Pairing: Um, Remus/Sirius, I guess, but it's mostly gen.
Summary: Remus doesn't know Sirius at all.
Disclaimer: Characters and much of the dialogue belong to JKR, with whom I have no initials in common.
Notes: For the hp_au_ficathon, just over a month late. Yes, I am teh suck. jjtaylor requested a Prisoner of Azkaban AU in which Sirius really is the bad guy everyone thinks he is. Other requirements were an attempt on Harry's life, and a past Sirius/Remus relationship. I feel like the end got away from me a bit, so, um. I hope you don't think it's horrible, and I am so, so sorry for the wait.
Remus can hear the whispers blowing through the castle, can see the question tripping off the students' tongues. But however Sirius got in, he'd managed to get back out; Dumbledore is certain that Sirius is no longer inside the walls of Hogwarts.
Thinking, Remus paces the length of the Great Hall, trying to figure out what Sirius is doing. A few hours ago, he hadn't thought Sirius was doing anything, certainly not trying to kill Harry, but now, with the Fat Lady's portrait in shreds, there's no hiding from it.
His eyes catch on Harry for the thousandth time tonight. The boy is so like James, and maybe that has something to do with it. Sirius must have hated James, and now Sirius is mad and trying to kill him all over again. Or perhaps—Remus has heard the whispers. Perhaps Sirius wants to kill Harry and bring Voldemort back. But that doesn't seem right, and Remus can't reconcile the Sirius he knew with the madman on the loose, can't understand how or why he betrayed James and Lily. So, for the most part, Remus prefers not to think about it.
When he's forced to think about it, like now, he thinks about Sirius' family, about Regulus' throat slit in some alley at eighteen, about his mother's constant bitter rage and disapproval, about how living with that might drive someone mad. It must have driven Sirius mad, driven him to the Dark Arts, and everyone knows delving too deep can transform a person. Remus has seen the pictures of Tom Riddle, knows he looked nothing like the monster Voldemort became. And Sirius looks—well, Remus barely recognizes the picture plastered everywhere.
He's thankfully startled out these thoughts when his path brings him close enough to Harry and his friends that he can hear their conversation; it's no surprise what they're talking about.
"…can't just Apparate in here," Hermione is saying. "And I'd like to see the disguise that could fool those dementors."
Remus stops dead in his tracks as it hits him. Disguise. Oh, no. No.
Percy yells that he's turning off the lights, and Remus takes the opportunity to go back to his quarters, fast as his legs can carry him, and there he proceeds to get very, very drunk.
A few weeks later, Remus is in the library, skipping the Quidditch match. He's researching the way dementors might interact with animagi, and he doesn't know how he feels when he discovers he's right: They hardly interact at all. He sighs heavily and runs his hands through his hair. He's exhausted by the full moon, but his absence at any other time would be remarked upon.
It's difficult not to sigh again. "Hello, Severus."
"I'd have thought you'd be fawning over the school celebrity."
Remus frowns. "Harry? Why? What's happened?"
Severus leans against the bookcase and curls his lip. "Dementors," he sneers. "On the Quidditch pitch. Potter fell from his broom."
Remus is on his feet before Snape can finish the sentence. "Is he—"
"As if a fall would damage that thick skull of his. He's in hospital, but Poppy says he'll recover."
Remus, relieved, slumps back down into his chair and nods. "Well. That's good, I suppose."
"But tell me, Lupin," Severus, his voice cold, continues as if Remus hadn't spoken. "Have you any idea what might have drawn them to the Quidditch pitch?"
Remus looks at him and says, just as coldly, "They're hungry, I'd imagine. The headmaster is hardly keeping them well-fed."
Severus raises an eyebrow. "You don't find it more likely that Black was in the area?"
Remus hadn't thought he could make his voice colder, but he manages. "I'm sure I've no idea, Severus."
Snape doesn't respond to that, and they stare stonily at one another for quite some time.
"Don't forget your potion tonight," Severus finally snaps, before turning on his heel and stalking off. It's only once he's alone that Remus notices his hands are shaking.
It startles him when Harry mentions Sirius, although he supposes it shouldn't. He twitches slightly, knocking his briefcase to the floor, and then makes a quick grab for it.
"Yes," he says. "Black must have found a way to fight them. I wouldn't have believed it possible…" Sirius always felt anything was possible, and maybe he'd been right. Maybe with enough Dark Arts he wouldn't have needed a disguise. He certainly wouldn't have wanted one—too sneaky and underhanded, disguises. The province of Slytherins. Sirius would have blown his way out of Azkaban, not slipped by in animagus form. But still, he wonders if he ought to say something.
