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sam_storyteller ([personal profile] sam_storyteller) wrote2005-07-15 03:20 pm

Pilgrimage; R, RL/SB

For the PG-rated version of this story, please go here.

Summary: The Marauders take a road trip.
Warnings: Mild drug use.

Also available at AO3.

***

"I don't see why we have to take a Muggle car," Sirius muttered. "I could get there alone in a few hours with the motorbike, and you lot have broomsticks -- "

"Because it's a SECRET MISSION," James said, shouting the last two words. "UTTERLY TOP SECRET. Dumbledore said."

"James, that really did stop being funny several months ago," Remus sighed. "I'll drive."

"Why you? Why can't I drive?" Sirius said.

"Because you've never driven a car, Sirius, you don't know how to work a gearshift."

"The motorbike has a -- "

"A car gearshift," Remus corrected carefully. "And I do. Know how to."

"You'll get tired."

"Peter can take over."

Peter smiled nervously and fumblingly caught the spare key that Remus tossed him. James stowed his knapsack in the boot and slid into the back seat, sprawling across two-thirds of it. Sirius, rather less enthusiastically, dropped his bag next to James' pack. Peter's small, tidy suitcase and Remus' rather battered one (Professor RJ Lupin, James' idea of a joke) took up the rest of the space.

"I still say I could have taken the motorbike. Nobody looks for flying motorbikes," Sirius grumbled, shoving James over and starting a back-seat wrestling match that ended when Remus pulled his wand and deftly froze both of them with a well-aimed Petrificus Totalus.

"Well, this should be a peaceful trip," he remarked to Peter as he climbed into the driver's seat. "We'll stop tonight just shy of the border and cross over into Scotland tomorrow. We can stay in Glasgow the next night and we should be in Aberdeen by the day-after. Really, it's quite a small island when you think about it."

"Shouldn't we unfreeze them?" Peter asked anxiously.

"It'll wear off in an hour or so. They'd never let me listen to the stations I want to listen to. Did you bring your eight-tracks? Sirius brought his."

"Yeah, but -- "

"Splendid. D'you mind jazz in the meantime?"

"No," Peter said, still looking fearfully in the rear-view mirror. Remus fiddled with the radio (car still firmly parked) and found an oldies station in the middle of a Mancini kick. He smiled blissfully.

"And we're off," he said, letting out the clutch.

"No argument there," Peter murmured. Remus snorted as he swung the car out of his parents' drive and onto the street.

***

The first sign the Petrificus Totalus was wearing off was when Sirius reached forward and thwacked Remus upside the head. Fortunately he'd seen it coming in the rearview mirror, and the car didn't so much as swerve, but Peter started out of his landscape-staring and fended off similar attacks by James.

"An HOUR AND A HALF of MANCINI AND GOODMAN, and we couldn't so much as COMPLAIN," Sirius snarled. "You'll pay for that! Peter, give up the eight tracks! Right now, give them up!"

Peter tossed the box of casettes into the back, where Sirius and James began sorting through them, facing each other crosslegged on the car's back-seat, safety-belts dangling uselessly nearby.

"You should -- " Peter began.

"Not a word, Wormtail," James said. "Or it'll be the Beatles. Post Yoko!"

"Heartless bastard!" Remus cried with a grin.

"I do not understand," Sirius rumbled, "how one of my best friends can hate the Beatles."

"You only like them because they're Muggle and they're even disapproved of by Muggle parents, so you think they must be cool," Peter retorted.

"Ah!" Sirius said, ignoring him. "Here. Pink Floyd."

"That's a bit much this early," Remus said. "Can't we start out with The Who, at least?"

"Isn't that the whooooooom?" James said, leaning over Remus' shoulder and grinning. Remus blew a puff of air in his face, and James fell back onto the seat.

"Okay, okay," Sirius said, passing the cassette up. Peter hooked it into the eight-track player -- the car was the first nice thing the Lupins had bought in ages, and even had a modern 'tape' player too, although the only tape they had was one of Remus' father's Learn French The Easy Way tapes.

"Ground Rules," Remus said, as the music began. "No Beatles -- "

"No fair!" Sirius protested.

"All right, for every Beatles album, Peter gets his pick on the radio."

"And if he picks anything too annoying he's buying drinks tonight."

Remus glanced at Peter, who shrugged. "I'm always buying anyway."

"Done and done," Remus said. "Peter, what's my exit?"

"Ummm..." Peter studied the map until Sirius reached forward and took it.

"I don't feel very good," James said, looking out the window rather queasily.

"James, have you ever been in a car before?" Remus asked.

"No..."

"He's carsick," Peter whispered to Remus.

"He's a bloody Quidditch player, he can't get carsick," Remus replied.

"Stop the car!" James moaned.

"Yes he can," Peter said, as Remus hastily pulled over and James was promptly ill on the grassy road-shoulder.

"This is going to be a long trip," Remus sighed.

***

"I swore this place would have somewhere to sleep," Peter said, for about the tenth time.

"Well, technically it does," Remus answered.

"I do not define the back seat of your parents' car as a place to sleep, Moony," Sirius said -- quietly, because James was still conked out from the sleeping spell that seemed to be the only charm anyone knew of to keep him from hurling every hour or so. He was snoring softly, face pressed inelegantly against the window, while Sirius had tried to make himself comfortable with a rolled up jumper and James' lap as a pillow.

"You could try the front seat," Remus answered, grinning at him in the rearview mirror.

"Might be more comfortable on the asphalt," Sirius said. "Least I could stretch out there."

"We're flat in the middle of Muggle country, we can't risk an enlargement charm on the backseat," Remus replied.

"We can't risk me having no sleep, either," Sirius replied. "Hey, Peter -- "

"Sh," Remus said, as Peter's head nodded forwards.

"Great. Can we put sleeping spells on each other?"

