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Changing Constellations

Chapter Text

Remus sat down in the first empty compartment he could find, carefully storing his belongings under the seat. He wasn’t even sure whether this was really happening, the past few weeks had passed like a bizarre dream. Looking out the window at the platform below he caught the grey eyes of one of the prettiest girls he had ever seen. Which was even weirder than the whole wizarding boarding school thing to be honest, since he had literally never thought that a girl was pretty before. By the time his brain had processed that, the girl was nowhere to be seen.

He allowed himself to become lost in his thoughts again as his mind travelled back to the events earlier in the month that had lead to him being sat on this train which would be travelling away from his mother and the only life he had ever known. He was interrupted from his reverie as an energetic, tousle-haired boy burst into his compartment, laughing loudly. Upon noticing Remus, the boy stuck out his hand.

“James Potter. Nice to meet you. First year?”

“Uh, yes?” answered Remus cautiously. Was it really that obvious that he didn’t fit in?

“Me too!” grinned the boy, and he flopped down on the seat opposite to Remus before peering at him curiously. Remus felt his cheeks flush and braced himself for a comment on the scars that crossed his face, or his homemade clothes.

“Where are you from?” the boy continued, “I really can't place your accent, and you don't look familiar at all and my family know most people... Unless you’re muggleborn? That would be so cool! I’ve always wanted to meet someone who grew up with muggles! Is it true that-” James stopped himself abruptly. “Sorry, that was rude. I get a bit over excited when I meet new people.”

“Um, I’m Romanichal,” replied Remus, uncertainly. James’ face looked blank. “You know, like the travellers? Mum says we originally came from India though.”

“So you are a muggleborn! What do you mean, traveller? Do muggles often travel?”

“Oh, uh, actually my dad is a wizard, but I live with my mum who isn’t magical. Most muggles stay in one place, and they don’t like those of us who live a nomadic lifestyle. I don’t really understand why but they think we are all dirty and steal things. But yeah, we move around a lot - our atching tan is near Swansea though.”

Remus wasn’t sure why he was telling this boy all of this when they had only just met. He hadn’t even decided whether to even share his heritage with his new classmates. His father had suggested it was a chance for a clean start, and it wasn’t like it was the only thing he would be hiding. But this James guy seemed friendly enough, and he hadn’t even known what a traveller was! He certainly looked more curious than prejudiced.

“That sounds really cool! It sucks that people are prejudiced though. Some of the pureblood families look down on us Potters even though we’re purebloods too. What’s your name by the way?”

“Oh, uh, it’s Remus. Remus Lupin.” How could he have forgotten to introduce himself! And what was the sacred 28? Despite James’ friendly and cheerful demeanour, Remus was starting to feel even more out of place than before. He was about to ask James if there were many students at Hogwarts that came from non-magical backgrounds when the doors to the compartment slid open again.

A slightly familiar looking boy peered in, which was ridiculous given that Remus definitely did not know anyone on the train yet except maybe for James. The newcomer was slightly out of breath and looked at James with a slightly worried expression that seemed to manage to also give off the air of daring him to say something.

"I'm Sirius," the new boy said quickly, grey eyes still staring intently at James. "Can I join you? I'm trying to avoid my cousins."

"Um, sure," Remus stuttered, at the same time as James opened his mouth to ask, "Do I know you?"

"No, you don't," replied Sirius quickly, "You might know my cousins though. Us Blacks all look pretty similar what with all the inbreeding. I'm guessing you must be James Potter, although you'd think you'd have had access to all the hair styling products you needed if you were so maybe not." At this both Sirius and James grinned sheepishly at each other and the tension in the air seemed to disappear somewhat.

"Haha, this mop is pretty untameable, but the ladies like a bad boy," grinned James, seemingly unaware that he was a somewhat gangly eleven year old. "This is Remus, his mum is a muggle!"
"Nice!" exclaimed Sirius, "Do you know any muggle rock? I loooove Led Zeppelin and The Who!"

James looked surprised at this but quickly joined in the conversation. "I don't know many, but Pink Floyd are really good."

"Oh, I uh... don't listen to much music.. my mum really likes Deep Purple?"

"Wow, your mum sounds awesome! Muggle music is incredible, I can't believe you don't listen to any... Say, what house do you think you'll be in? I'm gonna be in Gryffindor!" Sirius seemed to jump from one topic to another as though they were hopscotch squares and he was trying to win some competition none of the rest of them knew about.

"Gryffindor too, my whole family is in there," replied James easily. "I think you'd be the first Black to be a Gryffindor though..."

"So I guess I'll just have to be the first." replied Sirius sharply. The slightly guarded expression and challenging look in his eyes were back, as though he was expecting James to argue with him. "Remus, what about you? Or are you a mud... muggleborn? We could explain if you want."

"Oh, uh, no. My dad is a wizard. He thinks I'll be in Ravenclaw like he was, but I think Hufflepuff sounds more like me. My mum reckons I would fit in Gryffindor but she's a muggle and I'm not so sure I would..."

Remus ground to a halt, suddenly aware of how much he had spoken and how little the other two boys probably cared. It sounded like he wouldn't be in their house anyway, and he'd already shown himself to be really uncool when they had been talking about music. Why on earth would they care what his parents thought? He could have just said he didn't know. A horrible thought occurred to him, and more words spilled unbidden from his mouth.

"What... what happens if you don't fit in any of the houses? Do you get sent home?"

James looked at him, suddenly much more seriously. "That doesn't happen. Sometimes there are hat stalls but that's just because you have qualities from more than one house. You're a wizard, so you will be educated at Hogwarts unless they expel you."

"Besides, they probably just stick all the odd ones out in Hufflepuff," added Sirius, earning himself a glare from James.

Still feeling incredibly nervous, Remus leant back in his seat and gazed out the window. James seemed to have caught on to his unease, and gave him a gentle punch in the upper arm.
"Hey, don't listen to him. There might be people who tell you you don't belong because of your blood status but they are all bigots my dad says. You wouldn't have gotten a letter if you didn't deserve to come to Hogwarts, and they have never made a mistake yet. And anyway, no matter what house you're in I'm sure we'll have classes together, and you'll always have me as a friend."

Shyly, Remus met his smile and nodded. Reaching into his bag he pulled out the food his mum had packed for him and his smile widened as he felt that there were not one but two Cadbury Dairy Milk bars tucked beside the sandwich. Reaching a quick decision, he held one of them out to each of the other boys in the carriage.

"Muggle chocolate? Wow, thank you!" said James as he tore into the packaging.

"Oh, um, thank you." muttered Sirius. "I was being a dick. It's no excuse but I wasn't brought up in the most open minded of families. Feel free to give me a kick if I'm ever being a prat."

"Pretty sure he'd be kicking your aristocratic arse constantly if he took you up on that one," grinned James. "What is an heir of the most ancient and noble house of Black doing in a carriage with a Potter and a halfblood anyway?"

"My family and I don't agree on a lot of things. Nothing causes a bigger fight than when they are trying to find a suitable match for me to produce the next generation of inbred snobs. Mother is always going on about there being more than one way in which one has to ensure the bloodline remains pure and you definitely don't..." Sirius stopped himself abruptly. "Well it's not like I would be paired with you anyway but like... I guess if you had a sister you'd be right in thinking she wouldn't be considered eligible. But I'm not like that, and I think me being in Gryffindor might give her more than enough to squark over for at least a few months. I can pick my own friends."

"I guess you're not wrong that you being sorted into anything but Slytherin would cause a bit of a stir."

Remus closed his eyes as the other two continued chatting, and drifted into an uneasy sleep. There was so much he didn't know, and his father had definitely been surprised when his Hogwarts letter had arrived. Despite James' reassurances he couldn't help but feel there had been some terrible mistake - even if he was a wizard he hadn't been able to find any record of a werewolf attending Hogwarts before and he didn't understand half of what the other two were on about. Hopefully they'd realise the mistake before he was actually in the sorting ceremony and he could just leave quietly before many people even noticed he was there.

Chapter Text

It felt as though Remus had only just shut his eyes when James shook him awake, causing Remus to flinch as though he had touched some unhealed cut despite the fact that the last full moon was over three weeks ago. But sure enough, the train had stopped and they had arrived somewhere called Hogsmeade. The train was full of the noise of excited children and teenagers, as they all flooded into the carriage corridors in an attempt to be the first to disembark. Despite his earlier fears, Remus couldn't help but feel a rush of excitement as James hurried the three of them towards the exit.

The excitement turned to wonder as the sight of the most enormous man Remus had ever seen greeted them and herded the first years towards small boats that were moored at the edge of an enormous lake lit up by the waxing gibbous moon which seemed to hang particularly close in the sky that night. Remus, James and Sirius ended up in a boat with a pretty red headed girl and her rather sallow and sullen companion. She introduced herself as Lily, and whispered to Remus that she had two muggle parents. It was reassuring to hear that he wasn't the only one not knowing much about what to expect at this new school, although she seemed to have done a lot more preparatory reading than he had. Apparently students would be sorted using a magical hat, which meant that the hat stall comments the other boys had made earlier suddenly made a lot more sense. Remus was very relieved that there didn't seem to be any tests of physical or magical ability, but the fear that the hat would decide he didn't deserve to be here grew the closer their boat got to the awe inspiring castle on the other side.

Before he knew it, Remus was getting helped out of the boat by a grinning James, and he looked back to realise that the boats were returning across the lake with no one to propel or steer them. He had been so wrapped up in his thoughts he hadn't even noticed that they sailed themselves! The giant man (Hagrid, according to James) knocked loudly on the enormous wooden doors and Remus realised with a shock that this rather imposing castle had to be the school. It was certainly unlike any other school he'd been to, and he'd been to many, but then he supposed none of them had been magic schools. This looked like the sort of school that you paid tens of thousands of pounds a term to attend, safe in the knowledge that your classmates would one day be ministers of state. The feeling of not belonging only intensified, and Remus began to feel quite ill.

He stumbled through the doors towards a rather stern looking woman who surveyed the new first years shrewdly before explaining about the hat. Remus was too anxious to listen by this point and was very glad Lily had told him the basics on the boat trip over. He followed the huddle of eleven year olds to the front of the hall, trying to ignore the excited whispers around him. When the worn and fraying hat on the stool in front of them began to sing, Remus couldn't hear what it was saying over the thudding in his ears and the screaming voice inside him telling him that this couldn't possibly be real. I mean sure, he turned into a wolf on a monthly basis, but this was just ridiculous!

