Disclaimer: Characters owned and operated by J.K. Rowling, used without permission and without profit. No copyright infringement is intended.

Author's Note: Alternative ending to Prisoner of Azkaban. Slash warning. Thanks to Recceanna and Patty for beta reading.

* * * * *

Stars and Silence
By Gen X

* * * * *

A cold, lonely breeze whipped through Hogsmeade causing Remus Lupin to stuff his hands just a little bit deeper into his cloak pockets. The night was clear and calm, except for the wind. Villagers were safely shut up in their homes just as the shops were unfortunately closed. It would have been good for Remus to get indoors.

Rather, Remus stood unmoving in the middle of an empty street. His gaze was riveted on the familiar shack that loomed before him ruined by time. Another breeze ruffled through his hair. Considering the time of year, it was unusually cold. Or perhaps, this place inspired the chills.

After what seemed an eternity, his gaze shifted. Light brown eyes watched dispassionately as the night sky seemed to shimmer. The moon hung low and pale and the stars around seemed to outshine it. Remus looked back at the shack. It seemed darker than ever.

"Don't you ever wish they would just stop?"

It was a friendly voice, familiar and warm. It washed over Remus with the force of a storm. The faint words from the past tugged at him, trying to draw him into a memory. Remus closed his eyes and willed his mind blank. He took a deep calming breath before opening them again.

The shack was unchanged.

The stars and moon shone brightly.

"Don't you ever wish they would just go away?"

Remus turned abruptly and started to walk away. He'd come here looking for solitude only to find he didn't want it after all. Somehow, he found his way onto the Hogwart's school ground. He'd walked aimlessly, intentionally avoiding the shack, but found that he'd ended up at the school despite his conscious effort.

The wind had picked up somewhere between there and here. A storm was certainly on its way. His cloak was drawn tight around him but the cold seemed to bite into his soul. He hadn't been back since that night and wasn't even sure why he was here now. Everything was just as he remembered it.

He walked the ground with a sense of nervousness as if prepared to bolt at the first sign of... First sign of what? He wasn't sure. Soon, his feet started to take deliberate steps until he broke out into a run. Eventually, he ran to the edge of the lake before stopping... dead.

Remus stood at the water's edge breathing heavy. The fatigue was from the exertion of the run but it felt like more. A sense of foreboding, a sense of guilt, threatened to bring him to his knees. He looked from the lake to the grass, and then back to the water when his breathing quickened. Panicked, he looked to the sky.

There was no light to be seen. Dark storm clouds hid the luminescent glow only to split the sky with a light all their own. The heavens rumbled and the air seemed to burn as torrents of rain and lightning came crashing down.

The first drops of rain seemed to paralyze him. Remus stood still, as if unable to comprehend what had happened. Then he flung his arms wide. He was grateful, eternally grateful. The roar of the storm over powered his thoughts and he let himself go. With each crash, he stopped thinking, remembering, and listened to the sound until it faded away only to be replaced by another crash.

He threw his head back, reveling in the darkened sky, so thankful for the storm. The ground before him turned into mud as the rain assaulted it. His eyes fixed on a spot and he found that even through rained soaked bangs, he could not look away.

Memories swept over him and this time they brought him to his keens. With trembling fingers, he reached out to touch the ground. As if mesmerized, he held his mud covered fingers in front of his face and watched as the rain slowly washed the earth away.

He looked up to watch the rain, to thank it for the distraction but lightning split the sky again. When he didn't blink, spots of light danced in front of his vision. Through watery eyes, they looked like stars.

"Don't you ever wish they would just go away?"

Remus let out a scream, in truth, more of a howl. Angrily, he slammed his fist into the soft ground. Then again. The next time he hit something hard, a rock perhaps, and his hand ached. He kept punching. The memories weren't that far away now. He didn't want to remember but he didn't want to forget. Blood mixed with soil and he cursed himself into the night.

* * * * *

Day at Hogwarts. Not too long ago.

