An insistent clattering against his
front window drew Remus Lupin into the room. He paid the tawny owl that
had come to deliver his copy of the Daily Prophet and dropped the paper
onto a convenient table, intending to return to his previous task. As
the paper unfolded itself, though, a headline caught his eye and he
sank into a chair to devour the news immediately.
Dark Mark Spotted Above Wizarding Marketplace; Sirius Black Suspected
by Helena Jackson, special to the Daily Prophet
nearly fourteen years, the wizarding world has been free from the
pervasive fear once inspired by a dark wizard so powerful that most are
still unable to pronounce his name. You-Know-Who and his supporters,
known as Death Eaters, at one time committed unspeakable atrocities,
with murder and torture not least among them, but the community's mood
had been one of peace since the night that Harry Potter became the Boy
Who Lived. However, this relative peace has been disrupted twice during
the past two years. The first unnerving event, obviously, was the
escape of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named's right-hand man, Sirius Black, from
Azkaban. More recently, the death of Hogwarts student Cedric Diggory
has been attributed by several prominent wizards and witches, including
eccentric Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore, to Death Eaters and
their leader. The majority of Ministry of Magic executives, as well as
members of the population at large, have been loathe to accept this
explanation for the tragic death of the Hufflepuff prefect. The
controversy has now intensified.
At approximately three
o'clock yesterday morning, the Dark Mark was spotted above the home of
Peter and Gina Malley, both veterans of the first war against
You-Know-Who. The bodies of the victims were found inside the house
less than an hour later.
Remus skipped the paragraphs devoted to recounting the
lives of the Malleys in his rush to see where Sirius figured into the
Cornelius Fudge, the Minister of
Magic, has himself declared that Black is the culprit in these grisly
murders. 'We are still doing everything in our power to recapture
Black,' he said in a prepared statement yesterday. 'Obviously, our
capabilities in this area have been lessened now that we may no longer
remove the Dementors from Azkaban. While Black was lying low he was
especially difficult to track. Now that he is again showing his true
colors, the process should be speeding up. Please remember that this
tragedy is the work of one man, and do not panic.'
Remus threw down the paper angrily. His disgust at
Fudge's behavior was overwhelmed by his concern for Sirius. Dumbledore
himself had sent Remus an owl over a week ago in which he had requested
that he be on the lookout for his old friend. Although Remus was not
looking forward to the work the two would be doing for their former
Headmaster, he was very much looking forward to seeing Padfoot again.
Sirius had not been far from his thoughts since their meeting in the
infamous Shrieking Shack just over a year before. The realization that
Sirius had been innocent of the crimes for which he had been imprisoned
had been an enormous and not unpleasant shock. Its only affect on his
day-to-day life, though, had been the development of his constant fear
that Sirius would be recaptured, executed, or given a Dementor's kiss.
seemed that the hunt for Sirius had intensified once more. This time,
though, the accusations leveled against him would have more important
ramifications than causing distress for those who cared about him. If
Fudge and the members of the Ministry who followed him were able to
convince the wizarding community that Voldemort had not risen again,
they would buy that much more time for Voldemort to increase his power.
sighed. Unsure as to what to do next, he aimlessly began to straighten
out the living room, doing so without magic to extend the amount of
time that the mindless task would require.
The voice from the fire caught his attention.
"Headmaster." He moved to the source of the voice and knelt before it.
"Done any stargazing lately?"
Albus Dumbledore simply stared at his former pupil until understanding
dawned, and, in spite of himself, Remus rolled his eyes. "I've been
looking ever since my last discussion with you, but I haven't seen
"Nothing? The star we discussed last time is exceptionally bright."
bright a star as there is, but I haven't been able to see it. It's been
rather cloudy. Cloudy enough to be a cause for concern."
"Funny you should say that. I was reading the weather section of the Daily Prophet and I came to a similar conclusion."
believe that it's gotten to the point that it's affecting the community
at large, and not just those of us who like to see the stars."
"I could not have said it better myself. The time has come to control this problem by any means necessary."
"The weather is a rather difficult thing to control, Headmaster," said Remus, forcing a laugh.
"Many things are difficult. They have a nasty habit of being the things worth doing."
"Keep your eye on the sky. Let me know when things change."
"And make certain to inform any interested parties of our new priorities."
"It would be hard to forget to do that."
"I imagine it would. See that said parties remain inconspicuous for the time being."
