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.)
"Sirius? Sirius, are you there?"
Sirius, yawning sleepily, rolled over in the bed and muttered into his pillow. "Nonnow, s'jussa full moon..."
Sirius opened one eye at the frantic tone, then sat up in bed quickly. Andromeda's head was floating in the fireplace in their bedroom, looking worried and strained. He glanced at Remus, who was sleeping fitfully next to him, and rolled out of bed. He pulled some trousers on over his underthings and knelt on the hearth, throwing a pinch of floo powder in.
"What is it, Andi?" he asked, muzzily. "Better be good, I'm knackered — last night was the moon, you know — "
"Yes, I know," she said worriedly. "It's — it's our tenants."
Sirius tensed. "Your Werewolf Network Thingy people? Did one of them get loose?"
"No — " Andromeda bit her lip. "It's Anne, our young girl, she's hurt herself and she won't let anyone near her — she scratches and bites. We let her use the basement because she doesn't like to go too far from the house."
"How bad?" Sirius asked, glancing over his shoulder. Remus was stirring, sitting up stiffly.
"I can't tell, we can't get close. I thought — I know it's hard after the moon, but Remus..."
"What is it?" Remus asked hoarsely, resting his cheek on his knees and turning his head to watch Andi with remarkably alert eyes.
"None of your concern," Sirius said, turning back to Andromeda. "He's in no condition to do anything."
"Sirius, I'm all right — what's going on?" Remus slid out of bed, half-falling to the floor, and edged across to the hearth. "Andromeda, did something happen with one of your Support Network people?"
"Anne's hurt herself and she won't let us near her," Andromeda said. Sirius reached behind him for a dressing-gown slung carelessly on a chair and draped it across Remus, preserving his dignity. "I'm really worried, Remus, I didn't know who else to call — St. Mungo's will have to report her — "
"What about the others?" Remus asked.
"They Change somewhere else, they're never home for at least a day after -- "
"Okay, I'll come through," Remus said. Sirius grabbed his shoulder, but he shook his head. "I'll dress and be there soon."
"What should I do, though?" Andromeda asked.
"Have Ted fix some food. Sausages," Remus suggested. His joints crackled as he leaned back and stood up, staggering to the dresser and determinedly taking out a shirt.
"You'll do yourself a harm," Sirius said, hovering anxiously.
"I'm all right, I had the potion," Remus replied.
"You're not all right — "
"Then come with me, but don't stand there like an arsehole," Remus snarled. Sirius' jaw dropped. "Well, unless you're going to tie me up, I'm going to help that girl, Sirius. What would you do if it were me?"
Sirius sighed. Remus gripped his shoulder for balance as he stepped into some trousers. As soon as they were done up, Sirius pushed him gently onto the bed and took a pair of socks from his drawer.
"Stay there," he said, putting them on Remus' feet, following with his shoes. "We'll go through together. I'll talk, you stay quiet."
Remus nodded and stepped into the greenish flame, wrapping one arm around Sirius' shoulders when Sirius joined him, holding tight.
"Twelve Grimmauld Place!" Sirius said loudly and clearly, and soon they were stepping into the warm, sun-filled living room of Ted and Andromeda's upper-floor apartment.
"Remus, thank you," Andi said, helping them both out of the fireplace. "She's in the basement, she won't come out."
"All right," Remus said. "Sirius, the stairs..."
"You're an idiot," Sirius said, but he helped ease Remus from step to step, down into the back-room of Tonks & Tonks and around the staircase, through the door to the basement.
"Stay here," Remus said. "Nothing happens if she bites me."
"Except you hurt and bleed and — "
Sirius sat down on the top step. "I'm not leaving."
"Fine, but keep quiet, all right?" Remus leaned heavily on the banister and limped slowly down into the basement. From the darkness came the sound of harsh, heavy breathing.
"Anne?" Remus called. "Anne, my name is Remus, Andromeda called me. Is it okay if I light the room a little?"
No reply. Remus muttered a charm and green flame leapt up from one shaking hand, turning the murky blackness a flickering green. There was a curled shape in one corner, shaking.
