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The night crept in softly, as a dog slowly stalking its prey, only to come on swiftly at the last possible moment. The sky leered, swirling its many dark colors about menacingly, promising depression and unhappiness. Just recently having gone through a full moon, Remus was feeling terrible. Add that to having what he had thought as friends revealing that they had been keeping secrets from him, and he might as well have died then and there from misery. He walked slowly down the side-walk, his hands in his shabby coat pockets. It’s not as if he had anywhere to go, except the hell-hole of an apartment that he had managed to scrape. If only he could find a job...other than the night janitor at the stupid muggle shop, Curly’s Frozen Custard. Letting out a pent up sigh, he allowed his self-pity to swallow him. He knew he was being an idiot, but he didn’t really care at the moment; it was the only thing he could afford.

Looking around him, he noticed how trees that normally waved merrily at normal witches and wizards now seemed to be glaring and throwing their leaves at him, proving that he didn’t belong in this world. He didn’t deserve to live among these happy, innocent people, people who didn’t turn into flesh-eating monstrosities once a month.

Things had only gone downhill after Remus had graduated Hogwarts. Now he had to deal with the full-moons by himself. Normally, he just locked himself in a kennel he had bought under the pretense that he had a very large dog. But being locked in a kennel with only himself to bite and scratch was far from enjoyable, and he winced even now as he thought of the large cuts and bruises that covered his body.

Only the small glint in his eyes showed who he could be, if he wasn’t a Werewolf. That tiny glint promised that he could be a great Healer, or a great Auror...if only he wasn’t a Werewolf. Slowly however, that tiny glint of hopefulness and all that was left of being young, was being smothered. He didn’t really notice it, but a part of him knew that if he didn’t save himself now, he would soon turn into the kind of person his father was.... At this thought, his heart kicked into high-gear. No. He would never be like that...never.

It started to rain as thunder leaped into a booming announcement. Lightening quickly followed, but it wasn’t long before Remus had reached his destination. He ran across the street to the Cauldron Bottom, a very dodgy bar that he found himself occupying every night recently.

Coming through the door, he saw that only a few people, and a vampire, were sitting at different tables, some playing pool, other’s just watching and smoking. Remus averted his gaze, and made a beeline for the bar. He saw who was working tonight, and did a double-take.

“Aberforth?!” he said, sitting down on one of the stools. Aberforth jumped and spun around.

“Who knows me name? What the devil are ye...” but he stopped as he saw Remus, who couldn’t believe his eyes. Dumbledore’s brother worked at the Cauldron Bottom? He had met him in Order meetings only once, and had thought him quite a strange fellow. The only way he could tell that Albus Dumbledore and Aberforth Dumbledore were related was by their looks. Now, however, a resemblance could not easily be made. The man had small, watery blue eyes, much the color of Dumbledore’s, yet they had a mischievous sparkle to them that Dumbledore’s rarely possessed. Where as Dumbledore’s beard was always white and startlingly perfect, not a hair out of place, Aberforth’s was wiry and a darker, dirtier grey. He was also very short, barely able to look Remus in the eye. Dumbledore had to look down at most of his students, holding a posture that rivaled Professor McGonogall’s.

“What are you doing here? I didn’t know you worked at the...” Remus began, but the excitable man’s eyes widened, and the shadows under his eyes seemed to tighten.

“Shut yer trap! Do ye think I want the ‘ole town knowin’?” he said. Remus shook his head.

“Sorry. Since when have you worked here? Does Dumbledore know?” he asked, leaning in to whisper. Aberforth gave a snort, leaning heavily on the bar and throwing a towel over his shoulder.

“Do ye think me daft, boy?” he said, his eyes twinkling. “I wouldn’t tell Albus fer nothin’!” he said with a laugh. “He’s all perfect, and what-not,” he rolled his eyes. “Me parents died rubbin’ me face into that fact. Do ye really think me dumb enough to do somin’ like tha’?” he said.

Remus shook his head.

“That’s a boy,” Aberforth said with a very Dumbledore-like chuckle. Then he shook his head kindly. “I’ll ne’er understand, the daft birds...” he said. Remus stood for a few seconds, quite perplexed.

