A Matter of Trust

In Prisoner of Azkaban, Remus Lupin thinks James believed him a traitor. In Deathly Hallows, he tells Harry that James "would have regarded it the height of dishonour to mistrust his friend". What happened to change his mind? Take a trip to the summer before Harry's fifth year, and dive, with Remus, into the memories of one Sirius Black.

Remus Lupin was not an ordinary man. Not only was he a wizard, he was spending his time trying to prevent the return of a Dark Lord. This was unusual enough (their entire organization contained only 15 others), but to add to his abnormality, Remus Lupin was a werewolf. He was an extraordinarily polite, unfailingly courteous, dark creature. And, if that weren't enough, his best friend was an escaped, (and innocent) mass-murderer.

He reluctantly turned his attention back to Kingsley Shacklebolt, a young, dark skinned man. "Sorry Kingsley, I didn't catch that…" He smiled, a faintly apologetic look on his face.

"Not to worry Lupin." Kingsley's slow, deep voice washed over him. "I said I was surprised. Why didn't Dumbledore make Potter a prefect?"

Remus shrugged. "He'll have had his reasons." It was true, Remus thought. Albus Dumbledore, arguably the most powerful wizard in the world, had reasons for everything he did. And if he decided to make Harry Potter's friends school prefects, and not Harry himself, well, Remus would trust him.

"But it would've shown confidence in him. It's what I'd have done," persisted Kingsley, "'specially with the Daily Prophet having a go at him every few days…"

Remus shrugged, keeping his face carefully blank. "I don't know Kingsley." He smiled tightly. But perhaps, said a small voice, perhaps Dumbledore doesn't have confidence in him, like your friends didn't have confidence in you…

"Lupin! There you are!" Sirius grinned as he sauntered over to the two of them.

Remus frowned, perplexed. Although Sirius looked joyful, he couldn't help feeling that something was wrong.

Before Sirius had a chance to respond to Remus' silent question, Kingsley spoke. "Black! I've been meaning to speak to you. I wanted a few hairs, if you can spare them? We're setting a false trail…saying you're abroad."

Kingsley was an auror, hired by the Ministry of Magic to capture Sirius Black. It was, Remus thought, very confusing. Sirius Black had been wrongfully accused of the murder of Lily and James Potter, two of their best friends, and, incidentally, Harry Potter's parents. As a result, he had spent 12 years in the wizarding prison, Azkaban, escaping only two years ago. And Kingsley, in charge of the manhunt, was having dinner with him, feeding false information to his superiors.

Sirius laughed, tugging black hair from his scalp. Remus knew immediately that something was wrong. Azkaban had aged Sirius, yellowing his teeth and wasting his face, but usually when he laughed, Remus could see a younger man…Remus could recognise his old friend. Tonight his Azkaban deadened eyes stayed dull and lifeless, even while he laughed.

"Sirius-" Remus didn't know what he was going to say, but he didn't get the chance to continue. Sirius had caught sight of his godson grimacing in conversation with Mad-Eyed-Moody. Though he didn't think Sirius' rescue was necessary, Harry, Remus had to admit, had the air of someone who had been cornered.

He watched as Harry fled, slipping silently upstairs as soon as Sirius distracted Mad Eye.

Sirius stared, completely absorbed, at the photograph Moody had been holding. Remus wasn't even sure that he'd noticed Harry had successfully escaped. His curiosity well and truly pricked, Remus was only halfway to the pair when he froze. He could hear yelling coming from upstairs. Drawing his wand, he spun to face the doorway Harry had gone through. As he ran, Remus saw Sirius' look change from mild confusion to fear. He, like Remus, had recognised Harry's voice.

The two of them bolted up the stairs, unaware of Moody thumping up behind them.

Fear pounded through his veins as he heard what was unmistakeably Harry, "Just get out of here…Let someone else-"

Remus burst into the room. "What's going on?" His eyes moved around the room, seeing Harry standing next to Molly Weasley, both of them staring at Harry's body on the floor. He heard Sirius' pained gasp behind him. There was a split second, when, looking at the body on the floor, Remus couldn't move, caught up in grief for James, just as much as Harry.

And then, suddenly, he understood. "Riddikulus!"

Harry's body vanished. A silvery orb hung in the air over the spot where it had lain. Remus waved his wand once more and the orb vanished into a puff of smoke.

