November 1, 1981
Remus stared uncomprehendingly at the other wizard. "What do you mean, this doesn't matter?" he asked. Dumbledore had sent him to this obscure pocket of a wizarding town in the hopes that he would be able to discern which of the locals had managed to remove a blanket hex that the followers of Lord Voldemort had cast upon the region. Such a wizard was a potentially valuable ally, and needed to be convinced not to hide his talent for fear of being placed on Lord Voldemort's infamous list.
"Just that!" the wizard said, beaming brilliantly. He gave Remus a spontaneous hug, which Remus, unaccustomed to touch but from a selected few, stiffly half-returned. "It doesn't matter! He's gone, he's gone, haven't you seen the papers? Heard the radio?"
"No," said Remus, feeling bewildered and not a little thick. Or perhaps his mind is just gone… it happens to many who cross the Dark Lord. "I've been traveling and looking for a wizard--"
The other man was fairly dancing about. "No wonder! You must celebrate! You must see!" He withdrew a scrap of paper, lately torn from the Daily Prophet, from his robes. "Keep it right next to my heart," he informed his companion. "You can read it for yourself, and then I won't have to explain." Then, in a loud voice, he explained nonetheless. "YOU-KNOW-WHO IS GONE! HE'S GONE, GONE, GONE, GONE FOR GOOD!"
Remus was suddenly glad that the man was still gripping his arm, because his knees felt weak. "How do you know?"
"IT'S IN THE PAPER! GONE FROM FOE-GLASSES! CURSES LIFTED! COME, HAVE A DRINK! CELEBRATE!"
It could be a trick. He could be mad. I should contact Dumbledore. Or Peter. Instinctively, Remus opened his mouth to refuse politely. "I don't think--"
A pretty witch somewhat older than Remus came running up to the pair. "Tristan! Come along to the Mulville! Everything's on us, today!"
"You see?" asked Tristan delightedly. "Come along, now! Hullo, Laura."
Remus hesitated in disbelief. "He's in shock, poor dear," interrupted Laura. "Come with us. You'll feel better, and then you'll get back to your friends and family." She smiled brilliantly. "I sent my son and daughter to Canada, where it was safer, and I'm going to see them tomorrow! Have you got friends in hiding?"
"He must," Tristan answered for Remus. "Says he's working for Albus Dumbledore."
"A great man, Dumbledore," said Laura reverently. And Remus felt himself pulled along to the Mulville by Tristan and Laura.
The aura inside the pub was raucous. Witches and wizards of all ages, even the tiniest children, were eating, drinking, and shouting with laughter. The din felt unreal after so many years of forced isolation. A radio was tuned to what must have been a news station, and short speeches by Dumbledore and various ministers of magic were being broadcast over and over again. Expensive Sneakoscopes sat upon tables and were still as still could be. Slowly, Remus began to suspect that what Tristan had told him was true. He drank what was handed to him, and after feeling its steadying effect forced his way closer to the radio and the stack of Daily Prophets.
The papers had been printed before the news of the defeat of Voldemort had been made official, and the speeches on the radio were most uninformative. No one seemed to be certain as to exactly what had passed.
I have to speak to Peter, Remus thought once more. Suddenly, he began to share in the joy of the people surrounding him. Or-- if he truly is gone, I can speak to Sirius and James! They won't be in hiding.
No sooner had James' name made its way into Remus' conscious than he heard it spoken aloud. "That's what she said. Lily and James Potter, and their son, Harry." Remus clawed his way back through the throng to the source of the voice.
"Excuse me?" he asked the flush-faced man. "Did you mention the Potters a moment ago?"
"Aye," came the answer. "I just spoke to my sister through the fire. She says You-Know-Who attacked the Potters' house last night. The man and his wife are dead. Tragedy, that. They were so young." Despite his words, he continued to smile. "But their son, Harry-- he lived. And when You-Know-Who couldn't kill him, he just disappeared!"
Remus was able to accept horrid news much more quickly than happy news; he had had more practice. Instantly, his stomach lurched and tears pricked his eyes. Ignoring the call of his informant, he fled the building. As he Disapparated, not caring if he splinched himself, he heard the man's voice raised to a shout. "RAISE YOUR GLASSES TO HARRY POTTER-- THE BOY WHO LIVED!"
When Remus arrived reasonably near his flat, and found that he had regretfully managed not to splinch himself, he determined that the best course of action involved going to bed and staying there indefinitely.
