The Gift

Author: Debbie
Rating: NC17
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended
Summary: Post-OotP. Bill offers an unexpected gift to a friend. (Bill/Remus)
Author's Note: Inspired by the RPG Seen_Unforeseen. You do not have to be familiar with the game to read the fic, although those who *do* follow the game will likely recognise a few items here and there. Background: Post-OotP, Harry's sixth year. Prior Sirius/Remus relationship. I admit I would never have given Bill/Remus a second thought if not for this post by Remus after the Order's Christmas party. Suddenly, I had to resolve the UST, and tell this story.

I acknowledge that the moon would actually have set by mid-evening on Dec 18, 1996. I claim artistic license.

Posted with grateful thanks to my team of sharp-eyed betas: Lissanne, Bethany, Faelhach and Ali.
Dedicated with love to Remus and Bill.

The trees were decorated, the fairies were flitting about with their little lights, and most of the Order were there, for once truly relaxed and enjoying themselves, not planning and worrying about Voldemort.  Quite a nice Christmas party, really.  With all the decorations and festivities, I could almost forget that it was in the Shrieking Shack.  But I couldn't forget Sirius.  This was the first Christmas without him, and I missed him terribly.  It was easier to set my grief aside during the day, when lessons and students and the war took much of my attention, but now, in this moment of leisure … it was hard to accept that I wouldn't see him come in all sparkly with melted snow after a romp outside, or hear him sing God Rest Ye Merry Hippogryffs in that seductive deep voice he has.  Had.

But I had to accept it.  It had been six months, after all.  Six months alone.

Well, I wasn't exactly alone that night; there was a party going on, with people everywhere.  Arthur was making more of his wicked punch, and Tonks was laughingly tripping over Dumbledore's feet as he twirled her across the dance floor.  She'd done something outlandish to her hair, even for her - it was green and sparkly, with a star on top, as if she had a small Christmas tree on her head.  It was festive, I suppose.  As I scanned the room, my eyes came to rest on Bill Weasley as he stood to one side, chatting with his mother.  He was a good bloke; worked hard for the Order, and always seemed to have a positive word for everyone.  He wasn't bad on the eyes, either, with that long red hair, lanky frame, and the leather gear he favoured.  There had been times in the past few months when I admit I had felt a twinge of attraction for him, but he seemed to be straight and, anyway, I'd never been sure how I felt about moving on in general.  Was it too early?  Or had it been too long?  I went back to looking around the room, watching the revelry, and thinking.

A few minutes later, however, there was a tap on my shoulder.  "This seat free?"  I turned at the sound and found Bill standing there, drink in hand.  

I waved my own hand in an open gesture.  "All yours, if you want it."

"Thanks, mate."  He sat in the chair next to mine, and gave the room a quick scan.  "Great party, isn't it?"

I shrugged amicably.  "It's certainly good to see everyone enjoying themselves for a change."

"Indeed."  He nodded.  "We've all seen enough trouble this past year, haven't we?"

"We certainly have. Unfortunately, I can't think that this coming year is going to get any better."

"No, I suppose it won't," he replied.  We watched the party festivities together in a companionable silence for a few minutes, and then he turned to me again, concern evident in his eyes.  "You look a bit down, Remus.  Is everything all right?"

I hesitated a moment.  Sirius and I never really hid our relationship, but neither had we advertised it, either.  Finally, I simply said, "I miss Sirius."  My eyes flicked up to Bill to see what he gleaned from that.

I shouldn't have underestimated him; he's a smart man - looked at subtleties for a living in his curse-breaking job with Gringotts after all.  He gave a faint nod, and just asked me straight out: "You two were together a long time, weren't you?"

I felt a bitter smile twist my mouth.  "Yes and no.  We got together in our fifth year after a lot of dancing around, but his imprisonment in Azkaban rather interrupted things."

A wry expression crossed Bill's face.  "I can imagine."

