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.)
At one point in this chapter I have used dialogue or description verbatim from canon. This is intentional, as Laocoon's Children does run parallel to the books. In this instance, a portion of
the Dark Arts class is lifted with minor alterations from canon.
Also, In the interests of DRAMAH, I have moved the full moon slightly, from September 30th to October 2nd. I can do that, 'cause I'm the Author. :D
After the excitement of the Quidditch tryouts ended, school seemed to pick up in earnest, though it was an unseasonably hot September and most of the students would rather have been outside. They dreamed of cramming in a few last hours of freedom before the autumn rains began to set in, but the professors kept a tight rein.
Remus' classes continued to be the highlight of the week, and not just for the third-years; everyone seemed to be enjoying them, almost looking forward to them. They didn't face down the Boggart again (he'd been permanently destroyed by some of Remus' fifth-years) but they quickly moved on to Red Caps and Kappas, nasty creatures both and only dispatched through defensive spells. Remus promised he'd stop infringing on Care of Magical Creatures soon enough, but nobody minded; after the hippogriff attacked Draco, Hagrid had reduced the third-years to flobberworms, immensely boring creatures he was growing for Professor Snape's potions storeroom.
Severus found himself nearly as restless as his students, though much better at hiding it, of course. He would not have admitted for the world that he actually missed Dora but he did confess to McGonagall, with some perplexity, that for the first time he was finding the silence of his rooms oppressive in the evenings.
"Perhaps you're feeling pent up down in the Dungeons," she replied knowingly. "It is a rather monastic life for a young man like yourself. Where is Nymphadora these days, anyway?"
He was so aggrieved by her absence it didn't occur to him until later to question the propriety of the inquiry. "On the continent. She sends postcards," he added, annoyed.
"Oh yes! Dumbledore got one of her postcards to you by mistake, didn't he? The one with the -- "
"I'm surprised she isn't cited for sending obscenity through the mail!" Severus interrupted.
"I didn't think she'd written anything so terribly naughty on it -- "
"It was the front to which I was referring," Snape said sullenly.
"Dumbledore seemed very amused by it. I shouldn't worry if I were you. She's bound to be home soon," McGonagall said, patting his arm. "You can shout at her then."
They had been discussing it over tea after a Friday-evening staff meeting, and perhaps McGonagall had a little of the Sight herself -- or perhaps she was merely well-informed. The next morning, Severus woke up to a thump and a curse in his rooms. Instinct overriding common sense, he had thrown off the sheets and taken his wand from the nightstand before he even saw who it was.
"Is that a wand in your hand or are you just happy to see me?" Dora Tonks asked. She was covered in ash from head to foot and rubbing her elbow, which was turning red and starting to swell.
"What on earth?" he asked, not sure even what to demand first.
"You never changed the passcode on your floo," she said, gently pushing his wand-hand away and planting a sooty kiss on his nose. He narrowed his eyes at her.
"I didn't expect seven a.m. visits from the filthiest Auror of my acquaintance," he said, running a thumb down her forehead and showing her the black dust on it. "Have you been playing in the chimney?"
"I got lost," she complained. "I tripped getting in and my elbow bumped something and I ended up in some pub in Cockerham."
"Cockerham? Where in Hades is that?"
"Well you might ask!" she said. "It's a good thing I still had my robes on!"
He lifted an eyebrow. "Is there a reason, Auror Tonks, that you would not have your robes on while flooing into the private rooms of a Professor at Hogwarts School?"
She grinned and shrugged. One shoulder of her uniform robes slid down her arm, revealing what was definitely not standard-Auror-issue underwear.
"You did miss me, didn't you?" she asked, kissing him. He brought one hand up to grasp the back of her neck, and touched the other -- still holding his wand -- to her bare arm.
"Scourgify," he said against her mouth, and she shrieked as the cleaning spell cascaded over her, raising goosebumps on her skin.
"You," she said damply, through a burst of soap suds, "know how to kill a mood, Severus Snape!"
