Disclaimers and Notes: Harry Potter is not mine, nor are any of the characters or items used in this fanfiction (thus, the word/term "Fanfiction"). HP belongs to J. K. Rowling, and she's a wonderful author for it. I respect her. Her work is beautiful, to say the least.
And yet another revision… I mean, wow, re-reading this, and them comparing it to what I now know of the HP universe… things a really different from how I imagined it originally… Gave it a few tweaks, anyhow.
By Lady Geuna
Summary: What if James Potter wasn't killed on Halloween, 1981? Voldemort devised the perfect punishment for his insolence. A curse that would cause James more pain than the Cruciatus Curse could ever. But things don't exactly turn out as planned, and fate takes a strange turn for those in the past, as well as the future.
The Search (Part 1)
"The Dementors are moving M-Master..."
"Good. Very good, Wormtail. How soon?"
"T-They will reach the Underground with-w-within the next few hours, I t-think. It is s-still daytime, but the rainstorm is helping them... T-The c-c-clouds are blocking out much of the s-sun... D-Dementors h-hate the l-light..." Pause. The pathetic excuse for a man was trembling, his silver right hand clinching and unclenching nervously. But for once, his nervousness wasn't due to being in his Master's presence. He noticed this at once.
Voldemort shifted his fiery gaze toward his servant. "What is it?" His voice spoke volumes on his irritation. If Wormtail wasn't careful, he would suffer more pain than he had his entire petty life.
Wormtail seemed startled by the question, as if considering whether Voldemort could read his thoughts... Hm, that wasn't necessarily out of the question, now was it? That prospect now made him more scared.
The Dark Lord let out low hissing sound, adding quietly, "I hate to see one of my most trusted servants in such a state." This was a lie, or course. He didn't care at all, and probably never would. No creature without a soul can feel...
"... D-Do... Do you really t-think Malfoy was c-c-correct...? I-I mean... h-how could he have seen... s-seen..." Wormtail couldn't get the name out. A bead of sweat rolled down his cheek. "C-Can it b-be true-?"
"I don't doubt it at all," Voldemort hissed lowly.
There was more to it than that... But Wormtail didn't get the message that his master didn't care to continue on that subject. He never was very observant of things like that. But the sheer fact that his own master believed that... that he was alive made the realization that much more terrifying. He just had to ask, "H-How, Master—?"
"Don't ask me anything more," he snapped, causing Wormtail to gasp and stumble back in fright. The sniveling man dropped to knees and began mumbling his apologies rapidly, over and over. Angered, Voldemort simply kicked at Wormtail, causing the man to fall painfully onto his back. He made no move to get up. "Stop your sniveling, rodent! Is there anything more you would like to add, or..." His eyes actually blazed, glowed as if lit by Hell's fire. "Or shall I the displeasure of having you in my presence for no reason at all?" Wormtail was scared out of his wits now. Voldemort knew it. Yet still he prompted, in a voice that could freeze blood, "Are you, rodent?"
He was raising his wand, and at that moment another man entered the room. The man fall to one knee immediately and removed his hood. His silver hair fell over his eyes, casting them in shadow. Voldemort grinned at this. "Ah, Lucius."
"Forgive me Master for my intrusion, but I know it would be your wish to hear me..."
Voldemort had forgotten about Wormtail, lowering his wand as his attention shifted to the other man. "What news do you bring me?" He made a gesture with his hands, giving Mr. Malfoy his permission to rise.
He lifted his head to look at his master. Lucius did not smile nor frown in his presence, but an air of smugness still radiated from his being. But there was also fear.
There was always fear. Fear was power. The one true power over man.
Mr. Malfoy did, however, give a glancing look over to Wormtail, his pale eyes glittering with mild distaste. As if Wormtail didn't deserve to be at his side every hour of every day... But that was just the point.
Wormtail was nothing like Lucius. Lucius was cunning, held power of his own and over others. Wormtail was a coward, sniveling and used his position as a Death Eater to keep the "bigger bullies" away. And while Lucius had a family and a number of other things of value, Wormtail had nothing to loose other than his life... His soul might as well be lost already...
Wormtail gulped, bringing himself to his knees again, but didn't rise any farther. "M-My Lord...?"
"Leave us," Voldemort said simply, waving a gray colored hand at him. "I shall deal with you after I am done here."
Wormtail nodded quickly, jumped to his feet, and fled through the door as quickly as his feet could carry him. Once he was gone, Lucius Malfoy spoke, his eyes once again cast toward the floor. "How has my information served you, my Lord?"