"Hi, Anne," Remus said.
"Hi," said a young female voice, rich with pain.
"I'm a werewolf, like you. Andi thought I might be able to have a look at your wounds, okay?" Remus took two steps forward.
"Don't touch me," she said. "You're filthy."
Remus smiled a little. "Well, I haven't had time to wash — "
"Filth," she shrieked. He paused.
"Anne, I just want to make sure you're not hurt too badly, okay?"
"Your kind made me like this!"
Sirius growled low in his throat. Remus shot a look back at him that Sirius had never seen before and never wanted to see again, a look of pure annoyance tinged with disdain.
"Come on, Anne, I know what it's like. Just let me have a look at your cuts," Remus said, but he didn't move forward. "Someone's got to, sooner or later."
"You're not fine, we both know that. Andromeda's worried about you."
Silence. Remus took another few steps forward and crouched, level with her and perhaps four feet away.
"Who told you we were filth?" he asked, softly.
"Everyone," she answered. "I had a normal life before you — you freaks!"
"You haven't been a werewolf long, have you?" he asked. "What happened, Anne?"
She pulled in on herself and Sirius saw blood trickle down her cheek.
"What happened?" Remus asked.
"How do I know it wasn't you?" she asked.
"Because I don't bite people. I make sure I'm safe, just like you," he said. "Come on, Anne, I just want to look at your cuts, can you show them to me so that Andromeda won't worry?"
The girl lifted her face, streaked with blood and tears. There was a huge jagged slice down one cheek, but it didn't look deep. She was cradling her left arm in her lap.
"Is your arm hurt?" he asked.
"No," she said rebelliously. Remus held out a hand and, when she didn't flinch, he touched her left shoulder. Slowly he moved his hand down her arm. When he reached her elbow, she grunted.
"It's just sprained," he said with a smile. "Can you show me where else it hurts?"
Sirius hadn't realised until then that she was naked, wrapped in a dirty plaid blanket; Remus looked so clinical that it hadn't occurred to him the girl wasn't wearing much of anything. Then she reached down with her right hand and hiked up a corner of the blanket, displaying her upper thigh. Remus looked down and sucked air in through his teeth.
It wasn't possible for a wolf to bite itself where the bitemark was, high on her thigh, nearly crossing her hip. Besides, it was half-healed, more scar than wound at this point, though Sirius could see her pulse throb darkly where a blood vessel passed too near the surface of her skin. Remus spread his fingers and touched thumb and pinky to the wound; the deep canines were as wide across as his hand, and there was one sharp zig-zag where the wolf's tooth had broken or been pulled crooked at some point.
"Two, three months?" he guessed, looking at her.
"It hurts," she said, her voice a thin, keening whine.
"I know. I know," he said softly, spreading his hands. She looked at him warily, but when he didn't move she scooted forward, letting him pull her and the blanket into his arms.
"Sirius," he said unsteadily, and Sirius bounded down the stairs to help them both up, Andromeda on his heels. Anne gave a little shriek and darted from Remus to Andromeda as if his embrace had burned her. Remus looked at her sadly.
"Take her upstairs," he said to Andromeda, who tightened the blanket around her and obeyed. Once they were nearly to the top, Remus leaned on Sirius and let himself be half-carried upstairs as well. Anne and Andromeda were ascending to the flat, but Remus moved towards one of the stockbenches on the ground floor, sitting on it heavily.
"Well, that was exciting, you idiot," Sirius said. "You could have really hurt yourself, and all she has is a sprain."
"It's not the sprain, Sirius," Remus sighed, rubbing his left thigh distractedly. "She's one of those, you know. Raised thinking werewolves were filth, beneath human notice. It's not easy for her."
"That excuses it, does it?"
"She was assaulted, it's not as though this just happened spontaneously," Remus replied.
"I won't have you running all over England soothing weepy teenagers," Sirius warned.
"I seem to recall you doing quite a bit of running all over England for me," Remus retorted. "Just shut up for a minute, would you? I need to think."
"About what? How you're going to singlehandedly -- "
"She's my family, Sirius."
