She’d known he’d escaped from Azkaban; Mad-Eye and then Dumbledore had both visited in February and told her to keep an eye out in case he tried to visit the house he so despised. Until then, she hadn’t known the significance of the house next door and had simply assumed the owners didn’t get out much. Sort of like her.
She was still furious about the fact that she’d lived next to his childhood home, and no one had told her, though it explained why Lupin had looked so grim when he dropped by every now and then. She’d kept a vigilant watch on Number Twelve all day Tuesday - the day of the kidnapping, she’d later learned - except for an hour at night, when she’d gone to visit Alice, Frank and Mary, and then kept her vigil all day Wednesday and even into Thursday in case he dropped by.
On Thursday night, Mary had quite calmly passed her the paper, where she read that he had taken Harry and her fragile world had cracked even more, because she knew what that meant. It meant Harry was dead.
And then he had told her otherwise.
She’d listened to his story, thrown him his wand and told him to get the hell out of her house if he liked his face the way it was. He’d protested and she’d punched him and he’d got the point and left after that. She’d gone and made herself a strong cup of tea, and managed to convince herself it never happened.
That a half-dead Sirius Black hadn’t actually Apparated into her hallway on Sunday night slept for three days and then woken to tell her a crazy story about Peter Pettigrew and the Potters. That had lasted for about a day, a beautiful denial that was shattered when she plucked up the courage to go back to the guest room for the first time since he’d left, and found the bed slept in.
She’d spent three days reassessing her feelings. It wasn’t fair, that after eight years of loathing the man - of being convinced she was done with him - that all it had taken was an hour in his company for her to begin to revert to old patterns; being torn between whether to hex him into a thousand pieces, or kiss him. It was for that reason she didn’t dare trust a word he’d said.
She was always too forgiving where he was concerned, too soft, too weak to keep her own feelings out of it and make a decision with her head. She’d wanted to believe him so badly that she almost had, until she’d forced herself to reason it though, found proof that his story wasn’t possible; Sirus had spoken as if Pettigrew was still alive, something that couldn’t be true, because there was no way that a man could have escaped the street without being noticed, and Pettigrew had not been a small man. Nor did he strike her as a traitor – he’d relied on the other Marauders for protection too much to try to live without them.
Sirius though, had always been bold. Bold enough to try to lie to her when he was injured and at her mercy. Bold enough to swap sides, and clever enough that no one suspected him until it was too late. Clever enough to have resisted the Dementors and spent his time in prison plotting to escape and coming up with an almost believable explanation of his own innocence.
Pettigrew’s finger was a nice touch; it was something a traitor might do to fool everyone into thinking he was dead, while he went into hiding. But going into hiding wasn’t possible because there’d been no way for him to escape and nowhere or way for him to hide, given that his face had been on the front of the paper, along with the Potters’ and Sirius’ until mid-November.
If Sirius had been able to explain that, she might have believed him. Luckily, he hadn’t and she’d seen his story for the lie it was. She thoroughly regretted not killing him when she had had the chance. While he slept, she’d convinced herself she couldn’t kill him because she wanted answers. Then he’d woken and it was her answering his questions instead, and she still hadn’t killed him.
He’d made her feel so alive. Her heart beat, usually a dull, necessary murmur in her chest, had been loud and irregular. Her mind, usually limited to thoughts like when she’d next see Alice, what she should eat for dinner and what room of the house had gone more than a few hours without rigorous cleaning had been tested both by the previously-forgotten spells she’d used, and by Sirius himself, once he was awake. It had been terrifying.
She’d loved every moment.
Her house, the sanctuary she’d sought at the end of the War had slowly, and without her knowing it, become her own personal prison. She’d gone away to hide from the outside world because she couldn’t bear to lose anyone else - not that she had many people to lose by that point - yet somehow, she’d still managed; she’d lost herself, and it was after seeing Sirius again that she’d realised.
That, more than anything else, was why she’d let him live. Oh, he’d done awful things and she’d kill him for them later, but he’d given her her life back, so she’d allowed him to keep his for the time being.
In the past, the only people she’d had any real contact with were those associated with Alice and Frank at St Mungo’s – Lupin didn’t really count because she only saw him once or twice a year - and for the past year, her weekly visits had become monthly ones. The only other time she left the house was to buy food. That, she’d decided, had to change.
On the fourth day after Sirius had left, Marlene had re-subscribed to the Daily Prophet - hers had expired years ago and she hadn’t bothered to renew it - so that she could watch for signs of Sirius; she had decided that she would be the one to catch him and then she would take him to Remus Lupin, and then they could kill him together. She’d never been close to Lupin but he had as much of a claim on Sirius’ life as she did and while she was no Hufflepuff, it was only fair.
Her first edition of the Prophet in almost four years had been enlightening. Firstly, she’d learned that Harry had been found - around the time that Sirius appeared in her house, which was interesting - that he’d been taken to St Mungo’s and that he’d escaped. She’d also learned that there was an official search for Sirius and Harry - two actually, one run by the Ministry and one run by Lucius Malfoy, though both were about to merge into one.
