Title: A Vacancy

Notes: Before Remus admits his mutual feelings for Tonks, he makes a Pensieve.

One. Two. Three. Four. Five.

The first time I had ever felt abandoned. Well-, by a close a friend. I had been twelve years old, and more backwards than ever. Oh, if it hadn't been for my Prongs, and my Wormtail, and my Padfoot, I wouldn't have survived Hogwarts. We all brought something special to the foursome. For many years I had no inkling of this, but you don't see things like that when you are young. When you are young, it takes place magically and you just get to feel it rush through your veins and that is how you know its there. You don't need to see it. You breathe it.

After my abandonment, as always, my hero would rescue me as he always does. But you know, the first time probably did bleed the hardest…as does the last time. Making this Pensieve isn't a need, it's a want. How can I ever tell Tonks that I love her with these…these hairy little monster thoughts constantly inside my head? It's impossible and I am not going to try.

November 1972.

A small boy with a mousy mop of brown hair was running at a very hurried pace along what seemed to be a stony, cold dungeon passage way. Strange smells lingered from beyond doors in this hall. But he seemed to take no notice in his fervent race. A black school bag, held together by many stitches and patches, swung around his waist and bounced off his hip and thigh. It was positively bulging with textbooks.

He began to slow once he reached a thick wooden door. Pausing to catch his breath, Remus turned the stiff iron knob and walked into Potions Class.

"Ahh, Mr. Lupin! So unlike you to be so late," said a very plump man dressed entirely in deep, royal blue robes. He had an extremely large mustache and there seemed to be a few crumbs left from lunch still attached to the hairs.

"I'm sorry, Professor Slughorn." Remus said somewhere between his heavy inhaling.

But the Professor said nothing and merely nodded towards the boy's seat at a wide desk.

Three others were already sitting there, of course. One with hazel eyes, and jet-black hair that was even messier than Remus's. His very permanent smirk was stretched along more than usual. Next to him was a shorter, plumper boy who offered his tardy friend a small smile. Lastly, the one who wasn't even paying much attention at all- Sirius. He sat with his head in his palm, burning words into the desk with his wand. Remus walked over to his seat between Peter and Sirius.

Slughorn resumed his lecture then, and no one could hear them mumble amongst themselves.

"Why didn't anyone warn me it was time for class?" Remus hissed.

James pretended to be extremely interested in the set of brass scales before him. Meanwhile, Peter piped up, "I asked them not to, I did. But they said it'd be funny if you were late for a change,"

James elbowed Peter's shoulder. "Way to crash the party,"

"Yeah. Happy April Fools Day, Rem," said Sirius, looking at Remus with his head resting on his arm now. A yawn followed the sentence.

"Sirius. It's November," Remus nearly hissed once again. "It's not my fault you two are always late,"

"That's what I said!" exclaimed Peter. Sirius told him to shut it, and James settled for another elbow, this time to his chest.

Peter rubbed his new sure to be bruise. "Well I did,"

"Gryffindor boys," Professor Slughorn had waddled over to their desk. "Is there a problem?"

"No sir," Remus answered him.

"I should hope not Mr. Lupin, disrupting class and fifteen minutes late," muttered the Professor. "I'm afraid that will cost you five points for your house,"

Remus opened his mouth and closed it several times in disbelief. He was quite sure it looked like a fish trying to breathe above water.

"I think it is quite fair," Slughorn folded his thick arms across his chest and set his hands to rest on his protruding gut.

"Yes sir," Remus hung his head.

Slughorn nodded once more and went back up to his desk. All around them, people began to ready their ingredients for a Swelling Solution. Remus said nothing and lit his own cauldron.

"Aw, did ickle Remy gets in troubles?" Sirius said in a baby voice. He even pinched his friend's face.

Remus grunted.

"Don't be such a spoilsport," James scolded. However, when Remus sent him a look that was oddly reminiscent of Minerva McGonagall, he softened.

"I'm sorry, Rem. But five points isn't even that terrible,"

"I've never lost Gryffindor any points before," Remus began to slice his puffer-fish eyes rather harshly.

