Harry Potter, Till All My Skin Was Gone (The Homes That I Have Loved Remix)

Title: Till All My Skin Was Gone (The Homes That I Have Loved Remix) [Remus/Sirius]
Rating/Warnings: R
Summary: He showed the boy his tattoos, all of them, explaining what each one meant. Harry listened raptly, eyes following the lines first of childhood daring, then of adult devotion, and of prisoner suffering.
A/N: a Remix of Ages of Ink by Sam Starbuck. For the 2005 Remix Redux. Sam’s story is hearbreaking and beautifully understated, I hope I’ve done it justice. If you haven’t read the original, the numbering and the ending won’t make much sense.

Till All My Skin Was Gone (The Homes That I Have Loved Remix)

I met a girl who kept tattoos for homes that she had loved;
If I were her I’d paint my body till all my skin was gone.

— Something Corporate “Woke Up In A Car”

6.

“I want to see Sirius’ tattoo.”

Remus looks up from the book he hasn’t been reading to find Harry standing in front of him. He asks Harry to repeat himself.

“I want to see Sirius’ phoenix. When it was new.”

“How…” Remus begins, but trails off when Harry unshoulders his school bag and swings it up onto the desk with a heavy thunk, heedless of the scattering rolls of parchment. It isn’t hard to guess what’s inside, given the large, bowl shape the bag is stretched into. “What did you tell Dumbledore?”

“That I wanted to borrow it.”

“Of course.” Remus scrubs his eyes with the heels of his hands. Of course Albus had known what it was for, of course Albus had ignored the regulations about giving Pensieves to teenagers, especially grieving ones. Of course. Why not give the boy this, when a Sirius trapped in stone was so much safer than a real one, one who might have dangerous ideas about what was good for Harry.

Harry crosses his arms and plants his feet and stares Remus down.

“I’ll have to think about it,” Remus says, and when Harry doesn’t move, “for a while. Alone.”

Jerking his bag out from around its contents, Harry stomps from the room. Remus stays where he is, staring into the curve of the Pensieve.

15.

“We didn’t chose what they were,” Sirius had said as Harry peered shyly at the small dog curled up over Sirius’ heart. “After the potion, the book gave us some kind of rune to have inked on, said it had to be Muggle so the magics wouldn’t mix. More than one wizard found that out the hard way.”

Harry had shifted closer to get a better look, the dog rising and falling with Sirius’ breath. Sirius’ worn shirt had hung unbuttoned from his shoulders.

“We had them done on our backs so they’d be easier to hide,” Sirius had touched fingers lightly to the edge of the dog, traced the feathering of the tail, “but then we changed the first time, and after we turned back they were in different spots, looked like us. What we were.”

Harry had thought about this for a moment before wrinkling his nose a little.

“That means McGonagall…”

“Has a cute little puss tattooed on her someplace, yes.” Sirius had laughed, had reached out his hand like he was going to touch Harry, but let it drop instead. “We spent no few Transfiguration lessons trying to imagine where.”

Harry’s look of horror had increased exponentially. Sirius had insisted that she’d been quite a catch in her prime, and both James and Remus had harbored unrequited crushes though he himself had been immune to her siren call. Harry had changed the subject hurriedly.

“After you got them, you could change?”

“Still took a bit of doing,” Sirius had tapped his fingers against his chest thoughtfully. “Took us a few days to tie up the loose ends and get rid of Moony long enough to finish up. First time I’d been happy to see a full moon since first year. But the look on his face when he came back from the infirmary and found his bed covered in black fur…”

1.

Sirius glared at the nurse fussing over his bandages, but the silly cow didn’t seem to take any notice. Nerves worn thin, he barked that he was fine loud enough to make her jostle his arm. The throb of pain made his eyes tear, but finally the blasted woman fled the room.

“Don’t be a child, Sirius.”

Sirius turned his head to the window of the St. Mungo’s Spell Damage Ward, away from Remus sitting calmly in the chair beside him, reading his bloody magazine like Sirius was there for a routine physical.