Molly, her face in her hands, gulped desperately, trying to prevent an inevitable storm of tears. So Remus did as he had always done. He pushed away his thoughts, his sorrow and his anger. Once again he had no time for internal reflection or for decade old grief.

"Molly," said Remus bleakly, walking over to her. "Molly, don't…"

Next second, she was sobbing her heart out onto his shoulder.

"Molly, it was just a Boggart," he said soothingly, patting her on the head. "Just a stupid Boggart…"

"I see them d- d- dead all the time!" she moaned into his shoulder. "All the t- t- time! I d- d- dream about it…"

Remus didn't know what to say. He was not one to talk to about grief or loss or love. The old Sirius had always been better at comforting girls than he was, but the new one never seemed to have the energy to try. Sirius was staring at the patch of carpet were the Boggart, pretending to be Harry's body, had lain. He was no help.

Moody was watching Harry. And Harry was looking, if possible, more confused and helpless than Remus felt.

"D- d- don't tell Arthur," Molly was swallowing now, mopping her eyes frantically with her cuffs. "I d- d- don't want him to know…being silly…"

Remus silently handed her a handkerchief and she blew her nose.

"Harry, I'm so sorry. What must you think of me?" she said shakily. "Not even able to get rid of a Boggart…"

"Don't be stupid," said Harry, making a poor attempt at a smile.

"I'm just s- s- so worried," she said, tears spilling out of her eyes again. "Half the f- f- family's in the Order, it'll be a miracle if we all come through this…and P- P- Percy's not talking to us…what if something d- d- dreadful happens and we've never m- m- made it up with him? And what's going to happen if Arthur and I get killed, who's g- g- going to look after Ron and Ginny?"

Remus finally summoned the energy to cut her off. "Molly, that's enough," he said, trying to speak firmly. "This isn't like last time, we know what Voldemort's up to-"

Molly Weasley gave a little squeak of fright at the sound of the name.

"Oh, Molly, come on, it's about time you got used to hearing his name- look, I can't promise no one's going to get hurt, nobody can promise that, but we're much better off than we were last time." Remus swallowed, forcing himself to keep talking, refusing to think about what he was saying. "You weren't in the Order then, you don't understand. Last time we were outnumbered twenty to one by the Death Eaters and they were picking us off one by one…" He trailed off, glancing at the floor. For what he said was the truth, the Order members had been picked off one by one, until they no longer trusted each other. And then, once they were split, Voldemort had finished off the rest of them.

"Don't worry about Percy," said Sirius abruptly. "He'll come round. It's only a matter of time before Voldemort moves into the open; once he does, the whole ministry's going to be begging us to forgive them."

Remus felt a sudden rush of friendship. Sirius loved deeply. He may not have the energy to comfort crying women (especially ones he fought with as often as Mrs. Weasley), but when it came to people he loved, Sirius always found some way to help them. And it was nice to know that after all this time, after all that they had been through, he was still on that list.

"And I'm not sure I'll be accepting their apology," Sirius added bitterly.

Remus could hear what his speech was costing him. He had lost just as much, if not more in the war than Remus, "And as for who's going to look after Ron and Ginny if you and Arthur died," Remus interrupted, forcing a slight smile, "what do you think we'd do, let them starve?"

Molly smiled tremulously. "Being silly," she muttered again, mopping her eyes.

But as he guided her down the stairs, Remus could not think her silly. Not when the last war had cost him so much, had cost them all so much.

The entire Weasley clan was in bed, alongside Harry and Hermione. The visitors had gone home earlier, all with jobs to attend to in the morning. Remus had nothing to do tomorrow, nothing to do until the next full moon; so he had offered to clean up.

He had been in complete control of his emotions all evening. There was nothing at all in his bearing to give him away, or so Remus believed. And yet, while he was sneaking past the portraits in the hall, on his way home, Sirius called to him.

"Have a drink with me?" Sirius' face was tense, waiting for his answer. He was, Remus thought, a very long way from the young man who was casually witty, even when dueling Death eaters. Sirius raised a bottle of fire-whisky for Remus to see, a poor attempt at his old nonchalance.

Remus just wanted to go home. He wanted to wallow alone, not with Sirius, who had deserted him, and who he had deserted. But Sirius' eyes were pleading with him as they had only once before. Remus couldn't refuse, not when, long ago, they had been brothers. So he nodded, unable to force words out of his suddenly dry throat.

