Harry Potter, Five Small Words

Title: Five Small Words [Remus/Sirius]
Rating/Warnings: PG-13 for possible executions.
Summary: On 10/31/81, Sirius makes a chance confession that may save them both if Remus gets his act together.
A/N: AU. Ickle!Harry breaks my heart.

Five Small Words

“Sirius?” Remus cracked an eye open to see Sirius’ silhouette in the doorway against the light from the hall.

“How do you feel?” Sirius asked, not moving from the doorway. Remus shut his eye again, feeling a throb at Sirius’ distance that had nothing to do with his usual wounds.

Come here and see, he wanted to say, but remained silent. Several long moments passed before he felt the side of the mattress sink under Sirius’ weight.

“Let me see,” Sirius said gruffly. Remus didn’t resist, letting him do what he wanted. He felt fingers, calloused from gripping a broom, search out the scrapes and bruises the full moon had left on him. He made no other noise than small gasps of pain when prodded in a sorer spot. Finally the fingers disappeared, fingers that would have lingered six months ago, hell, six weeks ago.

Remus, utterly weakened from the moon, the war, the pain, Sirius, all of it, began to cry softly.

“Don’t,” Sirius said with alarm, but Remus couldn’t help it, now that he had started, he couldn’t stop. He rolled painfully onto his side away from Sirius, but couldn’t stop the tears squeezing out from his eyes.

There was a long hesitation before Sirius rolled Remus back towards him and hugged him tightly. The feel of Sirius’ strong arms unlocked something in Remus’ chest, and he buried his face in Sirius’ robes and began to cry in earnest.

“I should have been there,” Remus heard Sirius say after a while. “I shouldn’t be…I just…I should be with you.”

Remus tightened his grip on Sirius, wondering what Sirius had been about to say he shouldn’t do, wondering if he was about to confess that he was the traitor.

“Hang them,” Sirius muttered. “Hang them all.”

Remus’ blood chilled at the words, and he looked up to find Sirius’ face burning with a dull anger.

“I have to go, Remus,” he said quietly, not meeting Remus’ eyes. “There’s something I have to do.”

“Sirius…” Remus plea was half question, half demand, and all desperation.

“I have to,” he repeated, pulling out of Remus’ grasp and standing up. He paused before moving away, staring down at Remus with an unreadable expression. “I love you, Moony.”

Remus was struck dumb as he watched Sirius leave. Sirius had shown him how much he loved Remus millions of times, in a thousand different ways, but he had never said the words. It sounded…final.

Galvanized into action, Remus stumbled to his feet and rushed to follow Sirius, tripping on the damn rug at their bedroom doorway and grabbing at the doorframe for support. Sirius was opening the front door of their flat and turned at the noise of Remus thumping against the door, a flash of pain crossing his features.

“You can’t stop me,” he said simply.

“Sirius, why…” Remus’ words seem to tangle all together and he cursed himself for still being unable to ask the right question, the only question. “Are you…”

Sirius closed his eyes and turned his head away.

“I’m not the secret keeper,” he said, sounding as if the words were torn out of him. Then he stepped out of the flat and closed the door behind him in a not-quite-slam.

But you’re the one with all the secrets.

Remus sagged bonelessly against the frame, lacking the strength to scream the words like he wanted to. He had never kept any secrets from Sirius, not after the first one.

“I’m not keeping any secrets,” Remus said out loud, although it was less the ringing endorsement he had hoped for and more a sad whine.

It wasn’t true, Remus suddenly realized. He had suspected Sirius of being the traitor and never said anything, never confronted him, never talked about it.

Something was going on with him, Remus was sure. And lately, if Remus so much as mentioned James’ name Sirius would tighten visibly. He was so angry, but wouldn’t tell Remus why, had withdrawn totally into himself in the last two weeks.

This couldn’t go on, Remus finally decided. He stood shakily away from the doorframe and took the dozen steps to the couch slowly. He pulled the blanket that was draped over the back to cover his shoulders and prepared to wait as long as he had to. When Sirius returned, Remus was going to confront him with all his suspicions and demand to know the truth.

And if Sirius was the traitor…

Remus shivered and pulled the blanket tighter around himself, prepared to wait all night.

He was asleep long before the mantle clock chimed the beginning of November.

* * * * * *

He jerked awake to urgent pounding on his door several hours later. He staggered to the door, glancing at the clock and noticing it was a little before 1 AM.

He opened it and Frank Longbottom stumbled in, looking wild-eyed.

“Frank?” Remus felt fear clutch him icily. “What’s wrong? Is it Alice? Dear god,” he demanded when Frank didn’t answer, “is it Neville?”

“Lily and James,” he gasped, gripping Remus’ shoulders. “And Peter. They’re dead.”

“What…” Remus said before it hit him, and the room was spinning and he was on the floor and Frank was talking urgently but he didn’t understand any of the words.

“Sirius,” Frank said and Remus struggled to listen, but could only catch disjointed phrases over the roaring in his skull. “Godric’s Hollow…Harry…Voldemort gone…thirteen Muggles dead…Sirius betrayed…Fidelius Charm…”

Fidelius Charm. Something about that tugged at Remus, pulling him away from the black whirlpool of his thoughts.

I’m not the secret keeper, Sirius had said.

Fidelius Charm.

I am not the Secret Keeper.

“I am not the Secret Keeper,” Remus gasped, staring up at Frank. “It wasn’t… Peter… Sirius… PETER…Frank, it wasn’t Sirius!”

“It was, Remus,” Frank looked pained and weary. “He betrayed us all. Only Harry survived.”

“No!” Remus clawed his way back to his feet using the wall, Frank, anything he could. “Frank, where is he now?”

“With Dumbledore,” Frank answered. “But he’s going to have to live with Lily’s family…”

Remus felt the precious moments slipping by as he worked out that Frank meant Harry and not Sirius.

“No, Sirius,” he begged. “What have they done with him?”