Since Aberforth didn’t seem like he was about to explain his odd comment, Remus spoke up. “Er...who don’t you understand?” Aberforth gave a small jump, as though he had forgotten Remus was there. Then he gave him a slightly mad look, before it vanished quickly into a look of fond remembrance.

“Well, me parents...” he said. “They always liked Albus more’n me. I was ne’re the best at me school subjects,” he admitted, setting his towel on the bar.

“Well, I’m sure that’s not true,” Remus said, his manners kicking into action. In truth, he wasn’t much surprised. Aberforth gave a chuckle.

“Well, now. Here’s a fella who not only looks worse’n me socks, but he’s also got his manners!” he said, and with that, he gave Remus a slap on the back, his eyes showing a slightly insane bemusement. Remus gave an uncomfortable laugh. It came out as more of a giggle, however, as he now was craving something to drink more than ever. “Well, I suppose I better get back to me job...so, what will ye have?” he asked, sitting up.

“Fire-Whiskey,” Remus said gruffly, feeling uncomfortable ordering something like that from somebody within The Order.

“Now, you been gettin’ on me about bein’ here. But, what about you, laddie?” he said, getting a very dusty, bright red bottle out of a cupboard. “You be the one drinkin’, not me!” he popped the cork loudly. Remus shrugged. He didn’t feel like going into details with this little man.

“Just, don’t tell anybody I was here, alright?” he said uncomfortably. Aberforth gave a laugh.

“I’ll keep me trap shut if you’ll do the same,” he said with a wink. Remus took the Fire-Whiskey from him, nodding. “Just...out of curiosity, why be ye here?” he said, giving Remus a suspicious look.

“I thought you were going to get back to your job?” Remus replied, trying not to feel guilty about his rudeness. Aberforth looked slightly taken aback, but prepared all the same.

“Well, just so ‘appens, swappin’ jaw is part of me job! So, lemme ‘ear all yer troubles, laddie,” he said, pulling up a chair. “Lay it on me,” he said, looking a little too eager. Remus almost felt sorry for him. It must be hard, being Dumbledore’s brother. Always being the underdog. It was only this sad thought that began him talking.

“All of my friends don’t trust me. Because I’m a Werewolf,” he said, saying his entire library of troubles in two sentences. Aberforth nodded his understanding...or nodded only because he knew that was what he had seen the other bartenders do in these types of predicaments.

“Well, ‘ave you talked to’em? Told’em yer feelin’s?” he asked, his watery eyes looking as though they were swimming through a sea of many different emotions. The foremost that of clemency.

“Well, no. In fact I haven’t spoken to them since...and I don’t want to. But I’ve got this party to go to today...not even sure I’ll go. I doubt they want me to,” he said, attempting to shrug off the clinging wretchedness.

“Well, if it’s any help, I know fer a fact that they’d want you to come,” Aberforth assured.

“How do you know?” Remus said, trying to keep the accusation from his voice. Aberforth seemed to be thinking.

“Well, fer one, they wouldn’t have invited ye. And fer two, they wouldn’t be walkin’ on pins and pointy wands around ye. If they didn’t like ye, they wouldn’t care if they hurt yer feelin’s,” he said. Remus thought about this. He had a point.

“I guess...the main thing is...” Remus said, uncomfortable about admitting it. “I’m not ready to forgive them, and when I see their faces, I feel really guilty about it,” he said. Aberforth snorted, throwing his rag at his knee.

“Tha’s just bein’ muddle-headed, tha’ is!” he said. Remus looked affronted. “Ye can’t go ‘round feelin’ guilty fer yer friends betrayin’ ye! Ye be mad as long as ye want to!” he said. “Ye got e’ery right to!”

Remus let out a sigh. “I just get so...angry! I can’t help it.”

“Ye need to talk to ‘em,” Aberforth said. Remus nodded, and then frowned.

“I think you’re right...but I’m not going to them. I want them to come to me. I want them to apologize. I’m not going to go begging at their doorstep for acceptance,” he said. Nodding firmly, his heart felt cemented in one spot. “If they want me as their friend again, which I’m not sure they do, they can come to me...”

