"The Walls Between Us"
Part III: Beyond These Walls
"Off to earn some extra credit?" Lily asked teasingly as Remus packed his things into his bag in the dormitory. He was about to leave to go visit Sirius.
"You must be doing something wrong - I have a better Defence mark than you do!" James laughed.
Remus shook his head, smiling at his friends. "It's not like that," he said.
It still felt strange having his friends know about something he had kept secret for so long, and it was even stranger to be joking about it so easily. Truthfully, after Remus had gotten over the initial shock, it was actually something of a relief. It had been the same way when James and Peter had first discovered Remus' lycanthropy. After torturing himself with imaging endless outcomes where Remus would be cast out and would lose his friends forever, everything had worked out better than he'd expected.
Even more changes were lurking along the horizon. The seventh year students had completed their practice NEWTs and the real exams were in just over a week. Though all the students were dreading the Nastily Exhausting part, graduation would follow shortly after. Soon Remus would be leaving Hogwarts for the last time and officially joining the Order.
There were other changes, on a much closer scale, that Remus was slowly coming to terms with as well. After debating with himself for what felt like endless nights, Remus had grudgingly accepted that Sirius would be allowed to be on patrol duties during Remus' transformation. Remus still wasn't entirely comfortable with it and he naturally felt that he should try to convince Sirius otherwise, but he forced himself to keep quiet. He knew how important this was to Sirius. After Sirius had nearly witnessed Remus' transformation last month and still loved Remus just the same, Remus didn't think he could deny anything to Sirius ever again.
Remus really did feel like he owed Sirius everything. Sirius had done so much for him. Sirius respected Remus' wishes and bared with all of Remus' hesitancies and uncertainties about their relationship, but Sirius also pushed him when he needed it. Remus had never imagined letting anyone so close to his transformation, both in understanding and proximity, but Sirius had pushed and pushed until Remus finally accepted that someone could love him despite the monster he became each month.
This though helped ease Remus' nerves in the days leading up to his transformation, but as the full moon drew closer and closer, it always became difficult to find comfort in anything. Remus was sure that there was nothing in this world that could calm the gripping fear he felt in the moments leading up to moonrise. He paced back and forth in the Shrieking Shack, restless and acutely aware of every burning nerve in his body. With his senses so heightened, even the feel of the night air was almost painful against his skin.
There was something strange in the air tonight, though, something that worried Remus. He assured himself that Sirius was safely outside the wards on the Shack, protected from anything that happened here. And in the morning, Sirius would be here at Remus' side to help him.
The last thing Remus remembered seeing was a shape in the distance, a silvery white canine bounding over the hills, and then the transformation began.
Remus lay face down on the wooden floor. Every muscle in his body felt like it was on fire. He shifted to turn his head to the side and felt a tug on his skin as dried blood pulled and cracked.
The door creaked and Remus could see the shape of a person coming in to the room. His heart fluttered, though he quickly realized that the sweeping emerald robes didn't belong to Sirius. Instead, McGonagall knelt at his side and gently touched his face as she began healing some of the more minor wounds.
"Where..." was all that Remus could manage to say in such a weak state. He felt sick. Where was Sirius? He was supposed to be here.
McGonagall shushed him and continued healing him. A hazy memory returned to Remus: a strange scent in the air, something silvery white outside the window. Had that been a Patronus?
The door creaked again and Remus' eyes flicked over to it, hoping to see Sirius entering the Shack, but it was Madam Pomfrey bringing the strong pain-relief potion that she always brought to Remus immediately after the full moon. Its effects were so potent that it would leave Remus in a deep sleep for several hours afterwards, but he didn't want to take it until he knew why Sirius wasn't here.
"Where..." Remus rasped again, more desperately, but the effort to even utter this one word was painful and exhausting.
Madam Pomfrey's fingers tipped his chin back and he tried to resist the potion, but right now he didn't have the strength to stop her or to even move. The slightly bitter potion was poured down his throat, and then everything became dark.
Remus lay half-conscious in the hospital wing for a while before he finally became aware of himself and the hazy morning light filtering in through the window. It often took some time for the slow lethargy in his body to lift as the sedative effect of the pain-relief potion wore off. His first conscious thoughts immediately turned to Sirius. Sirius hadn't been there when Remus had woken from his transformation. Why? Remus couldn't shake the feeling that something bad had happened.
