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Chapter 12 : Remus Heads Out
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Disclaimer: The story title is a song originally recorded (under that title) by Bob Dylan. The world, characters and canon events belong to J. K. Rowling. Everything else belongs to me. It is illegal to publish and distribute fanfiction without J.K. Rowling's permission. You may not copy, post elsewhere, change or edit any part of this story. You may not claim it as your own.
Remus Heads Out
Fresh terror was rising in the wizarding world. The streets of wizarding villages had never been so cold and empty and lifeless. Some stores even closed up shop and displayed "Temporarily Out of Business" signs. The skies were darker than ever before as the Dementors, still lingering in the murky clouds above, fed off of people's fears and nightmares.
Ever since Lily Evans had fled the Daily Prophet, the newspaper had begun printing stories about the Dark happenings again. As a result, the community was reminded of things they may not have had to face for months, and fear was all around them. Much of the news was new to the public; nobody had realised, without the constant updates, how quickly things were going from bad to worse.
The paper reported many of the last few months' happenings all in one issue - the giant movement and subsequent Dementor feeding on the Muggle village in August. The Imperiused employees of the paper. There was tornadoes and flooding up in Glasgow, water brought up from the river believed to be the work of Voldemort himself. And as always, deaths, deaths; death and injury and terrorism.
All hope seemed to be gone.
Sirius lounged lazily on the bed in Remus’s room, grey eyes following his friend around the small space. Remus was leaving. Remus was leaving and he couldn’t wrap his head around it.
Remus had a small, battered briefcase open at Sirius’s feet in which he packed the few things he would need to take with him into the wild. It was where his wand would be hidden, for one. He couldn’t be running around with one while trying to fit in with the werewolves. Most werewolves weren’t even allowed wands. His acceptance into Hogwarts had truly been a miracle. There were also a few pieces of parchment, a quill and a bottle of ink for writing, should he get the chance.
James had loaned him the invisibility cloak and bid him safety while he was away. Remus had carefully folded his friend’s most prized possession and placed it gently into the briefcase. As Sirius watched, he shoved an extra cloak in as well, in case his own ripped beyond repair. He wouldn’t need many clothes, however. Most of the werewolves weren’t clean and human. They’d wear the same clothes for weeks, taking them off only to wash them. The thought made him wrinkle his nose in disgust, and for the millionth time, he wished he wasn’t one of them.
“Hang on,” said Sirius suddenly, scooting off the bed. “I’ve got something for you.”
“All right,” Remus responded quietly as Sirius disappeared from the room. He sank onto the bed beside the open briefcase and rubbed his hands forlornly over his face. He truly didn’t want to leave - he hadn’t been on his own since meeting the Marauders. When Sirius rounded the corner again, this time clutching something in his hands, Remus forced a smile onto his face. He didn’t want Sirius to see how hard it was to go.
Sirius stopped in the doorway, hesitating, inhaling deeply as he eyed his friend. He tapped his fingers against the object in his hands for a moment before blowing the air out again and stepping forward.
“I want you to have this,” he said, thrusting the object at Remus.
Remus eyed the small square package and then looked up at Sirius. It was his magic mirror; James had given it to him. It was how they communicated when they weren’t together. This mirror, Remus knew, had saved Sirius. His friend had clung to it through many difficult summers with his family. It had been his escape.
“That’s your mirror,” said Remus dismissively. He couldn't take that from Sirius.
But Sirius gave a brief nod. “Take it. We’ll want to know how you are. If you need help. We’d be there in an instant if you called.”
“I wouldn't call. You’d probably ruin the whole operation, and you’d get yourselves killed. I couldn’t risk having you seen, even if I were in trouble.”
Sirius rolled his eyes. “Well, we’re not going to sit by and let you get killed. If you’re in trouble, the operation is probably ruined anyway, Moony. Take the bloody thing before I shove it down your damn throat.” He thrust it towards Remus again.
“Sodding...” but then Remus interrupted himself, straightening from his packing to survey his friend; Sirius looked stressed. He sighed and accepted the mirror, quickly turning away to face his briefcase. "All right. Thanks."
“Don’t mention it,” shrugged Sirius, sinking onto the bed beside Remus. “So... how far away are you going?”
Remus smirked. “Do you honestly think I’d tell you that, Padfoot? You, who doesn’t follow the rules?” He glanced sideways at Sirius’s expectant, earnest face. “I’m not having you sneak up for a visit or something, Sirius,” he said gently. “It’s not worth the risk. And if you were spotted, they’d expect me to join in on the killing you bit. I couldn’t do it, not even for the Order.”