The hat fell silent and a hush grew in the hall as the stern woman from earlier introduced herself as Professor McGonagall and announced that the sorting ceremony would now begin. She was going to call students' names in alphabetical order and then they would sit in front of the entire school to be sorted. Remus had never been so glad that his surname began with an L.

"Abbott, Ernest."

"HUFFLEPUFF!"

The table on the far right erupted into cheers as the small boy hurried over to them, nearly forgetting to remove his hat. Beside him, Remus could feel Sirius starting to tense.

"Black, Sa-" McGonagall started, before startling to a stop as Sirius ran forward and jammed the hat on his head.

"GRYFFINDOR!" roared the hat, and the room burst into feverish murmuring. Sirius headed to the surprised table bedecked in red and gold with a massive grin on his face, whilst many of the students sat on the green and silver table whispered to each other angrily. It seemed as though this had been a shock to the entire room, and even McGonagall and the man Remus knew to be Professor Dumbledore looked surprised. Nevertheless the ceremony continued and Lily was sorted into Gryffindor too, much to her companion’s displeasure.

All too soon it was time for Longbottom, Frank (another Gryffindor) and Remus' heart felt as though it was going to burst out his chest at the thought that he would likely be next.

"Lupin, Remus."

The sorting ceremony had been going for some time now and a lot of the students watching had lost interest and were talking to the new housemates that had recently joined them. This should have taken the pressure off Remus slightly, but as he sat on the stool and McGonagall placed the hat over his head he looked out to see the most spectacular and peculiar sight he had ever seen. The hall was enormous and lit by thousands and thousands of candles that were floating in midair and dotted amongst the students were ghosts shining a sort of misty silver. Mainly to avoid all the staring eyes, Remus looked upward and saw that instead of the gothic arches he had expected, the ceiling was dotted with stars partially covered by clouds. A small voice spoke in his ear, startling him out of his reverie.

"Hmm, interesting. Very interesting. But, I think one thing is clear, you will find your home in GRYFFINDOR!"

The last word had been shouted out to the audience and Remus stumbled towards an ecstatic Sirius who clapped him on the back and ruffled his hair. The rest of the ceremony passed in a blur as James joined them on the Gryffindor tables and Lily's pale sulky friend was sorted into Slytherin. A short speech from the headmaster later and the tables were suddenly full of more food than Remus thought he had ever seen in his life. He was suddenly painfully aware of just how hungry he was, having given his chocolate away on the train and began piling his plate high with kidney pie and mashed potatoes. He had only taken a few bites however, when McGonagall appeared behind him almost causing him to choke.

"Mr Lupin, Mr Black, if you could follow me please. There are a few arrangements that still need to be made."

Remus sent a panicked look to Sirius who for the first time looked as terrified as Remus himself felt. Had the hat made a mistake? Were they going to send him home? Part of him felt dreadful for doing so, but he tried to reassure himself with the fact that Sirius had been pulled aside too, and he was a pureblood wizard who as far as Remus knew didn't have the slight issue that he turned into a wolf every full moon. Drawing curious eyes from all four tables, the two boys silently followed McGonagall through a small exit at the side of the hall.

"Mr Lupin, if you could just wait here. I only need Mr Black for a few minutes and then I will send him back to the feast before I deal with you." With that she turned and ushered Sirius into a small office before turning round and conjuring a plate of sandwiches as though it was an afterthought.

Chapter Text

True to Professor McGonagall’s word, she only spoke to Sirius for a few minutes before he exited her office with an enormous grin lighting up his pale face. Remus smiled back at him, but the knot of worry in his stomach didn’t ease. He tapped his foot anxiously as he waited for McGonagall to call him in. The sandwiches sat untouched, his hunger from earlier having totally disappeared.

After what was probably only a matter of minutes, but felt like a lifetime, the door creaked open again and the professor beckoned Remus in.

“Sit down please, Mr Lupin. I do apologise that you are missing the start of term feast, but with the full moon on Sunday I thought it best that I explain the arrangements to you as soon as possible. The headmaster has arranged a safe place for you to transform, which can be accessed by a secret passageway hidden on the school grounds. You may have noticed the Whomping Willow? It’s a rather new installation but it covers the passageway to a shack very well, and only those in the know will be able to get past it in order to access the tunnel. Would you like to see the shack before your transformation? I am sure we could arrange for Hagrid to accompany you to visit tomorrow after your lessons.”

Remus shook his head, it would already be difficult to explain his monthly disappearances without adding more. Whatever this shack was going to be like, he was sure Professor Dumbledore would have made sure it was secure, and it wasn’t like he’d be in any state to appreciate the interior design for most of the time he would be there.

“Very well. Madame Pomfrey, our school nurse, will be there to collect you on Monday morning and tend to any wounds you may have obtained during the night. I have arranged for the professors whose lessons you will be missing to send the work to the hospital wing. If you have any issues completing it, either speak to them directly or you can ask me as your head of house to arrange remedial sessions or help from older students.”

Remus nodded silently. Apparently this was really happening then.

“Well, that should be it, unless you have any questions Mr Lupin?” When he didn’t respond, she smiled at him and added. “You may as well go back to the Great Hall now, they’ll just be finishing dessert and the prefects will show you to the common room. Welcome to Hogwarts, and welcome to Gryffindor.”

He felt stunned as he left the office, not really able to process that not only was he at a wizard school, and in the house of the brave, but he seemed to be welcome and wanted. As he slid back into his seat between Sirius and James, he allowed himself a smile. Most of the students had finished their food, but he grabbed a portion of chocolate pudding, reasoning that since the plates had appeared from thin air they probably hadn’t been used by anyone else. He was suddenly starving again, and his plate and cutlery were still in his trunk, wherever that was.

Sirius leant over and grabbed a spoonful of pudding from Remus’ plate. “Everything alright with Minnie?” Remus looked at him blankly. “McGonagall, I mean.”
“Oh, um, yes, she just wanted to make sure I was alright with settling in and cultural things,” Remus said quickly. Luckily two older students stood up as he was speaking and introduced themselves as Sionainn and Caradoc, the two Gryffindor prefects. They lead the new students up countless staircases and past paintings which moved and spoke to or about them as they walked past. Finally the group of bewildered first years stopped abruptly in front of an enormous portrait of a rather large lady holding a wine glass, surrounded by vines of grapes.

“Password?” she enquired.

“Domum Fortis,” replied Sionainn confidently, and the portrait swung backwards to reveal a round room decorated in warm reds and golds. To their left, a roaring fire was surrounded by large sofas and to their right were small tables which were furnished by both hard, dining style chairs, and upholstered armchairs. Remus supposed that they would probably be used to complete homework, or play boardgames, if that was something that wizards did. There were also two spiral staircases on opposite sides of the room which Sionainn was pointing out to them. “Boys, follow Caradoc and he’ll show you to your dorms. Girls, come with me.”

Four girls followed her with varying degrees of excitement, leaving Remus, James, Sirius and three boys he hadn’t met yet with Caradoc. They traipsed after him in single file up the spiral staircase. Through a large wooden door on was a room with six four-poster beds, complete with red and gold drapes. Gryffindor pride was clearly the only inspiration for interior decoration. Other than the beds, there were two desks by the windows, and a few chests of drawers between the beds. It looked as though an extra bed or two had been hurriedly squeezed in, and there wasn’t that much space between their enormous frames.

“So uh, this is your dorm, and where you’ll stay for the next seven years,” Caradoc said, yawning. “The bathroom is just through that door over there. Unless you’ve got any questions, I’m going to head to bed myself.”

Greeted with silence from the first years, he turned and left. The boys looked at each other.

“Guess we should calls dibs on beds?” suggested James.

“Oh, can I have the bed nearest the bathroom,” mumbled a small mousy blond boy.

“Uh, sure?” replied James.

“I’ll take this one by the window,” said Sirius quickly, “Remus and James, you should take the ones either side!”

“Guess that leaves you two to fight over those over there?” said James apologetically at the remaining boys. “Frank and... “ he paused, waiting for the other boy to introduce himself.

“I’m Dorian,” the boy said, a gap toothed smile gracing his dark features. “And the other boy is Peter, but I think he went to the toilet. He’s been doing that a lot.”
“Wait, you know each other?” Remus asked.

“Yeah, Frank and I have met before, we’re both purebloods. I would have thought I’d have met Sirius, but then again the Blacks are somewhat…”

“Full of themselves?” interjected Sirius.

“I mean, you said it,” replied James with a smirk. “Hey, why don’t we unpack, and then I think I have some exploding snap cards so we can get to know each other.”

The boys set about unloading their suitcases, storing their new uniforms and other clothes in the drawers under their bed. Remus folded his jumpers carefully, but wasn’t unaware that neither Sirius nor James seemed to have similar clothes. In fact, Sirius didn’t seem to unpack many clothes at all, and James’ clothes looked as though they would fit in at a medieval reenactment. Once he was done with his clothes, he carefully placed two books on his bedside table, and walked over to the bathroom with his plate, cutlery and cup. His mother had lovingly packed them for him, but to his despair he saw that not only were the showers inside (which he had braced himself for) but they were communal. There were two sinks, but given that they would be shared between six boys Remus didn’t suppose he could ask that one be kept for dishwashing, especially when none of the other boys would use it for that purpose. He considered going to the toilet, as he hadn’t since the morning but the sense that it would be mochadi was too strong. Hopefully there would be some facilities outside, though he knew from staying with his father that that may be wishful thinking.

Wandering back into the main bedroom, Remus climbed onto the bed and drew the curtains. He could hear the other boys starting up a game of cards, but he didn’t want to join them. Everything felt a little bit too strange and unfamiliar and despite the fact he’d used indoor toilets before, it just felt unclean. He held the cup tightly in his hands and wished more than anything that his mother could be there. Or maybe more accurately, that he was at home with her, wrapped in her warm embrace. Remus tried to steel himself, after all, his mother had been so proud when the Hogwarts letter had arrived for him. She’d been so worried that he wouldn’t be accepted, and contrary to many others in their community had always valued education. He owed it to her to keep trying. Maybe he would write a letter tomorrow, and ask her what to do about the cleanliness issue. It wasn’t that he thought the other boys were dirty, but the rituals were ingrained into him, and he couldn’t bring himself to contradict them which was ironically causing him to go to bed without washing.