“You should be grateful, you could have lost that arm.” The difference in Remus’ voice was slight, but you didn’t live with a bloke for nigh on ten years without learning the sounds of his moods. Remus had been worried, but Sirius was muddled by adrenaline and the numbing charms and didn’t see what all the fuss was about. “And what would you do then?”

“It’s only banged up a bit,” Sirius grumbled. He turned his head back to Remus, not so drugged that he didn’t see the way the magazine’s pages were crumpled in Remus’ fingers, and Sirius felt immediately contrite. “I’ll be back to groping you properly in no time.”

“Sirius, did you even hear the woman?” Remus demanded, then sighed when Sirius stared at him blankly. “You didn’t bang it up a bit, you nearly lost your arm. You won’t be doing anything with it for at least three weeks, and that’s if it doesn’t get infected!”

“We’ll see about that.” Sirius hunched down against the flat hospital pillow sulkily. What in the hell was he supposed to do for weeks without his wand arm? “At least you’ll be waiting on me hand and foot.”

There was a noise beside him, something in between a cough and a laugh, which meant that Remus had been meaning to tell him something.

“Fuck,” he said, closing his eyes. “How long? Fuck.”

“Long,” Remus answered, voice flat. “Maybe five, six weeks.”

“What the fucking hell does he have you doing?” Sirius roared, not caring if everyone in St. Mungo’s heard him, or if his damn arm did fall off, which would have been a relief as he had just thumped it soundly against the side of the bed.

He knew Remus wasn’t going to answer, but the reality of it still made Sirius curse progressively harder until the glass cabinet door nearest him shattered.

“I’ll get you discharged.” Remus stood up. Glass crunched under his feet like snow. “We’ll have to get you a new wand before we go home, can’t have you shattering all the windows in the flat.”

Sirius brushed glass from his shirt, careless of the small cuts, and resigned himself to the ache of his arm for company.

7.

Remus should call Harry back and say he won’t do it, demand he take the Pensieve right back where it came from, but he doesn’t, and if he was going to, he would have done it already, before Harry left the room.

He lays fingertips on the brim of the bowl and pushes down until he can feel his heartbeat in them. He thinks about pushing it off the edge of the desk, sending it crashing to the floor, but he knows the thing will survive the trip, likely without any damage at all. When Remus is gone, when they are all dust, this Pensieve will still be perfectly serviceable.

People make the worst things out of stone.

16.

“Did it hurt?” Harry had asked, one hand pressing against his own throat in sympathy. Harry’s collarbones were as sharply defined as Sirius’ own, and Sirius recalled how he had teased Lily by saying Harry would grow up to be just like him, and how he hadn’t meant for that to be a curse.

“Yeah,” he had answered, remembering the bite of the needle into his throat, how it felt like shame welling up and out, staining his skin so that Remus could see, “but I wanted the distraction. And I wanted Remus to look at me.”

“Did he?” Harry’s eyebrows had pinched together, and Sirius had known that he was trying to imagine them at his age, gawky and angry and struggling to be big enough for their secrets. Sirius hardly remembered it himself, sometimes, but this memory was sharp in his mind from repeated forced viewings.

“He threw a tantrum is what he did.” Sirius had chuckled softly. “Told me I couldn’t guilt him into forgiving me, had no right trying. He didn’t speak to me without shouting for weeks. But he came round in the end. He always did, did Moony.”

“Yeah, he does.” Harry had laughed knowingly, and Sirius had started because sometimes he forgot that his Moony existed anywhere outside his fragmented memory. Then he had smiled because it had been a long time since somebody else had known.

2.

The emptiness of the flat pressed in on Sirius as he roamed from room to room, bottle of Ogden’s dangling between his fingers. After the Order meeting, James had asked him to come home with them, but the attempt to distract him from Remus’ grand exit had been so transparent that Sirius couldn’t bear to submit to it. Instead he took his arm sling and his new wand home to sulk, and stayed there for days in a constant haze of inebriation, refusing to answer the door or the floo until finally James threw a rock through the flat’s front window.

The note tied to it read Come out with your pants up.

“You’ve got to get out,” James insisted when they were drinking coffee in a diner around the corner, ignoring Sirius’ irritated response that they were out right now. Peter had come along, and he was slumped in the booth next to James, looking about as lively as Sirius felt. He didn’t say anything, merely glanced between James and Sirius as they spoke, eyes underscored by dark smudges. His hands were shaking too, although he quickly wrapped them around his coffee mug when he caught Sirius staring.

