Chapter 17 : Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs
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Sirius remained convinced of Malfoy’s guilt, but Mad-Eye wanted to thoroughly exhaust all angles of possibility. “After all,” he’d told them, “It could have been Who-Know-Who himself.”
“I’m not important enough for Voldemort to kill me personally,” Nora had insisted. The others agreed that it seemed extremely far-fetched. Trivialities like Nora Prewett were for minions lower on the Death Eater totem pole to deal with.
“This has got Lucius written all over it,” Sirius replied in a dark tone. “He’s trying to kill her for escaping him at the Ministry.”
“And it’s definitely not Greyback’s doing,” Remus said dejectedly. He hadn’t spoken much since the previous week when their plan at Muriel’s had gone horribly twisted, and Nora knew it must have been a tremendous blow to be so close to capturing Greyback and then having it slip through their fingers. “He likes to play with his food and then eat it – he has no interest in wandwork when it comes to his victims.”
“You don’t think Fenrir was there at all?” Tonks questioned.
Remus shook his head. “If he was there, he would have smelled the blood trail and come running. He wouldn’t have been able to resist.”
Nora was smiling now. Sirius looked alarmed by her expression, but before he could ask she blurted, “This means Malfoy believes I’m dead! He won’t be looking for me anymore.”
And now that it was just Nora and Sirius again and things seemed to be getting back to normal (aside from Emmeline's friends and family, who were still grieving), Nora had plenty of time to think. And what she was thinking was that sitting in Grimmauld Place wasn’t exactly getting her anywhere. She should be out there, hunting down Carrow and the other Death Eaters; she should be trying to find her little brother and getting even with Lucius Malfoy. Number Twelve was like an enormous obstacle that she was finding increasingly difficult to overcome. Because as much as she yearned to turn into an owl and get moving, she also didn’t want to leave.
She didn’t want to leave Sirius, that is.
Nora’s sudden lack of chatter and good spirits made Sirius nervous, as he had a relatively good idea as to what was now occupying Nora’s mind. The very notion of Nora leaving him alone at Number Twelve – of her being in constant danger where he wasn’t there to protect her – was already driving him up the wall. He was walking on eggshells in her presence, not wanting to do or say the wrong thing which could become a catalyst for her departure. Both of them were painfully aware of this, which made life a tad awkward. Emotions were already high-strung what with Snape’s reports of Harry dreaming about the Department of Mysteries every night, and what a disaster the Occlumency lessons were turning out to be. Harry had also done an interview with The Quibbler and recounted the events after last year’s Triwizard Tournament and Cedric’s death along with Voldemort’s return, and everyone was worried that the Death Eaters Harry indicted would try to exact revenge on him.
On a rainy morning in early March, Sirius knocked on Nora’s bedroom door. “Can I come in?” he asked hesitantly.
Nora was taken aback by the strange, haunting look on his face. “Is something the matter?”
“Yes,” he said. His insides were bursting; he did not want to have this conversation. He had done everything possible to put it off, to lock it away where he didn’t have to think about it. But he knew that his actions were selfish, and Nora was too good a person to take the first step. “I’m holding you back, Nora.”
She frowned, a crease between her eyes. “How so?”
Sirius rubbed the back of his neck and sighed, gazing morosely out the window. “You don’t want to be here. The only reason why you haven’t run off to do something purposeful is because you’re afraid I’m going to be lonely here by myself.”
Nora smiled ruefully and reached out to touch his arm. “Sirius… If I wanted to be gone, I would be. But I recall you saying once that there is a natural order to things, and that rushing is usually a bad idea. So I haven’t rushed, and I’ve come up with a much better idea. A well-calculated one.”
“Which would be…?” He was almost afraid to hear the answer. More baiting traps?
“I’ve been thinking. And I want you to come with me.”
He raised his eyebrows in surprise. “Come with you? To look for the Death Eaters and your brother, you mean?”
Oh, to get out of his parent’s house! It would be heavenly. He didn’t even care much what their mission would be, so long as he was rid of that horrid Kreacher and didn’t ever have to meet Snape’s eyes and know that he was free and Sirius was not. But…Dumbledore would never allow it. His hope exploded like a popped balloon. “I can’t,” was all he said, his voice thick.
