The line “Herbivores are stupid,” is from Cub Scout
Disclaimer: The world in this story and most of its characters belong to J.K. Rowling. My additional characters and I are just visiting.
Originally posted: January-February 2004 at the SBRL Group
Author’s Notes: Pay attention to the chronology of the story. During this chapter, it’ll jump around in time a bit.
While visiting England, a friend and I once stayed in Wimbledon in the flat of “a friend of a friend.” My description of Alex’s flat is based on her flat.
“Vraci” is Romanian for wizard.
Sirius yawned widely as he wrote the final lines of his report about the fruitless all-night surveillance of Leman Borgin. An informant had assured them that Borgin would soon be serving as the middleman in a transaction of great interest to the aurors. Two of his fellow recent recruits had kept on eye on Borgin’s shop all day, and Sirius had taken over when Borgin had retired to his flat over the shop. All night he had sat on the neighboring rooftop, hidden by James’s invisibility cloak. Borgin had no visitors.
Although he was on call for the remainder of the day, Sirius hoped that he’d be able to slip away from London for a few hours. James and Lily had recently moved again, and Sirius wanted to help them get settled in. They didn’t really need the help—they had become experts at moving—unfortunately—but they did need a friendly face.
“You and James Potter knew Remus Lupin at school, didn’t you?” a gruff voice asked. Sirius looked up at the scowling face of Tireus Prewitt, one of the few old-timers still alive in the auror ranks.
“Yes, he’s a close friend of ours. Why?”
“He doesn’t know the Potters’ new location, does he?”
“Of course he does. He helped me select it for them.”
Prewitt shook his head with the scowl of disgust he saved for new recruits who had done something particularly foolhardy. Sirius was reasonably certain that he knew what this was about. A werewolf had recently killed a Ministry official. He had boasted of his loyalty to Voldemort just before he attacked the arresting security guards and was killed by them in self-defence. In the aftermath of this event, all werewolves were being viewed with even more suspicion than before. Sirius guessed that Prewitt had just learned that Remus was a werewolf.
Sirius scowled right back. “There’s nothing about Remus that we don’t already know, and we trust him implicitly.”
“Really? Do you know the sort of company he’s been keeping lately?” Prewitt dropped a thick file on Sirius’s desk and walked away. The contents of the folder, glossy photographs, had slipped out slightly when the folder landed on the desk, but all Sirius could see of the uppermost photograph was someone’s sleeve. Almost against his will, Sirius flipped the folder open to see that the sleeve did indeed belong to Remus. The other two men in the photograph were just as familiar: Alex Vraci, one of Sirius’s second cousins, and Lucius Malfoy, the husband of Sirius’s cousin Narcissa. Malfoy was one of those wizards who the aurors were certain was a Death Eater, but were unable to prove it. Vraci was one they were less certain of. As Sirius watched, Malfoy extended his hand to Remus, but Remus refused to shake it.
“That’s our Moony,” Sirius thought with a smile. If this was the worst Prewitt had to show, this file wasn’t very incriminating at all. The next photo was of Remus speaking alone to Vraci, but in the same location and in the same clothes as the other photo. Again, it didn’t bother Sirius. Vraci had been a Ravenclaw at school, and in Sirius’s experience, those of his relatives who ended up in Ravenclaw were a much nicer group of people than his relatives in Slytherin.
The next few photographs were of Remus visiting two different homes. Labels on the backs of the photos identified them as the residences of Hugo Davis and his daughter, Aisher Davis Nott. Hugo’s son, Statham Davis, had recently been sent to Azkaban.
“Father of a Death Eater and sister of a Death Eater,” Sirius thought. “Thanks to Regulus, I’d fit into that category just as well. I wonder if the next photo will be Remus with me.”
Instead, the next photographs showed Remus with Aidan Howes. The first two photos seemed to have been taken by security cameras in the Ministry of Magic. The next photo showed Remus and Howes eating a meal together at the Leaky Cauldron. Howes was the now deceased werewolf who had recently stirred up so much trouble for all werewolves. Sirius, worried about new restrictions being placed on werewolves, had ranted and raved to Remus about what a “selfish bastard” Howes had been. Remus had never mentioned a word about knowing the man.
Sirius quickly flipped through several more photos of Remus with various people and stopped at one of Remus in Knockturn Alley. He saw Severus Snape coming toward Remus from behind. He felt an irrational temptation to warn the photographic Remus to be on guard. As he watched, Snape said something to Remus, Remus turned to face him, and Snape handed Remus a booklet or perhaps a folded sheaf of papers. Remus glanced at the papers and then slipped them into his pocket as Snape walked away and out of the frame. Remus went back to looking in a shop window and the scene began to repeat.