The two walked next to each other (but not together) into the kitchen. They were silent. Sirius poured two glasses, and they sat. Remus had nothing to say. He met Sirius' eyes across the table, but had to look away.

"Remus," Sirius' voice was hoarse, guttural. The same way it had been when he first escaped Azkaban.

He looked up in time to see Sirius finish his drink.

"For courage," he smiled briefly, a twisted, unhappy smile. And then he slid a photograph across the table to his one time brother.

Remus' brow furrowed, wondering what exactly Sirius needed courage for. And then he saw the photo, and he knew. For there, waving up at him, were Lily and James, there was Peter Pettigrew, between them, Sirius beside them. And surrounding them was the original Order of the Phoenix- long dead.

He could feel tears rising, alongside hurt and grief. Somewhere within was anger too, because in the end, they hadn't trusted him. In the end, they, like everyone else, had seen him as a werewolf, not as family.

Remus opened his mouth twice, uselessly. Before tossing back his own drink, and returning Sirius' wry smile. "For courage."

Sirius had, Remus knew, been trying to talk about this for years. Remus had always run. He was sorry that Sirius had spent so long innocent in Azkaban, but he was still far too angry to discuss it. If Lily and James had trusted him, instead of Peter, they would still be alive. If Sirius had trusted him enough to tell him they had switched Secret-Keeper, he wouldn't have been locked in Azkaban. If his friends had just believed in him, he wouldn't have been left betrayed and alone on the 1st of Novemver, 1981.

"You're not there."

"Wha-?" Remus looked up, startled out of his thoughts, startled by the tears on his face. He thought he had cried them all out years ago.

Sirius was looking at the table, a look of utmost concentration on his face. "In the photo. You aren't there."

Remus scanned the photo, tortured, murdered friends smiling up at him. He couldn't find his own face.

"According to Moody, that's the original Order of the Phoenix," he looked up, meeting Remus' eyes. "You barely came to meetings, barely saw us anymore. That's why people suspected you. I-"

"I had a mission! Damn it Sirius!" Remus could feel his anger, burning above the pain and the hurt. "They thought I was the traitor because of what I am!"

Sirius shook his head. "Let me speak." Sirius wasn't asking anymore. This was a command, this was the old Sirius, the indomitable Heir of the Blacks. "I should've known better, Remus. I should never have suspected you."

Remus looked at him, searching for something, anything in his face that said otherwise.

"I was wrong." Sirius paused, shifting uncomfortably on his seat. He was nervous again, his confidence once again disappearing into the past. "Will you promise to hear me out?"

Remus nodded dumbly. How could he do anything else? This was no casual 'sorry', no angry confrontation. This was a true apology, a plea for understanding and for forgiveness.

"Remus, Lily and James-"

Remus' heart clenched.

"-they always trusted you-"

"No!" Remus stood without conscious thought, the bench he was sitting on slid and tumbled onto the floor. His head whirled as he stumbled backwards.

"Remus!" Sirius' hand clamped onto his wrist, "Remus, you said you'd listen!"

Remus stared at the thin, vice-like fingers. He shook his head. "It doesn't matter-"

And then Sirius was on his side of the table, suddenly in front of him. "How can it not matter? Re-"

"Because I can't believe it." He looked up, feeling his head settle, stop spinning. "Even if it were true, I couldn't believe it."

Sirius righted the bench with a wand-flick, guiding Remus down onto it. "I have proof."

"Wha-?" Remus stared at him, searching, for the second time that night, for any hint of deception. "You can't possibly…" but his voice trailed off, because with another flick of his wand, Sirius had summoned a shallow, stone basin, and it was floating towards them."


But Sirius interrupted, obviously uncomfortable. "Please Remus. I-" he swallowed audibly. "Lily made me promise…well, I doubt she meant for me to do it 14 years later, but…"

And all Remus could do was nod, because truthfully, he would do anything for Lily. Lily, whose lack of trust had hurt more than anyone else's. Lily, who he had studied with, and patrolled with. Lily, who had healed him every full moon since part-way through 6th year and who had introduced him to muggle literature. Lily, who had believed in second, and third, and fourth chances for everyone else, but couldn't be bothered even asking if Remus was the spy before condemning him.

And so Remus nodded, and he waited, barely breathing, while Sirius raised his wand, and pressed it to his temple. And he watched, and waited, as the glittery-grey strand he withdrew, fell into the pensieve. Because he needed to know that Lily, at least, had trusted him.