"Well, Lucius, very well. You have pleased me greatly." His mouth took on a very grotesque shape, similar to what a normal human would call a smirk. He leaned back leisurely into his armchair, his eyes turning to gaze at the fire. "You have more for me." This was not a question. Maybe he could read the thoughts of his followers...?
Mr. Malfoy nodded curtly. "The Ministry has gotten wind of unusual Dementor activity. I understand that it is your doing, my Lord?"
"Indeed. And what does the Ministry plan on doing about it?"
"The Ministry is too busy working out excuses to explain their behavior. The fools can't—or simply refuse to—see the truth even when it's staring right in their face." Voldemort didn't mind the other mans' sarcastic, bitter tone as long as it wasn't directed toward himself. And he particularly detested the Ministry. They would be some of the first to go. "Though the Dementors may get... hungry during their journey... Because it is still day, they become very weak. They might resort to feeding off any human they come across. My Lord, if bodies start turning up..."
Voldemort snorted. "An inexpensive casualty at the most. Since when do you ever care about bystanders, Lucius?"
"B-But my Lord, it's not that I care about—"
"Do not confuse your concerns, Lucius, as my concerns. Your priorities are... very different from mine. What you have to loose is unimportant, understand?"
"Y... Yes, Lord..."
"You will one day be rewarded for your sacrifices, Lucius. You have my word on that. Voldemort always rewards his most loyal Death Eaters. As Wormtail was rewarded for his loyalty… and sacrifice of flesh."
"T-Thank you, my Lord." He bowed even lower, his forehead touching his knee. Was this man really willing to loose his wife and son for his master...? Only time would tell on that...
"Besides," he added darkly. "It won't be long... The blood of my foes shall paint the sky... All of them..." The fire light reflected in his eyes.
And he Laughed.
Louder. Ear splittingly lou-
Harry let out a strangled cry as he was yanked from his dreams. Something was hitting him repeatedly. He was being flogged mercilessly by... a pillow? Harry tried to yell at his attacker too stop but he wasn't able to get a word out before another blow hit. At a loss, he couldn't do anything. Until another pillow came fly, at full force, and punted Harry's attacker in the head. Harry's assailant let out a cry and went crashing down onto the bed next to him.
"He's bloody awake, ye' git!" It was Seamus, who was fully dressed and now walking for the door. "Everyone's already up," the Irish boy said, annoyed. "What're you jus' all standin' around for, let's get down there!" He left the room, most likely to go to the Great Hall.
Harry fumbled for his glasses on the night stand, quickly putting them on so he could properly glare at his best friend. "Are you crazy!?" Harry gave Ron a light punch before he sprang up to rummage for cloths in his trunk. "That's not the way you wake someone up in the morning, twit."
Ron, looking exasperated and red in the face, just glared back. "You don't think I tried!? I thought someone'd put a-a sleeping draught in your pumpkin juice last night or something!"
Harry gave him an odd look, quickly changing out of his pajamas and into his Hogwarts robes. "What time is it...?"
Ron, who was already dressed, still had a look of frustration on his freckled face, though he pointedly wasn't looking at Harry. "Half the school's already down in the Great Hall—"
Harry groaned. "Oh man, I don't want to be late, why didn't you wake me up sooner!?"
Ron gave him a very annoyed look and growled. "What do you think I was doing!? I though you'd have woken up before. But you hadn't, because you were havin' some weird dream..."
"Dream?" Harry thought hard... but no... "I didn't have any "weird dream"..."
"But you wouldn't wake up! You were all scared, an' looking as if you were bein' chased or something an'—"
"I was not!" Harry blushed in embarrassment. As he tried to adjust his tie, Harry found it too much of a bother and left it as it was. Hadn't the Wizarding world discovered how useful a clip-on is?
"But it's true! I-I was getting really worried. I mean after yesterday, I though you were, like... I don't know, dying in your sleep."
He hadn't expected Ron to say something like that. Harry saw his friends' distressed expression and smiled a little. "I'm not in any trouble, really... Maybe I did have a dream, but I don't remember it now."
Ron looked Harry in the eye now. "You going to be okay, then?"
"Yeah. It'll probably come back to me... once I've had something to eat." He grinned, starting for the door. "Last one to the Great Hall's a Snape loving Slytherin!"
After making that particular comment, there was no way Ron would allow Harry to win. In the end, Ron's long legs served as an advantage as they both reached the Great Hall on record time.
Luckily, they weren't the absolute last one's there. Though there seemed to be something going on at the teachers table. Dumbledore, looking much more... tense that usual. But only for a short moment, and then he was back to his usual, cheerful self. Snape was absent from the table, which wasn't too much of a surprise—or a disappointment—but so was Professor McGonagall and Hagrid...
