A/N: Thank you to all of those who are reading and reviewing. It really does mean a lot to me to know what you think.
Apologies for the long time between updates. Have been very busy of late and usually I'm much quicker at these sorts of things. But I hope you enjoy this chapter nonetheless.
Thank you to Meg and SomethingBorrowed.
Disclaimer: J.K.Rowling is responsible for the wonderful world of Harry Potter. I am not. No need to sue.
Remus joins Moody on his task to find Mundungus Fletcher, causing a trip to The Leaky Cauldron to remind him of something painful from his past. And just what has Sirius been up to in his absence?
"So," Moody cleared his throat gruffly, casting furtive looks about him before turning his attention back to Remus. "What exactly did he do with that hippogriff?"
"Buckbeak?" Remus queried. Moody nodded. "I think he's still up in that cave above Hogsmeade. That way I'm sure Hagrid will be able to take care of him for the time being."
"Aye, that would make sense," Moody remarked and Remus adjusted the speed of his walking to allow the man with the limp to keep up. "Well, until he goes off to visit the giants, that is." Remus was stunned and Moody's lips curled into a slight smile as he said, "You didn't know that, did you?"
"No," Remus conceded, stepping aside to allow a gang of Muggle teenagers to pass. He looked back at them over his shoulder, seeing the way that they pulled on one another's arms and pointed back in the direction of the two men they had just passed. Although he didn't exactly look like a Muggle Remus had always made an effort to blend in. Moody, on the other hand, was hardly inconspicuous. "Is that safe?" Moody frowned at him. "What I mean is…how can we know that Hagrid will come back? Last time when envoys where sent to the giants most of them disappeared."
"We don't know," was Moody's reply as he slowed, seeing that they were fast approaching The Leaky Cauldron. "And as for it being safe, it's not exactly safe for any of us." Moody paused. "You'll have to make contact with other werewolves, Lupin. I wouldn't exactly call that a walk in the park."
Remus could not think of a way to reply. Moody was right, of course, although it had always been the case that Remus had put the safety of others far and above his own. It hardly seemed worth explaining and as they reached the door to the pub he changed the conversation.
"So. What exactly has Mundungus been up to lately?"
"Last I heard he was down in Abergavenny trying to offload some dodgy Miracle-Gro…"
"Erm…" Remus mumbled, narrowly avoiding a wily wizard with smeary spectacles who was pushing his way out of the door. Moody halted, waiting for Remus to finish what he was going to say. "Isn't that what Muggles use on grass?"
Moody gave a derisive snort before making his way over to the bar. "Seems he's been pedalling it as some sort of magical cure for Wizarding baldness." Remus barely contained his laughter as he was suddenly struck with a vivid image of wizards sprouting turf on their heads instead hair. He quickly suppressed it as Moody cast a reprimanding glance in his direction before barking roughly at the barman, "Afternoon Tom."
Tom flashed a snaggle-toothed grin in Moody's direction, instinctively reaching for one of the dusty bottles behind him with the words, "The usual?"
"Not today, Tom," Moody said after clearing his throat in an embarrassed fashion. "We're here on business."
Remus tried to suppress his amusement as Tom drew himself up, puffed out his chest, and said in an official manner, "I see. Well, how can I help you?"
"We're looking for Mundungus Fletcher," Remus said.
Tom rubbed a hand over his chin and he seemed to be addressing more than just Moody and Remus as he mused, "Mundungus…Fletcher, you say? Nah…" He hesitated and Remus had the impression he was hesitating deliberately as he cast a swift glance to the opposite side of the room. "…Can't say I've seen him…"
"Oh no you don't!" Moody suddenly barked, turning swiftly, drawing his wand and crying "Impedimenta!"
Remus watched as the doleful looking man with matted ginger hair froze to the spot, preventing him before reaching the door as he had intended. In two swift strides Moody had moved over to Mundungus and, grabbing him by the scruff of his robes and mumbling the counter-curse, he said, "We need to talk to you, Fletcher!"
As Remus followed Moody as he dragged Mundungus into one of the adjoining rooms he heard Mundungus say, "Geroff me you great loon! I ain't done nuffin that the Ministry need concern itself wiv!"
"Pah!" Moody exhaled, shoving Mundungus down into a rickety, bow-backed chair and, with a glance, warned him to stay there.
"We're not here on Ministry business," Remus said slowly. Mundungus turned his bloodshot eyes to him.
"And who are you?"
"Did your mother never teach you manners?" Moody snapped.
"Hey!" Mundungus looked vaguely affronted. He jabbed a finger in Moody's direction. "What my muva taught me ain't none of your business!"
"It's alright," Remus tried to placate them and, reaching out to take Mundungus' hand, he said, "I'm Remus Lupin."
