Chapter Seventeen: Resolution
Disclaimer: these wonderful characters belong to JK: I just borrowed them for a bit.
Opening bleary eyes, he rolled over in the bed, stared up at the high ceiling and recognised his bedroom at Grimmauld Place. He ran his tongue gingerly round his mouth. Judging by the size of his canines, he was no longer wolf.
He looked down at his undeniably human form, clad in a pair of purple and green pyjamas he knew he did not possess, and then over at the chair by the foot of the bed: a dishevelled Sirius was slumped in it, dozing.
On the bedside table to his left, sat a large bar of Honeyduke's Finest Chocolate and a glass of water. Hunger and thirst demanded satisfaction. He made to sit up and let out an involuntary groan: his side and shoulder ached abominably.
The noise was enough to wake Sirius who grinned.
"Help me with these, would you, Padfoot?" he asked hoarsely, trying ineffectually to plump up his pillows as support.
"Let me," Sirius said. "You're supposed to lie still and get better."
"Bet you behaved for Madam Pomfrey," he added as he reached behind him and pulled the pillows upright.
"Didn't dare not," Remus replied, reaching for the glass and draining it in one go. He picked up the chocolate, unwrapped it and crammed a large piece into his mouth. It tasted sublime. Closing his eyes, he laid back against the pillows letting it melt against his teeth. He could feel the chocolate working its magic, its comforting influence warming his body.
He opened his eyes again to see Sirius, perched on the edge of his bed, watching him.
"Better," he nodded. He frowned. "Er, Padfoot…the pyjamas?"
"Yours are in the wash." Sirius didn't mention that they were soaked with blood. "These are Arthur's."
Remus looked alarmed.
"No, no," Sirius said reassuringly. He waited a beat and then said "It was Tonks."
"She said to say that. She's right, it was funny." He sighed. "It's alright. I put you to bed."
Relief flooded Remus's face and he missed the way Sirius's expression suddenly tightened.
2am. Kingsley standing in the hall with a covered stretcher.
"He's alive," Kingsley said quickly and he noticed at once that he did not say Remus was OK.
Remus's bedroom. Pulling the covers back. Standing there, softly cursing.
"We stopped the blood."
"We closed up the wounds."
"And werewolves heal very quickly."
"How bad was it?"
"As bad as you could imagine."
"When he wakes up, he's going to ask about a boy called Thomas. Tell him he's unharmed and back with his family."
"Peabody and Christie gave him a little incentive to get in the cage."
Sitting, watching, listening to the shallow breathing. Witnessing the change back for the first time in many a year. Seeing wounds reopen. Cleaning and closing the injuries; dressing him; putting him to bed; wounds opening again; repeating the process.
And then he had waited.
Remus shifted uncomfortably in the bed, trying to ease the ache in his bones.
"How long?" he asked.
"Two days," Sirius said shortly.
Remus's eyes widened. It had been two days since the full moon? Since the cage and the werewolf and-
"Thomas!" he cried, sitting up despite Sirius's exasperated expression and the protests of his healing body.
"He's safe," Sirius reassured him. "Kingsley said he's back home and he's perfectly safe."
Remus fell back against the pillows, digesting the welcome news.
"What have I missed?"
"Not much. Fred and George have had a stock of Extendable Ears confiscated. It has now been four weeks since I've set foot outside this hellhole. As for big news – well, that'd be you. Though we've kept it from the kids: they just think it was a rough full moon for you. Which isn't really a lie, is it?"
He leaned forward.
"Before anything else, Moony, tell me what happened. I've been waiting at your bedside for two days and I only know bits and pieces. My imagination's been working overtime. Let's have the story in order."
Remus opened his mouth and closed it again. He guessed he owed Sirius that much.
He started with the medical exam which seemed a lifetime ago; how Meredith had tried to protect him; how he had realised no one was going to be able to help him; how he had determined to go through with it.
"I think I like the sound of Meredith," Sirius said approvingly.
"She's a very special person," Remus nodded. "She helped me find some courage that night."
There was a soft knock on the door.
"Come in," Sirius and Remus said in unison and Kingsley appeared.
"You're awake," he smiled, pulling a chair up to the other side of the bed.
