Disclaimer: Not mine.
Remus sat at his usual table at the Hogs Head, an untouched glass of firewhisky in front of him, trying to judge if the young man at the bar was a wizard. Jerking his head at Aberforth, he saw the slight shrug and then the shake of his head, indicating his confusion as well.
There was something off. Something that Remus could not put his finger on. He watched the youth fidget with the hem of his sleeve, as if not use to wearing robes and the way he glanced at the door whenever it opened and did not turn his head from the streetlights, as was the habit of those that drank in this place. He could be on holiday, visiting a local family, or he could have newly found the world of magic after meeting with Greyback or one of his.
Leaning back and studying demeanour of the new comer, Remus' eyes came to rest on his shoes. They were not dragon hide, not the sturdy hand made leather uppers and hard soles that wizards wore, or trainers that the students managed bring in from the Muggle word. These were finely made boots, etched with symbols of runes and patterns that ran from ankle to calf. He watched the man's long slender fingers hold his glass, swirling the amber fluid but not bringing it to his lips.
Picking up his drink, he slid onto the stool next to the young man, striking up a conversation with the first Muggle turned wolf he thought he had found not in the company of others. He found the man's accent odd, his use of language archaic and his intensity alarmingly uncomfortable. It was not until the youth leaned into him and curled his upper lip that Remus knew what he was.
"I smell the wolf in you," the stranger said softly. "I would like to show you something."
Summer was gone and autumn almost over by the time Remus stopped into visit James and Lily, finding Peter and Sirius with their legs draped over the sitting room chairs, debating which team would win the World Cup and trying to get Lily to hold their bets. He leaned back into one of the new over stuffed chairs, crossed his ankles and watched Lily, who seemed nervous that he had stopped in. Waiting until she stepped out to the kitchen to collect cold drinks he took the opportunity to follow her.
"So, how's it feel to be an old married woman?" he teased, sliding behind the table, thinking she was perhaps angry at him not staying at the wedding.
"Fine," she said, keeping her back to him as she uncapped the drinks and reached for the glasses.
"Lily? Look at me. What's wrong?"
"Would you rather I leave?"
"Oh, gods," she lowered her head and leaned her arms on the counter. "We want you to stay here with us. We are worried about you. James said just this morning he wanted you here, they all do."
"And you? Sorry, Lily, you seem…off."
"Of course I do, how could you think that? We went down to the stream last week, to your…your camp… looking for you. It appeared that you hadn't been back there for a while."
"I've been busy," he shrugged. "I should have said something ."
"Where have you been staying?"
"Is that what this is all about?" He avoided her question, a fact not lost on Lily.
She turned to look at him chewing her lip and jerking her head to the back door, and then called into the sitting room. "James! I'm running to the grocery. I'll take Remus with me."
"Fine, pick up something for afters."
She grabbed her jumper and yanked Remus out of the door with her, hurrying down the path to the main pavement.
"I can't talk to Sirius. He would just laugh at me and Peter's no help. He still treats me like James' Saturday night date that happens to cook."
Remus shoved his hands in his pockets, looking at her out of the corner of his eye, knowing her tendency to babble before getting to the point.
"I know, I know, I should go straight to James…but that's what worries me. With the war going on and him in the Order and I vowed to help with the fighting. I told them I would you know, Alice and I both swore we wouldn't let them down. Now…Merlin, they are short handed enough. I keep worrying about my family and wondering if they'll be dragged into it and then there's you. Bloody hell, I still set a place at the table for you every night. You could at least stop in the morning after your little romp to Merlin only knows where you go. We never know if you are hurt and laying out in the woods someplace bleeding or worse."
Remus nodded, feeling his lip twitch. "Lily, the grocery is only on the corner. You may want to cut to the end."
Remus stopped walking as she went ahead of him and disappeared into the shop alone. Turning back to look at the house he ran both hands through his hair, wondering what he was supposed to do now. He stood in the middle of the pavement until she came back and shoved a sack in his hand, glaring at him and starting home.
"Lily, wait." He fell into step beside her. "You haven't told James?"
"Why do you think we are buying chops I don't want?"
"I like chops."
"Good. You can eat all five. I have chicken in the oven."
"Thanks," he ginned, suddenly feeling happier than he had for a long time. "So, what is it?"
"A baby you idiot."
"I mean what kind. You know. Is it a boy or a girl?"
"One or the other," she snorted.
"I was just hoping it wouldn't have his father's sense of humour." He leaned down and peeked at her face seeing her eyes fill with tears. "If he doesn't want it I'll take it. That or Sirius has a side car on his bike."
She stopped and looked at him in horror, seeing the smile he was attempting to swallow. "Lily, he's going to be ecstatic."
"Do you think so?"
"If not kick his ruddy arse out and keep the three of us. I bet you can even teach Peter how to change nappies and I don't sleep much as it is."
"Alice is due the same month. That means the both of us…"
"Molly doesn't fight. She still does a lot. Lily, it isn't all about the duels and battles, we need the organizers and people to take care of the injured. You are good at healing spells. Trust me when I say I need a good healer, more than most."
