Laocoon's Children: The Fugitive from Azkaban
AU. When Sirius and Remus go looking for Peter Pettigrew, they make a wrong turn and someone else finds him first. Eight years later, Sirius owns a book store and Remus manages it for him. When Harry stumbles into the store and they find out the truth, they decide it's time to be Stealing Harry. (SB/RL slash relationship in later chapters.)
October 4, 1993
Well, here I am, writing to you -- partly because I want to hear from you, partly for lack of better occupation, I'm afraid. I'm on bed-rest today after the moon, though I don't mind it so much. Teaching is terrifically exhausting and it's almost nice to have an excuse to skive off a day, especially a Monday.
I'm writing from the bedroom overlooking Creadonagh Valley in the house Sirius has purchased, on the outskirts of Hogsmeade. We haven't named it yet. At the start of the school year I thought the Oh Merlin It's So Bloody Orange House would be a good name; Sirius has since repainted it a nice shade of green with white trim and it's almost painfully domestic. Painfully Domestic House, however, doesn't precisely have the right ring to it either.
I was glad to hear that the Werewolf Support Network hasn't caused you any problems so far. It sounds as though you have good, hardworking people staying with you and I'm sure they're grateful for the assistance. I wouldn't worry too much about the younger girl -- pride is hard to overcome, and so is natural shyness. She'll warm up to you if you give her time, I've no doubt. Perhaps Nymphadora might take her to lunch, it's hard to make friends in a strange new city. The important thing is that she's working and earning some money and self-respect. It's a good thing you're doing, despite Severus' reservations.
In fact, speaking of Severus, I've just finished up my first account ever of a full moon spent as a wolf, for his research. It took quite a while to get it all down, though Sirius helped a bit and I wanted to record it anyway. I've spent so many years wondering what it was like, so many years having to go on faith and assurances by Sirius and the others that I hadn't hurt anyone -- hadn't hurt one of them, which was always my biggest fear. Now...
Well, I've never done hard drugs, but I imagine the experience is similar, and similarly hard to describe. I've always remembered the pain; this time I remembered so much more -- the aftershock of pain, you know -- like how a scratch can hurt more an hour afterwards than it did at the time. Even so, it's a background echo in the end. Everything becomes so much more vivid, so much more sensory. Every nerve seems to stand up and scream its presence. You take for granted that cats and dogs and wolves have whiskers, but you never really think about what it must feel like, until you feel it. It's absolutely amazing, Andromeda. All these years I've thought I'd trade in my lycanthropy in a flash for a chance at a normal life, and I still would -- trade it, that is -- but...
I'd hesitate now. I'd pause just for a moment and ask myself if it was worth it. It would be worth it, to live like normal people do, but I'm glad to have at least experienced the wolf on my terms, not on his.
Which leads me to the other thing I thought I ought to tell you. Scent is ridiculously vivid, in the wolf, and the smell of humans and magic are both very distinct. Once we'd decided I was more or less safe, we got out of the house and I must admit I lost myself in the Forbidden Forest for a while, on the Hogsmeade side where the Dementors aren't permitted to go. It was just so amazing, the richness of -- of existence, Andi.
But while we were out there I picked up a scent that I didn't recognise, or rather I recognised it and couldn't place it. I spent all morning wrestling with what it might be, but I think I've finally figured it out. It smells like Peter Pettigrew. Like he was in the Forest, all over it in fact.
I can't be certain, really, it could be my mind playing tricks on me and the Aurors in the paper have said over and over again that Lucius Malfoy can't be anywhere near Hogsmeade. I don't even know that Lucius and Peter are together, though I strongly suspect it. All the same I've written to Nymphadora about it. I can't come out and say it publicly, people will ask how I knew and that's something I have to protect as much for Harry and Sirius as for myself, but Nymphadora can tip off others on the sly, and I thought you ought to know. Draco's your nephew and Narcissa your sister, which makes you a target -- and I'm certain that where Peter goes, Lucius follows. By now it might even be the other way around. Sirius and I are protecting Draco, and so is Severus in his own way, but you and Ted need to be careful too. Please look after yourself down there in London.