“He’s at Azkaban by now,” Frank told him grimly. “He was just standing there when we came, just laughing…”

“Frank, listen to me!” Remus shouted, stunning Frank into silence. “It wasn’t Sirius and I can prove it, but I need to talk to Dumbledore RIGHT NOW!”

“Remus, no,” Frank protested, but Remus seized him by the robes and shook him violently.

“WHERE IS DUMBLEDORE!” he roared.

“The Ministry,” Frank choked out, then stumbled forward as Remus disappeared with a frantic pop.

He followed a moment later.

* * * * * *

“You can’t!”

“No, Remus!”

“He killed James and Lily!”

“How dare you!”

“SILENCIO!” Dumbledore roared and the room was immediately silent as the shouters’ voices all gave out.

Remus waved frantically, pleading silently for Dumbledore to hear what he knew.

“I’m going to let you speak, Remus,” he told the desperate werewolf, “but you must calm yourself.”

“…NOT SIRIUS, HE WASN’T THE KEEPER,” Remus was shouting as the Dumbledore cast the counter-charm on him.

“Calm yourself!” Dumbledore warned. Remus took a deep breath.

“Sirius wasn’t the Secret Keeper,” Remus repeated breathlessly. “He told me, he said ‘I’m not the Secret Keeper’ but I didn’t understand, I thought he was accusing me of keeping things from him because I didn’t know about the Fidelius Charm, but then Frank said and I put it all together, Professor, it HAD to be Peter, he’s the only other!”

“I helped set up the charm myself,” Dumbledore said gently. “It was Sirius, it has always been Sirius.”

“But you didn’t see them do it, or the charm wouldn’t have worked,” Remus countered desperately. “They could have switched at the last minute!”

“But why would they?” Dumbledore pressed.

“I DON’T KNOW!” Remus howled. “I didn’t even know about it until ten minutes ago, but they HAD to have, you’ve GOT TO BELIEVE ME!”

“There’s no proof, Remus,” Dumbledore shook his head, and Remus thought he might shatter into pieces at the sad finality of his gaze, but then he had the answer.

“His wand!” he shouted. “Have you done Priori Incantem on Sirius’ wand?”

“He blew up fourteen people, Lupin!” Mad-Eye Moody had somehow managed to throw off Dumbledore’s Silencing Charm. “We only found a finger of Pettigrew! What good will that do?!”

“Please,” Remus pleaded helplessly, not turning away from Dumbledore. “Please, Albus, try. Sirius didn’t do this, I swear it.”

“Lupin!” Moody roared, but Dumbledore silenced him with a look.

“We will try it, Remus,” he said, and Remus nearly fainted with relief. “But I must warn you, I doubt the results will be to your liking.”

“Just do it,” Remus said stubbornly.

Remus could practically feel the minutes slipping away as Dumbledore sent Arthur Weasley to retrieve Sirius’ wand. When Arthur finally returned, Remus was practically shaking from the need to act.

With infuriating calmness, Dumbledore laid the wand on the desk behind him.

“I would advise that everyone step back,” he informed the others. No one did. “Priori Incantem!”

As the yellow light shot from Dumbledore’s wand and struck Sirius’, Remus found he was unable to breathe. What if Sirius had cursed Peter? Even if he was innocent, there was the chance he had really killed Peter, and would still be sent to Azkaban…

Remus’ heart froze as Peter’s head appeared out of the wand floating in front of them like an accusation.

“I’m sorry, Remus,” Dumbledore began, preparing to lower his wand.

“Disarm,” Peter’s image sighed. “He tried to disarm me…”

Everyone in the room froze.

“Disarm,” the wraith repeated. Dumbledore dropped his wand and the wraith faded as the spell unraveled. He turned to Remus, looking deeply disturbed.

Remus had collapsed to the floor, unconscious.

Everyone’s eyes swiveled from Remus on the floor to Dumbledore.

“We’ve made a terrible mistake,” he whispered.

* * * * * *

Remus came to suddenly, sitting in a familiarly uncomfortable Ministry office chair and glanced around wildly. Everyone but Molly Weasley was gone.

“What’s going on?!” he demanded, rising to his feet even though the room spun crazily.

“Sit down, Remus,” Molly pushed him back down into his chair. “You’ll faint again.”

“Sirius!” Remus struggled. “Azkaban! And they’re sending Harry to the Muggles!” he remembered suddenly.

“Stop it!” Molly snapped. “Dumbledore’s out taking care of Sirius, and Harry’s in hiding with the Alice and her boy for now.”

“I’ve got to go!” Remus cried. “I can’t do nothing!”

“You’re staying right here!” Molly exclaimed, but at that moment they were interrupted by the door slamming open. Molly’s grip loosened on Remus when Moody stomped through the door. Remus shook her loose and shot out of his chair.

“What’s going on!” he demanded again.

“They won’t let him loose!” Moody roared, as furious as though he had believed in Sirius all along. “That fool Fudge says there’s got to be a trial!”

“No!” Molly gasped.

“A trial!” Remus shouted. “A TRIAL! HE’S INNOCENT!”

“Fudge claims we can’t prove nothing,” Moody snarled. “Says thirteen Muggles are dead and somebody’s payin’ for it!”

“THEY’VE GOT TO LISTEN!” Remus was waving his arms wildly, screaming furiously. “WE’VE GOT TO…”

Molly slapped him hard across the face.

“Are you going to calm down, or do I have to Stupefy you?” she asked coldly.

Remus went silent, putting a hand to his cheek where an angry red mark in the shape of Molly’s hand stood out in contrast to his pale features.

“Sit down, Remus,” she said, her tone softening. “You aren’t well.”

Remus sank back down in the chair and neither moved nor spoke until Dumbledore returned some time later, looking exhausted and defeated.

“The Ministry will not release Sirius until a trial is held,” he informed the others.

Remus felt his heart stop, then beat so painfully that it drove the air out of his lungs.