She wrapped her arm around his elbow, leaning her head against his arm as they walked slowly back to the house. "You know I love you, Remus. I wish you would stay with us. The nights are getting so cold we do worry about you."
"You don't have room and you know its not…"
"Nonsense. Peter has his own place in Diagon, or at least his father is paying for it, and until the baby comes we have plenty of room." She started laughing and hugged his arm tighter "I feel better just having told you. Stay, please Remus. If you don't I'll tell everyone it's your baby and James just pays the bills. With all the rumours going around these days someone will believe it."
"You wouldn't dare," he laughed.
"No, I plan on blackmailing Sirius. He truly needs to stop chasing that skirt. She is going to hurt him."
"He's a big boy now, and if it's who I think it is, he'll dump her."
"Why wait? Wizards! I don't understand you at all."
"He already paid for tickets to the world cup game. He does this once a year."
"He's an idiot."
"That to." He reached in front of her, pausing before he opened the door. "How do you feel about it? Truly?"
"Oh, Remus, I can't t think of anything else. I want it so badly, so very badly…I'm just worried about James. I don't know how to tell him. With the war going on…it's not a good time and he worries so."
"Lils? That you?" James called from the sitting room as he heard the door open. "What took you two so long?"
"Three!" Remus called out. "All three of us are back."
"Fuck," Lily hissed, levelling him with a look.
"It's up to you now," he said grinning widely, then turned and strode into the sitting room. "Wormtail, grab Prongs. We are getting kicked out and you are paying for tea."
"Me? Why me," Peter said, standing up, looking confused. "Lily invited us for tea."
"Three? Who else is here?" James stood up starting for the kitchen.
"You are the only one working," Sirius grinned, "and she didn't invite us we just show up."
The three of them walked back to the grocery where Peter bought a bottle and headed down to the creek, laughing and wondering how James would take the news. Sirius kept grinning as if he had something to do with Lily's condition, telling Peter that they had to get down to London and buy the baby a leather outfit so he could ride with him on the bike.
"How do you know it's a boy?" Peter grumbled. "If Lily has her way it'll be a girl."
"I don't think it works that way." Remus snickered at him.
"Girls ride too. Ya know, I think I should get going," Sirius stood up, brushing off his trousers. "If I hurry I can buy him, or her, a broom before the shop closes."
"A broom? Bloody hell man, don't you think it could wait?" Remus laughed. "I thought you wanted to buy a leather?"
"That too. If I don't James will get it and he's not beating me to it," Sirius said with a lopsided grin. "Anyway until I can get into my vault it's his money. You two coming?"
"To Diagon? What do you say Peter? Go shopping for a broom that the kid can't ride for a few years or finish this bottle with me?"
Peter grabbed the bottle and took a swallow. "When this is gone I plan of getting another."
Sirius strode off, his hands shoved in his pockets, whistling as he went causing Peter to roll his eyes. Leaning back on one elbow he shook his head and told Remus about how hard the last few months had been for Black. Explaining that his cousin was seen openly cavorting with Rookwood and Donovan while her husband sat home. He let Remus know that although he thought all witches cheated on occasion that they should at least keep it quiet.
"Not all," Remus said quietly, taking the last swallow from the bottle.
"That bird Padfoot is fucking does," Peter laughed. "Saw her with some bloke down in Knockturn."
"They aren't together. He just sees her out now and then. That's different."
"What about that witch you were seeing? You up at Hogwarts all term and her alone…don't tell me she was sitting home twiddling her thumbs. Someone was twiddling her I'd say, and with more than his thumbs."
"Drop it," Remus said in a low voice, signalling Peter to stop.
"Sorry, man. Still don't trust her."
"It doesn't matter anymore, does it?" Remus felt his throat close, and his chest constrict. He knew if he got into it with Peter they would have a row and knew all it would do would be to further the rift that he felt growing between them.
"So, where is she now? Heard she moved back to Germany…or was it France?" Peter asked. "What? She grabs the money and runs?"
"Where did you hear that?"
"Around. Rumour has it she plans to make a go of her uncle's place. Open it back up…you know, same as he did, at least once a month."
"She wouldn't do that," Remus watched Peter closely.
"If what the Order says is true that was quite the raid we read about in the Prophet. Never did find out how they found that place. No one's talking."
"I never heard," Remus muttered, looking away.
"Thought there for a while it was you. Had to be another wolf, someone that could get close enough without being recognised." Peter stood up and threw the bottle to the far side of the creek. "Anyway, it would make sense. If the Order thinks they cleared the place, she could let the bastards back on. Who would look?"
"You heading back to Diagon?" Remus said, changing the topic.
"Yeah, my dad is stopping by tonight."
"How are you two getting on?"
"Not good, not bad. He talks, I pretend to listen."
"He still for The Great Fucker?"
Peter laughed and nodded. "If the Order doesn't step it up we're in trouble. Dad says his …Lord…has at least ten times the numbers that we do. Werewolves, vampires, even the giants and they are saying he is filling in his army with a whole shite load of Inferi. Takes a lot of power to do that. Even Albus said it was hard."
"You've talked to Dumbledore?"
