to Teddy.

Remus was blushing, and Sirius could see that the whistle had stopped Teddy in his tracks as he'd been running in a circle around his jacket, though Teddy's attention was quickly taken by Harry's arrival. Sirius turned slowly and gave James a nice two-finger salute, before turning back and kissing Remus again, deeper this time to prove his point: his house, his boyfriend, he'd snog all he wanted.

"Well he hasn't run off yet, James," Lily said, putting a bag filled with dinner items on the counter. "That's certainly a lot of points to him right there." Everyone laughed, and Sirius had to pull away, kissing Remus once more on the cheek before tugging him closer to make formal introductions.

Three hours later, Teddy and Harry were upstairs watching videos, and the adults were chatting, waiting out the light wine buzzes before James had to drive his family home and Lily had to be a mother again. For the most part the interrogations had been predictable and at least attempting subtlety; it was agreed early on that Remus's once poor decision to be with a woman was off-limits, given how much everyone adored Teddy, but everything else in Remus's life was fair game, and James made sure to use the entire pitch.

"Oi, what about tattoos, then?" he asked, pointing in Remus's general direction. "You don't seem the sort, yet I've known others who didn't seem the sort who ended up being very the sort. And I'm not sure our Sirius is the sort to be with the sort."

Sirius stared at his best friend, wondering when he'd been replaced by a brain-damaged twat. Remus, however, took it all in stride. "Nearly got one, once, actually. Was at the parlour and all, after Teddy was born. Needed to do something to celebrate properly. Seemed the thing to do, for some reason."

James's eyes were wide. "You said nearly, though. So you're not the sort?"

"Nearly. I was going to do it, I'd thought about the design, and when I explained to the artist what I wanted and why, she . . ." He shrugged. "She asked me why I was there and not with my wife and baby." He chuckled. "Told her she had a point, and I legged it back to Dora's room. I always thought I'd do it later, but after the high of the moment wore off, I just . . . didn't."

Lily winked. "Well there's always time for that. Maybe wait a bit longer, then you could also get one of those wonderful biker tattoos, the big heart with 'SIRIUS' written in fancy gothic script."

"Yes!" James agreed, nearly falling from the couch in his enthusiasm. "Maybe have his named pinned to the heart! So it could bleed!"

Sirius held up his hands. "Oi oi! That's enough now, you daft bastards!" He looked accusingly at Lily. "You! You're supposed to be the normal one, just cooing about what a bloody great father Remus is and what a nice, calming influence he could be in my life!"

As Lily laughed and made absolutely no effort to defend herself, Sirius noticed James leaning over to speak to Remus quietly, and while Sirius couldn't imagine it being a bad thing at all, he still felt a bit nervous not knowing what was being said.

Conversation moved on to other things—Lily and Remus chatted for a while about Bertha and Peter, and how the newlyweds were faring these days—until finally Harry and Teddy trudged back downstairs, with sleepy eyes and weighted limbs. The Potters began to pack their things, Sirius promising to wash up Lily's dishes for her tomorrow and return them in a timely manner, while Remus convinced Teddy that he'd get to see Harry again and that no, Teddy could not go over to Harry's house tonight, because they were staying here with Sirius instead.

It was nearing ten when finally everything was gathered and everyone was at the door saying their goodbyes. Lily had kisses for everyone and fond words for Remus; James hugged Sirius close, and whispered in his ear: "Don't let him go, mate." Sirius just nodded, having no plans to do something so stupid in the near or even intermediate future.

At last Sirius was alone with Remus and Teddy, upstairs in the spare room that was usually Harry's, trying to get Teddy acclimated to the new sleeping situation for the evening. Remus made sure Teddy knew exactly where his father would be if needed in the night, and Sirius reassured the boy when asked that the wardrobe had been checked thoroughly for monsters, and that he'd be quite safe in here. After the last tuck-in and goodnight kisses, Sirius and Remus retired to Sirius's bedroom, collapsing in their clothes on top of the bedspread, curling around each other in well-earned exhaustion.

"I like your friends," Remus murmured, his hands tracing over Sirius's body lightly, with no particular intent. "They're good people."

