Seeing Hagrid stumble across the grounds, handkerchief wiping ineffectually at his tears, Remus felt a pang of grief. He knew too well what losing friends was like....
Remus' entire generation had been virtually destroyed by Voldemort: James and Peter dead; Sirius a prisoner, unrecognizable— no one left to hold any position of authority. There was only Dumbledore, and since even he could not simultaneously be Headmaster of Hogwarts and Minister of Magic, that left the bumbling Fudge and a crew of aging lackeys to decide all of their lives.
They used to talk incessantly, James and Sirius, about how they'd change the world when they grew up. It seemed so reasonable—they were the smartest students in school, the bravest, the most powerful. "No Slytherins in my cabinet," James would say. "Abolish dementors," Sirius would answer.
Remus, bitter and cynical already at twelve, would peer at them over his book and smirk. "You, Sirius, Minister of Magic? More like high security in Azkaban!"
Why had he ever said such things? Sirius had been his closest, only real friend. James, and certainly Peter had always looked at Remus a bit askance, as if they were afraid (all too literally) that he'd bite them. Sirius never. Perhaps it was because Sirius made him so comfortable that he could tease him like that. And their bond encompassed two species. They wrestled as dogs the same way they bantered as humans: a bit too roughly, sometimes— Remus could still remember the feel of Sirius' teeth in the fur of his neck.
But Sirius was a traitor, he reminded himself, leaving the window and sitting down at his desk to try to figure out what to do. The Snapes and the Malfoys now ran things: and so an innocent animal would be put to death tonight. That was bad enough; even worse, Remus suspected that Harry and his friends would be roaming the grounds alone, using the Invisibility Cloak that would not protect them from Sirius and the tricks he'd learned from Voldemort.
And it was the full moon.
He groaned, knowing that his former friend would choose that time on purpose. The summer moon rose quickly after sunset, so he had very little time after the scheduled execution to watch out for Harry.
There was the Marauder's Map, of course. He could sit here in his office and watch it, and if he had to—well, alert Dumbledore, at least. And he could beat Sirius in a dogfight, if it came to that (he smiled, remembering Sirius' dismay that he was smaller than Remus transformed, the latter easily twice the size of a Canadian timber wolf and with teeth and claws to match).
He'd better activate the map while he still could. He and Sirius (why did he keep thinking of him like this?) had always joked about making the Map bark-activated, but they'd never actually done it. Sighing, he said (wishing it were true), "I solemnly swear that I am up to no good," and sat down to watch.
He winced as he saw Harry, Ron, and Hermione head towards Hagrid's cabin, just as he'd suspected. When they left soon thereafter he could barely look, knowing it meant Buckbeak had probably been killed, but fearing the businesslike gaze of a legal executioner much more than any demons or dementors the Dark Arts could conjure.
Was that why he hadn't he helped them with Buckbeak's defense? Was he so afraid of being considered a Dangerous Creature himself? He should have done something— someone should have testified for Hagrid— He felt sympathy for the gamekeeper's reluctance to ask the headmaster for help, having been in that position himself way too many times.
The sunlight in the west window was dying. It was time to lie down and wait for the moon to rise. Too late, he remembered he hadn't taken Snape's potion tonight. Would six doses out of seven be enough to keep him sane?
As it turned out, it was—or nearly. He got up from the couch as soon as he could stand, feeling slightly irritable but fully in control. His thoughts were simpler now: no turmoil, very little guilt. There was one concept that remained uppermost in his canine mind: loyalty. Sirius had been disloyal, and Harry as the alpha cub must be protected.
The Map worked well through dogs' eyes—he sat on the floor, three or four feet from the desk, and watched for motion rather than words. He could read while transformed, but not quickly, and subtleties of grammar often escaped him. When he saw a trio engaged in what was obviously a struggle, it took him a minute to decipher the names.
What he saw made him leap to his feet with a startled bark. Peter was alive! Peter— Peter? It was too much to comprehend, especially for an animal. Had he misread the map? No— there he was still— He stopped just inches from the door, uncertainty filling his mind.
Then he remembered the potion he'd bought in Romania more than ten years ago. It was supposed to make him human on the night of the full moon, but only for emergencies because—because what? He couldn't remember. As a wolf his memories were almost all of smell; images he could recall if he tried; but human voices, never. It didn't matter: he knew where the potion was, down in the cellar where it wouldn't be destroyed by heat and light.
He placed the Map carefully on his desk, unable to inactivate it, and made for the door again. If the potion didn't work, he'd find Dumbledore.
The wolf slunk through the corridors, seeing no one but George Weasley—who just grinned and said, "Hey, a bloodthirsty monster--can I pet you?"—and made his way to
the dungeons just as Snape was emerging. Fortunately the Potions master didn't see him, just walked by carrying a goblet; no doubt it was the Wolfsbane, old Snape was slow tonight.
He found the Romanian vial quickly. Designed to be used by a werewolf, it had a lid that fit his teeth perfectly, and a shallow bowl like a dog dish. Quickly, without thinking, he lapped it up and waited.
If only the kids were still OK. No time to get Dumbledore—
He stood up and reached his paws for the doorknob—only to realize that they were now hands. He had changed sudddenly and imperceptibly back into human form. Had he not been panicked, he would have laughed: was this how Animagi felt? It was so different from what he was used to!