Then Dumbledore stood, made a gesture as to excuse himself, and went into the back room just behind the teachers table.
"What's going on there," Harry whispered, nodding toward the retreating Headmaster.
"Professor Dumbledore seems upset."
Ron looked toward the teachers table for a moment then shook his head. "Nope. Don't see anything. Maybe it's your imagination, Harry."
They then took their sets at the Gryffindor table, where Hermione was already waiting.
He stopped pacing when the Headmaster finally appeared in the doorway. "You don't understand what you're asking, Albus," the man said darkly as soon as Dumbledore closed the door. "You don't understand..." His eyes narrowed accusingly.
Dumbledore's eyes burned into Snape's from behind his half-moon spectacles, the pale blue flashing intensely. It was at moments like this that a person knew not to underestimate Albus Dumbledore... "I am afraid I know exactly what I am asking, Severus."
Snape's eyes narrowed accusingly. "And knowing, you would still have me do this…"
"I hope you understand, that isn't much of a choice at this time." Silence. Snape shifted uncomfortably on his feet. It took a lot to make the usually cold and collected Potions Master nervous, but this wasn't some simple matter of business. No, this was something completely different. "Please... Place petty hatred aside, Severus—"
"—Just this once is all I ask."
Snape looked at up the man as though studying, then nodded. It looked like he was struggling not to scowl. "Yes... But never again, Albus… and if one of the others sees me... You know what that will cost all of us."
"You will not be seen," Dumbledore said flatly. "I trust you will make sure of that, my boy. I know you to be quiet the resourceful Wizard, Severus." Snape still looked uncertain, his own eyes flashing as if a million thoughts were going through his head. "Mr. Malfoy has yet to see you, so he has nothing of value to tell his father... If all goes well, you can be back before classes start."
"What you're asking for is a miracle..."
Dumbledore clapped a hand on Snape's shoulder, causing the taller man to blink. "What I am asking for, Severus, is that you will try... I know this is asking much of you, but you are the only one here fully capable. You should know perfectly well how dire the situation is. Please, Severus."
Snape nodded hesitantly. "Yes... I will trust... that man to take care of things here." He made a face of distaste. "I surely hope my aging potion has gone to good use."
"But Albus, those... creatures in my..."
Dumbledore had to smile faintly at this. "Don't worry they won't cause too much damage. Snape gave a grunt in response, and soon Dumbledore wasn't smiling at all. "You know what to do. Please hurry."
With a final nod Snape had turned on his heels and left the room through a secondary door at the back.
With this finished, he quickly exited the room through the door he entered with, taking his seat in the very center of the teacher table. Minerva McGonagall had returned, and was looking awfully tense from where she sat next to him. Her head snapped up as he arrived and almost made a motion to rise.
"Calm down, Minerva," he said quietly, motioning for her to stay as he sat. The other teachers were eating, talking, or just starring off into space. Well, the latter was only in Professor Dorrey's case. "Everything is taken care of." Dumbledore idly took a sip of his pumpkin juice as McGonagall struggled to contain her anxiety. "Did you send the owls?"
She nodded at this, her lips set tight in a thin line. "Two of the fastest. Two hawk owls..." Dumbledore nodded at this. Yes, hawk owls were particularly swift flyers. "I dare say I placed enchantments on them both. The poor creatures will be flying so fast they'll be exhausted for days to come... or worse…"
"With the enchantments, how long do you think it will take?"
"I-I not sure... Under an hour until the one reaches Lupin's. Without an enchantment it would have taken maybe four hours..."
"... Are you going to tell him?"
Dumbledore followed her gaze over to Harry Potter, who was laughing along with his friend, Ronald Weasley. Dean Thomas had just said some sort of joke that Hermione Granger found very unassuming. Ah, to be young again. "That depends on how all this turns out, Minerva. Otherwise, we needn't tell him."
McGonagall cleared her throat loud enough for just Dumbledore to hear. "Albus, I do hope you have an explanation for why Severus isn't here. I have seen Mr. Malfoy and a number of the Slytherins glancing this way... You do have one, don't you?"
He smiled at this and only answered after taking a long sip from his goblet. "Oh, yes indeed."
"And Hagrid is missing as well..."
"Mmmm..." Another sip of pumpkin juice. "Indeed."
"You do... don't you, Albus...?"
Dumbledore winked, his eyes twinkling again as if nothing unusual was happening, like he knew everything was going to be fine. Then he stood, calling out over the low roar of voices that already filled the room. "Attention! I have a very important announcement!" Of course, his voice reverberated off the walls nicely, and almost at once every head turned toward him. It was all silent. Dumbledore smiled. "I am afraid that Potions and Care of Magical Creatures will be canceled today. In fact, the dungeons will be completely off limits at the moment."
