A/N: Generally I try to have the self-control not to post a fic unless I'm reasonably sure I can update it quickly. This is a bit of an exception, mainly because it's more a collection of one-part fics with a common theme, universe, and Marauders running between them all as a connecting thread. It's rather akin to some of the 'what would everyone see in the Mirror of Erised?' and 'being Sorted!' fics, with all the chapters able to be read independently. This is an older tale I've had eating up space on my hardrive for a while. I hope you enjoy, but if you somehow do, remember that it will be quite some time before Part II and its successors are uploaded.

And while it will indeed get angsty at bits, remember the subthemes surrounded 'fears' in canon. Chocolate and laughter. *grins*


Fears in and of Themselves


Part I


It was a nice enough place. That had been his concern, the query he had made to every older student he could find from the moment he stepped on Platform-Nine-and-Three-Quarters: Was Hogwarts good-looking? It was a castle, he knew, so was it a nice castle? He had pleaded desperately with the Sorting Hat not to put him in Hufflepuff: Merlin, no, not that bumblebee place with that horrid yellow and black! The Hat, dryly amused, had said Hufflepuff wouldn't've suited him in any case; Sirius Black's patience could fit in a thimble. What's a thimble? Oh, never mind, the Hat had gone on. Brains galore but no discipline to push them forth, temper, loyalty, courage… yes, GRYFFINDOR! sounded about right for him… which was fine by Sirius. The scarlet and gold was a respectable colour combination. With a mother who was an interior decorator, one developed a critical eye for such things.

But luckily he didn't feel too homesickly, as Ainsley Quirke, who was the son of a friend of a cousin of Dad's, had tauntingly predicted. Ainsley had never quite forgotten the first time Sirius had "stayed over all night" at James's. Sirius didn't much remember the fear, either, but did the shame after the story was repeated 'round and 'round - and when gossip was told that much, it tended to get embroidered rather overmuch.

For one thing, James's bed was right next to him, and Sirius's ears, always delicate, could faintly hear his breathing - in… out… in… out… in a comforting, steady rhythm that characterised James. Crazy-wild by day (and night), he was a sort of pillar, a constant. James was predictable, not in a boring way, but in a way Sirius could read his mind and knew him nearly as well as he knew himself. Possibly better. Sirius couldn't even remember a time before James Potter was in his life.

They had both been Sorted into Gryffindor, much to the two boys' relief. Their parents had gotten tired of listening to their worries and vows to return immediately home if not in the same House and their schemes to discover how to fix the process. After seeing it was a Hat that did the job, Sirius could see why the Blacks and the Potters hadn't told their sons how the system went - for they had been so surprised that the thought of threatening death by burning hadn't occurred to them until after they sat together at Gryffindor for the feast. And by then, James had pointed out, it didn't matter, as it was proved unnecessary. (Turned out it sure had. The Hat took about two seconds with James… a bit to Sirius's disconcertion.)

True, there were still glaring differences not entirely canceled about by James's presence. Sirius felt almost invaded by the mere existence of their dormitory mates across the room. He knew it was silly to think they could have gotten a dormitory to themselves, but still… something was odd about sharing a room with two people you knew nothing about. Well, except that Peter Pettigrew (directly across from James) was from a pureblood family and liked the pudding. And stuttered a little.

Sirius knew even less about the boy across from him, except that his last name was Lupin. Somehow in the noisy and confusing din he hadn't quite heard his given name quite right, although he already commanded some respect for standing under a nasty curse of Lucius Malfoy's on the train without flinching before asking - with falsely sincere curiosity - if it were true that a second cousin to the Malfoy made a small fortune in Muggle stock. Wasn't the most sensible move ever made, but the look of shock and horror on Malfoy's face - and his garbled assurance that it was a fifth cousin, thank you - was worth it.

Sirius's semi-luminous watch glaring from his nightstand read one or so in the morning. He had been stifling yawns a while ago but now felt annoyingly awake. It defied all logic, for he hadn't slept a whit the night before, either, but Sirius's nerves loved to torment him.

