Remus stuck a chip in his mouth and glanced down at his list. They were eating a late lunch--nearly late enough to be called tea--in a pub (“a real Muggle pub, Moony!”) to fortify themselves for the last three flats on the list. “You didn’t like that one near Piccadilly?” he asked, thinking forlornly of the way the two bedrooms had been separated by the bathroom. The rent had been a bit steep, though, considering he didn’t even have a job yet.
“Why?” Sirius asked distractedly, head turning this way and that as he soaked up the atmosphere. He loved the Muggle clothing, the dispirited way the early drinkers were slumped over their pints at the bar, the colourful lights of the jukebox playing some strange but wonderful song full of disparaging remarks about England. Sirius was insanely jealous of all the Muggles wearing t-shirts especially. Not that Wizards never had them, but he'd never seen a t-shirt advertising something called the Sex Pistols in a Wizard shop. He didn't know what that was, but he wanted one too. There was so much he obviously hadn't learned from Muggle Studies.
“Just trying to narrow down the choices,” Remus said, taking a Biro out of his shirt pocket and crossing it out. “We have three more to see after this. I suppose the one-bedroom flat would be cheaper…” He didn’t think he could stand the idea of watching Sirius bring girls back to the flat, though, and be forced to sleep on the sofa.
Sirius blinked, glancing back to Remus with a small frown. "Er..." Sharing a room would mean cheaper rent, but he couldn't exactly bring Melanie back to the flat after dates and kick Remus out of the room. Well, he could; he had a feeling that Remus wouldn't even protest, but it wouldn't be very nice. And if Remus ever brought home a girl, Sirius knew he wouldn't want to have to kip on the sofa. "I think we need two rooms."
Remus nodded, relieved. “I thought so, too, but it was one of the ones we’d marked to see. All right, two left, then. Which one first?”
“Which one's closest to here?” Sirius asked, stealing a chip from Remus (he'd already finished all his).
Remus smacked absently at Sirius’ hand, too used to having things stolen from his plate to really object. “Mm, the one in Hackney, I suppose.” He frowned. He didn’t know enough about the Tube to be certain of the best way to get there, though.
“Cool.” Sirius looked up, just in time to watch a bird who was apparently dressed for very warm weather walk by, eyes practically popping out of his head. “Love London...”
“Did you study the London Underground in your class?” Remus asked, eating another chip and frowning at his paper.
"Uh..." Sirius craned his neck to watch the girl make her way through the crowd. That skirt was very short. He wondered if Melanie had any skirts that short. Maybe he could buy her one as a present.
Remus looked up and saw the expression on Sirius’ face. “Your eyes are going to fall out,” he observed amusedly. He clicked his fingers in front of him. “Sirius. Underground.”
Sirius blinked and shook himself, focusing on Remus again. "Under what?"
Remus sighed and shook his head. “Nevermind,” he said. “We’ll muddle through it. Are you finished eating my chips?”
Sirius gave Remus a weird look, then grabbed two more chips. "Almost." He grinned.
Remus laughed and took a sip of his beer, glancing out at the street. It was nice, just sitting in the pub like this, without anything to worry about. He leaned back and stretched his legs out, kicking Sirius’ shin before crossing his ankles and tipping his head back.
“Oi.” Sirius kicked Remus back, stealing two more chips.
Remus closed his eyes and smiled.
Sirius watched his friend, glad to see Remus looking so relaxed and happy. He was happy too. He hoped they'd find a flat today.
“Still eating my chips?” Remus asked, not opening his eyes.
Sirius flushed and looked away quickly. "No, I'm done."
Remus opened his eyes, his smile turning into a grin. “Sure about that? We still have two more places to go.” He took in the flush burning across Sirius face and wondered what bird he’d been watching this time. Merlin, he was too charming for his own good. Remus tipped his glass back to finish his beer.
Sirius rolled his eyes, still smiling, and drank the last few drops of his own beer. “Where's the other place, again?”
“Redbridge,” Remus said, after glancing at the list. “Says it’s a first floor walkup. But the one in Hackney has a balcony.”
“Ooh, balcony,” Sirius remarked, setting his pint down. “All right then! To Hackney!” He pointed in a random direction and grinned.
Remus blinked, grabbed Sirius’ hand, and moved it until it pointed the right direction. “To Hackney,” he agreed. And then let go of Sirius quickly and stood up.
Laughing, Sirius stood up too, then marched out the door determinedly.
Once outside, he got clear of the door and stopped, looking around. “How far away is Hackney? Oh! We could use the Tube!” He turned to Remus, grinning. “They've got this brilliant thing called the Tube, and it takes you all over. We can ride it to Hackney.”
Sometimes, Remus reflected, he wanted to smack Sirius. “Sounds brilliant,” he said instead. “Show me.”
