Title: Shades of Betrayal
Notes: G, Remus/Sirius, plenty of plot, 2800 words. (Sorry for being so late!) Much thanks to bandbooktvworm for the beta :)
During the old days, they were happy, Remus thought. Not just a little thing, the occasional smile or happy about a thing, but truly happy with all the universe. It was how they spent their lives, the hint of laughter around their lips and eyes, small reassuring touches, the feeling of the whole world there for their enjoyment.
But then the war came, and war changes everything.
They were in the Order, the both of them - together in that, but the reality was, they just couldn't spend as much time together anymore. Mission after mission, and the tasks they were given kept lasting longer, becoming more and more serious, so that Remus once mentioned to Sirius that they were in the process of crescendoing to some unknown peak that he hoped they would never have to reach. Sirius had nodded, agreeing, loosely winding a strand of Remus' hair around his finger.
War changes everything.
The day Remus realized something was wrong, it was already too far gone for helping. He awoke alone in the bed to the dull roar of the shower running, and all the covers tossed onto him. The bare sheets where Sirius had lain were only slightly warm; sunlight fell on the blank wrinkled space in weak blotches. Remus tried reading them like tea leaves, seeing what the future was, but all he could see were splotches. Which was what happened, more often than not. The only certainty of the future was that it remained uncertain.
He heard the water stop, and the wet slap of Sirius' feet on the tiles as he got out of the shower.
"Do I have any clean clothes?" he heard Sirius call.
"Since when do you care about clean clothes?"
"I think so."
Silence. Remus got dressed as Sirius dried off.
"Shall I make breakfast, then?" he said to Sirius through the door. "I have eggs."
Remus left the room before Sirius could come out to get his clothing.
"When was the last time we had a real conversation?" Remus asked as they ate breakfast.
"I don't know," Sirius said, concentrating on his egg.
"Exactly," said Remus, somewhat irritated at the minimal attention Sirius was paying. "Doesn't it bother you? We haven't really talked since the war started."
"Why would it bother me? Maybe we just don't have anything to talk about anymore."
"But we do. You go on tasks for the Order, and there's nothing you say about them that isn't common knowledge given at Order meetings. We don't see each other for weeks on end. It's different."
"Is that all? It's different than what we used to have? We used to have time, Remus. We just don't anymore."
"And it doesn't bother you?"
Sirius shrugged and got up to rinse his plate. "It does, I guess. But there's nothing we can do about that."
Remus went to the kitchen with his plate and fork. "All right, then. What was your last assignment?"
"What was it like?"
"Hot, dry, late July. Remus, you know all this; why're you suddenly so curious?"
"I want you to tell me something I don't already know. I'm curious because it's you. I feel like I hardly know anything about your life now."
"None of us do. It's the war, we've confirmed that. Can't you just let it go?"
"Let you go?"
"I didn't say that."
"Sirius, I feel like I'm losing you."
"We'll catch up when this is all over. It'll be like it used to be."
"Maybe not. Not if one of us dies."
"Don't think that way."
"Someone's got to."
Sirius put on his coat and headed for the door.
"Where are you going?" Remus asked.
"What is this, the Spanish Inquisition? Order business."
"Don't please at me. It's top-secret Order business; I’m not allowed to tell what it is."
"Not even me? I'm a member too, Sirius, in case you've forgotten."
"Merlin, Remus, what's gotten into you? I told you, I can't say!" He opened the door onto an overcast street. "Good bye."
Sirius was called off on a new mission that night. Somewhere in Eastern Europe, for an indefinite amount of time. After two weeks Remus heard that he had returned to London, but by then he was already in the middle of his own fieldwork with the werewolves in France. This was how the weeks passed while they could not meet, and then came a time when they did not, and when he had time to think about it Remus told himself that there was little to miss.
When Remus came home on Halloween night, there was a stack of envelopes and scraps of parchment awaiting him on the kitchen table. He put the kettle on for tea, pulled on a pair of dragonhide gloves, and sat down to his work - decoding intercepted mail. The job was tedious for the most part, considering the rather large number of innocent letters from those the Order merely suspected of being somehow associated with the Dark Lord, but it was frequently rewarding if in small ways. It was how they learned who Voldemort was targeting to join him, who he considered a threat, when they might be gathering at some heretofore unknown location.
Remus had examined what seemed to be an innocent shopping list of strange items before discarding it into the "unlikely" pile, decoded the first two lines of an encrypted message before realizing it referred to an event that had already taken place and was known to the Order, and identified two messages that were actually identical, just written in different languages, before getting to an envelope sealed with the Dark Mark. He stopped before opening it to prepare a shielding spell: such a seal might be booby-trapped for any prying eyes not among the ranks of the Death Eaters.
