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Innocent by MarauderLover7
Chapter 37 : The Fight
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 1


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Lupin,

I require your conclusion on the trustworthiness of my Surrey search team members and several hours of your time to present my own findings on those in your team. I will be at the Leaky Cauldron at 2pm tomorrow. Kindly arrive on time.

Lucius Malfoy.

Tonks scrawled a hasty ‘thank you’ to Remus - who’d probably had to go home to get Strix so that he could send this to her – all the while cursing the excellent tracking skills of Malfoy’s ruddy owl. Strix gave Canis – who was coiled on Tonks’ pillow – a cool look before holding his leg out for her to attach the letter to. He hooted once and launched himself out of the window and into the sky.

She closed the window and watched him disappear into the clouds - at least until she remembered that she was supposed to be getting ready for training. She hastily swapped Matt’s jumper and jeans – Lucius had been inspecting ‘Matt’ today - with her own torn jeans and a Weird Sisters t-shirt. She was just pulling on socks when a tap on the window startled her.

She fell off her bed, knocking her elbow on her bedside table on the way down. Muttering curses at Canis, who’d started to purr, she got up to let Helga in.

“Hi, girl,” she said. Helga – Keith’s screech owl – swooped past her to perch on the back of Tonks’ desk chair; Tonks had stopped hanging clothes there after Helga’s sharp claws destroyed her Harpies jumper.

Tonks used her reflection in the window to choose a face for the night; blue hair, red eyes and freckles. The transformation only took her a few seconds – she’d been studying Human Chameleon at every spare moment since Christmas (though there hadn’t been many, what with training, Keith, her three lives in the search and saying goodbye to Tom and Charlie, who’d left for Romania the day before last...) – but apparently it was too long for Helga. She didn’t like being ignored. She hopped up and down, flapping her wings and hooting madly.

While Tonks wasn’t overly fond of Helga, she didn’t really want her eaten either; Canis had stood, stretched and prowled forward to sit on the edge of Tonks’ bed. And, while he was small, Tonks had no doubt that Canis would come out as the victor.

She sighed and took the letter and Helga immediately chirped happily and settled down. Canis sat, tail twitching, as his eyes flicked between Tonks and Helga.

I miss you so much. Can’t wait for tomorrow. Love you.

Keith.

Tonks stared at Keith’s messy writing, not sure whether she felt more shocked, horrified or happy. She flopped back onto her bed. Canis hissed and darted out of the room.

“Bloody Malfoy,” she muttered; thanks to him, she’d no longer be able to get to Keith’s Quidditch game. They’d been planning to have dinner afterward, to make up for not having seen each other since Christmas... but that couldn’t happen anymore.

She groaned and grabbed a piece of parchment and a quill and wrote a lengthy apology letter; she filled about four inches – with reasonably small writing – but didn’t actually manage to say much; she obviously couldn’t give him a proper reason so the majority of the letter consisted of apologies and wishing him luck for the game tomorrow. She sent if off with Helga and sighed again, looking at the letter for a different reason; Keith had said he loved her.

That made her happy – who didn’t like to be told they were loved? – but it also worried her; they’d been dating six months, yes, but she didn’t think she was ready to say it back. Would he expect her to? Would it upset him when she didn’t?

Oh, Merlin, she thought, flinging an arm over her face. Why does everything have to be so hard? She did her best to shove those thoughts to the back of her head; she was too tired to think about it right now – too tired to think about much at all, really – and forced herself to get up. It was so very tempting to just pull her blankets over and go to sleep. She missed sleep.

But if I sleep now, Mad-Eye will show up to drag me there. She pulled on her rucksack, which had a pair of Remus’ clothes in it for tomorrow, and also an outfit for her to wear as Tock. It’s easier if I just go.

Hopefully she’d sleep tonight... assuming Mad-Eye let her; she was staying at his house - ready for an early training session – but the last few times she’d stayed over, he’d crept into her room at some Merlin-cursed hour and woken her up with a shouted, ‘Constant vigilance!’