Sirius, surrounded by Dementors…they had gone to Azkaban once, he and Sirius, to question someone, but Sirius had nearly fainted when they got within ten yards of the place…childhood memories, he’d said…Remus could still remember the look on Sirius’ face when he fell to his knees, eyes wide with pain…Remus had groped frantically in his pockets for something to help, but they’d taken away his wand at the gate, all he had was a Chocolate Frog…

Thanks, Moony, Sirius had said, clutching at his hand like a child, that helps…

“What can we do?” Molly’s voice drew Remus out of the memory.

“Nothing,” Dumbledore said hollowly. “There is nothing we can do until the trial.”

* * * * *

The passing of forty-eight hours found Remus staying with the Weasleys, trying desperately to fill the hours until Sirius’ trial, still a week away. Remus had read once that if sharks ever stopped swimming they died, and that’s what he felt now: a frantic need to keep moving, keep doing, like he could stay one step ahead of his fears and emotions that way. Remus was too agitated to eat and certainly unable to sleep, until finally Molly resorted to drugging his tea.

He awoke in an unfamiliar room, and slowly identified it as Bill’s, who Remus supposed was sharing with Charlie for the moment.

Bright lads, the both of them, he thought idly. Quite a handful, just like James and Siri…

Remus suddenly felt as though he was being crushed under an unbearable weight and couldn’t draw a breath. He struggled to sit up and place his feet on the floor, cradling his head in his hands and scrunching his toes in the carpet to try and bring himself back to reality. He succeeded only in making himself dizzy and began to cry helplessly, still groggy from whatever Molly had snuck into his tea.

He heard the door creak open and looked up to see one of Molly’s younger children wander in, clutching a toy wand in one hand and sucking the thumb of the other hand. Remus and the toddler eyed each other warily. The Weasley finally withdrew his thumb.

“Grown-ups shouldn’t cry,” he said in a remarkably clear yet suspicious voice.

“Grown-ups can do as they please,” Remus told him, voice gravelly from pain and sleep. “Which one are you again?”

“Fred!” the child announced promptly. Remus raised an eyebrow at the large ‘G’ on ‘Fred’s’ jumper. One of the twins, then. Remus hauled himself to his feet and offered his hand to ‘Fred’, who took it gravely.

“Why don’t you take me to your mother, hmm?” Remus tried not to wrinkle his nose at the feel of ‘Fred’s’ still-damp hand.

Accio Mum!” ‘Fred’ chanted solemnly, pointing his toy wand at the doorway. Remus managed a dry chuckle, which was cut off abruptly when Molly bustled through the door a moment later.

“There you are!” she glared down at her offspring. “Bothering Mr. Lupin! And with your brother’s wand again!”

Remus glanced between Molly and the child as Molly reached down to pluck the not-toy wand from ‘Fred’s’ hand and suppressed another chuckle.

That boy’s going to be a holy terror at Hogwarts, Remus mused to himself.

Just then the oldest Weasley boy appeared in the doorway, balancing one of the two youngest Weasleys on his hip and with the other twin trailing along by clutching his robe.

“Can’t you keep ahold of this, Bill?” Mrs. Weasley demanded, waving Bill’s wand at the harried adolescent.

“Sorry, Mum,” Bill grinned, taking it from her and slipping it back into his pocket.

“Take them back downstairs and for goodness sake keep an eye on them,” Molly waved him back out the door.

“Not like I’m not trying,” Remus heard Bill grumble as Molly shut the door behind them.

Remus sank back down onto the bed.

“Good lord, Molly,” he groaned as the room spun, then steadied. “What did you give me?”

“Knock-Out Drops,” Molly confessed. “But they were the children’s brand from Percy’s last fever, and I may have overdosed you.”

“I’ll be all right,” he waved off Molly’s concern. As all right as I can be, he thought silently. “What’s been happening?”

“Not much, I’m afraid,” Molly sighed. “Dumbledore has been to Azkaban to see Sirius and reassure him that he only has to last until the trial.”

“He’s in bad shape, isn’t he?” Remus asked grimly.

“He’ll be fine,” Molly replied quickly, but the tightness of her mouth told Remus she was lying.

“Where is Harry?” Remus asked instead.

“Still with Alice and Frank for now,” Molly twisted her hands together tightly. “But it isn’t safe to have both boys in the same place. There’s still talk of sending him to Lily’s sister.”

“No!” Remus shot to his feet, wobbling dangerously. “You can’t! Voldemort’s gone, isn’t he?!”

“It seems that way,” Molly hedged. “But no one knows for sure, Remus…”

“They can’t take him away now!” Remus cut her off. “His parents are gone, they’re DEAD, Molly, Sirius is all he has left! Harry is all Sirius and I have left!”

“Stop shouting!” Molly hissed at him, casting a glance at the door. “Dumbledore has his reasons.”

“Dumbledore’s reasons have got James and Lily killed!” Remus spat back, perversely glad to have the anger burn off his despair. “Dumbledore’s reasons have got Sirius in Azkaban! I’ve had enough of Dumbledore’s reasons! I’ve had ENOUGH I tell you!”

Molly watched Remus silently until he ran out of words and simply stood, chest heaving.

“I won’t let them take Harry away,” he finally snarled, putting every fiber of resolution he had available to him into the words.

“I hope they don’t have to,” Molly sighed, pulling open the door. “Come down and eat something, Remus. You haven’t had anything since you got here.”

Remus trailed Molly downstairs, looking blankly at the piles of clutter that nine people living in the same house create. He wondered numbly what had happened to James and Lily’s smaller piles of clutter. What would happen to his and Sirius’ clutter.

Molly made Remus a sandwich in the kitchen and had just set the kettle to boiling when a shriek from upstairs rang through the house, followed by loud wailing.

“Oh honestly!” she pursed her lips.

“Should one of us check on them?” Remus asked.

“No, if they’re crying they’re fine,” Molly told him. “It’s when there’s a bang and then silence that…”

Another loud bang interrupted, followed by the predictable silence.

