Chapter 2 Note: Written in response to a Thursday Vignette over on Rough Trade to practice my writing. Prompt is December 13th and a picture of a wolf and a moon.
Howl at the Moon
The newspaper headline had Moony snarling in Remus's head.
"SIRIUS BLACK KILLS POTTERS! WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE!"
He tossed the paper into the wastebasket and absently set it on fire. A second absent thought had a stream of water gushing from his wand to put the fire out.
He sank into his chair and rubbed his pounding head. Moony was close. It was almost twilight. The moon would be out within hours and Remus would be lost to the madness of his condition. He wouldn't remember being in Berlin on a mission for Dumbledore. He wouldn't remember losing James and Lily; wouldn't remember that baby Harry was sequestered in the muggle world for safety.
Moony's growl echoed through his head.
Remus was tempted to growl himself. What had Dumbledore been thinking? Harry was magical – very magical. Handing him over to Lily's muggle sister…
Lily had often complained about the divide between her and her sister. Petunia was not magical at all and she had married a very ordinary and muggle man. Lily had loved her sister, there was no doubt of that in Remus's mind, but she had never intended for Harry to be raised by her. That honour had gone to Sirius, Harry's godfather.
Moony growled again; a warning this time at the thought but…bugger that!
Sirius had been the Secret Keeper! Sirius had betrayed the Potters to You-Know-Who! Just as once Sirius had betrayed Remus's confidence and…
Moony snarled inside his head.
Remus stood up. He paced up and down the small room he had rented in Berlin. He wouldn't be able to stay inside during the change, Remus mused. Moony was too antsy and so was Remus. He went to drawer and pulled out a sturdy rope collar on which hung a small box. He looped it over his head with a grimace. The box contained a magical tent, some cash, a basic first aid kit, a set of clothes and his spare apartment key.
He left everything else and left the apartment.
There were plenty of apparation points in the magical centre of Berlin including one into the tourist areas of the Bavarian countryside. Remus ignored the small group of milling tourists and apparated further into the forest; his destination was a clearing he had found months before. It was miles from anywhere. It had been a good three days hike from the apparation point and Remus had only found traces of other wildlife; nothing magical.
He set up the tent and sat in the centre of the clearing, waiting. He let his grief fill him up; tears falling silently down his scarred cheeks.
Remus couldn't believe James was gone. James with his quiet but charismatic leadership; his funny wit; his caring nature. James with all his nobility and honour; his courage and his grace. Remus had lost a true brother in magic.
He mourned him; grieved for him. He accepted his own anger at not being in England; not being there to help protect his brother.
Once their red-haired nemesis at Hogwarts, after she and James had started to court each other…she had become the fifth Marauder. She was so smart; brilliant. Her tongue was sharp and her wand was quick. But she was loving and joyous. She had accepted Remus's furry problem without fear or pity. She had placed her cub in his arms.
He would miss her warmth in his life; the world already felt colder without her.
Harry would never know her maternal embrace again and that seemed like the worst of the tragedy.
Remus shivered as he thought of Harry. His heart ached for the little boy. He loved the bright bubbly bundle of mischief. There was nothing better than walking into the Potters' cottage and being greeted by cries for Uncle Mooey.
Moony howled inside his head; mournful and devastated.
He would never have that perfect moment again.
Anger stirred within Remus.
Why had Sirius done it? What had happened to twist him? What could You-Know-Who possibly have offered to turn Sirius against James? Sirius loved James. The two had a connection not even the Marauders collectively enjoyed. It seemed completely wrong for Sirius to betray James, let alone Harry who he adored.
The moon shone down into the clearing.
Moony snarled inside Remus's head.
Pain flooded him as the change erupted. Skin bulged and tore as his bones and flesh reshaped themselves; as his mind was one moment his own and the next, Moony's.
Between one blink and another Remus found himself in a magical headspace. The background was still the clearing but the trees and grass were a weird blue tone. In front of him on the other side of the clearing was a large timber wolf.
As a child he'd often spend his moons with Moony in their magical headspace, but as he'd grown older he'd eschewed the pull of his mind and retreated instead into darkness when Moony was in control.
Moony stared back at him with intent amber eyes. "You are being stupid."
The words whispered across the mental space although Moony didn't speak.
Remus bristled. "Excuse me?"
"You blame Padfoot for the deaths of our packmates," Moony continued, "you are wrong."
"He betrayed them!" Remus spluttered angrily.
"He would never!" Moony snarled back.
"He already did!" Remus shouted. "He betrayed us to Snape!"
Moony growled. "Padfoot was taunted into giving away the secret of the tree and while that was foolish it was not malicious. He did not believe Snape stupid enough to face down a werewolf nor dangerous enough to dream up a scheme to have Sirius expelled at best and us all dead at worst."
"What?" Remus stuttered.
