“Harry!” Padfoot, who had been pacing in front of the kitchen table, looked up, stepped forward and intercepted Harry as he came out of the fire. “Cupboard!” he said, waving a hand at a rather green Kreacher, who bowed unsteadily and vanished with far more noise than usual.
“You’re here?” Harry asked, paling. He hadn’t thought Padfoot would be home for a while yet. He’d hoped to get rid of Snape without there being a confrontation between the snarky Professor and his godfather.
There go my chances of that, he thought grimly.
“Where in Merlin’s name have you been?!” Padfoot demanded, looking truly angry for one of the first times Harry had ever seen. He pulled Harry into a tight hug and then let him go and held him by the shoulders. “Kreacher doesn’t remember anything - he didn’t even know you were gone!"
"I had him reading the wards again to find out where you’d got to! I thought you knew better than to just go wandering off, especially without leaving me a note! Did you forget about Hedwig?” Harry had and was sure Padfoot could read that right off of his face. “Don’t you remember what happened last time you went in the Floo!?”
“Yes, I remember,” Harry snapped. His shock at finding Padfoot home early - and supremely irritated - had vanished and his bad mood had returned. Padfoot looked taken aback at his tone and then frowned.
“Don’t get shirty with me, Harry. I asked you not to leave the house, I trusted you to do what you were told-”
“It wasn’t my fault!” Padfoot arched an eyebrow.
“Oh, really? Whose fault was it, then? Mine? Moony’s? Kreac-” Snape chose that moment to step out of the fireplace. Padfoot’s wand was at his throat in an instant.
“Nice to see you’re back where you’re supposed to be, Black,” he said, pushing it down.
“You,” Padfoot snarled. “You took Harry?” Snape’s eyes flicked to Harry, who wanted nothing more than to sink into the floor. At least Padfoot wasn’t angry with him now.
“How is the elf?” Snape asked, rolling his own wand between his fingers.
“What did you do to him?” Padfoot asked.
“Nothing permanent,” Snape said with a nasty smile.
“What do you want?” Padfoot asked after a moment of silence. Harry sank into a chair, his eyes shifting between his godfather and Snape.
“To know why you were off... marauding... while the boy was here.”
“And that’s your business for what reason?” Padfoot asked coolly. “You didn’t want to implicate yourself, or help, last I knew, Snape. Why the change of heart?”
“Because someone has to care for the boy and it is becoming increasingly obvious that you’re not capable.”
“You can’t help yourself, can you?” Padfoot asked with a grimace. “You just have to stick that oversized snout of yours into other people’s business.” Snape’s face turned a pale pink, but his voice was no less venomous.
“I know where you were last night.”
“Congratulations. Remind me again why it’s your concern?”
“I saw the moon,” Snape sneered. “Anyone who’s not a complete dunderhead could work out what you were doing.”
“How in Merlin’s name did you manage it, then?” Padfoot asked, looking genuinely astonished. Snape’s face turned pinker.
“You should be locked up,” he snarled. “The only reason you’re not is because someone else would have to put up with Potter’s spawn and it’s far more convenient to inflict you on each other than on innocent members of the public-”
“I hope you don’t mean yourself when you say innocent.”
“I certainly didn’t mean you.”
“Your last visit was to tell me I was innocent,” Padfoot sneered. “Remember?” Snape’s eyes narrowed. “So are you a liar, or just fickle? Because I can’t think of any other explanat- ack!” Snape stepped forward and caught Padfoot by the throat.
Harry launched himself over, trying to get between them but Snape waved his wand and Harry was sent stumbling backwards. When he tried to move, he found his shoes stuck to the floor. He bent to undo his shoelaces but they were stiff, like wire and wouldn’t unknot. He also found he couldn’t speak. Meanwhile Snape’s hand was back around Padfoot’s throat, and Padfoot’s wand was at Snape’s.
“Give me a reason, Black. ‘Innocent’ or not, I’ll do it.” Snape pressed his wand into Padfoot’s neck.
“Killing me would somewhat ruin your innocence,” Padfoot said, his voice about as strong as it could possibly be, given his constricted airway. “And then you’d need to make arrangements for Harry. And then, of course,” Padfoot choked, “would come the questions about how you knew where to find Harry and me, and what the circumstances of my death were.”