"I'll ring for breakfast," he said calmly, kneeling on the hearth. "Denbigh! Large breakfast for two, heating charms!"
"I don't want breakfast!"
"You will," he said, and then added over his shoulder, "Especially as I doubt we'll be leaving the room all day."
She stopped halfway through rubbing her hair dry on her now-clean Auror's robe. "Oh?" she asked delicately. He accepted the breakfast tray from the fireplace, set it on the table near the hearth, and crossed to stand in front of her.
"Well," he said, kissing her, "once I'm finished properly saying hello, there's the matter of the postcards to clear up."
The same Saturday morning that Dora Tonks was thoroughly enjoying her homecoming, Remus Lupin was still ranting about the events of the night before.
"Moony, you're going to give yourself some kind of health problem," Sirius said, really and truly worried. He wasn't sure he had ever seen Remus sustain any kind of anger for any length of time, let alone nearly twelve hours.
"Well, then they'd have to call in my substitute even earlier!" Remus said, pacing angrily back and forth. He'd come home (such as it was at the moment) and paced all evening; he'd gone to bed and slept restlessly. Then he'd gotten up, made a terrible breakfast, and begun pacing again.
"I mean, how could he?" he exploded, stopping and turning to Sirius, spreading his arms wide. "Dumbledore, of all people. I told him I was handling it, I told him I'd leave notes..."
"Dumbledore does things his own way, always has," Sirius replied. He was still sore from all the fiddly little painting he'd had to do where charms wouldn't work, and tired from the interior work, pulling down the blue wallpaper and preparing the walls for painting. Plus there was unpacking to do and their bed still lacked a frame. He wondered if he could channel some of Remus' anger into helping him assemble some of the new furniture that had been delivered. "What did he say, exactly?"
"I said to him, Headmaster, I'm preparing my notes for the first full moon, I expect I'll be out Monday the fourth and back on Tuesday," Remus recited. "All I wanted to know was who was going to cover for me or if I needed to ask around and find someone myself."
"And he said?"
"He said there's no need, he was arranging a guest lecturer to handle my classes on Monday and Tuesday if necessary, and he'd have others throughout the year."
"Which is thoughtful of him," Sirius pointed out.
"Thoughtful! Sirius, he called the most viciously bigoted, small-minded -- "
"Did he actually call the Ministry and ask for someone? I thought you said -- "
"Will you please be on my side for a minute!" Remus shouted. Dobby, who had been trying to quietly and unobtrusively clear up the breakfast dishes, squeaked and disappeared under the sink. Sirius stared at Remus for a second, stunned, and then grinned. Remus let his shoulders slump and leaned on the kitchen counter.
"Sorry," he muttered.
"Don't be! This is all very healthy for you. I've been telling you all these years not to repress!" Sirius said, still grinning. "My fault, Moony. Yes, it's very wrong that your students are going to be placed at the mercy of a Ministry stooge, but I'm sure it's some kind of political move to get the Ministry off his back so that he can call interesting people the rest of the year."
"I think it's a conspiracy to make me come in and teach class. I mean -- I could, you know. I've been up and around the day after a good change before. I could teach class."
"Moony," Sirius said, standing up and walking to where he was leaning against the counter. He wrapped his arms around Remus' waist and kissed the back of his neck. "Go talk to Dumbledore. Shouting at me is fun, but isn't going to get you anywhere. Go shout at him for a bit. He'll be delighted, I promise."
"I can't shout at him, he's the Headmaster."
"And you're not a fifth-year anymore. Tell him you want to choose the guest lecturers for the rest of the year. I'll come and lecture if you like."
"On what?" Remus asked, distracted.
"I'm a Black, we practically invented the Dark Arts. Get Andi to come talk, she can tell about cleaning out Grimmauld Place."
Remus sighed. "I should just let him do it. He probably won't pick an entire year's worth of idiots."