"Yes, well, even after he escaped, it wasn't all roses.  We had both changed, and we had some readjusting to do.   Also, it's hard to be with a wanted man.  You saw it yourself - Sirius couldn't go anywhere at all, not even as an Animagus.  But at least we were back together."

I went on about my relationship with Sirius for several minutes before I realised that I must be boring Bill to death and apologised for bending his ear.

Bill smiled gently.  "No problem, Remus.  You obviously needed to talk, and I was happy to listen.  I miss Sirius too, in my own way, and it's good to hear more about him from the person who knew him best."

I was saved from having to respond by a roar of laughter from the dance floor.  Arthur and Molly were sashaying around in a rather drunken tango, much to the onlookers' amusement.  Bill excused himself to refill his glass of punch, and returned with a second glass, which he handed to me.  

"Thought you might be thirsty after all that talking," he said with a friendly wink.

I laughed as I accepted the drink.  "I ran on that much, eh?"

He nudged me with his shoulder as he sat down again.  "I told you I didn't mind listening."

The punch fizzed in my mouth and buzzed in my head as I sipped it; Arthur certainly knew his brews.  But somehow, despite my melancholy mood earlier, I wasn't looking to drown my sorrows tonight.  The drink helped take an additional edge off, but already I was feeling better than I had, and I wanted to enjoy - not erase - the rest of the evening as best I could.  I watched the way the fairy lights glinted off Bill's hair, the way it fell down his back in a single red stream as he turned to watch Dumbledore dip Arabella Figg, and fought a sudden urge to reach out and touch it.

We sipped our drinks together until, with his cup nearly empty, Bill tossed back the last of his punch and then rose from his chair.  He stretched, exposing a thin strip of skin where his shirt and leather waistcoat* pulled askew, then resettled his clothing and turned to me.  "I need a bit of air; care to come along?"

My own glass was nearly empty, and it was getting a little stuffy in the small house with all the merrymaking going on.  I knew Dumbledore had put some charms on the entire fenced-in area around the Shack just for this purpose, so we could step out without being seen or heard by any Hogsmeade residents; might as well take advantage of that.

We stepped out through the tatty doors into the chilly night.  A crescent moon was slowly setting in the west, but it was still high enough to provide some illumination, and candlelight glowed in hundreds of windows in the village below.

Bill nodded up at the sky as we took up a spot by some holly bushes along the fence.  "Good to have you free to celebrate the holiday this year," he said.

"It's good to be free to celebrate any day," I corrected softly.  "Although you're right - it does always seem worse to miss out on Christmas.  I recall that three years ago I spent Christmas Day curled up under my desk.  Not exactly the best form to sit at the table and pull Christmas crackers, is it?"

He laughed lightly.  "I suppose having paws would make it rather hard to open presents as well."  He paused for a moment, and then turned to face me.  "And speaking of which - I'd like to give you a Christmas present, Remus."  He held up a hand to forestall my protests.  "There is absolutely no obligation; you may return it or refuse it as you choose."  

Despite his reassurance, I still felt a bit awkward; I had nothing to offer him in exchange.  "All right," I said slowly.  "If you wish."

"I do," he answered firmly.  "But first you have to close your eyes."

I raised an eyebrow, suddenly suspicious. "You don't have any of your brothers' tricks up your sleeve, do you?  I'm not sure I'm properly prepared for whatever new things Fred and George might have cooked up lately."

He laughed again.  "It's nothing from their joke shop, honest.  Now close your eyes."

Reluctantly, I closed my eyes as instructed.  And waited.

Warm, soft lips pressed against my mouth, held a moment, then pulled gently away.

My eyes flew open and my mind spun.  "Aren't you straight?" I blurted.

Bill's mouth quirked.  "I've always been the adventurous type."

Immediately, my guard was up.  "So, what - was this just another experiment to you?"

"No, no," he corrected hastily.  "I suppose the first time I kissed a bloke, it was a bit of an experiment, but I found I liked it.  I've kissed plenty of men - as well as women - over the years.  And more than kiss, I might add.  It's different, sure, but I enjoy it."  