“Says who?” Nora jumped to her feet, eyes flashing. “Because of the Order? Because of the rules they’ve shoved on you? Last time I checked, Sirius Black, you were a grown man. Being free didn’t stop Emmeline Vance from being killed, did it? It didn’t stop Cedric Diggory’s death or Mad-Eye’s imprisonment by Barty Crouch Jr. in his own trunk, or the countless nameless and faceless victims who’ve died at the hands of Death Eaters. We’ve both got Patronuses; we can stay away from dementors. Who ruddy cares about what anyone else says you can or can’t do? They don’t own you, Sirius. You’re not a house-elf.”
Sirius was astounded. Nora, indeed, had been contemplating this for awhile. “Dumbledore would never allow it.”
They stared at each other, silence except for the rain pounding against the roof and windows. “Then don’t ask permission.”
His eyebrows were in his hairline now. Her offer was dangerously tempting, and Nora watched him chewing it over in his head, weighing want against shouldn’t. She sat down again on the bed next to him, her face so close to his. She’d never seen so much turmoil behind those grey eyes. “We’ll just leave,” she whispered. “Write down a note and leave it on the table in the entrance corridor for them to find…and that’ll be that. We’ll already be gone when they find it and there’s nothing anyone can do.”
“A note,” he mused, smiling wryly. “Yes, that’s your style, isn’t it?”
She disregarded this. “We’ll take Buckbeak. We can cast a nice Disillusionment Charm over the three of us and be out of London in ten minutes.”
He drew back. “Today?”
“Why not?” she urged. “Do you have any plans I don't know about? What else are we doing here, Sirius? People are being hurt left and right. Death Eaters and dementors are attacking people, and everyone but us is doing something about it. And I know that Dumbledore is a wise man, but he’s also got a narrow perspective on this situation; he’s thinking in what he estimates is your best interest. But your best interest is not being shut up in here to go insane. You’ve spent enough time in prison, don’t you agree?”
Of course he didn’t have any plans and he definitely did agree. Sirius had done absolutely nothing worthwhile since June when he moved in. Snivellus always threw this back in his face, his uselessness with the Order. But how useless would he be if he could kill Alecto Carrow and Lucius Malfoy? If he could find Archer… But he’d been given specific instructions to keep a low profile and stay confined inside this wretched house.
And then he abruptly remembered that he was Sirius Black, a Marauder, a two-time member of the Order of the Phoenix and a twelve-time winner of Witch Weekly’s Sexiest Sociopath poll. He’d helped James and Lily fight Voldemort on three separate occasions and escape – and he’d been the first person to ever break out of Azkaban. He was not Dumbledore’s lapdog and he didn’t take directions from people who already possessed the luxury of freedom. He was sick of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black, and his exile needed to reach an end. Anger spread throughout his veins like venom, and he grinned determinedly at Nora. “Today sounds perfect.”
Remus Lupin pointed his wand at the pair of shoes yet again. “Reparo!” he yelled impatiently. The shoes disappeared under a cloud of dust for a moment, and when the air cleared Remus saw that they were just as shabby as ever. What is the use of being a wizard when you can’t even patch up your own shoes?
“Fantastic,” he muttered. He was due to meet Tonks in an hour at Grimmauld Place – they’d run into each other at Diagon Alley two days ago and agreed on a meeting to discuss what to do about Malfoy – and he would still be looking like a pauper. Not that she seemed to care; but this only further cemented Remus’s beliefs that she was wearing rose-colored glasses. Surely an unbiased woman who wasn’t severely stubborn could admit Remus’s flaws? That he was too scarred, emotionally and physically, to be loved by anyone? Tonks wasn’t using her good sense. Remus would do that for her.
So why was he still trying to make himself look presentable? Shouldn’t he be encouraging the wear and tear of his clothing so that it would drive Tonks away, into the arms of someone with money and a perfect bill of health? The things he would do to that woman if he weren’t a penniless werewolf…
“Reparo,” he growled for the eightieth time.