Lily and James are dead. And if they are, so is Sirius. Lily. James. Sirius. Lily. James. Sirius. His mind spun like a top.
Upon entering his flat, Remus found three men already there. He was too tired and confused to so much as raise an eyebrow.
"Remus Lupin?" asked one man briskly.
"Yes," agreed Remus, noticing even in his befuddled state that the man and his companions were Hit Wizards. Why?
"You knew Sirius Black?"
So he is dead. "Yes," Remus repeated shakily.
"You knew Peter Pettigrew?"
Peter, dead? How? "Y-- yes."
"You'll come with us."
The wizard nearest the fire tossed in a pinch of Floo Powder and stepped inside. "Ministry Security!" he yelled.
"Go along," demanded the wizard who had spoken first. "No tricks or it'll be Azkaban for you."
Remus laughed. Azkaban could be no worse than James, Lily, Peter, and Sirius murdered on the same day. The Hit Wizard, though, did not see the humor in the situation. Remus pitied him. "NOW!" the man demanded shakily. "Ministry Security!" Remus said obediently. The flames surrounded him, and he felt hands pulling him from the other side of the fire.
"Take it slow," he was ordered as he was led into a small interrogation chamber. "Sit." Remus sat. The chair was small and wooden, but Remus neither knew nor cared. "Hands behind your back." Remus felt heavy manacles being fastened around his wrists. "Bring the silver closer. He's a werewolf." This last was directed not at Remus but at a thin little witch whose job it must have been to obey the whims of the wizard who had spoken. Nervously, she collected the silver trinkets that were always present (along with jars of garlic and the like) at sites of Ministry justice and set them beneath and around Remus' chair. Remus felt his chest constrict. "Veritaserum!" the Hit Wizard bellowed when she had withdrawn nervously. She paled further, but with shaking hands she fetched a vial of the liquid and held it to Remus' lips. The Hit Wizard, meanwhile, held a wand to Remus' heart. "Swallow." Remus swallowed.
The thin, trembling witch left and returned with several pompous-looking wizards and witches. "This," the Hit Wizard told Remus, "is Cornelius Fudge. He is a junior minister in the Department of Magical Catastrophes and was among the first to arrive after the Black-Pettigrew incident a few hours ago." Remus wanted to ask about the Black-Pettigrew incident, but the Hit Wizard silenced him with a glance. "This is Aria Smith-Yate, a junior minister with the Department of Accidental Magic Reversal. She organized the cover-up. And this is Bartemius Crouch of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement." The Hit Wizard's voice became smarmy as if to suggest that anyone should be honored to breathe the same air as Barty Crouch. In truth, Remus was indeed impressed that the man was present. He was set to be the next Minister of Magic, and everyone knew it.
"State your name," Crouch began with an air of confidence and supremacy.
"Remus J. Lupin."
Crouch stared at him unbelievingly. "I thought you gave him Veritaserum before I arrived."
"We did," defended the Hit Wizard.
"Give him more."
Remus allowed his mouth to be forced open and liquid to be poured inside. He began to feel ill; Veritaserum, particularly pure Veritaserum, was known for its side effects.
"Age," Crouch repeated.
"It makes sense, Sir," interrupted Smith-Yate. "The Potters were twenty-one. And Black and Pettigrew. If they all went to school together--"
"Thank you, Miss Yate-Smith," interrupted Crouch. "If I want your opinion, I shall ask for it." He turned the full of his attention back to Remus. "Vocation."
"None in particular."
"Where have you obtained your recent income?"
"Running errands for Dumbledore. Some teaching and writing educational materials. Some tracking of magical pests. Some decorative charmwork."
"Are you a werewolf?"
"For how long have you been a werewolf?"
"You were admitted to Hogwarts at age eleven while a known werewolf?"
"How long have you known James Potter?"
"Lily Evans Potter?"
"What was Pettigrew's relationship to the Potters?"
"They were friends."
"To Sirius Black?"
"Black's relationship to the Potters?"
"Your relationship to the Potters?"
"Friends." Remus had been answering the questions in a numb monotone, almost without hearing them. He was unable to summon the energy to suggest that the ministers look in their records if they were so interested in the past of a werewolf. Everything had been marked down. Now, though, he was glad that the question about Sirius had arrived. He had, in some deserted corner in the back of his mind, been afraid that he would not be able to call Sirius his friend even after the man's death. Saying the word now was reassuring, was proof that he had, once, had the gift of a life intertwined with that of Sirius. Why do I care about that now? he asked himself. He's dead. They're dead. All of them.