Sirius stopped dead, eyes widening. "What?"
"Not like that," Remus said, sighing. "Not blood. Just..."
He fumbled with the flies of his trousers, standing to pull them down. Sirius had seen the scar thousands of times, both when they were students and after, as a lover. He'd never paid much attention to it; it was just there, like an oversized birthmark — on the outside of Remus' left thigh, high on the leg, nearly crossing his hip. Remus spread his hand wide and pressed his fingers against it. The canines were exactly the width of his hand, from tip of thumb to tip of pinky. Just above his index finger was a sharp zig-zag where the wolf's tooth had broken or been pulled crooked at some point.
"Whoever did it to her, did it to me," Remus said. "Which means he's still alive. Which means whoever Walden Macnair shot, it wasn't the one who did this to me."
Sirius stared at the scar, at the way Remus' fingers curled against his skin.
"Even if she weren't, she's a child and she's hurt. If your compassion is big enough for me, it's big enough for her, too," Remus continued. "I can't do much, hardly anything — this I could do. You have to let me do it."
Sirius took Remus' fingers away from the scar with one hand and hitched his trousers up with the other, re-dressing him carefully.
"Promise me," he said, staring in Remus' dark brown eyes. "Promise me you will never go help someone else before you have help yourself, all right? If you go, I go too. Promise, Moony."
Remus nodded. "All right. I promise."
Andromeda came back down the stairs then, carrying a plate of sausages in one hand and two mugs of tea in the other. Remus fell on the sausages as though he'd never seen food before, picking them up with his fingers and then sucking on the fingers when they burned. Sirius blew on his tea to cool it.
"I can't tell you how grateful we are," Andromeda said, hugging Sirius one-armed around his neck and bending to kiss Remus on the crown of his head. "I was so worried. We love Anne, she's a good girl at heart."
"Better you than me," Remus said around a mouthful of sausage.
"She's just...a little confused still," Andromeda replied. "Ted's fixing her up a sling and working on her face. I just seem to pace and fret."
"You're very good at both," Sirius grinned.
"You're not too big to take a pummelling," she warned. Remus, having finished off two sausages in record time, sucked on the tip of his finger thoughtfully.
"Andromeda, do you know where Nymphadora is, these days? I need to subvert her for personal ends," he said.
"You're more likely to see her than I am, seems she spends every spare holiday she gets up at Hogwarts with Severus," Andi replied. "I'll write to her if you like. Is anything wrong?"
"Too much to list off, I'm afraid," Remus said quietly.
Harry didn't expect to see Remus for the Hallowe'en feast, given that the night before had been the full moon. He had made plans to go exploring after the feast; not outside the castle, since they weren't fools, but there were plenty of interesting places to go inside the castle. He and the others had considered a seance, or perhaps merely scaring the bejesus out of some seventh-years. Sporting with the sevenths was one of Harry's favourite pastimes, and he almost never got to do it.
Neville was fond of a lie-in and didn't wake up until noon on Sundays, generally. He probably wouldn't be really human until the feast, so Harry and Draco had spent the afternoon in the library discussing Quidditch in hushed tones until Padma joined them with her loads and loads of homework to do.
"Tonight's the night," Harry told her as she worked. "We're going to misuse your Time-Turner tonight. We've just got to, Padma, it's too great not to."
"Have you got a plan?" Padma asked suspiciously.
"Will you be happier if I do or if I don't?" Harry replied.
"If we're going to abuse a sacred trust we're going to do it properly and with malice aforethought," she said. "So you'd better have a plan, Harry Potter."
"Well, I have a few," Harry admitted. "I was thinking, let's charm our faces glowy-red and jump out at people."
"That's your plan?"
"It has the brilliance of simplicity," Draco said weakly.
"That's not a plan, that's just mean-spirited aerobics," Padma said acidly. "A plan involves split-second timing and possibly the use of pulleys and levers."
"Oh, I'll give you pulleys and levers — " Harry began hotly, but Draco kicked his shin under the table.
"Pince!" he hissed, and Harry subsided.