Mundungus shook his hand. "Oh, Lupin, ain't it? I remember now. Weren't you teachin' at 'ogwarts a few years back? Had to leave, didn't ya? Why was that again?"
"Because not everyone wanted their children to be taught by a werewolf," Remus parried.
Mundungus' droopy eyes bulged and he seemed, all of a sudden, to take the interview more seriously.
"So as I said," Remus swiftly continued, seizing on Mundungus' temporary silence. "We're not here on Ministry business. We're here about the Order of the Phoenix."
"You have read the Daily Prophet lately, I take it?" Moody said in such a way that Remus was in no doubt that he was implying that he had little faith that Mundungus read anything at all.
Mundungus shrugged dismissively. "Yeah. All that stuff 'bout the Twiwizard Tournament. That boy popping his clogs. Fudge denyin' it all…" He trailed off. "You know I thought that somethin' was fishy. Too much like last time, I thought to meself. He must be back!"
"Dumbledore's reformed the Order. Moody, myself and a few others but we're having trouble recruiting people. It seems that not many people are willing to believe that Cedric Diggory's death was anymore than a tragic accident." Mundungus nodded as though he understood. "Dumbledore was hoping that we could count on you to join us."
Mundungus thought for a moment, his eyes moving between Moody and Remus, and Remus realised that Mundungus had little choice. He flashed a grin and, reaching inside his robes, produced a grubby black pipe and, lighting it with the tip of his wand, began to puff on it in celebration.
"I'll be more than 'appy to do my bit." His saggy face was rapidly disappearing in a cloud of greenish smoke. "What is it I'll be expected to do?"
"Dumbledore wants you to stick with Arabella Figg." Remus involuntarily started at the name but, thankfully, neither man seemed to notice as Moody continued, "She's a Squib, you see, and although she's good enough at keeping an eye on Harry she won't be much use if it comes to using magic."
"The Potter boy?" Mundungus sounded a little surprised, as though he hadn't been expecting such a responsible charge. Remus gave a slight nod of his head. "And where does this Figg live?" Mundungus asked.
"Near Harry's aunt and uncle's. Little Whinging, Surrey to be precise."
"Does she know to expect me as a 'ouse guest?"
Moody shook his head but before he could say what he had been intending to, Remus had automatically interrupted, "I'll be informing her to expect you." Moody shot him a glance which Remus tried his best to ignore as he rose to his feet, dusting down the back of his robes as he did so. "We'll be in touch in a week or so…"
"And make sure you keep yourself out of trouble until then, you hear?" Moody warned. "You can't take the same risks now that you're in the Order…"
"Alright, alright, Mad-Eye, keep ya shirt on, I ain't going anywhere."
Both Remus and Moody were silent as they departed, leaving Mundungus smoking in the empty room. As they pushed their way out onto the street that was now bustling with Muggle commuters, Remus finally broke the silence and asked, "Do you think he can be trusted?"
"If it were a case of counterfeit cauldrons then I wouldn't trust Fletcher as far as I could throw him…" After adjusting the way his robes fell from his shoulders Moody began limping steadily down the street. "But he will have his uses, there's no doubting that. And I think even he can be trusted with something as important as this." Remus nodded and turned to Moody, intending to say farewell at the end of the street.
"You'll be contacting Dumbledore then, I take it?" Remus furrowed his brow, not understanding what Moody meant. "About Arabella…"
"Oh…yes…" Remus faltered. When he had blurted aloud that he would be the one to contact Arabella Figg he hadn't really thought it through. It had been involuntary, instinctual, a nervous response that he couldn't control, and before he could take it back it was too late. But from the way that Moody had stopped him from leaving Remus had the distinct impression that Moody may have suspected just that.
"I'll go and see her in person."
"Tonks can come with you," Moody offered in off-handed way, trying not to betray his concern. Perhaps he too had been reminded, as they had stepped inside The Leaky Cauldron, of a time in a past when they had been here before with Sirius, James, Lily and Eleanor. "She's a good girl. Quite useful to have around if she's not a little…hap-hazard…"
"Thanks for the offer but…if it's all the same to you I think I'd prefer to go alone."
Moody seemed to process this for a moment before making a gruff, non-committal sound and Remus held back, watching in Moody's direction, as he began to walk away.
It was hot by the time Remus had made his way back from The Leaky Cauldron to his flat. It was six o'clock in the evening but it wasn't even starting to get dark. The bright, orange sun glared down from the cobalt blue sky, pouring over the rooftops and through thick glass windows. Remus wiped his forehead on the back of his sleeve before slipping his key into the door and walking into the communal lobby of the building. He made the usual pretence of checking his Muggle post - although he knew full well that his box would be empty – but before he could climb the stairs the door beside him had opened and his landlord, a particularly surly middle-aged man named Archie Baxter, had appeared.
