Chapter 13 : The Search
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The castle was empty and devoid of Sirius. It was a fact that did not sit well with James; it sat about as poorly with him as the idea that his former friend had made into the castle and all the way up to the Gryffindor tower. While the staff conducted a full search floor by floor of the castle, James took a more 'logical' approach: he went straight for the passages and places the man would possibly use and hole up in. If there was anyone who knew the castle as well as James, it was Sirius. While they were in school they found all the short cuts and all the best places to hide from the caretaker or a wandering prefect, particularly when they weren't using the invisibility cloak. In the end, though, there wasn't a trace of Sirius to be found, not even a good scent to trail. There were too many other smells mixed in the air, from the scent of students to that of their pets. At one point he thought he caught something that might have been Sirius, but it was impossible to pick up.
When his search of the castle and the most logical places that Sirius would hole up turned out to be fruitless, James went to the next logical place: the Whomping Willow, which had been undisturbed. The musty smell of passage told James everything; Sirius came in via the Forbidden Forest. He could have been hiding most anywhere in there. While the Forest was dangerous for most any student and even provided a good number of challenges for a fully trained wizard, Sirius was one of few people who would find the anonymity of the Forest to be safe and the dangers not to be too much of a challenge. They had all spent enough time in that Forest on a full moon that the paths were almost as familiar of that of the castle. Of course the Forest changed more than the stair cases did as it was comprised of living creatures, but the signs of the centaurs was easy enough to pick up on and the safe places were easy to spot.
James took a moment to stare at the Forest and scanned it for any sign of Sirius as a human or a dog, which had an advantage in the Forest against the creatures of the terrain. He saw nothing. Where was his most likely access point? Finding a good place James followed his instincts. He had to find Sirius. He had to put an end to things. It was almost too much to consider that Sirius was back to finish the job on the anniversary of when he ruined his life. James wanted revenge and spent the entire night in the Forest searching, trying to find the other man with no luck.
It was only in the wee hours of the morning that James thought of the one thing he didn't consider, that his mad rage had blinded him to: the Marauder's Map. They had allowed it be confiscated in their seventh year in hopes that another young prodigy like them would nick it and learn from them. Anyone smart enough to steal it would have the brains to unlock the map. Still that was beside the point; it could still be in Filch's office. So looking worse for wear James entered into the castle and made his way for the caretaker's office. It was to his fortune that neither Filch nor his cat was there as he broke into the file marked 'highly dangerous'. Unfortunately the map wasn't there and James knew what he needed now was to get what little rest he could afford himself.
Sleeping only a few hours, James cleaned himself up as he mentally reviewed everything from the night before. Was there some place that he missed? Had he covered every option? What if Sirius made an attempt again? Last night had proved one thing: the castle wasn’t impenetrable. If it had been any other night and Harry hadn’t been in his dorm, Sirius would have had him. The mere thought made bile rise in his chest. He couldn't just sit still; his wolf nature and troubling thoughts both demanded that he move and so he took to pacing his quarters as the evening hours started settled in. His mind endlessly turned over the situation as if it were a puzzle box. He started to get the feeling that there was a possibility that he needed to mention the secret passages. Not to mention the fact that Sirius could take the form of a dog, and knew of the Shrieking Shack as well as the weakness of the Whomping Willow. At the same time, by doing such it would betray the memory of Remus. These were secrets that Remus had kept and how could he so easily betray the man who had lain down his life for him and his son? The feelings left a shard of ice running through him. He was stuck in between a rock and a hard place.
His train of thoughts were interrupted by a knock on his door, eliciting a sound of disgust before he spoke up with a rather terse tone. "Come in."
When Snape billowed into the room, James closed his eyes for a moment and regretted his manner. It wasn't a matter that he took issue with being less than cordial with the Potions Master; it was more that he was tipping his hand and revealing he was already bothered and on edge. It was showing weakness to the other man, a thing that James was sure he would take advantage of.
Snape paused briefly and gave James a bit of a look before setting the Wolfsbane potion down as if he was eager to get it out of his hands. "I am surprised you are still here, Lupin."
James bit his tongue desiring to keep his already thinning temper in check. "Why is that?"
"I would think that to be obvious. It is no secret that you were not present during the search for Black, let alone within the walls of the castle. Out helping a certain fugitive friend of yours?"
Despite using every ounce of his will power to keep the wolf at bay, Snape had just crossed the line and James found himself was acting before he could fully stop himself. He lunged forward ready to make physical contact with the other man. He just kept himself from raising his fist but found himself invading personal space as he let out a snarl, keeping his fist clenched so tight his knuckles were turning white. "How dare you! Black took everything I had! I am the last person to help him."
Unwavering, Snape met James' murderous glare with a deadly one of his own. "Watch yourself, Lupin. You may have the Headmaster fooled, but I am not. Don't forget that I still make your potions, which you should drink. I also hold the ear of a few school governors. I wouldn’t want to accidentally let something slip."