For one, he kept hearing little noises, like stifled whimpers. When one is hearing nonexistent noises, then you know you are nearing insanity - Sirius was clever enough to know that, anyhow, even if every adult he knew said he wouldn't know common sense if it hit him over the head with a cauldron (was probably their dream, too).

It couldn't be James or Peter Pettigrew, because their curtains were open enough for Sirius to see they were dead to the world. Lupin's four-poster was drawn, but Sirius had an idea that someone who had taken a Climatic Curse without cringing wouldn't be crying in the middle of the night. Just didn't calculate.

Forcing himself to shut his eyes, Sirius leisurely replayed the day in his head. Adrenaline, still soaring about in his blood vessels, was finally beginning to settle down, although thinking about the train ride and Sorting and feast was exciting. He may have also had a stomachache. The Blacks had one of the best cooks in Britain, but as his dad had assured him beforehand, it was nothing compared to Hogwarts School's kitchen. Finding your way into there would be heaven on earth.

Just when he was near-asleep, there was a distinct toss. Cursing his too-good hearing - convenient by day; aggravating by night - Sirius decided perhaps he hadn't been imagining things before. Tugging back his curtains, he found the two boys on the far side of the room still asleep. That left one person who was making the noise.

Perhaps Lupin was homesick or having a bit of a nightmare. Sirius tried to muffle a sigh, conscience telling him to check and ask. But it would be awkward and noisy and awakening, and while he was a nocturnal sort of boy he wanted to face his first day with a fair amount of sleep. Bleary-eyed first-years were probably a target for Malfoy and other bullies the way a crippled fly was a target for a spider.

After a while Sirius blew through his teeth, rather irritated, and rolled with a tumbler's grace out of bed with a soft thump on the floor. Straightening his pyjamas absently he walked over to the fourth four-poster. He knocked on the curtains before realising how thick an idea that was, and blamed it on sleep-deprivation.

'Er, hallo?' Sirius began cautiously. 'Are you all right?'

At first there was a very loaded silence. Then Lupin cautiously pulled back the curtains, eyes wide and worried. 'I'm very sorry,' he whispered. 'Didn't think anyone was awake.'

'Neither did I.' Sirius offered a smile. 'So again, are you all right?' The answer seemed to be no. Lupin's eyes were red-rimmed as if he actually had been crying a little, and he looked miserable. Sirius had noted before how thoroughly exhausted he appeared, but now he was about twice the worse.

Even so, he weakly returned the smile. 'Fine, thanks.'

'Then why're there tears in your eyes?' Sirius asked sensibly.

Lupin looked uncomfortable. 'Nothing.' Seeing Sirius's sceptical expression, he added reluctantly: 'Well… I…' Lowering his eyes, he mumbled something to the effect of 'iftwavfoodar'.

'Eh?'

'Nothing, really.'

Sirius stood hesitantly before asking, 'Say, do you mind if I borrow a piece of your bed for the moment while he talk?'

'Oh! Oh, yes, of course.' Lupin swiftly pushed himself backwards to the pillows to clear a space for Sirius.

For once Sirius chose his words carefully before bursting out a confession: 'You know, I cried the first time I stayed at James's.' He nodded to indicate his sleeping friend's four-poster. 'It was my first night away from home, and for a while we got on grandly, once night came - just when James fell asleep - I got spooked and threw a screaming, crying, hysterical fit.' He grinned lopsidedly. 'No one lets me forget it, either.' Lupin was smiling a little as well. 'So I can understand. Ever been away from home before?'

He shook his head slowly. 'Well - when I was really little. Can't remember it well though. It's not just that… I'm, I'm scared of the dark, honestly.'

'Oh.' Sirius considered this with a blink. 'Oh…' There was another discomfited pause. 'What do you do at home?'

