1 September, 1993
As usual, the station was absolutely teeming people, bustling about so hurriedly that there was barely time to look at the person who had just bumped into you before you had to run off to catch the ten-thirty. Footsteps, voices, and huge engines chugging away echoed off the high, sloping ceiling of King's Cross train station so that the noises all mixed together in one indistinguishable din. Conductors, aides and various other officials ambled about, either waiting for their departure time to arrive or helping travelers find their platforms, and various kiosks for pasties, baked goods, coffee and tea, or various souvenirs were alive with vivid smells and busy shoppers, and the cha-ching! of cash registers repeated with each interaction.
In the bustle, it was understandable that the various travelers who happened to be very strangely dressed by usual standards were virtually unnoticed. If anyone had been watching closely, they would have noticed that there were actually a good many of these strangely dressed travelers, and they all seemed to carry very strange luggage. Not to mention, they all seemed to go in the same direction and then simply… disappear. But luckily for these strangely dressed people, also known as witches and wizards looking for the platform for the train to Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry, none of the Muggles saw any of them, it seemed, as they quite literally disappeared into a seemingly solid brick wall.
"I'm telling you, it's simply ridiculous. You'd think they'd take two glances around them just to notice for a second that there are magi – "
"Would you keep your voice down?"
" – sorry – that there are magical folk walking all around 'em, disappearing into walls – I mean, I've just never understood it. How do they not know?"
The woman speaking was sitting at a small café table near a stand that sold pasties with her male companion, gesticulating fiercely to the many people walking past her and speaking in a vivaciously opinionated tone of voice. She was giving odd looks to some of the people who walked by during her rant to her partner, and many people had given her strange looks right back – and yet she raved on as if they simply didn't exist within her realm of reality. Her companion, in a fashion that couldn't be in any more contrast to her than the moon was from the sun, was sitting calmly with his legs crossed, sipping demurely from his tea mug and giving good-natured smiles at any who gave his female friend any questioning looks. He seemed vaguely bored with the woman's rant, as though he'd heard something of the sort many times and listened simply to beseech her. In reality, both knew that she was only bringing out this long-dead conversation piece to avoid admitting the real reason they were both at the train station.
"I suppose it must be some sort of subtle charm work on the Ministry's part," he replied to her conversationally but quietly, his hissed reprimand to her moments before seemingly forgotten. "You have to take into consideration that some of them would be bound to notice, I imagine the Ministry figured that…" And as sudden as this strange conversation had started minutes ago, it flew away into the din of the background noise of the train station and then died, and there was an awkward silence between the two companions. The man looked at his watch and popped the last bits of pasty into his mouth in a manner that illustrated finality of relaxation.
"We'd better get to the platform," he said in a quiet, resigned voice. "It's getting near ten forty-five, and knowing you, you'll hold me up for the next fifteen minutes." There was a hint of sadness in his voice where there should have been teasing; this sadness was not necessarily obvious, but it was present enough to be tangible and contagious. The woman nodded silently. Her talkative manner of just moments ago seemed to have disappeared as easily as the former conversation topic had, and she was suddenly very introverted and seemed unwilling to speak at all.
The two walked in silence, both just part of the crowd. Even though they were a witch and wizard, they were both inconspicuous to the Muggles around them because unlike many of their kind, they dressed perfectly well in Muggle clothes, for they had spent more than enough time in the Muggle world to know what to wear. Once again, their contrast could be noted in the complicated outfit of the woman compared to the simplicity of the man's, although neither dressed particularly well as far as the condition or age of their clothes could be considered. The woman was dressed in a white button-down shirt with a fairly new-looking caramel brown suede vest over that, as well as a mid-thigh-length black skirt and very old knee-high boots. Her vest, in color, material and condition, seemed very out of place in the ensemble, but if she were to be truthful, the only reason she'd worn it was to cover up the many black ink stains on her favorite shirt. Her companion was merely wearing a very simple grey sweater and blue jeans.
The man looked at his partner as they came up to platform nine and gestured politely towards the barrier in-between platforms nine and ten. She shook her head and he sighed.
"One of us has to go first, so if it's not you, it'll be me. We can't put this off," he said, in an almost reprimanding tone. She glared at him and walked haughtily towards the barrier, disappearing into thin air seconds later. The man shook his head like a weary father and followed her through. Indeed, he reflected suddenly, gazing at the woman as she crossed her arms and looked around her at the suddenly magical atmosphere of Platform 9 ¾, he probably looked like he could be her father. It really wasn't fair how she still looked as young now as she had ten years ago, while he was sporting a nearly full head of grey hair and lines that no thirty-three-year-old man should rightfully own. The long, pale scar running from the top of his eyebrow, over the bridge of his thin nose, and stopping at the end of his jaw didn't particularly help him in the looks factor either.
"Are you coming, Remus?" his companion asked impatiently. "Or would you rather stand around and gape like a first year?" Remus shook his head and smiled despite himself, trotting to catch up with her.
