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Chapter 42 : Nowhere To Run
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Padfoot thumped down the stairs and entered and Harry quickly looked back to the book he was supposed to be reading. Padfoot chuckled.
“Still playing with that thing?” he asked, nudging the snake with his trainer. It reared up and Padfoot stepped back. Its golden fangs struck air and then it went back to slithering around. “How’s the book?”
“Dunno,” Harry said. Padfoot raised an eyebrow. “I... er... haven’t started it yet.” Padfoot laughed and flicked his wand at the cabinet where they kept the locket. He pulled it out and draped it over the arm of one of the couches. “Do you have another idea?”
“Maybe,” Padfoot sighed; he’d put the locket in the cabinet about a month ago and left it there because he’d run out of ways to try to destroy it. “Moony suggested using something corrosive last night, and I’ve done some reading today, so I thought I might give it a try.” He pulled his wand and muttered something – Harry watched intently – but nothing happened. “Comedus,” he said, frowning.
“What’s it supposed to do?”
“Cover the target in a corrosive layer,” Padfoot said, making a jabbing motion with his wand. “Maybe it’s Comedum,” he said uncertainly, and then tried that. “You know what? I’m going to go and get the book.” He gave the locket a dirty look and stalked out.
Harry went back to watching the snake, which had made it to the base of the couch. He reached out and grabbed the tip of its tail to drag it back, but it didn’t seem to like that; it turned around and bit him.
Harry swore and let go, but its mouth was clamped tightly around the skin on his wrist. He gave it a little shake, which hurt, and then held his arm up, hoping the snake would drop off, but it refused to.
“Get off,” he muttered, wincing. “Let go.” He tried to prise its mouth open but it wouldn’t move. “Come on,” he wheedled. “Open up. Just open- yes!” The snake dropped back to the carpet and slithered around, apparently content. Harry sucked on the bite, which was bleeding and rubbed his forehead, which had started to itch.
“It’s Comedo,” Padfoot called from the stairs. “Comedo, not Comedus-” Harry looked up in time to see him freeze in the doorway.
“What?” Harry asked, following his gaze. His mouth fell open and he scrambled to his feet. Bright green eyes and gleaming hazel eyes followed him. “Padfoot?” Padfoot’s wand was out and Harry hesitated before drawing his own and moving to stand beside his godfather.
“Hello, Harry,” Lily said, holding a hand out. Harry looked up at Padfoot, whose face was set, and lowered his wand a little. Her voice was gentle, almost nervous. “Hello, Sirius.”
“It talks,” Padfoot breathed, staring at the locket, which lay open behind them. Padfoot was deathly pale.
“Of course, Padfoot,” James said, and Harry thought he had a very warm voice. He wondered if that’s what they’d actually sounded like. “And we listen too. We know your heart, your thoughts.”
“We know everything,” Lily said, smiling at Harry. “Come here, sweetheart.” Harry took a tentative step toward his mother, but Padfoot’s hand clamped down on his shoulder. A very ugly expression appeared on her pretty face. “Give me my son, Sirius.”
“No,” Padfoot said.
“Padfoot,” James said. “He’s not yours.” Padfoot’s hand spasmed on Harry’s shoulder. “Give him to us. You know we’re better parents than you could ever be.”
“He’s not your son,” Lily said coolly, and her eyes flashed red. Padfoot flinched.
“I don’t know what we were thinking, making you godfather,” James added. “You’re not fit to care for my son. You’re a fugitive. A criminal. What sort of life is that for a child? He doesn’t know any other children, there’s just you and Remus and that mad elf of yours.”
“Do you think he’s actually happy?” Lily asked. Padfoot’s hand tightened on Harry’s shoulder, and his wand dangled uselessly at his side.
“He does!” James laughed, but it was a horrible sound; nothing like the laugh Harry had imagined. “I can’t believe how stupid you are!”
“Shut up!” Harry said.
“He should have stayed with Petunia,” James told Padfoot.
“He wanted to stay,” Lily said. “But how was he supposed to say no? You didn’t give him a choice, did you, Sirius-”
“I chose Padfoot,” Harry said firmly, and both Lily and James gave him disappointed looks.
“We’re here now,” Lily said. “Don’t you want parents, Harry? A family? We can give you that. You won’t have to hide anymore. You’ll be safe.”
“No more risks,” James added, looking every inch the concerned father.
“The risk’s what makes it fun,” Padfoot whispered.
