by Vignette
Rating: PG
Fandom: Harry Potter
Disclaimer: Not mine and no harm intended. I own none of this.
Author's Notes: The lines of poetry are taken from John Keats's 'Ode on Melancholy' and my edition is the 1929 Oxford University Press.

His footsteps on the stairs that spiralled seemingly endlessly had barely disturbed the stillness that flooded the Astronomy Tower at night time. It seemed to ebb from the sky outside through the vast glass windows and into the small circular room at the highest point of Hogwarts. Even when filled with classes of chattering students the space held fast to a particular serenity and so deserted, as it was now, it seemed eternally pure. Not quite deserted though, for he had crossed the room, clutching the small, leather-bound volume that he a brought with him. He had carried it everywhere since secreting it from his parents’ bookshelf at t'e end of the summer holidays, five weeks ago.

The age of the book was comforting; it proved that certain important things could last. The leather cover always felt warm to the touch, especially soothing in the middle of a chilled October night. The gold lettering on the cover, embossed into the brown seemed to sing out that here was a thing of beauty, a joy forever. And when you opened it, the words inside confirmed your expectations. He had barely stopped reading them during the long holidays, having little else to do in the country with no friends nearby. They had been a safe haven, these verses written by a man barely older than himself when he put pen to paper. A man who knew more of fear and pain than most but a man who could give and accept love. All of which meant that even the most dolorous line gave the boy in the Astronomy Tower hope, however tinged with bitterness it was.

Remus Lupin walked towards the window in front of him and stared at the moon, which hung from a celestial thread, suspended in solitude. It was waxing, past its half, leaving less than a week until it would be circular and whole. Then it was Remus's turn to be fragmented, spilt and torn into another creature. Unconsciously, he shivered and drew his dressing gown closer around him.

Still fixated on the night sky, Remus sat on the wooden floor and braced his feet against the pane of icy glass in the window. He cast his eyes to the ground and saw a single light coming from the window of Hagrid's cabin; protection against the darkness that lay outside. Not wishing to think of that now, Remus positioned the book on his bent legs and gently teased the covers open with the fabric marker that lay inside. Obediently, the book feel open across his lap. There was no need to illuminate his wand; the moon provided sufficient light to read by.

The lines of verse danced from the page to his restless mind. Odes to sleep mocked the insomnia that had plagued him for months. He spent his days dreaming instead, allowing his mind to drift to the pure love of the poetry, tormenting himself with the idea that something like himself might be worthy of such feelings. This man, this poet, he was damaged and incomplete and yet he was loved in spite of it. Remus didn't want to be loved by anybody, but by somebody. Somebody who was all these words and more, if only he knew. But thinking like this was bittersweet. It built you up to cast you down, giving you elation so that life could snatch it away again, to leave you despondent. Despondent, but still a believer; you hurt now, but one day you would be saved. Even if that day never came.

"‘No, no, go not to Lethe, neither twist
Wolf's-bane, tight-rooted, for its poisonous wine;
Nor suffer thy pale forehead to be kiss'd
By nightshade, ruby grape of Proserpine...'"

At the sound of the voice Remus had started, clutched at his wand. But as he looked over his shoulder, he recognised the silky black hair that obscured what Remus knew to be a pair of grey eyes, as the intruder read aloud the words from the book. When he had finished the four lines, the other boy looked Remus in the eye.

"I don't understand it," he said, in a voice tinged with hoarseness. "You can't make wine from wolf's-bane." Remus didn't bother to explain that it was the sentiment that counted.

"You followed me, Sirius," he said, accusingly.

"Not exactly," Sirius replied. "I woke up and you weren't there, so I guessed you'd be here." Sirius paused and then quickly raised his hand to his nose. "Huhtuschuhh! Hahtshhh!"

"Bless you," Remus said, gently. Sirius merely sniffled in response. "You should be in bed," Remus added.

"So should you."

"You know what I meant."

"I couldn't sleep," Sirius confessed. He sniffed again, harder this time. "I don't suppose you have a handkerchief on you, do you? Forgot mine." Remus drew one from the pocket of his dressing gown and handed it to Sirius, who dabbed at his nose with it. "Thanks, " he said gratefully. "Now what's your excuse?"

"I couldn't sleep either," Remus replied.

"You haven't slept well since term began, have you?" Sirius asked. Then, seeing Remus's surprised expression, quickly added, "I haven't been spying on you or anything. I'd just sort of noticed that you..." He stopped mid-sentence, this time bringing the handkerchief up to cover his nose. "Hahtchooo! Hahtschhuh!" Remus waited, but Sirius did not finish what he was going to say. The two boys simply sat in silence together, watching the night sky unfold.

"Is it the moon?" Sirius said suddenly. "Are the transformations worse now? I came to listen at the door to the shack last time. I can hear you cry out. It sounded like... like you were dying. I had to stop myself breaking the door down..."

"Don't, Sirius, please..."

"It's those nights that make you so unhappy, isn't it?" Remus said nothing; it was the first time either of them had used that word. But Sirius was right, he supposed, in a way. It was the moon that hurt him, but not through his transformations. Those were physical and the wounds always healed eventually. But he wasn't just a werewolf at full moon, that was what his friends forgot. Forgot, he imagined, because they never thought of him that way. To them, he was only Remus, but to the rest of the world it was a secret that he had to keep. It was a barrier between him and the rest of the world. The curse never went away.

