Written for Kethlenda as part of the 2005 Smutty Claus Secret Santa Challenge.

Many thanks to Victoria P for the beta.


Too Close, Not Close Enough
by Beth H.
(c) December, 2005

Number 12, Grimmauld Place has always made Remus feel claustrophobic.

The first time he visited the Black House was when he was just a boy, and Sirius was determined to show his family just how much of a Gryffindor he could be by inviting a young scruffy, half-blood to visit. The Black family was not welcoming, and their house was even less so.

The passing years have done nothing to make him feel more comfortable at Grimmauld Place.

Every time Remus walks into the house these days, he starts to feel as if he can't breathe. In a Muggle home, it would be ridiculous to think that the house itself was pressing in on him, but this is no Muggle home, and so when Remus starts to feel trapped within the walls of the house, he knows it's not necessarily just his imagination.

Even worse is the feeling of being trapped between Sirius and Tonks.

He has told Sirius nothing about the change in his relationship with Nymphadora Tonks, but he knows Sirius knows. He knows Sirius watches him out of the corner of his eye whenever Tonks walks into the room and Remus turns to look at her.

And he sees the way Sirius looks at her himself.

Long before Sirius broke irrevocably from his parents and his past, Andromeda's family had been the only part of the Black clan that Sirius seemed to like, and Andromeda's young daughter was his favourite. No visit to Hogsmeade was ever complete until Sirius had bought a bag of sweets at Honeydukes or a small toy from Zonko's for the child.

Nymphadora Tonks is no longer a child.

Sirius still loves her - Remus is certain of that - but it is no longer the indulgent love of an uncle or an older brother for a little girl. It is no longer free of expectations. No longer free of considerations of reciprocity - or of what's "fair."

What is not fair, from Sirius's perspective, is the way Remus and Tonks are free to come and go, free to live their lives the way they want. Remus knows that's what Sirius thinks, and if Sirius is wrong (which he is) - if Sirius can't see that their lives aren't their own any more than his is - Remus finds he can't say anything to Sirius, because no matter what else is true, Remus is actually free to leave this dark and depressing place when he needs to, even if he doesn't do it as often as he wants, and that makes all the difference in the world.

Remus loves Sirius, he always has. But there is no way around it: Sirius has changed. Remus understands why. It's a miracle that Sirius survived Azkaban as well as he has. He is still charming and clever and funny - still recognizably him. But there is a hard edge to him now that had never been there before - or rather, Remus thinks (regretting, as he's done so often over the past two years, the treatment Snape and some of the other Slytherins received at James' and Sirius's hands while they were all at school), a hard edge that Sirius never used to show to the people he loved.

It isn't Sirius's fault - not really - and Remus knows this. But it's not easy to be with him, not like when they were boys, and Remus wants - no, Remus needs - something easy in his life every now and again, and so he lets himself turn toward Nymphadora Tonks.

At first, he told himself that it was a one time thing, their being together - but that 'one time' turned into twice, and twice has turned into something more. And it's not just about the sex, although that's good, but about being able to just be with somebody, with no ghosts from the past to interfere.

He believes there is no real future for them - Nymphadora and him - but she wants him. She had to say it a dozen times before he really started to believe it, but he's sure of it now, and she's young and smart and funny and more responsive than any woman he's ever been with (not that he's really been with many women, he admits to himself).

He thinks maybe he loves her, or at least he thinks that she's someone he might come to love.

Someday.

Remus knows he loves Sirius. He loved him before he even knew what the feeling meant - loved him since that first day on the Hogwarts Express when Remus was pinned to the wall by three older students in the train corridor, and a haughty, dark-haired boy no older than himself made them flee with barely a word.

He also knows that Tonks loves Sirius.

He hears it in her voice when she laughs at something he's said. Sees it in the way she caresses his shoulder or strokes his hair sometimes when she walks past him.

And because they both love Sirius and worry about him and know that being stuck in Grimmauld Place is far worse for him than it is for them - and also because they can't shake the feeling that maybe he needs to be watched (although neither of them ever actually says those words) - they make a unspoken vow to never leave Sirius alone in the house.