"Where are the Potters now?"
Crouch fixed Remus with an expression of confusion and humorless, self-important mirth. "Give him more Veritaserum," he ordered one of his subordinates.
"No," Remus protested out of turn. The Hit Wizards moved closer. "Don't give me more. I don't feel well. I can't breathe." His voice was a pleading whine, but now that the Veritaserum had taken a vicious hold, he hardly had a choice in the matter.
"More Veritaserum," Crouch repeated. Remus choked on the new dose and coughed his throat raw, wrenching against the manacles that still bound his hands to the back of the chair. "Now," Crouch resumed when Remus was panting and breathless, "Where is Sirius Black?"
"How do you know?"
"He was the Potters' Secret-Keeper. I was in a pub and someone told me that Lord Voldemort--"
There was a collective gasp. "Say 'You-Know-Who,'" demanded Fudge pompously.
"You-Know-Who. Someone told me You-Know-Who killed Lily and James. And Sirius was their Secret-Keeper. He never would have given them up if he hadn't been tortured and killed. Never! He loved Lily. He loved James. He loved Harry. And when the Hit Wizards came to my flat, they asked if I knew Sirius Black. Past tense." Tears began to burn at the back of his eyes once more.
"When was the last time you saw Black?"
"October 14th. In the morning."
"In my flat."
"Why had he come to see you?"
"The full moon was the night before. He wanted to see how I was."
"Did he mention his role as the Potters' Secret-Keeper?"
"Did he seem eager?"
"No. He seemed nervous."
"He said that James was mad because the most powerful wizard in the world was offering to protect them personally and he turned him down." Groggily, Remus wondered if this was something he shouldn't have said. As if I have a choice in the matter.
Crouch exchanged a dark look with Fudge before continuing. "What did he say about his role as Secret-Keeper?"
"He said he'd take care of them."
"Take care of them," Crouch repeated with cold superiority. "How?"
"By protecting them from You-Know-Who."
"Did he say so specifically?"
"No," said Remus, who, now that he was beginning to feel lucid again, began to doubt whether this line of questioning was relevant. When is anything ever relevant with the Ministry? Why can't they leave me alone? "Why can't you leave me alone?"
Now Crouch seemed annoyed. "You will only speak to answer my questions."
"I'm tired," Remus protested. Tired was not the half of it.
"Give him a Caffeine Potion," Crouch ordered the little witch who was still assisting the group.
"That's dangerous when combined with this much Veritaserum!" Remus could not stop himself from protesting. The filter between his mind and his mouth seemed to have been removed, and the resulting feeling was quite disconcerting.
"Perhaps you'll think of that before you interrupt me again." The potion was forced down Remus' throat. "Was Black's behavior ever suspicious?"
"Did you have reason to suspect his alliance with You-Know-Who?"
Suddenly over-anxious as the new potion began its work, Remus snapped at his interrogators: "Sirius wasn't allied with You-Know-Who! Sirius would never do that!"
Crouch turned disdainfully away from Remus. "He doesn't know anything. Yate-Smith, get him to tell you everything he knows about Harry Potter and whatever charms his parents may have put on him. Call me back before you release him." His robes snapped behind him as he left the room.
Smith-Yate picked up the examination where Crouch had left off. "When did you first see Harry Potter?"
"July 31, 1980. The day he was born. What happened to Sirius?" Remus hoped that Smith-Yate was not as fond of keeping control of an interrogation as was Crouch.
Smith-Yate gave him a sympathetic sort of a look. "He was the Potters' Secret-Keeper, as you know. He revealed their whereabouts to You-Know-Who." Remus' body would have slipped from the chair had his hands not been fastened to it. "The Hit Wizards went after him, but Pettigrew got there first. Pettigrew tried to take Black in himself, and of course Black was faster. He killed Pettigrew and about a dozen Muggles who were in his way." Remus tightened his muscles to keep them from shaking. "Then he started laughing. Just laughing! The Hit Wizards didn't have any trouble bringing him in."
"He's still alive?"