It wasn’t even a choice, really, it was something she’d decided the moment she found out Harry was alive - and back in the hands of his traitorous godfather - and simply needed to act on. So, on the sixth day after Sirius had left, Marlene gathered her newly returned Gryffindor courage and Flooed to Hogwarts to speak to the Headmaster. To say he’d been surprised to see her was an understatement; he had looked absolutely floored and then had beamed and told her everything she wanted to know.
She’d left shortly after, with a quick hello to her equally stunned Head of House and a sobbing Hagrid, headed for the house of a man who she’d never, ever thought she’d willingly track down.
“Marlene McKinnon. Your father and I are old acquaintances.” The boy exchanged a dubious glance with the rat on his shoulder and shoulder and extended a small, pale hand.
“Hydrus Malfoy,” he said. “This is Bosworth.” The rat squeaked as if in greeting.
“A pleasure,” she said politely, nodding to both the boy and his pet.
“Father didn’t say he was expecting anyone today,” he added, giving her a suspicious look. “He said to leave him alone.”
“He’ll see me,” Marlene assured him. The boy looked a little surprised and then doubtful and then he unlatched the gate. She let him lead her up to the house and inside, her in silence, compulsively gripping her wand, and him chattering to the rat about going flying.
“Wait here,” the boy said. Marlene stood patiently, staring around the foyer with disgust because Lucius - and likely his wife, Narcissa - deserved little better than a dirty cell in Azkaban, yet they were living like wizarding royalty. It had taken her a while to reconcile with the idea of facing him again, for the first time since that horrible night in August eight years ago.
All the stress was worth it, however, to see Lucius baulk at the sight of her waiting in his fancy hallway, and see his lips tighten as she patted his son on the head and thanked him for letting her inside. The boy had been so busy talking to his rat that he hadn’t noticed her wand casually resting by his neck – though he’d looked irritated that she’d touched him - but Lucius certainly had. He had swallowed once and given her a nod that she took to mean Warning received, before he spun and led her into his office.
“Nice house for a murderer,” she commented.
“The Ministry has pardoned my actions during the War because I was not myself,” Lucius said flatly.
“Funny what money’s capable of, isn’t it?”
Lucius didn’t seem to think so. “What can I do for you, McKinnon?” he asked coolly.
She twirled her wand between her fingers - a not-so-subtle-warning - and said, “You can give me a role in your search.” His pale eyebrows rose, as if he hadn’t been expecting to hear that. She laughed, a sharp, cruel sound. “You didn’t honestly think I stopped by to say hello, did you?”
“I can allocate you a position in the muggle world,” he said curtly, ignoring her last comment. “You’ve worked with Lupin before, I believe.”
There was no point in denying what he already knew, but she didn’t like the fact that he was referring to the Order. “I have,” she said. “But I don’t want a job searching muggle London. I want a position in the wizarding world because that’s where they’ll be hiding.” Sirius wouldn’t last long without magic, she knew.
“I’m afraid we don’t have any positions available in that-”
“Rubbish,” she snapped. “I’ve been reading the papers. I know your search makes room for whoever the Department of Magical Law Enforcement tells you to make room for. I’m here now, telling you to make room for me.”
“I was not aware you had a position in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement,” Lucius said snidely. He fixed a rather scary looking smile on his aristocratic face and shuffled a few pieces of parchment on his desk. “Unfortunately, Ms McKinnon, your demand will be ignored.”
“You can’t do that!” she said furiously.
“Oh, but I can. This is my search.”
You bigoted, egotistical arse, she thought, giving him her best glare. She was a little out of practice, having been alone for so long but, while he didn’t flinch, his smug look faded. She hid a small, victorious smile.
“We’ll see about that.” She smiled politely, just to make him wonder what she was going to do next and then stood. “I’ll see myself out,” she told him. He nodded stiffly. “Give my regards to your house elf, too,” she added. “I’m rather fond of him, for obvious reasons.”
She had the pleasure of seeing shock and anger cross Lucius’ usually unreadable face and then she walked out of the office and shut the door behind her with a sharp snap.
Half an hour later, Marlene was sitting in Amelia Bones’ office at the Ministry of Magic, being served a strong cup of tea.
“Sorry to arrive like this,” Marlene said; Amelia had been on her way out of the office when she arrived.
“Dinner can wait. What can I do for you?” Amelia asked briskly. She’d been shocked and pleased to see Marlene; usually they ran into each other at St Mungo’s and that was it. The last time they’d spoken properly was in February about Sirius’ escape and before that they hadn’t had a proper talk since she helped Marlene move into Number Thirteen.
Marlene fought two equally strong desires and then said, “Harry. You were there - the paper said you saw him.”
“Can you tell me about him?” Marlene asked in a small voice.
Amelia’s gave her an understanding smile. “He has Lily’s eyes and nose and her temper too, I think, but his was better controlled. Or maybe he was just scared. The rest of him is James. When I walked in and saw him...”
“And his personality?” Marlene asked, trying to build a picture of the boy in her mind. She’d asked Dumbledore if she could raise him, but by the time she’d been released from St Mungo’s, he was already settled in with Lily’s sister and Dumbledore wouldn’t be swayed. Given her lonely existence for the past seven years, Dumbledore had probably been right to refuse her but it was still strange to have no idea what the boy she’d once considered raising even looked like.