'Well, I had a small magicked crystal,' Lupin said in his quiet whisper, speaking as if more at ease now. 'My parents gave it to me years ago, after I started being afraid… but I didn't bring it. I mean, if I'm going to Hogwarts, I'm probably getting too old for it. It's silly, really, to be eleven and sniveling because there's no light.' There was a determined, if unhappy, note to his voice.

Secretly Sirius agreed but felt badly for him. And he rather admired Lupin's defiance and to leave the crystal at home. He also didn't feel not sleeping was the solution for his problem… and, of course, a large part of it was that he didn't want to be kept up for the next seven years either.

'My older brother taught me a piece of magic after the night at James's. You don't need a wand to do it - Merlin, I was doing it when I was eight - but it conjures a flame. Do you want me to show you it?'

Lupin bit his lower lip for a moment before looking straight at Sirius and nodding. 'I suppose so - if you wouldn't mind.'

'Of course not.' Sirius pulled out his hands from where he had been sitting on them, a habit his mother hadn't been able to break him of in spite of all threats of Hit Wizards taking him away and fire pouring on his head.

'Thank you.' Lupin was near breathless.

Pulling his muddled wits together, Sirius held out his hands into a half-cup, breathing steadily, as his father had taught him to do. Think only of light and how much you want it. A strange tug in his chest told him he had succeeded even before feeling a slightly ticklish cackling against his palms. He opened his eyes, enjoying the awed expression on Lupin's face.

'D'you like it?'

'That's incredible,' Lupin breathed. 'Does it… does it burn? Hotly?'

'Not unless you want it to. Go ahead. Stick a finger to it.'

With a fleeting smidge of apprehension, Lupin extended his forefinger and shoved it in the blue sphere, as if getting it over with before losing his nerve, and then grinned a little as the prickly sensation hit him.

Sirius, pleased with the reaction and flattery, let it levitate and soar over their heads. 'Nothing to it, honestly. You'll have it down in minutes. Let it hang above you, and when you fall asleep, the bond with it'll break and it'll extinguish. Now hold out your hands like I did.'

Tearing his gaze from where it had been following Sirius's light-sphere, Lupin obeyed.

'Now listen, this is only as hard as you make it. You're here, so you obviously have magic, and you don't need a wand to use it. You are it. It's a part of you, so control it.'

A sudden arrested look crossed Lupin's face, causing Sirius to halt mid-sentence. 'What're you thinking?'

'Some things… Some things aren't controllable.' Again looking at Sirius squarely, Lupin went on. 'Blinking, for example, or breathing, or…'

Sirius thought of it during the conversation's lull. 'True,' he shrugged. 'But trust me, this is. Now where was I?… you mostly need to really, really want it.

'If you're breathing slowly and concentrating really hard, you should feel something funny in your chest.' This bit of explaining how to do it was harder than Sirius had expected.

Lupin didn't reply a moment; his eyes were closed and his meditation was rather more focused than Sirius's had ever been. 'Right,' he said at long last.

'That's the magic coming up. Think of light. Think of your hand. Just think of it really hard and make it do it, sort of - '

Whoosh.

Sirius opened his eyes and stared. A huge mass of bluebell flames were creeping and blazing all over both Lupin's hands and wrists. Lupin appeared rather shocked (and smiling from the tickling feeling).

'Whoa!' said Sirius, with an inexplicable grin of his own.

'Shush - the others - oh, no - ' Distracted, Lupin's fire started to recede, and his hasty correction did nothing except make it more the fickle.

'It's okay. Calm down. It was too big, anyhow. You shouldn't try to control all of that.' Sirius's grin spread. It was an infectious sort of thing, and was putting the quieter boy at ease quickly. 'Besides - if you keep it smaller, you can play with it. Shaping - watch, this is really fun.' Fiddling around with his imagination, Sirius was so in practice that he quickly made it swirl into an immobile tornado. 'That's my favourite.'

Lupin was wide-eyed. 'How'd - that's - can you keep it like that?'