Surely enough, Remus felt a few nasty jinxes hit the shield, and he braced himself against them while casting the counter-jinxes through the shield. It was one reason why they had given him the job of mail-decoding. Defense against the Dark Arts had always been one of his strengths, even in school, and though he still did field work he much preferred the quietude of research and theory. Such quietude was nevertheless interrupted by such instances as this: the danger of an unknown letter, perhaps a trap, perhaps a bomb, but certainly dangerous.
With gloved fingers he withdrew the letter and began to decode.
Wormtail, it began.
Remus stopped, feeling as thought he'd been hit in the stomach with a brick. No, he thought. It must be some mistake. He checked again - Wormtail. Oh, no.
Tomorrow. The Potters. The words jumped out at him as he scanned the brief letter. Midnight.
Could he believe it? What if it were all an elaborate trap? But no, the seal was genuine, the code was the latest version, and the signature was magically branded as Voldemort's own.
But Peter! How could this be? How could they have missed it?
Through Remus' mind ran all the instances of newly-suspicious behavior - Peter unavailable while not working for the Order (who had lives outside the Order, these days? They had all devoted too much of themselves). Peter, withdrawn from conversation, withdrawn from the Mauraders' friendship. Now his behavior seemed secretive; he was too interested in the inner workings of the Order for one not usually directly involved, too eager to put his life in danger in the course of becoming closer to the core of power. And, Remus surmised, he might even have been acting more nervous and withdrawn around Lily and James than anyone else. Just a shade, but it existed, in Remus' mind if nowhere else. And what did it matter, if those were just hints at something, and he had concrete documentation right here in his hands and before his very eyes?
He read the letter twice to be sure, looked at the date, felt his stomach leap, looked again. There was still time.
With a pop, Remus Disapparated.
"Where's Dumbledore?" Remus blew through the doorway into the downstairs kitchen of Grimmauld Place. Looking around, he found Snape there, who did not shift his attention from shuffling papers. "It's urgent."
"The Headmaster is busy wi-"
"A matter of life and death, Severus! Now tell me where he is!" Snape looked up from his papers at Remus' urgency. Remus could hear the tapping of his fingers, the gears in his mind working, and felt himself growing furious. "I've found the spy."
Snape froze, narrowing his eyes. "Who is it?"
"It's not safe to say here."
"Here, at the top secret headquarters of a top secret organization? Oh, yes, very unsafe," Snape spat, offended. "I know about the security here, Lupin; it's a large part of my job."
"I'd prefer to deliver this directly to Dumbledore, and there's no time to waste. I can't trust anyone else; it's not personal. I just need to contact Dumbledore as soon as possible."
Snape's face paled as he glared at Remus. “How am I to know you’re not the spy?”
“I could say the same thing - Severus, we're both only here because Dumbledore trusts us. We're on equal ground. The Potters' lives are in immediate danger tonight.”
There was only a second of hesitation before Snape capitulated. Scratching something down on a scrap of parchment, he handed it to Remus silently and went back to shuffling papers.
Sirius was making himself a midnight snack in the kitchen of his flat when he heard the unmistakable pop and whoosh of displaced air. Unconsciously he put a hand to his pocket and felt for his wand; with the other he stuffed a piece of cheese into his mouth and went to see who it could be.
Remus stood there in his living room, looking as worried as Sirius had ever seen him. "Is it secure here?" Sirius nodded, surprised at his sudden appearance. "Good. Peter's betrayed us, Sirius. He means to turn James and Lily over to Voldemort tonight. He's their Secret-Keeper."
"Peter? A traitor? Remus, are you -"
"I'm sure. It's a serious accusation; of course I wouldn't make it if I weren't sure."
"I just... I just can't believe it."
"It's hard, I know."
"Maybe it's a trick."
"It's very unlikely, and we can't take the chance."
"What if it's a trap, though?"
"Sirius, you've got to trust me on this. I need your help."
"What if I can't trust you on this?"
"How do I know this isn't just a trap?" Remus blinked and clenched his fists, then unclenched them. He felt stuck between pleading with Sirius and storming out to find Dumbledore already because Sirius was just wasting his time with this thickheadedness. "How do you even expect me to be able to believe you?"
"Because it's me, Sirius." Remus had a desperate pleading look on his face before he caught himself, masked it. Nevertheless, Sirius knew him well enough to recognize it veiled in his eyes. "Were those years of friendship worth nothing to you? They were worth something to me. You know that you, James, and Peter were my only friends; how could I betray you?"
"What you're suggesting is that we were worth nothing to Peter, that he would betray us. You and Peter are on equal ground on that respect."
"Sirius - was what we had nothing to you?"
