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Twice Before the Close

Chapter Text

“My life closed twice before its close;

It yet remains to see

If Immortality unveil

A third event to me,

So huge, so hopeless to conceive,

As these that twice befell.

Parting is all we know of heaven,

And all we need of hell.”

 Remus stared at his reflection in the small mirror that was speckled with dirt. If he moved just right, the jagged crack in the mirror would cover the scar that ran across his face, splitting him down the middle. He was old now. There was no denying the slight wrinkles and cracking scars that traced his face. There was no denying the weariness in his eyes. He was only thirty years old, but somewhere between a youth of wonderful chaos and years of sadness, he had aged.

Standing in the small bathroom, he absentmindedly ran his thumb over the handle of the worn leather suitcase that he held in his hand. He let his finger follow the grooves of Professor R. J. Lupin carved on the top years ago. He remembered when he got this suitcase.  He never expected that it would accompany him for the past 12 years, or one day enclose everything he held dear... Except for one thing… Remus cut that thought off as quickly as it came. He would not think of him. Not today. No matter how much his heart bled and his ears rung with the silence of being alone, he would not think of him. He was not laughter, an infectious smile, he was not love, Sirius was anguish, and an ironic emptiness that Remus could do without. He was a traitor. Remus inhaled slowly maintaining bruising eye contact with his reflection, trying to bore these thoughts into his mind. He would not go there. He would not let something as dangerous and harmless as nostalgia tear open the wound he had so carefully stitched up.

He stood there staring at himself in the mirror, willing the tension to uncoil from his arms. The clock ticked by slowly, and Remus waited for the thoughts that had come so suddenly to fade. Breathing in, Remus rested his finger on the indent of the J , and when he had thoroughly calmed his mind, he let the memory of the suitcase rush back to him. Something almost fond with a touch of longing bloomed in his chest.  He willingly let his friend’s faces slip into his mind, he let their laughter, and their words “ Come on just accept it Moony. We all know that you’re going to become a swot of a teacher someday.” come back. Remus remembered the drunken warmth that had washed over him and wished he could forget. He felt the familiar late sting of comfort from something gone and wished he could forget. If he stopped moving, if he thought for too long, his friends laughing faces would steal all the air from his lungs, and leave him with nothing to breathe.

Remus stepped away from the crack in the mirror, and slowly shut the door to the bathroom. He walked slowly towards the front door, the only sound in the cottage was the click of his shoes on the wood floor and his own breath. Remus walked through the empty house and stepped outside onto the street where he stuck his wand out hailing the night bus. For a second, he almost forgot what he carried with him and what would follow him there. The bus appeared with a whoosh and a bang and Remus got on.

The Hogwarts Express glinted sunlight off of its paint and puffed up smoke into the light filtering down from the station's roof. The station was bathed in mid-morning light, and mother’s wrapped their children up against the unusual September chill, kissing their cheeks and repeating casual warnings. Remus smiled slightly at the students he passed and walked across the station to the Express. A group of students clogged the entrance with their attempts to cut in front of each other while simultaneously yelling back at their siblings and parents.

“Stop it! You’re going to hurt Lorenzo!”

A small mousy faced girl pulled her cat out of harm's way as another first-year shoved her lightly to the side. A stout woman, who had the stern face of a mother, spun her head around to reprimand the children and saw Remus patiently waiting to board the train.

“Helen, Oliver, out of the way. Let this man through.” The woman shook her head and smiled knowingly at Remus pulling her children by their arms off the stairwell.

Remus nodded politely and squeezed past the remaining children onto the train.  Chatter echoed out from the compartments at the front, but as Remus reached the back the train, it became quieter and quieter. He walked down the aisle, glancing into the occasionally half full compartment until he reached one that sat empty. Remus reached his hand out to slide open the door, but before his fingers reached the handle, he stopped. The room looked like any other, worn cushions, a speckled window, but the plaque above it read 6977. The numbers echoed around his head, repeating themselves over and over, before settling into place. This was his compartment. It was the same one he had taken on the first day of school, and the same one he had taken on the last. Remus’ breath hitched, and he pulled the door open.

The engine outside chugged methodically, and he rested his head against the seat a new feeling seizing his chest. It rested there, not heavily, just present. It felt like a hearing the muffled tune of a song that had been lost for years and now was coming back, the tune choking up in his throat. Remus eyes felt heavy, and although he had woken up hours ago, weariness dragged him down. He sat in the warm even air of the compartment and let the sounds of the outside world, and hum of the train, softly wash over him. He began to feel dreary and light and slowly slip away. Slowly, then all at once, the world went dark.

