Remus was fifteen years old when he realised he didn't have a future.
He had always known, distantly, that werewolves had less opportunities than most. As a child, he had let it depress him; let it pull him further into the silent despair that darkened his features and lowered his voice.
Then, he was accepted to Hogwarts, and he began to know hope. Meeting James and Sirius and Peter only bolstered it; there were people in this world who would accept him. Surely, if he was smart enough, dedicated enough, focused enough, he could achieve anything he wanted. Surely things would change by the time he was of age.
So he let it sit in the back of his mind, refused to dwell on it, focusing instead on being the top of his class and staying out of trouble – or, rather, not getting caught.
Now, however, was the beginning of career consultations, and he couldn't ignore the truth any longer. Not with batches of career pamphlets littering the tables in the common room; not with the notice instructing all fifth-years to report to their Head of House for career advice.
Nothing had changed. Nothing he did would matter, in the end.
He was surprised when he saw his name among the scheduled appointments, before a hard, wry smile twisted his lips. Of course, they couldn't make the other students suspicious, not when everyone was so wary already; he would need to see this through.
It used to be fun, discussing the future, refusing to accept a world without endless possibilities, dreaming after the lights went out.
He couldn't do it any longer, and neither could they. Reality was closing in, and it was unjust, and terrifying, and harsh.
Ancient inequity refused to fade; restrictions were toughening, not easing. There were new disappearances and murders and catastrophes every day. They fed into each other, punishing those who were different.
Even James, irreverent, irrepressible James, could feel it all around them, smothering them.
They'd had separate goals, once, ever-shifting. Remus had considered being a professor, a mediwizard, a naturalist; James a Quidditch player, an Unspeakable, an Obliviator; Sirius a musician, a curse breaker, a hit wizard, a Knight Bus driver, a Dragon Keeper; Peter all of this and more. Once, they agreed amidst raucous laughter to be wild nomads.
Later, they agreed in binding silence to put those fantasies aside, for now.
The night became a quieter, bleaker place.
He was grim and tense when he entered McGonagall's office, as austere and elegant as he remembered, but she only gestured at the chair in front of her desk.
"Well, Lupin, have you considered what you would like to do after Hogwarts?" Dozens of bitter retorts were cut short by her sharp gaze.
"I'd like to be an Auror."
He thought he saw her lips curve just slightly as she nodded.
"You'll need a minimum of five NEWTS, none below Exceeds Expectations. I don't expect you'd have a problem with that." His eyes widened; from McGonagall, that was a ringing endorsement. She didn't seem to notice.
"Then, of course, are the rigorous character and aptitude tests, and three years of training. Would you like to know what classes you may need?" Remus almost asked why he should bother, but only nodded.
"Defense Against the Dark Arts, of course; your scores in that class are exemplary. Transfiguration, and you should know I only accept students into my NEWT class who have achieved at least Exceeded Expectations. You're near enough now; just stop letting yourself get distracted in class." She raised her eyebrows, and the trace of a sheepish smile crossed his lips despite himself.
"You do quite well in Charms, which is always useful; if you need any assistance I'd suggest Miss Evans. The most work you'll need to do is for Potions – I'm sure you understand the need for Aurors to comprehend poisons and antidotes – so I suggest – "
"Professor." He very rarely interrupted a professor, much less his Head of House, and perhaps that was why she didn't reprimand him.
"I appreciate this, I really do, but I don't…it won't matter, will it? The Ministry would never hire me."
A slight scowl curled her thin lips, there and gone in a matter of seconds.
"No, Remus, I'm afraid not. They are not, however, the only ones who will need people trained in fighting dark wizards."
He stared at her, for a moment, and she smiled a dark, sad smile that sent shivers of dread and exhilaration down his spine.
"Proceed as would any other student who had this goal in mind; the Order will be waiting."