Goodbye, My Almost Lover

Remus Lupin/Sirius Black.

Remus would be left clutching the memories to his chest and struggling to muster a sliver of affection for the woman he married, his heart always belonging to the man who lived like the wind.

My first attempt at slash, though it's very light and very fluffy, the slash is more of an undertone than anything else. Remus finally says goodbye to Sirius Black. It's an open-and-shut case of unsynchronised passion, and the final fallout of such a thing. Loosely, very loosely, based on the namesake song 'Goodbye, My Almost Lover' by Fine Frenzy.

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1. Goodbye, My Almost Lover

Goodbye, My Almost Lover

"We've done it again, Sirius." They stood facing one another with two feet between them, the space that tore a little into his heart every time he took the time to notice it. So close, yet so far, just as they'd always been. Life always found a way to push them tantalisingly close to happily ever after, only to yank the prize away from under their fingertips. And now, it seemed, life was about to intervene once again- for the countless time, they'd missed their chance.

"That we have, Remus." Sirius never counted himself as an overly emotional person, but just seeing Remus like this- with a wedding band on his left hand and the twin not on Sirius', his hair more grey than sandy, his face full of lines and weathered scars along his neck that hadn't been there the last time they met- killed him inside. He wanted to break down in tears, gather the other man up in his arms and whisk them both away to a life of happiness and sunshine, the life they always joked about having.

"Do you ever wonder..." Remus choked on the words, unable to finish the thought. The mere thought of those two words, the most tragic set of syllables strung together.

As if reading his mind, Sirius nodded grimly, biting the inside of his cheek and keeping his eyes locked firmly on a point just above the werewolf's left shoulder. "What if?" he finished quietly.

"Yeah."

"... All the time." There was a hesitation there, the slight pause in which Sirius had considered lying. Considered simply shrugging and mumbling something incomprehensible, but as always, just standing under Remus' gaze brought out the best in him. Or was it the worst, perhaps? Sirius was always more emotion, more moody, when Remus was around. Quick to leap to protective anger over the slightest things directed at Remus, swift to jump to defend his best friend, his almost lover.

Remus brought him back to earth with a hastily muttered; "And?"

"And I'm convinced that no matter what, this is how our lives would've played out," Sirius replied, a little sharper than necessary. There was no hesitation, no pause in which he came up with a better story, a more romantic turn of events- he couldn't give himself even the slightest amount of hope even in a reality that didn't exist. Even his imagination had been trained to never think of Remus as anything more than an old friend.

"You wouldn't even give us a chance? After everything... all the years, the secrets... you'd just give up?" Remus was upset, his heart tearing just a little more inside his chest. Every moment that passed with them still standing two feet apart was causing him some internal damage. He thought mournfully of all the lonely nights where he'd wake up in a cold sweat, telling himself that everything he knew was gone while his body still keened for Sirius' touch. All of that suffering... all of the pain, the love they shared- Sirius wouldn't even fight for it?

Sirius snorted bitterly, shrugging his bony, starved shoulders. The sight made Remus long for a hearty meal to shove down his throat, but Sirius would never take such charity. His ego may have waned a long time ago, but he had retained his pride and he would not show weakness to anyone, not even Remus. "Wishing on a star hasn't done much good, has it?" Sirius muttered, kicking at a loose stone in the path to avoid eye contact.

Letting out a long breath, Remus scrubbed a hand through his hair, a habit they'd all picked up from James a long time ago. With a forced smile, he attempted to lighten the mood, however futile his attempt may be."Merlin, we're pathetic, aren't we?"

"Your story, Remus." Sirius didn't even smile, and Remus' heart sank. His mind slipped back into the happier memories, all of which were shadowed with the pain he knew would follow.

Like Halloween, 1981. Sirius had been acting off all day, but Remus didn't notice. Too caught up in his own delusion of domestic bliss to notice his best mate was twitchy and nervous- and when Sirius said he was going out that evening, Remus didn't even bat an eyelid. "Why didn't I stop you that night?" he asked, shaking his head sadly. If only he'd called Sirius back, if only he'd made Sirius tell him the truth about what was going on with Lily and James... so much agony could be spared.