“I wouldn’t be,” said Sirius defensively. He crossed his arms. “Spotted, I mean.”
Remus snorted. “We’re talking werewolves here, Pads. Wild ones. They’d smell you from miles away.”
Sirius looked away, down at his crossed arms. It was then that he realized the seriousness - only James had ever called him Pads. He was unable to hide his disappointment towards the entire issue. Remus sighed, feeling fairly regretful himself, and snapped the briefcase shut. Then he stood.
“I guess I’d better get going,” he said determinedly, pulling the briefcase from the bed. He was already tired of his new job, and he hadn't even started it yet, and he hated it.
Sirius nodded slowly, his brow sinking low over his eyes. “Okay,” he lamented, the glum sound of his voice making his despair evident. He stood as well and, after sizing each other up for a moment, they embraced.
“You’ll write?” Sirius demanded, not letting go until he got a positive answer.
Remus, who was feeling quite smothered, nodded into his shoulder. “Whenever I can.”
After he left, the flat felt horribly empty to Sirius, who paced from room to room feeling caged and more lonely than he ever had. There was Remus’s book on the coffee table. When he opened a cupboard, it was to find a half-eaten chocolate bar inside, rolled up into it's wrapper to be saved for later.
(Sirius snapped off a small piece and ate it in an effort to lift his spirits, but all it tasted like was sadness and distant memories. He rolled the wrapper up again and flung it irritably into the shadows beneath a shelf.)
He was searching for something, anything, to fill the sudden void, a hopeless darkness, the depths of which he couldn't even understand. Remus had only been living there for a few weeks. But now without him, it was as if every bit of happiness and light in the flat had been swallowed, and he was left in dark and silence.
On the kitchen counters were all the potions Lily had made them so they could accompany Remus during the full moons. Sirius ran his fingers through his hair, flustered as he eyed the colourful vials, before hurrying to the fireplace and flooing to Godric’s Hollow.
“He’s gone,” he shouted as he stepped out of the fireplace. “He’s gone!”
James’s mother came hurrying into the sitting room at his commotion, wringing her hands on her apron. “Who’s gone, Sirius?” she asked in a panic. She hadn’t seen him out of his mind since he’d shown up homeless on her doorstep two years before. But James entered the room right behind her, dodged around her and hurried towards his friend.
“Remus,” snarled Sirius as James reached him. “He just left. He’s gone.” He shoved the hair out of his face again, impatiently squirmed away from James, and blindly stalked around the room.
James made a grab for his arm and then marched him towards the foyer, the staircase, his bedroom. “I’ll take care of it, Mum,” he said over his shoulder, and Eve Potter hesitantly returned to the kitchen looking confused and worried.
“He won’t tell me where,” groaned Sirius as James dragged him up the stairs. James's father peered curiously at them as they passed his office, but he said nothing.
“Shh,” was all James offered in response, until they got to his room and he shut the door behind them. He pushed Sirius onto the bed and then sat down next to him. “Relax, Padfoot, for fuck's sake.”
Sirius buried his face in his hands and rocked back and forth for a moment while James sat calmly beside him. “What if something happens to him?” he finally asked, looking worriedly at James. “He's not like them!”
“He’s got my cloak, remember?” James reminded him reassuringly. “He’ll be fine. He was one of the smartest in class, after you and I. He won't do anything stupid.”
“Book smart, that was, James, and you know it!”
James chuckled, because they'd always teased Remus for it at school; he'd always gotten good grades, but had to work much harder for them than James or Sirius did.
“Perhaps... But he has a wand. And they don’t, werewolves aren't normally allowed. He’ll be all right, Pads, I promise!”
And with that, he scooted off the bed and crossed the room to his desk. He pulled something that Sirius couldn’t see from one of the drawers, and when he returned to the bed he had a bottle of Firewhisky in his hands. He held the bottle out towards Sirius. “Here. It'll help.”
James always thought of everything and Sirius's eyes flickered briefly between the bottle and James's earnest face before he snatched it from his friend's hand. He took a large drink from the bottle. It burned all the way down and he immediately broke into a sweat as tears of pain began to stream down his face, but he felt blissfully numb. His face felt tight with the salt of tears - he was surprised to find they had escaped him, for he couldn't remember outright crying; he wiped at his sticky cheeks impatiently.
“Thanks,” he muttered, pushing the cork back into the bottle and twisting it in his hands for a moment. He considered the heavy bottle, pondered having another sip, but instead, finally, placed it gently on the bedside table and stared regretfully at the label.
