For Bex. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did writing it.
When he first sees the scarlet train waiting proudly, Remus feels his entire body tremble with fear and excitement. For five years, he never dreamed that this moment would come. He never thought he would be able to go to Hogwarts after his incident.
But here he is, standing next to his mother on the platform. And he doesn't know whether he should be scared or happy. He turns to look at his mother.
She flattens his hair. "It's all right, love. Remember, this is a good thing," she assures him.
"What if I don't make any friends?" he questions, eyes wide.
"I'm sure that you will," she answers without hesitation.
He bites his lips. He glances at the train and back at her. "What…what if I do?"
Her expression softens. She gets down to eye-level. "You mustn't tell them about…" she trails off. He goes to protest, but she cuts across him sharply. "We've talked about this, Remus. There are people who wouldn't want you at Hogwarts if they found out."
He looks down. "I know, Mum," he says.
When she's satisfied, she stands. "You will be okay. This is an opportunity to make friends and enjoy yourself," she says encouragingly. The whistle sounds for last call. "Don't get into trouble," she lectures. "And make sure you write me often."
Remus smiles and nods. He wraps his arms around his mother. She hugs him back tightly. When he pulls away, he grabs his trunk. "Bye Mum!"
He boards the train without looking back. He pulls his trunk along behind him, looking for a place to sit. The compartments that he passes are already full with people.
As he goes to pass, a redheaded girl and a black haired boy exit a compartment in a storm of rage. Remus looks into the compartment, noticing two boys chatting happily. He pokes his head in. "May I sit here?" he asks politely.
The two occupants share a look before looking at Remus. They nod. "Come on in."
He struggles to store his trunk on the racks above. "Here, let me help." As soon as the trunk is settled, a hand appears in front of him. "James Potter."
Remus takes the proffered hand. "Remus," he replies. "Thanks for the help."
"Anytime," James nods. He kicks his companion, who glares at him. "You could've helped, y'know?"
He shrugs. "It looked like you two had it handled." He grins at Remus. "Black," he announces. "Sirius Black."
James flings himself down. "So Remus, which house do you think you're going to be in?"
Peter and James watches Remus and Sirius as more cards flip. Remus matches them as quickly as he can. But Sirius is better than he is at this game, quicker. By the time the cards explode, Sirius has six matches to Remus' four.
Sirius laughs happily. And he starts to shuffle the cards again.
James and Peter, who were eliminated before, gather back around the cards. "So you never did tell me if you were coming over during the holidays, Remus," James says. "Sirius and Peter are both coming over. We can have fun."
Remus holds back a sigh. He has been avoiding avoiding this conversation since James first brought it up, two weeks prior. As much as he wants to go, a full moon is happening during the holidays.
"I dunno," he responds. "My grandparents are coming into town and I haven't seen them in while." He hopes his friends don't see through his lies.
James frowns. "All right." There's disappointment in his tone.
And not for the first time, Remus hates the situation he's in. He wishes he could spend some of his holidays with his friends, but he is too afraid of the wolf and them finding out about it.
"Come on," Peter says. "Let's play some Exploding Snaps."
The mood immediately shifts. "Are you ready to be demolished?" Sirius taunts.
They spend the rest of the train ride playing Exploding Snaps and laughing when it explodes in their faces.
Before he reaches the train, he stops. His mother gives him a questioning look to which he just shakes his head. He hasn't told her that his friends found out about his condition, knowing she would freak out if she knew.
He had told himself that his friend's opinion of him wouldn't change over the summer. But now that he's standing there, his fears come creeping back on him.
What if they realized that he was disgusting? What if they realized they no longer wanted to be friends?
Remus isn't sure how he would handle that. He's gotten far too comfortable with them around that he's not sure if he could handle them leaving.
The familiar voice draws him out of his worries. He focuses his eyes, noticing that Sirius is standing with James. They are both grinning from ear to ear.
He finds himself smiling. He turns to his mother. "I'll write to you. Love you!" He wraps his arms around her quickly before he heads towards his friends.
"Remus," James says, slapping his shoulder. "Come on. Let's get our compartment before someone else takes it." He uses the hand on Remus' shoulder to direct him.