Mum had spoken to the goblins at work and had them teach her an Anti-Apparition Charm, which Tonks hadn’t yet been able to remove; it was Mum’s not-so-subtle way of telling her to use the door instead of Apparating straight in.

Mum called her into the kitchen as she made her way to the front door; she was sitting at the table, staring at a neatly wrapped present, and holding a small, worn piece of parchment.

Andy, it said; Tonks had read it - and had it read to her - many times.

Merry Christmas.

Cissy.

The present had arrived on the morning of the day after Christmas – Dad was in Ireland with work and Mum was too afraid to open it without him there, though Tonks had offered to sit with her, or even open it for her. Poor Mum was convinced there was a secret message hidden in the brief letter and had spent ages reading and re-reading the stupid thing. Dad was due home tomorrow, thankfully, and Tonks hoped he could talk some sense into Mum; Merlin knew she’d had no luck.

“Are you sleeping here tonight?” Mum asked.

Tonks shook her head and said, “Mad-Eye’s.” Mum watched her for a moment and then stood and pulled her into a hug. Tonks hugged her back, a little bewildered. “Are you all right?”

“You look tired, dear,” Mum said, looking at her face. Tonks altered her features and Mum frowned. “If they’re working you too hard at the Ministry, I don’t have a problem with going to talk to them-”  

“No,” Tonks said, letting her head rest against Mum’s shoulder. “It’s not the Ministry, it’s other... things.”

“Like?” Mum asked archly, releasing her.

Like pretending to be Remus and Matt and Tock. She’d take on the burden again in a heartbeat but she honestly couldn’t wait for Malfoy to sack ‘Remus’ – and wishing for that to happen made her feel exceptionally guilty – so that she’d be able to have some more time to herself; ‘Remus’ investigation was going slower than she’d predicted, or maybe ‘he’ was doing such good work that Malfoy’s decided to not to fire ‘him’. She couldn’t say anything about that to Mum, though; Mad-Eye, Remus and herself were the only ones who knew about the search, and she and Remus were the only ones who knew about her pretending to be him and Matt.

“Just... stuff,” she said lamely.

“Well,” Mum said, “if ‘stuff’ doesn’t settle down, I’ll dose you up with a Sneezing Solution and make you stay home.”

“You’d make me sick?” Tonks demanded.

“If I had to,” Mum said, folding her arms. Tonks made a mental note to start checking her food for spells and potions like Mad-Eye did. “Now, go to work, get a good night’s sleep and I’ll see you after Keith’s game tomorrow night.” Tonks’ insides squirmed with guilt about Keith again, but she didn’t correct Mum; Mum could believe she was still going to see him – it was certainly easier than trying to explain that she was working again.

“How can you be so bossy now, but not be able to open a present from your sister?” Tonks wondered aloud. Mum’s grey eyes narrowed and Tonks, recognising the danger signs said, “Well, I’m off. See you tomorrow, love you!” and bolted from the room and out the front door.

*                    *                     *

“I can’t-” Florence gasped, struggling to get out of Tonks’ grip. “Tonks, let go.”

“Nice try,” Tonks said cheerfully.

“I’m serious!” Florence shouted. The other trainees - who were grappling with their opponents nearby – looked over. “Let go.”

A little surprised, and a little put off by everyone staring, Tonks released her hold on Florence. Florence sank to the ground, shaking, and Tonks was alarmed to see how pale she was. Tonks helped her over to the side of the room, where they wouldn’t be in anyone’s way, and crouched down beside her. Florence’s face was scrunched up and she was hugging herself.

“What’s wrong?” Tonks asked worriedly. She looked up for Mad-Eye, hoping he might be able to help her but he was following another Auror out of the room, looking irritated. “Are you feeling sick?”

“What do you think?” Florence snapped.

“When did it start?” Tonks asked, refusing to be deterred; she was often grumpy when she was sick too.