But before he can, Harry says, "You made that dementor on the train back off," and Remus is trapped in that green gaze, full of trust and hope and determination. It's all so familiar, familiar eyes in a familiar face, and Sirius can't possibly be trying to kill this boy. Not the Sirius he knew. He agrees to teach Harry to cast the Patronus.
When he goes to Dumbledore later to ask for an advance on his salary to buy Harry a new broomstick for Christmas, the headmaster agrees readily and calls in a favor. It's still more than Remus should be spending, but it'll be worth it to see the boy happy again. It's the least he can do, really.
He doesn't send a card.
"If you knew my dad, you must've known Sirius Black as well."
Remus feels his heart stop. "What gives you that idea?"
"Nothing – I mean, I just knew they were friends at Hogwarts too...."
Harmless enough. "Yes, I knew him," he says. "Or I thought I did." Now he's not so sure, but he doesn't want to talk about it. "You'd better be off, Harry, it's getting late."
Remus sips his butterbeer and explains about the Dementor's Kiss, feeling very disconnected from the entire conversation. He'd got the news yesterday about Sirius' sentence, and hasn't been himself since. Sirius is—he can't—
"He deserves it," Harry says, mercifully cutting off that thought.
"You think so?" he asks, somehow managing to keep his voice mild. "Do you really think anyone deserves that?"
"Yes," he says, all spite and defiance. "For... for some things..."
Remus spends the next week wondering if the boy is right. Sirius would have thought so.
Remus starts to shake when the stag charges out of Harry's wand towards the 'dementors.' He wonders if somehow the boy has found out about his father's animagus form, if he knows about Sirius, if he knows about Remus.
"That was quite some Patronus," he says, because he has to say something, and it's really too bad that Remus has to tell him he hadn't got rid of any dementors after all.
He walks back slowly, watching with a distracted smile on his face as the students race back to the castle for an evening of celebration. A pang of nostalgia hits him as he remembers the parties from his own Hogwarts years, laughing with Sirius and James and Peter till their stomachs hurt and they couldn't breathe.
Sometimes he's not sure he should have come back to Hogwarts. Every time he walks down the corridors, he half expects Sirius to round the corner and grab him, push him against the wall and press their lips together, hurried and desperate and awkward. There are so many ghosts in the castle, and now Sirius is trying to take it all away, and Remus will never understand.
He goes back to his quarters, pours himself a shot of firewhiskey, and then another and another and another, and falls asleep over a pile of unmarked essays.
There are pixies in his head, Remus thinks, very angry pixies with very sharp knives and very large lungs. He groans and sits up, joints cracking in his back, and realizes the racket isn't pixies at all—it's the school alarm. Something's happened. He gets a quick drink of water, races out the door, and runs headlong into Severus.
"Watch where you're—Lupin," he snarls. "I might have known."
"Might have known what, Severus?" Remus snaps. He doesn't have time for this. "I've only just heard the alarm. What's happening?"
Severus' mouth twists into a nasty grin, and Remus feels the blood drain from his face. He knows what Severus is going to say before he says it. "Black entered the castle again," he says, dark eyes glinting maliciously. "He attacked Potter in his bed."
"Oh," Remus says, hating how weak his voice sounds. "But—how did he get in?"
Remus sighs. "Severus, you can't honestly believe that I—"
Severus takes a step closer, and his breath is hot on Remus' face. "Oh, you'd be surprised what I am capable of believing about you, Lupin." He glares at Remus, nostrils flaring, and then backs away. "We're to search the north tower. Not that I expect it shall do any good."
Remus digs his fingernails into the palms of his hands and trails along after him.
As it turns out, Neville Longbottom had lost a piece of paper with the weeks' passwords on it. He thought it was probably during Care of Magical Creatures, and that makes some sense to Remus. If Sirius really is lurking about near the castle, he's probably in the Forbidden Forest.
He makes a mental note to ask Hagrid if Fang has made any new friends of late. But when he goes to find Hagrid, he's inconsolable, nearly incoherent with worry over Buckbeak, and Remus doesn't get the chance.
Remus starts, and looks up from marking vampire essays.
"I want a word!"
He sighs and steps through the fire to Severus' office. "You called, Severus?" He takes one look at Snape and knows this isn't going to be good.