“Tha’s a nice way ter think!” Aberforth said. “And no more ‘o’ this feelin’ guilty! You done nothin’ wrong! Ye hear?” Remus gave a nod, and then looked down at his untouched Fire Whiskey. Aberforth stared at him hard, and Remus seemed to be a mirror, directing the stare at the bottle. “Ye aren’ goin’ ter drink tha’ are ye?” he said, sounding more than ever like Professor Dumbledore.

Remus gave a self-mocking snort. “No...no of course I’m not. I doubt I ever was. I will never resort to drinking this,” he said, pushing the bottle away with distaste. Then he put his head in his hands. When he next looked up, his eyes were wet with liquid gloom. Aberforth gave him a sad look, then looked up at the clock.

“Ye better get goin’, they’re waitin’ on ye...”

~~~

“Can we eat the cake yet?” James said, eyeing the huge cake Lily had baked with great anticipation. Lily smirked.

“We’re waiting for Remus! He should be here any second,” she said reprovingly. The room seemed to get quiet.

“I doubt he’ll come...” Peter whispered, and they all threw him glares. The reason being only because he had spoken what everybody else had been too afraid to.

“We’re waiting,” Lily said firmly. They all sat in an uncomfortable silence, looking at the floor as if it was telling an extremely interesting story. Heather dared break the silence.

“So...how has everything been working out, in the new house?” she said, looking at Alice and Frank, who were sitting together. They looked up, looking relieved for the change of subject. They passed the next fifteen minutes talking about their new house, and then yet another silence fell. That silence didn’t last long, however, as a knock resounded throughout the room. For a long time, everybody just stared at the door. Finally Alex rolled her eyes.

“Don’t trouble yourselves, I’ll get it,” she said in annoyance. She marched over to the door, and opened it. The sight that met all of their eyes made them feel rather sick. It was Remus alright, but a Remus as they had never seen him. His clothes were dirty and ragged. His hair was disheveled, and his eyes were baggy. He looked horrible. He pulled off his shabby coat and hat, setting them neatly on a nearby couch. He smelled strongly of liquor, and he was unshaven. He walked in, tiredly, and saw them all gazing in shock. Even Dumbledore seemed unable to find the right words for a greeting.

“Hello, Remus,” Lily said in false cheerfulness, standing up. Remus glared at her. She moved to give him a warm hug, but he moved out of her grasp sharply, causing her to almost fall over. James stood up in anger. Lily looked crushed.

“There is no need to treat her like that, she was only being nice,” James said, walking around the couch to stand beside her. Remus focused his gaze on James.

“Really? There is no reason at all?” he said, disgusted.

Silence followed these words. Remus took a deep breath, and looked around him. He saw Lily’s heartbroken face, and felt horrible. What was happening to him? Where was the Remus Lupin he had always been?

“Sorry I’m late,” he murmured to Lily, in a way of half-hearted apology, before brushing past them to sit on the couch. All eyes followed him.

“So...what have you been up to lately?” Frank asked suspiciously.

“Job interviews, mostly,” Remus muttered, his eyes closing and opening as if he was barely awake.

“Hopefully you didn’t go to an interview looking like that?!” Alex asked, coming back to sit down beside Peter. Remus bristled, and everybody glared at Alex.

“Alex!” Heather said sharply.

“What else was I supposed to do? I have no money. I have these clothes on my back, and an apartment with no electricity or water. I’m screwed,” he finished. “So, explain to me what the hell I was supposed to do.”

Alex looked stunned.

“Why did you let it get to this point?” James asked, still a little on edge. “Why didn’t you get a job earlier? Why wait?” After he said this, he felt like an idiot. Regretting his words already, he prepared himself for Remus’ next words.

“Well, if you’ll recall, I’M A WEREWOLF!” he said, breathing hard. “Do you have any idea how hard it is to get a job when you’re a Werewolf? No, you don’t. You were right all along Sirius. I’m just a Werewolf, I could never achieve anything,” at those cutting words, he began to leave.

“Remus!” Sirius called, standing up. “Don’t you understand? We’re your friends, we can help you! I can lend you some...”

“No, I don’t take money from strangers,” Remus said. Sirius clenched his jaw in regret. So now they were strangers? Dumbledore, however, had just shared a nod with everybody else while Remus wasn’t looking. He stood up. They had thought something like this might happen, so they had made a plan...