“I’ve been feeling off all day,” Florence said, shivering. “It’s getting worse, though...” Tonks put a hand on her forehead which was sweaty and quite warm.

“Do you want to see the Healer or something?”

“No,” Florence said, “I think I’m probably just tired.”

“It could be whatever Ben’s got,” Tonks said; they hadn’t seen him for a few days, but Shacklebolt had told Finch who’d told Florence and Melvin who’d told Tonks that he was really sick.

“I really hope not,” Florence groaned. “Do you know if Ben ever felt like he’d been trampled by a Hippogriff?”

“No, I don’t,” Tonks said, smothering a laugh at Florence’s dramatic response. Florence seemed to know, because her eyes narrowed. “Would you like me to take you home?”

“I’m sick, not crippled,” Florence muttered. “But thanks for the offer.” Tonks smiled and stood back as Florence stood – which seemed to take a lot of effort – and walked over to Auror Finch. A short conversation later, Florence walked out clutching her head.

Tonks joined Edwards and McKinnon – the first she managed to throw off with a bit of effort – Edwards was very tall and quite solid – but she had no luck against McKinnon. Both of them were able to throw her off with ease.

“So who taught you to wrestle?” Tonks asked McKinnon as they retrieved their rucksacks from the corner of the room.

“I had an older brother,” McKinnon said, with a very small, distant smile. Tonks stared; McKinnon never spoke about her family. The reason for that, though, was reasonably obvious now; it hadn’t escaped Tonks’ notice that McKinnon had said ‘had’. “And some rather exuberant friends. I also played Quidditch and did some other... work... when I was about your age.” Tonks knew better than to ask about that – she knew she wouldn’t be given any details – but she knew it was something to do with the war, and that Remus had been included in whatever it was. She wondered, absently, how he was doing, and if he’d got her ‘thank you’ letter yet.

Tonks and McKinnon left the Defensive and Offensive Combat room together; Mad-Eye still wasn’t back, so Tonks figured he was waiting for her upstairs. The stairs that led up to the broom cupboard exit were crowded like always, but unusually, the crowd didn’t seem to be moving.

“Augustus? What’s going on?” McKinnon asked, snapping her fingers to get the attention of one of the Aurors.

“He’s got his wand out!” someone said eagerly; Tonks thought it might have been Lori Patel.

“Moody’s going to destroy him!”  Michael Brown said, beaming.

“Excuse me! Sorry, Trixia, excuse me.” The crowd rippled and slowly parted to let Melvin through. “Tonks!” he said, when he saw her. “I think you should see this-”

“What’s happening?” McKinnon asked sharply.

“Her- Sorry, your boyfriend’s here,” Melvin said.

“Keith?” Tonks said stupidly.

Melvin was too polite to say anything and just nodded, but McKinnon rolled her eyes and said, “Who else could he be talking about? He’s the only one, isn’t he?”

“What in Godric’s name is he doing here?” Then, worried that something might be wrong, Tonks started to squeeze through the crowd. Melvin was saying something to McKinnon in a low voice. “Excuse me, sorry, excuse me- MOVE!” Edwards shuffled out of the way, but most of the others were still milling around. “Parva Digitum Omnia,” she muttered, flicking her wand. The entire mob – herself, McKinnon and Melvin included, unfortunately, due to her non-specific casting – wobbled and then fell as one, with a loud screech. Tonks merely grew her toes back and hopped over the other Aurors and trainees. “Sorry,” she said, wincing when she saw Scrimgeour had been caught by the hex too.

She could hear loud voices in the hallway; one was certainly Mad-Eye’s and if Melvin was right, the other belonged to Keith. She didn’t think she’s ever heard him shout before.

“- right to keep me from going down-”

“I have every right, boy! You-”

Tonks shoved the partially open door and tripped through it. Keith – and it was him – tucked his wand away and ran forward to help her up. Mad-Eye watched them, frowning.

“Wotcher,” she said dazedly. “What are you doing here?”