“Be right back!” Molly rushed out of the kitchen.

Remus shook his head, half amused in spite of himself. He picked some more at the sandwich Molly had made him, actually eating a few bites. Out in the front room he heard the laughter and running about of the other children. He slid out of his chair and went out to the other room, suddenly craving company.

In the front room he found Charlie watching Percy and the other of the youngest two Weasleys, Ron Remus thought, though it was hard to tell since the two babies wore the same hand-me-downs. Charlie was holding something in his lap and Percy was petting it cautiously.

“What’ve you got there?” Remus asked.

“I found a rat out in the garden,” Charlie explained. “I think somebody’s lost him, he’s very tame.”

Remus couldn’t stop the shudder that went through him at the thought of Peter, but he shook it off. There were millions of rats in the world, he told himself severely.

“Want to see a neat trick?” Charlie asked, glancing at Remus.

“Yes,” Percy nodded, squinting near-sightedly at the pet. Remus didn’t doubt the lad would need eyeglasses pretty soon.

“This is called Tonic Immobility, or TI,” Charlie explained, mostly for Remus’ benefit, or so it seemed to Remus. “If I pick up the rat by his neck ruff, he’ll go absolutely still, it releases some chemical in his brain or something like that, blisses them out.”

Charlie reached down and grasped the rat by his neck fur, and when he picked the rat up, its body dangled limply, its legs drawn up close to his body.

Remus froze. The rat looked exactly like Peter.

But Peter’s dead, his mind gabbled.

“He’s missing a toe,” Percy announced, peering closely at the rat’s underside.

We only found a finger of Pettigrew.

And suddenly the truth crashed down on Remus, driving all the breath out of his lungs.

“Do you want to try?” Charlie asked Percy, prepared to let go of the rat.

“No!” Remus shouted suddenly, making the children jump and startling Ron so much that he began crying. “Charlie, for heaven’s sake don’t let go of that rat!”

“Why?” Charlie stared up at him, more perplexed than scared. Remus decided that telling the child that he was holding a mass-murdering Death Eater was not the way to handle the situation.

“Just don’t,” he answered sharply. “I will be right back, but don’t let go no matter what.” Charlie hesitated, then nodded.

Remus dashed into the kitchen, looking frantically for a container and cursing the sluggishness of his mind. He finally grabbed Molly’s glass cookie jar and upended the contents onto the counter before running back out to Charlie.

“Drop him in,” Remus ordered Charlie, holding the jar out and the lid ready. Charlie released the rat and he plopped bonelessly into the jar. Remus slammed the lid down and felt suddenly limp with relief.

He could save Sirius. He could save Harry. He had to go.

“Tell your mother I’ve gone to see Dumbledore,” Remus told Charlie hurriedly, who nodded. “Tell her I won’t be back.”

“He’ll suffocate!” Percy yanked on Remus’ robes and pointed at the jar, where Wormtail was scrabbling frantically at the glass.

“He won’t be in there long,” Remus told him, not bothering to filter the grimness out of his voice for the six-year-old. Remus Apparated without another word, leaving Ron still crying and the two other Weasley children staring at each other in confusion.

* * * * * *

“Remus,” Frank said quietly. “I fail to see how this exonerates Sirius in any way.”

“It’s a rat in a jar, Lupin!” Moody roared. “We need real evidence, not rodents!”

“Is that Molly’s cookie jar?” Arthur peered closer.

“It’s not a rat,” Remus interrupted. “It’s Peter.”

There was a moment of dead silence, followed by a cacophony of shouting.

“What is going on here?” Dumbledore interrupted, opening the door.

“Lupin’s claiming that rat is Pettigrew!” Moody shouted in reply. “I thought you said Molly was keeping him out of the way!”

“Alastair!” Dumbledore cut him off sharply.

“I have something to tell you,” Remus said tightly, stung by Moody’s words and glaring at everyone else in the room. “I’m not crazy. This rat is Peter.”

The others began talking again, but fell silent when Dumbledore ignored them. He approached the desk and leaned down to examine the rat in question. Wormtail redoubled his efforts to break loose when he saw Dumbledore, throwing himself against the glass and squeaking loud enough to be heard through the lid. At last Dumbledore straightened up and fixed Remus with an even gaze.

“Perhaps we had better hear your story,” he said.

Remus confessed everything, outed himself as a werewolf and the other Marauders as Animagi. He could tell from the outraged and angry faces around him that none of them had known the truth and most didn’t believe him now. Only Dumbledore looked unsurprised.

“We all underestimated Peter,” he said, shaking his head. “Perhaps that is why he turned against us.”

The others exchanged glances, still unwilling to believe.

“I can prove it.” Remus reached over to lift the lid off the jar and plunged his hand inside, heedless of the wild claws and teeth sinking into his fingers and palm. He seized the rat by the ruff as he had seen Charlie do and Wormtail went limp as though a switch had been thrown. Remus lifted him out of the jar and let him dangle in the air.

“Cast Finite Incantem,” he ordered. No one moved. “Do it!”

Frank shrugged and drew out his wand. He pointed it at the rat and cast as strong a spell as Remus could have wanted.

Peter Pettigrew materialized and Remus let go, letting him thump to the floor in a heap. No one else moved. Peter shook his head, still a bit dazed from the rat-chemical in his brain. He tensed as if about to leap, but then glancing around seemed to change his mind and cowered at Remus’ feet.

“He was going to kill me,” Peter whined to Remus, catching at his trouser leg. “I had to run, had to hide!”

“You’re a liar!” Remus shouted, kicking at Peter and sending him sprawling on his back. “You killed James! You framed Sirius!”

“No no!” Peter turned to Dumbledore for support, huddling on the ground pitifully. “Sirius was Secret Keeper! It was Sirius, Sirius!”

Peter leapt up suddenly, launching himself at Arthur, who was between him and the door.