There was a mixed response of cheers, groans, and shouted questions that immediately increased in volume. The Slytherins were particularly displeased at this news, since their dormitory lay in the very lower parts of the dungeons. How were they supposed to get there if not through the dungeon corridors?
"Please, students, please!" Once they had calmed down enough he continued, "In fact, as you may have noticed, Hagrid and Professor Snape are not present." McGonagall looked up at him sharply, but Dumbledore just smiled and continued. "You see, earlier this morning, Professor Snape discovered something very... interesting in the dungeons, a sort of infestation, if you will. Hagrid was kind enough to investigate the problem with him, to affirm his suspicions. I will ask that none of you attempt to help or go anywhere near the area until the situation is resolved."
He shot a rather stern look at Harry and his friends to emphasize his point on the matter. Harry glanced down quickly, looking like he'd been scolded directly. Dumbledore hadn't missed the spark of interest in the boys' eye, however…
"Quite frankly, this came as a shock, and most of you are now wondering why you weren't informed sooner. Well, this incident was probably planed since last year, given the amount of time the creatures would need to grow..."
"What kind of infestation," came an uncertain yet annoyed voice from somewhere off to the right. Ah, of course, Blaise Zabini of Slytherin.
Dumbledore suppressed a chuckle.
"I trust most of you are familiar with what a Blast-Ended Skrewt is?"
At that moment, there was the sound of an explosion from deep within Hogwarts. The floor vibrated ever so slightly. Half the students below now sat with their eyes bulging out of their skulls. Several jaws dropped.
'Right on time...'
Mr. Weasley had been up most of the night, and had gotten home only long enough to get two or three hours of sleep. His eyes ached for just a little more rest, but he couldn't—wouldn't allow it.
His attempts to get a hold of any substantial information regarding James Potter had been thwarted at nearly every turn. It was well after midnight when he'd finally received a set of death reports for the Potter family. Of course, they only described the very obvious causes of death. Unfortunately, there wasn't much to it.
Mr. James Potter: Body was found in lower portion of house, the kitchen. Body was battered and bloody, amongst wreckage, suggesting torture before death. Laceration to the side of the head, possibly due to a blow or fall pre-mortem. Wand hand severely damaged, pre-mortem. Avada Kedarava ultimate cause of death.
Mrs. Lily Potter: Discovered in upper area of house, the nursery. Avada Kedarava inflected while standing before crib, protecting infant. Death occurred some time after husband was executed.
Both struck down by the Killing Curse. Such an act by You-Know-Who was common place at that time, so no one thought to examine the bodies. Though, a few curses had been strategically placed on the outer potions of the house. This was very odd indeed. These were curses, of course, had nothing to do with the Potter's safety... and looked like they were to lock the Potter's in rather than keep an intruder out...
Now Mr. Weasley wished nothing more than to just Apparate back to the office, where he could see if the situation had changed—to check on the Dementors, even. There was a good chance the man—who could simply be posing as James Potter—had been apprehended. It had taken Arthur the better part of an hour but he had finally convinced his wife to let him go back to the Ministry. She had been against it, and still was. She was stubborn like that…
Mrs. Molly Weasley now had her arms firmly crossed over her chest, her eyes glittering with suppressed anger, as well as a notable amount of uncertainty and worry. "At least eat something. You look like an old zombie..." She turned and began to fumble around with some things on the counter before coming back holding out a piece of buttered toast eagerly. "It will give you at the least a bit of energy for the day..." Judging by the look he was receiving, there was no way he would leave the house without eating every last crumb...
Mr. Weasley sighed, taking the toast hesitantly. He didn't really feel like eating, the whole situation made him loose his appetite. "Yes dear..."
His wife seemed to read his mind. "Are you still worrying about that James Potter imposter?"
Mr. Weasley couldn't believe this. He thought his wife would be happy that Harry's father was alive, or at least that there was a possibility, however unlikely. Happy for Harry. "But the evidence..." 'Or lack there of...' "How do you know he's not the real thing, Molly?"
"He's dead, Arthur!" She began putting thing away, pointedly turned away from him this time.
"But maybe he wasn't really dead? Even the Ministry can make mistakes, and maybe it's not always an accident. Just look at Peter Pettigrew! Also, who knows what He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named was up to that night..."
Mrs. Weasley looked skeptical. "And how is that? How could anyone manage that? A time charm maybe? Arthur, you know those charms are highly illegal for just that purpose!"