“Breaking and entering,” Mad-Eye growled.

“I came to see you,” Keith said, shooting Mad-Eye an angry look. “And then I got intercepted by Moody-”

Auror Moody,” Mad-Eye snapped. Tonks gave him a dark look. “-and if I hadn’t intercepted him-”

“I was only-”

“Shut up!” Tonks yelled. “Talk one at a time-”

“I’ll go first,” Keith said instantly. “So-”

“Not here!” Tonks said. She grabbed Keith’s hand and Mad-Eye’s arm and led them both down the hall and into Mad-Eye’s cubicle. “Do you two have any idea how much of a scene you were causing?”

He was causing the scene!” Keith said, pointing at Mad-Eye, who folded his arms and said nothing. “I came to see you-”

“What about?”

“This,” Keith said, pulling out the note she’d written him that afternoon. “You didn’t even give me a reason, you just said you can’t do something that’s been planned for days.” Tonks sighed.

“Then what?”

Keith looked troubled that she’d changed the subject but said, “Then I tried to go down to see you but an Auror told me I couldn’t, so I asked her to get you for me but she came back with him and he wouldn’t let me talk to you and he refused to take a message to you.”

“Of course he did,” she said, confused about why that was a problem. “I was in a lesson.”

“I’m your boyfriend!”

“I’m her teacher,” Mad-Eye growled. He frowned, suddenly, pulled out his Sidekick, and then snorted and shoved it back into his pocket.

“He could have let you out to talk to me,” Keith said, giving Mad-Eye another angry look.

“I was in a lesson,” she said again still not sure why he was so worked up. “That letter isn’t about anything so urgent that you couldn’t have waited for a few minutes.” Keith’s brown eyes widened.

“I can’t believe you’re taking his side!” he said furiously.

“I was in a lesson! If you want to talk, that’s fine, but I wouldn’t expect you to call time in a Quidditch game just because I wanted a word-”

“But I would,” he said, looking hurt. Mad-Eye made an odd sound.

“Look, Mad-Eye was probably grumpy-” Mad-Eye growled and Tonks rolled her eyes. “- and maybe a bit blunt but I don’t think he was being unreasonable by asking you to wait-”

“He didn’t ask me to wait! He told me to go home!” Tonks gave Mad-Eye an exasperated look, but he didn’t seem to care.

“I said I’d tell her you stopped by,” Mad-Eye said, “and give her the choice of following it up.”

“I have every right to be here,” Keith said angrily.

“Actually-” Tonks started, wincing.

“I can’t believe you’re siding against me!”

“Keith, I’m just-”

Keith shook his head. “I’ll owl you, okay?” he said, sounding hurt, and left.

“Okay,” she said quietly. She wanted to run after him but she knew that would probably make things worse; he’d want her to apologise, and while she was sorry for upsetting him, she wouldn’t change anything if she had the chance to do so. Her hair – which had been orange – turned a pale blue and she flopped down into Mad-Eye’s desk chair, suddenly feeling very tired. Mad-Eye gave her an uneasy look, as if he expected her to shout at him. She wanted to, but her rational side knew it wouldn’t help much and that she’d probably feel even worse afterward.

“It takes a special person to date a trainee,” Mad-Eye said after a long silence.

“What?” she croaked, looking up at him.

“Dating’s tricky for normal people,” he said awkwardly. “We’re not normal people. We work long hours and we study technical branches of magic that most people struggle with and we’re always in danger. That’s not easy for a partner to handle.”

“That makes me feel better,” she muttered, rolling her eyes. Mad-Eye limped over to the spare seat just inside the door and sat down.

“It wasn’t supposed to,” he said in the gentlest growl she’d ever heard him use. “It was supposed to make you see sense.”

“So... what? Keith’s not special?” she asked hotly.

“That’s not what I meant,” Mad-Eye said, sounding tired. He opened his hipflask, sniffed the inside and took a sip. “He plays Quidditch?”