Remus did return to class on Tuesday, against the combined advice of Madam Pomfrey and Sirius. He walked steadily enough and his voice was clear, but his robes hung somewhat loosely on his shoulders and there were dark shadows under his eyes. The Change took more of a toll on a thirtysomething than it had on a teenager, but the potion and Padfoot's presence together had ensured that he came through unscathed, for once. Besides, he'd had two days of bed rest on Snape's orders, plus another embarrassingly thorough examination.
He arrived early to put his classroom in order and look over his notes; apparently that Umbridge woman hadn't left any record of what she'd gone over with Monday's classes, which was shabby of her but probably pretty in-character. His classes went mainly without a hitch until the last hour of the school day, which he had free on Tuesdays. As the students were filing out, Dumbledore looked in -- and some of the students smirked when they saw him, never a good sign.
"Remus, I was wondering if I might discuss a small...disciplinary measure with you," Dumbledore remarked, serenely seating himself in one of the front row desks. Remus took the desk across from him, relieved to be able to sit down.
"Of course -- why me, though?"
"It concerns yesterday's Defence classes," Dumbledore replied, taking a roll of parchment out of an inner pocket of his volumnous robes. "Apparently your afternoon classes were quite docile and pleasant, according to the account I received from Miss Umbridge. Your morning double-class, on the other hand..."
Remus put a hand to his forehead. "My third years," he said. "Harry did something horrifying, didn't he."
"It would certainly seem so, according to this letter of complaint. To judge by Miss Umbridge's vitriol, he only barely stopped short at physical assault. I shall spare you her details, but it appears that Mr. Potter insulted her, encouraged a mass insubordination, argued with her, called her a liar, and demonstrated a complete lack of respect for the institution of Hogwarts, the Ministry and, so it would seem, all of Wizarding Britain. She recommends his expulsion from school. She recommends mass punishment for the rest of the class as well, for disrespectful and insubordinate behaviour hardly befitting children half their age."
Remus stared at him, stunned. "What on earth did they do, tie her up and play may-pole with her?"
"I imagine she's too short," Dumbledore said calmly. Remus tried not to smile. "As I understand it, the debate began over a portion of her lecture regarding werewolves."
Remus was instantly sober. "Werewolves, sir?"
"Mr. Potter has strong views on the treatment of werewolves. So does Dolores Umbridge, as you know."
"I see. What are we to do?"
Dumbledore studied him. "As their teacher, it is primarily up to you. Of course we cannot allow mass disrespect for a guest at the school go unpunished, but I've found corporal punishment very ineffective on disobedient children, on the whole, as I'm sure you'll recall."
"But we have to show we did something," Remus replied.
Harry knew that he was in deep trouble when Dumbledore stood up for evening announcements at Tuesday dinner and requested all Gryffindor and Slytherin third-years to report for a special meeting in the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom following the meal.
A chorus of knowing "ooooh"s rippled through the hall and Harry looked up to find Remus gazing directly at him; Umbridge must have called a conference or left a note or something. Harry was pretty confident he wouldn't be expelled, but he had no expectations after that -- and while he was fine being angry with Remus, he didn't like Remus being angry with him.
"It'll probably just be detention for a month or something," Neville said bracingly as they walked towards class, extra food wrapped in napkins in their pockets in case it was a long detention.
"That's your idea of whistling in the dark? Detention for a month? I have Quidditch, you know. Merlin, what if I'm thrown off the team?"
"Remus wouldn't do that, he knows you love Quidditch."
"That's exactly why he would do it if he had to punish me badly enough," Harry said.
"When was the last time Remus punished you?"
Harry had to really think about that one. Punishments in the Black-Lupin-Potter house were rare occasions and usually resulted more from getting caught than from whatever he'd done in the first place.
