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Layers of Black



Peter Pettigrew stood pointing his wand at Lupin, and Harry and Hermione sat bound together, bleeding and struggling. A few last words echoed through the kitchen and Ron backed away in fright and was safe from harm behind the wall. Lupin said nothing as Pettigrew raised his wand, and in that moment everything was silent, the silence was finally broken by one last rugged intake of breath from Lupin.

"Avada Kadavra"

He was dead before his eyes registered the green flash illuminated the whole house, nearly blinding Ron and making it impossible to see anything for those few seconds. His body fell lifelessly to the ground and the unbearable resonating silence was broken by the crash of his body on the cold hard floor.


The rays of green gently subsided, leaving Harry's eyes to take in the events that had just taken place. His heart was pounding, the constant drumming was the only thing he could count on, the only certain thing in these desperate moments. When his vision was restored, what Harry saw made his heart stop. Lupin lay on the ground... alive.

Peter Pettigrew lay motionless and pale on the stone floor, his lifeless eyes as empty as his conscious had once been. Harry didn't know what to think. Silence tore at Harry's heart and finally Lupin's ragged breathing broke it.

"What happened?" Hermione sounded panicked, she was turned away from them, and hadn't seen any of it.

"It's alright..." Harry said quietly, "I think"

Lupin groaned and started to get up, he pushed himself up onto his hands and knees and began to get up, but wobbled and nearly fell back down, but was caught by two strong arms. "Sirius?" he asked as the muscular figure lifted him gently up.

"You know you love me" Sirius said with a smile tugging at the sides of his lips. "I'm sorry Peter" Sirius said warily, the potential smile vanishing from his face. "But it's time you got what you deserve, and it's time I committed the murder I was imprisoned for." Lupin's eyes lifted from the body of his once friend to the man standing tall beside him, who would forever be his friend.

"You saved my life" Lupin said as he bent down to untie Harry and Hermione.

"Only returning the favor" Sirius said, his broken smile showing itself at last.

As everyone stood up, eyes darting every now and again to the lifeless body of Pettigrew, making them all uneasy. Footsteps could be heard entering and they all turned to see Ron enter, pale and shaking. Harry and Hermione, without any words spoken, ran to him and pulled each other into a calming hug, Hermione burst out in tears. Harry and Ron did their best to comfort her.

"When did you come?" Lupin asked Ron as he approached and patted Hermione on the back for reassurance.

"I was sent back for you" Ron said shakily, "I didn't realize that.." Ron's voice trailed off, but they all knew what he meant, but then he spoke again, "How did Pettigrew get in?" he asked.

"That's a good question." came Sirius' voice from behind them.

"I think I know" Hermione said quietly, sitting down at the only chair left standing. They all waited patiently for her to wipe her tears and continue. "I was so stupid, I should have seen it before... Crookshanks carried hi in." They all stood, shocked.

"When?" Ron asked, walking up to where she sat.

"Yesterday" Harry said before she could respond. He remembered it now, Crookshanks brushing up against his leg with a rodent clutched in her jaws.

"But how did he stay hidden so long?" Lupin wondered.

"Maybe he was in disguise" Sirius chimed in.

"You mean like polyjuice potion?" Harry asked, knowing full well what that did.

"Well is there anyone who hasn't been acting normally?" Hermione said to them all.

At this Lupin froze, a look of terrible realization crossing his strained features. "Of course.." he said. "He wasn't acting normally, and I had seen it! Why hadn't I done something!" Lupin scolded himself. That's when Harry remembered the disjointed phrase Lupin had uttered just before the fire had started, "...something's not right...never came back...."

"What are you talking about?" Sirius looked at him like he was crazy.

Lupin suddenly looked very seriously at them, "Do you have any where he might have hidden in the house?" he asked them.

They all thought for a minute before Harry remembered something. "There was a door" he said, "on the second floor, it was locked."

"Show me."

As Harry led them up the stairs Lupin was silent, Harry wondered if he already knew what was behind that door.

Sirius wouldn't shut up.

"What's behind it? Who was acting weird? Why didn't you tell me this before? WHY AREN'T YOU TALKING TO ME!?!"

"Quiet" Lupin said distractedly, Harry brought them before the locked door and shook the handle to prove his point. Lupin took out his wand, he closed his eyes for a moment and then yelled a few incomprehensible words before pointing his wand at the door, which promptly exploded off it's magically sealed hinges.

They peered in, and only one gruesome image registered in Harry's mind.

Blood.

Blood was pooled around yet another body. "No" Lupin whispered to himself. He and Sirius entered the room first, while Harry and the rest entered more cautiously. Lupin knelt down and carefully turned over the still corpse of none other than Mad-Eye Moody. There was a collective gasp throughout the room.

