She wants to be just like Mummy, so while Mummy's having tea with Mrs Richards, Remus sneaks upstairs and settles down at the big dressing table and pulls open the drawers one by one. Here's lipstick and little pots of powder and lots of pretty necklaces. There are ribbons and hair slides, but Remus's hair isn't long and pretty like Mummy's, so she leaves those in the drawer.
By the time she hears Mummy calling her, she's made a bigger mess than she meant to and the face staring back at her in the mirror looks more like a clown than Mummy.
"Sweetie? Where a- oh, Remus..."
It's too much. Remus's face crumples as Mummy sweeps her into her arms. "Oh, sweetie, don't worry. Mummy'll tidy up. We don't want Daddy to see this mess, do we?" With a flick of her wand, the dressing table is back in order, the pots and tubes all neatly in their drawers. "Shh, now, it's all right. Mummy's not angry... Now be a big boy for me and don't cry." But he just buries his head in her shoulder, crying harder as she points her wand at his face and murmurs another cleaning charm.
On the platform, on the train, he watches the other kids, first years especially. Of course there's no one he knows. What wizarding family would let their kids play with a werewolf? And the Muggle friends he'd had turned out to be Muggle through and through; no Hogwarts letters for them, though Sarah and Jason had oohed and aahed over Remus's when he'd shown them.
There's a red-haired girl across the aisle from him. Must be Muggleborn the way her eyes keep darting around at everything magical. She's dressed in a pretty green dress that Remus can't help envying, her long hair pulled into two braids. He watches her out of the corner of his eye, imagines how it should be. How Remus would sit down next to her and say hi, how they'd bond over the fact they're wearing the same dress. The bright, cheery Remus she's never been allowed to be, this girl with fringe hanging in her eyes because she's growing it out.
Two black-haired boys burst into the compartment just then, laughing and out of breath. They flop onto the seat across from Remus, darting glances over their shoulders. "If anyone asks," the one without glasses says, "we've been here the whole time, all right?"
"'Course," Remus says, trying not to stare. "You got on the train with me."
They find out about his "condition" - the one that's visible, anyway. It's almost a relief when they do, even before the rounds of back-thumping and enthusiastic reassurances that nothing's changed. It's easier now, with only one secret to keep. The easier one, the one no one would believe if he told them, anyway.
But as the years go by, the secret grows, fills all the spaces left open by the other til he's just as choked and swollen with it as before. Til he feels sometimes like he's about to burst, his skin splitting open to reveal the lie.
At first it's just shame that keeps him silent, and she watches wistfully from somewhere deep inside, dreams of shedding this body like a butterfly from its cocoon. She'd be herself then, finally, and Sirius would look at her the way boys look at girls. The way no one ever looks at her. She tells herself at least there's always friendship. It's cold comfort, but what else is there?
There's Sirius's kiss, for one. Red-faced and drunk off a bottle of fire whisky he'd smuggled back after Christmas holidays, sitting on Remus's bed and talking after Peter and James have fallen asleep. His voice is barely loud enough to be heard over the snores, and Remus leans in - "What? I can't-" - and there it is, Sirius's lips on his, Sirius's hand on his shoulder and later on his dick.
It's greediness after that, and she tries even harder to act normal, to act like the boy whose body she's stuck in. He tries even harder to push those thoughts down and no, he's not thinking what it would be like if he was that other Remus because Sirius doesn't like girls, and Remus absolutely isn't one. End of story.
Still, sometimes he gets so angry, and it feels like he could scream forever and it would never be enough. Sometimes it can't be the full moon soon enough because all he wants to do is destroydestroydestroy until the rage passes. Until the next time.
As the years go by, Remus thinks even Sirius is starting to notice how he holds himself apart, never fully relaxing, even with his closest friends. He knows they're suspicious; they're in the middle of a war, after all, and Remus doesn't exactly radiate trustworthiness. Not that he thinks they'd hold the lycanthropy against him, not consciously.
But he knows they wonder. He knows conversations stop when he comes in the room, and sometimes out of the corner of his eye, he catches Sirius watching him, brows drawn together and a look on his face like he's just about to say something, to maybe ask Remus what's going on, but the next time Remus looks, his face will be shuttered and Remus will wonder if he was imagining things until it happens again.
He's glad Sirius never asks, because surely that would only make things worse. After all, what can he say? Nothing, that's what. They'd laugh, thinking he was joking, then turn away in disgust when it became obvious he wasn't. He doesn't even know how to say it if he did. Not when he can't even put it into words in his own head.
He can dream about it, he can fantasise. He can wonder what it's like, this other life he should have had. But he can't make himself say it. Not even when he's locked the door and pulled the curtains closed, when his flat's all dark but for the one light in the bedroom, where he's standing naked, drinking down another bottle of shop-bought Polyjuice to turn himself into yet another nameless girl.
Even when Remus is lying on the bed, knees drawn up and fingers shoved far up her borrowed cunt, she's trying not to think about it. Her eyes are squeezed shut as her fingers trail over the hairless chest that feels so much more like hers than her own ever did. She stays in bed til the potion wears off and she never, ever makes the mistake of looking in the mirror when she's like this again.
These aren't things you can tell your mates about, especially not the one you've been fucking for the past five years.
Then one day he hasn't got any mates to tell anymore. One day he sits down at the breakfast table, looking at the fiftieth sensational front-page story about You-Know-Who and the heroic Potters and the traitor Sirius Black, and all he can do is laugh. What is his secret compared to this?
He starts going to Muggle bars, the sort of place where he can feel for a few hours like he's not alone. In the back of his wardrobe is a false panel, openable only by a charm keyed to his wand. In it are blouses and skirts, dresses and tights and makeup.
These bars, they're full of blokes gagging for the chance to push up his skirt and suck his dick, and they don't mind that he can't really pass. They like it that his features are a little too rough, that he's a little too bony and angular.
This isn't what he wants, not even close, but it's comforting in its own way.
"Sirius..." Remus starts, but Sirius's answering "hmm?" is warm against the back of Remus's neck and his willpower crumbles. It doesn't have to be tonight... But that's what he's told himself every day since Sirius came back. We have plenty of time.
It's not a big deal, he tells himself, but there are times he's shaking, bent over the toilet vomiting up bile at the thought of it. He can't lose Sirius now, not again, not after all this time. He can't risk it.
And then it's too late and he's lost Sirius anyway.
Tonks comes 'round every day after that; pressing her advantage, Remus thinks bitterly. No amount of hinting makes her go away, and every time she changes her hair, her nose, her tits, Remus hates her a little more. Everything he wants, she has. She can remould her body in the blink of an eye and what can he do? Turn into a fucking wolf.
Every time he smiles at her, laughs at her jokes, the ball of bitterness in his gut feels a little heavier until he thinks if you split him open, you'd find his insides eaten away by it.
He grits his teeth, grins and bears it like she's always done.