When the Moon is Out – 4
Sirius prowled the forest, eyes scanning the ground for a sign of tracks. He hadn't eaten yet today, and only managed a few berries the day before. It didn't help that eating as Padfoot was hardly appetizing. Being a dog didn't mean he enjoyed raw rabbit.
He stopped as a cat crossed his path. It was quite possibly the ugliest feline he'd ever seen, a horrible orange that reminded him of Mary's cat, Mipsy, only with the squashed-in face of a kneazle.
He growled lowly and the cat hissed back at him. He heard its voice then, and was startled by what the cat said.
"Two-legged," the cat hissed.
Sirius cocked his head to the side, stupefied. It wasn't unusual for animals to have a voice, but for them to recognize him as an animgus was unheard of. He took better stock of the cat, and suddenly its hideous appearance made more sense. It didn't just have the face of a kneazle, it also had the legs and its tail was puffier on the end.
"You belong to one of the students, don't you?" Sirius asked, stepping back and giving the feline space.
The cat hissed at him, hackles raised. "Not your business, two-legged."
Sirius took a step forwards. "I need to get into the castle," he said. "There's a rat up there like me," the cat stopped its hissing, interested, "that rat is trying to kill one of the students."
"I know the rat. I've been trying to catch it all year," the cat said. "It's always hanging around my Mistress. Ugly, bald little thing tried to pretend it was only a rat, but I knew."
Sirius did not think he was imagining the cat's smug tone. "If you help me get into the castle, I'll get the rat for you-"
"No," the cat swished its bottle-brush tail and turned to leave. "I don't need any more two-leggeds-with-tails in the castle near my Mistress."
Sirius growled, but the cat simply leapt to a high branch in one of the trees. He turned once to flick his tail at Sirius and purr before climbing higher into the tree.
Sirius sat by the bottom and waited; the orange blighter would have to come down at some point.
Severus threw the staffroom doors open, absolutely seething. His eyes narrowed on Remus, who was sitting and discussing something in the paper with Emma.
"Are you alright?" Emma asked, looking at him. They were alone, everyone else in class.
Severus ignored her, instead marching over to Lupin, who looked almost amused. "Didn't you tell her about your little prank, Werewolf?"
Remus's smirk disappeared. "Prank? You are the boggart of one of your students, surely that should upset you more than the idea that I may have tarnished your image."
Severus scoffed. "That boy is a blubbering fool of a child who should never have made it into this school. He has less talent, magical or otherwise, than the potatoes I ate for breakfast."
Remus stood, his face like thunder. "Neville Longbottom lost both of his parents — parents you went to school with — to Voldemort. He has plenty of talent, what he lacks, if anything, is confidence, and I don't have to look far to wonder why that might be!"
Severus grinned as Remus's eyes flashed. "Keep your wolf under control, Lupin. We'd all hate it if there was an incident."
"Enough!" Emma said, standing. "You know that isn't how lycanthropy works, and even if it was, that is hardly something for you to pick on him about-"
"Pick on him?" Severus looked absolutely incensed. "Always a Marauder, aren't you, Swift. Always going to stand up for your real friends. Well, I hope you have a fun time with your precious Padfoot when you see him, Merlin knows you aren't really trying to find him or he'd be back in Azkaban right now!"
Emma snarled and walked forward, but Remus grabbed her by the shoulder. "Emma, don't!"
"Listen to your pet," Severus sneered. "After all it would be terrible if you lost control and the Ministry finally put a few restraints on you," he moved in closer, so his next words were a whisper. "You'll always be a monster, remember that."
It was unclear if his words were for Emma or Remus, perhaps they were for both of them. He stepped back even as he said them, a sneer on his face, before he spun on his heel, leaving the room and slamming the doors behind him.
Remus fell back into his seat with a sigh. Emma kicked the small table they'd been working at, sending it flying into the wall.
"I shouldn't have done that," Remus said. "He'll only be worse now…"
"Shouldn't have done what?" Emma asked, sounding extremely tired. She was still staring at the table.