Chapter Text

The next morning Remus woke early, stomach filled with butterflies but with a new sense of purpose. He would write a letter to his mum, then make sure to have a good breakfast before his first classes. They hadn't received their timetables yet, but he guessed that they would either be told where to go at breakfast, or be lead there by the prefects again. Hurriedly slipping into his robes, he brushed his teeth whilst attempting to tie his cloak, which only resulted in him getting toothpaste down his front. He dabbed at it frantically as he hurried down the stairs to the common room, but knew with a sinking feeling in his stomach that it would most likely stain.

It was only when Remus reached the bottom of the spiral stairs that he realised that he had no idea where the owlery was. His father had told him that Hogwarts had owls for students to borrow, but they could be anywhere in the castle. Sighing, he decided to write the letter anyway, and ask one of the older students later. They'd probably think he was a pathetic mummy's boy but would they really be that wrong?

Letter complete, Remus headed in the direction he thought was where they'd come from the night before. Hopefully he would at least be able to find the Great Hall. As he hurried down the stairs he let out a shriek. The step he had just placed his foot on had disappeared, and now he was stuck!

"Oh my god, are you ok?" an American voice called out.

Embarrassed, Remus tried to make his reply sound as calm as possible, but it came out squeaky and shaken. "Uh, yeah... I uh.. the step..."

He heard footsteps and a tall girl with tightly plaited hair appeared.

"Oh Jesus, Mary and Joseph. You really are stuck! Here, let me help you out. I'm guessing you're in Gryffindor too? I think I remember you from last night. My name's Marlene."

Remus stared blankly for a beat too long before realising that he was meant to introduce himself. "I'm, uh, Remus?" he ventured.

"Nice to meet you Remus! I'm on my way to breakfast if you want to come on a little adventure with me."

"I guess if I'm going to get lost on my first day of school, I may as well get lost with someone else." To Remus' relief Marlene laughed, and began to tug him free. "I thought that the Americans had their own wizarding school though?"

"Oh yeah, they do. But my dad's Irish. And like, I'm Wampanoag and they use one of our folk creatures as a house name, which just doesn't feel right. Plus, the elders are not keen on the concept boarding schools, for obvious reasons. I'm only really here because Da wanted me to give it a try and he's been awful sad since Ma died."

"Oh." Remus didn't know quite what to say. He thought that he might have read somewhere that the Wampanoag were Native Americans, but he wasn't sure what the "obvious reasons" to dislike boarding schools were. Still, if the school was as multicultural as it seemed, maybe people wouldn't be as confused or distrustful of him adhering to Romanichal customs.

After what seemed like an hour but was probably ten minutes of following Marlene as she chatted away, they arrived in the Great Hall. An amazing spread was set out on the tables, but to Remus' dismay the plates were placed in piles in regular intervals along the tables. He'd forgotten to bring his cup and bowl with him, and he wouldn't have last night's excuse that the plates had appeared from thin air and so probably hadn't been used by anyone else.

Marlene must have noticed his sudden hesitance as she turned around with a concerned look on her face. "What's wrong? We managed to find it with almost no problem, but you look like a goat just headbutted you in the stomach."

"Oh it's just that um, I'm Romanichal. We think that it's mochadi, or unclean, to use plates or cutlery that someone else has used. I left mine upstairs by mistake." Remus wasn't sure why he was explaining this to a random girl he'd just met and braced himself for the slurs that normally followed someone finding out his background.

"Oh," Marlene paused, looking thoughtful. "Could you perhaps eat from a napkin today? That way, it's not someone else's plate?"

Remus looked at her in shock. Never had someone who wasn't part of his community offered a solution to his discomfort that hadn't involved just telling him to get on with it.

"Hey, there's no need to look like that. I think both of us know what it's like to come from a minority group which is misunderstood at best and generally shat on from a great height by the majority."

Remus snorted at her turn of phrase, even though what she'd just said wasn't really funny. But Marlene grinned back at him, and they headed towards the Gryffindor table to see what there was to eat. When they sat down, a small owl swooped by and deposited two pieces of paper in front of them. Curious, Remus picked one up and saw that it was a timetable, written in the same neat script as his acceptance letter. Scanning across to Thursday he saw that his first class was History of Magic with Slytherin house, taught by a Professor Binns. He'd always liked history at school, so hopefully this would be similar.

He'd just finished his bread roll when James and Sirius tumbled into the hall, an out of breath Peter following behind them.

"Remus!" cried James. "We didn't know where you'd gone!"

"Guess I was hungry since you ate my snacks." Remus quipped back, surprised at his own willingness to join in the banter. "Plus I kinda wanted to send a letter, but I didn't know where the owlery was."

"Oh, you can borrow my owl any time," said James easily. "She's friendly if you remember to give her a treat to say thank you, but she might nip your fingers if you forget."

As James and Sirius took their seats the same small owl deposited two timetables in front of them.

"Urgh, Binns? Mum and Dad said he was deathly boring." James chuckled to himself. "You know, cos he's a ghost?"

"Oh yeah, I've heard of him," added Sirius. "Died but still turned up to teach his next class. Bet he’s been around through half of what we have to learn."

Remus looked to Marlene, unsure if this was some kind of joke. A ghost? Teaching? He knew they existed in the wizarding world but the idea of one of his professors being dead seemed... beyond weird. She just looked as shocked as he felt.

"It's true, you know." A voice piped up from behind him. "I read it in Hogwarts, a History."

Remus turned around to see who had spoken. It was the redheaded girl from last night. She had the most startlingly green eyes, which felt as though they pierced into his very soul. Before any of them could say anymore, Sionainn appeared and called out that all first year Gryffindors should follow her. As they trailed through seemingly endless corridors, Remus felt sure he would never know his way around the castle. Still, they eventually arrived at the classroom, and to Remus' surprise, James patted the desk next to him and gestured that he should sit there. Sirius sat on the other side of him. At the back of his mind, he heard his dad's voice warning him not to get close to anyone in case they discovered his secret, but he liked this new feeling of having friends too much to care in that moment. Smiling to himself, he set out his textbook, quill and parchment on the desk and looked at the other students arriving.

The Slytherin students wore the same robes as he did, but with a green and silver trim where they had red and gold. Remus didn't think he was imagining the snooty looks on their faces as they surveyed the Gryffindors. He also didn't think he was imagining the way Sirius' shoulders stiffened as the Slytherins filed into the classroom. Remus thought about trying to distract Sirius, but got distracted himself as a ghost floated past him and stationed himself at the front, surveying the class.

"Good morning everyone, settle down please. Turn to page 3 of your textbook and please try to follow along. Now, history of magic is a very broad subject and..."

Try as he might, Remus found it increasingly difficult to pay attention to the old ghost's drone. He tried to keep taking notes, hoping the action would counteract the soporific effect of Professor Binns’ voice, but the restless night was catching up with him and his eyelids were dropping further and further every time he blinked.

Chapter Text

Just as Remus was about to lose his battle with sleep, something hit his right ear. Startled, he immediately sat up straight, causing the Slytherin student behind him to snigger. Looking at his lap he saw what had hit him - it was a screwed up note from James.

'Told you Binns would be dead boring, sleepy head. Do you wanna go to the owlery in the break after Magical Theory? I think it's pretty near the Charms classroom and I need to send a letter to my parents too.'

When he'd finished reading, Remus looked up and nodded at James. He couldn't help himself from smiling, and started to scribble a response when something hit his other ear. This time, it was Sirius throwing a note at him.

'Urgh this is soooo boring. Why couldn't he be teaching us about Merlin or someone exciting? I couldn't care less about the goblin wars of 17-whatever.'

Remus tried to find it in him to disagree, but Sirius was right. Professor Binns had managed to make one of the subjects he had been looking forward to most into a snoozefest. Passing Sirius' note to James, he shook himself and attempted to catch up with the lesson. It seemed that they were still only halfway down the first page of the textbook, which Remus could have sworn Professor Binns was just reading to them incredibly slowly. A balled up piece of parchment sailed past his nose and landed on Sirius' desk. Despite himself, Remus turned to look over Sirius' shoulder as he unfurled the note and read it.

'Wanna make this a bit more fun? I have a whoopee cushion and some dungbombs at my disposal.'

Sirius was grinning at James and gesturing at the greasy haired boy they had met on the boats who Remus thought might have been called Severus. The next thing he knew, a loud farting sound ripped through the classroom accompanied by the most horrendous smell. All the students groaned and held their noses, but Professor Binns appeared not to notice, and continued droning on in his characteristic soporific manner. Glancing at the clock, Remus noted with growing horror that they still had twenty-five minutes of the lesson left. He tore off the bottom of his parchment and scribbled his own note: 'Good idea, could work on the timing.'

They just about survived the rest of the lesson and luckily for James people seemed to be blaming Severus and hadn't realised that the smell hadn't been caused by him. Caradoc was waiting outside for them when they finished, and wrinkled his nose when the stench hit him, but he didn't comment on it and Professor Binns still seemed blissfully unaware. They traipsed through the corridors and up what felt like a million stairs before arriving at the Magical Theory classroom.

As the Ravenclaws had arrived before the Gryffindor students, the boys hadn't been able to remain sitting together and Remus was seated between an anxious looking boy called Rupert, who had an ink stain on his nose, and a girl called Ashnoor, who was deep in conversation with the girl to her left. The classroom fell silent when the teacher, a Professor Abbott, arrived. She wore long robes similar to those that they were wearing, but in a rather majestic looking royal blue. Magical Theory, as the name suggested, was another lesson of reading the textbook, listening to the teacher, and taking notes. Thankfully however, Professor Abbott was slightly more engaging, and Remus had no issues staying awake.

The lesson passed largely without incident, although Remus did notice the disparity between the rather lost looking muggleborn students and the pureblood students who seemed to know all the answers. He didn't think he was projecting the somewhat snooty vibes he felt from them, although the room had a much friendlier atmosphere than when they had been taught with the Slytherins. When the clock chimed to let them know that break was starting, James pulled Remus with him up and up a spiral staircase until they reached the owlery at the very top of the tower.

"Here," panted James, "This is my owl, Athena." He held out his arm and a large tawny owl with amber eyes landed on it. "Normally you can use her whenever you want but I've got to send a letter today to reassure my parents I haven't been expelled yet. The school owls are over there, you can use any of them. Here, have a treat for yours."

Remus laughed at James' reasoning and cautiously approached the owls perched over by the far wall. He was glad that James had given him a treat because up close they looked somewhat menacing. A scratch from those claws would really hurt. Holding the treat out in a shaky hand he advanced forwards, and the barn owl nearest him stuck its head out and nibbled suspiciously at the treat.

"That's it," said James. "Now just tie the letter to his leg, he'll know what you're doing."