"No guarantee we'd wake up, you know we'd -- "

" -- have to have someone awake to watch, sod it," Sirius said.

"I'll sleep tomorrow while Peter drives," Remus said. "We'll find a proper place tomorrow night in Glasgow, I promise."

"Parking lot of a bloody rest stop," Sirius grumbled, "about the most improper place one could find."

"How do you figure?"

"Well, I've read Muggle books," Sirius said.

"You've read dirty Muggle magazines."

"And books too! And I know what Muggles get up to in cars at night."

Remus shook his head. "This is my dad's car. There will be, in his own words, no getting-up-to of anything."

"Oh, don't tell me you spent every summer living in the Muggle world and never -- "

"Not that dad knows about," Remus admitted. Sirius laughed, and they fell silent, until finally Remus spoke again.

"What Muggle books have you read, then?" he asked.

Sirius adjusted his legs and rolled over until he was facing the roof of the car, rather than the front seat.

"Well, I read this one called Frankenstein because the cover looked interesting. Good book."

"You've read Frankenstein?"

"Yeah, you heard of it? And one about a chap called Molesworth, that was pretty brilliant, and one by this bloke Calvino -- "

"Italo Calvino?" Remus asked, surprised. "You've never mentioned any of these."

"Read 'em over holidays, to annoy my parents first, and then cos there was a -- "

" -- beautiful woman running the till at the Muggle bookshop."

"In a manner of speaking. Yes."

"You. Read Calvino."

"I do read, Moony, don't sound so surprised. You've obviously read him."

"Which one?"

"The new one. About cities and that."

"Invisible Cities?"

"That's the one."

"What'd you think of it?"

Sirius was silent for a while. Finally, he spoke again.

"Dunno really. S'a bit abnormal, even for a Muggle book. He didn't really talk about what he talked about."

"I like him."

"Yeah, I guess I do." Another long silence; Remus thought he heard a rustle and a muttered word or two in Latin, but he was suddenly too tired to care. "Moony, do you suppose he's right?" Sirius asked.

"About?" Remus asked, eyes closed, drifting half-consciously.

"About how there's something the same everywhere? It'd mean the Death Eaters were wrong once and for all, because it'd mean we've got a lot in common with the Muggles. And he'd have gone to town if he found out there was somewhere like Diagon Alley in the middle of London, wouldn't he."

"He'd have thought it was a wonderful metaphor," Remus yawned. "How Wizarding folk just burrow in and make themselves at home and then start rotting the bigger city from the inside out."

"You don't think that, do you?" Sirius asked.

"Of course not," Remus mumbled, unaware of the question, his mouth on autopilot as his brain slipped into oblivion. "Dunno anymore...seems like either side in't gonna...treat th'...Mrfghlls..."

He thought he heard Sirius make a small noise of disagreement, but he was fast asleep so quickly that later he didn't remember if it was real or just a dream.

***

"He's really out," he heard James say, and felt a finger poke his cheek. Batting it away would have meant moving, however, and Remus didn't feel like moving; the world was a warm, secure place and sleep beckoned him, but for the moment he would drowse and make sure no more poking was forthcoming.

"You know how Moony is," Sirius answered. "Never been the type to stay out till two and then get up for breakfast at seven."

Remus felt this deserved protest, but couldn't be arsed.

"He did drive most of yesterday," Peter said. "Serve me right if I drive most of today."

"Do try not to crash, Peter," James cautioned.

"Mister Wormtail thanks Mister Prongs for his concerns and begs him to keep out of it," Peter replied. "I may not be able to brew a decent potion or transfigure anything into anything else, but I know how to drive a car."

Remus thought this was not entirely true, as Peter had only barely passed his driving certification, but it was a straight road and it must be early morning still, so he was probably all right.

"Could use a navigator though," Peter said. "James, can you see the roadsigns from back there?"

"Not a one," James answered cheerfully.

"Listen, he's going to cramp if he sleeps that way and I need someone up here anyhow. Let's at least get him up for as long as it takes to switch with James."

Hands shook him then, as the car slowed and stopped, and Remus stumbled drowsily out of the passenger's seat and into the back, tripping on the edge of the car and stumbling headlong.

"Easy, Moony," Sirius said, pushing him back a little. Remus mumbled an apology and curled up sideways, his head cushioned on the back of the seat. The car jerked forward and he fell again, and this time Sirius' hands held him down.

"Just...lie there," Sirius said, slipping something scratchy and smelling faintly of Padfoot under his head. He drifted off again, feeling peculiar as Sirius' hand spread across his ear to keep him from falling forward whenever the car jerked as Peter shifted gears inexpertly. He could hear Sirius' pulse in the palm of his hand as it cupped over his ear; he fell asleep again listening to it as it slowed and evened out.

***

"They're both asleep," Peter observed, hours later, when James suggested stopping for a late lunch and turned to take a poll of the back seat. They'd gone through almost all the eight-tracks and a few radio stations without anyone complaining, but James just figured Sirius was reading. He himself was still adjusting to the car, the horrible car that made him ill, but at least now he only got mildly nauseated reading the map.

"Good, then their votes don't count," James replied.

"M'not asleep," Sirius answered blearily. "Lunch sounds good."

"Prince charming awakes," James drawled. "How's Sleeping Beauty?"

"Heavy. I think my leg's asleep. And Padfoot needs a shrub."

"There's a place," Peter said, swerving the car abruptly off the main road and onto a smaller one, which boasted some kind of roadside pub in the distance. "Really, I'm a little worried. Can you wake him up at all?"

Sirius bent over Remus for a minute and shook his shoulder until his brown eyes opened, and he lifted his head a little.

"My turn?" he asked Sirius, smiling vaguely.

James wasn't sure why Sirius paused before answering, but he was certain something had caught him off-guard.