"He'll soon wish he wasn't," Fudge interrupted. Fudge's face, too, was sympathy-filled, which was odd considering that the man obviously coveted Crouch's place. "I was one of the first on the scene-- it was terrible. There was nothing left. I've heard that they found one of Pettigrew's fingers, but that's it. Life in Azkaban for Black, no question about it. He as good as killed Lily and James Potter, and he literally killed thirteen more."
The tears that had been lurking behind Remus' eyes chose this moment to spill over. His face heated with embarrassment. Without the use of his hands, he had no way to hide or even wipe his face, and so he sat still, with fresh salty trails forming over those that dried. The interrogation continued. He was asked to recount every moment he had spent in Harry's company and every word James and Lily had said about their son.
Eventually, Smith-Yate and Fudge left, and were replaced by new junior ministers from other departments. Some questions changed, and some stayed the same. The Hit Wizards changed shifts as well, but Remus remained.
After what seemed at once an eternity and no time at all, Crouch returned, looking no more worn than he had previously. A future Minister of Magic knew how to keep up appearances at all costs. Albus Dumbledore walked beside Crouch.
"Professor Dumbledore's testimony matches Lupin's," he informed the guards and questioners. "Sirius Black was the Secret-Keeper. We have enough statements to send him to Azkaban without a trial."
"Do you want us to let Lupin go?" one of the young ministers inquired.
"How long have you had him here, Barty?" Dumbledore asked amiably.
Crouch stared at the elaborate clock on the wall for longer than was strictly necessary. "About twelve hours?"
"Twelve hours of constant questioning when he's known to be a personal friend of the victims?" Dumbledore sounded disapproving.
"A personal friend of the villain as well, and a Dark Creature to boot," defended Crouch. "I still cannot fathom why you allowed him into your school--"
"Yes, yes, that's neither here nor there," Dumbledore interrupted pleasantly. "Why not allow him to leave now? You just said that you have all the information you need, and I sincerely doubt that he's going to recall much in his current state."
Remus knew that he should feel gratitude for the aged Headmaster, but he did not. Between potions, silver, shackles, and twelve hours spent unmoving, he doubted that he could stand up, let alone return to his flat.
With a muttered spell by a Hit Wizard, the manacles vanished, and as Remus brought his arms around to the front of his body he heard rather than felt his muscles and bones crackling in protest. He stood carefully on shaking legs, making certain to grasp the back of the chair for balance as he did so. Someone-- he could not tell if it was Dumbledore or one of the Hit Wizards-- cast a spell on him that instantly made his trembling muscles relax to the point that they were under his control. He was able to walk from the room without comment or escort. Dumbledore followed.
"Are you going home, Remus?" he asked as they approached the fireplace.
"Yes," said Remus.
The old wizard handed a pinch of Floo powder to Remus. "I'll come with you. I just want to speak with you for a moment, and then I'll let you alone."
"Good," said Remus in a voice so surly he almost did not recognize it as his own. Contrition and confusion coursed through him "Headmaster--"
"It is all right, Remus. You're still feeling the effects of the potions, and I don't think that you should have an antidote on top of everything else you've ingested today."
The understanding and compassion in Dumbledore's voice infuriated Remus. "Don't look at me that way!" he snapped, and once more he felt guilty for speaking his mind. Control, control . . . this is a vicious cycle.
"Just step into the fire," Dumbledore commanded gently. Doubting that he had a choice in the matter, Remus did so, and soon he and Dumbledore were standing in his flat.
"It's all true, then?" Remus asked unwillingly. Had it not been for the Veritaserum, he would never have asked. As long as he did not hear the news from Dumbledore's lips, he did not have to accept the news as true. He could convince himself that James, Sirius, and Peter were on extended vacations, or that he had simply grown apart from his childhood friends and did not see them for that reason.
"It's true," repeated Dumbledore. He looked his age for one of very few times in Remus' memory. "I took Harry to his aunt and uncle's house several hours ago."
Remus' eyes flashed with anger he had not known he had the energy to summon. "Not Lily's sister!"
"They're Harry's only living relations."
"She and Lily hated each other!" Remus protested.
"Hate is a very strong word."
"And perfectly appropriate. Isn't there anyone else who could take him?"
Dumbledore shook his head. "This is the best situation."
Remus scowled. "I wish I weren't a werewolf." He also wished that the filter between his brain and his mouth would return. Quickly.
"Sometimes things happen for a reason." Remus snorted at the cold cliché. "Take care of yourself. I expect to see you at the funeral. It will be in two days. You'll get further information when I do."