Mr. Weasley knew this was true, though when had He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named ever done anything legally?
He would have said as much, but didn't feel like butting heads with her. Mr. Weasley didn't have the energy even if he wanted to. Now the muscles in his upper back where aching from sitting at his desk all night...
Mr. Weasley moved to check something in his briefcase when he spotted a letter on the table. Still nibbling his toast, he picked it up. There was no address. "What's this?"
"It's a letter for you," she said, while trying to busy herself with a number of tasks. Now she was straightening the table cloth, though it didn't need it.
Mrs. Weasley didn't like talking about Harry's father. His dead father, so she believed. Mr. Weasley was very aware of how his wife wished to be a sort of surrogate mother for the boy. The last thing she wanted was to upset Harry with a potentially false rumor of his father coming back from the dead. She would hate to see him crushed like that, again. He already had so much loss in his life... Mr. Weasley didn't know what he would do if something happened to one of his own children...
"It's from Hogwarts," Mrs. Weasley said regarding the letter, "and it's about the boys again you can deal with it. I've opened enough of those letters already." There was a nervous edge to her voice; hopefully it wasn't some sort of anxiety attack. There was no calming her if that happened. "It came a little while ago, from a charmed owl. A charmed owl, would you believe it?! The poor thing was exhausted..."
Mr. Weasley took the letter, unrolling it. It was obviously from Hogwarts, he was all too familiar with receiving reports of improper behavior from McGonagall about Fred, George, and on those rare occasions, Ron and Ginny. Reading over it quickly he frowned.
Mr. Weasley picked up on the change in mood. "Well, who is it from, Arthur?"
"Again!?" She scowled, clutching a towel in her hands as if it were some sort of stress reliever. "I don't believe it! Fred and George 've gotten into trouble again haven't they!?" She spoke quickly, her eyes blazing with furry. "Those bloody wands of theirs... burn them all... Just WAIT until they get home for the holidays..."
Mr. Weasley shook his head. "It's from McGonagall, but I don't think this is Hogwarts business, Molly."
The angry fire in her eyes vanished immediately at this, only to be replaced by another kind… "I see…
He read the script carefully. "She says Dumbledore needs a favor..."
Mrs. Weasley was going to probably ask "what sort of 'favor'?" when there was a faint popping sound from the living room. "Oh dear, who could that be?" She left the room muttering to herself while Arthur continued to nibble at his toast and read letter carefully.
Then, "Arthur, come quickly! It's Charlie!"
Mr. Weasley instantly dropped his toast and ran into living room, where his wife already stood by the roaring hearth. And sure enough, there was Charlie Weasleys' head, floating within the flames. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley would've otherwise been happy to see him, if it weren't for the grave expression on wore.
"Dad, we're having some major problems down here."
Mr. Weasley frowned. "Where on earth are you? You weren't supposed to visit from Romania for another few days."
"I decided to come a little earlier, and it's a good thing I did. The Ministry's in an uproar."
"Has Mr. Potter been found?"
Charlie's head shook "no". "He's the absolute last of our worries right now. Dementors have been sighted all over the London Underground. No victims as of yet, but it may only be a matter of time now."
Mrs. Weasley let out a muffled gasp of horror, covering her mouth with her hands. "D-Dementors!? H-How, why—!?" She suddenly stopped, took a deep breath, her hands clenched. Then she continued carefully, "How did this happen?"
"We can't be certain, Mother. The Dementors are forbidden from entering the Underground... At least they're supposed to be. The Ministry's putting together a squad equipped enough to handle the matter."
Mr. Weasley snorted. "It'll take something more than a bloody squad to fight off a horde of Dementors."
Charlie took a deep breath, shaking his head. "I know, but we don't have a choice. And I'm not going to just stand around when I can help, Dad. People have to be protected, Magical and Muggle alike. A rainstorm's hit London and it's given the bloody bastards a powerful advantage. They're frantic down here, they're scared. We need everyone from every office. No one's sure why they're acting like this..."
"He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named," Mrs. Weasley whispered hoarsely. "This is what Harry warned us about, Arthur, this is exactly it..."
Mr. Weasley didn't answer her, the gears in his mind turning, trying to think of an answer... but there was none... "Charlie, I don't want you down there." Charlie looked startled. "Please, I don't want you, Bill, or Percy in any danger..." Images of James Potter flashed in his mind... Pictures of Lily and James Potter's bodies, Ministry officials walking around to examine them…
Could he really lose a son to this...?
But with the sort of lives they led, wasn't it always a possibility?
Charlie didn't look too agreeable. "I'm glad that you're worried about me, and to be honest, I'd take my chances with a Horntail any day; but I don't think it'll be a problem. Whether they're moving through the Underground or not, they aren't going for the Ministry. I think they're looking for something..."