“Do you think we should wake em’?” Through Remus’ closed eyes he could hear a boy speaking in a Cockney accent.

Another voice disrupted him, and Remus slowly opened his eyes.

“No, Peter, better not… oh, wait, he’s awake.”

Remus looked up at the laughing boy who had spoken last. He had round glasses perched on his face, dark skin,  and a mischievous grin. Remus blinked blearily at him and rubbed his eyes. The boy across from him boldly stuck out a hand.

“Morning, I’m James Potter.”

Remus looked around the compartment to see two more boys sitting nearby. One with a shock of blonde hair, who when he nervously squeaked out “Peter” was obviously the owner of the accent that had spoken before. Remus looked beside him and saw another one sitting ramrod straight for an 11 year old, with strikingly perfect features.  Remus’ eyes rested on him, and when the boy’s grey eyes intensely stared back, Remus remembered to speak.

“Oh… I’m Remus. I suppose you are all first years as well?”

The boy nodded back at him and frowned slightly. It was then that Remus realized, that although he had meant to address everyone, he had been staring at the dark haired boy instead. Remus tore his eyes away to see James grinning back at him.

“That’s Sirius by the way.” 

Remus nodded dumbly, still getting over the bleariness he felt from his nap and managed a weak smile.

“Why were you sleeping?”

“Err… I- I just didn’t sleep well last night.”

The words tumbled out of Remus’ mouth haltingly, and he turned his head to the side to see Sirius still watching him. James and Peter nodded politely, and the compartment momentarily lapsed into silence. A voice with an aristocratic lilt spoke beside him.

 “What happened to your face?”

Remus jerked his head around and Sirius stared back at him his eyes narrowed slightly and a smile playing on his lips. James leaned across the compartment to kick Sirius in the shins, and Sirius jolted backward feigning a counterattack while grinning.

“Sorry mate, you don’t have to answer that.”

 James rolled his eyes at Sirius who was still watching Remus. Sirius stared intently with quiet curiosity, and when Remus caught his eye his stomach flipped.

“No, err, it’s okay”

Remus paused,  touching the long red scar that stretched from his right eye to his cheek, his heart pounding in his chest, as he fought to come up with something to say, “I was attacked by an… animal when I was younger. That’s why I have scars.”

Remus dropped his eyes and played with the leather strap on his bag, desperately hoping that the other boys would accept this answer without question. Sirius opened his mouth to speak, but James’ foot came down on his, hard this time, and he only emitted a small sound of protest. There was a beat of awkward silence that Peter finally broke.

“Sorry mate.”

Remus nodded and turned to look out the window. The compartment relapsed into tense silence aside from James’ soft chewing. The only person who didn’t seem uncomfortable was Sirius. Remus opened his mouth to say something but closed it again realizing that it was no use. No matter what he said now to try to appear cool, he was forever marked as the weird boy covered in scars. Remus sighed, and he felt a sinking disappointment in himself for hoping for anything different.

Much to Remus’ surprise, James continued on cheerfully, as if the stranger in front of him hadn’t just revealed something incredibly personal.

“So what house do you think you’ll be in? I’m going to be Gryffindor. My whole family has been.”

Peter looked at James.

“If your family was in a certain house does that mean you will too?”

James nodded in response and popped the rest of the chocolate into his mouth.

“So that means you’ll be in Slytherin then?” Peter asked, turning to Sirius.

Sirius’ grey eyes turned cold, and he slowly put down the chocolate he had been unwrapping, on the tray in front of him.

“No” The words came out venomous, “ I’m nothing like my family. I’d rather leave Hogwarts than be in Slytherin with my cousins. I’m going to be a Gryffindor like James.”

Peter nodded quickly and looked away, picking at the threads of his sweater.

“That’s a lad! Gryffindor is the best house after all.”

James grinned, seeming not to have noticed the sudden strain in the air. Peter remained silent and now had his eyes fixed anywhere but Sirius.

“Where will you be Remus?”

Remus heard Sirius’ voice speak again, this time much more friendly.

“I’m not sure. No one really knows until they’re sorted. My dad was a Ravenclaw, and I like to read and stuff, so I probably will be too.”

“Well for what it’s worth, I hope you’re Gryffindor.”

“Yeah, me too.”

Remus smiled to himself and leaned his head against the foggy window, as the boys went back to talking among themselves. He felt the nerves that had sickened him the moment he stepped on the train and wracked him into a fitful sleep, fade away.

“Ravenclaws are good too I suppose. They’re fairly nice blokes, and I’m sure they can help with assignments in a pinch…” James continued to ramble seemingly unaware of anyone else. Remus wondered how James could feign such knowledge having never been to Hogwarts. James turned to Peter.