“It’s hard to say,” Amelia said. “I wasn’t there long and the circumstances were... not ideal.” Her tone darkened significantly. Marlene opened her mouth to ask about it but Amelia’s jaw was set and Marlene decided not to bother. Ravenclaws could be just as stubborn as Gryffindors if they were so inclined, and at the moment, Amelia appeared to be.
“Harry’s not the only reason I came,” she admitted after a moment.
“Of course he isn’t,” Amelia said, not looking surprised at all. “What else can I help you with?”
“I want a position in the D.M.L.E.,” Marlene said, fixing the other witch with a steady look.
“Done,” Amelia said simply.
“Just like that?”
“Marlene, I’ve known you for years, both in the Order and out,” Amelia said, rolling her eyes. “Admittedly, I haven’t seen much of you recently but I’m sure you’re still very capable and you did extremely well in your N.E.W.Ts.” She hesitated and then added, “I’m just surprised you’ve gone this long without searching for a job.”
“I inherited a lot,” Marlene mumbled.
“I know that, but goodness, don’t you get bored? What have you been doing all these years?”
“Not a lot,” she admitted, her cheeks reddening. “Cleaning, mostly.”
“The ones that are left,” Amelia said, adding sugar to her tea cup.
“Oh. What did Dumbledore say?”
“To give you time,” Amelia said, stirring her drink. “But goodness, if I’d known you’d spent the last eight years cleaning I probably would have done something about it before now-”
“It hasn’t bothered me before now,” Marlene said, staring at her hands.
Amelia gave her a doubtful look and then shook her head. “I’m glad you’ve finally seen sense, then.”
“So am I.”
“Now, we’ve got a position in the Misuse of Muggle Artefacts Office - do you remember Gideon and Fabian?”
“Their sister’s husband, Arthur Weasley works there. Or there’s always the Animagus Registration Department. Or maybe-”
“I want to be a Hit Wizard,” Marlene said. “Or Witch, I suppose.”
Amelia stared at her. “You-”
“Me,” Marlene said. “I want to be out there doing something, Amelia, not stamping parchment and sending owls.”
“They only take the best,” Amelia said.
“Gryffindors,” Amelia sighed. “I can get you into the Auror Training Program.”
“I said Hit Witch, not Auror-”
“I can’t just give you a position in the Hit Wizard Training Program,” Amelia said, rolling her eyes. “Poole would have my head.”
“Co-leader of the office.”
“Hit Wizards lead dangerous lives,” Amelia said. “It’s highly probable that they’ll be hurt or killed and after Prof- I mean, Caradoc Dearborn vanished, they opted to have numerous leaders. Currently, we have Thomas Poole, Victoria Knight and Maurice Lloyd. They’re all very capable, I assure you.”
Marlene vaguely recognised the names; they’d been a few years above her at Hogwarts. “I have no doubt,” she said. Lloyd had been a Gryffindor, and Head Boy, and the other two had been Ravenclaws, like Amelia. “So when do I start?” Marlene ducked as an owl flew in and dropped a roll of parchment on Amelia’s desk.
“The next Program intake is in four days,” Amelia said absently, signing the parchment. “You’re lucky, actually. It’s the first intake for a few years.”
“Hasn’t there been interest?” Marlene asked, surprised.
“The Program only takes trainees every three years,” Amelia replied. “They made exceptions during the war, and then for a few years after to get numbers up again, but things are back to normal now.” She passed the parchment back to the owl which hooted its thanks and flew out again, ruffling Marlene’s hair.
“How long will it take me to make it into the-?”
“Depends,” Amelia said, cutting her off, “on your progress.” Marlene nodded. “I suggest you go over your N.E.W.T. textbooks. Now, this tells you about the Auror Training Program and this one’s about Hit Wizard Training Program-” Marlene accepted a pair of pamphlets, one maroon and the other dark green. “-and this-” Amelia passed her a thin booklet. “-tells you about the jobs in general.”
Amelia took a sip of her tea. “Now, on the first day, be here at seven, ready to start at eight. The order changes each time, but you’ll do a preliminary test to assess your character and then there’s physical testing. You’ll be required to Side-Along Apparate with one of the Aurors three times in an hour over a variety of distances, hold a Shield Charm for ten minutes and also complete whichever spells you’re told to do.” She paused and took another sip of tea. “If you don’t mind me asking, Marlene, why do you want to be a Hit Witch?”
“It has a shorter training period,” Marlene said. “It’s only a year, isn’t it?”
“It is. If you’re looking for Black, though-”
“Who says I am?” Marlene demanded.
“All I was going to say was that the Auror pathway might be a better choice,” Amelia said gently. “Hit Wizards will be called in to detain Black. Aurors are involved in tracking him too.”
“Oh.” Marlene stared at her tea.
“Either way,” Amelia continued, “I would recommend you have a chat with Scrimgeour and with Poole and decide which pathway you think is best.”
“This is like my careers advice meeting with McGonagall,” Marlene said, smiling slightly.