"I- uh, I borrowed the pensieve from Dumbledore, but, well," Sirius closed his eyes, as though, Remus thought, he was asking for strength. "They're my memories. And they, er, they're not happy ones…"

Remus understood, suddenly, why the thoughts glittered grey instead of the silvery-white he remembered. "The Dementors," he said softly, placing his own gentle hand onto Sirius'.

Sirius nodded, still eyeing the table. "This was- this was their favourite. I lived it so many times…well, it's sort of tied to Azkaban…so I'm not sure…"

"I understand." And Remus did. Memories that were so irreversibly tied to others often lacked clarity in a pensieve. Memories that had been dragged up by Dementors so many times, would be greyed, dulled. "It's fine Sirius."

And they smiled at each other, some remnant of a bond tugging at their hearts.

It wasn't until Remus had clasped Sirius' hand and leant over the pensieve, that he wondered what, exactly, Sirius' worst memory had to do with him.

He felt his feet lift off the ground as he pitched, face first, into swirling darkness. He fell, and fell, and then, blinking twice, he found himself standing in an oddly familiar house. It looked dull and dirtied…as though it hadn't been cleaned, well, ever. But the lay out of it, the way the front door wasn't quite at a right angle to the corridor, and the way the corridor went only for two steps, before it opened into the living room, was incredibly reminiscent. There were flowers on a hall-table, but though they were all open and alive, they seemed more brown than pink.

His gaze ran along the ground, meeting familiar, puffy lounge chairs and the people sitting in them. There was Sirius, lounging casually, in a way that he hadn't seen in years. There was Lily Potter, pulling faces at the one-year old Harry on her lap, her wand discarded on the table beside her. And there was James, leaning gently against the mantle piece, not having to worry about flames, because their floo had been disconnected long ago.

It wasn't quite right, the people, the place…it was slightly blurry, slightly faded. Lily's eyes were just green, instead of a sparkling green. Sirius' hair was just black, nothing glossy about it. And James' shirt, while still cheekily sporting a phoenix, was no longer bright and fiery. This memory had been desecrated beyond any Remus had seen.

Knock, knock, knock.

Remus turned to the doorway, and had the odd, and horrifying, experience of watching his younger self, walk through the door. It was odd because he too, still had some of the arrogance, the confidence, of youth. He had not yet lived alone. It was horrifying because he suddenly knew exactly what memory this was.

He spun angrily to face Sirius, but not a word made it's way out of his mouth, because Sirius was crouched, protectively, in the corner. Before he could think of anything to say, the memory was moving.

Lily shifted Harry onto the chair, jumping to her feet, "Remus!" A broad smile stretched its way across her face.

James also smiled, leaning forward and nodding.

The young Sirius, however, stiffened, and scowled angrily at the opposite wall.

"Hello!" old Remus couldn't help wondering why his younger self was so cheerful. Didn't he know that this was the last time he would see his friends? "Lily! James! Harry! Si- Sirius." His voice faltered when he met Sirius' gaze.

"Honestly Lupin," Sirius' lip curled. "Usually when you knock, you wait for an invitation."

"Oh." Remus drew back slightly, obviously surprised at the open hostility in his friend's voice. The watching Remus retreated to the corner where the watching Sirius was crouched. This memory was painful for the both of them.

The younger Sirius jumped suddenly from his armchair. "Wait!" his grey eyes turned from smoldering to hard steel. "We didn't let you in! How-?"

"Sirius!" Lily frowned. "Remus comes in the same way you do. You're both allowed through the wards." Lily was obviously trying to communicate something to him silently, but Sirius wasn't listening.

"Bloody Dumbledore! That trusting fool!" He turned to Remus, his face curling viciously.

"I do my own wards thank you!" Lily took a step forward, her fists balled at her sides. Remus remembered, when this actually happened, her eyes had blazed fire, like they did when she was furious. In Sirius' memory, all they did was twinkle dully. "And my wards let through the people I trust. Which, might I remind you, includes Remus!"

The young Sirius tossed his hair out of his eyes and opened his mouth, but Lily beat him to it. "It's my house Sirius, and if you can't behave yourself around my guests, you can bloody well leave!"

The young Remus was shrinking backwards, but not leaving. The older Remus was leaning forward eagerly. This time he saw the love in Lily's eyes. How could he have thought she didn't trust him? They had been in hiding for a year, and yet he was still allowed to simply walk into her house. He placed a gentle arm around old Sirius' shoulders.