Madam Pomfrey came around the partition and she smiled when she saw that Remus was awake. "Up already, my dear?" she asked. "You weren't in too bad of a condition this month, though you've managed to tear up your hip quite horribly."
It was only at her mention that Remus became aware of the pain in his hip, directly over the place where he had first been bitten all those years ago. Right now, Remus couldn't be bothered worrying about the difficulties of healing what was already scar tissue; he had much more pressing thoughts on his mind.
"Where's Sirius?" he asked. It still came out as little more than a croak. He coughed to clear his throat, but it was useless; it was completely raw from howling.
Madam Pomfrey came to his side and poured him a glass of water from the jug on the bedside table. "I believe 'Professor Black' would be a more appropriate address," she said. Remus had been too exhausted and desperate to worry about formalities. "But your Professor Black is here, in fact."
Madam Pomfrey stood and pulled back the curtain at his side, which led to another partitioned bed. There, slowly trying to sit up from the bed, was Sirius. Bandages covered a large part of his chest and spread up over his shoulder and neck. He smiled at Remus when he saw him.
"Sirius!" Remus cried in shock. He quickly jolted up in bed in an effort to get to Sirius' side, and then winced as he felt tearing in his hip.
"Stay there, my dear!" Madam Pomfrey commanded. She pushed Remus back down onto the hospital bed. "Look, now you've opened the wound again, just after I had managed to get the bleeding to stop." With a reprimanding tut, Madam Pomfrey took out her wand and began sealing the injury again.
Sirius looked quite pale, though he was smiling at Remus. Remus could only stare back at him in horror.
"A-are you okay?" Remus asked shakily, though he could see with his own eyes that Sirius wasn't okay. Even though Sirius didn't seem to be in pain, the bandages were a very clear indicator that something horrible had happened.
"I'd say I'm a right sight better than you are," Sirius said with the playful grin that only Sirius could wear at such a dark time.
Remus was almost afraid to find out, but he forced himself to ask, "What happened?" A terrifying, sickening imaged flashed in his mind of his own claws and teeth coming down over Sirius' body as Sirius struggled desperately to get away.
Sirius read Remus' fear from his face, and thankfully he shook his head. "No, it wasn't that."
Remus breathed a sigh of relief. He would never be able to forgive himself if that happened. But this still didn't answer the question he was so desperate to find out. "Then what?" he asked.
A shadow fell over Sirius' eyes and his expression turned grim. "Fenrir Greyback tried to pay you a visit last night," he said.
"Just relax," Madam Pomfrey insisted, still working on Remus' hip. Remus had jerked rather violently at Sirius' news and a fresh stream of blood was pouring out of the ripped flesh.
"H-he was here?" Remus asked. Sirius nodded, but he didn't continue. He glanced at Madam Pomfrey, and Remus quickly caught on that this wasn't a matter that could be discussed with someone else in the room.
If Madam Pomfrey caught on to Sirius' hint, she didn't show it. She had more important tasks on hand as she performed a complex healing spell on the injury on Remus' hip. Remus had always been thankful for how much she cared about him; the maternal concern she had for him was far beyond what might be expected from someone treating a werewolf's wounds and it had been a great comfort for Remus after many full moons. But right now, Remus just wanted her to leave so he could talk to Sirius. It seemed like ages passed before she was finally satisfied with the healing progress and left the room.
"What did Greyback want?" Remus asked before the edges of Madam Pomfrey's robes had even disappeared around the partition.
"I'm sure you remember what he told you at Easter, about Voldemort's offer to the werewolves. He had come to try to convince you to join the werewolf pack and take advantage of that offer. He doesn't like that you're living a normal life, instead of running with the werewolf packs, 'where you belong', apparently."
Remus nodded slowly. "He asked the same thing when he came to visit me at Easter." Even after the Order had discussed Voldemort's offer to the werewolf pack, Remus had never brought up this part of Greyback's visit. What Greyback had said about werewolves only being accepted because people didn't understand what being a werewolf truly meant had rang too close to Remus' own feelings.
"You didn't tell me about that part," Sirius said.
Remus swallowed. After everything that passed between them, Remus could no longer keep this a secret from Sirius.
