Fic: No Subtitles Available (Part 2/6)

Characters & Pairings: Remus Lupin, Sirius Black, James Potter, Alice Longbottom, Frank Longbottom, Lily Evans, various HP characters, Remus/Sirius, background James/Lily and Alice/Frank
Rating & Warnings: PG-13, mentions of homophobia, very slight crossdressing, implied sex
Word Count: 12,000 (this part ~ 3,000)
Summary: Potter and Black have always been arrogant and selfish as far as Remus can tell. Having their own, very successful radio show, probably hasn't changed that one bit. But when fate, or more precisely Frank Longbottom, steps in, and Remus finds himself working with Potter and Black, he might have to consider that there's more to them than he's been giving them credit for.
Non-Magical AU.

Part two of my fic for rs_games. Part one here.

2. Listening

"I can't begin to tell you how much I've been looking forward to meeting you boys!"

"Not as much as we've been looking forward to meeting you, Ms Warbeck. James here is a huge fan of your music."

"Oh, shush, you're making me blush! And please, call me Celestina, won't you? As I was saying to my dear Irwing as I left our home in Italy to fly up here to the cold UK and be a guest on your radio show, there's just something about those two young men. I'm afraid he might have got a bit jealous, my Irwing, but it's simply impossible for a hot-blooded woman like me to stay completely neutral when meeting ravishing men such as yourselves. Irwing knows he's my favourite, that sweet old dear, so hopefully he won't be all cross with me or forget to feed the cats."

"Yes, Irwing, remember to feed the cats! Now, Celestina, you've given us plenty of entertainment in the gossip columns over the years, but it's your music that has captured the hearts of fans all over the world. And it's no secret that you're a favourite on various drag shows and a lot of gay clubs, I've witnessed that myself. Have you got any thoughts about that?"

"I think it's wonderful, Sirius! I've been to a few of those shows where I see myself on stage, and let me tell you, they usually make me look a lot better than even my best make-up artist is able to do with the real thing. But to be a bit serious for a minute - yes, I can be serious every now and then, not too often, though, mind you. I'm truly honoured that my music can spread joy, and if I may be so bold, give people a sometimes much needed push on the narrow path to true love. Music is magic, guys, it's as simple as that."

"Sirius can testify to that, you wouldn't believe how much time he spends listening to the radio and wallowing in sad songs. But your advice on how to brighten ones days is listen to more happy music?"

"As long as it's my music, James dear, haha. No, all kinds of music, of course. And actually I would say listen more in general. We've got two ears and only one mouth, maybe it's a hint we ought to listen more than we talk. I'm probably the worst person ever to say this, since I hardly ever close my mouth according to Irwing, but I'll say it anyway. Listen to the sounds around you, and listen to the people you spend your days with. Don't be too certain about what someone is actually saying before you truly listen. It can give you a few surprises."

*** ***

One of the first things that Remus notices in his new job, is that Black talks. All the time. He's still a bit wary of Remus, still doesn't address him much, still sends him lingering looks. But otherwise he gives a running commentary on everything that's happening around him.

Remus has never before listened to someone talking the way Black does, about how he makes his sandwich, all the ingredients he uses in detail, before he eagerly explains how the different tastes and textures melt together in his mouth.

Black talks while combing his hair, he tells anyone who'll listen about the one time his ponytail got stuck in the elevator door; it's quite a dramatic story involving pain, scissors and two little girls getting scared enough by the sight of Black to yell at their mothers that they wanted a haircut once they returned home.

When putting on his coat, Black talks about this woman working at the coffee shop, who may or may not be joking about giving him a discount because his long coat makes him look like a hard-boiled detective from the 1920s. Remus takes in Black's appearance and strongly suspects that the woman isn't joking.

Besides Black's unstoppable need to involve everyone around him in everything that's going on, the biggest surprise for Remus is how easy it all turns out to be. Potter and Black don't ask why Remus is spending so much time with them, they don't act surprised when he rings their doorbell before breakfast. Yes, Frank has been talking to them, but there's more to it. It's as if they simply are... nice people. Which collides horribly with memories from school. Remus has no idea what to make of it, but thankfully he doesn't have to find out. This is just a job. Potter and Black are no business of his beyond what his job description says.