Some of the wind went out of Sirius' sails. “Well, we just have to find a station. An entrance. They're all over,” he added, turning and looking around for signs. “They lead down under the street. Should be street signs showing us, we just have to look.” That said, he started down the street, rubbernecking worse than a tourist.
“Oh, fantastic,” Remus muttered, and set off after him, glancing around more subtly for something to guide them to the Tube. He caught up with Sirius and looked at him expectantly. “What do they look like, these signs?”
"They're em, red circles with a white middle, and a blue line through the middle that says 'Underground'," Sirius said, shaping the sign with his hands.
"Like that one?" Remus inquired innocently, pointing.
"That one!" Sirius grabbed Remus by the shirt collar and dragged him to the stairway that led underground.
Laughing, Remus let himself be dragged. Sirius was so energetic, so carefree--it made Remus feel better about life to be near him. He was glad, desperately glad, that Sirius had asked him to room with him.
Remus took care of paying their fares after Sirius asked him how much that was in Knuts, and then they settled in to wait for their stop. Well...Remus settled in, anyway. He watched Sirius, amused at the way he took everything in.
“This is brilliant,” Sirius was saying, barely managing to sit still as he studied everything from the adverts on the walls to the people walking by. “We did this entire section on public transport, you know, and this one bloke did an essay on the Tube. Can't wait to ride it.”
Remus glanced at him. “You look like a country bloke about to wet himself,” he observed.
Sirius glared at Remus sharply and hit him on the arm. “Shut it. You are a country bloke.”
“Ow.” Remus hit him back, grinning. “Yeah, but I’m not the one who looks like I’m going to wet himself.”
Sirius felt himself flushing again, his glare not diminishing. He blamed it on Padfoot – most of the time he did keep his cool, but sometimes he just forgot himself and reacted to things more like the dog would. Remus didn't help, he had a feeling. He'd never had this problem around James or Peter or Melanie, anyway. “Ought to leave you here. We'll see how well you get on by yourself Mr Cool.”
Remus laughed. “Don’t do that, I’d end up in Cheapside.” He had no idea if Cheapside still existed, but he’d read about it somewhere, and he had a feeling Sirius wouldn’t know, either.
"Serves you right," Sirius said, though he smiled.
Remus grinned and nudged him.
The grinding screech of metal on metal brought Sirius' attention up in front of him again, and he saw that the train had arrived. Its doors slid open, and people began getting on and off. “This the one we want?” he asked, schooling his expression calm and collected as he turned to Remus.
"I hope so," Remus said, standing up. "Come on, it looks like it."
Sirius took his time getting up, hands in his pockets casually, and sauntered forward, as if he didn't care whether they made the train or not.
Remus glanced over his shoulder and found Sirius not behind him, as he'd expected, but still halfway back to the bench. "Come on," he urged, grabbing Sirius' arm and dragging him forward.
Sirius grinned, letting himself be dragged. "Now who's going to wet himself?" he asked smugly.
"I just don't want to wait for the next one," Remus said, but he allowed himself to grin back.
Sirius punched Remus on the arm and hopped over the threshold, earning an unnoticed stare from an old man. He glanced around and fought his way to a newly vacated bench with two seats. "Over here!"
Remus joined him there. "How high can we go on rent?" he mumbled, more to himself than to Sirius. He couldn't get out of his head the idea that he had no way to pay for this.
"I dunno, five hundred a week," Sirius replied, throwing out a high number simply because Remus was so concerned about it.
Remus choked and stared at him. "Don't be daft, Sirius," he muttered. "I'm lucky if I can afford that a month."
“Just teasing,” Sirius said, sitting back in the hard plastic seat and lounging. “What's reasonable, then? Seventy a week? A hundred?”
"Probably nothing," Remus said gloomily. He hated how touchy he felt these days, how bloody ashamed he felt. He rubbed at the bridge of his nose. "A hundred a week, I suppose. Seventy would be better."
“All right, then. That's what we'll look for.” Sirius grinned, wondering what would cheer Remus up. It wasn't as if he cared if Remus paid rent; he'd have plenty of money to pay for both of them. What did it matter if Sirius didn't mind? He just didn't understand it.
Remus summoned a smile, unable to remain entirely gloomy in the face of Sirius' unrelenting good nature. "Right. I hope the one with the balcony isn't too much. I like balconies."
“Yeah,” Sirius agreed, his smile brightening. “I do, too.”
When the train stopped the next time, Remus poked Sirius in the ribs. “I think this is us,” he said.
Sirius grabbed Remus' arm and hauled him to his feet, then shuffled through the crowd to the doors, hopping over the gap again.
"Right," Remus said, once they'd got back to the pavement and were surrounded by buildings once more. "I have no idea where to go."
Sirius glanced around. “What street are we looking for? C'mon, look at signs. We'll find it.” He started off towards the nearest intersection.