“Let me see the title, Remus,” Sirius asked as Remus took the booklet. In most wizarding photos, the people within the photograph will interact to a limited extent with the person gazing at the photograph. However, when the photo is taken candidly, without the awareness of the subject—as all of these surveillance photos were—the people within the photograph remain oblivious to the world outside the two-dimensional world they inhabit. The photographic Remus ignored Sirius’s request and slipped the booklet into his pocket again.
If the photo had been of Remus with anyone else—even Lucius Malfoy or Statham Davis—Sirius would have dismissed it. There were dozens of innocent explanations possible for such an exchange. What Sirius couldn’t get past was the fact that it was Severus Snape. Snape both hated and feared Remus, and had avoided him throughout seventh year. Sirius couldn’t think of any reason that Snape would willingly approach Remus and give something to him. Or rather, Sirius could think of only one reason—Snape had been ordered to do so.
Sirius turned to the next photo, hoping for a less troubling scene. Remus was with Alex Vraci again, sitting on a park bench. Both men were wearing Muggle clothes, and Sirius smiled. Muggle clothes were not uncommon for Remus, but they were almost unheard of for a Death Eater. Sirius considered it a point in Vraci’s favour. Vraci glanced around as if checking to see if anyone were observing them. For a moment, Vraci looked directly at Sirius, and Sirius thought he may have seen the hidden photographer. Then Vraci began to kiss Remus, and Remus rather seemed to enjoy it.
Sirius stared in amazement. Sirius had never known, had never suspected that Remus was gay. Perhaps he didn’t know everything about Remus after all.
Remus paid for his beer and then turned to check out the crowd. Chester’s was crowded tonight—a good night for hunting. Men with dark hair, men with fair, tall men, shorter men, some muscular, some thin. No matter what he was looking for—as long as he was looking for only one night—he could find it here.
A part of Remus despised himself for taking part in this scene on a regular basis. He felt guilty every time that he went home with someone knowing that he had no interest beyond the one night. He couldn’t help but feel that he was using these men. Then morning would come and they were glad to be rid of him. The “using” was mutual.
He felt that he had no choice. The full moon was only three days away, and the wolf wanted to mate—badly. It was either find a willing partner at a meat market like Chester’s, or Padfoot would get a nasty surprise soon after moonrise. Remus would never be able to face Sirius again if the wolf tried that. Of course, he probably wouldn’t need to face Sirius again as Sirius would undoubtedly hex him into oblivion. No matter how badly the wolf injured Padfoot, Sirius never resented it. Sex, however, was another matter entirely. And given how attracted Remus was to Sirius—his ultimate deep, dark secret—each new full moon made Remus more terrified that this was the month the wolf would attempt something unforgivable and he’d lose his friend forever.
A man with glossy dark hair caught his eye. The man had been watching him and smiled. Remus realized with a start that he knew him—Alex Vraci. Vraci had been a Ravenclaw two years ahead of him at school. He was also Sirius’s second-cousin and James’s fourth-cousin, or perhaps the other way around. Vraci motioned for Remus to join him at his table.
“Remus, isn’t it? I didn’t expect to see anyone I knew from school here.”
“Well, since ‘wizard’ and ‘openly-gay’ are unimaginable in the same sentence, we’re forced to visit Muggles places like this to meet people.”
“True. You’re looking good, Remus. I guess being out of school agrees with you.”
Remus laughed slightly. “The last time you saw me, I was fifteen and awkward. I hope I look better now. You look good. I like your hair that length.” The last time Remus had seen him, Alex’s hair had been cut short, but was now shoulder-length like Sirius’s. It set off his dark eyes and high cheekbones—Sirius’s cheekbones. “Sirius’s second-cousin, definitely,” Remus thought.
Alex finished off his drink. “I can either order another round for us, and we can make pointless small talk until you agree to come home with me—or we can cut through all that and go home now.”
Remus smiled. Not only did Alex resemble Sirius physically, but he had the same self-confidence and bravado as well. “Let’s go,” he said.
Thanks to Alex’s talent in guided apparition, the two men were very soon at the doorway of his flat. As Alex unlocked the door with the brass numeral “2” on the door, he said, “My landlady lives on the ground floor. She’s a Muggle, but she’s not nosy. As long as I’m a quiet tenant, she doesn’t care what goes on up here. She commented on the apparent increase in the number of the owls in the area, but she doesn’t seem to associate them with me.”
