Hello everyone! I know this update is incredibly overdue, and I am so, so sorry it has taken me this long to get the last chapter to you. I really wish that I'd gotten it to you sooner. I've not been very well recently and things have been a bit crazy, also, I have tried to write this about 10,000 times and none of them have been the perfect ending I was hoping for. I'm reasonably happy with this version, but it's long and quite dialloguey! Anyway, I hope you enjoy it and it gives you the necessary closure.
Thank you so, so, so, so, so much to everyone who as reviewed and favourited and followed and read this story. It means so much and I'm glad you've enjoyed it. I'm almost tempted to write a follow up story to this one but if I do it won't be for a while. I have quite a few ideas for oneshots, so hopefully I'll get some of those up pretty soon. But thank you again - you guys are amazing! :)
Chapter 20: To Flee Once More
"Sirius." Remus breathed, shocked to the core, as he subconsciously held Harry a little closer to him. Sirius stood shin deep in the dark water staring at the two of them, huddled together on the shore. His face was utterly unreadable, despite the unwavering eye contact he held with his old friend. The water lapped morbidly quietly at the body of Vernon Dursely, a man who'm Remus could not have hated more, and yet even after he was dead, everything seemed wrong; none of this should have happened.
Harry stirred in Remus's arms and he looked down to see the boy staring up at him with terrified, bloodshot eyes. Remus didn't know what to do, he couldn't abandon Harry, yet he wanted to run to Sirius, to fall to his knees and beg to be forgiven, for believing him to be a murderer for all these years, for allowing him to rot in hell for more than a decade.
Suddenly he heard voices behind him, and footsteps. Still holding Harry close he craned his neck enough to see the moonlit outlines of three people approaching. As they got slightly closer, Remus recognised them as Professor Dumbledore, Hagrid and Ron. They hurried over, Hagrid carrying a large lantern that flickered light over the scene.
"Harry!" Ron shouted and knelt down next to his friend, who was still buried in Remus's arms.
"Professor Lupin - what on Earth has happened?" Dumbledore asked, audibly shaken.
Remus didn't know where to begin, Dumbledore looked back over to the lake where Sirius was still standing, now staring down at the body. The macabre seen chilled Remus to his core. He suddenly realised that this was no place for Harry and Ron, it wasn't safe.
"Hagrid..." Remus uttered quietly "could you take Harry and Ron back to your cabin, and lock the door."
Hagrid looked to Dumbledore as if to beg for permission.
"Yes I think that would be wise." Dumbledore agreed, nodding to him.
Hagrid stumbled over and reached out to take Harry from Remus, but as his arms wrapped around the boy, Harry clung more fervently to Remus.
"No!" He croaked, his voice barely above a whisper.
"It's alright Harry, it's only Hagrid." Remus reassured as Hagrid backed off a little, unwilling to frighten the boy.
Remus shakily stood with Harry still in his arms.
"Hagrid's going to take you to his cabin and I will be with you in a little while, I promise." Remus soothed. Harry whimpered a little but relaxed his hold enough that Remus could pass him cautiously to Hagrid. Once Harry was secure with Hagrid, Ron picked up the lantern and the three of them set off toward the safety of the cabin.
Remus turned back to Dumbledore; his eyes were fixed on Sirius, who was still standing in the lake, eyes downcast, and trembling visibly.
"Am I to understand that, that is the body of Vernon Dursely?" Dumbledore asked Remus quietly.
Remus nodded, trying to regain some strength and focus. "Yes."
"And that he was killed by Black?"
Remus nodded again, now drawing a long breath, before explaining, "Sirius is innocent, he always was - it was Pettigrew who betrayed Lily and James, he's been hiding in his animagus form, but I found him tonight and confronted him. Dursely must have been watching, because while I was distracted with Pettigrew he attacked Harry, I tried to stop him but he was too strong - and then Sirius appeared and... and he killed him."
The explanation tumbled out of Remus and he could hardly believe what he was saying, though he was relieved to see that Dumbledore followed everything he said and did not seem thrown by the tale.
"...but he did it to save Harry." Remus added.
"And Pettigrew?" Dumbledore inquired.