He blinked his eyes. They looked a bit shinier, at least.
Remus turned to face his reflection in the hallway mirror. More grey hairs, of course… He couldn’t pass it off as ‘distinguished-looking’ anymore. He had more silver in his hair than he did in his pocket, but at least it was still thick. Lucky Sirius still had dark locks, which was a puzzling feat since he’d rotted away twelve years in Azkaban prison. Leave it to Sirius to stumble out of incarceration and still have charm and semi-good looks.
Remus turned moodily away from his reflection and continued down the hall to his bedroom, envying Sirius, not quite for the first time.
Sirius, in Remus’s own opinion, was in the best position a man could ask for. He had all of the Black family fortune at his disposal, and lived under the same roof as the girl he wanted. Sirius had no job, no tasks for the Order; he had nothing but time to whittle away with Nora Prewett and live out a comfortable existence right along with her. Every single day would be like a fantasy. Remus could only imagine if he were in that predicament – living with Tonks in a surreal universe where you don’t have to worry about Death Eaters or society or finding work. In this fantasy land where Remus had tons of money and wasn’t in danger of turning into a full-fledged monster once a month if he’d forgotten to take his Wolfsbane Potion, Remus would already be with Tonks.
Hell, he probably would already have asked her to marry him.
The first date would have been a year ago, taken place right after he’d met her and immediately fallen for her. By now they would have progressed to the intimate stages. He would know all of her secrets and she would know all of his – and he wouldn’t have any gruesome ones because he was filthy rich and completely human – and he would spend every night in front of the fire with her, wrapped in each other’s arms. And he would wake up each morning to see her lovely face – his Nymphadora – and life would be perfect…
Sirius Black was a complete berk. Look at what he had! And he just wasted it. The man was still piddling around, not making a move. If Remus were Sirius, and Nora were Tonks, he would already have swooped in on that. Mrs. Nymphadora Lupin.
But Remus was Remus, and he would always be a werewolf. And as long as he was a werewolf, it would be hellacious trying to scrounge around for a job and galleons would always be few and far between. So his love for Tonks was neither here nor there. A future with her was out of the question.
But he still resented Sirius, just slightly, because he was jealous.
He’d always been a bit envious of him, though, aside from the stint in prison. In their Hogwarts days, no one would question that James Potter’s best friend was Sirius Black. Of course the dynamic duo included Remus and Peter in most of their shenanigans, standing up for them and sitting together in the common room and during classes; but James and Sirius were inseparable. They were more popular, better-looking, funnier, wealthier, more brilliant in all of their subjects. Remus worked ten times harder than they did to achieve the same marks, and he’d rarely seen either of them so much as crack open a book.
And then, of course, James and Sirius did not have to spend the night as a werewolf in the Shrieking Shack, clawing at their own skin and biting all the furniture. They did accompany him there, after they’d discovered his secret and learned how to become Amimagi, but it was more for the essence of adventure than anything else.
Remus himself did not find it particularly invigorating. If he’d had his way, he would have been normal. And normal Remus would have been too ordinary for the likes of James and Sirius, and they wouldn’t have bothered with him at all. How would life have turned out, then? He probably wouldn’t have been esteemed a prefect, because there would be no unruly friends to help govern. He probably would have spent his days in the library unnoticed, and then gone on to some excellent career. And it would’ve been bliss, because he would have everything he’d ever wanted. Except for friends.
Remus cared for Sirius like no other. But would the boys have taken him under their wing if he hadn’t been ‘interesting’ with his ‘furry little problem’? He was certain that they wouldn’t have gone anywhere near Peter Pettigrew if it hadn’t been the fact that they were assigned a dormitory together and were in the same year and House. They had no choice but to socialize, and Peter leeched onto them for the social benefits, yearning to be looked after and protected…
And Moony was the quiet one, the studious one. He looked the other way when his friends decided to chuck dungbombs into Snape’s cauldron or sneak into the kitchens for more treacle tart. He’d gone along on their expeditions into Hogsmeade under the Invisibility Cloak by night, scouring the castle’s deepest secrets and having the time of his life. But even still, he was somewhat shunted aside. Not on purpose, of course – James and Sirius were unwaveringly loyal – but he was overshadowed by them and their popularity.