“I hope this one turns out better,” Amelia said, lifting an eyebrow. “I’d hate to see you go back to cleaning.”
* * *
After Remus left the day before, Harry had told his godfather everything that happened in the cave - Padfoot’s memory was sketchy, particularly on the contents of the note - and then spent the night in Padfoot’s room, coaxing his godfather to tell him stories from their school-days in the hope that he’d let something about the wolf secret slip. Unfortunately, Padfoot either knew what Harry was trying to do and picked his words carefully, or was well used to keeping whatever it was hidden and Harry learned nothing about Remus.
Harry had woken early the next morning, sweaty and with a sore throat. Kreacher had been standing over him, concerned. Harry had very quickly noticed the smoking desk chair and resolved not to go back to sleep. Instead, he and Kreacher had talked quietly until Padfoot started to stir in the next room.
Padfoot had woken feeling just as bad as he had before, Harry was certain, but had tried not to show it; he’d got up, determined not to spend the day in bed and had promptly collapsed on the way downstairs to breakfast. Harry had been worried out of his mind, and spent the entire day pacing around Padfoot’s bedroom - pausing occasionally to try to get him to drink hot chocolate - which had resulted in him and Kreacher getting covered in the hot, sticky liquid and very little going in Padfoot’s mouth - and shooting spells at the dummy in the training room downstairs.
Remus had owled, explaining he couldn’t come because Malfoy was keeping him busy with the search, and that he was being watched by the Ministry – particularly the Umbridge woman Harry had so disliked – who suspected (admittedly correctly) that Remus had somehow helped Sirius steal Harry out of St Mungo’s. He’d said he’d come by the next day, instead.
Padfoot had woken the next day and seemed better, if tired. For Harry, it was the first night since the visit to the cave that he hadn’t set something on fire, though he’d still dreamed. Harry and Kreacher had helped Padfoot into the library – because he insisted on reading about Horcruxes - and set him up on the couch with a large pile of books on Dark magic and the copy of Regulus’ note.
Harry had left him to it, since it meant he’d have a chance to read up on wolves.
He waited patiently for Padfoot to become immersed in whatever he was reading – he didn’t seem able to find what he was looking for and was soon flipping impatiently through the indexes of various books - and then got up to search the bookshelves. So what do I know about Remus? he mused, trying to decide where to start. He’s a wolf, or he said he was, and Padfoot did too, a while ago I think. It has to be a magical ability, or he wouldn’t be so secretive about it... maybe a rare talent, or something illegal...
He’s got enhanced senses like Padfoot, but he’s not an Animagus... how’s that even possible?! Harry thought for a moment. Maybe he takes a potion that turns him into a wolf... Deciding that was a good place to start, Harry browsed the shelves until he found a promising book titled An Encyclopaedia Of Modern Potions.
He had to stand on a chair to get it down – he laughed at himself for not thinking to use his wand - and then settled at the table, flicking through the index for ‘wolf’.
‘Wolfsbane’ was the only entry. Page three-hundred and ninety four... Harry thought, leafing through.
The Wolfsbane Potion, the page said, was invented by potioneer Damocles Belby, as a coping mechanism for lycanthropy. Belby began work on the potion in 1980, after his wife Louise was bitten by a werewolf. In 1984, he succeeded in creating a potion that allows werewolves to keep their human minds during their monthly transformation. The ingredients required are... Harry shut the book and pushed it aside, thinking potions had been the wrong way to go.
Werewolves seemed to be a common theme in all of the other books he checked, though; they were in Fantastic Beasts And Where to Find Them, Britain’s Magical Fauna and there was a picture of one in a book with a Latin title Harry couldn’t understand, about human to animal transfiguration. Unfortunately, they seemed to be the only type of magical wolf around. Harry had been sure he’d find his answers in Where Wizards and Wolves Collide but that had been all about werewolves too.
Harry slumped in his chair, irritated, and convinced he’d missed something. It was possible, he supposed, that Remus was a werewolf, but he hardly seemed the type. He was friendly and polite, if a little withdrawn from wizarding affairs - why else would he live so far away from anyone else...?
Unless... Harry straightened and grabbed Where Wizards and Wolves Collide. He skimmed the introductory chapter which gave an abbreviated summary of what the rest of the book contained and then leaned back, the pieces clicking together in his head. Maybe Remus lives so far away so he doesn’t hurt anyone... Remus did seem like the type to put others before himself; Harry had seen him do so at St Mungo’s, rarely leaving Harry’s side, even to go home.
Harry ran over everything else he knew about Remus and tried to make it fit with his theory. He likes tea, but that’s not really relevant... he has an enhanced sense of smell and hearing. And scars, Harry thought, remembering Remus’ hands; the book had said werewolves without access to victims on full moons were prone to self-mutilation. His nickname’s Moony... it all fits!
Harry glanced at his godfather, who had fallen asleep on the couch and smiled, though he was rather puzzled. Two things still didn’t make sense about his werewolf theory; the first was that Remus was a nice person, while all of the books made werewolves out to be dangerous monsters. The books could be wrong though, I suppose. People think Padfoot’s a mass murderer after all... Or maybe Remus is the exception... he’s a good werewolf.