The night before had been hectic, confusing, unbelievable, and tragic. Everything had finally stopped but the fallout had continued to the daylight and beyond. Remus walked beside the older man and tried not to show that his entire reality had been rocked to the core. The lies and contradictions, the secrets and revelations all threatened to overwhelm him with sheer magnitude. So far they had only served to remind him that for the past twelve years, he'd been living a lie.

Remus was shaken and the headmaster knew. There was compassion in the elder man's eyes. They walked in silence. Not long ago, Dumbledore had come into the shrieking shack. For the majority of last night, Remus had only been peripherally aware of the chaos around him. Eventually, he had sense enough to make his way into the shack, where after hours of vicious self mutilation he'd curled up exhausted, which is how Dumbledore found him this morning.

Upon seeing the older man, framed by the morning light, the story tumbled out of Remus. He told of Peter's betrayal and of Sirius's innocence. He spoke of childhood secrets of animagus and enchanted maps. When he finished, Dumbledore's solemn demeanor had not changed. His face held the same weary look he'd had upon entering. Remus saw the the headmaster had not believed him.

"Young Harry has told me the same story," Dumbledore started.

Remus opened his mouth but the headmaster held up a hand. The younger man's words died before they even had a chance to form.

"Walk with me Remus and we will talk." Dumbledore turned and left the shack.

So Remus had walked and Remus had waited. They trudge along the barren school grounds in silence. Although Remus was eager for news, he didn't push. Seven years of schoolboy experience had taught him that anything that took this much time to say was never good news, and Remus wasn't sure he wanted to know.

Dumbledore paused by the lake, his gazed fixed on the green ground. He sighed and started to speak. "Peter has disappeared. During the commotion of your transformation he slipped away. The dementors got onto the grounds and the school's in a state of panic."

"The dementors--" Remus managed to choke out. The guardians of Azkaban would have been almost simple for Remus to deal with. Even if their number was great, Remus knew he would have had the most chance to at least ward them off, but circumstances did not let him.

"They were eventually driven away, but," Dumbledore paused letting the silence tell Remus what had happened before he said the words, "there was a causality."

Remus started. "But you said that Harry--"

"-- will make a complete recovery."

With that, Remus knew. But it took a sympathetic look from Dumbledore before the weight of it processed. The name came out as a whisper.

"Sirius."

Dumbledore nodded gravely, his hand now grasped Remus's shoulder to support him.

"But he was innocent," Remus protested softly and confused.

"I don't doubt you."

It was a while before denial and confusion cleared. The headmaster stayed giving support and hoping that Remus would draw some comfort from it. At long last, Remus turned wide, bright eyes to him.

"I--" His voice failed him. He swallowed and tried again to no avail. "Could you--?"

Dumbledore knew. Dumbledore always knew. A reassuring grasp before he released. "I'll leave you alone now."

Biting his lower lip, Remus nodded. He watched the other man walk away and realized that he wanted nothing more than someone to hold.

"Wait," he called. There was something more he needed to know and he thought if he didn't ask it now, he'd never again get the chance. "It was here, wasn't it?"

Dumbledore turned and nodded and Remus felt his own composure slip. He looked down at the soft grass. The innocent, pristine, manicured grass. He could see Sirius. Not the man from last night but the one from years before.

Over powered by the image, he fell to his knees.

* * * * *

They lay on the ground looking up at the sky. Things were simpler. There was school and pranks and friends. Sixth year had been top of the world. There were stirrings in the ministry but the world had not yet descended into the chaos that was certain to come. The night was peaceful. The air was warm and the wind was still. On their secluded piece of earth, it was perfect.

Sated, Remus barely heard Sirius's question. He sat up to look at his companion. "What?"

"Do you ever wish they would just stop?" Sirius repeated, his eyes fixed on the sky.

Remus wrinkled his brow in confusion.

"Do you ever wish they would just go away?"

Blinking stupidly, Remus let out a short laugh. He poked at Sirius's stomach. "You're not making any sense, you know?"

Frustrated, Sirius propped himself up on his elbows. His blue eyes that seemed to twinkle reflected his words instead. "I'm serious, Moony."

Remus sighed, but nodded for Sirius to continue.