***

Remus comes in late one evening, back early from a mission for Dumbledore. The headmaster asked him to make contact with Fenrir Greyback - the werewolf who'd bit Remus when he was a child - in an effort to begin insinuating himself into Greyback's pack.

He'd been a fool to think Greyback wouldn't remember him. Greyback left his mark on Remus in more than one way, and Remus wants to put all thoughts of the 'reunion' they just had out of his mind as quickly as possible.

When Remus walks into the kitchen, Molly Weasley is overseeing the washing up.

"Is Tonks here?" he asks, trying to sound casual.

Molly sniffs, almost imperceptibly, then looks toward the ceiling.

"She's up there. Has been for an hour."

Remus frowns "In Sirius's room? What are they doing?"

As soon as he asks the question, he wishes he could take it back. He isn't sure he wants to know what they're doing - and he is absolutely certain that Molly Weasley isn't the one he wants to hear it from.

"I'm sure I couldn't say."

For a moment she says nothing more, and Remus thinks he might have dodged that particular trap.

"But I could guess," she says finally.

"Molly."

"It's not right, their relationship," she says indignantly. "Oh, I don't blame Nymphadora. She's a dear thing. A bit...naive, though, isn't she?"

Tonks can be called many things, Remus thinks, but 'naive' isn't one of them. He never ceases to be amazed by how easily pink hair and a propensity for tripping over her own feet leads people to think Tonks is some kind of an innocent. No Aurors are innocent, as Remus has cause to know - at least not after they've been on the job for longer than a few weeks.

He wishes there was a way he could reassure Molly - some way to let her know that Tonks really is a grown woman, and that whatever she is doing, she is doing by her own choice, but he can't see how that would help the situation. Even if he's able to find the right words somehow, it wouldn't make Molly think any better of Sirius - nothing could at this point - and Remus doesn't want to do anything that might get in the way of Molly's relationship with Tonks.

"Well, I'm off," Molly says finally, clearly realizing that Remus isn't going to say any more. "I'll be by sometime in the morning, but...you'll see to it that everything's all right here, won't you, dear?"

"Of course, Molly."

After the front door shuts behind her, Remus says a quiet Nox, extinguishing the lights on the ground floor before climbing the stairs. He's tired - not just from the strain of seeing Greyback again - and he has every intention of going directly to his room and staying there. Anything else can wait until morning. He sits down on the edge of his bed, toes off his shoes and removes his socks, then pulls off his jumper and hangs it on the edge of the headboard.

The pillow looks inviting, but he can't sleep - not just yet. Still in his bare feet, Remus walks back out into the hall. He tells himself he's just going to make sure that everything's okay he promised Molly, after all - but as he walks up the stairs to Sirius's room, he knows he's lying to himself.

For a moment, Remus stands outside Sirius's door, then shakes his head at his foolishness and opens it slowly. There is just enough time to confirm Molly's suspicions (his own, as well) that Sirius was not alone in his bed before Tonks jumps up and grabs her wand from the bedside table.

She stands, wand pointed directly at him - the textbook picture of an always-vigilant Auror, if the textbooks didn't take care to show their Aurors fully clothed.

Sirius hasn't moved, of course. He's propped up against a stack of pillows, one leg tangled in the bedclothes, the other - bare, hairy, and still much too thin - hanging off the edge of the bed.

"Welcome back, Remus," he says. "I thought you weren't going to be back for two more days."

"Obviously," Remus says dryly.

"It's not..."

"It's not what it looks like?" Remus's voice is louder, sharper, more forceful than he meant it to be. "Is that what you were going to say?"

"Remus." Tonks sounds stricken, but she doesn't make any excuses, just sits down on the edge of the bed and lets her wand slide out from between her fingers.

"Forget it. I don't have a claim on either one of you." Even as Remus says the words, he realizes that he thought he had. On both of them, in fact. He's being unfair, he knows this. He has made no promises to either one of them - not even to Sirius when they were young - and they have made none to him, but that doesn't seem to matter at the moment. "If I might offer a suggestion, though, you should consider locking the door the next time you're going to fuck, unless you wanted Molly to..."