It felt strange, using an owl to send post, but his mum had reassured him that they would be able to find her wherever she was. Not that Remus thought they'd have moved on already but he would have to get used to using owls eventually. Plus, he was pretty sure that Hogwarts didn't have a post box on its grounds.

Letters sent, they ran back down the stairs and through the maze of corridors to find the Charms classroom which was definitely not near the owlery. They had shared their Charms lessons with the Hufflepuff first years, who were waiting outside the classroom with the Gryffindors. Sliding in near Peter and Sirius, they introduced themselves to Mary and Paul who had been chatting with their friends. Mary was a small blonde girl, but Remus felt immediately that he should watch out to never cross her, friendly as she seemed. There was a strength of steel hiding behind her eyes. When Professor Flitwick arrived, the students filed into the classroom, which had a rather different layout to the two that they'd been in earlier that morning.

The desks were arranged in a U-shape, facing a raised platform which Professor Flitwick occupied. This seemed to be necessary because Remus had never seen such a small man before. In front of each stool there was a large feather resting on the desk. Remus sat between Peter and Sirius, who was next to James, but all in all the two houses seemed to have mixed more than they had in any other class. Maybe it was because they had both been waiting outside together. Once everyone had settled into their seats, Professor Flitwick cleared his throat to gain their attention.

"Today we are going to be learning a basic levitation charm. Before any of you attempt it, I want you to listen carefully and watch me." With a quick flick of the professor's wand, Peter's feather flew towards the tiny man who placed it carefully on the pile of books next to him. "Now, the movement for this one is quite simple: swish and flick. Everybody, copy me now, swish and flick."

Professor Flitwick hopped off his little platform and came around to examine each student's gestures, correcting and praising as he went along.

"We're actually going to do real magic!" whispered Peter to Remus, who could barely contain his own excitement even if he was full of nerves that he wouldn't be able to do it and he'd be sent home.

When Professor Flitwick had finished his tour of the classroom, he cleared his throat again to dispel the light chatter that had built up amongst the students.

"Please put your wands down now, and we'll practise the incantation. This is very important to get right, or something unexpected may happen. You don't want to be like Wizard Baruffio, who said 's' instead of 'f' and found himself on the floor with a buffalo on his chest! Now, after me, Wingardium Leviosa!"

They repeated this phrase back to him a few times before he seemed satisfied. After demonstrating the spell on Peter's feather, he returned it and announced: "Alright, then, you can have a go for yourselves now. Remember; swish and flick!"

Remus' first attempt caused his feather to wiggle slightly, although that could have just been the breeze from the open window. Certainly, his second, third and even sixth attempts bore no fruit at all, and he'd nearly given up when suddenly his feather started to rise.

"Well done, Mr Lupin! Excellent work!" the professor exclaimed in his squeaky voice, and Remus felt the eyes of the class fall upon him. He shifted uncomfortably under all the attention, but fortunately for him Sirius almost immediately caused a distraction by wingardium leviosa-ing his feather right up James’ nostril, causing him to let out a mighty sneeze and the whole classroom to erupt into fits of laughter.

Luckily, Professor Flitwick intervened before James could retaliate and Remus spent the rest of the lesson practising his own charm and helping Peter, who seemed to have a bit of difficulty with the pronunciation of leviosa.

Chapter Text

Lunch posed the same problem as breakfast. The bowls were stacked on the table. Remus supposed it was because people were coming in and out, rather than all sitting and eating at the same time. But, unlike this morning, he couldn’t just pick up some toast in a napkin. It was soup. He supposed he could at least eat a bread roll, but the whole situation soured his good mood from Charms. He could see Marlene glancing at him from across the table, and his cheeks started to redden.

“Everything alright, Mr Lupin? Do you not like the soup?” Professor McGonagall asked. She had walked up behind him, and her questions almost made him jump out of his skin in shock.

“Oh, um, I like soup,” he mumbled, “It’s just I’m not-”

“His culture means he can’t use plates that someone else has used.” Marlene had somehow jumped across the table.

“Is this true, Mr Lupin?”

“I mean yeah, but it’s ok. I brought my own crockery with me, I can go and get it from the dormitory before supper.”

McGonagall peered at him over her glasses. “Would it help if I taught you a cleaning charm? Professor Flitwick tells me you mastered wingardium leviosa very quickly, and it would make carrying crockery around much easier.”

“Yes please, Professor, if you don’t mind.” Remus couldn’t help smiling. He’d initially been a bit annoyed with Marlene for sharing information with McGonagall without asking, but the outcome was better than anything he could have imagined. The Scourgify spell would make everything a lot easier!

-

After Remus had run back upstairs to grab his bowl, James turned to Sirius. It was strange really. The Potters hadn’t socialised much with the Black family, due to their ideals of racial as well as blood purity, but it was hard not to be aware of them. And from what he knew, there were three sisters who were of Hogwarts age (although maybe one of them would have graduated by now) and then two younger cousins. A girl and a boy. And this was the thing, James could have sworn that the girl was the older of the two, and the one who was in the same school year as him. But here was Sirius, which was a name he didn’t recognise, and most definitely in his year. And in Gryffindor. James didn’t think he was prejudiced at all but he’d never heard of a Black in Gryffindor. It just wasn’t what they stood for. Maybe his mum and dad would be able to shed some light on the situation when they replied to his letter. Adults tended to know that sort of stuff.

“Hey, Sirius, do you like quidditch? I know first years aren’t meant to play but I reckon I could sneak a couple of school brooms out of the stores and we could have a little game. I suppose Remus can’t fly but he could keep score.”
“Oh,” said Sirius, turning pink. “I don’t know how to fly either. My parents said it was not eleg-... fitting behaviour for the heir to the Most Noble and Ancient House of Black.”

“I can fly!” squeaked Peter, who had managed to take Remus’ spot. He’d arrived late after taking another trip to the loo.

“And we have flying lessons on Wednesday, bet I’ll be a natural.”

James laughed. “If you can stay upright on the broom I guess we all have plans on Thursday evening, then. Someone tell Remus when he gets back.” He paused. “Actually, don’t. Can you imagine his face if we all just turned up on brooms? We could take turns then so that there’s always someone to take score.”

“Sounds far out man.” drawled Sirius.

“Huh?” Peter looked confused.

“Muggle slang. Means like, totally cool or whatever.”

James laughed, but internally this only added to his confusion. Since when did members of the Black family know muggle slang? His thoughts were disturbed by the arrival of Remus, who sat next to the red haired girl from the boat. To his disappointment Remus began talking to her and another girl who James recognised as the one who had explained to Professor McGonagall why Remus wasn’t eating the soup.

“Oi, Remus!” he called. Remus startled as a piece of bread hit him on the nose. James noticed he looked more scared than annoyed. “What you doing sitting with the girls? Don’t you know that boys have way more fun? We were just about to start planning an exploration!” James was relieved to see that Remus’ shoulders relaxed, although not all the way.

“At least the girls have figured out how to shower!” Remus called back. The girls around him tittered and James felt his ears go pink. He especially didn’t like that ginger girl giggling at him, even if she did look really pretty with her freckles scrunched up in laughter lines.

After lunch they had double Defense Against the Dark Arts, which was (other than flying) the lesson James had been looking forward to most. He couldn’t wait to be able to jinx the Slytherins! Unfortunately (or fortunately, if they got to practise on each other) Gryffindor first years shared the lesson with the Slytherins. Even though James had experienced their hostility in History of Magic that morning, he was surprised to notice now that a lot of it seemed to be directed at just one person. That person being Sirius. I mean sure, he was the first Black in Gryffindor for centuries if not ever, but weren’t the Blacks meant to be a venerated pureblood family? Surely that would ingratiate him with the Slytherins. Unless, maybe, they saw him as a traitor. James was pretty sure that that could be the only explanation.

Much to his disappointment, the lesson was predominantly theory. Professor Burke had evidently decided that it would be foolish to let the pupils practise spells on each other before they had learnt the basics of magic. Which James could concede was probably sensible but also totally boring. The first half of the double lesson involved learning about doxies and imps, and the second half consisted of writing an essay about how to identify deal with them. They had to finish it for homework, a whole 6 inches of parchment! James thought it was most unfair giving homework on the first day, and by the looks of it so did Sirius and Peter. Only Remus looked vaguely happy to have some work to do.

-

After the lesson had finished, Sirius ran off to the bathroom, telling the others that he’d meet them in study hall. He almost ran into the girls toilet without thinking, before remembering just in time that now he was at Hogwarts he could use the right ones without anyone thinking it was strange. Except maybe the Slytherins, and a few other purebloods. James hadn’t recognised him though, even if he had given him a bit of a scare on the train. Much to his surprise, Sirius started to feel more and more nervous as he walked to the end of the corridor where the entrance to the boys bathroom could be found. He’d never exactly been in a men’s toilet before, except that one time when he had been about six, and he hadn’t seen much before Kreacher had pulled him out by his ear. But he did remember that there had been strange contraptions on the wall. What would people think if he went in there and didn’t know how to… couldn’t use the… He couldn’t exactly go into the girl’s toilets dressed like this and besides, he didn’t want to.

“What would Neil Armstrong say?” he whispered to himself. “Just one small step for a man…” (Because the muggles had been to the moon! How wizards could think they were superior to that he would never know. It was hard enough to arrange portkeys to America for Merlin’s sake).

There were indeed some of the weird contraptions on the wall, and Sirius quickly kept his eyes on the floor once he saw how they were being used. It wasn’t that he’d been looking but… well. He couldn’t do that. To his relief there were two cubicles at the end of the room, containing toilets that looked far more familiar. Still, the whole experience left him feeling a little uncomfortable, and for the first time since he had been on the Hogwarts Express, he started to doubt that he would be able to pull this off. Usually, Sirius’ doubts were fleeting, but he almost walked into Narcissa on his way back to the Great Hall, and she’d hissed at him that his parents were furious, and that he was embarrassing the family. The two events combined meant that he was unusually quiet through study hall, something that the other Gryffindor boys noticed even though they’d only met him yesterday.

“Psst, what’s up?” whispered James.

“Nothing, I’m fine. Just… thinking.”

“Thinking ‘bout what? Cos it ain’t doxies.” replied James, nudging Sirius’ essay, which still only consisted of the three lines he had written in class.
“Nothing. I’m fine.”

James seemed to drop it then, but Sirius had a nagging dread that he had only been granted a temporary reprieve.