"No," Remus said quietly. "I was scared. Greyback has asked me the same thing several times. I always have and always will say no, but the things he says really get under my skin. Because for the most part, they're true. The thing is, Sirius, you said yourself that you've never seen the full transformation. You've never seen what a wolf is really like. And I know you say you accept these things, but it still scares me and I didn't want to say it because I didn't want to find out if it was true or not. That's why I never told you."
Sirius seemed to accept this. Even if he didn't agree with it, Sirius had come to understand Remus' insecurities about this. "I understand, though I would like for you to tell me these things. And I've seen the transformation, actually," he said.
"What you saw last month was just a glimpse - it was nothing compared to the full transformation."
Sirius shook his head. "That's not what I'm talking about. It was this month, when I encountered Greyback outside the Shack. He remembered me from the werewolf negotiations team, and he was none too pleased to find me guarding you. I tried to get rid of him - I couldn't let him transform out in the open, with the village and the school so close, but I also knew that I couldn't let him into the Shack with you."
Remus' eyes flicked down to Sirius' bandages. "Did you fight him?" he asked.
Sirius bit his lip. "The signal the Order had arranged was to send off a Patronus if anything happened during the guard, so I sent off my Patronus just as Greyback's transformation began. I was ready to fight him off and to keep him away from Hogsmeade and Hogwarts, but-" Sirius broke off. He took a deep breath. "Seeing the actual transformation was more than I could handle. Even for Greyback, who's more wolf than he is human, the transformation looked agonizing and unbearable.
"All I could think about was that this was what you had to go through every month. The pain you have to deal with - it's not fair. It's not fair that you have to deal with that. I was so shaken up by knowing how horribly you were suffering that I wasn't able to fight off Greyback."
Remus felt like the bottom of his stomach had dropped out. "He bit you?" Remus gasped. A heavy flood of relief washed over him when Sirius shook his head.
"No. These injuries are just from claws. McGonagall arrived just in time to help, and it was a good thing too." Sirius sighed. "Turns out I'm not as strong as I thought I was."
Remus couldn't believe what he had just heard. This was like so many of his nightmares. Sirius often got himself into dangerous situations, but this time he had nearly been killed. And he hadn't escaped unscathed either; the scars and memories from a werewolf attack didn't easily disappear.
"It's my fault, then," Remus said. "It's my fault Greyback was here. This was all my fault." The guilt was heavy in his chest and he felt like he could hardly breathe.
"Are you kidding me?" Sirius asked. "It was great! I hadn't had a battle like that in a while. I'm a bit out of practice, but I'll be back into the swing of things soon enough."
Remus could only stare at Sirius in horror. Did Sirius really welcome a werewolf attack? The bandages covering his chest showed how close the encounter had been, but Sirius didn't seem to be bothered by such a close brush with death, or much worse.
Sirius smirked at him. "Oh, don't look at me like that. I don't mean to sound bloodthirsty, or like a thrill chaser. I just mean that after being locked up here for so long, I'm glad that soon I'll be able to do something useful in this war. It will be dangerous, nothing will change that, but it's not use hiding from it."
"Sirius, you're- you're-"
"Hey, hey, calm down," Sirius said quickly. With some difficult, he stood and came to Remus' side, sitting down on the edge of the bed and taking Remus' hand. "There's nothing to get worked up over. These are only scratches. The real thing I'm worried about is you. Believe me, Remus, seeing the pain you go through was much worse for me."
"They'll scar," Remus said. His chest felt tight and he wanted to pull his hand away from Sirius and hide. "Even on werewolves, it's difficult to heal werewolf wounds. But on a human, they'll scar for sure."
"And now that my perfect body is ruined, you're going to kick me to the curb?"
At a time like this, Remus couldn't stand that playful smirk on Sirius' face. "I'm not joking around," he said flatly.
Sirius waved his hand. "So they'll scar. Big deal. I'm fine. I'm even going to teach this afternoon, so you hardly have anything to worry about."
Remus frowned. "You should have let Greyback into the Shack with me."
"Absolutely not," Sirius replied immediately.
"It would have been the logical solution. Two werewolves wouldn't have attacked each other, and you wouldn't have gotten hurt."
"Remus, I told you what he came here to talk to you about," Sirius said seriously.
"You think I would have joined to him?".
"No, but you said yourself that he gets under your skin. I know how manipulative he can be. I couldn't let him get to you."
