Remus opened the window wide so the night air invaded the room, and sat up on the windowsill, legs bunched up underneath him, facing out into the darkness. From behind his ear he withdrew the cigarette he had just rolled, and lit it with purple flame from his wand. He inhaled deeply, his eyes closed, and then as he exhaled they flickered tiredly open. With his empty hand he tucked his unruly hair behind his ears, out of the way so it wouldn't smell of smoke, and then inhaled again. The nicotine rushed through his bloodstream, soothing and pacifying him, making him even more tired. He leaned his head heavily against the windowframe and carried on smoking, his left hand moving up towards his mouth and then down again his only movement.
Suddenly there was a sound, not the usual sleeping creaks of an old building, nor the huffs and tiny snores of the other people in the dormitory. Remus sat, alert, not daring to turn his head round to confirm what his ears had already warned him of.
'Moony?' a voice asked. 'What're you doing up at this time?'
'Go back to bed, Sirius,' Remus said wearily.
'Not til you do... what's that smell?'
At last, Remus turned round. Sirius's eyes flicked to the cigarette held loosely in his left hand, its glowing red end the only light apart from that of the moon and stars.
'It's a Muggle cigarette – desperately bad for you but somehow still very alluring.'
'Can I try it?' And Sirius advanced towards the window, hand outstretched.
Remus propped the cigarette between his first two fingers.
'What do I do?'
'Inhale. Just inhale it.'
Sirius breathed out and brought the cigarette to his lips. He breathed in and coughed as it burned his throat, feeling slightly giddy.
'Eurgh, horrible. Bloody Muggles don't know what they're doing,' he said disgustedly.
'After a while, it feels – nice. But never have enough to get you to that stage, Paddy.'
'Then, if it's so bad, why do you do it?'
'It's stupid, I know, but I feel like I should do something bad, something my parents would kill me for if they found out. And I suppose I've seen too many old Muggle films. Ever seen 'Breakfast at Tiffany's'? 'Rebel without a Cause'? 'Casablanca'?'
'Nope. And what's a film?'
Remus laughed quietly.
'You're missing out, Sirius. A film is like a visual story on a screen, real people playing out a story, speaking the words and doing the actions that make that story.'
'Riiight,' Sirius said, looking unconvinced.
'Honestly, pure-bloods,' Remus teased gently.
'So anyway, Moony oh Muggle know-it-all, what are you doing up at this hour?'
'Couldn't sleep,' Remus replied tersely. Then he looked at his watch. 'Gosh, it's quarter past four. How on earth did you wake up?'
Sirius laughed. He was renowned for his ability to sleep through anything, be it thunderstorms, James yelling, or his extra-loud alarm clock which could be heard down in the common room.
'Change the subject, would you?' he said suddenly, and Remus smiled.
'If you think the subject isn't finished, you're welcome to continue it,' he said lightly.
'Oh – you're just being your usual elusive self,' Sirius said, frowning. 'I just get the feeling you're hiding something. I mean, you look all in. Something must be bothering you to keep you up this late – 4.15 did you say? Yes, Moony Lupin, I think you've got something on your mind that you're not willing to share with your esteemed friend. But don't worry, I'm not pushing – although maybe it seems like I am. But I don't mean it to.'
He stopped. Remus had turned back and was staring out the window again. He inhaled one last time, put the cigarette out on the wall under the window, and let it fall from his bony fingers. Then he turned back to Sirius.
'You know me too well,' he said in a low voice.
'Hey, Remus, I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable, you know I didn't,' Sirius blurted, galvanised by the look of unhappiness on his friend's face.
'I know you didn't, but you did anyway. I don't blame you – it was a perfectly reasonable comment – but even perfectly reasonable comments seem to bother me at the moment.'
'But – why? For the same reason that you're sitting up tonight all alone, doing this bad Muggle thing and looking as though someone had died?' Sirius looked so concerned that Remus couldn't help his voice trembling as he replied.
'You definitely do know me too well,' he said, attempting to sound carefree and failing utterly.
'Moony, you got your nickname, not because you're a werewolf but because you're always thoughtful and quiet. But recently, I've been almost forgetting what your voice sounds like. Jamie's noticed it too... we're both a bit worried, to be honest.'
'Worried? About me? Oh Padfoot, there's no need...'
'Well, there's blatantly something wrong, and Re, you know we are your friends. We're supposed to worry.'
'Why didn't you say anything before?'
'What, confront you in the common room?! I don't know... the time hasn't seemed right.'
'And now it is?'
'Well – yeah!'
'Even though James isn't here to back you up?'
'Moony, no one could love James more than me, but you know as well as I do that he's not – tactful.'
'Meaning he has an alarming propensity for blurting out what people least want to hear.'
'And you don't?'
'Hey now Remus! I'm trying to help!'