James took in a deep breath willing himself to back down and away from the Potions Master. He picked up the concoction and downed it in almost one go before handing back the goblet. Though the words placed a bile taste worse than the potion itself in his mouth, he said them anyway. "Thank you, Severus. I will see you tomorrow night."
Snape snatched the goblet from James with a sneer before he turned to go without a word, leaving James standing there stalk-still as the door slammed shut. When he was sure the other man was gone James turned and punched the top of his table, finally exerting the energy he had been working so hard to contain.
What did the git know anyways? His hand throbbed with pain as he tried to shake it out, returning to his pacing. His heart was still racing and was practically in his throat as his mind turned inward. What was he doing here? He hadn't exactly done much to protect Harry; that much was obvious. He was worthless. He wasn't a father and he was hardly anything to his son than just another teacher among many. Then there was the danger of being there at the castle. The risks being a werewolf in the school were only compounded by the fact that he was a bleeding teacher for Merlin's sake! One word about that and he was out. Maybe he needed to resign? Surely he could do more to protect Harry from outside the castle than inside it. He knew Sirius had to be nearby, it was just a matter of ferreting him out. Really it was going to be game over anyway after this coming moon.
James shook his head at himself and acted on impulse alone. He left his quarters and took the fastest route he knew to Dumbledore's office. The staircase didn't hesitate to open itself to him as he spoke the password. If he hadn't been so upset, he might have paused to appreciate the oddity of being freely admitted to the Headmaster's office like this, but the thought didn't even cross his mind.
When he opened the door which he failed to knock on James was greeted by the ever-calm voice of the Headmaster. "I must admit, Remus, I am a bit surprised to not have seen you sooner."
Dumbledore looked up from his knitting, over his half-moon spectacles, pleasant and expectant expression on his face. "Would you care for a raspberry cream?"
The response he received actually left James a bit dumbfounded. He stood there in the entrance hand on the door and started at the overly calm man.
"You were expecting me?"
The older man gave a silent incline of his head setting down the knitting that was in his hands. The project in far too early stages for James to make out what it was. He stepped further into the office and took one of the creams absentmindedly. He didn't even know that the man knew how to knit.
"I imagine that the events of last night have not settled well with you."
If there was ever an understatement of the year, that certainly had to be it. "You could say that," answered James swallowing the candy rather quickly and taking a seat.
Dumbledore gave a nod of his head.
"Sirius made it into the castle!"
"Indeed, a very unfortunate occurrence. It is something that is being looked into. In the interim, we have a new portrait who will be just as vigilant as the last. There is very little chance that Sirius will make his way into the common room while Harry is in there."
"That doesn't cover when he's not in the tower."
"The entire staff is aware of the situation and is doing their part to ensure Harry's as well as the rest of the student's safety. I have also added a few additional wards to the school's existing protections."
"That's not good enough Dumbledore!" snapped James suddenly standing up. He gestured toward the window, "I should be out there! Looking for him. He's in the area. I, of all people, may be able to figure out where he is holed up and stop things before he seizes another opportunity to do something more than simply damage a portrait and give the entire student body a good scare. Does Harry even know what kind of danger he's in?"
"You serving here on staff is in Harry's best interest, Remus. You are best equipped to protect him here in the castle should the worst happen again. As to Harry being aware of what is going on, I am certain he'll get a feeling something is going on as we all act in his best interest to protect him. I plan to speak with Minerva for her to make him aware of the situation. I know he has a way of taking after his father and wandering the halls. It might do well for Harry to know more of who you are as well."
James turned from looking at the window to look Dumbledore in the eyes. His mind began racing. Surely he wasn't saying what he thought! His heart was in his throat. Tell Harry who he was? That certainly gave him pause, and his building anger about the whole situation ebbed once more.
"You - you think that wise?"
Dumbledore gave an inclination of his head. "It might do Harry well to know that a family friend is watching over him, particularly one who is looking out for him. Remind him of how it might be wise to not go looking for trouble. Words of wisdom from a trusted friend are better received than those coming from another authority figure for a young mind. From my understanding, Harry has come to trust you."
James' heart plummeted. Of course, that is what Dumbledore meant. It was the only thing he could have meant. He was Remus and could be no one else. Why had he even thought of anything other than being what he was, Remus John Lupin?
"Of course. I hadn’t realized I had built such a rapport with Harry. Still, there may not be much opportunity left. The moon is fast approaching. I'll be missing classes. It doesn't take much to figure out what I am. Sirius and - James figured it out by second year. You aren't training up fools here; they are a sharp group of students."
"You have done a wonderful job building things up in regards to your health, Remus. Your skills at deception have increased since you were a student here, your symptoms are less apparent, your recovery time is protracted and it will be arranged with the rest of the staff to cover your lessons during their free periods. There is little to worry about."
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