"I certainly did," Severus snarls, and then goes to his desk. "I have just asked Potter to empty his pockets. He was carrying this." He jabs one long finger at a sickeningly familiar bit of parchment, and Remus feels his stomach drop. "Well?"
Filch took the map in seventh year, when the four of them had been caught coating the Slytherin dormitory with everything from dungbombs to puddings while the rest of the school was at the Ravenclaw/Hufflepuff match. Filch had confiscated everything in the vicinity that hadn't been nailed down regardless of who it belonged to, and the map had been the most deeply mourned casualty. Remus has no idea how Harry might have come across it.
By the time Remus gets Ron and Harry out of there, Severus is nearly apoplectic, and Harry is relieved and grateful and looking enough like James always did when they got away with something that Remus is a little closer to euphoric than he is to angry. The boys follow him all the way to the entrance hall before he remembers what he's about and spins.
"I don't want to hear explanations," he snaps, cutting Harry off. "I happen to know that map was confiscated by Mr. Filch many years ago." He pauses, and the looks on their faces would be amusing were the situation not so serious. "Yes, I know it's a map. I don't want to know how it fell into your possession. I am, however, astounded that you didn't hand it in." Neither of these things is quite true, but Remus presses on, and by the time he's finished, he thinks he's managed to guilt Harry into behaving for a while.
He almost turns it in himself, almost marches straight to the headmaster's office and hands it over. But somehow he makes a wrong turn and finds himself back at his quarters. His hands are shaky and sweating, and his voice wavers slightly as he points his wand at the map.
"I solemnly swear that I am up to no good."
February passes in a gray haze of fog and bone-cutting cold that's got nothing to do with the temperature. The days are short and the nights are shorter, and Remus doesn't remember what his life was like before he started spending all his time with dementors and ghosts. He wonders if this is what it was like in Azkaban. No wonder Sirius ran away.
The next time Remus remembers much of anything at all, Harry's complaining about Hagrid's trial and talking about the Quidditch final and Remus realizes it's April.
The spring is supposed to be better, Remus thinks. Easier. But where his childhood memories of springtime at Hogwarts are full of laughter and sunshine and Sirius, now all it does is rain. There's a five-minute dry spell and he glances out the window, notices the grass is the same color as Harry's eyes, and goes back to staring at the map.
Remus paces around his quarters, his skin stretched thin and his bones aching for the coming darkness. It's habit, really, and nothing else that makes him glance at the map. He's about to put it away; Severus will be here soon with his potion, and the sight of the map will start him frothing at the mouth. But instead of putting it away he activates it, skims its borders, and then says, "mischief managed" before it quite sinks in.
When it does sink in, he shakes his head before he does anything else. "I solemnly swear that I am up to no good," he mutters quickly, and then rubs at his eyes to make sure they're clear. They are. There's a dot by the Whomping Willow and the writing couldn't be plainer: Sirius Black.
Remus stares in shock as the dot lunge at another labeled 'Harry Potter.' Harry manages to dodge, apparently, and Sirius goes for Ron instead; then Remus stares in shock some more as they both disappear off the side of the map.
He almost doesn't move. He still can't quite imagine why Sirius wants to kill Harry, can't quite wrap his mind around the concept. He's sure Harry will be fine. But if he's wrong… Well, Harry's been warned, time and time again, and if the boy and his friends are foolish enough to be outside by themselves, perhaps they deserve what they get. He shakes his head—clearly he's been spending too much time with Severus.
And then Remus is on his feet, outside, running for the Whomping Willow with absolutely no idea what he's going to do when he gets there.
It doesn't look good.
Harry's standing over Sirius—Sirius—who's crumpled and bleeding and wearing an orange cat on his chest. Hermione's huddled next to the door. Ron's collapsed near the bed, obviously hurt. But Remus can't really look at anyone but Sirius.
"Expelliarmus!" He grabs three wands out of the air and moves closer to where Harry is standing over Sirius. "Get out of the way, Harry," he says, wand trained on the thing which used to be his friend. Harry moves.
He's not sure how long he stares at Sirius, skeletally thin and covered in grime, matted hair in clumps around his head. This man doesn't even look like Sirius, not really, and that makes it easier. That makes it possible to just raise his wand and—and then Sirius' mouth cracks into a grin.
"Hello, Remus," he rasps, and his voice is the same and his grin is the same and Remus—
"Professor," Harry interrupts. "What's going on—?"