They could get away with anything when it came to authority, all save Filch. The girls all wanted them, the boys wanted to be them. And Remus and Peter were just along for the ride, basking in the leftovers of their glory. Most of the time Sirius and James teamed up for stuff that Remus and Peter thought was crossing the line, and that left Remus and Peter together a lot more often than he would have liked. Wormtail was always an odd sort; the others probably didn’t see it as much because they were so busy being excellent at everything.
Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs.
It was depressing to hear those nicknames now. He still said ‘Padfoot’ every now and then, just to Sirius, because he knew it made Sirius feel a little more like the old days were still alive. But the old days were dead, and should be left alone. There was no Wormtail. There was no Prongs – who was always the heart of the Marauders and the glue that held them together. That left just Remus and Sirius remaining, two middle-aged men who’d lost too much in life, and the famed Marauders was now a joke, a sad two-person circus hanging by a thread. Clinging to happier bits of the past wouldn't make anyone happier in the present, and it was time to move on.
He could see that Sirius missed James beyond words, and perhaps the usage of their schoolboy nicknames made him feel closer to Prongs; but really it just made Remus feel older and more world-weary than ever. And if Prongs had lived, where would Remus be now? Forgotten? He’d been hard-pressed to conceal the hurt he’d felt when Sirius was named godfather to Harry. There had been absolutely no question about it. James never hesitated – he’d just said, “You can be godfather of our next one, Moony,” and that was the end of their discussion.
Remus shook his head. For twelve years he thought he was alone - James was dead, Peter was supposed to be dead, and he thought Sirius was a Death Eater who’d just hidden his secret from them very well. And he’d felt a nasty satisfaction when Sirius was named a traitor, because it meant the funny, good-looking best mate of James Potter would fall from grace. No one would think he was so perfect anymore, and perhaps people would come to regard Remus as the best of them – stronger, because he alone had survived and was faithful to the very end.
But he’d also experienced such relief when he discovered Sirius was innocent, because this constituted friendship once more. He’d grown up in the wake of James’s death and the years that followed, and grew to sorely miss having someone to depend on. Having Sirius back would be like reliving their youth; it meant unconditional camaraderie and acceptance, and there was no James anymore for Sirius to give it to – which left Remus. Remus eagerly anticipated that closeness and affection – of being someone’s very best friend.
But Sirius was not interested in filling the hole left by James, and Remus fell into the old second-place routine again. Remus soon learned why – Sirius came to regard Harry as a version of his father. And now there was Nora, who had surely surpassed him, and Remus wasn’t really all that needed. He was just someone for Sirius to vent to every now and again about his feelings for Nora Prewett.
Remus opened the curtains, surveying the steady rainfall. He knew none of these thoughts were true. James and Sirius had tried to include him the best they could, and after Sirius got out of Azkaban and proved he hadn’t betrayed James and Lily, he embraced Remus like a brother. Sirius was an outstanding person to have as a friend, because his loyalty could not be matched. Sirius knew the old days were dead and he whole-heartedly loved Remus and considered him his best mate. He was a good man, and he had enormous presence. And because of all these remarkable traits, Remus was jealous and he wished Sirius wasn’t such a good person. It made him feel bad that he was sitting here picking his friend apart when he knew Sirius would never, ever think this way about Remus. Which just made him more resentful.
He could never be such a good friend. Perhaps that’s why they’d all thought he was the one feeding information to Voldemort about the Potters.
Life was so easy for Sirius, and Remus had been dealt a bad hand. It’s only natural to spend a few bitter moments contrasting the two. Right? Remus sighed again. “You’ve got to quit feeling sorry for yourself,” he said out loud. “Sirius didn’t make you a werewolf and Sirius didn’t refuse to employ you. And you’ve got to stop talking to yourself before you get so crazy that your conscience talks back.”