"When I brought my class in for defence yesterday, Severus was in here. He made a snide comment about Neville, and I lost my temper. After everything Neville's been through, the idea that Severus was giving him such a hard time…" Remus sighed. "I asked Neville to help me with the boggart, hoping it would give him some confidence. He told me his greatest fear was Severus, Severus! A teacher. It's our job to empower our students, so that they can rise to their full potential, not tear them down and instill fear in them," Remus rubbed his temples. "In retribution, I had Neville make boggart-Severus wear Augusta's clothes."
Emma was staring at him with a half-open mouth. "You mean," she waved her hand over her head, "that hideous dead bird she wears?"
"Along with a dress, giant red handbag and fox scarf, yes," Remus said, smirking slightly.
Emma snorted, and put a hand up to her face to stifle her laughter. "No wonder he's upset," she said, sitting down across from him.
They looked at one another for a moment before bursting into laughter, the mental image of Severus swinging a large, red handbag while a stuffed vulture sat perched on his greasy, black hair getting the better of them.
Halloween day was not a particularly good one for Harry. He'd seen Ron and Hermione off to Hogsmead, knowing that Emma would never sign his permission slip with Black on the loose. Her over-reaction at Hagrid's had convinced him of that, and he hadn't even bothered asking her if he could go, though he was fairly convinced he'd be willing to part with his left leg for a chance. Of course he'd been to the village before, but this time it would have been with his best friends, and somehow that made it different.
Thinking he'd rather be busy, he made his way up to Emma's office. He was sure that she'd be happy to give him some extra training, which would be sure to make time go faster. There was something about facing off against the ever-challenging Steve The Manikin that was oddly satisfying.
However, when Harry got to Emma's office the door was locked. He frowned at a note stuck to the door.
Out of Office. For homework help see Prof. M. McGonagall.
Harry left with a sigh. Remus was probably gone too then… maybe he'd go to the owlery and see Hedwig instead…
He took a detour by Remus's office just in case, and was surprised to find him munching on sweets and grading papers.
"Remus?" Harry asked, knocking on the doorframe lightly.
Remus looked up with a start and smiled at him, motioning for him to come in. "How are you, Harry? Want a chocolate?"
Harry took a seat and an offered chocolate. "Thanks. Sorry if I'm bothering you."
"You're never a bother, Harry; if you can be sure of anything, be sure of that," Remus said with a smile. He left the chocolates in the middle of the desk, so that Harry could easily grab a few more. "Have you seen my grindylow yet?" he asked then. "I had Merion help me catch one from the lake."
"Merion?" Harry asked, looking at the grindylow in interest. He was well acquainted with the blighters, thanks to Emma, who had once let a bunch of them almost drown him in a bathtub during a lesson. He'd fought them off in the end, so he supposed there was some method to her madness.
"One of the merfolk in the black lake — he's the chief now, actually," Remus said. "Though he was a youth when we met him."
"How did you meet him?" Harry asked, taking a few more chocolates.
"In fourth year we decided we'd try and recruit the merfolk against Voldemort — which should really help you understand how much thought didn't go into our world-changing plans," Remus said with a smirk. "We went to the bottom of the black lake and were lucky to return with our lives. Emma and Merion have stayed in contact since, on and off. His son caught the grindylow, actually. Emma told me Merion was bursting with pride."
"My father too?" Harry asked.
"Yes, James came with us, and Lily helped us make it into the lake. She taught us the bubble-head charm, letting us breathe underwater."
Harry frowned. "Couldn't Emma have just…" he waved his hands around, as if to show her wandless magic.
Remus chuckled. "Not at 14. Emma was not always as attuned to her elements as she is now."
Harry hummed. He often forgot that Emma must have been quite different as a student. Speaking of Emma… "Do you know where she is? I went up to her office, but it said she's out."
Remus frowned, his eyes falling to his desk. "It's Halloween," he said. "She's never around on Halloween… she says it isn't safe. I told her to stay, but," he sighed. "Well, she's always been stubborn."
