They sit in twin armchairs by the few glowing embers, the sad remains of a roaring blaze. The silence that encircles them feels just as natural as all those years of careless laughs, freely given and plentiful for reaping. This mix of old and new should surely feel strange, Remus thinks, but instead it just feels like he's come home.

Just across the hearth from him, Sirius is leaning forwards - brooding, of course; he never could stop thinking when distractions were removed - with his chin propped on a fist. His eyes are turned towards the fireplace, and Remus wonders what he is seeing.

Is he thinking of the seven best years of his life - the strangely similar Christmas Eves which somehow have returned on this one night to haunt them again? But then, those Hogwarts years weren't the only times Sirius was showered with love. Maybe they aren't the glowing memories that shine to dispel the darkness for Sirius. Maybe it's all Remus.

As if on cue, Sirius speaks, never tearing his gaze from its natural resting place. “Funny how it's me and you again, Moony.” Remus says nothing; what else is there to say? He had almost forgotten how well Sirius can read expressions, see the stories hidden in the lines of a face. “We're a little depleted as a band of brothers, I must admit, but history appears to be repeating itself.”

“It’s got a habit of doing that,” Remus agrees. There is another resting pause, their minds dancing on the edge of the embers. “Holed up with nowhere decent to go, except this one warm place?”

“Sounds a little familiar,” Sirius agrees, before dragging his gaze to meet Remus'. They both break out in chuckles.

“And waiting for Voldemort to emerge properly...”

“Excellent food, though. First decent Christmas meals I've had since Lily's cooking sixteen years ago.”

They leave the gory, saddening details as that. Remus wonders if Sirius, too, is considering how every Christmas there was the overhanging tension of 'will he make it through the holidays alive?' It sits between them again, he thinks, squatting as an unwelcome guest.

Then again, Sirius wasn't the only one he worried about not making it back alive. Remus couldn't remember a time when he didn't spend the mornings surreptitiously scanning the Prophet's headlines for werewolf victims or praying in the week before the full moon that nobody would latch upon the idea of going out to rid the world of werewolves. It was a lesser worry that he would be harmed, of course; there were few creatures that could damage his other half, but still, self-preservation forever ticked away quietly in the back of his mind.

Yes, even in his most beastly, animalistic moments, humanity had held a sad place in the back of his mind. Shadowed, rotting, it had always saved him in the end. It’s funny how he could always save himself from his other half. Or perhaps, in light of how Sirius had kept his sanity in Azkaban, not so strange after all, but human nature.

He’d like to name it hope, but that just feels too optimistic a thought to be let into this dark world.

“Ever feel that this is all too good to last, Moony?” Remus jumps a little as he turns towards his old friend to see that face dropped into doubt. “This was all I held onto for so long, that we’d get it back, but…”

“But nothing ever went right. Yeah.”

“Stuck in that hell-hole, there wasn’t much to think of I could come back for. It was just you – if you were still alive – with a traitor and Harry, if he was still around too.” An intenseness Remus had not expected settles over Sirius’ features as he turns to face Remus. “It wasn’t the greatest paradise anyone could dream for a man.”

“Better than what I had, even if my hell-hole was a little more… domesticated,” Remus argues, a gentle grin lighting up his face. “I was living the best I’d get, with the world against me. You were the traitor, the real traitor was dead and gone, and Dumbledore had left Harry far away, where none of us could get at him.”

Sirius looks startled and begins to frown, unconsciously rubbing his chin as he always did when he was thinking hard about something. Remus wonders if he’d ever thought of it from his perspective before; it would appear not, but then, maybe Sirius is simply considering the strange way that they’ve slipped back into their easy, old ways together.

He is just ready to give up on soliciting an answer to this behaviour when Sirius turns towards him and pauses. Just for a second. “I’d never really thought of how I would look to you, Remus.” His voice is low and shaky, surprisingly full of regret. “I just – always thought you’d know it wasn’t me, couldn’t be me.”

Remus looks at Sirius for a moment, realising he has nothing to say. He’s already answered that question. Nonetheless, he feels the need to say… something. Anything. Whatever he can, to avert this overwhelming regret that threatens him from the inside.

But neither break the stare that holds between them. There is a charged energy, a magical potential that shimmers and hovers for a moment, and Remus entertains the wild thought that if he seized it –

No; it shatters and dies, as Kreacher smashes something glass in the corridor. The sound is too loud, even for one echoing around a sleeping house, and as Sirius mutters something about “putting that bloody elf in line”, Remus knows they won’t revisit it. Instead, he sits alone in one of the twin armchairs beside the sad remains of a roaring blaze. The silence that encircles him feels just as pained as all those stretched years of loneliness, when he doubted the wrong friend’s loyalty.

This mix of old and new should surely feel strange, Remus thinks, but it just feels like he’s already losing his home, like this silence that he is trying to shift from its customary place in his heart has already staked itself on its territory again. He knows that over time, he will lose more loved ones again.

Just across from him, the shadowy chair that Sirius was sat in a moment before leers out of the darkness. It swallows the last flickers of light from that dying fire, and in doing so, taunts him.

A/N: A late ‘Merry Christmas’ to all ye HPFFers reading this AN! As you can probably see from the summary, this – my first attempt at Sirius’n’Remus writing (I sort of failed at making it slashy but honestly did try!) – is my Secret Santa present to forsakenphoenix, who totally rules the world of Sirius/Remus. I, however, am a humble author who has done a not-so-good job at honouring her in this :)

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