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.)
PG-13 for a bit of aggressive snoggery in a hallway.
Nymphadora Tonks had really been looking forward to Hallowe'en.
She was going to go to the feast at Hogwarts and sit next to her insanely smart boyfriend and say hi to all her students, and then after that she and said insanely smart boyfriend were going to go down to the Hallowe'en party at the Three Broomsticks. She'd always wanted to go to the party as a student and of course none of the tricks any student tried ever got them in, but that night she had planned on going. And after the party she was going to walk back to Hogwarts under the starlight and spend the night doing things with Severus that made her shiver happily just thinking about them. One of her friends at work had made fun of her for dating her former professor, but Dora couldn't care less. And the way Severus looked at her sometimes told her that he didn't care either, no matter what he said.
Instead of all that, however, she was sitting on the steps to the Hogwarts cellar, offering a handkerchief to a house elf with an eerily-crooked nose that was crusted all over in dried blood.
"Dobby innoo nuffin!" Dobby said, grasping his nose with the handkerchief and carefully bending it back into place.
"We know you didn't do anything, Dobby," the Headmaster said patiently. "We want to know what you saw."
"A MIG MOOT!" Dobby shrieked. Dora looked at Severus, sitting next to her on the stairs.
"A big boot," he muttered in translation. She nodded.
After Remus had burst into the Great Hall with orders not to let anyone leave, there had been a hurried conference amongst the professors before several ghosts were dispatched to check the professors' quarters and House common rooms. After half an hour most of them returned. The Fat Friar, however, was gone for forty minutes, then an hour.
When he finally returned, he reported that the painting covering the entry to the Hufflepuff common room had been ripped to shreds, and there was an unconscious house-elf nearby, just outside the kitchen entryway. Dobby, down from Hogsmeade to help with the feast, had apparently happened upon whoever was trying to get in and been booted in the face for his troubles. The painting's occupants, three medieval men who normally sat around a kitchen table playing cards, were nowhere to be found.
"We must search the castle," Dumbledore said, sitting on the step next to Tonks. He looked worried for the first time she could remember, and Severus looked positively gaunt in his concern. "Nymphadora, I am certain you understand why this is not a matter for the Aurors."
"They'll let the Dementors in," she said in a small voice.
"Yes. If, however, you would remain -- "
"Course I will," she said immediately.
"Stout woman. Dobby, you will return to the kitchen and have the elves see to your nose."
Dobby nodded groggily.
"Tell Denbigh to close down all kitchen entrances and send up hot cocoa and biscuits to the students. They will remain in the Great Hall tonight. No elf is to leave the kitchen without my express permission."
Dobby straightened and saluted with the bloody handkerchief before bolting off down the corridor.
"Come; there is much to do," Dumbledore said, rising and begining the ascent to the ground floor of the castle.
"The elf does have a history of troublemaking," Severus muttered as they climbed.
"With motivation, perhaps, but there is no reason this time -- no, I trust his testimony," Dumbledore replied. "Severus, you will search the Dungeons. If this is Lucius Malfoy's work, he may go to ground there. Nymphadora, take Argus Filch and make sure the other dormitories and tower entrances are sealed tightly. The rest of the professors will search the main halls. Give the passcodes only to the Heads of House."
"Yes, sir," Dora murmured. She glanced regretfully at Severus; no party tonight, no private affection (the only kind he showed) after. Dumbledore could not have separated them more completely if he'd sent her to Sibera.
But his hand did find hers, and he squeezed it tightly in the dim stairwell before letting go again.
"I will mind the children," Dumbledore continued. "Hagrid gets on well with the paintings; he'll try and see where our valiant cardplayers have gone, and make sure the others understand what is at stake. Canvas can be mended. Go now."
Severus veered off towards the dungeons and Dora began climbing the stairs, knowing full well that Argus Filch would be in his odious little office. Privately, she cursed Lucius Malfoy to hell and back.
In the Great Hall, the students sat quietly at their tables, watching the High Table warily. McGonagall had briskly taken charge and made the students squeeze down to one end, away from the windows where the Dementors leered in. She had then covered each window with black drapery to block the horrible sight, but nothing could quite block out the knowledge that they were there.
Remus was sitting at one end of the table, drinking a glass of brandy that Professor Sprout had fetched for him. There was more colour in his cheeks, but he looked very ill to Harry. Padfoot had not left Draco's side, and was being petted reassuringly by some of the other Hufflepuff third-years. Draco had his fingers twined in the thick coarse fur of Padfoot's neck and looked about as healthy as Remus did. The ghosts -- almost all of them, now -- were drifting around near the ceiling, speaking in low voices.
