Kingsley Shacklebolt paced the length of his office, his hands clasped behind his back, his brow furrowed, trying to figure out a way to get rid of one Mad-Eye Moody. The retired Auror had been lurking around the department for about a month or so, watching people.
He had studied each of his former trainees with great care, which Kingsley supposed was normal. He had trained them, why wouldn't he check on them? That didn't bother Kingsley.
No, what did bother Kingsley was that Mad-Eye seemed to be watching him as well, and just as intently.
And there was absolutely no reason for it. They had never worked together, as far as Kingsley could recall, and had never really even spoken before Mad-Eye retired, other than the occasional "Hello, how are you?" and "Heard about Friday, nice work there." And that sort of thing.
Kinglsey suddenly wondered if this had anything to do with the Potter business. Allegedly, the Moody that had taught at Hogwarts all last year had actually been an imposter. Supposedly. Harry Potter had claimed that You-Know-Who had returned. According the heads of this department and various others had determined that Harry Potter was completely insane.
But Mad-Eye was here, and Kingsley guessed that something was happening. Mad-Eye was a bit paranoid, but still had his wits about him, for the most part.
Kingsley tried to push Mad-Eye out of his thoughts and finish reading the Daily Prophet. He knew, however, that most of it was rubbish, and tossed it away, frustrated.
He tried to get some work done instead. He reviewed his notes on Black and made plans to try to question the werewolf, Remus Lupin, Black's old school friend, again.
According to Severus Snape, the werewolf had helped Black overpower him in the Shrieking Shack at Hogsmeade and escape. Unfortunately, the werewolf had not been home for weeks, and they had no idea where he might be hiding.
Not that he particularly minded postponing questioning a werewolf, he thought as he looked up to see Mad-Eye walking into his office.
And as Mad-Eye began to speak, Kingsley Shacklebolt's world turned upside-down.
The first meeting of the Order of the Phoenix was tomorrow at seven, but he was to show up around six. Some things needed to be explained before the meeting, Mad-Eye said.
Kingsley had received Dumbledore's owl with the Headquarter's address at 5:30 as he was preparing to leave work. He now stood before Grimmauld Place, wondering if he hadn't made a terrible mistake. This place certainly did not seem to be the sort of place where a secret organization bent on fighting evil might meet.
Kingsley entered what appeared to be a silent and empty house. He stood at the entrance for a moment, staring at the inside of a place that positively reeked of Dark Magic. Kingsley drew his wand, but kept it out of sight of anyone who might be in this forsaken place.
He sighed, wondering what to do now. Then he tensed as he heard voices coming from the direction of the stairs. He approached the bottom of the stairs to realize the voices were a whispered argument from upstairs. He crept silently up the stairs, trying to figure out exactly what was going on.
"It's my house! I want to answer it." Someone hissed angrily.
"What if it's someone from the Ministry?" Someone else whispered a sharp reply. "I don't fancy trying to gather your remains up for the meeting after some Auror gets done with you."
"But they're going to be in the Order, aren't they?" Was the first voice whining? Kingsley shook his head silently.
"Yes, but Alastor said-" The voice cut off, and Kingsley wondered if he had gotten to close and been heard.
He let out his breath in relief as the other started up again, but it was short lived as there was a flash of light and the second voice said rather calmly, "Expelliarmus!" and his wand was in the hands of a thin, pale man with graying hair and shabby clothing.
He cursed as a head peeked cheerfully into the stairway and said hello, coming out to stand beside the other man.
It was Sirius Black!
Kingsley threw himself at the escaped convict before he had time to react, other than to look surprised and exclaim, "Moony!" as he went down, far more easily than Kinglsey would have expected.
But he had forgotten the other man. Strong arms pried him off of Black, but Kingsley did manage to knock away the wands he was holding and light into this second man, who was almost as ragged as Black, and went down far more easily, and the two of them tumbled down the stairs.
Kingsley managed to land on top of the man as they reached the bottom of the stairs, and even to ignore the outburst from a portrait of something or someone, and to throw off Black as he caught up with them.
The second man yelped Kingsley hit him in the face, and Black lunged at him again with a cry of rage, this time managing not to get knocked out of the fray.
Kingsley gasped in pain as Black hit him, hard, in the side of the face, and nearly let go of his captive.
"Sirius!" Snapped the other man, and Black backed off abruptly, grumbling angrily under his breath.
The other man stopped fighting altogether, and let Kingsley plop down unceremoniously and out of breath on his chest, causing him to groan ever so slightly.
Black glowered and started forward, but stopped himself.
The other man didn't seem particularly perturbed at being sat upon, other than the previous groan, and Kingsley wondered if this were some sort of trap.