Petrificus Totalus!” Frank shouted, still holding his wand. Peter struck the ground like a board and Frank lowered his wand, looking pale and shaky.

“I’ll get Fudge,” Arthur murmured, slipping out the door. The others remained, staring down at Peter silently as his eyes darted back and forth with terror.

“Is it enough?” Remus asked Dumbledore, too exhausted to keep the pleading out of his voice.

“Frank,” Dumbledore said in reply, “I think it’s time you went to fetch Harry.”

* * * * *

Dumbledore demanded that Sirius’ trial take place immediately, and this time none of Fudge’s blustering could convince anyone else it should be otherwise. The Ministry had no grounds for refusal now that they had Pettigrew.

If the strain of the last few days had taken their toll on Remus, the trial nearly broke him. Obviously they would use Veritaserum on Peter, and the truth about Remus and Marauders was very likely to come spilling out if the right questions were asked. Dumbledore had left the choice to Remus, but Remus hadn’t even hesitated. Anything was worth saving Sirius, even if the entire Wizarding world learned he was a werewolf.

The hell of it was, the recipient was only forced to answer direct questions, so everything would depend on the turn of phrase the Ministry used. “Where did you hide” would save Remus; “how did you hide” would destroy him.

Mercifully, the Ministry was not imaginative enough to think that it mattered HOW Peter had escaped, the most important thing to them was that Pettigrew was the traitor. By the time they led Peter out, Remus was mentally and emotionally exhausted, slumped in a pile on his bench.

Nothing could have prepared him for the sight of Sirius being led out.

It was much worse than he had dreaded. Sirius looked disoriented, he shuffled forth nervously and jumped at any sudden sound. His gaze slid over Remus without recognizing him and continued roaming aimlessly. His voice was hollow when he answered questions and he looked as though he might simply disintegrate to dust before their eyes if somebody gave him a good poke.

Remus wanted to cover his eyes, but knew it wouldn’t do any good. The image of Sirius, empty and damaged, would be seared across the back of his eyelids.

I’m here, he screamed at Sirius silently. I’m going to get you out of this.

Silence fell as the Ministry was making its decision, leaving Sirius alone in his chair. He seemed to have become slightly more aware during his questioning, and when his gaze brushed over Remus this time, it stuck. Remus stared back, desperate to relay any sort of mental message to Sirius, one of hope or comfort or just that he was there. He moved as if to stand, but Moody was sitting beside him and jerked him back down.

“Soon enough,” he growled softly. “Don’t cause trouble.”

I’m taking you home, Remus mouthed instead, but he had no way of knowing whether Sirius had understood or not.

The judges settled back in to give the verdict. Fudge looked angrier than Remus had ever seen him, and for the first time since Halloween thought that things must just turn out right.

The actual verdict was lost in a roar that was partly in Remus’ ears and partly the people around him rushing to their feet, all members of the Order and Remus dimly realized they were there to keep him from doing anything stupid, but he didn’t care because he could finally run to Sirius, who was standing unsteadily as they removed his shackles. He was glancing around uncertainly, and homed in on Remus with obvious relief.

“Moony,” he sighed, gripping Remus’ forearms with fingers that felt brittle. Remus shook off Sirius’ hands to throw his arms around Sirius’ neck, and Sirius clung to him desperately.

“I’m taking you home,” Remus said. He repeated the words over several times more until he was sure they had gained reality with Sirius.

Someone tapped on Remus’ back and he reluctantly pulled away from Sirius to look. Sirius refused to let go and clung to Remus’ arm tightly.

“You and Sirius should go,” Dumbledore said. “We have set up somewhere safe for you.”

“I don’t want to go someplace safe!” Remus snapped. “I want to go home!”

“I can’t argue with you here,” Dumbledore cut him off quietly. “If Harry is to stay with you, he must be kept safe.”

Remus closed his eyes and fought down the hysterical laughter that rose in his throat, now knowing exactly why Sirius had laughed when they’d taken him away. It was simply too much to bear.

After a moment, he opened his eyes and gave Sirius a good look. Sirius needed to sleep and heal, they both did, and maybe it didn’t matter where for now.

“Fine,” he said. “What about Harry?”

“Frank will bring him when it’s safe enough,” Dumbledore answered. Every time Dumbledore used the word ‘safe’ Remus wanted to break his nose.

Nothing is safe, you ancient fool, Remus thought bitterly to himself, hands clenched into fists as he followed Dumbledore out of the trial room. Sirius was still holding onto him, walking close enough that they tripped over each other’s feet more than once. Remus didn’t ask him to move further away.

Arthur was waiting for them in his office, toying with a roll of parchment. In front of him, Sirius’ wand lay on the desk. He stood up when they arrived and held out Sirius wand. Sirius took it tentatively, but then clutched it as tight as he was clutching Remus.

“Moody’ll be back with the Portkey in a moment,” he said. He held the parchment out to Remus. “This is from Molly. She thought you might need help with Harry.”

“Thank Merlin for that woman,” Remus breathed in relief, one of the weights that was crushing him lifting slightly. Arthur smiled tiredly at the comment.

“If anything happens, Floo us right away,” Arthur told Remus firmly, shooting a defiant glance over to Dumbledore. His mouth set in grim line, but he didn’t reply. “Anything, Remus, we’ll help.”

“I can’t thank you enough, Arthur.” Remus shook Arthur’s hand warmly. “Tell Molly I’m sorry about the cookie jar.”

“I daresay she’s enchanting a new one as we speak,” Arthur chuckled, and just then Moody returned, clutching a brown paper package in his hand. He handed it to Remus, who nodded his thanks.

“We’ll send Frank along directly,” Dumbledore reassured them, but Remus didn’t respond. He unwrapped the brown paper to reveal a set of shackles. Sirius cringed.

“It was what we had on hand,” Arthur apologized.

“The irony isn’t lost on me,” Remus replied, wondering where all this energy to be angry was coming from all of the sudden.

“Destroy the Portkey after you arrive,” Dumbledore ordered.