“Fun?” Lily said shrilly, while James looked horrified. “Siriu-”
“Bombarda Maxima,” Padfoot said, his voice surprisingly strong. The couch exploded and Harry covered his eyes. Lily and James screamed and so did another voice; this one was higher pitched and made Harry’s scar feel like it was on fire. The rest of him was fine, though; Padfoot was shielding him.
A moment later, the screaming had stopped and Padfoot put a hand on Harry’s shoulder. Harry looked up. Padfoot was pale and looked scared – which unnerved Harry – but mostly unharmed; the back of his robes were smoking, and his hem was on fire but he stepped on that to put it out, even as Harry watched.
“Are you okay?” Padfoot asked hoarsely. Harry nodded. Together, they turned to face the ruined room. There was a lot of soot and some burning fabric where the couch had been, but not much else. The explosion had blown the Black tapestry off the wall and shattered the glass in the cabinets. The pot of Floo powder on the mantel was burning a vivid green, and Harry’s book was a singed mess. Padfoot bent to examine something golden on the ground.
“Is it dead?” Harry asked, stepping forward.
“Reparo,” Padfoot murmured and then lifted up Regulus’ wriggling snake. Harry’s heart sank; if the snake had survived...
He kicked the ashes that remained of the couch and sure enough, the locket was there, glinting an evil gold. It was dented and the chain was melted in places, but it repaired itself as Harry watched.
“Padfoot,” he said, nudging the locket with his foot. Padfoot looked over and swore at length. Harry learned several new words, but he doubted any of them were appropriate for him to use in any situation.
“Right,” he said, dropping the snake, which slithered away. “Right. Kreacher!” Kreacher Apparated in and then looked taken aback at the mess.
“Kreacher is hearing the bang, oh yes,” Kreacher said, “but Kreacher is not expecting... Kreacher hears noise all the time.” Harry supposed that was true, especially since Padfoot had started trying to destroy the locket. “Are the Masters well?”
“Fine,” Harry said, as Padfoot sighed.
“Is Master Sirius having an argument with the couch?” Kreacher asked tentatively.
“That,” Padfoot said, jabbing a finger at the locket. Kreacher scowled. “We’re going out. Fix this.” Padfoot seemed to realise he was being blunt and then added, “Please, Kreacher.” Kreacher patted his elbow, bowed at them both and set to work.
Harry had so many questions he wanted to ask; was Padfoot okay – not physically, but mentally – why had Lily and James thought Harry wasn’t happy living with Padfoot, and why had they questioned Padfoot’s parenting skills? Why had Padfoot attacked when he did, after waiting for so long? And, the one he was dying to ask: was that what they’d really sounded like?
All he said however was, “Where are we going?”
“To see Keira,” Padfoot said, scooping up the locket with a look of revulsion.
“Now?” Harry asked. “It’s eight-thirty-”
“Knockturn Alley doesn’t close until late,” Padfoot said. “Come on.” Harry didn’t miss the way his voice had started to quiver. Harry hugged him and then thought, Ostendere me omnia, and Apparated upstairs to get his cloak and trainers.
* * *
Is that...? It was.
It was her jumper – the one she and Remus had turned into the silver ring at the camp two months ago – and it was currently stretched over Greyback’s wide shoulders. He was sitting at a muggle bus stop, watching her.
He’d been after her since Remus left the camp. She and Mad-Eye had been following him – she’d been careful to keep her distance – but about a week ago, he’d started to show up in unexpected places, when she was off-duty. And he only seemed to show up when she was alone, and it was starting to worry her.
He saw her looking and waved. Tonks pretended not to see him and walked back inside, hoping that Remus hadn’t left yet; they’d just had dinner and she’d given him an update on the search (it was still disappointingly quiet).
Remus had left; their table was empty and he wasn’t talking with Tom the barman. She’d been planning to walk home before she went to the Ministry – she still had half an hour until training started at nine-thirty - but there was no way she was going to try that with Greyback lurking outside. She tried to contact Mad-Eye with her Sidekick, but he didn’t respond. That wasn’t uncommon; he did it to annoy Scrimgeour.
She wouldn’t be able to Apparate – there were Anti-Apparition spells on the pub to stop people leaving before they paid – and so she decided she’d have to Floo. When she approached the fireplace, however, the pot of powder wasn’t there, and the small fire that usually burned had been doused.
“Floo’s closed,” Tom said as he shuffled past her, holding a tray of butterbeer.