"Lunch," Sirius said finally.

"Lunch?" The eyes widened in panic. "Already?"

He pushed himself up into a sitting position, all his hair on one side sticking out comically. "Peter, why didn't you wake me up?"

"Because I was handling it," Peter said crossly, just as something began to ding alarmingly.

"That's the petrol gauge," Remus said. "Pull off into the station."

Having been startled awake by the idea that he'd slept all morning, Remus took a whip-round for petrol and pumped it, then parked while they walked across the road for lunch. There was a beer garden out back, and Peter and Sirius enjoyed the local brew while James smoked a cigarette and Remus spread the map out across the table, studying it intently.

"Dare you to have the haggis," Sirius said to James.

"Not unless you want to see digested haggis -- "

"Children," Remus murmured. "James, have a sandwich. Sirius, if you're so keen to see someone eat haggis, eat it yourself."

"Yuk, no thanks, I'll have what James is having. What about you?"

"I'm not hungry," Remus said, and Peter and Sirius exchanged looks over his bent head.

"I'm paying," Peter said in a reminding sort of way, once he'd caught Sirius' meaning. "James and Sirius haven't any Muggle money, and I picked some awful folk station on the radio, apparently."

"I slept through it."

"You should at least have something, Moony, if you're driving all afternoon," James said persuasively.

"Fine, something with chicken," Remus waved dismissively.

"I'll go order," Peter said, accepting some money under the table from James and Sirius. Remus hmmm'd to himself and straightened, folding up the map.

"We'll get into Glasgow in plenty of time to find somewhere to sleep, and if you two want to drag Peter on a pubcrawl, you'll be welcome to sleep off the hangovers tomorrow morning. There's some really splendid scenery outside Glasgow, though."

"We were thinking something a bit less public," James said. "Seeing as it's a Top Secret Mission and all."

"Oh?" Remus arched an eyebrow and a less-annoyed grin appeared. "What did you have in mind?"

"We were thinking," Sirius said, "Beer. And cards, and a Muggle teevee in the room we stay in, those are always fun. And some...other forms of recreation. I know a bloke."

"Is there anywhere in what's left of the British Empire that you don't know a bloke, Sirius?" Remus asked. Sirius preened a little. "Are you sure? I don't mind staying in."

"Well, this way Peter can be the sober one, it'll be his turn to drive tomorrow anyway," James reasoned. "And it always kills the mood, knowing you can't come along."

"Believe me, an inability to get drunk kills the mood for me, too," Remus sighed. "If you'd like to, that'd be grand, but if you want to experience the really seedy pubs of Glasgow first-hand..."

"Nah. World enough and time, eh?" Sirius grinned as Peter returned. "That settles it, then. Another beer for me and one for Peter now, since he's staying sober tonight."

"I am?" Peter asked, then sighed at Sirius' look. "I am."

***

They were back on the road in good time, James navigating when necessary and keeping his eyes firmly shut when not, Peter and Sirius playing wizard's chess on Peter's pocket-chessboard in the back. Peter thrashed Sirius at it for the first time in recent memory as they entered Glasgow, and Remus began swearing roundly at the end-of-day traffic and the idiots who laid out Glasgow's streets. James made him stop at a rather nicer-looking place than he had intended, and somehow between getting the car parked and the luggage out and trying to shut up Sirius, who was demanding a teevee, James got them a room with two huge beds, big enough to sleep two apiece. Remus somehow knew that they would be using an obliviate instead of paying, and he figured this was James' way of being moral about it -- if they were going to steal, they were going to steal the least possible amount of space.

James engaged Peter in yet another lesson on the uses and methods of adjusting the teevee, while Sirius ventured out into the wilds of Glasgow to find Indus-Tree Alley, the local Glasgow wizarding high street, and the Bloke He Knew. They had just finished the Great Room Service Debate and Remus was looking in the little guidebook for local place to eat when he returned with an enormous pizza, a sack of various alcoholic-looking beverages, and a small Muggle cigarette box.

"Rolled 'em for me and everything," he said, as he set it all down on the little table in the corner and Peter took the first slice of pizza. Sirius opened the cigarette box and shook out enough hand-rolled (though neatly, even Remus would admit) phoenix-ash spliffs to last them through tonight and then some. "He gave me a deal," he shrugged, when James raised his eyebrows.

James and Sirius helped themselves to the pizza, Sirius opening the firewhiskey and pouring whiskey-and-sodas while Remus picked the pepperoni off of his helping. They ate in the quiet, contemplative silence of young men who are quite clear on what "eating" and "talking" are and how the two are mutually exclusive when pizza is involved. When they finally sat back and cleared away the detritus of dinner, Sirius was working on his second whiskey and soda, James and Remus still nursing their first.

"So if you could," Sirius said while he turned the firewhiskey bottle around and around, and Remus saw the disturbing questions already on the horizon, "If you could stand to down a whole bottle at one go, you'd manage it, right?"

Remus chewed a crust, thoughtfully. "I suppose, but I imagine it'd only last about ten minutes. That's not a lot of quality intoxication time, for the price of a whole bottle."

"Why bother drinking it at all?" James asked, as Remus took a sip.

"Seems the sociable thing to do," Remus replied. "And I've sort of gotten a taste for it."

"Why does phoenix ash work, then?" Peter inquired. "I mean, it's not like your metabolism slows down for it."

"Phoenix ash is unique, because it burns twice," Remus replied. "You can set it on fire again once it's burned out and the new phoenix hatches. There's some chemical left over in the ash that activates, and -- "

"Boring, Professor Lupin," Sirius pronounced. "This isn't sixth-year Potions."

"Did you hear Professor Egleton got sacked?" James asked.

"No," Remus said, horrified. "What happened?"

"Dumbledore found out he was running some kind of drug operation out of the back storage room behind the Potions classroom."