"Remus is just filling in a few details," Sirius said, flashing a look at Kingsley that dared him to interrupt.
Something stirred at the back of Remus's mind but he glanced at Sirius's impatient face and moved on to Christie and the cage and the discovery of Thomas Draper.
"I can't believe they used that boy," Kingsley commented and then broke off as Remus unexpectedly lunged at him. Sirius was quickest to react, wrapping his arms round Remus and holding him back.
"How could you!" Remus was nearly incoherent with anger. "You stood by! You heard what they said!"
Kingsley looked at him in complete bewilderment.
"Moony, calm down!" Sirius barked. "What are you talking about?"
"He- he-" Remus shook himself and the tension started to leave his body. Sirius relaxed his grip.
"Peabody and Christie," Remus spat. "They made me think that they'd altered my Wolfsbane potion. That I was going to transform and wake up afterwards to find I was a murderer or as good as. Wherever you were, however you were listening, didn't you hear them say that?"
"Of course." Kingsley's bemused expression did not alter.
Sirius looked horrified.
"Then why didn't you do something!" Remus asked fiercely.
"I'm interested in the answer to this one," Sirius said with soft menace.
"But…" Kingsley looked from Remus to Sirius and back again. "You knew you were safe. I mean we did consider the fact that Peabody and Christie might do something to your potion to change it – although I have to say I didn't think they would negate its effect; my thoughts were more along the lines of adding something to it to make your memories hazy…so that whatever they did to you, you'd forget the worst of it and the following month, you'd let them do it to you again."
"Kingsley…" The name was spoken by Sirius with quiet threat.
"So just in case we intercepted your potion from the Ministry. We organised a proper batch to be delivered to you. But you knew," he insisted.
It was Remus's turn to look blank.
"What makes you think I knew?" he frowned.
"He brewed it for you," Kingsley explained earnestly. "He said he'd tell you all about it."
Remus and Sirius looked at each other.
"Who did?" Remus asked, knowing and not wanting to hear the answer.
"Severus, of course."
There was a silence. Remus glanced up at Sirius and saw the mixture of disbelief and rage fill his eyes.
"Padfoot," he said warningly, laying a hand on his friend's arm.
"Of all the-" Sirius choked on his anger.
"Sirius!" Remus tightened his grip and made his friend look at him. "It's alright. It's over now."
"I don't understand why Severus didn't tell you," Kingsley said, frowning.
"I'll tell you why-"
"It must have slipped his mind," Remus interrupted, staring at Sirius.
"But you had to transform…" Sirius said, staring back at him equally intensely, "and you didn't know…"
"No," said Remus evenly, watching him. "I didn't."
Sirius's mouth set in a hard line. It would wait.
"Alright. They locked you in a cage with this boy. They made you think that you were going to turn into a mindless beast and murder a child. What happened next?"
Remus said nothing for a moment then reached over and broke off a small piece of chocolate and ate it. He looked at Kingsley.
"Who was he?" he asked.
"Richard Walters. Skinny, red-headed nineteen-year-old."
"I changed. Then they introduced me to Richard Walters who had actually had the misfortune to transform into a mindless beast and who was driven by instinct to attack Thomas. We fought. I came off worst. Then I woke up here."
Sirius stared, open-mouthed. He was busy reading between the lines: Remus's utter desperation; the brutality of an attack that had left his body so damaged; the fact that Peabody and Christie had orchestrated this and stood looking on while his friend fought for his life and that of Thomas Draper.
"Why didn't you stop the fight?" he demanded angrily of Kingsley.
"You have to understand that Internal Affairs wanted to make the best case possible against Peabody and Christie," Kingsley explained. "They would only step in when life was threatened."
"You mean when Remus was about to die."
"No. Kingsley means when Thomas was about to die."
"Remus-" Kingsley started apologetically.
"It's fine, Kingsley. I know how the Ministry works. Just tell me what I don't know."
"After Richard launched his final attack and Thomas was left undefended, we went in. We Stunned Richard and we moved Thomas out of harm's way although Peabody was adamant later that he had placed wards on the boy to protect him from a transformed werewolf. One of the team recognised Thomas from his mother's report earlier in the day so we were able to take him back home."
"What did you tell Elinor Draper?" Remus was curious.