''Course! You don't even need it in your hand, after you've got the feel of it.' Rarely had Sirius been able to show such a thing to someone else, and Lupin's awed respect was extremely flattering. 'Look.' With a wave of his connection with the flame, it flitted from his hand to suspend in midair. 'Now, yours 'specially isn't strong enough to go through the curtain, so if you do that you can have it on all night and no one'll be any the wiser. Try out some shapes, c'mon.' Sirius demonstrated without waiting. 'Here - Wronski Feints. James's favourite. Something else, or what?'

'That's impressive,' Lupin acknowledged, concentrating, and startling when he succeeded in imitating Sirius, who was almost a little put out that Lupin was getting such quick results. It had taken him years more.

'My mum always likes me to make these for Christmas - she's a Fairy Rights Activist or something of that sort. She's an interior decorator, you know.'

'Yes,' said Lupin, somewhat shyly, 'my mum adores her catalogues.'

'Hunh. I'll have to tell her that much.'

Lupin seemed compelled to admit honestly: 'My da doesn't really approve of certain Black politics though.'

'Don't worry. No one does.' Sirius shrugged and grinned. Lupin actually laughed at this devil-may-care apathy. 'What do your parents do?' Sirius continued, feeling as if they had hit on a safe subject, and only hoping he wouldn't be expected to call Lupin by name anytime soon in this conversation, as he still hadn't much of a clue.

'Well… Mum used to be a Quidditch player - '

'D'you play?' Talk of exciting subjects.

'Not much. We've lived in the Muggle world a good deal - Da teaches at one of their schools. Besides, I can't stand heights.'

For a moment Sirius debated which one was the more interesting - prospects of learning more of the mysterious Muggle world, or asking about Mrs Lupin. In the end Quidditch won out. 'Was she a Harper?'

'No. Ballycastle Bats, until - an injury. Chaser.'

'Oh, right, Dad mentioned Ananda Lickowski once. Some sort of head thing - vertigo?'

As if relieved, Lupin nodded. 'Something like that,' he said vaguely. 'How do I get this back to the original shape?'

'Why bother?' asked Sirius. 'That's boring.'

Lupin laughed a little nervously. 'All right.'

'No, seriously - none of those awful Sirius comments, please - keep trying out other things, or else you'll have to start all over. Lookum, here's a dogma - or just a triangle; I like to think of it as a pyramid - or, try this, a moon. Good as 'sif you had a window open.'

'Er - no, I'd rather start over,' Lupin said, entirely too swiftly.

Sirius stared at him. 'Am I being daft here? Don't tell me you're scared of the moon!'

Now his laugh was even quicker and almost harsh. 'Of course not! Scared of the moon; that's ridiculous.'

'Sorry,' Sirius rather subsided into himself.

'I mean, I'll confess to fears of the dark, and I hate heights - but the moon? Don't be silly.' His quiet tone had gone very defencive.

'All right. Well, you can try again if you like. It might help you remember how to do it next time.'

Apparently thinking that he'd made a rather bad impression, Lupin obeyed with an abrupt subditity. 'Thank you again. I really do appreciate that much.'

'Not at all. It's fun to show off.' Sirius chuckled self-deprecatingly.

Lupin joined in a bit, but added seriously: 'Most would have taken me for a pansy in two seconds flat with the scared-of-the-dark thing.'

'I told you, I was just as bad once. Can't have a single birthday party without being reminded of that time at James's.'

'You and James've known each other a while?' Lupin sounded wistful.

'Yes. Practically forever. It's a good thing we're the same year, even though I'm almost a year older - couldn't've stood to be separated a year while I went and he stayed behind. Know anyone around here? Oh, no, that's right, you lived with Muggles.'

'I do know one of the Muggle-borns - she was in my class. Lily Evans, in Gryffindor.'

'A girl and a Muggle-born. As if that counts.' Lupin looked slightly affronted, so Sirius quickly went on: 'That's all right. Even James barely knows any of the first-years. He already is going to make it a point to sit next to you in Charms, though, 'cause he said that you probably take good notes. Do you?'