Harry glanced at Neville, who mouthed "Lucius" at him. Harry gave a slight nod. Padma was sitting very close, just across the aisle from Harry at the Ravenclaw table, and he leaned back to whisper "Lucius" in her ear.
"I think so," she replied in a hushed tone. "But how?"
"Dunno. Neville can hear them talking, maybe he knows."
He leaned forward again, suddenly, because Dumbledore had appeared in the doorway. The Headmaster crossed the room and stepped up onto the platform where the Head Table sat. He held up his hands for attention, rather unnecessarily; the room was stone-quiet.
"It appears as though there has been an intruder in the castle," he said, looking grave. "We do not know who or how yet, but the Hufflepuff dormitory painting has been slashed severely, and Professor Lupin's quarters were attacked. I am placing the prefects in charge of their Houses; the professors will need to search the castle. This naturally means that you must remain here, where you may be accounted for at any time. Stand, please."
As one, the students stood. Dumbledore waved his wand and the tables rose into the air, stacking themselves neatly against one wall. The benches followed. Another flick of his wand and the room filled with squashy purple sleeping bags.
"I have given orders for cocoa and biscuits to be served," Dumbledore said, just as small trays appeared next to each sleeping bag. "Very good. I will remain here with the prefects, so I would appreciate an absence of...monkey-business."
He turned to speak to the professors, and the students slowly began to unzip their sleeping bags and crawl inside. Harry elbowed Cricket Creevey, who'd been sitting next to him at dinner.
"Do us a favour, Cricket," he said. "Swap out with Longbottom, would you? You've pals in Gryffindor, shouldn't be any trial for you."
"Sure, Harry," Cricket said, looking as though he'd like to be closer to the High Table anyway. Behind him, Harry heard Padma striking a similar deal with one of the Ravenclaw boys, who sidled across the rows of bags and jerked his head at Draco. Draco bent down and spoke briefly in Padfoot's ear, then trotted across the Great Hall while the professors were still conferring amongst themselves. Padfoot slunk behind him, low to the ground, almost comically.
"Any news?" Harry asked Neville, scooting his sleeping bag closer to Draco and Padma's.
"Couldn't hear very well. Professor Lupin thinks it's Lucius Malfoy. Doesn't see who else it could be 'cept Peter Pettigrew."
Padfoot nosed Harry's hand, and Harry absently scratched behind his ears. The big dog wove himself around and between the four children, eyes watchful.
"No pranks for us tonight," Padma said, and Harry remembered she wasn't aware that Padfoot could understand more than he let on.
"You'd better go to Professor Lupin," he said to the dog, who snuffed reluctantly. "He's going to need you. We'll look after ourselves."
The dog gave a heaving sigh, but licked Draco's hand and crept back the way he'd come. Harry sat on his sleeping bag, and the others followed suit.
"Do you think he's in the castle?" Draco asked miserably. Padma patted his leg.
"The professors must think so," Neville said. "Lucky we were all here when it happened, you know. If we had gone pranking tonight he might've got us."
"Wonder how long it'll take word to get out," Draco said. "You know they'll be horrible about it. Everyone, I mean. He must've -- he must've been coming for me, mustn't he? Why else would he try for my common room?"
Harry, not knowing what to say and not quite able to look Draco in the eye, found himself watching the rest of the Great Hall instead. Other students were doing as they had done, brokering small swaps so they could be near their friends. He noticed suddenly that they were nearly encircled by the Slytherin Quidditch team; Towler gave him a small smile and a thumbs-up sign. Hufflepuff's team was slowly drifting over too, and Oliver Wood didn't bother to be secretive; he strode right up to them and hooked his thumbs in his belt.
"All right then, Malfoy?" he asked. Harry glanced over his shoulder. The rest of the team had formed a tight knot around Ron and Ginny Weasley, probably the Twins' doing.
"All right, Wood," Draco replied. Harry had a sudden sense of smallness; next to Oliver, the four of them looked very slight and fragile indeed.
"You, out," Wood said to a nearby Slytherin, and the girl hastily retreated to an empty sleeping bag on the Ravenclaw side. Oliver settled in next to Marcus Flint and silently dared the other Captain to say anything.
"He's a nutter, and he's your dad," Oliver said. His voice was calm and even. "But mostly he's a nutter. You're not. So. Up the school and down with nutters, eh?"
"Ta," Draco replied meekly. Harry gave Oliver a grateful look. Just beyond him, Cedric Diggory was bedding down next to Cho Chang.
"So," Oliver continued, now addressing himself with admirable civility to Flint, "Ja hear about the Cannons? Their Seeker lost an eye last match."