"That we'd found him curled up, asleep." Kingsley shrugged. "It was true."
"How was Richard?" Remus dropped his gaze. "Did I- did I hurt him at all?"
"We took Richard away and kept him unconscious for the night. Then we let him wake up in a bed with very hazy memories. When we interviewed him we found that Peabody and Christie had pulled a similar trick with the medical exam and kept him at the Ministry to transform. When we checked, it seems he was...encouraged to go into the tunnel by virtue of the fact that it had been heavily impregnated with the smell of prey."
"That would be human prey," Sirius glared at Kingsley, angry even if Remus wasn't that the Ministry had been happy to let the fight start.
"Richard didn't remember the fight. And the worst you seemed to have inflicted, Remus, was badly bruised ribs. His injuries vanished almost immediately."
"What about Christie and Peasbody?" This from Sirius. "Tell me you've dealt with them."
"They're suspended pending further investigation," Kingsley said. "It's in the hands of Internal Affairs but they'll probably go to trial and then I hope on to Azkaban."
"Azkaban's too good for them," Sirius muttered darkly. "Take it from one who's been there."
"You won't have to testify," Kingsley said to Remus. "The Ministry has enough to act."
He stood up.
"I've got to get back to the Ministry."
"Thank you, Kingsley, for everything," Remus said sincerely.
The Auror flashed him a grin and left.
The second the door had shut behind him, Sirius said one word:
"Leave it, Padfoot."
"Don't let him off the hook, Moony, he knew exactly what he was doing not telling you about switching the potion!"
"Sirius, I grant you that Snape can be petty, spiteful, vicious – all the things that we disliked about him at Hogwarts. But even if he did do this deliberately – and there's nothing to say that he did - I'm not going to challenge him on this."
"Because of him, you went through one of the worst moments of your life."
"Yes. And because of him, I drank true Wolfsbane potion. Not just last full moon but all my time at Hogwarts. He didn't have to brew it, Sirius. But he did."
"It doesn't mean you owe him anything!"
"I owed him my mind every time I changed. For that, I can put up with a lot of pettiness and snide remarks and yes, I can ignore this lack of communication." He fixed his gaze directly on Sirius. "More importantly, we've just got the Order back together. We cannot afford to fight internally. We need to focus on the real enemy." He paused for a moment, considering and then said firmly "You are not to say anything about this to him, Sirius. Promise me."
Sirius was silent.
"I promise," he said finally. "I'll solemnly swear. But privately I will continue to think he is a slimy git and hope that one day he will get his comeuppance."
Remus's lips twitched.
"I suppose that's about as good as I'm going to get."
Satisfied, he leant back and closed his eyes, frowning as the dull pain washed over him.
"I thought we'd lost you."
Remus opened his eyes again. Sirius had stood up and was looking out of the window. The words had been little more than whisper.
"I thought I'd lost you," he clarified, still studying the view.
"Let me finish. When Kingsley brought you back and you were in such a mess, I thought this is it. This is when my best and oldest friend dies. And I just have to watch and there's nothing I can do."
He turned back to Remus.
"You have no idea how wretched that feels."
They looked at each other in silence for a moment. Then Remus said:
"I thanked Kingsley but I didn't thank you, Padfoot. If you hadn't been…well, if you hadn't been you, there wouldn't have been any Internal Affairs investigation or rescue party. I probably wouldn't have survived the other night."
"Don't you put me through that again. Or I'm heading back to Azkaban."
Remus chuckled and then looked up at the ceiling and sighed.
"You don't know how lonely you are until…"
He looked over at Sirius.
"It's good to have you back. I don't want you disappearing either."
"The last two Marauders. We owe it to each other and posterity to make sure we survive."
"If only to catalogue all the mischief managed."
Remus suddenly let out a huge yawn.
"Sleep, Moony. Best thing for you. When you wake up, I'll get you a bowl of Molly's best broth."
"'Long as you don't cook it," Remus said sleepily, snuggling down. "What about you?"
Sirius settled down in the chair at the bottom of the bed.
"I'll be right here," he said softly but Remus was already asleep.
He was waiting for her as she came off shift.
"RJ!" she shrieked and threw her arms round him in delight.