Remus touched the shackles without another word to anyone and felt the familiar jerk at his navel. When he could see again, he dropped the whole package on the floor and fumbled in his pocket for his wand.

Finite Incantum!” Sirius suddenly shouted, making Remus jump. The shackles imploded in on themselves and disintegrated. Remus turned to Sirius to see him still holding out his wand and trembling all over. Remus reached over and pushed Sirius’ arm down gently.

They stared at each other silently. Remus’ hand was still in his pocket, and he felt something crinkle under his fingertips. He pulled his hand out and looked down at the Chocolate Frog for a moment before unwrapping it and offering it to Sirius. Sirius ate it slowly, some of the tense lines leaving his face.

“Helps,” he thanked Remus.

“How do you feel?” Remus asked, hating what a stupid question it was. Sirius furrowed his brow for a long moment, considering.

“Hurts,” he finally whispered. Before Remus could reply, it was Padfoot in front of him instead of Sirius, staring up at him with wide brown eyes full of sadness.

“This is home for a while,” Remus sighed, scratching Padfoot’s ears. “I’m going to sleep for a few hours before Harry comes.”

Remus walked slowly to the end of the sitting room they had appeared in, where there were two doorways. One led to a small kitchen, the other to a bedroom. Dumbledore had evidently managed to find the one place in England smaller than their flat, but Remus didn’t even care as he sank down on the bed. He felt Padfoot crawl up onto the bed laboriously and curl up over his feet, then he lost consciousness.

* * * * *

Remus woke a few hours later to find Padfoot nudging his hand with a dry, warm nose. Remus rubbed Padfoot’s head absently before realizing that someone was knocking on the door. He stumbled to his feet and went to the door, rubbing his eyes and trying to smooth down his sleep-wild hair. He peered through the peephole at the door to see Frank holding a bundle and with a large bag slung over his shoulder.

“Frank,” he greeted, voice still thick, as he opened the door. “Come in.”

Frank slipped in the doorway with a furtive glance around. Remus realized in the back of his mind that he had no idea where they were or what was beyond the door, but he didn’t even bother to look as he shut the door. There were more important things to consider.

“I’ve brought some things, too,” Frank nudged the bag with his hip. “Toys and bottles and things, Alice packed it.”

“Thank you,” Remus shook his head, trying to clear the last vestiges of sleep.

“He’s asleep,” Frank said, and it took Remus a moment to figure out that he meant the child in his arms.

Harry.

Frank offered the bundle and Remus took it gingerly, surprised at how heavy it was in his arms. That’s ridiculous, he thought, I held Harry barely a week ago…

But that was when everything was different. It seemed like everything was heavier now, the air in his lungs and the blood pounding in his head and the child in his arms, all that was left of his two best friends.

Remus felt something nudge his side. He looked down to see Padfoot leaning against him heavily, looking up with his brown eyes. Remus bent painfully to show him Harry, and Padfoot snuffled at him lightly before letting out a whuffy sort of sigh.

Frank watched this whole performance with a creased brow.

“It’s really true,” he said, more to himself than Remus. Remus nodded.

“Dog emotions are simpler, easier,” Remus told him by way of explanation and Frank took a moment to absorb that. He reached out to tentatively pat Padfoot on the head and the dog pushed against his hand affectionately, accepting the gesture for what it was.

“I should go,” Frank finally said, slipping the bag off his shoulder to the floor. “Alice worries.”

“Be careful,” Remus replied. He hesitated a moment before hugging Frank awkwardly. “Thank you. For Harry.”

“He and Neville get on well,” Frank shrugged as he returned the hug. “Maybe they’ll be best friends when they grow up.”

Remus resisted the urge to say that he hoped not, having best friends was too painful.

When Frank had slipped out the door, Remus continued to stand in the middle of the front room, clutching Harry and with the weight of Padfoot pressed against his leg.

He had no idea what to do with either of them.

* * * * * *

Remus settled into a vague routine, sleeping when he was tired, which was most of the time, and getting up when Harry cried, which was only slightly less often. Sirius remained Padfoot, sometimes shuffling out of bed with Remus and sometimes staying on the bed, watching Remus move about with sad eyes.

After a few days, just when Remus was starting to get a bit desperate, Arthur showed up with baby supplies from Molly and some more unwelcome news.

Frank and Alice had been attacked. They were injured, maybe permanently. Neville was physically all right, although memory-charmed, which could have any effect on his mind as time went by.

Remus sank into a chair in the tiny kitchen and wondered if he had finally reached the end of his ability to hurt. He glanced at the doorway to the front room and remembered hugging Frank goodbye. He didn’t deserve this. None of them did.

After Arthur left, Remus went to the doorway of the front room and leaned on the threshold. Padfoot was sprawled on the floor, keeping an eye on Harry. Harry was bopping him softly with a stuffed Hippogriff, but Padfoot didn’t seem to mind.

“Pafu!” he exclaimed and Padfoot barked in response. Harry laughed and called “Pafu! Pafu!” again, getting more barks in response.

Remus chuckled softly in spite of himself, desperate to put off telling Sirius about Frank and Alice for as long as possible. He left the doorway and sat down on the rug beside them, scratching Padfoot’s head in thanks for baby-sitting.

“Pafu!” Harry said by way of greeting. Padfoot snorted.

“Moony,” Remus corrected gently, remembering with a burst of pain that Lily had been trying to get Harry to say their names last time he had seen her. “Mooo-nee.”

“Moo!” Harry chirruped, more cow-like than Remus could have hoped. “Moooo!”

“Moo-NEE,” Remus said again, feeling a bit disgruntled. He could have sworn Padfoot was snickering at him.

“Moo!” Harry clapped his hands and bopped Remus with the Hippogriff.

“I guess that settles it,” Remus accepted his new name with dignity. He reached over to stroke Padfoot’s head, then felt his nose. “Your nose is wet,” he told Padfoot. “You must feel better.”