Chapter Text

The next morning at breakfast James, Sirius and Remus all received letters. James was desperate to open his but a small, sensible (and often ignored) part of him insisted that he should wait until he was alone. Somehow he was pretty sure that Sirius wouldn’t appreciate him having gone behind his back to ask his parents about him. Next to him, Remus sighed with relief as he opened his envelope, whereas Sirius studiously ignored the thick parchment next to him.

The first lesson of the day was double potions, which James thought he’d be pretty good at. After all, that’s what his family was famous for. Plus the idea of messing around with frogspawn and goodness knows what else just sounded like excellent fun and the perfect opportunity for some pranks. The letter would have to wait but perhaps mischief wouldn’t. The greasy haired boy from the boat was hovering by the end of the Gryffindor table, talking to the pretty redhead… Evans, James was pretty sure. Though he didn’t know why, the boy’s presence irritated James to no end and he resolved to target him again in Potions.

To James’ delight when they arrived in the dungeons the classroom was set out with enough cauldrons for the students to work in pairs, situated next to small fires with purple flames. The walls were covered in large jars filled with flobberworms, and beetles, and tree bark, and all manner of ingredients. Despite having grown up the son of a famous potion maker, James didn’t have much experience with the art of brewing. For some reason Fleamont had never seen fit to allow him anywhere near a hot cauldron, let alone any of the more explosive ingredients. James couldn’t begin to imagine why.

Impatiently, he grabbed Sirius’ arm and dragged him towards a desk in the second row. “Partners?” he enquired, belatedly, and Sirius nodded with a huge grin. Remus and Peter were paired up, as were Evans and the greasy boy, and it looked like Frank and Dorian were paired up too. A greying, portly professor surveyed the twenty-or-so youngsters in front of him, and looked pleased.

“Welcome, first years, to your first Potions class. I am Professor Slughorn, the Head of Slytherin House.”

James groaned internally. No doubt the old man would be biased towards his own students. That said, it reduced whatever guilt he may have had for planning to disrupt the lesson. Professor Slughorn continued to explain how they would be brewing a simple potion to cure boils, but that it was imperative that the instructions were followed to the letter. It was annoying, James thought, that Evans had been forced to pair up with the greasy tosser. That pretty much ruled out any tampering with their cauldron. Sirius went to collect their ingredients, and James approached the front to borrow a set of scales, and to maybe get a better look in some of the jars behind the professor’s desk.

“Potter, isn’t it?” said a voice to his left, and James definitely didn’t nearly jump out of his skin when he turned to see Professor Slughorn’s stomach. “Sleekeazy’s hair potion?”

“Um, yeah, that’s my dad’s company, sir.”
“What a distinguished man. I was at school with him, you know?” Slughorn dabbed his forehead with a handkerchief. “You must come to my little Slug Club meetings, they’re ever so fun and you’ll meet all sorts of interesting people.”

Luckily for James, Slughorn got distracted by a large Slytherin girl with hair in two very tight plaits before he had to come up with an excuse for why he wouldn’t want to join some slimy club. Seriously, who would create a club and call it the Slug Club? Returning to his seat he surveyed the items Sirius had collected. The frogspawn looked too tempting, so he scooped some up and dropped it down Sirius’ back whilst he was facing the other way, talking to Peter or something.

“Oi!” shrieked Sirius, “What in Merlin’s saggy underpants did you do that for?!” He clawed up some frogspawn and threw it straight in James’ face. Some stuck to his glasses, and he could have sworn some went into his mouth. He spluttered and tried to spit it out, turning around to bump into Professor Slughorn, who did not look amused.

“That’s enough boys. Sit down, and I will be watching you closely as you make your potion with what remaining ingredients you have. Ten points from Gryffindor for that childish display.”

The rest of the lesson went without incident, as Slughorn was true to his word and watched the pair of them like a hawk. Their potion never quite turned the right colour, and they were assigned an essay to explain why that was. James thought that was pretty stupid - it was obvious, they just hadn’t put in enough frogspawn. What was more interesting was that Sirius’ hands hadn’t stopped shaking since Slughorn had rebuked them. They had a break before Transfiguration, and James couldn’t wait any longer to read the letter from his parents. He ran to the nearest bathroom, and sat on the toilet in the only stall.

What he read astonished him, and it was only when someone started banging loudly on the door that he realised that he must have been there a while. He stood up quickly, and unlocked the door, ready to apologise to the whichever student had been waiting to use the loo. Instead, he was faced by a filthy man who was muttering something about hanging students from the dungeon ceiling.

“Ah… Mr Potter,” the man croaked, “You had better come with me. Professor McGonagall has been… worried about you. She’ll be wanting to punish you.” His pale bulging eyes gleamed with unbridled hatred.

James had never met the man, but he’d heard tales of Mr Filch from older kids when they’d been at one of his parents’ parties. The fact that he’d been sent to find him must mean that he’d missed Transfiguration, which was taught by the Head of Gryffindor. If she really was angry with him, maybe she wouldn’t pick him for the quidditch team next year. That was inconceivable. He followed Filch through the corridors in silence, trying not to listen to the continued muttering about oiling chains to be used on students. His parents had never mentioned such punishments, so surely that couldn’t be what was in store for him.

Once Professor McGonagall had finished going on about how he really couldn’t be throwing frogspawn and missing class on his second day at Hogwarts, she paused and stared at James. “Mr Potter, are you listening to me? Have you anything to say for yourself?”

James blinked. He’d tuned out and was thinking again about what his parents had said about Sirius.

“Mr Potter?”

“Oh, I uh… I’m sorry Professor. I was reading a letter from my parents and I lost track of time.”

Professor McGonagall’s face softened slightly. “Is everything alright at home?”

“Oh um… yeah. Mum’s doing pretty well at the moment.”

“What then, was so compelling that you lost track of time so completely you completely missed my lesson? Masters Lupin, Pettigrew, and Black were most concerned.”

James was stumped. He couldn’t really say the real reason, his mum had been quite clear in stating that all of this was Sirius’ business and that a good friend wouldn’t gossip about it. But was it really gossip if you were talking to a teacher?

“Um, she was just telling me about this uh… ancient Indian uh… thing… where they believed that gender was uh… not necessarily dictated by uh… anything… um… other than uh… what a person thinks? It was really important in uh… times long ago. Like… um… prakrti? Um… very interesting uh… history thing... “

Professor McGonagall stared at him again for a moment, and then, clearly deciding things, drew a chair and motioned for James to sit down.

“Have a biscuit Potter.” James blinked. That was not what he had been expecting. “I imagine that this may have something to do with Mr Black, am I correct?”

Chapter Text

Sirius sat between Remus and Frank at lunch. There was still no sign of James, and he was starting to feel a little worried. Maybe he was being punished for their behaviour in Potions? Just losing house points had seemed a little anticlimactic.. but whilst James had started the frogspawn throwing, Sirius had been the one to actually throw it at his face so surely he should be there with him? Also, McGonagall didn’t seem to know where he was either. It was very strange indeed and Sirius’ brain started coming up with other possibilities… James had said that he was going to the toilet, so maybe something had happened there? Had one of the Slytherins jumped him? He was still shaken from his encounter with his cousin the day before, what if someone had decided to make sure James hated him too, or hurt him, or…

Before he realised he had even made a decision, Sirius was on his feet. He had to find James. He brushed past some first year Ravenclaws who seemed to be anxiously discussing the astronomy class they had later that evening, but didn’t stop to listen to what it was that was bothering them. Ignoring the butterflies that began to flutter in his chest, he stormed into the nearest bathroom, but there was no James. Abruptly, he turned around and hurried towards the toilets nearer the dungeons where they had had their lesson. He was just rounding the final corner when he nearly ran into an old man with bulging eyes who was clutching a rather mangy looking cat.

“Watch where you’re going, you little bastard,” snarled the man.

Sirius barely glanced at him before yanking the door to the toilets open and rushing inside. They were weirdly empty, but he walked down to the end of the room anyway and pushed open the stall door. It too was empty, but there was a crumpled piece of parchment on the floor. Picking it up, Sirius was shocked to see that although it was addressed to James it was mostly written about him. He dropped the letter as though it was burning him, and flushed the toilet hurriedly. Maybe he hadn’t needed to worry about the Slytherins getting to James after all, James was probably just waiting for the right moment to use it against him. He’d been foolish to ever imagine that he’d be accepted by the Gryffindors.

For the rest of the day, Sirius drifted through his lessons in a daze, choosing to sit with pretty much anyone but James. It was only after study hall that he was finally confronted by a rather confused Potter, who practically dragged him into their dormitory.

“What’re you doing?” Sirius hissed.

“What are you doing? Why have you been avoiding me?” To his credit, Potter did look a little upset.

Sirius looked at him coldly. “The letter.”

“Letter? You… oh shit I left it in the toilets didn’t I… Did someone find it?”

“Well, yeah. Me.” said Sirius shortly. This wasn’t exactly going how he’d thought it would. Potter seemed more worried than malicious.

“Oh, thank goodness. I’m so sorry that I was so stupid to leave it there… and sorry that I asked when it was none of my business.”

Sirius’ jaw dropped open. This really wasn’t going how he’d thought it would.

“Wait, so you uh, know? And you don’t mind?”

“I mean yeah? I guess it’s just another thing your parents are wrong about?” James attempted a small smile, as if he was willing everything to be okay.

Sirius couldn’t help but laugh, a mixture of relief and disbelief flooding through him. Potter rushed forward and hugged him, knocking the air out of his lungs.

“I won’t tell anyone, unless you want me to. And if anyone gives you any trouble they can answer to me!” he said fiercely.

Sirius was honestly stunned. A few minutes ago, he'd thought that James was hoarding information to be used in blackmail or worse and now the other boy was offering to defend his honour?

“You don’t think it’s weird? Or freakish?” he asked again.

“I mean, I don’t totally understand it… it’d be pretty bloody weird if I was a girl… not that you are just like... if it was me looking like me but I was a girl but no one knew and like… I think it’s pretty brave that you’re being you anyway? Like, my parents say that gender is something from inside, and they tend to be right about most things.”

Sirius felt like he could cry, but just then the dormitory door flew open and the other four boys tumbled in.

“Oh, did we interrupt an intimate moment?” sniggered Frank, “Sirius and James, sitting in a tree, K I S S I N-”

James and Sirius sprung apart, and Sirius hastily wiped his eyes.

“Oh shit, sorry… I was only joking. I wouldn’t mind if you really were bent you know, one of my uncles is and…”

“Oh, no,” said Sirius quickly, “I just got some bad news from home is all. Why don’t we get in a few more rounds of exploding snap before Astronomy?”