“Closed?” she asked, tripping over her own feet as she followed him. “Why?” Tom shrugged. Tonks bit her lip and glanced at the pub door. Then she shook her head and left through the back door; she’d Apparate from Diagon Alley. The courtyard was packed, which she thought was unusual; it was nine o’clock on a Wednesday night.
“What’s going on?” she asked a witch.
“I don’t know,” the witch replied, tossing her blond curls. “It’d better be good, though – they made me leave before I could pay Madam Malkin-”
“Aurors,” the witch said, looking put out. “Come on, Rob,” she said, grabbing a man’s sleeve.
“Aurors?” Tonks muttered, and grew a few inches. The brick wall that led to Diagon Alley was open and through it, lines of Aurors were talking to people as they left.
“Everyone out!” a witch in maroon robes bellowed, shoving through the crowd. “Go home. You can come back tomorrow-”
“Auror McDuff!” Tonks called, but the witch didn’t hear her and she was forced back into the pub with everyone else. A crowd was gathered around the fireplace, complaining loudly that it was closed, and an even larger crowd was moving through the doors. Tonks knew a chance when she saw it; she squeezed into the centre of the crowd and Disapparated - thinking of the Ministry entrance because there wasn’t much point in her going home now - the moment she was outside.
She hurried straight into the telephone box as soon as she steadied; she doubted Greyback could have followed her but she didn’t want to take any risks. She punched in the Auror code and relaxed once the telephone box was underground.
“Wand, please,” the witch on wand-checking duty said through a yawn. Tonks hesitated; she knew Greyback wasn’t around but she still wasn’t keen on relinquishing her wand. “Wand, please,” the witch repeated impatiently.
“Don’t bother,” a voice called. McKinnon and Florence were walking toward her.
“Wand, please,” the witch said, looking annoyed.
“She’s not going through,” McKinnon snapped and the witch gave her an angry look. McKinnon ignored it.
“I’m not?” Tonks asked.
“Training’s cancelled,” Florence said. “Merlin knows why, but the entire floor’s empty.”
“Was it something to do with Diagon Alley?” Tonks asked.
“Diagon Alley? Florence asked, looking worried. “Why?”
“I was just at the Leaky Cauldron and everyone was being sent home-”
“Auror Finch was investigating a shopkeeper in Knockturn Alley,” Florence moaned. “It wasn’t supposed to be dangerous; she was just going to walk around with a Dark Detector... Something must have gone wrong-” Auror Finch was about as unlucky as Tonks was clumsy; the day Tonks had gone to the camp, Auror Finch had needed to be rescued and had spent a week in St Mungo’s recovering from a nasty curse.
“If the level’s empty, she’s obviously not dealing with the problem alone,” McKinnon pointed out.
“Obviously, McKinnon, but if the level’s empty, it’s got to be something pretty bad,” Florence shot back. “I’m going to get Melvin. I’ll see you two later.” She ran toward one of the fireplaces, shouted Melvin’s address and vanished. Tonks and McKinnon exchanged a look.
“If they need us,” McKinnon said, “then they’ll contact us.” She tossed her Sidekick up and caught it. “But otherwise, it’s an early night.” Tonks laughed nervously and McKinnon gave her an odd look. She strode toward the fireplace and then glanced back. “Are you coming?”
“I might stay here,” Tonks said.
“Why? McKinnon asked, puzzled.
“Just...” Tonks waved her hand at the atrium. “It’s safe here.”
“Yeah,” Tonks said. “I’m going to wait for Mad-Eye.” She’d sleep at his house tonight, which she was sure would be fine, but she didn’t want to invite herself in, only to be attacked by him when he arrived home later. It was easier to wait.
McKinnon watched her for a long moment and then something behind Tonks moved. She jumped, wand up, and turned to face it. It was just a poster on the wall which had come loose. She turned back around in time to see McKinnon holding her wand thoughtfully.
“You did that?” Tonks asked weakly, not sure whether to be relieved or angry; she’d thought before that McKinnon sensed weakness like a Niffler sensed treasure.
“Who’s following you?” McKinnon asked.
“You’re jumpy,” McKinnon said. “Which means you either saw or heard something that’s got you scared, or it means that someone’s following you. And, since you think it’s safe here, it means there’s something out there that you’re not keen to be exposed to, and the fact that you’re not going home probably means that you want to keep your family safe. That indicates a physical danger, rather than danger because of something you know.” Tonks sighed. “So who is it?”