"He got away." Remus replied bitterly - knowing that without any proof to back up this tall tale, very few would believe him, and Sirius would still be considered a villain.
Dumbledore simply patted him on the shoulder. "We should leave." He said - eyeing Sirius.
Remus nodded and cautiously stepped a little closer towards the lake.
"Sirius?" He said anxiously, the first word he had spoken to his old friend in thirteen years. There was no response. Sirius continued to stare down at the body beneath him.
"Pads?" Remus tried.
Sirius slowly looked up, his eyes round with fear. Remus edged a little closer as Sirius breathed out "Mooney." It was laboured and uncertain, said unto himself, as though he had half forgotten the name.
"Yes... it's me, it's Mooney." Remus responded quietly as he waded into the water and reached out to his last remaining friend "Come away... come away Sirius." He said gently and tenderly held his hand, leading him out of the water to the shore.
Once they got to the shore, Sirius saw Dumbledore and gripped Remus's hand harder, even shuffling behind him a little, and Remus was dismayed by just how much Azkaban had clearly altered his, once invincible, friend.
"Mr Black - am I to understand that you killed Vernon Dursely just now?" Dumbledore asked, an urgency evident in his voice.
Remus felt Sirius shudder slightly before answering. "Y-yes." His voice was so different, a higher pitch and quieter, so much quieter than the brash, outspoken tone Remus remembered him possessing.
Dumbledore nodded gravely, and simply looked to the body.
"He was g-going to kill H-harry." Sirius stammered, causing both men to look at him again. "I c-couldn't let him hurt Harry... I c-couldn't l-lose him." He continued, fear streaking through his eyes as he looked pleadingly at the older Wizard.
Dumbledore did not respond to this for a long while. Remus gripped Sirius's wrist, an attempt to hold him in place, fearing that the slightest thing would send him running again. He would not let that happen.
"Professor - what are we to do?" Remus inquired at last, growing anxious at his silence, knowing that both Harry and Sirius needed him right now.
"I honestly do not know what we are to do, Remus." Dumbledore responded quietly, still looking down at the body in thought, the eerie stillness accentuating every tiny wave that lapped against the bulbous corpse, shored there like a hideous beached whale. Vernon Dursely, it struck Remus, was ever as odious and evil in death - he would always haunt Harry, and now he had also caused yet more pain and turmoil to his oldest friend, one who had done nothing to deserve any of this.
"I - I am to blame." Sirius spoke up eventually, stepping clear of Remus a little. "I am to blame. I must pay the price." Dumbledore looked up a little dumbstruck and Remus gazed at his friend in horror.
"No!" Remus responded. "No - you have already paid the price ten times over for a crime you did not commit. And you saved a life tonight!"
"I also killed someone Mooney." Sirius turned to his old friend, sadness etched across his face. "And I would do it again - for Harry... and for you. I am n-not afraid." The stutter let him down though, for all his brave words Remus could see that he was terrified. His grey eyes that once were aflame with youth and hope were now sunken, like cold ash. And his face, though still handsome, was lined and scarred, much like his own. He trembled unceasingly, and he was hunched over - like a dog that had been kept in too small a cage. It was too much, Remus stepped forward a little and pulled Sirius to his chest.
"I'm so sorry." He whispered, and felt his apology accepted as Sirius wound his arms tightly around him.
It was then that suddenly Remus felt a shiver up his spine, a cold bleakness washed over him, he felt utterly hopeless, doomed - the light began to fade out of his world. Dementors!
As soon as Remus realised what was happening Sirius let out a cry of fear and agony, before a bright light and those familiar words rumbled from the man beside them.
"Expecto Patronum!" Dumbledore cast a patronus that spread around them, across the lake and out into the night sky - from within Remus could just see the outlines of the hideous black creatures being repelled away. Slowly the light began to fade, shrinking back in towards them and Dumbledore spoke up "We must get indoors. Hagrid's cabin!"
The three of them ran as fast as they could towards safety, Remus half dragging Sirius with him, he turned only momentarily to check for Dementors, but could not see any. Not surprisingly Dumbledore's patronus had cleared the sky... for now.
As they reached the cabin Sirius tugged at Remus's sleeve. "Remus!" He said, out of breath. "I... Harry... I..." he stuttered hesitantly.