"Perfectly justifiable foul, he was blocking the Chasers," Flint answered. "Besides, he's getting fitted for a magical replacement."
"You can't play Quidditch with a magical eye, it isn't sporting," Oliver retorted. Their bickering was oddly soothing, and Harry turned back to Draco.
"If he's in the castle, Padfoot'll find him," he said. "You can't hide smell."
"Sure," Draco said. "Listen, I'm going to sleep, kay?"
"Okay," Harry replied. Neville followed Draco's lead, and soon most of the students were, if not sleeping, at least pretending to while they talked amongst themselves.
"I think you'd better go change," Remus said to Padfoot, when the dog returned to him. "Look, there's tons of big strapping students around Draco, he'll be all right. I want to talk to you."
Padfoot rolled his doggy eyes but crept off the dais, slipping out a side door. He returned a few minutes later, walking up to Dumbledore and greeting him loudly.
"You sent for me, Headmaster?" he said, in a voice that at least the Gryffindors would hear. Dumbledore played along immediately, to Remus' pleasure.
"Mr. Black, thank you for coming. You're well-versed in the school's layout -- I was wondering if you'd lend a hand. Professor Lupin, if you please?"
Remus rose and joined the pair, the three of them now the only adults left in the Hall.
"You two are more familiar with the ways and means of getting in and out of this building than any of the students, and I daresay most of the professors," Dumbledore said in a low voice. "If you have any information, now would be a good time to share it."
"There are six secret passages in and out -- Filch didn't know about any of them when we were here, but that might've changed," Sirius said promptly.
"Seven, weren't there?" Remus asked, frowning.
"No, I'm sure it was six -- " Sirius ticked them off on his fingers. "The one behind the mirror on the fourth floor, the one under the Whomping Willow -- "
"The first caved in, ten years ago," Dumbledore said. "I doubt even Lucius Malfoy could pass the Willow unharmed, but I will see to that myself tomorrow morning."
"Right. Then there's the dumbwaiter -- that won't help, it's only within the school -- and the secret door in the library." Sirius glanced at Dumbledore.
"The library door was sealed the same year you left Hogwarts, I believe," Dumbledore said smoothly.
"That makes four. There's an old servant's entrance behind your chair -- "
" -- removed during the kitchen renovation last year -- "
"And the first-floor boys' toilet. That was the one that led to the sweetshop, wasn't it? That was our favourite."
"The door is still there, but the big oak's roots have completely blocked the tunnel. Oak is surprisingly impervious to most blasting charms," Dumbledore finished.
"That makes six. Were there any others?" Sirius asked Remus. Remus shook his head tiredly.
"I don't think so. I don't remember. I wish we had the map," he said, then realised what he'd let slip.
"The map?" Dumbledore asked, and finally they saw a dangerous look in his eye.
"We used to have a map," Sirius said briefly. "We don't anymore. We gave it to Cara Kung when we graduated."
"A few years later she told me it was confiscated by Filch. He said he was going to burn it," Remus added. "It would have shown every possible way to get into the castle, and everyone within it on any floor."
"I see," Dumbledore said. "It's quite a shame you're much too old to be given detention. Peter Pettigrew knew of these passages?"
"He did, but if they're all sealed anyway..." Remus felt deep shame wash over him. Dumbledore was a good man and hardly deserved the sort of constant betrayal they'd committed at school. Sirius was studying his shoes.
"Sirius," Dumbledore said. "You will investigate both the damaged door and the torn painting, and track any scents you find to their source. Report to me when you are finished."
"Yes, Headmaster," Sirius said.
"Professor Lupin will remain here and supervise the search. Don't trifle with me, Sirius; he's much too ill to run about the castle with you. Go."
Sirius left, looking as guilty and ashamed as Remus felt.
"Headmaster -- "
"You were young, Remus, and I make great allowances for youth, but surely even you could have seen what a dangerous weapon the map could have been. You knew what was occurring outside of the school."
"I..." Remus spread his hands. "I'm sorry, sir."
"Yes, well. The blame is shouldered equally by a dead man, a madman, and your partner in crime. There's nothing to be done now and, as you say, the map has been destroyed." Dumbledore sighed. "We won't speak of it again. Are you well enough to remain here? Please don't lie to me."
"I am. There's nowhere I'd rather be," Remus answered quickly.
"Good. I don't expect that Lucius Malfoy lingered overlong, but one can't be too careful. This search will take time, and there are places I must search personally. Take reports, make sure nothing is overlooked, and in the meantime try to keep the students from killing one another."
Remus watched him leave the Great Hall, feeling very tired by the events of the past hour. He fought down the urge to burst into grateful tears.