Sirius sighed. "I just wish there was something I could do for you," he said. He was still holding Remus' hand, and he raised it to his lips to kiss the back before he stood to dress. "Feel better, okay?"
Remus couldn't feel better. Throughout the day his heart felt just as heavy. James and Peter stopped by during lunch, but Remus pretended to be asleep. He didn't want to talk to anyone.
Despite the sweet things Sirius said - of what he wished for Remus, and of how strong Sirius' feelings were - Remus could think of nothing but the bandages covering Sirius' chest. Of the jagged injuries that lay underneath, and the beast that had caused them. The beast that had been there to see Remus.
Remus was allowed to go back to Gryffindor Tower in the evening, and he slowly shuffled back to the dormitory. James and Peter were there, but Remus still didn't want to talk. Instead, he sat at the window seat, staring out at Hogwarts moonlit grounds. The waning moon didn't have the same effect on him as the waxing, and Remus could almost appreciate the glow that the moonbeams cast, but his eyes weren't focused on the scene before him.
"Say, Remus, Peter and I are going down to the kitchens. Do you want anything?" James asked. He and Peter were standing by the door, about to leave.
Remus glanced at them. "No," he said.
James waggled his eyebrows. "Not even leftover chocolate cake?"
"No, it's fine." Remus smiled at his friends before he turned back to the window.
He could almost feel James and Peter exchanging worried glances. "Are you okay?" Peter asked.
"No worse than usual after a full moon," Remus said, trying to emulate the same casual playfulness that Sirius always managed to pull off so well.
It didn't work. James crossed the room and sat down beside Remus. "Really?"
"Ye-es," Remus said unconvincingly.
Peter came to Remus' side as well. "What's wrong?"
Remus was quiet for a long time. Finally, he sighed. "Did you know, Sirius was attacked last night while he was patrolling around the Shrieking Shack. The werewolf Fenrir Greyback - I've told you about him before - came to talk to me about Voldemort's offer to the werewolf pack. Sirius tried to fight him off, and when Greyback transformed, he nearly... he nearly bit..." Remus' voice faltered and died in his throat. He couldn't even get the words out.
James reached out to lay his hand on Remus' shoulder. "Hey, it's okay. He didn't bite Sirius, did he?"
"No. But he could have. And it would have been all my fault."
"But you didn't know Greyback was coming," Peter said. "There was nothing you could have done."
"Exactly," Remus snapped, sharper than he'd intended. "There was nothing I could have done to protect him. Do you know how agonizing that is? That someone you care about so much was in so much danger because of you, yet there's absolutely nothing you can do to help him?" Remus hadn't expected to hear the frustrated, angry edge to his voice, but it had tumbled out uncontrolled.
James and Peter seemed like they didn't know what to say. And really, Remus knew that there was nothing that could be said to make this any better.
Remus took a deep breath. "It's just... I don't know if I'm going to be able to do this. With the Order. I know it's the right thing to do, but I don't think I can take it."
It was almost embarrassing to say it, and the look from James told Remus how awful he sounded. "What do you mean?" James asked, "Are you scared?"
"I'm not scared. Not for myself, at least. I know I can do it. I've fought Death Eaters twice already. But when my friends are in danger, and there's nothing I can do about it, I... I fall apart."
"But that's not easy for anyone," Peter said. "You can't be so hard on yourself. Like you said, there was nothing you could do. Sometimes we have a choice, but sometimes things will happen regardless of how much we wish it wasn't true."
"That's right," James added, "And hiding from it isn't going to make things any better. This is a war."
Remus was quiet again. He knew this was true, but he highly doubted that other people put their loved ones at risk of a werewolf attack. He still couldn't shake the guilt for what had happened to Sirius. He wished he could put all his loved ones somewhere safe and far away from this war.
James' hand was still on Remus' shoulder, and he squeezed it reassuringly. "Think of it this way. If you hide from this, if you give up, you know your friends will be in danger. That much is true no matter what you do. But if you stand up and fight, you have the chance of protecting them. Things aren't always going to be easy - we all knew that when we agreed to join the Order. That's why this is a war. And that's why the Order needs our help."
Remus slowly turned back to his friends. James was right. This time there was nothing he could have done, but it wouldn't always be that way. There would be a next time. Maybe not with Greyback or his werewolf pack, but they were stepping into a war. Remus wanted to do whatever he could to help his friends.