Lupin laughed softly. 'That's for you to find out by bitter experience, isn't it?'

'Merlin. I knew you were prefect-material.'

'I'm the one that got suspended from the same school my father taught at. If that's prefect-material I've lost a lot of respect for them.'

Sirius looked at him with high reverence. 'You've been suspended?'

Seeing that this was an area of merit, Lupin nodded with pride. 'Oh yes. For three weeks.'

'What was the joke?'

'Oh, it wasn't for a joke - although,' and he shook with suppressed laughter, 'the time with two of the girls in the Sixth - that was certainly an event. No, this had been for fighting, but it wasn't major and more the final straw than just the fight.'

'There was no one worth fighting at James'n mine school,' Sirius said woefully.

'Probably that'll change here,' said Lupin comfortingly. 'There's over two hundred students, and if you went to one of those private pre-schools for wizards you probably went with twenty at most.'

Sirius brightened at this reasoning, his liking for Lupin increasing. 'It's big here, isn't it?'

'Rather.' Lupin appeared a little uncomfortable.

'Don't like it?'

'I'd be happier if there weren't so many faces,' he confessed, shaping his new flames with the utmost absentness, so that now it was in a rod sort of figure.

'We'll get used to it.'

'Oh, sure.' The sarcasm was clear. 'The Scotch even tell us that you can get used to anything up to being hanged.'

'Aren't you the cheerful one?' Sirius yawned. 'Or just tired.'

'That, too. We shouldn't stay up too late tonight.'

'Too many new classes tomorrow.'

Lupin couldn't resist needling: 'And potential enemies.'

'Are you going to use big words all year?'

'At least up and until the point in where I express my deepest gratitude for your illuminating services at this nocturnal hou - '

'Merlin save us!'

'Shush!'

Peter Pettigrew rolled over uneasily in his sleep. The two heads turned to him, and Sirius nodded. 'Guess I'll go to bed now. You all right?'

'Yes,' Lupin nodded. 'Just my pride has a little bruising.'

'Shan't tell anyone.'

The fair-haired boy was surprised. 'That's really very nice of you.'

'Every month or year or so I feel like being generous. Treasure it.'

'I think I will.' He hesitated before adding awkwardly: 'Good night.'

''Night,' Sirius said easily, rolling out of the bed onto the floor nearly soundlessly. He felt as if he had known Lupin a long time. Not quite, because there was so much odd about him, but it was odd just how comfortable it all was... especially considering he still didn't have the faintest clue of his given name. 'Remember to make sure the flame is stable before you fall asleep or it might go haywire. I don't think it'd burn you, but just to be sure - don't worry, though, as long as it's floating before you drift off you're fine.'

Lupin had begun to look rather apprehensive but now nodded trustingly. 'All right. Thanks again, - er, sorry,' he said, going a flushed shade. 'Didn't honestly catch your name - how's it pronounced?'

Sirius laughed in relief. 'Man, I was afraid it'd be rude if I asked yours! I'm Sirius Black - Sirius, like the star. Trust my mum. Yours?'

'Remus. Remus Lupin. And frankly I'm glad you didn't know - felt like an absolute idiot, not to mention rude.'

'Oh, don't worry.' Sirius rolled his head dismissively in a way so comical Remus Lupin was forced to bite his lip. 'The Great Hall's sort of noisy, don't you think?'

'You sound as if you dislike it.' Lupin was dry.

'Heh! No, it's grand.' Sirius threw himself onto his bed, promptly putting the curtains and sheets and coverlets in such a state of disarray that he had to burrow to find them again. 'See you in the morning.'

'G'night.' With a soft, quick smile, Remus managed to levitate his flame-light and drew the curtains around him. The window was open, and moonlight always made him feel queasy, although Sirius wasn't to know this for months and months later.

TBC (eventually)