"Well, if you're going to do it right, get a Potions master to do it, I suppose," Peter said.

"The Ministry's going to have a very close eye on him for some time, I can tell you," James added.

"As well they should, drugs are bad," Sirius pronounced. "Now please pass one of the spliffs."

Peter selected a butterbeer from the bag Sirius had brought back with him -- that was safe enough -- and James tossed the box across the table. Sirius took one out, lit it, and offered the box to Remus.

"Mmh," Remus said, putting the filter-end between his lips. "Buttfuck me."

Peter laughed, as he always did when that expression came up, and Sirius nearly choked on his second breath. Remus bent over, pressed the end of his smoke to Sirius' lit end, and inhaled.

"Ta," he said, and sat back as Sirius passed his to James. Peter gathered up the trash and threw it out, as Remus drifted over to one of the beds, sitting crosslegged on it and digging through his pack.

"Cards?" he asked, around the smoke in his mouth. "Got Muggle cards, Exploding Snap, or the tarot deck."

"Play you two-knut Emperors," Sirius said, holding out his hand, and Remus placed the tarot deck in it. James had bought this deck for him for his birthday, and it appeared to take most of its card illustrations, liberally, from the Kama Sutra. It had been nearly six months before he could use them without blushing, especially the major arcana. James said they were educational.

Sirius plucked the spliff back out of James' mouth, took a few drags as he shuffled, and offered it back while he dealt. Remus smoked his slowly, content to lounge. The boys emptied their pockets of change, sorting out all the Knuts and Sickles into piles, Remus trading a few Sickles to Sirius because he always paid in exact change and therefore never had any Knuts.

The point, Remus knew, was not that little bits of cardboard could foretell your future. That was silly. Cardboard was cardboard, no matter how many ancient runes and naked ladies you printed on it. The point was that wizards knew how to deal the cards properly, and knew how to channel magic into turning over the proper card at the proper time.

"Ante," Sirius said, and they all tossed two knuts into the pot.

They'd invented Emperors in their fifth year, when James and Peter were supposed to memorise the tarot for Divs (Sirius and Remus were in Arithmancy, which James said was like Divs only you couldn't make stuff up). It helped pass the time, and was more interesting than poker. Sirius had posited that if you were telling the fortunes of a number of people at once, one of them was always going to turn out ending up as a king or an emperor or some such; the trick was to figure out ahead of time who it was going to be from the first card down. Whoever guessed it right was the winner; if nobody did, the Emperor took the pot. It had become quite a sophisticated game, over the years -- or would have, if they ever played it sober.

Sirius dealt out the first four cards face-up, and another two each, face-down. James, who was looking a little glassy-eyed already, peered at all four cards.

"Peter's right out," he said. "Look. Very first card up is the Fool."

"That's no good," Sirius laughed, touseling Peter's hair until Peter brushed him away. "Folding out, fool?"

Peter shook his head. "Not this early."

Sirius smoked while James considered his bet, then tossed two knuts onto Remus' card, Death, which contrary to its morbid theme had an extremely happy lady on it, astride the wooden handle of a scythe held by a man behind her. Sirius bet on James (seven of staves), Remus bet on Peter, and Peter followed Sirius. Nobody seemed keen to bet on Sirius' deuce of swords, but swords in general never turned up an Emperor, they'd found.

Peter poured a whiskey for Sirius as they flipped over the second card in each hand. Money shifted around, mutterings were made about what the three of hearts meant, and Sirius, placing his two knuts on Remus' cards this time -- Death and the King of Staves, who seemed to be enjoying his stave very much -- reached over and stole Remus' smoke.

"Sirius!" Remus said, as Sirius inhaled deeply. "Give it back, you know that's not sanitary."

"I'm not going to catch fucking lycanthropy by sharing a spliff with you," Sirius answered. "If you didn't give it to Janie Mills when you slept with her, you won't give it to me. Besides, you aren't half inhaling, you're wasting it."

"You slept with Janie Mills?" Peter asked interestedly.

"She gave him her flower," James swooned melodramatically. "S'what she told Lily, anyhow."

"We groped behind Flourish and Blotts," Remus said. "That's all. Glad I didn't now, considering what she turned that into. If I had slept with her she might have announced our engagement."

James giggled helplessly at this, and Sirius grinned.

"Final cards," he said, and passed the smoke back to Remus. They all turned theirs over and began the process of coming to consensus on who the Emperor was. Sirius let out a little groan.

"It's Wormtail, damn him," he sighed. "Look, three major arcana and the Magician to top it off. I'm never the Emperor."

Remus, who had changed his bet in the second round, looked disappointed; Peter chuckled, collecting the bets, and picked up the cards to deal again.

***

Several rounds, a bottle of firewhiskey, and a mutually-shared spliff later, Remus seemed to be coming out on top; Sirius accused him of sharking, and Remus replied that he'd rather not haul around a pocketful of Knuts, which when spoken aloud made James snort smoke up his nose. He drank some water and wandered unsteadily over to the bed, flopping down on it and staring up at the ceiling as if fascinated by the texturing there.

"I'm ravenous," Remus announced, piling the knuts in stacks of twenty-nine as Sirius dealt. "Reckon they'd look at me funny if I took all these down and tried to buy some crisps with them?"

"Yeah, considering those're Knuts," Sirius grinned. "I think they'd look at you very funny indeed."

Peter burst out laughing at this, and Sirius glanced at him, under lowered lids.

"I think we hotboxed Wormtail," he said. Peter, still snorting with laughter, nodded. "Go on then," Sirius sighed, passing Peter a proper smoke. "Lightweight. You'd better be good to drive tomorrow morning."

"I'll go to bed after this round," Peter promised, glancing over at James. "Guess I'll share with him, he's already out."