"I'm sorry," Harry said. "I probably should have realized… it's the anniversary, of when it happened."
Remus nodded, looking tired.
"Don't you usually go with her?" Harry asked.
Remus smiled softly. "Usually. However, I had more important things to do this year than sulk."
"Oh?" Harry asked.
Remus smiled. "I had you to look after, didn't I?"
Harry couldn't help but grin, munching on a few more chocolates. After a moment, his grin fell. "Is that why you didn't let me fight against the boggart?" he asked. "Because I need to be looked after?"
Remus looked startled. "I thought it would have been obvious why I didn't want you to face the boggart, Harry," when Harry continued to look crestfallen he continued, "I assumed the boggart would take the form of Voldemort — a Voldemort returned to full power, which was sure to cause a bit of a stir."
Harry smiled weakly, his fears ebbing away. "I did think of Voldemort at first… but then I remembered the dementor on the train."
Remus looked impressed. "Well, well… I'm impressed. That suggests that what you fear most of all is — fear. Very wise, Harry."
Harry smiled slightly.
Remus grinned back, before frowning. "Did you really believe I didn't think you were capable of taking on the boggart, Harry? After everything?"
Harry sighed and rotated his teacup slightly. "Well, I did pass out when I saw the dementors," he said.
Remus's frown deepened. "That doesn't mean you're weak. It means you have seen things that most 13-year-olds do not have to deal with… it is something I think today proves."
Harry blinked, startled. "The woman screaming," he said, suddenly coming to a realization. "Do you really think it was — I mean, you think it could have been…." He didn't know if he could say the words, could really bring his heart to hope that he had heard his mother's voice. And then it plummeted, realizing why his mother may have been screaming, particularly on a day like today.
Remus looked like he was trying to find the answer when they were interrupted by a brisk knock on the open door.
Snape walked in, looking perturbed. "Your potion, Lupin."
"Thank you, Severus," Remus said, standing to get the smoking goblet from Snape. To Harry it looked like the same stuff Remus had been drinking over the summer.
"I made an entire cauldron full. You should probably drink more again tomorrow. And take that directly, won't you?"
"Of course. Thank you, Severus," Remus said, taking the goblet.
Snape didn't make any indication of having heard, instead sweeping from the room.
"You're not feeling ill again, are you?" Harry asked, nodding at the potion.
"I'm afraid so," Remus said, sitting down again behind his desk. "I'm very lucky Professor Snape agreed to brew this for me. It is the only thing that helps."
Harry watched as Remus chugged the goblet of smoking potion. Harry's nose pinched with distaste, and as soon as Remus finished a slew of words exited Harry's mouth without permission. "What makes you ill? When did it start?"
Remus looked caught slightly off guard. "When I was very young," he said, somewhat evasively. "When I was three… I was three the first time I got ill."
"And there's no cure?" Harry asked, surprised to learn that magic couldn't cure everything.
Remus smiled tightly. "No… only this potion, which makes it easier. It's a recent discovery."
"I'm sorry," Harry said.
"It's nothing for you to be sorry about," Remus said. "It will pass, it always does."
"What happens?" Harry asked. "I know Emma said your senses were more sensitive…"
Remus paled. He sat somewhat straighter in his chair. "It's… I don't want to frighten you Harry."
"Is it that serious?" Harry asked, sounding worried. "It can't kill you, can it?"
Remus looked at Harry, at the worry in his face, and started to laugh.
"It isn't funny!" Harry said, sounding annoyed.
Remus shook his head. "I'm sorry, Harry. It's just… I'd half hoped we'd never have this conversation, and now you're asking if it will kill me," Remus's eyes were filled with pain, even though he was still smiling. "If I were going to die, I would have done so already. Lycanthropy keeps its victims alive, the disease can only be spread by biting, after all," Remus sounded somewhat bitter.
Harry frowned. "By biting?"
Remus nodded, looking worried.
"But why would you bite someone?" Harry asked, now completely confused. "What does Lycan… Lycanthropy? Do?"