"What?" Remus groaned. "Fine, fine. I'll talk to him on Monday."
"Why not now? He's probably at breakfast."
"Sirius -- "
"No better time to make anyone agree to anything than at a meal. Catch him with his mouth full, then he can't say no."
Remus looked at him suspiciously. "Is that why Harry always asks my permission for something while I'm eating?"
Sirius looked entirely too innocent to actually be innocent. Remus rubbed his forehead, then went to the front door and pulled on his shoes.
"Do I look all right?" he asked.
"You look fine for a Saturday morning. Go," Sirius replied. "And if Severus Snape is there, tread on his toes for me."
"You have to stop being mean to him, he's making this new potion for me and we're very grateful," Remus said, taking down a pinch of floo powder and lighting the pile of dry kindling in the fireplace with a flick of his wand.
"Good luck," Sirius said. Remus threw the powder into the floo, climbed in, and announced "My rooms!"
Sirius, grateful for a few minutes' silence, fished Dobby out from under the sink and sent him to Hogsmeade for some decent sausages, then settled down with tea and a book in the only fully assembled chair in the bare, box-filled living room.
When Dobby returned after ten minutes, he was still engrossed in his book and ate while reading. After twenty minutes he was mildly concerned; at thirty minutes downright alarmed. He was about to floo into Hogwarts himself and demand to know what they'd done with Moony when Remus reappeared in a cloud of ash.
"How did it go?" Sirius asked, trying to sound calm.
"He made me have a bowl of oatmeal with those little sugar dinosaur eggs in it," Remus said, throwing himself down into a chair. He looked a little more relaxed, at any rate. "He said if I wrote up a proposal for the rest of the year he'd have the board of governors sign off on it, as long as the speakers had reasonable merit. He did say you weren't allowed to lecture on pranks."
"He knows me too well," Sirius said gravely. "But that's good news, right?"
"Yeah, I suppose. I mean, yes it is. But, you know..." Remus leaned back in his chair and stared at the ceiling. "Basically, he made me eat a proper breakfast and gave me homework. I'm never actually going to be a grownup, apparently."
Sirius laughed and set his book down, resting his arms on the table.
"So," he said, "let's plot who you want to ask to lecture."
Remus' suspicions were confirmed the day he started the Wolfsbane Potion.
"Is all this really necessary?" he asked, shivering shirtlessly in the Hogwarts hospital wing. Madam Pomfrey was making a detailed examination of his scars while he listed off everything he'd eaten in the past two days.
"That depends," Snape remarked, a charmed quill hovering over a piece of parchment floating in midair. "Do you wish to receive the Wolfsbane potion or not?"
Dora's presence in Scotland -- he'd seen her around Hogsmeade -- seemed to have done little for Snape's disposition, though apparently he was grading his students slightly easier.
"Yes," Remus answered.
"Then you will please inform me what you had for dinner this evening."
"A rare steak and some of those marinated carrots. A couple of dinner rolls, a small bowl of sherbert, and two glasses of wine," Remus recited, vaguely annoyed.
"Does that constitute an increase in appetite from your usual?" Snape inquired.
"Is this habitual?"
Remus rolled his eyes. "Yes. About a week before the moon I tend to start eating more, particularly rare meat."
"Your weight is listed as...eighty-one point six kilograms. Is that normal?"
"Within reason, yes."
"Mmh." The quill scratched on the parchment. "There are dietary restrictions accompanying the potion."
"Permanent?" Remus asked, looking vaguely worried.
"No. After your evening meal you are not to consume refined sugar, acidic fruit juice, or more than two glasses of water. Once you have consumed the potion, you may sip water; do not consume any food for at least thirty minutes."
Remus saluted. Snape looked at him sourly.
"The measurement is precise, so please drink it all," he said, walking around the bed to where a set of brass scales, a goblet, and a small cauldron stood. He placed the cauldron on the scales, adjusted the weights in the other cup, and began to ladle a smoking liquid into it. The scales clanked slightly; he picked up the goblet and offered it to Remus.