"Ah, Lupin," he articulated, sneering, and Remus could smell the cigarettes on his breath. "I've been meaning to have a word with you."
"I really can't stop…" Remus tried to move away yet before he even had one foot on the bottom stair, Archie had pressed on, "Your cheque bounced, again." He seemed to take great delight in saying this and inwardly Remus cringed. Even when he had written the cheque he hadn't been certain it would clear. "This can't carry on, Lupin."
"No, no I agree with you."
"So," Archie leered forwards, one hand on the banister, and Remus noticed the tea stain on the front of his chequered shirt. "When I can expect my money?"
"By the end of the week," Remus thought quickly although he doubted the truth of what he had just said. Where on earth was he going to find that sort of money in so short a time?
"I better," Archie snapped and Remus, hoping rather than truly thinking that this would be the end of it, began climbing the stairs. But Archie was persistent, perhaps it was the heat that was making him particularly irritable, perhaps he had backed the wrong horse and it had fallen at the first hurdle? Whatever it was it made Archie climb the stairs with him and continue to complain, "You haven't exactly been the ideal tenant. Don't think I don't notice all those things going on…all those weirdoes you have turning up all hours of the day and night…" They had reached the front door to Remus' flat and he was struggling to pull his keys out of his pocket without retrieving his wand. "And you signed a contract agreeing to no pets…"
"Pets?" Remus responded quickly as though he had only just realised that Archie was still there.
Leaning back against the wall Archie obviously felt triumphant and he said with a slight shrug, "Yeah. That great big dog I saw earlier jumping from the tin roof outside and in through your window…"
"He's not mine," Remus tried to convince him with his most genuine of smiles. "I'm just looking after him for someone. They had to go away quickly and didn't have the time to arrange anything else. It was a family emergency otherwise I wouldn't have agreed."
"Well," Archie mused, dragging it out, prolonging Remus' pain. "Just make sure he's gone by the time I get my money or…" But Remus didn't hang around to hear what followed as he had finally managed to pull his keys from his pocket and had swiftly put the door between them.
At the sound of the door slamming Sirius looked up. "Good day?" he taunted, clearly seeing from Remus' expression that he was in no mood to joke.
"You've been out, haven't you?" Remus accused as he walked into the kitchen, taking a glass from the drainer and filling it with water. He chugged all the liquid. He could feel Sirius watching him.
"Was that what he was on at you about?" Sirius asked, yawning, stretching his arms above his head, indicating with a wave of his hand the front door and Remus' landlord who was somewhere beyond it.
"What? Remus asked, confused. He shrugged, pushing his hair back from his clammy forehead before saying without thinking, "No…not all…he wanted to know when he was getting his rent…"
"You haven't paid it?" Sirius was concerned. He had forgotten his joke and was now leaning forward in his chair, his eyes fixed on Remus who was still hovering in the kitchen. "Because if you're having trouble," Sirius stressed. "I'm staying here too. I should be paying my way…"
Remus ignored Sirius' offer of money; it had always been an uncomfortable topic of conversation between him and his friends. When they had been younger at Hogwarts it had hardly seemed to matter but when they had left the difference in their fortunes had become more pronounced. James had always been, for want of a better word, loaded. Even though he had received a number of job offers on leaving Hogwarts, a place in the Auror department and a position on one of the top-ranking Quidditch teams in the country amongst them, he had never needed to work. Sirius had never professed any great desire to undertake any kind of paid employment; perhaps he had grown too used to not having to work for his money. Remus, on the other hand, had never had that luxury. On leaving school he had been almost certain that the chances of him finding a job in the Wizarding world would be virtually impossible, which was only made worse when the Ministry passed a particularly nasty piece of legislation that almost encouraged discrimination against werewolves. Since his job as Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher at Hogwarts Remus had only managed to find temporary Muggle work, nothing that neither challenged him or he enjoyed, and he had barely managed to survive one month to the next with what little money earned.
"Do you know how dangerous it was for you to go out?" Perhaps Archie's irritableness had been contagious? Perhaps it was just too hot? Whatever it was Remus felt his patience wavering. He turned from the kitchen to face Sirius. "Do you realise what could have happened?"
"Yes, we have had this conversation before," Sirius' voice was strained and Remus recognised his friend's attempt to keep in control.
"You can't go out, not even as a dog. By now Wormtail would have told Voldemort that you're an animagus. Even that disguise isn't enough anymore." Remus paused, watching Sirius' face carefully. It seemed that in the years that had passed Sirius had learned how to master his temper. "Where did you go?"