"Sorry, Fera," he said sheepishly. "Just remembering, is all." She looked at him with acutely piercing blue eyes for a long moment, and her arching brown eyebrows furrowed deeply.
"Now why would you want to remember anything here?" she asked softly, thoughtfully. "There are no happy memories… not here."
He shook his head once again, wondering how he and his twin sister could be so different, and yet so very alike. Of course there were happy memories here, he thought. You just have to think of them that way. But of course, he stayed silent. He knew his sister hated to think of anything relating to their past. It only caused her pain, and woe be to him if he should accidentally be the purveyor of that pain.
"It was just a moment, that's all," he murmured, wrapping his arm around her shoulders protectively, as if to ward off any bad memories that might try to creep up on her at the mention of them. She laid her head on his shoulder and sighed sadly.
"Must you leave?" she asked, looking up at him with sorrowful eyes. Remus' heart wrenched and he placed his suitcase gently upon the ground, leaving his other arm free to encase her safely in a loving embrace.
"Unfortunately," he said to the top of her head. "I don't want to… but Fera – "
"I know," she interrupted. And she did. It was so hard for Remus to find work – this was a great opportunity for him, and a good buildup for his pride and self-esteem. Now it wouldn't be Fera bringing in most of the income, and even though Remus would never be comfortable saying this and she would never make him, it was probably much easier for his conscience and his pride that he had taken this job – she only hoped he could manage to keep it. It would be nice not to live on the tight budget they'd been stuck on the last few years. She pulled out of his embrace although she was loath to willingly letting him leave her for ten whole months. She did, however, keep a firm grasp on his hands.
"Write me often?" she asked.
"Every hour," he responded with a small smile.
"And remind dear Severus who he'll be answering to if he happens to forget to make your potion for you," she remarked snidely. "I still don't understand why I can't do it."
"Because we can't afford the parcel fee every month – and you know there's a cauldronful of other reasons," he responded patiently, giving her hands a squeeze and looking at his watch once more. "Ten fifty-two," he informed her. She blinked hard and released his remaining hand. Remus picked up his suitcase once more and headed slowly towards the train. When he reached the doorway, Fera wrapped her arms very tightly around his neck for her last hug for a very long time. He clutched her just as tightly, unwilling to admit how much he needed her to stay with him. Finally, he pried her hands away and with one very meaningful look, turned and disappeared into the train. Fera backed up several feet, her eyes never leaving the train car.
Finally, she seemed to find what she was looking for the whole time – her brother's head popped out the nearest window and she gave him an unrestrained grin. He smiled widely back as she approached the window and encased his large hand in both her smaller ones. "Owl me as soon as you get there," she reminded him quietly. "Avoid Snape when you can, eat just as many vegetables as you do raw steaks, and floo home every now and then." Remus nodded and gave an over-exaggerated yawn. Fera glared playfully but didn't let go of his hand.
"Fera?" he said quietly after a spell of silence. She looked at him questioningly. "What if…" A sigh. "What if I'm a rubbish teacher?" She chuckled quietly and shook her head.
"You'll do wonderfully. You've been teaching since we were students, haven't you?" she said with a genuine smile. "I can't say I envy you the memories you'll be attacked with there, though…" Remus opened his mouth to cut her off from her own bitterness when she beat him to the punch. "Make sure you get plenty of sleep on the train ride there, Rem," she mothered. "You barely got any last night and those students don't need to see you fall asleep in your soup." Remus put up his free hand in a calming gesture.
"You worry too much," he told her. "I'll be fine, I promise." She nodded.
"Oh! I've just remembered." Releasing his hands, she rummaged through the purse on her shoulder for a few moments before procuring a large chocolate bar and handing it to him. "The sweets trolley witch vastly overcharges compared to the Muggles," she said with a wink. Remus laughed heartily.
"Dark chocolate with almonds and a hint of black cherry – In other words, utter heaven. You beautiful, wonderful saint." Fera laughed. "Thank you," he said sincerely.
Remus kissed her forehead, feeling vaguely the way he had when they had first felt as alone as he was feeling now. Eleven years and ten months ago, he thought. Almost twelve years ago, we were left utterly alone in the world – and look at us now. "Perhaps not whole, but still alive," he spoke softly, purely by accident. Fera looked at him oddly and he shrugged it off.
"Fera," he said regretfully, looking at something behind him. "It's time to go."
And indeed, it was as if his words had triggered the train, for it suddenly lurched forward, and Remus' hand was slowly pulled from his sister's grasp. Fera began to walk beside him, talking much faster now.
"Don't forget that this year he'll be there – and I know it'll be hard but you'll have to look after him because of –" The train was traveling faster now and she had to jog to keep up. "Also don't forget to get me that box of quills from Hogsmeade, they're really important for – stop laughing at me, Remus, I really do need them, as you've chewed most of mine up – " Now the train was nearly out of the station, so Fera gave her brother's hand one last squeeze, adding in a desperate shout, "I love you!" She watched as Remus' laughing face disappeared into the window of the compartment, and then all she could see was the train's rear pulling her dear brother and only friend in the world further and further away. "Be safe…"
Fera turned, hands stuffed in her pockets, and began to pick her way through the throng of tearful parents, but not before she felt the exhaustion that had been emanating from Remus and pulsating through her mind relentlessly finally flicker out. She felt it like a wave of relief, or like a sigh settling in her every bone. Fera smiled, glad he'd finally found some rest from the sleepless night before.
