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Chapter 16 : Celebration
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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.
It was snowing again in late November. Soft white flakes floated deftly to the ground, and all was peaceful and silent and serene. Nature beautifully reflected the feelings of those standing around a casket, clad in black. Many had matching black umbrellas to shield themselves from the soft snowfall, though the graceful trees shading the restful site seemed to do a well enough job.
Everything was silent in the graveyard, as friends of John Lupin bowed their heads in silent prayer and farewell. Remus's friends stood in his honour beside his mother - they had carried the casket.
Sirius watched everyone silently, serenely, trying to ignore the gut wrenching sobs of Remus's mother. He had never been to a proper funeral before. He wondered half-heartedly how many more he would attend before the war was over.
After the funeral, among the depths of the Hog's Head Inn, Marlene McKinnon approached Sirius. Sirius sat alone in a chair with his head hanging unhappily, and he was observing the worn, grey wooden floorboards. The Order meeting was about to start soon, and Sirius had too much on his mind to mingle and chat so carelessly as the others could. He didn't join his friends, though all of them glanced at him from time to time.
In the nights since he had been home again, he had been distraught and even, at times, unable to sleep. After returning home in the morning from turning over Lupin's body to Dumbledore, Sirius had done nothing but lie in bed. At times, he even wept, remembering the way it felt to take a life. He felt like a fool, and his heart ached for the one he'd killed.
She had taught him a very important lesson, and as much as he'd hated her when he saw her approaching James, part of him was now quite fond of her as well. He was sorry, and he only wished he could tell her so. He didn't ever want to have to kill again.
The worst part was that he'd never really had to kill in the first place.
Marlene touched his shoulder, making him flinch in surprise.
"Are you all right?" she asked cautiously, drawing a chair towards herself with a flick of her wand and sitting beside him.
Sirius looked up at her for the first time. She was at least ten years older than he was, and she had a warm face and curly brown hair. He gaped, for she had yet to speak to him in all the weeks he'd been a part of the Order. He got the feeling that his last name kept a lot of people away.
"I heard you... had a misfortune with a vampire," she said in a low voice after he didn't respond.
"Who says?" said Sirius roughly, feeling defensive. His face was dark with shame and sorrow, and he quickly looked down again to hide it. He was still the proud boy he'd been raised to be, and he couldn't let his weak moments be shown.
Marlene shrugged. "I killed somebody, once," she divulged hesitantly.
Sirius's expression changed to one of disbelief, and he finally lifted his head once more to look her in the eye, to see if she was making it up or lying. She looked incredibly guilty. In fact, she couldn't return the gaze - it was her turn to be ashamed, and she stared determinedly at the front of Sirius's robes instead.
"But it comes with the job," she practically whispered, and clearly, her own incident still haunted her. She nodded her head towards Dorcas Meadows, almost as if to shift the focus off herself. "You don't even want to know how many Dorcas has killed. She's relentless in this fight since losing her parents to the cause last year. We usually don't speak of it. Just know it's happened to us all. We spare their lives when we can, Mr Black, but-"
"Right, can you call me Sirius?" he interrupted uncomfortably, tipping his chair onto its back legs in an attempt to appear unbothered.
Marlene gave a small smile, unabashed by his haughty rudeness; she looked rather as though she expected it from him, and for a moment he felt even more ashamed. "All right then, Sirius. Don't be so hard on yourself." She gave him an awkward pat on the shoulder and then stood and walked away.
Sirius glowered and returned his glare to his hands. Hands that had killed. He was more concerned with the fact that he didn't regret it than the fact that he'd actually done it. Marlene had meant well, he knew, but it was different for them. The other Order members didn't have a dark past, a dark background that they had to overcome. They didn't have that nagging voice telling him he was living up to his name, his family's habits creeping up and taking hold of him.
They all had to kill - he could believe that. But judging by Marlene's face, they truly felt bad about it and regretted it, didn't like to talk about it and tried to forget that it ever happened. And that was the difference between them and he.
They didn't have the worry or the fear of what they would become.