"Well bloody tell him then," the younger Sirius said, glaring venomously at the werewolf.

Lily nodded, swallowing slightly, obviously bracing herself. "Remus, you– you know there's a spy in the order?" she hesitated, meeting his eyes just briefly enough to see him nod. Everyone in the room could see the fear on his face, they all knew that most of the Order (including Sirius) suspected him.

The older Remus was surprised by how much this hurt the second time around. His stomach twisting he turned to his friend. "Sirius, I don't-" He broke off when Lily started speaking again.

"We have to hide better. For Harry's sake." She glanced briefly at the ground. "Remus, we're going to do the Fidelius Charm."

Remus' jaw slackened. "When?" he breathed.

James spoke for the first time. "Tonight."

Both Remus' had tears sparkling in their eyes. Though only one knew for certain what was coming, the other had a terrible feeling in his gut.

"Your- your Secret-Keeper?" His voice still wasn't more than a whisper.

James bowed his head, his glasses, instead of glinting as they usually did, looked old and scratched.

Lily was the one who answered. Unlike either of the Remus', her tears were flowing down her cheeks. "Sirius." She opened her mouth to explain to him, but Harry began to cry, and she turned to pick up her son.

"James?" it was a whimper, a plea…it was all Remus could force from his mouth.

The old Remus stuffed his fingers into his ears, not needing to hear what James' response was. He could see it coming, see the regret building on the boy-man's face.

And then Sirius, beside him, pulled his hands away. "Listen would you?" His face was grey, weary. "I can only do this once." Remus barely registered the poor attempt at a smile, because James was speaking. He was speaking the words that had haunted, and still haunted, his dreams.

"Remus. I-, look. It's just, you're, well, you're a werewolf. And- Remus!" but he didn't get any further than that, because young Remus spun, and fled. He needed to get away…needed to get past the anti-disapparition wards. His tears were falling thick and fast. And he didn't see what his older self could.

At her husbands shout, Lily had looked up from where she was soothing her child. And she followed him, calling. "Remus! Remus please!" Harry was on her hip as she flew out the door. Her wand, Remus saw, feeling his stomach sink, was still on the table by her chair. "Remus, REMUS!"

James and Sirius, and the two older men, followed her out. Two were there for protection, the other two were drawn by a dreadful voyeurism. Remus saw himself reach the wards. He saw Lily reach for him, and be repelled by her own charms. No Potters could leave the safety of their hideout, not without counter charms. Remus saw Lily reach for her wand, and he saw the realization that she didn't have it flick across her face. And as he watched himself apparate away, he saw Lily throw herself, sobbing at her barrier. "Oh Gods! Oh, Remus…please…" She rocked herself, backwards and forwards, rocking as though something terribly precious had been ripped away.

She was rocking, Remus knew, just as his younger self was, back at home. The two of them sobbing as their hearts broke. Unlike his younger self though, Lily had James, picking her up, holding her as he led her back into the house. The younger Sirius said nothing, simply standing aside, but there was a regret, a terrible sadness on his face. And the whole memory had darkened, as Lily collapsed. Remus could see advancing wisps of grey fog from the corners of his eyes. And as Remus put his arm around his grey-faced friend, he wondered just how much of the last 14 years Sirius had spent watching Lily cry.

Lily stopped crying, eventually, but the fog stayed. She huddled into the corner of the couch, clinging to her child, and to her wand.

"What are we waiting for?" Sirius asked James softly.

"Peter," he said, glancing at his wife. "She wanted the marauders to have a last hurrah." His smile looked more like a grimace. "Silly prat had to pick today to be late."

Sirius was silent for a moment. "James, I know that you want to trust Remus, but-"

"Sirius." There was a warning in James' voice, one that made Remus lean forward, hopefully. Could it be that James had trusted him?

"I know!" Sirius leant forward, desperate to convince his brother. "Listen, I know! Do you think I want him to be a traitor?"

"I won't mistrust my friends." James' jaw was set, the same way as when he had told Remus he didn't care if he was a werewolf. Clenched, and raised, the same way as when he told Voldemort he would definitely not be joining the Death Eaters…It was, for James, a sign that this as much about will as it was about trust, and Sirius knew it.

"James, you said it yourself. He's a werewolf!"