She was about to let herself sink through the barrier between Platform 9 ¾ and the rest of King's Cross Station when something in her peripheral vision caught her attention. It was only barely visible there, and it seemed to blend into the wall and make itself as scarce as possible – and indeed, the bustling families about her didn't seem to pay much heed to it; but to Fera, it was a beacon, and she found that suddenly it was all she could see.
It was another of those blasted "Wanted" posters. She walked towards it as if in a trance and absently touched a finger to the gaunt and deranged face that glared out from the weathered piece of parchment. Of course she'd seen them before, a million times over – she saw them everywhere she went. But for some reason, that face struck her now more than ever; the laughing mouth, the long, unkempt hair, the once-broad shoulders, now reduced to jutting bones… But it was the eyes that seemed different now. Perhaps it was because she'd never taken a good look at the stupid posters since that first time she saw one, or maybe it was something less tangible… but it seemed to her now that the glint in the eyes had changed. It was still a glint, granted – but it no longer appeared to her as a glint of malice, a glint of madness. There was something more there now, something more… human.
There was a plea – a longing, desperate plea.
Fera's hand quickly snapped back from Sirius Black's poster and disappeared back into her pocket. Her eyes lingered only a moment longer before darting away from the gruesome image of a once-handsome man. A man she had known.
She shut her eyes tightly and took a moment to recollect herself, taking deep breaths. There was nothing there, she told herself. Nothing different, nothing to see. There was only Sirius Black, the mad, escaped Death Eater, and soon, they'd catch him and put him back where he belonged. Nothing there but madness.
Turning on her heel, she set a brisk pace that mimicked the no-nonsense air of Minerva McGonagall and within seconds, she had disappeared into the brick barrier, leaving the cackling poster behind her.
Nine months later...
Fera swore violently as she just barely caught an overstuffed grocery bag before it tumbled from her arms, and she angrily kicked her apartment door for a third time. She had only wanted to make a quick shopping trip, and that, as usual, had turned into an excursion as she remembered various last minute necessities. And now she stood outside her apartment, trying desperately to make the key work while balancing two dangerously full paper bags in both arms. Proving faithful to Murphy's Law, the phone had begun to ring on the second try of her key, and now she was all but beating on the door. Finally, she became fed up, and after casting a glance around her, pulled out a long oak wand and surreptitiously cast an unlocking spell.
The phone stopped ringing just as she burst inside the door, and she groaned in frustration as she set the two enormous bags on her kitchen counter. Her voice on her answering machine filled the apartment as she began to put various groceries in their designated, rightful places.
"You've reached Fera. If you're not Remus, feel free to leave a message, but don't expect much."
Fera watched the answering machine in interest as it beeped, while she transferred a jar of pesto to the refrigerator.
"Fey, it's me."
She nearly dropped the jar and her head jerked back to the answering machine. She was frozen in shock at the sound of her brother's voice and could only watch the machine in amazement. She had created that voicemail message with the vain hope that maybe one day it would be Remus – but she had never expected that it ever actually would be.
"I would have owled you but I don't have access to one at the moment, and the same goes for floo powder. Look, I can't be long, but I had to tell you…"
Finally breaking out of her stupor, Fera abandoned the jar of pesto and vaulted over the sofa, and her hand slipped on the back as her feet sailed over it, causing her to crash to the floor, and with a passing groan of pain she crawled towards the machine.
"Fey, it's not easy to tell you this, and it's a really long story that I'll get into later, but… I found Sirius. Fera, Peter's alive. And Sirius… he's innocent."
Her hands, which had been scrabbling desperately at the handset, went limp, and the telephone fell to the carpet with a muted thump. Fera stared at the answering machine in horror, her blue eyes wide, and her mouth went dry.
"Damn, I have to run. Look, Fera, try not to panic. I'll be home very soon, and I'll explain everything to you then. I just… I had to tell you, even if I'll regret it. I love you!"
The machine went quiet, leaving the apartment in silence, with only the ringing of her ears to break it. Fera remained on the floor, staring mutely at the machine. Her head was reeling, and she felt sick to her stomach as one phrase circuited through her head on a loop.
Sirius… he's innocent.
That was impossible. Utterly absurd. She shook her head. Sirius Black had been arrested twelve years ago for murdering the Potters. He had laughed on his way to Azkaban prison! He couldn't be innocent.
Peter's alive. And Sirius… he's innocent…
Fera scrambled to her feet and fled to the bathroom, where she deposited the remains of the lunch she had eaten an hour earlier – when she'd thought her biggest problem was affording the groceries.