He hadn't actually formulated an answer before they reached the classroom and sat down. Dumbledore was seated off to one side; Remus was leaning against his desk, arms braced on the edge, head bowed in what was probably exhaustion. Harry felt a twinge of guilt over his behaviour for the first time. He hadn't intended it to put any kind of stress on Remus.
"I'm sure you all know why you're here," Remus said, when everyone had arrived. "You're not stupid enough to think that Umbridge wouldn't inform me of what you did during yesterday's class."
Hermione's hand immediately went up. Remus looked at her, and she slowly put it down again.
"I have been given a detailed account of yesterday's class by Ms. Umbridge," Remus continued.
"Miss Umbridge," someone whispered. A good portion of the class laughed. Remus frowned.
"Ms. Umbridge was a guest of the school, and reports to the Minister for Magic himself," he said. "You don't have to like her, but you were required to listen to her and wisdom should have dictated that you give someone in her position a good account of Hogwarts school. A good account of me, if it comes to that, as your teacher and the person responsible for your discipline."
"But she was lying," Harry said, before he could help himself. The rest of the class nodded in assent. "And worse, she was boring."
"Do you think Hogwarts School's primary goal is to entertain you?" Remus inquired.
"Well, you always manage it when you teach, so I should think it would be in the bylaws somewhere," Harry retorted. Others began to speak until Remus held up his hands; everyone fell silent immediately.
"I will grant that Ms. Umbridge's account is likely biased, as I have had some experience with the woman myself," he said. Harry glanced at Dumbledore, who wore a faint smile on his face that told him nothing of the Headmaster's thoughts. "I would like to hear your side, but not from everyone at once."
He consulted a scroll on the desk behind him.
"She names Harry Potter, Parvati Patil, and Hermione Granger by name," he said. "You three, stand if you please. Can you tell me why you are mentioned above and beyond?"
"We're the only ones whose names she learned," Parvati said.
"Oh, I reckon it was because I called her a liar and refuted her evidence," Harry said.
"On the subject of...werewolves, I see," Remus said, consulting the scroll again. "What did you say to her, Mr. Potter?"
Harry swallowed. "I volunteered to give the five ways a werewolf is differentiated from an ordinary wolf. Then she asked me how you tell a werewolf from a human being and I told her you couldn't, and that it didn't matter because werewolves aren't dangerous except at the full moon."
Remus nodded. Harry hesitated, then continued. "She said I was wrong."
"Harry felt he had a moral imperative," Hermione put in.
"A moral imperative?" Remus asked, with a trace of amusement.
"Werewolves are people too, sir," Hermione said. "Nobody goes around teaching us racism. Why should she get away with it?"
"The Ministry-approved source on werewolves is some musty old book from sixteen something that's not even accurate," Harry added. "I asked her why the Ministry didn't use Sanzecki's work, it's barely fifty years old and it involved actual research. I really did want to know, too. Then Theo -- " Harry gestured to him, and Theo glared as if he'd spilled some big secret, " -- wanted to know who Sanzecki was, but she ignored him. So we started asking questions, but she kept ignoring them. So we had to work out the answers, too. That's all. It's not like anyone threw spitwads or anything."
Remus hesitated. "That's all you did? Ask questions?"
"Well, we had to talk over her 'cause she wouldn't stop talking, but yeah, basically."
Remus turned to Dumbledore. "Headmaster, I really can't countenance much punishment for students asking questions. They were only doing what I've taught them to do."
"Indeed, what I advised them to do on introducing Miss Umbridge," Dumbledore said. "Tonight's detention, and a short essay on some subject of your choosing, perhaps?"
"My thoughts precisely," Remus replied. "You can sit down, Harry, Parvati, Hermione. Now, let's talk a little bit about common sense in Defence, as long as I have you all captive as an audience for the next few hours. Defence isn't simply a matter of spells, it's a matter of how to think, and how to look at things. You treated Ms. Umbridge as an enemy, but what did you learn from her first? What does this tell you about the Ministry? About its policies? How does this apply to other dangerous situations you may one day find yourself in?"