"I knew it" Lupin said sadly. "I had known that something was wrong. He went upstairs during dinner, and never returned, that must be when Pettigrew nabbed him. The next time we thought we saw Moody it was actually Peter, and it was him who told us there was an attack taking place."

"There was no attack," Ron interrupted, "He led us into the middle of no where and abandoned us, I made it back to the cabin we had flooed to and flooed back to London to walk here."

"Where are the others?" Sirius asked, his voice full of concern.

"They're all right, they're coming too." They all breathed a sigh of deep relief, mixed with the sorrow of having lost Moody.

"It's alright" Sirius said sadly, "he would have wanted to go out fighting."

* * *


Harry stood nervously outside of the kitchen as the ministry officials discussed the finding of the body of Peter Pettigrew. Most were shocked, except Kingsley of course, though he still pretended to be. Though they had all been shocked to find a deceased Moody. All were downhearted to some extent.

Mrs. Weasley passed tea around to everyone in the house, Lupin stood explaining the details about Pettigrew's appearance to the Ministry officials, though he was managing to leave out one crucial detail...

"So now that we've established as self defense," the first burly looking official said, still sounding amazed at the appearance of Pettigrew, "who was it that killed him?" This was where Lupin stiffened, his brain fighting with a decision that could change lives forever. Sirius had wanted to be turned in, with hopes of being set free, but Remus didn't know if he could do it. He took one deep breath.

"It was Sirius..."

"Black?" Lupin nodded silently, as the door to the cellar opened behind them, and a very nervous Sirius walked in. Now the ministry wizards looked as if they were about to faint. "You all have some explaining to do" he said with his light Irish accent.

* * *


It was done... Everything had been explained, and there they all stood, in the Ministry of Magic building in front of the Minister for magic himself, the man who had replaced fudge was a man that Harry had seen at a desk when he had been there on trial.

"Well Mr. Black..." Everyone held their breath, "after tests done to prove your statements true, I have no choice but to clear you of all charges, may you accept our full apology."

Everyone jumped for joy, but none higher than Sirius himself. Harry was so immersed in the celebration that he scarcely noticed the ministry workers all over the building standing and applauding, many of whom came to shake Sirius' hand as he left. None of them could believe it.

They flooed back to Grimmauld place, Sirius had been told to stay put until the next morning's prophet was released to explain everything.

When they had arrived they all continued the celebration. Fred and George set off countless fireworks (much to their mothers dismay), and butterbeer was passed all around. Harry had never seen Sirius so happy, nor Lupin. Both stood smiling immensely beside each other, Lupin's eyes shone with happiness that none their had ever witnessed in him. Harry could have sworn that day that they were both glowing. So many years of hardships, and it was finally over...

When the celebrations had ceased and the fireworks faded, they all sat once again at the table, Dumbledore sat at his seat at the end of the table.

"There are many things to be said tonight" he explained, all of them listened intently. "First of all, I think we are all eager to know why this all started in the first place."

"What do you mean?" Charlie asked from his spot on the other end of the table between his twin brothers.

"Have none of you ever wondered why it was Remus who was attacked in the past? And why he was attacked again a few days ago?" At this both Sirius and Remus lowered their heads. But all of the rest now wondered about what Dumbledore had said, it was an obvious question that had never been answered. They all looked at Lupin.

Remus had done some research in the past few days. "I could explain" he said to all of them, but I would need some help."

"That has been arranged" Dumbledore said, and to the dismay of many Severus Snape walked into the room and sat himself in the last vacant seat.

"It's because of this" Lupin muttered, tugging the black ring from his long finger and tossing it onto the table in front of him. None of them were satisfied with this answer and so the room stayed deathly silent as they waited for him to continue. Lupin sighed, Harry could tell his story was not a happy one.

"My mother was killed because of this ring, it was a family heirloom. The Death Eaters were mistaken when they thought she was wearing, they didn't know that she had already given it to me." Lupin's hands shook so he hid them under the table. "Severus told me that this was why I was attacked, for my ring, but I still don't know why."

"That is why I'm here, even if I don't want to be" Snape sulked. "When a Death Eater is initiated, a spell is cast on them, the result of this spell is the tattoo of the dark mark that you see on them. It is excruciating to have put on, but gives great power to it's owner. The backside to this though, is that when a Death Eater is killed, all of that power, along with the tattoo, vanish. The power is then lifted into the person who killed them. That is why Voldemort kills his followers himself if he thinks they are weak, he's only helping himself by taking back the power he gave to them."

"So why does this involve my ring?" Lupin asked.

"You're mother was wearing that ring when she killed a Death Eater, and because that ring had magic inside it, the power of the dark mark went into it, and it grew over the years. My master was afraid that that ring would find it's way into the hands of Potter." Harry looked up in surprise, "And so he set out to destroy it."

All of them sighed with realization, " I would treasure that ring if I were you" Snape said to Lupin.