Tonks looked around and almost missed the figure standing in the visitor’s entry telephone box. She didn’t know how long he’d been there, but she didn’t think it mattered. Somehow, he’d followed her.
“Oh my Merlin,” she whispered, her voice cracking.
“Who’s that?” McKinnon asked sharply, lifting her wand. The door of the telephone box opened and something silver flew through the air toward them. McKinnon caught it and paled. Tonks craned her neck to see; it was one of the visitor’s badges and where the name should have been it said Im Watching. Where the purpose of the visit usually was it said, Lookout. She had no doubt it was supposed to say ‘I’m watching’ and ‘look out’, but the badge-making magic had obviously changed it slightly. Even so, the message was pretty clear.
She looked up again, but the telephone box was empty.
“Tonks?” McKinnon said.
“Have you heard of Fenrir Greyback?” Tonks asked shakily.
* * *
“Don’t lose that,” Sirius said warningly, as Keira showed them out of the shop. The locket was clutched tightly in her green hand and Sirius hoped that it would be destroyed by tomorrow morning. “And be careful,” he added.
“I can handle a piece of jewellery,” she said, lifting her chin. She knew what the locket was now – he’d given in and he and Harry had explained the concept of Horcruxes – and so she knew it was more than just a necklace. He wondered if the understatement was her idea of a joke.
Harry looked puzzled too, but all he said was, “Thanks, Keira.” Keira gave them both a wide smile and closed the door.
It was still outside Walpole’s; there were no other shoppers and most of the shops appeared to be closed, despite it only being a bit after nine.
“Ready to go?” he asked. Harry – who looked like a middle-aged man – nodded. Sirius offered his arm and Harry took it, and then he twisted on the spot, thinking of Grimmauld’s doorstep. They didn’t move, though; all that happened was that Sirius did a stupid little pirouette and Harry fell over.
“Why didn’t it work?” Harry asked, accepting Sirius’ hand up.
“Dunno,” Sirius replied.
“Ostendere me omnia,” Harry muttered, and his eyes widened behind his glasses.
“Is it warded?” Sirius asked, frowning; they’d Apparated in with no trouble only about half an hour ago. Harry nodded, looking stunned. “Ostendere me omnia,” Sirius said quietly. He’d never tried the spell before, but he’d helped Harry learn how to do it. Light flared before his eyes and when he looked up, there was a quivering rainbow net in the sky that extended as far as he could see. “Wow,” he said and then looked at Harry, who was a mass of red and gold sparks. Interestingly, his magic was smaller than his current body; it looked like it would fit perfectly into Harry’s usual height and build, though. Sirius himself was red- but he’d think about all that later. “Is it always like this?”
“No,” Harry said, looking troubled.
“Can you get through?”
“No,” Harry said. “There are too many layers. Every time one bit moves, another fills it... Do you think-”
“-it’s for us?” Sirius finished. Finite, he added, because it was starting to hurt his eyes. “I’d like to say no.”
“But you can’t, can you?” Harry asked, taking a step closer to him.
“No, I can’t,” Sirius agreed. Harry shivered.
“So what do we do?”
* * *
“Thanks again,” Tonks said miserably, following McKinnon out of the Three Broomsticks. McKinnon hadn’t thought it was safe for her to stay at the Ministry and had offered to let her stay at her house until Mad-Eye could come up with a better idea.
“No problem,” McKinnon replied, brushing soot off her robes. “Hopefully this throws him off a bit.”
“Hopefully,” Tonks agreed, but if Greyback had tracked her to the Ministry, then he’d probably be able to find her at McKinnon’s. McKinnon offered Tonks her arm and spun on the spot. Tonks was being squeezed - Side-Along was infinitely worse than normal Apparition - and then the pressure stopped.
Tonks fell over, though McKinnon managed to keep her footing. They were in a small park – muggle by the looks of it – surrounded by terrace houses.
“Is this where you live?” Tonks asked, looking around. Ben, Melvin and Florence had all visited before but Tonks had been running errands for Malfoy as Tock and hadn’t been able to make it.
“Number Thirteen,” McKinnon said, gesturing for Tonks to follow. She led her out of the park, across the road and unlocked a plain door with a tap of her wand. There were a few people around but none of them were big enough to be Greyback. They both went inside and then McKinnon locked the door, which made Tonks relax a bit.