Harry was nearly unconscious, in the dreaming twilight that was more hallucination than sleep, when he heard rustling and soft movement across stone. He incorporated it into the passing dream, hearing it as Snape walking swiftly across the cobbles of Knockturn, robes blowing in the wind. He was eight again, nearly nine, and it was Severus Snape who had rescued him from the shop in Knockturn and carried him back to the arms of Sirius when he was lost.
Do you know what they do to children who are disobedient to their parents, in Knockturn Alley? Snape asked, not towering over him as he had when it happened, but whispering in his ear. They eat them. Or turn them into mice.
Even as he dreamed it, however, he was aware of other things -- the overheated curl of Draco's back against his own, the soft wheezing of Neville's snores nearby, and of something crawling up his arm.
He started awake, sure that when he struggled out of the dream it would all blow away, but instead he felt the horrible crunch-hard sensation of insectoid legs on his arm, and looked up into eyeless sockets in a red, oozing face.
He screamed, which was all he could think of to do, even as he felt Draco jerk next to him and heard his accompanying cry. The horrible eyeless face jerked forward and Harry scrambled back, tumbling against Neville's stomach.
"OOGA BOOGA!" the face yelled, just as he heard Remus call "Lumos!"
The room flooded with light. Blinded, Harry shouted again in fear and kicked.
The owner of the horrible face grunted whoofingly and keeled over to one side. Harry stared, certain that one kick from a thirteen-year-old boy couldn't possibly have done that much damage to Voldemort himself, when he suddenly realised that the red, melting face had vanished and in its place was Fred Weasley's freckled snub nose and mocking mouth.
Another shape -- George -- tossed himself to one side, away from Draco, and skidded across the floor.
"What'd you do that for?" George demanded of Harry. Harry, furiously, kicked George too and thrust himself to his feet, meaning to leap on the pair and beat them senseless, fifth-years or not.
Remus, seemingly from nowhere, caught Harry by the collar and jerked him backwards, pushing past him. Other students were sitting up and shouting about the racket; Draco was pale and trembling, still only half-out of his sleeping bag. Remus hauled Fred and George upright effortlessly, both boys doubled over from Harry's kicks. Fred clutched his stomach, George his left shoulder.
Harry looked up at Remus, who was white with rage. He didn't speak, didn't seem to be capable of talking, just clenched Fred and George's arms in his hands until Fred cried out.
"Professor, you're hurting us!" he said. Remus shook him silent.
"Good," he replied, in a low and dangerous voice. "Remember it."
He released them both, and Fred rubbed his arm regretfully.
"I should lock you out of the castle," Remus continued. There was a tremble in it that had nothing to do with grief or weakness. "I should shove you into the arms of a Dementor and see how you enjoy it."
"We were only having a little -- "
"Fun?" Remus asked, and Severus Snape could not have poured more scorn into a single word. "You think it's fun to torment other children, do you?"
Oliver Wood loomed up on Harry's other side. Slowly, the Slytherin Beaters got to their feet.
"You enjoy making light of a murderer in the castle?" Remus demanded. "You find disturbing the sleep of others entertaining, Fred Weasley?"
Fred looked down at his feet.
"Do you, Fred? George?" Remus inquired.
"Nosir," they replied.
"What happened, Harry?" Oliver asked softly. Harry opened his mouth and found his throat was too dry for speech.
"Draco, are you all right?" Remus asked, without looking away from the shamed, penitent twins.
"I'm fine," Draco whispered. Padma, who had missed the action, was sitting up in her sleeping bag, arms draped protectively around his neck from behind, chin resting on his shoulder.
Remus lifted his head and raised his voice. "Does anyone else think it would be funny to play pranks tonight? Does anyone else think now is an appropriate time to cause confusion and distress?"
There was a chorus of frightened replies, scored for a few hundred anxious voices to the tune of "No, Professor".
"He kicked me!" George burst out, unable to take the shame any longer. "He knew it was me and he still kicked me!"
"You'll have worse before much longer," Remus answered coldly. "From your Head of House, to start, and I imagine from your Captain as well."
The twins looked apprehensively, pleadingly, at Oliver Wood. Oliver put one large hand on Harry's shoulder. Remus crossed his arms.
"High Table, both of you," he said. Fred and George glanced at each other, then made their slow way across the field of sleeping bags towards the front of the Great Hall. Remus looked at Oliver.
"I can take care of things here," Oliver said. "Right, Harry?"
Harry opened his mouth again and found speech this time. "Just startled," he managed. "We're all right."
Remus nodded curtly.
