They woke up in tandem at a sound coming from the dorm room door.
Sirius and Remus both started awake, both jerked forward awkwardly and felt their insides squeeze together. It was only James, his fingers around the door handle, trying to close them in again quietly.
"Fool," Sirius muttered, and fell back onto his elbows. Under the covers, Remus put a hand on his ribs, nothing sexual or possessive, or restful. It was an absent, worried, reach. "You could have made a bit more noise."
"What, and woken Peter too?" James whispered, and yawned. He crept back to his bed, only his head showing out from under the Invisibility Cloak. "Lily and I didn't find anything."
In the next bed over, Peter grunted, shuffled, and then opened one pale eye in the dark. "Best you didn't," Remus said, low.
"What are we doing awake, then?" Peter mumbled, struggling to form his words. Peter was a heavy sleeper, even for the few seconds after waking. His face tensed up, both eyes open now and darting around, worried. "Is something wrong? Did you find anything?"
James was getting ready for bed - robes off, pyjamas on. Mud from his shoes stuck to the stone floor. "Not tonight," he answered Peter, and then over Peter's body, he met Sirius's eyes. Remus watched them stare at each other for a moment, sighed, and rolled over to put his shoes on. No socks.
"Where are you going?" Peter said. His voice was now afraid, obviously so, trembling a little. "I thought you said that--"
Remus was already pulling his clothes on and took the Invisibility Cloak from James's outstretched fingers. "Someone should go check the rest of the Tower," he said quietly.
Peter swallowed this lie hook, line, and sinker, lying back down with his blankets tucked under his chin. Sirius started to get up, hesitated with one calf poking out from their sheets. It seemed to be hours and hours and days since they had lain down to go to sleep that night, when really it couldn't have been more than three.
James said, "nice view of the moon from the front steps," and climbed into bed. Remus knew he was exhausted; James lay down on his back, flat out, and was immediately still. They'd agreed to each take half the night because of the exam tomorrow; some sleep was necessary. It seemed he and Sirius would be getting the more interesting shift.
The front steps. Remus nodded, to James, to himself, and then to Sirius. Sirius continued to get out of bed.
"We're really too big to use this cloak together," Sirius mumbled and then tried to step down the stairs.
"You could always transform," but Remus didn't want him to; he wanted Sirius accessible, human, and able to use a wand. His arm kept hold of Sirius's waist, fingers hooked in a belt loop.
"I could," Sirius agreed. They made it down the stairs, moving carefully, together, each foot matched and weighted down. It took twice as long to traverse the hallways, huddled together like this, because they had to concentrate on every single step, making sure that they were in tandem. It was an exercise made easier by years of practise.
"We could," Remus whispered as they came to the steps leading to the dungeon, "give up on the Cloak."
Sirius stepped first, this time, and one foot came free of the Cloak. He peered down the steps. Remus could see him squinting. "It's true," Sirius answered softly - after a second, he lit his wand, sending a teeny ball of light down the stairs to light up the bottom. "McGonagall probably won't take any points off for us being out of bed."
The little ball of light came to rest at the end of the stairs, and then winked out. Nothing. "We could go set some fireworks off if you'd like." It could have been funny. It wasn't.
"Quickly," said Sirius, and as he started kissing Remus's neck, his jaw, his collarbone, Remus stared at the grey stone wall. He saw the wall, focused on it; his mind wasn't clouded with desire or uncontrollable urge. This is me, he thought, and then, I have to finish that form for the Ministry, I have to send that owl out tomorrow - and then Sirius bit him, and he lost the train of thought. Just for a moment, but enough.
"What are you doing?" he asked Sirius, touching Sirius's head gently. Sirius continued to move his mouth downward, kissing Remus's hip. He stroked Sirius's hair. "Are you doing what I think you're doing?"
Sirius paused to undo Remus's pants, and once Sirius let go he had to hook a few fingers around a belt loop to make sure they didn't fall off completely. "Playing Quidditch," Sirius told him, and then Remus closed his eyes. The wall melted away. He had to send that owl - oh - and he had to make sure and watch for - but it was no use.
"That's," and Remus's breath hitched, "very impressive Quidditch."
Sirius took his mouth away long enough to say "thank you."
It didn't take long. Nothing did, lately; James's Transfiguration essay, twenty minutes to copy out. Revision for Defensive Charms - ten minutes, flash cards and Sirius poking him in the side every time he got it wrong. Sex, maybe fifteen minutes once a day, twenty when they had no homework to hand in. Everything was rushing, rushing quickly and quietly and almost too fast into the dark.
Remus opened his eyes, and glanced at his watch. Ten minutes since Sirius first kissed him. Too long. They had to check the entrance again in five. He struggled to catch his breath, murmuring, "thank you," not only for the moment of normalcy, the moment of tenderness, but for the moment freely given when Sirius knew that Remus didn't have time to reciprocate. Possibly purely selfish; possibly routine. Remus welcomed with glad, open arms, both.
They found nothing at all, and stayed until first light. Someone knew how to conceal themselves far too well, far too well for Remus's comfort indeed.
"There's only one explanation," James said, "they must have seen you somehow. Maybe two is too many - I caught a glimpse or two while I was sitting on the railing there."
Sirius started to protest, but Remus held a hand up; "either they saw us coming, or they knew we were coming, or were told we were following them." Remus sighed, and stared around the Common Room. Unusually full, everywhere there were students studying, students huddled in corners, students whispering to each other. He said, "Let's table this until we get through the next exam."
He couldn't even remember what the next one, a scant day away, was, and had to consult his timetable to jog his memory.
"I am so tired," Remus said.
Sirius stirred, lifting his head off the table long enough to open one eye. "What?"
"So tired," Remus murmured. He had his textbook out; notes, wand, and still this last bit of revision - one more chapter - wouldn't stick. The Common Room was deserted at quarter to two in the morning. Not a surprise. James and Lily had gone looking around the grounds again, hoping to stumble upon something. Remus didn't hold out much hope; now that whoever was alert to their vigilance, it was unlikely they'd slip - an even more depressing thought.
Sirius sat up with difficulty. "Tired of what?"
"Of, this," Remus said. He let the textbook fall down on the floor, followed by several other reference volumes that had ceased to make any sense some time in April, and which he had hoped dogged perseverance would illuminate - to no avail. "All of this."
Sirius took his hand, stroked fingers over his palm.
"I'm tired of it," Remus said, and then leaned his head back, "the fact that instead of studying last week we had to scour the grounds for signs of Slytherins," he said. "I'm tired of not getting enough time for all the things that have to be done."
Sirius added softly, "or any time for things that we maybe want to do?"
"I'm just," Remus said, eyes closed, "so tired."
Sirius squeezed his hand, kept touching Remus's fingers, his fingernails. "We can't go to bed," he said quietly. "James needs us to be awake when he and Lily get back."
Remus wanted to take the stupid textbook and smash it against the thick glass window, just to make a mess - a mess, a problem that he knew he wouldn't have to deal with. He answered, "I know."
Remus took the practical and theoretical Charms exams - he couldn't even remember what was on them once he'd got out of them - all in a day and a half. The only things he remembered about them was the second to last question - it was about Sirius's great-grandfather's perversion of some equation - and the last trial in the practical.
"Remus," James had said, one question before they were dismissed, eyes serious, "Remus, McGonagall needs to talk to you."
Whatever she had needed wasn't nearly as dire as what Remus had envisioned in that minute, and he dismissed the conversation from his memory as he'd managed to dismiss so much else in the last little while. His exam was perfect, except that one trial - which he got zero for. All he could picture was Sirius not breathing.