He checked his watch. Nothing wrong with being a little early, right? Sirius always welcomed visitors, and Tonks was probably there already, chatting with Nora. Remus wondered if Sirius had told Nora about his feelings for Tonks, and then in turn if Nora had told Tonks. But he knew, inwardly, that Sirius was too loyal to spill any of his secrets. Remus really did not deserve to have such a great friend, not when he delighted in tearing him down during private moments like these.
He jumped. It was Tonks, looking disheveled and stomping in from the hallway. He wondered if she could tell he was thinking about her just by his expression, and hastened to appear not so bewildered. How long had she been in his house? What all had he said out loud? He could have declared his love for her and not even realized it. He endeavored to keep his heartbeat in check, painfully worrying that she’d heard him saying something about her.
“So you already know, then?” she demanded angrily.
“Er – what?” He was panicking now.
“You’ve already been to Grimmauld Place,” she accused. “You could have told me, you know.”
“What are you talking about?” he asked, baffled. “I was just getting ready to leave. I haven’t been there yet. Why – is something going on over there?”
“Oh!” she cried. “I thought you knew because you look so distraught…” she bit her lip, bracing herself as though she was about to smite a heavy blow. “I’ve just been to Grimmauld Place, Remus, and no one’s there. It’s empty.”
He stood to his feet, alarm dawning over his features. “What?”
“Come on,” she said. “See for yourself.”
Moments later, Nora and Remus apparated on the front stoop of Number Twelve. He unlocked the door with his wand and stepped inside, and immediately knew Tonks was right. Nora’s green traveling cloak, and Sirius’s woolen grey one, were both missing from their hooks just inside the entrance corridor. And right there on the little table was a note in Sirius’s handwriting.
“What’s that?” Tonks asked. “I must have missed it.” Remus finished reading and handed it to her, his eyes darkening. She read:
Dear Whoever Reads This,
Obviously, we are not here. I have no idea where we’re going, and I honestly don’t care. I’d just like to get away from the smell of the place. So consider us going on a nice little holiday! We’ll be back…whenever.
Sirius and Nora
“Oh, Padfoot,” Remus murmured. “Rash, reckless Padfoot…” Tonks was still opening cupboards in hopes that she might find them hiding in there, but Remus knew the house was empty. “I could have predicted this,” he told her sourly. “It was only a matter of time before all of Sirius’s pent-up energy exploded out of him one way or the other.”
“What’re we going to tell Dumbledore?” Tonks whispered. “The owl post gets intercepted and I don’t want Umbridge catching wind of anything.”
“We tell him the dog got out of his fence and the bird’s left her cage,” Remus responded with a sigh. “Umbridge won’t understand that, but Albus will.”
Tonks tried not to smile. She knew that Sirius didn’t get enough credit for how cunning he really was, and Nora wasn’t a fool. The sudden vacancy of Grimmauld Place wasn’t nearly so much about recklessness as it was about purpose and desperation. And sometimes those two elements had a negative impact, but often they got a lot of work done. For all the Order knew, Nora and Sirius were about to accomplish more than any of the others had collectively. Maybe not – but it was a possibility. “Stop fussing, Remus,” she replied. “They’ll be fine.”
Remus wasn’t listening to her, however. His mind was flipping back the pages, traveling many years ago…
“Oi!” James yelled, whipping Remus’s book from under his nose. “You going to study all day, Moony, or are we going to actually do something fun?”
“We should all be studying,” Remus told his friend evenly. “N.E.W.T.s are next month.”
“You’ll do fine,” Sirius told him, pushing the dark hair out of his face. A few girls sitting halfway down the table were gazing at him with starry-eyed expressions and tittering amongst themselves, and one of them accidentally dribbled soup down the front of her blouse. Peter snickered but Sirius seemed oblivious of his admirers. “You’ve got top marks, mate,” he said. “And it’s our last year to be young and carefree. I vote we go plaster the sixth floor corridor with Enchanted Ice and watch everyone slide around on it.”
“How is that remotely productive?” Remus countered before he could stop himself. He instantly regretted voicing this, as James pounced on it so heartily.
“Who cares about productivity?” he laughed. “This is our last hurrah. We’re all going to pass with flying colors, anyway, just like with our O.W.L.s.”