"Severus, I know this is troublesome and I just wanted to say again that I'm -- oh god," Remus said, nearly spitting his first sip back into the cup. "Is it supposed to taste like second-hand bile?"
Snape looked at him impassively. "Bile is one of the ingredients," he said, deadpan.
"Wonderful," Remus said, throwing his head back and downing it in two large gulps. He covered his mouth, winced, and set the goblet down carefully. It was still smoking.
"Sugar makes it useless," Snape continued, picking it up.
"I do appreciate it, you know," Remus said, turning around as Snape crossed back to the cauldron again. "Bile-flavour and everything. If it works, it'll be..." he trailed off haplessly. It was difficult to explain, especially to someone as controlled as Severus Snape, how horrifying the loss of control, the loss of memory always was.
"I shall expect a full report on its effect as soon as possible after sunrise on the third of October," Snape said.
"I'm generally asleep after a full moon sunrise, but I'll do my best," Remus replied. "Thank you, Severus."
Snape did not say "You're welcome," but he didn't scowl as Remus dressed and departed, which he supposed was a step in the right direction.
The morning of October fourth dawned remarkably rainy, and Harry wondered whether Remus and Sirius had even been able to venture outside for the full moon. They did all right indoors so long as Padfoot was around, that much he knew, but the new potion Professor Snape was brewing for Remus was an unknown quantity. He hoped they were both okay, and tried to reassure himself that he'd have heard if they weren't.
Remus hadn't told the class he was going to be gone that day, probably because he thought there was an even chance he might still make it in. Harry didn't see him at breakfast, however, and knew with a sinking heart that they were going to have a substitute.
He'd asked Remus what they were going to be doing in class if Remus wasn't there, but Remus had smiled frustratingly and replied, "If you really don't want to be treated any differently, Harry, I can't tell you. I wish I could, believe me -- I wish I could warn you. But if nothing else...it'll be a good test of your critical thinking skills."
And with that enigmatic remark, he'd gone off to Hogsmeade for the weekend.
"Who do you think it'll be?" Neville asked, as they made their way down the corridor towards Defence class. "You never know, it might be Dora!"
"I don't think Remus would be as upset about it as he was if it were Dora," Harry answered. "Whoever it is, he doesn't like them much."
"Cornelius Fudge!" Neville laughed.
"If he's teaching our Defence class I'll laugh in his face," Harry replied. Parvati Patil and Hermione Granger caught up with them at that point.
"Did you hear?" Hermione said to Neville.
"Hear what?" Neville asked.
"Someone from the Ministry's teaching Professor Lupin's class today! He's sick," she added.
"Never," Harry drawled.
"I hope it isn't serious," Parvati said.
"Parvati thinks Professor Lupin is dreamy," Neville told Harry. Parvati hit him in the shoulder. "Ow!"
"All the Gryffindor girls do," she said. "Even Hermione."
"I do not!" Hermione said, but she blushed.
They slowed as they approached the Defence classroom, Harry putting a finger to his lips and poking his head around the doorway cautiously. At first he didn't see anyone; then some of the shadows in one corner resolved themselves into a stout, wobbly sort of shape.
A soft, fluttery, high-pitched voice spoke. "Come in, young man, do come in."
Harry glanced at the others, shrugged, and strode into the classroom, sitting in the back -- far from his usual spot -- and slinging his bag over the back of his chair. Hermione and Parvati, curiousity overcoming them, sat down in front. Neville sat across the aisle from Harry, close enough to pass notes without being close enough that the teacher would immediately separate them.
His eyes adjusting to the unusually dim light, Harry was finally able to make out a figure and a face for their new substitute. After a moment's consideration he decided that "toad" was probably a good description, though that might be an insult to nice toads everywhere.