“Excuses can be made.”
“Certainly,” Padfoot agreed in a surprisingly civil tone. “But how quickly? When there are several hours between my recorded time of death in the Department of Magical Records’ birth and death registry and you coming forward, they’ll get suspicious.” Snape’s hand tightened. “And they’ll be more than suspicious when you get a mention in my will.”
“To Snivellus Snape,” Padfoot said, his eyes glinting, “I leave the book Killer Curses so the next person he kills can have a more exciting death than the one he gave me. Commutatio Donum Mortis.” A silver star fizzled out of his wand tip, alarmingly close to Snape’s face.
“Undo it,” Snape growled, releasing Padfoot and shoving him back. Several chairs went tumbling to the ground and Padfoot collided with the table with a painful thud.
“No,” he said, quite calmly.
“Sod off, Snivelly. When have I ever listened to you?”
“You would do well to listen to me,” Snape said. “I may not kill you, but I can still turn you over to the Dementors.” Padfoot shivered, his expression distant. A moment later, he smiled.
“You wouldn’t dare,” Padfoot said. Snape looked as confused about that as Harry was.
“Oh, wouldn’t I?”
“No,” Padfoot said, picking himself up off of the ground. He placed himself between Snape and Harry. “Because I’ll tell them all about you.”
“You won’t have the chance.”
“Won’t I? I rather think they’ll want me brought to trial. It restores confidence in the system, you see. And they’ll want me questioned. You don’t really think they’d send me back to Azkaban before figuring out how I escaped, do you? And they’ll want to know where I lived, and how I avoided them for as long as I did. I’m sure I could find some way to slip your name into the conversation.”
“I’ll take you straight to the Dementors. You’ll be Kissed the moment they see you.” Snape’s smile was all yellow teeth.
“That’d be unfortunate. For you. I don’t know if you know this, Snivellus, but a Kissed person is considered dead.” Snape’s smile slid off his face. “If I’m Kissed, my will would be brought out and you’ll be implicated.” Padfoot was smiling pleasantly now. “If you act against me, Snivellus, your life is ruined.” Padfoot didn’t look overly upset at the prospect. Snape’s wand spat black and green sparks. Harry might have taken a step backward if his shoes weren’t stuck.
“And Lupin?” Snape asked softly. “I can’t attack you directly, Black, but you’ve always been protective of your pet.” Now Padfoot’s wand was spitting sparks. “I could out him for conspiring with you.” Snape’s eyes flashed with suppressed glee. Harry thought he saw terror pass over Padfoot’s face but it was gone a moment later and he didn’t think Snape had noticed it at all.
“Conspiring with me?” Padfoot asked, looking puzzled. “Remus?”
“Don’t tell me he’s not-” Snape began impatiently.
“The last time I saw him,” Padfoot said in a disbelieving tone, “he could have quite happily killed me and not felt guilty at all.”
“Indeed?” Snape asked. “Explain then, Black, where you were last night, if not crouched on the other side of a reinforced door, whispering comforts to your furry friend.”
“You think I’d go anywhere near him as a human, on a full moon?” Padfoot asked, looking stunned. “I think the potion fumes have muddled your brain!”
“You never answered my question,” Snape said menacingly.
“Not that it’s any of your business,” Padfoot mumbled, “but you’re obviously not about to leave this alone...” He swallowed, glanced briefly in Harry’s direction as if urging him to play along, and then whispered, “I was dealing with my own... problems.”
“And what problems might those be, Black?” Snape sneered. Padfoot righted one of the fallen chairs and sank into it.
“A few nights before Harry’s birthday in July, I went out to buy him a birthday present. It was night - I didn’t want Harry guessing where I was - and I was leaving the Leaky Cauldron when I was attacked.” He looked up at Snape. “You’ve heard of Greyback, I’m sure?”
Snape, who looked uncertain, nodded. Padfoot pulled the collar of his t-shirt down to reveal a nasty scar on his neck.
“Impressive, isn’t it? I was able to stop the bleeding, but that sort of a bite can’t be healed.”
“You’re a werewolf?” Snape looked a little afraid now, but also skeptical.
