The sun had set. From the inky sky, a bright waning moon shone gray light on the pale image of a young man. He sat inside a window in the East Tower, his figure miniscule against the backdrop of the castle where he lived. Puffy, unfocused eyes rested on the grounds, and on a gnarled, knotted tree that swayed gently, as if affected by an ever-blowing wind.
The young man in the window was almost of age, the oldest of all his friends, and the smartest, too, even if he’d never been so gauche to actually say so aloud. He could have been a Ravenclaw – maybe should have been. Still, his pallid skin and sickly posture often made him seem far younger than his peers.
Dressed in plain, black work robes, the Gryffindor sat alone in the window nearest his four-poster bed. Around him, the room was silent. The quiet choked sobs that had echoed in the empty room had slowly ceased, and now the numbness had started settling in. The others were smart enough to stay away – smart enough to give him space – and should have been. He was going to be expelled.
He felt as sure of this as he did of his own name. Any moment, Professor Dumbledore would enter the room, and would tell him it was over, that his time at Hogwarts had ended because he clearly could not be trusted. He would be ordered to pack, and set on the first train back to London, where he’d have to see the shame and guilt in his parents’ eyes again. The boy didn’t believe the old Professor would yell at him, but the disappointment in Dumbledore’s tone would bruise him worse than shouting ever could. Professor Dumbledore had believed in him, had done everything in his power to give him a normal life, and all in vain.
The boy could feel his eyes begin to burn again. He didn’t really know why they’d bothered to bring him back to the dormitory at all, unless it was to give him easier access to his things so he wouldn’t have to parade past all the other students to get them when they kicked him out of school. Dinner was over, though. They all knew by now, and still, no word from Dumbledore. Every last one of them would know. He could just imagine the smug satisfaction on Severus Snape’s face.
Through his indignation, his throat welled. Severus could have died because of him. He could have easily killed the Slytherin, or anyone. He knew it. He’d always known. It had been drilled into him as a boy. He was a freak-show. A monster. Not even the greasy-haired Slytherin deserved to be ripped to shreds.
He winced at the thought. He felt his throat tighten and let out a quiet sob. He didn’t want to be a murderer. He didn’t want to kill. He squeezed his eyes shut, clamped his hand over his mouth, and drew a slow, staccato breath. It was all over, his chance at normalcy, and it was all his fault for trusting his friends, and worse, for trusting himself. He ignored the hot tear that fell and streaked the side of his cheek until he could feel the tightness in his chest harden enough to let him breathe again. Then, he released his mouth and wiped the streak away.
It stung. The salt stung the cut on his jaw, but Remus let it. He deserved it. He deserved to feel pain. He dreaded the news he was sure was coming, dreaded facing the whole entire school when now, after he’d maintained his secret so carefully for so many years, the life he’d carefully built to hide the truth was starting to crumble and crash around him.
Suddenly, the silence was broken by a cautious knock, and the click of a lock. The young man in the window gasped and whipped around. The door began to open slowly. He stood, the throbbing in his jaw forgotten as his eyes widened in fear. This was it. He was here. Dumbledore was going to expel him. It was all over. And then, rather than baby blue robes and a long, white beard, a young, dark-haired boy with fiery eyes cautiously entered the room.
The young man by the window froze, stock still, as his house-mate and friend…former friend…made his way into the room. Sirius Black’s gaze settled on the surprise in Remus’ eyes. With one hand on the door, Sirius stopped where he was, expression and stance unsure. He dropped his gaze, then looked up again. His eyes said something that the young man by the window couldn’t read, and then he opened his mouth, as if about to speak, but hesitated.
It was then that Remus came around. It wasn’t Dumbledore. He wasn’t getting expelled yet, and the fear that froze him melted into a soft, gently-rising rage. His eyes narrowed and his brows drew together. Jaw tightening he turned away, regained his seat in the window, and drew his feet up onto the seat with jerking, petulant movements intended to make his point. He pulled his knees to his chest and turned his gaze pointedly out the window, then rested the side of his head on his knees.
He wasn’t going to look at him. He wasn’t going to listen to anything that Sirius had to say. Nothing he could say would fix this. Nothing he could do would take back ruining Remus’ life. For a moment Remus sat in silence, waiting with stewing impatience for the other to get the hint. It wasn’t long before the message was understood, though, because the next thing Remus heard was the door clicking shut, and again he was left in silence with nothing but devastating regret for company.