—lowers his wand. "You should go, Harry," he says, eyes still on Sirius, who's grinning like the madman Remus suddenly hopes he is. Madmen have excuses.
"I DON'T BELIEVE IT!!" Hermione shrieks from the doorway. Remus turns to her and hears Sirius get to his feet.
"You should go, too," he says quietly, and hopes she'll listen. Instead she shoves herself up off the floor and jabs her finger at him, clearly crazed.
"—you and him!"
"You and I what, Remus?" Sirius' drawl is a bit rusty, but the insinuation slides down Remus' spine and he suppresses a shiver.
"Hermione, calm down."
But she doesn't. She keeps screaming and pointing, and Harry is yelling, and Sirius is laughing, and Remus isn't sure what to do. At least he still has all the wands.
"QUIET!!" he bellows, and it is so unexpected that everyone actually listens. The silence sounds louder than the noise.
"Sirius," he says. "I'm not going to let you hurt Harry."
Surprise flashes in Sirius' eyes, and then hurt. "I don't want to hurt Harry," he says, and the relief is knife-sharp until Sirius twists it by saying, "I want to kill him."
"Well, I'm not going to let you do that, either." Remus is surprised by the steadiness of his own voice. It's almost as if they're back in school, bantering. "Harry, Hermione, I mean it. Take Ron and get out of here. Go back to the castle and get the headmaster."
"I'm not leaving you alone with him," Harry says. He's practically spitting. Sirius rolls his eyes, and Remus is tempted to hex him where he stands.
"Harry, trust me—"
"NO!" Hermione screams. "Harry, don't trust him, he's been helping Black get into the castle, he wants you dead too--he's a werewolf!"
Remus freezes and tries to ignore Sirius, who is trying not to laugh. "Not at all up to your usual standard, Hermione," he says, voice still steady. "Only one out of three, I'm afraid. I have not been helping Sirius get into the castle and I certainly don't want Harry dead." He shudders to think that Sirius does. "But I won't deny that I am a werewolf."
Ron struggles on the ground but when Remus tries to help him, Ron just yells for him to stay away. Remus feels himself go a little pale, but turns towards Hermione. "How long have you known?"
"Ages," she whispers.
Sirius, he can tell, is getting restless, is looking at Harry in a way Remus doesn't like at all, and he moves again to stand between them. "Harry, please," he says. "Go. The headmaster is in his office—"
"How d'you know?" Harry demands, body tense and defensive. "And—hey! How did you know we were here?"
"The map," he says. "The Marauder's Map. I was in my office examining it—"
Harry doesn't let that one go, of course. "You know how to work it?" he asks, suspiciously.
Remus makes an impatient gesture with his hand, for once wishing the boy were less like James and would just do as he was told. "Of course I know how to work it," he snaps. "I helped write it. I'm Moony—that was my friends' nickname for me at school."
Harry's clearly dumbfounded by this news. "You wrote—?"
Remus waves his hand and opens his mouth, but Sirius cuts him off. "If you're going to tell them the story, get a move on, Remus," he says, eyes on Harry. "I've waited twelve years, I'm not going to wait much longer."
"I told you, Sirius," he says, fist tightening on his wand. "I'm not going to let you kill Harry. And I don't think I know the story, anyway." In fact, he's sure of it. He's got no idea why Sirius wants to kill Harry. It doesn't make sense. There's a creak from near the door and the whole room jumps, looking for the source of the noise.
"This place is haunted!" Ron says.
"It's not." And Remus can tell that Harry's not going anywhere. He doesn't trust Remus, but he's not going to leave him alone with Sirius, either. Remus will at least have to explain about his lycanthropy. "The Shrieking Shack was never haunted.... The screams and howls the villagers used to hear were made by me."
He talks about the bite and the potion and his friends, the animagi, hoping that if he can just keep talking, everything will work itself out. Perhaps Sirius will remember James was his friend and that he doesn't truly want to kill Harry. Or perhaps someone at the castle will realize they're missing and where they must be. Or perhaps Harry will begin to trust him and will do as he's told. That would be ideal, really; Sirius may be a madman and a murderer, but Remus isn't convinced he deserves the Kiss. Remus isn't sure anyone deserves it.
So he talks. He talks about betraying Dumbledore's trust in tones of self-disgust and he talks about Snape and then, somehow, before he's quite aware of what's going on, Severus is standing right there and Hermione's screaming and Sirius is snarling and Remus isn't sure how things could possibly get worse.