"I asked you not to," Sirius responded instantly, quick to try to alleviate the blame. The protective, defensive instinct would never go away, he thought ruefully.

"I should have thought to follow you."

"I should have stayed." It was true, the dark-haired wizard thought. If he had stayed, if he had thought to let someone else in on the secret, his life would have been spared. Harry wouldn't have suffered, Lily and James may have lived... he and Remus could've been happy. Sirius scowled at his own stupidity back then; why, why didn't he tell Remus? Because of some whispered rumour that Voldemort was recruiting werewolves, and that Remus may fall for it... it was ludicrous as ever, the idea of Remus being the turncoat, but back then Sirius had been suspicious of everybody. Too caught up in his own delusion of espionage and fragile safety to notice what was right under his nose.

"I should have told you then," Remus whispered.

Sirius almost held up a hand to stall the direction their conversation was taking, to spare himself this last heartbreak, but he always was a bit of a masochist and so, replied with; "I should have given you a chance."

"Does he make you happy, Sirius? Truly happy?" Remus' curiosity lit up his eyes in a delightful way, and Sirius recalled when the man was his- those eyes, that face, those lips- were his to love and cherish and ravage however he wanted. The thought made his loins stir uncomfortably and he quickly turned his thoughts to his current lover, a former cellmate in Azkaban. As cruel as it was, the new man in Sirius' life had nothing on Remus, nothing on the emotional bond that they'd formed long before Azkaban was a word Sirius recognised.

After a pause, in which Remus shifted his weight uncomfortably, his eyes turning hopeful, Sirius steeled his nerve and gritted his teeth. "As happy as can be. What about little Nymph?" Remus flinched at the adjective 'little', reminded again of just how many years were between him and his wife, and of the blood relation between his former lover and his spouse.

Tonks was a lovely girl, and they were for all intents and purposes perfectly happy. It was a sham, Remus acknowledged bitterly, a cruel charade he hadn't the mind to put an end to. Where would he go if he did? Sirius was as good as gone, and nobody else would take on an aging werewolf as even a lodger, much less a lover, so he allowed Tonks to love him and believe that one day, he would love her back. "We're... doing fine." It was an apt description, Remus thought, but something must have shown on his face- the furrowed brow, perhaps, or the crooked smile he tried to force onto his mouth.

"And the baby?" Sirius pressed, his eyes narrowed as his gaze roved quickly over Remus' face. The werewolf was a horrendous liar, always had been, and his twitching eyebrow gave him away every time. Sirius hadn't the heart to call him on it though, and let his former lover reside in whatever travesty suited him.

"Also fine. I just can't help thinking... if things were different..."

Sirius pressed his lips together in a hard line, shaking his head to cut his old friend off before he got too far. Pain he could handle, he'd felt enough of it over the years, but there was a point when even Sirius gave up trying to be strong. "Yes, well, they're not. Sorry, Remus."

"Don't apologise. I'm as much at fault as you are."

"Yeah you are." He couldn't help the bitter tone that found its unwelcome way into his tone as he almost spat the words out. Remus flinched horribly and Sirius thought he was about to cry- wistfully, he recalled the days when tension like this would be sorted out in the bedroom, with actions rather than words. It certainly wouldn't be the angst-filled pressure that preceded what both of them could see as a goodbye.

"Ouch."

Sirius scuffed his feet, looking down again as he swallowed around the lump in his throat. It was getting dark rapidly, and Auror numbers doubled at night, even since Voldemort had fallen. His followers remained and although Sirius could chose to rise from the dead and claim his rightful place in the Wizarding world, he wouldn't, not even for Harry. Things had progressed along just fine without him, while he spent years trying to recover from whatever that veil did to him in the Department of Mysteries. To come back now would just cause trouble, ripples that Sirius wasn't prepared to weather. He was used to being completely free, and coming back would only serve to trap him once again. "Sorry... look, it's been great to see you again... but I've got to..."