“Remus, realize that I had no idea that you had no knowledge of The Prophesy,” he said. Remus nodded stiffly, wondering where he was going with this. “I ask you, would you take help from me?”

Remus said nothing, but stared at the ground. He needed to put his pride behind him. He was going to starve, and soon he would have no place to live. Running a hand through his dirty hair, he sank back into a chair, trying not to give in to fatigue. “How can you help me? I don’t want your money.”

“I happen to know of a job opening in the Floo Network Organization Office,” Dumbledore said. Remus snorted.

“Yeah, and they’ll love me. The only little drawback is that I’m a...”

“A perfectly capable young man,” Dumbledore finished for him. “I can persuade them to give you a chance. That is, if you’re willing to give a good hard effort.”

Remus looked as if Christmas had come early. Was he hearing correctly? Trying to find some flaw in this plan, he stood up, thinking. He found none, and so walked over to Dumbledore. He grabbed his hand and shook it. “Thanks, Professor,” he said. Then he turned to everybody else. His manner changed immediately to that of stone cold hurt. “I’m sorry, Sirius. I don’t think I’ll be staying. I’m sure that the party will be better that way. It’s not as if we’re friends or anything,” he said. He gave a final nod to Dumbledore, and then left.

Silence reigned supreme, and everybody looked around anxiously. Heather tried to talk in a cheery voice. “Come on, let’s have some cake.”

After Remus’ departure, things were very quiet, and laughter was at a minimum. Heather tried a few times to raise Sirius’ mood, but after failing miserably many times, she gave up, and suggested half-heartedly that they just move onto the presents. They did so, and Sirius put on a forced smile.

First he opened a present from Peter and Alex, which turned out to be a book on how to grow different sorts of fungus. At first he thought it might be a joke, but when he saw their faces, he knew that they were serious, and gave a very fake ‘thank you’ while giving Heather a sideways glance. He knew James was about to burst out laughing, and probably would have if Lily hadn’t been stomping on his foot. Setting the bizarre present aside, he moved on. Honestly, what did he want with a book like that?!

The next one was from Alice and Frank, and turned out to be a miniature foe-glass. “Picked it up from an Auror shop down in London,” Frank said. Sirius looked at it, and noticed that nobody in the room was untrustworthy...at the moment. Giving them a sincere thank-you, he smiled. It was a pretty neat bit.

Next came Lily and James’ present. It turned out to be a compass, that you could put on your broomstick. Sirius’ face split into a wide grin. He hugged Lily tightly, and slapped James on the back. Next, he moved to a small, bright blue package. He read the card, and saw that it was from Dumbledore. He opened it eagerly, and nearly dropped the thing in his shock. It was a disillusionment ring! He slipped it on, and immediately his body was barely discernable from the background. It was much like an invisibility cloak, except that he wasn’t completely invisible...and it wasn’t a cloak. Smiling, he shook Dumbledore’s hand.

“Thanks a lot, Professor,” he said, smiling warmly. Dumbledore chuckled.

“I suppose I should give up trying to get you to call me Albus,” he said, shaking his head fondly. They all laughed. But then Heather stood up.

“Alright...my turn,” she said to Sirius, who looked up at her curiously. “Follow me,” she said, holding out her hand. He took it, and followed her. She was heading towards the back door. He looked to James for some input, but James merely smiled and beckoned him forward. So, left to wonder, he allowed Heather to drag him outside.

As soon as the door closed behind them, Sirius’ mouth practically dropped to the grass beneath his feet. Standing not five feet away was the most amazing motorcycle he had ever seen. He looked uncertainly at Heather, who smiled at the look on his face. He walked over to it, and laid a hand on the handle. He was speechless.

“Happy Birthday,” she said warmly, glowing in his pleasure. He smiled wickedly, and then ran to her, encompassing her in a huge hug. She laughed as he lifted her off her feet.

“It’s wonderful!” he said truthfully. He looked at it, trying to convince himself this was for real. “Can. I...sit on it?” he said playfully.

“No,” Heather said, jokingly.

“Aw....pleeeease?” he begged. Heather rolled her eyes. As he got on, she handed him the key. He turned it on, and surprisingly, it made very little noise. “It’s so...quiet!” he said.