'I'm sorry. Just – the idea of you being thoughtful and considerate...'
'Why is that funny?' Sirius demanded, suddenly quite annoyed. Remus looked distraught at this sudden change.
'I didn't mean anything Padfoot, you know I didn't.'
'I know,' Sirius said, his irritation vanishing as quickly as it had come. 'I suppose you have a point. It's just – you're the quiet careful one Re, and I'm the clown I suppose. But that isn't the only thing I can be. And there are some things I care about. You being one.'
Remus looked down to conceal the incongruous hurt and confusion in the eyes he knew his friends could so easily read. He shouldn't feel like that, not when Sirius had told him he cared for him.
'Thank you,' he muttered.
'Thank you nothing Re. You should know that.'
'I do – I do.'
'So why aren't you looking at me?'
'Don't know,' Remus said softly, even though he knew all too well.
'Re, please. What's up? I promise if you don't want me to tell the others I won't...'
Remus looked up, fixed Sirius's eyes with his remarkable amber ones. 'I'm gay,' he said.
Whatever reaction he was nervously anticipating, it certainly wasn't the baffled incomprehension he got.
'Gay... happy? But you're not happy!'
'No, Sirius!' Remus said frustratedly. 'Homosexual.'
This still didn't shed any light on his confused friend.
'Gods Sir! I – oh, you know the way you and every boy in this whole bloody school feel about girls – you fancy them, you want to kiss them... well, I feel like that – about boys.'
'Oh, I knew you wouldn't understand, I should never have said anything, I don't -'
'No, no, I'm really glad you did. So this is what's been bothering you all along?'
'Yeah – yeah.'
Remus's first 'yeah' was slightly hesitant, but Sirius didn't seem to notice this, his mind being otherwise occupied.
'Blimey,' he said. 'Blimey blimey blimey. But – I suppose this explains a lot! Why you wouldn't go out with Elizabeth Jones, even though she's a Gryffindor and she's gorgeous,' Remus flinched slightly, 'or Sophie Hamel, or Jenny Scott.'
'But – you're not – bothered? Or horrified or anything?'
'Nope. Why should I be? This doesn't change anything Remy. This isn't so bad – and it's kind of cool... different...'
'Only you could describe your friend coming out to them as "kind of cool"!'
'Well, I reckon that's how James would feel... and Peter too! Re, you silly git, you've been worrying about absolutely nothing!'
Remus smiled, relieved.
'Thanks Sirius. This means an awful lot...'
'Ah, it means nothing! But the next step is to find you someone else who's fay – sorry, gay, whatever. You need a boyfriend!' Sirius announced heartily.
Remus's eyes opened wide with terror.
'Well, maybe it can wait a bit,' Sirius said, eyeing him doubtfully. 'But surely you want a boyfriend?'
'I suppose,' Remus said.
'Course you do... I don't know anyone else gay in school... maybe this will have to wait til the holidays when we can meet some Muggles – I'm sure there are clubs and things you can go to...'
He looked hopefully at Remus. Remus contorted his face into an optimistic grin.
'What's up?' demanded Sirius. 'You should look a bit more up for it than that!'
'I'm just a bit... nervous...'
'REMUS LUPIN! You fancy someone, don't you?!'
'No!' Remus said unconvincingly.
'Well, trust me, I'm going to find out. I'll worm it out of you somehow, and then we can figure out how you can seduce him...'
Remus blushed. 'Sounds great, Sirius,' he said with gentle irony, and Sirius laughed.
'Chin up,' he said. 'We'll get you a sexy man somehow, if we have to kidnap him and keep him prisoner! Which of course we won't,' he added hurriedly, 'because you're quite a catch.' He winked. 'Well, now we've got that sorted, how about a bit of sleep before double Potions first thing? We can discuss this later! And you can tell Prongs and Wormtail!'
'Can't wait,' Remus muttered and Sirius laughed at him before they went to their own beds and drew the hangings round them.
'Night Re!' Sirius called out sleepily.
'Night,' Remus replied.
And both boys lay on their backs, staring at the ceiling.
"You coward!" Remus lectured himself furiously inside his head. "You did the hard part – why didn't you just tell him how you feel? He even knows you like someone! That was the perfect opportunity – late at night, alone – and you wasted it! But then... surely he wouldn't have been so eager to get me a boyfriend... if he felt anything like the same..." He carried on miserably like this for some minutes before his weary body rebelled and he drifted off to sleep, at least a little bit happier than he had been for the past few months as he thought of Sirius's positive (although not ideal) reaction to his secret.
And in the other bed, Sirius cried silently at the thought of Remus, his Remus, having fallen for someone and not told him who it was. "So it's not you," he thought disconsolately. "You have to find out who... get them together... you have to at least make sure he's happy."