And really, there's no need for that thought to be uncomfortable. At all.

"Did you listen to our show today?" It's usually Potter who asks him, immediately followed by an even more enthusiastic "Did you like it?"

"Yes," Remus says, because he does, and Potter lights up. Humming, he grabs some coffee or opens his laptop to write down a new idea for the show. Black smiles as well, not as sparkling as Potter, not to Remus' face. Sometimes the smile is there afterwards, when Black sits down to enjoy the coffee Potter has brought him, in one of those rare pauses where he doesn't talk.

It's in these pauses, nice as they are, that the thought occurs to Remus. He actually likes listening to Black talking.

Good heavens.

It turns out that he's an eager listener when other people talk about Black as well.

"The thing you need to understand about Sirius," says Lily as they walk together to the wine-bar one evening, meeting a whole group of people who apparently can think of better things to do Friday nights that eating instant noodles in front of an old telly. Lily is talkative and vivacious, and despite her questionable taste in boyfriends, she's proven to be the friendly, generous type who welcomes him into her life without question.

Lily finally locates her mobile that's been buzzing, replies to the text and tries again. "What you need to understand about Sirius, is that he's very much like a dog. No, really! Enormously protective of his... pack, for a lack of a better word. He'll do anything for those he cares about. Scratch him behind his ear, and you have a friend for life. But hurt him, or someone close to him, and he'll never forget it."

"Ah, Sirius," says Molly while slowly trying to navigate through busy city streets and making her voice heard over chatty children in the backseat. They're on their way to the Weasley house, as the radio show is doing a report on raising kids in the city. Frank felt it would be a good idea to have the two hosts babysitting before broadcasting the experience, and apparently the Weasleys are good candidates.

Molly gives Remus a big hug when they meet, no objections about giving him a lift when the other car is full. She laughs a lot and her driving style is very safe with an obvious preference for low gears.

"I feel sorry for Sirius, I really do. His family is... well, I'll restrain myself in front of the children. He is doing remarkably well for someone from that family, I'll give him that."

She picks up a little box full of cookies, obviously homemade, and hands it to him. "Please help yourself, dear, I always keep some in the car. Years of driving around with small children have taught me to be prepared. No, Charlie, let Remus have some first, yes, Bill, you can all have one each afterwards. Sometimes, Remus, I need to focus on the traffic a little more than their chatter lets me, and a cookie does the trick. Or Celestina Warbeck singing on the radio, that always helps me concentrate. Did you hear her talking to James and Sirius on the show? She's wonderful, she really is, but, yes, we were talking about Sirius."

Remus straightens in his seat and tunes back in by the mention of Black. He has no idea why.

"He can be rather reckless, you know, well, he and James both, but Sirius even more. If you ask me, what he needs is some good, old-fashioned mothering. Or a significant other. Someone who listens to him and cares for him and sees the vulnerable boy I suspect is hiding underneath his bravado."

She sighs; Remus can't tell if it's because of Black or because of increasingly heavy traffic. "It would have to be someone patient, because he can get on my nerves, I have to admit."

"He's loyal and smart," says Lily.

"He's high maintenance, but worth it for the right person," says Molly.

Remus listens to them, his own memories keep swirling around and mixing with their words. Potter and Black in the schoolyard, doing as they please like the arrogant bullies Remus always thought them to be. James Potter, show-off extraordinaire and sworn enemy of Remus' friend. Sirius Black, everyone's crush and no one's someone special.

The image of Potter is changing, there's no denying that. Remus and Lily have arrived at the wine-bar, and Potter greets him with a happy smile that turns into an enormous grin when he notices Lily. Maybe her taste in boyfriends isn't so bad.

It's loud in here, the heavy beat of music and people talking and his own heartbeat making Remus dizzy. Even in his thin t-shirt he's already sweating, and it's only been ten minutes. He feels drunk despite not having a drop of alcohol - and apparently he's supposed to be mingling. Good heavens. Frank can't have thought this whole thing through very well before asking Remus to keep Potter and Black company.