She was a short, stout woman with a broad and flabby face, no neck to speak of and a wide, almost slack-jawed mouth. Her large, close-set eyes bulged slightly under hair that was pulled tightly back into curls on the top of her head, tied with a black velvet bow. She wore a fluffy pink cardigan as well, and a ruffled pink skirt that would have looked more appropriate on someone around nine years old.
Other students began to arrive, and she greeted the more hesitant ones in the same oddly girlish tone. Surprisingly, the last person to arrive, in a knot of Gryffindors, was Albus Dumbledore.
"Good morning, ladies and gentlemen," he said, striding up to the front. His clear, confident voice was a relief after ten minutes of the woman's cooing. "Unfortunately, Professor Lupin is ill and cannot be with us today. However, in his place I have arranged for a very...unique substitute. Ms. Dolores Umbridge -- "
"Hem, hem," said the woman behind him. He turned to her, curiously.
"I am Dolores Jane Umbridge," she said, stepping forward, "Senior Undersecretary to the Minister for Magic, Cornelius Fudge."
"Just so," Dumbledore said drily. "And she has come here today to speak to you about the dangers of magical beasts, which I understand Professor Lupin is currently reviewing with you. I hope you will all give her the respect and attention she deserves, and show her the true spirit of inquiry for which Hogwarts School is so well-known."
With that cryptic statement and a very slight smile on his face, he turned and glided serenely away. The entire class of Slytherin and Gryffindor third-years stared with unabashed amazement at the only human being they'd ever seen interrupt Albus Dumbledore on a technicality.
"Well," she said. "This is nice. Good morning!"
A few people mumbled some form of greeting in reply; most were too amazed to speak.
"Tut! That won't do, now, will it? I should like you, please, to reply 'Good morning, Miss Umbridge'. One more time. Good morning!"
"Good morning, Miss Umbridge," the class echoed back at her.
"There, now, that wasn't too difficult, was it? Wands away please," she added, and Harry rolled his eyes at Neville, tucking his wand up his sleeve and taking out his inkpot.
"Now, I understand from an examination of Professor Lupin's notes that he has been educating you on the dangers of magical creatures, although his curriculum is, I may say, not in keeping with current Ministry policies on the subject..."
Harry bridled at the silent criticism of Remus. Hermione Granger's hand shot up.
"Questions at the end," Umbridge said dismissively.
"It's about Ministry policy," Hermione said.
"Stand when you address me, if you please."
Hermione obediently stood up. "With all due respect, Madam Umbridge -- "
"Miss Umbridge. And you are...?"
Harry grinned. Score one for Granger and Gryffindor.
"Hermione Granger, Miss Umbridge. The Ministry doesn't set Hogwarts policy, Headmaster Dumbledore does."
"For now," Umbridge said coolly. "Be seated, Miss Granger."
"Ms. Granger," Hermione corrected, seating herself primly. Umbridge decided to ignore it, taking out her wand and pointing it at a piece of chalk, which leapt into the air.
"I am sure Professor Lupin's approach to 'education' is thoroughly unique," she continued disapprovingly. "But I am here to present the Ministry's views on the topics of..."
The chalk began to write on the board, outlining a short list:
1. Classification of dangerous creatures
2. Identification of dangerous creatures
3. Various situations in which defensive magic may safely be used
4. Proper authorities to notify
It was an extremely tedious lecture, complete with fuzzy black-and-white slides whose occupants themselves looked bored, barely moving in their frames. A couple of Slytherins tried to even the score by raising their hands at various points, but Umbridge pointedly ignored them. First they learned about the X-classification system, which Remus had gone over on the first day of class just to make sure they were aware of it: how various animals were rated as threats, from a single X to five for the most dangerous creatures like dragons and acromantulae. Then they were shown lots of pictures of low-risk animals and the various people who had discovered, and sometimes been killed, by them.
Harry didn't really pay much attention until she reached the end of her second point. Then he sat up so suddenly that he woke Neville, who was dozing across from him.