The wall directly opposite the door had a large fireplace flanked on either side by built in bookcases. Both bookcases held a sizable number of books. Remus smiled to himself; Alex was certainly true to the Ravenclaw reputation.
“I can see what drew you to this flat,” Remus said with a gesture to the fireplace and bookcases.
“It was difficult to find one I could afford and that had a fireplace,” Alex admitted. “Do you want a drink? I have beer and firewhiskey.” He was already on his way toward what seemed to be the kitchen doorway.
“Beer, thanks,” Remus said as he tailed behind. The kitchen was small, so Remus stayed just outside the door and looked out the large picture window instead. Alex’s neighborhood was built on a hillside, and as his side of the street was higher than the other, Remus had a perfect view of all the lights of the town. “Where are we?” he asked when Alex returned carrying a beer and a very strong drink of firewhiskey for himself.
“The view’s nice.”
“Hmm,” Alex nodded. “Houses and Muggle shops. It’s nicer at night, I suppose.” He took a seat on the sofa just under the window. When Remus sat beside him, Alex backed away from him just slightly. “So what are you doing these days, Remus? I seem to remember that you weren’t one of the idle rich like some of our lucky friends.”
Remus explained about the freelance work he was doing setting up wards and protective spells on people’s homes and businesses, and then asked appropriate questions about the work Alex was doing in the in-house Potions Department of St. Mungo’s. He was a bit surprised by Alex’s sudden interest in “small talk” after his stated interest in avoiding all that at Chester’s. However, he didn’t mind. Between his friends being busy with their own professions and with the need to protect Harry, opportunities for simple conversation had been too few of late. He needed an evening of conversation almost as much as he needed a shag.
When Alex had finished his second tall glass of firewhiskey and had avoided touching even Remus’s hand, Remus decided that as pleasant as the evening had been, it was probably not going to end the way he needed it to. If he went back to Chester’s soon, there was still time to find someone. If not someone interested in all night, then someone who wanted it quick and rough against an alley wall would do.
“It’s getting late, Alex,” Remus said as he stood up. “Maybe I should go.”
“No!” Alex jumped up from the sofa and clutched at Remus’s sleeve. “No, you have to stay. Please?” He slid his hand down Remus’s arm and took his hand. He looked beseechingly at Remus and began to pull him toward the opposite end of the room and the bedroom doorway.
Candles lit themselves as they entered the room, but Alex immediately extinguished them all with a wave of his hand. He pushed the door closed as well, and the room was lost in almost complete darkness. Remus’s eyes quickly adjusted to the light coming in from the one window. Alex kissed him, hesitantly at first, but as Remus began to kiss back, they soon lost themselves in the warm, wet sensations. Alex tasted of firewhiskey, and when he swayed dangerously for a moment, Remus thought it prudent to steer him back to the bed.
Alex fumbled with the buttons on his shirt. “Let me,” Remus said. He rid them both of their shirts while continuing to kiss Alex. He bestowed one last lick on one of Alex’s highly sculpted cheekbones before turning his attention to removing the rest of Alex’s clothing. As he licked a long slick path up the inside of Alex’s thigh, he heard Alex moan for the first time and smiled. Remus tended to be silent during sex, but he loved to hear the sounds made by his partners. He licked Alex’s other thigh, ending teasingly close to Alex’s balls, and Alex’s cock gave an involuntary little jump. Remus began to shed his own trousers. Alex pushed himself back farther on the bed and watched Remus.
“Oh god,” Alex said despairingly and let his head fall back with his eyes closed.
Remus lay down on his side beside him and stroked Alex’s slightly stubbled cheek. “What’s wrong?” he asked.
“I have no earthly clue what I’m doing,” Alex confessed. “I’ve never—with a man before.”
Remus was only slightly surprised. Sexual mores of the wizarding world were very conservative. It wasn’t uncommon for homosexual wizards and witches to remain closeted their entire lives, sometimes denying it even to themselves.
“It’s all right. I have enough experience for both of us,” Remus replied as he nuzzled his nose in Alex’s hair. He didn’t smell even remotely like Sirius, but his hair felt and looked the same. “But only if you still want to.” He stroked his hand across Alex’s lightly furred chest and down his belly, hoping to encourage Alex’s assent. He was surprised to feel that Alex was no longer as aroused as he had been just moments earlier. He looked at Alex inquiringly, waiting for his decision.
Alex glanced down at his wilted erection and smiled slightly. “What did Shakespeare say about whiskey? ‘Adds to the desire, but takes away from the performance?’”
Remus nodded. “One of Sirius’s favourite quotations.”