“Yes,” Tonks said tentatively.

“But not professionally? And he doesn’t work?”

“He trains a younger team-”

“Doesn’t count,” Mad-Eye said. “Point it, he’s got too much time, and you’ve got too little. I’ve had a few trainees in my time and those that dated people who lasted were usually with someone who was also training for something. That way, the other person’s got a distraction when things are busy-”

“Like what?” Tonks asked. Mad-Eye lifted a scarred hand and began to count his fingers.

“I had one girl who dated a professional Quidditch player, two boys who’ve dated Healers and one girl who dated a boy in the Department of Mysteries. And there was another boy who had... they never called it dating but it was obvious to everyone else... she was involved in the war effort.”

“So... what? Keith and I won’t last unless he becomes a Healer?” she asked flatly. “That’s rubbish-”

“At the moment, he’s got too much time and not enough maturity to handle dating a trainee. He thinks of you as a normal person and you’re not normal. You’re a trainee. You’re not better or worse, but you’re different and the sooner he realises that and either learns to live with it or decides he can’t, the better things will be for both of you.” Tonks couldn’t argue with the fact that she was different and she didn’t like the rest of what he’d said but she suspected it was true.

“You could make things easier for him, you know,” she said. “Maybe if you were nice-”

“I’m mean to everyone,” Mad-Eye said, gingerly placing his Sidekick on his desk.

“Not to me,” Tonks said, and Mad-Eye’s mouth twitched.

“All partners, then.”

“All of them?” Tonks asked miserably.

“Except two,” Mad-Eye amended.

“Why?” Tonks asked, smiling slightly.

“They were special,” he said quietly.

“Who were they?” she asked.

“One was a Healer... I think I’ve told you about Evans before.” Tonks nodded. “I don’t think the other would want to be named.”

“Why not?” Mad-Eye just shook his head and glanced at his Sidekick. “You should probably open that,” she said. Mad-Eye gave her an unhappy look and muttered the opening phrase.

“AUROR MOODY!” Scrimgeour bellowed.

“Scrimgeour?” Moody growled. “What can I help you with?”

“Find your trainee and bring her to the broom cupboard,” Scrimgeour said, sounding milder now that Mad-Eye had responded. Tonks shrank in her seat and Mad-Eye gave her a thoughtful look. “There are twenty people that need to be set right.”

“You can’t fix whatever she’s done?” Mad-Eye asked.

“I’m sure we could but as you’re aware, Moody, human transfiguration is something that needs to be dealt with carefully and I’d like to get home at a reasonable hour.”

“More importantly,” Mad-Eye said loudly. “How was she even able to land her spell?”

“We weren’t expecting-”

“CONSTANT VIGILANCE!” Mad-Eye boomed and then in his normal voice, “We’re coming.”

*                    *                    *

Moony whimpered and stretched out on his bed, waiting for the last of the pain to fade. It did, slowly, burning as it went, but finally he was able to handle moving. He stepped off the bed and over to the bathroom, where Remus had thought to leave a bowl of water; transforming often made him thirsty.

Moony used the floor space to stretch again, which got rid of the last of the pain, then looked around for his packmate, but his packmate wasn’t there. He whined and then growled. Maybe his packmate was planning to leave again. Maybe Moony would be alone again. Moony’s tail fell between his legs and he wedged himself under the bed and curled up.

Moony had just started to bite his own forelegs – partially out of boredom and partially out of anger at his packmate for leaving him -  when pair of big, grey-brown paws appeared in his doorway. Moony pinned his ears back and growled.

It was the owner of the scent that was all over this place. Remus didn’t like the scent, and Moony didn’t either, though Moony had more respect for the alpha than Remus did. Alphas – even bad alphas – should be followed. The alpha peered under the bed and huffed at Moony, before baring his teeth: Come out, or I’ll make you.

Moony wriggled out and the alpha inspected the damage to his legs. Moony was inspecting the damage that Remus had done; one of the alpha’s ears, his tail and one of his shoulders were bald. They stared at each other for a long time and then the alpha huffed again and Moony averted his eyes.