“No problem,” James smiled again, patting Sirius's knee reassuringly now that he was calming down. “I never put that bottle back after we stole it from Dad's liquor cabinet last Christmas.”
“You're a right thief, you are...” mumbled Sirius, who feeling vague and amused - slightly silly, really. It didn't take long for the alcohol to infiltrate his blood. “Terrible...”
“Bloody right, I am.” And James sounded almost proud.
Sirius twisted the bottle absently around on the desk, filling the silence with a dull scraping noise, and then sighed and let his arm drop. “I gave him my mirror,” he finally said, after reading the first line of ingredients on the label. “I told him to call us if he needs us. That we’d be there in an instant.”
Nodding simply, James said, “All right. I’ll start carrying the other around with me, then.” He looked sideways at Sirius’s panic-stricken face, at anxious grey eyes staring back at him, waiting to make sure he'd do as he said.
James sighed, got up and pulled open the drawer of his nightstand, lifting his own mirror out and shoving it into his pocket. He couldn't hold back an amused chuckle of fondness for his worried friend as he said, “See? It'll be okay, Pads.”
(James wouldn't admit that he was worried too, that, as far as he was concerned, Remus was entirely hopeless in such dangerous conditions. The boy was charmingly awkward, and it was almost painful to imagine him among such savage creatures.
James was stronger than Sirius in several ways, and he'd hidden these thoughts for the sake of his friend.)
Although Sirius nodded and let out a resigned sigh, James could still read the anxiety on his face. He cast quickly around for a distraction, and realized he knew just what Sirius needed. “Want to spend the night?” he asked suddenly. “Just like old times, when we were kids. Mum’ll make dinner, and we’ll stay up way later than we should... Then, after they go to bed, we can sneak out and get your bike and go for a ride! We can read my old comics, and steal food from the kitchen, and play chess in the dark...”
“We still are kids,” interrupted Sirius. His voice was almost desperate as he had to remind himself that eighteen wasn't so old, no matter how much it suddenly felt like it. It wasn't too old to feel afraid or upset over a best mate heading into dangerous werewolf territory.
“Well. Not so much, perhaps. We're in a war.”
Sirius frowned at that, at James nailing his exact thoughts, but then quickly grinned as he remembered the way things used to be just a year or two earlier. They had caused a lot of trouble on that motorcycle of his, narrowly escaping danger several times, including a group of Death Eaters and Muggle police officers.
“Just like old times?” he asked wryly, eying James mischievously from under his thick black lashes.
“Exactly like old times,” agreed James, throwing an arm over his shoulders. “We’ll stop by Lily’s flat when we pick your bike up. I’ll have to let her know I have other plans tonight, or she’ll worry.”
Sirius pondered this, feeling mildly guilty that James would stand Lily up for an evening with him instead. But he quickly shoved it from his mind. James spent every night with Lily, and he’d never complained. He felt he deserved a night with his best friend without feeling guilty about it.
“It’s a date,” he announced, grandly pulling the cork out of the bottle once more and sloshing Firewhisky all over the both of them as he took another swig.
The streets were pitch black in downtown London. James was smiling like a child; the grin stretched across his face and his eyes twinkled even more than Dumbledore's. And Sirius was suddenly jealous.
They had just left Lily's flat. James had kissed her for what seemed like ages, while Sirius and Lily's roommate, Lucy, sat awkwardly together on the couch and watched their friends get carried away. And waited until the two surfaced for air and became aware of the world around them once more.
But they had finally left. They were going to pick up Sirius's flying motorbike. Sirius couldn't wait to ride it, couldn't wait to go soaring through the clouds once more. It wasn't often that he got to ride it when Apparating was so much quicker. Maybe they could even get close to a Dementor, and race for their lives. He was feeling daring.
(He was slightly drunk.)
He could ride it all night, if it kept his mind off of Remus.
It was when they rounded the corner that they came upon the chaos. Or rather, heard it.
A man was screaming, wailing in agony. It pierced through the air, chilled them to the bone. Sirius and James looked at each other and took off running for the sound. The streets were deserted, although, here and there, a face peered out from behind a closed window, searching for the source of the scream. Sirens could be heard approaching; a concerned neighbour had obviously called for help.
The scream came again, and the two young wizards turned down a dark alley. They could vaguely see a dark figure in the back. They sprinted when they saw a flash of light and heard the snarled incantation, trying to get to the end faster to save the poor soul lying on the muddy damp ground.
