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|Title: Five Full Moons
Author: Eleanor K.
Fandom: Harry Potter
Pairing: Remus/Sirius, Snape
Spoilers: Up through Prisoner of Azkaban
Disclaimer: They belong to JKR; I make no profit, I mean no harm.
Notes: Large amounts of gratitude to Emelerin for a most thorough and invigorating beta.
Sirius stood at the entrance to the secret passage, breathing in the damp scent of underground earth. He felt yet another wave of uncertainty roll over him. He should have ambushed Pettigrew at the Wesley's house. There had been no dementors, nothing but the most basic defenses, but no, he'd had to see Harry first.
He closed his eyes briefly. He'd needed to see Harry first, and it was a good thing he'd done it, too. He'd been more mad than sane before that.
He wasn't sure how sane he was now, but he was...better. It would have to do. He couldn't wait any longer. Knowing Pettigrew was in there, not a mile away, was driving him...well. Mad. Again. He could only hope this secret passage was still a secret.
He had to wonder again if Dumbledore knew, and how could he not, he was Dumbledore after all and he'd always known everything, but hadn't they kept their secret all those years, but had they really, what if he'd known, what if he'd allowed it, that's what Remus had wanted to believe--
Remus. The name stopped the unravelling of his thoughts, stopped him getting lost in memory as he had more than once since he'd left--that place. Because Remus must still believe in him, at least a little. Otherwise Dumbledore would know for sure, and there would have been someone waiting for him at this end.
Sirius peered into the blackness ahead. He had no wand for light, but he was used to the dark.
Remus watched the full moon rise over the Whomping Willow. He could still feel it, even after taking the potion. The compulsion rested inside him, like a pain or an itch; some mobile, indefinable physical sensation curled under his breastbone. The madness within, Sirius had called it, with a wink and a leer. It hadn't seemed so bad then. Nothing had.
He knew he should tell Dumbledore about the passage. He knew he should have told him years earlier. He'd always hated secrets, and it seemed that the secret around which his life revolved had spawned a thousand more. He'd been so relieved that Dumbledore knew what he was and let him into Hogwarts anyway. The guilt later was twice as bad because of that.
He remembered running wild in the Forbidden Forest with his friends, feeling free for the first time in his life. He'd known it was wrong. They could have hurt someone. He could have hurt someone.
He should have told Dumbledore, taken the blame, been sent away. He couldn't bear to lose what he'd had then. He couldn't bear to lose what he had now.
Maybe Sirius had done what everyone said he'd done, but he wouldn't kill Harry. He wouldn't kill a child. Not Sirius. Remus couldn't let go of that faith.
Severus stood guard at the door of the dining hall. Dumbledore believed the danger was past, but Severus couldn't let go. The moon shone outside, streaming slantwise through the tall windows and casting long shadows on the children's faces.
Severus rubbed at his wrist. He still had the scar from that night. The tunnel under the Whomping Willow, the Shrieking Shack, the snarling mouth and mad eyes, and the scramble to get away. His memories were foggy, and for a month he'd believed that wound was from Lupin's teeth.
The next full moon came and went, and he'd remained himself, crying silent tears of relief in the depths of the closet he'd locked himself into. It wasn't until years later that he'd wondered about Lupin's attack, Lupin's month of waiting, the fear and horror that had come with his next full moon.
Winter was a bad time to be in the wild. The snow fell thick and white and covered the rough earth like an eiderdown, smoothing out rough edges. Sirius spent most of his time as Padfoot, curled up in hollows under the snow and dreaming.
Often, he dreamed of Harry. His plan hadn't included having a godson who was alive and young and vulnerable, who had his father's terminally messy hair and loved quidditch and laughed with his friends. He hadn't planned on Harry being a real person.
There were only so many scraps a mangy dog could beg from Madam Rosemerta and only so many raw rabbits he could stomach, and so on Christmas Eve, Sirius shook off his dreams and found his way to Diagon Alley. He saw the Firebolt in the window.
He only hesitated for a moment. What were they going to do? Send him to Azkaban?
Christmas day wasn't as bad for Remus as he thought it would be. Hope was not a listed antidote for lycanthropy, but it seemed to help the fatigue. He went down for lunch and listened to a tense discussion between McGonagall and Hooch regarding That Broom. It had somehow acquired capital letters that one could almost hear hanging in the air.
Remus ate more than he had intended and retired to his room to watch the snow fall outside the window.
He still felt as ill as he usually did, but it was distant. More immediate was the mental image of Sirius making off with the Firebolt, probably as Padfoot, handle between his teeth. It made Remus smile.
A few small tokens from professors and students alike arrive with his dinner that night, but he'd already gotten the best present he could imagine. He'd been right about Sirius. He'd been right, and the relief was enough to make him dizzy.
When Severus brought the Wolfsbane Potion by at nightfall, Remus felt almost recovered from his dose the night before. He didn't sigh as he lifted the goblet because Severus would take it as provocation, but he wanted to. Remus was honestly grateful for the potion, despite its effects, and he didn't want Severus to think otherwise. He managed to stammer out his thanks even as the pain started.