The hallway was narrow but bright. It had white walls and pale wooden floorboards and a faded Gryffindor banner dangled beside a door on the right. It was also very clean.
“You can have the guest room there-” McKinnon said, waving her hand at the door beside the banner. “-or the one upstairs.”
“Upstairs is further from the door,” Tonks said with a joking smile, but she was serious. “Do you mind if I take my rucksack up?”
“Go ahead,” McKinnon said. “I’m going to make dinner. Do you-”
The doorbell rang loudly and Tonks’ heart froze. She exchanged a horrified look with McKinnon, who was frowning.
“Please tell me you were expecting someone,” Tonks squeaked.
“No,” McKinnon said, stepping forward.
“What are you doing?!” Tonks hissed, pulling her wand out.
“Answering the door,” McKinnon said, lifting her own wand. The doorbell rang again. “Stand somewhere out of sight.” Tonks ducked into the guest room and half-closed the door. She peeked out through the gap, wand ready, just in case. McKinnon opened the door, wand first.
“Lupin,” McKinnon said, dropping her wand. Relief hit Tonks like a bludger.
“Are you expecting someone else?” Remus asked mildly.
“Yes, actually,” McKinnon said briskly. “I’m glad it’s you instead. Would you like to come in?”
“That’s probably best,” he said. “Where’s Dora?”
“Here,” Tonks said, stepping out of the guest room. Remus smiled at her, but his eyes were worried.
“You two know each other?” McKinnon asked, locking the door.
“Yeah,” Tonks said. “What are you doing here? I thought you were going home-”
“I was doing my own little patrol,” he admitted, and Tonks’s insides gave a guilty squirm. “Sirius lived next door when he was growing up and I thought maybe... I don’t know what I thought. No one was there except for Kreacher.”
“The house elf,” McKinnon sighed.
“It was stupid,” Remus mumbled. “I’d deluded myself into thinking they’d be there, but they’re not... As I was leaving, though, I saw the pair of you scurrying inside and it worried me, so I thought I’d come and see if there was anything I could do to help.”
“You’re welcome to stay,” McKinnon said. “You’re probably going to be more useful than I am if Greyback does show up. You’ve got experience handling him.”
“Lucky me,” Remus muttered. McKinnon laughed, and Tonks stared; McKinnon didn’t laugh very often. “So it is Greyback?” he asked, looking at Tonks.
“He followed me to the Ministry,” Tonks said. “I didn’t want to go home, so McKinnon offered to let me stay here.”
“He followed you to the Ministry?” Remus repeated, looking aghast.
“He was wearing my jumper,” Tonks added, and Remus seemed revolted, but not surprised. She wasn’t either, really; Greyback had worn the ring for days, apparently.
“And he left her this.” McKinnon tried to give him the badge but he didn’t take it.
“It’s silver,” Remus said. McKinnon snatched the badge back.
“I forgot, Lupin, I’m so-”
“You know?” Tonks asked; Remus and McKinnon didn’t seem awfully close and Remus wasn’t the type to tell everyone about his condition.
“You know?” McKinnon asked, looking as surprised as Tonks. Her eyes flicked between them. “How exactly do you two know each other?” Remus and Tonks shared a look, but were saved from trying to explain anything by McKinnon jumping and pulling out her Sidekick. “May I-?”
“Go ahead,” Remus said, while Tonks nodded. McKinnon disappeared down the hallway. “Does Mad-Eye know about the Ministry?”
“I haven’t been able to reach him.”
“Oh.” Remus looked troubled.
“Will you stay tonight?” Tonks blurted. “Please?” she added in a smaller voice. “McKinnon said it’s all right.”
“Sure,” he said after a moment. “Also, I think it’s best if Matt introduced us.” Tonks nodded.
“I’ve got to go,” McKinnon said, reappearing.
“What’s happened?” Tonks asked.
“Gawain’s called me in,” she said. “That’s all I can say at the moment, but you’ll know about it soon enough, I think. You’re both welcome to stay here – I don’t know when I’ll be back but there’s food downstairs. I’ll tell Mad-Eye what’s going on if I see him. Look after her,” she told Remus.
“We’ll go back to mine,” Remus said. He was very pale, Tonks noticed, and she wondered if he was scared, or if it was something else. Tonk was relieved that he’d offered that, though; she wouldn’t have felt right about staying in McKinnon’s house while McKinnon was out.
