Disclaimer: Don't own the characters, just enjoy playing with them.
Chapter 1 - Lying Low at Lupin's (Part 1)
The dilapidated house sat at the end of an overgrown lane, quite forgotten by most of the inhabitants of Knott-End-on-Sea. Some of the older residents had vague memories of a family that had once lived there. Once in a while, when these older men and women got together and began talking of better days past, they would recall them as pleasant if quiet folks with a young boy. In those days, the little house was kept up, its shutters not hanging by a bolt and a prayer and its paint not peeling as it was now. The little flowers and backyard garden were just a memory. Slowly the fields around the house became tangled and wild, obstructing the view of the home from the main road.
"Terrible thing," one would say, and the others would nod gravely as they rocked and knitted or whittled or occupied their gnarled hands in one way or another, "Boy was attacked by a wolf they say. Mutilated him. Completely deformed. Rarely saw them about after that, and never the boy….what was his name? Seamus?"
No one could properly recall the boy's name, nor the surname of the family. The house and surrounding land had been sold many years ago, but no one had ever moved in, and so the memory of the boy would pass on to others, great storms, greater scandals, births, deaths, comings, and goings. Had any of them been passing the long untraveled lane now, however, they would find a new coming…a very scraggly, unkempt coming…a very wet coming…
"Bloody Moony living in the back of bloody nowhere when he bloody well knows he'd never hurt a soul in his life," Sirius Black pulled his threadbare cloak tighter around himself and put his shoulder into the wind-driven rain. He could just make out his destination at the end of the path. Barely visible through the weather was a soft, warm glow that spilled from the windows of an old cottage that the soaked wizard knew well. If the weather were clear, he knew he'd be able to see the stretches of fields and forest four boys had explored from one end to the other many summers ago. He vaguely wondered if the old hat box they'd buried was still beneath the ground, his old muggle baseball cap cradling a golden snitch, a Chocolate Frog card of Morgana, and a blood spattered river stone.
"So, everyone brought something, right?" Sirius gasped as four thirteen year old boys slid on their knees to a stop by the tree they'd chosen last summer to mark this special spot. Three heads nodded back at them, one with untidy black hair, one thick, shaggy, and blond, and the last tousled and sandy brown.
Sirius opened the box and placed it in the middle of the circle they'd formed. From behind his back, he pulled a dirty, worn American baseball cap that was blue with an orange "N" and "Y" superimposed on each other on the front, "Into the time capsule, I, Sirius Orion Black, place my Mets baseball cap," he said solemnly before placing it in the box.
"But Sirius," the boy with blond hair protested, "you love that hat!"
"Well that's the point, isn't it?" he replied, his grey eyes staring intently at the other three, "It's supposed to be something important to each of us and one day, when we're all famous wizards, we can come back here and dig the box up and remember."
"Remember what?" the blond boy asked.
"What a git you are, Peter," the boy with untidy hair rolled his eyes.
"James," the sandy haired boy admonished gently, "Peter, it's so that years from now we can remember who we are now. Who knows what the future holds, who we'll become? So, in twenty-five years, we'll come back and remember what we were."
"Finely put, Remus," James grinned, "We can remember being young, stupid…"
"Utterly brilliant you mean, practically prodigies," Sirius said. "What'd you bring James?"
With flourish, he pulled out a small golden ball, "Into the time capsule, I, James Alan Potter, place my golden snitch."
"How will you manage to show off now," Sirius smirked as James placed the ball into the box.
James punched his arm, "I have another, but that one is the first one I owned. It belonged to my grandfather."
"I'll go next," the blond boy said digging into his pocket, "Into the time capsule, I, Peter Paulius Pettigrew place my only Morgana Chocolate Frog card."
"Excellent, Peter," Remus said quickly, shooting a warning glance at the other two, "That's your only Morgana, isn't it?"
"Yes," Peter nodded, "She's my favorite, and I only have about thirty cards left to finish my collection, but I know I'll get this one back eventually if I don't find another, right?"
"Good thinking, Pete," Sirius smiled, "Now you, Remus."
"Into the time capsule, I, Remus John Lupin, place my river stone," he said, dropping it into the box.