"'All's fair in love in war.'" Sirius looked at him softly, painfully, to take the edge off the words. Remus saw his face full of apologies, saying, It's not you, I just can't afford to trust anyone. Then Sirius looked away, and murmured with even more apology in his tone, "Voldemort has been looking for Dark Creatures, though, and he has his... methods of persuasion."
Remus nearly staggered under the blow, that unexpected betrayal. "Is that it?" He tried to mask the pain in his voice but knew it showed through nevertheless.
"Merlin, Remus, God, it's hardly personal. This is purely objective." Surely you knew that. Because if one can't trust one's emotions, the only things to rely on are cold, solid facts.
"Of course. Of course. So this letter is a fabrication, all part of my plot?" Remus held the letter with the decoding written below towards Sirius, who took it, scanning it quickly. Remus saw his eyes widen as he read it, recognizing the code correlation. "Is that a lie, Sirius? Would I want to lie to you? Would I do that?"
Sirius opened his mouth, shut it, croaked, "I... can't."
"Can't?" Remus couldn't believe his ears.
A shake of the head, mouth still moving noiselessly, and Sirius handed the letter back to Remus.
"Fine. Fine, Sirius. If you suddenly find yourself able, I'll be speaking to Dumbledore, or with Lily and James. Goodbye." Remus Disapparated with another brisk pop.
Seconds after Remus left, Sirius found himself in the kitchen once again, finishing his sandwich. He didn't even remember walking there. He also found that he was spreading nothing over his bread with a butterknife. Throwing it to the counter with a weak clatter, he began to pace the room, holding a hand to his brow and biting his lip.
After a few minutes of further pacing and consternation, Sirius finally halted and murmured, But it's Moony.
Grabbing his robe, he Disapparated without a second thought.
When Remus and Dumbledore arrived at Godric's Hollow with a few other Aurors, everything happened at once. The Potters' house was in chaos. Loud cries and bangs were heard from the upstairs, and the occasional flash of light lit the drive like a lightning strike. "James," Dumbledore said, then, "and Voldemort."
They rushed into the house, where they were immediately attacked by Death Eaters. Forming a circle with their backs to the others’, Remus and the Aurors blocked the stairs from Voldemort's followers where Dumbledore rushed up to meet their Dark Lord.
A scream from upstairs, and Remus faltered, glancing quickly up the stairs to his right. His attacker took advantage of his momentary distraction and slashed his left forearm open. The sudden burning pain of it struck Remus, who turned back and lashed out with a spell of his own, making the Death Eater stagger backwards. Shacklebolt struck him with something that flared red, and the masked figure dropped to the ground.
Time seemed to pass slowly and coldly for Remus. Images were stilted and sharp-edged; he couldn't spare attention to concentrate on beating back the masked Death Eaters, but pictures imprinted themselves on his vision even in the dim light. Suddenly an explosion rocked the house, and he fell to his knees, blinking away temporary blindness at the flash of green light. Quickly he got up again, ready to defend against the relentless Death Eaters. He could only hope the explosion had meant something good for their side.
Sirius Apparated outside on the drive, just as a final flash of green light lit up the sky and an explosion shook the house. The rumble was twined with an unearthly shriek and what sounded like the cry of a baby. Wasting no time, Sirius ran into the house, saw Remus among the Aurors staggering up again to fend off the incessant attacks of the Death Eaters, and made a dash for the stairs.
When he reached the top, he saw the bodies of Lily and James lying on the floor next to a pile of black robes, and Dumbledore across the room, sprawled unconscious. In his crib, Harry continued to wail, and Sirius could see a burn the shape of a lightning bolt on his forehead. Picking the baby up, Sirius held him close and went over to Dumbledore, who was just now stirring, much to Sirius' relief.
"I think the fighting's stopped," he said, kneeling by the Headmaster’s side.
Dumbledore winced and put a hand to his own head. "Lily and James... Sirius, I'm so sorry."
"So am I. So are we all."
Sirius found him in the aftermath, sitting on one of the undamaged chairs in the living room, his cut arm held against his chest.
"I'm glad you came," Remus said.
"Merlin, you're glad I came?" Sirius' voice cracked, and now that he was close, Remus could see Sirius' hands begin to shake as they hovered over his injured arm, could see his face dark with worry.
"What else can I say? Lily and James are dead. Harry's an orphan now, scarred for life. If I would have gotten to Dumbledore earlier -"
"Don't even start to blame yourself. What if you wouldn't have found the letter at all? Oh, God, Remus. Don't you dare blame yourself."
Remus let Sirius hold him against his body, and didn't mind the jarring as Sirius sobbed harshly, violently, like barking. He found himself crying, his own chest heaving, his eyes wet. The faint grey light of dawn blurred in his vision, bled into the shadows, setting light to their grief.