“You look like hell, Wormtail,” Sirius said, cutting off James’ endless prattle about the little squib Lily was carting around endlessly in her abdomen. “What’s he got you doing?”

“You wouldn’t believe,” Peter answered with a dark laugh. Any other day Sirius might have razzed Peter about being Dumbledore’s laprat, but today it struck too close to his frustration with Remus, and he pulled the flask he had smuggled out under James’ nose from his jacket pocket—with his practically bloody useless left arm—and handed it across the table.

Peter gave him a wan smile and sloshed a liberal amount into his coffee. James watched with a furrowed brow as Peter handed the flask back and Sirius tipped it towards his own drink.

“Sirius,” he said, reaching across the table to cover Sirius’ mug with his hand, “you’ve got to find something to do with yourself. You can’t go on like this for three whole weeks.”

“Six weeks,” Sirius corrected, then realized James had been talking about his arm. The silence hung awkwardly for a moment before James yelped and jerked his hand away from Sirius’ coffee, palm an angry red from the steam. “What do you suggest I do, then, Prongs? I need a spell to scratch my own arse!”

“There are plenty of things you could do that don’t involve raids.” James leaned forward coaxingly. “Dumbledore said…”

“Oh fuck Dumbledore!” Sirius burst out, slamming his hand down on the table and making his coffee slosh over the edge of his cup. “I’ve given more than enough to him and his cunting Order this week, thanks!”

Peter was staring at him with round eyes, and James wouldn’t meet Sirius’ eyes. Unable to stand any more ‘help’, Sirius slid out of the booth and stomped towards the door of the diner, kicking it open and making the chime above it shriek.

Outside, clouds hung heavy and dark but refused to rain. If Sirius had looked behind him as he shouldered into the wind, he would have seen Peter in the window saying something earnest and worried to James.

18.

“Is it moving a bit?” Harry had asked, close enough to Sirius to get a good look.

“This one’s wizarding,” Sirius had explained, clenching his fist so that the shiver of the gold was easier to see against the taut muscle. “It used to move a lot more, but when you don’t use much magic for a long time, wizarding tattoos fade.”

Harry had reached up to touch the lion without noticing what he was doing; his hand had frozen in mid-air and he had looked up at Sirius uncertainly. Sirius had covered Harry’s hand with his own and pushed his fingertips against the tattoo.

“Just feels like skin.” Harry had furrowed his brow and brushed the spot with a lighter touch. “I thought it would feel different.”

“So did I,” Sirius had answered.

8.

When he can’t bear to stare at the Pensieve any longer, Remus goes down to the kitchen to make tea, more for the ritual of doing so than because he wants it, and finds Bill Weasley taping up his wrist, his shirt thrown over the back of the kitchen chair.

“Hullo, Lupin,” Bill says. He lifts his arm from the table to flex his bindings experimentally, and the warm light of the kitchen catches the slick black lines wrapped around his pale skin. Remus watches helplessly, hand stilled halfway to the faucet as the water swells over the edge of the kettle and rushes down the sides, and sudden, roaring jealousy spills out over his edges the same way.

After Bill, Sirius had asked him, asked if he might want and Remus had said no, no thank you, the one was enough. And Sirius had smiled, because he was used to being turned down by Remus after twenty-five years of it, and worse, because he had understood.

Remus has no one but himself to blame that all of Sirius’ marks are under his skin rather than on top of it where others might see. He shuts off the sink and asks if Bill wants tea.

21.

The snakes had taken Harry by surprise when Sirius slid his shirt the rest of the way off, and the boy had hissed something under his breath that Sirius hadn’t caught. When he asked Harry to repeat himself, Harry had blushed and shook his head, drawn his knees up to his chest and rested his chin on them.

He hadn’t said anything else while Sirius had explained about charming ink out of the rare Azkaban visitor, about drawing snakes on the dirt floor of his cell and scratching the final designs on his arm with a ragged nail.