Padfoot gave a doggy sort of shrug. Harry evidently did not appreciate the turning away of attention from him, and he hit Remus again with his toy. Remus grabbed the Hippogriff suddenly and poked a surprised Harry in the chest with it.

“Harry,” Remus said clearly. “Padfoot. Moony. Harry.” Remus tapped each of them on the head with the Hippogriff as he said their names clearly, then offered the animal back to Harry.

“Hawy,” Harry said seriously, thumping himself in the chest. The tail of the toy flipped up and caught him across the nose, and Harry started to cry. Remus laughed as he gathered up Harry and stood, jostling him affectionately to soothe him. Harry settled down quick enough, but Remus continued to pace with him, taking comfort in the repetitive movements and Harry’s soft baby noises. Lulled by the warmth and rocking of the werewolf, Harry soon started to drift off and still Remus kept moving, knowing that as soon as he put Harry to bed, he would have to tell Sirius about the Longbottoms.

Eventually his arms began to tire, and with a sigh he went into the bedroom to lay Harry down in the small crib Molly had lent them. There was barely room to edge between it and the bed in the tiny bedroom, but Remus managed and then sat on the bed.

Padfoot had followed him silently and as Remus sat down, he patted the bed beside him for the dog to jump up.

“I’ve something to tell you,” Remus began heavily, and he saw a flicker of emotion pass through Padfoot’s eyes. “Yes, it’s more bad news.”

Padfoot whined and nosed Harry gently in question, then returned a pleading stare to Remus.

“No, thank god,” Remus shook his head. “Harry stays with us. It’s the Longbottoms.” Remus paused, trying to gather the right words. “Alice and Frank were attacked by Death Eaters, they’re at St. Mungos. They…they may not recover. Cruciatus Curse. Neville’s fine, but they’ve got him under memory charms.”

Padfoot continued staring at Remus for a few seconds more, but Remus had run out of news. Whining softly, Padfoot laid his head in Remus’ lap, and Remus stroked his head slowly, wondering if there was any more good news to be had.

* * * * * *

The news about the Longbottoms produced a relapse in Sirius, and he returned to sleeping most of the time, or following Remus around silently if he was awake. Finally the smell of depressed dog was more than Remus could bear, and he shooed Padfoot off the bed and rolled up the bedding, intending to shake it out outside.

He didn’t even get the whole way out the door. As soon as he opened the door, moonlight washed over Remus and he froze in his tracks, clutching the bedding.

The moon was only a few days short of full.

Nearly a whole month had gone by, but Remus had not noticed, had lost all sense of time while he was trying to hold Sirius and Harry and his sanity all together. Feeling suddenly cold and frightened, Remus closed the door and walked back to the bedroom in a daze.

Padfoot was leaning against Harry’s crib, snuffling at Harry’s scent while he was sleeping. Remus had seen him do it before and was not sure what Padfoot was after, whether he was memorizing Harry’s scent or searching for some trace of James or Lily. He stopped when he saw Remus and stared up at him.

Remus carefully sat the wadded up bedding back onto the bed and knelt beside Padfoot.

“Sirius,” he said in a strained voice, “the full moon is only a few days away. I’m going to have to go away, and you’re going to have to stay with Harry.”
Padfoot whined, but Remus didn’t know whether it was in response to his leaving or the idea of changing back to human. Remus chose to address the latter.

“I know you’re hurt,” Remus sighed, rubbing Padfoot’s head. “I know it’s easier to deal with things this way…but you’ve been Padfoot for better than two weeks now, Sirius. We need you here. I need you.”

Remus stood without waiting for an answer and went shakily to the kitchen to make himself some tea.

Sitting at the table, Remus cursed himself for forgetting the damn moon, putting everyone he had left in danger. He supposed he would have to go back to the Shack, a thought that made him shiver. He would have to talk to Dumbledore. He would have to transform alone for the second moon in a row, something that hadn’t happened since his school days.

I deserve it, he thought blandly. I deserve it all.

Remus felt more composed after the hot drink, if no less angry at himself, and he went back to the bedroom, fully expecting to find Padfoot asleep on the bed which still needed to be shook out and remade.

Instead he found Sirius sitting on the floor, still beside Harry’s crib, with one arm pushed through the bars to rest a hand on Harry’s back as he slept, and the other gripping one of the bars of the crib so tightly his knuckles were white.

Relief washed through Remus at the sight of his best friend in human form, and he dropped to the floor beside Sirius and hugged him tightly. Sirius let go of the bar and wrapped his arm around Remus awkwardly, drawing him closer.

“I’m sorry, Moony,” Sirius rasped, his voice raspy from disuse. “I didn’t…”

“Don’t,” Remus shrugged lightly against Sirius’ chest. “You were hurt. I just missed you.”

“Coward,” Sirius snarled, mostly to himself. “You had to grieve too. I should have been here. I should have been with you.”

Remus shivered as Sirius nearly repeated his words from Halloween night, It seemed like a lifetime ago. It had been a lifetime ago. Remus followed Sirius’ arm with his gaze and let it rest on Harry, dark hair mussed up from sleep.

“He looks so much like James already,” Remus commented idly. Sirius tensed up in his arms, the same way he had before whenever Remus mentioned James. Remus remembered his resolve to find out what Sirius was hiding. “Tell me,” he coaxed.

“Said he didn’t want us near Harry together,” Sirius finally mumbled.

“Who, James? James said that?” Sirius nodded and Remus felt suddenly cold. He was certain this time that he had surpassed his ability to feel any more pain, because he should definitely be feeling it now.

“Said we’d confuse him, said he didn’t want Harry thinking…” Sirius trailed off, shaking slightly. He took a soft, hiccupping breath.

Remus suddenly realized that it did hurt, it hurt a LOT, and he clung to Sirius even tighter as he tried to wrap his mind around this confession.

“He loved you,” Remus reassured after awhile, so used to patching up things between James and Sirius after a fight that even James’ death couldn’t break the habit.