"I wasn't planning to skip the funeral," said Remus sourly.
"Good. No one wants to see you shut yourself off from the world."
"Am I under surveillance?" he asked with as much rudeness as he could muster.
"Yes," said Dumbledore. And he vanished.
Remus sat down and stared at the wall for two days.
December 11, 1981: Cold Moon
The wolf threw itself against the heavy door that kept it from humans to bite and animals to make its companions. Somewhere in its intricate beast-mind, it knew that it had once had companions. It was not tempted to put its feelings into words, as Remus sometimes was, and the part of Remus which remained on this night was deeply grateful.
Remus had walled off and soundproofed this tiny pen in his dilapidated, new flat less than a week after Peter's funeral. His reason for leaving his old flat had been twofold: firstly, it contained memories of a life he had chosen to forget, and secondly, he doubted that he would be able to find paid work on a regular basis now that the war had ended.
When he had moved in, a neighbor had introduced herself and wondered why Remus was not celebrating with friends. When will the celebrations end? "I don't have any friends," he answered.
"Surely that's not so!" she replied, raking her eyes across his form in a way that bordered on lecherous. "I'll be your friend."
Remus shook his head. "I had friends once. It didn't work out." And he proceeded to become as antisocial as was humanly possible. His neighbors, after initial bursts of friendliness, agreeably left him alone. The area was one of the poorest regions of the wizarding world, but not especially unsafe. It was populated by squibs and near-squibs, by eccentrics and the mentally scarred, by students who had refused to finish their educations from lack of interest in school or extreme interest in illegal mood-altering substances. When it rained, the streets were not cleansed but instead smelled more strongly of drugs and refuse. Remus stood out in his neighborhood because he looked rather like he would fit into mainstream society. If they only knew.
Sooner or later, of course, they would know and Remus would be forced to move on. Luckily, he was in no danger of making his flat a home. He would hardly regret being sent away.
The less interaction he had with other people, the better he liked things. He had been ordered to attend Lily and James' funeral-- not that he would have missed it-- and he had quite unexpectedly been given the opportunity to say goodbye to Harry, who had come to the ceremony with his aunt and uncle. The weight of the day had been oppressive and within a fortnight Remus was virtually unable to recall its details.
Peter's funeral, held on the very next day, had been even worse. While Remus had been left to himself at the Potters' funeral, at Peter's funeral he had been placed in the extremely awkward and painful but impossible to resent position of Peter's mother's last link to her son. Peter's father had been dead many years, and Voldemort had murdered his sister, brother-in-law, and niece. The woman had therefore been inconsolable at the death of her surviving child. The funeral's turnout was as high as Ministry Security would allow, but most of the mourners were co-workers and former classmates who had come to the martyr's funeral because they could. Remus, though, had visited Peter's house on more than one occasion throughout his Hogwarts years, and Mrs. Pettigrew began to sob as soon as she saw him.
Not knowing what to do despite years of experience muttering words of consolation and attending funerals, Remus embraced the woman. She seemed suddenly fifty years older than she had the last time Remus had seen her. That must have been at James and Lily's wedding. Mrs. Pettigrew clung to Remus throughout the service. The tributes to Peter were beautiful and stirring, but they made Remus feel cold and bitter.
Why didn't they say any of this when he was alive? He was always "the fat little boy following James and Sirius around." He was the one who couldn't "be allowed to get away with the things James and Sirius do because he just isn't in their league talent-wise." People stared when he and Lily spent time together at the Ministry because she was too smart and too beautiful and too magical to be his friend. When he was alive, he was an object to be mocked.
He's dead now.
Peter joined James and Lily within the confines of the earth; or rather, a coffin bearing his name joined James and Lily within the confines of the earth. After the explosion, his remains had not been salvageable. Mrs. Pettigrew confirmed to Remus that the rumors of Peter's index finger being preserved and sent home were in fact true. Disgusting. Along with the finger had been a posthumous Order of Merlin. When it came right down to what's important, he was the best of us all.
Why didn't I know that they were dead? I should have known. I should have been the one to track Sirius down… so much more expendable than Peter.
Who'd have thought I'd be the last one left? The only one to survive? WHAT A WASTE!
Such thoughts filled Remus' brain until the requisite Official Mourning ended. Then, at last having been deemed non-suicidal, he was left to his own devices. He went about the business of ignoring any feelings he might have had about Sirius' betrayal or his other friends' deaths.