“Oh, yes,” Padfoot said. He bared his teeth and Harry could have sworn they were longer and pointier than usual, and that his eyes had darkened slightly. Snape inched backwards. “It’s not so bad, most of the time. Full moons are by far the worst.”
“Liar,” Snape said.
“You’re a Legillimens, aren’t you?” Padfoot asked. “Have a look. Watch me transform.”
Snape’s eyes narrowed and then Padfoot winced, but seemed to be focusing on something. After a moment, Snape blinked and moved his head to the side, while Padfoot slumped back into his chair.
“The boy is coming with me,” Snape said.
“You can’t do that,” Padfoot said firmly, leaping to his feet. “I’m his guardian-”
“Your kind are unable to obtain ownership of children that are not your own,” Snape hissed.
“I’m not a danger to him. I killed the last wolf that came near him!” Snape looked startled. “You know he was in hospital, don’t you?” Padfoot said. “Greyback sent one of his lot after Harry. It wasn’t a full moon, though. They were only supposed to capture him. We put up a bit more of a fight than they expected.” Padfoot smiled that very toothy smile again. “Harry was hurt so I sent him to Remus by Portkey-”
“So you admit he helped you? Your kind band together as I seem to recall-”
“I had limited options as you can imagine, and while Remus might hate me, I trusted him to do the right thing for Harry. As for banding together... I tracked the wolf that attacked us back to the camp he was housed at, killed him and then stole Harry back from St Mungo’s. After Azkaban, a hospital was nothing.” Padfoot smiled and Snape leaned away from him.
“I worried about tonight after everything that’s happened so I left Harry here, with Kreacher, and went a long way away to transform. Turns out I needn’t have worried. Nothing attacked me.” His eyes darkened. “It seems the danger was here, instead.”
“The boy isn’t safe,” Snape said, looking pale.
“That’s hardly true,” Padfoot scoffed. “I remove myself on full moons and I’m harmless the rest of the time.” His eyes flicked to Snape. “Unless I’m provoked.”
Snape flicked his wand at Harry who found he could move and talk again. “A new home can be arranged for you, Potter, if you so desire.”
“And where would he go?” Padfoot asked. “If you thought he was better off with his aunt than he is with me, you’d have tried to take him last time you visited. And unless you want to take him, which I’m positive isn’t the case-”
“I asked the boy, Black, not you.”
“I don’t want a new home,” Harry said coolly. “My parents trusted P- Sirius to look after me. I trust him too.”
“This is the only time I will offer my assistance,” Snape said, his black eyes boring into Harry’s green ones. Harry stared right back. Snape was the first to look away. “Idiot boy.”
“Don’t talk to him that way,” Padfoot growled. Snape gave him a look of utter loathing. He grabbed a handful of Floo Powder with a superior expression, as if daring Padfoot to comment on it, and vanished in a whirl of green flames.
“Holy Hufflepuff,” Padfoot said, looking stunned. Harry sank into the chair next to him, unable to believe what had just happened. “Snape thinks I’m a werewolf. I told Snape I was a werewolf!” Padfoot laughed weakly and ran his hands through his hair.
Harry let out a little stunned laugh too. “I almost believed you myself.” Padfoot looked rather pleased with himself. “What’s Legi-whatever it was?”
“Legillimency. Muggles would call it mind-reading.”
“He read your mind?!” Harry exclaimed.
“Only what I showed him, kiddo.”
“My first ever Animagus transformation.” Padfoot grimaced. “It was... unpleasant.”
“Does it hurt?”
“Oh, yes. Only the first time, though,” Padfoot said. “After that, your magic and your body are sort of used to it. Werewolves aren’t quite as lucky.”
“And the scar?” Harry asked.
“James was in hiding and Peter was sick-” Padfoot’s face contorted briefly. “-or at least that’s what we believed at the time. I went with Remus, alone. He was trying out a potion made by a bloke we’d known at school, Damocles Belby. The potion was supposed to calm him down but it had the opposite effect and I couldn’t leave him alone or he’d start attacking himself.” He pulled a face.