Thankfully, this seemed to distract the boys, although Sirius did hear James whispering to Frank later that neither of them were shirt-lifters, thank you very much. Not that it should matter if they were, of course, but they weren’t. And later in the evening, after Dorian had lost a few rounds in a row he declared that the game was gay, and they all laughed and switched to something else.
Well, except for Remus, who sat on his bed reading a book. Sirius didn’t really know what he thought of Remus, but he couldn’t deny that the small and somewhat skittish boy intrigued him. And then there was the matter of all those scars. Sirius was no stranger to physical punishment, but his parents had never left marks where other people could see them…

***

Remus sat on his bed, pretending to read. He wasn’t exactly sure why, but the lighthearted teasing about some of the others being gay or not had made a stone settle in his stomach and it wasn’t going away. He wasn’t particularly looking forward to Astronomy, the night sky had never exactly brought him wonder and joy. The weekend was looming too, when they wouldn’t have any scheduled activities, and he wasn’t sure what he’d do. And then it would be the full moon. All in all, not much to look forward to.

Chapter Text

Remus' bones were full of the familiar moon-ache that came in the nights preceding the full when Caradoc finally appeared to lead the first years to their Astronomy lesson. The stairs and corridors seemed to go on forever as they followed him to what must be the furthest point possible from the Gryffindor tower. Remus was just starting to wonder whether he would actually be able to make it up another flight of stairs when he spotted the cluster of Ravenclaw first years with whom they would be sharing the class. Oddly, there seemed to be less of them than there had been during the Magical Theory lessons they'd shared earlier. This hadn't escaped their new professor either, who was repeatedly counting the group of students. Finally, Ashnoor broke the awkward silence.

"Professor Sinistra, miss, Rebekah and Jacinta aren't here because it's the Shabbat."

The professor looked a little surprised but quickly recovered. "Of course. Please let your housemates know that they should attend tomorrow night's lesson instead, and I will have to speak to Professor Dumbledore about ensuring that the timetable is changed to prevent future problems."

She turned and swept open the door to reveal a round room filled with telescopes and walls that were clearly made of brick but still entirely see through. Some of the bricks were clear, but others were tinted orange, red or blue. Remus listened, interested in spite of himself, as she explained that in future years they would observe the skies not just in the visible light spectrum, but infrared and ultraviolet, which is what the 'filters' were for. They could be removed by a wordless spell, and the bricks looked solid from the outside. Unfortunately, she then continued to explain that they would use the opportunity given to them by the waxing gibbous to observe the moon in detail.

Remus nodded vaguely when Peter asked if they could be partners, and stared hard at his knuckles, trying to see if he could clench his fists hard enough that they turned white enough to hide the scars that covered them. He didn't even notice when Peter asked if he'd like a look and it was only when the hem of Professor Sinistra's scarlet robes came into his view that he realised that she had been asking him if he was alright. Startled, he grabbed the telescope and forced himself to gaze up at the face of his nightmares. Even though Remus could hear his mother reminding him that it wasn't the moon's fault that her full appearance signalled pain and destruction to him, he couldn't help but feel some pleasure at the thought of the rocks colliding with it to cause the craters that littered its surface.

The lesson ended at midnight, and the first years traipsed back to their respective common rooms, James chattering excitedly about what they could get up to over the weekend even though his speech was punctuated by enormous yawns. Despite his overwhelming exhaustion, Remus couldn't sleep until it was nearly dawn, and his dreams were haunted by long yellow nails and a moon which grew progressively closer to Earth.

When morning came, Remus' head hurt nearly as bad as it had the morning after that time he'd snuck out with the older lads in the camp and shared their cider and cigarettes. And whilst he didn't have to deal with his mother's disappointed face this time, he did have to deal with a very excitable James bouncing around the room talking about stealing broomsticks with far too much enthusiasm, which might actually be worse. Luckily James and Sirius left quite quickly to execute their hare-brained scheme with Peter trailing behind them, and Frank and Dorian were playing a game of wizard chess. Remus was left to draw his curtains and stare at the homework he'd been given the previous day. Phases of the bloody moon, for Christ's sake.

After finishing it as quickly as he could using a quill and roll of parchment (surely wizards could have invented something more practical) on his lap, he turned to the notes he'd made in his other classes. His History of Magic notes were almost nonexistent, so he resolved to go and find a textbook in the library to attempt to prevent himself from falling behind in the first week, and before he'd even had to miss any lessons due to the moon.

Despite following directions from a third year who had been very amused that a first year Gryffindor of all people would be looking for the library so soon after the term had started, Remus soon began to feel a bit lost. Wrapped up in his worries that he may have taken a left at the wrong statue, he nearly walked into a Hufflepuff girl he recognised from transfiguration.

"Sorry!" he squeaked, and she turned to face him looking a little confused. "I was in my own little world and I didn't see you."

She held up a finger as if asking him to wait, and fished around in her pockets before scribbling a note on a scrap of parchment.

'Hi, I'm Alice,' it read 'I'm deaf, so I have no idea what you just said. You're a first year though, right?'

Remus felt his eyes widen in recognition, and he fumbled with his bag to pull out some parchment of his own.

'Yes, my name is Remus. I'm looking for the library and I got a bit lost and nearly walked into you, sorry.'

She nodded and smiled, furiously scribbling another note.

'You're nearly there! It's just round the corner, I'll show you. I was just there getting a History of Magic book.' She held up said book as proof.

'Oh, me too!' Remus replied. 'Binns is so boring, I nearly fell asleep.'

'Imagine if you couldn't even hear him. I have a Quick Quotes Quill for my lessons, but it only works on living people, so I was just sat there for an hour like uhhhhhh...' Her eyes flashed mischievously, and then she waved her wand and to Remus' astonishment the writing on the parchment disappeared. 'Did you want to maybe study together in the Great Hall instead? We could share the book.'

'Sounds great.' Remus wrote back, before wondering if maybe that wasn't the best choice of phrase. Still, he followed her down to the Great Hall, where they spotted Marlene, Lily and Mary finishing their breakfast. Mary waved hello, and then Lily gestured something that Remus assumed must be sign language from the way Alice's face lit up and her hands started flying through the air. Lily's eyes widened and she threw her hands up in a fairly universal sign to slow down, causing Alice to bark out a surprisingly loud laugh.

They joined the other girls and Remus took the opportunity to fill his bowl with porridge, suddenly realising how hungry he was. A fuller stomach and two Scourgifies later (the first one hadn't quite worked) and he tuned back into the conversation that was going on around him. Mary was explaining that Professor Sprout was throwing a picnic lunch for the new Hufflepuffs, and inviting him, Lily and Marlene to come along. His instinct was to refuse as he didn't want to intrude, but Marlene answered for all of them before he could even open his mouth. Again, he felt a flash of annoyance that she hadn't considered how he might feel but it was more than dwarfed by the happiness of finding yet another group of people who didn't seem to despise his company. They happily worked and chatted away for about an hour, before resolving to meet in the same place at half twelve.

Lily, Marlene, Mary and Alice headed back to their respective common rooms but Remus thought that he might try and see if James, Peter and Sirius had managed to get hold of some broomsticks. He felt much better than he had that morning, and although the fatigue and boneache hadn't completely disappeared, he was quite curious about flying. To his disappointment, he rounded the corner to the quidditch pitch to see an irate looking woman shouting at his friends so he sadly concluded that they had been unsuccessful. On his way back to the castle he was stunned to see an enormous man beckoning him enthusiastically from a rather ramshackle hut surrounded by what must be the world's largest pumpkins.

"Yeh mus' be youn' master Lupin," the giant bellowed, "I was hopin' I'd get to see yeh before th' you-know-wha'."

Remus could feel his cheeks burn and his eyes darted right and left to see if anyone could have heard what the improbably large and hairy man had said.

"Sorry, I'm forgetting meself. I'm Hagrid, Keeper of the Keys and Grounds at 'ogwarts. I used to know your Da back when he was a student. I'm so glad yeh could come and study 'ere. Hey, why don't yeh come in for a spo' o' tea."

Chapter Text

Hagrid’s hut seemed slightly larger on the inside than the outside, if only because it had to be to fit such enormous furniture. The table came up to Remus’ armpits, and he had to push himself up onto the chair offered to him. After some tea and rock cakes that certainly lived up to their name, Hagrid made a point of showing him the garden which to Remus’ surprise and delight contained an outhouse which he hoped would contain a toilet.

Hagrid grinned at him. “Go on lad, there’s a shower in there too. Me old Dad was Romanichal too, and Minerva mentioned you ‘aving some troubles with the cutlery so I though’ you migh’ appreciate bein’ able t’ use this.”

“Thank you!” Remus was suddenly aware of just how much he needed the toilet. He’d been trying not to drink too much to avoid having to use the castle toilets, but he nearly tripped over an enormous pile of pumpkins in his haste to reach the outhouse.

After relieving himself, Remus made his way back up to the Gryffindor common room where he bumped into Dorian, who was looking a little lost in the corner. His dad might have warned him against making friends, but Remus knew what it felt like to feel alone at school and it wasn’t like Dorian could even go home at the end of the day. Swallowing down any of his own shyness, he headed over to the other boy, who looked up and nodded at him.

“How you doing?” Remus ventured.

“Alright I guess, I… I miss mum and Abi, my sister,” Dorian looked at Remus worriedly, as though he expected him to laugh.

“Yeah,” Remus agreed. “I miss my mum too. It’s weird not going home at the end of the day, or even the weekends.”

Dorian looked relieved, and Remus felt emboldened to continue.

“You’re muggleborn right? I know we’re wizards and everything but I’m not used to all this,” he gestured around the room, “Even their chess is different!”

“I am, I’ve been trying not to look stupid this whole time. I thought your dad was a wizard, and all the others in our room seem to be purebloods.”

“Yeah, he is,” Remus said slowly, “But I lived with my mum. I only saw him once a month.” Shit, maybe talking to people really was a bad idea. He’d practically given Dorian a clue to the fact that he was a monster, and his dad had been clear that if other students found out he would have to leave Hogwarts. And despite the strangeness of it all, Remus found that he definitely didn’t want that to happen. Home was with his mum, but he’d never been anywhere else so welcoming and well, interesting.

“Oh.” Understanding dawned in Dorian’s eyes and Remus’ heart stopped. “Are they uh, you know,” he whispered the next word, “divorced?”