One day, as he was arranging his change in location, he happened to walk by a bookstore. He saw a sparking blue-and-white cover, and his stomach lurched even before he was able to place it as one of the baby books that Lily and James had devoured. Stiffly, he entered the shop and slid the book from its display. He read aloud, although under his breath: "At the age of fifteen months, all children will walk backwards, play with a ball, and have a five-word vocabulary. Half of all children will run, draw a line, and adopt 'no' as a favorite word. Some children will climb stairs, 'help' around the house, and put their fingers to their mouths and make a 'be quiet' sound."
Softly, with shaking hands, Remus closed the book. "And one child will defeat Lord Voldemort," he added, before angrily reminding himself that it would be at least ten years before he saw Harry again and that it really didn't matter what Harry did when.
This was not the only time that the written word became his enemy.
Remus had always tended to read the Daily Prophet as soon as it arrived-- such behavior had been necessary if one wanted to remain safe during the war. Without thinking, he picked the paper up the day after Peter's funeral and found, next to the photograph of Peter and Lily standing in front of a Ministry building, a picture of Sirius being led through the gates of Azkaban. Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter Here was inscribed above the gate in strong, bold letters. Every child who grew up in the wizarding world was taught to fear the phrase, the gate, and the fortress.
Why didn't Sirius fear it?
How could he be so different from what he seemed?
Remus read the article as if he expected to find the answer there. He did not. All he learned was that Sirius had been taken directly to Azkaban without a trial, as Crouch had promised. The article also mentioned that there had been a slight disagreement between Dumbledore and Crouch; Dumbledore had asked to be allowed to speak to Sirius and Crouch had refused. I should have asked to see Sirius. But I was a bit distracted, with all my other friends being dead!
He felt infinitesimally better when he read on and learned that Sirius' mind was almost certainly gone and he had not been in a condition to speak to anyone. Glancing back at the photograph, Remus saw that Sirius did indeed look dead-eyed and docile.
And that's the last energy I'll ever expend on worrying about him.
Was I supposed to cry? Scream? Throw things?
Remus' memories of Sirius remained, but he ignored them. Perhaps some day he would choose to think about them.
The wolf did not choose to ignore, remember, or grieve. The wolf was.
The wolf was angry.
He howled in his tiny, soundproofed pen.
The lonely howl of a wolf split the air. At least, Sirius assumed that it was lonely.
I am lonely.
I am cold.
I am hungry.
I am dirty.
I am sorry.
Mostly, I am sorry.
Sirius' thoughts were beginning to take basic form with regard to basic needs. He did not know for how long he would be able to think in this clear, albeit simple, way. He had a feeling that he had come this far in his thoughts before only to become once more confused and unable to remember what he had just thought. Following a rational train of logic was virtually impossible. Each idea flashed across his mind like a still, Muggle photograph, and he was unable to remember what one photograph showed when he proceeded unwillingly to the next.
Some days he tried to kill himself and did not know why. Other days, he knew why but could not find the energy or the means to attempt suicide. Some days he knew his name and other days he did not. Some days, he knew that he was imprisoned in the fortress called Azkaban, and some days he was certain he was in Godric's Hollow.
He had a sneaking suspicion that his thoughts were becoming clearer rather than more convoluted as time passed. Had he been able to analyze the situation, he would have thought this state of things most remarkably odd; dementors were meant to make prisoners lose their sanity, not regain it.
But today, after he knew not how much time in Azkaban, he was able to hear a sound and sound and put a name to it: howl. A wolf's howl.
Werewolf or true wolf?
The book-- he did not know what book-- he did not know what a book was-- but he knew that there was something called a book and that it said that a werewolf would never be seen in its human form on the night of the full moon.
Sirius staggered to his window and saw a bright, beckoning light. The moon. The full moon.
Words rushed unbidden into his mind.Wolf Moon Snow Moon Worm Moon Pink Moon Flower Moon Strawberry Moon Buck Moon Sturgeon Moon Harvest Moon Hunter's Moon Beaver Moon Cold Moon.
This must be the Cold Moon. It was certainly cold.
Wolf. Moon. Remus.
He had remembered Remus before, he knew now. Remus was sweet and brave and wonderful and the epitome of all that was good. And he, Sirius, was bad, bad, bad for suspecting Remus.
Killed Lily. Killed James.