The table was uncharacteristically silent for a good part of the following hour. That is, until Xavier Flint entered the second year Potions class.

He was nearly six foot two at age fifteen. Xavier had a rough edge to him, a thick square jaw and dark, dark eyes. But he was surprisingly apt at most subjects, particularly Potions. Every other class or so, Slughorn pulled Xavier from his Ancient Runes studies to assist the younger ones with difficult concoctions.

Remus hadn't even seen the boy enter until Peter gave him a hard nudge in the ribs.

"I can't help you, I'm behind mys-" But Remus stopped in the middle of his words. Xavier, being an older Slytherin, obviously wouldn't be too fond of him or of most of the left side of the dungeon. But Xavier disliked Remus in particular.

It hadn't been his fault. Wrong place, wrong time. In Remus's first year, he had walked in on Xavier and his friends slipping in and out of the Restricted Section in the school's library-and pocketing several books. One of his friends had been a seventeen year old Lucius Malfoy. The staff had always been on that boy's tails. Rich and powerful at birth, he had been marked down as dangerous. Even as he left Hogwarts people were spreading rumors of his very mysterious and very dark ties to You-Know-Who.

When Albus Dumbledore had called a very lonely and frightened Remus to his office to recant the events, he just could not lie. Flint was given a month's detentions and Lucius was forbidden to celebrate in any graduation ceremonies. Xavier never let Remus off for that one. It stained his merit with many Professors-, Slughorn being the exception of course.

"Class, class," Slughorn called them to attention.

Sirius took one look at Flint and muttered, "Oh, fuck," under his breath. He had never been ashamed of curse words.

"Xavier Flint will be helping you all with your Swelling Solutions today," Slughorn said in a tone that was so overexcited you would have thought he had just announced that in a few moments candies and chocolates were going to rain from the ceiling.

Remus, who had been confidently wielding this draft alone, sat awkwardly in his seat. No one noticed but Sirius, who glared.

"Why don't you start there, Xavier," Slughorn gestured to a group of girls in front of them. One of them was a redheaded girl named Lily Evans. She was the only one who frowned at the unexpected assistance.

"Rem, he won't bother you in class," Sirius whispered in his ear. "Perk up, sunshine," he added.

But Remus remained in his seat.

Xavier didn't waste much energy on the girls, as Lily was the only one who cared about finishing the potion correctly, and hers was nearly completed. So he rounded on Remus's table. His grey eyes lit up when they spotted two nervous faces. James completely ignored his presence, while Sirius couldn't wait to open his mouth.

And make it worse.

"Hey…hey…hey…big and hairy, listen. I've got a problem with my solution." He grabbed Xavier's attention.

"Then the solution is you fail and shut your trap, Black." Flint didn't give him the bait to continue. He rounded immediately on Remus.

"Well, well. I haven't seen you much this year," his voice dripped in malice. "You've been a lucky little pouf,"

Remus's cheeks tinged pink at the insult. He never felt so submissive to anyone before, or lacked the courage to even fight back at all.

"Get lost, Flint," James had broken away from his work.

Xavier turned to him. Without speaking, he dumped half a sack of mice tails into James's cauldron. It had previously been a thick, orange potion. Now it bubbled an angry red and frothed dangerously to the rim.

"Hey!" James ripped the bag from his loose grip. "You've wrecked it,"

"Almost like I hope to wreck you one day, Lupin," Flint prodded him hard in the chest. "See you around,"

Flint had started to leave, and turned half way around when Sirius picked up Remus's cup of the puffer fish eyes. He tossed it at Xavier's back and it struck. Blue, slimy eyes and eye sockets drenched his black robe. They gave off a pungent sea water odor. Everyone in the front of the room froze. Xavier turned around. Sirius had resumed to burning words in his desk, acting as though nothing had happened. Remus was iced over like everyone else only his hands were drenched in an anxious sweat.

"What the hell is a matter with you, Lupin?" Xavier was in his face. His breath was hot, but it chilled Remus all the way to his spine.

