Double Disclaimer: James, Sirius, Remus, Peter, Hogwarts, Quidditch, imps, and pixies are all the property of J.K. Rowling the Great. (Thank you for creating them!)
Sirius's Cerberus was created by Moon. If you haven't read her story "Cub Scout" yet, I urge you to do so. You'll find slight references to it throughout this story.
Author's note: In PoA, Lupin says that his friends became animagi in their fifth year, after three years of effort. I've decided to assume that they realized he was a werewolf early in their second year. This story is set in the summer between first and second year.
Since the HP books limit the story to Harry's point of view, I've decided to limit this story to James's. While James observes his friends, we get to observe James.
Out of the corner of his eye, James Potter saw the green flames shoot up in the fireplace, but he continued to focus on the three balls he was juggling. He had kept them in the air for almost two minutes this time, and he didn't want to drop them just as his friend arrived.
"Wow, James, you've gotten much better at that since June," said Remus as he stepped out of the fire and brushed some soot off his sleeves.
"Thanks!" said James with a grin. "But the real test will be Quidditch try-outs." Both boys knew that James was practicing juggling in the muggle way only to become more ambidextrous and thus a better Quidditch player.
Just then, James missed a catch and had to scramble under a table to retrieve the wayward ball. He then dropped all three into a silver bowl on the mantel and turned his full attention to his newly arrived houseguest, Remus Lupin.
Both boys were average in height for their twelve years of age, but Remus was slighter in build. He was thin enough that throughout the previous school year at Hogwarts, James had always felt compelled to make sure Remus got seconds (and thirds) of any meal served in the Great Hall. Remus required little coaxing (sometimes even devouring fourths).
As James looked at his thin friend, he grinned again remembering Sirius's frequent jokes about Remus eating like a pack of wolves. At least they had been
frequent until James had told him, in no uncertain terms, to drop it, as it seemed to embarrass Remus too much.
James grabbed Remus's suitcase. "C'mon. Let's put this stuff upstairs, and then we can join Sirius and Peter out in the garden. Peter got here about an hour ago, and Sirius came yesterday."
James noted that Remus was looking with wide eyes around the large living room, filled with antiques and family heirlooms. James had not yet visited Remus's home, but he knew that Remus and his mum were on their own, and that Remus's mum was often sick. He imagined that money was probably tight for the Lupins, and he felt a twinge of embarrassment that his own home was proclaiming that such was not the case for the
As he led the way upstairs, James looked back at Remus and said, "I hope you don't mind sharing a room with Sirius. Peter's in my room across the hall from you."
"It's fine…but, why didn't you put Sirius in your room?" A fair question, as Sirius and James were virtually inseparable at Hogwarts.
"Well, " James laughed, "we all have to put up with Peter's snoring in the dorm, but since this is my house, it might as well be me who has to put up with it."
As he reached a bedroom door, a black cat with white paws strolled past him, ignoring him as she always did (unless she was hungry) but stopping dead in her tracks as she fixed her eyes on Remus.
James heard the cat hiss and then growl, and he turned to see the cat backing away from Remus, her fur raised in fear. Remus's eyes were fixed, not on the cat, but on James's face, and there was worry in his eyes.
"It's OK, Amanda, " James spoke gently to the cat. "If you don't like my friends, just go hide in Mum and Dad's room." As the cat turned tail and sped away, James expected to see Remus relax. He didn't. He continued to look at James with the same worried expression. "Don't worry about Amanda," James reassured. "She'll probably just avoid you the rest of the week. She didn't like Sirius when he arrived either, but he probably reeks of the Cerberus. You know, his three dogs."
Remus seemed to relax somewhat and the two boys entered the guest bedroom. "Even Sirius didn't get that strong of a reaction from the cat," James thought to himself, but he wouldn't tell Remus that.
Two identical brass beds with dark blue coverlets stood in the room—identical except for the fact that the bed nearer the door was neatly made and the one nearer the window was slightly rumpled and partially covered with Sirius's possessions. James put Remus's suitcase on a luggage rack at the end of the neatly made bed.
Through the open window came the sound of laughter and a shout, "Bring that back, you silly mutt!"
As Remus crossed to the window and looked out, James laughed and explained, "Sirius and I found a puppy yesterday. The poor thing looked like she hadn't had a decent meal in quite awhile. She was also covered with fleas, but Sirius and my mum whipped up some potion that Sirius uses on the Cerberus when they get fleas. Mum made Sirius and me wash our hair with it too, just in case." James laughed again as Remus turned back from the window with a wide grin.
As the boys headed down the stairs, Remus asked, "Will your mum and dad let you keep the puppy?"
"They said that I could keep her if Sirius can't." At a puzzled look from Remus, James lowered his voice and explained, "Well, I like the little furball, but Sirius is mad
about her. I wouldn't feel right keeping her. Don't tell Sirius that I want her too."
