Padfoot ran all the way back to Hogsmeade. As he began the steep climb up the side of mountain that led to the cave he'd been using as a hideout, he slowed down, panting heavily. There was a cut in his front paw from the sharp rocks, and he stopped to lick it. Then he thought, fuck it, and transformed back into a human. At least then he wouldn't have to walk on it.
He continued his climb while sucking on his injured finger, tattered robes catching on brambles and branches. When he got there, though, he heard someone talking, a low voice, cajoling and musical. Wary now, he inched his way towards the mouth of the cave and listened. Then he smiled. He stuck his head into the low opening and watched as his visitor tossed a ferret into the air for the hippogriff to catch. As Sirius entered the cave, the loose gravel on the floor scuffed under his shoes. The tall, lanky man turned at the sound, and with a concerned look on his face, but a calm, sure voice said, "Did you find him? Is he back?"
Remus studied Sirius' brooding expression carefully before speaking. "Who's back? Harry? Or Voldemort?"
Sirius blinked furiously and looked away. "Both," he said finally.
After a long silence, Remus whistled through his teeth and said, "Shit." He swallowed thickly and paced the room. Finally he stopped and looked at Sirius. "Harry's okay, I take it."
Sirius shrugged. "Best as could be expected." Then he began to shiver uncontrollably.
Remus held Sirius close and pulled him down to the floor of the cave. They sat together, Remus leaning against the wall and Sirius leaning against Remus. Sirius told him everything that Harry had said. To Remus' credit, he sat silently, staring up at the roof of the cave, waiting for Sirius to finish. Sirius told him everything—how Barty Crouch had rigged the tournament, about Wormtail's newest treachery, what dark magic Voldemort had employed.
Throughout the story, Remus flinched only once, when Sirius told him what Lily had said to Harry. Then, a spasm of pain crossed Remus' face. Afraid of what that look meant, Sirius shied away from it and moved to the subject of Dumbledore's plan.
"—so I'm to go round up the old crowd. Figgy, Dung—" he paused and chuckled softly. "You."
Remus laughed. "Right. How very efficient you are, Padfoot."
"I've also got a cousin I might look in on. Andy's girl. Very odd name. I think she's old enough now, and she was always a good sort for a kid."
"The cute one with the pink hair?" Remus asked. "Good heavens, she's just a baby."
"Time flies, Moony. She was in school just behind that oldest Weasley boy. Bill, is it?"
"Still. She's hardly old enough to be much good for anything."
"If she's anything like Andy, she's a damn fine witch, and she's about the same age we were in the first go-round, you git—oh—" Sirius snapped his fingers with satisfaction. "Nymphadora! That's her name. I knew I'd remember it."
Remus snorted. "Nymphadora? Who in their right mind would name a child Nymphadora?"
"I said she was Andromeda's daughter. No one would mistake Andy for being in her right mind. But I promise you, when you meet her, I bet you'll like her."
Buckbeak squawked, then ruffled his feathers and looked over at them, eyes filled with concern. Remus reached over and tossed him another ferret, which he caught in midair and devoured. All the while, he looked at the two men with mournful eyes.
Remus sighed, and the sound stirred Sirius.
"Moony?" he asked," Do you really trust Snape?"
Without hesitation, Remus nodded. "I don't know what hold Albus has over him, but it's a damn strong one. No telling what Dumbledore has in store for him. I'd guess some sort of double agent business. It'll look dodgy, no doubt, but we'll have to trust him, whatever he does."
Sirius grimaced, "Dumbledore seems to trust him, but I don't like it. He'd as soon kill us all where we stand."
Remus shook his head. "Not Dumbledore he wouldn't. I have a feeling that Severus would do anything Dumbledore told him to do, whether he wanted to or not."
Sirius sat abruptly. "He didn't say what he wanted us to do, but this time, we do it together, right?"
It was a long time before Remus answered. He stood up and paced the floor in front of Buckbeak. His face was so taut Sirius thought he might shatter at the slightest touch. He finally looked over at Sirius and shook his head. "I have a good idea where Albus will send me, Sirius, and, no, you can't go with me."
They looked at each other for moment, and Remus continued. "He's going to send me to Greyback, Padfoot. You know he has no other choice."
"No!" Sirius shouted, leaping to his feet. "No, Remus, I won't let you do that."
Remus smiled at him. "In the first place, Sirius, I will make my own decisions, thank you. In the second place—" Remus looked wistfully at him, 'In the second place, there is no one else he can send to the werewolves. I imagine now another decade and a half has passed, I can convince Greyback that I've had it with wizard-kind and their hatred of me."
He thrust his hands into the pockets of his shabby robes. "It's not as if it's really much of an act, you know." His voice was bitter.
Sirius' voice became desperate. "Remus, please, no. Don't do this," he whispered.
Remus looked over at him and smiled a trifle too broadly. "Let's just wait and see what Dumbledore has planned, shall we?"Sirius looked stubborn and argumentative, but Remus stared at him intently as if trying to send calm, soothing thoughts into his mind.
"Stop it," growled Sirius, looking away. "I hate it when you do that."
Remus reached out with one hand, and Sirius took it. "Sorry. It's not exactly cricket, is it?"
"Cricket? What's that?" Sirius asked.
Remus laughed. "Never mind, Padfoot. Cricket's rather complicated, and you don't have time for an explanation."
Together, they gathered up Sirius' meager belongings and prepared him for his next journey. They decided that Sirius should fly the hippogriff back to London and Remus would meet him there after speaking to Dumbledore. Sirius thought it would be funny if Buckbeak got to stay his in mother's room. They laughed, but it gave Remus an idea.
"Say, Padfoot," he said nonchalantly, "Grimmauld Place would make a corking headquarters for the new Order, wouldn't it?"
Sirius' eyes widened. "That's brilliant, Moony! I can unload the bloody house on Dumbledore, go off on missions for him, and never have to see the buggering place again!"
Remus smiled. He kissed Sirius good-bye and waved as he took off on Buckbeak. When they were no longer in sight, the smile slid from his face. What replaced it was an unreadable mask. He was a better Legilimens than Sirius knew. He knew that there wasn't much Sirius could do for the Order while he was still a wanted man. If Sirius offered the house to Dumbledore, it would be the perfect place to keep him safe. Remus would insist that Dumbledore make Sirius stay at the house and keep the headquarters open. With enough people in and out of the place, maybe Sirius wouldn't have time to get restless or bored. Someone would have to run the place, and Sirius might do something reckless otherwise. He would arrange to come back and stay with Sirius whenever possible. It was up to Remus to keep Sirius safe from himself.
He couldn't bear for anything to happen to Sirius. He had just gotten something back of the life that had been taken from him, and besides, Harry needed him. Remus knew that going back to Greyback was an almost certain death for him. Not right away, but eventually. Remus nodded to himself over his plans, pulled his cloak up over his face, and walked out of their old cave and into what he could salvage of the time they had remaining.