"Mm," Sirius agreed, "they are that. James basically saved my life when we were kids. He's stuck with me now."

"He likes me. Told me I shouldn't let you let me go."

Sirius smiled, kissed Remus softly. "I won't, then. I'd be afraid to disobey him."

They laughed quietly, finally stripping out of their clothes and burrowing under the covers, each keeping an ear open for light footsteps in the hall as they slid into sleep at last.

~ * ~

The first real obstacle came at Christmas. Traditionally, Remus had told Sirius, he'd had a dinner on Christmas Eve with Dora and Teddy, then Teddy went back with his mum to have Christmas morning with her extended family. Last year Dora's boyfriend had come along, and he was expected to come as well this year, too, and Remus fully intended to have Sirius there as well.

"I mean," he said, picking at his chips, "if you want to come, of course." He bit his lip and looked up at Sirius across the table. "If you don't, it's fine, really. . . ."

Sirius reached out and stole one of Remus's chips. "Don't be daft, just tell me what time, what dress code, and if I should bring anything." He grinned, and then grinned wider when he realised the waitress cleaning the table behind Remus was looking at Sirius, making her blush. "I usually make my way over to James's at some point, but I really don't think they'll be upset if I spend time with your family, too."

Remus smiled back and nodded, looking a little relieved. "Well, good. I'm glad." He sipped at his soda, making a loud slurping noise when he emptied it. "Only I don't think it'll be as simple as all that."


Remus played with his straw for a moment, making odd noises as it moved in and out of the plastic lid, then sighed. "She wants to have it at her place this year. Have the rest of her family over, too." Remus looked up at Sirius. "I think she wants to get their approval on Dav, which means a nice, formal dinner."

Sirius raised an eyebrow. "Have they not met him yet? Haven't they been going out for a long time?"

Remus nodded. "Yes, but her family's a bit . . . traditional. Sort of set in their ways." He snickered. "I broke all their rules, and they weren't too disappointed to get rid of me in the end." Sirius tutted. "I never needed their approval anyway. But Dora actually is pretty serious about Dav, and because we cocked things up the first time, I'm sure she's very eager to do things the right way."

Sirius stole another chip. "Do you think they're going to get married?"

"Probably. Don't know if she realizes it yet, though," said Remus. "Not that we talk about it."

"So, what's the problem, again? Would she not invite you over with her family?"

"No, she would, but she might try to convince me to come alone." Remus put his drink down and sat back, crossing his arms over his chest. "Like I said, her family's traditional."

Sirius nodded, understanding the issue. "So she doesn't want them to know about you? Us?"

Remus shook his head. "They know I'm gay. And the way they gossip, I'm sure they know I'm seeing someone, if they don't have all sorts of terrible information on you specifically."

"Oh you know me and my sketchy background," Sirius said, grinning. "Terrible influence on you, I'm sure."

"Mm, the worst," Remus agreed. "But them knowing is one thing. They wouldn't like to see it."

"So I shouldn't push aside the salad course and shag you on the dinner table?"

"Not theirs, no, but I think tonight we'll have salad for dinner."

Sirius chuckled. "Look, Remus, I understand about families that don't understand. If I still spoke to mine, they'd have the same issues with me bringing you home to Christmas dinner, I'm sure. Don't feel like you have to try to force it with people who aren't really your family just to make me feel good."

Remus raised an eyebrow. "No offense, love, but that really wasn't my concern anyway." Sirius had the good grace to look sheepish as Remus continued. "I don't want my son to think I'm ashamed. Of myself, of you, of any part of it. And if I let them dictate who his mother can invite over for the family dinner—for his family dinner—then I think I'd fail at my job as a parent." He sat forward, resting his arms on the table, sighing a bit at his dilemma.

Nodding, Sirius reached over and took Remus's hand. "Ignoring the ridiculous idea of you failing at being a father, I do understand what you're saying. And I agree, too, for whatever that's worth."

"It's worth quite a bit," Remus said.