“Just fuck me, Remus.”
Remus didn’t need to be asked twice. He grabbed one of the pillows from the head of the bed—“Roll over. It’ll be easier this way your first time,”—and tucked the pillow under Alex’s lower belly. He grabbed a second pillow as well and pushed it under Alex as he pulled his hips upward. Given the amount Alex had to drink, Remus didn’t think he’d be able to stay on his knees without help.
Remus resumed licking, kissing, and nibbling at Alex’s thighs. Remus loved to taste and smell his lovers, and Alex had seemed to enjoy it before. Remus hoped to inspire Alex to arousal again. Alex began to breathe more heavily; his breath catching occasionally and releasing again with little pants. The sounds told Remus that he was succeeding. When Remus’s tongue strayed upward from Alex’s balls to the cleft of his ass, Alex tensed.
“I won’t hurt you,” Remus murmured. With his hands, he stroked down Alex’s back, pausing to massage his ass a little bit longer each time. As he gently pulled the cheeks of Alex’s ass apart just slightly, he licked again. Alex didn’t tense this time.
Remus continued his ministrations long enough that Alex began to push back against him as if wanting more, and Remus realized that he couldn’t wait much longer himself. If Alex had any lubricant in his bedroom, he didn’t mention it, but Remus had gone to Chester’s prepared. He shifted around on the bed and fumbled through the discarded clothing for his trousers and the tube in one of the pockets.
Alex tensed again and looked over his shoulder when Remus first touched him with a lubricated finger. “I won’t hurt you,” Remus assured him again. Alex nodded, closed his eyes, and tried to relax. Despite his promises, Remus hurried to lubricate and stretch Alex as quickly as possible. He could feel his control slipping away with every moment. Only three nights before the full moon was not the ideal time for slow, careful lovemaking. Tonight was a night to fuck.
Remus pushed his cock against the puckered opening, and endured that agonizing moment when it just seemed impossible that he would ever fit inside. Alex tensed with anxiety again. Remus couldn’t speak to offer reassurance this time. His hands were on Alex’s hips. He shifted his hands just enough to press the cheeks of Alex’s ass back apart as he pushed in.
Alex gasped at the unfamiliar sensation, and there was a note of pain in the sound. Remus held still and kissed his lover’s back in repentance. Then, unable to wait anymore, he began to stroke in and out. Alex whimpered again, but not in pain. Remus reached between his lover’s belly and the pillows. He began to stroke the semi-erect penis in time to his own thrusts. When Alex moaned, it sent Remus over the edge.
He lay across Alex’s back for a few moments, too spent to move, and then he rolled them both over onto their sides so he wouldn’t crush the other man. As they rolled, Remus was careful not to pull out. He liked to remain inside his lovers as long as he possibly could. He knew that it was “one of those wolf things” as his friends put it, but it was one he didn’t mind. He resumed stroking Alex, but Alex stilled his hand and shook his head slightly.
Remus nuzzled the glossy black hair again even as he began to feel waves of guilt. Tonight wasn’t the first time he’d chosen a lover simply because the man had a physical resemblance to Sirius. He’d always told himself that the resemblances were simply because that was “his type.” The fact that he’d fantasize that the men were Sirius, that was explained away—partially—as being due to the fact that the men were strangers and he wanted a more familiar face. But he’d done it again tonight. Alex wasn’t a stranger, yet Remus had allowed himself to fantasize that the face hidden by the long black hair was Sirius’s face rather than Alex’s. It wasn’t fair to Sirius, and it wasn’t fair to Alex.
“I’m sorry,” Remus whispered. “I did hurt you.”
“No,” Alex assured him. “That was—nicer than I expected it to be.” He tried to turn around, but Remus tightened the arm he had around Alex’s hips.
“No, don’t move yet. I like to stay like this.”
As he lay with his arm around Alex, Remus realized that he wanted to see him again. He had genuinely enjoyed spending the evening talking with Alex, and he suspected that he could learn to make love to Alex rather than pretend that Alex was someone else. But whether Alex would want to see him again, he didn’t dare ask. After all, initiating a long-term relationship—especially with a wizard—was undoubtedly a stupid thing to do. If Alex were ever to find out that he was a werewolf, the chances of Alex ever wanting to see him again were somewhere between slim and none.
* * * * *
Remus was pleasantly surprised when he ran into Alex just two days later in Diagon Alley. Alex was just coming out of Flourish and Blotts with a large parcel wrapped in paper and string.
“You’re going to fill up those bookcases pretty quickly if you aren’t careful, Alex.”