“He loved both of us,” Sirius replied caustically. “Just not together.”

“Is that why he switched Secret Keepers?” Remus asked. Sirius shrugged, but Remus was unsure whether the shrug meant he didn’t know or he didn’t want to talk about it. “Sirius, he would have gotten used to it eventually,” Remus said.

“Won’t know now, will we?” Sirius snapped. His voice was already switching over from hurt to angry, and Remus took a strange sort of comfort in the familiar defense mechanism. “Nearly got his wish, didn’t he? That we couldn’t be with Harry. Even got us split up for the moon, you’ll be alone again thanks to that bastard…”

“Don’t,” Remus pleaded softly, and Sirius stopped speaking, but Remus could still feel him shaking under his hands. Sirius was quiet for a long while, his heart beating steadily in Remus’ ear, pressed against his chest.

“I was going to tell him to go fuck himself, you know?” Sirius suddenly continued. “To tell him that he couldn’t make me choose between you and Harry, that I loved you and he was just going to have to get used to it. That’s why I left that night, before I lost my nerve…if I wasn’t such a coward, if I’d have gone earlier…”

“You’d be dead too,” Remus interrupted fiercely, pushing away against Sirius’ chest to look him in the face, “and Harry would have nobody.”

“He’d have you,” Sirius protested.

“He’d have gone to Lily’s sister that first night,” Remus shook his head. “Dumbledore thinks there’s some kind of blood protection since Lily died for him. He’s probably right, but fought him every inch of the way…I wanted to crawl into a hole and never leave, but I kept thinking that if I didn’t fight for Harry you’d never forgive me.”

“Yes, I would have,” Sirius pulled Remus close again, finally slipping his arm out of Harry’s crib to wrap both arms around the werewolf. “I’d forgive you anything.”

“It isn’t me you need to forgive,” Remus sighed. Sirius stiffened a little, but didn’t reply. After several breaths more, Remus slid out of Sirius’ grasp and stood up.

“Come on,” he held out a hand to Sirius. “This bed needs to be shook out and remade, and then I’m going to sleep. I need to Floo Dumbledore tomorrow morning.”

Sirius climbed to his feet with Remus’ help and swayed a little, the result of relying on four legs for too long. He trailed Remus outside and helped him shake out the blankets, exchanging a wry smile with Remus over the quantity of dark fur that flew out of them. Neither of them spoke on the way back inside, and Sirius extinguished the lights of the front room and the kitchen as he went by.

Remus always found housework soothing, and it was a good thing one of them did, he mused as he tugged blankets and sheets over the corners of the bed. Sirius’ bed-making skills were negligible, and Remus handed him the pillows to re-case with a small smile. Sirius stuck out his tongue.

“Leave your things on the floor, I’ll spell them clean in the morning,” Remus told Sirius as he shrugged off his own robes. Sirius raised an eyebrow.

“Is this a ploy to get me into bed naked?”

The joke was so unexpected and welcome that Remus laughed loudly, then covered his mouth with a hand as he glanced guiltily over at Harry’s crib. Sirius half-smiled, a shadow of his usual grin, but it was a start.

“I’m not sure there’s room in here for both of us and our clothes,” Remus remarked as he and Sirius curled up together in the small bed. Sirius let out a soft snort of laughter, and Remus gave him a squeeze on impulse, thankful they could still make each other laugh. Sirius squeezed him back, his breath ruffling Remus’ hair.

When Harry cried in the middle of the night, Remus sat up out of habit, but Sirius pushed him back down.

“My turn,” Sirius rumbled sleepily. “S’probly my turn till Christmas.”

“Probably,” Remus smiled as he sank back down to the pillows. He squinted when Sirius lit his wand with a soft “Lumos”, and watched as Sirius lifted the crying Harry out of his crib.

Harry cried louder for a minute, not recognizing Sirius at first. Then he grabbed a fistful of the too-long hair that had slipped over Sirius’ shoulder. Harry stopped crying suddenly; he scrunched up his face in confusion as he took another chubby fistful of hair.

“Pafu?” he finally asked, looking comically perplexed.

“Yes, Harry,” Sirius told him. “It’s still Padfoot. Still me.”

Harry yanked on the hair, and Sirius grunted in pain, reaching up to untangle the hands from his hair. Remus laughed softly and Sirius narrowed his eyes at him.

“That’s enough of that,” he told Harry, pushing on the baby’s nose with a fingertip. Harry grabbed the finger instead, then yawned hugely. When his eyes began to droop, Sirius laid Harry back down in his crib. Harry protested sleepily, but didn’t cry. Instead, he started singing a nonsense baby song to himself.

“Pafu…Pafu…Mooey…Pafu Mooey…”

Sirius waited until Harry was fully asleep before putting out the wand and crawling back into bed. Remus rolled towards the wall to make room for Sirius to squeeze in alongside him.

“Kid even sings himself to sleep,” Remus murmured, refraining from commenting about the content of the song. “What more could you want?”

Sirius didn’t reply at first as he curled himself along Remus’ back, and Remus was almost back to sleep before he spoke.

“You’re going to the Shack, aren’t you?” he asked.

“Yes,” Remus replied.

“I wish I could do something.” Sirius’ arms tightened around Remus. Remus slid a hand up to cover Sirius’ fingers. “I wish I could be with you.”

“I know. Go back to sleep.”

* * * * * *

Remus returned from this moon even more torn up than the last. He stumbled into their erstwhile home and collapsed on the bed, apologizing mentally for anything he was bleeding on. The light from the front room was in his eyes, and Remus squeezed his eyes shut and wished dully that something would stop it. A moment later, he got his wish.

Remus cracked an eye open to see Sirius’ silhouette in the doorway against the light from the hall.

“How do you feel?” Sirius asked, not moving from the doorway. Remus smiled faintly at the familiar scene they were re-enacting, relieved that it would finally have a different ending.

“Come here and see.”

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