“Blacks are Slytherin as far back as they go,” Sirius had explained. “I always thought, what does a hat know? That that’s where I belonged in the end. That maybe everybody else could see it too, just by looking at me.”

Harry had met Sirius eyes, and although he still said nothing, Sirius had thought that maybe he understood.

3.

“Three sessions, minimum,” the Muggle said, looking from the drawing to Sirius and back again. “Probably four to be safe.”

Sirius laughed at the word ‘safe’, but knew you didn’t rush these things and said four would be fine, he had the time, in fact could they get started today? Yeah, he could wait until the other appointment was finished.

While he sprawled on the battered couch in the waiting room, Sirius ran fingers over the drawing he’d talked Brenda Finnigan into drawing for him. She hadn’t been happy to see Sirius on her doorstep, and had hurried him into another room so her husband wouldn’t hear them talking. When he’d explained what he wanted, she’d barked a laugh and asked whether his little boys’ club was making t-shirts. Sirius had smiled and asked when she planned on telling Jonathan his kid would be waving a pointy stick in a few years, and Brenda drew him his damn phoenix just to get rid of him.

The Muggle examined the drawing more closely as Sirius took off his shirt and climbed up onto the table to lie down on his stomach, wincing as he settled on his injured arm. He said that he was going to try to get the outline finished all at once, but that alone would take hours.

It wasn’t like Sirius had somewhere else to be.

He relaxed when the needle slid under his skin the first time, letting his eyes slip half-shut. Wizarding tattoos were faster, but Sirius wanted the steady throb of the Muggle method, the slow burn down his sides and the sharp ache over his shoulder blades. Every puncture seemed to let more of Dumbledore, of James and Peter, of the empty apartment, slip out from under Sirius’ skin, until it almost fit him again.

9.

Remus stares down at the Pensieve, wishing he had a good reason to do this, or better yet, one not to. But he doesn’t have the energy to argue with anybody, least of all the heir to Sirius’ emotional instability, and he isn’t Harry’s keeper anyhow.

Putting his wand to his temple, the symbolism of which is not lost on him, Remus thinks of dark ink curling across Sirius’ skin. When he draws the wand away, a shimmering memory trails along behind it. The whole process gives him the chills; he taps his wand on the Pensieve quickly and tries not to look as the silvery strand coils onto itself and settles in the bottom of the bowl.

He only means to glance at the memory to make sure it is the right one, but he leans too far, and tumbles into it before he can stop himself.

He finds himself in the corridor outside Sirius’ first flat, the one with the windows that were painted shut and the radiator that rattled like it might break free of the wall at any moment, and Remus knows that this is the wrong memory, but he lingers to watch anyway, just a minute longer.

He and Sirius are coming up the corridor, flush with NEWT scores and butterbeer, hair long and jeans tight and bandages on both their biceps. Remus nearly laughs out loud when he sees that Sirius is squeezed into what has to have been the mankiest Bowie T-shirt on the island. It’s the middle of the night, and Remus shushes Sirius when he laughs too loudly, wraps his hands around Sirius’ to steady the key that won’t quite go in the door.

Sirius shoulders the door, and curses when his bandage bounces off the wood. He curses again softly when Remus reaches up to tug the medical tape loose and gold flashes, and to this day Remus can’t remember why he leaned down to kiss the raw skin, but can’t forget the taste of sweat and blood on his lips.

The door swings open and they tumble inside, Remus jealously watching himself being tugged against Sirius’ manky shirt, and then the door slams behind them, leaving Remus alone in the hall. When he hears his back thud against the other side of the door, he pulls himself out of the Pensieve.

Leaning heavily on palms pressed flat against the desk, Remus has to take more than one deep, slow breath before he can even think about trying for the right memory.

4.

Moody wouldn’t shut up. Peter was tapping his pencil against the table over and over, Longbottom was nodding at disgustingly frequent intervals, Sirius’ back itched under his robes, and Moody would not shut his damned bloody fucking mouth.

This was why Sirius had skipped the last three Order meetings, and Merlin bugger a House Elf if he was coming to the next one after this nightmare was over, or any other blasted meeting until his arm was out of the sling and he could do something more than watch Frank fucking Longbottom’s head bob up and down like he was polishing Dumbledore’s knob.