In the past few weeks since Remus's capture, a lot of things had happened, and many of them were for the good. He'd been trapped in the tunnel for several long days, always with a guard. And that guard was usually Ulfric, Ulfric, who must have been assigned the position as punishment for bringing Remus around in the first place. Nevertheless, Ulfric didn't seem to mind the job. Within a few days, he'd begun to speak to Remus here and there. And though it had taken much longer for Remus to begin to trust the man, he eventually found himself responding.
Occasionally a member of the pack would sneak down the tunnel towards them. And Ulfric would always snarl at them to go. Remus was quite sure they were hoping there would be no guard. They all seemed to laugh guiltily once caught, and hurried to leave before Ulfric could get to them. He felt as if everyone wanted him dead, and it was quite possibly the most humbling feeling he had ever felt.
Twice a day he was fed. Somebody would deliver the food to Ulfric, and Ulfric, in turn, would toss Remus his portion, for he wouldn't allow the deliverer near. The food wasn't the greatest, and Remus ate only because he was usually famished. His meals consisted of raw vegetables, seemingly hand grown by the pack. His sensitive nose, however, easily picked up the smell of meat. Ulfric always had meat as well as the vegetables.
Remus wondered if he wasn't given the meat because he was a prisoner, or perhaps Ulfric just saved it for himself when doling out the food to Remus. Nonetheless, Remus was fairly jealous of his guard, and longed for the fire-cooked meals. Remus didn't think a werewolf could survive without meat - he certainly began feeling more and more weak as the days went on, from lack of protein or lack of exercise, Remus wasn't sure.
He was thankful just to be alive, although he didn't feel he could adequately do his job at the end of the forlorn tunnel. There was certainly nothing to spy on here.
After many days, perhaps a week, Ulfric sighed as he leaned against the dark tunnel wall and crossed his legs in front of him. "You know, Remus," he said conversationally, for by now they seemed to get along quite well (though he was the only friend Remus had). "You're starting to smell."
Remus blushed. "I'm sorry," he said. There was not much else he could do.
After that, Ulfric got permission from one of the elder wolves to allow Remus routine bath breaks. And so, for the first time since capture, Remus was allowed out of the dead end tunnel. He was always guarded by Ulfric, who himself seemed to hold a pretty esteemed rank among the wolves. Though everyone glared angrily at Remus, nobody made a move as long as Ulfric was around.
Remus enjoyed his daily trips to the pond the wolves used for bathing. The fresh air was a fantastic change - it made him feel human again - and it was refreshing to wash the grime and sweat from the hot den from his skin. He always lingered and took his time, and often, Ulfric let him.
(Remus didn't think Ulfric liked being stuck in the tunnel all the time either. It was then that he realised that Ulfric was almost as much a prisoner as he himself was - Ulfric spent just as much time in the cramped space as he did, and was only allowed to leave when another trustworthy pack member could stand guard.
Remus never enjoyed the replacements when Ulfric wasn't around. He spent those times huddled against the wall, deathly afraid that somebody would now take their chance at him.
The replacement never talked to him as Ulfric did.)
And then it was back to the old tunnel. Remus was beginning to hate it there.
The full moon brought about changes for Remus. Perhaps it was because there was finally no doubt at all that he was one of them, that his story about being kicked from society was probably true. Perhaps it was because the beast within him recognised that they were his kind, and their beasts saw the same in him. He ran with them, he hunted with them, he howled with them. He was one of them, and for the first time since his capture, he felt he truly belonged.
Days later, the Alpha stopped by his sorry dead end tunnel. The man hated Remus - Remus could tell. He was terrified of what would happen now that he'd stopped by for a visit. The Alpha settled against the wall opposite Ulfric and stared at Remus. He spoke to Ulfric under his breath for a few minutes, before turning to Remus once more.
"We've had council," he said gruffly, with no introduction at all. "It has been decided that - if you're going to remain here, eat our food, bathe in our waters - you've got to earn your keep.
Starting tomorrow, you'll be put to work like the rest of us."
And then he got up and left.
"He doesn't like me," said Remus, when he was sure the Alpha had gone.