It was poison to the wolf within him, Severus had said once. Remus didn't care why it hurt as it did. He was just grateful that he seldom remembered the seizures after they'd passed.
Eventually, they handed the Firebolt over to Severus. There were no curses, no hexes, no apparent charms or spells on it. Severus and his potions were, as usual, their last thought.
He went over it inch by inch, straw by straw, but he knew it was futile. Black had always been crap at potions.
There was nothing wrong with the broom. Severus kept it for a week longer, coming up with new tests, trying to come up with someone else who might have sent it to Potter.
It was no good. Potter had many friends, but few who could have stolen or bought this particular broom. Anyway, it had Black's smell about it. He was always given to grand gestures that were meant to make up for his insufficiencies. Unfortunately, this gesture, while it fit Black to a tee, did not fit the mad killer from the wanted posters.
Severus didn't like being forced to reconsider what he believed to be facts. Especially when he preferred the facts he already had.
3. SHRIEKING SHACK
Sirius had always loved the moon, even after he knew what it did to Remus. There were times when Padfoot felt more like his natural shape than his human body did, and he couldn't stop looking forward to those nights in the Forbidden Forest. Now, as they filed out of the passage under the Whomping Willow, he was aware of the moon flickering behind the clouds, and he smiled.
He'd missed it, all those years shut up away from the sky. It seemed appropriate that it should be shining now when he was so close to real freedom.
It was only seconds later that he heard Remus' gasp and turned.
The eyes went first, and the hands would follow soon, but not if he could help it. He couldn't lose Remus again, not now, but all his words made no difference. He held him close, saw and felt the change as it happened in his arms. Remus had always made him look away before.
His hands clenched on clothes and skin that spilt with equal ease, and he held on. Didn't matter if it was useless. If this was all he could do, then he would do it.
Remus awoke the next morning with pain in every part of him and the taste of old blood in his mouth. He threw up and tried not to see what he might have eaten the night before.
He found his shredded clothes and did his best to patch them together with mending spells, but he was too exhausted to do a decent job. It was only luck that no one saw him as he slunk back to his room to wash and change.
Thinking hurt, so he didn't. Hoping hurt more, but he did it anyway.
When he stepped out into the hall, clean and as human as he was ever likely to feel, the first person he saw was a first year, hurtling along so fast she ran straight into him.
"Are you all right?" he asked as he picked her up and set her on her feet again.
She nodded, but her face was white, and she trembling. Had news of his affliction gotten around so quickly? But she didn't seem to be scared of him, not from the way she was clutching his sleeve.
"What's the matter, child?"
"Dora said Percy Weasley said Sirius Black got free again and he's going to kill us all and Percy wouldn't lie because he's head boy!" She said it all in one breath and gasped afterwards. She looked up at him, and her eyes prayed for a denial.
His own eyes clouded over with tears of relief, and he leaned against the wall.
The next twenty minutes were spent calming down a hysterical eleven year old girl, yet another instance in which chocolate proved to be invaluable. After that, he went to see Severus.
The knock on Severus' door was less timid than he had expected.
"Come in," he called.
Lupin walked in almost lightly, and a smile hovered around his mouth. Severus found it most inappropriate.
"What do you want?"
"I want to know what happened," Lupin said. "Before I have to leave."
Surely the man couldn't have the temerity to be suggesting that Severus had been wrong to say something, not after last night. Severus studied his face, expecting blame and arrogance and some trace of the monster he knew this man to be. There was none of that.
"I was unconscious for most of it, thanks to the Boy Who Lived. I don't imagine he'll be reprimanded for that, either."
"What happened after you woke up?"
"I don't see that it's any of your concern."
And of course, he only remembered arrogance from Lupin because of the association with Potter and Black. Lupin was the one who'd said please and thank you and didn't push him down in the hall. He didn't like to think about how grateful he'd been for that.
He started talking instead.
4. THE WEST COUNTRY
Padfoot watched the house on Devon moor for three days. The door was always open, day and night, and he never saw anyone but Remus. Remus puttering in his small garden. Remus disappearing along the road to town and coming back laden down with shopping. Remus reading at night by candlelight, glancing at the open door every five minutes. Remus asleep on the couch.
He watched for two nights, and on the third he walked in and lay down on the floor beside the couch. Remus stirred when he crossed the wards and looked down at him. And smiled.
Remus pressed back against the couch, making room, and Padfoot climbed up to lie beside him, heavy head on his hip, tail thumping against the cushions.
"You've got to have a bath, Sirius. You smell. And you have fleas."
Remus looked at the shaggy black dog who wagged his tail and panted and grinned and made no move to transform back into his friend. He sighed.
"Come on then." He went upstairs to run a bath, and Padfoot followed him, tail still waving. "In," Remus said, when the water was warm enough and creeping up the sides of the tub.
Padfoot picked his way in, one huge foot at a time, and suffered himself to be wet down, soaped thoroughly, rinsed, and combed out. Remus took his shirt off halfway through when he could no longer pretend it wasn't completely soaked. He ran his hands through thick, black hair and scrubbed out months of dirt and tangles. When it was all done, and the soap washed away, Padfoot stood up, clambered slowly out, and shook.