And as the watching Remus felt his heart stop in his chest, Lily stood up, wand still clutched in her hand. There were silvery tear tracks on her cheeks, and a fire that even the Dementors hadn't managed to dull. "Damn you! Damn you, Sirius!" She pointed her wand directly at his chest, as the fog crept slowly closer. "How could you-?" her voice broke slightly. "I wanted him! As our Secret-Keeper! I wanted HIM!" she gave a great sob.

Sirius staggered back into the wall. "B- but, you- you said he was a werewolf-"

"Exactly. He's a werewolf. The Fidelius charm won't work on part-humans." Lily broke down again, sobbing. "I tried…oh, I spent months…I knew we'd have to hide, but I- I couldn't…"

James put an arm around her, gentle, soothing. "The bloody charm won't work for werewolves, vampires, giants…the theory was that they would use it to hide a rebellion. Lily's been working, trying to alter the charm…"

Sirius was white. "Y- Y- You, you didn't want me." It was a breath, gentle, full of hurt.

James was silent for a moment. "I wanted you. I know you'd never betray us, but Sirius, he'll guess. He'll know it's you. We're putting you in horrible danger." There was a question in his eyes.

"Wha-? James, I don't care! You know I'd die for you!"

Lily shuddered. "But we don't exactly want you to, yeah?" She offered him a weak smile.

Sirius nodded. "Lily? Lil, if you… you could ask Dumbledore. He'd be-"

Lily shook her head, wiping some of the tears away. "He'd give us up." There was a shocked silence. "Not, not betray us, but, if it won the war, he'd do it. And," she was pleading with her eyes, her great, expressive eyes, "I- I know it's selfish, but, but Harry…I couldn't…"

Sirius nodded softly. "Lily, I, I would never betray you…I-" He took a deep breath. "About Remus, are you sure? How can you be sure that Remus wouldn't betray you?"

Lily gave a single, mirthless, laugh. "Oh, Sirius. The same way that I know you would never betray us. You- You guys are our family, yeah? And," a single tear dripped down her cheek. "And even if I thought you were a spy, even if I thought Remus was a spy… I'd trust you. Because I'd prefer to be betrayed by someone I loved, than to betray their trust, if I was wrong."

Sirius was silent. Remus wondered if Sirius knew that that was exactly what he thought had happened.

"Sirius? Will you promise me something? Will you find Remus for me?"

Sirius gaped at her.

"Please? If, if not now, then," she gulped. "When this is over, one way or the other…please. Find him, tell him-"

Knock, knock.

James opened the door, smiling tiredly at the man standing there. "Peter. You alright mate?"

Peter nodded, smiling weakly. "Fine…just running late."

Sirius didn't seem to need to ask what Lily wanted him to tell Remus.

"Lil. Lily, he might not believe you…" Sirius trailed off.

"I can prove it." Her gaze was direct, open.

Remus barely noticed the confusion on Peter's face, he didn't bother listening to the faint murmur of James' explanation.

"I've never asked him."

"Wha-?" Sirius was obviously bewildered. "How is that-?"

"I've never asked him if he was the spy. And if I thought he was, I would have. Before I went to anyone else, before I told Dumbledore, I would've asked if it were him. And if it were, I would've offered to help him get away."

There was silence. Dead silence, until Peter broke it.

"You shouldn't." There were tears in his eyes. "Y- Y- You can't help a traitor…If you think…Lily, if you know who it is, you should kill him." There was a dreadful honesty in his eyes.

Lily looked at him carefully. There was no gasp of shock, no outrage. "I won't believe that," she stated, calm as if they were discussing the weather. "Doing something evil, it doesn't make a person evil. Pete, there's good in everyone."

Sirius looked at Peter, measuring him with his eyes, then, coming to a conclusion, he spoke. "Some things are unforgivable." He turned to face James, "Listen, whoever the spy is, if they know you guys are doing the Fidelius Charm, they'll try to attack you before you cast it. You should do it now." He paused, taking a deep breath, steeling himself to speak, "I think you should have Peter do it. It's the perfect ploy."

There was shock on Lily and James' faces, and on Peter's, but on Peter's, there was something else as well: guilt.

Remus could hear Peter stammering his doubts, but he couldn't see the confident glint he knew would be in the young Sirius' eyes, as he outlined his plan. The memory had darkened again, leaving only their silhouettes visible. Remus put his arm around a shaking Sirius, still crouched in the corner.