Remus simply looked back at him, attempting to offer reassurance, though he knew that the impending reunion between godfather and godson was going to be far from easy.
They were both ushered inside hurriedly by Dumbledore, who closed the door behind them and charmed it with several locking spells. Once inside Remus rushed straight over to where Harry was sleeping (curled up in Hagrid's large armchair) and kneeled next to him. Sirius seemed frozen to the spot next to Dumbledore as he attempted to avoid the suspicious glares from both Ron and Hagrid.
Remus placed a hand on the Harry's forehead and smoothed his hair affectionately, the boy slept on, not stirring at all.
"I gave 'im a calmin' draught, Professor. He were terrified, but e's sleepin soundly now."
"I don't think we should wake him." Remus said gently as he stood up and looked apologetically to Sirius, who bowed his head in bitter acknowledgement.
There was a brief silence in which everyone seemed unsure of what to say or do next. Eventually Dumbledore broke the tension.
"Hagrid, I need you to stand guard outside, but do take extra care, the Dementors are somewhat riled."
Hagrid nodded to Dumbledore before looking concernedly at Harry and then apprehensively at Sirius. He then picked up the lantern and made his way out of the door.
"Mr Weasley, I would like you to sit with Harry, in case he should wake, it would be easier for him to see a friendly face." Dumbledore added to Ron.
Ron moved from where he was standing near the kitchen sink over to where Harry lay.
"Oh, and Mr Weasley - 20 points to Gryffindor for your quick thinking tonight. You did the right thing summoning Hagrid and myself."
Ron managed a brave but tired smile before seating himself on the floor next to Hagrid's chair and his sleeping friend.
"Gentlemen." Dumbledore said rather more gravely, turning to Remus and Sirius, before beckoning them to follow him into the small pantry room, in which hung a number of dead rodents, food for the creatures under Hagrid's care, along with jar upon jar containing things such as "Rat Kidneys" and "Fox Breath".
Once inside Remus closed the door to, open enough that should Harry awake they would know, but far enough closed that their talking should not disturb his sleep, or Ron's peace of mind.
"We find ourselves in quite a perplexing situation." Dumbledore began, his forehead creased slightly and his shoulders a little hunched. "Though I was not present at the struggle which ensued tonight I feel myself partly responsible for many of the events which led up to it."
Sirius looked on at Dumbledore, confusion and worry invading every part of his face.
"Sirius, I must apologise for the dreadful fate that has befallen you. Remus has assured me that it was Pettigrew, and not you yourself who betrayed the Potters. Though there is no evident proof to consolidate this assurance... I believe him."
Remus relaxed slightly at this, to know that Dumbledore had faith in Sirius's innocence was a relief to say the least.
"Why else would you have saved Harry's life, after all." Dumbledore smiled a little, and the tension seemed to dissipate slightly.
"Unfortunately," he began again "I fear there are few others who would trust your innocence. Without Pettigrew there is little hope that we may be able to ensure your freedom."
Sirius looked to the floor, he seemed to sink in on himself, Remus grasped his shoulder, worried that if he didn't he might in fact fall over.
"Professor, surely you cannot suggest that Sirius goes back to Azkaban!?" Remus asserted, and at the mention of Azkaban Sirius clung to Remus's arm.
"Goodness no!" Dumbeldore replied. "But he must go into hiding."
Sirius and Remus both looked gravely toward Dumbledore.
"It is regrettable, but for the time being, the world at large will still believe you to have betrayed the Potters, to have murdered Pettigrew along with several muggles, as well as..."
"Dursely." Sirius interjected, his voice unreadable.
Dumbledore simply nodded.
"I understand." Sirius said gruffly, forcing himself to stand upright and let go of Remus's arm. "But I must ask - why, why on earth was Harry being attacked on school grounds by his muggle uncle? What exactly was going on?" He asked indignantly.
Remus sighed and gave Sirius an abridged version of the events that had led up to tonight, he watched as his face darkened as the tale went on, and Remus was finding it more and more difficult to keep the shake from his voice. "Of course we didn't know he was out in the grounds, I had asked him not to leave the castle... but I'm afraid he's rather like James in that respect." Remus noted, finally.