Sirius smiled, feeling rather warm at that. "So, like I said before, just tell me when and where, and if I should bring something. I will be on my best behavior, or my most mischievous, if you'd rather."

Remus smiled as well, a bit of grateful relief evident in the curve of his lips. "Let's start with best, and we'll adjust as the night goes on."

With a squeeze of his hand, Sirius agreed, and then caught a look at the time on his watch. "Shit. I have to get back to work." He didn't move, always reluctant to part after their lunch dates. "You going to be writing at my place today?"

A couple weeks back Remus had lost power at his house, and in a deadline-stricken panic showed up at Sirius's office to ask for his key so he could go write at Sirius's instead. Sirius had, of course, agreed immediately, and when he arrived home that night to find a terribly grateful Remus in his bed wearing only his key, it was determined that not only should a copy of Sirius's key be made for Remus's use whenever necessary, but also that Sirius's spare room was an excellent place for Remus to write on a deadline. Being a place he still considered not his own, his tendency for distraction was neutralized quite neatly, and he had a sense of duty to Sirius to get his work done so that he could prepare himself and the house for a night of many thanks.

Remus nodded now, patting his coat pocket. "I've your key, and that's the plan. Want anything special for dinner?"

Sirius grinned as he stood up. "I thought there was salad planned?"

"If there's salad on the table when you get home, we won't be eating." Sirius smirked, and Remus quickly clarified, "Eating dinner."

Laughing, Sirius leaned down and kissed Remus quickly, with the briefest slip of his tongue. "Whatever you want to make. Or I can bring something home if you'd like."

"Mm, we'll see how it goes today. If I'm on a roll maybe I'll call you and take you up on that."

"Sounds good. Don't lose yourself in it, though."

Remus was already starting to clean up their mess, nodding distractedly.

Sirius smiled softly, then leaned back over to kiss Remus's head. "Call me if you need me, okay?" Remus nodded again, and Sirius knew he was already in his Writer's Mind. Sirius turned away with a small sigh and headed off to a long afternoon at work, where he would try very hard not to think of the man waiting for him at home.

~ * ~

"Big night tonight, then?"

Sirius nodded, staring at the Christmas tree. He expected James was worried about him—worried for him—though it wasn't strictly necessary.

"You nervous? Worried?"

Sirius flicked his eyes to the side, looking at his friend out of the corners of his eyes. "Should I be?" he asked, genuinely curious about what James would say.

"Oh, I don't know. I was a wreck when I had to meet Lily's family, you know that. But this isn't the same as that."

"It's not, no. I am a bit . . . tense, I think," Sirius confessed, sitting back in the sofa, "but not for myself. I don't care so much about what the lot of them think, but I do worry a bit about what Dora and Dav think. And I'm nervous for Remus."

"How's Remus?"

"He's faking confidence nicely," Sirius said with a sigh. Out the front window he could see Harry and some of the neighborhood boys playing in the light snow that was falling. It barely covered anything, not sticking well at all, but children took any excuse to enjoy it. "He just wants to keep things calm for Teddy. Doesn't want Teddy to make bad associations."

James nodded, his eyes closed as he stretched out. His legs nearly reached the decorative train set Harry had abandoned setting up. "I'm sure it'll be fine," he said around a yawn. "What time do you have to leave?"

Sirius checked his watch, frowning. "Probably soon, actually. I need to stop at my place, then I'm going over to Remus's, help him get Teddy over there."

"And you're staying with him tomorrow, yeah?"

Sirius turned to look at James, smiling a bit, then his face dropped. "Is Harry disappointed?"

James shrugged. "Probably a bit, but he'll get over it. You came today, and you're over on Boxing Day, right?" Sirius nodded quickly. "There you are, then. He'll be fine."

"Good." Sirius hesitated a moment, then quietly said, "It's hard, juggling three families."

"Three?" James frowned, pushing his glasses up his nose a bit.

"You lot, Remus, and his ex. I wish we could have Teddy for Christmas, but he's got to be with his mum and her family. And I want to be with you here, but I don't want to leave Remus alone, not when this year he can have company."