"Back to sleep, everyone," he called, dousing the lights once more. He charmed a small handful of green flame and Harry watched it dip and bob as Remus followed the twins back to the high table. He sank slowly back down on his sleeping bag.
"We'll kill them," Neville whispered in his ear. Oliver dropped among them, crossing his legs. Harry glanced at Marcus Flint and saw that his own Captain had slept through the entire thing.
"What the bloody hell happened?" Oliver asked in a soft voice.
"Fred and George," Padma sighed.
"I gathered that much."
"They made themselves up to look like -- like monsters," Harry said. "With no eyes and all."
Oliver ran a hand over his face. "And woke you up?"
Draco swallowed. "Guess so," he murmured.
"They're off the team," Oliver told Harry. "There's pranking and that's all well and good, but not tonight. They're off."
"You can't do that," Harry said, though he was startled to hear himself say it. "You're playing us in a week. You won't have time to train new Beaters."
Oliver gave him an odd look. "You're worried about that?"
"Well, they didn't do anything unsportsmanlike," Harry continued, though it felt as if someone else was saying the words. He felt detached from it all, as though "Harry" had fled to somewhere in the back of his brain. Oliver was staring openly at him now. "You can't punish the whole team because Fred and George are arseholes."
"Hear hear," Neville said. "McGonagall's bound to do something really awful to them, Oliver."
"I think they should be expelled," Padma said vehemently. Draco made a little choking noise as her arms tightened painfully around his neck. "Sorry," she added, releasing him.
"Sokay," he gurgled.
"We'll talk about it in the morning, anyhow," Oliver decided. "Think you lot can sleep?"
Harry and Draco nodded, though Harry privately thought neither of them actually would. Oliver waited until all four of them were once again lying silently in their sleeping bags before he crouch-walked back to his own and crawled inside.
Harry lay awake a long time, straining to hear what Remus was saying to the twins, but they were much too far away and the sudden shock had made him strangely tired. His last vision before he slipped back into sleep was of Draco's eyelids drooping slowly over his pale grey eyes.
Remus knew he was shaking visibly and he knew he was frightening the twins; he knew that even Molly, who was fairhandedly stern with all her children, and especially Fred and George, would be angry with his treatment of her sons.
"Professor McGonagall will be notified as soon as she is available, though I don't see why you want to waste her time punishing you when a dangerous man could be loose in this castle," he said to the two silent, now-sullen boys. "I will personally notify your parents of what you have done. I won't bother asking what you were thinking, because I'm certain you weren't. You do realise that you may have been mistaken for the man who attacked the castle this evening? That I might have killed you because I thought you were someone else, attacking a student?"
The twins were saved from answering by Sirius, who put his head in the door that Remus was standing in front of.
"I'm bollocks-freezing and the professors are all wandering the halls, running into each other and throwing hexes without thinking," he said. "I've done all I can -- hallo boys," he said, coming around Remus to tousel their hair. "What're you doing up? Volunteering to help? Because if you go out there you're liable to be knocked on your arses -- "
He turned at that point and Remus knew he must look actually terrifying, because even Sirius started.
"What's happened?" he asked.
"You two, sit there," Remus said, pointing to two chairs at the opposite end of the high table. "If you so much as move, you'll be sweeping halls with Filch until you graduate."
The boys obeyed silently and stiffly. Fred rubbed his ribs as they went. Remus took Sirius by the arm and pulled him back out the door, into the dim hallway.
"Did they -- " Sirius managed, before Remus slammed him up against the wall so hard he grunted. Remus pushed up against him and kissed him roughly. He knew he was shaking, knew Sirius could feel him shaking, but all that adrenaline had to go somewhere and Sirius was closest. He had felt a strong and terrible urge to hurt the twins, something that he recognised from full moons as the wolf's urge to eviscerate anything that came near his pack. Even now, with Sirius' fingers in his hair and willing body arching against him, he could feel the low instinctual push to kill.
Sirius moaned. "Moony -- "
Remus bit his earlobe.
"If I didn't have to see to the children in there," he heard his own voice rasp, low and aggressive, "I'd take you right here."
He stepped back, really more like pushed himself back, and Sirius stared at him with dark, confused eyes.
"Get McGonagall," Remus said, breathing deeply. "Tell her Fred and George Weasley assaulted two students and I'm locking them in her office for the night. You'll need to take them there. I have to stay with the students."
Sirius, still leaning against the stone, nodded slowly. He moved forward, kissed Remus a second time, and loped down the corridor, heading for the main stairs.
Remus wiped his mouth, faintly appalled at himself, and walked back into the Great Hall. The rustle of whispers that had risen in his absence abruptly ceased.