Sirius did not come to walk Remus home from work that night. He was worried until he arrived at home to find an owl perched on the cottage windowsill. Sirius was inside, head bent over a long letter.
"Dumbledore?" Remus asked before he was halfway through the door.
Sirius nodded distractedly, beckoning him to the sofa to read over his shoulder.
Harry is safe. I knew you would want to know that before hearing any other gossip I might have to share. He attended the Quidditch World Cup with the Weasley family, and came within a hair's breadth of seeing the wizard who cast the Dark Mark, but that person's identity is still unfortunately unknown. Interestingly, it seemed to be the appearance of the Dark Mark which panicked the Death Eaters and caused them to disperse even before the Ministry could take the situation in hand.
This incident, while undoubtedly garnering the most public notice, was not the only disturbing occurrence this summer. Bertha Jorkins, whom you will recall from your schooldays, has gone missing in Albania, which you may have heard was the last reported location of what is left of Voldemort. Bertha worked for the Department of Magical Games and Sports, which might seem innocuous enough, but for one thing:
For the first time in centuries, Hogwarts will this year be playing host to the Triwizard Tournament, of which no doubt you will have heard. The plans for the tournament have been kept largely secret. If Voldemort has managed to get hold of this information, I do not venture to guess what use he might make of it, but I think you will both agree that the less he knows of the comings and goings at Hogwarts, the better.
Among these comings and goings will, of course, be the deputations of challengers from Beauxbatons Academy and the Durmstrang Institute, but please do not be alarmed by these arrangements. I have taken precautions, both within the rules of the tournament, and among the Hogwarts faculty, to ensure the safety of all our students. The tournament will have an age limit, so that no underage wizard - not even hotheaded ones who resemble their fathers - may enter, and this year, Alastor Moody has accepted (albeit with some reluctance and a great deal of grumbling) the vacant Defence Against the Dark Arts post. It is my hope that, between the two of us, we will be able to stop any trouble before it starts.
Thank you for sending me swift word of your unwelcome visitors. It is my opinion - as it is probably yours - that they chose the location for the same reasons you did. It sounds like a very pleasant place, where one might escape unwanted attention.
One final thought before I send this letter on its way. It may be nothing, but there was a second disappearance only a few days ago. This one was in England, but as it concerns a Muggle, it will likely not get much attention from the Ministry, I fear. An elderly gardener named Frank Bryce has vanished. As I said, it may be only coincidence, but this same Mr Bryce was once questioned concerning deaths which were almost certainly Voldemort's work.
No doubt, given your caring natures, you will be beside yourselves with worry concerning Harry's well-being. In light of this, I am sending this letter to you by the fastest owl in the Hogwarts Owlery. Please treat Nike to a nice, plump tropical rodent with my compliments upon delivery. I will keep you informed of any further developments.
"I don't like it," Sirius said when they had finished reading. "That much activity going on at Hogwarts - anyone might sneak in, unnoticed."
Remus's smile was lopsided. "Time was, you'd have been so excited at the very idea of the Triwizard Tournament, you wouldn't have been able to think of anything else."
"That time, my dear Moony," Sirius replied, "was before my godson was in the middle of it, with Death Eaters skulking around every corner."
"Speaking of Death Eaters around every corner," Remus said reluctantly, "I don't suppose you remember Igor Karkaroff?"
Sirius's brow furrowed as he glanced up from the letter. "I know the name, but I can't say I ever met him. He was in Azkaban for a bit."
"And now he's headmaster of the Durmstrang Institute."
"Oh, you're taking the piss!" Sirius said in disbelief. "This is beyond bearing! I'm sent to rot in Azkaban, while actual, convicted Death Eaters roam free, have job security, and the opportunity to mold the minds of the young?"
"He'll be part of that deputation to Hogwarts," Remus said thoughtfully.
"First Snivellus, now this!" Sirius declared, burying his face in his hands. "How many former Death Eaters is Dumbledore going to let get chummy with Harry?"