"If you grope me in the night I'll break your nose," James answered without opening his eyes.

"Might be a good look for him, don't you think, Moony? Make him look tough," Sirius laughed. "Ante and first card."

They played the round, and Peter turned up Emperor again though Remus took the winnings. Peter sighed and wandered into the bathroom to change.

"Honestly, I'm fucking starving," Remus moaned, leaning back. "If we had that bloody haggis now I'd eat it."

"Still haven't lost the chance," Sirius said, waving the room service menu. Like all good tourist stops in Scotland, it offered haggis. "Eh, we'll just turn a sheep loose near you next full moon, instant raw haggis."

Remus snorted, fingers idly shuffling the deck. Sirius kept talking, but his eyes were on the cards.

"You remember that time Moony caught a chicken, Wormtail?" he asked, as Peter emerged. "Fucking huge wolf running around with a chicken flapping in his mouth, trying to figure out how to eat it without letting go?"

"Should've stopped me," Remus murmured. "I felt awful the next day."

"I wasn't going near you, mate, you hadn't eaten properly in two days with all the I'll-be-ill-if-I-eat crap, and my inner canine was begging you to save me a drumstick."

Peter laughed as he climbed into bed, rolling up under the blankets while James dozed on top of them.

"I'm for a wash," Remus said, setting the cards in the centre of the table. "Before we leave for Aberdeen tomorrow, let's stop by the Alley and I can spend my meagre winnings on a pack of cigarettes, all right?"

"Anxious about the job, Moony?"

"You know I am."

"Simple thing. We get in, we steal the grimoire, we get out."

"It's the getting out that worries me," Remus said as he vanished into the bathroom. A few seconds later Sirius heard water running, and eyed the winnings speculatively.

***

Remus emerged, pyjama trousers laced tight around his waist (it had taken years, and the gradual fading of the scars his childhood had left on his ribs, for him to be comfortable without a shirt on, even around friends) to find Sirius in his own loose flannel boxer-pyjamas, smoking and shuffling the cards, a handful of crisp packets and some chocolate peanuts on the table.

"Got hungry too," he said, by way of explanation, as Remus sat at the table and uncapped a butterbeer. Sirius offered him the smoke and he took it, glancing down at the cards.

"One last game, eh?" Sirius said. "Emperor takes all."

Remus smoked contemplatively for a minute before replying. "All right then. Ta for the food," he added, opening a crisp packet.

"Not a problem," Sirius said, shaking out the last of his already-open bag, and tossing it into the bin nearby. "You all right then, Moony?"

"Yeah? Why wouldn't I be?" Remus asked, passing back to Sirius as he ate.

"Dunno. Know it's hard, not having a job."

"Only if you're poor," Remus murmured, and shot him a sly grin.

"I worked for that inheritance, I spent countless hours pissing my parents off to get it," Sirius said.

"Why've you been watching me, anyway?" Remus asked. "Been like a fucking guardian angel, not that I wanted one. Don't think I don't see it, you know. Bringing dinner back and not asking for payment, making Peter pretend to pay. I see it."

Sirius glanced at him, over the burning tip of the spliff.

"I'm not an idiot," Remus continued, picking up the top few cards on the deck and letting them fall again.

"Never thought you were."

"Been treating me like one."

"Didn't notice you speaking up."

"One more fight I don't want to bother with."

"Well if you weren't too fucking proud to take a little -- "

" -- handout?" Remus asked sharply.

" -- help," Sirius said firmly. "Eat your crisps, arsehole. It's not just me, you know, we all do it, it's part of the Arrangement."

"The what?"

"The Arrangement. The unspoken manly agreement," Sirius said, "that we have with you. To wit, you ignore us helping you for the sake of your pride, everyone pretends we're not doing it, and we don't have to watch you starve to fucking death."

Remus was silent for a long time. Finally he picked up the cards, one-handedly removed the top few and placed them on the bottom, and set the deck in front of Sirius.

"Cut," he said. Sirius did so, quietly. Remus collected the deck and dealt out two cards face up, then four face down.

"Knight of Staves mine, Page of Swords yours," Remus said. "How come you always turn up swords, Padfoot?"

"Blow me if I know," Sirius said. "Early guesses?"

"Smart money's on Moony," Remus said with a small smile. "Turn 'em over."

They did so, and his eyebrows drew together a little. "Knight of Staves, Knight of Hearts. What've you got?"

"Page of Swords, Lovers," Sirius answered. "Bit of an odd hand."

"Lovers is decisions, though," Remus said thoughtfully. "Might be like Peter's always getting -- lame first card, transformation, Emperor on the third draw."

"Shall we see?"

Remus flipped over his last card. Sirius covered his own with his hand, but Remus' intake of breath made him look up.

"Knight of Swords. Three bloody Knights," Remus said. "Who gets three bloody Knights in a row?"

"Long odds," Sirius agreed.

"Turn yours over."

Sirius flipped his face-up, and they were very, very quiet for a while.

"Page of Swords, Lovers, Knight of Coins," Sirius said. "Does that beat three of a kind?"

"I don't know," Remus said, resting his chin on one hand. He finished the smoke Sirius had passed and stubbed it out. "I think we may have the world's first tie."

"Well, all right, let's go over meanings -- "

"Let's not," Remus said abruptly.

"What do you -- "

"I'll split with you."

"Listen, there are no ties in cards."

"Drop it, Sirius," Remus said. "I'm going to sleep."

Sirius was about to protest, but Remus had that dangerous look he got about twice a year, which said this was one point on which he would, indeed, fight viciously is pressed. He gave the cards a final parting look --

"Moony," he said suddenly, "Did you ever notice this?"

"Notice what?" Remus said, from the bed, where he was setting the alarm on the cheap little clock. Sirius held up the Knight from his hand, the Knight of Coins. He'd never bothered to look closely at the pictures; he had better pornography than tarot woodcuts available if he wanted it, and the point was to give Moony a shock.