"So," the man wheezed, trying to catch his breath, "are you going to let us explain ourselves?"
"We won't run off." Added Black. "Promise."
As if his promise meant anything, Kingsley thought grimly, but at any rate, he seemed reluctant to abandon his companion, an odd behavior for a convicted mass murderer.
The man Kingsley was sitting on started to laugh at Black's promise, but it quickly turned into a cough.
"Moony?" Black asked, apparently concerned.
"It's fine." He told Black. He looked back at Kingsley. "So, Shacklebolt," He was startled that this man knew his name, "are you going to let me up? Or should I talk from here?"
"Moony." Black said to the other warningly.
"It's fine, Padfoot." The other said, though it seemed a bit forced. Of course, Kingsley was sitting on the man's chest.
"Who are you?" He asked the man. "How do you know me?"
The man seemed amused. "I should know you, Shacklebolt, we've been avoiding you for – how long, Sirius?"
Black thought for a moment. "Twelve days, four of which were still at your place."
"Right." Said the man, as if that explained everything, which it didn't.
"What is your name?" Kingsley asked, his patience starting to wear away.
"Oh. Sorry." He didn't seem overly concerned. "Remus Lupin."
The werewolf, Kingsley realized. And he froze, something that should have cost him his life.
The werewolf, however, didn't try to get loose. In fact, he did nothing, simply waiting for Kingsley to register the fact.
Black was less patient. "Are you going to tell him?" He asked the werewolf.
He sighed in response, or tried to. "Sirius is innocent." He said simply. "Harry Potter was telling the truth."
The truth? Pettigrew had been the secret-keeper, had betrayed the Potters, had killed all those muggles? His mind worked quickly to test this new idea, and he found it plausible.
It also fit with what Mad-Eye had been saying about You-Know-Who's return. Pettigrew had been mentioned then too, he remembered. It also explained why Black would be sitting here of his own free will, and not abandoning his friend on the floor in an attempt to save his own skin.
"What is this place?" He asked, after what seemed an eternity.
Black grinned madly. "Welcome, Shakki – What is it, Moony?"
"Shacklebolt." Kingsley replied. "Kinglsey Shacklebolt."
"Welcome, Kingsley Shacklebolt, to the most noble and pure house of Black." He stood and bowed mockingly. "I am Sirius Black, your host. Now, would you please get off Remus Lupin here before he ends up with any more cracked ribs?"
Kingsley looked at the werewolf, who just rolled his eyes. He stood, and Black rushed over to help his friend up.
Remus stood up with a groan. Then he smile. "Welcome to Order headquarters, Shacklebolt."
"Thank you." He said, not sure what else to say.
The door opened, and other people whom Kinglsey assumed were also Order members entered the house, including Arthur Weasley, from Misuse of Muggle Artifacts and Mad-Eye himself.
Mad-Eye looked the three of them over. "Get everything worked out?" He asked Lupin, who nodded lightly, as if he hadn't been recently tackled, knocked down a flight of stairs, hit in the face, the sat upon.
Mad-Eye looked him over. "No problems, then? He didn't give you too much trouble, I hope."
Lupin shook his head. "None at all." He lied with a smile. "Actaully, he was very reasonable."
Mad-Eye was not entirely convinced. "And who gave you the black eye, then, Remus?"
Lupin laughed, apparently a bit embarrassed. "Well, I fell down the staircase this morning. Shouldn't have been up yet, I guess." He lied so easily to the old Auror. Just the idea of lying to Mad-Eye was almost enough to cause Kingsley to break out into a sweat then and there.
"Scared me half to death." Black put in just as easily as Lupin. "Made him stay on the couch for a few more hours before he actually felt well enough to argue about it."
"Hmm." Mad-Eye seemed to buy it. "Well, let's go. Meeting's going to start soon."
Kingsley hung back as the Auror exited the room, and Black and Lupin noticed and waited for him.
"Nervous?" Asked Lupin kindly.
Kingsley shook his head. "No, actually. I was wondering why you lied."
Black laughed. "People were listening, mate." He said, as if that explained everything.
Lupin rolled his eyes, and Black continued. "Well, we can't have people mad at you for beating up Remus here the day after the full moon, especially with it being your first day and all."
Lupin snorted. "So next month, it'll be okay, then, is that it?" He asked his friend.
Black laughed, then looked straight at Kingsley. "No, now he knows better. It won't happen again." Kingsley wasn't certain, but he thought he detected a note of a threat in the statement, and he thought he heard Lupin mutter something about an overprotective git.
But Black's rather maniacal grin was back. "Shall we then?" He asked cheerfully, leading the way to the other room and the meeting.
Lupin smiled encouragingly and followed, leaving Kingsley to collect himself and go in.
This was going to be interesting.