“Well, I put a charm on it,” she said. “That way, you can fly around and not bother the neighbors,” she said. But Sirius stopped...

“What did you say? Fly?”

“That’s what I said,” she said, grinning even wider. She walked over to the bike, and pointed to a tiny silver button. He pushed it, and the bike lifted a few feet off the ground. His excitement grew. Not only was he riding a motorcycle, but a flying one! It was like a broomstick only way better. He once again pulled Heather to him in a huge hug.

“How on earth did you afford this?!” he whispered, guilt flooding him. Heather saw the guilt, and frowned.

“It was hardly anything,” she lied. “Listen, it’s your birthday! I don’t want you to go feeling guilty! Have fun!”

Sirius gave a sloppy grin. “Can I give you a ride?” he asked, putting loads of charm into his voice.

“Oh, no you don’t,” she said, backing away. “Remember last time?”

“That was on a broom,” he said. “Come on! It’ll be fun!”

“Sirius, I’m afraid of heights!” she insisted, though she was smiling. Sirius put on a pout, giving a most convincing puppy-dog face. She folded her arms in determination. After a few seconds however, she gave in. “Alright...promise you won’t drop me?”

“Heather, I wouldn’t drop you if my life depended on it,” he said softly, and pulled her up into his lap. She closed her eyes, her breathing constricted by her heart being lodged in her throat. He went up a few more feet, and watched her face. She still kept her eyes closed, so he went higher and higher. Until finally the small group of people in the Potter’s backyard were tiny dots.

“Is it almost over?” she squeaked.

“Heather, just open your eyes,” Sirius said laughing. “It’s alright!” Slowly, Heather opened an eye, and then another, until she was looking about in awe.

“This is...amazing!” she said, smiling. Sirius laughed.

“Told you!” he said, and began flying around, testing how fast it could go. The whole time Heather clutched his arms, refusing to look down. She had to admit though...there was a certain freedom about flying around this high up. Swooping and swerving.

After a few more minutes, Sirius finally landed them, and Heather was actually disappointed. “Heather...thanks a lot. That’s the coolest thing ever!” he said excitedly. As everybody filed back inside the house, Sirius pressed a tender kiss on her lips. Heather smiled softly.

“I’m glad you like it,” she muttered. “I just thought...with how much you like flying...” she trailed off, looking into his eyes.

“You two coming?” James said, sticking his head out the door. Sirius sighed and rolled his eyes.

“One of these days...” he said, watching as James gave him a devilish grin. Heather laughed, and the two went inside with the rest. Before long, they were all talking, and laughing like before. But, as the day wore on, Alex had to take her leave. Peter obviously wanted to go with her, but the Marauders, Lily, Heather, and Dumbledore convinced him to stay a little longer. It wasn’t often they got to talk to him without Alex around.

“So...” Peter said, his voice high-pitched. “Heard anything about You-Know-Who, lately?” The room got silent, and everybody looked at him. He shrugged. “Just asking.”

“Why don’t you say his name?” Sirius asked, frowning. Peter shrugged his shoulders once again, and looked at Dumbledore to answer his previous question.

“Well, Peter. I’m afraid not. Snape say’s that he’s not entirely sure what Voldemort is planning on doing. But whatever it is...it’s most certainly not good. He’s just waiting...” he said. “As are we.”

A silence, and then Frank spoke, his tone mocking. “ Well, I don’t think we have to worry. I mean, the thing says we would have to have kids by...” he ticked off months on his fingers, “July!”

“Yeah, so you guys would have to be pregnant like...now!” James said with a laugh. There was a guilty silence as Lily and Alice looked sideways at each other. Dumbledore stared. James and Frank looked at the two girls in horror.

Lily and Alice gave tiny, uncomfortable laughs. “Ummm...surprise!"


Preview for Chapter Thirty~*~Evanesco:“Sirius Black is too noble. He would never spy,” Voldemort said roughly, leaving no room for disagreement. Lucius simply nodded. “Remus Lupin...” he said, trailing off into thought. Then he abruptly said, “no.”

“What about Pettigrew, Lord?” Lucius said. Voldemort nodded slowly, a grin spreading across his face. “Tell me this, Lucius. What does Peter care most about?”

Lucius smiled also. “The DeLaVega’s daughter,” he said. Voldemort looked slightly surprised.

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