At some point, while Remus was writing ideas down on the chalkboard and the students were calling out observations and remarks -- in a respectful if disorganised fashion -- Dumbledore disappeared from class. By the time they ran out of ideas it was nearly time for lights-out. Harry, Theo, and Pansy strolled back to the Dungeons proud of their accomplishment and just a little excited about having gotten away with it so handily.
"See, when they're good teachers, it's not about us versus them," Theo declared to Harry. "Professor Lupin never makes you think he's the enemy."
Harry, privately, thought this was a good thing. If nothing else, the evening's detention had shown just how good thirteen-year-olds were at finding their enemy's weakenesses and preying on them mercilessly.
Between classes and Quidditch practice, October seemed to rush past. Harry spent his free afternoons practicing Quidditch plays, usually with Neville's help since Padma and Draco were still occupied with studying on those days. Neville wasn't very athletic, but he and Harry designed a small machine that would shoot golf balls into the air at varying degrees of altitude for Harry to chase down. Sirius gave his approval and helped with the charms when they got stuck, suggesting that they patent it and sell it to Madam Schaeffer's Educational Toy Shop or Quality Quidditch Supplies once they worked the kinks out.
Draco was practicing too, in his spare time and with his team in the evenings, though he took a fair amount of continual ribbing for nearly falling off Harry's broom in tryouts. He hadn't yet bought his own broomstick -- his allowance from Narcissa was generous, but it would take a month or so to save up for it. Any of his friends would have loaned him some money, and Sirius would happily have bought it for him as a gift, but Draco seemed to want to train on a substandard broom. He said it would make him a better flyer when he finally did get his Nimbus.
Harry barely had time to be concerned about Draco's progress anyway, since he and the rest of the returning team had two new Chasers and a new Beater to train. Harry supposed he ought to be happy for Crabbe that he got the Beater position, since Crabbe was in his year, but Crabbe was also exceptionally dim and didn't catch on very quickly to the flexible nature of the Slytherin playbook. Harry, Towler, and Pucey could make mid-air alterations in plays when necessary, but Crabbe sometimes still ended up in positions that made it clear he was working off laboriously-memorised plays and not real-time observation. Colin, as expected, had not even come close to qualifying for Chaser, but the two fifth-year girls that were tapped as Chasers were decent enough. Besides, this year Harry could occasionally suggest new plays without having to go through Snape; he'd been on the team two years and was at the very least senior to the new players.
The weather grew cold and wet as Hallowe'en approached, which wasn't great for Quidditch practice but did help ease the heat a little bit in the stifling Divination class. Harry had started to dread Divs as much as he suspected Remus had when he was at Hogwarts. Sirius was right; it was easy, and Trelawney wasn't exactly great at discerning fake star charts from the real thing. But it was also hot and boring, and Harry began to wish he'd taken Arithmancy like Remus said, or even only taken two new classes like Draco and had a free afternoon a few times a week. He was rather fond of his tarot cards, but only because they were useful for playing poker with when Trelawney wasn't looking.
Before he knew it, Hallowe'en was almost on them and notices had been posted on all the common-room boards that the first Hogsmeade weekend would be the last weekend in October.
"Nice of them," Neville said. "We can buy lots of sweets for Hallowe'en and such, and I bet the whole town will be done up for the holiday."
Draco picked at his breakfast, looking morose. Padma sighed unhappily.
"I'm sure you'll be able to go next time," she said. "Can't you ask Dumbledore or someone to sign it?"
"Did already," Draco muttered. "A professor can't sign for you because then Hogwarts is still responsible if you get hurt or die or whatever. It's fine, I reckon it's not as good as Diagon Alley anyway and I've been there often enough."