"Or someone." Mr. Weasley glanced down at the letter form Hogwarts, now clinched tightly in his fist.
Well... If his sons were brave enough to handle all this...
Mr. Weasley smiled. "Charlie? Do you have any connections for getting or making a Portkey?"
Charlie seemed startled by his sudden change in mood. "Um , yes. I have a friend who makes them for Quidditch Tournaments and such. But we haven't talked in a while... Why?"
"I have a favor to ask of you... for the Order." He turned to his wife, meeting her gaze. Her hands were folded so tightly together that her knuckles had turned white. "Molly, can you Apparate a letter to the Diagon Alley Owl Office? It's very important, but I don't want you to linger any longer than you have to. There should be someone in the area we need to get a message to. Immediately."
Somewhere in a small country half-wizarding town just outside of London, Remus Lupin was making his way through the upstairs hallway of his temporary home.
He carried a large mug full of herbal tea. Of course, this type of herbal tea was more to help with a hangover more than anything else. It also served as a delightful "pick-me-up" early in the morning, and his current guest did not like getting up in the morning...
Especially not after last night.
"Sirius," he called out. Oops! Almost spilled some tea here... It was still very hot.
As he ventured closer to the bedroom he paused twice; once to straighten a crooked picture frame and a second time to whip a small smudge off the hall mirror. It was pointless he knew; the frame would tilt again when he wasn't looking and the mirror was impossible filthy, but he did so out of habit now.
'He should be up by now, shouldn't he...?'
"Sirius?" Lupin walked up to the guestroom door, tapping at it. "Sirius," he repeated again, louder this time. He reached for the door handle, but before he could even touch it, the door flung open...
Revealing the face of a very cross looking fugitive...
"Can you scream any louder," he asked lowly, brushing his bed ridden hair out of his face. He hadn't the mind to bother trimming it anymore. "I don't think the Witch Doctor downstairs heard you!"
Lupin smiled and thrust the mug at him. "No one can hear, or see for that matter." It was true. The Witch Doctor Prewert—a friend of Albus' owed him a favor—owned the building. Prewert had allowed Remus to use the topmost floor for the past few months, and Sirius more recently, though the Doctor probably didn't know. The doctor himself was usually traveling, seeking patients outside of town, and had been gone for well over a month now. Lupin vaguely wondered what could be keeping him…
While most knew the place was owned by Doctor Prewert, one could easily consider the old house long abandoned. Every window and curtain had been drawn for the past few months now, and a silencing charm was placed on the building when Lupin arrived, just in case...
They had noticed Lupin eventually, when he would venture into town for supplies. This made people curious. The Muggles in town thought this especially peculiar. But like most Muggles, they kept their noses out of other people's business for the fear of getting mixed up in something they'd rather not be.
"I don't know what you're worried about," Lupin admonished. "Sound charms, remember? People would've heard... Last night."
Sirius didn't comment on that last part, taking the proffered mug. "You're far too optimistic," Sirius gruffed. He took a small sip of the liquid, made a face, then began drinking it down in large gulps.
Lupin just gave him another cheerful smile. "And you're too much of a pessimist, Padfoot."
The taller man chuckled at this, smiling. "You're right. I do need to fix that, if I can." Sirius was already half dressed, minus his cloak and outer robes—Sirius didn't really wear night clothes, though Remus had offered him some on more than one occasion. He was still appeared rather sleepy even after the tea. Lupin could see it in his eyes. Sirius flopped down onto the bed, sighing deeply. "After all, I have a bed to sleep in, a roof over my head and the company of an old friend..."
'… for the first time in fourteen years...' "Yes..." Lupin frowned, noticing his friends' exhaustion.
Sirius had come to stay only a few weeks ago. The Witch Doctor hadn't been around when he arrived, but permission or not Sirius insisted that he stay. His current accommodations, so Sirius claimed, we not acceptable. He said he needed to get away for a while.
Sirius wouldn't have taken "no" for an answer anyway.
But last night had been a full moon, and Lupin thusly became a werewolf. His screams and howls as he transformed couldn't be heard from the outside, but they were deafening from within. Fortunately, Lupin had readied some Wolfsbane Potion. Initially the Witch Doctor would make it for him—part of the arrangement he made with Dumbledore—but without him Lupin made due.
It had been a long, tiring night for the both of them. Since Sirius had come to stay with him, Lupin was able to keep human company for the first time in that state—Sirius stayed a human rather than changing into a dog. It was… refreshing.