"Yeah, of course," Peter frowned at him. "You think I would keep this from him?"
Remus returned to his camp that night, packing up his belongings and heading back to Potter's place to pick up the potion that would get him through the next several months. After settling into his room as Lily put out extra pillows and blankets he sat listening to James brag and worry at the same time about being a father. Telling Lily not to worry, that he had a job repairing a fence on a local Muggle farm and would be back to enjoy his new room in a few days, he gave her a hug and started up to Hogwarts.
This was the first time Remus had been able to get away from the encampment that Sanguini had taken him to after they had left the Hogs Head. At first Remus had been reluctant to stay, sensing the distrust and anger that the werewolves had greeted him with being in the company of one they considered even less then themselves. However after Sanguini spoke for him, they had reluctantly agreed he should be a part of their commune and had made room for him in one of the shacks.
After trudging up the hill to the castle, wanting nothing more than a warm bed, he found himself once again sitting across from Albus, admitting his mistake in misjudging Sanguini, at the same time confirming the information that he had heard.
"You are sure he is as he says?" Albus asked, his hands behind his back as he paced.
"Not a doubt. We supply him with small animals, rabbits and the like. He drains the blood and the witches cook the meat for the rest of us." Remus said softly. "He doesn't live there. However, he shows up to feed daily. I thought he had just discovered this world, but it is only the customs here he is unfamiliar with."
"He was not recruited here?"
"No, it is my understanding He Who Must Not Be Named found him in Albania."
"How many like him?" Albus asked.
"None that I have met. However, he talks of many more that he lives with…at least a dozen. Wolves? Nine wizards," Remus leaned forward, putting his arms on his legs and looking at the ground. "Three have wives with them. I think that's the worse part. They have a shed the witches are locked into for safety. I never imagined what could happen to the rest of the family."
"It is their choice. A choice, I am sure, made from love. Do you doubt Rhea would have done the same if she did not have the means of which to keep you safe?"
"Love? If the wizard loved her, he would have left her and not make her live like that. These are not children, these are…Merlin," he sighed and leaned back in the chair. "Where are the children? We know Greyback prefers them. We know they are out there."
"I personally know of a pair or delightful witches. I do believe them being infected enables them to better understand and care for the young. We have also been granted permission to house their growing family in a rather large farm."
"The Spencer place? " Remus asked, stopping short of asking how he had contacted Lucy. "There are rumours that she is opening the place to Greyback."
"It is a rumour that serves its purpose well and lends some degree of safety to the witches."
"The women are a good influence I think. They are more likely to stay out of the war and try to help me convince the others. That's what I am working on at the encampment. It's hard. The place is full of petty jealousies. If the men had work…something to look forward to, a way to support their families…that's what Greyback gives them. The promise that things will change."
"We can make no promises." Albus said sternly. "This Sanguini, what is his interest in this?"
"More promises. He…he surprised me." Remus chuckled. "When he showed me what he was I must have acted the same way people do when they learn about me."
"Prejudices are a hard thing to be rid of. I am sure he is quite used to your reaction."
"He laughed at me," Remus grinned. "I must have looked like a bloody idiot, a werewolf sitting in front of a vampire at loss for words."
"I want you to come back after the next moon," Albus instructed him. "Until that time you will not be called for Order Business. We do not need your absence noted if we succeed in our next mission."
Remus finished talking to Albus, telling him of his recent visit to the Potter place and that he planned to stay in their spare room on occasion. After drinking a cup of hot tea that Albus had sent up from the kitchen, and shoving the sweets in his bag, he returned to the camp. He changed into an old tattered jumper and baggy trousers, shoving his good clothes into a knapsack he had slung on his shoulder. Walking to the back of the property, he made his way under a hedge and to the small shack he shared with two others.
"What did you get?" Lawrence jumped up and grabbed his backpack, throwing the clothes on the floor and dumping out the rest. "Chops! Merlin, it's been over a year since I had a chop."
"Eat them before they turn," Remus said, picking up his clothes and tossed them to the bed. "Keep looking. I have pudding in there."
"Fuck," Henry snorted. "Next time you should take us with you. Do they know anyone else needs work done?"
"We shouldn't be seen together," Remus said with a scowl. "I go back tomorrow. I'm doing some repairs around the house. I'll ask them…but things are tight out there."
"They pay you in galleons or food?" Lawrence asked with his mouth full.
"Does it matter?"
"I'd like a bottle," Henry said, sulking as the poked at his chop. "We need fuel. Coal for the burner. Bloody cold in here last night."
"I'll work on it." Remus sat on the edge of his bed, pulling off his boots. "Heard there's amnesty talk going on."
"What for?" Henry asked, carrying his dinner and sitting on the edge of his own bed to enjoy it.
"Us. Animals. Talk is that any of us that don't take sides will…"
"Right, if we register and let them castrate us."
Remus pulled down his trousers and showed them the tattoo on the inside of his thigh, quickly pulling them back up. "Didn't castrate me. You just have to play the game."
"Right," Henry laughed. "What did it get you? You are the same place we are."
"I still have hope," Remus said quietly. "What do you have?"