"Sure," Harry said. He'd been to Hogsmeade a handful of times and knew that he was lying through his teeth, but it would make Draco feel better, anyway. "I mean, the sweet shop's pretty good and Zonko's has some great pranks, but other than that it's mostly just the Shrieking Shack, and that's not exactly scary most of the time."
Padma rolled her eyes at Harry and he frowned, perplexed, before dismissing it.
The first Hogsmeade Saturday dawned clear but cold, with a sharp cutting wind that promised snow before too much longer. It was also the full moon, and Harry wondered who they'd have as substitute on Monday again as he and the65t7rfdtg others walked to the entrance hall.
"We'll bring you a load of sweets back from Honeyduke's," Neville promised Draco, who seemed to have made his peace with not going and was walking along with a blank look on his face, hands in his pockets.
"And Sirius is taking us to lunch, so we can see how Dobby is," Harry added.
"I hope you have a good time," Draco said, sounding mildly unconvincing. "Don't worry about me, I'll be fine."
Filch, the caretaker, was standing at the front doors, checking names against a long list clenched in one grubby hand. Draco left them there and retreated before either Filch or one of the other students could make a remark; there had already been a few about ickle wee Malfoy, whose mad mummy wouldn't let him go to Hogsmeade.
Draco watched the others walk away, down the path to Hogsmeade, from behind a pillar just inside the grand oak doors of the Hogwarts front facade. When he couldn't see them any longer, he turned to -- go back to the Hufflepuff dormitory, he guessed, or maybe up to the library.
He started back with a shriek when he saw someone else in the hallway, watching silently, but Remus grabbed him before he could stumble and knock his head into the column behind him.
"Hallo," Remus said, grinning at him. "It's only me, don't worry."
Draco smiled, relieved. "Hi, Professor Lupin."
"Like you, I'm good at lurking in corridors," Remus said, but there was no accusation in his voice. "Everyone gone down to Hogsmeade?"
"Yeah," Draco said. "Thought I might go to the library for a bit. Aren't you going too?"
Remus frowned. "Well, I'm supposed to, but Severus said no strenuous labour, and chaperoning several hundred students in Hogsmeade doesn't exactly qualify as restful. The new potion trial, you know," he added, gently guiding Draco away from the front door and down the hallway. "I don't suppose you'd keep me company? It's very boring, being stuck in the castle."
"Tell me about it," Draco answered glumly. "Reckon you're going to lunch though, aren't you? Harry said Sirius is taking everyone..."
"Not even lunch," Remus replied, sounding more cheerful than Draco would have in a similar situation. "Until we know the effects of the potion in full, I've got to do as the good Professor orders -- even grownups are prisoners of one thing or another," he added, his hand still on Draco's shoulder. "You're welcome to come have a cup of tea with me, if you like. It's not Hogsmeade, but..."
"Sure," Draco said eagerly. It beat hanging about with the second and first years in Hufflepuff, at any rate, or sitting alone in the library.
"I missed out on a number of Hogsmeade weekends when I was at school, for one reason or another," Remus continued as they walked. "My parents, you know, were quite as bad as yours. I had to fight with them for weeks to get my permit form signed."
"I don't think fighting with mum -- "
"Oh, I agree. And it wasn't really fighting -- Lupins don't fight -- but it was quite a chilly summer in our household. At any rate, bed rest is no kind of fun when all your friends are down at Honeyduke's nicking chocolates. Nor, I imagine, is tea with your professor," he said thoughtfully. "You know, there's no injunction against a calm stroll. Would you rather explore Hogwarts a bit? I could show you some new places, I reckon."
"Reckon I could show you a few," Draco replied, grinning.
"Oh, you think so?" Remus challenged.
"As long as you don't rat about them to Dumbledore."
Remus laughed. "You aren't wandering round the roof or leaping down stairwells, are you?"
"Then I think your secret is probably safe with me."
Draco stopped him in front of a staircase. "Do you know about the music room?" he asked.