"I-I," he stuttered.

"What a pathetic little shit you are." Flint laughed a humorless chuckle. He had turned away, and for a fleeting moment, Remus couldn't believe his luck…until,

There was a large crashing sound as Xavier flipped Remus's cauldron onto the younger boy's head. He had been wearing his dragon hide gloves the entire time, so it wouldn't hurt his skin to touch the hot metal. The Swelling Solution, only halfway finished, caused a strange reaction to Remus's face.

First, his eyes began to protrude. Then out puffed his nose, then his lips and ears. Pretty soon, he looked like an inflatable clown doll.

"What is going on here, Mr. Flint?" exclaimed Professor Slughorn. He had been in the rear of the room until Xavier toppled the cauldron.

"Oh, Lupin here knocked over his Solution in fury when I told him he wasn't doing it correctly," Flint lied, having to speak loudly over the snickers and giggles amongst the second years.

Slughorn put his hands on his hips. "Now, really Mr. Lupin…"

Remus furiously shook his bloated, balloon like head back and forth. This only made everyone laugh harder. Tears threatened to fall out of his eyes, but for all his strength he pushed them back inside.

"I guess some people are envious of other people's knowledge on things like this," Flint sighed in such a fake manner, most people who heard it couldn't believe Slughorn agreed.

"Well, I guess Mr. Potter should run him to the hospital wing-",

He was interrupted by Flint. "No sir, Potter is finishing up. Let me take him, sir,"

Remus's eyes, if they could have grown wider, would have at that moment.

"Fair idea, Xavier, my boy," Slughorn patted him on the back. He looked down at the puddles of Swelling Solution and waved it away with a flick of his wand.

Remus was pulled from his friends and lead through the laughing crowd by Flint, who gripped his arm so tight he was sure it would snap. He looked one last time over his shoulder at the giggling students to see that Sirius was the only one at his table laughing at him.

And that hurt worse than the swelling.

Flint practically dragged him through the dungeon corridor. For a few frightened minutes, Remus was certain Flint was going to take him somewhere alone to bash his brains in. But they seemed to be leading to the Entrance Hall. Until the last possible minute, when Xavier casually pushed the inflated-Remus into an abandoned classroom. When the door shut, so very quietly, Remus shivered where he stood.

Xavier was smiling. It was a sickening, very false smile.

"You shouldn't have done that, faggot,"

Remus stayed silent. He couldn't speak anyway.

"I've had enough of you. First, you nearly damage Lucius's trust in me. That took a long time to mend." Flint seemed to shiver a little himself. "And now you think throwing jars of shit at me is going to fly, do you?"

Xavier tossed him, hard, into the stone wall. Remus felt his balloon head bob. That breath, so hot and rushed, fell against his skin as Flint spoke.

"You best watch yourself, Lupin." he threatened, and left the room, slamming the door behind him.

Remus waited. It was a very tense moment. He twisted his hands furiously together, trying not to think how ridiculous he would look walking up to the hospital wing with an inflated head.

Meanwhile, James was berating Sirius for laughing. Something that had never happened before. Even Peter seemed surprised at the lecture.

"Come off it, James," Sirius waved him away. "It was all in good fun. Remus is taking it too hard!"

"Good fun?" the hazel-eyed boy shook his head. Long black hairs fell against his forehead. "You know how he is about Flint,"

"Xavier hates him!" added Peter. "Always out to get him. Tripping him in the halls, smashing his books against the ground and out of Rem's hands."

"He's a big old bully, and you know it Sirius," James narrowed his eyes.

Sirius rolled his own. "Okay, Mommy, I'll be more considerate,"

James said nothing, for he didn't believe his best friend for a minute.

The class concluded rather dully. Slughorn bottled their potions for grading, shaking his head at the stain on the floor from Remus's spilled solution.

The three boys packed up their things and headed for the hospital wing.

Remus was lucky. He hadn't met a soul on the way to Pomfrey. She had been flustered up, down, and sideways when he waltzed in like he wasn't ready to pop. But soon enough he was lying on a chalk white dressed hospital bed, sipping down a remedy that tasted oddly like burned cauliflower.