"Why do you always carry that anyway?" James asked.
Remus glanced back up from where he was staring at the stone, "Well, I suppose I can tell you now," he smiled rather ruefully. The other boys all looked surprised. They had stopped asking about the stone he always placed by his night table after the first few months of their first year, "My mother kept it. She said that I had it clutched in my hand when they found me after I was bitten. She gave it to me before my first transformation at home to remind me to be brave."
The boys were quiet for a moment before Sirius spoke, "Remus, are you sure you want to bury that?"
"Quite," Remus replied, putting the lid on the box, "After all, I don't need it anymore." He gave a shy smile and tapped his wand on the box.
"Remus!" Peter gasped, "You can't use magic! It's summer!" The shortest boy looked up, expecting an owl to arrive immediately.
"Don't worry, Peter," Remus grinned, "I didn't. Dad charmed the box to seal when I tapped it so that our things will be preserved for when we dig them back up."
"Brilliant," Sirius nodded, placing the box in the hole and together, the four boys pushed the earth back into the hole.
It was a much older Sirius that found the energy to jog the last few steps to the wrap-around porch that mercifully sheltered the front door of number 6 Meadow Lane. He shook his long hair and robes out before knocking on the shabby door. Behind him, the wind shifted direction, blowing the rain onto his feet under the shelter. He pounded harder on the door.
"Who is it?" a hoarse voice seemed unsure from the other side of the door.
"It's Miss March from PlayWizard! Open the bloody door, Moony. I'm drenched."
The door ripped open and before Sirius could take a step, a hand grabbed the front of his robes and pulled him into a bear hug inside the warmth of the house.
"Remus, has it been that long? It's not really Miss March, Remus, you're crushing me," Sirius groaned through a grin, hugging back regardless of the vertebrae he could swear were creaking.
When the other finally pulled away, his hands remaining on his shoulders as if the man were afraid he would disappear. Sirius's grin faded, however, taking in the haggard appearance of his friend. The Remus he'd known through childhood and as young adults had never been built. No matter how much he ate, he remained thin, but this Remus was downright bony in a pair of oversized sleep pants and shirt, his cheeks a shade hallowed and dark spots under his eyes, "You look terrible."
"Well that's the pot calling the cauldron black," Remus's laugh was rough from disuse, and the laugh transformed him. Oh he was still too thin, but his amber flecked blue eyes sparkled and his smile brightened his tired face.
"Well, I am called Black," a familiar smirk briefly made his tired face handsome again.
"Why haven't you come to me before?" There was no mistaking the hurt in the question.
"I didn't want to put you in danger," Sirius said placing a hand atop the other's briefly.
They stared at each other a moment, saying more than words could. "You're drenched," Remus finally said, looking at the puddle accumulating on the floor.
"I believe I mentioned that," Sirius said, stepping further inside the house. Even when they were children, the house had never been lavishly furnished, Mr. and Mrs. Lupin having spent every available knut and many an unavailable one searching for a cure for their son. Now, however, it seemed bare by comparison and it no longer belonged to the Lupin's. An anonymous buyer had purchased the house after Remus's parents had been killed with the only instructions were that Remus was to live there as he wished. Remus had never been able to find out who the new owner was and rarely stayed there despite the note. A worn, patched couch was placed in the center of the room. In front of it was a battered coffee table with four different legs. The walls of the room were lined with homemade bookshelves filled with old books lined carefully along each shelf and then stacked on top of the rows so that no space was left unfilled. Still, books were stacked on each side of the shelves, one stack with a wizard wireless perched precariously on top. A few pictures hung on the walls. The smiling faces of a middle-aged man and woman, the woman with Remus's eyes, the man with his nose, were waving out from one.
"Yes, I know," Remus said, looking around with him, "I've been here since last year, so I put a few things out. Let's get you dried off and warmed up."
"Could I use your shower?" Sirius asked, a bit uncertain, "It's, er, been a while."
"I'm sure," Remus said, wrinkling his nose though he was smirking, "I'm surprised I didn't smell you coming."
"Haha," Sirius groaned.
"Through that door," Remus waved his hand, toward the bedroom. "Towels are in the closet. Just throw your clothes out and I'll clean them. You can wear something of mine."