"No-where, alright?" Remus had hoped too soon and Sirius had leapt to his feet and had begun to pace the room, agitated. "I didn't go anywhere! While you were off being so helpful to the Order I was stuck here, staring out of the window at the sunshine, and I thought it couldn't do much harm to transfigure and do a bit of sunbathing on that tin roof…"
"Why do you make it sound so exciting?" Remus questioned, disbelieving. Sirius laughed and shook his head down at the floor. "It's not some big adventure, Padfoot. It's not a laugh. This is serious. People could die…"
"Don't you think I know that?" Sirius had stopped pacing. "Don't you think I don't know what's at stake? I don't think it's a laugh. But while you can get out there," he gestured wildly to the window, "While you're out there helping, being useful, I'm stuck in here. What possible use can I be? I'm a convicted criminal but I'm the one person Harry should be able to depend on. I'm his godfather and I can't even protect him!"
"It can't be helped," Remus said in a whisper.
Sirius was no longer listening. He had begun pacing again, his grey eyes unstable, his voice erratic as he continued, "It's impossible, don't you see? Being cooped up here…and we argue but when we do there's no-where I can go. I can't go somewhere to think, to calm down, I'm forced to be here and I hate it!" The strength of Sirius' words surprised Remus, although he had no right to feel surprised. Sirius had always been like this: the boy who would escape out of the window to sit on the turret of the tower to think.
"You have a choice…" Remus had begun to say only to be met with a contemptible laugh from Sirius.
"No I don't, Moony," Sirius said darkly and Remus watched as he swallowed hard and avoided his eyes. "I might have escaped from Azkaban but I'm not free…I'm not a free man who can make his own choices. I'm not free to…" He faltered, shaking his head, before ending, "…decide."
As he had said this Remus realised what it was Sirius was saying; he realised just how different they both felt. When Sirius had arrived at his front door a week ago, a dishevelled wreck, Remus had suddenly been forced to remember all that he had tried desperately to forget. It had been a strange sensation: something which had been building since the day that Remus had picked up a copy of the Daily Prophet to find a picture of Sirius staring back from the front page. He had attempted to ignore it during his time at Hogwarts; he had tried to forget that leering, manic face and had concentrated on his role of teacher: a role he enjoyed much more than he had expected. But every time he faced Harry he was forced to remember and he would be unable to avoid the guilt of knowing Sirius' secret: knowing that there were ways he could get into the castle undetected. Snape had suspected. Dumbledore had his concerns. And all the while Remus had lied, hadn't told a single soul what he knew, knowing full well that such misguided loyalty was putting Harry's life in danger.
He had seen Peter on the map…he had rushed to the Shrieking Shack and the pieces of the jigsaw finally seemed to fit into place in his mind. Wormtail hadn't died on that night so many years before. He had concealed himself in rat-form and hidden himself away. Sirius hadn't killed him…and as Remus had burst into the room, his eyes automatically seeking the crumpled man on the floor he had known, known even before having asked, that Sirius was not the man who had betrayed them. He had forgotten the hostility, the bitterness, the loneliness. He had forgotten that anybody else was there and in a moment he was at Sirius' side, pulling him to his feet and holding him tightly to him.
That had only been a year ago and yet so much had changed. In that time, in Sirius' absence, Remus had held on to the façade he had painfully clung to in the years when he had believed himself to be the only one left of his friends. He had fought back the feelings of remorse and had tried desperately to repress those feelings that had come back so swiftly when Sirius had returned; until a week ago that is, when Sirius had managed, as only Sirius would, in one, tender moment to successfully destroy the man he had tried to become.
But now, as he watched his friend pacing the carpet, Remus began to see that this had not been as free a choice as he had originally believed. He saw in Sirius' dark expression that when he had said that he had always known that things could be like this between them that he had not been certain, he had not been sure, and that the time that they had spent together had been forced upon Sirius. He was still not free.
"Go…" Remus exhaled slowly and automatically Sirius' eyes were upon him. "Get out…give yourself time. Go and sit on that roof if you have to." For a moment Sirius looked as though he might say something, as if he was going to protest, but before he had a chance to Remus had swiftly crossed the room and had thrown open the window.
He didn't look in Sirius' direction as he transformed into a dog. He didn't watch as leapt out of the window, only knowing that he had left by the sound of the empty jars that tinkled against one another as he brushed past the window sill. Hours past and Sirius did not return but Remus found he no longer worried. He had a shower and climbed into bed without thinking, without caring, hearing when Sirius returned late in the evening but not waiting for him to come to bed. When Remus awoke the next morning he was not surprised to find his bed empty and he knew, without having to ask, that Sirius would not share his bed again.
Thank you for reading. Remember to let me know what you think! xxx