Sirius sat, grinding his teeth until he had a pounding headache, and tried not to scratch his shoulders against the back of his chair. As things limped to a close forty-five minutes later, he was tensing to sprint for the nearest pub when Dumbledore made a final announcement.

“Oh, and would you stay a minute, Sirius?”

Waving James and Peter to go on with a dismissive hand, Sirius turned to glower at Dumbledore, not caring if he looked as petulant as he felt.

“This isn’t Hogwarts,” he said. “You can’t keep me after class for inattention.”

“On the contrary.” Dumbledore pulled a folded bit of parchment out of his sleeve and slid it across the table. Sirius eyed him for a moment before taking it and smoothing it against the table to read, rather a struggle with just his left hand. The parchment had obviously been torn out of the middle of a larger letter.

…here better than expected, although I use the term ‘better’ loosely. I think I may be back as early as the twenty-third. Assure our blue-eyed friend that I haven’t seen any signs of…

“The twenty-third?” Sirius looked up and accused, “That’s next week! How long have you had this?”

“Quite some time, Mr. Black.” Dumbledore’s expression didn’t change, but Sirius knew when he was being reprimanded. “I would have informed you sooner if you had deigned to attend a meeting or two.”

“Well, thanks loads,” Sirius grumbled, shoving the strip of parchment back across the table as he stood.

“How is your arm?” Dumbledore inquired, crossing his arms on the table and leaning forward a bit.

“Sling comes off Thursday, if the mediwitch doesn’t see anything else wrong.” Sirius barely spared Dumbledore a glance as he picked up his coat. “Don’t worry, I’ll be back to blowing people to kingdom come in the name of Godric Gryffindor soon enough.”

“Sirius…” Dumbledore did sound reproaching that time, but Sirius was already halfway out the door, and had barely cleared the wards before he Apparated.

He would have to tell the Muggle artist to move the last session up a few days, and he didn’t remember until hours later that he had been supposed to meet James and Peter at the pub.

25.

Sirius hadn’t said much about the flames as he let Harry examine them, the boy confident enough now to press fingers to the flickering edges without looking up for approval every other moment.

“You did these.” It wasn’t really a question, since Sirius had already said that he’d done both arms, but he nodded anyway.

Harry had traced a whorl, and Sirius had remembered cutting it into his skin. He had stared at Harry’s hand on his arm and seen only the dirty grey of Azkaban.

10.

Harry shows up just as Remus is debating calling this whole thing off, and Remus feels far too wrung out to argue with him, but manages a terse,

“Proper wizards don’t go around Legilimensing people without any warning.”

“When I see a proper wizard, I’ll tell him,” Harry retorts, coming the rest of the way into the room and glancing in the Pensieve. “That it then?”

“Yes.” Remus watches Harry rather than look at the Pensieve, which he has had just about enough of for several lifetimes. This is his fourth try at getting the right memory into the bowl, and even now it isn’t the one he wants to have Harry rooting around in, but he has no patience left.

“You coming?” Harry asks, setting his hands on either side of the Pensieve and looking over his shoulder at Remus.

Remus is fully aware that it is not the act of a responsible adult to send Harry where he is about go without any sort of warning, but Harry’s impatient tapping on the Pensieve makes the anger that Remus has fought all night suddenly flare. He wants to twist his fingers into the collar of Harry’s jumper and shake him until he understands that he isn’t the only person Sirius Black ever loved.

The thought of watching Harry watch this carefully hoarded moment after every other memory he’s relived in the last few hours is too much for Remus.

“No.”

“Suit yourself.” Harry shrugs him off, and Remus holds on to his temper with both hands as the brat leans forward until his shoulders twitch with the shock of being sucked into the Pensieve. Remus stares for a moment longer, watching Harry’s breathing even out, before walking around the desk and falling heavily into the chair.

He may as well have gone with Harry, he realizes, because all he can think of anyway is the phoenix stretching across Sirius’ back, his palms pressed flat against the shoulder blades where the wings flexed and spread.

5.

Sirius was sitting at the kitchen table when Remus came through the door, with a spoon of cereal halfway to his mouth and the Prophet crossword mostly done in front of him.