James sat up and put his hand on Sirius's shoulder. "Mate. We've all been there. When Harry was little and we were still trying to shuffle between my parents and Lily's? And working to spend a little time with her sister while trying to avoid her husband?" James shuddered. "And that one horrible year with his sister, when Harry got chased around by her sodding dog?"

Sirius nodded. "So it's normal, this feeling that you're always going to let someone down?"

James grinned widely. "That's what family is, Black. Family are the people who know you're going to disappoint them most of the time, but still keep their hopes up enough so they can be disappointed."

Sirius thought about this for a moment, letting it turn in his mind, remembering back to that first time he decided his family wasn't his family anymore, and realising that James was right, that it happened when his father hadn't been disappointed when Sirius didn't show up for something.

"Thanks," he said, bringing a hand up to pat James's, smiling at his friend. "I hope to disappoint you for many years to come."

With a laugh James leaned in closer, his voice dropping to a whisper. "I'm going to let you in on a secret, Uncle Sirius. You have to swear
not to tell anyone that you know." Sirius nodded in agreement. "Lily's up the duff!" James said, his whisper getting a bit louder as he grinned in excitement.

Sirius grinned as well. "Well done, then!"

James tapped his nose. "She's only six weeks gone, so I'm not allowed to tell anyone yet. So don't tell her you know!"

"Oh, I knew you'd tell him," came an amused female voice from somewhere behind them. James yelped and sat up, twisting around to stare at his wife, his mouth working like a fish's. "Sirius isn't just anyone, is he?" She grinned at Sirius, who was smiling at her. "So he can know. But please don't let Harry know, yet," she added, her voice serious.

"Understood, Mother Potter," said Sirius with a cheeky grin and quick salute, and then he stood, smoothing his clothes. "I should be off now, anyway. Have to make myself gorgeous, you understand."

"But Sirius, I thought you were going out tonight."

Sirius flipped James off as he kissed Lily's cheek. "Congratulations, and I'll keep it quiet, I promise." He backed out of the room, saying, "And I'll see you both on Boxing Day!"

He hurried outside to the sound of their farewells, making sure to stop and say goodbye to Harry, before he set out down the road, whistling to himself.

By the time he got home he was eager to see Remus and Teddy, and almost decided to just pack up his stuff and take it over to Remus's to change there, but he changed his mind when he considered that Remus would have enough going on trying to get himself and Teddy ready, and they didn't need someone else needing the bathroom to make himself look nice. So he swallowed back his nervous excitement and got himself washed up and dressed, then checked over his bags thoroughly, making sure he had everything he'd need for that evening, the night after, and tomorrow. The most important items included a present for Remus, a couple presents for Teddy, and small gift for Dora and Dav for letting Remus invite him and not complaining.

Finally he let himself check the time, and with relief he found that it was only twenty minutes before he'd planned to leave, and he figured that was close enough. He headed for the nearest bus stop, planning to grab one of the empty taxis that often swung by there on days of high traffic in the hopes of catching desperate fares from people who had missed a bus, or who just decided they didn't want to deal with the masses on board.

He hailed one quickly enough, settling in for the trip across town.

Sirius watched people walking around: families with children high on Christmas cheer tugging the parents along; couples strolling in the light snowfall with no timetable but their own; people on their own, either rushing somewhere to meet up with others, or taking their time and uneager to spend the night alone. Sirius looked over to the paper bag filled with expertly Lily-wrapped gifts, and he smiled, glad that tonight no one he loved would be alone, even if he couldn't be with everyone at once.

September seemed so long ago, now. Those first days of surprising meetings and re-meetings, the nervous wondering if he was mad for feeling connected to this man he'd only met on accident a couple times. Three months was all it was, though, and Sirius still had a sense that maybe he was putting too much on all this, making it seem bigger than it ought to be. At the same time, though, this was fast becoming the longest relationship in his life. He'd gone out with a girl back in school, before uni, and it technically spread over a summer, though they'd spent little time together and had really just been a convenient arrangement to have someone to snog on breaks between classes.

