The house loomed as they entered. Sirius could feel every nerve shake as they stepped into the dank, neglected hallway. It had been almost twenty years since he had been surrounded by the oppressive wallpaper and darkened wood which lined the stairs. He stepped forward warily, his eyes darting around looking for the inevitable trap his family had set.
“Hurry up Padfoot, Buckbeak can’t stay out here on the street!” and just like that, a high pitched wail pierced the darkness. Sirius felt his heart stop as he stumbled backwards into the wall. He held his heart together as the wail was cut off.
“Sirius!” came his mother’s accusation. Sirius felt like a frightened child again as his mother’s realistic features seemed to press against the canvas.
“Mother” he whispered hoarsely.
He had forgotten just how ugly her beautiful face could twist, her vitriol and hatred warping the fine lines and careful bone structure into a truly hideous creature. Age certainly hadn’t improved her looks. Whatever poor soul had been commissioned to capture her likeness had more-than-likely got more than he or she had bargained for.
“Blood-traitor! Filth! Scum! Traitor! Turncoat! Quisling! How dare you defile the house of my fathers! Your presence debases the noble and most ancient house of black!”
His limbs had frozen as his mother continued to wail and scream. Remus rushed between them and after a quick pause, pulled out his wand and shut the curtains tight hiding her features and muffling her bile.
Sirius couldn’t seem to take his eyes from the moth-eaten velvet curtain until Remus’s hands were on his face.
“Did you hear what I said?” He asked quietly. Sirius could only shake his head. “Come on, I’ve put Buckbeak upstairs already” Sirius felt his face cloud in confusion.
“You’ve been stood staring at that accursed portrait for the last twenty minutes.”
“Twenty minutes” Sirius repeated as he felt Remus pull him along.
He felt so bone wearing and weak, the fire of vengeance temporarily extinguished. Remus stopped him as he started to pull at the rags covering his skin. Sirius didn’t mind, He watched the painfully beautiful and ravaged face before him and felt like he could die happy, seeing Moony’s face again.
“Foot” Remus muttered as he tugged at the leg of his trousers, or what was left of them. Sirius lifted a leg slightly and the taller man held him steady. “Good, now the other” Sirius repeated with his right leg feeling the last of the rags fall away. Suddenly he wanted to cry. He could see the horror and shock in his lovers face. His body wasn’t what it had been before they had been torn apart.
“Don’t look at me, please Moony,” He whispered as he tried to cover himself with his hands as his modesty returned. “Your gaze is too honest for me tonight, it hurts”
“What’s this?” Remus said in what Sirius recognised to be his overtly light voice “I never thought I would see the day when “The Sirius Black” was shy and demure.” Sirius could help the quirk his lips made at the quip. “Quick, fire call the Daily Prophet!” Remus laughed. Sirius looked into his eyes and could see the concern bearly concealed.
“Go suck a gobstone!”
“That’s more like it!” Remus stepped forward as he brushed his lips across his, like the ghost of a kiss. Sirius shivered in the damp air of the house. The brief brush of lips filling him with heat.
Remus flicked his wand at the bath as the tap faucet began to fill the large bath with steaming water. He started to remove his own clothes, carefully removing the threadbare robes and folding them before placing them on the floor. Sirius watched desperately, his entire core filling with a yearning so intense he stepped forward to touch the scarred pale skin.
Remus turned before his fingers could touch him, his hand still clenched around his wand. He flicked it again and the water stopped running. He smiled carefully to Sirius as he held out his hand. Sirius took it with equal care. Remus led him to the bath and proceeded to step in, a short hiss as the steaming water rose up against his body.
“Get in,” Sirius looked at the water, almost forgetting what it was to be clean, or warm. His hand still in Remus’s he carefully stepped in, he gritted his teeth and he felt the heat immediately penetrate the bone-deep cold which had been a constant companion to him since his incarceration. When he was finally in the bath Remus proceeded to wash his waxen and loose skin without a sound but the sudden intake of breath at the discovery of a new injury. Sirius sat quietly; his eyes closed as he felt some of the horrors wash away with each stroke. Remus stopped after a time, causing Sirius to look up. Remus hooked his arms around Sirius’s neck and gently pulled him into his embrace, his face pressed into Sirius’s hair. Sirius felt the tears again and this time he didn’t hold them in. He cried as he finally let go, finally believed that he was free and safe and forgiven.
“Shush” Remus soothed “I’m here, love, I’ve got you, you can let go now”
Finally! After so many years, he was no longer alone.