"We weren't fucking." Sirius interrupts.

"Oh, sorry. Are we calling it making love?" he asks with a sneer that even Snape would be proud to own.

"We weren't fucking," Sirius says again, more insistently. "And there was no danger of Molly walking in on us, anyway."

"The door was practically wide open, Sirius."

It wasn't, and Molly would never enter a room without knocking in any case, but that's hardly the point.

"The door," Tonks says quietly, "could only open for you. Sirius told me."

Remus frowns, and looks at Sirius questioningly.

"I'd never keep you out, Remus."

The expression on Tonks's face begs him to believe them..

"We'd never keep you out," she says.

He looks from one to the other. "So...?"

Sirius laughs. "Would you believe me if I said I'd had a bad dream?"

This, of course, is something that Remus can believe. A dozen times or more last summer, Remus had been woken by Sirius shouting and striking out blindly in his sleep. Whenever this happened, Sirius offered to move to the couch in the other room. Remus never agreed.

"Lovely childminder, isn't she?

"I wasn't babysitting," she says, frowning at Sirius. Then she turns back to Remus with a stubborn look on her face. "Not that either of us have to answer to you, but I was just holding him, and we both fell asleep."

"And then what happened? Your clothes fell off accidentally?"

Tonks blushes. All over. Even her hair seems to be blushing, turning from pink to fire-engine red in an instant.

"I hate sleeping in my clothes," she mutters.

"I know," Remus says quietly, the memory of just how much Tonks hates sleeping in her clothes vivid in his mind.

"So, are we good?" Sirius asks finally.

"We're good.," Remus says with a nod, then turns to walk out of the room.

"Oi!" Tonks's voice stops him before he takes a second step. "Where are you going?"

Remus can hear the almost imperceptible creak of the springs as Tonks gets off the bed. He feels a gentle tug on the back of his shirt, and lets Tonks turn him around to face her. A half smile tilts up one corner of his mouth, and he raises his eyebrows slightly.

Tonks lifts up a hand and traces the curve of his lips with her fingers, then leans in to place a single, soft kiss against his mouth.

She steps back and gazes at him silently, then tucks her head into his neck and starts to nibble on the soft skin above his collarbone.

Remus looks over Tonks's shoulder, and sees Sirius is watching, a lazy smile on his face. Remus smiles back, and when Sirius glances down toward Tonks's arse, and raises an eyebrow, Remus moves his hands down Tonks's back, sliding them slowly over the dip at her waist.

He settles his hands on her hips, then presses lightly against the soft curve of her buttocks with his long fingers until Tonks starts to sigh.

Sirius's breath catches and he exhales loudly.

Remus drops his head and nuzzles at Tonks's neck. He feels her hands slip under his shirt, her long nails trace the vertebrae at the base of his spine.

"You're wearing too many clothes," Tonks whispers.

Remus takes a step backward, and taking in both Sirius and Tonks with his gaze, slowly unbuttons his shirt. He unfastens his trousers and pushes them over his narrow hips, letting them fall to the floor.

Tonks looks pointedly at the ground and grins. "No pants, Remus?"

Now it's Remus's turn to blush.

"Come to bed," Sirius says, pushing the covers all the way off his body. There's no doubt that his invitation includes both of them.

Tonks turns to look at Sirius, her hair growing longer and straighter, its bright red color darkening to black, starting at the roots and moving to the tips.

For a moment, Remus frowns. For the first time since he's known her, he can see more than just Ted Tonks in her face. Suddenly, her Black family inheritance is clear, and there's more than a hint of Sirius's cousin Bellatrix, which makes Remus uneasy. But then Tonks turns back and grins at him, a smile that's all her own.

Her eyes, though, are amber - the exact shade Remus sees when he looks at himself in the mirror.

She raises an eyebrow suggestively, reaches out her hand languidly, and when Remus enmeshes his fingers with hers, she draws him slowly toward the bed.

The illusion of practiced seduction is shattered a moment later when Tonks trips on the carpet, and falls gracelessly onto the mattress, pulling Remus on top of her and Sirius. She covers her face with her hands, but Sirius, laughing in a way that Remus hasn't heard since they were boys, pulls her hands away from her face and licks her on the nose.