Either way, Harry decided he didn’t much care; Remus had been perfectly friendly to Harry so far, and Padfoot had never mentioned anything potentially evil about him in any of the stories he’d told, except for his tendency to spend too much time reading - a habit Harry was beginning to pick up - and fondness for large amounts of chocolate. The other thing that didn’t make sense was Animagi.
It doesn’t make any sense for Dad, Padfoot and Pettigrew to have become Animagi. Obviously Remus was a werewolf first or he’d have become an Animagus with them... I can’t see them leaving him out of anything that big... so perhaps it was because of him. Maybe they all wanted to be animals together... But that’s dangerous. Padfoot’s certainly not a werewolf so maybe they never went with him on full moons but then what’s the point...?
Harry found the answer to that too, after half an hour poring over a thick book called Contagious Creatures. They aren’t dangerous to non-humans! That had to be it; his dad, Padfoot and Pettigrew had become Animagi to keep Remus company on full moons! That’s why Remus said the secret wasn’t his to keep, because he wasn’t an Animagus. And Dumbledore knows he’s a werewolf because they would have had to make arrangements while he went to school... The Shrieking Shack!
Harry rolled off his chair and ran over to retrieve Famous Wizarding Locations from the shelf and excitedly pulled the book open to the Hogsmeade chapter; he and Padfoot had gone through this several times, to give Harry an idea of where his stories were taking place. Harry’s mind wandered back to when he and Padfoot had been in Hogsmeade – that was almost two weeks ago, now.
Harry remembered his own voice, “And that’s where you and Dad and Moony and Pettigrew went to transform?”
“It was like our hideout, yeah.” That had been Padfoot.
So they spent some time there, but I was wrong... maybe the windows were boarded to keep Moony in instead of keeping other witches and wizards out. A slow smile spread across Harry’s face as he read the passage relevant to the Shrieking Shack. According to the book, it had been bought by a young Hogwarts Professor in early 1971 and abandoned - but not re-sold - only a month later with complaints it was haunted. Padfoot said he started school that year, Harry thought, his smile widening, though it dimmed somewhat when he read about villagers hearing tortured howls and cries every now and then.
That must have been Remus... Harry retrieved Hogwarts: A History from another shelf, pausing to smile at the messy scrawl in the front cover that said it had been Padfoot’s. Judging by the fresh pages, smooth spine and the sharp corners of the front cover, it had not been opened except to let an eleven-year-old-Padfoot write his name in it.
Harry flicked to 1971 - skipping the list of graduates and their houses since he didn’t know any of them anyway - and glanced over the ‘notable events’ section. Nothing really stood out; it was Albus Dumbledore’s fifteenth year as Headmaster, Hogwarts acquired a new ghost, Argus Filch was hired as caretaker, the Whomping Willow was planted and Peeves the poltergeist - who Harry had heard a lot about from Padfoot - had blown up the house-point hourglasses - which used to be in the Great Hall - prompting them to be repaired and moved into the Entrance Hall.
A little disappointed that nothing terribly exciting had happened as far as Remus was concerned, Harry snapped the book shut, put everything he’d used back into their proper places - that is, wherever there was room for them - and headed downstairs to fetch a cup of hot chocolate for his godfather.
“Wasshappnin?” Padfoot asked groggily, as Harry shook him awake.
“You fell asleep.”
Padfoot glanced around the library, bemused. “Huh.”
“Here,” Harry said, passing him the cup. Padfoot wrinkled his nose. “It’ll make you better,” he said.
“For Salazar’s sake,” he muttered. “Thank you, then.”
Harry sniggered. “It isn’t that bad.”
Padfoot’s eyes narrowed. “I will never drink hot chocolate again after this,” he vowed. “And I might not eat chocolate, either.” He took a sip and pulled a face but managed to swallow. The rest of the cup was downed in another few seconds; Padfoot had told Harry he preferred to get unpleasant things over quickly instead of drawing them out.
“How far away do you think Remus is?” Harry asked casually. He was eager to test his theory, though he wasn’t sure how; Remus had been evasive so far when it came to answering questions. “The later just said today.”
“Dunno,” Padfoot said, checking his watch. “Depends how long his meeting with Malfoy took-” The doorbell clanged. Padfoot shook his head. “That’s him. Kreacher!” CRACK! “Could you let Moony in and tell him he’s a prat?” Kreacher gave Padfoot an odd look but bowed low and Disapparated.
There was the usual squeak of floorboards to let them know Remus was inside. Harry and Padfoot made their way downstairs at their own pace - Padfoot went in dog-form, his tail wagging weakly - and found Remus waiting in the hallway. His back was to them, and he was looking interestedly into the training room. Padfoot changed back, sagged and caught the banister for support.
‘Why am I a prat?” Remus asked, turning.
“You could have just come in,” Padfoot said. “Ringing the doorbell, honestly.”
“I didn’t want to be rude. And are you training an army here, Sirius?” Harry saw his eyes were fixed on the muggle dart boards taped to the walls, the Auror-Standard Training Dummy and the faint shimmer of Cushioning Charms on the walls and floor.