“When we got back in the morning we were both pretty mangled. Your mum and dad patched us up but the healing was so delayed I was left with this.” Padfoot ran a hand over his neck. “It’s pretty impressive if I do say so myself, although that’s the first time I’ve ever actually been believed when I told someone I got it from a werewolf.”
“And your teeth? They were sharper.” Padfoot smiled and Harry saw the teeth grow longer.
“I’ve been an Animagus for years,” he said. His teeth shrank and grew as Harry watched. “Internal organs and bone structures - minus teeth, of course - have to be done all at once, but things like ears, eyes, teeth and fur can be done individually with enough practice.” He smiled.
“Your dad worked out how to grow antlers about a month before Halloween. Thought it was terribly funny until Lily started hanging things on them.” Harry laughed but it turned into a yawn mid-way through. Padfoot noticed. “How much sleep did you get last night?”
“I suppose Snivelly sat you down on one of those horrible Potions stools and took himself off to bed, did he?” Padfoot asked angrily.
“No, he didn’t,” Harry said. “He made me a camp bed. I just didn’t want to sleep... in case... yeah.”
“Oh, kiddo,” Padfoot sighed. He opened his arms and Harry went over for a hug. “You can sleep today, if you’d like?” Harry shrugged. Padfoot watched him carefully for a moment and then let him go, stretched, and made his way over to the stove. “Are you hungry, then?”
“Starving,” Harry admitted.
“Does porridge sound all right?” Harry nodded, stifling another yawn. He dozed while Padfoot dug through the cupboards, muttering to himself. “Where’s the saucepan?” he asked a moment later.
“What?” Harry forced his eyelids open; they’d been slowly slipping shut.
“The big copper one,” Padfoot said, examining the empty hook with narrowed eyes. Harry smiled sheepishly.
“Kreacher had it. It’s on the second floor landing.”
“Ah, that’s right,” Padfoot said, snapping his fingers. “I tripped on it when I was looking for you.” Harry grimaced. “Dare I ask what it’s doing there?” Harry shrugged. “Accio pan.” There was a metallic ringing from upstairs and then a thud before it whizzed down the stairs and into the kitchen. Padfoot caught it, muttered a quick charm that cleaned it and wandered into the pantry. Harry pulled his glasses down so that he could rub his eyes. He traced the wooden grain of the table to keep himself awake...
“Harry?” Padfoot’s exasperatedly amused tone made Harry think that wasn’t the first time he’d been called.
“I said I’m sorry for snapping at you.”
“Oh. S’okay,” Harry said, yawning. Padfoot smiled at him and turned back to the stove.
“I would have been angry, obviously-” Padfoot’s voice seemed to be coming from a long way away.”-but the Dementor-”
Next thing Harry knew, he was falling. He let out a little shout of surprise but there was nothing to catch. The kitchen floor was remarkably soft, or maybe he was too tired to care. He tried to push himself up before Padfoot noticed - he’d be laughed at for sure - but oddly, Padfoot was already there, pushing him down into something soft.
“Is porridge ready?” Harry mumbled. Padfoot laughed and gently removed his glasses. “What’re you doing?” Harry reached, trying to get them back, but his hand only caught air.
“Sleep, kiddo,” Padfoot said. He shrank into a black, furry blob which leapt up onto Harry’s blanket covered - Harry wondered where that had come from - legs. Harry wasn’t sure how that was even possible - because he was fairly sure he was lying on the kitchen floor - but he wasn’t about to argue. Maybe Padfoot had moved him. Padfoot made a noise that was a woof crossed with a whine and then a cold, wet nose nudged Harry’s hand.
He fell asleep petting the soft fur of Padfoot’s ears.
* * *
Remus lay on his couch, feet dangling off the end because he was slightly taller than it was long, and brushed his damp eyes. In the eight years since it had happened, he’d more or less recovered from the grief that had come with losing Lily and James.
His wolf-self, however, had hardly given the stag a thought since that Halloween night, except perhaps to wonder why he wasn’t there or to hope that he’d show up next time. And then - while Remus the man already knew it - Remus the wolf had learned from his old pack-mate that the stag was gone.
It was like losing James all over again.