"Jealous," said Ulfric, stretching out on the ground. "But he accepts you now."
Remus made a face at that, for he didn't think there was much to be jealous of. He, after all, had spend the last several days in a cramped, hot tunnel, eating disgusting vegetables. Of course, he had been given many opportunities the other wolves hadn't as he'd grown up - such as attending Hogwarts, and living among wizards. But he'd carefully kept those things to himself, and nobody knew how he'd grown up.
Both of them were silent. Remus drew a stag in the dirt. And then...
"Do you remember when you first arrived?" asked Ulfric casually, though it wasn't long ago. He couldn't be sure of what Remus remembered that night as he'd fainted more than once.
"'course I do," muttered Remus scornfully. He didn't think he would ever forget that fear, that terror, of standing in front of the entire pack as they crowded around to rip his guts out. For his part, he didn't care to know what happened when he was blacked out.
"You said your parents helped you."
"They did," said Remus, slightly defensively, for he didn't like any werewolf to mention his loved ones. But that was all he'd said, he remembered. They still didn't know anything else about him. They didn't know there were others who'd helped as well, that he'd had opportunities.
"Rolff's parents disowned him when he was bit," said Ulfric simply. It explained everything, and Remus felt suddenly selfish, as if he'd taken a lot of things in his life for granted. He'd always been a humble person, but perhaps not quite humble enough.
As promised, the next day dawned and Remus was led out of the cave by Ulfric. He was lead to the gardens first, where he spent a good three days working in the dirt. He was shown how to harvest the small crops every day so that the wolves could eat. He was shown how to plant new seeds. He was given a clay bowl, and Ulfric led him back and forth to the lake. It was a lot of work, but it was the only way to water the plants. It wasn't as if they had wands or Muggle garden hoses.
Remus, though he felt weak and light headed after not working or moving about in so long, thoroughly enjoyed being outside of the cave. And a miraculous thing began to happen, he noticed. The cold glares stopped coming. Oh, how terrible they'd been when Ulfric had first led him to bathe.
But now, over time, it was as if the pack became used to his presence. People still seemed wary near him, and occasionally he would see a small group talking in whispers and casting furtive looks his way - but for the most part, he worked alongside the pack mates, and they ignored him, and Ulfric stood watch.
After a few days of garden work, Ulfric showed him how to craft spears - the very type of spear that Bertulf had nearly killed him with. The spears were often broken or ruined while hunting, and more were always needed. Remus relished this work even more than he had the gardening. He was able to wander and roam throughout the forest, looking for long tree branches and straight sticks and sharp stones.
He was a model worker. He never stopped to chat with anyone, rarely took breaks. He was working for his life, to prove his worth and that he should be allowed to live as part of the pack.
And then, a few weeks after his initial capture, Ulfric swore maniacally while they were setting traps for small creatures. Remus looked up questioningly to find the stocky man doubled over. After a moment, Ulfric held up a bloody hand for Remus to see and winced. He'd cut himself on something, and it was deep.
Remus had picked up a few healing spells in his day, having always needed them cast on himself after transformations. He shook his head, disappointed that he wasn't able to use them to help.
"Look, Remus, I'm going to run back to the den and have it wrapped. You'll stay put, right?"
Remus snorted. "Where else am I going to go?" he said reassuringly. "Things are finally starting to get good for me here."
Ulfric smiled wryly as if to say, You poor chap, you think things are good here? and then turned and disappeared through the brush, moving with surprising speed and agility.
Remus waited until he was gone, pondering things, and then took off sprinting for the place - the place beside the small clearing, where a soft mound of dirt and a boulder on top hid the location of his wand, the invisibility cloak, and Sirius's two-way mirror.
"Hey, get up, you sorry lout!"
James's familiar voice broke through Sirius's dreams and he groggily, reluctantly raised his head and peered towards his bedroom door. There stood James, hands on his hips.
"Oi, Prongs," grunted Sirius, rolling over beneath his sheets. His back ached, he'd slept all wrong, and he was already cranky. He closed his eyes again. "What time is it?"