"Oh don't worry Severus" Lupin looked down at the ring, remembering his mother and father who had given it to him, "I will..."


* * *


It had been three days since the horrible experience, and today was a day of mourning. Lupin stood waging war with his tie while the others dressed in their muggle best for the funeral. Sirius came to help him, smiling at his incompetence.

"You never could tie a tie Moony" he mocked. "I guess that means your going to have to stay and continue living here." Lupin's head shot up, looking Sirius straight in the eyes, Remus had been expecting to have to move out now that Sirius was a free man.

"You're free, you're someone now, I don't want to-" Lupin was interrupted by Sirius putting a finger on his lips.

"I'm no one without you Moony"

Remus had nothing to say, he had never been able to deny Sirius, not that he particularly wanted to in this instance.

"Are you sure?" Lupin said faintly.

"Positive"

Lupin smiled, he looked up and over Sirius' shoulders he could see the picture that had been recently put up there. It was the front page of a daily prophet, the one Remus had been waiting for for fourteen years.

BLACK FOUND INNOCENT!

Beneath the headline there was a picture of Sirius, not a picture of Sirius with a face withered by Azkaban, but the handsome Sirius they knew today, that picture was never going to leave that wall.

Soon after they found themselves walking through the cemetery, a small crowd had already gathered at their destination. Heavy snowflakes fell slowly to the ground weaving their way through gusts of chilled wind. The sky was pale and the atmosphere a sad one. After a few minutes of waiting for all of the guests to arrive the ceremony began...

They all stood silently and respectfully as prayers were spoken for Moody. All were dressed in black, and Harry couldn't help but see the familiarity between this and his dream, the dream that had started it all. All had there heads down for a moment of silence. When the ceremony was over everyone stood around and talked about Moody.

Sirius and Remus stood together talking formally when Sirius noticed a women knelt at a freshly dug grave nearby. He took a few steps closer and Lupin did the same. With a pang of guilt Sirius noticed the name on the stone which no one had come to gather around in mourning.

Pettigrew

Both men stood still, neither knowing how to deal with the situation. Sirius recognized the women as Peter's grandmother, her frail body was knelt before the grave stone of her only grandchild, he could see her body shake with silent sobs. Sirius took a few steps towards but felt Lupin's hand on his shoulder, as if to stop him. He looked back to see Remus shaking his head, but deep down Sirius knew that this had to be done. He shook his shoulder free of Remus' grasp and walked towards her. He could tell from her wrinkled features that she had at one time been a very beautiful women, though it might not show as much now.

He quietly walked up behind her and put a hand on her shoulder, she didn't move.

"Thank you Sirius" came her weak voice.

Sirius didn't know what to say. She spoke once more, "Thank you for bringing my grandson back to me." Sirius throat tightened with guilt.

"Your welcome" came his constricted voice. Sirius watched as she placed a single flower in front of Peter's head stone. It's blue petals shone proudly against the pale snow that continued to fall around them. She got up painfully slowly and walked away without another word, Sirius would never see her again...

Sirius walked back towards the crowd full of familiar faces, all of which shown brighter in the light that he had been restricted from seeing for so many years. The trees had never seemed greener, the sky more beautiful, as it was now when he looked at it, as a free man.

"You're a good man Sirius" Lupin said, Harry stood beside him.

In that moment Harry saw something in Sirius' eyes that he had never seen there before. Through all the layers of black there loomed a faint gleam of... Harry couldn't quite pinpoint what it was, but Lupin saw it too. A glimmer of mischief and a twinkle of pride. Harry couldn't help but admire Sirius in that moment, even if he couldn't figure out what had changed about him. Yet Remus had found it.

It was Padfoot.

The moment Remus was reunited with Sirius at Hogwarts, he had known at that point without a doubt that something had been different, but for all of the years since then he had failed to figure out what it was that Azkaban had taken from this innocent man. It had been Padfoot... When the memories had slipped away in the darkness and gloom of his cell, Padfoot had gone with them. It was clear now, that was why his eyes had remained so empty, even when his voice rang with hope. The soul behind the smile was gone... The boundless charm and thoughtless bravery, it had all evaporated. Leaving only the hollow pieces of a broken man. In this moment Remus looked into those stormy eyes and saw the boy he had admired so much. Remus felt his eyes sting with tears, tears dedicated to all that had been lost, and amongst the darkness that which had been found. Sirius stood watching him, Remus took a few steps and closed the gap between them, and was instantly pulled into a comfortable embrace. His head fit perfectly into the hollow of Sirius' collar bone, which gave off the all too familiar scent of wind and trees, of freedom... Remus looked up into those eyes once more. The tears that tugged at the back of his amber eyes finally spilled, he had never felt happier than in that moment.

"Welcome back Padfoot..."


~ THE END ~



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