"How much more?" I asked.

"More."  There was no mistaking the emphasis in his tone.  He let me mull that over for a minute, and then gently cleared his throat.  "So ... do you choose to return or reject the gift?"

I hesitated only a moment.  It hadn't been a proper kiss, as I hadn't known it was coming, and had been too stunned to react appropriately, but it had awoken something in me nonetheless.  "I'd like to return it," I whispered, leaning in.

This kiss, a deliberate, reciprocated act, seemed to reach right down to my gut.  Feelings stirred in me, swirling around in my midsection and warming my groin as I explored Bill's mouth and he, mine.  I had to crane my neck up a bit, but I hardly noticed; I was much more focused on the slickness of his teeth beneath my tongue, and the way he was sucking and nipping my bottom lip.  My hunger grew, and my hands came up to pull his head closer, tangling in his smooth ponytail.


Sirius' hair was always coarse, even in the days when it had been relatively short and styled.  It wasn't James' tousled mop, but the texture was always a bit rough under my fingers.  And after Azkaban, it seemed even more noticeable with that long shaggy mane he had.  Certainly nothing like the sleek smooth river my hands were encountering now.

Abruptly, I pulled out of Bill's embrace, ignoring the way my breathing still hitched raggedly and the heat pooled in more personal regions from our kissing.

I didn't know what to say.  I wasn't even sure why I had stopped, or what exactly I felt.  Just the realisation that I was doing ... things ... with someone other than Sirius suddenly had me in knots.

Bill's eyes were dark in the moonlight as he watched me try to steady my breathing.  "This is meant to be something for you, Remus," he finally said, his voice quiet.  "It's a gift, remember?  A gift with no obligation.  I'm not looking for some meaningless shag, but neither am I looking for a life's commitment from anyone.  No one has time or energy for that now, anyway."  He shifted his stance a little.  "But you give so much to everyone, all the time - to your students, to the Order, to anyone who needs an ear or some extra help - and you never have much, if anything, for yourself.  I want to give something back, something for you to enjoy."

I frowned a little.  "You would just give your body like that?  I'm an open-minded man, Bill, but what you're offering is a pretty big gift."

He shrugged.  "Would you give your life to save a friend if they were in danger?"


"And so would I.  How is this different?  We already give of our bodies in the work we do, giving our strength and our protection to those who need it, and knowing that we might give of ourselves entirely at any moment.  I feel I have already made that decision, and this is just another way to offer myself - to a friend.  To someone who needs it."  He smiled.  "Someone who also has a genuine appeal all his own."

He nodded to the setting moon, now considerably lower in the sky.  "Talk it over with Sirius.  If you decide to accept the rest of the gift, I'll be back inside.  And if not - then I wish you a Happy Christmas, and I'll see you at the next Order meeting.  No hard feelings."  He leaned in to give me another kiss - this one on the cheek - then turned and walked quietly back into the Shack.

As soon as his footsteps had faded, I turned to look at the sky.  The crescent moon was both beautiful and hateful, as it had almost always been for me - beautiful as only a celestial body can be, aglow in the velvet dome of night - and hateful for the inevitable changes it brought each month, like something evil looking over my shoulder, waiting for the right moment to strike.  I usually talked to the stars, not the moon, when speaking to Sirius, yet Bill's suggestion had not been entirely off the mark.  After all, despite my feelings about the full moon, Sirius and I had spent many nights running wild under its gaze.

I took a breath.  "Sirius-"  I stopped, unsure how to go on.  "Sirius... I don't know if you're watching.  I've always hoped that you are, but now ... I wish I knew for certain.  If you are there - is this all right?  Do you mind?  It's not a lifemating, not like we had.  But he's a friend.  You know he's a friend - a good man.  And what he's offering ... I won't deny that I need it, badly.  I know it's only been six months, but it feels like an eternity without you, Sirius.  So long...."  My throat knotted up, and I tried to swallow it down.  "I suppose I shouldn't be approaching this like a teenager begging his parents for something.  We're both - well, all three of us are grown-ups now, consenting adults.  I guess I just needed to know if it would be all right with you.  But maybe ... maybe what I really needed to know was that it would be all right with me."  