Remus winced theatrically. "Couldn't I just try to change the weather?"
laugh was interrupted by a sharp crack as someone, or something,
violated the protective ward that covered the front door of the cottage
Remus currently called home. Remus stood cautiously, wand in hand,
heart thudding more from anticipation than from fear. He was quite sure
he knew who, or what, had tried to enter his home without an invitation.
A quick look around the corner proved that he had been right.
"Yes," he called to the detached head in the fireplace.
The head smiled. "Good. Now if you'll excuse me--" his voice cut off rather suddenly, but Remus barely noticed.
Incantatem." Hastily, he removed the wards and crossed the threshold to
kneel beside a large, black, whimpering dog. The dog looked at him with
wounded eyes. "You'd rather I didn't use wards?"
made no reply, which would have been ordinary behavior for an average
dog but which was rather odd behavior for this one. "Sirius?" he
whispered, his low tone in no way softening the intense urgency that
flooded his voice. "Come on." The dog half-moaned. "Should I pick you
up?" He had sometimes in the past had difficulty discerning how much
trouble Sirius actually happened to be in and how much Sirius felt like
being dramatic. A situation could become even more complicated when one
considered that, sometimes, if Sirius were in a great deal of pain, he
would claim to be fine. This last was not the case here.
The black dog did wearily climb to its feet, sparing just enough energy to give Remus a haughty sniff.
he responded with a relieved laugh. "Lecture me later." He held the
door open for the bedraggled animal and quickly drew the curtains
throughout the room. Such a precaution was most likely unnecessary, but
considering the circumstances, extra caution was a very good idea.
Besides, Remus had always considered himself to be the token voice of
logic when he was around his Hogwarts friends, and there was no reason
for him to relinquish that role now.
The dog and collapsed
into a dingy black puddle on the floor when Remus turned back to him.
"It's safe." His eyes locked with the pale blue eyes of the dog, and he
held his gaze as the eyes darkened and became human. Sirius slowly rose
from the crouch he had been in as the transformation completed. His
human eyes were tired and shadowed, and he was painfully thin and
dirty. His movements were stiff as he rose to a standing position, but
he managed a smile nonetheless.
"Hi, Moony," was all he could
find to say. Remus felt his stomach sink, and his own knees grew weak.
Sirius had used his old nickname on written scraps of parchment
delivered by an odd assortment of birds over the past year, but the
verbalized word, spoken by that certain voice, was rather
disconcerting. "Moony? You all right?"
Remus snapped out of his reverie. Sirius was not the one who was supposed to be asking that question. "Of course--"
"You look the color of the wall."
"That's not so different from normal."
just surprising to see you," Remus interrupted smoothly, stepping
closer to Sirius as if to hug him, but the other man backed away.
"I would have thought Dumbledore would have told you."
I knew you were coming," Remus rushed to assure. "It's just surprising
to see you anyway. If that makes sense. Sit down before you fall down."
shook his head. "No. There's dirt from Scotland and London and
everywhere in between on my robes. That chair will never be the same."
He stepped back from Remus' extended hand once more, but this time
Remus, making good use of his werewolf reflexes, grabbed his friend
"If I sit down, I might fall asleep." Sirius forced
his too-slight weight against Remus, fighting his direction in a
movement reminiscent of many battles they had had in their respective
alter-forms. That memory warmed Sirius, and his smile became less
nervous and more bright. "You wouldn't get the joy of talking to me."
Upon Sirius' use of the word "joy," both men's expressions changed to
those of contrition. The task that awaited them had not a thing to do
"Stay awake long enough to eat something," said
Remus, leaving the horror that had allowed the old friends to meet once
more unmentioned. "You'll sleep better if you do."
"I don't think it's that much of a problem."
well, you'll eat or I'll shove something down your throat." These
words, naturally, were spoken with a great deal of affection. "Any
"Nothing with rats in it."
"I was all out of rats, anyway," Remus called over his shoulder.
moments later, Sirius was finishing his blessedly rat-free meal. He had
at first attempted not to eat like the starving man that he was, but he
had given in after a few bites and had inhaled the food. Almost
immediately, his eyes began to slip closed.
"Come on." Remus pulled at his arm. "Bed."
"We have to talk," Sirius mumbled groggily. "Was there a sleeping potion in that?"
made a face. "Even you aren't worth concocting potions. I'll have you
know that if there's a single cauldron in this house, it's down in the
cellar beneath a properly thick layer of dust."