"We're not going to wait for Peter?" he asks.
Sirius shrugs. "You know how Peter is. He's always the last one to get on. Besides, James is right. We might lose our compartment if we don't hurry up."
Remus follows Sirius and James onto the train. As he settles into the compartment, he's glad to have friends like his. He was worried for absolutely nothing.
"You can't do that, Sirius," he says.
Three sets of eyes turn on him. And Sirius pouts. "Why not?"
Remus rubs his face and sighs. "We can get into trouble for it," he reminds his companions. "It's defacing public property."
None of them look worried about it. "It's just a sticking charm," Peter says reassuringly. "You can do that, right, Sirius?"
Sirius looks offended. "'Course. I charmed our photo to stay on my wall. And some pictures of Muggle girls," he adds. "It drives my mother bonkers."
"Impossible," Remus remarks, eyes narrow. "You're underage."
"The Ministry only has trackers on underage Wizard's wands. So I nicked my mother's wand while she was having her afternoon tea," Sirius replies proudly. "Besides, the Ministry has difficulties telling apart who casted a spell in a house of Wizards."
Remus has to admit that it is rather clever. But he still shakes his head. "I'm not helping you deface public property," he announces.
"Spoilsport," James declares. He stands on the seat and summons something from his trunk. He, then, passes it to Sirius.
It's a piece of wood with "Marauders" engraved in it. After a moment, the word shines silver against the dark wood. Sirius holds it up and examines it. Once he's satisfied with it, he commands, "Peter, James, come watch to make sure the pathway is clear."
The three of them exit the compartment and reenter a few minutes later. They are grinning triumphantly. Remus shakes his head, but he can't help the smile that crosses his face.
"Now, everyone will know this is our compartment," James says.
Unlike previous train rides, this one is somber. The four boys quietly put their trunks in the racks above their heads.
"Exploding Snaps?" Peter asks.
Despite not wanting to, they nod, knowing it might take their minds off the current events. Sirius summons the deck from his trunk. And they gather around the cards. Instead of Sirius' trash talking, there is silence.
When the cards explode in Sirius' face, he growls and shakes his head. "This isn't right!"
"You don't have to tell us that," Remus says.
But Sirius pays no mind to him. "Mary is only a fourth year!" he exclaims. "She did nothing wrong."
"We know," Peter agrees.
In the few days since Mary's incident, all Sirius and James have talked about is the injustice of it all. Remus can't blame them for being frustrated. All the Gryffindor knows that Mulciber is to blame for the torture and hospitalization of fellow Gryffindor, Mary Macdonald, but he hasn't been brought to justice for it yet.
And Remus doubts he will be. Mulciber was careful in covering up his involvement.
"What was her crime?" he demands. He stands and paces back and forth. "Being a Muggleborn? Being a Gryffindor? "
"Some people don't have to do anything," Remus informs him. "There are just people out there that are going to hate other regardless of things they've done."
Sirius stops mid-step. He turns to look at Remus. "That isn't fair."
"Life isn't fair," he reasons.
Sirius slumps into his seat. "I know," he sighs.
"You just thought that it should be," James says, patting Sirius' shoulder.
"We all do," Peter announces.
Sirius sighs. "Let's get back to our game," he says finally. But the thoughts of Mary weigh heavily on their minds.
As soon as his trunk is stored, Remus collapses in the seat. His entire body aches, as it does after every full moon, but not as fiercely as it usually does. It's one of the reasons he's able to go home today, and not spend days in the Hospital Wing like normal.
The other reason is the three boys sitting in the compartment with him. They, too, have collapsed in the seats, too exhausted to move. But as they notice he is glaring at them, they grin.
It's Sirius who first speaks. "Lighten up, Moony," he says. Despite his attempt to keep his voice light-hearted, Remus can hear the exhaustion in it.
Remus shakes his head. "I told you all that you didn't need to do it last night. It's not the first time I've done it alone, and it won't be the last time."
"You wouldn't have been able to go home today, if we weren't there," Peter reminds him.