“Yes,” he said with a grin. “My own little Death Eater army. Haven’t you been reading the papers?”
Remus chuckled. “Any recruits?”
“And old house elf and my best mate’s kid. Why? Would you like to join?”
“Will it last longer than the other organisations you’ve come up with?”
“Our Canine Club lasted all through sixth year!” Padfoot protested.
“The Unicorn Association lasted about twenty seconds, if that,” Remus said slyly.
Padfoot shrugged. “We got a better offer.” Remus smiled and shook his head. “Are you hungry?”
“Famished, actually. I had Dumbledore knocking on my door at seven to tell me what’s been going on at the Ministry so I missed breakfast.”
“Kreacher’s making pies for lunch,” Harry said. Remus’ eyes brightened.
“Did old Dumbles have anything interesting to say?” Padfoot asked.
“Sirius,” Remus said weakly, “you can’t keep calling him that.”
“Why not?” Padfoot asked, while Harry laughed.
“That’s a rubbish answer,” Padfoot said, waving his wand to light the kitchen properly; the only lamp lit was over by the counter where Kreacher was working.
“Chances are I’ll meet with him and that name will slip out by accident,” Remus insisted as they sat.
“He’d find it funny, I think,” Padfoot said chuckled. From what Harry’d seen of Professor Dumbledore, he was inclined to agree. Padfoot’s chuckles turned into coughs and Harry and Remus sat in anxious silence, waiting for him to finish.
“What happened to you?” Remus asked when Padfoot stopped. Harry glanced at Padfoot and then away quickly.
“Are those pies ready, Kreacher?” Padfoot asked, clearing his throat. Kreacher snapped his fingers and three plates floated over.
“Thanks,” Harry said. Padfoot nodded.
“It looks wonderful, Kreacher.” Remus said, slicing his pie open. “But don’t change the subject.”
Padfoot sighed. “We were... looking for something of Regulus’. A- a note. He- it was... well protected.”
“By...?” Remus prompted when neither of them said anything.
“Inferi,” Padfoot said. “And Dementor’s Draught.”
“Very funny,” Remus snapped. Harry and Padfoot exchanged glances and then Harry cleared his throat.
“You saw my injuries,” Harry said. “Bruises in the shapes of hands and fingers, remember?” Remus had gone a nasty shade of white and pushed his pie away.
“Please tell me-” Padfoot pushed his lunch around his plate and shook his head. Remus looked at Harry who looked back. “What in Merlin’s name were you thinking?!” he demanded.
“Sirius, Harry is nine,” Remus said loudly. “Inferi!? You shouldn’t even have gone, let alone-! What the bloody hell were you thinking?!”
“Maybe that I needed the help?” Padfoot shot back. “Who else would have come with me?”
“Yeah, that’s what I thought,” Padfoot said, rather condescendingly. “Yes, perhaps it was irresponsible of me-” Remus snorted loudly. “- but I would have died if he hadn’t been there.” Harry and Padfoot’s eyes met, briefly, in silent acknowledgement. “And if I had to do things over, I’d still take him with me.” Moony mumbled something about how no, Padfoot wouldn’t take Harry, and what about him? “You?” Padfoot asked. “You weren’t there!” He paused to cough violently.
“No!” Sirius choked out, coughing once to clear his throat. “There was no one else. I took him then, and I’d do it again-” And Harry would go again, if it came to it. “-if only so he knows where I am-”
“And if you had died?” Remus asked, shaking his head. “Would you want Harry to see that?”
“No,” Sirius said. “Of course I fucking wouldn’t. But I’d rather he see that, than be sitting here alone, not sure what’s happened, or when I’m going to come home. I know, intimately, what it’s like to wait.” Padfoot’s eyes were oddly empty. Harry didn’t like it. “I know that didn’t work so well in the end,” he said, suddenly talking to Harry, “and I am so, so unbelievably sorry about that-”
“’S all right,” Harry mumbled. “I don’t remember much of it anyway.” And that was true; he’d been so tired, in pain and so scared that he couldn’t remember much more than Hedwig in the study, his accidental magic in the hallway and shouting at Kreacher a lot.
“At least we got Mum’s portrait down,” Padfoot said. He winked. “I’d have gone missing a long time ago if I’d known you’d do that.” Harry, oddly, found himself grinning. Padfoot turned back to Remus. “We took Cadogan’s pony, all right?” he said. Harry frowned at the unfamiliar expression but Remus seemed to understand. “I don’t like that that was the way it had to happen but it’s done and we’re still here. That’s got to count for something, surely?”
Remus stared at his hands for a long time. “So the fire... it was to keep the Inferi away?”
“How do you know about the fire?” Padfoot demanded, but there was no anger behind it. He seemed surprised, and a little relieved that Remus had asked such a mundane question. Harry sank into his chair.
“Harry’s dreams about it. How’s the room been when you wake up?” Harry shrugged. Padfoot gave him a sharp look and Harry knew he’d have to explain later. Remus’ eyes flicked between the two of them and dropped the topic. “I take it you were the one who drank,” Remus said, nodding at Padfoot.
“I’m not that irresponsible!” Padfoot complained.