Remus nearly smiled with relief but managed to catch himself in time. “Uh, yeah.”

“Oh, I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be, I was five when it happened, so I can’t really remember it being any different.” He could, but that was beside the point. It was coming up for 12:30, and he needed to head back down to meet the girls. Remus stood abruptly, and Dorian’s face fell.

“I’m really sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you!”

Remus had really messed this up. He’d meant to comfort Dorian, not make him feel worse. Making a snap decision, he invited him to the lunch. It had been an open invitation, right? As they exited the portrait hole, they nearly hit Marlene, who was waiting outside.

“Ah, I forgot the password! Are you heading down to the Great Hall Remus? Do you mind waiting for me?”

Stunned, Remus just nodded, and Dorian stared at her retreating back.

“She scares me a little,” he admitted.

“Who, Marlene?” asked Remus in surprise. Sure, Marlene was pretty confident and loud, but Remus wouldn’t say she was scary. Not like Mary, anyway.

“Yeah,” said Dorian sheepishly, but he was prevented from elaborating further by the return of Marlene with Lily in tow.

They headed down to the Great Hall together, successfully avoiding the missing stair, and met Mary and Alice before following them over to the greenhouses where they were met by a short, plump witch.

“Hello Mary,” she greeted them, whilst clumsily signing something to Alice. “Who have you brought with you?”

Mary turned to point at each of them. “This is Lily, Marlene, Remus and um… sorry I’m not sure of your name?”

“Dorian.”

“They’re Gryffindors,” continued Mary, “But you did say the more the merrier.”

“Absolutely!” The small witch’s smile grew impossibly brighter. “Lovely to meet you all. I’m Professor Sprout, Head of Hufflepuff house and your Herbology teacher. We’ve got a nice vegetarian picnic spread, all from the greenhouses here. I run a gardening club on Tuesday evenings if any of you would be interested.” She shepherded them though to some spare blankets, introducing them to the other Hufflepuff first years as she went, although Remus didn’t think he’d be able to remember any of their names.

Still, the picnic was nice, and no one questioned Remus taking his bowl from his bag. To both his and Dorian’s surprise, Marlene and Dorian seemed to hit it off almost immediately. Apparently they were both keen gardeners and wanted to attend Professor Sprout’s club. Remus joined a conversation with Alice, Lily, and Ravenclaw called Jane about the differences between muggle and wizarding sign language. All in all, it was pretty relaxing, and Remus was enjoying himself. Or he was until a foul stench hit his nostrils.

“Ew, Marlene, was that you?” shrieked Lily, pinching her nose.

Before Marlene could deny it, Remus heard giggling that sounded suspiciously like Peter, and he turned around to see James, Sirius and Peter sprinting back towards the castle. Lily noticed too, and her frown deepened.

“Urgh, boys,” she growled, “No offense Remus, but they’re such immature berks.”

Remus felt himself inclined to agree but the noxious smell seemed to have caused the picnic to break up, so he just nodded vaguely making his excuses, and headed towards Hagrid’s to use the facilities before returning to the tower. Back in the dormitory Frank and Dorian were playing chess and the other three seemed caught up in conversation so Remus aimed for his bed and the books that waited for him there. He’d nearly made it across the room when James stuck his arm out and beckoned him over.

“Sorry about the dungbomb earlier mate, I was trying to get Sirius to loosen up a little.”

Sirius did look a little paler than usual, so Remus felt compelled to join them. He listened to James and Peter chatter away about how they could improve upon their plan to get hold of some broomsticks, and watched Sirius from the corner of his eye. Gone was the confident boy from the train compartment, lounging around as if he owned the place. Instead, Sirius was sat almost primly, with a poker straight back and downcast eyes. Remus didn’t know what could have caused the change - although he remembered that Sirius’ mood had seemed a little volatile previously when they’d been doing homework in the Great Hall.

That night, as with most nights before a full moon, Remus couldn’t sleep. His bones ached and he couldn’t help but worry about how the wolf might react to the new transformation place. Obviously he trusted that Professor Dumbledore had thought it through, but now doubts were beginning to enter his mind. What if he managed to escape this shack, and, heaven forbid, bit another student? Maybe this was a terrible idea and he should just go home. He’d lived for eleven years without magic, he could go back to the camp and spend the fulls with his dad like before. He was so wrapped up in his spiralling thoughts he almost didn’t hear the sniffling coming from the bed next to him. Sirius. He had nearly worked up the courage to check if the other boy was alright when he heard footsteps padding towards the shared bathroom, and then a shower beginning to run. Remus had fully intended to stay awake until Sirius returned, and even opened the curtains around his four poster bed despite the moon shining through the open window, but sleep must have finally crept up on him because when he awoke the next morning Sirius and James’ beds were empty.

Chapter Text

Sunday passed far too quickly for Remus’ liking, and soon he was following Professor McGonagall to the large tree that seemed altogether too alive that he’d noticed the previous day. Obviously he knew that all trees were alive, but this one had a personality. He watched with wide eyes as McGonagall levitated a stone to fit into a knot in the trunk’s bark causing the tree to still. Upon closer inspection there was a small trapdoor at the foot of the tree, almost completely hidden from sight, and he followed McGonagall through it to discover a narrow, low passageway which led to a dark room. She shot a quick spell at the fireplace on the left hand side, which ignited to provide a little warmth and light.

“Your father tells me that for your previous transformations he has used chains to ensure that you cannot escape. As Professor Dumbledore himself has sealed every possible exit from this building, and I will seal the tunnel as I leave, I do not think that this is necessary.”

Remus blinked in confusion. The beast inside of him was strong, and the exits may be sealed but it could possibly break through the walls. They didn’t exactly look the most sturdy. At his father’s he’d always transformed in a concrete bunker. “Um, maybe I should be chained just in case?” he asked timidly.

McGonagall looked taken aback, but gestured at him to follow her to the centre of the room, where there was a central column supporting the ceiling. He held out his wrists expectantly, and she carefully pushed up his sleeve before emitting a shocked gasp.

“Does Lyall use silver restraints?” Remus was sure that her voice was shaking, which didn’t seem to make much sense. He nodded, and noticed as her jaw hardened before she cast a spell. The cool touch of the metal was different to the burn he had been anticipating and he looked at his teacher in surprise.

“These restraints are ten times stronger than steel, and will adjust in size as you transform. They will ensure both your and the other students’ safety much more effectively than silver ever could,” she explained, almost spitting out the word silver.

“Oh, okay,” Remus felt a bit bad for questioning the witch, who would obviously know much more than he did, but he did wonder why his dad had never thought to use this particular spell. “Maybe you could tell dad about that spell then, for the holidays I mean.”

“Yes, I will have words with your father. Does he normally restrain your legs as well?”

Remus nodded, so she conjured further chains.

“Madame Pomfrey will be down in the morning to tend to your wounds and take you to the hospital wing where you will be able to rest and recover. Have you got any questions?” Remus just shook his head again, so Professor McGonagall continued. “Alright then, I will head back to the castle now. Moonrise will be in around ten minutes. Good luck Mr Lupin.”

With another curt nod she turned to leave, and Remus listened to her enchanting the other side of the door and her receding footsteps before one of the longest ten minutes of his life. The windows of the shack were boarded up, but he knew the exact moment the moon had appeared over the horizon as his bones began to elongate and he couldn’t help but scream with pain.

*

Minerva paused at the foot of the Whomping Willow, unsure whether she had done the right thing in restraining the boy, He was just a child. And silver of all things. She would definitely be having words with Lyall Lupin. Wordlessly, she levitated another rock to set the tree in motion, and transformed to feline form to stand guard or vigil - which it was she wasn’t quite sure.

Sure enough, not ten minutes later, her more acute hearing picked up the anguished screams coming from the shack and her heart broke a little more. She knew that this was necessary, but it just didn’t seem fair that the poor boy went through such pain every month, and that he had to do it alone.

When the screams were no longer human, she headed to Hagrid’s hut for a stiff drink.

*

On Monday morning Sirius woke early, planning to get to the showers first. Lupin’s bed was still empty, and he absently wondered whether the other boy would be back in time for lessons. Apparently his mother was ill and he’d been called home.

Grateful for once for his private tutors, Sirius charmed the bathroom door locked, and hurried to the shower. He really needed to wash his hair, and whoever had designed the bathroom had clearly thought that separate shower stalls were overrated. That said, what they lacked in privacy they more than made up for in water pressure and warmth. Walburga had always insisted that cold showers were good for the constitution, so Sirius was still getting used to the luxury of hot water falling over his body, relaxing every joint. He was so relaxed he lost track of time, and when he turned off the water he could hear Peter hammering on the door to be let in.

“Sorry Peter,” he called, “Won’t be a minute!”

“Mate, you need to hurry up,” Peter called back, “Breakfast is in 15 minutes.”

“Shit!” Sirius grabbed his stuff and shoved on his robe despite not yet being dry, and ran out of the bathroom.

Peter laughed, “Don’t look so panicked mate, we all only woke up 10 minutes ago.”

Sirius made it through breakfast in his damp robes, but he spent most of Charms searching his textbook for some sort of drying spell.

*
Remus stirred groggily, momentarily confused as to where he was. Slowly, he opened his eyes to reveal not much more than what appeared to be an old-fashioned hospital screen, and the back of a woman in what he supposed was the wizarding version of a nurse’s uniform. Hearing him stir, she turned around to face him.

“Ah, Mr Lupin, you’re awake. I administered some Dreamless Sleep back at the Shack, rest aids healing more than almost anything else. How are you feeling?”

Her voice held only concern and kindness, and Remus wasn’t quite sure how to respond. It wasn’t that his father didn’t show concern at his injuries, but there was always an undercurrent of something else - whether it was fear or revulsion or something else Remus wasn’t sure. “Uh, I’m alright I guess?”

Memories were flooding back now, and he remembered that the nurse’s name was Madame Pomfrey. She’d tutted when she’d seen the restraints, but Remus had been too overwhelmed with pain to respond properly to her questions before she’d administered the potion that had apparently knocked him out.

“Here, have some chocolate. I’ll get you some proper breakfast if you can keep it down, some people find they are a bit nauseous after a Dreamless Sleep.” Remus tried to lift his right hand to take the proffered chocolate and winced in pain. “Ah yes, you broke that arm pretty badly, but it should be healed fully within the hour. I’ve managed to close all your open wounds except for the one on your left hip - you must have managed to bite yourself.”