“I’ll let them know,” McKinnon promised. “I’m sorry to run out like this- if it was anything else- I’ll come by to check on you tomorrow, all right?”
“Be careful!” Tonks called, as McKinnon hurried out the front door. There was a pop and she was gone. “Are you okay?” Tonks asked, looking at Remus. He didn’t look well at all.
“Fine,” he said, sounding a bit off.
“What do you think she’s needed for?” Tonks asked. It must be important, whatever it was, or McKinnon would have stayed with her. Maybe Finch was in a lot of trouble in Diagon Alley. Tonks shut the door again, and had a quick look outside. Thankfully, she couldn’t see anyone out there. Maybe she’d managed to shake Greyback for the night.
“I’m not sure,” he said, but she didn’t quite believe him. In fact, he seemed to be arguing with himself. “Is that all you’ve got with you?” he asked, after several long seconds. Tonks nodded and fiddled with the strap of her rucksack. Remus smiled. It was genuine, but she thought it was a struggle for him to keep it there. Something about McKinnon’s exit had rattled him. “Let’s get you home then.”
* * *
Padfoot knocked on the window of Walpole’s, while Harry kept watch. Keira’s pale face appeared and a moment later the door opened.
“It isn’t morning yet,” Keira said, frowning at them. Padfoot slipped past her into the shop, and Harry followed. Keira looked puzzled but had the sense to close the door. “Yes?”
“We think the Aurors are here for us.” Keira’s eyebrows disappeared into her dark hair. “I need parchment, a quill and your most recent copy of Wizarding Law,” Padfoot said.
“Wizarding Law?” Harry asked, but Padfoot shook his head. Keira drifted away and returned a moment later with everything Padfoot had asked for. Padfoot began to write.
“Are you happy living with me, Harry?” he asked a few minutes later.
“Is this because of the locket-”
“Are you happy? The truth.”
“I’m happy,” Harry said, a little scared. Padfoot folded the letter and tucked it into the book. Then he scribbled something else onto another piece of parchment and gave that and the book to Keira.
“Could you send the book to the first address on there?” he asked. “Do it in the morning, and only once you’ve had it confirmed that we’ve been caught. Please don’t let it be intercepted. Keep the locket safe. If I’m Kissed, or sent back to Azkaban, send it to the second address. He’ll know what it is.” Keira nodded and placed a hand on Padfoot’s shoulder and he offered her a small, nervous smile. Then, she hugged Harry and disappeared into the back room.
“I don't- why are you writing letters?” Harry asked. “Shouldn't we be trying to escape?” Padfoot gave him a look that Harry didn't know how to interpret; it was nervous, worried and excited all at once.
“We're not running this time, kiddo.”
* * *
“All settled?” Remus asked leaning in the doorway of his guest room.
“Yeah,” Tonks said, playing with the sleeve of the pyjamas he'd leant her. “Thanks.”
“Good night,” he said. His smile strained – she thought he was worried – but it drew an answering smile out of her anyway. Then he pulled the door closed and she heard his footsteps retreat up the hallway. The room seemed empty without him there, and her worry about Greyback, about Auror Finch, about McKinnon and about Mad-Eye, who still wasn't answering his Sidekick came creeping back. She pulled the covers up and settled into her pillow, though she doubted she'd sleep well tonight.
* * *
“Stop where you are, Black!”
Sirius stopped and lifted his hands up slowly to show he wasn't holding his wand. Beside him, Harry had gone very still.
Please don't let this be a mistake, he thought. Please, please, please...
It seemed the entirety of the D.M.L.E. had come to see them. It was ridiculous, but reassuring; he'd been right not to consider trying to fight his way out. Once he might have - it probably would have seemed like a grand adventure - but he wasn't about to risk Harry's safety and he'd grown up and gained enough sense to realise it would probably end with him being killed or captured. Since he'd rather be captured than die, and capture seemed inevitable, it was best to be caught on his own terms.
And, while he was never going to walk into the Ministry and hand himself in, he wasn't about to run away from a situation like this one. Marlene's had been different; she'd have killed him if he'd stayed, Remus had been involved, and Harry hadn't been with them, all of which would have made things hard.
This, though, was almost too easy. He could go quietly, and get a trial...
The locket was a nasty piece of work, but it had been right about Harry deserving more than to be cooped up in Grimmauld. The Ministry would be too curious about Sirius’ escape and how he'd managed to hide from them this long to kill him or have him Kissed. That meant he'd get a chance to talk - something he hadn't been given eight years ago - and he still remembered enough about wizarding law from his Auror days to ensure he was listened to. Being listened to didn’t necessarily mean that things would work out, though...