“It’s only the twenty-second,” he said stupidly, the spoon still hovering.

“That’s all I get?” Remus glared at Sirius, rings under his eyes and a half-healed gash across his cheek. He dropped the battered canvas bag from his shoulder to the floor with a crash. “Four fucking weeks and all I get is ‘it’s only the twenty-second’?”

“It’s been four weeks here as well, tit,” Sirius narrowed his eyes, relief warring with righteous indignation, “so don’t spout off at me about it.”

“You fucking bastard,” Remus snarled, and Sirius was just about to chuck the spoon at his head when he marched across the kitchen, seized Sirius by the shirt front and hauled him up into a hug.

Sirius buried his face in Remus’ neck thankfully, wrapping arms around him and letting the smell of a Remus who desperately needed a shower separate him from the last weeks of arm slings and empty flats. At least until Remus tightened his grip across Sirius’ back, and Sirius jerked with a pained grunt. Remus let go immediately and stepped back.

“Sorry,” he said quickly, “I’d forgotten about…” He trailed off when he looked down at the clearly un-slung arm that was now dangling at Sirius’ side. Lips pressing into a thin line, Remus looked up at Sirius. “What’ve you done to yourself?”

The disapproval in Remus’ expressions was already needling Sirius, and he was suddenly seized by the memory of Remus shouting at him after he’d gotten the collar. Oh god, this was the stupidest idea ever, and Remus was going to hate it and call him a moron and maybe yell at him again.

“Nothing.” Sirius turned and picked up his cereal bowl and edged by Remus without meeting his eyes to set it in the sink.

“Sirius, let me…” Remus laid a hand on Sirius’ shoulder.

“No!” Sirius shook off the hand and turned so that his back was hidden from Remus, still looking at the floor rather than at him. “It’s nothing.”

“Sirius,” Remus was using the Bad Dog voice and that wasn’t fair, “let me see.”

Sirius raised his eyes and found Remus with arms crossed and jaw set.

“All right,” he grumbled. “But not here. Come upstairs.”

“Come…” Remus eyed Sirius with dawning comprehension, gaze flickering briefly to the collar. “Sirius, you didn’t.” At Sirius’ frown, Remus sighed. “Sounds like I should be sitting down for this anyway.”

Grunting something noncommittal, Sirius turned to leave the kitchen, glancing over his shoulder every few steps to make sure that Remus was following.

11.

Remus caves after about five minutes.

Inside the Pensieve, Harry has settled into the armchair that Sirius had found on a street corner before it came to live in their bedroom, and he starts when Remus lays a hand on his shoulder. In front of them, Sirius is standing at the end of the bed with his back turned to the younger Remus, who is arranging himself cross-legged on the quilt to watch.

Sirius has undone most of his shirt buttons, but is twiddling with the second to last one and sneaking glances at Remus over his shoulder. Remus has tossed aside his robes but is still wearing his travel-wrinkled trousers and shirt.

“It isn’t healed,” Sirius says, and Remus remembers how he always chewed his lower lip when he’d done something questionable and hadn’t yet figured out whether he’d be shouted at. “I thought I’d have a few more days for the worst of it.”

“Go on,” the Remus on the bed encourages, fingers flexing where they rest on his thighs. Harry gets up from the chair and moves to stand beside the bed as Sirius slides the shirt from his shoulders, but Remus stays where he is. He’d rather watch Sirius’ face, rather watch the swing of dark hair that needs cutting in his eyes and the roll of his shoulders that sends the shirt fluttering to the ground.

Remus drifts closer as the silence stretches out and Sirius bites down harder on his lip, close enough that he could touch the lion, the dog, the collar if he wanted, but he doesn’t, even though he knows Sirius won’t feel it. Maybe because he knows Sirius won’t feel it.

“Seems a shame,” the Remus behind Sirius finally murmurs, and Sirius’ expression tightens before he finishes, “that it won’t stay this way.” Sirius twists to look, cautious relief relaxing the corners of his mouth, and slick lines glint across Sirius’ shoulder.