“That’s what bookcases are for, isn’t it?” Alex replied with a smile. “Besides, only one of these is for me. The other is the latest in the Dragon Keeper series. It’s a birthday present for my niece.”
“And how old is little Venetia going to be?” asked a voice just behind Remus. Remus whirled in surprise, his hand already on the wand in his pocket. It wasn’t often that someone could catch him unawares like that, and he disliked being startled in that manner. Lucius Malfoy smiled in amusement. “I’m sorry. Did I interrupt a private conversation?”
“Not at all,” Alex said calmly. “Lucius, this is my friend Remus Lupin. Remus, this is Lucius Malfoy, one of my cousins.”
Remus nodded slightly in recognition. He remembered Malfoy from Hogwarts. Malfoy had been several years ahead of him, but he had been one of those students who deliberately stood out.
Malfoy extended a hand to him. “Yes, I remember you, Lupin. You’re a friend of Narcissa’s wayward cousin Sirius.” Remus did not shake Malfoy’s hand. Between rumors of Malfoy’s involvement in Voldemort’s inner circle, and better-substantiated stories that Sirius had shared about Malfoy, Remus knew that he wanted nothing to do with this man. Malfoy seemed only slightly bothered by Remus’s snub. “As foolish as your friends, I see.” Malfoy smiled instead at Alex. “Your mother is well, I trust?”
“Yes, she’s feeling much better, thank you.”
“Good. Please tell her that I enquired after her. Good-bye, Alex. Lupin.”
“I’ve got to run, Remus,” Alex said as soon as Malfoy began to walk away. “I spent all of my lunch break browsing in the bookstore. I’ll send you an owl.”
“Bye,” Remus replied, but he wasn’t sure if Alex heard him. Alex had already hurried into the crowd of lunchtime shoppers. It didn’t matter. Remus knew that “I’ll send you an owl” was probably just thinly veiled code words for “once was nice, but let’s not do that again.” He wasn’t surprised. The morning after their night together, Alex had bolted out of bed as soon as he was awake. They had had breakfast together before Remus left and Alex went to work, but the mood had kept veering unexpectedly between friendly and awkward.
Remus resigned himself to the fact that it had probably been yet another one-night-stand, and resumed on his way toward the little café where he was meeting Peter for lunch. He had been a bit surprised by the timing of Peter’s invitation. After all, tomorrow night was the full moon, and he would be seeing Peter at the Potters’. But, Peter had asked him to meet him in Diagon Alley, and not being overly burdened with work at the moment, Remus had agreed.
* * * * *
One of the indignities and irritations of the current werewolf regulations was the need to drop at a moment’s notice whatever plans he might happen to have, and appear at the Werewolf Registry Office to answer any questions they deemed suitable. As it turned out, Remus did have plans. He had an appointment with a witch about ridding her house of a boggart and then setting up protective wards around her house. He had sent an owl to reschedule and hoped she wouldn’t be too angry. He had done similar work for her father just last week and had gotten the job through his recommendation, so he hoped that would be good enough to make her accept the delay.
Nevertheless, his irritation at the imperious summons only made him resent the intrusive questions even more. Where was his current residence? A dingy little bed-sit, and here’s the address. Where did he spend the nights of the full moon? Officially, in the cellar of Peter’s house—unofficially, wherever was convenient for James. Place of employment? He worked freelance. Who were his current sexual partners? As far as the Werewolf Registry knew, he was still a virgin. Had he ever bitten someone? The answer was still, “No.” Had he ever attacked someone? The answer was still, “Yes, and you already have the full details in your files.” But that answer was never good enough, and he was forced to recount in detail, again, how he had once almost killed Severus Snape and James Potter.
He may have made the mistake of allowing his irritation to show through, for when he was done, the interviewer deemed it necessary to summon a coworker into the room and order Remus to strip and be examined for any new identifying marks or scars.
When the ordeal was finally over, Remus was very, very glad that he had asked Mrs. Nott to reschedule for the following day rather than later today. He wasn’t exactly in the mood to be civil, let alone solicitous. He nearly growled when someone grabbed him by the arm and said, “Wait a moment,” just after he left the Registry Office.
“Go away,” was the politest comment he could muster.
“Sorry,” the other man said as he released Remus’s arm. “It’s just that you look like they gave you as hard a time in there as they did me. I could really use a drink about now, I hate to drink alone, and you look like you need one too.” He waited a moment for Remus’s reply, and when none was immediately forthcoming, he added, “Do a fellow werewolf a favour and have a drink with me. Misery loves company, right?”