“You’re Head Boy!” Remus persisted. “Don’t you think your Enchanted Ice days are over?”
“Watching you argue matters of maturity with James is like witnessing a cat falling from a building,” Sirius told them, training his wand on the rain drifting from the Great Hall’s bewitched ceiling and transforming the droplets of precipitation into feathers. “While it’s plummeting through the air, tumbling and clawing and whatnot, you wonder – will it really land on all fours? Or will it go –” he clapped his hands together, a sickening grin on his face – “splat! All over the pavement?”
“Maturity is so passé. Watch this, Padfoot,” James hissed, and Vanished a third year’s cup so that the liquid sloshed all over his face. The boy looked wildly all around him, pumpkin juice coating his robes and hair, and James and Sirius burst into peals of laughter. Peter joined in, too, slightly late, and was about to do something to another random third year when Remus Disarmed him.
“You know, I reckon it’d be a good day to sneak into Honeydukes,” James mused.
“What was that, Potter?” Lily sauntered up from behind them, and James snapped back into dutiful, respectful Head Boy mode. “Sneaking into Hogsmeade, I hear? And under your Invisibility Cloak, no doubt.”
“Of course not.” James skimmed a hand through his hair, mussing it up a little more. He smiled winningly at Lily. “How could you accuse me of doing such a thing? Don’t you have any faith in me at all, Evans?”
Remus picked his Ancient Runes textbook up again and tried to find the page he’d been reading, and Peter was leaning forward to stare raptly at the exchange between James and Lily, his face just a little too excited. “Looks like you’ve saved the day again,” James told Lily. “Just when it was in danger of becoming too fun, you put out the hand of justice and made it safely boring.”
“Glad to oblige.”
“Now I suppose I’ll spend the day doing Transfiguration revision,” James sighed.
Lily smiled at James and pressed her lips to his cheek. “Bring me back some Drooble’s Best Blowing Gum, won’t you? Filch ransacked my stash and I haven’t got anything left.”
James grinned. “It must have been a low moment in life when you realized that your soulmate is James Potter,” he said. “Sorry you drew the short end of the stick, my dear, but you just can’t resist fate, and being a red-blooded female I suppose you couldn’t resist that devilishly handsome Potter, either.” Lily rolled her eyes.
“I hate it when you refer to yourself in third person. It’s so obnoxious.”
James caught her face in his hands, demanding a real kiss. Peter watched enthusiastically and Sirius made a retching noise, and when Lily pulled away from him her cheeks were slightly pink. It was evident that she enjoyed James just as much as he enjoyed her, but he allowed her to roll her eyes again and pretend she was doing him a favor by agreeing to go out with him. James couldn’t have been happier, even though it took so long to get to that point. All the persistence was worth it, he’d told them. And now I get to keep her forever.
After the redhead was gone, Remus let out a low whistle and Sirius clapped James on the back. “Enough staring after your girlfriend, Prongs; let’s get going!”
“She smells like raspberries,” James replied dreamily, Lily’s face still swimming behind his fogged-up glasses.
“To Hogsmeade, then?” Remus inquired, putting his book aside and mustering up a sense of adventure in spite of his better judgment.
Sirius stood up, grey eyes sparkling mischievously. “Don’t really care, myself. I’d just like to get away from this place – have a nice little holiday from all the studying!”
Remus and Peter laughed because Sirius hadn’t done any studying at all, and James was whipping his wand to make someone else’s cup of pumpkin juice disappear. He opened his mouth to say something, but the Great Hall was growing hazy, filling up with smog.
Remus perked up, straightening. “Oh. Sorry. Were you saying something?”
Tonks looked concerned. “You alright, Remus?” He’d been thinking about the indifference Sirius had stamped on his face when Lily kissed James, and realized how much Sirius had grown up since then. Remus supposed he’d been treating Sirius just like he had in their school days, which was unfair. Sirius now had his own Lily – in a way – and he wasn’t sneaking off to Hogsmeade for sweets. He was sneaking off to destroy Death Eaters.
Remus smiled at Tonks. “Yeah, I’m actually fine. And you know, I think you’re right. Sirius and Nora might be okay. Live and let live.”
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