And then Severus mentions his potion, and Remus' own stupidity almost makes his heart stop. His heart is pounding so loudly he can't hear what Snape is saying.
"Two more for Azkaban tonight," is what he's saying. "Dumbledore was quite convinced you were harmless, you know, Lupin... a tame werewolf—"
"You fool," Remus says. He knows it's the wrong thing to say to Severus, but he can't help it. He doesn't want to go to Azkaban. "Is a schoolboy grudge worth putting an innocent man inside Azkaban?"
Apparently so. Cords burst from the end of Snape's wand and Remus is caught, trapped, silenced. His ankle twists and he pitches to the floor, wands clattering on the rotting wood behind him. There's a roar from somewhere above him and he turns his head in time to see Sirius lunge at Harry. Harry's too shocked to move, but Severus isn't, and he gets his wand right between Sirius' eyes.
"Give me a reason," he snarls quietly. "Give me a reason to do it and I swear I will."
Sirius stops, and Severus stops, and Harry's frozen, and Remus is stuck, and no, things cannot possibly get any worse.
"Come on, all of you," Severus says, flicking his wand so that the cords binding Remus turn into ropes and snake their way over to him. "I'll drag the werewolf. Perhaps the dementors will have a kiss for him too—"
Remus struggles helplessly against the ropes and tries to sit up, tries to protest, but it's useless. He hears someone cross the room quickly and turns to see that it's Harry, who's now blocking the door. Brilliant. Perhaps things could get worse after all.
"Get out of the way, Potter, you're in enough trouble already," Severus snarls. "If I hadn't been here to save your skin—"
"Professor Lupin could have killed me about a hundred times this year," Harry cuts in. "I've been alone with him loads of times, having defense lessons against the dementors. If he was helping Black, why didn't he just finish me off then?"
"Don't ask me to fathom the way a werewolf's mind works," Severus snaps out. "Get out of the way, Potter."
"YOU'RE PATHETIC!" Harry yells. Remus closes his eyes. He'd sigh if there weren't a rope in his mouth. "JUST BECAUSE THEY MADE A FOOL OF YOU AT SCHOOL YOU WON'T EVEN LISTEN—"
"SILENCE! I WILL NOT BE SPOKEN TO LIKE THAT!" Severus is yelling right back, and any minute Sirius just going to kill them all. Remus waits. "Like father, like son, Potter! I have just saved your neck; you should be thanking me on bended knee! You would have been well served if he'd killed you! You'd have died like your father, too arrogant to believe you might be mistaken in Black—now get out of the way, or I will make you. GET OUT OF THE WAY, POTTER!"
He makes him. Harry ends up in a full-body bind, and so does Ron when he tries to go to Harry's rescue. Hermione has the sense not to try anything at all, but Sirius is inching towards the wands Remus dropped on the floor. Remus kicks his feet to get Severus' attention, and it works. Sirius freezes and glares down at Remus. "He's going to kill us both, you know," he says almost conversationally. "I wouldn't have."
"That's enough, Black," Severus snaps. "Walk." He gestures towards the door with his wand, and Remus is really quite interested to know how Severus intends to hold a wand on Sirius while levitating two children and dragging one werewolf. "Granger, see to Weasley."
She hesitates a moment. "But, sir, how are you going to—"
"Shut your mouth, Granger, and see to Weasley!"
Hermione walks slowly to where Remus is bound on the floor and retrieves her wand. Sirius is already halfway out the door, and Remus bites down on the ropes in his mouth as Severus begins to drag him out the door. He's able to keep his head off the first stair, but not the second, and he can't quiet the yelp that comes from his throat as his head cracks against the wood.
"Professor Snape," Hermione says. "Professor Lupin is—"
"None of your concern," Severus says, jerking harshly on the ropes. Remus' head cracks against another stair, and he sees fireworks behind his eyes. He groans. Crack. Perhaps he ought to have let Sirius kill Snape after all. Crack. His head is light and heavy at once, swimming in pain, and he's not sure how much longer he can stay conscious. Crack. The blackness swallows him whole.
He's aware, briefly, of his bones cracking and his skin shifting, of something dark and hungry clawing its way out of him, the urge to hunt, to kill, to feel bones snap like twigs between his teeth. He sniffs at the air and bares his teeth. There's prey nearby, plenty of it, already scared and bleeding. He's just about to strike when he senses something else—something familiar, something closer, something that says pack. Moony follows, howling.