Remus arched an eyebrow, but he was wearing a half-smile. It faded quickly. “How- how... much?”
“Ten goblets,” Harry said quietly and felt the little of his lunch he’d managed to eat try to make a reappearance. T-to the Dark Lord, Padfoot’s broken voice mumbled in his head.
“Was it?” Padfoot asked, paling for a moment.
“Ten... no wonder you’re drinking all the hot chocolate.” Remus shook his head. “So what was it you were looking for?”
“The name of something of Voldemort’s.” Remus stared. Padfoot ran a hand over his chin. “Have you ever heard of a Horcrux?”
Harry’s head snapped up in time to see Remus shake his head. “Sorry, no. What is it?”
All three of them managed to finish enough of their lunches to satisfy Kreacher and then Harry took Remus upstairs to see the locket. Remus stared at it for a long time and then shrugged, still at a loss, but curious. They joined Padfoot in the library, where the three of them picked a book and settled down to read.
Padfoot and Moony talked quietly the whole time – Harry didn’t know how they were able to read as well – about a whole range of things. Harry struggled to read – he’d done enough of that that morning – and ended up staring at the same sentence for minutes without taking it in or listening to the conversations; sometimes it was Remus apologising for not visiting Padfoot in Azkaban, other times it was Padfoot asking about Remus’ jobs and girlfriends but it always seemed to come back to Horcruxes.
They were there for the rest of the day; Kreacher brought dinner to the library and even sat with the for a while, though he didn’t read. He polished the Black ring Padfoot had let him keep and finally, after a lot of deliberation – and some prodding from Padfoot – slipped it onto his bony finger. Every time he spoke to any of them after that, he’d make a small gesture with his hand as if to remind them it was there.
Much later that night – or perhaps it was early the next morning – they gave up on the books because they’d found nothing and went back downstairs to have a cup of tea before bed – and Remus going home, respectively. The conversation had switched to Malfoy now, the man that Harry remembered was funding the search to find him.
“I said Malfoy’s got control,” Remus said. “He’s pulled a few strings with Fudge, I think, and now he’s got the Aurors dancing to his tune as well as the rest of us.” Remus sighed. “Mad-Eye’s furious, apparently – I don’t think he even wanted the searches to combine - but Scrimgeour’s never listened to Mad-Eye-” Padfoot snorted in a way that made Harry think this wasn’t news.
“Why doesn’t he join Malfoy’s search then?” Padfoot asked.
“Mad-Eye, submit to the likes of Malfoy?” Remus asked incredulously. “Not likely. All of the experienced Aurors are working with the Department of Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures to find Greyback anyway.”
“Greyback?” Padfoot asked.
Harry could have sworn Remus’ eyes flicked to him for a moment. He watched him back and then shrugged and filled the kettle. “He’s attacking people again. Three in the past month.”
“Again?” Padfoot asked.
“Oh, you wouldn’t know,” Remus said. “He’s been active on and off since the war ended, just to remind people he’s out there. I go to the camps every January to see how things are going and try to... erm... curb his enthusiasm.”
“You?” Padfoot asked softly.
“Who else?” Remus asked, sighing. Padfoot didn’t say anything but he didn’t look terribly happy either.
Harry pulled the kettle off of the stove, and winced as his hand brushed the hot silver. Bad idea to not pay attention, he told himself as he held his hand under cold water from the tap. The burn had reminded him of something though; with everything happening that afternoon, he’d forgotten to ask Remus about the whole werewolf thing.
Harry added tea leaves and water to the silver, Black embossed teapot and fetched three cups - he’d deliberately picked a porcelain one for Remus, instead of a silver one - and carried the whole lot over to the table.
“Thank you,” Remus said to Harry, glancing at his cup and then at Padfoot. Padfoot shrugged and poured tea for Remus and then for himself.
“No problem. Thanks,” Harry added, as Padfoot passed the teapot.
Padfoot and Moony continued to talk about Malfoyt and the search as they drank, about Malfoy and the search. Remus was intending to tell Malfoy he’d been tipped off about a sighting of Harry and Sirius near the Dursley’s home to draw suspicion away from London. Harry listened with interest and waited for Remus to finish his drink; Harry had finished his own already and was waiting for the right moment to offer him another cup.
Finally, Remus set his cup down and it made an empty noise. Harry reached for the teapot and poured himself another cup.
“Would you like some?” he asked, holding the teapot out.
“Yes, thank you,” Remus said. Harry pushed it toward him. A funny expression crossed Remus’ face. “Would you mind pouring for me?” he asked. Harry filled the cup with a sly grin.
“Sorry,” he said, “I forgot about the silver thing.” He took a sip of his own tea and waited for the reaction. It was well worth it. Padfoot blinked. Rapidly. And he’d spat half of his tea out. Remus’ reaction was even better. His face was white and he’d gone perfectly still, his teacup a few inches from his mouth, tilted as if to drink from. Hot tea fell onto the table but Harry doubted he was aware of that. “Er... Remus?”
Padfoot set his teacup down, louder than he’d probably meant to and cleaned the spill with a wave of his wand. Then he tugged the cup from Remus’ tight grip and set it down. “I think you’ve broken him,” he told Harry.