He’d managed to hold himself together while Sirius patched up a graze on his shoulder and made him eat breakfast - which was accompanied by tea containing a Comforting Concoction that dulled the aches from transforming. The moment Sirius vanished into the fireplace - with strict instructions that Remus rest - Remus had shuffled over to the couch and buried his face in his hands.
He thought he’d fallen asleep at one point, but any good that may have done him had already been undone by him crying. His eyes were sore and puffy, his voice was hoarse and he ached on the inside now as well as the outside. Sirius had said he and Harry would be over for dinner but that was still hours away and so Remus found himself staring out the window at the clouds.
Two quiet pops pulled his attention away from a cloud shaped like a Golden Snitch. He saw two figures appear and walk stealthily out of the tree line toward the house. Remus didn’t know whether the promise of company made him happy - he really didn’t have all that many visitors - or made him want to cry some more.
His senses were sharper than an average wizard’s, and were even better in the days immediately before and after a full moon. As a result, he could easily see Nymphadora’s shock of tomato red hair and the bright blue of Mad-Eye’s magical eye. He could also hear Mad-Eye whispering gruff instructions that had something to do with rope and his chimney.
Groaning, Remus reached for his wand, tapped his throat and thought, Sonorus.
He pushed himself off of the soft cushions and into a sitting position and then said, “IF YOU TRY TO CLIMB DOWN MY CHIMNEY, MAD-EYE, I SWEAR TO MERLIN I’LL LIGHT A FIRE!” He heard a delighted laugh from Nymphadora and a muttered curse from Mad-Eye. “THE DOOR’S UNLOCKED,” Remus added hoarsely, before wordlessly adding, Finite.
A moment later, Mad-Eye burst in through the door - Remus was actually surprised he’d listened - and started shouting about how dangerous it was to leave doors unlocked. Nymphadora trailed in after him, looking annoyed, but not, Remus didn’t think, at Mad-Eye or him.
“Wotcher,” she muttered over Mad-Eye’s voice. Remus nodded in her direction and then turned back to the Auror.
“Mad-Eye,” Remus said, tiredly, trying to get him to shut up; shouting wasn’t helping his headache at all. “Mad-Eye!”
“... very least a security question to see if you’ve let in the right person! Anyone could just walk in, pretending to be me and-”
“Silencio,” Remus snapped, flicking his wand at the old Auror. Mad-Eye fell silent, looking outraged. “Constant vigilance, Mad-Eye. What if that hadn’t been a harmless spell? What if I wasn’t Remus Lupin? You’ve just walked - and brought your trainee, I might add - into a seemingly unprotected house and not even paused to consider it might be a trap-”
Mad-Eye waved his wand in a complex twist and cleared his throat; obviously he’d broken the Silencing Charm.
“I’ll have you know I cast every detection charm known to Aurors - and even some they don’t know about - before I put as much as a splinter of this leg through tha-”
“Moody!” Nymphadora said loudly, her hair changing from its bright red to a brighter red that seemed to have more orange in it than before. Both Remus and Mad-Eye turned to look at her. Her hair acquired a slightly pink tinge - for embarrassment perhaps? - but her eyes flashed defiantly. “Shut up!”
Remus saw a grin flash over Mad-Eye’s scarred face but it was quickly gone, replaced by a neutral expression. He fixed both eyes on Nymphadora, who fidgeted, her hair now well and truly pink.
“It’s been a long time since anyone’s spoken to me like that.” Nymphadora looked about ready to sink into Remus’ floor. “I’ve missed it.” She blinked. Remus was having a hard time holding back laughter. “Honesty will get you everywhere with me, lass,” he continued. “I think I’ve told you that before... Constant vigilance!” Remus had known Mad-Eye too long to be surprised - though the noise made his head throb again - but poor Nymphadora jumped and almost fell over.
“Right,” she muttered, her face and hair bright pink. She didn’t seem able to bring herself to look at either of them. “Well, erm... we came here to talk to Lupin-” Her eyes flicked over to him and then back to Mad-Eye. “- not to bicker with him so... er... maybe we should do that?”
“Talk about what?” Remus asked tiredly.
“Well-” Nymphadora said. The fire flared green and Remus thought for one horrified moment Sirius and Harry might come through. “Are you expecting someone?” she asked. He checked his watch and shook his head; they weren’t due for a while yet. A moment later, the flames died down. Remus stared at it, confused and shook his head again.