I closed my eyes and brought my fingers to my lips, remembering the kisses I had just shared with Bill.  Different from Sirius' kisses, but, then, Bill was not Sirius.  He was not a replacement, nor was he trying to be one.  

I opened my eyes again and gazed up into the heavens.  "If it was me up there, you know I'd just want you to be happy, and to go on with your life.  And I think ... I know you'd want the same for me.  So."  I blew out a breath.  "I suppose it's time for me to start living again."

I waited a moment before adding, "Incidentally, if you're not really up there, then I'm going to look really foolish for talking to no one."  I smiled.  "G'night, Sirius.  I love you."  Then I turned and walked back toward the boarded-up Shack.

Things seemed to have calmed down slightly since I'd left.  Kingsley Shacklebolt was doing a gentle fox-trot with Minerva around the floor, Mad-Eye was talking with Dumbledore by the punchbowl, and Bill was helping Tonks pick up some chairs she had apparently knocked over.  I went over to help them, deliberately reaching for the same chair as Bill.  My hand closed over his as he set it upright, and he looked up; first surprise, then curiosity flitted across his eyes.  I nodded my head briefly at him, and squeezed his hand beneath mine before releasing the chair; I hoped that would be enough.  I wasn't really looking to advertise this liaison - or whatever it was - to anyone else.  Especially since it probably would only be for tonight.  Especially since his parents were standing only feet away.

His cautious expression loosened up into a genuine smile at my gestures, however, and I knew he understood.

"Tonks, luv," he said genially.  "Can I get back to you on that game of darts you wanted?  I'm feeling a bit knackered.  Remus asked me to look at a few things for him back at the castle, and I think I might just find a place to crash there, rather than come back afterwards.  It's been a long day."

She nodded her star-topped head, smiling cheerfully.  "Right-o.  I'll see if old Dungus wants to do a round of darts down in the Three Broomsticks instead."  Then she turned and slipped down the hall in search of her prey.

Bill shook his head in amusement as he watched her go.  "I'm not sure which of them will be more likely to skewer a patron with a dart.  Tonks is loads of fun to play darts with, but it's always a bit of a risk with her, and Dung's had rather a lot of Dad's punch.  I wouldn't be surprised if he'd increased the dosage with some pilfered Firewhiskey, either."  

We both laughed as we gathered our cloaks and walked back out into the night.  "I 'asked you to look at a few things', eh?" I teased.  

"Well, it's not like I specified what we'd be looking at."

We laughed again, and then settled into silence for the rest of the walk.  It was a beautiful night, despite the cold - the stars shone, and the moon had dipped behind the hills where it could no longer taunt me.  It didn't take long for the castle to come into view, candles blazing in the windows to guide us home.  

Four flights of stairs (sometimes it's five, depending on the day) and three corridors later, we were at my rooms in the western wing.  Bill looked around my modest 'home' and nodded his approval before going to stand at the window.  "You must have a beautiful view of the sunset."  

"It can be quite nice," I acknowledged.  I didn't mention that, despite the glorious colours, the sunset often made me shiver, knowing night - and the beautiful, hateful moon - was coming.  Perhaps I'd mention it later, but it didn't seem appropriate, given what we had really come back for.

"I'm more of a sunrise man, myself," he mused, "but they're both good."  Bill turned away from the window then, his long red ponytail swishing across his back, and came over to where I was hanging up our cloaks.  His long-fingered hand closed over mine, in a gesture similar to the one I'd made back at the party.  "Let me," he murmured, taking his midnight blue cloak from my grasp and hooking it over a peg.  Then he turned back to face me, gently trailing a hand down my sleeve until our fingers touched again.