James and Peter could see the change in his face, and they smiled. "I don't think you really meant what you just said, anyway. You're just shaken up from what happened to Sirius and you're not thinking straight."
"No," Remus admitted quietly.
"You would do the same, wouldn't you?" James said. It wasn't a question; he already knew the answer. "You'd put yourself in danger to help your friends."
"Yes," Remus said, louder.
"So you're not going to give up on us, are you?"
Remus smiled at his friends. "No. I'm going to fight for all of you."
Remus didn't have much time to recover from the full moon before NEWTs began. It was an exhausting two weeks and the academic delirium showed on all the seventh year students. There were several times when Remus spent so long with his face buried in a textbook that he almost forgot what sunlight looked like. Finally, he came out of the end of exams alive. He felt like he had done well, though his results wouldn't arrive until the end of August.
Summer term began, the last two lazy weeks of classes before the end of the school year. The remaining days were much more easy going now that exams were over, which meant Remus had plenty of time to relax and spend with Sirius.
The weather was warm, far too nice to waste indoors, so while the rest of the school left for the last Hogsmeade visit of the year, Remus and Sirius ventured out to sit by the lake. There were almost alone; a few first and second year students were nearby, but the presence of a teacher was apparently terrifying enough that they were slowly slinking away.
Sirius was sprawled on his back with his boots kicked off and his arms behind his head, while Remus sat beside him and watched the giant squid bob along the surface of the lake.
"Who are you going to the graduation dance with?" Sirius asked.
Remus smirked. "Dunno. Do you think I should ask Moaning Myrtle?"
"She is one hell of a date. But I was thinking you could ask me to the dance," Sirius suggested.
Remus raised an eyebrow. "I'm sure that would go over well."
"You'll be finished school by then," Sirius insisted, "I wouldn't be your teacher anymore."
"Right. Because somehow, in the three days between the end of classes and the graduation ceremony, we somehow broke down all the student-teacher barriers and got together?"
Remus had said it in a joking manner, but Sirius was clearly not amused. He sat up and turned away from Remus.
"Are you still going to be like this?" he asked shortly.
"You're not a student and I'm not a teacher, and we still have to act like we're only friends. We don't have to announce it or anything, but how long is it going to be before we can start acting like it? Months?"
"Three days is too soon."
"How long?" Sirius demanded. "How long before we can even tell James?"
"James knows. And Lily as well."
This clearly surprised Sirius. "Really? You told them?"
Remus nodded. Maybe he hadn't told them, but they knew. That was what was important to Sirius.
From the way Sirius sat, a slight hint of the scars from Greyback's attack was visible above his shirt collar. The scars were still red and it would be a long time before it faded to white. It was hard to Remus to look at them, knowing that he had been responsible, but Remus was slowly learning to convince himself that those scars represented how much Sirius cared for him. That was how Sirius saw them, at least
Remus glanced around the edge of the lake. The younger students were gone, and the trees shielded them from view from the castle. Quickly, he leaned over and kissed Sirius.
"I love you," he said.
Sirius smiled as he gazed back into Remus' eyes. "I know."
Remus felt a bit like he was teetering on the edge of his known world. Hogwarts had been his life for the past seven years, and though he had an idea of what lie ahead of him, it was likely something that he couldn't fully imagine before he got there.
James had just sent off an application the Auror Academy, Lily had already been hired as a Healer-in-training at St. Mungo's, and Peter had an interview at the Ministry in two weeks. All of them would be working for the Order part time, while Remus, who didn't have any job prospects lined up, would be devoting his time solely to the Order.
Sirius had asked him to move in together, and Remus agreed. He had his hesitations about it: they'd be utterly hopeless in the kitchen and would never manage to cook anything proper for themselves, and living together would surely raise questions from anyone who knew them, but he was still looking forward to their life together. Before that, he would first spend a few weeks with his family while Sirius stayed at the Order headquarters and looked for a flat for them. Remus had offered to stay with him during this time, but Sirius insisted that things would be getting very heavy once they started devoting more time to the Order, and Remus should have some time to relax with his parents first.
Finally the last day of classes arrived. Most of the students would be going home, but the seventh years stayed behind for the three days before the graduation ceremony and the graduation dance.