Remus wonders, not for the first time, whether Sirius has been spending too much time as a dog.

Now Tonks is laughing too. She tries to push Sirius's tongue back in his mouth where it belongs, but when her fingers come into contact with his tongue, he sucks them into his mouth, biting down gently to keep her from pulling away. This only makes Tonks laugh harder, and she starts to gasp with the effort of drawing a breath, until finally Remus frowns, worrying that his weight on her is becoming a problem.

He shifts slightly to one side, bending his knee, but Sirius says "Oh, no you don't. You're not getting away that easily!" before wrapping one long, thin arm around him and pulling him back down.

Remus, now laughing a little himself, protests briefly, but Tonks reaches around and pinches his arse.

"I'm a lot tougher than I look," she says, and Remus knows it's true.

All three of them are.

Then Tonks turns her head and licks Sirius's nose, and Remus grins and does the same, and when Sirius sticks out his tongue, Remus and Tonks both lean in at the same time to capture Sirius's mouth.

Their foreheads bump together ungently - Remus is almost certain that there will be three matching bruises come morning - and for a moment all three remain in that position, heads pressed hard together, each of them unwilling to give ground, until finally Tonks tilts her head to the side and Remus does the same and they settle into a three-way kiss that's awkward, but strangely satisfying, just the same.

The kiss seems to last forever, and Remus closes his eyes, letting himself just feel. When someone's lips lay a row of soft warm kisses just above his right eyebrow, he keeps his eyes closed, beyond caring who the owner of those lips might be, but when someone's body presses against him and he's enfolded in a single pair of arms, he knows immediately who they belong to, even though he still hasn't opened his eyes.

Remus feels the soft weight of Tonks's breasts against his chest, and for a moment, it seems as if they are the only two people left in the room. But then Sirius slides his long fingers between them, the palms of his hands cupping Tonks's breasts and the backs of his long fingers tickling at the hair that grows around Remus's aureoles.

Awkwardly, trapped as she is between the two men, Tonks wraps her legs around Remus's hips, then turns her head as far as she's able, so she can capture Sirius's mouth with her own. Remus slides one arm around Tonks's narrow back and the other around Sirius's waist, then pulls them both closer to him, his cock pulsing with sudden need.

Sirius groans softly, the sound achingly familiar. It's the sound Sirius always makes just before he enters Remus, and Tonks's whispered "Oh!" elicits an echoing sigh from Remus. He pushes his own hips forward, takes his cock in hand, and enters Tonks with one long, slow thrust, his arousal building as she tightens around him in a steady rhythm.

He bites down softly on Tonks's shoulder, willing himself to hold back until he feels her shudder once, twice, a third time, then leans forward and moves his head to the side so that he can reach Sirius's mouth. They kiss fiercely.

He feels Tonks's fingers clutching at his hair, hears her cry of completion, and Remus kisses her eyelids, her nose, her mouth, licks the salt sweat of her skin, before tasting the bittersweet flavor that belongs to Sirius. When Sirius comes a moment later, the oh-so-familiar force of his orgasm feels suddenly new to Remus as it ripples through Tonks's lean frame, and Remus finally allows the surging pressure of his own arousal to peak until he, too, comes with a cry.

As his breathing slows, Remus, eyes closed, rolls over onto his back.

Someone's hand brushes hair back from his sweaty brow.

Remus doesn't know whose hand it is.

He doesn't care.

***

Number 12, Grimmauld Place has always made Remus feel claustrophobic, and he knows it always will. The walls of the Black house will always seem a little too close, crushing anyone foolish enough to walk through its doors. But this night, as Sirius and Tonks sleep, one on either side of him, their warm bodies pressing close against him, Remus is able to forget the press of the walls.

And when a still-sleeping Sirius drapes an arm across Remus's chest and Tonks curls her leg around Remus's hip, he can't imagine not wanting to be trapped, just this way, just for tonight, between the two people he loves.


Comments, critiques, chit chat: beth-h @ mrks.org

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