Remus sighed, looking defeated. "It's better known as being a Werewolf," Remus said. "So when the moon is full, one doesn't have much choice in whether or not they bite someone."
Harry stared at Remus with a half-open mouth. "You're a Werewolf?"
Remus nodded, watching him nervously.
Harry was quiet for a moment. Remus watched him, his mouth dry. He dared not move in case he startle Harry.
"So over the summer… when you were sick Emma went with you? But, wouldn't you have wanted to bite her too?" Harry asked. "And do you really turn into a wolf? Does it hurt? Where did you go?"
"I-" Remus sat at a loss for words. "You're not frightened?"
Harry shrugged. "Everyone obviously knows — I mean Emma and the teachers. They're not scared, and besides, you're Remus. I know you'd never hurt me… so, do you really turn into a wolf? If Emma can stay with you, can I?"
Remus's face broke into a wide grin. "Thank you, Harry," he said. Harry shrugged again, waiting for his answers. "Yes, I turn into a wolf, even with the potion, and it does hurt."
"So what does the potion do?" Harry asked.
"It lets me keep my mind during the transformation. It suppresses the wolf and makes me safe around humans."
"And that's why Emma could stay with you?" Harry guessed. "Can I?"
Remus shook his head. "I would never risk that. No, it's better you stay away from me, even with the potion. As for Emma, you know she is an animagus?"
Harry nodded. "She turns into a horse, a big flaming one."
Remus smirked. "Well, she's not usually on fire, but yes. She became an animagus when she was only 13 or 14, for me, because werewolf bites don't affect animals. When she stayed with me, the wolf was tamer, easier to control, and I wouldn't hurt myself."
"Your scars," Harry guessed. "The wolf does that to you during the moon?"
"Why didn't you tell me?" Harry asked.
Remus sighed. "I thought you might be afraid. Forgive me, Harry, but most Wizards don't associate themselves with Werewolves. It was a miracle I got this job, and if anyone ever found out — the parents — if they knew what I was…" Remus shook his head. "I would be asked to leave."
"That isn't fair," Harry said.
"Life rarely is," Remus said with a small smile. "Now, I have a question for you."
"Why aren't you with Ron and Hermione?"
"Oh," Harry sighed. "Hogsmead."
"I see," Remus looked sorry that he had asked. "I suppose I can understand why Emma wouldn't let you go. I am sorry, Harry."
"It's okay, I didn't bother asking her. It wasn't worth the fight," Harry said.
Remus watched Harry for a moment before slapping his hand down on his desk and making his way over to the fire. Harry watched, startled, as Remus threw a handful of floo powder into the grate and then stuck the front half of his body through the flames.
He emerged a few minutes later, holding two mugs of hot butterbeer and a bag full of Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans.
Harry couldn't help but grin.
They chatted for several more hours, enjoying their butterbeers and laughing at their Bertie Bott's flavours. They were having such a good time they were almost late to the feast.
Sirius watched from the underbrush as Emma passed by him again.
It had to have been the tenth time that day. She'd been stalking through the forest since early morning. She looked tired, at least that's what he'd thought on her first pass, now she looked downright exhausted.
It was getting dark, the moon rising slowly. Sirius watched her from his hiding spot. She'd started to cry, he realized, and he wasn't sure, but he thought he could see silver reflecting in her hair.
When she'd gone, not even a lumos ball to light her way, Sirius crept out of the forest and towards the castle. He knew why she was crying in the forest after all. He may have been losing track of the days, but he'd heard someone in Hogsmead say it.
Sirius supressed a growl. Twelve years after their deaths and Wormtail was sitting cozy in Gryffindor tower while Swift roamed the forest crying. Harry hadn't been in Hogsmead, Sirius had looked for him, and neither was Moony, which meant they were probably in the castle together.
Sirius crept along by the herbology greenhouses, slipping into one. He turned human and levitated the venomous tentacula. Sure enough, the passage was still underneath it.