With only a little retracing of steps, they managed to find the place they were looking for. Remus took a deep, nervous breath as he watched Sirius knock on the door of the block owner. It was only too obvious to Remus' eyes that they were in a poor district of London, but at least Remus knew he'd fit in well enough here. Better than he would in Notting Hill or the sort of places Sirius was used to.
Sirius gave Remus a doubtful look as they waited for the door to be answered. "I'm telling you, Holland Park really wasn't that bad, Moony. I could've afforded for you to pay less than half."
"We haven't even seen this one yet," Remus said defensively.
Sirius sighed, turning back to the door. A few moments later it opened to reveal a very large, gruff man with tattoos and no sleeves to his shirt. "What you want?" he asked, and Sirius desperately wanted to turn and drag Remus all the way back to Holland Park on foot. "Er. There's a ... We're here about the flat advert in the paper."
Remus gave the man a polite, hopeful look. "It said you have one available for immediate occupancy," he said.
"Oh, right." The man nodded, then jerked a thumb inside. "C'mon in, I'll show it to you. It's on the third floor. Got a nice little balcony," he added, turning and ambling inside. Sirius followed, bewildered.
Remus gave Sirius an encouraging look and nearly trod on his heels. Bloody hell, Sirius must be either afraid of the man or afraid of the neighbourhood. The stairs were narrow and dimly lit, but fairly clean, which Remus took as a good sign.
When they got to the flat and were ushered inside, Sirius began to feel a bit better. It was small, but clean, and as the large man showed them around, pointing out dubious advantages of this particular flat, he found himself smiling at Remus again. It wasn't so bad. And he did like the balcony, even if it did look over a car park.
"Could we have a few minutes to talk it over?" Remus asked the man finally. At his brusque nod, Remus tugged Sirius out to the balcony. Then, not sure what to say, he just stood there, chewing his lip. He looked out over the car park.
Sirius blinked, watching Remus chew on his lip. They were standing awfully close, but there wasn't much room to go anywhere. "What?"
Remus shrugged. "What d'you reckon?" he said. He half hoped and half feared that Sirius would say they ought to take it. The rent was lower than Remus had dared hope--but even though Sirius had brightened at the balcony, Remus didn't think he liked the flat.
"Actually, I sort of like it," Sirius admitted. "It's not as nice as the others, but, it's not bad. Rent's cheap. Didn't see any stains that meant rising damp." He cocked his head in question.
"You...like it?" Remus asked, unable to hide his surprise.
Sirius frowned. "Do you not?"
Remus blinked. "Well...I mean, it's not exactly your sort of..." He sighed. "Isn't it a bit dodgy for you?"
Sirius shrugged. "What do I care? I'm a bloody wizard." He grinned.
“Well, yeah, but…I know you’re used to better.” Remus scuffed his toe against the balcony floor.
Sirius was startled into laughing. "You think I care about that? I like this better," he said with bravado, "I don't want to be some stuck up nob living in some fancy part of London." He wouldn't have minded fancy, but it struck him, as he watched Remus, that he'd been trying to put Remus at ease ever since he'd agreed to share a flat with Sirius, and the best way to actually go about it was to like this flat.
Remus looked up at the sound of Sirius' laughter, and slowly a smile crept across his face. "You really do like this one better?" he asked.
"I do," Sirius assured him. "Can we get this one?" He gave Remus the Puppy Eyes for good measure.
Remus' smile lit his eyes this time, and he laughed. "You want to tell him we'll take it?" he asked, nodding at the heavyset man, who was waiting with thinly-veiled impatience inside.
Now Sirius was excited - their very own flat! Independence! A real social life! - he grinned at Remus and sauntered back into the room, taking a deep breath as he approached their new landlord. "We'll take it."
The man was suddenly all smiles. "Oh, great. Come downstairs and we'll get you set up, lad."
Remus followed them. Sirius’ excitement was catching. He found himself bouncing on the balls of his feet as the man rattled through some rules and information. He filed them away for later reference, but he kept glancing at Sirius’ eager face.
Everything was happening very fast. The man was talking rules and policies one minute, and then was sitting them both down to sign a lease - with a security deposit, no less - and soon Sirius found he'd signed his life away and lost a small chunk of his inheritance. They discussed when they'd be moving in - "Immediately," Sirius had said with a grin. "Tomorrow," Remus had corrected more levelheadedly - and the landlord promised to furnish them with keys when they came back with their things.
Soon he found himself in the street, clutching a few pieces of paper, and staring at Moony in awe. "We have our own flat."
Remus grinned at him. "We have our own flat," he agreed, wanting to hug Sirius or shove him or something--anything to drain off some of his excitement and anxiety. "And we're moving in tomorrow! I can't wait to see James' face when you tell him!"
Sirius laughed. "He'll have no idea I could do something so responsible like find a flat," he said. "Though then I'll tell him you did most of the work and he'll say, 'Ah, that explains it'." He grinned again, watching Remus, and suddenly wanted to go galloping through the streets as Padfoot. This was the first day of their adult lives.