James strode into the room, surveying the messy bed and floor littered with Sirius's clothing. "Half past arse o'clock," he said absently. He picked up a half empty bottle from Sirius's bedside table and studied it. "Getting bladdered last night, were you?" he asked, holding up the bottle of alcohol.
"Shut up," mumbled Sirius into his pillow. Perhaps he had needed a break, a distraction from Remus's father's death, or from what he'd done to that vampire. "Go away."
James grinned easily and put the bottle down again. He sat on the edge of Sirius's bed, and gave the lump of blankets a hearty slap. Beneath them, Sirius winced.
"Come on, mate. Did you know your birthday came and went already? We missed it with some of what's been going on lately, haven't we? Why didn't you say anything?"
Sirius shrugged and finally sat up with a resigned sigh. (It wasn't as if he was going to get back to sleep with James Potter around anyway.) "S'not that important," he said, peering at James through the harsh sunlight streaming through his window.
James scowled. "Nonsense. We can't miss our chances to celebrate in these days, Padfoot. Get dressed! Lily and Peter are waiting for us. It's not every day you're nineteen, now, is it?"
Sirius stumbled tiredly to the bathroom, wanting to point out, as he passed James, that he'd already been nineteen for over a week. But in the end he kept his words to himself and diligently brushed his teeth while James rummaged around in the kitchen.
After digging through his wardrobe and quickly combing his hair, Sirius emerged feeling much more refreshed and awake.
"You said Lily and Peter are waiting," he asked James as he crossed his arms over his chest.
"Certainly," James responded from where he lounged on the couch with his eyes closed. "We wanted to take you to lunch, Padfoot."
"Well, let's go, then," smiled Sirius playfully. "I'm waiting on you, and you're faffing around now!"
"Cheeky bastard today, aren't you mate?" teased James as he pushed himself off the couch. "Come on then," he added, shoving Sirius towards the door and ruffling his friend's carefully combed hair.
It was a good day to be outdoors, even if it was dreadfully cold outside as December rapidly approached. Both boys wrapped their coats and scarves more tightly around themselves and huddled against the icy wind - so cold that it made one's eyes water.
"Curse you, Pads, for being born in November," said James through chattering teeth as they walked.
"Oh, come now, that's not exactly fair," Sirius responded defensively, unable to feel his ears and cheeks anymore. "It's not normally all that bad, except these ruddy Dementors overhead." He vaguely gestured towards the intense grey sky. "That's not my fault..."
Indeed, the skies were still dark and gloomy and stormy, though most people gave them little thought anymore. The sunshine hadn't been seen since June, save for one day here and there when the Dementors moved. Sirius often wondered when they would make their attack, what they were waiting for, and it would make him shudder to think of what it would be like when they did.
"I still blame you for everything," teased James, pointedly knocking Sirius in the ribs with his elbow.
Fortunately, they didn't have a long walk. James led Sirius into the pub that was just down the street. It was a Muggle establishment, but it was quite nice. Large windows allowed a view of the busy London streets, and they were swarmed as people bustled around shopping for Christmas. The inside of the pub was dimly lit with large glass lamps, and the atmosphere seemed warm and personal and inviting. Muted chatter from other patrons was a reassuring background noise - the sound of living; the sound of happiness. From a wooden table by a window Lily and Peter greeted him with huge smiles. Peter even stood to shake his hand.
"So formal, Wormtail," Sirius smiled at him, sitting down.
Peter shrugged. "Happy belated birthday, mate," he said with a watery grin of his own.
"And every one of you lot forgot it, too," teased Sirius as he greeted Lily with a wink.
"That's a lie," Lily argued good naturedly. "I did remember, Sirius, and even ask James. Tell him, James."
"She did," said James automatically, slipping into the booth, throwing an arm across her shoulders and stealing her drink.
"That's right," said Lily. "And I even got you something, too."
"Oh, you didn't have to do that, Lily," objected Sirius humbly.
"Shut up, Sirius," she responded as she dug through her handbag. "James picked it out, didn't you, sweetheart?" she added, a devious smile on her face over her use of the nickname.