“Must be broken.”
“Damn Ministry,” Mad-Eye growled. Remus and Nymphadora glanced at each other and silently decided not to point out that Mad-Eye worked for them.
“Right,” Remus said hastily. “So you wanted to talk?”
“The girl’s just been to see Malfoy,” Mad-Eye said, waving his wand at Remus’ armchair. It didn’t react at all and Mad-Eye seemed to decide it was safe enough to sit on. The worn leather groaned quietly. Nymphadora glanced at the two of them and sat down on the end of Remus’ couch that was closest to Mad-Eye.
“Oh,” Remus said. He’d forgotten about that in the face of the full moon, and now - more pressingly - his headache. “How did it go?” Mad-Eye and Nymphadora exchanged grim looks. Remus laughed without humour. “That well?” he asked wryly. “Did you get a place at all?”
“Yes,” Nymphadora sighed. “I got just what I needed, actually.” Remus glanced at Mad-Eye but his face wasn’t giving anything away.
“So what’s the problem? And,” he added, feeling a little nervous all of a sudden, “why does it concern me?”
Nymphadora grimaced. “He wants me to replace you.”
“What do you mean?” Remus asked slowly.
“In the search,” Nymphadora said, her hair turning a dark purplish blue. “He runs the magical search, obviously, and you’ve been running the muggle one, right?”
“Right,” Remus agreed. “But only because no one else wants to do it.”
“Until now,” she said a little apologetically. Remus arched an eyebrow and the whole story came tumbling out: “I couldn’t very well tell him I was a pureblood. He’d see through that in a heartbeat because I’m fairly sure the man could recite that stupid book - Nature’s Royalty or whatever it is - and I didn’t want to say I was a half-blood in case he started asking questions about Mum so I opted for muggleborn. And muggleborns are very knowledgeable when it comes to the muggle world.”
“Ah,” Remus said.
“The bastard made it very clear that he despises me,” Nymphadora continued, pursing her lips, “but apparently, muggleborns are the lesser of two evils-”
Remus forgot to breathe for a moment. No, if he’d told her, she wouldn’t be sitting here. And surely Mad-Eye would have warned me...
“Did he explain why?” Remus asked stiffly.
“No,” Nymphadora said, frowning. “Now that you mention it, he didn’t.” She grinned. “What did you do, eh? Trip over his peacock? Say thank you to his house elf?” She chuckled at her own joke but neither Remus or Mad-Eye joined her.
“Something like that,” Remus said, gesturing for her to continue.
She looked a little disconcerted. “Right. Erm... well, since he was generous enough to give me a job in his search, he thought he might ask a little favour in return. He wants me to replace you as- actually, he wants you gone altogether.” She made an apologetic face.
“He wants me out of the search altogether?” Remus repeated.
“Not straight away.” Nymphadora looked pained. “He told me to ask you to teach me everything you know, and to pass on your contacts. He says you’ve got a month or two at most.” Remus tried not to look too delighted. He was thoroughly sick of Lucius Malfoy and his stupid prejudices, and he didn’t really want to waste too many more hours searching for people he knew exactly how to find.
“We,” Mad-Eye said loudly, “think otherwise.”
Remus blinked. “What?”
“Theodora Tock was invented in a few hours, lad. She can vanish just as quickly.”
“But then your job-” Remus began, looking at Nymphadora.
“What job?” Mad-Eye barked.
“Her spy job,” Remus said. “You won’t be able to do it, will you?”
“Spy job?” Mad-Eye growled. “Who said anything about a spy job?! Who’ve you been talking to, Lupin?”
Remus shrugged. “It’s just logical that if you’re sending her in undercover then you don’t want her recognised, or traced back to the Auror Department. Unless the Ministry’s made some sort of deal with Sirius and you’re sending Nymphadora in to make sure he isn’t found-” Mad-Eye snorted. “-then it’s fairly likely she’s there to get information on Malfoy.” Mad-Eye seemed to deflate. Nymphadora’s hair was growing steadily pinker. “I’m right, aren’t I?”