"Um, yeah... me too. So, I'll see you around?" Remus looked hopeful and it tore Sirius' gut out through his chest at the same time as his heart plummeted to his feet.

Slowly, Sirius shook his dark, shaggy head. "Probably not," he said in a small voice, hating the weakness and the tremor he heard in it. Remus' face fell and Sirius wanted nothing more than to smooth the hurt away, but that wasn't his place, not anymore.

"No?"

"I can't do that to you, to me. To Heath. He deserves better than that." It was a low blow, bringing up his current lover, but it seemed to do the trick. Whatever trance Remus was under snapped and he nodded quickly, all too eager to agree for Sirius' liking. In that one moment, he knew that the torch he bore for Remus would burn for always, but it would burn for nothing. In this lifetime and probably the next, they'd never have each other.

"Yeah, yeah Tonks too. I can't... can't give her the attention she deserves when you're around." It was another poor joke, a vague attempt at lightening the suddenly dark and tense mood. The end was near, they were both aware of it, but neither wanted to be the first to break away. Almost as though if they stood there long enough, if they gazed at each other long enough, the world would hear their silent pleas and allow them happiness, however rocky it may have been.

Sirius felt his eyes water as he stepped forward, placed a hand on Remus' shoulder and bowed his head, whispering; "She's a lucky woman either way." And, before his control could break completely and he fell to his knees begging Remus to run away with him, Sirius turned on his heel and walked for the gate, shoulders slumped and hands balled into fists in his pockets.

"Sirius?" He froze as Remus approached, but they didn't face each other. Sirius wouldn't turn around and Remus wasn't brave enough to touch him, to ask him to stay. Nothing that could be said would fix what had just been broken, but damned if Remus wasn't going to try to hold on for another few seconds. Damned if Remus' courage didn't come to him in a great wave, one that prompted him to stare at the back of Sirius' head and utter the words that could have saved them both nearly two decades ago. "I've always loved you. Always will."

A long moment of tense silence passed and Remus feared the other would leave without a reply, leave him watching the empty air and waiting for a reaction to his confessed love- the first time either of them had uttered it in such a stark way, such a straightforward admission. Sirius felt the first of his sobs wracking his chest as he took a shuddering breath, still not turning around. "... Me too," he whispered, turning his head enough to throw the words over his shoulder. He forced his legs to move and nearly hit something when Remus called again;

"Take care of yourself, won't you?"

"Yeah... yeah, you too," Sirius replied, trying for one of his easy smiles that used to be so effortless, but all he came up with was a pained grimace and an awkward nod. This time, he wouldn't wait for Remus to speak again, for if the werewolf uttered another word in a tone so full of longing, so full of promises of love and safety and home, Sirius would break entirely and then he'd be trapped, a prisoner of his own heart. In a way, he'd been just that since he was fourteen, though he only realised it in the exact moment that he Apparated away.

Remus' hand was raised in farewell and the dark-haired wizard shot him one last heartbreaking smile before he was gone in a cloud of white smoke, drifting away on the breeze. Remus heard the door open behind him and his wife's footsteps as she approached, and he turned to embrace her. Tonks lifted a finger to wipe the tears gathered on his cheeks, tears he hadn't realised he'd been crying. Shaking his head, Remus Lupin curled an arm around his beautiful wife and kissed her as passionately as he could, convinced that the longer they stayed connected the more in love he'd feel.

Whatever love he felt, it wasn't for the woman in his arms, the woman who had brought light to his life again, the mother of his one-year-old child. No, it was for the recently departed childhood friend, the one who had always been and would always be on his mind, the man he had loved since he turned fourteen. Whatever chance at love they had was long gone now, drifted away like the last petals of a summer rose.

And Remus would be left clutching the memories to his chest and struggling to muster a sliver of affection for the woman he married, his heart always belonging to the man who lived like the wind.

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