After a brief detour into the kitchen so Remus could greet James's parents, the boys hurried outside to the back garden. As they stepped through the backdoor into the August sunshine, one of two boys sitting on the grass jumped up and bounded over.
"Remus! Come meet the puppy and help us name her."
Sirius Black stood a head taller than either James or Remus. He used his greater size as he threw an arm around Remus's shoulders and knocked him forward, half dragging him toward a medium-sized brown puppy and a chubby boy with ash-blonde hair, both of whom were intent upon the tug-of-war they were having with a short knotted rope.
Sirius released Remus and threw himself down onto his hands and knees next to the puppy who immediately abandoned the rope in favor of wrestling with the black haired boy.
Remus sat on the grass next to Peter Pettigrew.
"Hi Peter. How was Italy?"
"Some of it was cool, like Pompeii and the Coliseum, but I'm sick of museums and churches. The gelati tasted great though."
James settled onto the grass on Remus's other side. He gestured toward Sirius romping with the puppy saying, "See what I mean? If Sirius had a tail, it'd be wagging."
"Definitely," Remus agreed with a smile.
"Remus, you really should have come to my house last month." Sirius flung himself down on the ground in front of his friends. "James and I had a great time."
The puppy bounded on her oversized paws toward Sirius and leapt over him like a hurdle. She landed in front of Remus, whimpered, and scrambled over Sirius to his other side where she lay panting.
"I wanted to come, but…" Remus began. James noticed his friend beginning to blush slightly and changed the subject.
"So, what should we name the puppy?"
"Well, she's the color of chocolate," said Remus thoughtfully, "so Chocolate or a related name could work."
"I think she's more the color of mud," said James smiling.
Sirius laughed as he sat up and held the puppy in front of him, looking at the large paws which proclaimed that she would be a big dog someday.
"If she's Mud, then her feet would always be Muddy paws!" This seemed to amuse Sirius so much that all three of his friends knew her name was Mud.
The next several days flew by. Among all the other activities with which the boys filled their days (playing Quidditch, exploring the neighboring countryside, and playing with Mud), there was a constant war of practical jokes—Sirius and Remus versus James and Peter. Sirius and James had agreed to these "teams" on the first night, before the others arrived. Remus and Peter wouldn't have stood a chance against their black haired friends.
On Thursday afternoon, James and Peter pulled off a double prank on Remus. Peter drenched him with James's homemade itching powder (Sirius laughingly offered to make more flea potion when he saw his friend scratching), and when Remus took a shower to wash off the powder, he discovered that James had hidden wet-start fireworks behind the shampoo bottle. Peter and James high-fived each other as they heard small bangs and saw red and blue flashes in the bathroom window.
When Remus failed to return outside to the others, James worried that they had gone too far and went upstairs to apologize. As he drew near the open door of the guest room, he heard the whine of a puppy. This didn't surprise him. Mud's bed, a blanket-lined box, was on the floor between Sirius's bed and the window, and James had noticed days ago that Mud always whimpered and backed away whenever she got too close to Remus. James didn't know if Sirius or Peter had noticed this. If they hadn't, he didn't want to be the one to call attention to it.
But what he witnessed when he reached the doorway did surprise him. Remus, now in clean clothes and with his brown hair still damp, was lying on his stomach, on the floor, facing the puppy, and trying to tempt her closer with a dog treat. The surprising part was that it wasn't Mud who was whining, but Remus. James stayed silent and still, not wishing to interrupt. Mud was hesitant; she stepped closer to the boy but seemed ready to bolt away if he made any move. Finally, after one last whine from Remus, she gathered the courage to step close enough to reach the treat and even allowed Remus to pet her slowly.
"Good job," said James quietly. "You finally got her to stop being afraid of you."
"Well, she seemed to be intimidated by me—for some reason," Remus continued to pet Mud, not looking at James, "so I thought if I made myself look smaller and sounded like a puppy, she might be less frightened of me."
"Clever of you. I'm sorry if we went too far with the fireworks."
"No, don't worry about it."
As James climbed into bed that night, he discovered that he could only get his feet halfway down the length of the bed.
"Sleep well," said Remus and Sirius who were peering around the edge of the door, matching mischievous grins on their faces.
"What spell did you put on my bed?" asked Peter crossly. James saw that Peter was having the same dilemma that he was.
"Oh Peter, not everything is a spell," chuckled Sirius.
"You'll figure it out," called Remus as he and Sirius disappeared and shut the door.
Friday morning arrived and with it, the last full day of the boys' visit. They decided to spend the morning in the woods nearby, and Sirius wanted to bring Mud along, just in case she wanted to chase squirrels.
"Go get him, girl!"
"Forget that one—you can't climb trees, you silly mutt! Get the one over there!"