And James blushed and glanced bashfully at Sirius while Peter teased with kissing noises from across the table.
Lily paid little notice to their reactions. "James, make sure nobody is staring," she asked, glancing around warily.
She looked up one more time to be sure, and then yanked a shiny red metal box out of her bag. The box was, in fact, much too large to realistically fit inside of the handbag. Sirius glanced around at all the Muggles as well, but nobody was paying them any notice.
Lily pushed the metal box across the table towards Sirius, feeling quite pleased with herself.
"Ah," said Sirius. And he lifted the lid to reveal a large assortment of shiny metal tools. They were magnificent - they had cogs and wheels that moved on their own. He stuck his hand in to grab one and an adjustable wrench immediately bit his finger. He looked up at James, fascinated.
James was looking excited as well. "Now you won't have to go and take all of my dad's tools, Sirius, you can have your own!" He beamed madly at Sirius.
Lily nodded in agreement, her eyes bright. "We know how much you wreck your bike!" she added, sounding, for all the world, very proud of their gift idea.
Sirius laughed; he couldn't help it. "Really, it's not that often. I've gotten loads better, haven't I?"
"You still break it often enough, just by trying to fix something that doesn't need to be fixed," said Peter, daringly, and under his breath; he flinched, expecting to receive a swat upside his head for the cynical comment.
Sirius pursed his lips and glanced, almost in awe at his nerve, from Peter to James. He gave James a good moment to defend him. James, after all, had broken the bike more times than Sirius had because he couldn't keep his hands off things.
"It's true," James added when he caught Sirius's eye, which was, to be frank, absolutely no help at all.
Sirius shook his head, bemused, and carefully closed the lid on the toolbox. "Thank you," he said with a nod towards Lily and James. They smiled back at him in return, and James instinctively wrapped an arm around Lily's shoulders and drew her closer to him. It was, in fact, the first gift they'd ever given together - as a couple.
"Open mine, then," said Peter, and he handed over a crudely wrapped package.
It was tall and bulky, with pointy edges here and there, and wrapped in old newspaper. It was with a small amount of trepidation that Sirius pulled the paper away. What was revealed to be underneath, however, was completely harmless and, in fact, one of the best gifts Sirius had ever received.
There was a handful of photographs. Seven, to be exact, and a close examination showed them each to be a group photo of the Marauders. In fact, Sirius could remember the exact days that all were taken - the traditional picture in front of the castle on the last day of school, just before boarding the train.
Each picture was framed, and it appeared Peter had made the frames himself.
Sirius looked away from the pictures, over to Peter, who was looking rather pleased.
"It's nothing fancy," he said apologetically. "Not like tools or anything. But I thought you might want to decorate that fireplace mantle of yours."
"Nothing fancy?" asked Sirius in disbelief. "Wormtail, it's fantastic. Really, thank you. You know you guys are the only family I have."
And Peter blushed, this time while James made kissing sounds. Sirius kicked him beneath the table and James stopped.
They ordered drinks and sandwiches then, and were truly enjoying themselves, almost to the point of being able to forget about what was happening in the world around them. Sirius felt like a human being, a normal person out with friends, and for a while, he could forget about everything that had bothered him lately. The pictures were passed around for James and Lily to see, and memories of their school days were spoken of with fondness.
Their smiling faces, their gifts. It was everything that Sirius needed right then, and he knew it would be all right. He would move on, they were all still alive, and he was not a Black. Nobody looked down on him for what he'd done. They still loved him, even when he didn't love himself, and it was all going to be okay.
And then James suddenly jumped and his face paled. Lily looked over in alarm. Sirius stopped chewing the bit of sandwich in his mouth as he noticed and looked upon his friend with concern. And the laughter slipped from Peter's face.
Without a word, James reached behind him and pulled a small glass mirror from his back pocket. He slowly brought it up to his face, and then glanced around at his companions.
A feeling of illness began to creep up within Sirius - nervousness and anticipation and worry - for he knew who held the other mirror. And then James voiced it aloud.
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