Remus looked over the letter again. "It sounds like he means to keep Harry out of the limelight this year. With the age limit on the tournament, attention will be focussed on the school champions, presumably leaving Dumbledore and Moody to keep an eye on Harry."
Sirius sighed. "I suppose so. But I swear to Godric Gryffindor, Moony, if one more thing happens, I'm heading back there to keep an eye on him myself, life on the run or no." His gray eyes glinted like steel as he looked at Remus. "And not even you can stop me."
"Padfoot -" Remus began.
But Sirius had set his jaw. "Do you remember that day?" he said. "The day we lost everything?"
"Like it was yesterday," Remus said softly.
"It was every day for me." Sirius's voice was bitter. "Every day for twelve bloody years in Azkaban. Every day, I saw their faces. James and Lily - and you, too. All dead. As long as it's within my power to do anything about it, it's never going to be Harry."
"All right," Remus relented. "What are we going to do, then?"
Dear Professor Moody,
I am writing to you in my capacity as former Defence Against the Dark Arts master at Hogwarts, to let you know what material was covered in last year's classes. The students have attained a good grounding in identification of and resistance to Dark creatures, up to about midway through Scamander's standard text on the subject. I feel that their education in Defence has been spotty, at best, due to frequent changes of teacher and curriculum, but I feel confident that a man of your experience cannot help but impart a great deal of useful and practical wisdom.
There is another matter which I know is not precisely in line with your professorial duties, but I feel I must mention all the same. It will ease my mind if you would be so kind as to keep a close watch on Harry Potter. I suspect this is part of the reason Professor Dumbledore has asked you to take the position in the first place. There is no other I would trust more with his safety than yourself and the headmaster.
Professor R. J. Lupin
Thanks for your last letter. That bird was enormous; it could hardly get through my window. Things are the same as usual here. Dudley's diet isn't going too well. My aunt found him smuggling doughnuts into his room yesterday. They told him they'd have to cut his pocket money if he keeps doing it, so he got really angry and chucked his PlayStation out of the window. That's a sort of computer thing you can play games on. Bit stupid really, now he hasn't even got Mega-Mutilation Part Three to take his mind off things.
I'm okay, mainly because the Dursleys are terrified you might turn up and turn them all into bats if I ask you to.
A weird thing happened this morning, though. My scar hurt again. Last time that happened it was because Voldemort was at Hogwarts. But I don't reckon he can be anywhere near me now, can he? Do you know if curse scars sometimes hurt years afterward?
I'll send this with Hedwig when she gets back; she's off hunting at the moment. Say hello to Buckbeak for me.
P.S: If you want to contact me, I'll be at my friend Ron Weasley's for the rest of the summer. His dad's got us tickets for the Quidditch World Cup!
I'm flying north immediately. This news about your scar is the latest in a series of strange rumors that have reached me here. If it hurts again, go straight to Dumbledore - they're saying he's got Mad-Eye out of retirement, which means he's reading the signs, even if no one else is.
I'll be in touch soon. My best to Ron and Hermione. Keep your eyes open, Harry.
Dear Professor Dumbledore,
Due to present circumstances, I have decided to cut my holiday short. I'll be catching the next boat home after the full moon - longer than I'd like to wait, but there's no help for it - which means I'll probably be back in England in about four or five weeks. Owls may find me on the way, but it sounds like there's some bad weather brewing in this part of the world, so you may just want to have them drop any post that's not urgent at my flat for me to collect upon my return.
My traveling companion, whom you may recall, will be taking a quicker way home, and will probably be in touch with you before you hear from me again.
As always, please keep me informed of anything that might affect Harry. Those of us who care for him depend on you.
Bad weather has forced me to change my travel plans, as my transport and I were blown off course by the recent storm. Please do not worry about us. We are safe and will be home hopefully not too far behind schedule, though with more weather brewing, we may have to sit tight where we are a bit longer than I would like.
Missing you tons. My feathered traveling companion is no substitute. Been thinking about you ever since the night we said goodbye. I still have the bruises.
See you soon, I hope.
~ THE END ~