Sirius's grin was wild as he swung himself into the tunnel, letting the angry plant fall back into place. He hit the bottom with a soft thump and turned back into Padfoot, who was a better size for the cramped space. There was no light, but Sirius didn't need it. He'd taken this passage a million times as a student, sneaking back into the castle with the other Marauders after a full moon.
He hurried down the dirt tunnel. After some time it started downwards, and moments later his nails began clicking against stone. It was eerie being back; he kept expecting James to jump out at him and announce that this time, he had really gotten Filch good.
Sirius slipped out from behind a suit of armour in the dungeons, looking around cautiously. If he was caught it was over. Peter wouldn't be found until he showed himself, and then it would be too late. He felt a small fire erupt in his belly at the thought, and had to supress a growl. When he got his hands on that rat—
He took off, running down the stone corridor, nails clicking against the floor. He slipped into a passageway, and started up a back staircase.
His years as a Marauder did not fail him. Every nook and cranny of the castle was his, eternally etched in his memory. By the time he got to the Fat Lady, his ears were ringing with the sounds of his friends' laughter, and he could see their shadows flitting under every flame-lit torch.
She watched him as he approached, her eyes narrowed. She did not even flinch as he transformed into a human right in front of her.
"Sirius Black," she said. "Password?"
"I don't know the password," Sirius said, his voice cracking with disuse. It sounded strange, even to him. "I need to get into Gryffindor tower."
"I cannot let you enter without the password."
"I'm a Gryffindor," Sirius said, trying to hold in his anger. He could practically taste Wormtail, only feet away from him. "You can let me in."
"You were a Gryffindor," the Fat Lady said. "Password?"
Sirius's eyes flashed. "I don't have the password!" he bellowed. "I need to get in there and find him! I need to kill him! Don't you understand? Let me in!"
The Fat Lady took a step back in her portrait, suddenly looking a tad frightened. Sirius Black always had had a rather horrible temper. "You need to provide me with the password," she said, not giving in.
Just then, footsteps echoed down the length of the corridor. Sirius turned back into a dog, lifted one paw, and began scratching against the canvas, making the Fat Lady scream as he tried to get into the common room. All the while the footsteps got closer, followed by the sounds of laughter. Realizing he would never make it, that if he didn't leave now he would be caught, Sirius fled the corridor.
Soon the laughter behind him turned into more screams as people discovered the shredded canvas. Sirius ran full-out, nails clicking on the floor as he skid around a corner. He turned human, terrified, as footsteps sounded out in front of him. Sirius gripped the doorknob beside him and threw himself inside, shutting the door quietly behind himself. He slipped back into dog form and scampered into a closet just as the door handle turned and someone entered the room.
"Homenum revelio!" a familliar's voice commanded.
Sirius held his breath. After several minutes, the man, whose voice he couldn't quite place, left the room, shutting the door. Sirius heard a click as it locked. He waited for several minutes, straining to hear footsteps. When he was certain the man had truly left the room, Sirius came out of the closet and turned human once more.
He lit the tip of his wand, eyes widening as its light refracted in several prisms on the desk. He raised his wand higher, and took in his surroundings. Large windows, a desk cluttered with marking and prism paperweights, a broomstick stood to the side of the cabinet he'd hid in, a Nimbus 2000. He made his way over to the desk. He was certain there hadn't been a professor's office on the seventh floor while he was in school, and yet… there was something oddly familiar about the room.
Sirius checked a few of the papers, to no avail. It wasn't until he opened the desk drawer and found a few letters that he realized why the room seemed so familiar.
This was Swift's office.
He shut the drawer carefully. He was standing in Swift's office. His head spun with the information, even as feet continued to pound away outside, voices rising and falling as people looked for him.
Acting in the moment, Sirius grabbed a piece of paper and a quill — seconds later, an argument broke out on the other side of the door. Sirius made a run for the window as the door handle turned—
Severus walked into Emma's office, wand held at the ready. He muttered a few charms, all of which returned negative results. There was no one here.
He frowned and closed the door, re-locking it. Lupin hadn't been lying, the room was empty.