Potter and Lily seem very cosy on their way to a dark corner, and Black? Sirius Black is holding court. There's no other word for it. He's the star people orbit around, the magnetic centre they circle around, never getting any closer. He leans against the bar, drinking his beer, talking and laughing, looking like sex on legs in his leather pants that actually look good on him and a v-neck cut so low that he might as well not have bothered.

"Sirius doesn't even notice the effect he has on people." Peter has taken the seat next to Remus, he's changed since school, but then again, so has Remus. "It's always been like this for him. He probably doesn't realise that most people have to fight for the attention that he gets simply by showing his face. And now everyone thinks he's so brave as well. You know, with the radio show and speaking against his family. What can I say, some people just have it all." Peter hides his envy with the same skill he uses to hide his hunger when blue eyes roam over pretty females walking by.

"I think Sirius is lonely," says Fabian, three glasses of sparkling water later. "They say that he's got it all, but it's not true. Listen to his voice when certain topics come up. He doesn't have that one person to love."

Black sits by himself for once, his legs dangling from the top of the bar. Are people even allowed to sit upon the bar? The bass in Remus' ears keeps beating, and his legs move in Black's direction. Might as well talk to him before someone starts swooning at his feet again.

"No heels tonight?"

"What?" Black looks up at Remus, he seems caught off guard. A shadow flickers across his face, but it's gone before Remus can decide if it's surprise or something else. "Oh, the heels." Black quickly gets back into the game, whatever the game is.

"Have you been talking to Frank?" His voice is smooth, comfortable, with a lilt that suggests a laugh is close to the surface. "I've worn those shoes on the town two, maybe three times, but Frank is obsessed with them. He keeps blabbering on about how I should lie low these days and all that crap. I didn't turn my back on that shit preached by my family just to keep hiding."

It makes sense. It probably makes more sense than anything he's heard from Black's mouth before. Because, really, it's quite possible that he never used to listen very well to Black at all.

Still, he's here on a mission. Sort of. "That's an admirable sentiment, Black. Bravery is one thing, though. Not taking care of yourself is another."

The music keeps booming through the room. It's crowded, people are using their elbows to reach the bar, and Black simply sits there; unaffected by the noise around him, watching Remus. How come Remus has never noticed the way Black's eyebrows are shaped like wings? Or how the iris in his left eye is just a tiny bit darker than his right?

Eventually Black opens his mouth. It's been five seconds, an hour; Remus honestly has no idea. "Why do you insist on calling me Black?"

You've always been Black. A concept more than a person. "I'm not sure," says Remus.

Black inhales through his nose, he blinks and takes a few sips of his beer. Clears his throat and exhales.

"Do you know what my father said to me when I told him I was gay?" Remus shakes his head. "Nothing. Not one word. He hasn't said anything to me since March fifteenth three years ago, at nine o'clock in the morning. 'Can you pass me the coffee, please?' he said two minutes to nine. 'Here you go,' I said, 'and I've been meaning to tell you something. I'm a homosexual, Father. I'm Sirius Black, your son, mostly a good person, sometimes an idiot, and I'm attracted to men.' He didn't even blink. He filled his cup with tea, and he hates tea, then turned his back on me in the most literal way. He hasn't spoken to me since. And you see, Remus, he is Mr Black. Call me Sirius. Please?"

Remus has no idea what to say. He nods, and his reply is more a croak than anything else. "Of course. Sirius."

Black - Sirius - smiles, making him look even more beautiful, and a thousand times more dangerous. A dangerous man to display weakness in front of.

Sirius is in his element here. A display of casual elegance and easygoing flirtation. Making those around him eat from the palm of his hand without any visible effort. Which is why Remus chokes on his sparkling water when Sirius leans in a little later, whispering in Remus' ear. "Jeez, I hate mingling. I love going out, but only with people I care about. The rest of them can bugger off."

And then he laughs. Sirius laughs a lot. Remus rather likes the sound of Sirius' laugh. There's plenty of opportunity to hear it once they reach the Weasley's house, ready to assist in the making of a tips-for-babysitters radio special. Brushing off the many crumbs he's managed to spill from Molly's cookies, Remus climbs out of the car, taking in the quaint home and the bouncy little boys running around in front of it.

Molly claps her hands together and manages to capture her sons' attention. Remus is impressed.