Not in question at all was the fact that this relationship was far and away the most meaningful. For years, when James was chasing after Lily and when he'd finally worn her down, Sirius would inwardly scoff at James's insistence that there was any way to really know that he was meant for this one person. When he finally asked James about it, James could only say that one day, Sirius would understand. Hesitant as he was to say it aloud and risk breaking the spell that he felt caught up in, Sirius did understand now. His only wish was that time would move faster, so that he could feel more confident in feeling like he had earned the right to say that Remus Lupin was the love of his life.

Before he quite realised it, the taxi had pulled up outside Remus's house, and with a healthy tip to the driver, Sirius got his things together and headed up, ready to spend Christmas with the newest people he considered family.

~ * ~

Dora's house was surprisingly large; he didn't think a police salary was quite so grand. Remus explained when he saw Sirius's surprised face that her family knew how to have its money work for them, and Dora had inherited both that same knowledge, as well as a nice bit of money from various deceased relatives. It had been, Remus said, an important bit of information during their divorce proceedings, as it had allowed Remus's lawyer to convince everyone that Remus shouldn't be responsible for any child support payments. Remus didn't mind the idea of supporting his son, but not having those monthly payments was a huge relief when paying jobs were slow for a few months.

Teddy ran up the short path around the side of the house to the garden entrance, calling for his mum, leaving his father exasperated and holding a bag of presents as he shook his head.

"Here," Sirius said with a chuckle, shifting the things he was holding to take a bag from Remus. "Go make sure he doesn't slip and fall, I'll follow you in."

Remus smiled, holding onto his bags tightly. "He's fine, they keep that path pretty well cleared, especially for tonight with all the old relatives coming through." He followed Teddy. "No one really uses the front door much, anyway." He pushed the gate open further to allow their adult bodies through, nodding his head to indicate that Sirius should go first. "Don't want to leave you alone, give you a chance to run off," he said, winking.

"Not going to run off, don't worry," Sirius said, smiling though his voice was firm, as though trying to remind himself of that fact more than Remus. "Plus," he added, voice low, "you know I'm just waiting for them to do or say something ridiculous so I can be obnoxious."

"As long as it happens after Teddy goes to bed, then I'm looking forward to that." Remus knocked their hips together. "Go on, might as well face it all head-on, yeah? Only Teddy's inside and they're probably wondering where we are." Side by side, they walked the rest of the path up to the door, which was standing open, a child's coat left carelessly on the floor a step inside. Remus calmly stepped over it, and Sirius followed right after, finding himself in a mud room which was seemingly doubling as a coatroom this evening.

There was the sound of heels on hardwood floor approaching, and a voice called out, "Remus, that you?"

Remus, who had put down his bags and was reaching to pick up Teddy's coat and close the outside door, called back, "It's us, yeah. One mo', Dora, bit cramped in here. . . ."

Sirius smiled; it was fairly cramped in the small room, and Remus was now standing right against up him. Though Sirius suspected that was by design, and not the fault of the room.

"Thank you for coming tonight," Remus whispered, kissing Sirius softly. "I wanted to say that now, before you can regret it."

Sirius shook his head, giving Remus a quick squeeze. "I'm just glad to be invited. Glad I can be here for you." While Remus had never said anything about his concerns, Sirius suspected that Remus wanted Sirius around just so he could be assured a friendly face, and not just to make a point to his ex-wife and her family.

Remus nodded once, took a deep breath, then stepped away from Sirius, opening the other door in the room to reveal a small woman with Teddy on her hip. Even if Sirius had never seen pictures of the woman, he'd know this was Dora from Teddy's possessive grip on her neck, and the way their chins were both just a bit pointy.

"Hi Dora," Remus said, leaning in to kiss her cheek quickly. "See someone found you quick enough."

"He always does," she replied, kissing Remus back. "How are the roads?"

"Oh, not too bad. Just a bit wet, is all." They'd driven over in Remus's old, clunky car, a used thing he'd bought for a song when he and Dora had split up so he didn't have to always rely on the tube and buses and taxis when he was out with Teddy.

Dora was peering over Remus's shoulder, clearly eyeing Sirius and waiting to be introduced. Sirius's instincts made him want to take care of the introductions himself, but he sat back, letting Remus take care of things.