Despite coming to peace with Sirius over what I was about to do, I found myself getting nervous again.  He was standing very close now, our intertwined fingers creating an intimacy of their own, and I could feel my body respond to that nearness; I wanted to explore, to take what was offered, but I was suddenly aware that all the things I knew might not apply to him. What were his tastes?  What did he like?  I was also conscious of how I might appear to him.  I was a good ten years older, far greyer, and riddled with self-inflicted scars.  Would he regret his offer?

Bill must have seen the hesitation on my face, because he chose that moment to lean in and kiss me again, softly, languidly.  "Would you prefer," he asked quietly, after he'd pulled back, "to take the lead, or receive?"

I was momentarily confused.  "What?"

"This is for you," he clarified.  "I'm definitely interested, Remus, but the main point is I want you to enjoy it.  I don't know what's going on in your head, but I can see there's something.  Would it be easier for you to take the lead, or would you rather just lie back and let me take care of you?"

I had to admit, there was appeal in the latter.  How often do you get someone to just 'take care of you'?  But I was still nervous; taking the lead felt safer.  Being a werewolf, I was all-too-familiar with the complete loss of control and, like many who live with that situation, it was hard to voluntarily give up control in other areas of life.

"I'll lead," I murmured.

He nodded his assent.  "Take me, I'm yours," he teased, gently.  Then he dropped his hands to his sides, and waited.

I started by kissing him again, first slowly, then with more urgency.  Letting me lead didn't mean Bill sat there like a flobberworm; he kissed back with equal fervor.  Alone in the privacy of my rooms, I took my time to fully explore his mouth, our tongues tangling together, lips crushing, until I shifted the activity by moving to kiss along his jaw to the valley behind his ears.  A low moan escaped him, and I took a deep pleasure in knowing I was able to make him feel pleasure.   This time, when my hands came up to his hair, I was mentally prepared for the smooth texture and quickly undid the leather strip which bound it together - much easier to run my hands through the loose strands.  I continued to work on his mouth, ears and jaw for a bit before sliding down the curve of his throat to his shirt buttons.

My fingers worked blindly on the small fastenings while my lips explored the now-exposed ridge of his collarbones.  Then, when the final button pulled free, I pushed the leather waistcoat and open shirt off Bill's shoulders until I heard it fall to the floor with a soft *flump*.  Then I straightened up to look at him.  Bill's eyes were dark, dim candlelight and desire causing his pupils to dilate so that the iris was hardly visible; his hair fell in a copper curtain over his shoulders and down his back; his lips parted slightly as he caught his breath.  Fire raged through my system, straight for my groin, even as I struggled not to mentally compare his tall lanky frame with Sirius' build.  Still, my eyes roamed over the planes of his chest, noting the freckles, visible even in this light, the lighter dusting of chest hair and ... was that a scar?

"What happened here?" I murmured, tracing the line across his ribs with my finger.

Bill sucked in a small breath at my touch before answering.  "Not-so-friendly Egyptian.  Didn't want me breaking the curse set on one of the Pharaoh's tombs, and made his point clear - his swordpoint."  

"And this one?"  I'd found another mark on his side, this one a circular scar instead of a slash mark.

"Burn from a hot wand tip," he replied simply.  "I hardly had an ordinary banker's job with Gringotts, Remus.  There were loads of tussles with unfriendly sorts, and some of them got in a few shots."  He shrugged, candles highlighting the movement of his bare shoulders.  "They're part of my life - I don't think of them much."  Then he reached out with one arm and pulled me in close, his voice dropping to a low rumble.  "But somehow I don't think you really brought me here to discuss my scars."

I could feel his erection pressing into my thigh, calling an answering surge from my own body.  "No, I didn't," I answered.