Sirius simply looked from Remus to Dumbledore and back, a look of anger on his face.
"I can understand your anger, Sirius." Dumbledore said. "I thoroughly wish none of this had happened, I wish I had done more to prevent this from happening. I'm just very glad that you were here tonight, to save Harry."
"Me too." Sirius said stormily.
There was a prolonged silence in which Dumbledore and Remus both looked to the ground, shame and guilt resonating heavily with each of them.
"Where am I to go then?" Sirius asked eventually.
"I understand that your family home is vacant and has been for some years, is that correct?" Dumbledore replied.
Sirius looked dumfounded at this, staring directly at the old wizard; his expression morphed to one of anger.
"I - I can't live there. I swore I would never go back!" He responded, a little strength entering his voice, but only fleetingly.
"These are desperate times, Sirius. There is really no where else where you might conceal yourself to such effect."
Remus felt Sirius stiffen at his side, and worried that he might do something rash.
"It wouldn't be forever, Sirius." He tried to placate him. "Peter will show himself in time... we'll figure something out."
Sirius turned to Remus, his mouth opening and closing as if to protest, until he drew his brows together fretfully and seemed to concede that it was the only way.
"How will I get there?" He asked quietly, an almost childlike loneliness shrouding him once more.
"I did have an idea about that." Dumbledore said, the twinkle returning to his eyes.
Suddenly there was a sound from the other room, a sort of muffled cry. Remus instantly recognised it as Harry's voice and he ran from the small side room, over to where Ron was flustering worriedly about Harry.
Harry was still asleep, but he was twitching and a sharp frown adorned his scratched face. He was murmuring also.
Dumbledore and Sirius both cautiously stepped into the room and watched as Remus carefully placed his hands on Harry's shoulders and repeated his name.
"Wake up Harry." Remus said anxiously.
Harry stirred in his grasp, panicked, the dream that occupied his mind was refusing to yield.
"It's ok, Harry, come on, wake up." Remus put his arms around him and began to rock him. After struggling against the arms that were wrapped around him Harry began to calm and opened his eyes. He wasn't wearing his glasses and was clearly finding it difficult to make sense of what was happening.
"It's ok, you're safe Harry, it's Remus. It was just a dream." Remus murmered as he released Harry from his grip.
There was a pause in which Harry's face portrayed a dozen emotions, all the memories of the evening flooding back to him, as plain as day. He coughed a little and looked up blearily at the man in front of him. "Remus!" Harry whimpered and held his arms out toward him, like a small child begging to be held.
Remus couldn't fight the urge to soothe him, to take the boy in his arms where he knew he'd feel safe. He drew him tightly to his chest, holding him there securely and stroking his hair as Harry clung on desperately.
"Everything's going to be okay now. I promise. I'll never let anyone hurt you again." Remus placed a kiss to Harry's temple before silently beckoning Sirius over.
Sirius slowly and cautiously walked across the floor, over to where Remus was now holding Harry's by the shoulders, assessing the scratches and bruises on his face and neck.
Harry looked up at Sirius as he approached.
"Harry, this is Sirius Black." Remus spoke softly.
Harry looked up at Sirius, frowning slightly, then turned to Remus, a quizzical expression on his face.
"It's alright, it appears we were mistaken. Sirius didn't betray your parents, it was Pettigrew - the man who has been hiding as Scabbers for the past thirteen years."
Ron's eyes rounded in surprise. "Sorry that I knocked you over before, by the way Ron." Remus said politely.
"That's fine." Ron replied, still dumbstruck.
Remus turned back to Harry, removing his hands from his shoulders. "Sirius is innocent... and he saved your life." Remus smiled a little and beckoned Sirius to kneel down next to him, which slowly he did, his bedraggled form sinking to the floor and his dark, brooding face aligning with Harry's.
"Harry." Was all he seemed able to say, quietly, saddly, as he reached out and took one of Harry's hands. A tear streaked down his face as Harry gripped his hand back.
"Thank you." Harry whispered hoarsely. "For saving my life."
Sirius smiled, the first time Remus had seen that smile in many years, and cautiously put his arms around Harry.
"I've missed you, kid." He said as Harry returned the hug.