On the card, a young man knelt with a coy expression and a sack of money held in front of him, preserving his dignity. Over his shoulder was an undeniably masculine face, and the second man's arm was wrapped around his waist, hand hidden by the sack.

Remus just stared at him. Sirius looked at his other cards; neither of them were that way (the Lovers, in fact, was a very passionate three-way with two women). His eye caught Remus' cards, and he picked them up.

"Fuck, there's shirtlifters on your cards," he said, holding them out. Indeed, the Knights appeared to enjoy a very different sort of love from the rest of the deck; Sirius didn't even know you could do that thing the Knight of Swords was doing.

Remus was pale and still, and silent.

"Well, that changes the name of the game," Sirius mused, spreading all four knights out under his fingers. "This one's impossible, innit? I mean he'd have to be -- "

"No," Remus said. "It's not."

"How d'you know?"

Remus rolled away from him, curling up on the bed and showing his back, pale and smooth, fewer scars because the wolf couldn't reach there, or wouldn't be bothered to. Skin shifted and tensed over the row of small bumps that showed the line of his spine, curving slightly.

"Go to sleep, Padfoot," Remus said. "Put out the light when you pass."

Sirius, realising something was suddenly very awry in the small hotel room, cleared away the food wrappers and the ashtray, carefully replaced the cards in the deck, and put out the light. He lay down on the bed, facing the ceiling, and thought hard for a minute.

"D'you know," he asked slowly, "Because you've done it?"

There was something very close to a sob, from the man lying next to him. Remus drew his knees up until he was curled tightly into a ball.

"But...at school, right? I mean, plenty of blokes fucked around at school, that's normal."

"You never did," Remus said quietly, and despite the earlier noise, his voice was calm.

"James and I did."

"Never did."

"Did so."

"When?"

"Quidditch worked him up, like. D'you really think it took him an hour to shower afterwards? I thought you knew."

"I never did at school."

"What, not once?"

"Couldn't risk it."

"Risk what? I told you, it's normal."

"It is normal. For me. That was why I couldn't. It's not just fucking around for me, Pads."

"But Janie Mills -- "

"She wanted to. I couldn't..."

"Oh. Wow."

"Thanks."

"No, I mean...you don't act like one."

"It's not like we're a different species. Well. I am, but not because of that."

"Don't say that."

"It's true."

"It doesn't matter to me."

"It will."

"No it won't." Sirius stretched out a hand, touched the back of Remus' neck. He shivered, and drew away a little. "I like girls. I hated you a little when you were seeing Janie, because she had the most fabulous breasts in our year."

"Sirius, I don't really -- "

"I like being with girls. They're...soft. I like that. I like soft hair and breasts and hips and all," Sirius said, aware that he was rambling. "It was different with James."

"Hasn't got any hips. Or arse."

Sirius snorted. "He's not very good at it, either. I mean. I'm sure he is with Lily."

"I'd like to go to sleep now, Sirius."

"See, I don't think you would," Sirius answered. "You did ask why I was watching you."

He could see the tension in Remus' shoulder muscles ratchet up a notch.

"You have soft hair," Sirius whispered, and this time Remus didn't pull away when he touched the back of his head, drifting his fingers through his hair. "When you were sleeping today I noticed it."

"You put your hand on my head."

"There's all these other little colours in it. Red and blond and -- "

" -- grey, already."

Sirius inched closer, drawing his fingers down Remus' neck. "Got nice shoulders," he murmured. "Smooth."

Remus shivered.

"I never noticed at school, but I'm noticing now," Sirius continued, drawing a line down his back with one knuckle. "More arse than James," he said, and Remus almost laughed a little at that, until Sirius' hand actually strayed there, and then he shifted away, sliding off the bed. Sirius sat up.

"You're drunk," Remus said. "And bored. You don't know what you're doing. I'll sleep in the car."

"I knew what I was doing this afternoon," Sirius said, with an odd calm. "When I had to put my jumper under your head so you wouldn't feel the hard-on through my trousers. Sleeping men aren't supposed to turn me on, Moony."

He drew one of his knees up and rested his chin on it. Remus swallowed.

"Come here," Sirius said, and held out a hand. Remus stretched out his fingers -- shaking, Merlin, when had Remus become so afraid of his mate Padfoot? -- and took his hand, sliding slowly onto the bed. He leaned forward, his other hand cupping Sirius' cheek, fingers spreading just behind his ear, and kissed him.

"So my mate Moony's a pouf," Sirius said teasingly, when Remus leaned back.

"I don't think I'm supposed to approve of that word," Remus said, and Sirius noticed with pleasure that his eyes drifted downwards, a little admiringly, over his chest and abdomen.

"I think it's okay to use it if you are one," Sirius answered, leaning forward and ducking his head to catch Remus' mouth again. "I like the way you taste, Moony."

"James and Peter," Remus muttered against his lips.

"You know how they get, they'll be out cold for hours." Sirius touched his collarbone, sliding his thumb down the line of his chest, stopping to spread a warm hand across his belly. He could feel Remus breathing hard, even there. "You could scream and they wouldn't notice."

"Planning on making me scream?" Remus asked breathlessly, nuzzling his way along Sirius' jaw.

"It crossed my mind," Sirius said, turning his head. He wanted more, wanted that feel of Remus' lips under his, that skate of his tongue into his mouth. It was easy and warm and slick, and it made Remus make this little sigh that he wanted to hear again, the one that was hardwired to somewhere in his chest. "Those knights seemed like they were having fun."

"It is fun," Remus agreed, sliding forward to straddle his thighs. Sirius eased himself backwards, until he was lying flat with a warm weight on top of him. He gasped when they brushed against each other through their clothing.