Another huff – this one followed by a bark – and Moony knew to follow. The alpha led him into the big room where Remus spent most of his time and then outside, where Remus came and left from. Other wolves were there, but not Moony’s packmate.

He bounced up to one black wolf and smelled her too late; she turned around and snapped at him. He snorted at her and went to inspect another who was dark furred and about the right size. This time, he took care to smell first. It was a packmate – the man-boy that Remus spent time with – though not the one Moony’d been looking for. He nudged the pup’s flank.

The pup started and growled at him. Moony whined and the pup’s ears pricked up. He trotted forward, tail wagging, to lick Moony’s ear. Moony’s tongue lolled out and he sat patiently as the pup inspected his hurt legs and then took his turn inspecting a painful smelling cut on the pup’s back.

Both sat down in the snow under a tree – pressed against each other for warmth – and watched as the rest of their pack socialised. The younger pups frolicked in the snow and followed the alpha around, while the older wolves had killed a hare and were fighting over scraps. Several of the elders were sleeping, though a pale golden wolf was alert and looking around.

When she spotted Moony and the pup, she extracted herself and made her way over. Moony’s hackles rose and he and the pup stood, ready, but they needn’t have worried. Once she got closer, Moony recognised her smell. She was the elder that Remus and the pup took care of. Even as a wolf, she still smelled of the outside world; she’d only arrived that morning. He greeted her and she greeted him back shyly, before repeating the same greeting with the pup.

The three of them settled down again and things were relatively peaceful, at least until the alpha returned. Moony thought he’d come to see how the elder was doing; the alpha barked at her and sniffed her ears – which made her look afraid – and then he backed off and came to stand before Moony instead.

Moony huffed at him and put his ears back – go away – but the alpha ignored the silent message. The alpha snapped and Moony yelped as pain shot through his ear. The alpha’s bite wasn’t playful like his packmate’s often was, or even a warning. It was an assertion – I can do whatever I like – and Moony didn’t like it. Still, Moony knew better than to retaliate; Remus might have had a chance with his wand or his wits but neither Remus or Moony had a chance in a physical fight.

Moony whined and pressed his ear against the snow to stop the stinging. The alpha made a funny noise that was a cross between a growl and a wheeze. Then he did it again. Remus would have called it laughing. Moony backed away and the alpha moved on.

The younger pups who had been following him, however, didn’t. The elder took one look at them, dismissed them and licked Moony’s hurt ear, surprising him. The pup growled at the younger pups and pressed himself closer to Moony and the elder.

The younger pups barked and huffed amongst each other and then advanced; the alpha had shown he had no regard for Moony, the pup or the elder and so the younger pups probably wanted to assert themselves. Moony stood – their heads only reached the underside of his chest – but there were six of them. The pup was taller than them too – they were at his shoulder – and after a moment’s hesitation, the elder stood as well.

The younger pups all looked their small leader; she had a fawn coat and was known to Remus as Greentooth. To Moony she was the beta. She snorted and a spindly silver pup, an enormous one with a dark grey coat and another smaller one with russet fur extracted themselves from her pack and advanced toward the pup, who looked unnerved but held his ground.

The beta sent the other two in the elder’s direction. That left her facing Moony. She bared her teeth and circled forward. Moony snapped his teeth together, warning her to stay back.

The beta didn’t listen and Moony resigned himself to a fight. He bared his own teeth and prowled around, keeping her opposite him at all times, with at least two yards between them.

Moony wasn’t aware of much else – he heard others growling around him but didn’t know who - and it was hard to tell how long he and the beta circled each other – Moony’s timekeeping abilities weren’t anywhere near as good as Remus’ – but eventually, the beta got bored and lunged.

Despite that, Moony was the first to cause any harm; his teeth grazed the beta’s leg and she yelped. It’ didn’t deter her for long, though; she caught his tail and then his back leg in quick succession.