Moony looked at him unimpressed. "The only reason Snape followed Sirius's instruction was to entrap us into attacking him. Perhaps he mistakenly believed the danger amounted to nothing more than you wearing a werewolf form. Maybe he even dreamed he would kill you in presumed self-defence."
"And if he had, Sirius would have been blamed just as I blamed him anyway," Remus surmised out loud.
Sirius could have been arrested for knowingly endangering Snape's life; he might have been tried for attempted murder. Moony was right; Snape had probably intended a different outcome than coming face to face with the dangerous reality of a werewolf.
"Even if that wasn't all on Sirius," Remus said, and he shoved away the curl of guilt at how he had always blamed Sirius and only Sirius for the incident, "this is: he was the Secret Keeper."
"Was he?" Moony questioned. "What scent was on the slip of parchment you received from him?"
Remus's nose wrinkled as he flashed back to Sirius handing him the parchment during a brief visit back to England only a few short days before. The parchment had had traces of Sirius's scent; the cologne he always wore and wet dog. But there had been something else, something which was in the paper itself…rat. There had been a smell of a rat.
Remus thought back to the recent deaths; the way the Death Eaters had known where to find the McKinnons and the Prewett twins. There had been suspicion the Order had a spy. But Peter hadn't been present when the McKinnons had shared their hiding place; when the twins had been given a secret mission by Dumbledore. Remus had. Sirius had. James had been present. But not Peter.
"Wasn't he?" whispered Moony.
Remus thought back hard. He remembered the Order headquarters in the old Figg farm. They had all been gathered in the barn; smells of hay and wood and manure; sounds of discussion and the birds outside and the scuttling tiny feet of mice and…and rats.
The spy was Peter.
But then, even if Peter had seen the paper Sirius had given Remus, he wouldn't have been able to inform You-Know-Who. The Fidelius restricted the ability to tell the secret to the Secret Keeper and…
Wormtail was the Secret Keeper.
That's why his scent was on the paper. He had written it. Remus could identify clearly now how much the block writing looked like Peter's and less like Sirius's.
James and Sirius must have conspired to switch Sirius for Peter. Sirius had made himself a target so Peter would be safe, because everyone thought Sirius was the Secret Keeper.
It had been Peter who had betrayed the Potters. Peter who had led You-Know-Who to them.
Moony twitched an ear in satisfaction.
"Why have you never told me before?" demanded Remus.
"You have never allowed your emotional control to slip enough for me to bring you here as I did when you were a child," Moony replied. "Not until tonight when your grief overtook you."
Remus accepted that. He hated losing control. But maybe he'd been stupid to ignore the pull to their magical space where he could converse with Moony.
At least he knew now it was Peter.
"Why?" asked Remus. "Why would he betray us?!"
"Safety and survival," Moony said, "a rat leaves what they believe to be a sinking ship. He cannot help his nature."
"Nobody knows do they," Remus said, "they all think Sirius did it! Damn it! We need to transform back!"
"The moon is high still," Moony said. But there was apology in the tone.
"After then," Remus stated with determination. They would return and they would force Dumbledore and the Ministry to listen. They would find Sirius and bring their brother home safely.
Sirius had to be heartbroken and hurting. Sirius really had loved James beyond all reason. Sometimes Remus had wondered if James hadn't been stuck on Lily if…but then Sirius had loved Lily too. He'd been absolutely gone on Harry; a devoted godfather.
Remus would be there for him.
"Run with me," whispered Moony.
Remus let himself shift; let himself be a passenger to Moony's control.
He felt the wind rush through their fur, the ground beneath their feet as they ran and ran. Running out their grief and anger; their pain and hurt for the loss of their packmates. And when they stopped, they lifted their head and howled to the moon.
Remus hurried into the apartment and set the rope and box to one side. He'd ended up staying in the tent a day recovering from the violence of his transformation but he felt content inside. Moony and he were both agreed; they were dumping the useless mission Dumbledore had sent them on – and was it even still a mission given the defeat of You-Know-Who? – and going back to England to save Sirius.
An owl hooted at him from the window and waved the newspaper at him.
Remus hurried over and took it from the owl, rewarding the bird with a treat. It took off immediately and Remus unfurled the paper hoping for news of Harry or Sirius…
"SIRIUS BLACK EXONERATED! MAGICAL TRUNK LEFT BY POTTERS REVEAL THEIR TRUE TRAITOR!"
"SIRIUS BLACK APPOINTED GUARDIAN OF THE BOY-WHO-LIVED!"
"PETTIGREW WANTED! DEAD OR ALIVE!"
He read the news headlines again.
And in his head, Moony gave a long-suffering sigh.
A/N: If I do write more vignettes, I will just add to the original fic as additional chapters. I'm also keeping the status to complete as whether I add more or not is up to the muse and as of right now it is complete.