"The ones who were -- uhm -- Knight of Staves -- rubbing -- " Sirius said, as Remus began to work his mouth down the sensitive skin of his throat. Teeth closed lightly on his pulse, controlled -- mustn't break the skin, he thought, as his eyes rolled up at the feel of it. "I never did that. That looks good."

Remus laughed against his skin. "What did you and James do?" he asked huskily, one hand undoing the tie at his waist.

"Hands, mostly," Sirius moaned.

"Mmhm?" came the reply, as a hand pulled his boxers down. Sirius wriggled, kicking them away.

"Once I -- " Sirius choked on his own breath when Remus' fingers closed around his cock, moving slowly.

"You?"

"UsedmymouthpleaseMoonydothatsomemore," Sirius said, arching a little into the feel of fingers and Moony's thin pyjamas.

A kiss lower now, on his chest. "Did you wonder what it would be like?" he asked, and Sirius wondered where the shivering, frightened man of a minute ago had gone. Not that he missed him. "When you were with James? How James felt, being in your mouth?"

"No," Sirius moaned, and the kisses stopped abruptly, Remus' cheek resting just below his ribcage.

"No?" Remus said, hesitantly now. Sirius rediscovered the use of his hands, and tangled one of them in his soft hair.

"I wondered what it would be like to be in yours," he said slowly, trying not to slur his words. "Merlin fuck, Moony, if you stop now -- "

Soft warmth wrapped around him, suddenly, and an idle curiousity from years ago was quite vividly fulfilled. Hands everywhere, on his thighs holding him down, on the sensitive spot on his hip, at the base of his cock -- Moony's lovely deft fingers that dealt cards and held cigarettes and tapped rhythms on the steering wheel, his mouth that murmured and swore and sucked in the light from his smoke --

Sirius didn't even feel it approaching, or he would have said some kind of warning; he shouted instead, and came with Remus' mouth around his cock, and felt him swallow, and the world went white behind his eyeballs for a moment.

"I like the way you taste, too," Remus said, in his ear, and then bit his earlobe gently. Sirius laughed and rolled, pinning him to the bed, feeling his erection against his thigh.

"How do we do this?" he asked, kissing him fiercely. "Like on the cards?"

"No," Remus said, guiding his hand to the untied laces on his pyjamas. "I bet you're better with your hands than James is."

"You're damn right," Sirius growled, pulling the waistband down. He kissed him as he stroked, something he and James had never dared do, something he wanted to do -- drank in the moans and the encouragements and the look on his face when he came, warm and sticky between them.

"If I could move," Remus said, as Sirius found his wand and cleaned up the mess, "I'd get dressed again. I don't fancy the alarm going off and being caught in this state."

Sirius nuzzled him under the chin, and helped pull his pyjamas back up. He found his boxers, discarded near the foot of the bed, and after a moment's thought, put his jeans on too.

"Mornings," he said, when Remus watched him, eyes questioning. "I get -- you know."

"Shame we have to wake the others up early," Remus remarked. "They'd sleep like the dead till ten, at least."

Sirius reached over and shut off the alarm function on the clock.

"We'll have plenty of time if we leave at eleven," he said. He undid his jeans again and slipped under the blankets, allowing Remus to curl up around him.

"In the morning I want to try the knight of coins," he mumbled against Remus' neck, as they fell asleep.

END

question, and more applause

(Anonymous) 2005-07-26 02:34 am (UTC)(link)
"Might be like Peter's always getting -- lame first card, transformation, Emperor on the third draw."
Riiiight. Okay, then.

So, in light of this previous statement:
The point was that wizards knew how to deal the cards properly, and knew how to channel magic into turning over the proper card at the proper time.
...does that mean
1) Peter's trying to tell them something and it's not yet too late for them to wake up and acknowledge it
2) somehow, one or more of the others also knows something, but it's a subconscious denial thing
3) there's a Big Damn Destiny thing that's just too big to get around,
or
4) nothing really, you're just having fun over there, grinning to yourself as you type this up, because you can't wait to get on with it now that you've knocked out James and Peter for the night?

Coincidentally, I read this right after your 5th installment of Cartographer's Craft, with the Emperors game. I must say, in all your different universes, you're making me a happy Lupin fan.

- Random Surfer

Re: question, and more applause

[identity profile] sam-storyteller.livejournal.com 2005-07-26 04:21 am (UTC)(link)
Well, at the point we're at in Canon, Peter does (or rather did, before HBP) have some power -- V's right-hand man, you know :D And also he ends up better off than James (dead) and Sirius (prison, then dead) so amongst the four of them he would be Emperor, most of the time.

I was shooting mostly for number three -- Big Damn Destiny. :D

Re: question, and more applause

(Anonymous) 2005-07-27 03:19 am (UTC)(link)
Thanks for clearing that up.

I guess I'm used to seeing pre-1981 Peter as a cringing toady in fanfic. When I see him holding his own among the others, I assume he's already got A Devious Plan set in motion. I mostly wanted to be sure it wasn't number one (in which he's either showing off, or trying to give his friends one last chance to pay attention and beg him to change his mind).

- Random Surfer

[identity profile] cerridwen666.livejournal.com 2005-09-27 01:25 pm (UTC)(link)
I want to know what the knight of coins is...^_^
ext_343663: (Geek squad)

[identity profile] springandsummer.livejournal.com 2005-12-18 08:57 am (UTC)(link)
You're really such a good author. I love that you've got all the Marauders in here, and I love the way they sound ♥

Instructions

[identity profile] jazmin-firewing.livejournal.com 2005-12-26 02:50 am (UTC)(link)
Joyful Evil Monkey Day! I got a tarot card for Christmas and so I was wondering if this story, being subtitled "How to Play Emperors" would have any clear-cut instructions, but apparently not. You should do a mini-post and explain it, please?