My mouth fastened back on his as I explored the angles and planes of his back with my hands.  For a while, he did the same over my clothed torso, but when I felt a slight tug on my own buttons, I pulled away to look at him.  He was silent, but a clear question was in his eyes as he tugged again gently.  I blew out a breath, then gave a small nod.  No one but Sirius had ever seen me bare; even at Hogwarts, I had been ashamed of my self-inflicted marks and had taken care not to be seen unclothed, even by those who knew what I was.  But if Bill could view his scars so benignly, then so could I.  At least for tonight.

At my nod, Bill went to work on my shirt; I closed my eyes and let my hands wander his chest again as a distraction.  When the fabric fell away, I opened my eyes to see his reaction; his gaze roamed over me, but I could not detect the faintest revulsion at my battered body.  In fact, his first move was to skate his fingers over my torso and over the unmistakable lump in my trousers.  My cock twitched at the contact, and then coherent thought disappeared entirely as Bill leaned in and reclaimed my mouth with his own.

The feel of his bare skin pressed against mine only fueled me on, and he clearly felt the same.  It didn't take long for our shoes, socks, trousers and boxers to follow our shirts, dropped unceremoniously wherever they fell, and for us to stumble to my bed in the small adjoining room.

Somewhere in there, it dawned on me that I had given over the lead to Bill, but I didn't care.  Not when he was touching me everywhere and making me feel things I hadn't felt in far too long.  He spent an agonizingly long time breathing warm air over my shaft, brushing his lips against the sensitive skin without ever increasing the pressure until I thought I would go mad; it didn't help that his long hair had fallen over my thighs and the space between, passively teasing me even further.  When his lips finally closed over my aching cock, I was helpless to do anything other than push my hips up into the warm, wet cavern of his mouth and moan as he slid up and down my length.  

A cool breeze suddenly replaced the hot suction as Bill pulled away and reached over me for my bedside table.  "Good lad," he murmured, smiling, as he pulled an old tube from the drawer.  "I hoped you still had some of this around."

"Being a ... creature of habit ... has its ... uses," I panted, finding it hard to form words when all I wanted was release.

Bill knelt by my side and held out the tube.  "Who gets it?" he asked.  I noticed his face was flushed beneath the freckles and he was struggling to control his own breathing as he waited for my reply.

I've been both top and bottom, and they both can be immensely satisfying, depending on my mood.  I'd started the evening needing to be in control, but right now what I wanted, more than anything, was to give that up.  Bill had been right; I needed someone to be there for me for a change and, in this case, that meant letting someone else take the lead.  

Without a word, I plucked the tube from his fingers.  He obediently started to lie down in response, but I grabbed his wrist and held him where he was.  Quickly, I popped the cap and, extending his hand by the wrist I held, squeezed a small amount onto his fingers.  "You do," I whispered, confirming my actions.  But I couldn't help but lean over and take his own straining erection into my mouth for just a moment.  I heard a hissed intake of breath above me, and his un-gelled hand tangled in my hair.  I swirled my tongue along the hard column, dipped it into the tiny crevasse at the top, and then released him, lying back on the pillows.

"Evil tease," he muttered, though I could see a smile play at the corners of his eyes.  He released my hair and moved between my outstretched legs, spreading them as he settled himself.  Our eyes held as he extended his gelled fingers to caress my opening, intensifying the moment even further, and I groaned with need as I felt him enter my body with one slim digit.  "Do you need more?" he whispered.

I nodded mutely.

Another finger slowly joined the first, and I fought the urge to push down against his hand.  I felt the familiar burn - it had been so long since I had done this, it was as if my body had to relearn to adjust to the invasion.  But I welcomed the discomfort as much as I welcomed the intense desire.  I had shut myself off from feeling for months now, ever since Sirius' demise, as a means to keep going.  And here was this man, this friend, who was making me feel again, feel things I had tried to forget.  Passion.  Need.  Connection.

"Bill," I gasped, tugging slightly on the corner of his shoulder I could reach.  

He responded immediately, sliding his long frame up along my body until our lips met again; I could taste a hint of my own salt on his tongue.  Then he was reaching for the tube again and quickly slicking himself, and my attention was abruptly no longer on his mouth.