"The werewolf is considered a five-X rated beast," she was saying, indicating a slide of a man in mid-transformation. Harry recognised it; he'd seen it in a book years before. "There are two methods of detecting a werewolf, one for when it is in what is known as Mortal form, and one for when it is in wolf form. The five methods of detecting it in wolf form are -- "
Harry's hand shot up.
"Potter, ma'am," Harry said, standing. He fought down a laugh; he was tempted to ask her to call him Miss Potter. "The five methods of differentiating a werewolf from an ordinary wolf are in the shape of the snout, elongated in a werewolf, the colour of the pupils, deep yellow, a significant tuft on the tip of the tail, the enlarged size of the paws, and the length of the incisors."
She gave a pleased sort of whistling sigh.
"Very good, Mr. Potter! What a star pupil you are. And can you tell me the methods of differentiating a werewolf in mortal form?"
"You mean human form?" Harry asked.
"When they appear to be human," she replied.
"Doesn't matter," Harry said. "Werewolves aren't dangerous as humans."
Umbridge shook her head, giggling. "Mr. Potter, such naievete! Why -- "
"I suppose you could count not being able to get a job as a way of differentiation," Harry added. She froze. The entire class seemed to grow tense. "And having to undergo painful physical examinations on Ministry orders. But then you know that, Madam Umbridge. You wrote the law."
"Miss Umbridge," she said sharply. Most of the Slytherins snickered. "Sit down, Mr. Potter."
"I have a question, Miss Umbridge," Harry said.
"Questions at the end," she replied. A sickly-sweet tone had invaded her voice; she was going to win, because she was the teacher, and she knew it.
Well, not if Harry could help it.
"It is impossible to differentiate a werewolf from an ordinary human being in Mortal form," Harry said loudly.
"That is untrue, Mr. Potter," she cried triumphantly. "Werewolves in mortal form can be differentiated by the shape of the pupil, the positioning of the eyebrows -- "
"Madam Umbridge, may I ask what source you're using?" Parvati said, standing up. Harry, who was still standing, grinned at her.
"Questions at the end," Umbridge repeated, turning to the blackboard. "The Ministry's approved source on werewolf physiology is Hoff's treatise of 1637 -- "
"Not Sanzecki?" Harry asked, honestly startled this time. "He's much more recent and his book has actual statistics in it, I've seen them."
"Anyone not in their seats when I turn around will be given an immediate detention," Umbridge said. Parvati gave Harry a "what can I do?" shrug and dropped back into her seat. Harry sat down on the very edge of his, thrusting his legs out into the aisle. When she turned around, she smiled sweetly at Harry, who had crossed his arms defiantly over his chest. The score was still technically two to one for Gryffindor.
Theo Nott raised his hand and spoke without standing. "Who's this Sanzecki bloke anyway?"
Umbridge deliberately turned away from Theo and began speaking again. Theo shrugged and put his hand down. "Is he trustworthy?" he asked over Umbridge's pre-prepared speech. She kept talking.
Pansy Parkinson looked positively wicked as she stood up. "Madam Umbridge, I'd like to hear more about why the Ministry's approved source is Hoff's Treatise of whenever..."
"Madam Umbridge said sixteen thirty seven," Hermione replied, also standing. Both girls sat down, grinning. Umbridge was still speaking, but nobody was paying the slightest bit of attention now. Every few sentences, someone would call out a question and a short contest would ensue to see who could keep the questions going until they ran out. By the time class ended, they'd managed to drown her out for nearly forty minutes. Harry was in pain from keeping the laughter inside, because everyone in that classroom knew that as soon as someone laughed, the fun would actually end.
Once in the corridor, however, with the Defence classroom's door shut with a slam behind them, Harry doubled over in the hallway and laughed until he wept.
"Harry Potter, valiant leader of the student insurrection of '93," Neville said, slapping him on the back. "That was brilliant, Harry."
"Thanks," Harry gasped. "Oh god, let's go eat lunch. Remus is going to be absolutely furious if he hears, but it was worth it."