It wasn't perfect, though: his feet still had claws, and—yes—he still had his tail! It didn't matter, no one could see, as long as he could—he cleared his throat. "Where is he, Sirius?" he practiced.
OK. He could speak. Still trying to remember what it is the potion's brewer had warned him about, he ran up out of the dungeons, out of the castle, and towards the Whomping Willow. Clouds obscured the moon completely.
Remus awoke the next morning in the forest, soaking wet and without his wand. At least he no longer had a tail. He recalled the events of last night, but vaguely—fear gripped him as he remembered Peter as Scabbers, running off into the forest. And poor Padfoot, holding his moonstruck friend back, as he had always done, while Remus tried to bite him.
One word repeated itself in his head as he sprinted for the castle: Sirius. Sirius. Without Peter, how could Sirius be exonerated? Had the dementors--? no, it couldn't be, not when they'd come so close to saving him—
The staff were all at breakfast. As he burst into the room, wet and wild-eyed and shouting, the Slytherins screamed. Snape smirked.
Remus didn't care. "Albus," he panted, "tell me—Sirius—where?"
"I'm afraid," he began, as Remus' heart pounded against his ribs, "—that he's escaped again." And he smiled. "Come, sit down, have some breakfast, we'll talk afterwards."
"I'm not hungry," Remus groaned, making the Slytherins shriek again.
"Then go dry yourself off, we'll talk in my office in fifteen minutes."
He didn't dry himself off. He sat miserably in Dumbledore's office under the disapproving yellow eye of Fawkes, counting the seconds.
He wouldn't say anything to defend his own actions. When Albus learned about the Animagus transformations he would be properly appalled—and the fault was Remus', entirely. The others had broken the rules by running around Hogsmeade, but none of them had been bloodthirsty monsters.
In addition Dumbledore would know exactly where Remus' loyalties lay. If Remus had come to the headmaster with the map last night, none of the students would have been endangered. Clearly he was irresposible, demonstrating he cared more for his old friend than for the safety of the students in his care.
It turned out the headmaster already knew everything. Knew and believed the truth, but couldn't do a thing to help— and now, since Snape had spied on them, how much had he heard? Did he know - did the whole world now know that Sirius was a big black dog? How would he stay hidden? Would Sirius have come this far just to be recaptured?
Remus shivered in his wet robes when Dumbledore told him about the dementors pouring onto the grounds, and leapt up and yelled in protest as Dumbledore told him that they had tried to perform the Kiss on Harry.
"My Lord!" Remus cried. "And what would their punishment be for this? None! How do you punish a creature that has no soul?"
Once more, entirely his fault. He gave the headmaster his resignation on the spot, unable to face the thought of Harry being worse than murdered because he, Remus, had screwed everything up. Again.
Dumbledore protested his resignation, but couldn't stop him from leaving. Remus stumbled out of the office, still horrorstricken. Even this morning he'd thought that the worst that could have happened to Harry was to be bitten by a werewolf—a fate he wouldn't wish that even on Snape, but a blessing from heaven compared to receiving a Dementors kiss, and existing, being forced to live, without a soul.
But underneath the guilt and despair and shame, Remus rejoiced just a little. Sirius was free. Harry's Patronus had worked. He was going to be as great as James.
As Remus packed his things in his office, the sight of the old books jogged his memory and he remembered the shop in Romania where he'd bought the potion.... he had been wandering around wizarding Europe in a daze, trying to forget. Lily and James, Peter and Sirius were all gone. He made enough money to live on by banishing petty demons from houses and yards; so funny to see vampires and banshees afraid of goblins and kobolds...
The shopkeeper was a vampire, and knew immediately what Remus was and enjoyed needling him about it.
"Some say," he croaked, in the dry voice of one undead for five hundred years, "that you turn into us when you die."
"Th-that's a myth," Remus managed. "In Dark Arts Then and Now, there's a whole chapter--" his voice failed. Who was he to correct someone half a millennium old?
The vampire thought for a long moment. "You're right," he said at last. "Unless, of course, you get bitten."
Remus took a step backward.
The vampire laughed: a horrible noise. "Here," he said. "I'm sure I've got something you'd want."
After an hour of looking at things he knew about, like wolfsbane, and things that made him sick, like human-flavored dog biscuits, they'd come to this potion.
"As long as you stay out of direct moonlight," the vampire warned. "If it's a cloudy night, or if you are indoors—you'll stay human. But if you stand in the light of the full moon, you'll become twice as strong and twice as vicious as before."
Too late now, of course. Remus moaned and sat down at the desk. He was extremely lucky, he realized. Six dosages of Severus' modern potion had had some effect --if he had become twice as vicious and twice as strong, broken away and savaged Harry or any of his friends--he shuddered.
There wasn't much left to pack. It really didn't pay to be disorganized when you were a werewolf. Only the Marauder's Map remained on the desk, still activated from last night—glancing at it, Remus saw Harry heading in his direction. His spirits lifted. Sirius was free. Harry was unharmed. And they could change the world.
He looked up at the young wizard with a smile. "I saw you coming," he said.
Revised 11/9/00 at the urgings of beta-reader SHENMagic (thanks! I'd almost forgotten this story). What are your theories? Surely not everything is the result of that leathery screeching Plot Device Demon.
Disclaimer: JKR owns the Harry Potter universe, and probably not even she worries as much about little inconsistencies as I do....