"What can you actually do with a time-turner, prankwise?" Draco asked. "I mean, we just assumed it would be the best thing ever, but do we have any actual ideas?"
"Well, you could pick someone and start showing up everywhere they did, all the time," Harry said. "Or keep putting something in their bag after they've taken it out. It must be brilliant for escaping if you're being chased."
"You're thinking about it backwards," Padma said. "It's not something that stops time. It just lets you jump back an hour or two. It'll help with escaping, maybe, but I honestly don't see what else you could possibly plan to do with it."
"Here's a thought," Draco said. "If we go back in time and arrange something, then we'll see it happen, won't we? And then we can figure out what we arranged after we see it happen, and go do it."
"I think that's a paradox," Padma said. "Anyway, it's nearly time to go down to the feast. Pack up your paradoxes and come along."
"Are you hauling all those down to the feast too?" Draco asked as she stuffed books into her bag. "At least let me take a few. And Harry," he added hastily. Padma gave him a lifted eyebrow, but offered each boy two large books.
They ran into Neville on the stairs, apparently coming up to find them.
"I've been down to the feast already, thought you'd be there," he explained, returning down the stairs with them. "It's pretty brilliant this year. There's a great big marzipan skeleton on each table — " he stopped in laughter as Draco's eyes lit up. "The House-elves like you, Draco."
"This isn't news," Padma said as they reached the side-entry doors to the Great Hall, pushing them open. Inside, candlelight from a thousand illuminated jack-o-lanterns flickered over the four House tables and the High Table where the professors sat. All the House banners had been blacked out except for a glowing white insignia, and —
Things on the tables were moving.
"Look at this!" Harry said, picking up one of the small white objects that was leaping around the table. It turned out to be a snapping pair of fake vampire teeth. He shoved them in his mouth and grinned at the others, fangs gleaming. "Tafes like bebbermin!"
"Dora!" Neville shouted, pushing past Harry. He ran to the High Table, where Professor Snape was standing by his chair, talking to Dora Tonks. "Hi! What're you doing here?" Neville blurted.
"Hiya, kid!" Tonks answered, bending over the table to tousel Neville's hair. The others joined him in a little knot at the table. "How are you? I'm here for the feast, with Severus."
"Oh," Neville said, glancing with wide eyes at Snape, who glowered. "Sorry, Professor! I mean! Not sorry — I — you're...you'd better look after her properly!" he said, face turning red, and bolted away again.
Harry walked past Snape calmly and winked. "You had better, you know," he said conversationally.
"How're you, Harry?" Tonks asked.
"Pretty well. You?"
"Thriving. Is your godfather around?"
Harry shrugged. "Probably down in Hogsmeade."
"Oh! At the Three Broomsticks, probably, they're having a big party. We're going after," she said, then glanced at Snape apologetically.
"Have a good time," Harry said, wandering on. "Say hi if you see him!"
"Will do — Remus! Hallo, you look like death warmed over!"
Harry turned so fast he nearly knocked Padma over; he stood aside to let her and Draco push through the crowds to their tables, craning his neck to try and see Remus.
When he finally managed to work his way back to where Tonks was sitting, he saw her shaking Remus' hand. Remus looked awful, eyes deep-sunk in his face and skin a pale, almost yellowish colour. He was leaning heavily on the back of Snape's chair.
" — glad you're here, I need to ask you some questions," he was saying. He didn't even look happy, but rather grim, as though he'd had bad news. Harry wondered if he and Sirius were in a fight. They almost never were, but lately he'd been too wrapped up in his own affairs to notice much.
"Any time — oh, do you really have to sit at the other end? Professor Sinistra, you wouldn't mind changing, would you?"
Sinistra, who had experienced Dora's accident-prone table manners before, smiled knowingly and ambled down the table to Remus' seat on the end.
"Hi Professor Lupin!" Harry called up. Remus turned down to face him, the unhappy look replaced with a smile.
"Hallo Potter," he said. "Happy Hallowe'en to you!"
"Happy Hallowe'en! How are you?"
Remus glanced down at his hands, where the skin was taut over the knuckles. "Better than I look, Harry," he said in an undertone. "Don't fret about me."