In fact, he was better than before when his friends arrived.

"He doesn't need any visitors," Madam Pomfrey stood guard outside the wing.

"But we just have to see him, please. For just a moment," James pled with her.

She sighed and opened the door for the three of them. For once, Remus wished they hadn't been allowed.

"Oh, you look better," Peter said with a grin of relief. Pomfrey shut the door with a snap.

Remus just shrugged. "You guys didn't have to come. Pomfrey says I can leave before dinner, to make sure I'm fine,"

"Well, we didn't want you to leave this behind," James handed him his patched and frayed book bag.

Remus took it, and placed it beside him on the bed.

"Did-um, did Flint get you up here alright?'

James asked this very cautiously. He knew it was his fault for not forcing himself along, or at least have tried to.

"No. But I got up here quite fine all by myself, thanks," Remus spat.

"Oh," James's voice fell flat.

The four were silent. Remus felt so angry, and betrayed. Somewhere he knew that it was not his friend's fault. But his own, and his own problems with Flint, not theirs. But he was also twelve. And that made it very simple to be angry with the lot.

"You okay then?" James asked.

Remus nodded. "Better go then. You don't wanna be late for last class,"

Very slowly, Peter left the wing, followed by James. However, Sirius stayed behind, staring at Remus in disbelief.

"What?"

Sirius didn't reply right away. Instead he dropped the stare and bit his lip in thought.

"You're actually mad,"

Remus narrowed his eyes. "Perhaps,"

Sirius snorted. "No, really. Are you?"

The smaller, paler boy looked down at the polished infirmary floor.

"I can't believe you, why are you being such a baby? Don't you realize that's what Flint wants you to do! And not stick up for yourself?"

When Remus didn't say anything, Sirius began to leave.

"Whatever you want, then,"

"You just don't get it, do you?" said Remus with so much venom it was practically a foreign language to Sirius.

He turned on the spot. "Get what?"

Remus hopped off the bed. "Flint hates me, Sirius. Downright despises the ground I walk on, the air I breathe."

"Then fight back!"

"I can't!" Remus's hands flew wildly above his head, in anger. "I can't ever,"

"Why. Not." hissed Sirius from between clenched teeth.

Remus and Sirius were face-to-face. Both didn't want to fight one another, but yet again, both boys were furious with the other.

"I-I, I just don't know, okay?" Remus flopped back down on the bed. "I can't explain it I suppose,"

Sirius, who a moment ago had been ruffled now eased into calm. He plopped himself down next to his friend.

"I suppose I'm sorry,"

However, Remus waited to reply. The last class had started a few minutes ago, and Madam Pomfrey hadn't been out of her office to shoo Sirius away yet. Harsh, late Autumn winds pounded against the long, slender windows of the hospital wing. Everything was very quiet, as nobody else was occupying any of the remaining beds.

"Yeah?"

"Yeah," sighed Sirius, laying down too, now. Their legs dangled over the right half of the bed. Both of them were side by side, looking up at the domed ceiling. Two gigantic candle lit chandeliers took up most of the perfectly shaped white stone. Just as the sky began to darken, an orange light filled up and swallowed the wing. Soon the two twelve year olds heard Madame Pomfrey open the door to her office.

And Now…

Oh, how Sirius infuriated me. He could make me mad, and then completely unravel that in about fifteen minutes, I'd wager. I would grow to hate that as we got older. I would hate as well, the selfishness that was Sirius in every way. He knew that it was there, once he hit thirty or so. But it had been hard, growing up so infatuated by him. He was intelligent when he wanted to be. And quite handsome after we'd gone through puberty and all of that following nonsense.

I wouldn't say I knew for sure that I loved him until we were fifteen. Looking back, that certainly feels like a one hundred year old memory. War has placed a fog over old things. Putting them away from me really is best, I think. Why would someone want to focus on a dead person for the rest of their life?

A silver strand hangs limply at the end of my wand, before it falls like a stream of thickened water into the stone basin.