"Music room?" Remus said, raising both eyebrows.
"Wait for it," Draco told him, climbing through the portrait-hole into the music room they'd uncovered last year. "Padma found this place and somehow weasled the passwords..."
"Brilliant," Remus breathed, sounding very like a student as he stepped into the music room. "This place never showed up on -- "
"On what?" Draco asked, his voice muted by the room's accoustics.
"Nothing," Remus said absently, strolling over to the window that looked down on the Hogwarts grounds.
"Now listen," Draco declared, going to stand in the centre of the room, on the sunburst that was laid into the floor. He opened his mouth to sing one of the naughty limericks they'd written last year, then changed his mind and recited, instead.
Derwent College, Oxford, '36
My father's laughter still in echoed halls
The disapproving click of heels on stone
And time, as ever, subjugating all.
Two hours each week I had, in colonnades
Arched slyly over walkways few will see.
My father's world is books and wooden chairs
A lifetime spent in peaceful academe.
But passion spirals down another path
In dreams of books and chairs of different kind
And fame unwanted crowned my sandy head
The colonnades unfaded from my mind.
Sometimes it longs for rich obscurity
(My father walks with Tolkien and Belloc)
But dreams of quiet contemplation yet
Must wait for one more poem, one more book.
Such silence as my father's study saves
Awaits, as my inheritance, the grave.
As he spoke, the words appeared on the chalkboard that took up one wall of the room. When he was finished he glanced at Remus, but his professor was leaning against the window, listening raptly.
"That's impressive, from memory," he said.
"It rhymes," Draco said. "Makes it easier."
"Undoubtedly. Did Harry give you Graveworthy's book? I didn't think he had the collected poems."
"No -- he hasn't. I've been nicking the novels off him, though. One of my tutors gave me his poetry book," Draco admitted. "He said it was one of the Great Works. Mum's never read it or she'd probably make me throw it out."
"Do you know what it means?"
Draco scowled. "I'm not stupid."
"I didn't say you were, Draco."
"Graveworthy's dad was a professor at Derwent, it's obvious enough. He wishes he was too, but he decided to write instead and now even if he was going to go and teach he'd never get any peace because he's famous," Draco said.
Remus smiled, as if he knew something Draco didn't. "Very good. You've given me an idea, actually. I'll work on it later; come on, let's go have that tea. I'm exhausted from the stairs."
He rested his hand on Draco's shoulder again after they climbed out of the portrait-hole, but Draco could feel the weight behind it now, and walked slow so that Remus wouldn't have to hurry to keep up.
Harry, Padma, and Neville returned from Hogwarts windblown and happy, well-fed from a ridiculously large lunch with Sirius and bearing sacks of sweets and jokes. They congregated with Draco after dinner in the library, unceremoniously kicking a handful of first-years out of the study alcove that Madam Pince couldn't see from her desk.
"Hogsmeade's really historic," Padma said, paging through a book she'd bought on the town's history. "The Three Broomsticks was the headquarters for a Goblin rebellion in the seventeenth century, and most of the houses are incredibly old. I don't see why more people don't want to properly study it, it's got to be so interesting living in the last wizarding village in Great Britain."
"Brought this for you," Harry added, upending a small paper bag onto the table. Dozens of sweets tumbled out -- chocolates wrapped in waxed paper, a box of Fizzing Whizbees, Pepper Imps and Green Dragon Toffee (one of Draco's favourites) and a small cheap balsa case filled with exploding bonbons packed in dried coconut shavings.
"We looked at broomsticks too," Neville said. "Soon as you want, Sirius can go down to Dervish and Banges, they have a Quidditch department and they sell Nimbus two-thousand-ones. Really top-level."
"You have to come see the post office at some point," Padma added. "Hundreds of owls all sorted by speed and size -- and the smell!"
"Thanks, I'll pass on that," Draco said, smiling.
"You're in a good mood," Neville observed.
"I had a nice day," Draco replied.