"Hhh...Hhhtushhuh! Hahhtchh! Ahhtshhuh!" Sirius's sneezes interrupted Remus's thoughts. They were harsher now, each one wracking his body, leaving him shivering violently. He must feel awful, so why did he stay?

"You're cold," Remus said flatly. Sirius shrugged his shoulders.

"It's a cold night," he replied, as if the words were scraping his throat. Sighing, Remus untied the belt of his dressing gown and began to take it off. "Oh no," Sirius said, when he noticed. "There's no use me being warm if you're freezing."

"I'm not feverish," reasoned Remus. But Sirius was stubborn. Instead of putting on the dressing gown, he draped it over both his and Remus's shoulders, giving them both partial benefit of its warmth. Remus was careful though, to keep clear space between himself and Sirius. Already he could feel a spot on his shoulder burning where Sirius had brushed against it as he arranged their makeshift blanket.

"How did you catch that cold anyway?" Remus asked, hoping to divert the conversation away from himself. Sirius opened his mouth, looking as if he were going to protest that his frequent sniffles and sneezes were not in fact symptoms of any underlying illness. However, it appeared that he thought better of it, because he sighed and began to explain.

"Slughorn," he said bitterly. "His detention this week was to clean out the potions store in the far dungeon. I soon realised why they don't use it for teaching. The place is damp and freezing cold. Oh, and did I mention it floods when it rains? All the warming spells I knew were no use." Sirius pawed at his nose with the back of his hand. If he intended to lessen the irritation in his nose, it has the opposite effect. "Hihh... Ihhushuhh! Hihhkutchuhh! Hihkushh!" He let out an involuntary groan after the last sneeze. "I should be in bed," he moaned, between weak sniffles.

"I've been telling you that since we got here."

"Don't be too hard on me, Moony. We can't all be as wise as you." But at what price does wisdom come, thought Remus to himself. The more you see of how things really are, the wiser you become and the sadder you become with the knowledge that none of this pain is anything new. Then Remus felt the brush of soft hair on his cheek as Sirius rested his head on his friend's shoulder. Remus froze, every muscle in his body becoming painfully tense. Confused and expecting comfort, Sirius looked up at him.

"Afraid you'll catch my cold?" he asked. Unable to speak, Remus shook his head. Sirius sat up again. "You do that more and more," he said darkly.

"Do what?" Remus asked, regaining his tongue enough to feign innocence, but poorly.

"You won't relax around me," Sirius continued. "You put this guard up. Whenever we've been alone together this term, you've found something to do so you can get away from me. I've no one to talk properly to now. Peter just blindly agrees with me, and James... James is more of a doing person, you know that. Seriously, Remus, I think I might go mad if you don't tell me what I've done wrong."

"Done wrong?" Remus repeated incredulously. "You haven't done anything wrong. It isn't what you've done at all."

"Then it's who I am?" Sirius's voice was becoming raspier and more choked with his urgency. "I know I'm not the best of people all the time, Remus, but if you tell me what it is. I'll try and put it right. I promise, I'll try to..." Sirius broke off, overcome by a fit of coughing that shook his body for half a minute. Remus wanted to reach out and rub his back but he didn't trust his own touch. Finally, the fit subsided, leaving Sirius gasping and weak.

"You're going to make yourself worse sitting here. Please, go back to bed," Remus begged.

"No!" Sirius cried, hoarsely. "Not until you explain why you're so sad with me, why you hate me now."

"I don't hate you," Remus said, his voice trembling. "I... I could never hate you. Now, Sirius, please go."

"Why are you like this around me?" Sirius pleaded, not moving an inch.

"Because I love you!" Remus cried, his voice breaking and tears spilling from his eyes. "I love you, but I'm... I'm not even human. All I do is make you hurt, having to hear me suffer. I love you, but I'm nothing." Remus was sniffling harder than Sirius as he buried his head in his arms.

Slowly, carefully, Sirius wrapped his arm around Remus's heaving shoulders. Gently, his lay his hand on Remus's cheek and guided his head upwards. Two pairs of sore eyes, both filled with tears, met each other.

"Remus," said Sirius, his voice rough and thick from his cold. "You will never be nothing to me, understand?" Remus sniffed again and nodded. Suddenly, Sirius looked at the ground embarrassed. "Now it's the part where I should give you a handkerchief, only..." As if on cue, Sirius turned his head to one side and buried his nose into the handkerchief. "Huh-ashhooo!"

"You need it more than me," said Remus, softly. "But I think we should both get back to bed."

"Really?" said Sirius. "Because it could be quite warm up here with two of us underneath your dressing gown." Remus blinked in disbelief and then smiled.

The book lay forgotten on the floor beside them, its covers closed once more. The poet may have known of love and loss, but words can only imitate life; when all is said and done, art is merely a mirror. Or a window pane, that lets you look out onto life, letting light seep through whilst you see and do not touch. So unless you are content to live looking at a picture, glass must shatter, things must fragment before perfect stillness can reign once more.

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