Sirius found himself in a field. He stumbled over an uneven spot in the ground. Looking down, he saw a small white cross, long abandoned and overgrown with weeds. "James?"
"Right here!" Suddenly, powerful claws sprouted from the earth beneath the cross. They wrapped themselves around Sirius' ankles and sought to pull him down. Sirius hollered with pain and fright, and wrenched himself away from his attacker. His effort dragged up a form from below.
Sirius screamed. The skeletal arms and legs were affixed to a naked, blood-drenched head and torso. It was James. "You killed me, Sirius," said James with deathly calm.
"J-- James, I would never betray you!"
"So you always said. You killed my wife! You killed my child!"
"I WOULD NEVER DO THAT!"
"YOU--" James suddenly broke off. The murderous tint that had so unnerved Sirius was replaced by something even more frightening: defeat. "It was my fault. I knew you. I never should have left Lily and Harry to your protection."
"It's not your fault, James. I didn't do it! I didn't give you up! I'd die first!"
James sighed as much as a decaying corpse could. "You never had any self-restraint. You'd say things and do things in fits of passion, and it was all well and good when we were still at Hogwarts and we were just making people laugh. But now . . . you tell me that Moony is a spy. You order me to forget about one of my best friends. BUT YOU WERE WRONG AND YOU WERE STUPID AND YOU WERE WRONG AND YOU SHOULD HAVE KNOWN IT WASN'T MOONY AND YOU WERE THE ONE WHO THOUGHT YOU WERE SO SMART BUT I WAS THE ONE WHO PAID WITH MY LIFE, SIRIUS! MY LIFE! LILY'S LIFE!"
"No. No!" Sirius reached out to grasp James and shake him, make him understand that he was wrong, that he couldn't be dead, but James would not listen.
Sirius struck his head against a cold stone floor as he over-balanced. He choked on the dirt and instinctively scrambled to his feet, careening toward the window, reaching for the bar.
He saw it again.
The Cold Moon.
It might not be real. It might have originated from the prison inside his mind. It might have been the scream of another prisoner. It might be a wolf. It might be a werewolf. It almost certainly was not Remus. Remus was too smart to let himself loose on a night like this, too smart, too smart to go to Voldemort, Sirius killed them, killed them, Sirius was not smart,smartest in our year, Animagus Transformation . . .
With a crack, Sirius became Padfoot.
He was cold.
He was lonely.
He was hungry.
He was dirty.
Things were less complex to Padfoot.
Padfoot remembered Moony. Sirius felt his mind shift, assert itself though he was in dog form. Once upon a time it had been easier to think as a human. This was not once upon a time.
Moony thinks he's the last one. He's wrong. He thinks it's impossible.
One day he'll believe the impossible.
The wolf howled.
They think I was the Secret-Keeper.
WORMTAIL! THE RAT!
That's why I'm here.
But I'm innocent.
Padfoot cocked his head and knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he would not be forgetting himself again for a long, long time. He changed forms once more, and Sirius stared out the window at the Cold Moon.
"My name is Sirius Black," he informed it. "And I am innocent."
This story has a sequel called Interim, which covers Peter's time spent as a rat; Remus' time spent teaching at Hogwarts; and Sirius' time spent on the run. Interim is complete and posted here at FF.N; visit my profile page to find it.
Auxiliary Disclaimer: The slogan over the gates of Azkaban is from Dante's Inferno
Other Auxiliary Disclaimer: Remus' comment that he had friends once and it didn't work out is stolen from the gloriously campy series "The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr." I hadn't seen the series for years when I stole the line to write this, but its brilliance has since been transferred to DVD and I realized where the line "came from."
Not Exactly a Disclaimer: The chapter titles are Native American names for full moons. No, it doesn't make much sense that MWPP would know them. At one point, someone stole this story and presented it on another site as her own work. She claimed that the chapter titles were Old English, so I thought I'd clear up any confusion so the next thief would sound less like an idiot.
Author's Note: Thank you to my reviewers, particularly those on FF.N who serve as beta-readers to someone too impatient to have a real beta-reader.
Note of Revision:This was reposted in October 2007, six years after the original writing, to improve formatting and make a few minor changes to enhance canon-compliance. Obviously, this fic has been AU since the publication of OotP, and I haven't made (and won't make) the major changes needed to make it otherwise. Gosh, I miss the days when I thought my ending was kind of upbeat because I thought the worst would be behind Sirius once he escaped from Azkaban...