A meeting with an old friend after many years is a walk in the park. Post-GOF, lying low, yadda.
A walk in the park
"Mummy! I just saw a Grim! I'm going to die! Mummy! MUMMY!"
Never one to waste an opportunity, however unexpected, the dog snapped up the dropped sandwich and pelted directly back into the cover of the thick undergrowth, hoping that any adults that came to her rescue would see the paw tracks and broken brush, add two and two, and reassure the ear-splitting little Cassandra that she'd seen a real dog, not an omen of impending death. And that said adults would not send the dogcatchers out after him.
What a bloody mess of a day. His paws hurt. All his muscles were cramping from exhaustion. His stomach had probably digested all his innards and started work on his bones, he was carrying at least ten pounds of accumulated mud, and he'd just frightened a precociously superstitious child to tears trying to beg for food. At least she'd dropped her sandwich in her terrified headlong dash to safety.
All was quiet. He lay down and sighed, trying to lick off the peanut butter and jelly stuck to his teeth. It was a pleasant afternoon at least. A cool breeze smelling like sun-warmed greenery and old friends; shady, clear spot without sticks and rocks poking him... if he could just get the fly - or flea? not fleas, please! - that was tickling his ear to stop and bother someone else. He flicked the ear irritably, but it came back almost immediately. Whining, he shook his head, and when the tickling started again, finally abandoned dignity, sat up, and began scratching furiously with his hind leg. Caked mud flew in chunks and a cloud of dust. Birds chirped. Someone chuckled softly.
Padfoot froze, his hackles rising as he looked about warily, certain he knew the sound. Who? Where? How? Invisible? He turned in a circle, sniffing, but certain he'd seen no tracks on the ground. He smelled magic, the charged air prickling like electricity. On the ground... On instinct, no, impulse, he looked up.
It was a bird, no, a broom, it was... "Fuck, Remus!" Sirius gasped, falling to his hands and knees as the remnants of his strength drained away in his sudden relief.
"Certainly not in public," said Remus lightly, in that blandly prissy, disapproving manner that used to drive him quite batty, and James into hysterics. Peter was always terrified that he'd somehow given offence-
He found his fingers curved into claws, digging into the earth, grit becoming painfully embedded under his nails. "Remus," he repeated, just to reassure himself that it was Remus there, side-saddle on the Disillusioned broom as if it were a floating bench. Remus never did trust brooms, always sat perched gingerly on one side, ready to jump down. The werewolf in him preferred to keep its paws on the ground. "It's good to see you."
Remus dropped the blade of grass he must have used to tickle Sirius, expression carefully neutral. "Is it? Dumbledore told me to expect you. I've been watching you for a while."
You didn't answer my letters.
Sirius wanted very much to be Padfoot again, with a dog's simple confidence: take this, go there, get food, kill rats, eat, sleep. Padfoot liked Harry and Harry's friends. Padfoot would wag his tail and follow Remus, expecting to be hugged and fed and scratched. Padfoot had no doubts, no holes in his memory to trip over.
Something of his uncertainty might have shown, or Remus might have watched him long enough to know Sirius had not made any move to seek out the safe- house he had been directed to. Remus looked down at the broom, then met his eyes directly. "Well, get on. You need a bath and food, and you've surely frightened the Trelawnys enough for the day. The Disillusionment Charm should cover you too."
Sirius climbed onto the familiar broom behind Remus and was pleased to find the Cushioning Charm sufficiently extensive to accommodate both the werewolf's idiosyncratic riding style and a passenger, albeit a very scrawny one. As the broom rose smoothly into the air, he tightened his grip around Remus and leaned forward to peer over his shoulder at the Oakshaft 2 engraved on the handle. Faintly, he heard his voice speaking, as if in distant memory.
"Oakshaft-" Sirius croaked, trying to catch the half-gone fragment of his past, then cleared his throat and continued. "Broom of choice for gaffers and small children." He snorted a laugh at the thought, as pleased as if it were new, and rested his cheek on the warm shoulder in front of him, breathing in the clean earth-and-woodland smell. "'For' being the operative word, because nobody wants one himself."