The memory eventually lightened, turning back to the dull copy it had been before.

"Alright," James said, finally. "But if you're our bait Sirius, you're going into hiding too."

Sirius rolled his eyes, but nodded, and turned to Lily.

Lily, however, did not look at him. She was staring at Peter.

Lily nodded, seemingly to herself, before squaring her chin, eerily reminiscent of James earlier. "I trust you Pete. Marauders don't betray Marauders."

Peter stared at her, shocked, much in the same way that Remus was staring. "She guessed." It no more than a mutter, he didn't really suspect Sirius would hear it, but he did, smiling tightly back at Remus in acknowledgement.

Peter was shaking violently. "Y- Y- You trust me? B- B- But-"

Sirius spoke over the top of him. "Right! We should do it now then! The sooner the better, and all that!"

James, who had been standing silently, stirred slightly. "Now? We," he swallowed. "We can't do it 'til you leave Sirius." He stared at the ground, eyes glistening behind his glasses.

Sirius looked shocked for a second, but himself together quickly. "Oh. Uh, of, of course. I , uh…" He too looked at the floor.

"You'll tell Remus, Sirius?" Lily was looking at him, big eyes glowing, begging. "You'll tell him we love him, that we'd never-" she broke off, rubbing angrily at her eyes.

Sirius opened his mouth to speak, nodding when no words came out.

James stepped forward. "We don't say goodbye Sirius." He offered his arm to Sirius.

Remus smiled sadly. He remembered that pact. Not once before a battle would they say goodbye to each other. Instead, they would clasp forearms, matching their jagged scars together. They had done this since the summer before sixth year, when they became blood brothers over a bottle of fire-whisky.

This time though, when they clasped their arms together, both had tears in their eyes. Neither of them, Remus suddenly realised, thought that they would see each other again.



James swallowed, convulsively. Then he nodded, and stepped away.

Lily stared at James, desperately trying to hold it together, and at Sirius, scuffing his aristocratic foot on the floor.

And the memory changed. Only, instead of changing time, or place, the memory brightened. The gardenias stood hot pink against their flapping yellow curtains. The lounge chairs became a pretty powder blue, instead of a dull grey, and Lily, Lily's eyes were emeralds again, wet with tears as she threw herself at Sirius. The Dementors, Remus thought, had not gone near this part of the memory.

"Oh!" Lily looked up at him wetly. "We love you, Sirius." She buried her head into her shoulder. "No matter what happens, how this turns out…" she sniffed, "we'll always love you, Padfoot."

Remus saw a single tear slide down Sirius' cheek. While they were at Hogwarts, the use of the birth name of a Marauder, meant that they were having an important conversation. Outside, in the real world, real names were used. And when, on occasion, their nick-names were used, it meant the speaker was serious. Those names called up unbreakable bonds, of friendship, of brotherhood, and of love.

Sirius nodded, barely looking at them as he turned, leaving the house. Remus saw a brief flash, James moving to hug his wife, curtains flipping from the draft, and Peter, looking horrified, guilt and remorse on his face, but still not brave enough to speak up. And then Remus felt the older Sirius tug on his elbow, and he rose, weightless, through the black, and he landed back in the kitchen of number 12 Grimmauld Place.

"Sirius? Sirus?" Remus shook his friend slightly, worried that his breathing was so sporadic. He poured another shot of whisky, and pushed it towards Sirius.

"Ta," Sirius croaked, downing it in one. He said nothing else until he had poured, and taken a sip of, a second glass. "Sorry. It- It was harder than I thought. Remus, I know that I was wrong, I never should have- Remus?"

"Hush." Remus sat on the bench next to Sirius. "It doesn't matter anymore Padfoot. They loved us both, and Peter." He continued over Sirius' objection, careful to meet his eyes. "I'm not asking you to forget, but we can't keep dwelling on this. They wouldn't want us to."

Sirius nodded slowly. "I won't forget, but you're right. We have to move on. We have to be there for Harry…we have to fight again" Sirius swallowed twice, before topping up both their drinks.

Remus smiled, taking his drink, already knowing that they'd finish the bottle tonight. "Padfoot?"

"Moony?" Sirius said.

"We're, I mean, we're ok then? I- I should have known too…you would never have-"

Sirius smiled sadly, interrupting. "We're ok." And then he reached out one arm, and said softly, "brothers?"

And Remus, his eyes burning with unshed tears, clasped it. "Brothers."