“Right. Name’s Remus Lupin.”
“Aidan Howes. Nice to meet you, Remus.”
Aidan had suggested a pub in Knockturn Alley, but Remus wanted to get something to eat as well. They both agreed that the food in the Leaky Cauldron was less questionable. Remus, feeling flush with his pay from Hugo Davis, treated his new companion to a meal.
After they both complained about their least favourite people in various werewolf-related departments, and about the regulations in general, Aidan took a slightly new tack.
“You know what irks me most about those bloody regulations,” Aidan said in a low voice to avoid any possibility being overheard, “is that they don’t distinguish in any way between fully trained wizards and witches who happen to have become werewolves, and Muggle werewolves.”
“We have more autonomy about where we spend the full moon,” Remus pointed out.
Aidan dismissed it with a shake of his head. “That’s just because they know we can do locking spells and silencing charms. But what about the rest of the month? They treat us like dangerous animals.”
“They treat all werewolves like dangerous animals,” Remus agreed bitterly.
“Exactly, but we aren’t. I’ll grant you that Muggle werewolves may be little better than that, but it’s not their fault. They just can’t understand or control the magic within themselves, so it controls them. But us, we’re different. We can control the magic. We’re stronger because of it. Don’t you agree?”
Remus disliked the new turn the conversation had taken. This was the familiar “Wizards are superior to Muggles” rubbish merely overlaid with werewolf rights overtones.
“All werewolves can control their wolf instincts, if they try hard enough,” Remus replied.
“But we can channel it and use it,” Aidan continued. He shifted forward in his seat and stared at Remus intently. “Haven’t you noticed that you’ve become better at certain types of magic since you were bitten? We can make this into a gift instead of a curse—if we’re shown how. But with those currently in charge trying to hold us back, we’ll be prevented from making the most of the gift we’ve been given.”
Remus had been uncomfortable with the conversation before; now he was anxious to leave. This was starting to sound undeniably like he was being recruited to join with Voldemort and overthrow the Ministry. “I don’t think—”
“Only a fool sides with those who oppress him,” Aidan stated as he sat back in his seat and folded his arms.
“Only a traitor sides with those who want to kill his friends,” Remus replied. He stood to leave but Aidan grabbed him by the arm.
“Our meeting today wasn’t really by accident, Lupin. Think about what I’ve said.” Remus wrenched his arm away and strode out angrily.
His first instinct was to tell Sirius all about the exchange and warn him that Aidan Howes was someone to be watched. However, between his auror duties and spending every free moment trying to ensure the safety of James and his family, Sirius didn’t have time to add “keeping an eye on” an angry werewolf to his already lengthy list of responsibilities.
Remus considered speaking with one of Sirius’s fellow aurors instead, and dismissed the thought just as quickly. Perhaps Howes was a Death Eater, or perhaps Howes was just a disgruntled werewolf who wanted to complain about the Ministry to someone he thought would be a sympathetic ear. Although Remus had felt like it was the former, now that he went over in his mind everything Howes had said, the latter interpretation was just as likely. And if Howes had merely been expressing his frustrations after a particularly bad morning in the Werewolf Registry Office, Remus didn’t want to be the one to get him in more trouble. With the exception of Sirius, aurors weren’t willing to give a werewolf the benefit of a doubt.
And, the truth be told, Remus was deeply embarrassed that Howes had approached him. Remus had no love lost for the Ministry, and that resentment left him vulnerable to recruitment attempts like this one. Howes had seen it. Aurors would as well. If he did go to them about his conversation with Howes, he would likely find himself under as much suspicion as Howes himself. Aurors weren’t willing to give a werewolf the benefit of a doubt.
He didn’t even want to tell Sirius. He could vividly remember the evening when James told them all of Dumbledore’s suspicions that someone close to James and Lily was passing on information. Sirius’s eyes had flickered to Remus for just a fraction of a second before Sirius very deliberately looked down at the carpet. Sirius had said, “Maybe you should cut off all contact with all three of us. It’ll be safer for you.” James had refused and insisted that there was some other explanation for the leaks. Sirius had agreed, but he had also avoided looking at Remus for the rest of the evening. How much would it really take to make Sirius mistrust him?
* * * * *
It would have been very easy to ignore the silver platter in the sliversmith’s window. The other objects, rings with sharpened prongs to deliver a poisoned scratch, biting boxes, and necklaces that would strangle the wearer, all deserved a place in the Knockturn Alley shop. But the platter had no apparent sinister value. It didn’t even have a serpent design to appeal to a proud Slytherin alumnus. What it did have was an intricate design resembling a Celtic knot or a labyrinth. Something about the design was familiar, perhaps from Charms class, but Remus couldn’t place it.