Mud spotted a squirrel on the opposite bank of a small stream, and splashed through the shallow water to pursue. James jumped over the stream easily and expected the others to follow; instead he heard a splash. He turned to see Sirius face first in the water, pushing himself up to his knees, and pulling his hands out of the mud.
"I guess I'm the one with muddy paws now," Sirius laughed.
"Spaz," James said with a wry smile.
Sirius clambered up onto the bank where James waited. "Tripped on something."
"Here's what tripped you," said Remus, who was squatting down on the opposite bank.
"A pixie!" Peter exclaimed in surprise as he looked at the tiny being that matched the damp soil and was easy to miss.
"An imp actually," explained Remus. "Pixies are the same size, but they're bright blue." James and Sirius crossed back to get a better look at the six-inch creature. Peter reached down to pick it up. "Don't," warned Remus. "He might bite."
A sudden squealing of tires from the road beyond the woods caused all four boys to look up in alarm.
"Mud," Sirius gasped.
James rushed toward the road, scarcely noticing the sting of small branches as he ran in Sirius's wake. He hoped with all his heart that they would not find what they all feared, for his friend's sake as well as the puppy's.
They emerged from the trees at a flat out run. The road was just a short distance beyond, and Sirius slowed as he saw the car, and its muggle driver crouched down next to the still form of the puppy.
One glimpse was enough to tell James that there was no hope she was alive. Sirius seemed transfixed by the sight of her mangled and crushed form, unable to tear his eyes away. James put one arm around his friend's shoulders, positioning himself to block Mud from Sirius's view. It was only when he did this that Sirius finally closed his eyes and dropped his head.
Remus stood on the other side of Sirius. James heard Peter, arriving last, just behind him. Peter suddenly hurried back toward the trees, and James heard retching noises. James swallowed hard and began breathing heavily. He was afraid he'd be sick too, and he desperately wanted not to hear Peter.
With a swift glance at Sirius and James, as if making sure they were OK, Remus crossed over to Peter. James could hear him murmuring words of comfort and telling Peter not to be embarrassed. James glanced over his shoulder to see Remus helping Peter to his feet and Peter, quite pale, moving farther back toward the trees.
Remus then walked over to the driver.
"Was she your dog?"
"Yes, sir. She was ours."
"I'm so sorry, young man. She just ran out before I saw her."
"Do you want me to take you all home?"
"No. We can manage."
At this, Remus pulled off his sweatshirt and wrapped it around her as he picked her up.
No one said a word during the long walk home. Remus, carrying Mud, led the way. James had released Sirius's shoulder when they had turned to leave, but he stayed as close to his friend as the path through the woods would permit. He wanted desperately to say something that would comfort him, but he didn't know what to say, and his throat felt too tight to speak.
As they neared the Potter home, Remus half turned toward Peter and spoke quietly. Peter then hurried ahead and went into the house. James understood when Remus led the way into the back garden and a few moments later, Peter came out of the back door carrying Mud's blanket and accompanied by James's mum.
"Lay the blanket down here, Peter," said Remus quietly. He then knelt down, keeping his back to Sirius and James, and gently placed the puppy on her blanket. He unwrapped the bloody sweatshirt (which Mrs. Potter banished away with a flick of her wand) and wrapped Mud instead in the soft blanket.
As Remus stood, James saw that Mud was completely hidden from view, but Remus then bent down and unfolded one corner of the blanket, uncovering Mud's fluffy tail and back legs—the only undamaged parts of her. James was briefly puzzled, but when Sirius sank down on the grass next to the puppy and began to pet her, he understood. Remus was giving Sirius a chance to say good-bye without words.
As Remus and Mrs. Potter went off to dig a grave near the garden wall, Peter and James sat with Sirius. James still wanted to offer words of comfort, but it was Peter who spoke first.
"She didn't suffer, Sirius. She was killed instantly and didn't feel any pain. We can be grateful for that."
"It was my fault," said Sirius in a hollow voice. "I insisted on bringing her to the woods. If we had left her here in the garden, she'd still be alive."
"It's nobody's fault," replied Peter. "It was just an accident."
James took a deep breath and said, "Sirius, the happiest time in that dog's life was this past week, and you're the one who made it that way. Just remember how happy you made her, and how happy she made you. That's what matters."
That night, as he listened to Peter's snores, James thought about his friends. Sirius, so full of laughter, fun, and a loving heart—the best friend a dog or a boy could have. Thoughtful Remus, who stepped in and did all the things that needed to be done. And Peter, who offered words of comfort when no one else knew what to say. Despite his sorrow, James felt very lucky to be surrounded by friends as good as these and hoped some day to be worthy of them all.
Reviews and constructive criticism are most welcome. Please keep in mind, this is my first time, so be gentle. ;)