He closes his eyes. Because he knows it's true. Last time the full moon happened the night before the train ride home, he was unable to go home that night. Instead, he spent his usual two days in the Hospital Wing at school before he could Floo home.
"It's still –"
"You better not say 'dangerous'," James warns. "Because we've been through this a hundred times before. You don't have to go through this alone."
Remus gestures around. "Look at you three! You're exhausted."
"We can sleep on the way home," Peter informs him.
He glances between his friends. "I've hurt you, haven't I?" When none responses, Remus covers his face with his hands. "You're my friends and I'm hurting you. What kind of person allows that?"
He feels his hands being pulled away from his face. Sirius is kneeling before him, his expression hard. "You are not hurting us." When Remus tries to protest, Sirius cuts across him, sharply. "You are not Moony and you cannot control him. We're not expecting you to."
"However, what we are expecting," James says, "is for you to accept that you aren't doing this alone."
Remus glances at his friends. Sirius' expression softens. James grins at him. And Peter looks determined. "You aren't alone."
He smiles. And nods. "Thank you," he whispers.
As he closes his eyes, Remus wonders how he got so lucky. He has friends who would endure so much for him, and he doesn't know what he did to deserve that. But he isn't complaining.
The train ride home is quiet for once.
As Remus boards the train for the final time, he understands the emptiness that others before him felt. Hogwarts has been his home for the past seven years; a home more than his own ever was. And now he's leaving it and it's bittersweet.
He feels a hand on his shoulder. He turns to meet James' grinning face. "Come on, mate. We're going to miss out on our compartment!"
Remus laughs. "We both know that'll never happen. We happen to have a sign above it," he reminds him.
"I know." James grins. "That's why we did it: to warn people away from our compartment."
Remus shakes his head and follows James. "Where's Lily?" he asks.
James' grin widens at the mention of his girlfriend. "She headed off towards the Heads compartment already. I suppose I should follow her."
"You should. Just because school's ended doesn't mean you get to slack on your Head Boy duties," Remus lectures.
James rolls his eyes. "Yes mother," he replies sarcastically. He salutes Remus and takes off in the opposite direction.
When Remus opens the door to their compartment, he is greeted by the sight of cards exploding in Peter's face. He had made the mistake of looking up to see the intruder instead of matching cards.
Remus stores his trunk and takes his seat.
"Thought you had gotten lost," Sirius announces.
He rolls his eyes. "Was just taking one last look at Hogwarts," he replies. He watches as Sirius deals the cards. "Hard to believe it's really over."
Sirius stops mid-deal. "Yeah, it is. But it was fun, wasn't it?"
Peter and Remus both nod. Remus' best memories happened at Hogwarts. And he wouldn't change that for the world. He does, however, wish that he could spend longer at Hogwarts. Because there's something dark brewing; they all know it. Remus just doesn't know if he's ready for it.
It's Peter that breaks the silence. "Everything's going to change now, isn't it?"
"Yeah," Remus breathes. "It is."
Sixteen years later
Remus takes a deep breath and Disapparates to Platform 9 ¾. At the first sight of the scarlet train, his heart aches. He feels like he's a first year again, praying that no one finds out about his condition.
He charms his trunk to follow him onto the train. And he finds himself searching for a specific compartment. The first thing he sees is the plaque. It's hidden under a Disillusion charm.
The memory of the year that it was charmed up causes him to smile. He pushes the door open. He's assaulted by memories that he's tried to forget. The first time he met James and Sirius….Black, he reminds himself. The fears of being abandoned and the relief when he wasn't. The games and laughter.
Grabbing the doorway, Remus drowns himself in the memories. The memories he's buried and the ones he's almost forgotten.
After a while, he finally stores his trunk in the rack above. He takes a seat. And across from him sits seventeen year old James, grinning like mad. Peter is watching intently, while Sirius – Black – has the cards explode in his face.
He can barely keep the tears from falling. He closes his eyes, trying to block out the memories. The silence of the compartment is much louder than he could've imagined.
He thought he could handle this. But now, he's not so sure. He was always more dependent on his friends than they were on him. And that will always be his weakness.
A/n – so many thanks to Lizy for beta-ing it for me. This is based off a tumblr post that I have received permission to write.