The water sprayed out and soaked everything, including the towel. Padfoot grinned a doggy grin at him, and Remus threw his arms around him and let out laughter that threatened to deteriorate into hysteria until Padfoot licked his neck.
Severus walked to the edge of the Hogwarts grounds and apparated. He sighed. The cottage was exactly as quaint and cosy as he had expected it to be. Lupin probably loved it.
He walked in without knocking and heard the sound of laughter from upstairs.
"Lupin!" he called. "The moon rises in an hour. Get down here and take this. I've no desire to stay here longer than I must."
Lupin came downstairs with a smile on his face he seemed incapable of suppressing.
"Thank you, Severus," he said, taking the potion. "It was kind of you to come all this way."
"It was not kind, and it was not my idea. Drink."
Lupin's smile did fade then, though he made a brief essay at another before he took a deep breath and drained the cup.
Severus watched him collapse to his knees, watched him stuff his fist in his mouth so he wouldn't scream.
There was a time, only months ago, when the seizures brought on by the potion made Severus smile. Tonight he picked up the cup and left, closing the door behind him. He had no desire to watch.
Sirius never used to read, not like Remus. Remus read all the time. A result, he said once, of having no one to play with as a child. Sirius had remembered those admissions while he was in Azkaban. Remembered Remus coming to him and telling him he was in love with Lily and could never have her. Remembered himself spilling his secret in return, that he would have jumped James years ago if he'd thought he'd have a chance. He remembered those talks until they were stolen from him and all he could remember was that James had never wanted him and that Remus surely hated him now.
He lived those truths over and over and paced his ten by ten cell and wished for anything to distract him. He never sat down now without a book in his hands.
Beyond that, he helped Remus in the garden and with dinner, helped him bring their daily bread back from town and, he suspected, made a general nuisance of himself. Remus never complained.
They slept together at night, in the cottage's single bed. For the first week, Sirius had been unable to summon the energy to change back, so it hadn't been a problem. Remus had scratched his ears at night and hadn't minded if he drooled.
Sirius didn't want things to change, so he was Padfoot at night and changed back in the morning. Sometimes Remus read to him before they fell asleep. Sirius thought he could live like this forever.
Sirius never used to read, and it worried Remus. He was quieter, thinner, but he had to be essentially Sirius, even now. The Sirius he remembered lay on the grass and watched the clouds, lay on his bed and smiled at the ceiling, twiddled his quill in class and looked out the window and never heard a word the teacher was saying.
And even if he wasn't that man anymore, Remus wanted to understand.
So he asked, one night when he was already in bed and Sirius was about to transform.
"Why the books, Sirius? They used to bore you."
Sirius sat down on the edge of the bed and looked at him. His mouth opened more than once before he spoke, and his words, when they came, were careful. Sirius never used to be careful.
"I've had too much time to think," Sirius said. "Reading is better."
"And that's why..."
"The garden. And cleaning up in the kitchen. And carrying things. And--"
"Yes," Sirius said. "That's why."
"Will you tell me?"
There was a long pause, but Remus wasn't worried. They'd always told each other everything. Sirius couldn't have changed that much.
"Ten feet by ten feet," Sirius said, finally. "Ten of my feet that is. I walked it out the second day. Two solid walls and two walls made of bars. So you never know which side they'll come from. So there's no corners to hide in."
Remus touched his hand, expecting him to pull away. He didn't. And when Remus thought about it, he'd never refused a touch of any kind since he got back.
He pulled on Sirius' hand until he lay next to him, under the blankets.
"The boredom was worse than the Dementors," Sirius said quietly. "Worse than anything. It hurts when they do it to you. Hurts. A lot. But it's better than what's left when they're gone."
"What..." He couldn't bring himself to ask.
"You're supposed to think about the horror of your crime, but I couldn't. I thought about Peter. And I saw Lily and James die over and over. Sometimes, I thought you were dead too."
Remus put an arm around his shoulders and squeezed, and Sirius turned to him. Leaned closer until all he could see were wide, dark eyes, pupils dilated with the memory of fear, or...something.
"I thought you were dead, but sometimes I remembered you were alive and hated me, and I couldn't decide which was worse."
The Sirius kissed him, warm and soft, clean hair brushing against his face. Sirius needed a haircut. Remus was glad they were already in bed.
Severus cut the string and unwrapped the package that had come by owl post that morning. It was the book, finally. Lycanthropy: Its Origin and Treatments, the title read. It was an obscure book, hard to get hold of. But he'd heard it offered an alternate, less painful formula for the potion he'd delivered, once again, to Lupin at the cottage today.
He had a month to work on it. Maybe next time, Remus wouldn't scream and Black wouldn't have to rush down the stairs in yet another grand and useless gesture. Never mind that, by rights, he ought to be in custody now and incapable of holding anyone's hand ever again.
Maybe next time, Severus wouldn't be obligated to pretend he was blind and stupid. He hoped that would be the case. He'd never asked to be privy to their private lives, and his own life would be a great deal simpler if he had remained in ignorance.
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