Remus looked on, a strange sort of contentment seemed to worm it's way into his heart, despite the confusion and terror that had occurred tonight, he had a feeling, that even though darkness surrounded Harry's past, things were going to get a little easier, light would come back to him, all would be well.
The three of them spoke for a little while, Sirius quietly acquainting himself a little better with Harry. It felt a little surreal, almost a little forced since they were all very much aware that the body of Harry's uncle still lay face down in the lake, an obvious and macabre fact that no one seemed to be outwardly acknowledging or doing anything about. But Remus knew how important it was that Sirius and Harry got to talk like this. It might be a very long time before they got to see each other properly again, and he was sure it would do them both good.
"I'm sorry Sirius, but you must make a move." Dumbledore finally interjected.
Sirius nodded and turned back to Harry.
"I have to go Harry, and it might be for a long while. But we will see each other soon, I promise, and we can always write." He said smiling warmly.
Harry nodded, smiling back a little.
"Remember that I will always be thinking about you, and no matter what happens I will be there for you, when you really need me." Sirius said earnestly, squeezing Harry's hand, before getting to his feet.
Harry shakily made to get up as well, and Remus helped him to stand, holding on to him for fear of him falling and hurting himself. Harry and Sirius shared a quick embrace before breaking apart, both aware that time was scarce.
Dumbledore made his way outside, followed by Harry who was flanked either side by Remus and Sirius, Ron followed them but remained in the doorway, allowing them some space.
Dumbledore turned to Hagrid, who was still standing guard, and smiled gently. "My dear Hagrid," he began. "I have one more favour to ask of you tonight.
Hagrid looked a little concerned but smiled back to Dumbledore. "Of course Professor." He mumbled.
"We find ourselves in dire need of some very fast, untraceable transportation... and I know how attached you are to Buckbeak, but if he stays at Hogwarts he face's imminent execution, courtesy of the Ministry." Hagrid nodded sadly, he had been distraught by the ruling that Buckbeak be put to death. "I thought since we have a notorious criminal in our midst, perhaps he might, how can I say... "liberate" Buckbeak, and Buckbeak might return the favour." Dumbledore smiled, his eyes twinkling brightly.
Hagrid thought about this for a moment, clearly not quite following Dumbledore's line of thought, until is suddenly appeared to dawn on him, he smiled a little (though somehow reluctantly) and, looking briefly at Sirius, nodded his head.
Hagrid walked over to Buckbeak and petted him gently, scratching the feathers on the top of his head, saying goodbye. Sirius took this opportunity to hug Harry one last time. "We'll see each other soon, I know it." He assured him, and Harry nodded, managing to smile a little, though Remus could tell he was upset.
They broke apart and as soon as they had Remus found himself being almost knocked over by Sirius, who now had his arms wrapped around him in a fierce embrace, which he returned, so surprised, but relieved to have one of his friends back. Something he had wished for time and time again in the very darkest, loneliest periods in the past few years.
"Take good care of him." Sirius said as they released each other.
"I will." Remus responded.
"I was talking to Harry!" Remus smirked.
Harry actually laughed a little at this, and Remus gave Sirius a friendly punch on the shoulder, feeling happier than he had in a long time.
In no time at all Remus, Harry, Dumbledore and Hagrid were all gazing up into the night sky, watching as Sirius and Buckbeak flew away into the clear, cool air, the moon and stars lighting the way for them. They all watched until there was no sight of them at all, at which point Hagrid and Dumbledore headed back to the lake to transport Dursely's body to a safe place in the castle.
Remus and Harry sat down on the front door step of Hagrid's hut, Ron discretely went back into the hut to give them some space, but not before bringing them a large, warm blanket. Remus wrapped one arm and the blanket around Harry's shoulders, and Harry leaned into him. They stayed there for a long time, neither saying anything. Both slowly coming to terms with what had happened. So much had happened that night, it was difficult to take it all in, but Remus felt sure that this was the end of all the danger for Harry, and that now he could truly start on the long road to recovery, and Remus would be there to help him every step of the way.
"Are you ok?" He gently asked Harry, eventually. Rubbing his arm a little to keep him warm.
Harry sighed before replying with a quiet strength. "I will be."
- THE END -