Author's Note: I'm so grateful for the happy responses readers have had to my return! I unfortunately don't have much time to update because of my insanely hectic life but rest assured that I will update as often as is humanely possible.
Chapter Sixteen: A Beginning
He hasn't slept for weeks. His tongue parched; his eyelids heavy.
Remus knows that this is all just a part of the short straw that fate drew for him, but every now and then, the anger, the resentment, and the injustice of the whole damn thing catches up with him.
He sits in the crumbling courtyard of his rented apartment in downtown muggle London. The red brown bricks that surround him are chipped and broken, tumbling from great heights to form small piles of dust at his feet.
The days and months pass idly around him as he sips from fractured china, inhales half-lit cigars.
His adventures with the Order have become infrequent, the secret of his wolfish ways has passed through supposedly sealed lips. It's reckless and dangerous now to be seen to be acting on their behalf – the rest of his species would never side with big-hearted fun-loving Dumbledore.
His lips tremble back in a snarl; his vocal chords admit an innate growl.
He sits in his courtyard.
All day. All night. All day.
Entertaining old friends when the chance arises: Firewhisky with Sirius, brave conversations with James, and resigned sighs with Peter.
But the times spent alone have left shadows beneath his golden eyes; have pulled the corners of his lips into a frown.
This is it. Today is the day. If it's not today than tomorrow will mean nothing.
Tired of watching the paint peeling on bricks Remus forces himself from his whitewashed chair, wand in hand he heads back to where it all began.
Back to the beginning.
Albus recognises every line on Gellert's face. Even the ones that have appeared in the intereval of time since he has last seen him. The deep crevice beneath his left eye, the wrinkle extended out from the right side of his mouth, the soft creases on his neck.
His face is a map, leading from forehead to cheek, crossing the space between the nose and the upper lip, meandering over the chin.
The only thing different is his eyes.
The eyes once so bright and fanciful, so deep that you lost whole minutes staring into their bottomless depths, were now empty.
Cold and Empty.
And Albus wishes there was a spell, a type of magic, that could restore them to their former shade.
He hasn't quite let go of those childish dreams, his belief in a utopia, and he knows even now as he plots to overthrow Tom Riddle that it's all for this one unobtainable fantasy.
He holds Gellert's withered hand; the bones in it seem more skeletal than human as they poke from beneath the bruised and stretched skin. As a single tear rolls from behind his half-moon glasses he can't help the pleading question that escapes his lips.
"Where is the stone Gellert, where is the stone?"
The lights in Sirius' flat are too bright.
The floor is covered in half eaten pizza, cigarette butts, and pages ripped from muggle magazines showing girls in hot pink bikinis. Photos from their school days are framed and hung in place of glory around the walls of the lounge room.
Peter can see himself in all of them, slightly smaller and fatter than the others, always pushed to the side or to the back, his head poking from behind James' elbow.
He is laughing in all of them, his head thrown back in an almost cringe-worthy display of ridiculous affection.
He clenches his fists as the sight of them, and has to turn his face away.
There is no doubt he has changed since then, he is no longer at the bottom of some childish popularity game.
He is one of the Dark Lord's most trusted servants.
He alone is responsible for the murder of what could have been the Dark Lord's most powerful enemy.
And the thought makes him smile. He smiles at the thought of James and Lily's dead son – it has earned him respect.
Respect. A word not associated with 'Wormy', the dumb clumsy boy that always tagged along after the Great Potter and Black.
He smiles as he takes the shot of firewhisky Sirius offers him.
Sirius tilts his head from side to side – the firewhisky moves in his mouth from side to side. He tilts his head forward – the firewhisky tilts forward also. He throws his head back - the firewhisky follows suit.
Peter watches this dance of alcohol and man for a few more seconds, painting his face with a bemused and childish grin.
Finally Sirius lets out a loud belch before sweeping his ever growing fringe to the side of his face and throwing a heavy arm across the smaller boy's shoulders.
"It's just so, you know, weird" Sirius says, his body swaying slightly.
"So Lucius seemed to be angry at Regulus?" Peter enquires.
"Yeah I mean I suppose it shouldn't be weird that there was a death eater waiting for my disgusting death eater brother at my disgusting death eater home but something just didn't feel right Pete."
He takes another dramatic swig of firewhisky before adding, "like where was Regulus anyway? Isn't Lucius supposed to know where all his little friends are all the time?"
Peter shrugs, removing his friend's arm from his back and gets to his feet.
"Sure is weird Paddy," he lets out a yawn, "gottsta get to bed anyway, I'll pop round tomorrow."
And as he dissaparates he thinks not of his small Bedfordshire cottage but the Lestrange's mansion.
All he craves is respect.