After eating the chocolate (with his left hand) Remus swallowed the potions she handed him, and then watched as Madame Pomfrey changed the dressing on his hip. He felt oddly embarrassed as he had no trousers or pants on, but he supposed she must have already seen everything there was to see when she’d done the original dressing. Suddenly he was overwhelmed with sleepiness, and sunk into another deep slumber.

When he woke again, it was dusk. The ward was quiet, and when he gingerly got off the bed to check around the curtain, he was surprised to find that for the most part, the only pain he could feel was the deep bone ache he always felt around the moon. His right arm was completely healed, and it was only when he tried to step forward onto his left leg that the pain shot through his hip and he stumbled, knocking a plate of sandwiches off of the bedside table. Madame Pomfrey flew into the room from a door he hadn’t noticed and flapped and clucked at him until he was back in bed with strict orders to stay there until the morning. Resigning himself to his fate, Remus allowed her to almost force feed him some newly summoned sandwiches, and took his potions without complaint despite the foul taste.

It had been one of the best moons Remus could remember. Far from his (and his father’s) worries, the wolf hadn’t reacted badly to the new environment at least as far as he could tell. And the potions that Madame Pomfrey had been using really were magical. Never had he healed so quickly, and Remus allowed himself to hope that he might even be able to return to lessons the following day. When the nurse returned with a steaming mug of cocoa, he felt as though maybe Hogwarts was going to be alright after all.

Chapter Text

At breakfast, Sirius noticed blankly that Lupin was back, and sat with the redheaded muggle-born. James had greeted him enthusiastically, and Peter had enquired after his mother, but Sirius hadn’t been able to find it in himself to say anything. He’d received a third letter from his own mother, and the words in it were rattling around his head like flies, stinging as much as if they had been shouted at him instead of being written down. Sirius knew he should probably destroy the letter as he had with the first two he’d received but for some reason, he had kept it. Across the hall he could see Narcissa talking to the Slytherin first years and whilst it was almost certainly just some prefect thing, Sirius’ gut tightened. As though she had noticed him staring she caught his eyes and sneered.

Magical Theory was deathly boring and utterly pointless, just as it had been the previous week. Sirius had learnt this when he was barely seven years old. He drummed his fingers against the desk absently - a habit his father detested - before glancing to his left at James Potter who looked equally bored. Sirius thought about sending him a note suggesting a prank like those they had previously pulled, but Professor Abbott chose that moment to ask him a question. For the rest of the class, she never took her eyes off him, and so he didn’t get a chance to slip James a note. To Sirius’ horror, at the end of the class Professor Abbott called him up for ‘a word’. He’d been fidgeting, but so had most of his classmates - it was hardly his fault for being bored in a class which was better suited for babies. Sirius hated how his knees felt shaky as Professor Abbott tidied her desk, clearly waiting for the other students to leave.

“Miss Black, I hope I am not going to have any trouble from you in my class?”

“No, ma’am,” Sirius answered, hating his instinctive politeness.

“Good. You may think that this is beneath you but not all our students have been raised with private tutors or even any access to magical education at all, and you will not disrupt their learning. I know that you have a need for attention but I would ask you to refrain from acting out in my class, I have very little patience for those who think they are above others.”

“Yes ma’am,” Sirius said, the injustice of being called attention-seeking curling in his stomach. He could hear his mother’s voice saying that this wouldn’t be an issue if Hogwarts kept its student list to purebloods, but he tried to shove it away to the back of his mind. Professor Abbott was right in that regard, it wasn’t their fault that they didn’t know the basics, it was just frustrating that he had yet to learn anything new at school. Surely purebloods could be excused or taught higher-level lessons or...

“Alright then Miss Black, you had better get going to your next class, Professor Slughorn does not tolerate lateness. Even from his little club’s membership.”

Sirius hurried away and it was only when he closed the classroom door behind him that he realised that for the first time since arriving at Hogwarts he had been referred to as a girl. The realisation made him feel sick, and he wracked his brain to see if he could remember how Professor Abbott had addressed him when she’d spoken to him in front of the class. From the lack of reaction of his classmates, he assumed it must have been as Mr Black, but the implicit threat of the teacher giving away his secret soured his mood even further as he stomped his way to his next lesson.

History of Magic was deathly dull, and to make it worse it was one of the many subjects that Gryffindor shared with the Slytherins. Sirius glared at the greasy hair in front of him and suddenly channelled his anger into a particularly painful stinging hex, causing the boy to jump out of his seat. Professor Binns droned on unaware but the rest of the class erupted into a fairly even mix of giggles and concerned noises. Sirius smirked, catching James’ eye. Served the slimeball right for forcing him to look at that desperately unwashed mop for an hour.

By the time lunch rolled around, the snake that had twisted itself in Sirius’ stomach at Professor Abbott’s words had nearly disappeared. It was asleep, at least. There was some added heaviness, but it was easy to ignore in favour of plotting another attempt to get a hold of some brooms with the other Gryffindor boys. Unfortunately, the final lesson of the day was double Potions with the Slytherins, and as Sirius headed off early so that he could go to the bathroom first. Lupin had made excuses too, for the same reason, but weirdly he’d headed out of the castle so Sirius didn’t bother worrying that they would run into each other whilst relieving themselves. He was so wrapped up in his own thoughts about which bathroom it would be best to use in order to have some privacy but not be late for Potions that he almost ran headfirst into his cousin, Andromeda.

“Sa-... Sirius!” she exclaimed, “Look where you’re going for Merlin’s sake. Where are you even rushing off to? Lessons don’t start for another 15 minutes.”

Sirius looked at her in shock, worrying his bottom lip between his teeth. On the one hand, Andromeda was by far his nicest cousin, and she had just used his chosen name, but on the other, she was still a Black and would probably write to his mother if she suspected he was up to anything. “Toilets,” he muttered. Everyone had to go to the toilet right? Not even the Blacks could find something wrong with that.

Sirius could see her considering his answer before her shoulders slumped and she replied: “Makes sense. You don’t half make things difficult for yourself Sa-... Sirius.”

Without bothering to reply something to the effect that he hadn’t chosen this, because maybe he had, and in any case, he couldn’t risk the potential he was overheard, Sirius rushed off, hearing Andromeda sigh again in the background. It was shaping up to be a thoroughly shit day. That said, Sirius couldn’t help but notice that although the wizards’ robes he’d managed to order Kreacher to purchase for him looked superficially almost identical to the witchs’ robes he was used to, they allowed a great deal more freedom of movement.

*

Remus’ bones and muscles ached as he walked back up the slight slope from Hagrid’s hut to the castle, and he groaned as the clock tower struck one o’clock. He was officially late for Potions. Whilst this in itself was enough to concern him, he was only here at Hogwarts on the goodwill of the teachers, after all, another part of his brain reminded him that this was another way he’d stick out. Every conversation he’d had with his father since receiving his admission letter had boiled down to the same simple message - Don’t Stand Out. And even without werewolf-ness to worry about he’d learnt quickly enough at primary school that no one likes the kid who doesn’t quite fit in. Remus had been that kid plenty of times and the only thing that had kept him going was that he would be moving schools soon. He was supposed to be at Hogwarts for seven years, a fact that was somewhat terrifying in itself. The longest he had ever spent in one place was the five years of his life before he was bitten, and he couldn’t really remember it.

Still, missing another lesson was out of the question, given he was well enough to attend. A bit of pain was nothing new. As he slowly pushed the door of the classroom open, trying not to draw attention to his tardiness, Remus scanned the room for an empty chair. To his relief, there was one next to Sirius, who was sat right at the back - perfect for not disturbing the rest of the class as he shuffled over to the space on the bench. Unfortunately, Remus didn’t see the bright green bag belonging to an improbably tall Slytherin girl and he went flying, knocking around ten jars of ingredients off the shelves behind him in the process with an almighty crash. 20 faces turned to stare at him as he went bright red. If there was ever a good moment for the ground to swallow him up, it would be right about now.

A flash of red hair in his peripheral vision alerted him to Lily rushing to his side.

“Remus, are you alright?” she asked worriedly.

“Hmm,” he grunted, as she started prodding him as if to see if he was injured, “Ow!” he couldn’t help but exclaim as she pressed the bite wound on his hip. To his horror, her hands came away covered in blood. The fall must have disturbed Madam Pomfrey’s dressing. Could his blood infect her? Remus became aware that although he was breathing rapidly he couldn’t seem to catch his breath. It was as though all the oxygen had left the room and he was slowly drowning. Or quickly. He was going to faint, he was going to faint, what if he’d infected… he was going to faint, he was…

He was being levitated through the corridors by Professor Slughorn.

*

Lily hurried after Professor Slughorn as he transported Lupin to the Hospital Wing. There was no way some broken glass could have caused that much blood, right? Remus had seemed really nice when she’d spoken to him over the weekend, but then he’d disappeared for a day, and no one could tell her where he was. The Gryffindor boys probably knew, but there was no way she was asking them, especially not that arrogant James Potter or Sirius Black.

Both of them had consistently been causing trouble in lessons, and unlike them, she hadn’t learnt all of this from the cradle. It wasn’t fair on the muggle-borns in the class to cause such disruption. It wasn’t like most of the Professors had designed the lessons to be from a true beginner level, and even the reading she’d done over the summer holidays had scarcely prepared her for just how much of the wizarding world depended on magic and how everyone couldn’t seem to understand that not only did she not know the spells but she didn’t have the cultural background either. It was like when Tuney had started at the grammar school - the other kids hadn’t been any cleverer than her but they’d all had Latin tutors and spoke with long vowel sounds and used multiple sets of cutlery per meal. Petunia had never invited any of her friends from school home, and Lily remembered sharply the hurt she’d felt when she’d realised it was because she was embarrassed by their house, their family. Now she was beginning to understand - although she would definitely still invite her new friends. Just because she’d had a different upbringing didn’t mean it was any worse. And hers had been full of love, something not everyone could say if Sirius’ face when he got a crest emblazoned letter at the breakfast table was anything to go by.

At the Hospital Wing, Madam Pomfrey fussed around Remus and sent Lily to wash her hands after realising that she wasn’t hurt in any way. To her surprise, Madam Pomfrey seemed to already know Remus, who as far as she knew had muggle parents too so it wasn’t like the nurse could be a family friend. Lily hovered around, hoping that she would be able to help Remus back to class or something, but the nurse shooed her away as she emerged from behind the privacy curtain with a pile of bloodied bandages. Had Remus already been injured? Finally, though, she gave up and allowed the nurse to push her out of the Hospital Wing and wandered back to the Dungeons, mind racing with the unanswered questions.