"Never do," Harry answered cheerfully, which only he and Sirius knew was a lie. All the times Harry had read to Remus after Changes, down in Betwys Beddau, had been as much for their sanity as for Remus' own comfort. "Seeya later!"
Remus waved him on and seated himself next to Tonks. As Harry went, he heard him say something to Tonks about research, which must mean he was okay; Remus was always okay when he was researching.
"I need your help with some off-the-boards research," Remus said quietly, mindful that other members of the faculty were still passing behind him and students were passing in front, stopping to say hello to their former Professor Tonks.
"Sure, anything I can do," she replied, popping a grape from a nearby platter into her mouth. "Work's taking me away a lot, though. What do you need?"
"Don't make promises you can't keep just yet," Remus said. "I need you to look into some MLE files for me."
She frowned. "What do you want with Magical Law Enforcement?"
"Dark Creatures affairs are all kept in the MLE archives, aren't they? I know formal reports are filed, at least usually."
Tonks was all attention now. "Is this to do with what Mum's up to with the Support Network?"
"Indirectly. I think an error may have been made in one of the files. One of the people staying with your mother has a bite pattern that's too similar to mine," here his voice dropped to almost nothing, "to be a coincidence. For the last twenty-five years we've believed that Walden MacNair — "
"Yes — that he shot the wolf who bit me," Remus continued. He nodded to Dumbledore as the Headmaster passed to the front to signal the start of the feast. "We know he shot a werewolf, but if this girl was bitten two months ago by the same person who bit me — "
Tonks turned to him, horrified. "He shot an innocent person?"
"We don't know that, but I think it might be likely."
"He's got to be brought up on charges!"
"Tonks, you can't. We'd have to testify and the whole thing would come out — I'd lose my job, she'd lose any chance she had at a normal life. Imagine what Harry would go through on my account."
"But Remus — "
"That's not why I asked you this," Remus said, helping himself to potatoes with a hand that barely trembled. "I need to know everything you can find about who bit this girl Anne, and where it happened, and whether there were any witnesses."
She gave him a long look under the fringe of her pink hair, then nodded. "I'll do what I can. You may have to settle for copies. I — "
At that point Severus touched her wrist and pointed upwards, and Remus followed their gaze. The candle-filled pumpkins that had been illuminating the Great Hall were fading into nothing, and the hall itself was falling very dark indeed.
Several of the Hogwarts ghosts suddenly appeared, drifting up through the floor with shrieks and yells. They crowded together at the top of the vaulted ceiling and suddenly arrowed away in all directions. Behind them, wherever they flew, the ceiling burst into points of starlight until the entire room was filled with them.
Remus glanced down and smiled at the furry black head resting on his leg. Sirius had insisted that he could only attend if Padfoot came with him, and Remus was disinclined to argue. The heavy weight on his thigh was comforting, as was the pure adulation in Padfoot's eyes.
He rubbed behind his ears and glanced back up at the brightly-lit ceiling, thinking of other times he had spent with Sirius looking up at the stars.
The feast generally lasted quite a while, and often the Professors went down to the Three Broomsticks after to attend the party there, drawing straws to see who would stay behind to keep watch over the school. Remus and Snape had both been exempted from the lottery, because Remus was hardly in a condition to prowl the halls and Severus — well, young love does have its way. Young was relative, in this case, but he was still the youngest of the professors save Remus, which conferred special indulgences at times.
Remus had wished Snape and Dora a happy Hallowe'en and left the feast early, escorted back to his rooms by his enormous Padfoot. When they were well away from the feast and unlikely to encounter anyone but Peeves, Sirius changed back and wrapped his arm around Remus' waist, tacitly offering support.
"You were very well-behaved tonight," Remus said, smiling despite the pallor of his skin and the slight rattle in his throat. "Good dog."
Sirius smiled and kept walking. "Come on, you sound like you need some sleep. You could have sent me to find Dora, you know."
"I wanted to go to the feast," Remus said. "I loved Hallowe'en at Hogwarts. Remember the costume parties Gryffindor threw?"
