"You don't believe this...wouldn't Sirius have told you they'd changed the plan?"
"Not if he thought I was the spy, Peter," said Lupin. "I assume that's why you didn't tell me, Sirius?" he said casually over Pettigrew's head.
"Forgive me, Remus," said Black.
—Prisoner of Azkaban, chapter 19
. * . * .
They were sprawled around the front room at James and Lily's, sharing a giant bowl of popcorn and working their way through a case of butterbeer. It had become a sort of Friday night tradition since the wedding. Some weeks, they tuned the wireless to a mixed wizard/Muggle music program and talked late into the night. Other times, they played games or tried to out-Conjure each other. Occasionally someone would rummage around the kitchen for a few minutes and start baking biscuits.
It was shockingly domestic, for the Marauders.
Lily had expected Sirius to be the first to grow bored with Friday nights in Godric's Hollow. With his dragon-hide jacket, and his motorcycle, and his bachelor's flat in a trendy London neighbourhood, he didn't really strike her as the biscuit-baking type. And yet, while he ribbed James mercilessly about apron strings, he turned up every week for popcorn and domesticity; more often than not, Sirius was the one to start the biscuit baking. Lily asked James about it once, after the others had gone home, and James told her just enough about Sirius's childhood to make her feel a little bit sorry for the great arrogant prat.
Anyway, it wasn't Sirius who'd missed the last two Fridays in a row.
"What's with Moony these days?" James tossed a piece of popcorn into the air and caught it in his mouth. "I wanted all of us to be here tonight, so we could talk without anybody overhearing." He hesitated, looking around at the others. "Mad-Eye told me he reckons there's a spy in the Order."
Peter was sitting at the far end of the couch where Lily was curled up, and she distinctly saw him twitch. She reached over and ruffled his hair reassuringly, realizing she'd picked up the others' habit of treating him like a little brother who needed looking after. "Come on, James, don't scare us like that. You're making Peter nervous. We all know Mad-Eye sees spies everywhere. It's more than 'constant vigilance'—it's outright paranoia."
Poor Peter smiled weakly at her, and she winked at him.
"It's true, though," said Sirius slowly, "that the Death Eaters seem to get awfully lucky sometimes. Almost as though they knew we were coming, so they could clear out ahead of time and lay their traps."
"That's exactly it," said James. "There are just enough coincidences like that to make me wonder if Mad-Eye might be right." He popped the cork on a new bottle of butterbeer and took a long swig. "But when I ask myself who it could be—" He shook his head, frowning. "There's no one. There's no one in the Order I wouldn't trust with my life."
"Has anyone actually seen Remus lately?" Peter asked, reaching into the popcorn bowl for another handful. "He didn't even want us to keep him company last week for full moon."
Sirius nodded. "I have—I went to check on him the day after." He stretched his long legs out toward the fire. "He was a bit banged up, but no worse than usual."
"I wish he'd come round more often." Lily frowned into the dancing flames. "He always looks so thin. I don't think he's taking very good care of himself." And she missed his wry humour and easy company—he'd been her friend longer than any of the others had, even James.
Sirius sighed. "He won't talk about his job search. I get the feeling things aren't going very well."
"Yeah," said Peter, with his mouth full. "He's sort of bitter these days, don't you think?" He washed the popcorn down with a swallow of butterbeer and wiped his mouth on the back of his hand. "Last time I saw him, he was going on about how the way he's treated isn't fair, and how it's time for things to change."
"Remus said that?" Lily turned and stared. This didn't sound at all like the Remus she knew—he never whinged, not even when he had ample reason to do so. "Isn't it more his style to smile grimly and get on with things?"
"Used to be." Peter shrugged. "He seems, I dunno, different lately. Maybe he's just had enough. Everyone's got a breaking point."
James Summoned another round of butterbeers from the kitchen, and they drank in silence for a while, listening to an old Spooky Spectres tune on the wireless, and then a new hit by Elton John.
"You don't think—" Peter began.
They all looked at him.
"Mmm?" said Sirius. He picked up the poker and nudged at the coals in the fireplace, but his sharp eyes were on Peter.
"It's just," Peter went on, fiddling with his bottle, "maybe there's a reason Remus hasn't been coming over here lately. Maybe he's got involved in something that—something that means he can't look us in the eye anymore."
James laughed. "Yeah, and I'm going to turn Death Eater next week. You're mad, Wormtail."
"I dunno," said Peter again, his words tumbling out in a rush. "Maybe it's all about respect. Think about it. He's clever; he can do all kinds of things. He has almost as many N.E.W.T.s as you lot. But employers don't care about all that—they find his name on the Registry, and all they can say is 'werewolf.'" He took a gulp of butterbeer. "Maybe he figured the other side would actually respect him."
"Stop it, Peter. Just stop it." Lily glared at him. "This isn't funny." She wished with all her heart that Remus would simply turn up already, with his self-deprecating grin and some kind of story about being stuck with his maiden aunties in Bath all week, and put an end to Peter's nonsense. She glanced over at James. By the set of his shoulders and the glint in his eye, she could see that he was just as angry as she was. Remus was no traitor to the Order, and that's all there was to it.
But for once, Peter wasn't cowed, not even by Lily's best glare. "You said it yourself, Sirius. He's having trouble finding a job. He's disappointed—he didn't think his life would turn out this way. Maybe he decided it was time to try something different." He leaned forward, his elbows on his knees. "Where do you suppose he is tonight?"
Sirius slammed the poker down onto the burning logs, sending up a shower of sparks and making Peter jump. "No. There is no way Remus can be a spy. He would never betray his friends."
But his voice seemed a little too loud, and when he met Lily's gaze, his grey eyes were troubled.
. * fin * .
A/N: This story was originally written for the "Tales of Sin and Virtue" challenge at Red and the Wolf—many thanks to mods Bratanimus and Lady Bracknell for general inspiration and excellent challenge prompts. Thanks also to Jadzialove, as always, for her supportive and helpful beta reading.