Please, please, please, please be the right thing to do. Please, please-
“Step away from the boy, Black!” Harry's eyes met his.
“It'll be all right, kiddo,” he said. Harry nodded, though it was obvious he didn't believe it.
“Black! Step away from the boy!”
“You ready?” Sirius asked.
“Not really,” Harry said, attempting to smile.
“Do you remember what I told you?”
“Yeah,” Harry said. He hesitated and then said, “Love you, Padfoot.”
“Love you too, kiddo,” Sirius said. His throat was absurdly tight. Harry gave him a small, grim smile and Sirius clapped him on the shoulder. Then, Harry turned and walked toward the Aurors. He did it slowly; he had the sense not to run at them and a few feet before he reached them, he stopped and pulled their wands out of his pocket. The Aurors all flinched but Harry turned them around and offered them to the closest Auror. Sirius recognised Lyra Finch, who’d gone through the Program at the same time as him and James.
“Thank you,” she said cautiously. She took them, and then several Aurors converged on Harry, blocking him from Sirius’ view.
“We’ve got him!” someone shouted, and then there was a pop of Disapparition. Sirius felt quite alone all of a sudden, despite the many Aurors surrounding him.
No one seemed to know what to do with him. They were all staring as if he was something that had crawled out of the Forbidden Forest; they were equally fascinated and terrified. Sirius could have said several witty or rude things, but he decided to wait.
“Petrificuls Totalus! Incarcerous!”
Sirius fell with a grunt and landed hard on his side. The Aurors were murmuring amongst each other but no one had moved to approach him.
Please, please don’t be a mistake-
“One move, Sirius, and I’ll kill you on the spot,” a fierce voice said in his ear as he was hauled into a sitting position. “Finite.” The Body-Bind came off, allowing him to sit more comfortably.
“I don’t doubt it,” he said.
Marlene made a sound that might have been a laugh.
Please, please, please.
* * *
Tonks sighed and rolled over, grabbing her wand off the bedside table.
“Tempus,” she said, and a ghostly clock flickered into existence. It was just after midnight, and had only been ten minutes since she’d last cast the charm. “Damn it,” she muttered, and flicked her wand again to make the clock go away. She hadn’t managed to get to sleep yet, and it was driving her mad.
She took out some of her frustration on her pillow – by punching it – and then rolled onto her back with a huff. The door opened slowly and a figure poked its head in. Tonks clenched her fingers around her wand.
“Remus?” She lit her wand and Remus’ guilty face came into focus.
“I didn’t know if you were a restless sleeper or if you were awake,” he said sheepishly.
“Can’t sleep?” he asked, coming in to sit on the end of the bed. She shook her head. “Neither can I.” They sat in a tired, worried silence for a few seconds and then Remus stood. “I’m going to make a cup of tea. Would you like one?”
“Yes, please,” she said, tossing back the covers.
She followed him out into the dark sitting room. He seemed to know his way around without a light, while Tonks managed to trip over an armchair even with her wand. Remus chuckled and lit the stove with matches, which she thought was strange but didn’t comment on. Tonks dropped into a seat at the table, yawning – she felt tired now, but she knew she’d be wide awake the second she climbed back into bed.
The kettle’s bubbling grew louder and louder and Remus fetched tealeaves and cups. Tonks drummed her fingers on the table.
“Thanks,” she said as a steaming cup was set down in front of her.
Remus sat and didn’t attempt to make conversation - he seemed wrapped up in his own thoughts – but that didn’t bother Tonks. She thought they were probably thinking the same things anyway, so what was the point of talking? She sipped at her tea.
She was getting tired; the tea was warming her from the inside, and it was late and the chair was comfortable and Remus was there keeping her safe and keeping her sane. She put the cup down before she could drop it and her eyes started to drift shut. Remus said something in a quiet voice but she didn’t really hear him. A moment later, she started so violently that she knocked her teacup over. If Remus had been pale before, then he was positively ghostly now. He didn’t even seem to have noticed the tea dripping onto the floor.
“Did you hear it too?” he breathed. Tonks barely heard him over her pounding heart; something had made a popping sound outside and at this hour of the night, when Remus’ cottage was as isolated as it was, it could only be Greyback.
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