"Course I do. Seventh year we all went as Greek Gods."
Remus laughed. "That's right. You went with James as Castor and Pollux."
"And you were Haephaestus, and P — " Sirius stopped himself. "And Lily," he said, "went as Athena."
"And then James was annoyed because Andrew Bones was only a sixth-year and he showed up as Apollo, but you wouldn't let us prank him at all."
Remus coughed lightly. Sirius turned his head, then stopped in the hallway about ten feet from the door to Remus' rooms.
"Moony," he said, narrowing his eyes.
"Yes?" Remus asked innocently, digging in his pocket for the charmed key to open his door.
"Did Andrew Bones know about the Greek Gods ahead of time?"
Remus gave him a small smile. "Whatever do you mean, Padfoot?"
"I mean," Sirius turned slightly, pressing him into the stone wall, "Were you and Andrew Bones shagging behind our backs?"
"You're very direct," Remus replied, kissing him. "Don't tell me you're going to be jealous of wee Andy Bones, Sirius. He may have looked nice in a chiton, but he's married now, and was never a patch on you anyway."
"You and Andrew Bones?"
Remus nuzzled his ear. "I may have been pining for you, Sirius, but a boy has needs, you know."
"Pining?" Sirius asked, sounding pleased. "Really?"
"Pining," Remus confirmed. "Wasting away."
"Now you're just making fun."
"Step into my parlor and see how earnest I am," Remus replied, pushing Sirius gently down the hall, walking behind him. He was reaching around him to unlock the door, his other hand firmly secured on Sirius' belt, when Sirius grabbed his wrist suddenly.
"Don't," he said.
"Sirius, I'm not going to have sex with you in the hallway," Remus replied, moving forward again, but Sirius held his wrist too tightly.
"Don't touch the door, Moony," he said. The tone of his voice finally penetrated Remus' brain, and he raised his head to see why Sirius was suddenly afraid.
Criscrossing the solid oak door were a series of deep gouges, stained here and there with what looked suspiciously like blood. As though someone had taken a bloody knife and attacked the door in rage.
He watched, the world slowing down to half its normal speed, as Sirius reached out and plucked something small and white out of one of the grooves. He held it flat in his palm, staring at it. Remus stared over his shoulder.
"It's a fingernail," Sirius said. With mounting horror, Remus realised that whoever had done this hadn't bothered with a knife. He'd simply scratched furiously at the door until his nails broke and his fingers bled.
"Peter," Remus said. Sirius shook his head.
"Peter's not this mad," he answered. "This was Lucius Malfoy."
Time actually stopped for a second, Remus was sure. Then Sirius took a deep breath that sounded like a rumble of thunder, and things clicked back into place.
"We've got to warn everyone," he said. "If Peter and Malfoy are in the castle, they'll come for Harry — fuck, they'll come after Draco."
"Go," Remus said. "I can't run, I'll slow you down."
"Yeah, I'm leaving you here for Lucius Malfoy to find," Sirius retorted. "Come on, we'll go as fast as we can."
His breath was hitching by the time they reached the Great Hall again, but they'd made good enough time — nobody had begun to leave, and Dumbledore was still at the head table.
"Stay here — or come in as Padfoot," Remus gasped, leaning against the outer wall. Sirius changed without question and loped inside, making a beeline for Draco. The commotion of a large black dog bolting through the Great Hall did not go unnoticed, and Harry was at Padfoot's side almost as soon as he arrived. Remus leaned in the doorway.
"Close the doors," he shouted to Dumbledore. "Don't let anyone leave. There's an intruder in the castle."
The uproar was immediate, but even over the shouts of confusion Remus heard Sinistra's sudden cry.
"Headmaster," she called, pointing at the windows on the far side of the hall.
Outside it was dark, of course, that was expected; but now the glittering lights of the Hall threw shadows on the darkness, picking out the fall of a cowl or the reflection off slimy grey skin. The Dementors were flocking at every window, gazing in. Everyone fell silent.
Remus hoped he imagined the feeling of a low hum, just below human hearing, coming from the massed Dementors.