"So Dora, this is Sirius," Remus said, looking between them. "Sirius, this is Teddy's mum, Dora."

Sirius smiled and reached out to shake her hand, nodding politely. "Nice to meet you, Dora."

Dora shifted Teddy on her hip to shake Sirius's hand, giving him a quick smile. "Same. I've heard a lot about you," she said, though Sirius got the impression that she considered it too much, and possibly from a disappointing source. He knew that Remus and Dora tended to keep their chats on the topic of their son, rather than their romantic lives, but perhaps Teddy felt he could speak more freely.

"About you as well," Sirius agreed, smiling widely, hoping to put her at ease, show her that she wasn't the evil ex in his and Remus's conversations. Remus had introduced her accurately for them: she was Teddy's mum, first and foremost.

She stepped aside, gesturing for them to follow her. "Well come in, most everyone else is here. Dav's in the kitchen tending to a couple things, but I should get back in there before he ruins dinner." Her lips quirked, a fond inside joke, something to reassure herself that she was in charge here, that Remus was the one who'd brought the outsider.

They walked inside, and Remus took a shy Teddy from his mother as she headed towards the kitchen. Sirius walked behind his Lupins, making faces at Teddy to try and get him to smile and open up, but the noise from the front room was growing louder, and Teddy was hugging his father harder.

"Ted, pal, I've got to put you down," Remus murmured. "Can you be a big boy and come say hi to your aunties and uncles? Gran's in here, too, and Grandad's probably got a sweetie for you." The idea of a sweet made dealing with unfamiliar people worthwhile, apparently, and Teddy let go and allowed Remus to put him down. Leading the boy by the hand, Remus brought Teddy into the room, having him greet his family. Sirius hid back a bit in the shadows of the corridor, letting everyone coo over the child as they tried to bring a smile to his face.

Someone stepped next to him, and Sirius turned and looked down to see Dora at his side, watching her son and ex-husband work the room. "You're not going to hurt them, are you?"

Sirius blinked, surprised by her blunt question. "I certainly have no intent to do so," he answered after a moment. "And in fact I plan to actively avoid that from happening."

She didn't react for a moment, then nodded. "Good. He deserves someone who's right for him."

With a raised eyebrow, Sirius asked, "Are you, uh, giving your blessing or something?" He didn't know what bothered him more, the fact that she saw fit to give it moments after meeting him, or the fact that she felt it was her place to give it at all.

"No, I was just saying. That's what he deserves. If that's you, then I wish you the best." Without waiting for Sirius to reply, she walked into the room, slipping into to the role of hostess with relative ease.

Teddy was occupied with a man playing at slight of hand with a sweet—presumably his grandfather—and Remus wandered back over to Sirius, smiling a bit. "You going to lurk in the shadows all night?"

"Boo," Sirius said, grinning. "I'm what goes bump in the night."

Remus chuckled and took Sirius's hand, squeezing it. "Come on, there's a nice bench next to one of Dora's less fussy cousins, you can sit there and I'll sit on the ground and you can be all possessive over me." He winked a bit, but Sirius could tell Remus was nervous. He liked to feel owned when he got nervous.

So Sirius nodded. "Of course." He leaned his head and whispered very softly in Remus's ear, "I love you very much. That's not going to change because of anyone here, I promise." He felt Remus nod, then gave Remus a soft shove, letting Remus take control of the great reveal.

As Remus led him across the room, Sirius could feel the waves of halting conversation, the increase in whispers and stares, but he simply gave a distracted smile, following a step behind Remus, their fingers still entwined. Indeed, there was a small bench placed in the far corner, next to a boy who looked about Harry's age, and who seemed entirely bored to tears at all this family nonsense. He didn't spare them a second look as Sirius sat and Remus took a spot up between Sirius's legs.

When Sirius looked up, he saw a number of heads quickly turning away, but he didn't let himself react to that, keeping a small smile on his face, hoping to look calm and at ease in the room. Past instances of not being happily accepted had taught him that if he just looked like he belonged, people would be less likely to show him that he didn't. It didn't always work, but the guests here didn't look like the type to start fistfights over the family supper.