Actually, just having Sirius there made everything so much more... pleasant. Lupin hadn't been this amiable since his time at Hogwarts. He had someone to talk to if he needed it, if he got lonely. Someone whom he trusted, that already knew his secret. Just like old times...
"I... didn't mean to keep you up," Lupin apologized quietly, his stomach falling a bit. He hated the thought of making his best friend unhappy, after all he'd gone through... "I wouldn't hold it against you if you wanted to return to Grimma—"
Sirius snorted at the comment, loud enough to effectively interrupt him. "Don't be stupid, there's hardly a comparison! I would much rather stay here with you, even if you didn't have that potion."
A short pause, then, "It does make some difference, Sirius."
"I can't believe you're worried about something like that. After all these years! It's not like we're sneaking out of the Gryffindor dormitory, Remus. I don't have to go anywhere. I don't have to break any rules." Sirius chuckled, his voice muffled as he brought his mug up to his lips. "Don't have to worry about the Headmistress catching a few loose Animagus wandering outside their dormitory after hours..."
Lupin stared at Sirius, something pleasant flickering behind his eyes, then he smirked. "Well, you may have to "sneak out" somewhere."
Sirius expression brightened a bit, taking the mug away from his mouth and raising an eyebrow. "What?"
"Wolfsbane Potion... It needs to be taken directly, remember? And Doctor Prewert isn't around to help. I need to stock up on certain things for next month." It was always good to plan ahead, though some of the ingredients were difficult to store properly. He'd messed up on the potion so many bloody times in the past; it would usually take him a few tries to get it right.
Sirius didn't hide his grin. "Not a problem! Who was he to turn down a walk outside, even as a dog? He was constantly being encouraged to stay indoors, Lupin knew why… but no one in this town recognized Lupin for what he was, and they were even less interested in his furry companion. He had taken Sirius out to town twice before, though Lupin hardly had a reason to go himself.
"Get dressed." Remus threw Sirius his robes, newly cleaned.
Sirius was accustomed to his own tattered black robes, and refused to replace them no matter how many times Lupin tried to convince him otherwise. Instead—since Sirius didn't want Lupin to spend any money on him—Lupin compromised by instead washing them constantly, and had preformed several repairing charms on the already ragged fabric. "You smell," would be his blunt, and only half joking comment. Sirius wouldn't care, but eventually gave into his constant badgering.
But Sirius just stared at the robes for a moment. "I don't need to get dressed for this, you know."
"Humor me. I'll be waiting downstairs."
"Yes, mother," Sirius muttered, examining his spotless robes with mild interest. He still couldn't get used to clothes that weren't at least a little dirty or torn, even if they still were a bit tattered. "You would make a wonderful house wife, dear."
Lupin grinned, his eyes narrowing. "And what would you be? A wonderful house dog, perhaps?" Lupin shut the door as a boot flew at him—it hit the door with a deafening THWACK!! He waited a moment, listening to Sirius' wild cursing before going down to the kitchen, intent on getting a spot of tea.
When he reached the kitchen, however, he was met with the sound of tapping coming from a window.
Drawing his wand, he cautiously walked towards the window and peered through a crack in the curtains. But it was only a large owl... a hawk owl, in fact. Lupin didn't recognize it, and it certainly wasn't from the Owl Post Office.
"What is it, Remus," came Sirius' grave voice from behind. Lupin turned to find Sirius peering out from the corner of the doorway, eyeing the window as if something horrible awaited him on the other side. His wand was clenched in his fist.
It took Remus a moment to realize his own wand was still drawn, and quickly put it away, feeling a little acquired. It wasn't a good idea to get Sirius riled up. "Relax, it's just an owl…"
Sirius look disbelieving, though, his eyes narrowed with an air of suspicion. Perhaps it wouldn't be a good idea to take him outside after all… but then he asked peevishly, "It's not that damn banshee from down the street again, is it?"
Remus couldn't seem to hide his mirth, the mood suddenly lifting. "Miss Sidney is not a banshee, Sirius. Be kind."
"That damn woman is senile... She still wants fresh dog ears for that blasted potion of hers." That was funny, considering that all the other pet dogs on the street had mysteriously disappeared in the last month already... Or so he'd heard. Miss Sidney had come knocking twice after seeing Sirius in town, but Remus simply didn't answer…
"Well, see who it's from. It might be Arabell."
"Or Harry," Lupin suggested.
Sirius smiled at this thought.
Lupin opened the window, allowing the hawk owl to hop onto his arm. There seemed to be something terribly wrong with the bird, he realized this as soon as it passed through the window. It was shaking violently, breathing too quickly, eyes shifting wildly. Its claws dug into the cloth of his brown shirt, drawing the tiniest bit of blood. Wait...