“Don’t bother buying a silver dagger if you want to commit suicide, Lupin. I’ll be pleased to loan you the one I carry.”
“Hello, Severus,” Remus said as he turned to face his former classmate.
“I’m glad I ran into you. I happened to read about a new potion and thought you might find it interesting.” Snape held out the slim quarterly journal of the Potionbrewer’s Guild. “Perhaps you’ll do us all a favour and volunteer to test it.”
Remus accepted the journal but refrained from thanking Snape. The other wizard’s cold smile revealed that this was not meant as a friendly gesture.
As Snape walked away, Remus looked at the design on the platter one last time. He decided to sketch it and show it to Lily. She’d appreciate a little mystery to solve. She often complained that living with “two children” was turning her brain into mush.
It wasn’t until much later that Remus decided to look through the journal. A brief article described that a researcher in Germany had created a potion that caused a werewolf to remain docile through the entire night of a full moon. However, all subsequent attempts to duplicate the results had failed, and the test subjects had all died from the toxic potions.
* * * * *
Although their monthly “pub crawls” now consisted of crawling around on the floor with Harry and then staying up late drinking at the Potters’ home instead, the four friends refused to give up their new moon week tradition.
Remus had been tempted to skip this month as he didn’t think he’d be pleasant company, but in the end, he arrived late enough that he’d miss dinner with Lily and Harry and could go straight into the drinking afterward. By universal consent, only one or two of them were permitted to drink to excess on any given night. The others were required to be the responsible ones—just in case. Remus knew which category he’d be in tonight. When he poured himself a whiskey immediately after arriving and while the others were still eating dessert, his friends knew too.
“Why, Mrs. Potter, look at the irresponsible behaviour your fellow Prefect is displaying—drinking on an empty stomach.”
“Shut up, Wormtail. I had a bad day.”
“Then maybe you should have stayed home,” Sirius said in a sing-song voice appropriate to the action of bouncing Harry on his knee. “Things are tense enough here already, aren’t they, Harry?”
“Fine,” Remus bit out. He downed the rest of the glass and stood to leave, but James put a hand on his arm.
“Uhn-uh. I don’t want any of you to think you have to be in good mood to come see us. Hell, if you guys only come visit when things are going great, I might never see you. Sit down, Remus.”
“Yeah, Remus, I was only kidding,” Sirius added, although they all knew he hadn’t been.
Lily diplomatically picked up the thread of the conversation they had been having before Remus’s arrival. Remus felt himself beginning to relax as he watched Sirius play with Harry and a toy griffin. Harry stood up in Sirius’s lap and pulled his godfather’s hair in an attempt to keep his balance.
“Ow! Careful, kid. I know that you and Daddy are jealous of my gorgeous hair, but yanking mine out isn’t the way to go.” The mention of Sirius’s hair made Remus decide that he wanted a second drink.
“Tell us about your bad day, Moony,” James said as Remus reached for the bottle.
Remus shook his head. “Rather not.”
“Maybe he needs to get laid,” Sirius said.
“Are you offering, Padfoot?” Remus asked as he sat back in his chair with his refilled glass. James chuckled, and Peter began to cough.
“Wrong gender, remember?” Sirius said. “So how long has it been?”
“Night before last, actually.”
“Really? Then I’m the one who deserves to be in foul mood. It’s been so long since I’ve had time to date that I may have to buy a Valentine’s Day card for my hand.”
“And that’s our cue to disappear upstairs,” Lily said as she held out her hands to Harry.
“I’ll carry him up,” Sirius said as he rose from the table. “C’mon, Bambi, time for pajamas.”
“Don’t call him that!” James called after them. James shook his head and finished off the beer in the glass he’d had with dinner. “O.K., Moony. So, your love life is fine. What is wrong?”
Remus sighed and put down the glass. Maybe he didn’t want to get drunk after all. Drunks tended to say things that they shouldn’t. “Number one at the top of the list is my love life, actually. I got dumped today.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, Moony.”
“Me too,” Peter added. “I didn’t know you’d been seeing someone.”
“Yeah, off and on for about three and a half months now.”
James and Peter were both silent for a moment, and then James asked what they were both probably wondering, “Did she find out that you’re a werewolf?”
Remus shook his head. “Let’s just say I’m less than socially acceptable in other ways too.”
The toy griffin suddenly zoomed off the table and out the door toward the stairs. A crashing sound indicated that it did not have an uneventful journey to Harry’s bedroom.