After that, it was all a blur of teeth and blood and snarling, though it was obvious to Moony that he was losing. Moony had more experience being a wolf, but he’d never fought to kill. The beta had, and had probably learned to fight from the alpha.

After a few painful – but not overly effective – bites, the beta managed to get her teeth around Moony’s already-injured foreleg. He crumpled. The beta moved to stand over him.

The pup was busy with the beta’s three pups, and the elder had submitted to the pups she was facing. No one was coming to help him.

The beta’s stained, red muzzle and gleaming teeth moved into Moony’s line of sight and then everything was black.

*                      *                     *

“Open,” Padfoot said, throwing the locket at the training room wall. It hit with a dull thud – the Cushioning Charms had been destroyed when Harry blew up his Form Revealer and Padfoot hadn’t put them back up yet – and bounced onto the ground. Padfoot Summoned it back into his hand and threw it again. “Open.”

Harry was lying on the floor, hoping that his Animagus form would spontaneously come to him; he’d been deterred by his two failures with the Form Revealer and was reluctant to start a third. He hastily closed his eyes; watching Padfoot get angry with the locket wouldn’t help.

“Open, you stupid-” Padfoot dropped the locket and stepped on it again and again. Harry realised he’d opened his eyes and shut them again. Everything was quiet for a moment. Unnerved, Harry opened one eye and saw Padfoot trying to prise the locket open; Padfoot had tried this many times before. “Right,” Padfoot said, “I’m off, before I go mad.” He threw the locket down and stalked out, muttering to himself about things to pack and how much he hated the locket.

He was back a few minutes later, rucksack in hand.

“I thought you’d gone,” Harry said, rolling onto his side. Padfoot grinned.

“Seen anything yet?”

“Darkness,” Harry said gloomily. “Maybe I’m a big, black dog like you.” Padfoot barked a laugh and crouched to ruffle his hair.

“Or maybe you’re as blind in your head as you are physically.” Harry scowled. “Why don’t you start on stage one while I’m gone,” Padfoot suggested. “It’s a better way to spend your time than meditating, I promise you.”

“Maybe,” Harry said reluctantly. “How long do you think you’ll be tonight?”

“Dunno. Longer if I get lost,” Padfoot joked.

“I thought you said the tracking spell worked,” Harry said, frowning.

“It did.” Padfoot made a face. “I think... It’s a finicky little charm.” Padfoot glanced out the window. “I need to go.” He called Kreacher to take the locket away and left with a, “Stage one, kiddo.”

“Fine,” Harry said. “Be careful!” he added, for all the good that it would do.

*                    *                     *

Everything was black, because an enormous bundle of dark fur had just slammed into the beta and dragged her to the ground. Moony stood as quickly as he could, ready to fight again if he had to, though that didn’t look likely; the beta was struggling, pinned by the front paws of Moony’s packmate. For the first time ever, Moony saw her look afraid.

Padfoot snorted at her and snapped his teeth together a few inches from her face. She flinched, and the second Padfoot released her, she limped off, ears back and tail down. Her packmates stopped harassing the pup and the elder to pay attention to the new threat. Padfoot’s hackles rose and he snarled. They were quick to follow the beta after that.

One of Padfoot’s front paws was bloodied, but otherwise he seemed as cheerful as ever. He greeted Moony with a loud bark, while his tail danced back and forward. Moony made a whuffing noise in response and Padfoot trotted over, nose twitching. He whined at the sight of Moony’s front legs – Moony wasn’t too happy with the way they looked either, but Remus could deal with that later – and then his shaggy head snapped up; he’d noticed the elder and the pup. Both of them were watching with wary curiosity.

Before Moony could bark or do something to tell them that Padfoot was a packmate, Padfoot had bounced over to introduce himself.

Moony made a small, amused noise and limped over to join his packmates, truly glad – for the first time – that he hadn’t stayed under Remus’ bed all night.


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