"I'm sure it is. Listen, about Voldemort--"
"I know. We can do this when you're lucid."
"I'm lucid. We have to start now."
"You can tell me in your sleep, then."
"I do NOT talk in my sleep."
Remus raised an eyebrow.
"You and James made that up! I never said anything in my sleep."
Hands were held up in mock surrender. "I'm quite sure you didn't."
"Certainly nothing about Laurel Windsor."
His exclamation was cut short when he was ushered through a door and into a bedroom.
"What are we doing here?"
"YOU are going to sleep."
"You're awfully pushy."
"You'd be able to push back better if you weren't so tired."
"I'm not tired." Sirius' claim had grown from a desire not to force his friend to take care
of him, to a playful game, to the petulant wish of a child not to be wrong.
"Isn't this a nice bed?" Remus changed the subject. "Comfortable . . . cool sheets . . . soft pillow ..."
"Wasn't meant to be."
"You're … right."
snickered. "So good of you to say so." Stepping out of his shoes, but
without bothering to remove his robes, Sirius collapsed into the bed.
Remus was unsure as to whether he had fallen asleep instantly, or
whether he had fainted, when his friend's eyes opened once more.
"Wait." He brought himself to a sitting position with no small amount of trouble.
"Padfoot. Just lie down."
"NO!" Eyes sparked with desperation. "Harry."
"What about Harry?"
haven't owled him since I left Hogwarts. I was traveling so fast, but
he's used to me owling him almost every day. He knows what I'm doing,
and he's probably scared on top of being miserable living in that
godforsaken Muggle town--"
"I'll owl him. I'll owl him right now. I'll tell him that you're here and that you'll write back as soon as he does."
Sirius' eyes closed, and he slumped to the bed once more. Remus watched
him sadly for a moment before returning to his desk and the rolls of
parchment that the Daily Prophet owl had torn him from little more than
an hour before. Finding a clean scrap of parchment, he quickly composed
a note to his former student.
godfather arrived at my home this morning. He will write you himself
when this owl returns. We both hope that you are doing as well as can
be expected given the circumstances.
"I won't write more here, as the sooner this message arrives, the better for your peace of mind and ours.
his whistle, a rather common-looking gray owl emerged from the trees
that surrounded the house. Prior to his year spent teaching at
Hogwarts, Remus had managed to remain somewhat estranged from the
wizarding community at large. Such semi-antisocial behavior made his
secret easier to keep. However, now the contacts that he had resumed
while teaching Harry Potter, among other children of old classmates,
made the concept of hiding out here, in this rural locale, without an
Sighing, he attempted to force himself to return to his work.
burrowed his face more deeply into the sweet-smelling pillow. He did
not realize at first how he had come to be in this situation. He wasn't
hungry, and nothing hurt (he was quite sure that the bed in which he
lay contained some sort of healing powers). Perhaps his mind had
finally snapped, and he was mistaking the floor of a cave for a
comfortable mattress. Alternatively, perhaps he had finally encountered
a hit wizard or a wild animal and his body had been what had snapped.
If heaven involved this level of comfort, he was certainly not
Gradually, coherent thoughts came crawling back
to him. He had made it. He was with Remus. In spite of himself, he
allowed a groan to escape his lips. He had sauntered into the home of a
friend he had seen just once in the past fourteen years and wound up
joking with him as if they had never been apart. The reaction had been
a nervous one, and Remus had been playing along-- he might even have
started the game-- but he found himself flipping through as much of
their conversation as he could remember to discern if he had said
anything offensive. He had made a reference to eating rats, which Remus
had probably not picked up on; he had accused Remus of feeding him a
sleeping potion; and he had called Remus pushy. Remus had said worse,
hadn't he? He had certainly been nervous, too; otherwise, he would not
have paled so thoroughly upon seeing Sirius. Did he look so bad?
He rose from the bed and glanced into a mirror, which responded by screaming.
It was entirely possible that he DID look that bad.
hastily written note in familiar handwriting lay on the bureau beneath
the mirror and informed him that Remus was off chasing a grindylow that
had invaded a swimming pond belonging to a nearby farm. The note
further encouraged him to make himself at home. He did not know how
long ago the note had been left for him, but he showered as quickly as
he could considering the amount of effort it actually took him to get
"Much better," said the mirror in a relieved sort of a voice when he glanced into it again.