When Sirius turns the whole way, his back fills Remus’ field of vision. The phoenix is half-healed and raw, the bruised skin darkening the reds and oranges so that the inked feathers flicker like delicate flames as Sirius’ muscles slide underneath. Remus catches his breath, and his hand is already lifting before he realizes what he’s doing and drops it back to his side.

The Remus on the bed is beckoning Sirius forward, Remus remembers, and when Sirius crawls onto the bed Remus can see Harry over his shoulder. He is still standing next to the bed, but his face is turned away, and his cheeks darken as Sirius leans across Remus’ lap for a kiss.

“Sirius and I…” Remus starts, regretting again his choice of memory, despite the feeling that Harry is getting exactly what he deserves for his demands.

“I can see that!” Harry snaps, and he blushes even darker.

“How long did this take?” the younger Remus is asking as he coaxes Sirius into lying beside him, sprawled out on his stomach. His hands hover over the small of Sirius’ back, not quite daring to touch the marking yet. Sirius mumbles something into the blankets that Remus hadn’t caught then and doesn’t catch now. A shiver flexes Sirius’ spine when hands finally press against his skin.

Harry is watching again. He takes a few steps closer, then sits down on the bed on the other side of Sirius from the younger Remus. Remus doesn’t move; he goes on watching from the foot of the bed while Harry runs a cautious hand alongside his younger self’s firmer touches. Sometimes their hands pass through each other in a way that makes Remus’ eyes tear a little, but he doesn’t look away.

The only sound is Sirius’ rough breathing as Remus trails fingers over the thick outline of the phoenix’s body and claws, then over the finer lines that detail the feathers. Sirius’ breath hitches when Remus lays his palms over his shoulder blades and presses down, fingers spreading over top the flexing wings. Harry pulls his hands away sudden and clenches them into fists at his sides.

“Bloody hell, Moony,” Sirius lifts his head to hiss, “didn’t I just say it wasn’t healed yet?”

“You may have mentioned that,” the younger Remus murmurs. He brings one hand up to his mouth and licks the edge of his palm, and Remus remembers the taste of the smudges of blood.

When Sirius rolls over suddenly and pulls his Remus down to him, Remus tears his gaze away. He comes to stand behind Harry, laying a hand on his shoulder, and says that it’s time to go.

20.

Sirius had turned so that his back was to Harry before he stripped the shirt the rest of the way off. There had been a small gasp behind him, and he had hunched his shoulders a little against the prickle of Harry’s gaze as he explained about devotion, duty, and soldiers of a dying breed.

The first soft touches hadn’t been unexpected, but Sirius had sucked in his breath sharply when Harry pressed his palms against his shoulder blades. Harry had pulled his hands back as if burned.

“Sorry,” he had said, uncertain, and after a moment Sirius had laughed softly.

“No, it’s all right,” he had reassured, glancing over his shoulder at Harry before dropping his chin back down to rest against his chest. Harry’s hands returned after a few moments, fingertips tracing the faded lines, thumbs smoothing over dusky reds and oranges.

“It’s beautiful,” Harry had said. “It must have been really something when it was new.”

“Yeah,” Sirius’ voice had been sad and warm, “must have been.”

12.

Gripping the side of the desk until the dizziness of returning to reality fades, Remus glances over to see Harry staring down at the Pensieve with a frown.

“See what you wanted to?” he asks, and if his voice is a little harsh, it might be from exhaustion.

Harry doesn’t reply, but he does turn his gaze to Remus. He stares for a long minute, and Remus can’t tell whether he is using Legilimency or merely trying to come to some decision. Then suddenly, his hands go to the hem of his jumper and he pulls it up over his head.

Remus is opening his mouth to ask what he’s doing when Harry turns, and Remus sees the black dog curled up on his shoulder.

He’s done a good job; it looks very like Sirius’ own, even though Harry can only have seen the original a handful of times. Remus reaches out and does touch this tattoo, because Harry will feel it. His fingers lay on the inked skin for only a few moments before he has to snatch them away, and he pulls Harry into an embrace.

Harry lets him, for a few moments at least, and Remus is glad, because he is not the only person to ever love Sirius Black.

35 1/2.

“What will you have next?” Harry had asked.

36.

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