"Be nice to James and Sirius, boys. Percy, I trust you to keep an eye on your brothers. No, Charlie, you absolutely cannot colour Fred's hair blue to help the babysitters separate the twins. I expect everyone to be in one piece when your Dad and I return. Now, James, here's a list of phone numbers I hope you won't need, the hospital right at the top. Good luck, I'm certain you'll do just fine, dears!"

And off she goes.

Potter - James - looks a tad paler than usual. Sirius has found a football and has already immersed himself in a one-on-one with Bill. The crew is setting up microphones and taking notes, but Sirius looks like he's having too much fun to notice. His laughter fills the air, mixing with the boys', and he's the first to comfort when George gets stuck in a rose bush. "Mum says we can't run in this part of the garden," says Charlie, eyeing the overgrown shrubbery. "But it's not easy to stop when your legs are full of joy!"

"I know exactly what you mean," says Sirius. James smiles, saying nothing, and he says it rather loudly.

"Do you need a new diaper?" Sirius asks Fred later, sniffing experimentally into the air.

"No," says Fred.

"Are you certain?"


Remus swallows a laugh and raises his eyebrows, wondering what'll happen. The words "Sirius Black" and "changing diapers" in the same sentence is a concept as foreign as... as Sirius Black confiding things from his past to Remus Lupin, actually. And when Sirius does what needs to be done while singing and joking, making the little toddler hurl with laughter, yet another idea about this man falls to pieces in Remus' mind.

"Sirius can be quiet, you know," says James, digging into the pocket of his duffel coat for the wallet. They've just finished lunch, it's been a few weeks since Remus started working. So far the job has been full of pleasant surprises, but the contented feeling of being useful, isn't one of them. He has no way of justifying getting paid at all. James and Sirius may have proven to be human after all, but there's no way that having Remus around has made any difference in how they're acting.

"I've yet to see him being silent for any length of time, " Remus says, hoping he's got enough to pay for his part of the meal. "He's even stopped being awkward with me, " which is mostly true. James rubs his eyes underneath his glasses, looks at Remus and opens his mouth. Closes it. Sighs, shakes his head and opens his mouth again.

"When Sirius finds a reason to say nothing, it's a silence that claims a lot of space. For better or worse."

Remus gets to learn the truth in James' words the following day. A handwritten letter arrives at the flat, neatly addressed in beautiful cursive to Mr Sirius Black and Mr James Potter. Remus watches with growing horror as James reads.

"Those horrible little..." James says, letting the rest of the sentence hang in the air. His voice is tinged with suppressed anger when he reads a few passages out loud.

"...spreading your filth...aren't fit to be around children...bringing shame to your family...won't stand for this...you'll have to pay for your transgressions..."

As far as insults go, they're not very well written. The threats sound rather inane to Remus, but James' and Sirius' expressions are hard to miss. Not very long ago, the feeling of being an outsider budging in on this scene might've been stronger than his worry, but apparently something has changed. The irrational desire to comfort makes no sense, but it's there nonetheless. A need to say that everything will be okay, with a certainty he doesn't feel.

James catches his eye. "This letter sounds very much like Sirius' family. We've suspected they might have something to do with this, but we haven't been certain." He doesn't say "Until now," but it's loud and clear nevertheless.

Remus quickly gets up from the sofa with no idea what to say. "Do you need a drink?" he stupidly ends up asking. It's not even three o'clock.

"I'll have two, " says Sirius. It's the last thing he says that day.

Part 3-6

This is such an interesting story -- different enough from canon to have me guessing what's going to happen, but the characters are all true to themselves. (Molly made me grin.) And the thought of James and Sirius babysitting -- that's amusing and sweet all at the same time.

I love your Celestina, too! Sounds like she's got a fair bit of wisdom underneath it all. ;)
Thank you, I'm glad you think the characters are true to themselves :) That's always a challenge in AUs (- or actually in all fics, in a way, as it's hardly whether they carry a wand in their hand or not that determines if they seem in character ;)).

Heh, I rather like the idea of a Celestina who is very talkative and always wants to put on a show for her fans, but who's got a warm heart and a good head on her shoulders :)