The figure on the ground screamed once more in agony. The shadow towering over him seemed to enjoy the pain. But then the figure looked up, hearing the pounding of James and Sirius's feet on the pavement as they ran. Wasting no time at all, the figure shoved his wand into his victim's back. "Avada Kedavra!"
"Expelliarmus!" shouted Sirius, interrupting him and flinging his wand forward as they ran. He knew it was too late. He felt the air erupt from the tip of it as the spell left him, and could practically feel the spell hurtling towards the man in the alley as the last syllable of the curse left the man's lips. Even as the wand flipped from the man's fingers, Sirius's heart pounded sickeningly in his chest. One figure stopped struggling and lay still on the cold wet ground; the other straightened, but seemed unbothered. He had chosen to make sure his victim didn't survive rather than try to defend himself, and the fact that he didn't care about his capture showed how dangerous he was.
"Stop!" shouted James, pointing his own wand towards the man in warning. "Don't move!"
But the shadow laughed and stepped forward. For a moment James thought he was going to retrieve his wand, which had landed several feet away. "Accio!" he cried, pointing his own wand at the stick. The shadow's wand soared towards James and he caught it easily.
They were drawing nearer now, near enough to see the man's face, though it was hidden by darkness. They slowed, panting for breath as they drew near enough to attempt to make a capture. The man began to turn on the spot. He was going to Disapparate.
Sirius pointed his wand again. "Petrificus Totalus!" he roared as quickly as he could, but it wasn't quick enough. The shadow was gone, and Sirius's spell blasted into the brick wall at the end of the alley, causing a few bits of the stone to crumble to the ground.
"Fuck," groaned James. He strode forward, panting heavily, and rolled the man on the ground over. It was the bartender of the Leaky Cauldron, Will Brookhouse.
Several loud cracks suddenly surrounded all around them. "Drop your wands, by order of the Ministry," demanded a voice. Sirius and James did so, and immediately raised their hands into the air.
"Nice to see you boys again," mused a slightly familiar voice, laced with sarcasm. Bartemius Crouch stepped out of the shadows, and Sirius heard James heave an impatient sigh at the sight of the man. He heard the sirens in the distance suddenly die down, and knew that magic had caused the Muggle help to suddenly forget what they were responding to.
"Causing trouble, are we?" asked Crouch expectantly.
"No, sir," said James confidently. "We didn't do this."
"A dead man in an alley, and you boys standing over him seconds after his death. It seems obvious to me," mused Crouch. "What were you two doing here, anyway? I find it very suspicious that you just happened to be in the right place at the right time."
Sirius suddenly remembered the authorised use of Unforgivables within the Ministry. He warily eyed the Aurors surrounding them, all with wands pointed. "I live around the corner," he said quickly. "We heard the screams, and we came running. He was being tortured with a Cruciatus Curse. It was a Death Eater who did this. Or a supporter of Voldemort..."
There was a shudder that seemed to go all around the circle of wizards.
"He speaks the name," one man pointed out, and the rest nodded and mumbled nervously. Their hands gripped their wands a little tighter.
Sirius closed his eyes and cursed himself for being so stupid. James always spoke the name, so much so that none of them minded hearing it. It didn't scare them, they heard it so often. And he spoke it so often only because his father did; John Potter wasn't afraid of the name or the pathetic man behind it.
"So?" snapped James. Sirius could tell he was quickly losing his temper.
Bartemius Crouch shuddered at the name as well, but was quick to get over it and regain his composed stature. He stepped forward a bit more, as if to command attention again. "If it was a Death Eater who killed this poor man," he said in a level, objective voice, "Then where is he? I see you two have obviously stepped in to save the day. No fruit of that labour?"
James's eyes flared. Gone was the sparkle from moments earlier, after his brief visit to Lily's flat. "He Disapparated."
Crouch's eyes hardened and he gave a small smirk. "How convenient."
"It's the truth," insisted Sirius dangerously. He knew they couldn't take down ten trained Aurors, but if it came down to it, he hoped they could take at least two or three. He'd release every bit of magic within him at once if he had to, even if it killed him. He wasn't going to go to prison for a crime he didn't commit.
Bartemius Crouch pursed his lips as he surveyed the boys. His expression was calm, unbothered, as if he could do this all day. "Perhaps it is. Then you let him get away," he stated. He seemed smug, as if their failure proved them incapable, not as good as he originally thought they were. As if this was karma, coming to get them after they refused his job offer, and he could sit and witness and gloat about it.
James narrowed his eyes. "Not without his wand," he growled back, clearly at the end of his patience. "We got that, at least, failures though we are. I believe you can get an identification that way, can't you?"