He slowly pushed his way into my body, and I forced my muscles to relax, despite the burn.  His torso wasn't the only long and lean thing about him - yet another thing that distinguished him from Sirius - and I could feel the slight difference as he seated himself within me.  Bill held himself still for a moment, letting me get used to him, his hair falling in a curtain around our faces.

It was only after I pushed my hips up to meet his, taking him in that last final bit and hungrily needing more, that he began to move.  My eyes fell shut as I let the sensations wash over me, feeling the friction as he moved, the surges as he struck sensitive spots, and just the feel of being back in someone's embrace after so many months alone.  Slowly, steadily, I could feel the pressure build within me and I arched my back and thrust against him, desperate to reach the point of no return.  It's not at all the same as when I give myself a hand job - it's more all-encompassing somehow, and when I finally felt that ultimate surge, I gave myself over to it entirely.

It had been so long.... So long...

"...Sirius!" I cried, the name torn from me, unstoppable.  

I felt Bill come moments after I did, his own groans echoing in my ears, and as I registered the familiar tenor of his voice - Bill's voice - I realised what I had said.

"Oh God, Bill - I'm sorry.  I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I knew it was you, not Si-"

"Shhh."  He reached down and pulled me to a half-sitting position, even with him still joined to me, and wrapped strong arms around me.  My emotions, brought to the surface after months of being ruthlessly buried, threatened to overwhelm me as much as my orgasm had.

"I knew it was you," I repeated, horrified that he might think I had only used him as a fantasy substitute for my fallen mate.  And I hadn't.  Despite the occasional struggle to reconcile the differences I saw in the two men, I had gone into this knowing full well who my bed partner was - Bill Weasley.  "I don't know why I said that."  I was further appalled to hear tears in my voice; I choked down the knot in my throat, but it only returned.

"It's okay," he murmured, slipping out of me and shifting his position so we were a bit more comfortable.  "I know you knew me.  It's okay to still love him, Remus."

"But not to say his name after what you just gave me!" I protested.  "He's-" I had to swallow again.  "He's in the past.  You're here tonight."

"I suspect Sirius will always be with you - here," Bill replied, tapping me on the chest.

I took a deep breath and tried to pull myself together.  "I ... suppose so.  There was just something in that moment - just now--" I turned my head, still regretting my outburst "--it was almost a goodbye.  Acknowledging that I was starting to move on."  I shook my head, ruefully.  "Given how much of my life has been impermanent - jobs, homes, friends - given what I am, you'd think I'd be used to moving on.  I even 'lost' Sirius once already, and kept going.  It just feels that much harder, this time."

Bill nodded.  "Hearts can be bloody complicated things sometimes."  He leaned back a little to look at me.  "So - now that you've had your gift, do you feel any better?"

I thought for a moment.  I was suddenly exhausted from all the emotional swings, but ... I also felt cared for.  Even if we never did this again, Bill's actions tonight had definitely chased some of my self-pity away, and made me value the relationships I did have in my life, romantic or not.

"Yes, I do."  I pulled him back in and gave him a kiss.  "Thank you."

We tidied up a little bit, and then settled under the duvet together.  "I still wish I had something to give you," I murmured sleepily as he wrapped his arms around me from behind.

"Oh, I think I got something out of this," he chuckled.  "Although if you have some means of deflecting Mum's Howlers, that would make a welcome gift."

"Alas, you're on your own for that one," I laughed in response.  "The best I can offer is breakfast tomorrow, and a standing offer to return the gift you just gave, if you ever need it."

"Those both sound brilliant."  Then he yawned.  "Night, Remus."

"Night, Bill."

And then we slept.


* I had two Brits confirm that 'waistcoat' is the proper term for what Americans call a 'vest'.  I just wanted to clarify for any Americans who might be reading this and going WTF is a 'waistcoat'? ;-) [Return]

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