The other seventh years were busy with various last hoorahs and saying goodbye to the people and places they would no longer see. Remus, though he had explored the furthest corners of the castle on various mischief-making exploits, had realized that there was one easily accessible place that he had never visited, and that was the office in Sirius' quarters. He had never had any reason to go in the room before, but now he wished he had thought to explore it sooner, as it held an enormous library of reference materials for Defence professors. There were ancient scrolls, huge tomes, rare manuscripts - all waiting here at his fingertips if he had only thought to look.
"I think you should have been the teacher. That would have been more believable," Sirius said as Remus reverently gazed at the books. Sirius sat behind the desk, watching Remus with amusement.
"Professor Lupin," Remus said, testing out the name. "I like the sound of that."
He turned back to the bookshelf, trying to decide what he wanted to look at first. He reached out for a red leather-bound book with gold detailing and gasped when his fingers touched it.
"Sirius! These books have dust on them!" he chastised, pulling out the book and blowing the dust off the top.
Sirius shrugged sheepishly. "Sorry, Professor Lupin. I don't really have any use for them. I didn't mind teaching, but I don't care for it enough to do my own research in the field."
Remus skimmed the shelf. He could now see that all the books had a fine layer of dust over them. His eyes fell on one book that was strangely dust-free.
"This one doesn't, though." He pulled out the large book with deep green binding.
"That one is new," Sirius said.
Remus read the name on the cover: Grimoire of the Animagus Transformation, Volume I. He raised an eyebrow. "Oh? Are you going to become an Animagus?" he asked, amused.
"Yes," Sirius said seriously.
Remus glanced up at Sirius, surprised. He knew that the Animagus transformation was no easy feat. "Wow! Has Professor McGonagall finally started to make a good impression on you?"
"Someone else has made a very good impression on me," Sirius said. He stood and came up behind Remus, wrapping his arms around Remus' waist and resting his chin on his shoulder. "I suppose it was a lie to say that I haven't been doing any research. Knowing that werewolves will only attack humans, I started looking for other alternatives, and came up with the Animagus transformation. If I was an animal, I could be there with you. You wouldn't have to spend the full moons alone anymore."
"You're... you're doing this for me?" Remus asked shakily. He felt Sirius nod his head. Remus didn't know what to say. His hands were trembling and he set down the heavy book on the edge of the desk. "You shouldn't. It's too much."
"I want to. I don't want to see you suffering so much, and if I could be there with you I'd be able to keep you from hurting yourself as much."
"Sirius..." Remus said, still at a loss for words. He was embarrassed to feel tears forming at his eyes. He couldn't believe Sirius wanted to do this for him.
"Is it okay?" Sirius asked, though from the smile in his voice it was already clear that he knew the answer. There really wasn't an option for Remus to refuse.
"How did I ever get lucky enough to find someone like you?" Remus asked in awe.
Sirius smirked and pressed a kiss against Remus' neck. "Because you're the only one who'd ever be crazy enough to keep me."
There came a voice from the next room: "Sirius."
Sirius pulled away from Remus and left the room to investigate. "Kingsley?" Sirius asked, waving down the guard on the Floo. Remus could hear the crackle of flames as the Floo flared up, though from where he stood in the doorway to Sirius' office he couldn't see the face in the flames. He remembered Kingsley's name from when Sirius was talking about the Order, and he tried to picture what Kingsley looked like.
Sirius' brow was furrowed and he sat down the couch in front of the fireplace. "How'd you get through the Floo without Dumbledore's permission?" he asked.
"I've already talked to him. Sirius..."
"What is it?"
"Regulus was found dead this morning. I'm sorry."
The words fell like lead in the room. Sirius didn't move. His face was blank and he sat completely unmoving. It was a shock to Remustoo; last month when Regulus hadn't turned up at Slughorn's party, he had assumed that Regulus was too scared of the confrontation with his brother. It had never crossed any of their minds that there was something more to his absence.
There was a subtle change in Sirius face as the realization sunk in, a pained acquiescence that darkened his eyes.. Just seeing it made Remus' chest feel tight. "Did we get him, then?" Sirius finally asked, voice hoarse.
"No. The Aurors found his body in the north, washed up on the shore near a small sea-side village. We think the Death Eaters may have done it themselves."
Sirius was silent again. His head dropped down. "He was always such an idiot," he croaked.
"I'm sorry, Sirius. I'll be outside the Hogwarts gates tomorrow at eight o'clock. I'll see you then." Sirius just nodded mutely, not looking up.