"Thanks," he told it.
"You're still too thin."
He decided that it would be bad form to tell his friend's mirror to shut the hell up.
work on it." First, though, he worked on cleaning up the room and his
clothing as much as he could. When that duty was complete, he wandered
through the small cottage, stopping with interest when he came to
Remus' desk. Moony had obviously already begun the work they were to do
together over the next short while. It mostly consisted of subtly
contacting old allies and feeling out younger witches and wizards to
see who sided with whom.
"We have a long way to go." Remus' voice interrupted his thoughts.
Sirius whirled around. "How…?"
don't walk into the wards. And there are a lot of silencing charms in
here, for obvious reasons." Sirius nodded. "You look better."
"I feel better." Now the pauses began to become awkward. "Thank you."
welcome." When the silence threatened to lengthen, Remus offered, "I
sent your letter to Harry as soon as you fell asleep."
"How long ago was that?"
"About fourteen hours. If he sends a return owl, it will probably get here tomorrow morning with the Daily Prophet."
"Have they printed any exciting fabrications in the past few days?" Remus quite clearly winced. "What?" asked Sirius warily.
"It's good news, in a way," said Remus carefully.
"I could use some good news."
"Proving your innocence has become rather a high priority."
"It always was a priority for me."
"For me, too. But it's become a priority for the cause of light magic."
"Most of the supporters of light magic have no idea that I'm innocent."
"No. It seems that they're coming into danger because of that."
"Do you plan to stop beating around the push any time soon?"
Fudge, in his infinite wisdom," the two friends shared a scowl, "has
been blaming two deaths and an appearance of the Dark Mark on you. He
wants to keep the public from panicking and believing that Voldemort
really has returned."
Sirius did some creative swearing. In situations like these, his long years in Azkaban served him well.
was my thought, too," admitted Remus. "But I was speaking to Professor
Dumbledore right before you arrived, and he suggests that we will
simply have to make it plain that you were not responsible. I expect
we'll be calling in some favors and making a few threats. If worst
comes to worst, we might be able to have a spy come forward and testify
that Peter's alive."
Sirius snorted. "Not likely."
you know? Who Dumbledore's most important spy is?" He expected that
this wasn't information to be flung around lightly, but Remus was
Remus, and he had to tell *someone*.
Sirius resisted the urge to cradle the bombshell before he dropped it. "Severus Snape."
"WHAT?" Remus didn't often lose his composure, and Sirius smiled in spite of himself.
"The one and only."
"I had no idea."
"Neither did I. Seems he's good at his job."
"Was he a Death Eater?"
"Looks that way--"
"What?" Sirius was momentarily unbalanced by his friend's seeming non-sequiter.
owl. He's back." Remus muttered a spell and a window flew open,
granting the owl entrance. A note was tied to his leg, but it was the
same note Remus had addressed to Harry that morning.
"What's wrong with that bird?"
"He's never given me trouble before," Remus defended. "He's not the best, but he's still very smart."
what's wrong with Harry?" Sirius' voice hit a level of worry that one
who did not know him would not have believed possible.
could be nothing." Remus' statement convinced neither of them. "It
could be that his aunt and uncle were out and he wasn't home--"
"So this 'smart' owl of yours didn't wait, or find him?"
glanced at the owl. "Maybe he's having a bad day." A hoot of
indignation greeted this suggestion. The owl then gave the two men his
best approximation of an exasperated stare and fluttered to the window,
darting aside when another, familiar owl arrived.
Hedwig!" Sirius exclaimed, fairly ripping the beautiful bird from the
air in his haste to find the letter. "This isn't Harry's handwriting."
Remus shook his head. "It's Hermione's. She borrows Harry's owl sometimes."
"Why is she writing to you?" asked Sirius, not distracted but still curious.
just has since I left off teaching her." Remus shrugged. "She's a
Muggle born. I think she likes having a wizard who isn't exactly a
professor or a friend's parent to talk to." He removed the letter
completely and released Hedwig, who fluttered to sit on the window
ledge beside his own owl.
"You're going to read that NOW?"
"She MAY know what's going on with Harry."
Sirius nearly flushed. "Sorry." Remus shrugged, and Sirius moved to read the letter over his friend's shoulder.
"Dear Professor Lupin," it began. "I need your help. Harry is in trouble . . ."
In part two, the gory details of Harry's summer are revealed, but he gets help from a most unexpected source.