"This owl's been enchanted!" He pulled out his wand once more, pointing it toward the suffering creature. "Finite Incantatem!"
"Enchanted?" Sirius' eyes widened as the owl slumped forward in exhaustion, Lupin catching it before it could fall to the floor. "Good lo- What's happened to it?"
Lupin set the creature on the kitchen table, where it let out a weak "hoot" of thanks. It lay in a position that suggested it'd run into a glass wall, wings fanned out, taking up the whole table. It breathing was slowing gradually, but it probably wouldn't be getting up any time soon. "Some sort of... energy spell...? I'm not quiet sure. Someone wanted this message to get here quickly..." His untied the letter from the birds' claw as gently as possible, his eyes widening when he recognized the seal on it. "It's from Hogwarts."
Sirius looked bother confused and panicked. "Hogwarts? You mean Harry, or Dumbledore?"
Lupin began scanning over the message. "From Professor Minerva McGo—" He stopped suddenly.
The letter slipped from nerveless fingers and fluttered to the floor.
'Oh... He's alive...'
'He was alive...!!'
Lupin's breath came out in shuttering gasps, like he was having difficulty getting air in. For a moment he looked like he was going to faint.
This reaction panicked Sirius, and he rushed forward to steady his friend, steadying him at both shoulders. "Remus? Remus! What's wrong with you!?"
"H-He's alive..." Lupin had grabbed hold of Sirius' shirt sleeve, gripping it tightly. "They've seen him!"
Sirius eyed the letter as if it were alive and dangerous, unable to figure out what Lupin as talking about. Who's alive? Who's seen who?
While holding into his friend, Sirius steered Lupin over to a chair. The man collapsed into it, bringing a trembling hand to his forehead. "What did it say, Remus," he asked firmly. Lupin was shaking his head slowly from side to side, he might even be crying. "Remus. Remus, speak to me, come on! Who's alive—"
"James... Oh God, something's happened. He's alive, Sirius! There must be some mistake…"
Sirius paled. Of all the things Lupin could've said at that moment... Voldemort has taken over the Ministry, something he feared. Snape's turned against Dumbledore, which he had anticipated all along. The sky was falling, which wouldn't surprise him in the least.
But not this...
His throat was painfully tight when he tried to speak. "W-What...?" He snatched up the letter and read it halfway through before stopping. After a long silence, he spoke. "Th... That's impossible. It can't..." His brows furrowed in confusion, trying to understand. He pressed a hand to his forehead, trying to keep his head together, trying to think straight. "It must be some trick..."
"True..." Lupin seemed to have collected himself, his shoulders where still trembling but he sat straighter. The man hadn't been crying, no, but his eyes had gained a haunted look. The same look that Sirius saw in the mirror everyday. The look of a man who has many sleeping ghosts...
And Lupin's had just been awoken with a vengeance.
Sirius didn't argue when Lupin plucked the letter from his hands and reread it. "Mr. Ollivander... James went to him?"
"If it's him," Sirius muttered his tone full of bitter uncertainty, and no small amount of anger. His was trapped somewhere between suspicion and utter joy. But he'd known too much disappointment to put all of his hopes into this, something so impossible. And the thought of it being true in the first place... He should be sent straight to St. Mungo's. "Who else had seen him? Was Ollivander sure?"
"He was sure." Lupin carefully read toward to end of the letter. "Dumbledore has contacted the Weasley's... He's sent Severus to look for... James..."
"WHAT!?" He snatched the letter back, almost ripping it in the process. He read over the part Lupin had spoken aloud. "No... He's-He's mad! Snape will kill him before helping him!" He crumpled up the paper in his fists, seething. He couldn't describe the feeling he was experiencing. Something between rage and desperation; and for some reason thinking that it was all for nothing... "If that bastard finds him..."
"It may be for the best."
Lupin took the letter and whispered "Incendio", and they both watched the paper as it combusted into flame.
"It is better that no one else knows," Lupin muttered, watching the black ashes flutter to the wooden floorboards. Then he lifted his gaze to Sirius' wild, black eyes. Sirius didn't like that look...
"Think about it, Sirius. If Mr. Ollivander recognized this man, and a few Muggles were able to catch sight of him, what do you think the chances are of a Death Eater seeing him?"
Sirius stiffened. This realization hit him with a sensation that would rival even a Dementor's presence.
"Don't you understand, Sirius?" Remus took a long shuttering breath. "It's not a matter of who is trying to get to him, now... it's a matter of who will get there first..."
To be continued...
Damn, I really loved that part… Memories!