The Floo flared up again and then died as Kingsley left. Remus crossed the room over to the couch and sat beside Sirius, unsure of what to say. I'm sorry seemed like such a futile exclamation and he didn't know what comfort it would bring Sirius at a time like this.
"It's good, isn't it?" Sirius asked, not expecting an answer. "Another Death Eater dead. That's what we want."
Remus laid his hand on Sirius' leg and something seemed to break in Sirius. He took a shaky breath, head still hanging.
"They killed him. They killed my baby brother."
Remus opened his arms, and Sirius easily leaned against his chest. Remus ran his hands over Sirius' back, hoping he could offer some small comfort through touch. It was hard to see Sirius in this quiet agony and Remus wished there was something more he could do to help him.
"I can't do this anymore, Remus. I can't sit back anymore," Sirius murmured against Remus' shoulder.
"And you don't have to," Remus assured him. "Come, I'll help you pack your things."
It was a long while before Sirius finally stood and led them upstairs. A beaten old truck sat at the foot of his bed, and Sirius ran his hand over it.
"I bought this when I was sixteen. It was all I could afford after I left home. The old trunk had the Black family crest on it, and I wanted to leave everything to do with my family behind me." Sirius sighed and sat on the edge of the bed. "I tried. I tried to hate him. He was a pureblood elitist, just like my parents, and a Death Eater. But - he's my baby brother."
"I know, Sirius," Remus said. He rubbed Sirius' shoulder reassuringly.
"You were right, you know. Every time I talked about him, you'd tell me I still cared about him. I always got angry about it, because I didn't want to believe it. But I guess you were right afterall."
It didn't take long for the two of them to pack away Sirius' things in his truck. Most of the furniture would stay with the suite, so it was only Sirius' clothing and a few personal objects that needed to be packed away. Sirius wrote to Hagrid explaining what had happened and that he would be back in a few days to get his motorbike.
Sirius had long wanted to be free from the castle, but he had never expected to be leaving with such a heavy heart. Sirius silence was actually frightening to Remus. Normally, Sirius would turn to Firewhiskey and stomp around like a demon. Instead, he was silent and unmoving, overcome with grief. He curled against Remus' side and was content to stay there for several hours. Just looking at his blank face made Remus feel like his heart was breaking.
"I'll stay with you tonight," Remus offered when it was getting to be quite late in the night.
"No, it's okay. I'll be fine," Sirius insisted.
Remus studied his face. Sirius' grey eyes were downcast and his spirits seemed drained, but he seemed to have composed himself by now. "Are you sure?" Remus asked.
Sirius nodded. "But you'll come be with me in a few weeks, won't you?"
"Of course," Remus assured him. He kissed Sirius once more before he reluctantly left.
Remus had already made up his mind as to what he would do. He couldn't bear to leave Sirius alone for that time - the three days before the graduation ceremony, and then the time Remus spent with his parents. Sirius needed someone with him right now.
When Remus got back to the dormitory, he began packing his own things in his trunk. James and Peter looked at him curiously.
"What are you doing?" James asked.
"It's Sirius..." Remus said. "His brother died. He's leaving in the morning."
James and Peter must have been able to tell that Remus had made up his mind. It was strange to think that this was the last time Remus would ever be packing his trunk at Hogwarts. He laid Sirius' leather jacket in it, and then the dress robes his parents had given him for Christmas. They were meant to be worn at the graduation ceremony. They wouldn't be used now. Remus had been looking forward to the graduation ceremony, but this was more important to him.
The early morning sunlight was spilling in the windows when Remus got out of bed the next morning. He said a silent farewell to the dormitory where he had spent the past seven years before he left with his trunk levitating behind him. He made his way through the castle corridors for the last time.
Sirius was in the Entrance Hall when Remus arrived, about to leave out the front door. He had clearly had a sleepless night.
"Remus?" he asked in surprise when he noticed Remus. Realization dawned on his face as he noticed that Remus had his trunk with him. It was strange to see such a grateful look on such a tired face, but it reminded Remus of the way he felt after the full moon when he would wake to find his friends waiting for him.
Remus smiled. He came to Sirius' side and reached out his hand. Sirius took it.
"I think so."
Thank you everyone for your kind words and support! I'm considering writing a sequel so watch for that in the future :)