Chatter began to rise in volume again, and Sirius could feel Remus relax against him. He put one hand on Remus's shoulder and squeezed, reassuring him. After a few minutes, the blonde boy sitting next to them stood up and wandered away, and the seat was quickly re-occupied by the man who'd been playing with Teddy and the sweet earlier.

"Hallo, Remus," he said, pulling the chair around a bit so he could face them both properly.

"Hi Ted," Remus replied, shifting a bit and looking up at Sirius. "Sirius, this is Dora's father, Ted."

Sirius smiled. "Nice to meet you, Ted."

Ted nodded his head. "You as well, Sirius." Ted looked back at Remus. "How are you doing these days, lad? Dora doesn't call as often as I like her to, you know."

Remus chatted with Ted for a bit, talking about a few things he'd written, some stories about Teddy, all very normal small talk. Sirius got the impression that Ted liked Remus very much, and was glad that Remus's divorce hadn't soured that friendship. Eventually Ted headed off to chat with others, and Remus pushed himself up to take the seat that was now open, putting it back next to Sirius.

"Ted's a good man. He used to hate me, upset that I'd started something with Dora knowing how she felt, knowing that I would never make it anything long term. But when I didn't run away when she told me she was pregnant, I earned his respect, I guess."

Sirius nodded. "As you should have. Not every man would do that, even if he was straight."

Remus shrugged. "I think he wishes we were still together, that his daughter could have . . . changed my mind enough. But he's always been understanding about us splitting up. He's was good to talk to when we couldn't agree on what to do about something, because he always was looking out for Teddy."

"I did get that impression," Sirius said, with a soft chuckle. "That he wanted you back with Dora."

Remus's lips quirked. "Did you?" It was genuinely curious, not sarcastic, and Sirius nodded.

"He ignored me, didn't acknowledge our relationship at all. I mean, I'm not expecting anyone here to be so very interested in when we started dating or who tops or whatever—" Remus snickered, shaking his head, "—but you might as well have been sitting here alone."

Remus touched Sirius's thigh, stroking it just lightly. "I did say, many of them don't approve. But they're nice and uppercrust, so they'll ignore a problem rather than have to come across as openly disapproving." He gestured to a trio of women chatting near the fireplace. "Dora's mother and aunts? They try so very hard to be nice to me. Her mum's alright about it, she does like me on some level. The other two, though? I guarantee at one point tonight they will ask if I've met a woman I can start my own family with yet."

Sirius's eyebrows shot up to his hairline. "Your own family? As though Teddy's not your son?"

"Precisely. They want me to stop hanging around, and they think the way to get that to happen is for me to have kids with some other woman. They're ridiculous and terrible, and Dora's always horrified when I tell her they did it again, but they'll never stop. Not until I do what they think is the right thing for me to do."

Sirius felt his lip curl slightly. "Oh I hope they ask when I'm around tonight."

Remus snickered. "What would you do if they did?"

"Oh, I don't know. Something about how my biological clock is ticking, but . . ."

Remus squeezed Sirius's leg. "You don't have to defend me to these people, Sirius."

Sirius tilted his head, looking at Remus curiously. "Don't I, though? I mean, not just here, but anywhere?"

Remus looked back at Sirius, blinking slowly, then he shook his head. "You don't. Not like that, anyway. And not for my sake. All I ever need from you in a situation like that is to stand at my side and don't back down from a disapproving stare."

Sirius smiled a bit, knowing that he'd certainly never disappoint on that level, and he opened his mouth to say that he'd try to keep himself in check, but was interrupted when Dora clapped her hands for attention.

"Just wanted to let you all know that dinner will start soon, if you want to start heading into the dining room? It's a bit of a tight fit around the table, but there's room for everyone. We thought we'd help by putting down place cards, too, so there shouldn't be any fights over seats," she said with a smile, though Sirius saw her eyes flick over to him, and he wondered just what she might expect from him in reaction to her seating arrangements.