At that, Crouch's expression lightened considerably. Any gloating he may have been enjoying was quickly forgotten in lieu of capturing another Dark wizard. "Let's see it," he said eagerly.
"Your Aurors aren't going to use an Unforgivable on me if I pick it up off the ground, are they?" James countered, looking stubborn.
Crouch scowled. "Retrieve the wands," he snapped at one of the Aurors at his side. After the spare was placed in his hand and Crouch had examined it with interest, he finally straightened and looked at his two captives. "You boys have done well, despite the fact that he has gotten away. This information will be very valuable to the Ministry in identifying a suspect and preventing it from happening again. I would like, once again, to extend an invitation to join our forces. You have both proven yourselves to be exceptionally skilled and level-headed. Though he has gotten away, you have managed to recover the most important piece of him."
With that, he handed their wands back to them, and they cautiously lowered their arms to accept them. Sirius narrowed his eyes at how quickly Crouch had gone from finding them incompetent to finding them skilled enough to be on their team.
James turned his wand over in his hands, as if inspecting it for damage. After a moment, he looked up into Crouch's eyes in disgust.
"No. Thank you," he said darkly.
Remus sniffed the air as a chilly wind blew around him, ruffling his hair. He tested for the scent of the pack - one he knew lived in these particular woods. He’d asked his father. If anyone knew exactly where to find creatures in hiding, it was his father, who tracked them for a living and had records of all known locations.
He was close now, he could smell it. Sometimes his senses were quite keen, full moon and furry or not. He crouched onto the ground, opened his briefcase and removed his wand and the invisibility cloak. With the wand he blasted a hole in the ground at his feet and shoved the briefcase inside. He couldn’t be seen with it. He wouldn’t look wild if he carried a suitcase around. He’d look like somebody merely stopping by for a visit - a lost vacationer, the perfect prey for the werewolf pack. Should he need the mirror, he could come and get it. And as for writing, he’d have to come and do that in his spare time as well. Perhaps while pretending to be off hunting.
He carefully wrapped the wand in the invisibility cloak and shoved both into his deep pockets. He’d chosen his shabbiest robes to make an appearance. It was easy to be thankful that his family wasn’t rich, at least in this situation. He was glad he never threw away his old robes, but simply kept repairing them. He’d never survive if he arrived in new robes.
Knowing he had little time left - if he could smell them, they could surely smell him and would be on their way - he shoved the mound of dirt over the briefcase, placed a small boulder on top of it to mark the spot and hide the disturbed soil, and then rubbed his dirty hands over his face and hair. He hoped it looked realistic. He wiped his face on his sleeve to remove any excess dirt that might look fake.
It was darker here than it had been back at home in London. It was as if this place was a breeding ground for dark creatures. The sky was like ink, though it was barely six o’clock in the evening. The moonlight filtered down through the trees, but it did little to light the forest. Thousands of tree branches, however, kept the Dementors’ mist off the ground, and he could see clearly all around him.
After pondering how to go about it for a moment, he decided to move cautiously towards the scent. He didn’t want them to find him here, anyway, and discover the hiding place for his things. He crouched slightly as he walked, ready to run if necessary, assuming a timid, submissive position.
He was right. They had smelled him. The first flash of animalistic eyes peering at him from behind a tree in the darkness took him by surprise. It felt as if his heart was going to beat right out of his chest and he gasped for air, peering at where he’d seen them. But they were gone. He continued to slink slowly through the forest.
Fifteen minutes passed in which he kept his eyes, ears and nose alert as he crept along. It wasn’t long before he heard soft footsteps falling behind him, but he didn’t dare look back. He didn’t want to alert whoever it was that he knew they were back there. He didn’t want to give them reason to pounce and kill him before he had a chance to communicate that he was one of them. He braced himself for what he knew was coming, however. Capture.
A sudden howl erupted from the bushes to his right, and a filthy man stood and made himself visible. He carried a handmade spear in his hands and he pointed it Remus, who straightened in surprise.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw another movement, and he turned just in time to see the man who had been following him launch himself towards him. The man landed on Remus's back and he gave a grunt of pain as he was forced to the ground and held there by a bony knee and harsh hands. The man with the spear waded through the bushes and stood over Remus. Remus barely had a chance to look up into the ferocious looking eyes before the butt of the spear was driven into his temple and everything went black.
Blacker than James's ridiculous hair, blacker than Wormtail's beady little rat eyes, even blacker than Sirius's last name and the dark hole of despair that went with it. And these three friends were the last thoughts that flitted through his mind before he surrendered to the darkness.
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