“Are you sure? Can we... how do we fix him?” Harry asked, feeling a little guilty now.
“Oh, that’s easy,” Padfoot said and gave Remus a slap. Harry winced.
Remus’ eyes came sharply back into focus and landed on Padfoot. “I thought you said-”
“I did. I don’t know-”
“How do you know?” Remus asked Harry quietly.
“Know what?” Harry asked, confused.
“About my... about silver.”
“Oh, I... er... read about it.” Remus’ head hit the table with a thump.
“You read?” Padfoot asked, looking amused. “You never read.”
“I wanted to know,” Harry said defensively. He glanced at Remus. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean- Are you all right?” Harry asked.
“Brilliant,” Remus groaned into the table.
“Then why-?” Padfoot gave Harry a nudge and shook his head.
“Chin up, Moony old chap,” Padfoot said.
“No,” Remus said into the table.
Padfoot rolled his eyes, grinning. “You would have told him eventually.”
“I know,” Remus said, his voice muffled, “but I could have prepared myself for that instead of having it sprung on me.” He looked up and glowered at Padfoot. “Again.”
“It must be a Potter thing,” Padfoot said brightly. Remus rolled his eyes.
“Can I talk?” Harry whispered. Padfoot chuckled. Harry turned to Remus. “Do you, I mean, do you mind if I call you Moony?” he asked.
Remus blinked looking thrown by the sudden change in topic. “I... er... I suppose not, no.”
“Thanks,” Harry said happily.
Moony and Padfoot seemed to have been having a silent conversation - Harry remembered Padfoot telling him they’d used to do it to disturb Peter or make a teacher nervous - and turned to Harry in unison.
“What else do you know about, other than the silver?” Padfoot asked carefully, his grey eyes flicking toward Moony.
“Not a lot. I know you have heightened senses,” Harry offered. “And... er... a bit of a... erm... problem... on full moons.”
“A bit of a problem,” Moony said with a humourless laugh as his head dropped onto the table again. “If there was any doubt whose son he was...”
“It’s gone now,” Padfoot said, his eyes very bright.
“And I know you used to go to the Shrieking Shack to transform,” Harry said. “I used to think it was just for Animagus transformations but I worked it out. That’s why you did it, isn’t it?” he asked, turning to his godfather. “To keep Moony company?”
Padfoot nodded. “James and I used to call it Remus’ furry little problem-”
“As a joke-” Moony added.
“It wasn’t a joke,” Padfoot said, scowling. “Moony here quite liked to whine,” he told Harry, jerking his head toward an exasperated Moony, “about all of his problems - still does, by the looks of things - and the day we confronted him about it, Prongs said it was nothing more than a furry little problem.” Moony made a little noise of disagreement. “And it’s still just that,” Padfoot said firmly. Moony made a face. “The name stuck.”
“Most people were under the impression I owned a badly behaved rabbit,” Moony sighed.
“James and I had a lot of fun encouraging that rumour,” Padfoot said with a wolfish grin.
Moony huffed at Padfoot and then turned to Harry, brown eyes wide and earnest. “Look, Harry, the reality of the situation is that I’m dangerous-”
“On full moons,” Harry said. “Yeah, I know.” Padfoot beamed.
“He’s got nothing, kiddo,” Padfoot said, grinning at a stunned Moony. “Absolutely nothing.”
“I’ve got something,” Moony said hotly. “It’s called lycanthropy and-”
“And it’s only transferrable on full moons,” Padfoot told him shortly.
“That’s not proven,” Moony protested. “They don’t know the consequences yet-”
“What do you want, Moony?” Padfoot asked, exasperated. “You were saying yesterday that you’ve been begging Dumbledore to give you custody of Harry for years and now all of a sudden you’re too dangerous to spend time with him?”
“Well, I...” Moony frowned and closed his mouth. Harry sniggered.
“As Harry’s legal guardian-”
“A position obtained through illegal practices,” Moony muttered.
“Hush,” Padfoot told him. “As I was saying, as Harry’s legal guardian, it falls to me to decide who I’m comfortable having around him.”
“I’m right here!” Harry said. “I can make those decisions for myself, thanks.”
“Do you agree with me?” Padfoot asked.
“Well, yeah, of course I-”
“Then be quiet,” Padfoot said, with a grin. “As I was saying, I- we are more than happy to have you around, Moony.”
Moony swallowed. “I’ve needed this,” he said.
“What, someone to keep the self-loathing to a minimum?” Padfoot teased.
“Yes,” Moony said bluntly. He turned back to Harry. “You will not, under any circumstances come near me on a full moon. Am I clear?”
For now, Harry decided, wondering how old one had to be to become an Animagus. “Yeah, you’re clear.”
“Good,” Padfoot said. “Now, as far as full moons are concerned...” he said excitedly.
“Have you always been this sadistic, Padfoot?” Moony asked dryly. “Getting excited over the prospect of me in pain?”
“No, you git,” Padfoot said. “Now that you know I’m not a murdering lunatic, I can come out with you again.”
Harry didn’t think he’d ever seen anyone smile as hugely as Moony did then.