It was Miss Brindle who had first shown him the secret. She had gathered his Key Stage One class around her, cutting an apple, not into smiles of apple covered in red, shiny skin, but across the midsection. When it lay in two pieces, he was astounded that she revealed a five-pointed star in the seeds. It was fascinating, at their age of six, to learn that the apple core, often pictured in cartoons as garbage, was holding this beauty. Miss Brindle held all the wonders of the universe in his young eyes.
He had been so excited at the new miracle that lay inside his fruit. No one had ever bothered to tell him that God had hidden stars inside apples before. That afternoon he ran out of the heavy, red doors of his primary school and past the squeaky iron gate and breathlessly told his mother, who held his mittened hand tightly as they rambled off the sidewalk and onto the pavement, this secret. When they had arrived at home, nose bright pink from the biting wind, she had humored him by lifting a Braeburn from the fruit basket and slicing just as he directed.
Can you wish on a star in your snack, Mum? And she'd laughed, cheery and bright, like it was Christmas, because that was when things were simple, like "A" being represented by an apple, like life was before the bite.
But that happened. He found that dwelling on that fact only seemed to make the crease in his forehead deeper. After all, life happened, and that minuscule bite wouldn't seem too horrible in ten years, when compared to other travesties in his existence.
When lonely, he would remember his friends and their strange inclinations toward food. At twelve, before biting into the fruit, Peter examined his apples for any sign of bruise or worm habitat, claiming any sign of defilement was reason enough to chose a different piece from the pile. At fifteen, James mastered the Animagus transformation and the talent of peeling an entire Granny Smith in one long coil of crisp, green. At sixteen, sitting under the beech tree, Sirius had twisted the stem of his apple around and around and around while reciting his alphabet, until it broke loose on the letter "L." He'd grinned and said "Lupin" mischievously, and then kissed Remus right on the lips.
At sixteen, practically seventeen, Remus had said
it was fitting that an apple would bring them together, as he split
it in half and showed Sirius the top, because there were stars
concealed in apples. Remus remembered a late night round of
introductions at aged eleven.
James Potter followed by a round of handshakes.
Sirius? Like the mood? Do you have a brother named Despondent? With a smirk from the black haired Potter.
Yep, he's not quite living up to his name, though. His cheek is on par for the Cup. And they'd been friends from then on.
Then Remus remembered,
at age fourteen, a chilly trek up seven flights of steps (avoiding
the 19th on the third flight with the tendency to bite) to gaze out
the telescope that had been his father's and didn't quite reflect
the light the way it did when John Lupin had run around in Gryffindor
scarlet and gold.
Now point your telescopes to Dec. negative sixteen degrees and forty-three minutes, R.A. six hours, forty-five minutes. And they had done so.
Find the star of Isis, called Sothis, or Sirius. It is the brightest star in our night sky. He had brought his gaze back from the eyepiece to find his friend, not looking through the lens, but openly glaring at his namesake star.
Later, safe and warm in their haven of crimson velvet
curtains and dirty socks, James had accused.
You never told us you were named after a star! As if it were some life-threatening secret that he had intentionally kept from his friends.
When Peter and James had tussled into the bath for a late night shower, Remus had turned to his friend and said,
I always wondered why the stars reminded me of my good friend Mister Black.
Sirius was as close to a star as Remus would get; clearly the brightest star in Remus's sky. And Sirius, smiling, had told him anytime he ate an apple after that moment he should remember how very alike their love was to that hidden secret of the apple star. Something so familiar that held something more beautiful and unexpected than any had though possible.
Darkness had descended onto them at eighteen. Money spent on fruit only yielded oranges and this was not lost on Remus. True, Sirius had slowly disentangled himself from his lover, leaving their words unspoken and their bed sheets made. But then, after the Fidelius had been cast for a month and Remus's bruises from a run with Greyback had yellowed, an apple appeared on the kitchen counter, seeds, exposing their deepest secret, smiled up at his amber eyes. He found himself hopeful.
Until he saw the Prophet's front page.
Damn him had come in years later when he had nearly given up on eating those crisp treats entirely. Each time he held the weight of the fruit in his hand, he missed Sirius's hand gripped in his palm, safe and in love. Oh, to be in love with something that was safe.
It was almost what Peter had looked for in the reflective skin: bruises or worms, and Sirius had both. Those thoughts were so painful that the bellows of the man in the open market, calling pound for a pound with a big, silver bowl full of some kind of slightly damaged fruit, could nearly be ignored. But he could afford a Muggle pound for thirty-odd, less-than-prime Cameos when the Wolf had cost him another job. Without the luxury of a paycheck to fill the growling longing in his stomach, he would pay with a two-pound coin and eat the sharp flavor quickly, hoping to ignore the longing in his heart.
The years grayed him and took his mother's mind from her. At twenty-five he had come, hungry, of course, to see her. Sitting at her tired, wooden table, watching the dust dance in the warm sunlight, she'd set a plate of steaming apple crisp before him because it was his favorite. And when she says this, he thinks no, not mine, but Sirius's.
He bites back the bile that rises against him as he swallows down the cinnamon that reminds him of Sirius's kiss. He bites back the bitterness that rises against him, knowing that she remembered the man whose kiss she has never tasted, more than the child of her womb. And this is the last time he sees her outside sterile, white walls, the last time she sees him as someone other than his long-grieved father.
Then he is truly alone in the world. Voldemort has taken everything from him, first father, (then, slowly, mother and her sanity), then lover who took a brother, while selling away a brother and sister. He was left with the once warm summer cottage where he had brought James, Peter, Lily, and Sirius in a June long since past. Those happy, warm nights were highlights in a life of shadows for Mrs. Lupin. In an attempt to remind herself who she is, she has lined the hallway to the bath with those memories. There, forever immortalized, innocent smiles gaze back at him from behind barriers of glass. Heads of blond, red, brown, and black run back and forth among the summer grass, restrained only by the heat and their frame. These photographs and the knowledge that a small boy, whom he once treasured like a son, is growing up somewhere are the only things that keep him from losing who he is, too.
But when the lonely years have past, there, standing in a dusty, broken house, he is the dusty professor next to a broken convict. He admits that he is grateful that the one he has loved for so long is innocent. Next, he is surprised to see those eyes, so beloved, shining at him like his namesake star.
He curses his own blindness, because just like the child in primary school, he had accepted that Sirius, like that apple, was just what everyone thought him to be.
Just a regular fruit that everyone ate.
Just a Death Eater.
Just a traitor that no one could love.
He curses because that lie could have been broken if Remus had simply remembered a cold afternoon huddled around a table with his mother. Watching as she had sliced into an apple core and warm juice had oozed out onto the cutting board revealing a star. A star which had always been there, always been there, always been true to who it was.