Re: Instructions

[identity profile] sam-storyteller.livejournal.com 2005-12-26 04:22 am (UTC)(link)
There actually is a post about Emperors, somewhere.....ah, here it is:

http://www.livejournal.com/users/copperbadge/467595.html

Re: Instructions

[identity profile] jazmin-firewing.livejournal.com 2005-12-26 04:17 pm (UTC)(link)
Thank you thank you! I haven't had a chance to look at Copperbadge yet, so I didn't know. But thanks again! *hugs*
theaeblackthorn: (Default)

Re: Instructions

[personal profile] theaeblackthorn 2012-04-01 09:49 pm (UTC)(link)
I keep meaning to ask what happened to this post, is it by any chance still about somewhere?
theaeblackthorn: (Default)

Re: Instructions

[personal profile] theaeblackthorn 2012-04-01 10:06 pm (UTC)(link)
You're so ridiculously ninja-quick, thank you! :)

[identity profile] xrated13.livejournal.com 2006-01-26 05:07 pm (UTC)(link)
I'm glad i found this. Really nice! :)
theemdash: (SBP Padfoot)

[personal profile] theemdash 2006-03-09 10:56 pm (UTC)(link)
Fabulous. I love the idea of Emperors! What an interesting card game. Are you willing to give it up to fanon and allow other writers to use it in fics?

[identity profile] copperbadge.livejournal.com 2006-03-10 04:34 am (UTC)(link)
Oh yes -- it'd be nice to have credit for the invention, but use it if you like. Thanks!

[identity profile] ldecadencel.livejournal.com 2006-05-11 03:20 pm (UTC)(link)
I went searching for this fic months ago and someone found it for me. However, I only got the chance to read it now...hours before my last law exam. As you can see, I got full marks for my time management skills.

Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that I really enjoyed your fic. The characterization was wonderful and the card game was just ingenious. One can really tell that you put a lot of thought into this story. Oh, and the sex was alright I guess ^_^''...

BTW: I cannot believe that Remus does not like The Beatles! Blasphemy!

[identity profile] sam-storyteller.livejournal.com 2006-05-11 03:23 pm (UTC)(link)
Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it :D And good luck on your exam!

[identity profile] ldecadencel.livejournal.com 2006-05-11 04:30 pm (UTC)(link)
Thanks, hun!

[identity profile] cassie-lee.livejournal.com 2006-06-14 02:30 pm (UTC)(link)
i should be sleeping, but i couldn't believe I hadn't read this already... so i decided it was more important.

Much slashy love, probably not good for me before i go to sleep, but I enjoyed it anyway =D

[identity profile] eccleschik.livejournal.com 2007-08-31 01:03 am (UTC)(link)
wow sam. yet again another brilliant story to make my day. *claps*

[identity profile] shinzuku.livejournal.com 2007-09-12 01:33 pm (UTC)(link)
Awesome.
jenwryn: (Lupin - "moony")

[personal profile] jenwryn 2008-01-14 05:40 pm (UTC)(link)
*smiles happily*

Apart from that, of many genius lines, this one was priceless:

"I worked for that inheritance, I spent countless hours pissing my parents off to get it," Sirius said.

[identity profile] albakerky.livejournal.com 2008-08-13 06:13 pm (UTC)(link)
Ach, Padfoot likes Marvell.

Perfect.

[identity profile] demonschild.livejournal.com 2009-02-13 12:13 am (UTC)(link)
This has always been one of my favorite stories.

Is the post with the rules for Emperors still around or was that lost in the hack? I was hoping to show it to some friends of mine.

[identity profile] sam-storyteller.livejournal.com 2009-02-13 03:10 pm (UTC)(link)
I need to repost the Rules to Emperors. I do still have it, but it's not back up in post form yet. Thanks for the reminder!

[identity profile] insane-onna.livejournal.com 2009-06-11 05:49 pm (UTC)(link)
Umm, umm. *waves* Your writing is utterly fantastic. I loved the thought that you put into the Emperors game (actually thought it WAS some kind of card game until I read the comments. XD) And that you obviously took your time in setting up this whole thing. The sex, by the way, is fabulously, wonderously smoldering HAWT. <3 *pumps fist* Write more! (If you have the time. :) )

[identity profile] sam-storyteller.livejournal.com 2009-06-11 11:03 pm (UTC)(link)
Thanks! I'm so glad you enjoyed it :)

[identity profile] isarn.livejournal.com 2010-03-14 12:20 pm (UTC)(link)
I really loved your fic; it was funny, at the begining, and cute,at the end. And I liked your Peter; I'm used to read stories where he doesn't exist, so I have to thank you for not forgetting he's a Marauder too!!

[identity profile] sam-storyteller.livejournal.com 2010-03-14 02:05 pm (UTC)(link)
Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed it :)

[identity profile] phiso-kun.livejournal.com 2010-05-10 08:00 am (UTC)(link)
Beautiful story, wonderful read. Long and different and makes me want to not only play tarot, but to take a road trip. It's still got that taste of the UK in it, which I like and don't always see with road trip stories, and it's nice to see Remus behaving like a teenage boy and not an antisocial, asexual 80 year old in the wrong body.

Marvelous job.

[identity profile] sam-storyteller.livejournal.com 2010-05-11 01:15 am (UTC)(link)
Thanks! I'm so glad you enjoyed it :) I like seeing Remus act his age, I gotta say...
true_masquerade: (david tennant smile)

[personal profile] true_masquerade 2012-04-15 10:56 am (UTC)(link)
This remains one of my very favourite Marauders' Era fics... It may even be what cemented my love for Sirius/Remus back in the day :-) You have an amazing talent for translating these characters into 20 yo versions of themselves, and all the details of the road trip are awesome :-) (and the sex... the sex is great too :-D)