Emma turned towards the castle and frowned. She wasn't sure if she was imagining it, but it looked like more lights were on in the castle. She moved forwards slowly, stepping out of the forest's shade and into the moonlight.
She looked back towards the safety of the trees, wondering if she shouldn't retreat, when three red sparks were shot off in front of the castle.
She broke into a run.
Remus was waiting for her, looking drawn. He waved her over.
"Harry's fine!" he called, as she slowed down to a trot. "He's completely fine and in a safe area."
"But," Emma prompted.
Remus gulped, wondering if calling her had been a bad idea. There was something weird about her appearance. "Black got in; he ripped up the Fat Lady."
Emma ran past him, pulling on the tendril that would always lead her to Harry.
She threw the great hall doors opened when she entered, making most of the prefects jump. They didn't dare approach her as she trotted past the rows of sleeping bags.
Harry sat up and waved at her. Emma was at his side in barely a second, her eyes wild.
She kneeled down in front of him and began looking him over.
"I'm fine," Harry said, pulling away slightly, embarrassed. The entire school was staring at them openly, even as prefects began trying to settle them down.
"What happened?" she asked him, her hands falling to her sides.
"Nothing," Harry said. "We went up to the common room from the feast and Black had already gone."
Emma nodded, looking troubled. "Do you have the cloak with you?"
Harry shook his head.
Emma pulled her wand out of her pocket and leaned across Harry to tap his sleeping bag. Harry watched with an open mouth as it disapeared, along with the bottom-half of his body.
"Invisibility charms don't last forever, but this will have to do," Emma said. She frowned before standing and swirling her wand in a large arc. Immediately, all of the sleeping bags turned invisible, taking the students they housed with them.
"I want you three to pick up your sleeping bags and go lie in that back corner," Emma said, pointing to the corner farthest from the entrance doors. "I have to go look for Black. Now, move."
Harry, Ron and Hermione didn't dare disobey her. She stood and watched them make their way over to the corner, only walking towards the double-doors when she could no longer see them.
Remus was gone from the entrance hall when she entered, but that didn't matter. Emma left to check her wards on the humped-back witch and several others. If Sirius had used a passageway to get onto the grounds she'd know about it.
It was nearing three in the morning when she made her way back to the great hall to check on the students. To her surprise, Severus was at the door.
"Any sign of him?" she asked.
"None," Severus said. "Where have you been?"
"Checking the passages," Emma said, pulling a stray leaf from the whomping willow out of her hair. "Everything is as it should be. None of my wards were touched. He must have found another way in."
They entered the hall together. Dumbledore was standing with Percy over by where Harry was sleeping; she and Severus made their way over to them.
Severus gave his report as soon as they got close enough. They'd checked the entire castle.
"Any ideas, Emma?" Dumbledore asked, as soon as she'd told him about the passages.
"None. I have no idea how he did it. It should be impossible," she said.
"Well, we both know the impossible is only considered a challenge to a Marauder," Dumbledore said. He sighed. "Very well. You should both get some sleep."
Emma nodded, but rather than leave, she made her way over to one of the long tables and sat on its side, so she could watch over the many invisible sleeping bags.
It wasn't until the sunshine streamed from the enchanted ceiling overhead that Emma dared move from her post. A few of the students were already up, though, she observed, none from Gryffindor house. Some things never changed.
She slumped off the side of the table and made her way out of the hall and up the stairs, her limbs heavy. Every step seemed to take the effort of five.
She smiled as she pushed the door to her office open, looking forward to retreating into her quarters and to bed when a breeze blew past her.
Emma frowned, staring at the open window. She could have sworn she'd shut her office up before going out yesterday. With a sigh she went over to shut the window, only then noticing that things were askew on her desk.
Well, more askew, she corrected, as her desk was always one sheet away from looking like the leftovers of a hurricane. Now, however, her inkwell was uncovered and a quill was spilling ink all over a sheaf of parchment.
She walked over to it, closing the ink and moving the quill before realizing there was more than ink spots on the parchment.
Her face whitened as she read the words. Only one person could have written them.
Wormtail is alive.
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