"It's underrated," murmured Remus as he skimmed them along the edge of the trees. The Disillusionment Charm would keep Muggles from seeing them as they truly were, but it didn't hurt to not draw their attention in the first place. "It makes an excellent workhorse - carries moderate loads or a passenger, stable, easy to handle..."
"Not very fast or manoeuvrable..."
"Perfect for a landlubber and aspiring gaffer like me." Remus's light tones were as gentle as he remembered, but the words seemed oddly familiar, as if it were someone else who had said them. "You said so yourself." They lighted in a well-kept garden some distance from the village proper.
Sirius blinked in surprise, and studied Remus's face as they dismounted the broom. Careworn, yet strangely too young, as if the wolf repaired the ravages of time just as it did the damage it inflicted on itself on full-moon nights. Remus looked much the same way he did all those years ago. A few more lines perhaps, and who knew if the premature grey in his hair was the wolf, a sign of age, or something else? He was as distant and unreadable as he'd ever been, or no... when had he started wearing that expression of studied calm?
He followed his old friend into the small, bare cottage, taking in the few half-remembered objects placed carefully about. What would the old Sirius have said? He had no idea. "You kept it?" he asked at last, waving his hand at the broom as Remus set it aside and summoned a teapot that said /James/, and /Lily/, to the empty spaces in his memory.
The slim back straightened, almost imperceptibly. He regretted the question immediately.
"I swept the floor with it a few times," Remus said, mild and unoffended, not meeting his eyes. "I can hardly afford to throw away anything useful."
"Oh." He looked around, trying to assign memories to the things he did know. Old books, the teapot; almost everything else was old yet new to him, probably second-hand, like his memories inherited from a Sirius he didn't quite remember. A battered and lumpy sofa that he found strangely easy to sit down on. He thought he could sleep on it. He looked at a pastoral landscape hanging on the wall, of a shepherd herding sheep.
He should know it, just as he knew the chandelier above them with its carved black dragons that would sputter little flames at night, and the scuffed broom propped against the wall.
Sirius started to speak, ask which of them had given it, and suddenly, rage boiled up in him, that Remus had dared to keep the painting, remembering the tentative hands that had shyly pushed the painting into Remus's- "You'll always watch over us, won't you?" Remus stared unflinchingly as he spilled the tea, filled with righteous fury until he followed Remus's line of sight to the broom. It doused his anger instantly, leaving nothing but chilled uncertainty and exhaustion.
"Eat," said Remus, setting a bowl of something bland and digestible before him, perhaps porridge. His closest living friend, who'd spent twelve years believing him a traitor, believing in his guilt... and welcomed him back with open arms the instant it became possible that he was not. "Wash. Rest."
...would he have accepted Sirius's innocence so quickly, if he hadn't been waiting, hoping...?
"If Peter were to turn around, renounce Voldemort, would you..."
"Eat." Remus rummaged in the shelves and found him some old clothes that he knew would fit just right, at least in length, but they would hang far too loosely from his bony frame. Sirius swallowed a mouthful of tasteless oats with difficulty.
More memories surfaced, a babble of voices slipping through his fingers like a stream.
"...said you were seen with a Death Eater, Moony. Is it true?"..."I know you don't like Severus..." "...was right to warn Dumbledore about me. Stay away from me, Sirius. I don't trust you. I don't even trust myself!"..."Did you kill James and Lily? Did you kill them?... why?"..."Step away from Black unless you want to join him..."..."Sirius, tell me--"
"Peter," he said, and found the name provoked less rage than he was accustomed to. "Would you...?"
"Peter is dead," this said with gentle insistence, like a warning. "He has been dead a long time."
He managed to finish half the bowl, and felt unaccountably weary, barely managing to set down the rest on the table before it slipped from numb fingers. Remus knelt at his feet and gently wiped at his face with a warm, damp towel that blended away the humiliating streaks of hot wetness. It was easy to let Remus take care of him.
Sirius raised a hand to touch the pale, thin cheek. Remus sighed, leaned into it briefly, then continued cleaning him. Perhaps tomorrow, Remus would take him out for a walk, and he would see how the outside world had changed. It would be easier, now that they were together again, not so fixated on day-to-day survival and vengeance. More memories to return, Remus's calming presence beside him. A walk in the park.