Sitting up, Sirius motioned to the sky. "Do you ever wish that the world would stop? That the heavens would freeze and we could just live in this moment fore--"

"No." Remus cut him off firmly and more than a bit regretful.

Sirius frowned. "No? But I--"

"That's not how the world is Sirius," Remus chastised lightly. "It spins and it changes. The heavens move. I'd rather take my happy moments as they come rather than stay in one, doomed to miss the next."

"But--" Sirius tried to protest again.

Remus huffed, he'd had enough optimism. He pitched a rock out onto the lake. It skipped twice before sinking and left only ripples where the sky's reflection had been. He could feel Siriu's gaze upon him. "It's pointless to wish anything different, to think that the future won't come. The sun will continue to set. And the moon... will continue to rise."

"You left out the stars," Sirius teased.

Remus's gaze didn't move from the lake. "Will bear witness unable to change anything." He turned to look at Sirius. "They'll burn themselves out if they try."

Remus skipped another rock. They both watched as four circular ripples appeared on the lake. Such a thing that started small and seemed too innocent. Picking up another stone, Remus prepared to throw it like the others but Sirius stopped him.

A firm hand held his wrist, stopping the motion, and after a moment Remus relaxed. Taking that as understanding, Sirius released his hand and lay back against the ground.

"I'm a star, R, but I never looked at them like that before. I'm lying here wishing I could change life and remove all the bad and I know I can't. I just figured if I couldn't have that, that I don't want anything to change."

Remus tightened his grip on the stone. "That's not the way life works Sirius. That's a dream."

Slowly, Sirius sat and drew Remus close to him. His hands clasped Remus as the boy held the rock tight. Sirius held him close as he brushed away tawny hair from angry, regretful eyes.

"If it is a dream-- a wish-- would that be so bad?"

Remus didn't answer but he slowly placed the rock on the ground. The lake stood still and the peace of the night was restored. The stars and moon continued to shine.

* * * * *

Soaked, Remus was curled up on the ground. His cloak was coated with mud and his face still wet with moisture even though the rain had stopped. His thoughts were clouded with emotion. He'd been searching for... the place.. the spot... Sirius... dementors. Unbidden, he thought of the night.

After Dumbledore left, he'd stayed in shock. For the third time in his life, everything had been too surreal to possibly be believed. If the world didn't settle down soon, Remus thought he might loose his mind.

He almost did. The shock, the grief, and the regret had almost been too much for him to manage. When he returned to the castle, Snape had already told the school. Remus had no reason to stay and every reason to leave. So he did. Quickly, quietly, he packed his bags, avoided the reporters and slipped out. He didn't care where he went, as long as he was away.

He never expected to be back.

He never expected to be kneeling in mud and earth, soaked to the bone. He should leave, get cleaned, but he couldn't. The storm was over and he could hear the soft woodland noises starting again. An owl screeched and instinctively Remus jerked his head up to watch as it cut across the sky. Faint wisps of clouds hung in the air and the stars and moon shone their light, unheeding of the previous turmoil.

How dare they?

How dare they continue to shine just as usual, just as always? For over thirty years, the stars had watched as the moon dictated his life. What right did they have to hang timeless? Shouldn't they grieve the same as he?

"That's not the way life works."

His distant words surfaced in Remus's mind. They had a sense of finality. A way of banishing hope. Reality was harsh and cold. It was taking and demanding and left nothing but emptiness. Sincerely, Remus regretted his words, but the sky didn't care. It couldn't care. A veil of darkness with specks of hope.

"Do you ever wish they would just go away?"

Remus wanted them too.

"That's a dream."

This was life.

"Would that be so bad?"

Remus's eyes searched out the moon. Getting upset at it was futile. Nothing would change, he knew that all too well. The sky didn't seem so ominous. The stars seemed to shine with hope. The light was their innocence and the moon reflected that light. The stars didn't watch. They didn't stand witness. They lived in ignorance.

They didn't feel pain.

"Would that be so bad?"

Sirius's voice. Soft and insisting.

"That's a dream."

"Would that be so bad?"

Remus closed his eyes and immersed himself in darkness.

"No," he whispered. "It wouldn't be bad at all."

fin