“What about you Pete?”

Peter shrugged and continued to pick apart the hem of his sleeve. James leaned forward across the red cushions holding one hand to his temple, and waving the other back and forth in front of Peter’s face. He screwed up his face in faux mysticism and took in a deep breath.

“I predict… that you will be… a Hufflepuff! No! A Gryffindor” James waved himself back and forth dramatically as the boys laughed at him, and dropped back onto the seat, “The seer has spoken” his hand shot up from the cushions and Peter sat before him laughing and red-faced with the new attention.

“Wait, wait, my turn now” Sirius was grinning with a smile that seemed to transform him from the person he had been seconds ago.

James sat up and propped himself up on his elbows stretching across Peter and Remus to lean closer to Sirius.

“Hmm..” Sirius was inches away from James and had a serious searching look in his eyes “You’re… oh my god… you’re” the compartment sat with bated breath as Sirius slowly paused, “You’re an idiot”.

James flung an arm around Sirius’ neck and wrestled him into the seat, and Remus turned away laughing, occasionally catching a stray foot or insult from the other two. He sat smiling to himself, but couldn’t help but feel out of place. It was like he was watching a play, it was something that made him laugh, but he was acutely aware that it was not something he was not a part of. Remus picked at the beds of his fingernails and turned to Peter to try to quell the awkwardness he felt.

“So” he nodded towards James and Sirius who were now in a heated game of rock paper scissors, “are they best friends or something?”

If it hadn’t been for James’ dark skin and Sirius’ chiseled appearance, he would have assumed they were brothers. Peter shook his head busy folding a piece of paper in his lap.

“No, they just met on the train. James was here first, and Sirius came to sit with him to escape his family” he looked at Remus and shrugged, “I guess he doesn’t like them too much. Anyways I sat with them after they had met, but I thought that they already knew each other too. Apparently not though, I guess great minds just think alike.” 

Peter nodded with raised eyebrows to Sirius and James, who were both now trying to pelt each other with Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans.

Sirius’ long fingers wound his black hair into a small ponytail at the base of his neck, and Remus watched intently, before frowning and turning away.

“So, Remus, where are you from?” Sirius leaned casually beside him, stretching his legs out until the soles of his shoes almost hit Remus’ thighs.

“Oh, well I live in Leicester, but I was born in Ireland. We moved away when I was five.”

“Ohhh Irish, I see matey,” James said in a mock Irish accent.

“Oy, he’s Irish, not a bloody pirate” Sirius rolled his eyes at James’ who was now pretending to play the bagpipes.

Remus laughed “Yeah also they don’t play the bagpipes in Ireland. Just Scotland”.

James shrugged and continued on until Sirius threw a pumpkin pasty at him. Remus allowed the rest of the ride to pass in comfortable silence as the boys chattered around him occasionally throwing a question his way. He sat with his curls and cheek smushed against the cold glass and watched the towns turn to the countryside, and the countryside turn to thick forests and jagged cliffs.

An hour later the train pulled into the station letting out one last puff of air from the smokestack. The boys shuffled around each other to grab their various luggage, and Remus was surprised when James grabbed his arm to lead him out of the train, as Remus tried to quietly slip away.

“Where are you going?”

Remus wasn’t sure how to tell James that he wasn’t supposed to do this. He opened his mouth to speak, to tell him that he was dangerous, that his father had told him not to make friends. Remus stared back at James with a lump in his throat, grasping for the words to describe how much of a freak he was. Before any excuse could slip from his mouth James smiled warmly and lead him confidently down the aisle. Remus gripped his suitcase and followed.

In the commotion of students and bustling crowd Remus weaved in and out trying to not lose the head of Hagrid the gamekeeper who was supposed to be leading them to the castle. Their bags had been taken long ago, and all that Remus could see was the heads of other students and the black path ahead of them. Suddenly, students swarmed gasping around an unknown sight, and Remus began to push his way forward.  He ran up the hill to keep up and burst through a stray thicket of bushes to be greeted by the sight of the castle rising out of forests and rocky crags. The evening light bathed the spires and glittered off of the vast lake in front of them. It seemed as if the whole world had been painted with the sole purpose of leaving them completely dumbstruck. Peter elbowed him and pointed, and for a second Remus’ worries weren’t with the moon that hung in the sky. He looked at the new world before him and felt a sense of camaraderie with the other first years in his pure anxiousness and excitement. For the first time, Remus thought that his dad might be wrong. Maybe things could be okay. Maybe if he was careful, really really careful, he could have a flicker of normality too. Maybe if he was really lucky, he could even make friends.