Sirius nodded, stumbling towards the bedroom. He stopped in the doorway, "I really wanted to see you, Remus, but I didn't want the Ministry to connect me to you more than they must have back when…well, you know."
"I understand," Remus nodded, "Go on, you're right, you do smell."
"Dumbledore told me the Ministry took you in for questioning after I escaped from Hogwarts last year," Sirius ignored him. "They didn't give you a hard time, did they?"
Something flashed in Remus's eyes, but he smiled quickly, "Not at all. We'll talk later. Now go shower. I'll fix us something to eat."
Turning away, Sirius knew that line of discussion wasn't closed. Long years of experience taught him to spot a certain lying werewolf a mile away.
Stepping into blessedly hot water, Sirius closed his eyes and let the tension of the last few hours melt away. He tried to forget the way Harry had clung to his neck, like a much younger child. Hard as it was to believe, Harry was still a child, fast becoming an adult, yes, much too fast, but still a child with a child's needs. He'd been locked up in Azkaban when his godson had needed him the most, and now he'd been forced away again, for Harry to go back to that hellhole he'd grown up in. Yes, Sirius knew all about the Dursley's and how they'd treated Harry. That was certainly something he intended to address now that it seemed he'd be keeping closer quarters. Dumbledore would need him around now that Voldemort was back to full strength. There were so few from the old Order left that Dumbledore could ill afford to refuse even fugitive assistance. The faces of old friends long gone had flashed through his mind in Azkaban when the dementors would pass…Marlene McKinnon, Benjy Fenwick, Gideon and Fabian, Frank and Alice…the faces of Order members who had gazed upon Lily and the Marauders skeptically when Dumbledore had inducted them into the organization of the finest witches and wizards of the age. At the time, his arrogance had kept him from seeing what they saw: five teenagers, clever, yes, or Dumbledore would not have brought them, but untested and naïve. At the time, Sirius had thought they should consider themselves lucky to have them.
Sirius started when he felt the water on him beginning to turn cold. Hurriedly, he shut the tap off, wondering how long he'd been standing there reminiscing. He stepped out of the shower and began drying off with a threadbare towel that was surprisingly soft. Rubbing his hair, he peered into the next room to see a pair of pajamas lying on the bed. He slipped them on before heading back into the kitchen. A mug sat steaming on the table and Remus stood in front of the stove, the smell of eggs sending Sirius's stomach snarling for satisfaction.
"Remus, I've never fancied your bony ass before, but I'll kiss you if those eggs are ready." He said sitting down at the table.
"There's an invitation to overcook eggs if I've ever heard one," he replied, "but I promise to give them to you if you'll restrain yourself." He placed a plate of five over easy in front of him, "Toast will be ready in a minute. I'm afraid I don't have ham or bacon."
"This is plenty," Sirius said around a mouthful of egg…at least Remus was pretty sure that's what he'd said. With a shake of his head, he pulled seven slices of bread from the oven, buttered them, and placed six of the seven on Sirius's plate, chewing on one himself as he sat down at the table as well. He sipped quietly on his own mug of tea, allowing the other man to have his fill before inquiring why, after a year, a fugitive friend had descended on his doorstep at an indecent time of night.
When the last bite was gone, Sirius sighed, "I feel almost human again."
"Closest you'll get I expect," Remus said over his mug.
Sirius snorted, "Merlin I've missed you Moony."
"I've missed you too Padfoot," he replied quietly.
"Even after I called you a traitor," he asked, his eyes concentrating on his tea.
"Even when you thought I'd killed James, Lily, and Peter?" he asked quietly.
"Even then," Remus said, "For me, you died that day as well…and I can't tell you what it means to me to have you back."
"For me as well," Sirius said, meeting his eyes.
"So, should I expect Aurors on my doorstep?" Remus asked as he stood and took the empty plate to the sink.
"No, Dumbledore sent me. You're my last stop actually."
"Last on the list," Remus said over running water, "I'm crushed."
"Well, I figured you'd be the only one to offer me a place to sleep."
Remus snorted, "So what does Dumbledore want that has you visiting a list of people in the middle of the night."