“Oops,” James said as pulled out his wand and hurried after the toy to repair the damage.
“Were you in love with him, Moony?” Peter asked quietly.
Remus thought for a moment and then shook his head. “No, I liked him, but— I guess I just don’t like how I got dumped. I opened up the Daily Prophet today and read, ‘Mr. and Mrs. Powys Parkinson announce the engagement of their daughter Lucinda to Mr. Alexander Vraci.’”
“Ouch. And he didn’t tell you the other night?”
Remus shook his head. “Not a word. I guess I was just someone to experiment with before he settled down and married a nice socially acceptable witch.”
“Or maybe he doesn’t consider it over,” Peter pointed out. “You know, in public he’ll be the respectable family man, but in secret—”
“I consider it over,” Remus said firmly.
“I know, but—” Peter bit his lip nervously and then suddenly smiled. “Alex Vraci? Interesting. Doesn’t he look a lot like Sirius?”
“Shut up,” Remus said smiling in spite of himself.
“You are so predictable. It’s really amazing that Sirius and James are still oblivious.”
“If you tell them—”
“I know, I know, rat tartare.”
“I’m disappointed, Wormtail.”
Peter gasped in fear as he whirled around to face the voice coming from the shadows beside the dark fireplace. “My Lord,” he choked out. He dropped down onto one knee and bowed low. “I didn’t know you were here.”
“Once again I have sent someone I can rely upon to the address you have given me, only to receive a report that the Potters no longer reside there.”
“They keep moving, My Lord.”
“Obviously. It is your responsibility to learn where they are currently living—not where they were yesterday. Either you are incompetent, or you are playing me false, Pettigrew. Perhaps you are warning your friends to move before you give me their location.”’
“My Lord, I wouldn’t dare.” Peter glanced up as he said this, for he knew that this at least was true. To warn his friends would risk revealing that he knew more information about the danger they were in than he should have known. However, the Dark Lord’s guess was close to the truth. Peter was delaying passing on information to the Dark Lord until he knew that the Potters had either recently moved or were about to do so. He looked down at the ground again and said, “They’re just being extremely cautious right now. Even I am not always informed where they are living.”
“If you have earned their mistrust and cannot learn the information I need, perhaps you have outlived your usefulness to me.”
“No, My Lord, please. Give me another chance. I haven’t made any mistakes. They still trust me. It’s just that there are so few of us who have known all of the Potters’ moves. I’m automatically suspect simply because I’m one of the few.”
Lord Voldemort did not immediately respond. Peter waited, paralyzed with fear. “You need a scapegoat to draw suspicion away from you. Which would be more suitable, Black or Lupin?”
“Potter will never suspect Black,” Peter replied as he dared to look up again. “They’re too close.”
“Lupin then. Tell me everything you know about him.”
Sirius knocked on the backdoor of the Potters’ current residence. The wards they had put on the house were designed to keep out anyone unless they were invited in. Sirius had only gotten as close to the house as he had because he was a friend.
“Coming!” James’s voice called from somewhere nearby. Through the window of the door, Sirius saw James appear in the kitchen a moment later, one hand carrying his wand and the other trying to brush something out of his hair.
“It’s just me, Prongs,” Sirius called through the door. Although the various locks and wards released quickly for James, the wait still seemed too long to Sirius. “They might have trouble getting out quickly if they need to. I wish I could ask Remus to simplify that. Damn.”
“Come on in, Padfoot,” James said as he opened the door at last.
“Where are Lily and our future Quidditch star?”
“Upstairs having a bath. We did some gardening this morning, and Harry rediscovered the joys of mud. Do you want a cup of tea or something?” James asked as he began to fill a teapot with water.
“Thanks.” Sirius pulled a cobweb out of James’s hair as he went past. “Nice new look for you.”
“I’m evicting the spiders from the cupboard under the stairs.” James heated the water with a tap of his wand and poured in some tea leaves. “I saved the cobwebs. We have enough to make at least three batches of that healing potion for Remus’s injuries.”
“Now we can get those unpacked boxes out of the living room and put them under the stairs instead.”
“I don’t think you should get too comfortable here, James,” Sirius said.
James nodded, resigned to moving yet again. “I thought it might be something like that when you said you were on your way over. How soon do we need to move? Remus planned to put some more wards on the next house in a few days, but I’m sure he could do it sooner if—”
“I don’t think you should go there either,” Sirius interrupted. “In fact, we’d better pick somewhere that Remus doesn’t know about.” He placed the file on the kitchen table in front of James.