It turned out that Dav and Ted were at the head and foot of the table, which Sirius took as part of Dora's desire to get her family to approve of Dav in a head-of-the-house fashion by equating him with her father. Dora herself was seated to Dav's right, and to Dav's left was Teddy. Remus was to the left of his son, and Sirius one seat over more. He tried to catch Dora's eye to give her a nod of thanks—she could have seated him across from Remus, and that could have been needlessly uncomfortable.

Then he realised who was seated to his own left, and he wondered if she was testing him.

He smiled at the older woman, as at the same time he felt Remus tense next to him. He assumed Remus had just realised that Sirius had been seated next to one of the women Remus had pointed out, one of Dora's aunts. Determined to go into this with an optimistic outlook, he gave her a polite nod, then gestured towards her chair.

"May I?" he asked, his hands taking the back of it, ready to hold it out for her. He remembered these games from his own childhood, how to be polite to someone whose eyes you wouldn't mind gouging out.

She nodded back at him and he pulled out her chair, waited until she was in position, then carefully pushed it back in, until she was seated comfortably. She did not thank him; he turned back to make eyes at Remus, but the other man was busy getting Teddy settled in his booster seat.

He sat himself in his chair, turned a bit towards Remus, watching the others settle themselves around the table, and he was much reminded of important family events in his childhood. He glanced over at the young boy who was seated across from Remus, next to Dora, and he couldn't help but smile a bit. Sirius had worn that facial expression more than a few times as a child: the boy was bored, he just wanted to eat and get his presents.

Sirius suddenly was glad that there weren't more children around; he had the distinct feeling that if a children's table was required, there would have been an attempt to seat him there.

There was a low murmur in his ear. "I'm sorry she did that to you," Remus said. Sirius turned to see that Remus was glancing past Sirius, grimacing.

"I'll charm her knickers out of a twist," he replied, giving Remus a quick wink. Remus looked back at him, a bit of a chastising look on his face. "Honestly, best behavior, I promised."

Remus reached over and took Sirius's hand under the table. "I know."

Sirius reached for his water, and suddenly realised that, perhaps unknowingly, Dora had done them a favor; by seating Sirius to Remus's left, Remus could hold his southpaw partner's hand throughout the dinner without causing problems eating. He gave Remus's hand a squeeze, then braced himself for the evening.

Later that night, when they had finished dinner and dessert, let the children open a present each (to Sirius's delight Teddy had opened his, which being a fantastic set of castle-building blocks forced many in the room to give him a begrudging nod, deeming his offering acceptable), and shared small talk which was a bit less awkward with a good bit of alcohol in the veins, Remus drove the two of them back to his place, where they immediately fell onto the couch, sprawled and tangled together as they relaxed.

"That," Remus said with a sigh, after several minutes of comfortable silence, "was not as horrid as I had feared."

Sirius chuckled, turning his head to kiss Remus's temple. "What did you think was going to happen?"

"Oh, you know. Something . . . horrid."

"You seem to have lost some vocabulary tonight. I much prefer when I leave you speechless, frankly."

Remus smiled and turned into Sirius more, burrowing into the embrace. "Didn't have any specific ideas on what might happen, but I was afraid there'd be shouting over something."

Sirius nodded. "Fair play to that, though, I nearly made poor Aunt Bella choke on her pudding when I said I recognized her husband."

"Is that what you said?" Remus asked, laughing softly. "Why would...?"

Sirius snickered. "It was right after she finished interrogating me about our 'friendship'. I suspect that she thought I was suggesting I'd seen him somewhere unseemly. Bathhouses or something terrible like that."

"So where did you recognize him from?"

"Think he works in my building. Wouldn't know him by name, and I'm still not sure. After the choking, I figured I ought to drop the subject."

Remus kissed Sirius's cheek. "Thank you for coming. I think . . . I think it was good."

"I think so, too. Thank you for inviting me." He kissed Remus softly on the lips, though after a moment or so the kiss had deepened, and before long they were greeting Christmas with soft sighs and quiet moans, and Sirius decided this was the best Christmas he'd ever had.

» Part 4

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