"Hello, Meredith," he smiled and pushed the small bunch of freesias into her hand.
"I'm so glad you're OK," she beamed. "Oh, I tried so hard to find out if you were alright. I didn't want to go home that night at all and I didn't sleep a wink. And that's not because of my husband's snoring. The next day I was pestering and pestering the Ministry to make sure you were safe and well. All they'd tell me is that you were no longer on the premises."
"I wanted to thank you, Meredith, for everything you did and everything you tried to do."
"RJ, it was nothing. I just don't like to see anyone being picked on. Especially when they can't very well fight back. What happened that night?"
"I changed," Remus said evenly. "The next morning I changed back."
Meredith looked at him searchingly but he kept his expression blank, She nodded to herself.
"OK, RJ, you don't have to tell me. I'm just pleased you're safe."
"Am I allowed to buy you a cup of tea? Or is that some sort of Ministry patient/healer conflict of interest?"
Meredith grinned and linked her arm through his.
"Even if it is, I don't care. Lead on, RJ."
"Thank you for coming to see me. A friend of mine at the Ministry told me about your case."
Christie shuffled a little in his seat and said nothing. The elegant surroundings seemed to intimidate him.
"I'm sure your time is very precious," Peabody said, leaning forward. "How can we help?"
His reward for his directness was an appreciative smile.
"Did you bring some examples of your work with you?"
Christie handed over a handful of files for inspection. The notes were made in his neat handwriting.
Milligan, PR – Third session - Subject transformed. Circle of fire set as transformation took place. Displays panic. Subject remained within circle for seven minutes before attempting to leap clear. Subject suffered 10 burns to legs and flanks. NB explore relationship between concentration of Wolfsbane potion and time spent in the circle…
Gardner, SK – Second session - Subject transformed. Control substituted for Wolfsbane potion. Displays aggression. Size of cage reduced by half. Self-mutilation ensued. NB explore relationship between size of surroundings and potential for self-harm…
Lupin, RJ – First session – Subject transformed. Displays composure and self-control. NB explore relationship between self-control and provocation to fight…
The last file was lingered over.
"Your…research…is very thorough."
"Thank you," Peabody inclined his head to acknowledge the compliment. "Our aim has always been to build a body of work that would be seen as authoritative on the traits and limits of werewolves."
"You have more files?"
"Many more. My colleague, Mr Christie, made duplicates of every record and every piece of information held on the Ministry database. Our colleagues in Internal Affairs have yet to discover this."
There was a short pause.
"I think your efforts will meet with a great deal of interest from some of my acquaintances."
Peabody looked over at Christie and then said baldly:
"And in exchange?"
"I have some small influence at the Ministry. It is possible that I can exert this to have the charges against you reduced…maybe even dropped. It is possible too that I might be able to make some introductions so that your work could continue."
Peabody smiled for the first time.
"In which case, my lord, we would be happy to work with you."
Lucius returned the smile.
"Let me see what I can do."
A/N: I started this story in 2003 before my son was even thought of. I am so happy to have finally finished it!
I wanted to thank everyone who has been kind enough to leave me reviews. You have been so encouraging. It really helped me work through the writer's block I had suffered (for about 3 years!) around chapter 9 when the Order is reformed. Because the story is primarily Remus and Sirius and their friendship, I was very torn once other members of the Order appeared and the Weasleys moved in. I wanted to write other little scenes but I knew they would dilute my primary focus. I ended up writing the scenes into another story!
Speaking of which and in a shameless act of self-promotion, if you have enjoyed "Catching Up", you may like to read my other HP stories. Unsurprisingly, they feature Remus and Sirius because they are my favourite characters and I like to write them.
In chronological order, they are:
"Truth and Consequences" – the story of the Prank and Snape's revenge. My first ever piece of HP fan fic.
"Black Tie" – pure fluff! Post-Hogwarts, the Marauders at an Evans family party.
"…Longest" – a short, bleak little piece about Peter's betrayal.
"Splinters" – a one-shot between Sirius and Remus set after the Pensieve scene in OotP.
"A Very Private Mourning" – Remus after Sirius's death.
"Understanding Remus" – Remus, his memories and the start of his relationship with Tonks.
Thank you for reading.