Mad-Eye grunted and said, “Saves me explaining everything at least. You’re involved now, whether you like it or not. I expect full cooperation, am I understood?”
“What do I have to do?”
“I know what finding Potter means to you,” Mad-Eye said in a tone that was almost gentle. “I’m not about to take that away.” Remus was oddly grateful despite the fact it didn’t matter. “But we need Nymphadora-” Nymphadora cleared her throat loudly. “- in a position that gets her close to Malfoy.”
“You don’t like my uncle, do you?” Nymphadora asked.
“Not particularly, no.”
She smiled. “Then how would you feel about having nothing to do with him ever again?” Before Remus could ask what she meant, her hair was fair like Remus’, her eyes were brown and she’d shot up several inches.
“His nose is longer,” Mad-Eye said, glancing at her. “And his face is thinner.”
Remus stared at Nymphadora, who now looked uncannily like him. “I have a scar on my right cheek,” he managed.
“Hmm,” she said, scrunching up her face. “Better?”
“You want to be me?” he asked.
“It gives me an excuse to be close to Lucius Malfoy,” she said in his voice. Absently, Remus thought that he should either find this very funny, or mortally offensive, but couldn’t seem to get past the shock. “He doesn’t like you, but he tolerates you. I can lie to him, earn his trust. I can tell him whatever he needs to hear. You can still search for Harry Potter and Sirius Black. You just can’t go near Malfoy. Good deal, eh?”
“I went to school with him,” Remus said. “It’s highly likely he’ll know you aren’t me, and if you managed to convince him otherwise, you’d have to put up with all sorts of bigotry until you could win him over. Which you can’t. His reasons for hating me aren’t personality or opinion based.” Nymphadora looked curious but didn’t say anything. “As much as I don’t like it, I think you replacing me is the better option.”
“You’re sure, lad?” Mad-Eye asked. Remus pretended to look torn and then nodded.
“Could you... perhaps... keep me in the loop? If you hear anything about Harry...?”
“Of course we can!” Nymphadora exclaimed. Remus hid a grin; now he’d be able to warn Sirius if the search got too close. “But you’re still involved for now. I need you to teach me about the search and the people in it.”
“I can start teaching you tomorrow,” he said. Nymphadora glanced at Mad-Eye.
“Saturday has a ‘T’ in it.”
“It does.” To anyone else, that would have made no sense at all. Remus, however, hid a smile; Mad-Eye had used the same system with James and Sirius.
“Okay,” she told Remus with a smile. “Where would you like to meet?”
They’d just discussed details for the next day and Remus had supplied tea and biscuits when there was a loud tapping at the window. A stunning - though rather small - snowy owl was perched on his kitchen windowsill. Remus thought he vaguely recognised it but couldn’t say where from.
He stood to let it in and a scrap of parchment was promptly pressed into his hand. The owl flew over to Remus’ own owl’s perch for a drink. Strix was off delivering letters to Arabella and Dirk saying Remus was unwell, and could they please patrol London today.
“Didn’t I teach you anything?!” Mad-Eye roared as Remus unfolded the parchment. “Never open something without checking it for curses first!”
Remus ignored him, eyes scanning over shaky, childish writing.
Padfoot won’t wake up. Sorry to bother you, but I didn’t know who else to go to for help.
It took Remus a moment to remember how to breathe.
“Lupin?” Nymphadora said, exchanging a worried glance with Mad-Eye. “Are you all right?”
“No,” Remus said. He held the parchment up, but didn’t hold it still in case Mad-Eye tried to read it. “A friend of mine...er-” Remus said the first thing that came to mind. “-had a rough night.”
“Is there anything we can do to help?” Nymphadora asked.
“Hufflepuffs,” Mad-Eye muttered. Nymphadora shot him an irritated look.
“No, thank you,” Remus said. The snowy owl screeched at him. “I need to go. Tomorrow should still be fine, I just need to sort this out-”
“Are you sure there isn’t-”
“Leave him to it, Nymphadora. We’re off anyway. Can’t have my trainee late. Scrimgeour’d never let me forget it.” He ushered her out and there were two quiet pops. Remus took a quick look out the window to make sure they were actually gone.
Heart pounding, he grabbed a handful of Floo Powder and croaked, “Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place.”